As an expert handler of venomous snakes - and a smuggler of rare artifacts - Charles Raynaud is accustomed to danger. So the job bodyguarding an old acquaintance about to come into a fortune shouldn't make him break a sweat.
But when the attempts on the man's life nearly get Raynaud killed, he's left wondering: is he the killers' real target...?
About the Author
Long before he wrote Jurassic Park, before he scripted blockbuster movies like Twister, before he created the groundbreaking TV series ER, Michael Crichton was an honors student at Harvard Medical School - and writing paperback suspense novels on the side, under the top-secret pen name "John Lange." Lange wrote eight books between 1966 and 1972...and then vanished.
Until, 40 years after John Lange was born, Michael Crichton chose Hard Case Crime to bring him back, personally re-editing two Lange books, even writing new chapters for one of them. Now Hard Case Crime is proud to bring all of John Lange's work back into print for the first time in decades - and the first time ever under Michael Crichton's real name.
Hometown:Los Angeles, California
Date of Birth:October 23, 1942
Date of Death:November 4, 2008
Place of Birth:Chicago, Illinois
Place of Death:Los Angeles, California
Education:B.A.. in Anthropology, Harvard University, 1964; M.D., Harvard Medical School, 1969
Read an Excerpt
It was not a very good hotel, but it was the best in the town, and it had a fine old bar with overhead fans which rotated slowly, casting shadows across the ceiling. He was partial to that bar, with the creaking fans, and he liked the bartender, Henri, so whenever he came to Valladolid he stayed in the hotel.
The girl said, “Do you come here often?”
“Every month,” he said.
“Snakes have made Charles very rich,” Henri said. Henri was an old Parisian; he loved to talk, long into the night. He particularly liked to talk to Raynaud, because he traveled so much.
“Pour yourself a drink,” Raynaud said, “and shut up.”
Henri laughed delightedly.
“And pour another for the girl,” Charles Raynaud said.
The girl was sitting there, wearing trousers and a shirt with the sleeves rolled up. She was rather pretty, long blond hair pulled back casually; Henri introduced her as Jane Mitchell. She seemed quiet and reserved and a little stuffy.
“Miss Mitchell,” Henri said, “just arrived today.”
Raynaud said, “You’re with a tour?”
She shook her head. “Hate tours.”
He was genuinely surprised. “You came alone?”
“I can take care of myself,” she replied quickly.
“Miss Mitchell,” Henri said, “is on her way around the world.”
“Escape,” she said.
“From New York,” she said, pushing her glass across the bar to Henri.
“And how did you happen to choose this gay resort?”
“I wanted someplace out of the way.”
“That,” he said, sipping tequila again, “you definitely have.”
Henri said, “Miss Mitchell was expressing great interest in your work.”
“You’ll have to excuse Henri,” Raynaud said, “he is an incorrigible matchmaker.”
“Nonsense,” Henri said.
“Well, it’s true,” the girl said, “I was curious. I never heard of anybody collecting snakes before.”
“Oh,” Raynaud said, “I don’t collect them. I sell them.”
“To zoos,” Henri said, “and to scientists.”
“And snake farms,” Raynaud said. “You might say I’m in the venom business.”
“Is it interesting?” she asked.
“No,” he said. “It’s really quite dull.”
“How do you catch them?”
He shrugged. “Prong, sometimes. Or a trap. But usually just bare hands.”
“That,” she said, “sounds interesting.”
He smiled. “Only if you make a mistake.”
“And you don’t make mistakes?”
“Not if I can help it.”
“You are very sour tonight, Charles,” Henri said. “Invite the girl along. You can see that she wants to go.”
“Oh, I couldn’t—”
“Nonsense,” Henri said, raising his hand. “Charles would be delighted to have you. He would say so himself but he has not had enough to drink. He’s very shy.”
“Really, I don’t think—”
“You mustn’t be put off by Charles, as you see him now. He is actually quite charming. Charles, be charming.”
Raynaud grinned. “Miss Mitchell,” he said, “you are cordially invited to a snake hunt tomorrow morning.”
“If you don’t accept, I shall go to my room, which I now know to be second best in the hotel, and hang myself from the ceiling fan because I lacked the charm to convince you.”
She smiled back at him. “That sounds awful.”
“Then you accept?”
“Good. But you must understand two things. The first is that we leave at five in the morning. Sharp.”
“And the second is that you will probably be very bored by the whole thing.”
She smiled, and said, “I’ve been bored before. I think I can stand it.”
“Then,” Charles said, “allow me to buy you a drink.”
When the girl had finally gone to bed, Raynaud stayed at the bar to have a last drink with Henri.
“You shouldn’t have done that,” Raynaud said.
“You were disgraceful,” Henri said.
“I didn’t want her to come.”
“Absolutely disgraceful. Are you getting too old?”
“I have a tight schedule tomorrow.”
“But she is very pretty, Charles.”
“She is attractive.”
“And besides, she is so unhappy. I think she has had bad luck with love, and now she needs to be happy.”
“You think catching snakes will make her happy?”
“I think,” Henri said, “that it will divert her.”
“And I think that she will sleep peacefully until noon.”
Henri looked at him slyly. “One hundred pesos?”
“One hundred pesos.” He took the money from his wallet and set it on the bar.
“I fear you have just lost a bet.”
“We’ll see,” Raynaud said.