Devil’s Gold by Julie Korzenko

Devil’s Gold
ISBN: 9781934755556
Price: $25.95
Medallion Press
Hard Cover
Copyright © 2010 by Julie Korzenko

Chapter 1

Gardiner, Montana

Edward Fiske stepped from the shadowed recesses of the front porch.  The worn planks of the farmhouse creaked and groaned beneath his feet as he made his way down the rickety stairs and into the sunshine.  It was a glorious morning.  He paused, inhaling the sweet scent of dew and cottonwood trees.  Emerald spears of late spring grass beckoned bare feet as they danced in the wind, ending in a graceful sweep at the banks of Yellowstone River.
The serenity of the homestead sent a warm tingle through Edward’s body, tugging his normally stern mouth into a slightly lopsided smile.  He shook his head at the irony of life.  Beauty and tranquility were nothing more than a mask for the evil that slept below.
Edward concentrated on centering his emotions.  It wouldn’t do at all to allow his technician to see the excitement that bubbled furiously in his gut.  He was an impassive man.  The itch of anticipation was not something he normally felt, but last night he had surpassed the Christmas Eve eagerness of his childhood.  Each time he had stirred from sleep, his watch had mocked him.  It had ticked through a layer of molasses, slowing the large hand to an infuriating snail’s pace.
But he’d managed.
He’d held himself in check.
His feet crushed the grass; the tender blades bent and broke beneath the soles of his sneakers.  He resisted the urge to race across the lawn but stepped up the pace and ignored the biting pain that clutched his upper chest.
After the sale, he’d lose weight.  He’d have to.  Touring the country and lecturing on his creation would take energy and a physical fitness he currently lacked.  Edward brushed a stray strand of hair over the balding area of his head, pushing on toward his dream.
He rounded a grove of quaking aspens and halted.  The dilapidated log cabin was a poor monument to the significance of what rested beneath its rotting logs and disintegrating roof.  A worn and chipped cornerstone marked the front doorway.  His eyes scanned the chiseled numbers, and he nodded to himself, puckering his lips in satisfaction.  The date-stamp on the cabin reflected an era when men battled wilderness, forging past the obstacles created by forces unimaginable.  It resembled a time of progression.  Similar to him, Lewis and Clark were men of evolution.  The success and failure they struggled through as they charted a waterway across North America coincided with Edward’s vision of his own career.  It seemed fitting to have a cabin dating back to their era acting as a shield for his baby.
Pushing on the heavy front door, he scurried within and stopped inside the darkened room, allowing his eyes to adjust.  The scent of mold and decaying flesh assaulted his senses.  A corner of the room was littered with the carcasses of small rodents killed as they ingested the poison he’d laid out to trap the menacing creatures.  Wrinkling his nose in disgust, he crossed the hard-packed earthen floor toward the far wall and opened a small metal box, punching a sequence of numbers into the lighted keypad.
A brown cloud of dust particles rose from the floor as the doorway to the lab slid open.  .  He hurried to the edge of the four-by-four opening, turned around, and began his descent down the steep metal stairs.  His pudgy fingers grasped the railing.  Concentrating on not missing a rung, Edward descended at a slow pace.
His mind whirled with visions of how he’d present his creation.  He’d have to be careful because what lay below had Satan’s signature scrawled across it in blood-red letters.  That thought stopped him.  He liked it.  It had an almost poetic tone, one that would fit nicely in his memoirs.  With a mental note to write that thought in his journal, he continued his descent into what had once been a typical cellar.
The dawning of a new era was about to take place.  His era.  It was time for Edward Fiske’s name to be written next to Albert Einstein’s.  When Isaac Newton’s principles of relativity were discussed, so would Edward Fiske’s DNA modification be expounded.
Yes, his heart beat faster.  This day brought forth endless visions of scientific recognition.
“‘bout time, Eddie,” a muffled voice called from the end of the room.
Edward pulled a handkerchief from his back pocket and mopped the sweat dripping down his forehead.  He quickly surveyed the laboratory.  Black granite work surfaces were littered with an array of equipment, the far right corner more congested than normal.  The night before he’d shoved the three-sided laminar flow station against the back wall.  Its air filtration system was no longer adequate.  Stacks of unused petri dishes scattered the interior of the flow station, discarded and unnecessary.
A grin tugged at Edward’s lips.
His benefactor never questioned funding requests.  Life, the past few years, had been damn near Nirvana.  He inhaled, releasing his breath slowly to calm the excited jumble of nerves, the tinny scent of humming electrical equipment overlaid by alcohol sterilization as sweet to him as his mother’s roses in spring.
Edward’s fingers tickled the cool ceramic of a white cylindrical container.  He verified that the controls on top of the cryogenic storage tank were correct, then paused, splaying his fingers around the sides of the containment unit.  His success lay inside.
“Eddie?”
His assistant’s voice broke the moment of silent self-worship.  His lab technician was hunched over a large microscope, his hands shoved into robot-type arms that stretched beyond a thick glass pane and into the negative airflow chamber.
“Well?”  Edward moved forward to stand beside the younger man.
“Take a look, boss.”  Jason stepped away from the scope, scratching his ass.  He shuffled in place and pushed loose strands of greasy hair behind his ears.  Edward grimaced, grateful he’d soon be free of this throw-back-to-the-sixties slice of humanity.  If Jason weren’t so damned clever with DNA replication, he’d have dumped the kid years ago.
Bending forward, Edward peered into the lens.  He adjusted the microscope.  A brilliant red and green cell came into focus, moving ever so slightly within the solution smeared on the slide.  Bingo.  His version of Fifth Disease sparkled in the center of the cell.  The modified genetic composition of CPV-2 that he’d spent his entire lifetime perfecting weaved itself into the cell like Christmas lights on a tree.  He’d done it.
This human cell now sported the canine virus parvo.
All the interminable hours of waiting while Jason processed these little babies suddenly vanished.  He glanced up, taking a second to freeze this moment in time.  His technician smiled and laughed and Edward grinned, clapping him on the back.
“It’s finished.  Five years of trial and error, and we’ve finally succeeded.”
“Yep, Eddie.  We’re through.  How soon until you meet with the big guys?  I want my bonus.”
Edward narrowed his eyes.  Money wasn’t his motivation.  It was the look of astonishment from his colleagues he craved.  They wouldn’t turn their backs this year at the conference.  No.  His strain of Fifth Disease would win the National Medal of Science, maybe even the Nobel, and the accolades of his brotherhood.
“We must show our investors our results.”  Lost in thought, Edward tapped his forefinger against his mouth.  He continued speaking, not really concentrating on what he said.  “That’s what the grant outlines.  A demonstration and then final payment.”  His mind pictured rapturous applause.  Recognition and respect.  “However, we need to reverse this procedure and develop an antidote prior to releasing CPV-19.  No need to run the risk of exposure.”  The whining tenor of Jason’s voice sliced through his inner reflections, and Edward snapped his attention back to his assistant.
“Why?”  Jason asked, tugging at the edge of his shirt.
“Excuse me?”
“We’ve an entire chamber of results.  Why do we need a demonstration?  Just send a picture.”
Edward curled his lip, disgusted by the younger man’s greed.  Controlling the surge of anger, he faced the glass that separated the main part of the lab from the negative airflow chamber.  The wolf remains, bloodied and trailing gore from all extremities, were piled haphazardly against one wall.  “The results in this laboratory were never the objective.  It’s the procedure and technology that the board seeks.  This is a great leap forward in disease prevention and cure.  The steps taken to achieve CPV-19 combined with the creation of the antidote will provide our benefactors with the humanitarian rewards they desire.”  Lecture over, he crossed his arms over his chest and waited for more complaints.
Jason stopped, scratched his ass again, and sighed.  “I’ll get right on the antidote.  That is, after a few hours of shut eye.  I’m wiped.”
“Not before you dispose of the bodies.”  Edward headed back to the metal stairs.  He began to climb.  Stopping halfway up he cleared his throat and turned around, watching the younger man secure his specimen and shut down the scope.  Edward gasped for air in short, fast gulps, his nostrils flaring to draw in more oxygen.  He’d only climbed the bottom part of the ladder.  Swearing, he calmed his breathing and summoned a commanding voice.  “I noticed the wolf pens were empty.  Did you destroy the last two?”
Jason shot a quick look in his direction, then lowered his eyes and bent down to dig out the cover for the scope.  “I took care of ‘em.”  He slipped the heavy plastic over the machine and offered Edward a lopsided smile.
“Good,” Edward said and climbed the rest of the way up.  Whistling a little tune, he popped his head into the center of the log cabin.  Suddenly, the insidious scent of rotting flesh no longer bothered him.  A perfume of success now lingered in the air.  Nothing could stop him now.  Nothing.❖
________________________________

Buy Devil’s Gold at:

Amazon:

Barnes & Noble

Better World Books

indiebound.org

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Julie is a domestic law paralegal in Altanta. Romantic Times has nominated DEVIL’S GOLD for the best romantic suspense of 2009. Her next book, ANGEL FALLS is due for release April 2011.

Visit Julie’s website
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About Vicki Hinze
USA Today Bestselling and Award-Winning Author of 40+ books, short stories/novellas and hundreds of articles. Published in as many as 63 countries. Featured Columnist for Social-IN Worldwide Network and Book Fun Magazine. Sponsor/Founder of ChristiansRead.com & CleanReadBooks.com. FMI visit www.vickihinze.com.

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