Read Season Of The Harvest (Harvest Trilogy, Book 1) Online

Authors: Michael R. Hicks

Tags: #military adventure, #fbi thriller, #genetic mutations

Season Of The Harvest (Harvest Trilogy, Book 1) (10 page)

BOOK: Season Of The Harvest (Harvest Trilogy, Book 1)
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“What the hell,” he muttered. He
began to thumb the rounds out of the magazine, since he had to
unload it anyway, carefully putting each bullet into a bag that
he’d already marked for the purpose.

He was just about to take out the
last round when his cell phone rang. He felt his stomach suddenly
curl into a tight, acidic ball, because the ringtone was that of a
dog barking, and the only numbers he’d assigned that particular
ringtone were the ones that Clement used.

“Shit,” he cursed, quickly setting
down the magazine. Forgetting to remove the latex gloves, he
grabbed the phone from his pocket and hit the answer button.
“Special Agent Dawson,” he answered, trying to muster as much
dignity as he could. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Kilburn
set down his samples before strutting in Jack’s
direction.

“I’m going to call your house phone
in exactly sixty minutes,” Clement said quietly. “If you don’t pick
up the phone and give me your word of honor that you won’t stick
your nose any further into Sheldon’s case, I’ll expect to see you
at eight a.m. sharp to turn in your gun and your badge. Do you
understand what I just said, Special Agent Dawson?”

“Yes, sir,” Jack said, feeling like
a turd for disappointing Clement. He wanted to try and explain
himself, but now definitely wasn’t the time. He stared daggers at
Kilburn, who stood right next to him now with a gloating expression
on his face. “I understand. I’ll talk to you in an–”

Clement hung up before Jack could
finish.

“You son-of-a-bitch,” Jack growled
as he turned to confront Kilburn.

The DNA specialist suddenly seemed
to realize that being so close to an enraged man who outweighed him
by a good twenty pounds, had experience in close combat, and was
also armed probably wasn’t a good thing. Shuffling backward a few
steps, he pointed at Jack. “You’re not properly trained in this
line of work!” he said in righteous indignation. “You–”

“What the hell is going on?” Jerri
said from behind him, a fierce glare in her eyes.

“Your buddy here ratted me out to
Clement,” Jack said, clenching his gloved hands. He knew he would
be canned if he did it, but the urge to throttle Kilburn was nearly
overpowering. “I’ve got to go.”

“We’ll see about that!” Jerri nearly
shouted, drawing sudden looks from the other technicians working in
the lab. Then she started in on Kilburn, using a vocabulary that
Jack never would have guessed at.

“Jerri,” he tried to interject,
“forget it...”

She didn’t hear him, or pretended
not to as she continued to ream Kilburn. The man, gesticulating
wildly, sputtered in protest, and the two of them made an
incredible scene that brought the work in the lab to a complete
halt as everyone watched in silent amazement.

Jack turned back to the magazine
lying on the table, deciding that he had enough time to finish
unloading it before getting back on the road toward home. He
carefully thumbed out the last bullet and watched, dumbstruck, as
four golden kernels of corn popped out into his gloved
hand.

Shit
, he thought as his eyes went
wide with realization, and his mind suddenly spun back to his
mental image of Sheldon’s last moments.
This is what he’d been after in the lab, what he’d
taken
. Even the last shots he fired at
whoever killed him had probably been another distraction: who would
think of looking for something hidden in a weapon that had just
been fired? Instead, his killer figured that Sheldon had swallowed
the corn, and had carved him up to find it.

Jack then had a
sudden flash of insight, one that was based not on rational,
considered thought, but on instinct alone.
Kilburn
, he thought. Jack was
somehow sure that Kilburn’s presence here in the lab wasn’t an
accident. Kilburn coming from New Horizons to work for CODIS, then
just happening to be tapped to help with the evidence from
Sheldon’s murder, seemed like too much of a
coincidence.

Despite the promise Jack was going
to make to Clement to butt out of the case to save his job, he had
to at least call Richards in Lincoln and give him a heads-up that
Kilburn might be in league with the EDS. There was no way that Jack
was going to let Kilburn see what had been hidden in the magazine
of Sheldon’s weapon, because he felt sure in his gut that was why
Kilburn was here: to find anything that Sheldon’s killer – or
killers – had missed.

That clinched it. Jack knew that he
would be fired, and could possibly face a prison sentence, for what
he was about to do, but he saw no alternative. Concealing his hand
from Kilburn behind his body, he dropped the bullet he had been
holding into the evidence bag while still holding onto the kernels.
Then he peeled off the glove, trapping the kernels as the glove
snapped inside-out. He took off the glove from his left hand and
threw it away, while surreptitiously sliding the glove containing
the corn into one of the outside pockets of his jacket.

“Listen, Jerri,” he said, gently
taking her by the shoulder and turning her away from her
confrontation with the still-blustering Kilburn, “I’ve got to
go.”

“I’m so sorry, Jack,” she said
hoarsely, blinking back tears of anger, her entire body shaking
with rage. “Promise me you’ll call me?”

“I will,” he told her, meaning it.
He had to talk to her about the corn, although he wasn’t sure how
he was going to do it without making an even bigger mess of his own
situation. “I promise.”

“Good.” Then, turning to Kilburn,
she said in an ice-cold voice, “And please escort Dr. Kilburn out
of my lab, if you’d be so kind. His services are no longer needed
here.”

“With pleasure,” Jack said with a
feral smile, gesturing toward the door. “Doctor, shall
we?”

There was a moment, a brief flash in
time, when Jack saw a look of deep suspicion pass across Kilburn’s
face like a fleeting shadow.

Then it was gone. With a final
sneer, Kilburn turned on his heel and stalked out, slamming open
the heavy door to the lab.

After giving Jerri’s hand a gentle
squeeze, Jack followed him out. By the time he got to the door,
Kilburn was already out of sight, having turned down one of the
other corridors.

Jack made his way back out of the
building, running through the continuing downpour to the parking
garage. Wrenching the door shut on the Defender after he got in, he
slammed his hands on the steering wheel.


Fuck!
” he
shouted, venting an emotional brew of anger, frustration, and fear.
Glancing at his watch, he saw that he had to get going if he was to
meet Clement’s deadline. He started up the car and backed out of
the space, then roared out into the rain.

***

After Jack left, Jerri went around
the lab, seeing how the others were coming with their own evidence
samples, and explaining the cause of the scene she had made earlier
with Kilburn.

Once that was done, she went back
over to the DNA analysis lab to look more closely at the anomalous
residue from the muzzle of Sheldon’s weapon. When she had brought
the swabs over earlier, she had asked one of the lab techs to take
a swab and prepare a wet mount slide for Jerri to check before she
went ahead with any further testing.

Now, after the emotional
confrontation with Kilburn, it was a relief to sit quietly behind a
microscope and let her body and mind cool off. At least a
little.

Cheryl, the lab’s senior tech, had
prepared the slide as Jerri had requested, and had mounted it on
one of the microscopes arrayed along the wall of the
lab.

“Beats the heck out of me what that
is,” Cheryl said, shaking her head.

Jerri glanced at her, frowning.
Cheryl was a competent biologist who had worked in the lab for a
dozen years and had seen just about anything that one could look at
through a microscope. That she had no clue what was on the slide
came as a surprise.

As Jerri bent down to look through
the stereo eyepiece, she caught a glimpse of what was on the slide
and involuntarily recoiled. “Jesus,” she whispered, looking with
wide eyes at Cheryl.

“That was my first reaction, too,”
she said quietly.

Jerri checked the magnification,
which was set at 20X. Had this been a blood sample, the field of
view would have been filled with hundreds of roundish red blood
cells, some completely opaque, some largely transparent except for
the outline of the cell membrane, along with the other cells that
called the bloodstream home.

But this was...different. The cells
in the sample varied wildly in size and shape. The only common
traits appeared to be a spherical cellular nucleus that was barely
discernible at a magnification of 40X, and a uniform, sickly amber
coloration.

“What the hell,” she breathed.
Flipping on the video output from the microscope, she sat back and
looked at the image on the seventeen inch high definition display.
“Do you see that?” she asked Cheryl, pointing to what appeared to
be a fuzzy cast, almost a blur, over the strange cells. “What’s
causing that?”

“I don’t know,” Cheryl said slowly.
“The slide’s clean. Whatever that is, it’s in the
sample.”

Frowning, Jerri bumped up the
magnification to 100X, then 400X. The blurriness seemed to be
resolving into a pattern of lines that didn’t become completely
clear until she pushed it up to the maximum magnification of
1000X.

“My God,” Cheryl breathed. “Look at
that!”

The amorphous cells were joined
together by a complicated web of tiny strands, like the haphazard
web of a Black Widow spider, without the sense of order and pattern
found in the webs of most other spiders. Even more shocking was
that some cells had partially-extended stubs, as if the cells had
been in the act of extending or retracting the strands when the
sample had been taken.

They didn’t notice Dr. Kilburn,
staring through the door he had cracked open. His eyes were fixed
on the strange cells on the display. After a moment, he silently
closed the door.

***

Kilburn walked down the hall to his
cubicle in the CODIS unit, ignoring the other lab workers he passed
along the way. Next to his desk, there was a file cabinet in which
he kept notes and other information that he used as part of his
daily work. Glancing around to make sure there was no one who could
see what he was doing, Kilburn unlocked the cabinet and opened the
bottom drawer. Pulling it all the way out, he reached behind the
last set of folders and withdrew a bulky manila envelope. On the
outside was written in sloppy script, “A.P. Hawking – Dissertation
Draft.” Kilburn had brought the envelope in with him one day, right
through security, and even left it on his desk in plain view for a
while. It wasn’t a secret that he periodically mentored graduate
students in their DNA studies, although no one could believe a
student would willingly pick Kilburn as a mentor. To everyone who
happened to see it, it was just another dissertation someone had
sent him to review.

He closed and locked the file
cabinet. Tucking the package under his arm, he made his way back
down the hall to the DNA analysis unit’s lab.

But instead of
going through the door that would have taken him back into the lab
where he and Tanaka had had their confrontation over Dawson, he
stopped in front of an electrical closet that was between that lab
and the adjoining one where Tanaka had seen...
it
, where she had gotten a glimpse
of The Secret.

Glancing up and down the corridor to
make sure he was alone, Kilburn slipped on a set of latex gloves,
then took a large ring of keys from his pocket. Choosing the key he
wanted, he opened the door to the electrical closet. Stepping
inside, he quietly closed the door behind him.

The term “closet” was a misnomer, as
it was actually a small room, festooned with electrical cables and
junction boxes, which jutted into both of the adjoining
labs.

Kilburn tore open the envelope and
extracted the contents: four M112 demolition charges, bound
together, with four embedded primers linked to a detonator with a
countdown timer, and an unregistered cell phone. The package held
five pounds of C-4 explosive, enough to kill everyone in the
adjoining labs and gut most of this floor of the building. He set
the timer for ten minutes before stuffing the bomb behind one of
the electrical junction boxes.

The door suddenly flew open behind
him, and he turned to find Jerri Tanaka standing there.

“What the hell are you doing in
here? And how did you get a key?” she demanded, stepping just
inside the doorway. “I was just leaving the lab down the hall when
I saw you close the door. Don’t tell me you’re an electrician,
too,” she added sarcastically.

“No,” he said, shaking his head and
dropping the phone into his lab coat pocket. “I’m not an
electrician. But I do know how to fix things.”

Jerri didn’t have a chance to
respond before he lunged across the three feet separating them,
jabbing his right hand, flattened like a knife, into her throat.
She gasped for air through her crushed larynx and sagged toward the
floor. Kilburn grabbed her by the hair and dragged her into the
closet. After a quick look outside, relieved that no one else was
in the hallway, he closed the door.

BOOK: Season Of The Harvest (Harvest Trilogy, Book 1)
8.88Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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