Here is the twenty-first droplet of my novel Biotime. An unknown informant from the Home Security Bureau of the Central Authority of the United States assigns to Martha O’Leary, Deputy Head of Mission at the US Embassy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, a top secret task.
As Martha sits in shock, we return to the man in the boat and Sue Phu’s child. What will be the fate of her first ever baby boy?
Don’t forget the “story so far” page, bringing together the excerpts published up to now.
Kalyan Minaret, Bukhara, Uzbekistan, 1992 – Photo Robert Pimm
‘I’m in the Holo Hutch.’ Martha glanced again at the control panel. She could feel her heart beating. ‘Are you really calling from the Home Security Bureau? Is something wrong?’
‘I am a senior official of the Home Security Bureau of the Central Authority of the United States, yes.’ The disembodied voice spoke the words slowly, as if relishing the length of the title. ‘Something is indeed gravely wrong. A catastrophe in the making. An impending doom scenario. But I don’t know what it is. That is why I am calling you.’
‘I never dealt with the Bureau before. The Ambassador will be back in a few days.’
‘I know. It is important that he learns nothing of what I am about to tell you.’
‘You don’t trust the Ambassador?’ Martha took a deep breath. ‘How do I know if I can I trust you?’
‘An astute question.’ There was warmth in the voice. ‘You cannot be sure, except that your control panel no doubt shows that I am speaking from the Bureau headquarters here in Aspen. For you to know my identity would be dangerous. Perilous.’ The man lowered his voice. ‘Deadly.
‘Listen carefully. The head of one of the largest Biotime cartels in the world has contacted me with an interesting proposition. But it depends on us meeting him in Samarkand. I want you to do this, Martha, on behalf of the Home Security Bureau.’
‘When?’ She struggled to catch her breath. The man had mentioned the existence of Biotime cartels as though it were a known fact.
‘I do not know. He will contact you.’
‘He asked me to tell no-one. But I cannot leave Aspen without raising questions in the Bureau. I fear that your Ambassador may have been seeing the wrong people in Tashkent. That he could have chosen the dark side. Been compromised. So I am asking for your help.’
‘How will I know who this man is?
‘You will know. He will use this symbol. Take a good look, then I will sign off. Good luck, Martha. God bless.’ There was a pause. ‘I wish you well.’
A hand appeared, clutching a sheet of paper. The man in Aspen must be reaching his arm into the holo void at his end. For a moment Martha examined the hand, rather than the paper it held. The skin was that of an elderly black man. The sleeve was a soft blue woollen fabric, worn by use. She had only just focused on the paper when the image flickered out. Her interlocutor had ended the call.
Martha had a good memory. She could remember every detail of the design on the paper. Quickly, she sketched it on the back of one of the documents she had brought with her into the comcen.
It was a severed hand, transfixed by a knife.
The man in the boat’s real name was Doctor Boris Suleikin. He was an American citizen, although he had not visited the United States for over a century. He closed the door behind him as the boat drew away from Sue Phu’s house. Then he swung the crate containing her baby onto a metal trellis in the centre of the spacious cabin and snapped it into place. With practiced ease, he folded down the metal sides to make a crude table and stretched a rubber strap across the baby’s midriff to prevent it falling to the floor if the boat hit a patch of rough water. The child took a deep breath and began to scream.
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I hope you’ve enjoyed this excerpt from my novel “Biotime”. If you’re interested in hearing about further episodes, follow this blog by e-mail (top right, “click here”); or follow me on Twitter @RobertPimm (left hand side). I can promise you a fun ride.
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