“Corona Crime” Chapter 1. What might happen after COVID-19, COVID-35, COVID-96 etc? Sign up for updates and more info!
Last week’s blog post noted that I was making good progress revising my new novel to prepare it for publication.
Actually, I’m working like crazy, day and night.
My plan is to publish in September, if I can get a revised version out to test readers in time, harvest their thoughts, and prepare a final version for publication. Please let me know if you would like to be a test reader through the “Contact Me” button. I will send you a free copy as soon as it is ready.
“Corona Crime” opens in Santa Monica. This is actually La Joya but close enough!
Last week’s post introduced the novel, including a spooky excerpt from Chapter 31, and invited comments on the title. Title comments still welcome! So far, Corona Crime is in the lead, so I am using that for now.
More news on, and excerpts from, Corona Crime in coming weeks. Watch this space, and sign up for updates.
Here is the opening of the book. Comments – and shares – most welcome.
“Corona Crime” Chapter 1
Chimeric Brain Mouse Speaks Out: ‘I WANT MY BABIES TO BE HUMAN BEINGS!’
National Enquirer 2086
Jake Moonrath was on his way to re-possess a stolen lifetime when his best friend Ed Zipper and Ed’s wife Abigail briefly became parents.
The window of Ed and Abigail’s suite at the Hughes Procreation Center in Santa Monica had been propped open “to help baby breathe”. For a few instants, the new-born infant’s cries mingled with the reggae from the nearby Feeding Frenzy milk bar and the whispering of the breeze in the palm trees.
Senior Obstetrician Dr Alan Beasdale 100 took the freshly-chipped baby from the nurse and handed it to Abigail.
‘Is your husband OK?’ Beasdale said. ‘He looks like shit.’
Abigail peered up at the medic. It was hard to talk to a man whose face was covered by a mask. All she could see was his bright blue eyes and a fringe of dark hair so thick it looked unnatural.
‘He’ll be OK when Jake gets here,’ she said. ‘They can escape for a beer.’ She nuzzled the baby’s cheek. ‘For an hour, anyhow.’
The obstetrician peered at the new father, who was staring out of the window, frowning. ‘This fellow Jake an old friend?’
‘Jake is a Coronatime enforcement agent.’ Ed turned towards Abigail and the baby as if wondering what they were doing there. ‘On a job. He should be here any moment.’
‘I would love to meet him,’ Beasdale said. ‘But I have another delivery at 12.30.’ When he raised his eyebrows, Abigail saw the skin around his eyes was perfectly smooth. ‘Will you excuse me? Press the button if you need anything.’
‘Sure.’ Abigail beckoned to Ed, who had yet to hold the baby. ‘Come and sit down, sugar.’ She patted the sheets and felt a moment of calm as the doctor closed the door behind him. ‘Let’s all get to know each other a little.’
Northbound on the crumbling concrete of I-405, Jake clenched his teeth and cranked up the music.
Let us sing more cheerful songs,
more full of joy!
Yeah, right. How could you be full of joy when you were about to expose yourself to a severe risk of life expectancy reduction, or even death? The pulse tracker on his bracelet was blinking red.
Soon, he should be with Ed and Abigail, meeting the new kid. But first he had to put ’Time-expired Jennifer on the slab where she belonged. What if the Termination procedure hit a problem?
The danger ahead made Jake wish he could slow the vehicle. But he could no more change the speed of his Albuquerque Cheyenne Classic than any other driver on the sparsely populated highway. At forty miles per hour, he was locked in a safe distance behind the Nagasaki Commemoration up front. He eyed the Korean car’s smooth lines. An elegant roadster, much favoured by women. ’Time-expired Jennifer herself owned one, as it happened. But not for much longer.
Jake had been turned on to Jennifer’s case by the Chattanooga Life Exchange Foundation (“CLEF – your key to a better life”) two days before. The moment he had entered his holo room, a man with a moustache and dark-rimmed glasses had appeared, leaning forward over a desk that had materialised with him.
‘Baker 109, CLEF, Chattanooga,’ the recorded holo had opened. ‘Case for you.’
It was routine: a cash-poor, mid-aged woman going nowhere, forty years actuarially-certified life expectancy in hand, deciding to cash in her assets.
‘So,’ Baker 109 had said, biting the end off each word, ‘she takes out a generous Termination Contract with us here in Chattanooga and becomes, maybe for the first and certainly for the last time in her life, rich enough to live in style. Which she does, with gusto. Nothing wrong with that.’ He had coughed and wiped his moustache with a handkerchief.
‘However. Following much indulgence in moon-gazing, fancy vacations and so forth, she meets the usual younger man, who says, as young men do – ’ Baker had coughed again and read from a screen on his desk ‘ – beautiful mother, please don’t leave me. Termination Contract or no, I’ll hide you away in a little house in the big city, and we’ll make love ‘til the day we die.’ Baker had smiled. ‘Whenever that may be. Mr Moonrath, we’d like you to enforce the contract.’
Jake felt the Cheyenne slow for the Beverley Hills turn-off. The streets grew wider. Houses retreated beyond swathes of shrubs and lawns. Upmarket malls stretched for block after block.
The neighbourhood felt safe and prosperous. But ’Time-expired Jennifer and her boyfriend could be waiting to ambush him. His chest tightened. He turned to face the back of the car and closed his eyes. Time for calm.
Four minutes to South Clark. He pictured entering the house, repossessing Jennifer’s lifetime, collecting evidence, and driving to Santa Monica. He would cut the risk by observing the property before entering. Should he tell Ed he might be late? Maybe he and Abigail were enjoying quality time with the baby. Jake opened his eyes and punched the Birth Channel in on his bracelet. He left the music playing.
…All men become brothers
Under the sway of thy gentle wings
The Birth Channel was a misconceived Central Authority initiative to encourage reproduction by publicising the joys of childbirth. The programmers had trouble finding content: today, Abigail Zipper was the only birth on-air. She was sitting up in bed, cradling the child in her arms. Ed was sat next to her, shoulders hunched. A display showed a readout from the baby’s Coronatime bracelet and spine implant: the heart was going pow, pow, pow, firm and strong.
Jake smiled. In half an hour, he would be sharing Ed and Abigail’s big day. But first, he had to bring to justice a woman who was trying to steal something of immense value: her own life.
The Cheyenne coasted to a halt. Jake took a deep breath, turned to face the front and switched to the Crime Channel. He would be broadcasting himself, soon.
A Neon-Glo blue Nagasaki stood in the driveway of 137 South Clark. All polished up and maybe now someplace to go. Jake recognised the mix of artificial bushes and flowers in the yard, Tropical Medley it was called. Only the super-rich had time for a real garden these days. The tab scanner in Jake’s bracelet showed no sign of life. The house must be data-shielded.
What was happening inside?
Jake sat motionless, watching the house where ’Time-expired Jennifer had taken refuge. A few extra minutes would make no difference. He breathed out, breathed in, and waited.
At last, the red light on his pulse tracker disappeared. Jake flexed his fingers, activated the lapel holo camera he was required to wear during operations, and reached to open the car door. It was time to show the world what happened when the law caught up with a couple of Coronatime criminals.
I hope you have enjoyed reading the opening of Corona Crime Chapter 1. Please share if you have enjoyed this excerpt.
You can read Chapter 2 of Corona Crime here.
If you would like to have a look at my other writing, my most recent books are: my blackly comic Seven Hotel Stories, hard-hitting Berlin thriller Blood Summit and Corona Crime – the thriller for a world in the grip of coronavirus.