Gideon's Corpse - By Douglas Preston


GIDEON CREW STOOD at the window of the conference room, looking out over the former Meatpacking District of Manhattan. His gaze followed the tarred roofs of the old buildings, now hip boutiques and trendy restaurants; moved past the new High Line park thick with people; past the rotting piers; and came to rest on the broad expanse of the Hudson River. In the hazy sun of early summer, the river for a change looked like real water, the surface a mass of blue moving upstream with the incoming tide.

The Hudson reminded him of other rivers he had known, and streams and creeks, and his thoughts lingered on one stream in particular, high in the Jemez Mountains. He thought about a deep pool in it and the large cutthroat trout he was sure lurked in its dappled depths.

He couldn’t wait to get the hell out of there, out of New York City, away from that withered gnome named Glinn and his mysterious company, Effective Engineering Solutions.

“I’m going fishing,” he said.

Glinn shifted in his wheelchair and sighed. Gideon turned. The man’s crippled hand appeared from under the blanket that was shrouding his knees. It contained a brown-paper package. “Your payment.”

Gideon hesitated. “You’re paying me? After what I did?”

“The fact is, based on what you’ve told me, our payment structure has changed.” Glinn opened the package, counted out several banded bricks of hundreds, and laid them on the table in the conference room. “Here is half of the hundred thousand.”

Gideon snatched it up before Glinn could change his mind.

Then, to his surprise, Glinn handed him the other half. “And here’s the rest. Not as payment for services rendered, however. More in the way of, shall we say, an advance.”

Gideon stuffed the money into his jacket pockets. “An advance on what?”

“Before you leave town,” Glinn said, “I thought you might like to drop in on an old friend of yours.”

“Thanks, but I’ve got a date with a cutthroat trout in Chihuahueños Creek.”

“Ah, but I was so hoping you’d have time to see your friend.”

“I don’t have any friends. And if I did, I sure as hell wouldn’t be interested in ‘dropping in’ on them right now. As you so kindly pointed out, I’m living on borrowed time.”

“Reed Chalker is his name. I believe you worked with him?”

“We worked in the same Tech Area—that’s not the same as working with him. I haven’t seen the guy around Los Alamos in months.”

“Well, you’re about to see him now. The authorities are hoping you could have a little chat with him.”

“The authorities? A chat? What the hell’s this about?”

“At this moment, Chalker’s got a hostage. Four of them, actually. A family in Queens. Held at gunpoint.”

Gideon laughed. “Chalker? No way. The guy I knew was a typical Los Alamos geek, straight as an arrow, wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

“He’s raving. Paranoid. Out of his mind. You’re the only person within range who knows him. The police want you to calm him down, get him to release those hostages.”

Gideon didn’t reply.

“So I’m sorry to tell you, Dr. Crew, but that cutthroat trout is going to be enjoying life just a little bit longer. And now you really do need to go. That family can’t wait.”

Gideon felt a swell of outrage at the imposition. “Find someone else.”

“No time. There are two children involved, along with their mother and father. It seems the father is Chalker’s landlord, rented him a basement apartment in their row house. Frankly, we’re very lucky you’re here.”

“I hardly knew Chalker. He stuck to me like a limpet—but only briefly, after his wife left him. Then he got religion and drifted away, much to my relief.”

“Garza will take you over. You’ll be liaising with Special Agent Stone Fordyce, FBI.”

“Liaising? Why is the FBI involved?”

“It’s standard operating procedure whenever someone with a high-level security clearance like Chalker gets into trouble, on the chance he might go, ah, out of school.” Glinn fixed his lone good eye on Gideon. “This isn’t some undercover operation like last time—just a straightforward assignment. If all goes well, you should be on your way back to New Mexico in a day or two.”

Gideon said nothing. He had eleven months of life left—or at least that’s what they had told him. But then again, the more he thought about it, the more he began to wonder, and he intended to take the first opportunity to get a second opinion. Glinn was a master manipulator, and Gideon didn’t trust either him or his people.

“If he’s as