Authors: Harry Steinman
LITTLE DEADLY THINGS
Copyright © 2012 by Harry Steinman. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America.
This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and events are invented or used ficticiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, past, present or future, to events, locations, or businesses, is a matter of coincidence. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Author photo: Barry Schneier
Cover and design: Roger Gefvert
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA
Little deadly things / Harry Steinman.
1. Women scientists—Fiction. 2. Nanotechnology—Fiction. 3. Medicinal plants—Fiction. 4. Science fiction. 5. Suspense fiction. I. Title.
PS3619.T47642L58 2012 813’.6
Published by Alloy Press. For information, address:
29 Prospect Avenue
Winthrop MA 02152
Library of Congress Control Number: 2012945815
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
To my father, Jody, Rory and Rachel—the past, present, future and future perfect generations
In the hierarchy of Taíno deities, Yocahu was the supreme Creator. He lived in the northeast mountains, in the rainforest called El Yunque.
Juricán was the god of evil and the hurricane. He was perpetually angry and often turned on his own followers.
“WHOSO SHALL OFFEND ONE OF
THESE LITTLE ONES WHICH BELIEVE IN ME, IT
WOULD BE BETTER FOR HIM THAT A MILLSTONE
WERE HANGED AROUND HIS NECK, AND THAT HE
WERE DROWNED IN THE DEPTH OF THE SEA.”
WEDNESDAY, MAY 19, 2038
va Rozen strode into the waiting room looking like a shrunken wraith—girlish, ghoulish.
The 29-year-old scientist and entrepreneur had pale skin that could be compared to alabaster, if one were to be charitable, like plaster if not. It was pulled taut against the uneven planes of her face to produce an impression of constant tension, of perpetual threat. To look at her for more than a few moments was to falter, to lose one’s balance.
This tidal wave in human form could move with great stealth but today Eva Rozen surged up to the receptionist’s station trailing disturbance like a gunboat’s wake. Sparks flew up from the clinic’s marble floor where her heels struck, and the air boiled around her. The office administrator looked up and froze. She’d been linked, but stopped speaking midsentence and tapped a small skin-toned communication patch just above her jaw to end the conversation.
Eva held out her hand to the attendant. The gesture was not an old-fashioned handshake. She dismissed ordinary social actions, and especially any that required physical contact. Rather, the act was part of a communications protocol. It signaled that Eva was using her datasleeve to gather the receptionist’s cloud data, her public information: Bethany Jamison, genetic female, age 41, no criminal record. Eva’s sleeve displayed all manner of private information as well. Jamison’s credit profile, medical history, sexual preferences, augmentations, and other private and presumably secure data were available to Eva at a glance.
Armed with the administrator’s name, Eva demanded, “Bethany, get Jim Ecco.” Bethany Jamison, genetic female, age 41, no criminal record, did not move.
“Bethany,” Eva repeated, “get Ecco. Now. Tell him Eva is here.”
The administrator struggled to regain her composure. “Uh, I don’t, that is, he’s with a resident,” she managed, “and
Ecco has a full schedule,” recovering.
“His residents stink. Tell
Rozen is waiting.” Then, an afterthought, “Please.”
Rozen’s glare activated Bethany’s survival instincts. The unflappable gatekeeper of Boston’s largest animal shelter jumped up and scurried down a well-lit hallway. Two minutes later Bethany reappeared, stopping well short of the reception area. She looked once more at the visitor and then dove into an examining room like a soldier seeking cover.
In her place stood James Bradley Ecco—behaviorist, trainer, and chief handler of Haven Memorial Animal Shelter’s three-score rescued dogs. Eva nodded a brief greeting that took in her old friend. He smelled of musk with traces of ammonia. Stray hairs left multicolored streaks on his uniform—tan scrubs with a dark blue logo, a paw print, and the word ‘Haven’ embedded over his left breast. His name, employee ID number, photo, and title glowed beneath the logo. His slight frame gave an impression of insubstantiality that belied his strength, speed, and anger.
The dog trainer, husband, and father could claim another distinction: in the entire world, he was Eva Rozen’s only remaining friend.
Jim’s face lit up. “Eva! This is a surprise. What are you doing here? I mean, it’s great you’re here. What have you been—”
He stopped midsentence. Few would have noticed the tightening below her eyebrows and fewer still would have recognized Eva’s sudden impatience. Jim Ecco seldom missed small warnings, neither in dogs nor in people. He adopted a relaxed posture and leaned back imperceptibly, giving Eva an inch more space to signal his respect for her.
“Talk to me,” Jim said. “What exciting plans do you have? Decided to adopt a puppy?”
“Nope. Don’t need any research animals.”