The developer of a superweapon that will guarantee U.S. military supremacy is dying, and only a frightening operation can extend his life, fusing him with another human being, in a debut novel from the director of A Nightmare on Elm Street. Reprint.
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Wes Craven is a former humanities professor turned master of the macabre, a prolific and wildly successful director and screenwriter for almost thirty years. His credits include A Nightmare on Elm Street, many episodes of Twilight Zone, The People Under the Stairs, Scream, Scream 2, and Scream 3, and the classic Last House on the Left. He also directed the film Music of the Heart, starring Meryl Streep and Aidan Quinn, a moving drama about a violin teacher in Spanish Harlem. Craven was born in Cleveland and holds a master's degree in writing and philosophy from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He lives in Los Angeles. Fountain Society is his first novel.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
DETENTION COMPLEX 14 -- HAIFA
The cell held fifteen men. It was ten by twelve and stank of sweat, filth and fear. The only amenity offered was a hole in the center of the concrete floor which served as a toilet. The cell contained, so far as Rashid al-Assad had been able to gather, three Lebanese commandos who kept to themselves and were dreaded even more than their jailers. One of their number had been beaten badly during capture and was raving with fever and gangrene. This kept the others in a murderous mood.
There were also six nondescript Palestinians, none known to Rashid. From what he surmised they were nothing more than workmen, drivers or ex-army thieves, the usual Shiite dregs. They gave true Palestinian fighters a bad name, screaming under torture, wetting themselves and having nothing of importance to disclose when they quickly broke. He despised them.
The four Syrians were probably spies of one sort or another, more than likely industrial. He ignored them.
There was Rashid himself, proud to be a Shiite Muslim and a Hezbollah guerrilla. Not once had he uttered a sound, although they had removed everything on him that could be pulled off with a pair of pliers.
And then there was this tall blond pig of a Russian over in the corner.
This Russian was not to be known, Rashid understood. He was the only other professional there, and he was unapproachable. Someone had tried to fuck him the first night, and the Russian had killed the idiot before he could even open his mouth in protest. The corpse had been removed two days later, when the smell reached the guards two floors above.
In that very guard room Lieutenant Joram Ben Ami, watch commander of the intelligence unit at Haifa, was reading a message from his superior in Jerusalem at that very moment. The call they had both been expecting had been received from Washington at 12:45 P.M. local time, 1:45 A.M. in Washington, which was considered a good sign. It meant that the CIA was transmitting when scrambled telephone messages were least likely to attract attention. The business to which the call referred had been in process long enough to be in danger of random slipups, leaks to the press, unwanted attention from whistle-blowers and bleeding-heart congressmen, but the process had remained secret, and so the Israelis and the Americans were able to continue providing mutual benefit for each other. Ben Ami had been given the order to prepare two more units. That would make a total of ten prisoners shipped to the U.S. over the past six months, in return for which the Israeli air force would receive another five air-to-air Sparrow missiles. An excellent trade, in Ben Ami's opinion.
He chose Rashid al-Assad, the Hezbollah guerrilla, as the first. Rashid was the motherless asshole suspected of bombing a bus of Jewish settlers in downtown Haifa six weeks ago. The only unfortunate thing was that he was to be shipped untouched.
The second unit was stipulated by Ben Ami's commander -- it was to be the Russian caught spying for Iraq. He needed to be processed slightly, so Ben Ami relayed the orders to his best team. An ordinary claw hammer was used, both because it was what was on hand, and because they all hated Scud-selling Russians. His teeth came out with surprising difficulty.
Just before dawn, an unmarked American C-120 touched down on the airstrip outside the detention complex. Half a dozen long crates were fork-lifted out of the hold, and the two prisoners, heavily drugged and in handcuffs, were taken aboard by CIA operatives. The plane rose again, and the deal was done.
Twenty hours later, thousands of miles away from this airstrip and from each other, Rashid al-Assad and his Russian companion would be in the hands of an organization so secret not even the CIA spooks who acted as their handlers knew its purpose.
Neither man would survive his arrival for more than a few days.
ST. MAURICE, SWITZERLAND
Nearing orgasm, Elizabeth was having strange thoughts about being caught up in The Wizard of Oz.
She was in Dorothy's house, and the twister was sweeping around her, rattling the shutters and roaring in her ears. Wood splintered and she was lifted into the air.
Then at last she wasn't thinking at all.
All week long she had been obsessing about this afternoon, listing in one column all the reasons for showing up, in the other all the reasons for breaking the relationship off. The problem was, the same items kept popping up in both columns.
At least, for the moment, she was free of her most haunting preoccupation -- that she would never see Hans Brinkman again.
She arched her back and surrendered to the storm. She heard his cry of release, then despite his best efforts, his heart no longer seemed in it. He fell away, and a moment later he was throwing open the hotel window. He took in several deep breaths of frigid Alpine air.
She tried to catch her own breath.
He turned and smiled that perfect smile, then got back into bed with her, pulled the covers over them both and kissed her.
"That was wonderful," she said.
"But you didn't..." He made a gesture.
"No, but my watch stopped," she said lightly, returning his smile. "Really, Hans, don't worry about it."
He rolled out of bed just as quickly as he had gotten in, and gave a sigh. "I'm a selfish bastard, aren't I?"
"You are, yes, but that's my problem."
She tried to make it light, too, but it didn't feel that way inside. She couldn't help asking herself what all these Saturdays had amounted to, when all was said and done. Granted, he was rich and handsome, but she had been with handsome, powerful men before and hadn't felt a tenth of what she felt with Hans, or for him. The others had been devoted to her, had lavished gifts on her -- but not Hans. Attention, yes, in unpredictable bursts, but for the most part his days were spent in the world of global finance and his evenings devoted to his marriage, with all of the social life that went with it. Places she did not know and was not invited to. In fact she was, she knew, a complete secret from the rest of his life and the people in it. She did not exist in his world. Only here, in these rooms, for a few hours a month. It was not enough, even though she had allowed it to become everything she really cared about; she knew it had to end, sooner or later. And recently, she reluctantly felt it should be sooner than later.
As Hans dressed she watched him from under the covers, like a biologist studying a baffling animal from a blind. Hans Brinkman was thirty-five, ten years older than she, golden-haired, eyes flecked with green and brown. Like pools in Alpine streams, Elizabeth had thought when she first saw them -- cool, and full of hidden life. The afternoon sun glinted off his finely muscled body, his shock of thick blond hair. That last climax had been his third, yet he seemed unaffected. He was an athlete even in bed, she realized, and they were locked in some sort of contest she was probably fated to lose.
She was halfway down a hellish black diamond trail when she had first spotted him -- a flash of color shooting by on skis in the brilliant Swiss sunlight.
"On your left!" And then a blur.
This caught her attention in a hurry, since it was usually her passing the few who dared this sheer face. But there was something else, too. A feeling that she knew him, or needed to, and it was so strong that it was downright eerie.
Had she glimpsed a boyish grin in that streamlined, racing figure? No, just a wicked grin -- she was sure of it!
On full auto, Elizabeth shot out in a breath-stopping arc off an ice shelf she had always wisely avoided before. Half-falling, half-flying fifty yards downslope in the air, she managed to land upright only by a combination of grit, skill and pure luck. But she was ahead of him, and she meant to keep it that way -- pointing her skis straight downhill and tucking into the egg.
But it wasn't that simple. What followed was a race that went from high-end sport to thrill-seeking to giddy terror as the two traded places in a cascade of dare and double dare. They were neck and neck again in the final stretch, a straight, precipitous chute that rejoined the regular slope at its end. And it was at the moment when they had reached that juncture -- with the wind tearing at her face and her heart pounding -- that a snowboarder on the main slope wiped out directly in her challenger's path. Elizabeth realized in an instant that unless she gave way, the man beside her would choose to slam into this kid like a ton of bricks at ninety miles an hour.
She braked hard, and with a cry of glee the man shot over to her track and was gone without a backward glance.
She should have known then.
Later, at the lodge, he sought her out and offered to buy her a drink. She found herself saying yes, and after they had finished playing jet-set geography, trying in vain to determine where they'd met before, he paid her his first compliment: "We're both crazy, you know," he said.
She laughed and nodded. "You a professional?" she asked, and meant it. He smiled broadly, clearly flattered that she would think so.
She raised her eyebrows, actually amazed.
"You might as well have told me you were a scientist," she laughed.
"I almost was," he said matter-of-factly. Then he seemed lost in thought for a moment, as if he were genuinely fascinated by something he had just glimpsed internally. Then he turned back to her, completely present again.
"When I studied physics I never did anything dangerous. Not till I got into high finance. Now that's where it's worth putting your neck on the line. Like you do. You in money?"
She blinked. In money? What an odd expression.
"I'm not that smart."
"Yeah, right. What's your IQ, about 140?"
She looked at him, realizing she had no idea.
"Really, I'm good at this," he pursued, intrigued. "Never wrong. SATs what, about 1500?"
"Never took the SATs," she admitted.
"No college? I'm shocked."
"Does that make me a dumb blonde in your book?"
He leaned toward her, frowning. "Elizabeth, you know why men call blondes dumb?" he asked, with a boyish solemnity she found hard to resist.
"Because beautiful blondes make them feel dumb because they can't express what they feel when they're faced with a beautiful woman."
There was some truth to that, she thought, and it was endearing of him to say so. But it was also completely disingenuous. Looking back now, as she snuggled deeper into the bed and remembered that meeting from a safe distance, she knew beyond a doubt that if Hans Brinkman doubted his abilities in any area, she had never seen the slightest hint. No, the only weakness he had ever displayed since she had known him was an inability to remain close to her long enough for her to take his presence for granted. God, she would love to have that luxury. But instead, there was only the elusive thrill of the unbroken charger -- no knight -- just the stunning white horse. She had fallen for that mythical energy and had fallen hard to be sure -- and now here she was, a year later in the fluorescent glare of reality, blond model in a black book, hotel plaything of an investment banker who barely had time for her.
How predictable was that?
She pulled the sheets around her and wondered. Was she afraid to let him go, or just afraid of him?
The answer, she suspected ruefully, was both. And that fear, bordering at times on the voluptuous, made Hans all the more intriguing. The fact was that Elizabeth liked risk -- yearned for the taste and challenge of it. And deep inside she was even convinced that on the other side of such places and situations lay the reality she so desired. From the slopes of Switzerland to the runways of Paris, she had found everything she treasured most by threading passageways of fear to the other side.
Everything she treasured, including Hans.
But this infatuation with her fear had, on one horrendous occasion, nearly cost Elizabeth her looks and her livelihood, not to mention her life, so she also developed a healthy sense of caution. At this moment, with anxiety and hunger and blind anticipation all swirling around her, she found herself watching Hans Brinkman with increasing objectivity.
You can walk away from this, she was thinking. Put it all behind you, girl!
She saw him smile, as though he were reading her thoughts. "What are you brooding about, Elizabeth?" he asked.
She stiffened slightly. The faintly patronizing way he always used her full name -- why hadn't that gotten under her skin before? "I was thinking back to when we met," she said.
"Ruing the day," he teased, and before she could agree, "I lied to you, you know."
She looked at him, suddenly afraid. He grinned.
"Well, not an outright lie, a lie of omission. I didn't tell you I'd been stalking you."
By now breathing was difficult. "Stalking me?"
"I'd seen your picture in Allure -- remember that little reading room at the ski lodge? And when I looked up, there you were in the lobby. It was like magic. As if we were fated to be together. Or as if we'd already met before."
"In another life," she said, trying for flippancy. But it had come out like a statement of fact, and it scared her even more. It sounded so right, even though she had not even thought before saying it. That feeling of déjà vu.
"Something like that, yes. It threw me. I was almost afraid to approach you -- I don't know why, it never happened before. So I thought, well, I'll impress her on the slopes, then we'll have something to talk about."
"It worked," she said carefully.
"You impressed me, too," he said almost fondly. He touched her hair. "You aren't starting to regret it, are you?" he asked, and suddenly there was a sadness in his voice that completely unnerved her.
He smiled again. Was he happy now? Or was he seeing right through her, amused as only a true cynic can be? She raged at herself in frustration. I am regretting it. Come on, Lizzy, in the animal kingdom -- which is where Hans definitely lives -- a smile is just another show of teeth.
"We remind me of that Cole Porter song," he said amiably. "What's it called?"
"I don't know any Cole Porter songs," she lied. She knew exactly the one he was thinking of.
"'Too hot not to cool down,'" he sang off-key. "That what you're afraid of? The Angel's Curse?"
She looked at him. She knew he would say what it was and he did.
"It's a corollary of the Rule of Blondes: men think they're not good enough for you, so they act accordingly. They disappear, or fuck it up, and hurt you. That's what's always happened, right?"
"Whereas you know you're good enough?" she countered, not caring to answer that one. What on earth was he leading up to?
"I know," he said, his voice dropping into a gentler register. "We were meant to be together."
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Descripción Pocket, 2000. Mass Market Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Nº de ref. de la librería DADAX0671017241
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