Authors: Jeremy Bishop
ALSO BY JEREMY BISHOP:
JANE HARPER HORROR NOVELS
Torment: A Novel of Dark Horror
WRITING AS JEREMY ROBINSON:
THE JACK SIGLER THRILLERS
THE CHESS TEAM NOVELLAS
Callsign: Queen—Book 1
Callsign: Rook—Book 1
Callsign: Bishop—Book 1
Callsign: Knight—Book 1
Callsign: Deep Blue—Book 1
Callsign: King—Book 1
Callsign: King—Book 2—Underworld
Callsign: King—Book 3—Blackout
THE ANTARKTOS SAGA
The Last Hunter: Descent
The Last Hunter: Pursuit
The Last Hunter: Ascent
The Last Hunter: Lament
The Last Hunter: Onslaught
MILOS VESELY NOVELLAS
I Am Cowboy
Raising the Past
The Didymus Contingency
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Text copyright © 2013 Jeremy Bishop
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.
Published by 47North
PO Box 400818
Las Vegas, NV 89140
Library of Congress Control Number: 2012951475
For Hilaree Robinson, my wife, who taught me how to write like a sarcastic woman.
he fist headed toward the side of my head is roughly the size of a sledgehammer. I doubt it carries the same weight or density, but the arm propelling it forward resembles José Canseco’s, after he shrunk his manhood with steroids. The point is, if it hits me dead-on, I’m out for the count. Maybe worse. Even a glancing blow is going to hurt.
Lucky for me, I’m quick. And a small target. I lean back on my bar stool, locking my feet under my surly neighbor’s chair to keep myself from spilling ass over teakettle.
The missed swing whirls the drunken fisherman around on his stool. When his body stops spinning, he cants away from me and falls. The man lands on an empty stool, taking the blow to his stomach with an “Oof!” Then he slips off the side of the three-foot-tall stool and lands on his back, driving out whatever air is left in his lungs.
I’ve somehow managed to pummel the man without lifting a finger. I sit up, polish off my third twenty-ounce beer, and guffaw along with the bar’s four other regulars. I know it’s not nice, but the big Greenlander had it coming. Granted, he only asked me to dance, but (A) there’s no music playing, (B) his breath smells like boiled mutton left in the sun too long, and (C)—well, there isn’t a (C).
And sure, I could have just said, “No, thank you.” I didn’t need to mention his mother.
Of course, it wasn’t until I brought the goat into my retelling of his unfortunate birth that he drove his fist into the bar and demanded an apology. At which point I took a mouthful of lager and squeezed it out between my teeth, arcing the amber liquid onto the man’s gray sweater, which I quickly learned had been hand-knit by his recently deceased grandmother. I’d managed to insult three generations of his family inside of thirty seconds, and here in the dock district of Nuuk, Greenland, that’s cause for a fight. Even against a girl.
Family is kind of a big deal here, and familial honor, loyalty, respect, and fealty stretch back generations to the Vikings who first settled this frigid nation and told the world’s most monumental lie by naming it Greenland. So I don’t think he’s wrong for taking a swing. I had it coming. But I’ve got my own set of excuses for instigating the scuffle, even if it’s somewhat of a flaccid affair.
To start, I was raised by a man I call “the Colonel.” My father. A hard-ass if there ever was one. He taught me how to fight. How to survive. And how to run off at the mouth. Some people get freckles, or red hair, or apelike brow lines. I inherited a proclivity for four-letter words and a knack for sarcasm that makes them sting. I’m an army brat. Blame the military. Hell, blame the president. That seems to work for most things.
But that’s not really the reason for this row, or the handful of others I’ve sparked over the past three months. My court-appointed psychologist calls it survivor’s guilt with a dash of psychosis brought on by hypothermia and starvation. I’d like to say that’s what I asked her to say, but she really believes it. After all, who would believe a story like mine without seeing it firsthand? I joined the radical crew of the
, an antiwhaling vessel, as
an undercover investigator for the WSPA (World Society for the Protection of Animals). During a confrontation with the whaling ship
’s captain used C4 explosives and sank both ships. The survivors wound up on an island where an ancient clan of Vikings had been buried. Not only were these Vikings the ancestors of the
’s captain, Jakob Olavson, and his son, Willem, but they were also turning into zombies. Fucking
. But these weren’t your run-of-the-mill shambling Romero-style undead. They were Draugar—the ancient inspiration for modern zombie
vampire stories. To make things worse, they were controlled by some kind of parasite that slowed decay, imprisoned their minds, and controlled their bodies.
Most of us died on that island. Only three of us survived. And we’ve been telling the same story since, despite being labeled insane, at least temporarily, which was our lawyer’s plea. If there weren’t bodies strewn all over the island, the judge might’ve agreed. But the “ongoing investigation” has been ongoing for two and a half months, which means they found something.
Meanwhile, I’ve got a GPS tracker strapped to my left leg and my name on every no-fly and no-sail list. I’d love to leave, but I’m not going anywhere. So, like a little kid coming down from a sugar high, I’ve decided to make myself a nuisance instead. It’s not really going to help my case, but it makes me feel better, and I’ve yet to meet a beefy Greenlander willing to tell the police a five-foot-five-inch woman with apple cheeks and black pixie-cut hair put him in a world of hurt. His ancestors would turn over in their graves, which I now know is actually possible.
I’d like to say I’m making the Colonel proud by beating up men twice my size, but I’m also wasting my life. “Make the best of every situation,” he’d say. It sounds Zen, but for him that meant
something closer to, “If you run out of ammo, stab your enemy in the eye with a ballpoint pen.” Or a chopstick. Your finger. Really, whatever is handy. But however you look at my past three months, I’m not making the best of anything.
I don’t have a job. I’m living off the meager inheritance I discovered I had when they released me from the hospital (the Colonel died just before I set sail on the
). And I’ve distanced myself from the only two people who don’t think I’m cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. Seeing them doesn’t just remind me that I survived a nightmare. It reminds me that I don’t think it’s over. Willem, Jakob, and I weren’t the only survivors. The parasites, which can inhabit any warm-blooded mammal, escaped the island, too, carried to safety inside a herd of walruses and a pod of orcas.
So I’m alone, afraid, and, most of the time, fairly pissed off that no one will listen to me. Worse, I understand why. I do sound nuts. And I won’t be surprised if I get locked up when all is said and done. Hell, if things play out the way I fear, a cell behind the walls of a mental institution might be one of the safest places to be.
The Greenlander groans as he sucks in a fresh breath. His face burns red from lack of air, but probably just as much from embarrassment. “Ilisiippoq!” he hisses.
I’ve acquainted myself with as many colorful Greenlandic phrases as I can retain, but this word sounds unfamiliar. “What did you call me?” I get down off my stool and find myself wobbly on my feet. I hold on to the stool with one hand and try to steady myself.
“Witch!” he says, pushing himself up.
“Stay down,” I warn.
He’s not going to listen, which isn’t surprising, since he’s drunk. Of course, he’s had the same amount to drink as me, and I’m still
on my feet. I’m a regular—what’s her name? from
Raiders of the Lost Ark
. Margo? Maggie? Marion? That’s it—Marion. Man, I’m drunk.
The giant gets to his feet and nearly careens over again. He finds his balance and raises his clenched hands as if he’s about to engage in some old-timey fisticuffs. I brace myself and get ready to kick him in the nuts.
But then the TV distracts me. Something about whales.
I thrust my open palms at the man, but not as the prelude to an attack. “Wait, wait!” I say.
My moment of supplication confuses the man. He lowers his fists for a moment and glances at the TV. He’s heard the whale footage and grows interested, too. “I can wait,” he says.
“Turn it up,” I say to the barman, who’s been watching the altercation with a smile on his face. Most of my scuffles have taken place in and outside this bar. I think he likes to watch. Maybe he’s simply admiring the action, as his Viking ancestors might have. Maybe he’s getting his rocks off. I don’t care. Whatever the reason, he doesn’t call the police.
I turn my attention to the TV. I can’t understand most of what’s being said, but the bartender keeps the closed captions on and set to English at my request. I read the text on the screen, ignoring the stock footage and talking head.
Whales have not been seen in the waters off Greenland in the past two months, and the small whaling industry has ground to a halt. Scientists speculate that environmental factors may be the cause, but local fishermen disagree.