Lazarus Pharmaceuticals has created a miracle drug. Vanidrum, was made to enhance its consumer's inner beauty, battling loneliness, depression and anxiety but something has gone horribly wrong.
When events take a turn for the dark Lazarus Pharmaceuticals calls on its best. Taylor Hart is a Cleaner well versed in sweeping questionable events under the proverbial rug. The rabbit hole Taylor is thrust into only goes deeper as she discovers the nefarious specifics around, Vanidrum and the evil that has been waiting to consume.
Now Taylor and the rest of her team are in a race against the clock to find a cure for a drug that wants to amplify the very darkest parts of human nature and spread.
For those who enjoy, AG Riddle's Atlantis Gene, Justin Cronin's The Passage or Max Brook's World War Z this one was written for you.
Release date: March 11, 2021
Publisher: Archimedes Books
Print pages: 248
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Extinction Event : A Survival Thriller
“I don’t know how a drug could be responsible for affecting him like this. He just started taking Vanidrum last week.” Mrs. Jones trembled at the sound of another loud bang as she searched Taylor’s eyes for answers. “He’s—he’s in the study.”
“I can go in alone if you would like.”
“No, no,” the woman whispered. “He’s my husband.”
Mrs. Jones slowly opened the door to the upstairs office and the two women entered. The first thing Taylor noticed was the temperature in the room. Both windows in the upstairs office were open. A high-powered ceiling fan rotated in violent circles adding to the chill. The only light came from a single lamp in a far corner, warping the office in varying shades of shadows.
Taylor took in the leather furniture, mahogany bookcases, and Persian rug in a quick second. Her attention was soon directed to the figure on the opposite side of the room. The man was hunched over a large desk opening and closing drawers in a frantic state.
One by one the drawers were flung open. Mr. Jones would rummage through the contents for a few seconds then, unsatisfied with his findings, he would slam the drawer shut in a show of frustration.
Taylor stood still a moment longer. A checklist was going off in her mind, Five foot eight, subject in his fifties, no obvious weapons.
“Mr. Jones,” Taylor said, taking a step forward. Her boots sunk into the soft rug as if it was trying to suck her into the floor.
James Jones refused to acknowledge anyone else was in the room. Drops of sweat fell off his face and onto the desk he continued to search in a frenzy.
Taylor moved forward until she was only feet from the maniacal man. “Excuse me, Mr. Jones?”
No response. Chin directed down, Taylor was left to guess at his expression. Liquid oozed from his face and sprinkled onto the desk below.
“My name is Taylor Hart. I’m here because your wife is worried about you. Mr. Jones, can you hear me?”
A whisper. Taylor leaned in closer to hear the raspy mumbling from the man’s throat. So much of what he said was indiscernible but what Taylor did catch made no sense.
“Got to find it…almost there…almost beautiful…then I can share…I can make them beautiful too…”
“Mr. Jones? What are you trying to find? What is it that you want to share?”
“Ah ha!” Mr. Jones screamed. Cloaked by the lack of light in the room, he held up a sharp object in his right hand. “Eureka!”
Mrs. Jones gasped. With something that could be used as a weapon now in her subject’s hand, Taylor placed her worn notebook on the desk between herself and James Jones. Shoulders squared, hands ready, knees slightly bent, years of training took over.
If Mr. Jones noticed the shift in Taylor’s stance, he didn’t give any indication. Instead, he retreated to the large open windows behind him. His left hand reached toward his lower back. He pulled out a mirror that lay secured between his waistline and belt. Leaning half his body out the window to catch the moonlight, Taylor got her first real look at him.
Mr. Jones indeed cared about his outward appearance. Hair plugs rustled in the breeze of the open window. Unnaturally white teeth contrasted against bronze colored spray-tanned skin, reminding Taylor of a cooked potato. However, it was his face that made the air catch in her mouth.
Mr. Jones’ face was a bloody mess of scratches and holes. Lumps of flesh fell from his cheeks, chin, and nose. It was blood, not sweat, that dripped from a dozen different points. James Jones lifted the mirror in his left hand and caught the moonlight. The reflection that would horrify most made him smile.
“Beautiful,” he murmured to himself.
Along with illuminating the man’s face and mirror, the moon cast light on what he held in his right hand. The pointed object he was so determined to find in the desk was a letter opener. The blade was no more than a few inches in length but Taylor knew from experience that even the smallest knife could be capable of horrific actions.
Taylor gave herself the briefest moment to be shocked and just like that it was gone. Taylor gathered herself and moved around the desk closer to the bloody maniac. “Mr. Jones. I don’t know what you think is happening but you’re hurting yourself. Your wife and I are very worried about you. Please, give me the knife. We can all sit down and talk about whatever it is that’s bothering you.”
Once again Mr. Jones ignored her. His eyes never left the reflection of himself in the mirror. A sick smile twisted his lips upward. He stood there without moving, enraptured by his own image.
“James, James!” Mrs. Jones shrieked. “You must stop this. What are you doing?”
Taylor lifted an arm to warn Mrs. Jones away. The distraught woman pushed it off and walked closer to her husband. “James, this isn’t you. This is the medication talking. Please come away from the window and put down the knife.”
Before anyone could move to stop him, James Jones lifted the letter opener to his face, digging the blade into his forehead. With a quick right to left flip of his wrist, he opened a long, shallow cut.
Taylor grabbed Mrs. Jones by the arm and pulled her back as she screamed.
“There,” James breathed, “perfection.” For the first time, he looked at the two women in the study. “Oh, hello, would you like to be beautiful too?”
Taylor held onto the trembling Mrs. Jones. A quick look at her face confirmed what she was thinking. The woman was in shock. Taylor pushed the quaking woman behind her. Refusing to let her own fear rule the moment, she turned to confront the psychotic masochist. Taylor was done playing nice. The situation needed to be resolved quickly or someone else was bound to be injured.
“Put the knife down, now. While you still have an option.”
“But why? Why wouldn’t you want to be perfect?” Mr. Jones asked. He threw the mirror on the desk, shattering the glass in a dozen different pieces. Blade in his right hand, he advanced. “You’ll see. Once I bleed the imperfection from your face, you’ll see the truth. You’ll be beautiful, beautiful like me. You do want to be beautiful, don’t you?”
Taylor knew she couldn’t let the man’s blood come anywhere close to her. Whatever was making him act like this could be contagious. Left foot forward, right foot back, Taylor waited for the attack.
Mr. Jones smiled as he stalked toward her. A gleam in his eye told Taylor all she needed to know. He had to be put down and he had to be put down hard.
Knife raised in his right fist, blood oozing down his face in sheets, he smiled at her. Taylor didn’t hold back. The moment he was in range she struck with her right foot, lifting her boot off the floor and swinging up in a wide arc. A split second later, her foot slammed into James’ left temple with enough force to topple a man twice his size. Without a sound, he crumpled to the floor.
Taylor took a long breath. Adrenaline was coursing through her body. With no outlet to expend itself, the adrenaline forced her heartrate to increase in tempo.
She moved toward the downed man. Motionless, he held on to the letter opener. Taylor kicked the weapon out of his hand and knelt on the floor next to him. Unwilling to come in direct contact with his blood, she listened for his breath rather than checking his pulse.
Mr. Jones was lying face first on the carpet. Blood pooled from his self-inflicted wounds, soaking into the soft rug. Taylor leaned toward him and listened. Beyond her own heartbeat and the steady beat of the fan, she could hear the shallow breathing of her assailant.
Satisfied he was alive, Taylor rose to her feet. She turned her back to the unconscious man and reached for the cell phone in her pocket. Mrs. Jones stood near the door to the study, her mouth open but unmoving, her eyes glued to the still form of her husband.
“Mrs. Jones, you’re in shock. I need you to go downstairs and wait for my medical team to arrive. Can you do that for me?”
Words beyond her, the woman managed to raise a finger and point behind Taylor.
Instantly Taylor knew what the woman was trying to communicate. “He’s standing up behind me, isn’t he?”
Mrs. Jones nodded.
“You need to go downstairs now.”
At this point, Taylor wasn’t sure if the woman could manage another nod, let alone a word.
Taylor turned, cell phone in hand. He was already standing, breathing heavy. New bright red blood mixed with older brownish stains all over his face and clothes creating a tie-dye of red and brown shades.
“What’s wrong?” he whispered. “Don’t you want to be beautiful? You should release that wonderful dark beauty within you. It wants to get out.”
How did he get up from that? Taylor wondered. He should have been out for hours.
Without warning, James lunged at her again. This time there was no room for a wide kick. Taylor had to improvise, coiling her right leg in front of her and slammed it as hard as she could into the charging man’s chest.
Falling backward, James caught the base of his skull on the desk. A loud crack split the air and once again he crumpled motionless to the floor
This time Taylor wouldn’t leave anything to chance. Tucking the unused cell phone into her jacket pocket, she crossed the room to the corner lamp stand and yanked the electric cord from both socket and lamp.
Braving the now dark room to secure her attacker’s hands, she knelt down beside him and began working on tying his wrists together. Grabbing his forearms and nudging his hands behind him with her boots, Taylor avoided making direct skin-to-skin contact with any section of his blood. She liked her face exactly how it was.
Taylor was satisfied with her job. Even if James Jones somehow regained consciousness in the next few minutes he would be unable to pose a threat. Taylor reached for her phone and dialed her Operator’s number.
“There you are,” the familiar voice said.
“Here I am,” Taylor agreed, keeping a watchful eye on James Jones’ unmoving body.
Taylor glanced back at Mrs. Jones for a brief second and chose her words, “We’ll need a medical team and a containment unit.”
“Really? How bad is it?”
Taylor caught motion out of the corner of her eye. Against all odds, James Jones was stirring again. With a grunt of disbelief, she walked over to his struggling form and placed a boot on the center of his arching back.
“Taylor? Taylor, are you there? How bad is the situation?”
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