Warren Murphy: Prophet Of Doom

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  • Название:
    Prophet Of Doom
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    Детективная фантастика / на английском языке
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    Английский
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Prophet Of Doom: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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Where There's Smoke... Everybody with a spare million  is lining up at the gates of Ranch Ragnarok, home to Esther Clear Seer's Church of the Absolute and Incontrovertible Truth. Here an evil yellow smoke shrouds an ancient oracle that offers glimpses into the future. But when young virgins start disappearing, CURE smells something more than a scam. Here in Wyoming, East and West are about to fulfill an ancient prophecy. For Apollo himself, Zeus's own wild boy, is set to unleash a power greater than any seen in two millenia. He's got a score to settle - and Remo is the lucky sacrificial vessel.

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She tried to get back to her knees, but Remo's seemingly gentle touch on her upper arms held her firmly in place.

"Let me take you to your room," he said softly.

Sudden concern showed in her eyes. ' 'Are you with Dr. Coffin?"

"No," Remo admitted.

"Oh, dear," the woman said. What little color she had drained from her face, and her exhausted frame tipped against the wall. "You mustn't tell them I spoke with you," she said desperately. "Please. They can't find out." Her watery eyes darted up and down the empty hallway in fear.

"Relax," said Remo quietly. With great delicacy he pulled the woman upright. "Everything's going to be just fine. Is there a nurse around here somewhere?"

"No!" she shrieked. She pulled away from Remo's grip with surprising agility. "Not the nurses! Please," she begged, her voice now muted. "Please, just leave. Leave me alone."

"Can I help you with something?" a voice behind Remo asked icily.

Remo turned to see a severe-looking woman standing near the empty nurses' station down the hallway. The knuckles of her plump hands rested on her boxy hips, and her eyes shot daggers at him. Her plain hair was pulled back in a bun so tight her eyes bugged out. She sashayed over to Remo, the coarse fabric of her heavy tweed skirt swinging like Quasimodo's bell.

28

"Oh, no," groaned the old woman. "I'm fine, Dr. Coffin. Honestly. See? I'm working." Using the wall as a brace, she slid slowly to the floor and unfolded a moistened ball of rag clutched in her hand. Remo watched in amazement as the woman—she looked ninety if she was a day—began scrubbing the floor wildly.

"See? I'm still working. And happy," she added. "That's what I was telling this young man here. I couldn't be happier." Straining her neck, she looked up and forced a smile.

"This is ridiculous," Remo said, shaking his head. He drew the woman back to her feet.

"Stop that!" the old woman cried. "I'm not too old to work!" Her arms flailed as she tried to pull away from Remo.

"It's all right, Josephine," said Dr. Coffin. "You may go now."

"But I haven't finished scrubbing the floor yet. Please let me work!" The old woman was in tears. "I want to work!"

"I said you may go," snapped Dr. Coffin. Josephine turned her pitiful, red-rimmed eyes toward Remo and without another word shuffled painfully down the hall and out of sight.

"'So that our guests might enjoy their later years in quiet dignity and grace,'" said Remo, quoting from the Sunnyville brochure.

"Stuff it, Lean and Mean," snapped the woman. "What do you want?"

Remo shrugged. "Local reporter," he said. "Doing a piece for the Sunday supplement. Dr. Coffin, I presume?"

29

The nursing-home staffer suppressed a brief, mirthless smile. "Which local paper?" she sneered.

"Beats me," Remo admitted. "Daily something-or-other. Who pays attention to the masthead these days? I'm too busy racking up column inches. You up to an interview, Mrs. Coffin?"

"Doctor," she corrected. "Dr. Augusta Coffin." Her meaty face puckered painfully. Remo realized that this was what passed for Dr. Coffin's smile of triumph. "And you are no reporter," she added. With that, she whirled and, with a flash of thick calves, clomped over to the bare desk near the elevator foyer. With a stubby finger she dialed a security code on the old-fashioned rotary telephone.

"That's what my editor keeps saying," Remo said, "which is why I'm stuck doing Sunday fluff pieces." As he followed Dr. Coffin, he fumbled in the pockets of his new chinos for some paper but the best he could come up with was an Inspected By ##7 label. He held the tiny scrap of paper in the palm of his hand, ready to jot down notes when he suddenly remembered he had no pen or pencil.

Dr. Coffin didn't seem to care. She merely stood, bouncer-like, in front of the elevator doors, her arms folded across her crisply starched blouse.

"You've got other people here, don't you?" Remo asked. "Younger guys on the payroll? Where are they?"

Dr. Coffin ignored him.

"Is it true you recently unplugged an eighty-year-old woman from dialysis because her Medicare check was a day late?"

"I'm running a business here—not a charity." Dr.

30

Coffin's pug nose crinkled as she cast a sideways glance at Remo.

"Can I quote you on that?" Remo asked. He pretended to make a few scratch marks with his nonexistent pencil.

Dr. Coffin's gaze seemed to be hardening. "Who are you really?'' she asked, looking him up and down. The edge in her voice softened. She rubbed a shoulder against Remo's chest. Or tried to.

Remo dodged the meaty shoulder. "The woman died," he said.

"We all have to go sometime."

"I'm glad you feel that way," said Remo, deflecting a clumsy paw from the front of his trousers. "There have been nine other similar incidents here in the past month."

"A girl's got to keep busy," Dr. Coffin purred. "What's that cologne you're wearing?"

"Bee pheromones."

"Yowza, yowza." Padded fingers sought Remo's short dark hair.

"Oh, get real," said Remo. He smacked her thick fingers away. "I haven't got all night. My editor's a stickler for deadlines. Where are your accomplices?''

"Accomplices?" asked Augusta Coffin innocently. "We have nurses on staff at Sunnyville, but refer to them as associates, not accomplices. You make things sound so sinister." She ran her tongue across her thick red lips. "There's a vacant room just up the hall, sugar," she said suggestively.

Suddenly the elevator chimed, and the doors slid open.

Five burly men lumbered out as if joined at the hip.

31

The seams of their white cotton shorts were stretched to the bursting point as muscle fought fabric in a contest Remo was certain the fabric would lose.

The man at the fore of the group appraised Remo's lean frame. "Another Fed?" he asked Dr. Coffin. A pin over his breast pocket identified him as Roy Hark-ness, R.N.

Dr. Coffin's face was flushed. She smoothed her dress as if she and Remo had been discovered in flagrante delicto. "He says he's a reporter," she said to Roy, crossing her arms and plumping her ample bosom.

"He don't look like no reporter to me," one of the meat-piles said from the back. "Looks kind of faggy, in fact."

"That's not quite the look I was shooting for," said Remo. "I thought of going for the grizzled-news-vet approach, but opted for the cub-reporter persona instead. Now, how many of you are guilty of murder? Can I have a show of hands?" His invisible pencil hovered over his tiny notepaper.

Dr. Augusta Coffin sighed. "I suppose you have to take care of him now," she said to Roy.

"We can't let him escape," Roy suggested. He seemed puzzled that she even asked the question. "You want a piece of him?"

"In the worst way."

They looked at her.

I "I affect some women this way," offered Remo. "Just do it," Augusta Coffin said, a hint of regret in her voice. Roy and his male-nurse brigade escorted Remo onto the waiting elevator, piling in around the edge of the

32

tiny car like a solid, living wall. The elevator groaned under the weight as Roy stabbed at the Down button.

"Isn't there a weight limit on these things?" asked Remo. '"Cause if there is, you're it." He pointed at a nearby pectoral muscle that looked like a beef flank.

"What agency are you with?" Roy demanded.

"Agency?" said Remo, feigning surprise. "I told you. I'm cub reporter Remo Welby, hot on a story that's going to win me the big prize that all reporters dream of."

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