Warren Murphy: The Ultimate Death

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As people begin dropping dead after consuming Chicken King poultry, the Destroyer and his omnipotent Asian mentor begin to suspect that a vegetarian vigilante is on the loose. Warning: Death is bad for your health The great health-food movement in America was a victim of fowl play. Folks who had switched from prime beef to pure poultry were winding up dead meat. The country's Chicken King was squaking at the top of his lungs, the flesh-starved citizenry was yelling blur murder, and Remo and Chiun were the only one to know that a vegetarian vampire was on the loose. But even the indefatigable Destroyer and his omnipotent Oriental mentor did not know how to stop this friend feasting on cold vengeance and warm blood...

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Destroyer 88: The Ultimate Death

By Warren Murphy apir

Chapter 1

On the day they suspended his disemboweled body from a tree and drank his salty blood as it bubbled, still warm, from his red, open throat, Gregory Green Gideon was worried about his country's salvation.

There was a terrible irony in this. Gregory Green Gideon believed in health. It was his abiding passion. Yet his unexpected evisceration was destined to enable the greatest menace to the health of the United States since the swine flu to flourish in the very temple Gregory Green Gideon had consecrated to saving America from dietary perdition.

Like most true believers in a great cause, Gideon was not born into his faith, but was a convert to it.

Right up to the very day he quit the Happy Face Ice Cream Company of West Caldwell, New Jersey, to start his own health food concern in the wilds of Woodstock, New York, Gregory Green Gideon had been an unrepentant marketeer of solid sugar frozen foodstuffs. His was a career that blazed across much of the fifties and sixties-the Golden Age of Sugar in American life.

It took his wife's massive coronary to show him the light.

After years of swilling soda and popping bonbons-not to mention slurping down a Happy Face flavorbar after every meal-Dolly Gideon's blood-sugar level was exceeded only by her prodigious weight. She tried diets, starvation, and even a quadruple bypass, but ultimately, her 472 serum cholesterol level brought her down like a blubbery redwood.

Despite her gross looks and grosser eating habits, Gregory G. Gideon had loved his wife. He turned away from her headstone, and then from Happy Face, one dreary autumn day in 1971, and never looked back.

Besides, the handwriting was on the sidewalk. The streets were becoming infested with drug pushers. Parents refused to allow their children to run down the road waving money openly. It was only a matter of time before the jingling neighborhood Good Humor trucks would go the way of the icewagon.

Happy Face ultimately went retail-only to be aced out by gourmet ice creams, which already had their percentage of supermarket space locked up tight. "Confections" and "glaces" with such exotic names as "Hagar Flaven" and "Bordeaux Creme" would supplant mere ice cream-even though they were made in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

No, the future lay in health foods, Gregory Green Gideon decided. He tore up his pension, threw away his ties, burned his wing-tips in a potbellied stove, and moved into an environmentally friendly log cabin in New York State. There he was, forty-five, short, paunchy, and balding-the absolute image of the stereotypical salesman as played by any number of middle-aged New York actors-about to embark upon a frightening new sugar-free life, like a pioneer of old.

His years of food sales experience ultimately stood him in good stead. If there was one thing he had learned, it was that people buy food for three reasons. First, to stay alive. But once you got past that, there remained only the two sides of the eternal food coin: because they thought it would taste good, or, more importantly to Gregory G. Gideon, because they thought it was good for them.

Gideon had spent a lifetime convincing the public of the former. Now he was out to convince them of the latter. He started with a single product: a strange fruit-and-nut bar made by Violet Nussbaum, an old woman in neighboring Bethel, New York. She would grind up figs, dates, and mandarin oranges, cement them together with honey, then mix in ground-up chestnuts, pecans, and acorns. She called it the "Mysterious East Bar," and tasting it was like rolling around Yellowstone Park with your mouth open.

Gideon bought the rights to mass-produce the thing for seven hundred and fifty dollars. Within a year the old woman had passed away, and Gregory G. Gideon's "Fru-Nutty Bar" made its fetid debut under the Three-G label.

To say it was an immediate success would be stretching the truth, but like Gideon, the Fru-Nutty Bar had staying power-and a strange, barky aftertaste. He kept pushing, and the public kept tasting.

The new health food manufacturer was amazed. Every fiber in his ice cream-oriented body told him he was committing commercial suicide by mainlining a log of strangled fruit and nuts, but he broke even within a year. Within two, he was making a tiny profit.

Revitalized, Gregory Green Gideon put his marketing skills to work to find out exactly why anyone in his right mind would buy-let alone eat-such a thing.

He commissioned a private poll. Gideon quickly learned that health faddists don't think food is good for them unless it tastes bad. They liked the Fru-Nutty Bar because it looked, tasted, and was named so ridiculously. It made them feel somehow stronger for having consumed the unconsumable, like brushing their teeth with salt and baking soda.

Gregory followed up his original offering with the new, Vitamin C-enriched Cee-Fru-Nutty, which made them pucker. Then came the new, oat-packed Bran-Fru-Nutty, which made them constipated.

Either way, the customers knew they were getting what they had paid for. Gideon patently refused to make the eating experience more palatable with a chocolate covering or the more fatty nuts, like cashews, and said so right on the label. In fact he eventually took out the honey, and replaced it with a truly revolting soybean paste. It had a nice sheen to it, though.

Word soon got around health food circles that Gregory G. Gideon wasn't fooling anybody. He wasn't selling "lite" products that were actually "hevy." He wasn't hiding lower calories behind higher fat content.

He was giving his public exactly what it wanted. There was no stopping him. The initial snack bars became an entire line of Fru-Nutty supplements: Fru-Nutty Chips snacks, Fru-Nutty Smoothie drinks, Fru-Nutty All-Grain Burgers, and even bite-sized Fru-Nutty Suckers.

Gideon was stunned by the amount of money that poured in, and he plowed it back into Three-G, Inc. He went from a rented storefront to a run-down factory, then from a ten-year-old warehouse to a brand-spanking-new office and manufacturing building built specifically to his requirements.

Unlike Happy Face Ice Cream, which was housed in a vintage World War II building that would have made Rosie the Riveter nostalgic, the Three-G Incorporated building was all clean, shaded glass, with alternating solar heat panels in a checkerboard design. It was built in the shape of a square, with a small park in the center like a carob-and-pistachio center.

On the last day his blood warmed his own body, Gregory Green Gideon stood before one of the picture windows, contemplating what he had wrought. He stared out at the little grove nestled in the middle of his headquarters, the ultramodern glass panels shielding the ultraviolet and infrared rays of the sun from his eyes. He watched as the fruit trees and nut bushes swayed in the early morning wind. He smiled tightly at the thought of them taking nutriment from the very ground where his wife and elderly benefactor lay.

"To everything," he hummed, "turn." His loved one had died, to be buried in the earth, to serve as sustenance to the insects-who themselves were crushed into the dirt to feed the foliage. Then the trees and flowers grew fat with fruit, only to fall to the ground and feed the earth once more.

All I do, Gideon reflected on the day of his death, is interrupt the cycle somewhat. I take the fruit of the dirt, grind it up, and feed it to my fellow man.

And they ate it,, too. No matter how bad it tasted. But-and this was a big "but"-not, contrary to popular belief, no matter how bad it looked. And therein lay the problem of the day.

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