Date to be Published: 11/22/19
But there in the forest…that’s where it all began…
Max Tyler, single father and former SWAT team leader, and Beth Collins, brilliant infectious disease specialist, rush headlong into an accelerating vortex of intrigue and danger to rescue Max’s kidnapped daughter, Megan, from the final steps of a horrific genetic manipulation experiment.
VIRAL DREAMS rockets in pace and intensity, captivating and propelling the reader on a kaleidoscopic journey of mystery, suspense, and wonder.
“Run your fastest, Megan…we’ve gotta hurry!” The man had a tight grip on the hand of his nine-year-old daughter and was pulling her through the forest, weaving between the tall Douglas fir and Ponderosa pine trees that towered above them. It was late in the afternoon, and they were far from the hiking path that circled Crystal Lake, one of the popular camping areas five miles north of Mammoth Lakes, California. Sunlight filtered down through the trees, scattered into subdued beams by the dense pine branches that formed the high arboreal canopy. It would be dusk in less than an hour. But it wasn’t the dark Max Tyler was afraid of.
“Daddy, you’re bleeding!” Megan said in a scared, breathless voice. She was sprinting at top speed and gasping for air.
Max glanced back at her and the blood streaming down his left arm. It was coming from a knife slash that had left a three-inch long gash through his tee shirt and left shoulder. His shirtsleeve was soaked bright red, and the rivulets of blood had almost reached his wrist.
“It’s nothing, Megs…just a little cut. C’mon. We’ve gotta get out of here.”
He pulled her along as he scrambled through the thick forest of trees, trying his best to lead them in the direction of their campsite. His mind was racing. Adrenaline rushed through his bloodstream and fueled the powerful, rapid thundering of his heart.
He mentally replayed the events the last ten minutes. What they had just witnessed seemed impossible, surreal…
Megan was gathering a small posy of tiny white flowers while he leaned against a fallen tree, watching her. They had decided to take a short hike before dinner. They’d found a trail that wrapped around the north end of the lake and strolled along the dirt path through the trees for fifteen minutes before coming across a glade blanketed with spring flowers.
It was early summer. The mountainous terrain boasted one of the best ski resorts in California during the winter. But this time of year, the days were mild. He and Megan were on a weekend camping trip, the first of several he’d planned for the summer and fall, and he was enjoying every minute of it.
It felt good to get away and bring her up here into the pristine sanctuary and quiet serenity of this towering primeval forest. The redolent sights and smells filled his senses, refreshing and renewing him as only the mountains could.
He looked away from her for a second to take in the tranquility of the glassy mountain lake a hundred yards to his left. He heard a small, muffled yelp. It was so soft it barely registered in his mind. Glancing back toward Megan, he caught a fleeting glimpse of her disappearing behind a copse of young pine trees, feet kicking in the air and arms flailing. Her mouth was covered by the hand of the burly man carrying her.
“Hey…Stop!” Max shouted in a booming voice. He sprang forward, covering the distance to where Megan disappeared in a matter of seconds, and raced behind the copse.
The man ran over a ridge and disappeared from sight.
“Stop!” Max roared, doubling his pace. He reached the ridge, ran down the slope, and leaped at the man, sweeping his feet out from under him and grabbing Megan before she could hit the ground.
The man sprung to his feet, pulled a hunting knife from a sheath on his belt, and rushed toward Max, who set Megan down and turned to face him. The man slashed with the knife, slicing Max’s left shoulder as Max pivoted and launched a powerful, right thrusting kick at the man’s knee. There was a sickening crunch, and the man, who easily outweighed Max by thirty pounds, cried out and crumpled to the ground. His knife clattered against an outcropping of rocks and skittered out of sight.
“Come on, Megs!” Max picked her up and ran at full speed through the trees, avoiding the path but heading in the direction of their campsite. The attacker’s moans faded as Max put distance between them. He bolted at top speed through the trees until his arms began burning. Then he set Megan down, grabbed her hand, and ran towards their campsite, towards safety, less than a quarter of a mile away.
The man was sweating profusely when he reached the Jeep parked on a narrow dirt fire road used by the forest service. The knee of his left leg had swollen to more than twice its normal size, and he was exhausted from hopping half a mile on his good leg through rugged, uneven terrain.
He opened the door of his Jeep and pulled himself up onto the front seat. He couldn’t touch his left knee without piercing jolts of pain shooting up his leg. He unlocked the glove compartment, pulled out a cell phone with push-to-talk, and switched it on.
“Nick, you there? Come in!” he barked.
“I’m here,” a voice responded. “Didja’ get her?”
“No, damn it. I had her. Then her father came out of nowhere and attacked. I sliced up his shoulder, but he broke my knee and took the girl. Go to plan B.”
“Got it. Plan B. Leave your unit on. I’ll contact you. Out.”
The man tossed the cell phone on the seat beside him and winced as he shifted his weight to pull the keys out of his pocket. He was outraged that Max had gotten the better of him. How was it that a guy half his size and nowhere near his muscular prowess had managed to take him down and snatch the girl? He didn’t lose fights. Ever.
He fumbled with his keys for a moment before slipping the correct key into the Jeep’s ignition and placing his hand on the black knob of the stick shift. Only then did reality slap him hard as he looked down and stared at the clutch pedal under his broken left leg.
This was not going to be easy.
About the Author
John has worked in the medical field of Oncology Therapeutics for several years, and is currently an Immuno-Oncology Team Lead in US Oncology Medical Affairs for a major pharmaceutical company located in North Wales, Pennsylvania. Writing is a major passion of his life.