In the first extract from FRENZY ISLAND that I posted we met the cat-loving heavy metal fan from Arizona, Cynthia Dowley. In the second we met refugees Esperance and Godriva Watara. Now it’s time to meet the bad guy from my forthcoming sci-fi/horror novel: Texan billionaire businessman Byron Wurd.
Byron made his fortune with a chain of toyshops called Wurd’s World before moving into the far more lucrative fields of search engine technology and streaming services. Now he has started a commercial space flight operation (that has yet to see its first launch) which is headquartered in Arizona. This is where Cynthia Dowley works as a lowly monitoring station employee. Byron is also the owner of the east African island that Esperance and Godriva Watara have washed up on after being shipwrecked.
Oh, he has also entered into a secret agreement with the US government to build a machine the like of which humankind has never seen before.
He doesn’t make his appearance until quite late in the story, despite his name and his presence casting a shadow over every preceding page. Here, as events are starting to reach their crescendo, he finally arrives at the Arizona spaceport from where the east Africa lab site is being monitored…
The entourage entered first – the personal assistant, the press secretary, the attorney, the security advisor, the government attache – with Byron Wurd following behind, as ever sporting his trademark Stetson and cowboy boots. Having his entourage go before him was a policy of his. It gave the impression that something important was about to happen, that the person following in their wake was not a person at all, but something far more.
He had picked up this little trick from Adolf Hitler. Or, more specifically, from a biography of Adolf Hitler. When the future Führer was still nothing more than a rabble-rousing party leader, he would not make his appearance at a speaking event until his armed guards had gone in ahead and parted the crowd. This gave the impression that a major figure was about to enter the frame. A man of power.
Mr B. liked this. He admired Hitler’s grip on the psychology of the crowd. Unfortunately, it was not the only thing he admired about the former German chancellor.
When Byron Wurd spoke, things happened. Necks were craned so that aghast stares could be aimed in his direction. Wide-eyed looks were exchanged. Then, the spaceport administrator, Elise Diamond, appeared at his side.
“It’s begun,” said Elise coldly. “One of the refugee women has seen Victor. Victor’s been communicating with them via the baby. It’s only a matter of time now.”
If anyone had been watching closely they’d have seen Elise’s lip curl with the utterance of the word ‘refugee.’ Cynthia was already convinced that Elise was a psychopath, and she’d only worked one shift in the top tier control room.
“Is there visual?”
With an icy hand, Elise tapped on the shoulder of the man sitting at the nearest workstation.
“You. Take your SmartCard out,” she ordered.
“What? My SmartCard? Why?” asked the underling, whose name was Mostin. He had not been prepped for this impromptu visit from the head of the company and so had been caught on the hop.
“Just do it,” an exasperated Elise snapped.
Mostin did as he was told. He pulled his SmartCard from the slot on his workstation, leaving his screens blank. Then he hung it around his neck on its lanyard. He winced as Elise leaned over him, inserting her own Priority 1 SmartCard. Then she typed in her password. Mostin made a point of looking away as she did so.
“Okay. Ready,” said Elise to the boss man.
“Everyone! Everyone! Attention, please!” Byron Wurd hollered.
The workers at their workstations all turned to look at him.
“I would just like to remind you of the non-disclosure agreements in your contracts. What you are about to see does not leave this building! Understand?”
He was answered by a lot of nodding and a few nervous gulps.
“Okay,” Byron said to Elise.
Elise again tapped Mostin on the shoulder. “In the CCTV menu for the east African lab site you’ll see options that were not previously available to you. Find the one entitled ‘Victor’ and bring it up.”
Mostin did so and then there it was, on the big screen, as if it was the most normal thing in the world.
Mostin stared in stunned silence. Various colleagues inhaled sharply. The press secretary gasped and clasped a hand over his mouth. The personal assistant’s mouth dropped open. The security advisor dumbly uttered, “Judas fuckin’ Priest.” And the government attaché said and did nothing. He’d seen it all before.
The image was pin-sharp, HD quality. This only served to make the thing that every pair of eyes in the room was now fixed on all the more grotesque. It was…
If you want to know what “it” was you’ll have to read the book!
FRENZY ISLAND is published by Cranthorpe Millner on October 25th and is available for pre-order now.
“The boat hit shore at 09:27 EAT. We can be exact on this because it was picked up by the perimeter cameras. It was an old open lifeboat, navy blue, and we counted seven people on board. Eight if you want to include the baby. Most of them didn’t survive more than ten minutes.”