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The Seventeenth Pocket: The Last Days of Kerious Pye, #1

The Seventeenth Pocket: The Last Days of Kerious Pye, #1

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The Seventeenth Pocket: The Last Days of Kerious Pye, #1

463 página
6 horas
Lançado em:
Nov 29, 2010


Researchers are closing in on the most controversial discovery of all time--communication across the death barrier.  While millions eagerly await the breakthrough, some are terrified of the consequences and vow to stop research.  When one young patient befriends Arden McGivven, the quest to cross the death barrier takes a completely unexpected turn. 

Lançado em:
Nov 29, 2010

Sobre o autor

Hargus Montgomery is the author of the Kerious Pye Series (The Seventeenth Pocket, The Bureau of Dangerous Matter), The Last Relicuin, and Units. 

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Amostra do Livro

The Seventeenth Pocket - Hargus Montgomery


Copyright © 2010 by Mark Pedriani

All rights reserved

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned or distributed in any printed, electronic or other form without written permission.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual locales, events or persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.

Published by Kerious Pye Series LLC




Also available in trade paperback

(ISBN: 978-0-615-45033-9)

Cover design: Kerious Pye Series LLC

For my daughters,

Gab, Kate, and Jennifer,

and my wife Kath


Deep in the north woods of Minnesota, on the middle of a frozen lake, Arden McGivven searched the shore for a log structure that disappeared between sheets of blowing snow. He pounded hard on the wood when he reached the old lodge, but the sound was barely audible under the roar of the storm. When the door finally opened, he took one step inside, stopped and stared at a stone fireplace big enough for a man to stand inside. Flames curled up through foot thick logs. McGivven wanted to walk to the fire, but didn’t move.

A gust of stubborn wind swung the door wide open, followed the man inside, swirled snow around the room and fanned the flames. Pulling with two hands, a security guard finally closed the padded door. When it slammed shut, McGivven heard four musical notes.

Massive log walls sealed out the sound of the storm. Windows in the lodge had been covered with black soundproofing panels, thwarting attempts at visual or acoustic surveillance. Light came from a few table lamps, and the fire. Overstuffed chairs, upholstered in saddle leather, worn dark and smooth with age, were arranged in a semi-circle facing the fire. The researchers seated in the chairs turned and stared at the oddly-dressed figure. They had been told that he was the only human being in the world who possessed the information they were seeking.

Dr. Sarah Chase smiled and walked towards the man. McGivven would not take a step. He remained just inside the door, shaking snow off a sheepskin hat.

In the flickering shadows, the person appeared to be an older man, with a heavy, gray beard that reached up his cheekbones, masking his lips and most of the face below his eyes. His shearling coat and green woolen pants were smudged with red clay. A few dark patches in his gray beard were the same color as the clay, leading some to believe his face was covered with dirt. When he started walking towards the group, the dirt in his beard focused into patches of the original chestnut brown color of his hair, which remained only on the sides of his head.

After placing his hat back on, he took a few steps forward, then stopped and glanced at each person, checking to see if anyone scowled at him. When he was certain no one was angry, he followed Sarah Chase inside the large semi-circle and stood next to an empty, wooden rocking chair near the fire. He asked if anyone in the room was cold and wanted to move closer to the fire.

McGivven’s bald head and graying hair were consistent with the given age of sixty-two, one of many facts noted in a report provided to each member of the group prior to his arrival. Some members of the research team noticed that his gate across the room was not that of an older man.

This is Arden, Dr. Chase said gently to the people in the room. The man I’ve told you about.

McGivven nodded and smiled. They know I’m not very smart? he asked Chase in halting English, the r’s forming in the back of his throat. He looked down and shrugged his shoulders, which barely moved the thick shearling coat. And I didn’t invite myself? he asked in the same apologetic tone.

No, you didn’t, Chase said, smiling. She turned to the group. I invited Mr. McGivven.

He looked up at her with a winter-tanned face and squinted. And ya know, I can’t give a speech. Right?

You’re just here to answer questions, Arden, Chase said. That’s all.

All eight members of the research team had spent the previous day in the main lodge, which Chase referred to as the ‘thinking room.’ Dr. Chase had specifically chosen a structure made of well-aged wood, near a body of water, with a large fireplace and light provided by lanterns rather than electricity. The meeting had been part of the preparation for Arden McGivven’s arrival.

Dr. Claire Barth chose a large, leather recliner at one end of the semi-circle, positioning herself so she could see the reactions of all the participants by shifting only her eyes. She studied the man who was supposed to teach them for the next month. He had never been to college, had no high school diploma, and wore the soiled, worn clothing of either a homeless person or a poor farmer.

Dr. Barth sat forward in the recliner, lifted her feet off the rest and stood up. I’m not sure I understand, she said in a tone that announced her skepticism to everyone in the room. How can this…gentleman…help us find the code?

Dr. Barth, Chase replied, I believe Mr. McGivven already knows the code.

Claire Barth and everyone else in the room fell silent. With the lodge completely soundproofed, and all the members quiet, the only sounds came from wind blowing across the chimney top, and the large fire below, crackling softly as it observed the people in the room.

Team members glanced back and forth between McGivven and Chase. If Dr. Sarah Chase was telling the truth, the meaning of human existence had just changed. All knowledge of life on earth would be obsolete. If Chase was right, that singular moment in a log cabin in the Minnesota countryside would become more important than the moment humans first realized they were small organisms drifting in the endless reaches of space. If Dr. Sarah Chase spoke the truth, she had just announced that humankind’s oldest, most powerful and feared enemy, death, had been defeated.

The event had been anticipated for nearly four years as research teams inched closer to the code. In 2023, in Milan, Italy, a stroke victim with extensive brain damage was treated with an experimental drug. A new class of electro-chemical growth stimulants were injected directly into the amygdalae, a small section of brain tissue involved with memory and emotion. Within hours of the injection, the patient began having conversations with unseen people. The suspected hallucinations were later confirmed to be his departed relatives.

The results were repeated in three other hospitals administering phase two trials for the drugs. When four more patients exhibited similar reactions, the news spread throughout the medical community, and finally broke out into the mainstream media. The reaction was explosive.

Man’s quest to reach through the death barrier began in prehistoric times. From the first moment a loved one’s eyes refused to open, humans struggled to contact the departed. Throughout history, the dead remained stubbornly silent, on the far side of a barrier that seemed impenetrable. Modern medicine provided the first clue that the barrier might have always been open. Death was not silent. It only required a different way of listening. Drug testing in Italy provided proof that the human brain had always possessed the ability to communicate across the death barrier. Researchers believed they were close to finding the precise chemical code to unlock that ability.

Within three months of receiving the powerful stimulants, all five of the patients who communicated across the barrier died, but videos of those first experiments spread around the world, creating a demand for the chemicals. Clandestine laboratories multiplied, supplying illegal drugs to millions who eagerly sought the experience. Faked videos and claims of success fueled the growing hysteria. Adulterated drugs damaged brain tissue and led to hundreds of deaths, but public demand continued to grow. For millions, the real promise of reaching departed loved ones was worth any risk.

Facing a worldwide epidemic of drug abuse, on December 20, 2024, the G-20 governments met in Rome. They agreed that a safe and effective drug should be produced. An international competition was sanctioned, with the reward being a globally recognized drug patent with an unprecedented worldwide market. The patent would be worth billions.

When the discovery in Italy first came to light, Dr. Sarah Chase was the chief of neurosurgery at Verium Hospital in the city of St. Paul, Minnesota. Chase was a gifted surgeon with an international reputation, but she was also controversial. She refused to perform surgery unless her patients complied with her holistic approach to healing. When the Verium board asked Dr. Chase to lead their code research team, she agreed, but rejected the use of drugs. Chase was convinced that the ability to communicate across the death barrier could be developed naturally, by everyone. To prove her theory, she added four non-scientists to the team. After searching her records, Sarah Chase chose four ex-patients whose tests revealed highly developed amygdalae. She believed that the brain’s structure was the key to crossing the death barrier.

One of Chase’s subjects was Jack Hemming, a retired navy fighter pilot who owned a small airline in Billings, Montana. Chase was successful in removing Hemming’s brain tumor, allowing him to fully recover. When she called, asking him to participate in the research, Hemming immediately agreed. He believed he owed his life to Sarah Chase.

Her second choice was a Buddhist monk who had taken part in a research study when Chase was a student at Johns Hopkins Medical School. Tenzing Dorje’s brain scan revealed unusually high concentrations of neurons in the amygdalae. With the permission of his order, Dorje agreed to participate in the research group for one month.

Chase’s third choice was Megan Carlson, a fourteen-year-old girl. Megan had been diagnosed with an inoperable metastatic tumor on her brain stem. Her tests, like Dorje’s and Hemming’s, revealed an extremely high concentration of neurons in the amygdalae. Oncologists gave her a thirty percent chance of surviving one year. Chase asked Megan and her parents if they would like to be part of the research team. Knowing that her daughter’s condition was rapidly deteriorating, Mrs. Carlson persuaded her husband to join the group, in the hope of keeping contact with their daughter after she was gone.

The last subject was Arden McGivven. Chase had refused to reveal his identity until that day in the lodge. She had encountered Arden McGivven six years earlier while working at Victoria General Hospital in her home town of Winnipeg, Manitoba. McGivven had been brought to the hospital by a neighbor who found him unconscious at his farm. He remained in a coma for eight days before recovering without treatment, but tests revealed an abnormally dense mass of cells in the amygdalae. Chase found McGivven to be a fascinating person, and kept in contact with him during his recovery, visiting his farm several times. After learning of his unusual childhood, she became convinced that he held a unique knowledge that could help her discover the code.

Doctors on the team were skeptical. When they joined Verium, the researchers anticipated working in laboratories at the hospital. Instead, Chase relocated the team to a private camp surrounding a lake two hours north of St. Paul.

As they stared at Arden McGivven, the scientists began to doubt Dr. Chase. They questioned how she could make such an astonishing claim about the old farmer sitting next to the fire.

If that’s true, Dr. Barth said, still standing before the group. Why doesn’t he tell us the code now?

Because he can’t explain things, Chase replied.

Is he impaired? Barth asked. I’m sorry. I meant challenged?

Not at all. He simply doesn’t tell people what to do.

Barth looked down at McGivven again. I’m sorry, she said. But this seems like a waste of valuable time.

I knew this would be hard to accept, Chase said, smiling her patient smile. Looking around the semi-circle of faces, she swept the back of her pen over her forehead, twirling some disheveled blond hair into a new tangle. It was a thinking habit she started as a schoolgirl. The more fascinating the class, the messier her hair became. None of you has ever encountered a person like this, she said. So, I’ll explain again. Mr. McGivven has no ego.

She paused and nodded at the doubting faces. "Not a small ego. None at all. She pointed to the folders she had given them. It’s all in my notes. He was schooled at home, by his parents. They used no ratings of any kind. He believes nothing he says has any value. The only way he can explain things is by answering questions."

We’re scientists, Dr. Chase, Dr. John Stoeger said. We perform our work in laboratories. This code will be broken by research. Not discussion groups.

All the other teams rely on chemicals, Chase said. I believe Mr. McGivven knows another way to cross the barrier.

Dr. Barth faced the others, displaying a doubtful smirk. What if we don’t accept your opinion?

That’s your choice, Chase replied.

I think I speak for all of us, Barth said. When I say that having a chat with this man is not going to produce the greatest medical discovery of all time.

Why don’t you ask Arden? Chase said.

Barth paused, and then accepted the challenge. She took three steps toward the older man, who seemed to be ignoring the conversation and studying the fire.

Mr. McGivven, I’m pleased to meet you. She offered her hand, which he shook. Sir, if you have the code, can’t you just tell us?

He looked up at her and smiled, Heck no. McGivven pointed to Chase. I told Sarah. I’m not too smart.

You see, Barth said, turning to the others. This is pointless.

Sarah Chase stood up, walked toward Barth and smiled. Thank you for coming, Dr. Barth. I think your work here is finished. She reached out to shake Barth’s hand. I appreciate your contribution. It’s more valuable than you know. You’ll be paid one month’s salary as agreed.

Barth didn’t move. She had planned to resign, eventually, but she also planned to take the Verium team’s experts along with her. Smiling to hide her anger, she turned to the group. I’ve been offered a position in the largest research team in the nation. The winning team will be in the history books, next to names like Aristotle and Einstein. You can be part of that, or you can read about it, while you sit here and chat.

Claire Barth shook hands with each member and left the room, confident that the other doctors would follow in the coming days if not minutes.

When the door closed behind Barth, Arden McGivven stood up.

I’m sorry, he said. I didn’t want to make anyone mad. I’m goin’ to the cabin. He walked towards the door.

Knowing that Arden was terrified of any kind of anger, Sarah Chase didn’t try to stop him from leaving. This went very well, didn’t it? she said, smiling at the perplexed faces in the room. I know it’s early, but let’s adjourn for today. You have a lot to think about. You’ve seen much more than you know.


When Arden McGivven answered the knock on the door of his cabin, he saw a girl staring at dead, frozen fish lying on a table on the cabin porch.

I’m Megan, she said, still studying the faded green perch.

Are you cold? the old farmer asked. The girl was holding the collar of her jacket closed with one hand.

A little.

I have a fire inside. Would you like to come in?

Thank you.

He held the door open for her.

I came alone, Megan said as she walked into a warm flow of air from the fire, because my mom cries too much, and my dad just gets angry.

Ok, Arden said. He had never met the girl and knew nothing about her. They gave me coffee, milk and orange juice, he said. I brought some chicory coffee and some herb tea and my own honey. Would you like some?

The girl shook her head. I wanted to be named Tess, she said bending down to warm her hands by the fire. "I don’t like Megan. I was going to change it. Then this happened.

Ok, Arden said, smiling without looking at the girl."

Two leather chairs sat facing the fire. Megan sat down in one, Arden in the other. They stared at the fire without talking.

The fourteen-year-old had not expected to see dead fish on the porch. She stood up and walked to the window to look at the fish, then returned to the fire.

Where did you get that? she asked.


The fish on the porch?

In the lake.

In the ice?

Arden nodded.

Are you going to eat them?

Sure. It’s my dinner. They said I could have dinner with the group, but I like to cook for myself. Would you like to stay for dinner? Fish stew.

No, she said quickly, then added, Thank you.


The two stared at the fire without talking for the next twenty minutes. McGivven went to the woodpile to add wood to the fire. As the flames grew, Megan opened her coat, but she never took off the knit hat with a soft, short brim that dipped over her forehead. She chose the hat because the feeling of the brim on her forehead felt like the hair she had lost and no longer hoped to regain.

She lifted an iron poker and nudged a log to change the shape of the flames. They responded by throwing out more heat and light.

Megan Carlson expected the man to talk to her, to give advice, or at least to ask a question. When he didn’t say a word, she didn’t know how to react, but after a few minutes she discovered it felt good to not hear someone ask her how she felt or if she was comfortable, or if she needed anything. She enjoyed sitting next to someone in silence, listening only to the sound of the wind and the low whistle of the fire.

Dr. Chase had been summoned by Dave Krandell, head of security on the compound, when surveillance cameras picked up Megan Carlson walking alone around the lake towards McGivven’s cabin. Chase went to the security office and watched the monitors. She was very curious to see how long the girl would talk with Arden.

Megan watched Arden’s face while he stared at the fire. His heavy eyebrows were dark chestnut, but gray on the ends, and they bobbed and tipped as he watched the fire as if the eyebrows were holding a conversation with the flames.

She finally broke the silence. Sarah told us you won’t eat store food. Why?

I live on a farm, Arden replied.

You can’t buy food?

I could. But my dad told me not to. He said I should never eat a caged animal. It’ll make you sick.


I don’t know. Lots a people do it. I’m just too scared to try. He looked over at her as his beard curved into a smile. I’m a scaredy cat. Always have been.

Sarah said you are the smartest man she’s ever known. So you’re some kind of a genius?

He shrugged his shoulders a few times until a laugh bumped against the back of his throat and came out. Sarah tells jokes. That’s why I like her.

Did she tell you anything about me? Megan asked and then stared at his face. She thought that close up he did not look like an old man. She thought his face didn’t fit the gray beard.


You sure?

McGivven looked over at her. He hadn’t looked directly at her since she sat down. He was surprised she kept her hat on. He wore his sheepskin hat indoors all the time in winter. Most of the time he didn’t even know it was on, until people asked him why he didn’t take his hat off. Megan was the only person he knew who did the same thing. While he was looking at her, he started to get the feeling she didn’t want him to look, so he turned back towards the fire. Her question about if he was sure confused him. He heard that question before, from different people, but never understood what it meant. I’m sorry, he said, turning back towards Megan. I don’t think I know what you mean.

Are you sure no one told you anything about me?

I don’t know anyone here, he said. Sarah invited me. I think she made a mistake. I don’t think these people like me.

He stared at the fire for a few seconds then added, I’m sorry, Megan.

Sliding off the chair, he sat on the floor to be closer to the flames. Megan Carlson saw the worried look in his eyebrows. She wondered if Sarah could have been telling the truth. Sarah told her that Arden saw anger, just as if it were another person, and he was frightened of it. Sarah said Arden saw anger in the lodge when Dr. Barth spoke. Megan looked behind her and around the cabin.

It’s ok, she said, turning back to Arden.

They both looked into the fire, without talking, for a long time.

Megan had never seen anyone like Arden. She thought about leaving, but needed an answer to a question, and she couldn’t wait any longer. She didn’t have a lot of time. Sarah Chase told her Arden might know the answer. After sitting silent for nearly a half hour, she finally said, I need help.

Ok, Arden said. "Are you hungry?



No. I’m going to die. And I’m scared. That’s why my parents brought me here.

You? Scared? Arden said, then he chuckled.

Megan’s pale eyes narrowed in anger. You’re supposed to help. Not make fun of me. I’m afraid to die without my parents. I don’t want to be alone.

"That would be scary," Arden said.

That’s mean, Megan snapped.

Arden could hear the girl’s voice shake. It sounded like she was about to cry. He knew what crying did. The water in tears helped people. It washed lies out of thoughts.

I’m sorry, Arden said. What did I say wrong? He stood up and walked away towards the window, because he saw the girl’s anger growing.

You said it’ll be scary, she said. "That’s just mean."

Arden looked back at her. She was glaring up at him. He thought through his words, repeating them in his mind, trying to find how he made a mistake. You said you didn’t want to go alone, he repeated, remembering out loud. And I said that would be scary, to go alone.

"I am going alone, she said, raising her voice, which caused her to cough. My parents aren’t going to die."

Megan started to cry openly.

Arden knew crying usually took a little while to work, so he waited. He opened and closed the door to let some fresh air into the room, then returned to the fire and sat down.

When she wiped the tears from her face, he asked, Do you want me to say something now?

Yeah. You’re supposed to help. Ya know. Tell me I won’t be alone. Megan used a doubtful, mocking tone.

Ok, said Arden, nodding. You won’t be alone. And you won’t be scared.

How do you know that?

Because I know you. You’re brave. And you won’t be alone.

"How would you know?" she snapped at him, trying not to cry again. You don’t know me. You just lie. My dad’s right.

Arden turned his head away, as if someone had shined a bright light in his eyes. Her sadness had turned to anger. He grabbed his shearling coat from a hook by the door. I have to go for a walk, he said. I’m sorry.

Can we talk later? she called to the door.

I don’t know. I have to go now.

When Sarah Chase saw Arden walk out of the cabin without Megan, she smiled, pleased that the two had stayed together for nearly an hour. She was sure the adults would have frightened Arden much faster than the girl. Sarah believed two people on the team had the best chance of learning the code from Arden, and she hoped it would be Megan. It would make her death much easier for her parents.


Dr. Claire Barth walked into the Revent boardroom dressed in a long, dark purple, Indian salwar kam tunic. Intolerant of cold climates, she had the garment specially woven in cashmere when she moved from Los Angeles to Chicago. Tea-colored skin and a taste for far eastern clothing were the two remnants of a culture she inherited from an Indian great-grandmother. Barth’s private obsession was clothing. With no family on whom to spend the profits from her prosperous career, clothing shops in capitals around the world became the recipients of her wealth. She was a tall woman with fine cheekbones, and shiny black hair, looks that might have turned her passion for clothes into a career if her thoughts had not been diverted at an early age, then carefully redirected towards medicine. Throughout her adult life, she disciplined her mind to examine the details of cells and molecules, but her eyes never ceased to wander, irresistibly drawn to passing colors, forms and textures.

Barth had originally planned to be a surgeon, but abruptly changed her focus to research after her application for a residency in surgery at Columbia University Medical Center was rejected. Despite this setback, her professional reputation eventually surpassed Sarah Chase’s. Dr. Barth was credited with developing the vaccine for glioblastoma multiforme, a deadly form of brain cancer. Within hours of the G-20 announcement in Rome, Revent Cures Corporation, the largest international health care conglomerate in the world, made Barth an extravagant offer to secure her as their team leader.

The Revent board of directors committed the corporation to winning the competition. They immediately hired a private firm to track the progress of competitors. Only weeks after the team formed, Revent investigators discovered that a member of Verium Hospital’s board was telling colleagues that Dr. Sarah Chase had found a secret expert who would secure the drug patent for Verium. Refusing to accept defeat, Claire Barth decided to infiltrate the Verium team, discover the identity of the expert and lure him to Revent. She was authorized to offer whatever was necessary to bring Verium’s researchers to Revent.

On a snowy, March morning, when Chase’s secret expert appeared in dirty, worn clothing, smelling of smoke and body odor, barely able to answer a question, Barth saw an opportunity to break up the entire Verium team before it started. She would discredit the expert and hire away the other researchers. But her plan backfired. Sensing that Barth intended to attack Arden McGivven, Sarah Chase dismissed her on the spot.

This name wasn’t on the list, Claire Barth said, sliding a piece of paper with McGivven’s name across a dark walnut conference table. The paper slide over the hands of God and Adam from Michelangelo’s fresco ‘The Creation of Adam’, inlayed in the wood. On the other side of the table, Brad Voss, the president of Voss Security and Investigations, looked down at the name with a worried look in his eyes.

I thought we hired the best, Barth said.

Our record speaks for itself, Voss said, looking up from the name and lowering his voice to imitate quickly fading confidence. You have our references. They include six of the top fifty names in the Fortune five hundred.

Worthless, Barth said. If you fail at this, nothing you’ve done before will matter.

Voss had no answer for her. He knew she was right. The search for the code was a winner-take-all world competition. The victor would acquire the most valuable patent in history, attaining new status in the world order. Governments were investing percentages of their national budgets in the search.

I’ll do– Voss started to assure her that he was committing every available resource to the task, but Barth spoke over the man sixteen years her senior.

"You’ll listen. That’s what you’ll do, she ordered. His name is Arden McGivven. No middle initial. No address was given. They said he’s sixty-two, but I think he’s younger. His skin looks like he lives outdoors. Maybe a farmer. His English is fluent but not American. He’s foreign, or at least one parent is foreign. Don’t rule out anything."

We already have a list of every doctor Sarah Chase has worked with over the past decade.

Oh, good, Barth said. Now flush that down the toilet. And find out who Arden McGivven is.

Claire, I know you’re upset.

Dr. Martin Lindsay, Revent’s CEO, spoke from the window on the 36th floor. He was watching white snow cover the tops of black buildings, then swirl out over the gray, ice-covered shores of Lake Michigan. Lindsay rarely sat at the head of the table. He stood at the window with his back to the board members, listening to discussions and offering decisions from time to time. Insults won’t help, he said without turning. Brad, what other information do you need from Dr. Barth?

We’d like to conduct a full debriefing, Voss said. Three, maybe four times. She’ll remember different things at different times.

Have you thought of going to the damn phone book, Barth said with a disgusted smile on her face. And looking up Arden McGivven?

I’ve assigned every unit to the task, Voss said, trying to ignore Barth’s insulting tone. He wasn’t used to taking orders from anyone but the CEO. We’ll have your answers, he said. Is four this afternoon ok?

Four o’clock. My office, Barth replied.

The fifty-eight-year-old, humbled executive hurried out the door. Voss was relieved to be out of the room, and already mouthing a string of obscenities for his staff. After leaving the National Security Agency, Brad Voss had built a three hundred million dollar security business by investing in the most sophisticated electronic surveillance equipment in the private sector. After a source inside Verium Hospital revealed that Sarah Chase had a secret expert, Voss turned all his equipment on Chase. He walked into the board meeting that morning with his normal air of superiority, a confidence that came from knowing more secrets than anyone in the room. Stored in the phone nested inside his breast pocket was a file with six hundred and sixty-two names—every doctor Chase had worked with during her career, along with a complete bio on every name. Profilers narrowed that list to twenty-eight people with the expertise to break the code. When Claire Barth announced the name Arden McGivven in front of the entire Revent board, Voss felt his face heat up and his collar edge against the skin of his neck. Arden McGivven wasn’t on the list. McGivven didn’t even make the list of six hundred sixty-two. He came from nowhere.

At Voss headquarters, Wendy Simmons sensed bad news when she saw her boss’s number on the phone. She expected a simple text, spelling out one of the twenty-eight names. Surveillance teams awaited orders to swarm that person. Instead, Voss was calling her.

You have six hours to find the entire DNA sequence of a person named Arden McGivven, Voss ordered. Or tomorrow we’ll be out of business.

After hearing Barth’s full description of McGivven, Revent’s board members all but dismissed the threat. Revent financed one of the top three research teams in the world, next to the Tiantan Hospital in Beijing and the Max Planck Institute in Germany. Revent owned the most advanced research hospitals, and managed offshore facilities that could trial drugs without government approval. They assigned hundreds of employees to code research. Verium’s team was comprised of nine people with only five doctors. That morning, members of the Revent board expected Dr. Barth to reveal the name of Verium’s secret weapon as some obscure foreign doctor, or chemist, not a poor farmer with no formal education.

Despite McGivven’s strange appearance and lack of credentials, Claire Barth remained suspicious of Sarah Chase. Chase’s resume described a brilliant, highly- competitive student, finishing at the top of her class throughout her schooling. She wasn’t the kind of person who would agree to lead a team, without expecting to win. Barth began to wonder if Chase had another plan, or another expert she hadn’t revealed. While reviewing Chase’s history, Barth discovered another annoying detail. Insignificant to most, the piece of information pierced into Barth’s past, tweaking a small, but sharp splinter of memory. Sarah Chase began her residency in neurosurgery at Colombia University Medical Center only a year after Barth’s application had been rejected.

During board meetings, Revent’s leaders were encircled by paintings of Italian masters which portrayed a variety of saints ascending to, or looking down from heaven. The style of the boardroom followed a theme dictated by the tastes of the deeply religious CEO. When he was twenty-six, Martin Lindsay left his medical studies to enter the Pontifical Roman Major Seminary in Vatican City. Weeks before taking his vows, the young deacon faced a crisis of confidence. His mother, Sandra

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