Heat Shock
By Robert Greer
Published by Mysterious Press  
October 2003; 0892967536; 320 pages

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Heat Shock by Robert Greer

CHAPTER 1

Luke Redstone had experienced every imaginable form of pain during his sixty-nine years, but nothing approached the deep, visceral, knife-edged agony that had him doubled over, grasping his knees in anguish in a patch of high-mountain slough grass a few yards from the back door of his ramshackle cabin. He'd suffered the pain of bone-numbing, subzero frostbite at Chosen, as a twenty-year-old marine during the Korean War. He'd battled through the pain of foot rot, the result of five years spent mucking yellow-cake uranium ore in the dank mines that dotted Colorado's Western Plateau. But neither could begin to match what he was experiencing now.

Rising on one elbow, he eyed the orange glow of the noonday sun and realized that he had less than eight hours of daylight to complete the task ahead of him. "Man's gotta protect what's his," he mumbled, nearly to his knees before a new knot of pain doubled him over. He grimaced and tumbled headfirst into the boggy grass as his thoughts drifted back to his years in the mines. Suddenly he began shaking, comparing the current pain with those from long ago, recounting the time he'd lost his footing in the Big Rondo Mine, near Moab, and plummeted down a fifty-foot shaft. Only his quick reflexes as he grabbed frantically at the protruding rocks along the shaft's jagged walls had broken his fall and saved him from certain death. He'd broken his spine in the fall and was plagued with back pain and recurring muscle spasms ever since.

 

Defying a new spike of pain, he forced a resilient smile-the kind of smile his Cherokee grandmother always claimed every good Indian needed in order to confuse the white devil and hold pain and tragedy at bay. His grandmother had been right. His near-tragic mine-shaft fall had changed his life. Within months of the accident he'd left the uranium mines to begin breeding his birds.

The pain erupted again, exploding deep inside him the same way it had for the past several months. Bracing himself for a new wave of the inevitable, he closed his eyes and tightened the muscles in his stomach as another surge corkscrewed through his body, ending in a crush of agony in the hollow of his chest.

When a final bolus of pain ripped through his rib cage, spinning him sideways, Redstone turned giddy. "Beat you again! Yes, yes, yes. Yes siree!" He was home free now, and he knew it. Recognizing the rib cage pain as the final event in what had become a predictable cycle, he broke into a grin, aware that for the next five hours he'd be virtually pain-free. "Gonna make it now; gonna make it now for sure," he muttered. "Won't need no doctors or no grave diggers today."

Struggling to remain on his feet, he focused his attention on the rows of gamecock cages that lined the rear wall of his cabin. Moving unsteadily toward the cages, he wet his lips, puckered, and desperately tried to whistle, hoping to enlist another of his lifelong remedies for pain. The resulting sound was less a whistle than a hiss, but the thinness of the effort failed to slow him down. Closing in on the cages, he forced a smile, aware that as long as he could smile and whistle, he'd be up to the grueling task ahead.

Copyright 2003 Robert O. Greer
Reprinted with permission.

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Synopsis

Half black and half Vietnamese, emergency room physician Dr. Carmen Nguyen rides her motorcycle and practices medicine with equal passion. But her years on the ward have taught her one rule about becoming personally involved with patients: don't. Yet against her better judgment, she accedes to the dying request of Luke Redstone-an aging ex-miner who developed a rare cancer while living in the yellow-cake hills of Colorado.

Someone has been sneaking around Redstone's cabin with an eye to stealing his flock of fighting cocks. When the old man asks Carmen to watch over his coop, the former medical researcher becomes curious about these unnaturally strong and aggressive birds. She soon learns that their true value has little to do with their prowess in the pit, and she suspects that the secret may lie in the uranium-rich soil near a shut-down, once-thriving mine. Carmen finds an ally-and perhaps something more-in Walter Rios, a gutsy, guilt-haunted river rafter who brings to her quest skills honed during his tour with military intelligence. Together they must confront a lawless businessman and his private army of stone-cold killers, in hard and bloody pursuit of a genetic bombshell with the shocking power to transform a species.

Painting heroes and villains with equal vividness against the majestic and treacherous backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, master novelist Robert Greer has crafted a tale of suspense from a brave new world rushing at us faster than we know.

 

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Author

Robert GreerRobert Greer is a a practicing surgical pathologist, research scientist, and Professor of Pathology and Medicine at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center . His short stories have appeared in numerous national literary magazines, and he is editor-in-chief of the High Plains Literary Review. He also raises Black Baldy cattle on his ranch near Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

He and his wife Phyllis live in Denver, Colorado.

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