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Shadow Worlds
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ISBN-10: 1-55404-250-X
ISBN-13: 
Genre: Science Fiction/Suspense/Thriller
eBook Length: 201 Pages
Published: May 2005
OUT OF PRINT

From inside the flap

Genetic duplicates of people start dropping out of thin air right beside the originals. The duplicates are complete except for one little detail: they?re dead. Frank Winston begins an investigation that widens to include the mystery of a vanished airliner that had his parents on board, as well as those of the first person who found a dead twin on her doorstep, Linda Vesprie. Together, they discover that quantum physics is even stranger than scientists had believed, and that their world and an infinite series of alternate earths are in dire peril. Neither Frank nor Linda realize they are being misled when a woman from an alternate earth asks for their help. When they discover the duplicity, it is already far too late to do anything about it. Shadowy monsters, conniving federal agents, alternate worlds and a lonely scientist racing against time to save both his world and earth make this latest offering from best selling author Darrell Bain and collaborator Barbara Hodges a page-turning adventure that strings the suspense out to the last page.

Reviews and Awards

Eternal Night

Linda’s orderly life is turned upside down one morning as she retrieves her newspaper. Beside the Houston Chronicle, a body identical to her in every detail lay dead. Even her purse, down to the lotto numbers in a certain pocket is the same. Linda is understandably freaked as she summons the police. When the cops arrive, coincidences continue to arise. Frank, one of the officers in charge of her case, shares a history of loss identical to hers. Both of them lost their family when a plane vanished five years ago.

An instant attraction springs up between Frank and Linda; however romance is not the most important thing in their lives at the moment. More twins are turning up, not only around Houston, but in other parts of the country. Each one had a relative on that plane, each one arrives dead or dies shortly afterwards. When a live person arrives, the mystery is revealed.

Another Earth is sending the people there, trying to save all Earths from being taken over by Ogres. The risks involved and the price of salvation is high, but a few brave souls are willing to try if it will save all humanity on every world that’s left.

Two voices have fused perfectly to create an action packed story that will hook you from the first page. Action and romance balance perfectly, making this a story appealing to a wide audience. If it were a paper book, I?d call it impossible to put down. As it is, you?ll be glued to your computer screen until it’s over.

Although the story does wrap up nicely, I do hope there is a possible sequel in the works.

 Reviewer - Amanda - June 2005



Shadow Worlds (Excerpt)


Chapter One

"Shut it down! It’s running wild!" Wesley Jones shouted to an assistant technician. "No, wait! We?ve got something!"

Jones kept his eyes on the gauges, hoping he didn?t blow up half of Nevada trying to bring the object to the earth. Nor did he want to land it right on top of them. It was big! "Hold it?hold it?now!"

The wild humming roar of the generators wound back down to silence. Wesley ran to the window where others from the team were gathering. He pushed through the crowd and looked outside.

"My God," he breathed. "We did it. And we not only did we do it?we captured an airliner!"

Gilbert Collins, head of Research and Development of The Advanced Research Projects Agency, moved quickly. It wouldn?t do for this to get out. Not until they figured out where the plane was from. He picked up the phone. "Security to the control room now!" Within two hours, the Boeing jet had been moved into the confines of a building big enough to serve as a hanger. The stunned and confused crew and passengers offered no resistance as they were sequestered for questioning. Indeed, they seemed pleased just to be alive.

Before they were allowed to leave, he extracted another secrecy oath from everyone involved in the experiment, and this one he worded in terms scary enough to silence a politician running for reelection. The passengers were secreted in apartments of the huge underground cavern originally constructed as a bomb shelter. Only after all that had been taken care of, were the very few government officials who were aware of the experiment notified. They were also sworn to secrecy.

***

In the predawn darkness blanketing the Kingwood suburb of north Houston, Linda Vesprie heard the thump of the Houston Chronicle hitting the sidewalk. She sighed with pleasure. Perfect timing, her coffee should just be ready. Linda lived in a different time zone than most people. Her internal clock had her out of bed right before five, regardless of whether she was taking the day off, on vacation, or had just stayed up later than usual the night before.

While most of the city still slept, she showered and dressed?today was April thirteenth, so her choice was her green mini with the scalloped neckline. She had started wearing the dress on the thirteenth day of every month five years ago. She had been wearing it on August thirteenth when she signed her first book contract and now she wore it on the same date every month. Her mother and father had been the only ones to catch on to her little quirk and she had taken some teasing from them.

At the thought of her parents, a fragment of last night’s dream surfaced; her younger sister laughing and smiling as she hugged the ratty teddy bear she?d had since she was two. She remembered the entire scenario only vaguely, something about wavering lights and her parents beckoning to her. Pain touched her, bringing a tightness in her chest. A psychologist would probably say the dream was manifested by the upcoming anniversary of her parents and little sister’s deaths. It was five years ago this month their plane had gone down.

She slipped the dress over her head, gave herself an appreciative wink and was ready to read the paper and get her caffeine fix up to an acceptable level before considering what else the day might hold.

Today it held little, other than the urge to put away the article she had been working on and see if this were the day her new novel might come together.

She poured her first cup of coffee and carried it into the den and set it on the side table by her favorite easy chair, then headed for the front door to retrieve the paper. Another thump sounded outside, louder than the first, as if a sandbag had been dropped onto the sidewalk hard enough to split it open.

Now what could that be? Impelled by curiosity, she went a little faster.

She unhooked the chain and punched off the alarm, then unlocked the deadbolt, wishing for the thousandth time she lived in a security-controlled development rather than in this suburban house, but so far, she had been unable to sell it. The real estate market had taken a nosedive just about the time her divorce and property settlement became final.

Linda flicked on the porch light and pulled open the door. Outside, on the tiny covered entryway, she scanned for the paper in the orange glow of the recessed light. Her gaze traveled up the sidewalk, then stopped as abruptly as a car hitting a brick wall. The paper was there, but it was half-covered by the arm of a recumbent figure crumpled in a heap as if her bones had suddenly collapsed. The body was female; she could tell that much from the length of the straight red hair that resembled her own and the fact it covered part of the swell of breasts.

She must have fainted. But what was she doing here at this time of the morning? Had she been kidnapped and raped, and either gotten away or been dropped off in the area?

She ran forward and knelt by the fallen woman, trying to remember the primary principles of first aid from high school health class more than a decade ago. The only procedure surfacing was to check the woman’s pulse. She grasped one of the woman’s wrists and twisted it around. The hand felt cold and clammy, like a thawed, raw chicken breast, and it had as little muscle tone. There was no pulse she could detect. I?m not doing it right, she told herself, even as the chilling skin began to suggest she hadn?t found a pulse because there was none to find. She felt her heartbeat speed up like the ripple of a drum being tested before the opening number. She brushed locks of hair from the woman’s shoulder and eased her upper body over a little in order to see if she was breathing. The woman’s head lolled into full view, face slack and lips parted, eyes half open but unmoving, as if suddenly frozen in the midst of a blink. A gold crown glinted from inside her mouth, like a barely discernible candle seen through a thick fog.

She stared, mesmerized. It was like looking down at her own face, complete to the scattering of freckles across the bridge of her nose! There was the same gold crown where she had broken a tooth years ago, even the same straight red hair, worn long enough to hang below her shoulder blades. Dizziness began deep down inside her, as if she had just stepped off a tilt-a-whirl at a carnival. Finally, she remembered to breathe again. As she pulled fresh air into her lungs, she saw it wasn?t just the face and hair that was like hers. The woman was even built the same, slim, a narrow waist and breasts a little too generous. She even wore the same dress’short, green, and sleeveless, with a scalloped neckline. With trembling fingers, Linda looked inside the dress’s neckline, her stomach taking another dive when she read Liz Claiborne. The motionless woman had even matched the white belt and low-heeled shoes. Something most women didn?t bother to do anymore. The skirt of the dress had ridden up an outstretched leg to midthigh and was bunched under the other one bent beneath her. A white purse lay a short distance away. It matched the one she carried when she wore her green dress.

Tentatively, she reached out and placed a hand on the woman’s breast. She could feel no breathing, no rise and fall of her chest. The drum roll of her heart went into percussion mode, pounding hard enough that she felt a pulse beating at her temples. What to do? CPR? Oh God, why hadn?t she ever learned the technique? No, wait! First call 911 and then try. She got to her feet and rushed back inside. She fumbled with the phone, dropped it and then misdialed once before managing to get the right number the second time.

"She’s not breathing! I think she’s dead! My address? My address?" Her mind went blank. Beside her on the table was this month’s electric bill and she grabbed it and read off the numbers.

As soon as she was assured an ambulance was on the way, she dropped the phone, not bothering to disconnect the call, and ran back outside. She knelt again by the still form, extended her arms and pushed on her chest. It was like pressing down on a slab of cold meat. She shuddered and pushed again and again, then paused, wildly hoping she would see the chest rise with the intake of air. It remained still. She bent over and blew into the slack mouth. It was horrible, as if she were desperately trying to reanimate her own dead body. She was still trying, tears of frustration and fright streaming down her cheeks when the ambulance arrived, followed shortly by a patrol car.

***

It had been a quiet night in Houston, especially in the police precinct of the Kingwood subdivision. Sergeant Detective Frank Winston was catching up on some paperwork and hoping the peace would hold until eight o?clock when he went off duty. He didn?t mind calls earlier in the night, but he always hated to get caught right before the end of his shift. For a homicide detective, that usually meant no sleep until the following night, if then.

Frank saved the document he had worked on and began searching his case files for another. If the quiet held, he might actually get caught up on his paperwork for a change. He had just found the next file he wanted when the phone rang.

"Detective Sergeant Frank Winston," he said.

"Sorry to break up your study time, but we?ve got a strange one you better go look at," the 911 dispatcher, Judy Perkins, said.

"They?re all strange. What’s so unusual about this one?"

"We got a woman claiming she found her twin sister dead on her doorstep."

"What’s so unusual about that? Twins die the same as everyone else."

"She says she hasn?t got a twin."

"Back up. You just said?"

Judy interrupted him with a merry laugh. She sounded like a teenager over the phone, belying her real age of nearly forty. "She told the officer the body looked exactly like her. Is that strange enough for you?"

Frank relaxed. "Not really. Two to one, it’s not that much of a resemblance."

"No bet. That is what she said, though."

"Okay, give me the address and locate Slick Willie for me. Tell him I?ll meet him in the parking lot." "Slick Willie" was William Grafton, his partner. He got the nickname from an uncanny resemblance to a former president, and a penchant for avoiding being pinned down to a concrete position on anything other than his girlfriends. Frank had been partnered with him for more than a year now, but he never developed a rapport with Grafton like he had with his previous sidekick. Grafton was shooting for fast track promotion and refused to take chances, preferring to investigate strictly by the book and pass the buck when controversy developed. Frank was just the opposite. He didn?t mind controversy; it made the job more interesting. Being single and well heeled financially made him more or less immune to the pressure for promotion and upward mobility. Frank’s money came from an inheritance and insurance payoff received when his parents died several years ago in a plane that disappeared over Nevada. He cared little about the rampant politics most big city police departments are prone to. It was the major reason for his breakup a year ago with his fianc?, Lieutenant Inez Carmera of the Federal Liaison Office. She wanted him to assert himself, without offending the brass, and refused to listen to his contention that the two attitudes were mutually incompatible.

Frank found Slick Willie Grafton already standing by their car with the doors open. He knew immediately the previous occupants must have been smokers. Willie professed to hate cigarettes, but Frank thought it was more a matter of being politically correct than a real aversion to them. At least his partner complained only mildly and not very often when he smoked in the car. With a slight smile, he pulled out his pack and lit up, just to pull Grafton’s chain a little.

"Hey, Frank. Judy says we got a puzzler. You know anything yet?" Willie asked.

"According to the complainant, a long lost twin dropped dead on her doorstep an hour or so ago. You can believe as much of that as you want to." Frank slid into the driver’s seat of the car. He turned the key. Once they were underway, he cracked the window a few inches to let out his cigarette smoke. He didn?t mind being accommodating; he just wouldn?t let anyone intimidate him.

As a wan sun claimed the day, Frank turned onto Kingwood Drive and from there picked up the Eastex Freeway heading north. A half mile further, he turned back into the subdivision, turned again and began searching for the street number.

Finding the right number wasn?t necessary. A patrol car and city ambulance identified the area much easier. As if that weren?t enough, a thin crowd of the curious circled the area, dressed in either hastily donned clothes or robes.

Frank checked with the uniformed officer first. He flashed his badge. "Winston, Homicide. You the one that called?"

"Yeah, but I didn?t report it as a homicide. I just said the complainant insists that’s her twin, but she says she doesn?t have one. You figure it out." He pointed to where the paramedics still worked over the body.

"Any I.D. yet?"

"She carried a purse, or at least there was one laying beside her. My partner’s checking it now." He pointed to the patrol car. The driver’s door was open and Frank saw a female officer with short blond hair going over the contents of a pale white handbag.

"Where’s the complainant?"

"Inside her house. She’s kinda shook up."

Frank said, " Willie, why don?t you go see if the uniform found any I.D. while I check with the woman inside?"

Willie looked closer at the blond officer. He grinned, then went over and flipped out his badge.

Frank headed toward the house, pausing momentarily to check with the paramedics. They appeared ready to call it a no go. One of them looked up. "You the detective?"

"Yes. Winston, from homicide."

"Homicide? She wasn?t murdered. More likely a stroke or heart attack. Anyway, she’s gone, no response at all. You may as well call the coroner."

"Just hang on a few more minutes. Maybe we can ship her direct without the coroner coming here." He eyed the slack body and could see no signs of trauma. If Willie brought back a good I.D. and he could convince the live woman it wasn?t her twin lying there, they wouldn?t be all that late signing out for the day.

The door stood open letting in the early morning humidity, but the figure of the woman he spotted inside didn?t seem to notice the white fog blowing from the air conditioning vents. Just inside the entrance, she sat huddled in a chair beside a dining table, clutching a coffee cup. Her hands were trembling.

Frank knocked on the doorframe and then louder the second time before he managed to get her attention. When she looked up, he could understand how she could have imagined the dead woman was her twin, especially in the predawn light. There was the same long red hair and freckled nose and slim figure.

"Ms. Vesprie? I?m detective Frank Winston. May I come in?"

The young woman gathered her body into an upright position. She let go of her cup with one hand and waved to a dining room chair. "Have a seat. And it’s Miss or Mrs., not Ms. I hate that, or even better, call me Linda. I?m not a very formal person."

Frank smiled. A woman after his own heart. "Thank you. I just need to ask you a few questions and I think we?ll be able to clear this up."

"That will be a good trick, unless you suddenly discover a duplicating machine on the premises. Would you like some coffee?"

Frank scrutinized the woman carefully, but could detect nothing other than nervous tension, which he thought was very close to becoming hysteria. He debated with himself only a moment and then accepted. One more cup on top of all the others he had consumed through the night wouldn?t hurt. "Yes, thanks."

Frank had no sooner accepted the coffee and taken his first sip when Willie came inside carrying a white purse. He set it down on the dining table and stared frankly at the woman, letting his gaze rove over her body. She ignored him and concentrated her attention on the purse, as if it might suddenly sprout teeth and horns. He glanced up at Willie and asked, "What did you find?"

"Good ID. Driver’s license, credit cards and checkbook, all for Linda Vesprie. And this." He handed Frank a folded slip of paper. There were six numbers printed in blue ink.

"Oh my God." She reached out her hand. "May I see that?"

Frank held the paper out so she could read the numbers.

"Where was it in the purse?" she asked.

Frank looked at Willie.

"The side zippered pocket," she said without waiting for his answer.

Willie nodded, his eyes narrowing.

"They?re my lottery numbers. I play them once a week. I had them in my white purse’s zippered side pocket."

Willie frowned. "How?d your purse get outside?"

"That’s not my purse. Mine is right inside the door."

"You must have forgotten you took it outside," Frank said.

"No I didn?t." A hint of exasperation tinged her voice.

Frank stood up. "Let’s go see." She was obviously sincere, but also obviously mistaken.

Linda Vesprie led them back to the entrance. She pointed to the table beside the door and a white purse. She crossed to it, opened it, extracted a package of cigarettes and lighter, then turned to face Frank.

"See for yourself," she said.

He looked inside the purse and pulled out an oversized wallet and flipped it open. A Texas driver’s license was prominently displayed in the name of Linda Vesprie. The exceptionally good picture matched her appearance, or would have if she was wearing makeup. Below it was a rack of credit cards. Frank shuffled through several of them. All listed Linda Vesprie as the cardholder. The checks were hers as well. He set the purse back on the little table and raised his brows inquiringly. This was a new one on him.

"I told you," Vesprie said.

"So you did."

She took a drag from her cigarette and blew the smoke out. Willie wrinkled his nose while Frank sniffed appreciatively.

"Willie, tell the uniform to call the Coroner and forensic team."

"You want forensics for a heart attack victim?" Willie frowned.

"That’s right." Frank started toward the dining room.

"Wait a minute," she said. "Take a good look at me."

It took a moment for Frank to get the idea, and then even as he was enjoying the scenery, it dawned on him. "The dress you have on is the same as the woman’s outside." Stranger and stranger.

"It’s exactly the same dress."

Frank thought a moment, made a mental note, and then said. " Miss Vesprie?"

"Linda."

"All right, Linda. It certainly does appear to be identical, but let’s leave it for now. We may want to pursue it later, but for the moment, I?d like to check the contents of your purse with the one outside. With your permission, of course."

"Sure."

Frank discovered the two purses held almost identical contents.

When he returned, Linda asked. "More coffee?"

"May as well. This looks as if it’s going to take longer than I thought." He felt his breast pocket. "Do you mind if I smoke?"

"Not a bit." She brushed an errant strand of hair back over her shoulder and pushed the ashtray to the center of the table. While she poured coffee, Frank lit up gratefully, thinking that as long as he had to work overtime, at least it was on a case with someone who apparently cared little for political correctness. That was one of his pet peeves and another of the reasons for his breakup with Inez.

Frank rubbed his chin and realized he needed to shave again. "Miss, uh, Linda, I need to ask you a few questions. All right?"

"Sure, go ahead. Maybe you can figure it out. I sure can?t."

He noted the latent hysteria had faded and she appeared much calmer now, as if turning the problem over to the police was automatically going to let her off the hook. He wondered if the earlier hysteria had been faked and made another mental note to listen to the recording of her 911 call. This was a strange case, not yet even classified as a homicide, but he thought the woman had to be involved somehow.

"Let’s get a little family history first. Parents? names, brothers and sisters, addresses and phone numbers. Okay?"

"That won?t take long. I don?t have any brothers or sisters now. My only sister and my parents died in a plane crash several years ago."

Frank jerked his eyes up from his pad and stared at her. "What?"

Linda looked at him curiously. "What’s wrong?"

"Nothing, other than I lost my parents the same way, only it wasn?t a crash. Their plane disappeared on a flight to Australia."

Now Linda was startled. Her eyes opened wide, returning his stare. "Oh my God! I?ll bet it was the same one."

"You said ?crash?."

"Well, it must have crashed. It certainly never landed at any airport. When was yours?"

"Five years ago this month. A private jet, a Boeing 747 owned by Lone Star Atlantic Oil Company."

"It was the same. Now what?how??"

He heard the hysteria begin to creep back into her voice. "Take it easy. It’s nothing more than coincidence," Frank said soothingly. He didn?t believe in coincidences, not ones like this. But what else could it be?

"I suppose the fact that the body out there, which just happens to be identical to me, is a coincidence, too? Or a purse with my six lottery numbers written on a slip of paper inside the same zippered pocket I keep mine in? Not to mention everything else in the purse that matches."

Frank’s mind coiled in tangles as it tried to go in several paths at once. He backed up mentally and started over.

"We don?t know yet that the body is identical."

"You think I don?t know my own body when I look at it? And the dress?it’s my ?thirteenth? dress."

"What?"

She waved her hand at him. "Nothing. I tell you, she could be my twin sister."

"You said you don?t have a living sister."

"Right. Now what?"

"Let’s start over. Give me your parents? names and last address."

Linda recited the information while he wrote it down. That’s the first thing to follow up on. The most likely explanation was her mother had borne a child before marriage and given it up for adoption, a child who bore an amazing resemblance to her half-sister. Or could it be a real twin? Unlikely. He guessed a woman giving one twin up for adoption would also give away the other. It wouldn?t hurt to check though.

"Do you know where you were born? The city and name of the hospital?" he asked.

"I was born right here in Houston. I don?t remember the name of the hospital, but I have a birth certificate. I can get it for you."

"Do that, please."

While she was gone, Willie poked his head in the door. "Mac and her team are here."

Frank nodded, knowing that Maggie MacFerguson would do a thorough job. "Good. Tell Mac to treat the body as if it was a homicide. Hair and fiber analysis, cosmetics, the whole works, including DNA scan. Then I want samples from in here. Carpets and so forth, and I want a really thorough sampling of a particular dress. In fact?" He turned to Linda as she came back into the room carrying her birth certificate. "?Miss Vesprie?Linda, I mean, may we borrow the dress you?re wearing? We?ll return it, though it may be a while."

"What on earth for?"

"To compare the two. Maybe get a line on where the other one was purchased."

"You might know it. All right, I?ll go change, but I want it back before the thirteenth of next month."

There it was again?the thirteenth. "Why do you want it back by the thirteenth?"

He watched her face flush and then she told him about the book contract, the thirteenth and the dress. The information made him tense. Just how many people knew that particular bit of trivia about Linda Vesprie? Who would know on this day she?d be wearing that dress? And those numbers?the lady on her way to the morgue had come by some intimate knowledge concerning Linda Vesprie. The question was, who was she, how did she know, and why had she ended up dead in this front yard?

Linda’s expression became uneasy as she turned away from him. "I?ll go change and be right back."

As soon as she was out of hearing, Willie erupted. "Frank, what the hell are you doing? Someone’s playing a fucking joke. Probably your redhead."

"That body out there is no joke."

"This case stinks. Why don?t we call missing persons?"

"Good idea, go do that. See if there’s a matching description. And Willie?how about we keep it quiet about Linda claiming the body is identical?"

"Linda is it? Why keep that quiet?"

"You know, the media will go crazy with this thing if they get a line on it."

"They probably already have. They?re here."

"Maybe not. Had the ambulance left before they came?"

"Yeah. They didn?t talk to the paramedics, but they?re already working the crowd."

The remark reminded Frank of something else that needed to be done. "Why don?t you start getting the names of the neighbors, too, and see if anyone heard anything or knows anything unusual about Miss Vesprie?"

Willie shook his head, but went off to comply.

Linda returned, clad in jeans and blouse. Frank collected the information from her that he could. It wasn?t much. She had heard the paper being delivered, shortly followed by another thump. Whether it was the body falling to the ground or not, she couldn?t say; she had only presumed it was.

"When you tried CPR, was the body still warm?" he asked.

Linda frowned. "I?m not sure. I think it was. It certainly wasn?t cold, though it felt like it was. Do you know what I mean?"

"Yes. A lifeless body always seems to have lost heat, no matter how recently deceased."

"Is there anything else?"

Frank considered for a moment and then shrugged. "Nothing else I can think of at the moment. I?m going to have the forensics crew in here shortly, then I have to go." He yawned, despite the enormous amount of coffee he had consumed during the night and morning.

"Can I go put some makeup on before your crew starts sampling things?"

He smiled. "Why not? I?ll wait a few minutes before I send them in." He pulled out his card and handed it to her after writing his home number on the back. "If you think of anything else that might have a bearing on this, call me. Anytime, okay?"

"Will you be back?"

"I?m certain I will, if for no other reason than to compare stories of our lost plane. Would that be all right?"

"Yes, I?d like that. It’s always seemed such a hole in my life, not knowing what really happened."

"We?re not likely to find out, but it’s such a coincidence that..."

She smiled wanly. "Yeah. Such a coincidence."

Frank suddenly thought of something he had omitted. "Oh?we?re gong to need some prints and a blood sample from you, if you don?t mind."

"Not at all. I want to find out what this is all about as much as you do. Where should I go?"

"The precinct building. I?ll be glad to take you, if you don?t mind waiting until this afternoon." Frank surprised himself with the offer, but the coincidence of both sets of parents dying on the same plane was too much to resist. And Linda’s appearance probably had a bit to do with the offer, he admitted to himself.

"What time?"

"I have to get some sleep before I do anything else. How about two o?clock?"

"We can wait that long, I guess."