This time I’m going to give you a little Behind the Scenes look at another pivotal location in the novel — The Pine Barrens in New Jersey, also known as the Pinelands. Also known as the supposed home of the Jersey Devil.
The Pine Barrens is an enormous area of coastal plain, over 1 million acres large in South Jersey. It contains one of the state’s largest water aquifers and is both a National Reserve and a United Nations International Biosphere Reserve.
Because of its size and location close to the Jersey Shore and Camden, not to mention its protected status, it became the perfect place for me to locate the buildings for Wardwell Laboratories, the company that is supposed to provide Caterina Shaw, our heroine, with her gene therapy. The Wardwell buildings are right on the edges of one of the Pine Barrens’ non-developed areas and because of that, there are several scenes which take place in the woods nearby.
Today’s Wicked Wednesday is about Mick’s first visit to the Wardwell offices and a meeting with one of the company’s founders.
Mick Carrera understood what kind of man he was.
Skilled in the art of killing.
People came to him when no one else could handle their problems because Mick either solved them or eliminated them — if Mick thought elimination was justified. Some scruples remained buried in his soul, a secret he closely guarded. In his line of work, having scruples equated to weakness.
Dr. Raymond Edwards had presented him with the kind of job that possibly ended with elimination, although Edwards hadn’t come right out and said so during their short telephone conversation. The doctor had skirted around the subject with the skill of a ballroom dancer, insisting time and time again that all he required were the services of a security specialist to assist with a problem at their facility.
Mick’s initial misgivings made him wonder why he had even come to the doctor’s office for this additional discussion. His typical clientele preferred meeting places that were much less visible, but then again, maybe such transparency meant that the doctor had been truthful about the nature of this assignment.
He scoped out the office as he entered, taking note of the fact that there was only one entrance in and out. Not good in case of the need for a quick escape. As he passed a credenza located beneath a wall filled with diplomas, framed news articles and photos, he noticed a small bronze statue of a horse mounted on a heavy marble base.
The size and weight of the statue would make it a handy weapon for either cracking open a man’s skull or breaking through the plate glass windows which lined one long wall of the office. The clear windows were now darkening, the color becoming as deep and dense as squid ink and likely for the same reason – concealment.
Mick had noticed all the high tech security on his way through the entrance of the building. He had expected it even while worrying about it. He knew his image would end up saved on a hard drive somewhere from the assorted cameras throughout the offices, but if Dr. Edwards was on the up and up, this was one job that was too good to not consider.
“I thought you might like some privacy,” the man behind the desk said as he rose and offered his hand.
“Dr. Raymond Edwards,” the man said.
Mick shook his hand and with a nod said, “Mick Carrera.” As Mick sat, he caught a glimpse of another security camera behind the desk, aimed directly at his chair. When Edwards tracked his gaze, he said, “Don’t worry, Mr. Carrera. I’ll make sure all traces of you are erased from our systems.”
“I appreciate your understanding,” he said, even while wondering again why a supposedly distinguished scientist like Raymond Edwards seemed compelled to seek out the services of a man like him. Wondering what else the good doctor had erased from the company’s security videos.
Dragging his attention to the man seated behind the desk, he listened as Edwards offered a rather lengthy introduction about the work that his biotech company did and their many accomplishments. Edwards’ manner was outwardly confident and business-like, but Mick couldn’t help but notice how the doctor kept his right hand on the face of the file on his desk and fiddled with one corner of the thick folder, thumbing it again and again. The curled corner of the papers confirmed that Edwards had opened up that file more times than the good doctor wanted him to know.
When Edwards paused for a breath, Mick seized the opportunity. “Your mission is clear, Dr. Edwards. Your company specializes in developing gene therapies for the terminally ill.”
The man stiffened and immediately corrected him. “Our present group of patients is terminally ill, but we hope that what we learn from our current research –”
“Will help all of mankind in the future. So why do you require my services?”
Copyright 2009 Caridad Pineiro Scordato – All rights reserved.