Third in the Dr Jack McCain series, in which Jack finds himself in family difficulties
while coming to the aid of an ex-colleague, charged with the murder of his wife. He’s also investigating the murders of scientists related to the Terminator Rabbit project, scientific research into a terminating gene that will stop rabbits breeding.
Once again, Jack’s personal and family life create tensions and rival loyalties as he goes undercover in a wife-swapping group of academics in order to find the truth. Academic envy and jealousy combine to destroy reputations and even life itself at the university as Jack is drawn into his enemy’s deadly trap...
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“If you were pushed around all the time when you were growing up,’ said Iona, “you get to think that’s how it is – that’s how people behave with each other.”
“That’s certainly part of it,” said Charlie. “And it’s exciting for them in some way – create some high drama in an otherwise drab and boring life. Violence can make people feel that something big and important is happening. Being the focus of negative attention is better than being ignored — – ask any kid that.”
“Hey!” Greg objected. “Why were you looking at me when you said that?”
Charlie laughed. “You were a shocker, mate. I remember.”
“And there are some people – especially women,” said Iona in her thoughtful way, “who believe they have to put up with violence. That nobody else would want them.” She paused. “That what they had was the best they could expect. I used to believe that. That no one could possibly love me.”In the silence following Iona’s sad confession, Jacinta flashed her a look of love that melted my heart. I was about to say something to Iona but at that moment Shaz, tears spilling from her eyes, jumped up and ran from the table. After a startled hesitation, Jacinta got up and hurried after her.
“Well,” said Charlie. “That’s certainly hit the spot.”
“Poor kid,” Iona murmured. “Maybe I should go and see how she is.’
Charlie put a hand on her arm. “Jacinta is with her and knows her. What you said is the best help you could ever give.”
“Maybe I shouldn’t have raised the issue at the table,” I said. “What do people talk about at dinner parties?”
“At my dinner parties, we mostly talk about bands and cars,” said Greg. “Oh, and girls.”
Jacinta returned and we all looked at her expectantly. “She wants me to drive her to the station,” she said. “I can’t talk her out of it. Honestly, Dad. Why did you have to start on that?”
“Now just a minute,” I said. “You want me to censor conversation in this family? It wasn’t even about Shaz.’
“Try and tell her that,” said Jacinta.
“I wouldn’t,” said Charlie. “She wouldn’t believe it. People in pain are extremely self obsessed. They feel everything is pointed at them.”
Jacinta sat back down, looking up at me from under her brows – her “little bull” look that I hadn’t seen for years. My mobile rang and I cursed, wishing I’d switched it off.
“Leave it,” said Iona as I twisted to unhook it. “You’re not at work now.”
“Maybe I should have a word with Shaz?’ Charlie asked.
Jacinta shook her head. “No. She said she doesn’t want to talk, she just wants to go home. I’m going to finish dinner and take her into town so she can get a train or a bus back to Sydney.”
“Are you going to answer that bloody phone or not, dad?” Greg asked. “Kill it, can’t you?”
“Leave it, please,” pleaded Iona.
“It might be important,” I said, standing up the mobile in my hand.
“So is this, Jack,” she said, indicating the family feast, the diners settling down after Shaz’s sudden exit.
“Come on, Dad. Give the bad guys a break for a while, eh?” said Greg, patting the seat beside him.
I stood there a moment, immobilised by indecision, watching Jacinta eat too quickly. Then, to my great relief, the mobile suddenly stopped ringing and when I checked, there was no message.
“See?” said Iona. “They rang off. Couldn’t have been very important….’
I sat down and added some carved chicken to my plate. “Jacinta, don’t bolt your food like that,” I said. “And I think it’s crazy of Shaz to expect you to run her into town now. And crazy of you to let her do it. Tell her you’ll do it in the morning.
Jacinta threw her fork down. “Jesus, Dad! Will you get off my case? She’s my friend, not yours. And I’ll make my own decisions about my friend without you telling me how I should do it!”
I heard her muttering something about no wonder people use drugs and ignored it. Family dinners, I thought. What a bloody minefield.
The mobile started ringing again and I put my foot down, defeated. “I have to answer it. Someone ringing my mobile after hours like this means someone really needs me….’
“Yes?” I said.
“That matter we spoke about earlier,” said Dallas Baxter. “I’ve organised your introduction to your sex partner. You’ve got a meeting tonight.”
…..My mouth went suddenly dry. I hadn’t expected this to happen so soon – and with such bad timing…
“I’m terribly sorry,” I said, turning to everyone at the table. “I have to go out. Something really urgent has come up.”
No one said anything. I looked around at four pairs of eyes, all of them disbelieving. Then, in the silence, Iona, who’d stopped eating and crossed her knife and fork neatly, stood up, threw her table napkin down, pushed her chair back into the table and left the room.
Everyone else was silent as I followed her down the hall into our room. Feeling like an absolute bastard I closed the door behind us. “Iona, sweetheart. Please.” I said.
She turned to face me, tears shining in her eyes. “This can’t go on, Jack….’
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