One of Cook's most successful--and timelybestsellers. Contagion is a terrifying cautionary tale for the millennium as a deadly epidemic is spread not merely by microbesbut by sabotage...
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August 06, 2002
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Excerpt from Contagion by Robin Cook
June 12, 1991, dawned a near-perfect, late-spring day as the sun's rays touched the eastern shores of the North American continent. Most of the United States, Canada, and Mexico expected clear, sunny skies. The only meteorological blips were a band of potential thunderstorms that was expected to extend from the plains into the Tennessee Valley and some showers that were forecasted to move in from the Bering Strait over the Seward Peninsula in Alaska.
In almost every way this June twelfth was like every other June twelfth, with one curious phenomenon. Three incidents occurred that were totally unrelated, yet were to cause a tragic intersection of the lives of three of the people involved.
"Hey! Dick! Over here," shouted Ron Halverton. He waved frantically to get his former roommate's attention. He didn't dare leave his Jeep in the brief chaos at the tiny airport. The morning 737 from Anchorage had just landed and the security people were strict about unattended vehicles in the loading area. Buses and vans were waiting for the tourists and the returning oil company personnel.
Hearing his name and recognizing Ron, Dick waved back and then began threading his way through the milling crowd.
Ron watched Dick as he approached. Ron hadn't seen him since they'd graduated from college the year before, but Dick appeared just as he always did: the picture of normality with his Ralph Lauren shirt and windbreaker jacket, Guess jeans, and a small knapsack slung over his shoulder. Yet Ron knew the real Dick: the ambitious, aspiring microbiologist who would think nothing of flying all the way from Atlanta to Alaska with the hope of finding a new microbe. Here was a guy who loved bacteria and viruses. He collected the stuff the way other people collected baseball cards. Ron smiled and shook his head as he recalled that Dick had even had petri dishes of microbes in their shared refrigerator at the University of Colorado.
When Ron had met Dick during their freshman year, it had taken a bit of time to get used to him. Although he was an indubitably faithful friend, Dick had some peculiar and unpredictable quirks. On the one hand he was a fierce competitor in intramural sports and surely the guy you wanted with you if you mistakenly wandered into the wrong part of town, yet on the other hand he'd been unable to sacrifice a frog in first-year biology lab.
Ron found himself chuckling as he remembered another surprising and embarrassing moment involving Dick. It was during their sophomore year when a whole group had piled into a car for a weekend ski trip. Dick was driving and accidentally ran over a rabbit. His response had been to break down in tears. No one had known what to say. As a result some people began to talk behind Dick's back, especially when it became common knowledge that he would pick up cockroaches at the fraternity house and deposit them outside instead of squishing them and flushing them down the toilet as everybody else did.