Ken Goddard


“Whoever battles with monsters had better see that it does not turn him into a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”

— Friedrich Nietzsche

Chimera: In Greek mythology, a fire-breathing animal with a lion's head and foreparts, a goat's middle, a dragon's rear, and a tail in the form of a snake; hence any apparent hybrid of two or more creatures.

— Tiscali, 2005

Part I: The Russian Connection


A Cheap Hotel on the Outskirts of Bangkok, Thailand

An insistent ringing began to invade Dr. Sergei Arturovich Draganov subconscious, demanding his attention and dragging him out of a deep but restless sleep.

Confused and disoriented by his sudden awareness of the unfamiliar mattress and strange pungent smells of his equally-unfamiliar surroundings, and the fact that his head was throbbing painfully, he reached out for the bedside table alarm clock with eyes tightly shut, fumbling desperately to shut off the insistent noise… and then, when he failed to do so, opened his eyes and stared in confusion at the small blank clock face, barely visible in the almost completely dark room.


The suddenly familiar rang out again and he reached across the table top for his red-flashing cell phone — the only source of light in the room.

Where am I? he asked himself as he reflexively activated the phone and brought it to his ear, the effort magnifying the pain radiating across his forehead,

“Hello?” he rasped sleepily.

“You’d better get up, Dr. Draganov,” a deep unfamiliar voice spoke, “you’re going to be late.”

Late? Late for — ? Oh my God, the Symposium! What time is it?

A quick glance at digital clock on the glowing face of his cell phone caused him to snap upright on the hard mattress, tearing off the thin blankets as he lunged out of bed and stumbled into the tiny bathroom.

Barely twenty minutes after receiving the warning phone call, Dr. Sergei Draganov burst out of the narrow stairwell into the hotel’s small, dark and seemingly empty lobby, clutching a worn briefcase in one shaky hand as he struggled to pull on a ragged raincoat over his badly wrinkled suit and poorly knotted necktie.

He spent a futile three seconds scanning the lobby for the on-duty clerk, then — sensing the hopelessness of his situation, but desperate to try anyway because he had so much to lose — he ran for the main door leading out into the hotel’s shabby entryway, shoved the creaky door open… and stumbled out into a torrential rain and darkness lit only by the headlights of distant structures and vehicles. All of the immediate building, street and traffic lights were as dark as the surrounding sky.

Watching his steps as best he could to avoid tripping on the broken concrete sidewalk, he lurched across the hotel’s small, half-circle driveway — that, like the connecting front street, was mostly a ragged mixture of broken asphalt and mud — to a small leaky hut where the hotel’s single on-duty clerk and doorman sat crouched, looking cold and miserable.

“I asked for a wake-up call,” Draganov screamed. “Why didn’t you — ?”

“All power out,” the clerk interrupted, gesturing with his hands at the surrounding darkness, clearly in no mood to repeat the explanation he’d already given many times this morning. “Wake-up call list in computer. Computer down. Everything down. Nothing I can do until power back on. More important I watch for delivery truck. Then we all have hot breakfast.”

“But I don’t care about — ” Draganov started to argue, but then remembered that he had a much more important concern. “The early bus to the airport — where is it?!” he demanded.

“You too late for early bus. Already gone.”

Draganov sagged, his eyes bulging in dismay.

“Gone? But — when will it be back?”

“Two hours, maybe three. Traffic very bad now.”

“Two — ? No, I can’t wait that long. Call me a cab immediately!”

The clerk shook his head.

“No cab come here until street fixed. Get stuck. Only bus… and delivery truck,” he added, looking around hopefully.

“But, but — ”

“No cab come here. You want cab, must walk to St. James Hotel.”

The clerk pointed indifferently off into the darkness.

“How far away is that?”

“Not far.” The clerk shrugged. “Half hour maybe.”

Draganov glanced down at his wrist watch, sighed heavily, and then began picking his way along the broken sidewalk, cursing in Russian. In doing so, he failed to notice a man in an expensive-looking trench coat slip out of the hotel lobby’s side door and begin to follow his labored path.

A half hour later, a thoroughly wet, miserable and despondent Sergei Draganov was still cautiously picking his way through poorly illuminated mud and street debris, head down against the rain and cursing half-heartedly, when a loud clanking sound caught his attention. He stopped, looked up, and saw a Thai male thirty feet away holding a metal pipe.

“Who are you? What do you want?” Draganov demanded, trying to keep his rising fear out of his voice.

“Your money.”

Draganov laughed bitterly. “Can’t you see I have no money? Why else would I be walking in a morning like this?”

The thug shrugged, and then gestured with his head toward a nearby second thug and a third who had stepped out of the dark shadows behind Draganov. All three men were armed with pipes, and appeared poorly dressed for the bad weather.

“You will give us money — all you have — and briefcase too,” the first thug said confidently.

Draganov’s eyes widen in horror as he looks back and forth at the three men, and then shakes his head firmly.

“No, you can’t have my briefcase. My money, yes, but I must have — ”

“You took a wrong turn, Doctor.”

Draganov spun around and stared at a tall Caucasian man — wearing an expensive-looking trench coat —

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