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What is COTTON FBI?
Your name is Jeremiah Cotton. You are a small-time cop in the NYPD, a rookie that no one takes seriously. But you want more. You have a score to settle with the world. And anyone who calls you “Jerry” will be sorry.
A new time. A new hero. A new mission. Experience the birth of a digital cult-series: Cotton FBI is the remake of JERRY COTTON, the most successful series of German novels with more than one billion copies sold, and it tells an entirely new story in e-book form.
Cotton FBI is published twice a month, with each episode a self-contained story.
Linda Budinger is a freelance author and translator. She has been writing novels and short stories for over 20 years, which are mainly fantasy and speculative fiction. Her stories have been nominated several times for the Deutschen Phantastik Preis (German fantasy award). She became known through publications for the role-playing game “The Dark Eye” and as a co-author of the series of novels “Shadow Realm” (Schattenreich) published by Bastei Lübbe. The author lives in Leichlingen, Germany.
Friday, July 4th, Astoria Park, New York
Time and again the dark sky over New York was lit up by bursting blooms of sparkling light, showering down glitter and sparks. From further up the East River, the smell of black powder wafted into Astoria Park, an oasis of greenery stretching almost a thousand yards along the eastern shoreline of the narrows.
Jubilant crowds of people lined the water’s edge, gathering at Hell Gate and the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge. They craned their necks to see the fireworks on this day of independence.
But not everyone had left their overheated dwellings in order to join in the festivities.
Jeremiah Cotton glanced at the photo displayed on his cell phone and then over at the man who was passing underneath a street lamp barely ten yards away. He had no doubt: That was Miller, the wanted man.
Cotton turned to look at Detective Joe Brandenburg, drawing his attention to the man. Brandenburg nodded and followed the suspect while Cotton radioed G-Team headquarters to report that they had found Miller.
Ten minutes went by. Cotton and his former colleague from the NYPD took turns following Miller to avoid arousing his suspicion.
Miller had been the FBI’s focus of attention for only a few hours now, and he seemed oblivious to it. His head bowed, he strode past the park’s sports grounds, cutting through the excited crowds as if there were no tomorrow.
Just as Cotton was about to relieve Brandenburg, his cell phone vibrated. He answered it with a snarled “What?” “This is High. What’s the suspect doing?”
Cotton reflexively stiffened when he heard his boss’s chilly voice. “We’re tailing him, sir,” he whispered, skillfully snaking his way past a kissing couple.
“We found a number of dead monkeys in the lab where Miller works,” John D. High said. “There were also two co-workers of Miller on the premises who are now dying. They confirmed the plot. One of them is our informant. In addition, we’ve examined the virus. Hunter classified it as highly contagious. It is transmittable by air. And there’s something else, Cotton.”
“It is likely that Miller has a bomb with him.”
“Yes, that is possible, sir,” Cotton confirmed. “He’s carrying a cooler.” Cotton didn’t let the suspect out of his sight for even a second. Then Cotton’s sixth sense sounded the alarm. He listened impatiently to his boss’s instructions, replying simply, “Okay, I’ll let him know,” before ending the call.
Joe Brandenburg peered back to see where his relief was. He picked up a newspaper that happened to be lying on a park bench and hid behind it, always staying about fifty yards behind the suspect.
Cotton sought eye contact with him and tapped his finger against his ear to show that he had received new instructions. He inconspicuously pulled out his weapon as he walked faster to catch up with Brandenburg.
People were barbecuing in the parks and on their lawns. Those who had attended the traditional 4th of July concert were ambling back home, whistling or humming patriotic songs as they walked. Children threw bang snaps at each other with excited shouts. It was a joyous chaos, good for observing, but it would be hell if it came to a pursuit. Cotton didn’t even dare to think what a bomb would do to this mass of people.
The air was heavy with the scents of black powder and grilled meat. For a moment, Cotton was drawn back to the worst day of his life, that fateful September 11th, 2001. But he shook those thoughts away like a dog shaking off water.
“Was it an invitation to a barbecue, rookie?” Brandenburg asked as Cotton overtook him. The stocky NYPD detective had a receiver underneath his Yankees baseball cap that allowed him to communicate with the other police units.
Cotton shook his head. “That was High. The situation is more serious than we thought. Miller is a virologist. But more importantly, he’s a nut with a crazy worldview. He’s already killed two people. We’re supposed to eliminate him if necessary, and before he spreads his virus over half the city. He may also have a bomb with him.”
“Hallelujah!” Brandenburg had a sardonic look on his face. “Things like this always happen when I’m with you!”
“I’ve got an uncanny sense for these things.”
It was merely a coincidence that Cotton had heard the message from headquarters calling all agents for this assignment. He had been on 31st Street when the G-Team got the tip-off. A traffic video camera not far from the East River had spotted the suspect.
Cotton had taken an unmarked car over to Astoria Park to meet Brandenburg, who was on routine duty with his men. Brandenburg was one of the few people outside the G-Team who knew of its existence.
Now Cotton held his pistol close to his body, half-hidden in the sleeve of his jacket. “Backup is on its way,” he told Brandenburg. “But I could end this whole thing right here and now.”
“Holy shit, no!” Brandenburg waved his folded newspaper emphatically. “There’s not a clear line of fire. The last thing we need in this madhouse is a stampede.” He spoke into his mike: “I need all available officers in Astoria Park. The suspect is moving towards the waterfront. What? Yes, use the damn cordons from the parade.”
He turned back to Cotton. “They’re closing off the entrance and are guiding people away from the shoreline. When the boys are here, we’ll force Miller towards the tennis courts and take him there.”
“I’m afraid it’s too late,” Cotton responded tensely, pointing ahead.
The moonlight touched the countless branches and leaves of the trees with ghostly fingers. Miller was kneeling on a small grass-covered hill, opening his cooler. Wisps of fog from the dry ice within billowed out. He pulled out a gas mask and slipped it over his face. In the stroboscopic light from a nearby roman candle, he looked like some strange giant insect.
He reached into the cooler.
“Watch my back, Joe,” Cotton yelled. A head shot would eliminate Miller.
Cotton raised his pistol and took careful aim, estimating the distance and angle. By this point, several pedestrians had noticed the odd character with the gas mask.
Cotton pulled the trigger but missed because two teenagers had jumped from a nearby low wall directly into the line of fire. Bark splintered from the tree standing next to where Miller was kneeling. An older man selling ice cream from a hand cart with a penguin logo gaped wide-eyed at Cotton and then dove for cover.
Only those who were quite close heard the pistol being fired; for everyone else, the shots blended into the noise of the fireworks. But those few people who knew that the sound was a gunshot were enough to set off a panic. Screams and shouts mixed with applause and laughter. The people closest to Cotton ran away in fright.
The virologist lifted three connected bottles out of his cooler. Attached to the bottles was a small packet of plastic explosives.
I have to take out this nut before he activates the fuse! Cotton thought frantically.
He aimed and slowly exhaled.
A hellish pain suddenly ripped into his arm. A projectile tore the pistol out of his hand. His weapon skidded away into some dense bushes near where a dozen people were standing.
Cotton took cover behind a park bench. Holding his aching hand, he cursed. Miller had an accomplice, probably a sniper up on the bridge! All right — he’d have to let Joe take care of him. He must already be on the way. Cotton saw his partner nearby in a crowd of people, talking hastily into his mike.
Cotton was unarmed now, and he would be targeted by the sniper if he moved. If just one bullet hit those bottles … But for Cotton, doing nothing was simply unthinkable. He dashed away.
Using his shoulders like an offensive lineman, he shoved through the mob of people between him and Miller. He bounded over a short fence, expecting to be hit by a bullet between the shoulder blades at any second. He flew across the lawn, his feet digging into the soft ground.
Ten yards to go.
Miller turned and faced Cotton. His facial expression was invisible behind the glass goggles of the gas mask. Undeterred, he kept working on the bottles.
Cotton saw the glinting reflection from a metal blade. Miller was using a knife to pry open one of the bottles. Cotton still felt the terrible pain in his hand from when his pistol had been shot away, but he ignored it.
Without hesitating, Cotton stormed between the man and the cooler. He punched Miller, using his momentum to push Miller away from the bottles.
Miller sprang up and jabbed his knife at Cotton. The blade sliced through his jacket sleeve and cut into his arm. The pain burned like fire, racing all the way up to his shoulder. Cotton knocked the knife out of Miller’s hand and elbowed him in the face. Miller fell to the ground and angrily kicked at the bottles.
To protect them from being broken, Cotton immediately threw himself down between Miller and the bottles.
Miller sprang up and swung several punches at Cotton; however, they were poorly aimed, hitting him ineffectually on the back. With numb fingers, Cotton shoved the bio-bomb back into the cooler. Every bit of additional protection from the virus could mean life or death for thousands of people.
Miller went for the knife again, but tripped and fell. Cotton spun around, quick as a cobra. He blocked the knife, his elbow slamming into Miller’s lower arm.
“Where’s the fuse?” he gasped, tearing the gas mask from the virologist’s face with his left hand. “Come on, give up, already!”
Then he saw the fuse lying in the grass. It had fallen out of Miller’s jacket pocket. Miller followed Cotton’s gaze and grinned. He had nothing to lose, and he knew it.
Miller lunged for the fuse.
Dammit, I hate fanatics! Cotton feigned a move towards the fuse to fool Miller, then turned to the side and hammered his fist into the man’s knee. Miller sank down, his target out of reach.
Instead, it was Cotton’s hand that grabbed the fuse and gingerly cradled it like a raw egg.
Heavy, rapid footsteps approached. Handcuffs snapped shut, and Brandenburg read Miller his rights.
It was over.
Monday, July 14th, Cyberedge building, G-Team Headquarters, John D. High’s office
“It’s nice to have you back, Cotton,” the director of the FBI’s secret G-Team unit greeted Cotton, who had been a member of the team for only a short time.
“Thank you, sir,” Cotton answered.
Mr. High stood up and reached out a hand to the newest member of the special unit. Cotton wanted to shake his boss’s hand, but High made a slight bow. Instead of shaking Cotton’s hand, High gave him a squeeze on the arm, just below his elbow.
Cotton inwardly flinched and cringed from the pain. Once again he was surprised by his boss, whose eagle eyes saw everything.
“Are you sure that you’re completely okay?”
“Yes, sir.” Cotton looked steadily into the eyes of the tall, dark-skinned man.
Mr. High gestured to a chair and then took his own seat. With a few taps on his keyboard, he opened a document.
Absentmindedly, Cotton rubbed the wound on his arm. The cut he had received from Miller in the park still hadn’t closed; the edges of the wound were inflamed, and it hurt like hell when touched.
“You discharged yourself from the hospital three days ago,” John D. High said, “against medical advice.”
“I’m fine.” Cotton couldn’t stand being in the hospital any longer. He had been cooped up in quarantine for a whole week. No one had told him why he had to remain in the hospital for so long, either.
“Then during the long weekend — I’ll quote from your medical records — ’the initial necrosis on the lower arm’ must have completely disappeared. After all, you put a new fender on your Jaguar, which must’ve been a strenuous undertaking.”
Cotton swallowed hard.