Rebecca, a brilliant cancer researcher, disappears after a one-night stand with a neurotic man with a questionable past.
Her sudden disappearance in the midst of a high-stakes quest to cure cancer between two rival billionaires sets into motion an inexplicable chain of events as the bodies start to pile up.
No one knows why she disappeared. The race to find answers ensnares everyone around her, one of whom is a deeply disturbed psychopath lurking in the shadows.
Is Rebecca still alive? What happened to her? Who did it? And why? Questions about her vex everyone looking for answers. No one can be trusted and no one is above suspicion…
Day 1, Thursday
The King & Duke Bar, New York City
She was wearing a gorgeous black dress.
The first things he noticed about her were her slender legs and her delicate wrist. She wore a thin diamond bracelet that sparkled in the low light of the hotel bar as she drank her martini, almost unaware of her surroundings. She was a gorgeous golden blonde with features that were tough to look away from, or ever forget.
She pulled out her purse and started to go through it when something fell out of it. She bent over to pick up the fallen object, half sitting on the bar stool when he walked over to help her pick it up.
He didn’t know what got over him, but he had to walk over to help her, to get noticed by her, to be an infinitesimally small part of her life, even if for just a few moments. He reached out for the object, just a few moments quicker than her, their hands almost colliding mid-air when, to his horror, he noticed the object was a tampon. Rather than recoil he swallowed his fear and embarrassment and cupped the tampon and handed it gently and discretely back to her. She skillfully grabbed it from his hand and before he knew it, the tampon was back in her purse and she looked up and gave him a wide smile.
“Hi, I’m Rebecca. It’s nice to meet you.”
“I’m uh, I’m uh…..I’m so sorry. I just didn’t know it was a, a, a, you know, a..”
She burst out laughing and he took the bar stool next to hers, still red in the face, but feeling better knowing she found the whole episode amusing, probably more so given his reaction. Before long, he introduced himself, this time, actually telling her his name, trying not to think about the tampon incident.
“I’m Ragnar, Ragnar Johnson.”
“Yes and no. I’m American, but the name is Scandinavian. Norwegian actually. Believe it or not, my parents named me after a character from an Ayn Rand novel.”
“Atlas Shrugged, I know. The capitalist pirate.” She was suppressing a chuckle and smiling.
“Well, here’s the whole story. My parents adored Ayn Rand, her ideas and her books. They decided to name the children after key characters from Atlas Shrugged.”
“So you have a sibling named John Galt?”
“Close enough. Two brothers, John Johnson and Francisco Johnson. Thankfully we all got to keep our family last name. Can you imagine me as a Ragnar Danneskjöld?”
They chatted about what brought her to New York City. She told him that she was a medical executive and was traveling to the city for a large cancer conference that was well-attended every year by executives of large pharmaceutical and biotech companies, academic researchers, oncologists, as well as sales and marketing executives from across the spectrum of companies. Her company was presenting results for and launching their latest cancer drug, a highly publicized next-generation miracle drug.
Before she joined her company, she was an assistant cancer researcher in the laboratory of Dr. Steven Gupta, the country’s leading cancer researcher, whose groundbreaking discoveries in the field of cancer fueled the laboratories of several large and small pharmaceutical and biotech companies.
“So Dr. Gupta is probably one of the richest doctors on planet, I presume?” he asked.
“On the contrary, he’s been so immersed in his quest to cure cancer, academic glory and possibly a Nobel Prize in medicine that he never really benefitted financially from his discoveries. In an effort to continue to push his research through the labs of the giant pharmaceutical companies at the fastest possible pace, he licensed out all his research without any real benefit to himself.” He sensed a tinge of sadness in her face and in a fleeting moment it was replaced by the same warm smile and she turned to sip her martini.
He thought that not only was she the striking beauty that one could not take their eyes off, or ever forget, she was also a smart, highly intelligent and a compassionate person who cared about the work she did for the broader good of humanity.
“And what brings you here today, Mr. Knight in Shining Armor, rescuing ladies who’ve dropped their tampons?”
No lie he could’ve made up would match up to what she was in reality. After all, he did get more than he bargained for since he first set eyes on her sitting alone at the bar. No lies, just the truth. The plain and simple truth. It did not matter to him anymore what she would think of him.
“I’m an unemployed trader. Nothing is more clichéd than a jobless failed trader in New York, I guess.” She put her hand on his saying, without any spoken words, that she was sorry and sympathetic. “I lost my job at one of the large investment banks in the city a few months ago. I worked on a trading desk, tracking complicated securities and setting up even more complicated trades. I was good at numbers growing up. I thrived as a quantitative analyst at the bank. A quantitative analyst analyzes reams and reams of trading information to identify trends and signals in the data that could help in predicting the direction of securities prices and hopefully make money in the process. I worked on setting up trades in arcane securities and made money day in and day out for the first few years, till one day the house of cards came tumbling down.”
He glanced at her to see her reaction. “Following a quick turn of events those trades lost hundreds of millions of dollars for the bank within days and I was thrown out of there before I could catch my breath or understand what happened. It turns out we were picking up pennies in front of a steamroller. We lost multiples of what we made in the last few years. I had a lot of my personal money invested in the same trades too. Not sure if I’m ever going to find another job again after that disaster.”
She was probably stunned by the admission, but did not show it.
“Anyways, I was at the Bowery Ballroom earlier tonight to watch my favorite indie rock band. They’re from New Zealand and they’re in the city for a couple of shows. Thought I’d stop for a drink after the show before calling it a night. My place is close by from here.”
She smiled. “You know this happened to my father too when I was young. He lost his job in security at the local Wal-Mart after an employee was caught for theft. She was skimming cash and shoplifting with the help of some other employees before they finally caught her. My father lost his job in the cleanup that followed. It took him over a couple of years before he found his next job. He was a changed person after that but he always said that those two years were the happiest days of his life.”
“I kind of miss the excitement and the thrill of the trading desk. I trade on and off with my own money but it’s not much to begin with. New York’s an expensive place.” He pensively stared at the beer he had ordered but not sipped yet.
“You know, I was a huge fan of 80s hair bands.” she said steering the conversation in a different direction.
“Why am I not surprised? So what’s your favorite 80s band?”
“Guns N’ Roses. You?”
“Def Leppard. Favorite GN’R song?” he asked, trying to imagine her head banging to Welcome to the Jungle.
“Rocket Queen. What about your favorite Leppard song?” She was clearly waiting for his reaction to her answer.
“Uh, Rocket Queen, huh. Mine’s uhh, it’s probably Bringin’ On the Heartbreak. You know the moaning in Rocket Queen is really Axl Rose getting nasty with..”
She nodded. “Umm hmm, that’s what I like about the song.” she said with an evil grin on her face, like she just got caught with a guilty secret. “Never would’ve counted you as a mushy type, though.”
They spent the next few hours talking about the 80s bands, must-go places in New York City, curing cancer, his former job, her days as a researcher and her father. The chemistry was undeniable and he was intoxicated by her beauty and intelligence and yet down-to-earth manner. He knew she felt their chemistry too.
“This is going to sound a bit strange, but do you mind if I crash at your place tonight? There’s construction that starts at night just outside my hotel window. Kept me up most of the night yesterday. I know it sounds strange, but..”
“No, no, no problem. You’re welcome to spend the night. It’s a small place, but I’m happy to spend the night on the sofa tonight. It’s quite cozy, honestly. You can take my bed.” He tried to be the nice guy and not too direct.
He sensed a hint of disappointment in her voice for a moment and then she was herself again. “Let me pick up a few things from my room and I’ll be right back. I’ll see you in the lobby in a few. Thanks Ragnar, I really appreciate it”
“Don’t mention it. I’ll wait for you in the lobby.”
Nicholas Nash is the exciting new author of The Girl At The Bar, a psychological thriller about the mysterious disappearance of a brilliant cancer researcher and the quest to find her. Nicholas resides in the concrete jungle of Manhattan in New York City with his wife and three children. An accomplished finance professional, he has a passion for reading fiction and non-fiction books which inspired him to write an intriguing thriller. Nicholas hopes you enjoy his work. For news and updates, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.