© 2020 by John Reizer
All Rights Reserved. Printed in the USA
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.
Amazon Kindle Edition
Published by Win-Can Publishers
The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
September 2019 – Jekyll Island, GA
A long mahogany conference table was centered in the middle of a secured executive board room in an undisclosed, secret location on Jekyll Island, Georgia. Seated around the table in brown leatherback chairs were the world’s most prominent and important CEOs from healthcare and pharmaceutical corporations.
Much like a powerful group of men had forever changed the US financial system in November 1910 at the same location, the men in attendance on this early fall evening were about to change forever the way the world embraced infectious diseases.
The chairman of the secret council, an older man with striking white hair and a strong jaw, held a stack of papers in his hands and faced the others who were all immaculately dressed in expensive suits.
The chairman dropped the paperwork he’d been holding on the tabletop and cleared his throat. “Gentleman, we have the blueprint for operation ‘ACHOO,’ and we have been permitted to proceed with our plan in December of this year.”
There were a few rumbles of muffled conversation briefly heard across the room before the chairman continued. “We’re going with a novel coronavirus. It will debut in Wuhan, China.”
“Why China and why a coronavirus?” a voice called out.
The chairman smiled and said, “Because the world thinks everything is made there.
“Based on the lab samples we have collected globally, a coronavirus will test positive in about 30 percent of the population. It will allow us the false-positive results needed to support a world pandemic.”
“But do you think that we can sustain this sort of thing in the public’s mind with such a weak virus?” asked the CEO of a major drug company.
The chairman smiled before offering his reply. “The herd will believe anything we broadcast on television. After they have been sitting at home for several months without watching sports or other forms of entertainment, they’re going to be begging for a cure.”
“How long do we need to disrupt everything to achieve our goals?” asked another CEO.
The chairman straightened in his chair and said, “For as long as it takes. We are about to change an entire paradigm and create a ‘new normal,’ where we decide who gets what pharmaceutical products, and how often.”
The CEOs in attendance were all smiling and feeling confident.
One attendee seated at the farthest end of the conference table from the chairman asked a question. “Don’t you think some people will figure out the plan and tell others?”
The chairman of the group reached in his suit pocket and pulled out an ear loop mask. He strapped it over his face and stared at the CEOs in the room, looking back at him. “They won’t be able to tell anyone about anything because the entire world will be wearing these face diapers.”
The council members were all laughing heartily.
The chairman removed the mask from his face and sported a serious look on his face. He held the face mask in one hand and a syringe in another. He said, “If they are stupid enough to wear the masks, they’re going to be as foolish and accept the vaccines.” The chairman was now grinning widely.
A short time later, the room erupted in loud laughter.
October 2019 – New York City
A large crowd of crisis actors had gathered on the asphalt parking lot in front of the Pinehurst Elementary School in the northern tip of Manhattan, an area known as Hamilton Heights. It was a Saturday morning, and there was a brisk chill in the autumn air. It wasn’t winter yet, but you could tell that the days and nights of warm weather were a thing of the past. The fall season was in place. Jack-o’-lanterns, witches, and skeleton decorations hung from inside the school windows; Halloween’s signs were everywhere.
Donald Barnes cupped two hands around his mouth and blew warm air through them, trying to keep the early morning chill at bay. He was one of the first persons to arrive on the scene. Donald wanted to make sure that he was chosen for the day’s assignment.
Making a living as a crisis actor was hard work. It wasn’t something a person could do exclusively and hope to get rich. It wasn’t in the same ballpark as making television commercials or being a soap opera star, that was for sure. But if you hustled and were good at your craft, you could get work here and there and earn yourself a little spare change each month.
Donald was a 36-year-old laboratory technologist who worked for LabFast, a company specializing in processing medical tests for doctors’ offices and hospitals in New Jersey. He’d heard about The Event through an Internet agency he’d subscribed to several months prior. The company would send out email alerts every few days about future jobs in the tri-state area. On Wednesday of the same week, Donald received one such alert listing the current assignment and the report time and location.
The Event was paying four hundred dollars for six hours of work, and Donald didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity. Evidently, he wasn’t the only one with his eyes set on the payday, because there were two or three hundred other people in attendance.
“Can I have everybody’s attention, please?” a man’s voice called out from the parking lot area closest to the school building. The individual was using a bullhorn to amplify his voice throughout the crowd. “We’d like to begin on time, which is in about thirty minutes, so I will go over the registration process if I could have your attention.
“When each of you arrived this morning, you were asked to fill out one of these yellow cards with all your information.” The man held up a card above his head so people in the parking lot could see what he was talking about. “I’ll need for you to drop the filled-out cards in the metal box up here on the table.
“I’m going to randomly select one hundred cards, and if your name is picked, you are hired for the day. Any questions? No? Great!”
Groans could be heard coming from the people standing on the asphalt parking lot as hopeful candidates made their way up to the table to deposit their registration cards.
Fifteen minutes later, the same guy spoke into the bullhorn again, this time with the drawing results. Donald was hoping to hear his name but wasn’t too optimistic as he gazed across the large crowd. “…Michelle Smith, Julie Reiner, Rodney Jackson, Dawn Harris, Donald Barnes, Allison Newton, and Lance Jarmon. That’s all, folks. If I called your name, please come forward to get additional instructions. If I didn’t call your name, I want to thank you for coming out here this morning and would like to apologize for not getting you any work today.”
Awesome, Donald thought to himself, I just earned four hundred bucks. He walked to the front of the parking lot and waited with the other selectees as the people who hadn’t fared as well in the drawing vacated the premises.
Donald made brief eye contact with an attractive brunette woman standing nearby. They exchanged smiles and then shifted their eyes away before awkwardly catching one another, looking back in the same directions. Donald walked over to the young lady and introduced himself. “Donald Barnes,” he said, extending his arm.
The woman smiled and shook his hand. “Julie Reiner,” she replied.
“Do you have any idea what this thing is about today?” he asked as he looked around the parking lot before refocusing his eyes on Julie.
“A pandemic simulation is what I have heard through the grapevine.”
“Oh,” Donald said, arching his eyes upward. “You mean like an infectious disease outbreak?”
“That would be my guess,” Julie said.
“It’s cold out here,” he commented, not knowing what else to say and fearing silence in the conversation he initiated.
“Yeah,” Julie replied, shrugging her shoulders. “It’s getting to be that time of the year.”
“Do you do this sort of thing, full time, Julie?” Donald asked.
She smiled and tilted her head to the side, keeping her eyes fixed on him. “No, no, no,” she explained. “I am a frustrated actress from way back in my college days. I’m a chiropractor in New Jersey and like to do auditions occasionally.”
“Oh, that’s cool,” Donald replied. He rubbed his neck, smiling and said, “You know, I’ve had this pain right here for a while and was thinking about seeing a chiropractor. Maybe you could give me your card, and I could schedule an appointment. What do you say?”
“You bet,” Julie replied. She reached inside her pant pocket and pulled out a business card. “I am always prepared to self-promote my services.” She was laughing as she handed Donald her office contact information.
The man with the bullhorn began speaking again. “Okay, everybody, if I can have your attention, let me fill you in on what’s happening this morning.
“Today, boys and girls, we are simulating a global pandemic that has been caused by a novel coronavirus. The virus was first identified in South America on a pig farm. Somehow the pathogen spread to surrounding communities and eventually to other countries. It has now entered the United States, and millions of people are becoming infected.
“The virus causes upper respiratory problems and pneumonia. Deaths are increasing across the planet, and a medical crisis is in full play. Because the virus is a new strain of an already existing family of known viruses, the general population has no natural immunity to the microbe.
“Businesses have been ordered closed by federal and state governments, and the public has been called into quarantine. People in all communities are socially distancing themselves from one another and wearing face masks. The national guard has been dispatched, and medical martial law is in effect.
“The game plan is to try and ride out the storm until scientists can come up with a life-saving vaccine.”
Donald looked at Julie, who was shaking her head and frowning. “Something the matter?” he asked.
Julie cocked her head back and replied, “There’s no such thing as a life-saving vaccine!”
December 31, 2019 –Toms River, NJ
Dr. Julie Reiner was mulling over how she should handle the situation. There was significant spasticity present in the cervical paraspinal muscles. She wanted to place Mrs. Tanner on the chiropractic table in a supine position and make a diversified spinal adjustment on the fourth cervical vertebral body rotated towards the left. It was a simple, straightforward procedure she’d performed thousands of times. Still, considerable muscle guarding existed in the region, and she didn’t want the correction to be overly uncomfortable.
Instead, Julie had Mrs. Tanner lay on the table prone. She angled the headpiece down at about fifteen degrees and made a firm contact on the patient’s neck with her left hand’s index finger. She was careful to make a firm contact on the lamina-pedicle junction and then had the patient turn her head to the right. She stabilized Mrs. Tanner’s occiput with her other hand. Julie’s setup looked good. She delivered a quick thrust initiated by her pectoralis muscles that transferred the force into her arm and left hand with a posterior to anterior, lateral to medial, and inferior to a superior line of drive.
The correction was successfully completed in less than a second, and the vertebral misalignment that had been present in Mrs. Tanner’s neck was a thing of the past.
“Oh, that always feels so good,” Mrs. Tanner commented. Her voice, muffled from speaking face down on the adjusting table, expressed deep appreciation for her doctor.
Julie smiled before tapping the patient gently on her left shoulder. “That adjustment is going to do you a world of good, Mrs. Tanner. You rest for a few minutes, and then you can check out. I hope you have a wonderful holiday.” The 34-year-old chiropractor made her way outside the examination room and down the hallway to where her private office was located.
Julie began writing the SOAP notes for the patients she’d seen during the afternoon office hours. As she entered the information into the different patient files on her laptop, she listened to the radio playing in the background. There was a news report about a medical crisis in Wuhan, China. When the news reporter began speaking, Julie’s attention was more focused on her patient case files. But then she heard the word, coronavirus, and quickly became engrossed in the report.
“According to Chinese health officials, the crisis began after several people visited a food market in Wuhan, China,” the reporter said. “The cases have been growing with intensity, and people are becoming increasingly ill with upper respiratory problems and pneumonia. Many cases have ended in fatalities. Serious concerns are being expressed by the Chinese government that a new strain of coronavirus is the culprit.”
Julie frowned. What were the chances a new coronavirus strain was on the loose, causing an outbreak of disease? she thought to herself.
Julie’s cell phone rang and disrupted her train of thought. She reached for the smartphone on the office desk. It was Donald Barnes.
“Hey, sweetie, how are you?” she asked. The two had been dating for about a month. They’d initially met up in New York City back in October, where they worked as crisis actors on a paid assignment.
“Hey Jewels, I’m good but caught in heavy traffic on the Garden State Parkway. I’ll be about thirty minutes late.”
Julie smiled and said, “Don’t worry, I’m still working on paperwork in the office. I can make good use of the extra time. I should be finishing up right about when you arrive.”
“Oh, good,” Donald replied. “Anything new with you?”
Julie was still typing data into a patient file while securing the phone to her ear with her shoulder. “No, nothing out of the ordinary. I’m looking forward to the New Year’s holiday and spending some time with you.”
“Me too,” Donald replied.
“What are you thinking for dinner?” Julie asked.
Donald laughed. “I’m always in the mood for Italian, but I could be easily manipulated into something else.”
Julie smiled as she entered additional information into a SOAP note file. “That’s interesting to know,” she replied, giggling.
Later that evening, Julie and Donald were dining on Italian food at Romano’s, a quaint little mom and pop restaurant in Point Pleasant, New Jersey. The establishment was well known for making authentic dishes from scratch. Everything from the bread and pasta to the cannolis was homemade and great tasting.
Julie had ordered veal scallopini, and Donald tried the chicken parmigiana. The restaurant was remarkably busy and still decked out with Christmas decorations.
Donald was a handsome guy with sandy colored hair, a long sinewy build, and a strong jaw. Julie had dark brown hair, olive-colored skin, beautifully sculpted cheekbones, and striking blue eyes. Together, they made an attractive couple.
Donald had grown up in Jersey City, where he’d been heavily involved with athletics during his earlier life. He graduated from Liberty High School and earned a full baseball scholarship to Seton Hall University in South Orange. Donald graduated with a biology degree and later found employment as a lab technologist with the LabFast Corporation.
Julie had grown up in Toms River, New Jersey, in Ocean County, near the Jersey shore. She was always interested in health sciences and attended college at Rutgers University after graduating from Toms River East High School. Julie had also majored in biology and was later accepted to and attended graduate school in Spartanburg, South Carolina, at one of the premier chiropractic schools in the country, Sherman College.
“So, listen to this,” Julie said as she ate a forkful of scallopini. “I was working on my patient files this afternoon, and I heard on the radio that there’s been an infectious disease outbreak in Wuhan, China.”
Donald was dipping a piece of bread into a dish of Olive oil. He looked at Julie and arched his eyes upward. “No, kidding?”
“No,” Julie replied. “And, get this, the suspected microbe is a new strain of coronavirus.”
Donald smiled and ate the piece of bread. “A novel coronavirus,” he said.
“Yes,” the chiropractor replied. “Can you take a wild guess at what the people are suffering from who have contracted this new disease?”
Donald shrugged his shoulders before answering. “Pneumonia?”
Julie smiled while working on another forkful of veal. “Bingo,” she replied.
Donald nodded. “You know, Jewels,” he began speaking, “I have a good friend, Chris Emerson, who flies to China on business several times a year. He’s been to Wuhan before. This is so damn crazy. I spoke to Chris about three weeks ago, and we were talking about all the wild food they eat there.
“He was also telling me how polluted the air is. It’s so bad that millions of people are always wearing face masks and getting upper respiratory illnesses.”
“They get sick from viruses or from the air?” Julie asked.
“No, not from viruses. They get sick because of all the crap that’s being pumped into the air from industrial plants and stuff.”
Julie was in deep thought.
“Oh boy, what are you thinking?” Donald asked. He could tell the wheels inside her head were turning.
“If the air quality is so bad that millions of people must regularly wear face masks, how the hell did the Chinese health officials figure out a coronavirus started in a market?”
“You lost me, Jewels,” Donald said.
Julie straightened her posture in the chair. “Think about it, Donald. Wuhan is a city with millions of people walking around with face masks because the outside environment is so toxic with air pollution. Why would anyone think that some people inside a Chinese market had contracted an infectious disease just because they developed upper respiratory distress or pneumonia?
“If the air quality is so bad that people must wear face masks, there must be millions of citizens over there that regularly come down with upper respiratory problems and pneumonia. But not from viral or bacterial infections. They probably get sick, like you said, from the bad air.
“Why would the health authorities think that a new virus was the cause of a few isolated cases of people getting upper respiratory problems? Hell, they must see that sort of thing thousands of times in a day.”
Donald nodded in agreement. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. That doesn’t make any sense.”