Imagine never touching another human being…
Robert Luxley has a biological problem he does not understand and cannot control: one touch from his bare skin and you're paralyzed for fifteen minutes.
Lonely and isolated, he's turned his "special trick" into a lucrative career as a hired killer. He thinks he's one of a kind—until one day he's confronted by a young girl named Cassandra, who tells him he's not alone.
She has it too, and the two of them are not the only ones.
Carriers can render anyone they touch blind, deaf, or otherwise senseless, in seconds.
Fearing discovery, Luxley follows Cassandra through a dark underground network of "Deprivers" in a desperate hunt for her missing brother Nicholas, taken hostage by a radical group of carriers with a terrifying agenda.
Luxley doesn't know who to trust, or who is safe to touch, but he needs to learn Cassandra's secrets fast.
"A book that gets under your skin and on your nerves. The science is impressive; the fiction is haunting. It has a lot on its mind; and it will touch you."– Mark Frost, co-creator of Twin Peaks
"Deprivers is the ultimate paranoia thriller—emphasis on the word thriller. Fans of everything from The Hot Zone to The X-Files take note, THIS BOOK IS GOING TO BLOW YOU AWAY!"– Rockne S. O’Bannon, creator of Alien Nation, Farscape, Defiance and Cult
"Deprivers will take you to a terrifying and disturbing tomorrow and make you feel like you live there."– David Brin, Scientist and science fiction author, winner of the Hugo, Nebula, Campbell and Locus Awards
SOMEHOW she knew that I'd killed a man earlier that morning. His name was Osbourne, and I'd waited for him for just under an hour. I bore him no ill will. After all, I was there to kill him. Maybe he'd sensed it? Maybe he'd stopped off to enjoy a final cup of coffee or taken the longer path through Central Park, the one that ran by the duck pond? Who knows? Wouldn't affect my paycheck. He came in and was startled pale to see me sitting there, enjoying a glass of wine on his veranda. One of the dustier bottles from his collection, quite a charming wine, effervescent, a cherry pick.
I motioned to him with a waggle of my finger. He hesitated at first, then came striding over and slapped his briefcase down on the table in front of me.
"Who are you, and what do you mean breaking in here like this?"
I swished the wine in the crystal and took a sip, gave him a wink. "The name's Luxley," I told him, "and you have a fine taste in wines. May I pour you a glass?"
"No," he said, shaking his jowled face in confusion. "Why are you here? What do you want?"
I slowly rose, offering my right hand. "I've come to make your acquaintance, Mr. Osbourne … and to discuss a business proposition from a mutual friend."
Reluctantly, he shook my hand—rightly so, but his options were, after all, limited. It was a firm contact. He sat down and allowed me to pour him a drink.
"Now then," he began, regaining the sense of authority that his position and profession provided. "Which friend and what business proposition?"
"Prescott. I believe you were supposed to make a phone call to a certain judge. You know the one?"
He nodded, with some additional color draining from his face. "Oh yes, our Mr. Prescott. Very impatient man. Worked for him long, have you?"
I checked my watch. "Actually, today's my first day. Most likely my only day. You never made that call, Mr. Osbourne, and Mr. Prescott is very disappointed."
"Well, a small oversight really," he said. "Nothing that can't be fixed."
I sipped the wine and considered his view of the Chrysler Building. "I'm not sure Mr. Prescott sees things quite that way."
Osbourne laughed, a weak attempt at bravado. "Don't be fooled by whatever he told you. We've had these sorts of differences before."
A bit of a risk, I realized, but I rose from my chair and placed my back to him. I felt the crisp spring air on my face and looked down at the city. Down at the tiny people scuttling about on their errands far below us. "It's sad, isn't it?" I began. "So many people out there. Everyone searching for something they can't find. Everyone making and breaking so many promises. Cheating wives. Abusive parents. Battering husbands. Hostile takeovers. Rapes, robberies, homicides. Bad Broadway adaptations. Politicians taking bribes and breaking promises."
I glanced down at my watch and saw that it was time. "Not everything can be fixed, Mr. Osbourne. Do you know what you need in this world of unfixable fixes?"
"No. Enlighten me, won't you, Mr. Luxley," he said.
I turned back to him, put the wineglass on the table, and leaned against the rail. "You need to have a special trick. Something that puts you ahead of the game. Goes without saying that your advantage calls for giving up something valuable, but … Lots of people live their lives in this city who rarely ever touch another human being. It's a solitary life, but it pays well."
"Call Prescott! I'll make restitution!"
"Sorry," I shrugged. "I'm afraid he's unreachable." I removed a small case from my coat pocket and laid it on the table.
"I have his private number right here!" he demanded. His movement was sluggish. It confused him considerably.
"Really? Maybe we should call then," I said. "Go ahead, Mr. Osbourne. Reach for your gun."
Osbourne panicked. He tried to move his hand and discovered he could not. He struggled against the paralysis in vain. I knew that by this point, only his eyes were capable of movement. They darted furiously.
"You can't, can you? No, the time for that is …" I checked my watch for accuracy. "Three minutes past."
I watched a bead of sweat roll down his face. "So there you have my special trick. Never shake hands with strangers, Mr. Osbourne. You never know what you'll catch. And as to restitution …"
I unzipped the case and brought out the syringe. Ironic that air is one of the key ingredients of life—yet a single bubble of it in the bloodstream ends it.
"Don't move," I said, inserting the needle. "I don't want to hurt you."