Book Excerpt: 'State of Fear'

In truth, Marshall felt that Marisa and the boyfriend didn't seem to belong together. He was American, a beefy, red-faced fellow built like a footballer, with longish hair and wire-frame glasses that did not suit his thick features. He looked like a pig trying to appear scholarly.

His name was Jim, and he was angry with Marisa, apparently because she had spent the previous night away from him. "I don't know why you won't tell me where you were," he kept repeating.

"It is none of your business, that's why."

"But I thought we were going to have dinner together."

"Jimmy, I told you we were not."

"No, you told me you were. And I was waiting at the hotel for you. All night."

"So? No one made you. You could go out. Enjoy yourself."

"But I was waiting for you."

"Jimmy, you do not own me." She was exasperated by him, sighing, throwing up her hands, or slapping her bare knees. Her legs were crossed, and the short skirt rode up high. "I do as I please."

"That's clear."

"Yes," she said, and at that moment she turned to Marshall and said, "What is that you are reading? It looks very complicated."

At first Marshall was alarmed. She was clearly talking to him to taunt the boyfriend. He did not want to be drawn into the couple's dispute.

"It's physics," he said briefly, and turned slightly away. He tried to ignore her beauty.

"What kind of physics?" she persisted.

"Wave mechanics. Ocean waves."

"So, you are a student?"

"Graduate student."

"Ah. And clearly intelligent. You are English? Why are you in France?"

And before he knew it, he was talking to her, and she introduced the boyfriend, who gave Marshall a smirk and a limp handshake. It was still very uncomfortable, but the girl behaved as if it were not.

"So you work around here? What sort of work? A tank with a machine? Really, I can't imagine what you say. Will you show me?"

And now they were here, in the wave mechanics laboratory. And Jimmy, the boyfriend, was sulking in the parking lot outside, smoking a cigarette.

"What shall we do about Jimmy?" she said, standing beside Marshall while he worked at the control panel.

"He can't smoke in here."

"I will see that he does not. But I don't want to make him more angry.

From STATE OF FEAR. Copyright © 2004 by Michael Crichton. All rights reserved. HarperCollins Publishers.

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