Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Jurassic Heart by Anna Martin

Title:  Jurassic Heart
Author: Anna Martin
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary/Mystery/DINOSAURS
Release Date: December 27, 2013

Jurassic Heart by Anna Martin
When paleontologist Nick Eisenberg learns that someone thinks they have found velociraptor bones in Alberta, his curiosity overrides his desire to stay in London. After all, he’s one of the world’s leading experts on prehistoric predators and has always wanted to look for the velociraptor’s North American cousins. There’s only one problem: eco-conservationist Hunter Joseph. While Nick supervises the dig, Hunter rallies support from the locals to oppose the way the team is destroying the landscape in their search for dinosaur bones.

Nick and Hunter just cannot get along. Hunter is self-righteous and pouty. Nick is narrow-minded and geeky. But they have to figure out how to work on the same site without killing each other, especially since someone else out there seems determined to cause Nick more problems than he could have ever imagined.

Chapter One
“SO, ERIC White thinks he’s found a Velociraptor skeleton in Alberta.”
I leaned back in my chair with the phone cradled between my ear and shoulder and propped my boots up on the desk, appreciating the heavy thunk as they set down and the cloud of dust they emitted—dust that would have been invisible were it not for the late-May sunlight streaming in through the window.

“Eric wouldn’t know his arse from his elbow.”

“Arse? You’ve been in London for too long, kid.” Sam’s accent, on the other hand, was broad New Jersey. I was silently amused at this.

“Call Mim.”

“Miriam is eight months pregnant and can’t bend over to put her socks on, let alone bend over a dig,” Sam said.

Shit. I should have known that. “She’s got a few weeks left, just send her up there. Quick peek, nope, it’s a Triceratops, send her home again.”

“Don’t fuck with me, Nick. You need to go.”

“I don’t need to do anything,” I said, keeping my voice airy and disinterested. Fucking with Sam was one of my favorite activities. “I quite like London, you know. I might stay here.” When he snarled, I laughed. “I have ends to tie up,” I warned him. “I can’t pack my bags and leave tomorrow.”

“But you’ll go?”

“What’s the pay?”

“Standard consultant rate. I can get you five hundred a day.”

“All right,” I said. Really, both of us knew this would be the outcome of the conversation right from the start. “I’ll go.”

“Good,” Sam said. “I’ve booked your flight and e-mailed you the details. You leave from Heathrow on Saturday. Don’t miss it.”

“Damn it, Sam,” I yelled down the phone, but Sam’s response was the steady beep of the dial tone.

I tucked my feet back under the desk as I unlocked the computer and logged on to my e-mail account. Sure enough, Sam had sent through the details of the flight a few minutes before he called me. Cocky motherfucker.

I picked up the phone and dialed Mim’s number, vaguely checking the clocks in my office that showed different time zones—London, New York, Vancouver, Mongolia. Mim was on West Coast time, and I expected she’d be awake.

“So, are you going?” she said as she answered. “You do know it’s six in the morning here.”
“Yes and yes,” I said, leaning back in my chair once more.

She let out a delighted laugh. “I knew it. Charlie,” she called to her partner. “You owe me five bucks.”

“I don’t want to go,” I said, trying to keep myself from whining. “I like London. And I hate Eric White.”

“Eric’s an idiot,” she agreed. “And I seriously doubt it’s a raptor. But Sam will get you good rates, and it’s close to home, so you can go and see your mom.”

“Yeah,” I agreed, all her points being those I’d used when talking myself into taking the gig. “How’s the baby?” I asked, hoping to get brownie points for remembering.

“He’s fine,” she said. “Big as hell now, but fine.”

“And you’re really too fat to fly up and check out a couple of measly not-Velociraptor bones?”

“Fuck off,” she said with a smile in her voice.

“Double your money it’s not even a carnivore,” I said, and she laughed again.

“I’ll take that bet. Safe flight, Nick.”

I said good-bye and hung up, then carefully cast my eye around the tiny office that had been my home for the past seven months. I’d been reduced to doing desk work after I’d fractured my ankle in a skiing accident. Even though Sam—my sort-of agent, occasional employer, and good friend—had been pushing me to write a book, I’d found a little job with measly pay working at the Natural History Museum in London, consulting on an exhibition they were putting together.

That job had officially ended four weeks ago, but I was still in London for lack of anything better to do. They’d let me keep my office because no one else needed it, meaning I was still doing work, although not for money. I was sleeping on a friend’s couch in Kensington because I didn’t have anywhere else to stay, so Sam’s call had come at exactly the right time. Not that I’d tell Sam that. He’d only let it go to his head.

After leaving my office, I headed out of the private gallery and through to the public balcony, down the flights of stairs that led to the main exhibition hall of the museum. The pale tiles and huge vaulted ceilings in the museum had always reminded me of the interior of Hogwarts. It was a silly fantasy, and I’d never voiced it to any of my colleagues for fear that they’d think less of me.

I quickly jogged down the steps, offering the statue of Darwin a quick salute, as had become my habit, and went past the huge skeleton of Dippy the Diplodocus. He was probably the museum’s most famous resident, despite being a replica, not an original skeleton.

I was looking for the project manager who was in charge of the carnivore exhibition. I’d taken it upon myself to dispel some of the biggest myths surrounding Velociraptors—there were a lot of them—and we’d put together something I was sure was interesting, informative, and exciting. I had wanted to stay for the launch, the big day when we’d open the exhibition to the public, but Canada was calling and deep down, I knew I needed to go. More than that, I wanted to.

WHEN MY flight landed in Alberta, I took a deep breath and felt like I was finally home. Not that I really had any physical space I could call home; I’d grown up just outside Vancouver, had done my undergrad degree at UCLA, and had pretty much traveled nonstop since completing my master’s. My parents had moved to Vancouver Island when I moved out—my mom had family there, and my dad was happy to go with her. After traveling so much, I’d learned how not to get sentimentally attached to places or possessions, although that was sometimes easier said than done.

I quickly worked my way through baggage claim, collected my one backpack, and went straight out to pick up a car. All my stuff was being shipped from London to my parents’ house so I could pick it up in a few weeks, or whenever I had a chance. I wanted to get to the dig.
Unfortunately, the park was out in the middle of nowhere, with no airports close to the site for me to catch a connecting flight there. I knew that the drive would take a few hours, and by the time I arrived, two things would have happened: the dig would be closed up for the night, and jet lag was going to hit me. Hard.

I’d worked in the area a few times before, mostly on educational digs, so I knew where to find a motel and crash for a few hours before driving over to the dig the next morning. On the drive, I had time to think.

Like I’d said to Mim, I was convinced whatever Eric had dug up wasn’t a raptor. He was an amateur paleontologist who had been on a few university digs and had convinced himself he could do as well as the professionals. It was insulting. His way of working mostly involved hiring undergrads to do all the grunt work. Then he brought in specialists to make the identifications, which he wrote up for scientific journals.

There were better ways of getting recognition in the academic paleontological community—doing the work himself would have been a good place to start. Rumor had it he’d been kicked out of a doctorate program for stealing other people’s research, and that had been his modus operandi ever since: lying, cheating, cutting corners to try to get the academic acknowledgement he felt entitled to. I hadn’t seen or heard from him in a few years, but Eric was hard to forget.

Someone had once made the unflattering observation that we looked similar—in bad light, if you squinted. He, like me, was slim and of medium height with dark-brown hair. But where I wore mine swept back from my face in a deliberately casual style, Eric’s hung down around his face, greasy and unkempt. His eyes were blue too, and the combination—dark hair, blue eyes—was enough to earn him the nickname “Prince Eric” (after the character in The Little Mermaid), but it was a cruel joke. This Eric was no fairy-tale prince. He had a reputation for being a creep.

For me, the hipster trend had come along at exactly the right time. I’d spent my teenage years and early twenties being an unintentional geek; then suddenly I was allowed to be one and it was socially acceptable. These days I wore my horn-rimmed glasses with pride and didn’t care quite so much about being weird and skinny. I liked to think I was putting distance between the old Nick and the new Nick. These days, I was confident in my knowledge and intelligence and let that part of me lead the way.

Eric had found a few vaguely interesting things over the years. I had met him at a fundraiser once where he’d cornered me and demanded I tell him where he could dig up big predators in the US. I’d told him to start in Manhattan and could still remember his scowl. I’d made vague noises about Montana and New Mexico and had excused myself to the bar. No one had mentioned him for a while, and I’d hoped he’d dropped off the radar, but no, he’d moved farther north and decided to concentrate his efforts in Alberta.

That wasn’t necessarily a bad idea. The bigger university crews had found plenty of species in Dinosaur Park, a site about 120 kilometers north and east of the current dig site. There had been enough finds there that, when pressed in a magazine interview, I’d said it was the spot where someone was most likely to find a raptor skeleton. That this was what Eric was looking for in this location stung. But Eric was a dick. And getting me to come to verify the bones was a nasty little poke at me, proving he’d gotten there first.

I’d do what I could to make my mark on this dig, even if it was only as a consultant, but it all depended on what Eric would let me take credit for. Not a lot, I expected.

The little town on the edge of the dig site was home to only a few thousand people, but there were two motels. I headed to the motel on the far end of town on purpose, not in the mood to run into any colleagues before I’d had chance to sleep until my body clock caught up with me.
The motel was small but clean, and I parked out back and locked the rental before walking around to the front desk. It already felt colder here than it was in London, but England was basking in a freakishly warm summer, and I’d become used to walking to work in T-shirts and cutoff shorts.

“Welcome to Deacon,” a middle-aged woman said as I dumped my bag on the floor.
“Thanks,” I said. “Could I get a double? Just for tonight. But I might end up staying.”

She tapped at her computer, gave me a room card, and talked me through breakfast times, wake-up calls, and emergency escape routes. I nodded through her speech, not really listening. When she finally finished, thankfully not expecting me to engage in conversation, I took myself off to the staircase she’d pointed out to the left of the elevator.

I hated taking the elevator. And it seemed really lazy to use it to go up one floor.
After finding the room, I let myself in and cast a quick glance around, taking in my surroundings, before going to the window and pulling the heavy drapes closed. I just managed to toe off my boots, strip off my jeans, and pull the comforter over myself before falling heavily into sleep.

WHEN I arrived at the dig the next morning (feeling ridiculously refreshed), I was met by an undergrad rather than Eric White himself. Which was typical—Eric wasn’t going to drag himself out of bed at eight in the morning to meet me, despite him being the one who insisted I come halfway around the world to look at the find.

The guy who greeted me with coffee was a sweetheart: tall and rangy and unfolding himself like a grasshopper from where he’d been sitting, leaning against the side of a car and studying his notes.

Brad showed me through the campsite to where they’d set up a mobile lab. It was on the small side and modestly stocked, but I recognized the quality of the work they were putting together. Pictures and maps were tacked to the walls, along with aerial photographs and topographical charts. It looked like someone had put a lot of effort into making it a useful learning space.
“Right, what have you got here?”

He pushed an envelope across the desk, and I sighed. Of course Eric wouldn’t have actual bones for me to look at. He’d make me check the photos first. Dick. I sipped my coffee Brad had made for me and pulled out the sheaf of photographs, then laid them carefully on the desk side by side. Brad watched me intently, and I worked to keep my face impassive.

It was only a partial find, which wouldn’t necessarily stop me from making identification. From what I could tell from the first wide-shot photograph, it looked like part of the animal’s spine, pelvis, tail, and most of one leg had been recovered. The foot was distorted, and the ankle joint was clearly damaged.

These types of partial finds were much more common than complete skeletons. More often than not, when I was called in to identify something, it was because the head was missing. Identifying animals from skulls and teeth was easy. Trying to guess what it was from its backside was harder.

“Where did you find the bones?” I asked.

“Area D5,” Brad said, pointing to a wall map that had the grid references marked on it. “I’ve been working D4 and D5, and E4 and E5.”

“And who made the identification?”

“Mr. White,” Brad said, sounding hesitant for the first time.

I suppressed a smile. “Okay.”

“He called Mr. Hetherington,” Brad continued, referring to Sam, “asking him to write a press release. Mr. Hetherington said he wouldn’t announce it to the academic community or the press until a consultant had confirmed the find.” He shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other. “I guess that’s why you’re here, Dr. Eisenberg.”

“Nick,” I corrected absently and brought a photograph closer to my face, lifting my glasses to bring it into sharper focus. “Who took the photographs?”

“I did.”

“And who actually found the bones? Because I’m sure as shit Eric didn’t.”

Brad mumbled something, and I glared at him until he relented. “I did, sir.”

“Nick,” I said again, slightly firmer. “Do you think this is a Velociraptor, Brad?”

“No, si—no, Nick,” he said. “I don’t.”

I beamed at him. “Where do you go to school?”

“UCLA.” His face told me I didn’t need to tell him I’d studied there too—he already knew. It was always nice to meet a fan.

“What year?”

“My first.”

“And a first-year undergrad can tell what this is, or more specifically, what it isn’t. So why the hell can’t Eric White?”

Brad coughed.

“Exactly,” I confirmed, my tone grim. I was about to sweep all the photographs back into the envelope, climb into my car, drive the three hours back to Calgary, and fly straight on out to London to go to the opening of my exhibition, when something caught my eye.

I picked up the photograph and took it to the window, letting the natural light show me what I’d possibly missed under the fluorescent.

“Where are the fossils being kept?” I asked Brad as he washed out my coffee mug.

“In storage,” he said. “There’s a veterinary office in town. We’re using some of their space.”

“A veterinary office,” I repeated, trying hard not to growl the words. I rolled my eyes instead. 

“Okay. Can I see them?”

“You’d have to clear that with Mr. White.”

“I bet I would,” I said. “Brad, what type of animal do you think this was?”

He blanched at the direct question and then straightened. “I think it was likely an Ornithopod, sir,” he said. I let the salutation go this time.

I nodded. “I think you’re right. If I was a betting man I’d say it was an Othnielosaurus.”
Brad smiled. “Me too.”

“What can you tell me about these marks?” I could have told him what they were, but I sensed a learning opportunity. And heck, the kid reminded me of myself when I was his age. I wanted to give him a chance.

He crossed the room and leaned in to look at the area I was interested in. He smelled clean, like soap, and bitter from the coffee. It was nice.

“I’m not sure,” he said. “I think it’s because they’re so old.”

“Okay,” I said, and pointed to the bones again. “See the direction they’re going in? Like grooves. And these marks here.”

Brad frowned at the picture for a few moments. Then his eyes widened. “Are they bite marks?” he asked.

I nodded, pleased he’d caught on. “Yes. I think they are.”
“Wow,” he breathed.

“It’s not massively uncommon,” I said, “and it doesn’t detract from the value of the find. But bite marks can mean three things.” I ticked the points off on my fingers. “Either this animal was attacked by another of its kind in a battle for food or sex or territory, or it was killed and eaten by a predator, or it died of natural causes and was eaten by another animal.”

“Okay,” Brad said, nodding. I guessed this wasn’t new information to him.

“Which one do you think applies here?”

He looked at me blankly.

“It’s an Ornithopod,” I said. “An herbivore. As a broad generalization, herbivores fight less than carnivores, especially with each other. This doesn’t look like the sort of damage another Othnielosaurus would be able to inflict, so we’ll cross that option off.”

Brad nodded.

“This is where it gets tricky,” I admitted. “Especially without a complete skeleton. But from what I know about scavengers, they normally do more damage to the bones than this. Scavengers have teeth that can gnaw on the bones to get all the tasty sinew and tendons off, and these bones are generally well preserved. I don’t think the damage was inflicted postmortem.

“Which leaves one option.”

“It was attacked and eaten by a predator.”

“Yes,” I said.

“What sort of predator?”

I raised my eyebrows. I could go through another long reasoning process to get to my conclusion, or I could just tell him. “This sort of damage,” I said, “is characteristic of a raptor attack.”

About the Author:
Anna Martin is from a picturesque seaside village in the south west of England. After spending most of her childhood making up stories, she studied English Literature at university before attempting to turn her hand as a professional writer.

Apart from being physically dependent on her laptop, she is enthusiastic about writing and producing local grassroots theatre (especially at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where she can be found every summer), travelling, learning to play the ukulele, and Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk.

Anna claims her entire career is due to the love, support, pre-reading and creative ass-kicking provided by her closest friend Jennifer. Jennifer refuses to accept any responsibility for anything Anna has written.

All throughout January I’m hosting an EPIC GIVEAWAY for Jurassic Heart swag. It will contain a signed copy of Jurassic Heart, a copy of one of my favourite novels – Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton, and several other bits of dinosaur related goodies. To enter, simply send me a message through my website HERE with your name and email address. Please be aware that this is a giveaway for real-life stuff, so if you win, you’ll need to share your address for me to post it to you!

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