In the first episode of Fringe, we meet Peter Bishop, a shady operator who wants nothing to do with his institutionalized scientist father Walter. But what was Peter really up to before Olivia found him? A new Fringe novel reveals all, and we've got the exclusive first look.
Here's the official description of the new Fringe book, Sins of the Father by Christa Faust:
A fatal incident in Walter Bishop's lab estranges his volatile son Peter. In Bangkok, Peter steals a briefcase containing a mysterious vial and becomes the target of a group willing to kill to get it back. Seeking answers, he becomes entangled with Ella Lachaux-—the woman behind the lab disaster—and David Robert Jones, a terrorist whose goal is to create an army of shape-shifting killers.
Uncover never-before-revealed secrets of the characters, leading to the creation of the government's covert Fringe Division.
And here's an exclusive excerpt:
Peter Bishop sat on the edge of the creaky double bed in his cramped box of a room at the Sweet Orchid Hotel. There was a pervasive smell of mold and cigarettes in the claustrophobic space, and every surface was damp and slightly sticky. The cheap mattress felt like a bag of soggy boiled rice beneath him.
The old, asthmatic air conditioner was struggling valiantly, but it was no match for the humid swelter. Tied to the air conditioner's dirty grate were three pink plastic ribbons that fluttered listlessly in the ineffective breeze. When Peter had complained to the apathetic maid that the air conditioner wasn't working, she had pointed to those ribbons as a silent rebuttal before going back to vacuuming the hallway without further comment.
The room itself was barely large enough for the double bed, rickety desk, and padlocked bar fridge—key available for an extra fee. A bulky television the size of an old-fashioned toaster offered a rotating selection of adult movies, also for an extra fee. Peter had easily picked the padlock and liberated several bottles of Chang beer from the fridge, but the TV wasn't worth the effort.
In a cheap frame above the bed was a photograph that looked as if it had been cut out of a magazine, of a purple Phalaenopsis orchid. On the bedside table there was a "gentleman's guide" to the local red-light districts, translated into seven different languages. The crude map on the back and the vaguely Thai design on the polyester bedspread were the only clues to what city he was in this week.
Well, those and the girl.
She'd said her name was Katy. She was petite and slender, with a feathery bob haircut that had been dyed an odd reddish brown. Her face was wide and heart-shaped with a tiny, thin-lipped mouth. Earlier in the evening, she had used fuchsia lip liner to make that anime mouth twice as big, but it had quickly worn off over the course of their… encounter. Her heavy makeup didn't quite cover the scatter of acne on her cheekbones and forehead.
She'd looked a lot better under the multicolored bar lighting.
"Finished?" she asked, sitting up in bed behind him.
"Yeah." He ran his fingers through his sweaty hair. "Finished."
He watched her squeeze into her colorful scraps of clothing and jam her blistered feet into plastic platform heels. When she was dressed, she shrugged, slung her glittery purse over her shoulder, and left without saying goodbye.
Alone again, Peter found his mind wandering. He had been with a lot of different women from all over the world, but had a hard time making anything resembling a real, lasting connection with any of them. The few times he'd actually tried, it had inevitably gone wrong—sometimes horribly so. Eventually, he'd given up trying and resigned himself to perpetual bachelorhood.
With the occasional temporary company as needed, of course.
Most of his relationships had been so brief that he had little memory of them at all. With one exception—a girl he had met when he was just a kid. A blond girl who'd had something to do with his father's research in Florida. Even she was a blur, but he remembered her green eyes, and her drawings, and how she didn't really seem to fit in. That was something he could understand.
And something about tulips, a field of white tulips…
Where did that come from? he wondered, shaking his head as if that would dismiss the fleeting memory. Peter stood and padded over to the bathroom. It was cramped, windowless, and fully tiled—including the ceiling, which made it look kind of like a combination shower and toilet stall. Or a tiled coffin. There was a drain in the middle of the floor and a shower nozzle sticking out of a seemingly random spot on the wall.
If he angled that showerhead correctly, he could wash his hair while sitting on the john.
Instead, he opted for a more conventional, standing shower, his third since around noon, local time—when he'd awakened with a brutal hangover. It didn't seem possible to take enough showers in Bangkok. Before he could finish toweling off, though. He was already sweating again, the gritty, toxic breath of the city settling back into his pores like a houseguest who wouldn't leave.
He grabbed his knock-off Rolex from the nightstand, slipped it around his wrist and checked the time. Just after 1 a.m. He had a little over an hour and forty-five minutes to get everything in place, and get his ass where it needed to be for the 3 a.m. meet.
Once he was dressed in respectable but comfortable, unrestrictive clothes and his favorite high-end running shoes, he slid a pair of identical briefcases out from under the bed and set them side by side. He checked the contents of both cases several times and made a few minor adjustments to the weight, then snapped them both shut and headed out into the steamy Thailand night.
The Sweet Orchid Hotel was located right around the corner from the Soi Cowboy district. As he hit the street, Peter's brain was blasted with euphoric multi-sensory overload. Visually, it was a fever dream of throbbing neon signs and mirror-ball glitter, painting exposed skin and leering faces in eye-searing, unnatural colors.
His ears were assaulted by a dozen competing Thai and American pop songs all playing simultaneously, warring against the thumping, bass-heavy dance music that was blaring from the doorways of bars.
A miasma of clashing scents filled his lungs, sweat and perfume and spilled beer mingling with the meaty smoke and exotic spices, wafting from mobile grills serving late-night street food.
As he passed, bar girls in skimpy club wear tried to lure him in, waving English signs advertising cheap beer. Flushed and grinning Caucasian men reeled from bar to bar with their sunburned arms slung around each other's necks. Competing club touts called out in a variety of languages while stone-faced, silent bouncers broke up a sloppy, half-assed drunken shoving match and gave the bum's rush to a pickpocket who should have known better than to mess with the geese that laid the golden eggs.
Because Soi Cowboy was, for all its lurid tease and titillation, really just a sanitized and benign amusement park for foreign men. If you wanted a real walk on the wild side, there were plenty of sleazier, more dangerous areas in Bangkok where you could get your freak on. This place was relatively safe and non-threatening—an utterly artificial environment created solely for the purpose of separating tourists from their baht, yen, euros, or dollars.
Peter loved it.
He'd been travelling constantly, ever since he was a teenager—picking up odd jobs, engineering a variety of scams, and then moving on. Everywhere he went, he always found himself most attracted to the flashy, lurid, tourist-filled areas of the bustling cities. Because he felt inexplicably at home in places like this. Places that were no one's home, where everyone was a stranger from somewhere else. Places like this made him feel paradoxically at ease. Unnoticed.
Conversely, he hated small communities and rural areas where he was easily spotted as the blatant outsider. They reminded him far too much of the strange period of his childhood in which he'd found himself feeling like an alien in his own hometown.
As he walked the gaudy length of Soi Cowboy, he was just another big Caucasian guy from somewhere else, towering over gaggles of glammed-up farmers' daughters from backwater villages in the rural interior. Some of the bar girls he'd met were from as far away as Laos or Cambodia. After more than a dozen visits to this district, he'd met only one person who was actually born and raised in Bangkok, and that was Jaruk.
Jaruk was sharp and fiercely intelligent. A crackerjack hustler who could con a dollar out of the devil with one hand tied behind his back. He always had multiple schemes going at any given time, and was always willing to cut Peter in on a juicy setup. In exchange, Peter lent his American credibility to the pitch.
They'd met at the Classy Lady two years ago, and had been trying to run numbers on each other for about ten minutes before it had dawned on them that they were kindred spirits. Now Jaruk was Peter's local fixer, his go-to guy for any kind of action in Bangkok.
And Jaruk was going to be pissed when he realized that Peter wasn't going to cut him in on this latest deal. Sure, Peter was throwing his friend a healthy fee for the loan of a motorbike, a couple of cell phones, and a few discreet arrangements. But he'd been extremely squirrelly about the exact nature of the transaction in question. He told himself that he was looking out for his friend, that he didn't want to expose Jaruk to the very real risks that were involved. But he knew better. It wasn't about that at all.
It was about the money.
It was about Big Eddie Guthrie.
If Peter cut Jaruk in on the deal, he wouldn't have enough left over to pay off Big Eddie. And if he didn't pay off Big Eddie soon, well… that wasn't something he wanted to think about. He had to stay focused on the job at hand.
"Here comes trouble."
Jaruk was standing at the back door of the Classy Lady, and spoke as Peter walked up, setting the two briefcases down on the pavement between his feet. A nearby pile of trash smelled like fish.
His English was flawless, with a slight British accent. He was short and wiry with a tousled, bed-head haircut and intense dark eyes like those of a peregrine falcon. He looked like a former teen idol gone bad, his good looks marred by years of hard living and a missing front tooth that had been knocked out by an angry Muay Thai champion.
But he more than made up for it with wit, charisma, and charm.
"How's it hanging?" Jaruk asked, reaching out a scarred brown hand and slapping palms, then bumping fists with Peter.
"To my knees," Peter replied with a smile.
"That's not what I heard," Jaruk said with a wink, extracting a cigarette from a crumpled pack and lighting up.
"Aw, man," Peter said. "Your mom swore to me it would be our little secret."
"My mother has been married six times," Jaruk replied. "She would eat you alive."
"How's life at the Classy Lady?" he asked.
A topless girl in a pink, zebra-striped G-string staggered out through the back door, wobbling on her clear plastic heels and nearly crashing into Peter before she started throwing up into an overflowing trash barrel. Then she slumped down into the trash.
"Classy as ever," Jaruk said, with a dryly raised eyebrow. He took a drag from the cigarette pinched between his forefinger and thumb. "But enough about me," he added. "I want to talk about this big deal of yours. You're not holding out on your old friend Jaruk, are you?"
"Trust me," Peter said, fishing a cash-filled envelope out of his pants pocket. "The less you know about this one, the better."
"When a guy like you says 'trust me,'" Jaruk replied with a skeptical squint, "That usually means I shouldn't."
"Fair enough," Peter said, holding out the envelope. "It's just that I'm taking a hell of a risk on this one. I don't want to put you in any more danger than you already are."
He attempted to shore up his less-than-total sincerity by letting Jaruk see just a little bit of fear in his eyes. But once he allowed himself to think about how dangerous this deal really was, that fear started to feel real.
He dropped his gaze and looked away.
"Are you sure about this?" Jaruk asked, taking the envelope and making it disappear.
Am I? Peter wondered.
It didn't matter. He didn't have a choice.
"Sure I'm sure," he said, looking his friend in the eye.
"Because if anything bad happened to you in my city," Jaruk said, shooting him a look of stern warning, "then I'd be forced to admit that I actually care what happens to you."
"Chiew-chiew," Peter said with what he hoped was a relaxed, bemused smile on his face. "It's not that big a deal."
"So which is it?" Jaruk asked. "Too dangerous for me to know about, or not a big deal?" He laughed, and shook his head. "You know what, don't answer that. You're right, I don't want to know." He tossed a ring of keys, which Peter caught one-handed out of the air.
"Motorbike is there, at the end of the alley," Jaruk said, pointing. "Cell phones are in the left saddle bag, clean, charged and ready to go. Also, I left you a little something extra. A present. Sounds like you're going to need it."
"You're in my will," Peter said, hand on his heart.
"Good," Jaruk said. He pitched his cigarette butt into an oily puddle and turned to help the semi-conscious drunk girl back into the club. "At least I'll get something out of this mysterious scam of yours."
The motorbike was an orange-and-black Honda Click with hard, locking saddlebags. There was a holographic skull sticker on the left one. Peter unlocked it with a small key on the ring Jaruk had given him, and surveyed the contents.
As promised, three disposable cell phones—and the extra gift Jaruk had mentioned. Unsurprisingly, it turned out to be a Kimber 1911 Ultra Carry, and it came with a spare clip. Peter took out the pistol and two of the phones. He checked the gun, found it loaded, then reached around his back and stuck it down the sweaty waistband of his pants, covering it with the tail of his loosely fitting shirt.
He put the extra magazine and one of the two phones in his pockets, and used the other to make a call. Someone picked up immediately.
The man on the other end spoke Japanese with a distinct Korean accent. They had compromised on Japanese because the man on the other end didn't speak English. Peter had always had a gift for picking up languages, but his Korean was limited to a few amusingly off-color slang phrases that were good for making bar girls giggle—rarely useful during serious negotiations.
He confirmed the location of the meet, and assured the man on the other end of the line that everything was going according to plan. Then he ended the call and dialed a second number, switching to Russian. His Russian wasn't as fluent as his Japanese, but he understood it better than he spoke, and he could speak well enough to get the message across.
"Privet," a voice said. The person on the other end had a Chechen accent, and spoke with whispered, barely contained urgency, like a man making an obscene phone call. Talking to him made Peter's skin crawl, but he kept his tone calm and friendly, telling him the same thing he'd just told the Korean.
When he ended the call, he dropped the phone to the ground, crushing it under his heel. He closed and locked the saddlebag, and then stacked and used a bungee cord to secure the two briefcases onto the package carrier. He took a moment to center himself, and let the surging adrenaline cycle through his system.
Then he mounted the motorbike, strapped the half-helmet under his chin, and keyed the machine to life, heading out toward the mouth of the alley.
As far as he was concerned, riding a motorbike was the only way to get around Southeast Asia, for a variety of reasons. It was easier to squeeze through narrow streets and zigzag through congested, erratic, and generally dangerous traffic. But for Peter, he just loved the raw realness of it. The feeling of independence, of the wind on his face and the olfactory overload of exotic scents both delicious and repulsive. Being in a limo or a car was like riding around in a fish tank, isolated in an air-conditioned bubble. Being on a motorbike made him feel alive, and he wanted to savor that feeling, drink it in.
Considering what he was about to do, he might never get another chance.