Tenure

By Kieran Egan

Tenure
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Saved from certain death on the Whistler-Vancouver highway after his luxury car malfunctions, Mark Morata feels honour-bound to reward his rescuer, Geoff Pybus, with a token of his undying gratitude. Geoff, a frustratingly humble university professor, happy with his family's ... Read more


Overview

Saved from certain death on the Whistler-Vancouver highway after his luxury car malfunctions, Mark Morata feels honour-bound to reward his rescuer, Geoff Pybus, with a token of his undying gratitude. Geoff, a frustratingly humble university professor, happy with his family's lot in life, only wants the impossible: for his modest, straightforward wife to get tenure at her university.

Luckily, Mark is a man for whom impossible is just another word. As a sophisticated importer-exporter of certain recreational substances ("drug lord" is such a cliché), Mark gets to work on the academic world with the same relentless nature that helped him climb to the top of the cartel. However, the hallowed campus halls reveal an environment that is vicious and corrupt beyond anything he has ever encountered in the drug business. ..

Kieran Egan's Tenure is a wildly entertaining satire mash-up, where campus culture collides with crime.

Kieran Egan

Kieran Egan was born in Clonmel, Tipperary, Ireland, and educated in England, receiving a BA in history. He then went to California to work with IBM Corp. as a consultant while beginning a PhD at Stanford University, which he completed at Cornell University in 1972. His first academic job was at Simon Fraser University, in British Columbia, where he remained till his recent retirement. His academic work dealt with innovative educational theory and detailed practical methods whereby implications of the theory can be applied in everyday classrooms. He focused on the nature and development of imagination, and argued for its centrality in learning and the construction of meaning. There have been about forty translations of his books into around twenty languages. He and his wife have three children and five grandchildren —all, of course, wonderful, and all the children produce books of various kinds. During his academic life he gave talks in most European countries, and throughout Asia, South America, and Australasia. He also writes poetry and has published in many Canadian, British, Irish, and USA magazines. He has an interest in Japanese-style gardens, and built one at the rear of his house, which resulted in a book, Building My Zen Garden, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000), and also a TV program in the Recreating Eden series. He was an athlete when younger—quite good at long-jump and triple-jump—but after four operations, he now has metal screws in his knees. He lives in Vancouver, BC.

Excerpt

Chapter 1

As Mark Morata pressed his foot down, the new Tesla silently accelerated up the hill, easing him back into the seat. This was his favourite stretch of road: the coastal mountains towering up on the left, the cedar-clad islands speckling the sea to the right. Mid-morning, mid-week, a sunny spring day, just a few cars heading the other way, north to Whistler, where fresh snow on the higher runs was drawing to the ski-slopes those who could be free from work. He had wined and dined and flattered and subtly threatened the beautiful Thai twins who were miraculously effective conduits for his cocaine into the party animals needing a further high after skiing. A satisfactory couple of days. Nothing on the road ahead and in his mirror only the Honda he had swept by moments before.

A thump under the car, subdued by the massive batteries. Had he run over something? An animal, a stone he hadn't seen? A spurt of yellow and black smoke briefly filled the rear window. The car veered left then right, then straightened. He wrenched the wheel to follow the curve of the road ahead, with no effect.

"Mierda!"

No brakes either. He crossed the yellow lines, into any traffic that might come round the bend ahead, drifting unstoppably towards the rock-face at the side of the road, splattering loose stones on the hard shoulder.

He pulled himself away from the door as the mountainside began to scratch then tear at the car, gripping the steering wheel tight, turning it uselessly. The scraping noise of metal against rock was made worse by the snapping and cracking of the shrubs that had found niches in the mountain side. Holding his breath, the muscles of his hands, arms, and shoulders began to lock. The car juddered as it was bounced from one outcropping of rock to the next. He might at any point be thrown across the road and over the cliff down to the sea. The cliffs were not high, but enough for a fall to be fatal.

A rounded chunk of the mountain came towards him, slamming the door by his elbow with a tearing boom and the Tesla lurched back over the shoulder of loose stones onto the road. It gathered speed going downhill, wheels now astride the central yellow lines. There was a straight run for maybe a hundred meters and then the road curved sharply to the left. Still no cars coming towards him, but if he continued straight, the Tesla would be over the cliff before it was half way round the curve.

He caught a flashing glimpse of the Honda he had overtaken accelerating to get between the Tesla and the fall over the cliff. Close to the bend, the Honda turned against the right front side of the Tesla trying to force it to follow the curve away from the fall to the water. The panels of the two cars crashed against each other. The tires of the Honda shrieked as it turned harder into the Tesla. Mark was horrified that his much heavier car would carry the Honda and its driver over the cliff as well. But the screaming wheels of the Honda were getting some traction, and the two cars began to move slowly, strainingly left, till the Tesla's wheels were again over the centrelines.

The road curved more sharply left ahead, and the weight of the Tesla could not be turned that much while moving so fast. Mark waved at the driver to pull away and let the Tesla go! As the bend approached, the Honda leaned harder into the Tesla. But its screaming wheels began to lose their grip and the two cars juddered towards the edge, their panels screaming like metal banshees.

Ahead, there was a picnic area with a gravel entrance--some hope, if they could only stay on the road till they reached it. The wide slipway leading up to trees and picnic-tables was in sight. But the two cars were being pushed with a terrible squealing and tearing sound onto the hard-shoulder, and now losing more traction on the loose stones.

A ridge of shrubs and bushes crowned a low rise between the squealing cars and the cliff. The Honda's right wheels bounced against the root-packed earth of the rise as the heavier car forced it closer and closer to the edge, tearing into the bushes. The sturdier bushes kicked the Honda back, battering it harder into the Tesla. Mark could do nothing as the Honda jumped and crashed between the bushes on one side and the Tesla on the other. The Honda driver, shaken to and fro, was clearly trying to brake, but he was entangled with the Tesla, being dragged at clattering, tearing speed. The front of the Honda rose up. It was going was over the edge!

Bushes flashed by Mark, and his front wheels hit something hard and bounced. He was free of the Honda, and on four wheels. Then slowing as he climbed the deep gravel of the picnic slipway.

Behind him, he was relieved to see, the Honda also hit the slipway, bouncing and veering to and fro as it skidded through the gravel. The Honda's brakes began to slow the car as it slalomed towards the trees to Mark's right. The Tesla, heavier and brakeless, kept rolling towards the low bracken and smaller trees at the southern end of the picnic area. Mark gripped the wheel even tighter as the car rolled majestically into the bracken, bounced a little as it tumbled into the rough drainage ditch, then slammed into the small trees, and came to a stop with breaking glass, a crunch of metal, and the airbags exploding out to cushion him.

Mark took a deep breath, then quickly disentangled himself from the collapsing air bags and climbed out of the car. He shrugged off the danger and fear and smiled grimly; it was like his earlier days in the drug business before his recent power and eminence had insulated him from everyday violence. He walked past the bushes at the edge of the picnic area, and looked down into the shocked face of his saviour, who had managed to drive across to check if Mark was all right. They stood in uncertain silence for a moment. Odd, after the noise and eruption of terror into their lives, that no one was in the picnic area to witness their deadly drama.

"You saved my life!" Mark said.

"Oh . . . glad to be there. What happened? Brakes go?"

"But you risked your life. I am in your debt. "

"What happened? There was a spurt of smoke. Your brakes and steering both go?"

"Yes. Your name? If I may?"

"Geoffrey Pybus. Geoff. "

Mark held out his hand, "I am Marcos Gomez Morata. Please call me Mark. I Canadianize myself," he smiled. "Yes, both brakes and steering. Something, a kind of quiet explosion, and then I could do nothing. "

They inspected the crumpled panels from front to rear of the Honda. The wheels seemed surprisingly undamaged.

"Are you going down to Vancouver?" Mark asked.

"Yes. "

"Can you give me a lift, please. I have to get to the city. "

"Of course. Yes, of course. If the car is OK. "

Geoff Pybus stood holding onto his open door, expecting or perhaps hoping to talk for a few minutes. Mark delayed a moment, assuming that his new friend's heart was still pumping fast. Geoff seemed a little faint, perhaps dazed that his peaceful morning drive had brought him in minutes so close to death -- had he known the risk, would he have done it? Mark stood by the passenger door, looking down the road towards Vancouver, letting Geoff's heart calm down and strength return to perhaps still unreliable limbs.

But Mark had business to deal with, and after some minutes smiled as he opened the passenger door and climbed in. He had particular business with whoever had put the malfunctioning bomb under his car. Geoff followed and slowly eased back behind the wheel.

How to repay the debt of a man who had nearly killed himself saving one's life? Geoff slowly drove the Honda back onto the highway towards the city, attentively listening for unfamiliar noises and any unevenness in the car's ride. His door was rattling badly, but seemed to be holding.

"How are you feeling?" Mark asked.

"A bit shaken, I guess. But fine. "

"Good. I owe you my life. I won't forget what you did. " Mark tried to lighten the conversation by saying, "But you have taken on a burden of responsibility for my life, of course. And for all that I do and all the further effects of my actions, lo, even unto the end of time. "

Mark smiled at Geoff, who smiled uncertainly back. Perhaps still too much in shock for quirky humour.

"Now, the matter of my debt. You will of course permit me to pay for the repair of your car. Or, better, you will permit me to buy you a new car. "

"Oh, the repair of this will be adequate, thank you. But I do have insurance. "

"I will not hear of it. Really, this is anyway quite old. "

Mark recognized this as a mistake from Geoff's brief frown.

"I'm sorry, that was hardly gracious. Perhaps about six years old, and well looked after, it seems. "

"No, really. Perhaps it's my Protestant upbringing. I can't accept a material reward for . . . what happened. It would be like saying that's how much I value your life. You've offered to pay for the car to be fixed, which will be expensive enough. And I have the reward of the satisfaction that I saved your life. Except that you would likely have been fine without my . . . intervention. "

"But then my debt to you is forever. That is ungenerous of you. My Catholic upbringing, no doubt. There is generosity in receiving as well as in giving. Perhaps you would like a new house? Please, don't smile. I am a wealthy man, I would hardly notice the cost. "

"But, I like our house. It's a shabby stucco box built in the 1920s, but it is the house our children were born into. Its walls and doors are not simply another house to them; they are their home; a part of the fabric of their lives. I think it is important to have such stabilities, don't you?"

"Indeed, yes. "

"I think you have had the misfortune to have been saved--if that's what happened--by a happy man. Well, a generally contented one. Or, well, by one whose condition would not be improved by being richer. I like my home, my car. I even like my wife and children. I have enough money. A manageable mortgage. My job pays me well enough and gives me time for leisure, and my wife's job . . . " Geoff paused and smiled. "Now there's something we need. "

"What is?"

"You could get my wife tenure," said Geoff with a quick laugh.

"Of course. But what is a tenure?"

"No, no. Sorry, I'm only joking. Tenure isn't the kind of thing you can get for someone. She teaches at the university . . . It's a contract. . . . Just a joke. You are from South America?"

"Colombia. I lived some time in Chile. "

"May I say that your English is excellent?"

"Ah, thank you. A little old fashioned, I discover. I learned it mostly in Chile, studying English literature at university in Santiago. Perhaps too many Victorian writers. "

Mark would have Frank, his general fixer, find out about tenure, about Pybus's wife, about what he would have to do to ensure she got this tenure, without Geoffrey or the wife knowing.

There had been a small bomb under the car, which had failed to detonate properly. He had been known for infinite caution, so it was worrying that someone had been able to locate his car in Whistler. Could it have been a chance sighting by one of his competitors' people or did he have an unreliable employee, and, if so, who? If Kanehara had wanted him dead he would be dead. Likelier was Jimmy Chan and his enthusiastic but unreliable Vietnamese gang. Mark's chest tightened as he reflected on the affront to his dignity. If his people determined that Jimmy Chan was indeed the culprit, Mark would put in place a simple strategy for closing him down, which he probably should have done months ago when Chan and the Vietnamese began trying to squeeze into Mark's territories.

Mark and Geoffrey Pybus chatted amiably on the drive into Vancouver, the one thinking how to tell his wife about the damage to the car and the other plotting bloody mayhem and to deliver whatever tenure was to his saviour's wife. He had easily made the decision. Mark anticipated some brief intervention in the university, some threats and bribes, while his new shipment of Peruvian cocaine, which was at this hour scheduled to be leaving Pacasmayo harbor en route to San Francisco, began the process of being turned into billions. He loved the magic of changing the leaves of the cacao trees into money; he was a master of this new alchemy.

Before he turned his mind back to Jimmy Chan he felt a brief but quickly dismissed notion that maybe this tenure business might involve him in more than he casually expected.

Reviews

Praise for Tenure:
"With the Japanese Yakuza wanting a piece of his action and the Vietnamese gangs breathing down his neck, drug lord Mark Morata has his hands full. But when he decides to make an 'offer they can't refuse' to the members of a university faculty, he doesn't know what he is in for. Filled with delightfully quirky characters, Tenure is an entertaining romp that pits organized crime against the disorganized mob of the academic world. "
~ Norm Boucher, author of Horseplay: My Time Undercover on the Granville Strip
"An inspired mash-up of academia and the underworld which opens with a Hitchcockian-style hook that grabs the reader and doesn't let go. Tenure establishes Egan as an exciting and distinct new voice in Canadian crime fiction. "
~ A. J. Devlin, award-winning author of Cobra Clutch and Rolling Thunder

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