Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Loneliness of Writing – Real or Phantom?

I have finally come to consider myself a seasoned writer. Not because I’ve written a beautifully-composed, expertly-plotted best seller, but because when I close the door to my office and begin putting words to paper, I enter a state of exquisite calm which allows me to tap into my creative side.

Writing is one of my gateways to present awareness—the state of true consciousness—where my ego falls away and the illusion of division from this universe I live in vanishes. As words and ideas come to me, the rest of the world is in limbo, and I am in a state of simply being while the words pour through me.

I work in an office in my home in Palm Springs. I recall sitting here alone one day, looking out the window at the street, and realizing that even though I spend several hours a day here, alone, I am never lonely.  It is not because I have conversations with my characters, as some writers do. It’s because when I’m here I enter a state where loneliness doesn’t exist.

I realized that day that loneliness is a phantom of the ego, the product of critical over-thinking. It why people say they can feel lonely in a crowded room. It’s a mental dialogue that creates that sense of emptiness, of longing for attention, rather than the actual situation. To my way of thinking, loneliness is a psychological illusion, fuelled by the ego’s need to be recognized, whereas being alone is a physical fact and nothing to get upset about.

Below are a few pictures of the place where I’m never lonely:

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Author Laury A. Egan reviews Surviving Immortality

A Propulsive, Suspenseful, Dystopian Novel: Surviving Immortality

Review by Laury A. Egan, author of Fabulous! An Opera Buffa  

Surviving Immortality—a provocative title (an oxymoron?) that raises a myriad of questions, chiefly: How can someone survive immortality if one is already immortal, i.e., there is inherently no need to survive if a person already will live forever? How can the state of immortality exist? What would create such a state? As I approached Alan Chin’s new book, these were my initial thoughts. 

The novel is a cautionary tale about how society and, indeed, our civilization has been poisoned by people’s need “to convince themselves that they are relevant in an irrelevant universe.” Chin cites three pernicious threats that are destroying us: Religion: “The myth of God and a hereafter [that] gives [people] a false sense of importance.” Greed: “the idea that we are what we own…that gluttonous pigs want not only the best of everything…but they don’t want others to have what they’ve got.” The third is that “people [are] willing to defend themselves and their cause at all costs. Their sense of heroism gives them relevance. They have a deep distrust of governments, other religions, and other tribes.” In our present times, these insidious menaces are eating at the fabric of our humanity, eroding our democracy, our belief in truth, our feelings of empathy, our trust and morality, and our system of justice and government. Surviving Immortality is a serious warning about where the human race is headed and a very relevant one.

Although the book deals with weighty themes and edges into the category of dystopian fiction, it is primarily a fast-paced thriller wrapped around a coming-of-age story about Matt Reece Connors, an eighteen-year-old boy who, over the course of events, becomes a man. The beginning chapter sets us on a ranch in Nevada. Matt Reece is a fine horseman and cowboy who lives with his father, Jessup, and his stepfather, Kenji—the two are married. Matt Reece himself is gay, though without any sexual experience. At first, the reader may expect that a western—perhaps in the mold of Brokeback Mountain—is about to unfold. Then, suddenly, as we are settling in to life on the ranch, a tornado of events engulfs Matt Reece, and he is forced to rush headlong into a journey that takes him to multiple exotic places and thrusts him up against a cast of villains who embody all that is wrong with our world. 

Alan Chin writes with an impressive knowledge of science, medicine, technology, sailing, horsemanship, and also masterfully describes numerous national and international locations. The action is propulsive and suspenseful, yet never loses sight of Matt Reece’s personal challenges: his quest to overcome his fears and to find his identity.

Published by Dreamspinner Press. Available in paperback and eBook.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Gay Authors/Books that Inspire Me: Death in Venice by Thomas Mann

Death in Veniceis Thomas Mann's novella concerning the dangers of sexual obsession. Gustav von Aschenbach, a famous middle-aged author travels to Venice. He takes up residence on Lido Island, and during dinner one evening at his hotel he sees a family at a table nearby and becomes fascinated by the beauty of their adolescent fourteen-year-old boy named Tadzio. His interest in Tadzio at first enlivens in him an uplifting and artistic spirit, however as the days pass his interest grows into an unhealthy obsession. As the weather in Venice turns hot and humid, an outbreak of cholera overtakes the city. Gustav, feeling his health to be in decline, decides to travel to a cooler locale, however a mix up with his luggage, draws him back to the hotel and Tadzio, which he inwardly rejoices. Though Gustav never acts on his feelings regarding the boy he nevertheless feels himself drawn down a path of ruinous inward desire. A classic depiction of emotional suffering, Death in Venicebrilliantly depicts the tragic intensity of inner psychological torment.

In my opinion, the true subject of his story is the artist’s search for perfection and the impossibility of ever possessing it. At the moment he achieves absolute fulfillment, the artist’s life is snuffed out. It is a story where the quest for perfection leads to physical and moral decay. He knows he must escape the putrid atmosphere of a city steeped in cholera, but instead of fleeing to save his life, he is held captive there by his own desire. He cannot bear to absent himself from the Tadzio. Thomas Mann leaves the cause of death open. Does the protagonist succumb to the disease, or is he simply not able to live without the beauty he has fallen in love with?

A masterpiece in both plot and language. In my opinion, it is a must read for anyone interested gay fiction. Mann is one of the greats, and this is perhaps his greatest story.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

How To Stop The Violence

When a person thinks of himself as gay or straight, Christian or Muslim, American or European, Republican or Democrat, or anything else, they separate themselves from the whole of mankind to identify with a subset of humanity. This simple act causes most of the violence in the world. It is a violent act.

Defining yourself by belief, nationality, sexuality, or race breeds violence because it creates divisions between humans, and those divisions will eventually cause strife, and often leads to discrimination, bullying, bloodshed, even war.

So a man or woman seeking to end violence in the world, would do well to start by abandoning all the labels that would demand loyalty to any country, political party, religion, sexual orientation, race, and simply concentrate on understanding and being a part of the whole of mankind. For that matter, don’t stop at just mankind, see yourself as part of this living eco system we call earth.

When every person on the planet sees himself or herself this way, then there will be an end to violence. Don’t wait for everyone else. Join the peace movement now.

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us

And the world will be as one
-John Lennon

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Surviving Immortality Excerpt

I’m very pleased to announce that my latest novel, Surviving Immortality, is now available in paperback and any eBook format, at

Dreamspinner Press Publications https://tinyurl.com/y7kffs4a

This story is purely fictional and not based on real people or true events.

This is a story of discovering the fountain of youth, and the upheaval that breakthrough brings to our slightly craze, slightly paranoid, overly greedy society.

When Kenji Hiroshige discovers a formula that will keep people youthful and healthy for several thousand years, he tells the world he will not divulge his formula until every gun, tank, battleship, and bomb has been destroyed. When the world is free of weapons, everyone can live forever. And then he goes into hiding.

Before he disappears, his stepson Matt is exposed to the formula. Kenji takes Matt on the run with him, but as they struggle to elude both government agencies and corporations who will do anything to profit from Kenji’s discovery, Matt learns that world peace might not be his stepfather’s only goal. There may be a darker purpose at work. But what can a young man who’s barely stepped foot off his isolated ranch do in the face of something so sinister?

This is the story of human greed and man’s lust for violence. It’s the story of a world on the brink of destruction, but it’s also a tale of one young man who finds in himself the will, courage, and compassion to stand against the darkness—both outside and within himself.

This is a story of hope.

Kenji knelt before him and rested both hands on his thighs, squeezing tenderly. “I need to go out to get the ball rolling on your passport. You can’t leave this room.”
Matt Reece nodded.
“I’ll bring back food and antibiotics to reduce your fever. I’ll pick up some clothes and shoes too. Western duds and cowboy boots are too conspicuous. And I’ll need a picture for the passport.”
He pulled his iPhone from his pocket. “Stand here and try to look cheerful.”
Matt Reece stood where Kenji pointed. Kenji snapped five pictures.
“But what about my green skin?” Matt Reece asked.
“They can photoshop that.”
Matt Reece dropped back in his chair. “What’s happening to me?”
“Your body is going through changes, things I’ve seen before. I’m sure you’ll be fine once your body acclimates. You should be back to normal by the time we leave.”
And if I’m not?
Kenji knelt before him again. “What name do you want?”
“You need a new identity. We should make it Canadian, rather than American, unless you can fake a British accent. Foreign passports cost more, but they’re safer.”
Being asked to give up your name is no small thing. Neither is the notion of forsaking your nationality. He had already abandoned his home and family, his horse, and now he needed to lose his clothes. To give up more meant losing all his personal history. What was left? Combined with Kenji’s suggestion of baby food, he felt newly born, a mound of clay waiting for the sculptor’s hand. He tried to think of a suitable name, one that might bolster his courage. He thought of Cain, whom God marked with a different color skin and chased from the Garden of Eden. As appropriate as that seemed, it didn’t sound suitable for a first name. He glanced around the room, groping for inspiration. His eyes passed over the vacuum cleaner standing in the corner and moved back to it. He focused on the name in red letters.
“Kirby,” he said. “Kirby Cain, from Saskatchewan, Canada.”
Kenji turned to follow Matt Reece’s gaze. “It’s lucky that vacuum isn’t a Hoover.” He smiled. “Okay, if you can say that fast ten times, then we’ll go with it.”
Matt Reece stared at him, not caring if they used that name or another.
“I’m kidding,” Kenji said. “Kirby it is. And from now on, I’m Yukio Toranaga.” He stepped to the traveling bag, lifted his wallet and American passport, and tucked them into his pocket. He also pocketed a packet of hundreds. A moment later he was gone, leaving only a whisper of the door closing.
Matt Reece leaned out the window. He watched Kenji cross the street and hold out his hand for a taxi. He wondered why Kenji didn’t use Consuela’s car. It was parked on a side street four blocks away. But he recalled Kenji saying they needed to abandon it. Being on the run was a constant burning of bridges, leaving no link from past to present.
A cab pulled to the curb, and Kenji sped off into the morning traffic.
Matt Reece pulled back into the room. On the table between him and the television sat a stack of magazines—Vanity FairArchitectural DigestTravel + Leisure. He snatched up the T+Land flipped through the pages. He stopped at a picture of a tropical beach with a Speedo-clad man walking out of the water, still glistening with drops of the sea. He admired both the man and the beach. He tore the picture from the magazine, folded it twice, and carried it to his pile of clothes in the bedroom. He slipped the picture into his jeans rear pocket and fished his grandfather’s watch from the front pocket. The hands had not moved.
It crossed his mind he might feel better if he dressed. He slipped into his T-shirt, socks, and jeans and stepped into his boots. He did feel better, so much so that he lifted his Stetson off the back of the chair and placed it on his head. Standing in his hat and boots, he almost felt himself again.
He shuffled back to the living room and switched on the TV. The screen showed a demonstration in Washington, DC, people holding signs saying Death Before Disarmament and Kill the Infidels under pictures of Kenji and Consuela. People shouted threats. The CNN coverage switched to a mob at Vatican City setting fire to a large devil—with horns, a tail, and a picture of Kenji’s face plastered over the head.
Matt Reece couldn’t sit down. It seemed impossible to relax in the midst of all that hostility. The faces were livid and hate-filled. He wondered if this was how people looked at men being taken to the gallows or electric chair. A minute later he realized he was not half-wrong. Anderson Cooper described the fatwa placed on Kenji and Consuela by the Iranians, and their suspected alliance with the Vatican.
Cooper turned to interview a stock-market analyst about the nine-hundred-point drop that morning at the New York Stock Exchange. An upbeat expert urged investors to buy into this temporary dip in the market. Cooper cut him off in midsentence. “And just in,” Cooper said, putting his hand to his earpiece, and spoke with a note of drama. “CNN now has substantiated evidence that the prime minister of Israel has placed a thirty-million-dollar bounty on the heads of Kenji Hiroshige and Consuela Rocha y Villareal.”
It was the holy mission of the faithful—Muslims, Christians, Jews—to destroy them.
The search would, no doubt, be massive and move quickly. The life he had led to this point was of no use. Knowledge of raising animals and riding the range wouldn’t help. To survive, he needed new knowledge and fresh skills. He and Kenji were caught in the eye of a hate storm, the focal point of the world’s collective rage. Kenji had transformed into a priest to protect himself. Who could he become?
The screen showed mob violence breaking out in several cities—Islamabad, Paris, New York, Oslo, Beijing, Moscow, Delhi, Tehran, and Sydney, Australia. The toll of injuries and deaths was shocking. In Houston, police had fired on a crowd, leaving fifty-three dead and more than two hundred injured.
Britain and Israel had severed diplomatic relations with the United States. “Curiously,” Cooper said, “the White House confirmed rumors that it was not President Harrington who broke off these associations.”
Being raised on a ranch, he never knew until now that the world could rest so squarely on the acts of a single individual. The sheer weight of public opinion began to crush him.
He heard children yelling on the street below, and it somehow merged with the mob on the tube. It seemed like the throngs were downstairs ready to set fire to the building.
He punched the remote, and the TV switched to CNBC. It showed a mountain cabin that he recognized, Consuela’s cabin, only it had yellow barricade tape over the front door. A reporter was saying the body had been found only hours after the grisly murder.
“Consuela,” he whispered. His memory replayed their departure yesterday morning, how odd it seemed to leave without saying goodbye, taking her car, and leaving her stranded.
Consuela was dead. It was a fact, a simple truth connecting other truths. All he had to do was follow the facts backward and see where they led. He consulted his inner reserves and realized he had taken part in murder. He was a teenager, who believed all life was sacred, now as guilty as biblical Cain, and how ironic his choice of new names.
He avoided consciously blaming Kenji, but in the same heartbeat he knew he had to get the hell out of there before Kenji returned. He needed a plan, to change whatever lay in front of him. He tried to take a calming breath but came up short.
He leaned forward, planted his hands on his knees, and sucked air into unyielding lungs. He felt a familiar pressure in the back of his esophagus, and he coughed, long rasping coughs that clogged his windpipe with mucus.
“Oh”—he drew a shallow breath—“fuck.” He dropped the remote as a nervy rush pushed him into a survival response. He had to find a place with enough air, and quickly.
He ripped open the front door and ran for the stairs, already dizzy from lack of oxygen. He flew down to the first floor, unaware Groucho was following him.
He dashed into sunshine. Several people on the street backed away. Groucho whimpered at his side. Heads turned in unison to stare at him. It was alarming to be so intensely visible at the moment he felt most vulnerable.
A homeless person crouched on the pavement a few feet away, scratching distractedly at whatever was crawling in his beard. He shouted, “Praise the Lord. The little green men have landed. Take me to your leader!”

Friday, July 20, 2018

What If? By Ganga White

Today I’d like to share a poem I came across this week.

What If?  By Ganga White

What if our religion was each other?
If our practice was our life?
If prayer was our words?

What if the Temple was the Earth?
If forests were our church?
If holy water-the rivers, lakes and oceans?

What if meditation was our relationships?
If the Teacher was life?
If wisdom was self-knowledge?
If love was the center of our being?


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Gay Authors/books that Inspire Me: Dream Boy by Jim Grimsley

First love is never easy for a gay boy. But when the new kid in town is secretly being abused by his father, first love may be the only thing that can save him. Two teenaged boys living in a countryside setting, commit themselves to one another and are assaulted for it by an abusive father and the blistering meanness of rural bullies. But through the force of their passion for each other—and with a confirming grace that love comes from the universe itself—they and their hopes are miraculously saved.

A heartwarming love story marred by violence which seems all too real. I love this story, both for its beautiful prose and its compelling story where love overcomes all, even death. It is heartbreaking and also uplifting. It is a well-crafted story that flows exquisitely into a breathtaking ending. Grimsley shows the power a simple story can fashion.

The story’s power and poetry continues to astound me every time I read it. It is my favorite in Grimsley’s impressive stable. 

Monday, July 16, 2018

Ten Zen Do’s

I follow the Zen path because I’ve found it keeps me balanced in a society that often feels insane. For me, Buddhism is not so much religious dogma, but a philosophy that promotes wellbeing. The following list is what I try to incorporate into my daily activities.

1. Do one thing at a time, focus only on that thing,

2. Do it slowly, deliberately,

3. Do it completely before moving on,

4. Do less, simplify,

5. Develop rituals,

6. Designate time for important things,

7. Sit regularly, focusing on inner calm/wellbeing,

8. Smile with gratitude while serving others,

9. Turn ordinary tasks—cleaning,  gardening, cooking, walking, waiting in line at the store—into meditation,

10. Live simply, and appreciate every breath.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Your Sacred Space: A Pathway To Bliss

In 1985, Joseph Campbell (March 26, 1904–October 30, 1987) sat down with Bill Moyers for a series of interviews, resulting in 24 hours of raw footage that was edited down to six one-hour episodes and broadcast on PBS in 1988, and the full transcript was published as The Power of Myth, a discussion of Campbell’s views on spirituality, psychological archetypes, cultural myths, and the mythology of self.
In the interview, Campbell expressed the idea that the greatest sin for modern humans was getting stuck in some 9-to-5 job that fulfilled nothing more than paying the bills, and kept one rooted in existential dissatisfaction. In his philosophy (and mine) he felt people needed to find, and then follow their own bliss.
Campbell said: If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Wherever you are — if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.
One of Campbell’s most interesting ideas for me concerned the need for what he coined “sacred space”—a place for uninterrupted reflection and unrushed creative work. For him, this was necessary to discern one’s bliss. For me, this sacred space is necessary to achieve the type of writing that satisfies my soul.

Many writers and artists not only have their own private space to create, but also their unique set of workspace rituals that draws them into a creative state of mind. I certainly do, and without them—like when I’m traveling—my writing suffers, which is why I seldom try to write while traveling any more. Campbell saw the need for a “bliss station” for the purpose of rooting ourselves, a place to block out the world so we can focus inward.

I have three bliss stations, each for a specific purpose:

My office is a place I shut out the world to write. I spend four to six hours each day there, immersed in the process of writing and research. I also spend time promoting my books and general communications with friends, other authors, and readers.

My backyard is where I get out of the house to connect with nature, relax by the pool, and read. For me, it’s down time out of the office, but still devoted to refreshing the soul.

My meditation room is no more than an oversized closet, but it is the one place on earth devoid of other people and distractions, a place not even my husband is allowed to enter. It is a place of silence, a place where I experience the silence at my core. It is the one place I do nothing, absolutely nothing, nil, zilch, nada. This is a place of no striving, a place I listen to my heart. Strangely enough, it is the place where much of my inspirations for stories come to me.

For me, all three spaces are an outright necessity. I think any creative person intent on finding his/her bliss needs a space and a certain time of the day free from people, phones, TV, Internet. I think of it as a space to bring forth what you are, and what you might be—a place of creative incubation. Often nothing happens at all, which is good. But if you’re in your sacred space at a certain time every day, something often will come to you, which is even better.

Modern life has become so goal oriented on practical and economic issues that it’s become difficult to know which way to run next, which goal to chase after. It seems every minute demands something of you, and you end up like a hamster in a cage, running around a wheel, chasing, chasing, chasing the next thing on your list. The way, at least for me, to step off that wheel is by immersing myself in one of my three bliss stations, and shutting out everything else.

Campbell said: The religious people tell us we really won’t experience bliss until we die and go to heaven. But I believe in having as much as you can of this experience while you are still alive.

What I’ve found is: Bliss is waiting for you, and when you get in touch with it regularly, you begin to draw people into your life that will open the doors so that you can delve more deeply into your bliss. The deeper you delve, the more you draw to you. For me, it was simply a exercise of stepping off the wheel often enough to see what matters to me. It was the most important and satisfying thing I've ever done for myself. It's what keeps me whole and happy.

The Buddha found his bliss by becoming a hermit for six years. Jesus found his way by wandering in the desert for 40 days and nights. I’m not suggesting that you or I will become a deity, but on the other hand, why limit ourselves?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Gay Authors/Books that Inspire Me: The Hours by Michael Cunningham

The Hours interweaves the lives of three women from three different times: Clarissa Vaughan, who one New York morning goes about planning a party to honor a beloved poet/writer; Laura Brown, who in a 1950s Los Angeles suburb begins to feel the constraints of a “perfect” family and home; and Virginia Woolf, recuperating with her husband in a London suburb, and beginning to writer her beloved novel Mrs. Dalloway. These three tales come together in an act of subtle and haunting grace that few gay authors could have pulled off.

It is a beautifully written tale about relationships, living and dying, and love.

Of all the gay-themed books I’ve read, I believe this is not only my favorite, but also the finest example of gay literature we have. The author’s deep empathy of his characters as well as the extraordinary resonance of his prose continues to astound me every time I read it. It is, in my opinion, Cunningham’s most mature and masterful work. I can think of no other work by a gay author that has influenced and inspired me more.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Only Through Experience Can You Know Sympathy

I’ve been reading some writings from Joseph Campbell, author of Hero With A Thousand Faces, where he talks about the idea that only through experience can you know sympathy. He says, “It is through experience that the soul grows, by learning to extend its horizon of sympathy and understanding.” In other words, a person can’t sympathize with sorrow until they have been sorry enough to know what deep sorrow is.

I’m not altogether sure I agree. As a teenager, I had many peers who seemed extremely compassionate to poor people and the plight of non-whites in our society. Back then, we were a generation against the Vietnam war, though few of us ever served in the military, and we were all for civil rights, even though most of my friends were white. We came to these conclusions through logical consideration and, for some, peer pressure. 

On the other hand, as I grow older—I’m now in my mid 60s—I have become much more compassionate to all my fellow human beings, and I credit that attitude to having experienced a long series of, lets call them learning opportunities, where I suffered as a target of discrimination. In short, I’ve had more than my share of sorrows, and I like to think that I have learned a great deal from them. And the older I grow, the more I understand that there is no good and bad, no right and wrong. There is only experience, and what we do with that experience.

I’ve also learned that each of us humans have accumulated a different set of experiences that shape our lives, and that makes each of us unique, no one person any better, worse, or more valuable than the rest. 

Campbell argues that it is through having experienced all experience that the soul finally achieves perfect sympathy and understanding. The soul comes to a point where it has learned everything experience can teach, and that point is called enlightenment. Campbell takes this idea a step further to suggest that all people should do everything they can do to accumulate a vast wealth of varied experience, and that getting tied down in any routine where one practices the same thing day after day for years at a time (like a dead-end job that does nothing more than put food on the table) means stagnation, and is tantamount to death. Again, I must disagree. I believe even so called “dead-end jobs” provide opportunities for growth and understanding, and the job is only ten hours in a day. There is so much more to life and learning.

Although I must admit, my life improved a hundred fold after I abandoned corporate America to pursue a career in writing where I manage my own time, goals, and interests. So perhaps Campbell is on to something.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Surviving Immortality Excerpt

I’m very pleased to announce that my latest novel, Surviving Immortality, is now available in paperback and any eBook format, at

Dreamspinner Press Publications https://tinyurl.com/y7kffs4a

This story is purely fictional and not based on real people or true events.

This is a story of discovering the fountain of youth, and the upheaval that breakthrough brings to our slightly craze, slightly paranoid, overly greedy society.

When Kenji Hiroshige discovers a formula that will keep people youthful and healthy for several thousand years, he tells the world he will not divulge his formula until every gun, tank, battleship, and bomb has been destroyed. When the world is free of weapons, everyone can live forever. And then he goes into hiding.

Before he disappears, his stepson Matt is exposed to the formula. Kenji takes Matt on the run with him, but as they struggle to elude both government agencies and corporations who will do anything to profit from Kenji’s discovery, Matt learns that world peace might not be his stepfather’s only goal. There may be a darker purpose at work. But what can a young man who’s barely stepped foot off his isolated ranch do in the face of something so sinister?

This is the story of human greed and man’s lust for violence. It’s the story of a world on the brink of destruction, but it’s also a tale of one young man who finds in himself the will, courage, and compassion to stand against the darkness—both outside and within himself.

This is a story of hope.

Jessup glanced out the window over the sink and saw a helicopter hovering just beyond the holding pens.
The horses spooked, galloping along the fence in all directions. Their panic turned to terror as the copter drew close. Dust thrown up by their hooves and by the copter’s rotor blades turned the corral into a brown tempest. By the time Jessup raced out the back door, the horses crashed through the corral rails, bursting into the work yard. In a single body, they tore across the yard hell-bent for the foothills.
Jessup leaped for his life and landed only a few feet from flashing hooves. He rolled under the porch and waited until the last of them sped by. He stood, squaring his shoulders, preparing for a fight. The herd was almost out of sight by the time the copter touched earth and the blades slowed. As soon as the air cleared, a man and a woman crawled from the cockpit, leaving the pilot in the plastic bubble.
The man was meticulously groomed, wearing Dockers, a Polo shirt, and aviator sunglasses. He looked to be in his midfifties, sporting a full head of salt-and-pepper hair and a salon tan. He cradled a bottle of champagne in his left arm and held out his manicured right hand to shake Jessup’s rough paw. The woman wore her brown hair in a tight bun on the back of her head, and her stylish navy blue silk suit and heels made her seem as if she’d just stepped from a boardroom rather than a helicopter. Her skirt showed off a great pair of athletic legs. She was seductive and seemed cheerily aware of it. She carried champagne flutes in one hand and a briefcase in the other. She walked several feet behind her male companion, letting Jessup know who was in charge.
Jessup pointed after the herd. “Do you halfwits have any idea what you did?”
“All too sorry,” the gentleman said with a slight Scottish brogue, “but there was no time to waste with airports and rental cars. I wanted to be the first to congratulate our rising star.” He flashed a billion-dollar smile. When Jessup didn’t answer, he added, “Fear not. I’ll buy you a new herd of thoroughbreds. Any breed you’d like.”
“Who the hell are you?”
“Declan Hughes, at your service. I’m the founder and chairman of the board of Golden Eagle Industries, parent company to Golden Eagle Pharmaceuticals.” He turned to the woman. “And this is Miz Diane McCarthy, Golden Eagle’s CEO.”
She lifted her hand to shake, but it was holding four wine flutes, one stem between each finger. She shrugged, and her cheeks blushed a lovely peach color. “Pleased to meet you. I assume you’re Mr. Connors?”
Even Jessup, tucked away on this ranch for the last dozen years, knew plenty about Declan Hughes. A 2004 Timemagazine article listed twenty people under the age of forty who were shaping the new century. Declan Hughes was fifth on that list. A multibillionaire physicist and businessman, he was the Steve Jobs of the US defense industry. He made a killing in the decade-long Iraq war. In addition to owning Golden Eagle Applied Avionics, the premier corporation developing drone-aircraft weaponry for the US military, he also owned the pharmacological research company that employed Kenji.
Jessup had also read his name online and in the society columns of the LA Times, enough to know that Declan had a penchant for sexy women, vintage cars, and Cambodian art, and his charity functions drew most of Hollywood’s A-list to his Holmby Hills mansion, yet his politics were surprisingly liberal. He reportedly abhorred war, even though that’s what earned the lion’s share of his billions, and he sat on the board of advisors of the Audubon Society, the Sierra Club, and the Wilderness Society.
Jessup’s anger imploded. This grand entrance, no doubt, had something to do with Kenji’s hasty exit just a half hour before. Jessup waved an arm toward the back door, and Declan brushed past him, as cheerful and confident as British royalty.
In the kitchen, Declan unwired the cork on his champagne bottle, and Diane McCarthy lined up flutes on the counter. The cork came out with a festive pop.
“Pernod Ricard Perrier-Jouët, two-thousand-four,” Declan said, holding up the bottle. “It’s not quite as expensive as the Dom Pérignon Oenotheque Rose, two-thousand-six, but I think it tastes as exquisite, and I love the flowers on the bottle.” He poured the slightly golden liquid into flutes. “Please invite Kenji to join our celebration. We have much to talk about.”
Diane handed Jessup a glass of bubbly.
“He’s not here.”
“When will he return?”
Jessup shrugged.
Declan glanced around the kitchen, lingering on the two things that were unusual: the ashes in the sink and the envelope on the counter. “I see you’re a man of few words, Mr. Connors. Would you tell me where I might find him? I’m sure his letter gave his destination, or you wouldn’t have destroyed it.”
“We’re just simple ranch people here. We don’t like folks butting in, and we don’t give out information until we know why someone is asking questions.”
Declan’s smile broadened as he held up his flute in a toast. “Mr. Connors, cheers.” He swallowed a thimbleful and seemed to roll it on his tongue. “Superlative.”
Diane also sipped. Jessup drained his flute in one swallow. Declan refilled his glass.
“As to the why, we want to congratulate him and his research partner, Miss Consuela Rocha y Villareal, for their discovery of the greatest scientific breakthrough in the history of mankind.” He took another sip, but his eyes never left Jessup’s face. Jessup felt like he was being dissected like a lab rat.
He shook his head. “Kenji never mentioned any breakthrough.”
“Mr. Connors,” Diane said, “Kenji and Consuela are leading authorities in the field of regenerative medicine. Let me show you something that will explain everything.” She set her flute on the counter and placed her briefcase on the walnut table. She sat before the case, popped open the latches, and removed a laptop.
Jessup drained his second glass while she brought the computer to life and clicked an avatar. The monitor filled with a video of Kenji and Consuela in a lab setting. As he listened to Consuela spout off a lot of scientific jargon about altering human DNA, he felt the blood drain from his face. They claimed their breakthrough regenerated human tissue so effectively that a body could remain healthy for thousands of years. And with this ability to mass generate healthy cells, the body could reverse many forms of cancer, AIDS, heart disease, and even Alzheimer’s. Kenji made the outrageous claim that he was born during World War Two, which would make him over seventy years old. Absurd, of course, because he looked not a day over thirty. Jessup had to admit, however, that during the last eleven years of living with him, Kenji had not aged, not a day.
To prove their assertion, they showed an elderly Asian patient who they claimed had been treated moments before. The old man looked wrinkled and sickly. A clock on the bottom corner of the screen showed the passage of time. He went from looking ninety years old to a healthy forty years old in five hours, and with the aid of time-lapse photography, those hours sped by in three minutes.
Then came the kicker. Consuela announced they would not share their research findings with anyone until every gun, bullet, bomb, tank, battleship, and nuclear warhead had been destroyed. “When the world is wholly disarmed, when there are no armies, when war and mass killing are no longer possible, then we will end disease and aging. Everyone will live for several thousand years. Nobody will suffer old age.”
On screen, Kenji added, “We can wait centuries for you to de-arm. You, unfortunately, have little time if you wish to live.” He smiled, and the screen went dark.
“Oh shit,” Jessup mumbled.
“Spot-on, Mr. Connors,” Declan said. “You Americans have such clever slang.”
Diane closed her laptop. “Consuela posted this video on YouTube this morning at 6:00 a.m. Eastern time. Because of Consuela’s considerable fame and reputation as an exemplary scientist, nobody is doubting its authenticity. It scored a hundred and sixty million hits before YouTube crashed. The world is going crazy over it.”
“You see, old boy,” Declan said, “Consuela disappeared after she made that post. We want to tether Kenji before he vanishes as well. They’re hiding because they’re in severe peril.”
Jessup grabbed the champagne bottle, pressed it to his lips, and upended it. He emptied the bottle and wiped his mouth on his shirtsleeve.
“You’re not as simple as you would have us think, Mr. Connors,” Declan said. “You see the gravity of this situation. They’ve engineered a formula worth several trillion dollars, over time, perhaps a hundred trillion. Everybody on the planet will pursue them—every government, every drug company, every bounty hunter. No telling what will happen if the KGB or the CIA get to them first. I have the resources to protect them. I can safeguard them and the formula, but we need to find them in a hurry.”
Jessup’s head spun from the champagne.