Right here at home, in America, brutal fights to the death are being staged. These encounters captivate a nation, and beyond, and finally culminate in a television extravaganza with a viewership twenty times greater than on Super Bowl Sunday—yes indeed, the world was tuned in.
For months, the news had been reporting, and police departments had been investigating, epic battles between what had been labeled “impersonator killers.” People were assuming the identities of famous outlaws from American history—like Capone, Dillinger, Billy The Kid and Butch Cassidy. Then, as if entered in a single-elimination tennis tournament, they engaged in mortal combat in order to move to the next round. Was somebody orchestrating this flabbergasting contest? If so, where were the actors coming from, and what was the prize for prevailing to the end of the circus?
Stanley Gleason, the wealthiest man in the world, knew the answer. His young sidekick, Jason Walters, might have spilled the beans on this baffling case but alas his lips were sealed. In the end, there would be one man standing. Ironically, he was the only one that had anything to lose.
THE GREATEST AMERICAN OUTLAW
Dennis A Nehamen
Golden Poppy Publications Los Angeles
The Greatest American Outlaw By Dennis A Nehamen
Copyright © 2017 Dennis A Nehamen All Rights Reserved
Published by Golden Poppy Publications™ Los Angeles, CA
No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by and information storage and retrieval system without written permission from Golden Poppy Publications or Dennis A Nehamen except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review.
All images, logos, quotes and trademarks included in this book are subject to use according to trademark and copyright laws of the United States of America.
Library of Congress Control Number: 2016939739
Lyrical Passages by Craig M Nehamen
Cover by Nick Zelinger, NZ Graphics
Nehamen, Dennis A Author
The Greatest American Outlaw Dennis A Nehamen
Printed in the United States of America First Edition
It’s America, for God sakes. We love the good and we love the bad, both all the more at the extreme ends of what is conceivable to the human condition. Yet if we put our ear to the sidewalk and listen carefully, we hear the whispering sound of a secret: we love most the devilish, dangerous, thuggish, malfeasant and wily characters, and their extraordinarily unimaginable feats of personal and public crime. Many of these hardened and ruthless figures have been elevated to mythical standing in our fine country. I decided to find out if any of them lived up to their reputation, and if some might pass the tests I set out for them, which of those would be left after the final battle was fought.
I dedicate this book to America, for only in this land can a man attain heroic reputation for acts of duplicity, dishonor and deceit.
The Greatest American Outlaw
Every soul in America and perhaps a billion more in other countries witnessed the unfathomable event. Like children at a circus, eyes pulsed outward and mouths froze agape as the public display of what had to be a game filled masses of people at once with a mixture of disbelief and disgust. There was no other explanation other than it being a staged presentation. But then, the script was brilliant, the acting was superb…the conflagration was vile; it made watching Super Bowl Sunday feel like a farcical fudge-eating contest.
Then when it was over, and the victor stood triumphant over the limp body of his combatant, he disappeared in a cloud of smoke. Yes, it was the 21st Century, New York City. Yet, right here at home, there was street fighting to the death and premeditated real-time competitions for survival.
Every year millions of tourists visit the movie capital of the world. Why? When asked, most would reply, “I want to see a movie star.” Fat chance. The last place in the city these visitors might bump into Leonardo DiCaprio or Julia Roberts would be strolling along Hollywood Boulevard.
Ignorance is bliss. At least it must have been for Toni Franco and her sidekick, Crystal Belair. For on an unusually gloomy evening in early June, the two ladies visiting from Omaha, Nebraska were deliriously dumb to the improbability of snatching a glimpse of their favorite celebrities as they gleefully made their way eastward on the north side of the famous boulevard.
They had just exited a Gap store. Crossing Highland Avenue, they walked another two blocks before they saw a bright sign flashing in front of them. Crystal was the first to read, “UNCLE MILTY’S TAVERN,” a newly opened joint that she had on her itinerary to stop in for a drink. As they were near the door, Toni suddenly dropped to the ground, resting her knees on a gold star as she nearly pressed her lips to the plaque, savoring
a moment of communion with her beloved Harrison Ford.
“When am I going to get laid by you?” she bellowed.
Embarrassed by her friend’s goofy spectacle, Crystal grabbed Toni’s arm and forced her to her feet.
“If it was Brad Pitt. I’d understand,” Crystal commented dubiously, “but Ford? He’s an old man.”
“I know,” Toni admitted. “But Brad doesn’t have a star. I checked it out before we left. Besides,” she moaned, “I used to watch old movies with Harrison Ford when I was a kid and thought he was cute.”
“You were a kid five years ago, for god sakes. He’s aged like dirt for a lot longer than that,” she smiled at her childhood best friend as she led her into the main room of what was a comedy bar memorializing the great funny man, Milton Berle, Uncle Milty’s.
It was still early; without having to palm the host ten bucks to get a seat, the girls were taken to a table. The noise was deafening, and the smoke was burning to their eyes. An unsavory blend of stale tobacco and puked booze wafted through the room with the daring of the spirits of dead soldiers—the ambiance was precisely the formula the ladies sought to tickle their collective imagination.
They were off to the right side of the bar, toward the rear of the establishment. As they waited for the server to take their drink order, Crystal noticed a peculiar-appearing man sitting alone on a stool at the bar. It wasn’t
the fact that he seemed out of the ordinary that alarmed her: since arriving in town she’d come to recognize that there was no “ordinary” in Hollywood. Freaks and degenerates, homeless, hopeless and soulless souls, eccentric and unconventional persons, unbalanced and insane creatures mobbed the streets like gangs that had taken control of an institution.
No, this singular being—perhaps due to his solitariness and aloofness—spoke to something rotten beneath the surface, a rancidness over and above what the masses of loony characters she’d encountered on their trip conveyed. His name was Tiburcio Vasquez, or at least his look-alike in the 1850’s went by that name; had she been a history buff she’d have understood that the man this fellow chose to impersonate was a gruesome character who legitimized her first impression of his offensiveness.
Whatever act this man might be putting on, he earned no special attention in an establishment accustomed to weirdo types trying to stand out for no reason other than to put on a show, or third tier entertainers performing in local acts. This dude was wearing a maroon wool suit with a vest. By itself his attire might not have drawn much interest from the other patrons except he was sporting a puff tie, what in Vasquez’ era was also called a gunslinger tie. It was a thin cotton piece with black and grey stripes that split at the neck to form a perfectly-shaped upside down “V.”
His eyes were set deep; the pupils lurking impassively as he sipped a double shot of whisky. He wore a nicely trimmed goatee but the strands on the chin sprouted friskily before defiantly descending to partially cover the knot of his necktie.
“That man over there,” Crystal commented, as she poked Toni in the rib with her finger. “Does he give you the creeps?”
Toni was about to affirm her friend’s unfavorable impression when her attention shifted from Tiburcio to another man who at that exact instant entered the front door. He was a short gent, but his swagger and uprightness permitted him to walk several inches higher than his actual size. He too was costumed in a three-piece suit, similar in style to Vasquez’, although he wore a standard knot tie and a bowler hat matching the navy blue color of his jacket. He had a far more pleasant face than Tiburcio. His eyes were short, squinting despite the darkness of the establishment.
Toni jabbed back at Crystal, her mouth agape.
“I wonder who they are. I’ll bet they’re actors on break during a shoot. Why don’t we follow them when they leave,” Crystal whispered excitedly as the second impersonator, this one a dead ringer for Robert Leroy Parker, later known as the notorious and popularized Butch Cassidy, strode up to Tiburcio.
The girls watched in awe. They recognized the hiphop beat that was playing, Self-Made Feat, by Bow Wow.
They’d listened to the piece a hundred times but as it blared from the speakers they heard a deep bass voice shout words that might have been lyrics written by their beloved artist.
“Either you or I is going on from here, T I B U R C I O.” At the sound of Cassidy’s voice, the man swung around, instinctively reaching toward his waist. Before he was able to accomplish his move, Cassidy had the tip of a long-barreled revolver sniffing the cologne on Vasquez’ scalp.
“Outside, you lowly dog,” Cassidy sneered. He was careful to keep the weapon fixed on the man’s head. “I’ve never shot a man without giving him a chance to defend himself. It’s a code of honor you’d never understand.”
Watching the encounter unfold, the bartender had reached below the counter and shut off the music. The place was by this time filling up. Every customer stopped, the peculiarity of the spectacle leaving them unsure whether to applaud the fine theatrics or shiver at the thought that they could be caught in a shootout.
“They don’t screw around here in Hollywood,” Toni gasped to Crystal.
“They’re making a movie,” Crystal whooped, causing the audience to ease up as they concluded that the little Nebraskan saw through the ruse.
The relief was short-lived, especially since Vasquez rose and the weapon around his waist became visible. Cassidy kept his pistol aimed, as he led Tiburcio out the front door. Still not sure how to process what was tak ing place, the customers, including Toni and Crystal, followed the gunmen outside. They watched as Cassidy marched his adversary into the middle of a car-crammed Hollywood Boulevard.
The vehicles stopped in both directions, opening a span of at least a hundred feet along the street. Cassidy positioned Vasquez and then backed up from him about fifty feet. The two men stood glaring at one another. By this time, Cassidy dropped his gun back in the holster.
“Now’s your chance,” Cassidy shot out, challenging the man to reach for his revolver.
Several seconds passed while the men deliberated their best odds of survival; not a muscle moved for either of them. It was Vasquez who flinched first, his right shoulder tattling on the intended move. Cassidy, the quicker on this occasion, drew his gun in an instant, aiming a perfect shot to Vasquez’ chest. He stood frozen in a pose, an acquaintanceship with death unable to cry from his lips, blood soaking his vest before he even rested on the ground.
As the echoing of the lone bullet died out, the crowd remained so quiet that even on this bustling boulevard the sound of a bird dumping on a car hood could be heard as clear as the whistle of an approaching train.
Cassidy lit a flare. Smoke filled the air around him, spreading like the flame of an ignited massive fart. Then he was gone…but Vasquez would never breathe again.
Meeting The Staring Cast
Two young men had written the exact scene played out by Cassidy and Vasquez. They were world-class video gamers. In fact, they were about to submit that exact piece of work to one of the largest video game companies. Then to their amazement, and without their permission or knowledge, their creation became a public spectacle. They could barely imagine in their wildest dreams that they would sell the product…but to have it played out in real life, with living characters instead of the fictional images they had designed?
There was a mystery to be solved. Uncovering the truth was going to take each of the two partners on the ride of their life. Their separate journeys would lead in completely different directions, and along the way place their relationship in peril.
It would be some time later, after a flurry of killings would take place, when most of the world had already become aware of the bizarre events, and following what was the final contest, that I would be requisitioned to craft the entire story to words.
At the time Butch Cassidy killed Tiburcio Vasquez, Jason Walters—one of the above-mentioned partners— admitted that he didn’t even know it happened. It wasn’t exactly breaking news; I hadn’t heard about it either. Furthermore, unknown to either of us was the fact that during that same general timeframe, several other random and scattered events occurred that involved puzzling murders.
Jason wandered into my life by accident, or at least that’s the only explanation I could muster. I was sitting in the lounge of the Beverly Hills Hotel reviewing a script I’d written for a film: I wanted to be prepared because later that afternoon I had a meeting with a movie exec to make a pitch. Jason took a seat across from me, staring vacantly at the ceiling.
“I need a good writer to tell a story,” he informed me with an innocent smile.
“We’ll see how good I am later today, but your instincts are excellent because I do call myself a writer.”
“It’s going to sound weird,” he said with a squint that wrinkled his brow and suggested he was hesitant to proceed. “When I explain everything to you…you might not even believe me.”
“All the better. I’m a fiction author and I write movie screenplays. Reality is not my forte.”
“But it’s true,” he said ponderously. “It’s the back story that nobody knows.”
We talked for over an hour, striking up what I surmised was an unexpected kinship. He told me he’d been a Harvard student but never returned to complete his degree and that as a result of the story he was about to impart on me, his life had been enriched in unimaginable ways. That about sums up how Jason Walters stepped into my life…and he did have a doozie of a tale screaming to be told.
I’ll refer to him as a boy because as he sat in my home office days later with his wife at his side, he seemed to me no more than that—though by the time I met him he was legally an adult. While he was recounting the first details of his story, his wife sat quietly, never embellishing on his accounting of the events he was describing. Still, there were numerous times, that for no reason I could identify, she would giggle girlishly—boy and girl, playacting man and woman, husband and wife. Yet in spite of their obvious immaturity, what was incontestable in my mind was that they were in love.
It was the adoration in his glance when he paused to inspect her, as well as her sparkle imparted by no more of an act than grasping his hand. Their bond seemed whole, a total immersion of physical and spiritual essence, a tenacious and unbreakable handshake that if due to insecurity had long since dissolved any remnants of psychological inadequacy. Their oneness might have healed any suffering life had imposed prior to their coming together.
I noticed early on, that Jason had a need to refer to me as “Sir” or “Mr.” At first I let it go, but as he persisted with the annoying habit I knew I had to break it…I was only a decade and a half older than he was, barely nudging up to the mid-thirty range.
“Let me stop you there,” I inserted with my own lingering boyish disquietude. “If you would, please call me, Mitch. No, “Mr.” and especially no, “Sir.” My mom’s still in her fifties,” I protested.
I might mention that he was a man of his word, for he never employed the formal address with me again. He did at the time he agreed to call me by my given name, counter by imposing a restriction on me. He said he had no intention of interfering with my craft, but wanted to be sure that unless he explicitly gave me permission, that the true identities of the characters would be protected. “I’m not big on conditions when I write. I don’t like people influencing my work. But I’ll go with that. You say it’s true, but we’ll do it as make-believe,” I proposed. “Based on real events. You see it all the time at the beginning of a movie or introduction to a novel. As far as I’m concerned, you don’t even have to tell me the real names and that way there never will be a trust issue,” I suggested.
Jason shook his scalp, a piece of his anatomy no different than a broom head. It was covered with a thick crop of curly auburn wild strands. They had to be demonstrating their collective will to never come under the authority of a comb or brush for they dangled freely in every which direction, the only remedy for these conscientious objectors would have been a militant shearing.
He eyed his wife, Becky. She returned a consenting nod, much as a legal representative might when signaling to their client that it was permissible to proceed. She seemed entranced by the process, as if she was anticipating being entertained by a thriller flick.
Most young men would scoff at dubbing her a hot item. Still, if they allowed themselves to look past the dorkiness she wore as naturally as her Betty Boop eyes, they would be treated to a quite pleasant and well-proportioned face, and an alluringly wavy figure that she failed to advertise as it deserved.
Part of her armament against the intruding eye of any male but Jason, was a pair of clear framed over-sized glasses. Her lips were perpetually parted, just sufficiently to suggest she was in a constant state of puzzlement, a condition after getting to know her better I never would have used to brand her. Becky had hair that was a beautiful golden color; she haphazardly pulled it straight back, and then combed it in a simple ponytail.
When I first set eyes on her, she was wearing a pink polka dot blouse with a vanilla white collar; she had it cinched at the neck with a Mickey Mouse tie. I noticed her purse had a Fendi design; there was nothing indicating a shortage of clothing budget for her or Jason, her partner shocking me with a fashionable black suit, a white dress shirt and a charcoal-shaded tie—he might have been on his way to a funeral.
As we were about to get underway, he began with an apology for not having prepared a more comprehensive outline of the story before we met. He seemed a bit stern on himself. I tried to comfort him by letting him know that I loved intrigue, and that in the end I would sort it all out so that it would make sense. He looked at me dubiously, cautioning me to the fact that it would never make sense.
Then he asked me if I’d ever been to Zurich, which I answered that I had not. When I posed my own question, why he wanted to know, he magically snapped his fingers and grinned, telling me that I needed to meet the undisputed star of the tale, Mr. Stanley Gleason—at the location where Jason thought the story would best begin.
He set the stage, the plush Quellenhof Bad Ragaz Hotel on March 12, 2010, Gleason the quest of honor.
Jason was correct. It was necessary to go back in time to get to the beginning, though even arriving at that juncture would teach me that it had been two decades before Gleason’s presentation that the foundation for Cassidy-Vasquez and all that would follow was being built.
The Hotel Quellenhof Bad Ragaz had a small conference room. Across the wall, behind the podium, a sign had been hung: INTERNATIONAL GENETICS FORUM. At a small lectern, stood a thick-necked, broad man in his fifties. His audience, at most fifty in number, included prominent scientific figures such as Nobel laureate, Babette Ash.
As those of you that know me well understand, in funding GenTrait it was never my intention to set off a firestorm controversy regarding the ethics of genetic enhancement of human characteristics, a battle we all recognize is lost for those opposing the power of the study of geneto-molecular science. Just imagine a father or mother refusing to have their child born with the extra twenty, thirty or forty IQ points that every one of their peers will have.
Parents want their offspring to be prettier, healthier, more creative and smarter so as to compete in a market driven society. If the tools are available to provide the genetic edge, I doubt that any loving parent would deny it to their little ones any more than they would the environmental advantages they already seek for them.
Are we on the horizon of a new era in humankind? Of course, we are. But this is nothing new. The history of the human species has been gloriously doted by a series of blind cliffs from which we purportedly were headed downward toward doom. Yet in each instance, we miraculously thrust ourselves to a higher state of existence. Due to the research that we have been conducting, the human form, as we understand it today, will be transformed into a stronger, more durable and resistant being, exceeding the adaptive capacity we admire in fellow creatures such as common insects.
There is no longer an ethical or moral frontier to debate. We have conquered our foes. The plateau upon which we rest leaves us with an obligation, a solemn duty in truth, to introduce the jewels we have at our disposal to elevate man to his next evolutionary mountain, where he can stand atop proudly and bravely peering downward on his less endowed brethren.
The applause could have been measured with a ruler but belied the enthusiasm of the esteemed group. They each understood that after years of bursting the hearts of atoms, invading the bedrooms of molecules, and conducting espionage on the structure of DNA, that they could unapologetically reprogram the human species. It was no longer conceived possible or plausible. Instead, it had been proven that these men and women could eliminate categories of disease and mental suffering from mankind.
Even more, they could soon offer to every couple planning to have a child, a supermarket filled with biological, cognitive and psychological elements, an infinity of unblemished combinations and permutations, unlimited options, from which they could design the offspring that they would raise. Mother and father would do their shopping with the awareness that the child they designed would live not to an age of seventy or eighty, but to a hundred and fifty or two hundred years old.
Gleason took his seat next to a grey-haired man at least a decade older than him, Dr. Avril Slotkin. The professor stood up. He took the microphone.
“Thank you, Mr. Gleason. You summarized wonderfully what each of us in this room has come to understand,” Slotkin complimented. “That’s going to wrap it up until tomorrow. I’ll look forward to seeing all of you at ten. Have a nice evening.”
After a round of chatting with some of the participants, Gleason patted Slotkin on the shoulder. “I’ll meet you in the lounge.”
There were two deep purple-colored high-back fabric-covered chairs in front of a white marble fireplace. Gleason was waiting when Slotkin arrived a few minutes later.
“When it’s all said and done, I still have grave reservations about this, Stanley,” he commenced before he took his seat. “I know it’s a bit late for lamentation but when we did what we did years ago, I thought we were through; now this?”
“No reason to worry. I told you, nothing can ever happen…even if it did there’d never be a way to trace it back to you or me,” Gleason assured his partner with a soft pat on the shoulder.
“I never thought from the onset that we’d get close to achieving it.” He paused to frown. Then he turned to face Gleason, soliciting the reassurance he knew he couldn’t grant to himself. “What did we do, Stan? Tell me we didn’t go too far,” he pled.
“Ave, I promise. We’ll clean this up and it’ll be as if it never happened. In the meantime, can’t you just sit back and enjoy the show?”
“The show!” Avril shook his head, astonished by his associate’s lightheartedness over what he perceived as a grave misjudgment.
“This is it! I now have almost everything I ever wanted in life. Thank you,” Gleason expressed reverently. “I assure you, I’ll never ask another favor.”
“This was a big one.”
“It’s amazing, isn’t it, Ave? Even with what was accomplished, you still can’t fix a broken old body. Reload it, let it replay, but it’ll still fail at the weak-link where it’s damaged.”
“That’s next,” Slotkin answered wearily before admonishing his friend. “You would have been better off spending your millions on that.”
“I only want to live out the life God gave me,” Gleason laughed.
“Now you turn to God? It’s too late, Stanley.”
It was too late, at least for these two men. With the ammunition they had at their disposal, they could make it too late for mankind if they chose to.
Jason calculated that it was close to the time Gleason and Slotkin were meeting that a tragedy struck his life. He felt it was important to share it with me early on, because his misfortune proved to be a pivotal event for Gleason, a chance circumstance that would thrust the man in a direction he’d never have considered otherwise: Jason and Gleason were to become intimately bonded, and Jason would have his capacity to survive tested as no human had ever before him.
One afternoon Jason offered to fill in his own history for me. His parents weren’t wealthy but it seems they always had enough money for whatever Jason needed; and they were very loving. His dad was a programmer for a financial management company and his mom taught high school.
“No brothers or sisters,” he emphasized, highlighting the fact that he was doted over.
He shared with me that as far back as he could recall he was a quirky kid, suggesting that in some way he was “different.” When I asked him to elaborate, he defined himself in terms of “fantasy” and “imagination,” indicating that for him life was about the outer reaches of the mind’s conception; and often he’d spend time there seeking new discoveries.
During high school he was so absorbed in daydreaming, that often he’d neglect his studies and thus his grades were not outstanding. Yet when it came to taking college entrance exams, he delivered a strong performance. That along with his talent to express himself creatively earned him a slot at the top university. He emphasized that he was shocked he was accepted and off-handedly added at the time he wondered if he had a secret admirer who championed him into the prestigious school.
He carried on with several other facts about his background, including his early timidity and insecurity in dealing with the opposite sex, conveniently labeled a case of immaturity. Then I noticed what I was sure was trepidation. He hesitated, as if unsure if he had the will to continue. Then his head sank. His eyes became dewy. Becky draped her arm gently around his neck, squeezing to remind him he wasn’t alone.
He went on to explain that he was in a microbiology program. It was the middle of his junior year, exactly two years before him sitting with me in my office. One afternoon he was in his apartment when he received a call from the Dean, asking him to stop by his office immediately. He had applied to assist one of the professors he admired in a genetic study and assumed he was about to be advised in person that he had been accepted. He was deadly wrong.
Jason’s parents had taken a road trip to Vermont. A truck moving at full speed struck them head on: both died on impact. There were no other known relatives. Leaving Dean Caruso’s office, Jason realized that for the first time in his short existence, he was walking his life’s path a solitary soul. He arranged for the funeral; then he collapsed into a depression. Had it not been for his closest friend, one of his roommates, Morris, he may have taken his life. His buddy contacted the school and arranged for him to get help.
After trying to sort it out on his own for a couple weeks, he further deteriorated—he spent a month at the university psych hospital. It was shock, too much trauma at too young an age, but to Jason’s mind it seemed to be even more than that.
“I could never put my finger on it. While my parents were alive, I never questioned a thing about my past; why would I? But after they were killed, I kept having the most baffling dreams, some daytime versions as well of the distressing images that would wake me at night.” He paused for quite some time. I noticed that his entire being appeared to be an abstraction. It was like a painting of a human with distorted features. Yet it wasn’t grotesque. Rather, the presentation more aptly was the product of opposing forces of equal influence imposing their power on him, misaligning the two sides of his physical and mental being. Then finally the tension disappeared and he continued, but not without first tossing my way a wry smirk.
“My parents were great people. They loved me.
Perhaps it was no different for any child—at least so I finally concluded after my therapy wrapped up—that they wonder if the people calling themselves Mom and Dad are really the blood parents. Well, that’s what kept chilling me after I lost them. I’ll add that Dr. Adkins insisted that it was a common reaction and that it spoke to me cleverly seeking, and then finding, a way to ease the pain—if they were not really my parents, then the loss is lessened. My therapist’s explanation actually helped me get past the hurt.”
After his discussion of the hospitalization and his disclosure of the fact that he couldn’t handle the crisis at the time, in the next breath, he told me that the trauma of losing his parents ironically had prepared him for what was coming next, to handle gracefully what unarguably would have crushed most other humans.
By the time he was discharged from the psychiatric ward, the semester was a bust. He then decided to wait it out until the next year to resume classes. He said his finances were decent because his parents had left just enough for him to pay his tuition and support himself.
With free time on his hands that he wasn’t used to having, Jason tried to keep busy. His favorite “sport” had always been the video world. He’d risen to the top and had many crowns to his collection to prove it; including victories rewarded with decent financial prizes. It so happened that The Electronic Sports World Cup was taking place in Boston during the time he was still rehabbing himself. He wasn’t up to competing but he reasoned that attending would be a healthy way to get his mind off his troubles.
Jason described a bustling room filled with video consoles and players. He strolled through the area, greeted with waves and nods by several of the contestants that recognized him. A man in his late twenties ran over to greet Jason.
“Damn, kid. I would have flown out to be with you. I want you to know that.”
“I do. I even remember you offering. Thanks. It really meant a lot to me.”
“Well, I’m sorry as hell for everything that happened,” the friend said compassionately. “You need anything and I’ll be there.”
“I’m working it out, getting along a little better day by day,” Jason replied with a forced smile.
“And don’t worry about the games we created. We’ll get back to them when you’re ready.”
Jason was close to my own height, a couple inches past six feet. He towered over his friend who was at least half a foot shorter. Both had lanky builds. However, Bobby Hancock, the young man who was Jason’s partner in developing video game scripts, held his posture like a sword, whereas Jason was wearing the weight of his woes on his bony shoulders, the tips driving downward, commanding his neck to bend lamentably. “How you coming along, Bobby?”
“Can’t do a thing without PizzaMan on my team. We’re getting crushed without you,” Bobby disclosed before animating. “GG dude. That was total pwnage (video lingo for destruction of a rival) what you did to GString back in D.C.”
“That was months ago; I need to get back in shape,” Jason informed him. “Look, the upcoming Counter-Strike: Condition Zero deal in Philly; I’ll be there if you will.”
“Out of frig-in sight. I’ll get off work or I’ll resign.”
Hancock had been a teammate with Jason many times in the past, a ranked competitor but still a notch below his colleague’s caliber. When they had agreed to join together on a project to develop games, what attracted Jason was Bobby’s imagination, his ability to take excursions fearlessly into the unknown and to create illusory worlds never before conceived—a perfect compliment to his own strength in that area. What Bobby never shared with Jason was that when he was not engaging in fantasy or competing in tournaments, the little guy was employed as a detective for the Chicago Police Department.
Bobby had attained his position through doggedness in pursuing investigations, earning him early respect as well as envy from his peers, while at the same time occasionally the ire of his sullen and ill-tempered boss, Cliff Potter. In fact, it was only a few days after his return from Boston, when Bobby encountered a grim-spirited Lieutenant Potter.
The man was standing, peering out his window. It was a foul day. The black clouds were barking at the window, pounding fitfully with torrents of rain. He had his cell phone to his ear, but the outside noise was compromising his hearing, a phenomenon causing him to scream ever more loudly.
“God damn it, Connie. You tell her I’m living in my trailer. If I give her any more I’ll have to start eating food less palatable than the crap she used to dish up.”
Perspiration gathered on his brow, highlighting an embarrassing recession he had spited by meticulously combing the few remaining strands of dark brown hair right to left across the upper portion of his forehead.
He snapped the device closed. In an instant, he heard a funny jingly sound, the phone going off again. It vexed him that another human being was intruding on his fitful state of mind.
“Potter here,” he shot out at the victim calling him. He then listened for a moment. “Sure, I know about it.” Once more, he paused to hear what the other party was relating, but now employing an amusing grin. “Well, we’re not going to be outdone by those Hollywood hot shots. We have pride here in Chi-town, my friend. Still, thanks for the update.”
After he closed the phone for the second time, he sat down at his desk. Within a few seconds, Bobby Hancock rushed in. His boyish enthusiasm under the best of circumstances was tolerable to Cliff, but after another attempted hijacking for more alimony from his wife, Bobby’s zestfulness was insufferable. Bobby was carrying a fabric case that he placed on the floor out of sight of Potter. His boss was woozy as he watched it swaying rhythmically.
“Earlier in the day, we had a baseball bat murder in The Patch,” he reported breathlessly to his superior.
In West Town Chicago, there is a community referred to as The Patch. Settled predominantly by Sicilians, over the years its demographics have changed. It is now respected as a fine place to raise a family. Geometrically, the area takes the form of a right triangle, the hypotenuse resting along Smith Park with the longer side formed by W. Chicago Avenue and the shorter by N. Western Avenue.
This bit of geography highlights the fact that many businesses border the area. One, Angelino’s Café, on the day of Bobby’s intrusive visit to his boss’ office, was home to one of the most bizarre scenes of violence in years. The most elderly residents of the community might have recalled it as eerily similar to events they shrugged off as common occurrences in prior decades. But to the younger locals, it was unimaginably horrifying.
“No place is totally safe,” Potter responded nonchalantly to Bobby’s report of murder.
“Boss, security camera,” Bobby glistened as he held up a video player for Potter to see.
He then loaded the pancake-sized object into Potter’s computer. Cliff appeared disinterested, except he was biting down on his lower front lip sufficiently to draw blood. Bobby swung the screen around so that it faced Potter. He then moved to stand next to his boss so they could watch together.
Alone at a table is a baby-faced man, his head covered with a tan wool cap. He’s turned his cheek to the right, away from the front door. He’s chatting amicably with a couple sitting next to him at an adjacent table. Swiftly entering the establishment, out of view of the seated gentleman, is a suited man wearing a black fedora with a grey band. He stands a couple inches under six foot but is built broadly, an imposing figure made remarkably more frightful by a baseball bat he is slinging from his right wrist like an officer’s truncheon.
As he approaches the seated man, he grabs the handle of the black weapon. He takes aim at the knit cap worn by the still seated man who upon sensing the presence of the other man rotates to face him. The sweet-pussed fellow intuitively tries to duck away from the intended blow, at the same time reaching inside his coat. As he recognizes he might be a fraction of second short of instinct, he lets out a high-pitched, shrill childish screech. His scream is terminated as the larger man bludgeons him with one blow after another.
Blood is streaming from his cracked cranium, as well as each of his facial orifices. He lays motionless on the ground, the larger man standing dispassionately above him. The assailant then casually drops the bat, glances not at but through the awestruck patrons, turns and walks out.
Bobby looked down at his boss, the latter sitting mute as the screen turned black.
“Listen to this,” Bobby continued excitedly. “The pistol on the ground was a late 1920’s Colt 45 automatic, Thompson-type.” Then he paused, readying to deliver what he perceived as conclusive evidence. “The man’s fingers are acid burned.”
Bobby’s enthusiasm fell short of arousing his superior, whose face remained expressionless.
“You can’t see it without a blowup of the face,” Bobby informed him, driving forward with his presentation. “Watch this.”
He tapped a few keys, the screen now zooming in on the left side of the face of the bat-wielding man. The corner of the man’s sideburn closest to the ear was the port of embarkation for a nasty scar sinuously working its way around the cheek, disappearing just before reaching the crease of his lips. His eyebrows were dense and dark, canopying smug eyes expressing approbation for the fine battering of a foe.
“It’s Capone!” Bobby rejoiced. “It’s him! My god, Chief, he was famous for bat slaughtering three men to death.” He smiled to draw out his story. “The dead one, that’s Baby Face Nelson, right down to the gun type and…”
Bobby broke mid-sentence, about to deliver his own coup de grace, the final piece of evidence proving a point he still couldn’t logically explain. He reached down to the bag, extracting a puppy that yelped as he held the little thing by the loose scruff.
“Baby Face loved puppies,” he declared triumphantly. Cliff ignored the cute animal. He stood, using the outside of the second and third fingers of his right hand to brush near his jaw. Then from what had to be described as a contemplative pose, he reached into his shirt pocket and took out a pack of cigarettes. Slowly he lit one stick, sucking in a full inhalation, delighting from the first sensation of relief he’d experienced all afternoon. “Right before you came in, I received a call from a buddy who is Police Chief in Dallas. Last night a guy trying to pass himself off as Cole Younger shot another man posing as Harry Langabaugh.”
“I know the names. I studied them when I was in school.”
“Sure you did, Bobby. Younger was a famous outlaw, a partner of Dillinger—as was Baby Face, if you recall. Longabaugh you’d know as Butch Cassidy’s sideki—”
“The Sundance Kid,” Bobby gasped.
“Right. I just want to be sure we’re following each other up to this point,” Cliff expressed with forced calm.
“Got it boss.”
“Bobby, those fellows are all dead, which should tell you something. But before I let you add that small detail to your high-powered analysis of the case, I’ll give you more information. Last night, I received a call from another guy I used to work with when I was with L.A.P.D. We’re both going through rotten divorces and being fleeced by our wives so we have a lot to bitch to each other about.
“Somehow during the discussion he brings up a murder they had in Los Angeles not long ago. Seems a fellow who the spectators at the scene identified from pictures as being a look-alike to Butch Cassidy put on quite a show.” Cliff smirked, shaking his head as a gesture of disgust.” Right on Hollywood Boulevard, shortly before sunset, he and another man dressed to look like Tiburcio Vasquez, a lowlife outlaw who was hanged in 1875, reenacted an old-fashioned western gunfight.”
Bobby’s fascination was irrepressible. “What if it’s real? Not the actual people, but actors in a reality game where they’re playing for their lives.”
“Sometimes I think you’re smoking weed off duty. Why don’t you just find the maniac who did the killing here in our own backyard. Then we can hope there aren’t too many other psychos out there.”
Bobby saluted. Investigating The Patch murder was precisely what he intended to do.
Limos, Kobe Beef, And…
Jason, along with the other members of his team, From the Dead, won The Cup in Philadelphia. The prize money allowed Jason to come away enriched by an extra seven thousand dollars…but he didn’t need it. After his discharge from the hospital, he had another meeting with Dean Caruso. Two matters were discussed. The first was that he was going to forego the semester. But there was a corollary to the agreement, an offering by Caruso, but one that originated due to a solicitation by the professor under whose direction Jason had hoped to study; it was Dr. Avril Slotkin, the scientist who presided over the genetic conference at which Gleason spoke.
The professor had approached Caruso after he heard of Jason’s tragedy. He suggested that if his student was going to lose the semester and not be able to fill the research position that he had, in fact, been chosen for, then he should at least have the right to join Slotkin’s class at any time during the year. He wanted Jason to have the opportunity to participate up to whatever level he was comfortable. It would be at Slotkin’s discretion whether or not Jason would earn credit.
As Caruso presented the kind offer by Slotkin, he also opened his desk drawer and took out an envelope. He opened it himself. Then he showed Jason that it contained a check made out to him for $25,000 from Harvard University. When Jason asked why he was being given money, explaining he could make do with what he had, Caruso let him know that a wealthy donor to the school heard what happened and wanted to make a contribution. During the coming weeks, three additional checks of an equal amount were handed to Jason by his Dean, enough to pay his tuition and living expenses for the following year.
It seemed odd to Jason. He told me that at the time he received the money, something didn’t add up. It gnawed at him even though he was aware that there were many billionaires who contributed tens and sometimes hundreds of millions each year to The University.
He added that he did take Dr. Slotkin up on his offer. He began attending his classes with Morris Seger, his roommate. The invitation by Slotkin was not surprising. Jason explained that the professor has always showed a special interest in him. However, with most students, he was described as an aloof, distant man who displayed a tone of arrogance. But he’d seek out Jason to talk, and always treated him with kindness and graciousness.
On a few occasions, he’d even invite the young student to have lunch with him at the professors’ dining room, using the time to drill Jason about his life. The interest that the esteemed man showed in his student encouraged Jason to talk. He admitted to purging his heart to Slotkin even more than with his parents.
Jason characterized the famous teacher as an odd man. He was an innovator in the field of genetics who might approach the subject from the most bizarre perspectives. Jason thought at the time that Slotkin’s teaching method was his obtuse way of trying to make the cerebral connection with his students that he couldn’t achieve socially. It also might have been an attempt to make science come alive for them.
The lengthy background provided to me by Jason on his comradeship with Slotkin was not without a purpose. He wanted me to understand that the endearment shown by the esteemed professor toward him was another circumstance that baffled him, an oddity he would not understand until…all the tumblers of the lock fell into line…and the secrets hidden in the magical safe were laid out for his inspection.
He and Morris had just finished Slotkin’s class and arrived back at their apartment. Jason described his friend as suffering from three preoccupations: challenging his mind with the most difficult intellectual tasks, filling his heart with the lust of as many lovely ladies as he could attract, and consuming as many chocolate chip cookies with gallons of whole milk as his stomach could manage. He ate little else but displayed no ill signs of health—such as obesity—due to his peculiar diet. He was a compact and powerful man who starred on the varsity baseball team.
They both tossed their backpacks on the ground. “I thought Slotkin was going to be a little sexier,” Jason commented to Morris.
“You want sexy? Take a course on brothels. This class is about genetics, not genitals,” Morris joked, using his right arm to clutch Jason around the neck and pull him in for a hug. “Besides, some day you’ll start listening to me. Then you’ll get you all the sex you need.”
Jason’s admitted that a tendency toward shyness with the opposite sex was a characteristic perceived by Morris as a deficiency. It was one that his friend was forever trying to improve…but making little progress. Morris’ take was that his buddy hadn’t matured at the same speed he had and that Jason was a perpetual worrier who would say the wrong thing or act inappropriately in the company of a girl he found appealing. As a result, Jason would become tangled in thought and emotion in the presence of the ladies, act foolish, and convince them that if they wanted to play romance games they’d be better off with a more gallant fellow…like Morris.
“Girls love sex, man,” Morris would drill at his friend. “You’ll get it; you’ll see.”
On the surface, Jason’s friend appeared an unlikely choice to fill the role of closest buddy. He was physically vigorous while Jason was enervated. He excelled socially whereas Jason was inept; he was resolute when Jason was hesitant; and, he would be dauntless when Jason would be gutless. What bonded them, however, was that Morris had compassion and sensitivity. These were characteristics that he was shameless about bringing into the relationship. It was Morris who nurtured Jason after the loss of his parents and who continued to dote over him like the mother and father he had lost.
“I hope so,” Jason responded dubiously. “Now about Slotkin’s term paper. He wants us to take our favorite living hero, change their genetic makeup and remodel them.”
“Right. I can do it off the top of my head. A couple turns of the screw and instead of throwing the football for New England, Tom Brady is a serial murderer,” Morris proudly announced.
“I had something else in mind. You think he would take offense if I assigned myself the paper I want to do? I’m not getting credit, so what’s the difference?”
“What are you proposing?”
“To tell you the truth, I already did it. Outlaws. It’s about the greatest outlaws in American history—I handed it in already.”
“Cool, dude. You could even develop it into a video game,” Morris exclaimed.
“That’s why I brought it up. I have some ideas I’ve been working on for months, actually submitted a few of them to Slotkin for another paper before…my parents.
One of my partners and I have also done some work on it.”
The door opened. Raul Cervantes, the third roommate walked in. He was holding a large box with a pizza. As he passed Jason, he handed it to him.
“Keep it warm, man.”
Jason took the box and walked into the kitchen to place it in the oven. He had set the temperature and was searching for a piece of pepperoni he was sure he’d stored in the meat compartment.
“Jason, you have to see this,” both Morris and Raul hollered to him.
“Hurry up!” Morris shouted.
Jason let the refrigerator door shut and moved to join his roommate. They were wide-eyed as they watched the news.
“Authorities in Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago have decided to join together to investigate what they are calling a string of “impersonator killings,” the newscaster announced. “Last night at a club in Dallas, a scrawny, childish-looking lad tried to put to rest the controversy highlighted in the 1958 film starring Paul Newman, The Left Handed Gun, as to whether or not Billy the Kid was left or right-handed. Drawing a pistol with his right hand, this make-believe Kid fatally shot a man looking to be in his early forties, who earlier that night boasted to being John Wesley Hardin, an outlaw from the same era who was immortalized by several songs, including ones by Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan.”
The man on the screen paused long enough for a mocking gesture. “What will they think of next?”
The three stood staring at the screen as it cut to a commercial for laxatives.
“Whoa!” Raul called out.
The chiming of Jason’s cell phone interrupted Raul’s bemused utterance. “Hello.”
“My god, Jase. Did you hear what’s going on?” Bobby Hancock posed thrillingly.
“Yeah. We’re watching the news this minute.”
“I don’t think this is exactly what we had in mind… Jason, are we on to something?”
“Could be. Listen, I have my roomies here so can I talk you up later?”
“Sure. But make it soon. We need to move on this.” Jason put his phone back in his pocket.
“Who was that, Jason?” Morris queried. “Well, mommy, that was my new girlfriend.” “We’re all wishing.”
“What do you guys make of this amazing story? Is this for real?” Raul mused. “Dallas, Los Angel—”
Jason’s phone was busy, ringing a second time. He reached into his pocket and put it to his ear. He stood with an expression of curious bewilderment.
“You’re kidding,” he giggled. There was a delay of several seconds while he stared blankly into space. “Okay. I
really don’t believe it,” he finally responded, though with a smirk. Still listening, his face assumed a more earnest pose. “I will.”
Jason hung up. Morris, recognizing what was an unmistakable look of astonishment on Jason’s face, again questioned him. “What’s up, man?”
“Some stupid political survey.”
Jason referred to it as the most bizarre call he’d ever received in his life, foreshadowing for me that it was of such enormity that his existence was about to be overhauled, drastically and eternally.
I couldn’t help but ask who it was and what it was about. However, he cautioned me that some of my questions he’d answer on the spot but others I’d have to wait on. He did disclose that the call was from Stanley Gleason, a name he recognized at the time as belonging to the individual known to be the wealthiest living person. He said he wouldn’t take “no” as an answer from Jason for an invitation to have dinner with him at his home. At first, Jason assumed it was a prank…it was not.
Jason dressed and went downstairs. He was told he’d be picked up in front of his building at six. At precisely that time, a limousine pulled up. The driver hopped out and opened the door, introducing himself as Wally. After settling Jason in the rear section of the vehicle, he ran back around to the driver’s side and buckled up.
“Make yourself at home. You have drinks, a phone, computer, television…let me know if you need anything,” Wally pleasantly informed him.
He closed the window separating the driver’s compartment from the passenger area. Sitting back in the plush leather seat, Jason realized that he’d never traveled in a limo before. If he had the experience necessary to make comparisons, he’d have noticed that this one had tinted bullet-proof glass, lights on a dimmer switch, contoured seating, a customized entertainment system with two screens by Bang & Olufsen, and a voice activation system allowing full operation of the interior compartment.
When Jason mumbled, “I think I’ll watch a little Matrix,” he thought he had landed in heaven.
“We have Matrix, Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions. What would be your preference?” a sweet obsequious female voice coming from every angle of the space inquired.
“I’ll take a joint,” Jason flippantly answered.
“I’ll check with Wally to see if he can stop and pick one up.”
“No. No. Matrix Revolutions will do it. Please, that’s all I want,” Jason stammered.
He was about a half hour into the movie that he had seen at least twenty times, when the vehicle slowed. Wally opened the window.
“I’ll come around,” the driver informed him.
A few seconds later, Jason was standing in the middle of a vehicle reception area as large as the floor of a professional basketball stadium. Surrounding the tumbled brick surface were gardens stretching expansively toward the east, west and south; a mansion occupied the northern view.
“Follow me, young man,” Wally ordered as Jason was lead up the front steps to a landing. The door opened, with a man wearing a butler uniform awaiting them. “Hawthorne will take you from here.” Wally softly patted young Jason on the back. “You’ll be fine.”
Hawthorne then motioned for Jason to come inside, directing him to a large wood-paneled study to the right of the entry.
“May I get you something, sir,” Hawthorne addressed him with a proper English accent.
“Mr. Gleason will be down momentarily.” Hawthorne then did what to Jason was unimaginable. He offered a slight bow and left the room.
The walls were covered with pieces of modern art, several of them recognized by Jason. He was inspecting an original painting of Marilyn Monroe by Andy Warhol when he heard a door handle turning. He glanced right, noticing a man whose picture he had seen on the cover of magazines, in newspapers and on television business shows, Stanley Gleason.
“Magnificent, isn’t she?” Gleason commented. “What do you think about all this?”
“Definitely the shit, if you want the truth.”
Gleason grinned, refraining from a full laugh. “I wanted to be sure you’d appreciate them because…soon they’ll be yours.”
Jason’s mouth opened, as if he were about to speak.
But instead, he giggled nervously.
“Come. You must be hungry.” Gleason expressed his words with unmistakable kindness. “I had my chef prepare a special treat for us. I hope you like beef burgers.” Jason nodded, processing the fact that his favorite meal was a hamburger. He recalled that once he had eaten at a restaurant that made their patties with short rib; he could still taste the sweetness of the meat and feel the softness of the patty. Before he was able to calculate the odds of Gleason by chance serving his ideal dinner, another fact was introduced.
“I have my Kobe beef brought in from Japan; it’s the real deal,” Gleason promised.
“That’ll be my first Kobe.”
“My chef used to make a burger they sold in Vegas for $120,” Gleason informed him without a hint of humor. “You do like a juicy one, I hope.”
Jason was overwhelmed, not only by the opulence but also due to Gleason seeming to be toying with him, subtly hinting that he had scoped out Jason before the meeting. He seemed to already know his likes and dislikes. Why would he have gone to all the trouble, Jason wondered? He’d have part of his answer before he left that evening; the remainder he was never supposed to discover.
Gleason had Jason follow him as they marched deeper into the interior of the home. When they reached the dining room, Jason surveyed what he perceived as being a comical scene. He counted thirty-two seats at the table. The room was the size of his entire apartment. After they sat, his sense of humor was further stimulated as he saw the two of them occupying only a tiny area of the massive table.
His host was a few inches shorter than him but reminded Jason more of Morris than any man he’d known. Both had necks so short that they left the impression that the head was bolted directly on to the shoulders, the two flanks stretching straight outward to such an extent that the upper body could carry a huge volume of weight without appearing fat. Gleason’s head would have been a perfect full moon shape except that ever so slightly at the ears, the circle concaved. Still, the face was so beautifully rounded and soft that it might have been mistaken for a beach ball with human facial features painted on it. He left an overall favorable impression of a gentle and decent man.
“I read the paper that you prepared for Slotkin,” he began, throwing yet another shocker at Jason.
“He’s a good friend of mine; and a business associate,” Gleason answered, pushing back his chair and rotating it so as to directly face Jason.
He lifted his left leg over the right, for the first time Jason noticing that he was wearing a pair of brown leather strap sandals. The rest of his dress was composed of a plain white t-shirt that he let hang out over a pair of faded Levi blue jeans. His entire wardrobe for the evening couldn’t have cost more than fifty bucks, less than the black Lacoste pullover Jason had worn.
“This isn’t about him being ticked with what I wrote for my paper, is it?”
“Not at all,” Gleason answered, mischievously puckering his lips. “He shared it with me. He thought that I might want to see it. By the way, sorry about your parents, Jason. How are you doing?”
“Wait a second. It’s you…about the money? If it is, I really want to thank you—”
“I have a lot more important business to take care of with you, but in answer to what I believe is a question, yes, I did send the money.”
“Why? Come on, none of this is making sense.” “I promise you it will in due time.”
“Mr. Gleason, look, I appreciate you having me over, helping me with money, but I’ll be honest with you. This is weird to me. I don’t know what you want from me.”
“You will soon,” Gleason again assured him.
Jason demonstrated no lack of vigor telling me it was “the perfect burger,” embellishing that he’d never tasted beef that compared, never knew meat existed that melted in the mouth like a chocolate truffle. “The bun was plain wheat with sesame seeds and the single dressing was a layer of caramelized onions.” He grinned delightfully before finishing off describing the menu, one that included a bowl of what he referred to as indescribable French fries and fried onion rings topped with a smoky-flavored salt.
“It was a meal to die for…and I couldn’t help wondering if this was to be my last, that Gleason had intended to kill me.”
He mentioned that Gleason ate very slow and sparingly—then after finishing dinner he suggested that they take a walk. It was brisk enough that they both needed coats. The night was exceptionally clear, the sky generously sprinkled with stars. They had wandered some time before they came to a lake. Jason assumed that it was a neighborhood pond. However, when he asked Gleason the name, he replied that he had dubbed it “Walden Pond,” though in truth it had never been formally awarded its own title.
It was on his personal property, Gleason announcing to Jason that he was free to fish it any time he wished. It didn’t take long for the boy to realize that the vast parcel of land they had traversed all belonged to Gleason’s estate—it had to be measured in hectares.
“I’ve dedicated most of my life over the past thirty years toward finding a solution to bringing back life,” Gleason began as they ambled along a decomposed granite path illuminated by faint ground lights on either side. “I knew any hopes of realizing the dream would be based on genetics; that’s how I became acquainted with Slotkin.”
“What does this have to do with me?”
“You see, I have no children,” Gleason went on, ignoring Jason’s query. “I did…I had a son. He died of leukemia at eight. Then just a few months later, my wife was stricken with a peculiar ailment, one the doctors were never able to label. I concluded it was grief—she died after a very short period. It seems that she had little will to fight on. At the time, I vowed to use every resource I had to bring them back.”
Gleason stopped. He suddenly appeared out of breath. He went to the side of the path where an old teak wood bench had been placed under an American elm tree. One of its graceful branches was paralleling the ground. Gleason grabbing with both hands: he looked as if he were preparing to do a chin up. Instead, he steadied himself for a few moments and then, more slowly, took off walking.
“Did I tell you that exactly like you, I believe the impossible is anything but that?”
“That’s the only thing I believe in, that there is nothing impossible. How else could the mind conceive it, if not for the fact that it is realizable?”
“Of course. That’s what you argued in your paper to Slotkin.” Gleason grinned at Jason. “The Greatest American Outlaw…for a class in genetics,” he bellowed.
“If it could be done, you could bring back your wife and son; I could bring back my parents.”
Jason noticed that they must have traveled a circular path because about two hundred yards ahead of them he recognized the massive structure of Gleason’s home. “I wouldn’t even use the science to save myself,” Gleason stated grimly, “and I’m dying.” “I’m sor—”
“Please, don’t. Death is going to have one hell of a battle for my attention. I’m too busy enjoying life right now to worry about what my doctors are telling me.”
They walked silently until they reached the house. Gleason took Jason to a small den. He picked up a glass canister filled with spirits and poured a drink, motioning inquiringly to Jason.
“No, thank you.”
“What I’ve learned—on the subject of recreating life—is that if you could pull it off, you would be responsible for destroying mankind. Sure, there have been many changes brought about by scientific advancement that have required adaptation on the part of man. Each time he’s succeeded. The process of adjusting may have been slow and challenging, but he finds a way; the strong survive to live on and the weak perish. But this is different—there would be so few strong that they would never endure the concussive blast from the mass psychic breakdown taking place all around them.”