“What a caterpillar calls death, we call a butterfly”
“That is one of the privileges here at the clinic: our own remedy for death.”
Hubert Langwein, M.D., Ph.D.
“You’re opening very dangerous doorways! Once they’re open, there’s no stopping what may come through from the other side!”
Katherine Remington, Ph.D.
DANGEROUS DOORWAYSHauenfelder Clinic
ON THE MORNING Kate Remington arrived at the clinic, Dr. Rausch and Dr. Langwein took her on a tour to orient her to the work in progress.
It went well, until she saw Vehicle 27.
She was stunned. Beyond stunned. Horrified. Sickened. Her flesh crawled as the Vehicle stared back at her with its vacant eyes.
She backed away from it until she felt the wall behind her. “This isn’t at all what I expected when I agreed to come here! This—whatever it is!—isn’t even human!”
“Vehicle 27 is advancing medical science,” Rausch said.
“This isn’t science, it isn’t medicine. It’s something . . . It’s the kind of thing . . ., the kind of thing that Mengele might have done at Auschwitz!”
“Your comment is out-of-order,” Rausch snapped, then walked out of the room, turning back to add, “I would remind you that you – and your sister – are guests here. You must keep that in mind.”
Not guests, prisoners, she wanted to say, but cut it off. Already she knew that this was a strange place, an evil place, from the vibrations she was picking up. Karen, her twin, was vulnerable.
Dr. Langwein took over the orientation.
Langwein was short and puffy, with thick glasses that he polished constantly on his necktie. His eyes bounced around behind the thick lenses, unable to meet and hold contact with hers. He spoke English reasonably well, though in an accent inflected with what she sensed were traces of both German and Spanish.
Overall, a strange person. A creepy person. Beyond creepy.
He explained what her role would be, and how her experience with Multiple Personality Disorder tied in with the work at Hauenfelder.
“But don’t you understand? You’re opening very dangerous doorways!” she pressed. “Once those doors are open, there’s no telling what kind of . . . what kind of things might come through!”
“Your twin sister is comfortable here at Hauenfelder, yes?” Langwein replied, then walked out, leaving her alone with Vehicle 27. It sat at the table, staring at her with empty eyes. She turned and ran to get away from the thing.
San Diego, California.
The journey to Hauenfelder had begun a month earlier in San Diego, the final day she worked with Sexy Sally.
“But I don’t want to go! I like it here!” Sexy Sally said. “I like partying and drinking and screwing. I don’t want to go, and you can't make me.”
“But that life as Sally is finished,” Kate Remington said gently. “It finished in the car crash. Now you must leave so that Linda can be healthy. Your mother and sister are waiting to guide you over. Just relax and let it happen.”
“Sally” was stretched out on a recliner chair in the darkened office, while Kate — Katherine Remington, Ph.D. — sat at the edge of the room. Her doctorate was in psychology and counseling, with a specialty in what was termed Dissociative Identity Disorder, also known as Multiple Personality Disorder.
Kate was 32, tall and lean, with an attractive, gentle face, striking high cheekbones, warm brown eyes, and shoulder-length dark hair. She wore one of her trademark jogging suits, today pink. Jogging suits were comfortable to wear, and comfortable for the clients to be around.
Kate’s friendly smile and easy manner put patients at ease, so rapport built sooner. She gave no indication of the way her life had been shattered a few months earlier when Karen, her twin sister, was mugged outside her apartment. Days later, Kate’s fiancée was killed in a drive-by on his way home from the hospital.
KATE HAD BEGUN THE SESSION by leading Linda through the usual hypnotic induction, first relaxing her until she was almost oblivious to her present body and the present time, back to when it had all begun: A stepfather she called “Newdaddy.” A little girl, then aged eight, who hated the things Newdaddy did to her.
Then that little girl, the child Linda, found herself outside her body, watching what was happening. It didn’t hurt now, didn’t shame her any longer, because now it wasn’t happening to her.
Now it was happening to someone else, to someone who called herself Sally. Sally didn’t mind the things Newdaddy did. Sally was always ready to step in when Newdaddy was doing the bad things. Once Sally arrived, Linda could go away.
“Now I’d like to speak to Sally,” Kate said.
“The hell you want?” came the reply from Linda, but it wasn’t Linda’s voice, nor was it Linda’s tone. Linda’s normal voice was soft, so gentle and sweet it could barely be heard. This voice was brassy, the pronunciation coarse. This was the voice associated with the Sally personality.
“How long have you been with Linda?” Kate asked.
“You heard her, ever since Newdaddy started messing around with her.”
“Why did you come to Linda?”
“The hell you think I came for? To have some fun again, get drunk, get laid.”
“Where were you before you came to Linda?”
“Don’t know where the hell I was. Lost somewhere, all confused, like some crazy dream.”
Kate held a mirror in front of Linda’s face. “Sally, I’d like you to open your eyes and look into the mirror. Is that your face you see?”
She pulled back from the mirror. “Hell, no, that’s not me, not really me. That’s Linda.”
Kate eased back to her chair. This was the crucial step in bringing them out. “Tell me about the last time you saw your other body,” Kate prompted.
“It was all . . . all tore up in the car, all bleeding and twisted. My – the face – it went through the windshield, and the head, it got turned almost clear ‘round to the back.”
She broke off and sobbed, convulsing in the chair. “It hurt so much at first, I couldn’t stand it. Like I was being just tore apart. So I just kinda let go, y’know what I mean? Then it didn’t hurt no more.”
“I’d like you to look again at the body there in the car,” Kate said. “Why is the head twisted around?”
“I don’t want to look. That’s my body, my old body. It’s weird seeing it all tore up like that, a real bad dream.”
“I’m sorry, but it’s very important for you to look closely. Why is the head twisted around?”
“I think it — I think the neck’s broke. But it can’t be. I mean, I feel all right. My neck’s not broke, hell no!”
“Now go in closer, and look at the eyes of the person in the car.”
“No! I can’t look at them eyes — they’re . . . awful. Spooky!”
“What is it about the eyes?”
“They don’t focus, they’re just staring off into space!” She rocked with sobs. “Oh God! There’s nobody there behind the eyes! It’s empty!”
“Watch Sally’s body there in the car. What happens next?”
“The men, they come’n put me — I mean, back then, after the accident, they put that body — onto a stretcher and — “
When she got control again, she went on, “And they put a sheet over it all, even up over the face.”
“Do you understand what that means?”
Moments passed, and Kate was about to repeat the question when the reply came, “It means she’s dead, don’t it? But how can that be? I’m Sally, and I’m still alive.”
“Look around you,” Kate suggested softly. “Do you see any people you know?”
“Yeah,” she said, and now her voice was softer, brighter. “Yeah, I see my mom. And my sister. They’re there, just like —” She shook her head. “But that can’t be! They’re dead! They been dead for years! The hell’s going on?”
“Ask them why they’re there.”
“Something about they’ve come to guide me.”
“Guide you where?”
“Across, to the other side — that’s what they tell me.”
She jerked in the chair. “But I don’t want to go! I like it here! I like having fun. I like partying and drinking and, hell, I like screwing. I don’t want to leave here! I don’t want to go!”
“But that life as Sally is finished,” Kate said gently. “It finished years ago in the car crash. Your mother and sister have come for you.”
“You stop this! I don’t want to go, and you can’t make me! Leave me alone!”
“Is anyone else with them?”
“I don’t want to go! I don’t! I don’t!”
“Do you see a tunnel? Do you feel the energy pulling you into the tunnel?” Kate asked.
“It’s pulling me, it’s pulling me, and there’s a light way up at the end. Mom has her arm around me now, and it’s so good to see you again, Mom. It’s pulling me up and —”
AFTER THE SESSION, Kate stopped by her office to check messages. Only one: a call from a Dr. Rausch of the Grafton Foundation. She had never heard of either Rausch or the Grafton Foundation, but foundations funded grants, and she desperately needed a grant.
She was on contract at the Clinic, and the contract was up for renewal next month. Not a good time, with talk of major cutbacks coming soon. Her approach to treating Multiple Personality Disorder, also known as Dissociative Identity Disorder, was controversial, and likely would be one of the first to be cut . . . unless she could come up with independent funding.
When she returned Dr. Rausch’s call, he mentioned that he was intrigued by what he had heard of her “unorthodox but very intriguing therapy for Multiple Personality Disorder,” and “believed they had some shared interests, based on her very interesting work.”
He suggested lunch on Friday to “discuss some career possibilities that you may find of extreme interest.”
IT HAD BEEN the prospect of a way to take care of Karen that clinched it when Rausch made the offer at that first meeting.
“You haven’t told me where the project is located,” Kate had said after he had offered her a one-year contract, at a salary nearly half-again more than she was earning at the clinic.
“You will work in Austria,” she had heard him say. She was sure he’d said Austria.
“Austria? I don’t speak German, not a word.”
“The other staff members speak English. It is a very scenic area, nicely secluded. The American media will not be forever looking over our shoulders, as they do in this country.”
That was when it all fell apart. She couldn’t leave Karen behind. Even though there really wasn’t much of Karen left to leave. “Unfortunately, there’s a problem. I can’t—”
Karen had been in a coma since the mugging, an empty shell of the person that Kate had always felt was her alter ego. Even for identical twins, they had always been particularly close, each intuitively aware of what the other was doing and thinking.
The doctors told her there was no hope of recovery: Karen had come back as far as she ever would, and that was barely more than a vegetative state. For Kate’s sake, for her peace of mind, they told her, the best thing would be to release her to an institution and get on with her own life.
But that was out of the question: she could no more sign Karen away to an institution than she could sign away half of her own body. They were identical twins, from the same ova. It almost seemed like a single personality spread across two bodies, so close, so attuned that they had often thought and said the same thing at the same moment.
But now Karen never spoke. Was she even capable of thinking now? There was no way to know.
Kate couldn’t release her to an institution, and she certainly couldn’t leave her behind and go work in Austria. But the insurance was running out: what then?
“Cannot leave your sister behind?” Rausch said. “Of course you cannot, we understand that, and have provided for it. We will have her flown to our clinic in a hospital plane, and she will be there with you. Your work will be in a hospital setting where we are exceptionally well-equipped to care for coma patients. Indeed, part of our research there focuses on therapy for coma patients and others with similar handicaps. Our past successes lead me to believe that we may be able to help Karen very significantly. All of her medical expenses will be taken care of, naturally.”
Kate felt relief, and even something like happiness for the first time in what seemed a very long while. She smiled. “It seems I really don’t have a choice, do I?”
“Exactly so,” Rausch said.
A COUPLE OF DAYS after Kate arrived at the Clinic, an early morning jogger near Mannheim noticed a damaged guard-rail at a park along the Danube.
Police divers found a red Volkswagen, a rental car, on the bottom a couple of hundred yards down-river, with two suitcases in the trunk, and a purse wedged under the seat. The passport bore the name of Katherine Ann Remington, of Kingston, California. The car had been rented at the Vienna airport by woman showing ID as Katherine Ann Remington.
The door on the driver’s side was open. They dragged the river for a day, but no body turned up. At nightfall, the search was called off. They had found from experience that the body might float to the surface in a few days as the gasses built up inside.
Unless, of course, the body caught on something underwater. When that happened, they were never found. That was not unusual in the Rhine.
The American consulate in Bonn was notified of the accident and missing driver. The information was cabled to Washington. A clerk pulled a copy of Kate’s passport application to find who she had listed as her emergency contact.
As Kate and Karen had no close family still living, the contact was Debbie Whalen, her best friend.
At first, Debbie couldn’t believe that Kate was really gone. She checked back with the State Department a couple of times over the next week, expecting to hear that she had turned up alive.
Finally, she notified the lawyer who had drafted Kate’s Will only a few days earlier, and learned for the first time that Kate had released Karen to the care of the Grafton Foundation.
University Hospital. Chicago. 6:10 P.M.
TAKE ME TO THE CANNIBAL, DADDY. PLEASE!
Jenny’s words echoed in Doug Daulby’s mind. By now, Jenny and Jackie would be headed to the carnival. He wished he had gone with them to see the big smiles as Jenny swept past on the rides. She was already seven; how many more years would the carnival interest her?
He pushed the thought away to focus on the tiny creature on the operating table. Draped so that only the top of the head was exposed, it could almost pass for a human infant.
They were calling it Chimp Donnie.
He sliced across the shaved skull from ear to ear, then loosened the fascia, teasing the scalp to separate from the bone.
Daulby’s prematurely white hair, his size — 210 pounds spread over six feet — and his booming voice, had earned him the nickname Doc Polar Bear.
But he still moved with the grace of the athlete he’d been, and his fingers, long and supple, had a sensitivity that amazed students. They seemed to function independently of his mind, allowing him to work fast in close tolerances without missing a beat in a conversation.
Tonight, he didn’t feel like conversing. Tonight he just wanted to finish and get the hell out of there. He was wishing now that he’d never gotten into this, never even come up with the idea.
But now there was no going back.
When the incision was complete, he lifted the entire top of the chimp’s skull free and put the skull section in a pan of Betadine solution to keep it sterile for replacement when the operation finished.
Take me to the cannibal, Daddy.
Evanston, Illinois. 6:15 P.M.
JENNY WAS Mrs. Benson’s last student of the day, and when she saw her mother, she begged to stay “just another minute” to play the new piece she had learned.
Jackie blinked away tears as Jenny played. It was such a privilege to see a replica of herself as she’d been at seven, the same golden hair, the same angelic face she knew from her own old photos.
But Jenny, thank God, didn’t have her tendency to chubbiness; that would make her life easier.
Jackie loved the elements of Doug she saw blended into their little creation. Definitely Doug’s eyes, everybody said so. Maybe that meant she’d grow up to have Doug’s intellect. But hopefully without his compulsive career drive. That would really be the ideal combination.
“She has remarkable talent for someone so young,” Mrs. Benson whispered to Jackie. “She’s such a wonderful little girl, such a wonderful personality, such a bright future ahead of her. You and Dr. Daulby must be very proud of her.”
“We are,” Jackie said, “she’s the most wonderful thing that’s ever happened.”
“LET’S HAVE DINNER at Baskin-Robbins, then we can go to the cannibal,” Jenny said as they left Mrs. Benson’s. It was a quiet, tree-lined street of older, well-kept homes. There was little traffic here away from the main commuter routes.
“We need vegetables with our dinner,” Jackie said, thinking how much she and Jenny would miss Doug tonight.
“We can have banana splits. The bananas and cherries will be our vegetables. Then we’ll go to the cannibal.”
Jackie dug out her car keys. What difference would it make if they lived it up on junk food for one night? Life is short. “Okay, sounds good to me. But it’s just this one —”
She broke off when she saw two men materialize from behind a van. One held a gun.
This can’t be happening! a voice inside her head screamed. It can’t be! Not to us!
“Just give us your purse,” one of the men said. He was thin, almost frail, with light blond hair and wire-framed glasses. We just want your money. Give us that and we won’t hurt you or little Jenny.”
Jackie fumbled for her wallet. Then it struck her: Jenny! Why did a mugger know Jenny’s name?
She kicked, connecting with the man’s leg, and he went down. She dove to swoop up Jenny. The second man grabbed her from behind and slapped a white cloth over her face. She sniffed the bite of ether. She tried to scream, but it was no use.
As her world went dark, she saw Jenny struggling against the grip of a third man, dressed in black. He pushed a white cloth against her face, and Jenny’s movements slowed. Then her body went limp.
“Doug! Help us!” Jackie gasped as she blacked out.
TAKE ME TO THE CANNIBAL, DADDY. PLEASE!
Jenny’s voice still echoed in his head. That had never happened before, never broken through his concentration, and he wondered why tonight.
Cannibal — carnival. The last vestige of her baby-talk, a family joke now.
But he couldn’t take her to a carnival tonight. Not tonight, of all nights.
Tonight’s work had taken months to set up. It had to be tonight. Tonight, or maybe never. The window of opportunity was open, and he had to slip through that window before the politicians and bureaucrats slammed it shut again.
Take me to the cannibal. Please!
Cannibals! The word struck him. Is that what we are tonight, feeding on one for the sake of another?
“Dr. Martinson is extracting the donor tissue now,” one of the surgical nurses said.
He glanced through the glass wall to the second operating room where Martinson was working on the other subject, a human fetus aborted moments earlier.
Martinson’s role in opening the tiny soft head of the fetus was as exacting as his own. The fetus was 18 weeks, and weighed about a half-pound, with a head smaller than an orange. It would provide the material to implant into Chimp Donnie’s brain.
The operation itself — implanting the human fetal brain cells into the brain of a young chimp — was certain to succeed: the two little creatures were nearly 99% genetically identical, so the human tissues should quickly grow into and become part of Chimp Donnie’s brain.
Cross-species implants, human to animal and the reverse, were becoming common in the scientific community. There was even a term for the living creatures that resulted: chimeras, creatures with living parts from multiple species.
As far back as the 1980's there was the “geep” — an animal created in the laboratory by combining the embryos of a sheep and a goat. It grew up to look like a goat, though covered in patches of sheep’s wool.
In another lab, they successfully grafted part of a quail embryo into a chicken embryo, resulting in a chicken with a quail’s brain and characteristic sounds.
Who could forget the picture that went around the world of the mouse with the human ear growing on its back?
More recent experiments with chimerical creatures included the lamb fetuses into which human stem cells had been infused, resulting in the possibility that in time human livers could be grown in sheep for transplantation to ill humans.
Other researchers had transplanted human stem cells into the brains of baby mice, and the human cells had grown to make up about one percent of the mouse brain.
A team had implanted human stem cells into the brains of monkey fetuses and allowed them to grow there for a month. Autopsies conducted after the monkey fetuses were aborted revealed that the human neural cells had spread and grown throughout the monkey brains.
Most of those experiments had involved creating the chimeras at an early, fetal stage. But that would mean finding a pregnant female chimp, opening her under anesthesia, and operating on her fetus while it was still in the womb. That added layers of complexity that Daulby was not prepare to deal with now.
Daulby resolved to vault several steps, and implant from a human newborn, just aborted, to a chimp newborn.
Since human and chimp were genetically so close, it was virtually certain that the human cells would grow within the chimp without rejection. Hence the real question was whether the larger experiment would succeed. Would Chimp Donnie grow up to prove Daulby’s hypothesis?
And if the experiment was successful? What then? What doorways would that open?
He knew he was risking his career as a researcher. He had set this experiment up in secret, he had not followed the protocols, he had not gotten clearance from the ethics committees and the layers of university and federal bureaucrats — and the politicians to whom they were beholden.
“Let’s just do it!” he’d finally decided at the end of the meeting with his core group. “If it succeeds, then our transgressions will be forgiven.”
The members of the team had laughed at the joke — hoping he was right.
THE IMPLANTS WERE IN PLACE, and Daulby was fitting the piece of skull back into Chimp Donnie’s head when the phone rang in the OR. Betty Reed took the call. They were short-staffed tonight — just the core team, for security — so work paused for the moment.
“Oh God!” she said, stumbling back against the wall. She looked across at Daulby, the color draining from her face. “It’s for you, Dr. Daulby. It’s about your wife.”
“A divorce lawyer at this time of the night?” he joked, hiding his concern.
“It isn’t that. Two policemen are outside to see you.”
“Jesus! Get that fetal tissue out of sight,” Martinson said. “Don’t let the cops see that.”
“That — that’s not the problem,” Betty said, slumping against the wall. “They found your wife’s car, and she’s — she and Jenny. Oh God!”
He’s in the kitchen at home when he hears the front door open.
“Daddy? Daddy, where are you?” Jenny calls. “We’re back!”
“Here,” he tries to say, but no sounds come.
Jenny finds him and hugs him around the legs. He lifts her up and kisses her. She smells as sweet as before.
“Oh, Daddy, it’s so good to be with you again. We missed you so.”
His mouth is dry, and he still can’t speak. He hugs her tighter. He’ll never let her go again.
Then Jackie appears at the door. He steps toward her. She backs away.
“I can’t believe it,” he finally manages to say. “I thought— I thought you and Jenny were . . . gone. Forever.”
Jenny squeezes him. “We were visiting Grandma and Grandpa. They told us stories about when you were a little boy.”
“But Grandma and Grandpa Daulby are dead. They’ve been dead for years, dead since way back when I was in high school.”
“Oh, Daddy, you’re really silly! We were just with them!”
He looks to Jackie for an explanation. But there is something different about her. It’s the look she has when there is Important Business to discuss.
He sets Jenny down, and reaches for Jackie.
She shakes her head and backs away. “There’s someone else in my life now, Doug.”
“I’m sorry. You weren’t there when I needed you.”
“Is. . . is it anyone I know?”
“The only people you know are at the University, Doug. And yes, it is someone you know.” She turns to the door and calls, “Donnie? You can come in now.”
A chimpanzee, the one they had called Chimp Donnie, bounds through the house and hugs Daulby around the knees, just as Jenny did.
Then Donnie holds out his hand, and says, “Good to see you again, Doug. No hard feelings, I hope?”
Then he’s not in the kitchen at home anymore; he’s in a bed in a hotel room somewhere, the phone is ringing, and his head is pounding from a night’s determined drinking. The sunlight streaming through an opening in the blinds reminds him it’s Florida, near Orlando. And Jenny and Jackie are dead.
He rolled his feet onto the floor and took a sip of water to clear his mouth.
He reached for the phone, then changed his mind. There wasn’t anyone he wanted to talk to, not now, not ever. Another couple of rings and it would stop and leave him alone. He dropped back onto the bed, wanting to savor the memory of the moments with Jenny. Even a dream was better than nothing.
Then he thought of Jackie and the chimp she said had taken his place.
He didn’t want to think about that part of the dream. He picked up the phone. “Daulby.”
“Dr. Daulby? My name is Dr. Roland Rausch. You don’t know me, but I am very familiar with your work—very impressed as well, I might add. As it happens, I am also here in Orlando, and I think it would be in our mutual interest to meet, as soon as possible. Perhaps you would be free to meet for lunch today?”
Daulby tried to place the accent: stiff, formal phrasing, definitely not American. German? Spanish? More like a combination of both.
But what difference did it make? Anything has to be better than this. “Sure, why not?”
DR. RAUSCH turned out to be a tall, pale man, elegantly dressed in a classic European-cut black suit that looked hand-tailored. The clothing, as expensive as it was, did nothing to overcome the man’s awkwardness. He struck Daulby as someone who seemed out of place in his own body.
As they talked, Daulby was surprised at how familiar Rausch was with his work, and quickly realized that this impromptu lunch was a strange sort of job interview. The offer came at the end of the meal, a one-year research contract at a salary triple what he was earning when he was still back at the University.
“I’d need a few weeks to clear things.”
“Naturally,” Rausch said. “But we do have an urgent short-term need. Perhaps you could spare us ten days now on a consultant status at our facility in Austria? It would give you a chance to assess our operation, and us a chance to gain some of your expertise more quickly. For those ten days, we can offer an honorarium of $100,000.”
“For ten days?”
The University had cut off his salary when the scandal hit the news. The house was in foreclosure, is medical license was in jeopardy, and he’d done nothing to save either. In these weeks of aimless wandering and drinking, he’d run his credit cards close to the limit.
$100,000 would get him back on his feet. Even better, the idea of ten days in fresh surroundings, with new faces and new challenges, and something to think about other than regrets, seemed ideal.
“How soon can you leave?” Rausch asked when Daulby agreed. “Perhaps today?”
“Today? That’s imposs—” Then he thought, Why not? The sooner the better. Anything to get past this.
“We respect the value of your contribution, Dr. Daulby, so you will travel by private jet, a very comfortable Gulfstream. Will that be satisfactory?”
Daulby nodded, almost wondering if this was still part of a dream.
“Then I will need to take your passport now, in order to make the arrangements.”
AFTER THE LUNCH with Doug Daulby in Orlando, Dr. Rausch flew north for his monthly meeting with Parsons Coulter. At those meetings, usually at Coulter Tower, he briefed Coulter on the progress at the laboratories in California, as well as the work at the Hauenfelder Clinic, where the real work was done.
Coulter Tower was the center of the various divisions of Coulter’s empire.
Coulter saw himself as primarily a venture capitalist. He’d always had the knack of knowing where to put money, where the growth was to come . . . and when to clear out and let others take the ride back down.
His investment teams, and his personal office, occupied the top floors of the Tower. Most of his investments were on a five-to-seven year trajectory: provide seed money for a big cut of the whole, build up, sell off, move on to something new.
His media properties were an exception. He’d held onto the pieces as he’d acquired them, in part because they were profitable, but even more because of the platform they gave him to shape perceptions in the way he wanted them. These included the main studios of the television network he had pieced together, along with the headquarters of Coulter Media, which owned a string of newspapers, magazines, and internet and cable operations in the United States and overseas.
The various other Coulter enterprises— the sports teams, the bio-tech and software firms and the like— were also run out of The Tower.
Forbes had called Parsons Coulter “possibly the most influential man in the United States,” claiming his control of so large a media empire gave him more power than even the President in influencing the thinking of Americans.
A congressional committee had begun an investigation targeting Coulter’s growing media power. The investigation withered away after the committee chairman and the chief investigator were killed in the unexplained crash of a private aircraft.
COULTER’S OFFICE occupied the southwest corner of the 79th floor of Coulter Tower. Wall Street lay to the south; the Hudson and New Jersey to the west. In an interview in Fortune, Coulter said the view down toward Wall Street reminded him to keep a watch on the dollars, while looking westward put him in mind of the need for broad, pioneering vision. It was pure bullshit, something he’d made up on the spot, but quoted in most of the pieces about him since.
Coulter led the way to the arrangement of leather chairs and sofas by the corner windows. Even those few steps revealed to Dr. Rausch’s eye how much Coulter had failed in the past month. Not good. Not good at all. Things were not ready. Even though Remington, and now Daulby, were on board, it would still take time. Coulter kept a fully-equipped EMT team with him around the clock, but there was always the risk.
SITTING THERE, with nothing but glass ahead, the effect was of floating above the world. The rain had stopped now, and the lights of the evening traffic flowed below, streams of small bright dots like streams of luminescent ants.
In his dark business suit, with his wavy silver hair and tanned chiseled face, Parsons Coulter was an impressive man, photogenic enough that over the years he had made the covers of Forbes and Business Week, along with Fortune. A decade ago, he had shared a Time cover with the President.
After his second heart attack, he quit smoking and dropped the 30 pounds that had built up over the years. Now, with his year-round tan, he looked like a life-long athlete.
But the appearance was deceptive. Rausch had seen him in the pool at Coulter Farm, his spread in the Virginia horse country. In a bathing suit, with his hair wet, Parson Coulter was just another soft old man with a chest full of surgical scars.
Despite the weight loss and the swimming and the newly-ascetic life-style with no bourbon or cigars, and a diet of unvarying fruit, rice, vegetables, and fish, Coulter had suffered a third major heart attack. Now he was living on borrowed time.
AT ONE of these monthly meetings, months earlier, Rausch had been forced to tell Coulter that they needed two more specialists to assist with the Hauenfelder work: first, Kate Remington, the psychologist, now Dr. Douglas Daulby, a neurosurgeon and researcher “with some very intriguing ideas.”
“Each person we bring in adds more risk.”
“We are evolving a unique process. We are creating an entirely new technology. Indeed there are risks, but the payoff is infinite, yes?”
Rausch had shown Coulter the Daulby file then, the result of a year’s search to find the right person.
Coulter looked first at the photographs. Even in the photos, Dr. Daulby seemed to dominate by his presence. It was something in the way he stood, as if charged with energy. Coulter liked that. From his years in television, Coulter wanted his people to have presence.
Rausch had the charisma of a brick, and he was a pain to be around. But he was necessary.
Daulby had been an athlete: that was obvious from the power of his arms and legs in the shots taken while he was jogging a month earlier. Though he wasn’t heavy, his face and body had filled in from the college yearbook photos. A thatch of curly silver hair framed his face.
The file also contained Daulby’s professional Vita, listing his surgical residencies and copies of the professional papers he had written or contributed to in the course of his career.
Most significantly, it contained a copy of an interview Daulby had given to Discover magazine, in which he speculated on the potential of brain research in the year 2035.
As Coulter scanned the article, a broad smile cut across his face. “Goddam, you may just be right. Daulby is thinking on the right track. He just doesn’t realize how far ahead of the rest of the world we are at Hauenfelder.”
Rausch said, “As we speak, Daulby is in-transit to Hauenfelder.”
COULTER LEANED BACK in the chair and took several deep breaths. Rausch could see how he was tiring.
Then Coulter said, “I’m not sure you really understand the urgency of all this?”
“Of course. We—”
“Sometimes I get the distinct feeling that you’re playing games with me, stringing me along while I pay the bills for your research.” He was silent then, staring at Rausch.
“Not at all—”
“You see, Dr. Rausch, I feel I’m on a conveyor belt pulling me toward the goddam grave, and I want to —goddam need to—get off that belt. Now!”
“Yes, of course—”
“And let me tell you, I just saw my doctor, and he tells me my heart has declined even more just over the last month, so that conveyor belt is moving me faster and faster.”
“We are very close, and now—”
“You’d damned well better be close. Because if I don’t make it, then, neither are you and all that rest of that bunch of goddam weirdos you’ve got working for you. I die, you all die, I’ve arranged for that to happen. I live, you all get to live on forever, lifetime after lifetime, just like me.”
END OF SAMPLE.You can order A REMEDY FOR DEATH for instant download