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One


The sun danced along the surface of the sea like a million diamonds strewn across green felt. Not one diamond sparkled for more than a split second, but there were always more diamonds igniting here, there, and then were gone.

Fleeting, I thought. The moment is always fleeting.

I stood on a small, fenced promontory overlooking the sea. There was the noise of chatting people behind me, what Hollywood sound engineers call walla. I ignored it. I knew no one here intimately. The fact that I was here at all had more to do with happenstance than purpose. From spontaneity comes creation, as an obscure philosopher once said. I was ready. I turned.

I was attending a charity function, a ‘silent auction’ of art at a park in Pacific Palisades. It was a warm day for January, although the wind whipped landward by the sea was cool and even cold at moments. I wore an Armani suit, grey, with a double-breasted jacket whose cut was out of fashion, my reason for wearing it— it’s always best to be underestimated. Otherwise, I stood an equal among my peers. I’m a venture capitalist. I once came across two boys who’d developed a very simple computer operating system that would work on any CPU with only minor adjustments. It was rock solid, impregnable to virus, malware, and worm, and could run almost any software in emulation at speeds approaching light. That was eleven years and billions of dollars ago. These days I have lowered expectations. Finding boys like that just doesn’t happen every day. But I do stay busy.

Here, strolling around the grounds of what once had been a Hollywood movie mogul’s mansion, were the capitalist sharks of our age. I knew a quarter of them personally, recognized another quarter from things I’d read here and there, and identified the rest by what they wore, how they wore it, the manner of their walk, and the look of their eyes which were always moving, always appraising. Sharks, every one of them.

Takes one to know one.

There were others here, too. Assistants. Trophy wives or husbands. Artists in ‘fuck you, I’m an artist’ clothes. Waiters with plates of hors d'oeuvres and champagne. All of them swirling among one another like timid schools of fish, wary of the sharks— all here, the subservient, the plotters, the hunted, the hunters, and me.


She was like anyone else in the same way a Porsche is like a Toyota. She wore a skirt, jacket, and silk blouse. The skirt was cut just above the knee. She wore heels. She did not stray onto the grass. Her hair was red. Not orange, but red, full and lush but tied back and up. The suit pretended to hide her figure but couldn’t. Her legs were strong but not thick, her waist tight and small, her stomach flat, breasts obvious but not large.

She carried herself with a poise that bordered on arrogance. That impressed me most, at least at first. As she stepped from easel to easel, perusing this painting, then that, each foot rising an instant, then lowering (not falling, not dropping, lowering) to the walkway, I marveled at her balance, the steadiness of her shoulders, the precision of her thighs and hips. How can a human being be so graceful, I wondered? And beautiful. Simultaneously, I wondered if her mother had been this lovely, or her father so handsome? What of her grandparents, and their parents? Can the human animal really be this exquisite? Still, in the immediacy of her presence as I was, those were merely flitting thoughts. I was ready to dismiss them, really. I was ready to look elsewhere because spirit and flesh are almost never in balance, the beauty of one usually overshadowing the other.

She turned her gaze on me. Her eyes were greener than the deep water five hundred yards out at sea, or the nearer trees and lawn. I was startled. Not just by the color of her eyes, but at their intensity, their shape, the subtle intelligence they spoke of. My stare met hers, mine passing hers across the mere twenty paces that separated us, before my vision dove deep into her and surfaced with a chill that ran the length of my body.

Something even stranger happened then. In the instant our eyes connected I experienced the most intense feeling of déjà vu ever.  I was somewhere else, a hundred times somewhere else, a hundred times sometime else, too, looking into these same eyes with this very same expression. My sense of recognition was so great I wanted to walk up to her and ask her a question. An instant later, I couldn’t quite remember what the question was.

She was similarly effected, I could see, this red-headed, green-eyed woman whose poise and physicality had drawn me to her even before I saw her face. Her face was simple in its design, lacking clefts or the jutting cheekbones some people find indispensable to beauty. Her eyes were wide, her lips full but not large and open (a split second only, but open) in surprise, her brow high, and her chin strong but not too pronounced. Her skin was so pale it seemed transparent. These same features on any other woman would have seemed plain, but she wasn’t plain. She was extraordinary.

I imagined — yes, this is at least odd, maybe crazy — I imagined she was a doe, or maybe a creature unknown to and never named by modern man. She stood in a meadow, looking back over her shoulder at me, her male counterpart.  At any moment she might leap away with the strong, easy strides of a gazelle. In the instant her gaze seared through me, the gaze of this lovely animal, I knew she would challenge me to earn her. I knew I must have her, not once but again and again, as often as I was able, as often as I could, forever. The gazelle of my fantasy leapt away as the composed woman standing fifty feet from me suddenly turned to glance at a painting displayed on a sandbag-braced easel, then pivoted and moved on.

I knew at that instant, like the inhuman self of my fantasy, I must have her.


There were a hundred paintings spread out over the grounds. Some people gushed about them, friends of the painters, or the painters themselves, dressed in jeans and sweatshirts or wearing ethnic robes or colorful combinations of them all. Others frowned, or barked a laugh or two before moving on. She either walked past a painting with hardly a glance, or stopped and studied. I halted beside her. For maybe two minutes we studied, she the painting, I her with peripheral vision.

“Caught the scent?” she asked.

“Uhm?”

“You’re hunting.”

“I am,” I replied with a smile. “Of course I am.”

“The game is thick here,” she said.

I looked about. Yes, many beautiful women were here. “Yes,” I replied. “I think you’re right.”

“Some people don’t have a clue, do they?”

“The human condition,” I replied. Our eyes weren’t on each other, but on the painting that looked like a pizza with several curious choices for toppings. “Most people never get a clue, and those who find one, don’t know what to do with it.”

“Take this painting,” she almost whispered. “Worth every shekel.”

I checked the back. Someone had written $50,000 and his ID number on a sheet provided for bids. Earlier offers were not quite equally startling.

“Hm,” I said.

“You said you were hunting.”

“Not for road kill.”

She almost smiled. My ego demanded that it was a laugh.

“What are you hunting for?” she asked.

“Something with more... blood, sweat and tears.”

“Oh,” she said with a nod, “A drama lover.”

“I like my meat fresh,” I replied.

“So, it’s not art you’re hunting for,” she said with a small smile, a tiny flaring of the lips that exposed teeth for an instant. “What could it be, then?”

I said nothing.

“Ah,” she said, “me.”

“Why not?”

She looked me up and down. It was an appraisal as shallow and as deep as mine had been of her.

“I’m a demanding mistress,” she said, again with a flare of a smile.

“Demanding how?”

“I like my men fresh.”

I said nothing. Was she saying I’m too old? What was she saying?

“I don’t know what you mean.” I said.

“You’re what, five, seven years older than me?”

“How old are you?” I asked.

“Twenty-three.”

“That old,” I replied with mock astonishment. “Really?”

“When I...” and here she stopped, making sure I understood. “... take on a man, I want to know he can keep up.”

“I run marathons,” I told her, not entirely defensively.

“Do you?” she asked. “And do you finish?”

“John Kincaide,” I said, extending my hand as if to a business associate. “Venture capitalist.”

“Vanessa Dean,” she replied, taking my hand. “I try to spend the money my parents gave me. I also paint.”

“You do? Anything on display here today?”

“Yes,” Vanessa replied, shrugging off the entire show with a look of disdain, “but it’s too boring to go into.”

“I’d like to see your work,” I told her.

She thought about it a moment before asking, “Will you pose for me?” And to make sure I fully understood, she asked, “Nude?”

A DRUG TO SEE PAST LIVES


Lust, Love, Envy and Murder

in a Mind-State of Total Recall


Venture capitalist John Kincaide’s company, GenePharm, has developed a short-term memory enhancement drug called ClearThought. His chief chemist Gordon Bischoff has been secretly testing the drug on himself and has overdosed on it. Possibly deranged, he claims ClearThought has made him see his past lives. In one of those lives, he is certain, Kincaide’s earlier incarnation killed him and his lover, ‘30s-era movie star Diana Fleming who has since reincarnated and is now involved in a torrid romance with Kincaide. Bischof wants Diana back and, oh yes, Kincaide dead.

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Chapter One

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