Tag Archives: science fiction

Burning Books

First, there was the book by Ray Bradbury. In retrospect, the author said that he considered himself a fantasy writer and that Farenheit 451 was his only science fiction novel.


Then came the movie (1966 Universal Pictures)…


… and then a remake by HBO starring Michael B. Jordan and Michael Shannon.

faren 2


Aside from the book itself, I consider the 1966 movie a beautifully stripped-down piece of art. Directed by the famous Francois Truffaut, associated with the French New Wave in cinema, it achieves a distinctive look (making effective use of the color, red) which has aged surprisingly well. I like science fiction that depends more on concepts than on special effects, and this is another good example from the pre-CGI era.


The story depicts a conformist, illiterate society which watches rather than reads. Firemen burn books to prevent the public from engaging in critical thought.


Justification for this is provided in the argument that knowledge makes us discontent and that this leads to unhappiness. The film therefore implies that happiness is not the determining factor in the quality of human life and character, an assertion that modern culture in the west might regard as heretical. The individuals in this society are infantilized, narcissistic, and chemically dependent – all to keep them in a state of happiness. They “read” comics without words…


… and gaze naively at widescreen television monitors mounted on walls.


Remember, we’re talking 1966, here. Some of the warnings in this movie are more true today than they were then. The citizens in this society inform on each other. Is this really so different from outing or vilifying people on the internet? It should make one think carefully before clicking. We are not all of us qualified journalists, and that includes many journalists (hint: fact checking and source verification).

Oskar Werner plays a fireman with a developing sense of curiosity and conscience. Julie Christie plays two roles as his wife and as a teacher in the literate underground.



Two scenes really haunted me. One was the burning of a hidden library. The woman who owns it chooses to burn with her books rather than turn informant.


The other scene shows the “Book People” memorizing and reciting books  to prevent them from being lost forever.


If you like an intellectual ride that doesn’t depend on eye candy, this is a movie worthy of your consideration.


A Different Kind Of Green Alien

andromeda 5

I originally saw The Andromeda Strain (1971 Universal Pictures; directed by Robert Wise) in the theater. I was a high school biology student, and I was impressed at the time by how much science was actually in this picture. It reminded me of my classes and even of some of my teachers.

andromeda 8

Based on the book of the same title by Michael Crichton (at the time a medical student who is shown in the background during one scene), the film contains a good amount of scientific background information, and it is a good science procedural as well as techno thriller. The pacing is slower, allowing more time to think while watching. Robert Wise was an excellent and well known director, and this is far from being a B movie.

andromeda 7
Robert Wise and a young Michael Crichton.

The plot unfolds at an intriguing pace, and this  movie contains elements of horror, suspense, and mystery.

andromeda 2

andromeda 4

The special effects were excellent for the pre-CGI era, and the look has aged well. Production values were good, taking advantage of real scientific equipment for many scenes. The underground research facility was well-designed.

andromeda 3

andromeda 6

andromeda 11

andromeda 9

andromeda 12

What really intrigued me was the discovery and description of the extraterrestrial pathogen. This is perhaps the most original concept for an alien life form that I have seen in a movie. Keep in mind that this idea was groundbreaking at the time of the book’s publication and the subsequent release of the movie.

andromeda 13

andromeda 10

If you haven’t seen this, I heartily recommend this refreshing view from an earlier time in the development of science fiction.

andromeda 1



Science Fiction and the Soul

invasion 4

It’s no great secret that science fiction often reflects cultural beliefs at a given time. A good example of this is Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956 Walter Wanger Pictures, Inc.; directed by Don Siegel) based on a book of the same title by Jack Finney. I prefer the book to the movie, but I like both. The 1978 version (MGM; directed by Philip Kaufman) with Donald Sutherland put more of an emphasis on the horror aspect, and this covered up the theme I am emphasizing in this post.

invasion 3

Without giving much away, the plot is centered around alien pods which have the remarkable ability to copy any life form that holds still long enough for them to reproduce its molecular structure. For a human, this means that he or she has to be asleep near one of the pods. The original disintegrates and is replaced by the copy. The “pod people” aggressively try to place pods next to other unreplicated human beings. It has been claimed that this movie is a veiled reference to the Red Scare of the 1950s, but that isn’t what I want to discuss, either.

invasion 5

The theme that most intrigued when I read the book as a teenager is the one that resonates with me now as an older adult: the existence of a nonmaterial soul. While the book and subsequent movies are in no way religious, the theme is still there. It is chillingly emphasized in the book in various ways. The one that stands out most in my memory is a scene in which the narrator overhears a conversation between some neighbors/pod people. Their exchange is mechanically sterile with some degree of intellect present but almost no emotion. It is apparent that something human, something which is not physical, is missing.

invasion 7


The most heart-grabbing example in the 1956 movie occurs when the girlfriend (played by Dana Wynter) of the town doctor (played by Kevin McCarthy) falls asleep while they are hiding in a cave.

invasion 1

The scene where he realizes he is kissing a mere shell when he tries to rouse her is perhaps the emotional peak of the movie.

invasion 2

invasion 6

Alright, I gave it away, but it’s old. Watch it, anyway. It’s worth the time. The point I’m making is that there was a more widespread belief in a nonmaterial, human soul in the 1950s than there is at present.

invasion 8

Contrast this with the approach taken in Oblivion (2013 Universal Pictures; directed by Joseph Kosinski). In this, clones that have had different experiences are capable of sharing the memories of the original human after which they are patterned. This reflects the more current opinion that mind is body, a pattern of electrochemical activity moving through evolved neural circuitry.

invasion 9

Is the brain the source of what we call the soul, or is it a transmitter? The materialist explanation is simpler, but does that make it true? If one smashes a phone, does that mean that nobody was on the other end? It strikes me that evidence against the existence of a nonmaterial soul is based on examining the smashed phone. I leave with this quote from What’s Wrong With the World by G. K. Chesterton.

No man could say how his animal dread of the end was mixed up with mystical traditions touching morals and religion. It is exactly because these things are animal, but not quite animal, that the dance of all the difficulties begins. The materialists analyze the easy part, deny the hard part and go home to their tea.


Alias Adam Available


A couple of months ago, I posted Alias Adam in a series of free installments on this site. For those who have read it and who would like to have the entire story in one place, it is available through Amazon for $ 0.99 on Kindle or for $ 9.85 in paperback. These are the minimum prices the Createspace platform would allow me to charge. You can order Alias Adam by clicking HERE.

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, you can read the entire story for free by clicking on the “Alias Adam” category in the black strip on the left. The story uses a combination of science fiction and fantasy to address the problems of sexual assault and child abuse in America. In addition, I offer the following description from the back cover:

  • He had four biological parents.
  • She had a father of unknown identity.
  • He had a history of child abuse.
  • She had been assaulted throughout her life.
  • Their physical and physiological abilities were beyond the ordinary.
  • Somehow, beyond all sensory verification, they were not alone.

Again, you can order by clicking HERE. Happy reading.

A Sense Of Story

In his book, The Everlasting Man, G. K. Chesterton makes the statement that although philosophers examine patterns when analyzing reality, Christianity is a story. I will add that so are all of the major myths from various cultures. Later in that same book, there is perhaps the most interesting and unique discussion about comparative religion which I have ever read. Whether you believe them or not, Christianity, Judaism, Greek mythology, Roman mythology, and Norse mythology (not to mention too many additional myths and religions to include in this post) are stories, and they address a fundamental need of the human condition. I remember being a college student in the 1970s. It was a time when these things could be discussed more freely than they are today. People weren’t nearly as prickly when challenged by ideas with which they disagreed.

The Ascension by Benjamin West, 1801

Returning back to my opening statement, the recognition and analysis of patterns is extremely useful to the understanding of how nature works. My formal training in molecular biology taught me to do just that. Without the context of a story, however, patterns become disembodied, bland, and hollow. A widespread problem in modern society is the awareness that our weeks are like sentences which lack punctuation, especially that period or exclamation point at the end. Too often, it seems that nothing significant happens, something that adds definition to our existence. This extends into the fear that our lives have no story line and no underlying theme. Social approval only goes so far in filling this need. We long, often while resisting it, for a sense of belonging to something greater than individuals or groups.

Gods of Olympus, 1534-35 Giulion Romano
Gods of Olympus (1534-1535) by Giulio Romano

I’ve often wondered if this at least partly underlies our cultural fascination with fantasy, science fiction, or even horror. Especially in the case of the latter, do we jangle our nerves so that we will at least feel something? Lest you think I’m being overly critical, please understand that I love various literary and cinematic works of fantasy, science fiction, and mythology. The exercise of our imaginations can be extremely beneficial when it encourages us to conceive better things.

The Muse (1895) by Gabriel de Cool

May I suggest also taking a look at the hard stuff? Read the great works of epic and mythical poetry, including The Iliad, The Odyssey, Beowulf, The Divine Comedy, and The Poetic Edda. While you’re at it, you could certainly do a lot worse than reading works like, Confessions and The City of God by Augustine, The Bible, and the works of Plato and Aristotle. You won’t understand or agree with everything you read. I certainly didn’t, but I learned not only something of their content but also the pleasure of engaging in deep thinking. The driving can be difficult, but the ride is worth it.

Mercury and a Sleeping Herdsman by Peter Paul Rubens

We are by nature rebellious, so let’s rebel and begin to fill the hollow universe that has been left to us by materialistic thinking. I must add one more thing before closing. Learning is not enough by itself. Our lives become better stories when we apply what we learn by doing something, by adding quality to ourselves and our communities.

So I Watched My Brother

sow 1

Watching The Shape of Water (2017 FOX Searchlight, directed by Guillermo del Toro), I noted with interest the brief sequence when Elisa Esposito (played by Sally Hawkins) offers a boiled egg to the Amphibian Man (played by Doug Jones). When I saw him take the egg and dive back into the water, I flashed back to a family vacation about five years ago. We were in Corolla on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I was body surfing (not very well on my part) with my brothers Rich and Doug, and he used the same diving form that I saw him use in this movie.

Before I get into what I want to say most, let me mention that the directing and acting were superb. Additional cast members Octavia Spencer (as cleaning lady Zelda Fuller), Michael Shannon (as repulsive bad guy Richard Strickland), Richard Jenkins (as neighbor Giles), Michael Stuhlbarg ( as scientist Dr. Robert Hoffstetler), David Hewlett, and others did a superb job in playing their roles and adding their individual facets to this gem of a film.

Lest I give the wrong impression, this film earned its R rating. I estimate that the scenes which made me uncomfortable amounted to about fifteen minutes of screen time, and I would have preferred to have seen that time devoted to a more extensive portrayal of my brother’s character and more transitions in the development of his relationship with the mute cleaning lady.

sow 3

A number of social issues were covered in this period piece, and if the film had one major weakness, it might be that it tried to do too much. I personally prefer to see fewer themes developed more fully.

sow 8

Now for the things that really impressed me besides the fine acting. This is a unique effort in that it is a blend of monster movie and art film, which is evident from the opening credits. Just to see it, I had to drive a hundred miles to an art house where it was playing in Kansas City. The musical soundtrack is used so effectively that it seems like an additional character in the story. I like that this is a relatively low budget film that nonetheless has unique and stunning visuals. It’s a beautiful piece of cinematic work.

sow 4

Overall, I’d say that this is a fairy tale disguised as science fiction. The Amphibian Man is more than a monster. He represents an almost spiritual longing, that ache for something wonderful and unexpected which will overtake us.

sow 5

Octavia Spencer and Sally Hawkins in the film THE SHAPE OF WATER. Photo by Kerry Hayes. © 2017 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

sow 6

I think people long for the unusual and the mysterious, for something beneficial that is ultimately beyond our control. That which we can manipulate is that which we have an unfortunate tendency to disrespect and take for granted.

sow 2

Watch My Brother Again

doug 4

Thank you to those of you who tuned in/logged on to see my brother, Doug Jones, play Lt. Saru in the new Star Trek series. Now that you’re in the process of completing that assignment, let me direct you to go see The Shape of Water when it is released this December 8th.

doug 6

Directed by Guillermo del Toro, this is an interesting looking movie (warning: R-rated for language, violence, nudity, sexuality) which by its trailers looks like a science fiction, Cold War period piece,  art flick. I am reminded of Pan’s Labyrinth, in which Doug also worked with Guillermo.

doug 9

The cast is excellent, including Sally Hawkins (Godzilla) and Octavia Spencer (The Help, Hidden Figures)…

doug 5

… and a bunch of other good actors such as Michael Shannon (Man of Steel) …

doug 7

… Richard Jenkins…

doug 8

… and David Hewlett.

doug 1

It is the character of Elisa Esposito played by Hawkins who appears to be the focal point of the story. She is a mute cleaning lady who works in a lab facility and who forms a relationship with an aquatic, hominid creature imprisoned there.

doug 2

doug 3

I’ll be interested to see where they take this. I expect it to be beautiful and possibly disturbing given its rating. Of course, living in a town as small as mine leaves me with no guarantee that the film will be showing in a local theater. I might have to wait until it comes out on video to review it. Until then…

doug 10

… watch Doug, or else.

Alias Adam (Chapter 32-Epilogue)

Chapter 32 – An Opening Gate

Jonathan had purchased a widescreen television. He had also subscribed to the HD service offered by the local cable provider. He and Adam were talking while he fidgeted with the controls on the remote.

“Do you think it was worth it? I might have just assassinated my brain.”

“If you don’t like it, you can always cancel,” Adam suggested.

“Well, let’s at least go through the ritual of seeing if anything’s on.”

His thumb depressed the button for the channel changer on the remote.

“So this is channel surfing,” he announced with resignation. “I’ve joined the rhythm of the hive.”

“Wait,” Adam implored. “Can you go back?”

“Certainly. I’m holding the royal scepter of authority, and I wield ultimate power. What did you want to see?”

“That game – just for a few minutes.”

“I didn’t know you liked sports.”

“I don’t,” he grimaced, “but I’m curious.”

It was Sunday afternoon and one of the multiple NFL games was in progress. They both watched in silence. Neither of them was accustomed to what they were doing. Adam squinted and frowned as he made his mental observations. Presently, he rendered his judgment.

“I could do that. They make a lot of money, don’t they?”

“More than most – more than I did,” the physicist answered, “although their careers don’t last all that long.”

“Compared to what I’m making at Walmart, it’d have to be an improvement. Thanks. I think I’ll go read.”

Adam was chuckling to himself when Eve came into the little library upstairs. She was carrying an open laptop. The soft chair in which he was sitting was almost hidden by his bulk. In observation of etiquette, he stood when he saw her enter the room.

“Hey,” she smiled. “I thought I’d find you here. I want to show you something. She didn’t stop there.”

Although he was glad to see her, he looked down at her with a perturbed, quizzical expression on his face.

“Who and where?”

“The woman we helped in Joplin.”

It had been over a year since that particular assignment.

“What about her? Those guys were convicted, weren’t they?”

“Sure. You knew about that and about the other college women coming forward. The rapists weren’t students.”

“Anger-retaliation types from in town,” he mused. “At least that’s my guess – gender and class warfare.”

“But that’s not what I wanted to show you. Look.”

She showed him what was on the screen. It was an on-line article from the Joplin Globe.

“She’s gone public with her story. Recognize the picture?”

The woman featured in the article was a Missouri Southern student majoring in social work. The interview covered her ordeal, how she had stood her ground against the defense, and her ongoing recovery. She explained her plans to earn a master’s degree and work for an advocacy organization on behalf of victims of sexual assault. Their efforts included offering support services to victims and lobbying for better laws and improved police procedures.

“I do. That’s her, and it looks like she’s doing what you suggested.”

“And then some. I thought you’d be interested.”

“Does it help?”

“A little. She’ll make waves.”

“You know,” he began.


“We’ve caught more perpetrators than…”

“Don’t worry about saying it, Adam. We’ve caught more perpetrators than I’ve killed.”

“Even if you add mine to the list,” he confessed in an effort to take any pressure off of her. It was far from necessary, but she appreciated the gesture.

“Okay. Enough serious stuff. Let’s talk about something fun. What are you reading?”

Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck.”

“Why were you laughing?”

“Parts of it are funny.”

“I read that, but it was a long time ago – high school, I think. Maybe I wasn’t in a frame of mind back then to notice the humor.”

“It’s hidden in there, but I wouldn’t necessarily call this a funny story. There’s something about this piece that impresses me more. I’m far enough in that I’ve noticed how the incidents he describes paint a portrait of the community’s social structure. It’s ingenious, as usual. Sociology students should read this.”

“Yeah. That might beat reading a textbook for that subject. I didn’t find mine in college particularly riveting.”

She turned her laptop off and folded it up. Setting it on top of the bookcase, she faced him. She was standing even closer now.

“Know what? This feels good. Do you remember me falling asleep on you that last night I was attacked?”

A tear came to his eye, and he gulped silently and nodded.

“You said we should be in a coffeehouse somewhere, discussing great books.”

The tear slowly trickled down his cheek. His voice was a little unsteady as he reminisced and spoke.

“The next night, you asked where this was going.”

“Yes, I did.”

“Do you think we can still make it into paradise?”

Her reply was upbeat.

“Maybe we can.”


“So,” Evelyn inquired back, “where do we find that coffeehouse?”

Adam’s face was an un-posed question of a different kind. He filled a substantial amount of the available space in the library, yet he was as timid as a small child. Cautiously, he reached his right hand out a little and lightly touched her left arm. Even with her enhanced sensitivity, she could barely feel the pressure of his fingertips. Her pupils dilated, and she smiled with genuine surprise.

“Oh my,” she whispered. “I had no idea you could be so gentle.”

She watched him expectantly, waiting for him to say something, but words failed him. In a relationship which consisted almost exclusively of conversation, this presented something of a problem. The silence grew awkward in its duration.

“Talk to me, silly. I just left the gate wide open. Don’t you have anything to say?”

He looked utterly helpless.


Their laughter descended the stairs, and then the upstairs grew very quiet. Jonathan turned off the television and listened for a few seconds. Turning to Janice as she sat next to him on the couch, he spoke in a tone of satisfaction mixed with regret.

“I don’t think they’ll be staying here much longer,” he predicted.

Chapter 33 – Conviction

It was a sports bar in Kansas City. If a so-called typical male had been plopped into the middle of it by means of quantum teleportation without knowing in advance where he was being sent, he would have known what it was on sight. It was much like other sports bars in its sights and sounds. Huge, wide-screen television monitors dominated the walls. On this particular night, they were all tuned to the same program: a Thursday night NFL broadcast.

One among many, a man with ulterior motives watched the game. He smiled confidently at his date, and she smiled back. There was an ideal activity he had planned to conclude the evening. Maybe this time it would feel right. He had the place all picked out – nice and secluded. She might go for it, but he hoped she would struggle at least a little. It would heighten the sense of conquest.

If she said no or resisted, there would be no witnesses, her word against his. It was a matter of approach and timing. Too much time had elapsed since his last expedition. He had taken employment in a strange city, and tonight was the result of almost six months of preparation, six months of scouting, spending, and witty banter. He went back to watching the game.

“Wow,” she exclaimed as she squeezed his arm. “They’re so strong and athletic – and fast.”

He nursed his drink and ordered her another. She wasn’t keeping track. This was perfect. One way or another, she would give in. He drew a vicarious masculinity from the players on the screen. It was a close game. The Kansas City Chiefs were ahead by three points with less than two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, and the Denver Broncos were driving. The contest was taking place at Mile High Stadium.

The bar suddenly erupted. A huge linebacker for the visiting team quickly closed the gap on an apparently open receiver in the flat and intercepted a pass at the Chiefs 35 yard line. He hurdled a smaller player who was trying to tackle him by his legs and then allowed himself to be run out of bounds near the 50 yard line. The man with the date felt his heart rate increase. The Broncos had only one time-out remaining. The Chiefs offense could run out the clock, and the game would be over soon. It was about time to top off the evening. The woman he was with was getting suitably tipsy.

He froze as a sideline camera zoomed in on the face of the linebacker resting on a bench. One brown eye and one blue eye glared out from the space between the faceguard and the brow of the man’s helmet. His mind went back to a frightening night outside of Springfield. Studying for the M. B. A. that landed him his current job, he had been a graduate student at Missouri State back then.

“You were caught tonight, and it could easily happen again.”

His hand was unsteady, and he set his drink on the bar after an unsuccessful attempt at taking a sip from it. He didn’t want to spill alcohol on himself. An involuntary shudder went down his spine, and he remembered two unyielding hands clamped on the sides of his head.

“No matter where you go, no matter what you do, remember what I tell you next. There is someone who knows the thoughts that squirm in your brain.”

Stealing a sidelong glance at his date, he quickly closed his eyes. His guilty thoughts were screaming so loudly that he looked around the crowded room to make sure he wasn’t being overheard.

“… you will be found out. You will pay.”

His date drained her glass and set it down a little clumsily.

“That was exciting. What was it you wanted to show me after the game?”

His mind was racing irrationally. This had to be a trap. Someone was watching. He nervously swept the room with his eyes. Maybe they were outside. Maybe he was being followed. Was the football player currently in Denver the masked man who had warned him in Springfield? Who else had eyes like that? Would that man know? Would he be hunted down when the Chiefs returned to Kansas City?

“We live a long way away, and we had no trouble finding you tonight.”

What if they no longer lived far away from him? Some fingers snapped carelessly in his face, and this annoyed and startled him. They sounded like guns going off.

“You still here? I asked you a question.”

“Awww,” he prevaricated, “I had something in mind, but it’s getting late. We both have to go to work in the morning. Let me drop you off at your place.”

He was not his usual, clever self during the drive back to her apartment building. In high spirits and full of expectation, he had been chatty and humorous on the way to the sports bar. Now he was non-communicative. His passenger was getting a little sleepy. Normally, this would have been to his liking, but now he felt paranoid. He kept checking his rearview mirror. He could not give up on the notion that he was being tailed until he turned onto a side street and noted that no headlights were behind him. He found her apartment building and stopped in front of the main entrance.

After his car had driven abruptly away, the attractive, somewhat inebriated woman listed to her right as she stood on the sidewalk and looked for her keys. What had come over this guy? He was almost completely shut off after the telecast. Where were those keys hiding? Her erratic train of thought returned to the confusing outcome of her evening out. What was it with him, anyway? Why did he spend money on her only to deposit her on the street? What made him lose interest? He had not kissed her goodbye or held the door open for her like he usually did. He had not even demonstrated the politeness of getting out of the car and walking with her to the door of her building. Unaware of how close she had come, she found and dropped her keys.


Jonathan and Janice Andrews were sitting in their living room. He read to her aloud from David Copperfield as she crocheted. This was one of their favorite routines, and they practiced it with great regularity. As it was well into December, some burning logs were crackling in the fireplace. The sound mixed pleasantly with that of the antique clock on the wall. It was a good day to read. Jonathan stopped for a moment. This was okay, because they mutually recognized reading together as a good conversation starter.

“I like some of these descriptions of friendships and families.”

Janice looked up from her work and watched him. She could tell from his tone of voice that more was coming.

“It reminds me of when the kids were here. I know this is for the best, but I still miss them.”

“They’ll be back,” she answered softly. “At our age, time passes quickly.”

“Is it okay if I stop reading? My voice is getting tired.”

“Certainly. You’ve been at it for over an hour.”

Jonathan closed the book and returned it to its place on one of the inset shelves in their living room. Sitting back down on the sofa, he thumbed through a scrapbook which was always kept on the coffee table. He and Janice now subscribed to the Kansas City Star in hard copy just so he could make that scrapbook. The clippings which he perused fell into three categories.

Some mentioned a particular linebacker, uncommonly large and mobile for that position, who played for the Kansas City Chiefs. His story was unusual in that he had tried out successfully at a rookie mini-camp one spring after never having played in a game. He could run the 40 yard dash in 4.4 seconds, and his vertical leap was 36 inches. Jonathan chuckled. He knew that this individual had held back to avoid drawing too much attention to himself.

That the talented athlete had initially been unfamiliar with the playbook never mattered, for he was quick on the uptake. On the field, he reacted quickly and showed an innate ability to shed blocks and to defend against the run and the short pass. Those who attempted to block him and those he successfully tackled were quoted as saying that he did not hit especially hard. In fact, they offered little recollection of the physical contact except to say that they invariably ended up on the ground. Remarkably, he had never injured an opposing player and had never been injured himself.

There was also a featured series about a uniquely effective home for abused children. The woman who served as its publicist and fundraiser was noted for her compassion and her uncanny perception, and she had a habit of quoting classic works of literature. Also the founder of this organization, it was she who had contacted the right professionals and persuaded them to work with the children, she who had engaged businessmen and civic leaders in the project. In one interview, she emphasized the effectiveness of addressing problems early before they could grow to larger proportions. She also acknowledged the aforementioned football player for supporting the home with sizeable contributions from his salary.

A few additional reports covered the occasional and clandestine exploits of two masked vigilantes, clad in black, who had a knack for catching sex offenders in their attempts and preventing them from completing their crimes. Both of the anonymous heroes were adept at disarming criminals who were carrying weapons. One was huge and amazingly quick. The other, a woman of slight build, allegedly had the ability to render opponents unconscious at the mere touch of a hand, but the only evidence of this came from accounts by people who had been rescued. Such tales were considered grateful exaggerations. The most recent of the reports on these unusual crime fighters was about five years old. As mysteriously as their activities had begun, they had just as mysteriously ceased.

There exist in the scientific literature various articles concerning the generation of chimeric mice by means of embryo fusion experiments. Such experiments were done by the micromanipulation of embryos which had not yet reached the blastocyst stage. The embryos used were composed of as few as eight, four, or two cells. For example, two mouse embryos, one destined to become albino and the other black, were fused to form a chimeric embryo which developed into a normal mouse after being implanted into a surrogate mother. Different segments of black and white fur could be observed in the offspring. Even the eyes were of different colors.

In another case, a chimeric female mouse was produced from the fusion of three embryos that would have developed separately into a black, a brown, and a white mouse. The result was a calico mouse. When mated to an albino male, this female gave birth to a litter of black, brown, and white offspring – meaning that her ovaries were composed of cells that were derived from all three of the embryos that had been fused to form her. There was no reason to believe that this phenomenon was limited by the sex of the chimera. In principle, a similarly chimeric male could have produced the same kinds of results in a reciprocal cross.

On the mantle above Janice and Jonathan’s fireplace stood a lone photograph in a frame. It was a family portrait in which Adam and Evelyn Smith – formerly known as Tommy and Angel – smiled with their arms around two young children: a boy and a girl. The son was blonde-haired, blue-eyed, and entirely Caucasian while his sister was biracial in appearance. Between the clippings in the scrapbook and that photograph on the mantle stood a great paradox, the theme of an ongoing story about two entangled souls. In the midst of combating monstrous evil, Adam and Eve had found their way into paradise.


Alias Adam (Chapters 30-31)

Chapter 30 – Predator

This was perfect. The club in Columbia was packed wall to wall with people, most of them his age and better than half of them women. A number were attractive. It was like a cafeteria in there. All he had to do was make his selection and wait. They were dancing, drinking, shouting to be heard. Nobody would pay any attention to him.

Quite a few of the coeds were intoxicated and unguarded, but most of them were with friends. He needed to find someone who was alone, someone who wouldn’t be missed. How should he do this – sidle up beside a target, slip the drug into her drink, and act like she was with him when she got groggy? That might do it. He passed over a few candidates. There was something in their manner that put him off.

Wait – there she was, and she was the most beautiful woman in the room. He pushed his way through the sweaty pandemonium to where she leaned with her back against the bar. Ordering a drink, he glanced at her profile out of the corner of his eye. Nice. Very nice. The bartender wasn’t looking, and neither was she. No one would notice. Leaning on his right elbow, he held the little bottle in his left hand and slipped it slowly between his arm and his body. He edged closer to her drink. Extending the bottle until it was just over her cup, he started to tilt it.

He felt a soft hand on his wrist and started sinking slowly toward the floor. The edge of the bar was receding above him. Strong hands were under his armpits lifting him. The throbbing music became more distant. Though propped up physically, he felt as if he were continuing to sink, and he became aware of something dark swirling about him in frustration. He fell the rest of the way into a tormented dream he would be unable to remember.

The first rays of the sun awakened him. He was outdoors and lying on a mowed path. Taller grasses on either side of this trail stirred in the early morning breeze, and it was chilly. Turning his head to the right, he suddenly closed his eyes. The woman he had attempted to drug was seated next to him with her knees drawn up to her chin and her arms wrapped around her legs. He groaned and rolled his face toward the sky. She spoke to him.

“Do you feel disoriented? Are you wondering what happened to you while you were out? That’s how your victims would feel.”

Save for an increase in his rate of breathing, there was no answer.

“Imagine being a woman – me, for instance – and waking up with the feeling that your clothes don’t quite fit.”

Although he did not know this, the effects of the organic anesthetic had been aggravated by the small amount of alcohol he had consumed, and this amplified the impact of her words.

“Where am I?”

“You’re in a very special place. This is Osage Village. In a way, I kind of found myself here. Do you really know who you are?”

Confused, he said nothing.

“You should give that some thought. Tell me your name, please.”

After what he had tried to do to her, this struck him as a reasonable request. He felt the outside of his pants pocket. His wallet was still there. She could have removed it and gotten the information she wanted. She could have robbed and abandoned him, but she had not. Neither had she turned him in.

“Uh, Ron. My name is Ronald Avery.”

“Are you a student at MU?”

The apparent incongruity of this question knocked him off balance and promoted further honesty.

“That’s right,” he said with a trace of sarcasm as he sat up woozily. “Go Tigers.”

“What are you majoring in?”


He hung his head. The reminder of academic responsibility intensified his shame. What if his parents found out?

“I graduated with a major in literature and a minor in philosophy. The study of ethics has a lot to say about our values and priorities. A course like that would be good for a business major like you, yeah?”

“I – I guess so.”

He was beginning to wonder if he was on the right planet.

“You may have gathered by now that I’m older than you. Do you have any sisters?”


“That might have helped. Would you want someone to do to your mother what you wanted to do to me?”

The feeling was one of being vaccinated, and the needle kept going deeper.

“I, uh – I guess I hadn’t thought of it that way.”

“Ron, I’m going to ask you an important question, and you need to answer me honestly. Is this the first time you’ve tried this? I’ll be able to tell if you’re lying.”

“She will, Ron.”

This deeper voice startled him. For the first time since he had awakened, he looked up and to his left. About six feet away, a massive man of mottled complexion was standing with his back to him. The man’s head was facing sideways toward the southern horizon. Now he understood how he had gotten here. Again, he lowered his head.

“It was the first time. I was curious – and horny.”

“And insecure,” Evelyn Morris commented. “There are better ways to relate to women.”

“Well, I’m not too good at that.”

“You could try talking to us,” she offered.

“I can never figure out what to say.”

“That’s because you’re angling. Why not forget about that and just treat us like people? You can be nice and talk about normal topics. The right people respond well when someone takes a genuine interest in them.”

“And if they don’t?”

“Then just leave them alone, but eventually, someone will. Don’t obligate them with your attention. If someone doesn’t reciprocate, move on. A lot of people are lonely. You’re not unusual that way.”

The young man heard footsteps on the soft earth. He was aware of considerable bulk approaching then looming over him. He dared not look up.

“Look at me,” Adam commanded.

There was no coercion in the tone of this directive, so Ron looked compliantly, though reluctantly, at his imposing interrogator. Unmatched eyes seemingly burned downward from the center of that varied complexion.

“The woman you tried to drug is my best friend. Do you know what we do together?”

“None of my business,” he mumbled.

“Then why did you get in the way of it?”

The would-be predator began to shake uncontrollably. Adam bent over and placed a steadying hand on his shoulder.

“Let’s go back to my first question.”

“I – I don’t know.”

“We talk. She has a fascinating mind, and I love the sound of her voice.”

Eve’s cheeks and ears flushed, but she recovered quickly.

“We’re much more interesting as people than as sex objects,” she added.

“I’m Adam. Look at her, Ron.”

He blinked and resumed staring at the ground.

“I can’t.”

“That wasn’t a request.”

It wasn’t a threat, either. It was a moral imperative, and he obeyed again.

“It’s good to look at her if you do it in the right way. She’s a human being. See her with new eyes.”

Ronald Avery didn’t expect what came to him next. It was a childhood recollection of his mother, his aunts, other adult women, and how he had regarded them prior to the detrimental effects of acculturation and hormones. In this light, he saw Evelyn much as Adam had for the first time in the coffeehouse at Westport. She was beautiful and unspoiled. Who in his right mind would ever want to ruin that? Out of respect he stood up. She remained seated. Looking down on her didn’t feel right, so he kneeled.

“I’m sorry, Miss.”

“I have a name,” she said softly. “You told me yours. Mine’s Evelyn.”

She stood and extended your hand.

“It’s nice to meet you.”

He hesitated.

“It is?”

“Sure. You’re worth saving. We were, too. You know, I’ve read that rapists are never satisfied – not even when they succeed. Have you ever wondered why that is?”

“I didn’t get that far, so no.”

“It’s because forced penetration isn’t the same as intercourse with a willing, enthusiastic partner. Bodies respond differently in each circumstance, and I haven’t really said anything about the psychological effects of love.”

The resulting silence was uncomfortable, but the discomfort was appropriate. Eve allowed time for it to work.

“Can you promise us you’ll never do anything like this again?” she asked.

He stood again and took her hand, and she watched him intently. It was as if she could see inside of him, as if nothing could be hidden.

“I promise.”

Her inspection ended in a look of apparent satisfaction.

“I believe you. Ron, you’ll remember your decision and what we’ve talked about. You won’t remember me, and you won’t remember Adam.”

She touched his temples, and he was out. Powerful arms caught and lifted him.

“Wow,” Eve exclaimed. “I’m still amazed that all I have to do is think of the result, and then it happens when I touch somebody.”

When Ron came to, it was dark, and he was back in Columbia. He was seated in an alley with his legs extended and his back against a wall. The street beyond the mouth of the alley looked familiar. He was in the college town just off campus from the University of Missouri. The incidents of that morning were blurred, but key parts of his conversation with Evelyn remained with him. He vaguely understood that he had been somewhere else, that he was back, and that he had lost about twenty-four hours. He could not remember the people who had confronted him, but he remembered everything he and they had said. Three things had been implanted in his mind: an ideal of womanhood, an ideal of manhood, and an ideal of how women should be treated by men. Failure to experience or live up to those ideals did not invalidate them, but that did not matter. He had made up his mind, and he felt more human.

His eyes caught sight of the little bottle, still almost full, beside him on the pavement. They had left it with him. This was a test of his sincerity. He shakily got up and bent down to pick it up. Examining it, he felt revulsion toward himself and his former intentions. He wanted a clear conscience.  Thinking carefully, he scrutinized the wall on the opposite side of the alley. Something he could not identify, some oppressive presence, surrounded him. Seeking to restrain him from doing what he had to do, it had not completely taken over, but neither had it left. He hurled the bottle away in disgust. The monster disintegrated with the smashing of glass against the brick wall. As Ron walked toward the street, he did not notice the two figures which looked down on him from the overlooking rooftop of a store that had closed for the evening. The smaller of the two addressed the larger.

“Hey. We make a pretty good team, yeah? Are you in the mood for some jazz?”

Chapter 31 – Warrior

“We need to get a car of our own. Jonathan’s getting nervous about the amount of miles we’re putting on this one.”


“He hasn’t said anything, but I can tell.”

“Knowing him, he doesn’t want to discourage us, Adam. What do you think we should do?”

“We can’t afford a new car, but we can contribute more money to the house until we can.”

“Neither one of them will settle for that.”

He raised his eyebrows and drummed the steering wheel with his thick fingers. It was dark outside their vehicle, and they were both dressed in black. Eve had been right. The new fabric breathed. It also afforded greater freedom of movement.

“We’ll just have to be persistent. They’ll accept the new normal after a while.”

“What about your medical bills?”

“Medicaid picked up most of the cost, and I’ve made a sizeable dent in the rest. It won’t be much longer.”

She nodded thoughtfully.

“That should free up a fair amount of money. Maybe we could put it toward a used car.”

“If I save carefully…”

“And I could put some aside, too. After all, we’d both be using it.”

They were driving south along I-49. Adam turned on the right blinker when he saw the off ramp for State Road 171.

“Okay with you if I go this way?”

“You’re the navigator on this one,” she answered. “We wouldn’t even be doing this if it weren’t for another of your premonitions.”

The highway skimmed along the northern edge of Carthage. After a few more minutes, they entered Webb City and turned left at the intersection with Madison. The name of this street changed to Rangeline as they headed south into Joplin. Almost instinctively, Adam made a series of turns until they were closer to the downtown area.

“Better get your mask ready. We’re close.”

“These outfits work better, yeah?”


“Still black – but ventilated and form-fitting. The shoes, too. They’re lighter and they grip better.”


His last response indicated that he was thinking of something else. She made no further attempt to engage him in conversation. They had been working together for long enough that she recognized this peculiar fade in his concentration from the immediate to the imminent. Suddenly, he pulled over and pointed to the entrance of an alley.


With their masks on, they initially proceeded with caution. They did not know what to expect. Evelyn took the lead since her night vision was more accurate. They moved silently and quickly in the shadows of the alley. It was about when they reached the literal center of the block that Eve stood up straight and placed her hands on her hips.

“I think we’ve found her.”

An unconscious woman was slumped near a utility pole. As they moved closer, they could see that she was partially undressed and had sustained some bruises. Adam looked blankly at his partner. He was primed for action, but there was nothing for him to do. The adrenaline began to subside, and he felt uncharacteristically weak.

“Eve, no…”

“Adam, look away. She’ll feel better when I wake her if she’s fully dressed.”

Like a smoldering mountain, he did an about face. He understood. This scene was all too familiar. Eve went about her task and then called out softly.

“Okay. She’s more presentable.”

He remained with his back to her.

“Should I step away?”

“I don’t know yet.”

Compassionately, Eve touched her fingertips to the unconscious woman’s forehead. Her eyes blinked open, and she stared angrily at the slice of starlit sky peeking down from between the buildings on either side of the alley. Sitting up suddenly, she pounded the sides of her fists on the pavement in frustration. Adam was genuinely startled to hear her exclaim the very words he was thinking.

“No! Not again!”

He whipped around to see his friend vigorously waving him off. The victim had not yet caught sight of him. He stepped into the shadow of a back entryway. Eve took hold of her wrists in an effort to calm her and to keep her from damaging her hands.

“This has happened to me too – repeatedly. I’m here to help.”

“Who put my skirt back on?”

“I did. The last time this happened, did you report it?”

“No. It wouldn’t have done any good.”

It will tonight. We’re going to catch him.”

“You? Who are you?”

“I can’t identify myself, but I mean what I said.”

“Well, it’s not him. It’s them. There were two. What can you do?”

Her words had come between forceful breaths.

“Not just me – not anymore. I have a friend, a very capable friend, and we’re good at finding people. May I introduce you to him?”

She shuddered and hesitated.

“I don’t need to meet another man right now.”

“You might feel differently if you met this one. He helped me after the last time I was attacked.”

Curiosity was taking hold but not at the expense of her protective defiance.

“Suit yourself.”

This girl had some fight in her, but she had nowhere productive to direct what she was feeling. Adam stepped out of the shadows, and she gasped involuntarily.

“Please don’t be alarmed. I’m on your side.”

“Do you believe me, now?” Eve questioned.

“I – I guess so.”

Silent tears filled her eyes.

“I need to wash off.”

“That might not be the best idea,” Eve instructed. “Please think about calling this in and submitting to an examination. They’ll need forensic evidence because we’re going to catch these guys.”

“Did you know them?” asked Adam.

“No. They had knives. They threatened me not to scream, not to tell.”

“Cowards,” he muttered. “Can you describe them?”

She did, and Eve followed up with another question.

“Where did they come from?”

“I was in the bar around the corner. I didn’t even have that much to drink. They must have followed me out.”

“Is there anything else you can tell us, anything that might help?”

She drew her shoulders in for a second and a fearful look of recollection crossed her face. It was quickly replaced by one of outrage.

“Yes. There’s something else. Before they – before they…”

Eve touched her shoulder.

“You don’t have to say it.”

The woman’s eyes flashed in the dim, ambient light.

“I want to. Before they attacked me they bragged about almost having their quota for the evening.”

Adam clenched his fists.

“We’ve got them. They’re still at it, and they’ll be in custody before sunrise.”

Shocked by the forcefulness of his pronouncement, she looked up at him as Eve helped her to stand.

“We have to hurry, but only if you promise me you’ll do what I asked. The police will need evidence to match to the men who did this.”

“But… they used condoms.”

“Were you able to scratch them during the assault?”

She looked down at her hands, and her voice quavered.

“Each – each one held me by – by the wrists while the other held his knife to me and…”

Her speech was accelerating. Eve touched her on the side of her neck, and the released chemicals calmed her down. Eve repeated her question.

“Did you manage to scratch them?”

“I think so – both of them, mostly on their wrists. I twisted my hands around and dug in pretty hard. I don’t know if the first one noticed because he was laughing at me while he was holding me down for his friend, but the other one cursed at me and knocked me out when it was over.”

“Then you’ve got the evidence you need under your fingernails. Be sure not to wash your hands until after you’ve been examined, and make sure they check for signs of a concussion – that is, if you’re in.”

Feeling herself in a position of emerging strength, the assaulted woman nodded with resolve.

“I’ll do that,” she asserted.

“Are you sure? If you agree to this, you need to understand the ordeal isn’t over.”

“And it wouldn’t be if I did nothing. It wasn’t before.”

“You have a phone, yeah?”

“No. They smashed it, but I’ll go back to that bar and make the call.”

“We’d go with you, but we need to remain anonymous.”

“I wouldn’t let you, anyway. I want to do this by myself.”

“Where can we find you so you can identify them?”

She looked apprehensively at Adam and whispered her address in Evelyn’s ear.

“Don’t worry. He can be trusted. Do you need an escort?”

“No,” she answered in an effort to maintain what she could of her independence. “I’d rather walk. It’s not far.”

“Are you sure?”

She nodded again.

“Lightning won’t strike twice in one night.”

This was not a typical response, and it betrayed something unusual about the young woman’s character. Impressed by her courage and fierceness of spirit, Eve looked briefly at Adam.

“Then we’ll get started. We’ll have them for you by morning at the latest.”

They walked with her out of the alley. She turned left, and they turned right to go to their car.

“Do you have a fix on them?”

“Not yet. I need your help.”

“I know this town. They won’t work the same bar twice or even one nearby, but I doubt they’ll go too far away, either. They obviously target college girls, so that cuts the list of spots down even further. We can hit all of them. We’ve got good descriptions, and your radar might start working.”

Adam looked at her with admiration.

“So this is what you know how to do. You’re good. Let’s go hunting.”

She gave him a grim smile, and her pupils constricted.

“You know what?” he asked with a nervousness he could not conceal. “I’m glad we’re on the same side.”

It was after four in the morning when the victim heard the knock on her apartment door. Sleep had been impossible. The memory of being attacked, the perceived degradation of being examined by a man, it was all too fresh. She was too mad to sleep, and the fact that this had happened to her twice called her sense of reality into question. It was no longer possible for her to determine the rules by which the universe operated. She looked through the peep hole in the door and flinched then relaxed. The two masked figures looked threatening at first, but then she remembered them as the man and the woman who had come to her assistance in the alley. She opened her door to a sight which put her on the road to clarity. Her assailants were lying unconscious on the ground.

“They’ll be out for hours,” the female figure reassured her. “Do you recognize them?”

“It’s them,” she confirmed. “How did you…”

“That’s not important. Do you have a phone?”

“My roommate’s.”

“Please get it now.”

She closed the door. A few minutes later, she opened it.

“Dial 9-1-1,” Eve instructed. “I want to make sure you don’t do anything rash before we leave. These men are helpless, and they’re at your disposal. Don’t reduce yourself to what they are.”

“What should I say?”

“Only that the two men who attacked you tonight are passed out in front of your apartment door. It won’t be a lie, and the police might think your attackers were still stalking you. Please don’t mention us. It might interfere with our work.”

The call was made. After giving the information to the dispatcher, the young woman hung up. There was a calm urgency to Eve’s voice as they were preparing to leave.

“You know the trial’s going to be difficult. The defense attorney will try to paint you in the worst possible light. Getting them convicted won’t be the end of it, either. You’ll need professional counseling. I did, but I resisted doing it for years. When I finally gave in, it helped. And get in touch with an advocacy group. You’ll need someone in your corner to help you through the trial. All right?”

A curious expression lit her features, one of surprise, hope, and determination.

“Yes, and thank you. This is really going to happen this time, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is.” Adam confirmed. “If you’re really up for this, you could do a lot of good by following through.”

“To others like us,” Eve added. “Too many of us have been putting up with this in isolation.”

Once they were out of sight, Eve buried her face in Adam’s shoulder and cried.

“Why couldn’t we get there in time? We came as soon as we found out. Why didn’t he…”

“Do you think we can blame him?”

“No. At least I don’t want to…”

She remembered the thoughts that had answered her questions at Osage Village. Those answers had not been easy. Nor had they been emotionally satisfying, but they had spoken of responsibilities that most human beings were unwilling to undertake. The efforts that she and her chimeric friend were making would never be enough by themselves.

“This could have been my fault,” Adam reasoned. “Maybe I should have sensed it sooner. Maybe I wasn’t receptive.”

She dropped her head and shook it back and forth against his arm.

“We can’t do this to ourselves. We’ll burn out.”

“Then we’d better not try to explain it. We’d be wrong, anyway.”


“So we just keep going.”


“I just hope we didn’t push her too hard.”

Eve shook her head.

“Not this one, or I would have stopped. It might not help everyone, but it will help her.”

A thought occurred to Adam.

“I don’t know if this will make you feel any better…”


“Did you see the look in her eyes?”

Eve drove home, as she usually did, and they rode in silence. Deflated and wishing to drive more slowly in less traffic, they had decided to take S. R. 43 instead of the interstate. The darkened fields passed by their windows in mute testimony of their disappointment. Shaken by their experience that night, neither of them felt like turning on the car radio.



Alias Adam (Chapters 28-29)

Chapter 28 – No More Ghosts

Janice and Jonathan had another argument. On this occasion, he was the one who needed convincing. His main objection centered around the indefinite nature of the assignment, and it fell upon his wife to point out its necessity in moving Evelyn toward the culmination of the counseling process. In the wake of this defense, his next objection fell like a domino. True, Adam and Eve had received nothing in the way of specific instructions, but they were merely applying what they had already learned. A compromise was struck. They would leave early in the morning, and they would not be gone for more than two nights. They were also to take an envelope from Janice to be opened when they reached St. Louis.

The trip took a little less than five hours. The two remarkable friends drove east on U. S. 54 and began dipping into the foothills of the Ozarks past Collins. The scenery was more interesting here than on the relatively flat Osage Plateau region they had left behind. They picked up U. S. 65 South at Preston for about fourteen miles and turned left on S. R. 64 East when they hit Lewisburg. After a while, the road began to wind before descending to Bennett Spring State Park. Passing this, they climbed and twisted some more and were soon in Lebanon. Here, they stopped for gas and then proceeded onto I-44 as it angled northeast toward St. Louis. When they reached the city limits, Adam looked over at Eve.

“What do you think is in it?”

“In what?” she asked playfully.

“You haven’t forgotten the envelope Janice gave us. I know you’re wondering about it as much as I am.”


“So we’re here, aren’t we?”

“You read very well,” she complimented. “When we passed the sign, I wanted to see how long it would take you to ask.”

“Was it worth it?”

“Yes,” she smiled, drawing the envelope out of the glove box. “Three guesses.”

“Just one: money.”

She opened it.

“Well, look at you. Hey! It’s over four-hundred dollars, and there’s another piece of paper folded in here with it.”

She read the note and laughed.

“This is vintage Janice. She says it’s to cover the cost of two rooms for two nights. She doesn’t want us sleeping in the same room.”

“Well, we won’t, and we’re not spending one penny of that.”

“Of course we aren’t.”

Eve directed him to the housing project where she had grown up. Getting out of the sedan, they locked their doors and looked around. A beautiful sky was spread over the dismal monoliths of the project. There weren’t that many cars in the lot because most of the residents couldn’t afford them.

“Over there,” Eve said as she pointed. “That was my building. We were on the third floor.”

Despite the sunny day, the inside was dim. A number of ceiling lights were broken out, and the elevator wasn’t working. Evelyn guided them through a door under a smashed out electrical sign. The stairwell reeked of urine. She wrinkled her nose.

“The smell hasn’t changed. Some of the neighbors must have ripped their plumbing out and sold it. I wonder if they’re the same ones.”

Walking solemnly on the third floor, they stopped in front of a door about halfway down the hall. She took a deep breath.

“This is it? What do I say?”

She knocked repeatedly, but there was no answer. Her hands dropped to her sides, and she lowered her head and thought for several minutes. Her friend wisely said nothing. She looked up again and squinted at the number on the door. Her cheek muscles tightened.

“Adam, before we go any further, I need to clear my head. Janice and I couldn’t do this before because it was impractical, but now you and I are here. The first five assaults I suffered were what tipped me over the edge. The first three happened on the other side of that door, the fourth outside this building. Will you allow me to go over the details with you?”

“Do we really need to do this?”

“I know it’s uncomfortable for you, but it will help me.”

He pursed his lips and swallowed hard.

“Okay. Let’s get this over with.”

Adam actually benefited from Eve’s cognitive re-enactments. Due to his protective nature and their unique attachment, he, too, needed to be inoculated against the effects of her past. Hearing the details of each violation, he progressed rapidly through the stages of grief. His prior knowledge and experience had long since carried him past denial. Anger flared up, but he had learned more effective ways of dealing with this during his own counseling sessions. He was too street-wise, too intelligent to see any point in useless bargaining over circumstances which were firmly established. As things were decidedly looking up for both of them, there was no real basis for depression. He had, for the last couple of years, lingered between intellectual acceptance and emotional acceptance, the latter step being the most difficult to take owing to his feelings for his companion. As she blandly worked by rote through her narrative, he was able to surmount this longstanding obstacle. They went back outside, and she showed him where the fourth rape had occurred. In the parking lot, she stood on the place where she had lain as a victim: a faded, white line between two rusting automobiles.

“There were a couple of cars here then, too. This is where he dragged me. The building on the other side of the one behind us is where he died.”

They re-entered the high rise, mounted the stairs, and returned to the hallway outside her former apartment. It had been six years since she had last been there, and knocking on doors drew reactions ranging from indifference to hostility from those units where anyone happened to be home. Nobody remembered her mother, and Eve did not remember them having lived there when she had. Resolved to try every door if necessary, they moved up to the next floor and so eventually found themselves seated at the table of an elderly woman in a cramped dwelling space crawling with grandchildren.

“I don’t have the means or the room,” she explained with resignation, “but somebody’s got to raise them. Now who were you looking for?”

“Amber Morris,” Evelyn repeated. “She’s my mother.”

“Then you had a hard childhood – even for here. Say, I remember. You’re that little blonde girl of hers. I watched you grow up. Never understood how anyone could look so innocent living in that situation. My, my…”

“Do you know what happened to her? Does she still live here?”

“No, not here. She moved out some time ago. I’m sorry to say this, but word had it she was hooking to support her habit. Must have thought business was better elsewhere.”

This well-intentioned grandmother could offer no further assistance. She was burdened with a multitude of her own problems but wished them well. When they reached the parking lot, Adam spoke first.

“What do we do now? This is a pretty big city.”

“I could guess at some parts of town to search, but are you getting anything?”

“No. I’m drawing a blank.”

“No pull?”


“I wonder why he isn’t speaking?”

“He didn’t before we decided to come here, either. That was us. We didn’t come all this way by some miraculous revelation.”

“It was more of a natural thought process, a matter of conscience,” she agreed. “Who’s to say he wasn’t involved in that?”

“That makes more sense to me. He isn’t a trained animal act…”

“Or a cosmic butler…”

“He doesn’t have to speak on command. Maybe we’re supposed to do this the hard way.”

“Yeah. I guess so. I can see how it could help our character – you know perseverance…”

“… and trust,” he finished for her.”

She giggled.

“Do you hear the way we’re talking? It’s like he’s here without being here.”

Adam grinned.

“Now you’re sounding like Jonathan. Besides, maybe he’s here, and we just can’t tell.”

In a greater metropolitan area of nearly three million souls scattered through fifteen counties straddling the border between Missouri and Illinois, they had no choice but to turn to the streetwalkers in the more perilous parts of the city, and this necessitated conducting their investigation after dark. Operating on the hunch that Eve’s mother had stayed on the Missouri side of the line, they drove, stopped, questioned, and drove again. Eve knew some places where they could find working women, but none were forthcoming for the first few hours of their search. Twice, Adam had to stare down pimps foolish enough to attempt intimidating him. More often than that, he was obliged to turn down some pecuniary propositions.

They were ready to give up for the night when they found a lead. A woman using “Star” as her moniker knew of Amber. No, that particular hooker hadn’t been seen around there for at least a month. Star softened when she learned that Eve was Amber’s daughter, and she helped them narrow their search to a single neighborhood of last known activity.

“Slow business but not much competition,” was her assessment as she strolled off in search of customers.

It was decided that their best course of action would be to find somewhere to eat and then to get some sleep. Their quest would be resumed in the morning. Janice’s gift went unused after a very late dinner at a fast food place that was open all night. Unaccustomed to such unhealthy fare, they experienced indigestion and slept in the car in a somewhat safer part of town. Mid-morning found them trolling the streets of an unsavory locale that prostitutes occasionally worked as a fallback option.

“Do you think she’ll be out here at this time of day?”

“Mom? No. She’s somewhere sleeping it off, but we might find someone who can give us more information.  Keep to where the stores are. There isn’t enough activity on the residential streets.”

“It’s a long shot,” he sighed. “Why do I get the feeling this is actually going to work?”

“Wait – over there. I’ve seen that man before. He was one of my mother’s suppliers. He operated in the projects where we lived.”

“Has it struck you that all of this might be too coincidental?” he asked. “This is happening faster than we have a right to expect.”

Adam pulled over to the curb, and they got out of the car. Eve calmly walked up to the pusher and established eye contact.

“You dealt drugs to my mother.”

“Whoa, now… your mother? Who’s that?”

“Amber Morris.”

“Oh, yeah… I remember her. Been off her game, for the last year or so. You that little girl she used to drag around with her?”

He leered.

“You were a looker even then. Too bad your old lady couldn’t keep it together. Got looks too sorry for those project payments, now.”

“Project payments,” Eve repeated with contempt.

“You know how that works. She’d give me a little. I’d give her a little.”

The bait was not taken, and she betrayed no emotion as Adam walked up behind her.

“I need to know where she is. Will you help me?”

“That depends on what we can work out.”

Whether is it was an innuendo or a demand for payment, Adam didn’t like the implications. He leaned in menacingly.

“Just tell her.”

The dealer backed up and waved his hands nervously.

“Okay… okay. No trouble here. I don’t know where she’s holed up.”

“But you know her.”

“Yeah, she works this street sometimes. When she has what I want, I give her what she needs. Hold on, now. Let me ask.”

He called to some loiterers farther down the street.

“Any of you seen the hit lady?”

Eve was incensed by his manner. The men began sauntering over to them.

“Why did you call her that?”

The man shrugged as if it should have been obvious.

“Anyone can have her for a hit.”

“If you’re desperate,” one of the indigents taunted.

He looked critically at the chimera.

“You desperate?”

“Not at all.”

“I think you look desperate. Maybe I can tell you what you want to know if you let us in on the action with your girlfriend.”

Eve saw the shadows within them. She raised her hands to waist level.

“Not yet,” Adam whispered in her ear.

He fixed his eyes on the provocateur.

“So you know where the woman we’re looking for lives.”

The man seemed to shrivel a little.

“It’s no kind of house… abandoned… not too far from here. Hit lady hasn’t been this way for awhile.”

The more Adam stared at him, the more information he revealed. He gave them the address. The rest of the group began crowding around them. Their hands were concealed. Having a well-practiced eye for trouble, the dealer walked quickly away. Adam and Eve betrayed not the slightest sense of anxiety, and this made the encircling pack hesitate.

“I’ve seen this before,” Adam announced matter-of-factly. “You’re getting ready to come out of your pockets, but you’ll be down before you can use whatever you’re carrying. Are you sure that’s what you want?”

None of them answered. Each had adopted a flat affect.

“You should ask yourselves why we aren’t nervous,” Eve seconded.

“We take him out, we can take you down,” one of them postulated.

Adam followed up with some advice.

“You’re basing that on inaccurate information. It would be safer for you to show us your backs and walk away.”

They failed to heed his advice. There were six of them. Adam disarmed four, and Eve disarmed the other two while rendering them unconscious. Five knives, one gun, and six bodies fell to the pavement. The altercation lasted less than a minute.

“You should have taken the deal,” Adam lectured the four on the sidewalk who were still awake.

They were holding their ribs and breathing with difficulty as they rolled back and forth on the ground.

“Put your hands in your pockets, and hold still.”

This group was neither as determined nor as hardened as the gang they had apprehended in Gladstone. Adam’s instructions were followed with alacrity. Evelyn touched the forehead of each, and they quickly passed out.

“You’re okay with calling the police, yeah?”

“Completely. They might get useful forensic evidence. I mean, the culprits are lying right next to their weapons. Who knows what those have been used for in the past?”

She looked down at their vanquished adversaries.

“They look so peaceful – like little children.”

“Ironic, considering what they tried and what’s about to happen to them,” Adam reminded her. “It’s easy to be compassionate after we’ve won.”

An expression of worry passed over her face.

“They were children once. What happened?”

“I’m sure you’ve heard the explanations, Eve.”

“But those explanations apply to us, too. What happened to them?”

“It might be better to consider what happened to us.”

“Someone cared,” she thought aloud. “Someone intervened and took an interest.”

“Maybe things worked out because we were honestly searching for something better…”

A thought interrupted him, and he paused.

“… not that we necessarily deserved it.”

They fell silent for a moment.

“What is it with you?” she asked in mock astonishment as they walked back to the car. “Two dishonorable men told you the truth.”

He shrugged.

“Besides getting us involved in a fight, it got us your mom’s last known address. I hope this pans out. Oh… you brought your phone, didn’t you?”

“You didn’t bring yours?”

“Uh, no. It’s on the night stand by my bed. I don’t use it all that much.”

She giggled in amusement.

“Did you even leave it plugged in to the charger?”

“I don’t know. I forget that a lot.”

“What if I’d left mine, too? What if we’d had car trouble?”

“So I should start carrying it.”

“At least on road trips. Besides, what if I wanted to get hold of you when we’re in different places?”

Crouching down, Eve began going through the pockets of the fallen men.

“What are you doing?”

“Looking for another phone. Mine’s off to save the battery, and I don’t want my number traced. Ah… there we are.”

She dialed 9-1-1 and waited.

“Given our new hobby, we’d best remain anonymous.”

When there was an answer on the other end, she reported their location and what the police would find there.

“Uh, no,” he heard her say. “We don’t want to be identified.”

After she hung up, she wiped the phone off to remove her prints, and they returned to the car.

“We’d better get out of here. I don’t know the streets. Can you find the address?”

“Yeah. Not to dwell on my former vocation, but I’ve done reconnaissance in this neighborhood before. Turn left up here.”

Without hesitation, she guided him down some residential streets. Within minutes, they were parked in front of a row of dilapidated houses. The one for which they were looking no longer had a visible address on the front, but they identified it based on those of the houses on either side. It was two stories high, and most of its windows were broken or boarded up. White paint was peeling from the wood of its clapboard siding. Litter was strewn across the porch and into the meager front yard. When they reached the door, Eve hesitated.

“Are you sure you want to do this?”

“I have to, especially after the trouble we’ve gone through. It’s worse than what I was expecting, even worse than where we used to live. She must be in awfully bad shape.”

Adam followed her in. The first floor was deserted and devoid of furniture.

“Hello? Is anyone home?”

There was no reply. Cautiously, they started up the stairs. The second floor featured a rectangular area off of which a number of rooms opened. Most of the doors were off their hinges or missing altogether. They walked slowly around this space. Some of the rooms were occupied by people lying incapacitated on the floor with needles, bottles, and other paraphernalia. Others were empty. The sleepers were apparently incapable of waking from their stupor. They heard the sound of a person coughing and went to investigate. The occupant of the room from which the noise emanated was an old woman or at least a woman who looked old. She wore the lines of hard living on her face.

“Who are you?” she asked suspiciously. “Haven’t seen you here before.”

“I’m looking for Amber Morris.”


“Amber Morris. She’s my mother. I was told she lives here.”

“Don’t know anyone by that name. Get out of here. Leave me alone.”

“Some people called her the hit lady,” Adam interceded.

“Her? Yeah, she lived here. Your mother, you say?”


“Not here any more. She OD’d n’ died. Some fool called 9-1-1 when the smell got too bad. Too high to know better. Police came with the ambulance, and took her out of here in a bag. Cleared all of us out, too, but me and some others, we came back.”

Eve couldn’t speak. Adam gently led her away by her shoulders.

“Sorry for the interruption. It’s your home, and we’re going.”

When they left the house and stepped into the sunlight, Eve stopped and gazed absently into the sky.

“No more ghosts,” she stated with finality.

“Do you want to find out where she’s buried?”

“No. She won’t be there. I forgive her.”

“You’re lucky. At least you know who to forgive.”

“She never talked about her parents, not even when I asked. I don’t know where they are or even if they’re alive. The only link to my past – it’s broken.”

“Is that such a bad thing?”

Her voice wavered.

“We’re rootless, Adam.”

“Not anymore. We have people, now.”

“The city must have a place where they bury homeless people,” she mused. “Before I left home for good, I asked her why she kept me. She said for the welfare payments. I never saw her after that, never spoke to her. She lived off of the government. I suppose it’s appropriate that she died off of them, too.”

She laughed briefly to keep from crying.

“You know, I daydreamed about saving her.”

He tried to console her.

“It was a good dream.”

“We’re alive and new, Adam. Isn’t it beautiful out here?

Surrounded by squalor, she stopped watching the clouds and faced him. Her expression was one of supplication.

“I don’t want to lead you on or anything, but could you hold my hand?”

He consented, and it struck him that she seemed to be steadying herself.

“Let’s get out of her,” she decided. “We both smell terrible.”

Chapter 29 – Pushy

“No… mmmph… stop.”

He wasn’t listening. His kisses didn’t feel passionate. They felt more like an attempt to keep her from speaking. His right forearm was across her shoulders and upper chest, pinning her back to the car seat, and he was nearly on top of her. A knee was poking painfully into her thigh. He groped her. She reached for the door handle, but he pulled her hand away. The pressure being exerted by his right forearm kept her from wiggling free. His left hand began fumbling with her belt buckle. She tried to push it away, but he squeezed her arm until it hurt. Suddenly, the weight was off of her, and she could take a deep breath. She saw his shoes disappearing through the driver’s side window.

This was a lovely spring evening which had grown progressively worse. He had driven her out of town and into the hills surrounding Springfield despite her requests to turn around and take her home. He had explained that there was a nice spot that he wanted to show her. Once they had arrived here, he had initiated what she thought was a typical “DTR” talk. Yes, she liked him, she had reassured. Then how about showing him, he had suggested. From there the conversation had turned progressively more uncomfortable until it became obvious that words alone would not defend her.

His head was thrust back into the car.

“Tell her you’re sorry.”

“She didn’t mind,” he protested.

“Yes, I did!” she answered with a loudness that surprised her.

“You heard that, right? When a woman thinks she’s being raped, she’s being raped.”

His head was pulled quickly out of the window. Through the blur of her emotions, she saw a huge figure, dressed entirely in black, carrying her date into the woods. She couldn’t hear her attacker saying anything. Maybe a hand was over his mouth. The light sounds of movement through the underbrush became indiscernible, and she was alone. As she cried softly, the night sounds failed to soothe her.

Back in the woods, the would-be perpetrator felt himself being tossed earthward. He was somewhat dazed as he sat up in the detritus covering the ground.

“Don’t try to get up.”

He tried and found himself having to sit up again.

“You don’t like being controlled, do you? Think about how she felt.”

“Look. I won’t do it again, okay? Just let me go.”

A second voice, this one feminine, made comment.

“Don’t. This one’s lying. He’s done this before, and he has no intention of stopping. I wish we could turn him in.”

“It’s no good. He hasn’t really done anything yet, at least not anything that could be proved. There isn’t enough evidence to arrest him.”

Petrified, the man remained quiet.

“What about his date?”

“It would be her word against his.”

“Maybe we could testify.”

“Do you think it would stand up in court? We can’t risk exposing ourselves.”

“Well, we can’t just let him go…”

“And we can’t kill him. Doggone it, that just wouldn’t be nice.”

“No, really. I’ll stop.”

“Who gave you permission to speak?” the woman scolded. “You’re interrupting.”

There was a pause.

“Do you believe him now?”

“Nope. Still lying. That surprises me. They normally tell the truth around you. He must be a hard case.”

“Then we’ll just have to give him a reason to quit. He might fess up later.”

“That depends,” the feminine voice speculated. “Did you read that article I gave you?”

“Oh, sure.”

“What type do you think he is?”

“Hmmm… I’ll go with power-reassurance?”

“Do you think he’s that inept?”

“I see what you mean. Probably not. How about power-assertive?”

“It’s hard to tell if he’s that violent.”

“He doesn’t seem all that athletic,” the masculine voice added. “Maybe he works out a little. He is dressed kind of macho.”

“And he obviously got to know her first. That’s rather typical.”

“About the violence thing… we did manage to get here before he got very far, and he was using a certain amount of force.”

“What about Gladstone?”

“Definitely anger-excitation – at least the leader. He was into inflicting mental anguish, but maybe the others were more of the anger-retaliation variety.”

“Yeah. Either way, this guy doesn’t look that sick.”

He looked upward. Both figures were dressed identically, right down to their black ski masks. The smaller one slapped her forehead with the heel of her palm.

“What are we doing?” she asked jokingly. “Those FBI profiles only apply to rapists who target strangers. Maybe he knew her better than that. Let’s ask him.”

“How long have you known her?” his male captor demanded.

“We’ve been dating a few months. We both go to Missouri State.”

“I’d say she looks younger than you. What is she, a freshman?”

His female interrogator took over.

“I’ll bet you met her in a bar.”

“Uh… yes,” he replied weakly.

“And you cultivated the relationship.”

Her companion broke in.

“But you had this in mind from the beginning.”

“Yes,” he admitted, although he didn’t know why.

“That’s better,” the masked woman said approvingly. “Maybe he’s finally wearing down. As to his type, he might be farther down on the continuum. About the only differences between him and a power-assertive that I can see are frequency and how well he gets to know his victims beforehand. Oh, and maybe a lesser degree of force. Well, I can’t stay any longer. Do what you think is best.”

The slight figure walked away. She reminded him of a phantom from some bad dream. The large man grabbed him by his shoulders, jerked him to his feet, and held his head between two gloved hands. Feeling the strength of this anatomical vice, the violator started hyperventilating. Had this masked terror changed his mind? Was he going to snap his neck?

“Look at me, and listen carefully.”

They were standing in a shaft of moonlight that penetrated the canopy of the trees. Desperately, hopefully, he beheld the eyes revealed by the slits in the mask. In the dim light, they didn’t seem to match. He found their intensity threatening.


“I said listen. A number of studies have been done on guys like you – anonymous surveys, mostly. College men who commit sexual assault number about one in ten. Still listening? Four out of five of those rapists think they’ve done nothing illegal. You might not consider yourself a rapist, but let’s get rid of this misunderstanding. Like I said back at the car, if a woman thinks she’s being raped, she is being raped. Got it?”

His captive vainly gripped Adam’s wrists in an effort to free his head.

“Sure,” he grunted. “Whatever you say.”

“I’m not convinced. You don’t seem to be intrinsically motivated to do the right thing, so here’s another piece of useful information. One study found that around one-fifth to one-third of college males would consider raping if they knew they wouldn’t get caught. Let me give you some extrinsic motivation. You were caught tonight, and it could easily happen again. No matter where you go, no matter what you do, remember what I tell you next. There is someone who knows the thoughts that squirm in your brain. Either you’re done, or you will be found out. You will pay. How’s that for extrinsic motivation?”

“Uh, pretty effective.”

“I know you’re saying what you think I want to hear, so I’m going to give you time to come to your senses. If I catch you walking out of these woods before sunrise, you’ll be sorry. We live a long way away, and we had no trouble finding you tonight. There’s nowhere to hide. Now keep staring at the ground, and think.”

He obeyed more out of fear than sincerity. When he finally looked around, he was by himself. That massive shadow could be lurking nearby, and his only guarantee of safety was to wait until morning before returning to his car.

His intended victim was walking down the road when she reached an intersection. She had almost driven away in his car, but she did not want to be accused of stealing it. For as long as she had been walking, she must have been farther out of town than she originally thought. Which way should she go? Hearing the sound of a vehicle approaching from behind, she flinched. The car stopped beside her. Its windows were down.

“Can I give you a ride?” the driver asked.

Relieved to hear another female voice, the college student nodded. The driver, dressed in shorts, a tee shirt, and black running shoes, was in her late twenties, but she looked younger.

“I don’t really know where I’m going. I need to get to my apartment in Springfield.”

“How did you get all the way out here?”

“My date. I thought he was okay, but he brought me out here and tried to rape me.”

She started to cry.

“Get in. I know how to get to town. Once we’re there, you can guide me wherever you need to go.”

As they rode back toward Springfield, the driver tried to make conversation.

“There are some tissues in the glove compartment if you need them. You said he tried to rape you. What stopped him?

“Some guy pulled him off of me. I didn’t get a good look at him, but he was huge.”

“You should be thankful. I’ve been assaulted before when no one was around to help me.”

This information caused a change in the passenger’s expression.

“How did you meet this jerk?”

Emboldened by the knowledge that she was in the presence of a fellow veteran, the co-ed kept talking.

“Where else? In a bar.”

“Not the best place to meet Mister Right…”

“Whatever. Everybody goes out.”

“So he got your number and started calling, yeah?”

“How did you know?”

“Well you were with him, tonight. Besides, they’re pretty predictable, aren’t they?”

“Sure are,” she agreed to avoid appearing naïve. “He called a lot – even showed up at my campus job once or twice. I thought it was by accident.”

“It wasn’t by accident. Let me fill in the blanks. He asked you out, and you said yes.”

“He seemed nice.”

“And after a while he tried to monopolize your time and isolate you from your friends. If you got into a disagreement, he would grab your hand or squeeze or twist your arm a little.”

“That’s just normal.”

“Is it? Should it be? So you dated for what…”

“Almost three months.”

“He made most of the decisions, and he usually got his way, didn’t he? If someone held a gun to my head – and, believe me, it’s happened before – I’d say tonight was a pre-arranged date.”


“Don’t tell me. He took you drinking, and then he brought you here. That’s not much of a date.”

“How do you know all this?”

“Remember what I said about this type being predictable. You don’t have to settle. You can insist on better.”

After playing the role of chauffeur, Eve went back and found Adam walking along the same road. Except for wearing gloves, he was dressed much as she was, and he carried a black ski mask in his right hand. Black sweatpants and a matching sweatshirt were draped over his left forearm. Their discussion in front of the perpetrator had been somewhat staged, but they had ad-libbed nicely. It was uncanny how they could anticipate each other’s thoughts. She slowed to a stop.

“You’re cute. Want a ride?”

“Nah, I’ve only got a hundred miles or more to go.”

“You’re sweating,” she laughed as he got into the car.

“It’s warm out, and this outfit was hot,” he said as he flipped his mask and sweats into the back.

“Don’t look at me. You did the shopping for both of us.”

“Well, these worked better in colder weather. Do they have spring lines for superhero costumes?”

“It’s called athletic wear, Adam. Some fabrics breathe. We can look into it.”

“As long as it’s on-line. I’ve had enough of shopping in person. Mission accomplished?”

“She’s home, safe and sound. I don’t know how much anything I said sunk in, though.”

“Me neither. At least we tried. You still good to drive?”

“For now. I’ll let you know if I get tired. Since we’re near a college town, maybe you can find us some jazz.”

He couldn’t, so they settled for rock. As they went west along I-44 to Joplin, the signal faded. It was country music for a while after that. Near Joplin, Adam found something more to their liking. It stayed with them all the way on I-49 North to Nevada.