I hear mom enter the apartment. I’m listening to music in my room. I had chosen a pale, yellow wall color with a stark white comforter because the colors reminded me of California. Mom had painted the room a few nights ago and the smell of fresh paint permeates the room. I’m curled up on my bed, staring out the window, just listening to music when mom peaks in. She seems shocked to see me purposely doing nothing. Before she says anything, she turns on her jamming device.
“Hi sweetheart. I’ve never seen you like this.” Mom sits on the bed next to me and pushes the hair out of my eyes.
“What do you mean?”
“I never see you lounging around. It is nice to see you take a break. How was the game?”
“Everything I imagined it to be.”
“Really?” Mom takes a closer look at me with a smile on her face. “Everything you could imagine. With your mind, the possibilities are endless. Who won the game?” Mom asks.
“The Yankees. It was a no-hitter. Hey, Mom, Josh asked me to go for a boat ride on Sunday. I think we are heading to the Jersey shore. Would you mind if I went?”
“No. I think it’s great for you to get out, especially on a beautiful summer day and you don’t need to ask permission. Although I appreciate you checking in with me on anything related to Katharine Lucas. I just have to ask if the boat is sea worthy.”
“Well I wouldn’t know about its mechanics but technically it is a yacht. It looks like he takes good care of it.”
“I would hope so. Was it a gift from his mother?”
A ghost of a smile crosses my lips. “No. Josh inherited the boat from his grandfather. He was very close to him.”
Mom sits down next to me on the bed. “Analia, I think you are falling for him. You have stars in your eyes when you talk about him.”
“Mom, that is so corny. I am trying so hard not to fall for him. Josh is a few years older and really attractive. Girls stare at him out in public and even at work sometimes. I don’t know what he sees in me except that I am some brainy girl.” I’m quiet for a few seconds. “I am not comfortable feeing so unsure about myself.”
“I think you are describing the effect of butterflies in your stomach.” I roll my eyes as mom laughs. “It is disconcerting to be pushed out of your comfort zone. You are a queen in the world of science. You just never looked at yourself as an attractive woman before. And I am not just saying this because I am your mother. You are quite beautiful.”
“Thanks mom, but you are biased. Are you going to keep saying that until I agree with you?” I laugh as mom shakes her head. “How did you feel when you met dad?”
“It happened really fast. I had just started working in the neonatal unit. It turned out your father was competing in the New York City triathlon like me. We agreed to go out to eat after we finished our race. Within hours I knew we would be together, forever. My friend Ziva told me I had stars in my eyes when she saw me after that.”
“Do you still feel that way about him?” I ask.
“That feeling of falling in love is like getting high. Some people become addicted to it. It doesn’t last forever but if you’re lucky you still get butterflies years later every time you see the person. I think I love your dad more now than I did then. It is just more patient and less all consuming.”
“I like when you talk about dad. You never talked about him while I was growing up. I always felt a piece of me was missing.”
“I am sorry I didn’t give you better memories of him. My father died when I was ten years old. I know how tough it is to grow up without a dad. I should have given it more thought. I was afraid I couldn’t talk without my emotions giving me away but if you have questions, ask me.” Mom gives me a hug around the shoulders. “So what do you want to do tonight?”
“Let’s stay in and take it easy. It has been a long week.”
“I agree. We have that show tomorrow. We’ll run in the morning.” I groan in response. The night descends quietly as each of us runs through the events of the week in our own minds. In a matter of weeks, our lives have again been turned upside down, just like thirteen years ago. The only difference is this time I know about the upheaval. Both of us finds comfort in the presence of each other.
Sunday morning, I keep reminding myself to lower my expectations. Mom and I had a terrific time at the theater the night before. I think walking through Times Square is a show in itself. We saw a revival of the “The Elephant Man”; the story of John Merrick who was inflicted with neurofibromatosis as a young boy in London and was exposed to enormous cruelty and extraordinary kindness because of it. The actor who played the main character displayed such subtle nuances of humility and humor. I concluded there was nothing like live theater. There is such a raw human element to it. It is not lost on me that nearly a one hundred fifty years later, the world still does not treat people with disabilities as well as it should. Only this time, they subtly kill them while trying to cloak it under the guise of compassion.
After the show, mom took me to Rosie O’Gradys on 51st Street. The food was not spectacular but it is a theater district institution. I realize I have barely lived until I came to New York. I’m not sure if it is the attraction to Josh, the element of danger working for the woman who imprisoned my father or the energy of New York, but the colors of my life have become sharper and more focused. Before I become lost in thought, the doorbell rings. Josh had called the previous afternoon to say he would pick me up at nine. Mom opens the door and invites Josh in.
“Good morning Dr. Christiansen.”
“Good morning Josh. You picked a beautiful day for sailing. Come on in and have a cup of coffee.” Josh follows mom into the kitchen and she hands him a cup.
“Yes, it is gorgeous outside. Weather forecast shows no threat of rain. It should be a smooth ride”.
“Well you should have a great time today. Analia told me you have been sailing since you were a boy.”
“Yes, my grandfather taught me how to sail. He had a small place in Bay Head, New Jersey. I loved spending my summers with him. I got certified in sailing when I was twelve.”
“Josh, you don’t have to list your qualifications.” Mom says with a laugh. “I trust Analia’s judgment. Just make sure you take care of her.” Mom is sending an indirect message and the three of us know it.
“Thanks mom.” I roll my eyes at my mother and give her a hug. “I’m all ready.” I grin at Josh.
“Don’t worry, I will Dr. Christiansen. I hope you have a nice day.” Josh takes my bag and we head towards the elevator. When we get in, I turn to Josh.
“Sorry about that. My mother is not usually overtly protective.” I hope Josh isn’t looking at me like a small child.
“That was pretty mild for someone who is letting her daughter sail out to sea. Your mother is an admirable woman for raising such a normal yet brilliant daughter under extraordinary circumstances.”
“Thanks, I think so too. You didn’t have to pick me up. I could have made it to the boat on my own.”
Josh gives me an appraising look. “I know you’re quite capable, but it wouldn’t be very chivalrous of me.”
“Chivalrous? Are you my knight on a white horse?” I can’t help laughing. The last time I heard chivalry mentioned was in an English literature class.
“I think your mother would like to think that. Actually, I am just a guy in a t-shirt and shorts who believes in good manners when taking a girl out.”
“Well I’m impressed. Oh, hello George.” I wave to the doorman. As we walk out the door I whisper that the concierge had followed my mother and me from my laboratory building at Stanford. Josh shakes his head in amazement.
“I am sorry. I think if my mother could secure proprietary rights to you brain, she would. To put such a visible tail on you must be off putting.” Josh takes my bag and hails a cab. We climb into the back seat and the cab drives west to Riverside drive.
I turn to him. “That’s a comforting thought. I believe my brain belongs to me. Did you have any idea that we would be tackling the genes for pedophilia? What did you think of Dr. Morehouse’s proposal?”
“I knew my mother had considered studying the genetic network of pedophilia. They ran an op-ed piece in the New York Times suggesting that it was a new avenue the Institute should take. My mother is always courting public acclaim so it is no surprise she took the bait. I also know that Dr. Morehouse has reservations about the feasibility of gene therapy in pedophilia. Do you think it is achievable?”
“I am not sure. It is much more complicated than diseases that are caused by either a recessive or dominant gene. I think that there may be several genes involved and that environmental influences strongly influence their expression. We’re talking about genes that control myelination and neurotransmitter synapse in white matter. It will be extremely intricate work.”
“I don’t disagree. I have a friend back at Hopkins who did a retrospective study on the correlation between environmental influences, MRI imaging and the phenotypic expression of pedophilia. An old theory purported that pedophilia had its basis in childhood abuse. That however was not necessarily true. The problem of course is in the logistics. There is never a good way to prospectively study pedophilia. Most cases of abuse are hidden and aren’t easily identified. Those are the cases that go untreated. The cases of abuse that are identified are treated usually with preemptive psychotherapy. Plus, there are those with pedophilia who come from a loving home.”
“If we identify the gene, it would allow for a prospective study. However, it will also raise a host of other moral issues, particularly with what is going on at Rosewood. If someone is identified at birth as having the gene or genes, would society or even their family automatically shun them? Correcting the gene could also present a host of problems. If we correct the gene, other neurological problems may arise.”
“Those are all good observations. Keep in mind, pedophilia is considered one of the most horrific crimes. It tears the victims and their families apart. If we could achieve even identification of the gene, it would be really helpful. I think we should pursue the study but control the release of the findings, just like Wes Morehouse did with his research.”
Our conversation is interrupted by our arrival at the dock. We quickly take the dinghy out to the boat. Josh starts the motor and puts the yacht in reverse. I stand next to him at the wheel, hoping to pick up some rudimentary boating skills. As we motor down the Hudson, I observe the skyline of New York as we pass the 9/11 Memorial and Battery Park on the left. I realize that New York is quickly becoming home to me. I didn’t expect that. I miss my home in California and the easy access we had to the beach, although I was mainly in Palo Alto the last few years. There was a soft fluidity to life there. But nothing could compare to this day. Here I am cruising the western coastline of New York City with, well at least a friend; something I could never have imagined a few weeks ago. I analyze the knobs on the yacht and ask Josh to give me a rudimentary explanation on how to navigate the yacht.
Josh laughs. “Be careful. If you learn how to drive the boat, you will have to help in the future.”
“That’s ok. It is always good to have some useful life skills. Besides what if something happened to you while we are out here, it would be good if I knew what to do.”
“What exactly would happen to me?”
“Who knows? Maybe you would be bit by a great white or hit your head. Anything could happen.”
“Have you been watching the Jaws remake?”
“No. I just always consider every possibility. I want to thank you again for Friday. I loved the baseball game. It was nice to go out with everybody from our lab group.”
I ask Josh in a whisper if he has checked for any listening devices. He looks startled and then pulls out the transmission jammer and the anti-bug device from his duffel bag. There are no bugs on the top deck and he gives me the wheel and goes downstairs to check the galley. He comes up with a miniscule device that he steps on.
“I wish I could do that to the bugs in our apartment.” I stare wistfully at his hand. “I feel like I live in a fishbowl. My mother got a rudimentary jamming device but we’re not sure if it works.”
“I can get you a top notch device. I’ll pick it up for you this week.”
“We would probably need just the jammer. If we destroyed the bugs. they would suspect my mother was up to something. A bug was planted in her handbag the first day of work.”
“Again, sorry about the intrusion into your privacy. You’re right, leave the bugs and turn on the jammer as needed. Hey, you look good at the wheel.” Josh hands me another water and sits back in the chair behind her. “I could get used to this.”
“Thanks. I don’t think I am ready to be captain just yet. Where are we headed?”
“Bay Head. It will take us another hour. I have a docking slip on the bay and then we can go to my grandfather’s house on the beach.”
“Is this how you usually get away on the weekend?”
“Pretty much. This boat can go fifty miles an hour and still be a comfortable ride. It beats sitting in a car. The sun is getting strong. Are you wearing sunblock? You’ll burn quickly out on the water.”
“I am wearing it, but I will put more on my face.”
“If you are afraid to ask, I have the computer and memory card down at the house. ”
I nod, but don’t respond. I’m enjoying just hanging out with Josh on the water without considering the darker aspects of our connection. Sometimes, you just have to grasp the moments at hand. With the sun on my face and the breeze off the ocean, I relax into the captain’s chair. Josh puts the radio on and for the most part we make small talk all the way down. In a sliver of time, we reach the Jersey shoreline. Josh maneuvers the yacht through the inlet to Point Pleasant. With the masts down, the yacht fits under the drawbridge and we sail directly to the dock.
I observe Josh securing the boat and ask him to teach me how to tie a standard knot at some point in time. We disembark and head for the clubhouse. Once inside, Josh walks up to the reception foyer and asks the club manager to call for a taxi.
As we taxi east to his house on the water, Josh gives me a little history. He explains that his grandfather purchased the home over seventy years ago. It had been leveled by a massive storm forty years prior, which necessitated a complete restructuring of the home. His grandfather had expanded the house in anticipation of grandchildren, but he only had the one grandson. Josh pays the driver when we arrive. As we get out of the taxi, Josh asks me to walk to the shoreline first.
The water is still in the low sixties and it takes a few seconds to get used to. Josh takes my hand and we walk along the shoreline. For a while, he just stares at me without speaking until I become completely self-conscious.
“Is there something wrong?”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to stare. You know how I just said my grandfather only had one grandson? It is not true. I have a brother, Bentley. He is a year younger than me. Bent is a sweetheart but he unfortunately suffered anoxia during childbirth and has brain damage. My mother couldn’t handle having a less than perfect child and gave him up for adoption.”
“How did you find him?”
“I didn’t. My grandfather stepped in and adopted Bent when he was a baby. My mother didn’t know. It cost my grandfather and father a fortune to arrange a private adoption and keep it secret from my mother.”
“How old were you when you found out?”
“I was twelve. My grandfather wanted to tell me sooner but was afraid that I couldn’t keep a secret. The adoption was legal. He was more afraid that my mother would bar me from seeing him if she learned he adopted Bent.”
“Why would your mother object to your grandfather caring for her son or you having a relationship with him?” I try to keep the shock from my facial features but this revelation goes beyond madness.
“I think you know the answer to that. Your parents paid an enormous price for trying to stop my mother. Mother and her cronies were pushing through a policy to eradicate all birth defects by surreptitiously effecting abortions in all women who had chromosomal abnormalities. The abortions were performed without the consent of the mothers. My guess is she thought she couldn’t push through a policy like that if she had a child with birth defects.”
“But it was her son. What about your father? Did he go along with your mother in this scheme?”
“My father objected strenuously and would have divorced her but he was afraid that she would get custody of me. My dad arranged for my grandfather to adopt Bent. They went as far to buy a separate house to raise Bent in only a few houses from my grandfather to complete the deception. My dad has a very mild form of Asperger’s syndrome and has difficulty showing emotion, but he loves both Bent and me. Dad is brilliant. It was his research and findings that formed the basis of the Lucas Institute. My mother took the credit for his findings. My mother is actually a brilliant strategist and businesswoman. The Lucas Institute thrived because of her. It is unfortunate that it did so based on eugenics.”
“Eugenics? I am not familiar with that term.”
“Eugenics is a movement that seeks to create the perfect race. Mengele under Hitler pursued eugenics during the World War II period. You are probably familiar with that. Unfortunately, a form of eugenics was legally practiced in America during that same time.”
The horror in my head plunges to the pit of my stomach. “Were people actually brutally tortured and killed in this country?”
“Not exactly. In 1927, Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes signed into law that any white male could have any female in his family declared incompetent. They were then institutionalized and subjected to forced sterilization. Years later, many of these women were studied and found to have normal intelligence and no psychiatric condition.” Josh pauses for a minute. “Of course they were scarred by their experiences. That mentality also spawned the idea to perform syphilis experiments on African American men in Tuskegee, Oklahoma. Up until the 1970s, forced sterilization was still legal in some states.”
“I am familiar with the Tuskegee experiments. Shortly after those experiments, medical schools and institutions were held accountable to institutional review boards.”
“The real irony of that time was we were fighting for democratic ideals around the world and targeting marginalized groups in our own society. We are practicing eugenics again for the “good of society”. That puts our morality levels now on par with those of Nazi Germany. Of course, my mother and her friends could never even understand that.”
“Well, that would only be true if the unknowing public actually knew what was happening and supported those policies.” I grab Josh’s hand. “We can change these policies.“
Josh pulls me away from the shoreline and has me sit down in the sand. “You’re right; we can change these policies, but it will be dangerous. The security team that enforces Halliday and my mother’s policies are ruthless. They destroy anyone who gets in their way. I don’t know if they ever committed murder, but I wouldn’t be shocked to learn that they did.”
“Are you trying to talk me out of anything here?”
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to ruin the day. I am scared to involve you. It is just that I haven’t been able to talk about this with anyone since my grandfather passed away.”
“Don’t worry. I understand the need to talk and the day hasn’t been ruined. It is still morning. Why don’t you introduce me to your brother now?”
I grab his hand and pull him up. We start heading towards the house. It is a charming, two story colonial. The lemonade porch facing the ocean has hammocks tacked into the columns. In the sand directly in front of the porch stands an outdoor, coal pit for steaming lobsters. There is a riot of roses and hydrangeas snaking around the house. The whole outside vestige is inviting.
“I’ve kept the place looking like my grandfather did during his time. Or I should say my grandmother.”
We enter through the French doors opening into the living area. As soon as we enter, a tall, blonde man comes running towards us and throws his arms around Josh.
“Josh, I have been waiting for you. Frankie and I made scones for you and your girlfriend after church this morning.”
Josh turns the color of the roses outside the house. “Thanks Bent. I want to introduce you to Analia. Analia, may I introduce Bent, my very honest brother.”
“Nali, welcome to our beach house.” Bent picks me up in his arms and twirls me around. “Josh told us you were pretty and you are. Are you going to come swimming with us?”
“I would love to go swimming with you.” Just then an attractive older woman enters. She gives Josh a kiss on his cheek. Josh turns to me.
“Analia, this is Francesca. She has been taking care of Bent and is the most important member of my family.”
“It is so nice to meet you, Francesca. “
Francesca answers in moderately accented English. “Likewise. I am so happy to meet a friend and colleague of Josh’s. He never brings anyone home. It is such a pleasure.”
“This is a beautiful home. The roses outside are gorgeous and add such a pretty touch. It reminds me of my home in California. Where are you from, your accent is lovely?”
“I am originally from Brazil but my mother was Italian. It is a mix of Italian and Portuguese. I hope you enjoyed the boat ride down. Please sit. ” I take a seat on the living room couch and Bent and Josh immediately sit on either side of me. I see Francesca watching us with a smile on her face.
“I did. It is such a beautiful summer day.”
Josh interjects. “Some of those roses date back to my grandmother. She loved gardening. My father kept them going in her memory. Francesca helps me keep them alive.”
“Analia, please eat one of our scones.” Bent lifts the platter of scones for her to take one and then offers her cream and jam.
“So Bent, do you live down here during the summer?” I ask as I put jam on my scone.
“We come down after Memorial Day and I help Josh open the house. Right Josh?” Josh smiles and shakes his head yes. “We always have to repaint some part of the house after the winter. I am very good at painting.”
“Well from what I can see you did a wonderful job.”
“Thank you.” Bent answers shyly. “Please go swimming with me?”
“I will. It depends on what Josh wants to do.”
“We can go to the beach now and then Analia and I have a little work to do. Would you be able to go pick up some lobsters for dinner Bent?”
“I would love to. I am going to go change now.” Bent leaves for a room in the back.
I look from Josh to Francesca. “Where do Bent and you live outside of the summer?”
“We live in the apartment next to Josh. There is a connecting door between our two apartments that Josh had built into his study.”
Josh interjects. “That way I can help care for Bent and give Francesca time off. They don’t come into the apartment when I am not there in case my mother sends her snoops.”
“Isn’t it dangerous?” I ask.
“For me. No. My mother would torture me but I am her heir. Francesca has no family and I don’t think she would do anything to Bent. Bent doesn’t know she exists. Francesca is his mother for all intensive purposes. The only person at risk is my dad if my mother figured out he arranged for Bent’s adoption. I became Bent’s legal guardian when pop passed away. I just don’t want her causing trouble so I keep everything quiet.”
I look at him. “You’re a good guy. Bent is lucky to have you and Francesca.” Francesca nods in return.
“Thanks. I try to be. I guess we all have our own private heartache. Here, let me show you the guestroom so you can change or do whatever.”
I meet Josh and Bent on the porch and we walk to the shoreline. Bent calls out to the lifeguards as he goes into the water. They smile back at him in return. Bent actually swims pretty well. Josh or his grandfather must have taught him. The water is still in the sixties but I’m used to brisk, cold water from living on the Pacific coast. I take a seat in the sand and I’m content to watch the two brothers as the sun warms me. The irony is not lost on me that Katharine Lucas tried to break up my family and now I’m spending the day with her estranged sons. I should dislike them but instead I’m drawn to them. A quote by Einstein pops into my head.
“How strange is the lot of us mortals! Each of us is here for a brief sojourn; for what purpose he knows not, though he senses it. But without deeper reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people.”
All of a sudden, both brothers come running towards me. Before I can squeal, Josh picks me up, throws me over his shoulder, runs back into the water and drops me unceremoniously. I come up spluttering as Bent grabs my hand and asks if I’m okay. I laugh and tell Bent to gang up on Josh with me. We spend the next forty-five minutes jumping waves. Brent and Josh take turns lifting me out of the water and throwing me into a wave. Bent can’t stop laughing and eventually swallows too much water and has to be helped out to the sand. We retire to the chairs Bent had set up in front of the porch.
“Analia, I am having such a nice time with you. Will you please come back and visit next week?” Bent looks so earnest as he asks me.
“That all depends on your whether your brother invites me.” I raise my eyebrows at Josh who is smiling at me.
“Ok Romeo. She is my date. But Analia can come any weekend. It is an open invitation and I do hope she comes back next week.”
This is news to me. “I would love to come back. I just have to see if my mom had other plans.”
“We can bring her with us. We have more than enough bedrooms. We can come Friday night if we leave immediately after work. I prefer to sail before dark but I have no problem either way.”
“That is so nice. I will ask her tonight. This is the most relaxed I have been since I arrived in New York.”
“Sunshine, a sea breeze and no listening devices. I provide the best in relaxation. Sadly, we have some work to do. Hey Bent, would you mind getting those lobsters now. Analia and I have to work on the computer and then we can go for a swim again.”
“No problem. I will go tell Frankie that we need to go lobster shopping.” Bent gets up from his lawn chair and lumbers through the French doors calling out for Francesca. I watch as he goes in.
I look at Josh. “I am glad you got your brother back. He is a sweetheart.”
Josh looks startled at what I say. “Yes, he is a big golden retriever. Affectionate and loyal. That reminds me. I promised to get Bent a new dog. Our dog died last March and a dog is a good companion for Bent. He has very few friends.”
“I am sorry about your dog. Why did you look surprised at what I said?”
“Well, I made the mistake of bringing home two girlfriends when I was in college. They tolerated Bent, but were not enthusiastic about his company. One, who had wedding bells on her mind, started talking about putting Bent in a group home. The relationship ended shortly after that. Let me get the memory card.” His words are neutral but his face betrays his disgust. He helps me up from the deck chair and I follow him into the kitchen.
I’m a little thrown by his use of the term girlfriend. I know of course Josh would have women in his life; I just never visualized it until this moment. The little green monster never plagued me before and the feeling does not sit well with me.
Josh sets up two laptops on the kitchen table and holds out a chair for me to sit. “It took me most of last weekend for me to break the encryption on these files. Their encryption program is quite sophisticated. You should know that they discovered the memory card was missing. My mother called to ask me if I knew anything about it. You are in the clear by the way. You were present at all times on the video. Unfortunately, a visiting dignitary was seen looking at the desks in the lab and he is under suspicion. I expect they will search your home anyway if they haven’t already done so. I hope there isn’t anything else they could find?”
“I don’t think so. I had drawn a schematic of Rosewood, but I gave it to a friend.” I search my memory thinking of anything else at home that could be incriminating.
“Do I know this friend?” Josh looks taken aback by my statement. I’m unsure how to interpret it.
“No, and neither do I. It’s a family friend.” I’m quick to change the subject. “So, let’s get started so we can finish and enjoy the rest of the day. I can’t wait for the lobster.”
I begin pouring over the data from the memory stick. A substantial number of prominent people are named on the list. It staggers my mind. The level of conspiracy exceeds my imagination. Every name on this list has spoken out against either the Lucas Institute or government health policies. What is more disturbing is that no one in the media has made the connection between the disappearances of these activists from society and Rosewood. Or if they did, did not report it.
I look up. “How come no one has noticed all these people have gone missing? Has the First amendment been signed out of law?”
“I have heard some people have tried to run a news story on the disappearances but the stories get suppressed because they are told it is a matter of national security or they lose their advertising funding or they are threatened with their own investigation.”
“Do we know if the detainees on this list have been formally indicted or convicted?”
“I have been researching the names on that list but there is no public record of indictments or convictions on most of those names. I actually went out to the Hamptons with an untraceable laptop to run the search. My grandfather had a good friend in the New Jersey state police that I still know. He is semi-retired but has access to federal criminal databases. I have asked him to run down the names.” Josh pulls his chair closer to hers.
“Where is the genetic data? I only see files labeled as inventory, expenditures and guidelines.” I peruse the files once more on the drive.
“It is this file here.” Josh points to a file on the screen. It is listed as detainee inventory.” Josh leans against me as he points at the screen and I’m immediately aware of the intimacy between us.
“Inventive. Have you looked at the data yet?” I start scrolling through the data.
Josh gives a small shrug of his shoulders. “I only had enough time to skim the file. I thought you would be best for that job.”
“There are two files here, labeled inventory one and two.” It is puzzling at first as the names are identical on both lists but each name has two different sets of DNA results.
“I know. One is the original genetic data from the detainees and the second file is their altered genetic data reported as positive for the PPZ gene.”
“They are creating a fail-safe file if anyone should question the validity of this research. They are going to elaborate attempts to criminalize these detainees.” I shake my head. “Do you think that Cruz woman is the one responsible for faking the data in this report?”
“Probably. I checked her credentials. She has been written up before at a genetic research institute she previously worked at for failure to follow protocol. She is a hack.”
I lean back for a minute. “Are the actual karyotypes for the detainees on this file? It would help to have the raw data. Also, do you have a printout of the detainees so I can check off whose genes I am identifying?”
“Yes. The raw data is on a file labeled expenditures. Can you actually tell the difference just looking at the computer screen?
“I studied the karyotype with the PPZ gene for several years. I can do pattern recognition of large amounts of data.” I start reexamining the data and can feel Josh staring at me for a minute after what I just said. More probing at the moment is the need to actually run the DNA testing myself to determine the exact amino acid sequences on gene 17. The two of us work quietly for over an hour. I confirm that all the detainees except one do not have the PPZ gene. The enormous impact of what we are uncovering exerts a gravitational pull on me. I am rooted to my chair, just until I see the last file.
“Josh did you see this file that contains just memos between your mother and Dr. Cruz at Rosewood?”
Josh is studying his computer screen intently. “No, I hadn’t gotten to it.” He looks at my face. “Analia, what is wrong?”
“It says here that Cruz has been working on a serum that will permanently alter a person’s memory. They have actually tested it on three detainees already but the results have been less than optimal.”
Josh looks horrified. “Are you sure?”
“Yes, that is what they are discussing in these memos. Where did Cruz come from last?”
“Krier Research Institute in Switzerland. Why?”
“There is a Dr. Monteverdi at Krier Research and he has been working on a memory altering serum for trauma related disorders. He was attempting to use the serum with neuro-imagery sequencing but he ran into difficulties because he found the serum altered the whole memory of a person. According to these news articles I just pulled up, there was a break in at his lab five months ago. That experimental serum was stolen.”
“Do they have any suspects?”
“Not according to these articles. They do suspect it was an inside job. When did Cruz go to work at Rosewood?
“I’m not sure. I think seven months ago when they opened Rosewood.”
“Josh, this data proves these detainees are being imprisoned under false circumstances. What is more, they are going to be subjected to memory altering drugs that will obliterate their memories. This could seriously alter our timeline for getting the detainees out.”
“I think it would be helpful if we could talk to the other families on this list. See what happened when their family member was taken into custody and if or what they were told about it. The only problem will be the time factor.”
I hesitate for a minute. Up until this point I have only expressed the wishes of my mother and myself to save dad. I have never once mentioned the existence of the underground movement that my mother is a part of. Personally, I trust Josh. But to mention the underground would be exposing my mother and her associates to risk.
“Analia, what is it?” Josh becomes agitated as he watches me sitting frozen in front of the screen not even blinking. “Tell me, please.”
“There are people who can help us. I trust you with my life. And now I am entrusting you with the lives of the friends of my family. Please don’t let me down.”
“Analia, I would never hurt you and I will protect you from my mother, just like I do Bent.”
“You do realize that by protecting my family and me you can and likely will seriously incriminate your mother. You are the natural heir to the Lucas Institute. It would all be yours one day. If we go down this path, you could lose everything.”
“Analia, I grew up in wealth and privilege but it was a cold existence. The only time I ever felt truly loved was with my grandfather and now Bent. Inheriting the Institute has never been my ambition. I get that you don’t trust me completely. I just wish you would.”
Josh comes and stands in front of me and cups my head. He whispers almost inaudibly: “It would be so much simpler if we were just average and didn’t have this family history. If we were oblivious to their chaos”
“I know. But we are who we are, who we choose to be. Given that they plan to wipe the memories of these detainees, we will have to work quickly. Once we get my father out, my mom will want us to go somewhere to hide my father. I suspect she will come back to expose Rosewood to the world. The question is what will you do?”
“I’m not sure how I will proceed. I want to protect my dad too. Honestly, I wish I could just exile my mother rather than see her go to prison.”
“Josh, I think we have more immediate problems. What they are trying to do at Rosewood goes far beyond the realm of human imagination. They, whoever they are exactly besides your mother and the vice president, will go to extraordinary lengths to protect their secret policies. Bent and Francesca will be endangered. If they find out you are working against your mother, they could be taken hostage just to turn you.”
“Those thoughts have been running playback in my mind for weeks now. Francesca and I have spoken. Brazil surprisingly still has no extradition, despite being part of the America federation. Francesca will know how to hide Bent. There is a monastery in Olinda there who would give her sanctuary. Her cousin is the abbot. I wanted to enjoy the rest of the summer with Bent. I just don’t want to lose him again.”
“You will see him again.” I throw my arms around Josh.
“Analia, we may have another issue. My mother is notorious for planting informants everywhere. I would bet someone in our lab is reporting back to her.”
“Who do you think it is? Dr. Morehouse?”
“No, not Wes Morehouse. I think he has another agenda with my mother. I just can’t put my finger on it. My guess is someone in the other group, either Marcus, Jacki or Jiang.”
As we stand there considering who the informant is, Bent and Francesca walk in on us and the moment is broken. Bent stands there grinning.
“I hope this means you will come back next week?” Bent looks hopeful as he asks.
As I turn to Bent, Josh keeps his arm around me. “I will come back just for you. Why don’t I help you with getting the lobster steamer going while Josh packs up?”
Bent takes my hand and leads me out to the pit in front of the house. Bent lights the coals on the stone hearth. He then grabs a metal tub and thick work gloves and I follow him back into the kitchen. We wash and cut up the potatoes and then shuck the corn. Bent grabs some seaweed and puts it in the bottom of the tub and then hands the gloves to me as he demonstrates how to stack the lobsters, potatoes and corn. We add two bottles of wine to the arranged food in the tub and cover it in burlap. Bent carries it out to the coal pit.
With hopeful eyes, Bent asks me to go swimming again and I readily agree. Ten minutes later, Josh joins us. We catch the last of the direct rays of the sun until Francesca calls to us that the dinner is ready. The lobster bake is an epicurean delight. Bent goes around cracking everyone’s lobsters and for the first ten minutes no one speaks. Henry James had once said that the two most beautiful words in the English language were summer afternoon. It is true for me on this day.
When we finish eating, Josh pulls me onto the loveseat with his arm around me. Bent sits down next to us and puts his arm around the two of us. Josh good-naturedly orders Francesca to sit, relax and enjoy the remainder of the afternoon. In a world of infinite moments, this is one I don’t want to end.
Just as I start to doze off, Josh stands up to clear the dishes. Bent and I scramble to help him. After we finish cleaning up, Francesca drives us back to the marina and Bent hugs me with tears in his eyes. “Please come back.” He whispers. I whisper back that I will.
We are quiet on the ride back home. Josh silently places me before the wheel of the yacht and steers with his arms around me. Neither one of us wants to mar the feeling of peace we are experiencing on the water by discussing Rosewood anymore that day. Josh calls for a car service when we reach the New York City skyline and we climb into the back of the car after mooring the boat.
Josh hands me my bag at the door to my building. I whisper to him. “I have always looked forward to the next day until now. I wish we could hold onto the day we had today.”
Josh whispers back. “I know. ” He kisses me softly. When we pull apart, he says goodbye. On the way into the building, I catch George staring through the window, and for the first time I don’t care.