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HIV Virus, New Thought Ministry, Government Conspiracy, Televangelist, International Intrigue,
Vietnam Veteran, FBI, New World Order, AIDS Epidemic

Read a few pages. - Enjoy!

 

Chapter One

The View from the Evidence Room

 

Los Angeles, California, June 12, 1989

 

The bark of the two-way radio shattered the agent’s concentration. “Bravo One to Central, over.”

Sonny, sitting behind the wheel of his Chevy Caprice, lowered his night-vision field glasses and gripped the radio handset. “Roger, Bravo One. This is Central. Go ahead, over.”

The husky voice barked through the wireless again. “Package is secure, Central. We’ll be going off grid and heading to Point Charlie in five mikes. Over.”

“Roger, Bravo One. See you at the rally point. Central, out.”   

Sonny couldn’t have been happier with Bravo’s achievement.

For the last two weeks, his people had pulled uninterrupted surveillance on this red brick building. His Alpha team had gotten the go-ahead at sixteen-hundred hours. With the lab’s schedule and shift changes down to a precise science, all went off according to plan.

They’d completed emptying the contents of the eighty-five hundred-square-foot facility on Figueroa and were way ahead of schedule. As the trucks rumbled away from the loading dock, Sonny checked the luminous dial on his watch again. He marked the time on his notepad: twenty-one forty-two.

Like taking candy from babies. Sonny chuckled as he visualized pulling red Twizzlers out of the mouth of toddlers and sliding the sticky licorice into evidence bags.

A ten-year man with the FBI, he’d recently received a promotion and assigned to lead this Special Activities team. He didn’t know why his people would be kidnapping monkeys and appropriating scientific equipment and files, and he didn’t much care. He only knew the name of the target, Cyrus Markum, and the need to eliminate any record of his research for the good of the nation. The specifics of the mission remained classified and above his pay grade. Without the need to know or the inclination to press for details, Sonny followed orders and stuck with the program.

Several miles away, his Bravo team had already removed their latex gloves and foot booties and stashed them inside their sedans. On the move and following the prearranged routes to the designated drop-off point, they’d be meeting with Sonny in about thirty minutes. The two Alpha team trucks had a ten-minute head start. He and his trailing car would catch up and reach their destination almost simultaneously.

 

*     *     *

 

The two trucks had already maneuvered through the garage doors and sat idling inside the huge warehouse by the time Sonny arrived. The Bravo team members killed time, waiting in their cars. They’d already delivered the package to the detachment supervisor, who waited for him in the second-floor office.

Slamming his car door, Sonny walked through the entrance of the immense white building. Looking up as he passed underneath the large lettered sign, he read the words: Amalgamated Packaging and Distribution Corp.

He had no idea where the two fifty-five footers would be heading next. That didn’t affect him. He’d accomplished his part of the mission. The Proliferation team would be taking it from here.

The old wood creaked as he climbed the stairway. He found his boss sitting behind a metal desk in the corner of a large room. A smelly victory cigar dangled from between his fingers. A cloud of lung-searing smoke hung in the air, stinging Sonny’s eyes.

“Great job, Pastore, went off like clockwork.” Charlie Rogers handed his subordinate a large manila envelope. “Here’s your next assignment. The details are in there.”

Sonny reached for the packet but didn’t open it. His boss took another pull on his stogie and exhaling, injected another ring of dense blue smoke into the stagnant air. Sonny held his breath and stepped away from the oblong circle of carcinogens.

“You’ll love this job, Sonny. It’s surveillance on a group of religious fanatics out of Berkeley. They have three churches, two in Colorado. We’ll be adding a few more people to your crew. I’m sure you’ll handle it. Let me know if you need anything. Take care.”

Sonny tested the heft of the package and tucked it under his arm. “Sure thing, boss. Should be a piece of cake.”

Charlie took another pull on his cigar and blew a ring of bluish smoke. Sonny held his breath again.

As he came down the stairs, he puffed-out his chest, feeling smug and self-satisfied. Why not? He’d added another notch to his belt and his team had their new orders. After relaxing for a few days, he’d be heading back to continue his important work. He loved keeping America safe from their enemies, both foreign and domestic.

 

*     *     *

 

Why the unusual government interest in this Cyrus fellow? We’ll need to strap ourselves into the trusty Eisenstadt Micro cesium time machine and journey back almost four and a half decades to find out. So, hang on. You should find the ride interesting.

 

Room 401, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, April 18, 1945, Ten A.M.

 

The attending physician scowled and stepped away from his pint-sized patient. The young boy standing at the foot of his brother’s bed shrieked in agony. “No, no, no. This can’t be. Why did God let this happen?”

Two torrents of tears streaked his face. “Mommy, please, tell me? How could this happen to Leonard? He’s only five-years-old. Why would God do this?”

Flanked by his parents, Cyrus’ chest pushed against the rail. The metal dug into his skin, but he ignored the pain. His younger brother lay unmoving on the mattress, his face ashen.

His mother tried to remain strong, groping for the words that might comfort her surviving child. “Leonard isn’t suffering anymore, honey. He’s at peace with God and the angels in heaven.”

“Your mother’s right,” his father added. “We should never question the Lord. We must accept his judgments.”

The eight-year-old lifted his hands and grabbed the bed’s metal bar. “I can’t accept that. There has to be more to life than that.”

Too devastated to argue, his father turned from his son and watched the nurse pull the sheet over the face of his younger son. “I understand, but Leonard wouldn’t want for you to be unhappy.” 

Sobbing heavily, Cyrus addressed his parents in a way they couldn’t have expected. Placing his left hand over his heart, he raised the right and bared his palm. “Mom and Dad, I promise you that I’m going to study really hard and dedicate my life to science. I want to wipe out disease and prevent this tragedy from happening to other families.”   

 

Center for Disease Control, Atlanta, Georgia, April 1975

 

Dr. Cyrus Markum wouldn’t be deterred from his quest. A practitioner of biotic engineering, he’d devoted his life to the discipline of epidemiology. For the last five years, the Center for Disease Control served as his home away from home. Finding the meticulous daily regimen far from mundane, he supervised a small group of clinical researchers. His quartet operated under the auspices of the World Health Organization and specialized in infectious disease and humoral immunology exploration.

Decked out in bio-hazard paraphernalia, the scientists labored relentlessly, intent on eradicating the remnants of the variola virus. The disease no longer presented a problem in civilized society, but still remained a highly communicable disease in the underdeveloped nations of the world.

The biologists spent their time monitoring the daily activities of their chimpanzee test subjects, meticulously recorded the medical reaction to the life-threatening antigens. Intending to boost the immune system of the primates in the initial grouping, these subjects received daily inoculations of the newly developed vaccine. The chimps in the control group, similarly exposed to the virulent strain of variola major, received none of the antitoxin. 

The primates intermingled freely in the laboratory habitat. Unfortunately, the populace of the menagerie fluctuated, a sad but inevitable result of the experimentation. A third of the non-immunized subjects would ultimately expire, their demise primarily instigated by bronchopneumonia. That statistic remained an unavoidable consequence and already factored into the comprehensive equation. 

Every fourth Monday of the month, the white van pulled up to the back door of the facility and lab technicians unloaded the new shipment of hairy West African chatterboxes. Though Cyrus abhorred subjecting these miniature replicas of homo sapiens to abuse, he rationalized that mankind certainly took precedence over the well-being of the jabbering chimps. How unlucky for them that their species possessed duplicate blood cells and ninety-five percent of the genetic material of their hominid counterparts. But, after all, their sacrifice would benefit mankind.

 

*     *     *

 

Cyrus descended from the patriot, Chester Walcott, who served under George Washington during the American Revolution. In 1776, Chester and the Continental Army paddled across the Delaware, and the day after Christmas, the army of rag-tag militiamen trounced the Hessians in Trenton. A week later, the patriot took part in defeating General Cornwallis’ forces in Princeton. Chester, his dad’s fourth great-grandfather on his mother’s side took a volley of grapeshot from a piece of field artillery at Monmouth, but remaining undaunted, fought on until freedom reigned in the colonies.

The Stars and Stripes hung over the fireplace in the Markum living room. A large lithograph of the Declaration of Independence and another of the Bill of Rights adorned one of the walls in the dining room. Extremely proud of his heritage, his father, Riley, believed passionately in the principles of freedom and the safeguarding of civil liberty.

“Cyrus, we live in the greatest country in the world.” He imparted this piece of wisdom to his son one evening over dinner. “We must do whatever we can to defend it from its enemies.”

As a ten-year-old, this child had a better understanding of freedom than most kids his age but fumbled over such hypothetical concepts. “Poppa, there’s little I can do. I’m only one person.”

His father put a hand on his son’s shoulder. “Individuals built America. One man begets one vote. Don’t ever forget that united we stand, and it’s only when we stay divided that we fall. Always remember, my son, you must follow the teachings of God. The Lord takes precedence over country.”

   His parents belonged to the Protestant Episcopal Church and were devout Anglican Christians. His father worked as a planner for the city transit system while his mom tended to the home.

Fulfilling the promise to his brother’s memory became Cyrus’ goal in life. He’d spend endless hours at the library, poring over every science book and medical journal he could drag to the table. Completing his studies at Walnut Hills High School with a ninety-nine-percent grade average, he graduated as the top student in his class of two hundred and sixty-eight. When the teacher handed back his Scholastic Aptitude Test results, Cyrus glared at her, outraged that he’d gotten a question or two incorrect. 

“Mrs. Larkin, I need to speak with you,” he petitioned his homeroom teacher. “I think someone in the office made a clerical error grading my paper.”

Mrs. Larkin placed her hands on her hips. “Mr. Markum, you’re in the highest percentiles in both the math and English SAT tests. Nothing would be gained questioning the results.”

“It’s the principle, Mrs. Larkin. I don’t believe I answered any questions incorrectly. I deserve an explanation.” 

No clarification would be forthcoming.

With an IQ test score of 168, Cyrus played the part of a mushrooming prodigy. The recipient of the prestigious Ohio State Science Achievement Award and awarded not one, but two scholastic subsidies, he cruised through college and graduate studies. He attained a BSC in biological engineering, an MS in biotechnology, and a Ph.D. in molecular biology at Johns Hopkins University. Following his doctorate, he accepted a government fellowship with the American Scientific Research Group in Berkeley, California.

His post-doctorate work commenced in the summer of 1961. But, his big break came in January 1966, when the Atomic Energy Commission asked him to head up a team studying the effects of radiation and radioisotopes on the human body. Proffered a four-year contract as supervisor of the biosciences and biotechnology division of the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory at Livermore, the scientist thought the offer a great opportunity. 

Within three weeks’ time, he and Matthias packed up their belongings. Attaching a U-Haul to the back of their red Chevy Impala convertible, the couple, along with their twin teacup Yorkshire terriers, Angus and Jillian, headed forty miles southeast from El Cerrito to their new home in Livermore Valley.

 Thrilled almost beyond words, his partner abounded with energy. “Oh, Cy, this is only the beginning. I know remarkable things are in store for us. Just wait and see.”

Cyrus laughed, filled with joy at his lover’s reaction to the move to the wine country.

Matthias, taking enormous pride in his reputation, both as a connoisseur of wines and as a gourmet chef, believed the grape region called to him  A contributing editor for the upscale magazine, Hors Devourers, and Aperitifs, he’d also authored two volumes dedicated to the preparation of epicurean delights.

After successfully operating Café Claire, a brasserie in the Richmond District of San Francisco for several years, his life suddenly changed dramatically. He never contemplated selling his restaurant, but one Tuesday this past February, several executives from a huge corporation showed up just after the lunch crowd. The bigwigs offered an extremely lucrative buyout. The contract called for a two-month transition period and the deal would assure Matthias that if he didn’t subscribe to fiscal recklessness, he could live quite comfortably for the remainder of his life.

In the eight months since that day, he and Cyrus spent their off-days venturing an hour northward, exploring the wineries of Sonoma and the Napa Valley. With new vineyards rising from the fertile soil throughout the area, the wine enthusiasts found the adventures inspiring.

Today, Matthias kept up a stream of banter. “Can you imagine, Cy, the wineries of Livermore Valley will be only scant minutes from our door? We’ll have so many places to explore.”

He leaned over the center console and kissed his partner on the cheek. “You’ve made me so happy. This is a dream come true. You know that!”

Cyrus focused on the road ahead. Matthias checked on the pair of tiny canines wiggling around on the plaid blanket in the back seat. Picking up one of the tiny passengers in each hand, he gave each a smooch, before placing them back on their soft cotton nest. They yapped a bit. Their teensy tails wagging, as their paws found balance on the high denier thread count fabric.

He wriggled in his seat and cuddled Cyrus’ arm. “You know my goal, babe. One day, I’d like to own my own winery.”

His partner giggled at his exuberance.

“Don’t you laugh, Cy. You never can tell what the future holds.”

“I’m sorry. You’re absolutely right. One never knows what’s in store.”

A pragmatist, Cyrus’ worldview consisted of varying shades of gray, black, and white. When it came to their relationship, he believed in its full potential. His partner played the eternal optimist, and a big reason their relationship worked.

He’d never dabbled with romantic connections before. Women did nothing for him. Besides, he’d rationalized, his scientific research took precedence over such triflings.

His thoughts voyaged back to that Saturday, that fateful morning high in the Berkeley Hills. The day Matthias walked into his life.

After a visit with his mom in Ohio, Cyrus had the weekend before needing to report to the lab. Enthralled with the peacefulness of the Botanic Gardens in Tilden Regional Park, he used the opportunity to stroll through the stunning gardens and surrounding woodlands. He hiked up to Inspiration Point and stood gazing out at Mount Tamalpais, its peak shrouded by clouds of white fluff.

A velvety voice startled him. “The view is magnificent. You can almost see the summit stretching toward the heavens. It’s absolutely breathtaking.”

Cyrus turned toward the sound. He beheld a sight as spectacular as any of the seven wonders of the world. Clad in a sleeveless teal tee-shirt and navy-blue shorts, a bronzed Adonis stared back at him. His chiseled good looks, accentuated by curly black hair, created a magnetism that tugged at his soul and pulled him closer. 

Cupid’s golden shaft burrowed deeply into the center of both their hearts. A waterfall of understanding flowed over each of them. True love had saturated each of their souls.

Cyrus found his voice. “Are you thirsty? Would you like to go get a drink?”

“That would be perfect. I know a nice wine and cheese shop nearby. By the way, I’m Matthias.”

Their whirlwind romance took off. Within three weeks, they’d moved in together. Their individual lives merged into a unified existence. A picture-perfect relationship developed. They became partners on both the physical and spiritual planes.

It all led up to today. Now, they had Livermore in their sights. Butterflies churned in both their bellies. Cyrus planned to take advantage of his opportunity and further develop his skills and enhance his reputation. His partner supported him and possessed high hopes of his own. The talented chef without a kitchen craved a new challenge.

Matthias recently outlined chapters for a third book. He earned a lucrative income from his writing but considered putting words to paper more of a hobby than a life’s work. The sale of his eatery had filled his bank account nicely. With exceptional credit, the budding impresario sought an opportunity to grow.

Born to Jacques and Marie Desjardins, in April 1935, he came from a long line of French Canadians. At the insistence of his Aunt Claire, his father packed up the family’s belongings and moved from Montreal to New Orleans just after Matthias turned two.

Claire, a sturdy beauty with long flowing locks of red hair and a sugary smile, had a game plan. Her husband, a member of a wealthy Acadian family, owned a small fleet of fishing boats. It seemed only natural to utilize her culinary skills and allocate a small portion of the abundant fresh catch to nurture her own business.

The blackboard menu on the wall of her quaint twelve-table establishment included spicy Cajun cooking inspired by her mother-in-law. She expanded her fare with the addition of traditional French recipes passed down by her side of the family.

The lunch crowd especially loved her deep-fried soft-shelled crab, which she served on grilled sourdough brioche. Claire augmented the creation with buttermilk hushpuppies and added a side of honied coleslaw to complement the plate decoration. The wonderful tangy flavor of her slow cooked “swamp-style” jambalaya proved a delicacy at the Louisiana State Fair, where her creation rose above the competition and the recipe garnered the prestigious “Top Pot” ribbon.

Along with her expanding menu, her celebrity grew. Customers waited up to an hour for a seat at one of her tables. Claire’s mouth-watering seafood gumbo, along with her duck cassoulet and specialty quiches, allowed her little cafe on Decatur Street to develop into a fixture in the French Quarter. Her fresh-baked crème brulee cheesecake, served with a liberal helping of fresh strawberries, also triggered quite a stir. The savory dessert decorated the March cover of Sweet Confections magazine.

When Matthias turned twelve, he began busing tables at the family’s new restaurant on Bourbon Street. By the age of sixteen, he’d matured into an accomplished chef. At twenty-three, he petitioned his father to stake him in a move westward.

Pere, may I speak with you?” Matthias asked his father nervously one Friday at closing time.

Oui, mon fils,” his dad replied, as he placed the container of heavy cream on a shelf in the refrigerator. “What’s on your mind?”

The junior Desjardins reached beneath his apron and pulled out a large sheet of paper. Spreading the map of California on an empty table, he pointed to the San Francisco Bay area. “This is where I want to move, Father. I’m ready to open my own restaurant.”

His parents discussed the almost two-thousand-mile move and decided the time had come for their son to spread his wings and soar on his own. They could well afford to invest in the future of their sole offspring. Before a year passed, Matthias rented a one-bedroom apartment only a stone’s throw from Golden Gate Park. The charming North Beach neighborhood, filled with an eclectic blend of beatniks, tourists, and a snowballing gay scene, fit with his new lifestyle. Within three months, he’d discovered a prime piece of property.

As the eatery flourished, so did his reputation for innovative gourmet cooking. His family took pride in his success. Matthias repaid the loan within three years. His Aunt Claire, already a luminary in local cooking circles, found greater fame with her nephew’s triumph. He sang her praises in his magazine articles and throughout the pages of his first book on Cajun recipes. He helped the Louisiana Lady and her recipes to go national.

He turned up the radio and sat back. He had plans of his own.