CONTINUUM Summary

In Tucson eighteen-year-old Christopher Snow caresses the cold metal of his Walther P 99. Believing that the world will be a better place without undesirables, he aims the weapon at his younger brother and shoots.

In a human genome research facility in Lafayette, Louisiana, the renowned Turkish scientist Dr. Hakan Öztürk is secretly developing MAX 18—a quicker-acting and more sinister virus than Ebola. Dr. Öztürk’s aim: rid the world of undesirables.

Although the two men have yet to meet, their ideology, their actions and the various characters that cross their paths connect in unseen ways that only fate can divine. At the cornerstone of their convergence lies the Islamic bioterrorist group Al-Saafi, a world-wide net of fundamentalists, dedicated to erasing the infidel. First on their list: the President of the United States and his cabinet.

In the center of what will become an explosive chain of events are Teeba Prime, a loving young teacher in Tucson, and Angela Atwood, the successful daughter of Louisiana’s governor. The two women, who were born only minutes apart on the same day in opposite cities of the country, remain unaware of each other’s physical existence. Not until they awaken to the enlightenment of their spiritual ancestry do they recognize the ties that bind them. Guided by a mysterious system of teaching from a superior and profound purity, Teeba and Angela undertake a perilous journey. Together they experience the same reality; their time flow synchronized at the moment of their birth twenty-seven years ago.

Drawing from an ancient and noble purpose Teeba and Angela’s wisdom reaches far beyond the very origins of what is known as psychic power. Since they can hear unspoken words and recognize what eyes can’t see, they use their combined energy of beauty, sex and perception to complete a new circle of life, cleansed of evil.

Angela and Teeba have less than nine months to accomplish their mission. Considering the many characters and conflicts that enter their circle, will they be able to expose and divert the deadly intentions of Al-Saafi in time?

CONTINUUM is an intoxicating blend of spy, science fiction, romance and the paranormal. This page-turning novel draws the reader into the complex world of international politics, groundbreaking medicine, and conflicting cultures. The intriguing characters’ lives interconnect on many thrilling and mysterious levels.

Is there a balance in the age-old battle of good vs. evil? Will the outcome affect tomorrow and all of the tomorrows after that? Is it possible that there are people living among us who have been given the awesome responsibility of keeping mankind’s future intact?

CONTINUUM Excerpt

Slowly she allowed herself to enter this world’s reality again. The music had stopped and the dying candles were flickering fast, trying to brighten up the last minutes of their short waxen lives. Her black eyes—the fire of the amethyst brightly shining in one of them—pierced the dimness of the room in which she had just discovered the magnitude of her mission. A sad sigh escaped her when she felt the heat from the body of the man next to her. She turned her head and watched his chest rise and fall. Her spiritual being had become even more aware that her physical body needed to be the main instrument of her mission, namely to win the total attention and attraction of the man who had become her destiny.

Unbeknownst to him, she had extracted his every thought, miscreant intentions, and confused intellect with her advanced intelligence. Enlightenment had shown her that this was the beginning; insightfulness allowed her to foresee the end. It was the in-between that would require her to stop a terrible tragedy. She knew of the pain and danger ahead but, being above fear, she was at peace. She sensed the guidance that blessed her ability to finish the difficult task ahead.

When the last candle faded away and the room turned dark, she closed her eyes and let herself be guided toward the magnificent light in another dimension.

***

Nothing stirred in the desert’s night calm. It was as if the wild inhabitants respected the importance of Teeba’s powerful transmission, like they understood they were simply a tiny fragment of a multidimensional existence—beyond mankind’s comprehension.

In the hushed silence, Clayton’s half-asleep gaze hung onto the slowly dimming amethyst fire in Teeba’s eye. A stream of familiar images flashed through his head as if propelled by a powerful projector, but now the mental pictures decreased in speed. A rhythm took hold; through the rhyme of logic he heard the vibrations and fluctuations of life. They came as beautiful melodies, gifting him with the true elements of existence.

“How can I thank you?” His voice trembled and a mist clouded his vision. He blinked himself back into reality. “I’m only beginning to understand that words will never be enough to describe what just took place.” He pulled Teeba close and held onto her tightly.

“I needed you to understand,” she said softly. “All my life I’ve waited to share this part of me. And even though I’ve met people who came into this world with soulful wisdom, they either were unaware of their gift or ignorant of their capabilities.”

“If it wasn’t for you, I’d still be one of them.”

She shook her head. “No, something in you was already open because you heard the music when you were determined to wake me.” She leaned her cheek against his. “Every soul is like a Stradivarius violin in perfect tune. But in order to hear the full potential of the melody, we not only have to open our ears, but also allow our minds to unlock so we can hear the sweet sound that continuously echoes through life.”

“I’m beginning to understand the concept. You showed me how to hear without a word being spoken. You made me see what eyes cannot.” Clayton cupped her face. “I have so many questions, though; questions that should be answered in words.” He brushed his lips against hers. “But I’ll wait,” he whispered. “Sometime later, I will ask my questions.” His fingers traced along her neck, collarbone, and shoulders.

“Later,” she murmured in between his kisses and smiled, “later, I will answer. Later you’ll find out everything you must know.”

Their embrace and kisses intensified; their bodies merged into a single shape as the currents of the ancient river of time floated them toward their destination.

He finger-combed the dark hair that draped over the pillow of white sand below her, kissed her slender body, and slid his hands beneath her hips, lifting her toward him.

With her eyes closed, yet wide open, she stroked his brown smooth skin.

Together they sighed as they reawakened their desire. They gasped with joy when their bodies fused, and as they recognized their eternal love. As one, they tumbled and experienced the extraordinary journey of timeless passion.

They did not hear the sounds of nocturnal animals that had come to life again. They did not see the thousands of stars reflected in the dark mountain pools, nor did they smell the woody odor of the mesquite trees whose leaves waved their blessings at the two bodies below.

They only smelled, tasted and listened to each other. The fever of passion flushed their cheeks and intoxicated their brains. They took pleasure in everything they had held back for too long. Like the moon and the stars mirroring themselves in the dark water nearby, Teeba and Clayton began their swim in the deep and mysterious sea of love.

***

With only one week of preparation behind him, Christopher did not feel ready for what lay ahead. Anxiety had caused his stomach to feel raw and his taut nerves were like over-tensioned guitar strings.

It was late afternoon on Friday when his father dropped him at the MTA bus station in a rundown area of downtown Los Angeles. Christopher dreaded the next two days and nights as he walked the remaining distance toward Santa Fe Street. He realized he was no eyesore in this part of town; nobody would feel pity for the filthy young man who obviously had chosen booze and drugs over trying to make an honest living.

He put the two sacks filled with meaningless belongings on the ground and wiped an angry tear out of his eye. Then he pulled the fraying knit cap deeper onto his head. No money in the world is worth going through this shit, he thought. Why the fuck did I agree to do this?

The temperatures were in the nineties and he was sweating profusely under the two layers of rags he was wearing. He gagged again at the thought of his own stench, which would greet him after this nightmarish weekend.

When he reached his destination, he walked along the old railroad lines. As soon as he passed by the first, few apprehensive-looking men in grungy clothes, he lowered his head. But out of the corner of his eye he could see they watched his every step. The stink in the air was a mixture of raw sewage, decaying waste, and bodies that were in need of water and soap. The foul odor made Christopher heave, and he tried to camouflage his nausea by coughing and spitting. He passed by other small groups of vagrants and didn’t stop until he found a shady and sheltered spot. He quickly looked around. Hoping he was not invading some other derelict’s territory, he took two worn blankets out of one of the plastic bags, doubled them up, and curled onto them. He was determined not to get hungry for the duration of his first assignment and was glad he had enjoyed a hearty meal in clean and appetizing surroundings. He hoped he could fall asleep and wished that he would survive this weekend without breaking down.

His body jerked and he bolted up when he felt hot breath on his cheek. He almost collided with the lumpy-faced man bending over him.

“Never seen you b’fore ’round here,” the man drawled. His lips were hidden beneath the long hair of an uneven mustache streaked with gray. Liver spots dotted his face and hands. Despite the warmth of the Los Angeles summer night, he wore several layers of clothes; his worn-out gym shoes were of different style and color. “Where you come from?” The man’s breath was putrid.

“None of your fucking business,” Christopher spat as he sat against the wall.

“You too nervous, man. I’m jus’ checkin’ out the newcomers.” A big smile parted the hair over his lips, revealing brown, rotten-looking teeth. “Ever’body call me Daddy ’round here ’cause I been here b’fore an’body else show up. I take care o’ things, ’specially new kids like you’self.” As he started to smile again, the lines around his brown eyes crinkled like crunched parchment paper. “I’m ever’body’s sugar daddy ’cause I take care o’ things. If you want, Daddy’ll take care o’ you, too.” His eyes fell on Christopher’s sacks and he moved closer. “Got some sauce fo’ Daddy in them bags?”

“You fucking stay away from me,” Christopher hissed. His palms were sweating and the fine hair on the back of his neck was bristling. Like a frightened dog he growled, “Just stay away from me.”

“Hey Gertie,” Daddy called out to someone Christopher could not see. “Come o’er here. Gimme some help.”

A short, round woman with a weathered brown face and stringy gray hair came shuffling around the corner. The long, buttoned brown coat gave her a Yoda-like appearance. She carried a bottle of booze in her hand. “Who’th thith? Thomeone new?” she lisped.

“He’s afraid o’ Daddy. Tell ’im Daddy’s harmless.”

“Thath right. We all friendth ’round here, but Daddy’th the betht. You can trutht Daddy.” She nodded and took a big swig from her bottle. Then she held it toward Christopher. “How ’bout a welcome drink.”

“Thanks,” Christopher said, barely audible. His mouth had gone as dry as a saltine cracker and, despite his disgust for the situation, he thought of the reason why he was sitting between the two derelicts. “I got my own shit,” he grumbled, and pulled a plastic bottle of Smirnoff from underneath his jacket. He hated what he would have to do next.

During his high school years he had always prided himself as being different from his drinking and drug-abusing buddies. He despised their incoherence when under the influence and swore that he would never weaken to their standard. Temporarily ignoring his principles, he unscrewed the cap of the fresh bottle and lifted it toward his lips.

“What the fuck,” Christopher said when he saw the lusty thirst in Daddy’s bloodshot eyes. He handed the bottle to the addict. “I got another one.” He untied the heavy sack and pulled out two more plastic bottles.

“Shit, man,” Daddy swore, grinning at the bottles as he huddled closer to Christopher. “You my nigger! You ’n’ me gonna git ’long jus’ fine.”

During the night, Christopher met others by one of the fires. He shared his alcohol with every new scurvy drunk and junkie, trying to melt into their existence. He hoped to win their trust and friendship through liquor and speedballs. He prayed that soon they would ask questions and he would be able to tell them about the sleep clinic and the benefits that sustained his own alcohol and drug needs. Pretending to drink and pop drugs, he realized during the hours of the first night that he would be able to survive the next three to four weekends. He looked at the drunk, wasted parasites around the fire, trying not to be too selective. He finally decided to move closer to Gertie, the lisping pariah who was talking and laughing hysterically by herself.

“Whath crackin’, thweetie?” She sucked on her cigarette and exhaled more noxious fumes into the already stench-filled air. “Come thit down. How ’bout sharing thome of your thauthe with ole Gertie?”

Christopher crouched at her level. When he handed her his bottle, he felt himself stepping into the shoes of his first victim.

***

They sat in silence in the backseat of an old Oldsmobile, a faded gray car that would not attract anyone’s attention as they approached the warehouse. The driver, a young, stoic-looking man, was silent as well.

Hakan was still digesting the information he’d received in the past twelve hours. Farouk al-Fatah had told him about the rapid growth of Al-Saafi. In an apparent evolution of a crossover, Islamic fundamentalists, white supremacists and neo-Nazis, and groups that formed after the collapse of the Soviet Union were teaming up with South American freedom fighters as well as a strange assortment of U.S. citizens who had opted to convert to Islam. These forces shared the same ideology, and their common goal was to erode Western dominance in the world. The various groups were operating not only within their own countries, but they also had found a very fertile breeding ground along the border of Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina, known as Triple Border.

“Why?” Hakan asked again. “Blood never mixes with water. How can we trust strangers?”

“You cannot clap with one hand alone,” Farouk replied with raised eyebrows.

Things were happening too fast. Hakan felt his head spinning. He leaned closer to al-Fatah and whispered, “I know that the planned attack on the U.S. government with MAX 18 is only the first of many strikes, but I don’t like to hear that my life’s work soon will be shared with other organizations.”

Farouk al-Fatah looked at Hakan through narrowed eyes. “You’re a scientist; you don’t understand that we need their help,” he hissed. “We must share MAX 18 in return for fake European and U.S. passports. Right now I’m negotiating to get ahold of some of the enormous stockpile of cold-war-era weapons.”

As much as he tried to understand, Hakan felt betrayed by Al-Saafi. With painful reluctance, he realized it was too late to undo the twist of events. Unable to control his frustration, he began to shiver.

“Stop trembling like a timid woman,” Farouk al-Fatah said. “I know what you’re thinking, but your thoughts are foolish. Your scientific genius is well appreciated. Once you return home, you will be able to bathe in the admiration of your superiors until the day you greet Allah.” The Saudi put his fleshy hand on Hakan’s thigh. “In the meantime, always remember that wisdom is beautiful; foolishness is ugly.”

Hakan nodded but Farouk’s comments calmed him only slightly. I must hit the iron while it’s still hot, even if my hand gets burned, he thought. But instead of the pain in his palm, he knew he would forever feel the anguish in his heart as his mind spun around Angela. His heart ached as he thought of the many years, days, hours, and seconds that would come and go without ever being with her again. He felt his eyes mist over and swallowed hard. “Yes,” he said out loud. “The day won’t come soon enough when I shall return to the bosom of Islam.”

CONTINUUM Reviews

The biological warfare story has been done before.  From Stephen King’s The Stand to Graham Masterton’s Plague, it is a recurring plot device for the Science Fiction and horror author.  However, whilst Continuum’s main focus is on international terrorism and biological warfare, this element is offset neatly against a backdrop of mystical events and deep spiritualism, which separates this novel from the crowd.

Continuum begins 27 years ago, when two children are born, on opposite ends of the USA, each child born with an amethyst mote in her eye indicating a pre-ordained destiny and wealth of extraordinary insight and power.  27 years on, the paths of Angela and Teeba collide.  Two sides of the same coin, two halves of the same soul, separated at birth they are fated to work together in a bid to defeat a terrorist group intent on unleashing a plague on the USA Heads of State.  MAX 18 (which can kill in 18 hours or less) is a lethal genetically modified virus, an offshoot of the Ebola Virus, more horrific than the Black Plague.  The Organisation of American Aryans, joining forces with Al-Saafi and a team of expert scientists, are ready, willing and able to release its’ deadly power on the world.

Whilst the general plot veers comfortably towards the political thriller genre, there is so much more happening in Continuum, that the reader is sure to be enticed.  The ‘Continuum’ of the title represents an ancient continuum of souls, old souls throughout history, brought to Earth to achieve great things and change the course of humanity.  In this novel (Beider’s second), each soul, each life, is inextricably linked to another life.  What at first seems to an amazing sequence of coincidences in regards to character connections is soon revealed to be something deeper.  Beider reels us in unwittingly, as we start to realize that there is a larger plan at work.  Every relationship, friendship, birth, death, love or marriage is intertwined and has a distinct purpose in Beider’s world.  And each character is highly believable.  The coincidences, no longer seem apparent, but seem logical.

Continuum, though scattered with a dab of terrorism, and a dash of mysticism, still remains a contemporary Science Fiction novel with a difference.

by:  Theresa Derwin. BookPleasures.com

*****

“CONTINUUM is a marvelous pastiche which combines the suspense of a down to earth spy novel with an ethereal spiritual cosmology. The passages describing the realm of spirit are transcendent while the passages describing the evil logic of modern day bio terrorists are all too disturbingly earthy and real.”

Harry Arader, The Centromere Group

*****

“From the novel’s first page to its last, CONTINUUM’s riveting subject matter and interesting characters grab the reader’s attention in a surrealistic fashion. The mysticism and medical details realistically interweave the stories within a story, holding the reader captive to the end.”

Richard A. Silver, MD.MBA

*****
“A blend of romance, spy, science fiction and the paranormal, CONTINUUM draws the reader into the thrilling realm of international bio-terrorists close to the White House who can only be thwarted by the combined efforts of a pair of beautiful women gifted with the shared sense of premonition.”

Patricia Lofthouse,Television Producer

*****

Hatched on trails in the Santa Catalinas, a local author’s new tale spins a deadly virus, terrorism and two remarkable heroines into a paranormal thriller.

Foothills resident Marlys Beider, a 59-year-old mother of four and grandmother of eight, describes “Continuum” as fantasy fiction. The novel was published in October by Hats Off Publishing.

Beider said she loves spending time in the solitude of the Santa Catalinas, where the mind can wander and ideas build upon themselves.

In her second novel, an Islamic bioterrorist group develops a deadly, fast-acting virus and plans to make the U.S. president and Cabinet the first victims. The scientist who developed the virus has been hired by the CIA to develop a vaccine.
The evil can only be stopped by two women who share a “spiritual ancestry that extends beyond being what we call psychic,” Beider said.

The action starts when one woman comes out of a coma after being shot and the other meets the double-agent scientist. When the two women finally meet, “something never before known happens,” she said.

“I was trying to make you wonder if there are people living among us who have the awesome responsibility of keeping mankind and the future intact,” she said.

“It’s the age-old battle of good vs. evil.”

While the action covers cities across the United States, a good portion of the book is set Tucson, where Beider and her late husband bought a Foothills home nearly 20 years ago.

Beider spends winters at her Foothills home and the rest of the year in Chicago, where she is president of Mid-America Hotel Corp., which she took over when her husband died.

Beider has book signings scheduled for Jan. 9 at 2 p.m. at Barnes & Noble at the Foothills Mall, 7325 N. La Cholla Blvd., and Jan. 15 at 2 p.m at Bookman’s, 6230 E. Speedway.

By Eric Swedlund

ARIZONA DAILY STAR

*****

“Continuum” scares and enthralls Marlys Beider’s newest thriller, “Continuum,” grabs readers with themes straight off mainstream TV: reincarnation and lethal terrorists. In the story of good versus evil, the good are two women who share the same birth moment and extrasensory powers. The evil they aim to thwart: a cabal of bioterrorists out to assassinate the U.S. President. Beider explored the complex issue of unconventional love in her first book, “Fateful Parallels.” Her devoted fans will be thrilled with her latest offering, a nail-biting suspense.

Hollywood

Behind-the-Scenes

By Alice O’Neill

*****

Continuum is one of those rare novels that combines elements of a suspense thriller with a spiritual, sort of New Agey theme and does so in a way that is engaging and hard to put down. This intriguing novel about two very unusual women, connected by something far beyond their mere human form, blends mysticism with terrorism, science with spirit as we are taken on a journey into the unknown.

The story centers on two women, a Tuscon teacher named Teeba Prime and a Louisiana governor’s daughter, Angela Atwood, who share a special connection and spiritual ancestry, drawing them to a common destiny. This connection has to do with a mysterious purple light emanating from their eyes, and hides a special power within that gives them access to higher dimensions of thought and ability.

As the lives of these two women unfold, they are each involved in a web of conspiracy, romance and violence that calls upon them to use their special connection, for their own good as well as for that of all humanity. Teeba and Angela do not know of one another, but their lives draw a stange parallel.

Teeba saves an autistic boy from his murderous brother, and ends up in a coma. But her miraculous recovery catches the attention of the doctor who treated her, resulting in a romance that is temporary and bittersweet.

Meanwhile, Angela becomes involved in the quest to destroy a new and deadly virus called Max 18. She gets closer to a man named Hakan Ozturk, a doctor with direct links to a terrorist group much like Al Qaeda. Seems Ozturk is involved in a plot to kill the President of the United States and many of his cabinet members with the deadly virus.

As both Teeba and Angela work to save the world from the respective evils they have encountered, they finally meet in an explosive scene, but that is not the climax. For these two women will not live long, but will they live long enough to rid the world of evil, which was their chosen destiny all along?

This roller-coaster ride of a novel does get muddled in too many plot directions, and the dialog is a bit stunted and formal. But in general, you forgive these minor infractions because the story itself is so exciting, and so diverse, rocketing from racial violence to Islamic terrorists to New Age spirituality to love and death to the power of new birth and renewed hope.

German-born Beider is a writer to watch, as this is only her second novel. “Continuum” is a wild and exciting ride, and a treat for readers who enjoy suspense, thrills and a tasty touch of the supernatural to top it all off. Continuum can be purchased via the author’s website.

BookIdeas.com Reviewed by: Marie Jones

FATEFUL PARALELLS Summary

Sexy and sophisticated Mimi Silverstein dares to divorce her two-timing husband, the fiery genius Maestro Frans van Diehm, and escape to a new life with their young daughter. As she tries to settle into her new-found freedom, she faces intrigue, power and deception in this dazzling tale of loves past and present.

Against a backdrop of spectacular music, Mimi is drawn toward another international artist, the mysterious rock star Randae Crane. Only then do the Maestro’s guilty secrets begin to unfold.

The riveting conclusion is bound to touch the heart of every reader.

FATEFUL PARALELLS Excerpt

“Good evening, Mrs. van Diehm, what would you like to drink?” The pretty flight attendant, with her charming Viennese accent, offered a tray of drinks. Mimi declined the champagne and asked for a whole bottle of water instead. As she looked out at the hustle-bustle in the heat below, a cool wave of relief went through her and she let out a long sigh. She drank almost all of the water and closed her eyes, wondering about Frans’s reaction when he found the large manila envelope on his desk.

It was over. Her legal team had worked last-minute miracles, and the judge had signed the final papers today. I am divorced, she said to herself and had to repeat it one more time in order to believe it. I am really divorced.

Another sigh escaped her, and she finished the rest of her water. Her head and body shook involuntarily, and despite the heat there were goose bumps on her arms as she pondered the problems that lay ahead. No, she said silently and tried to cancel the persistent thoughts that kept forcing themselves into her mind.

In another fifteen minutes or so the plane would leave, and hopefully she would sleep all the way to Munich. She was looking forward to spending some time in Rottach-Egern at beautiful Lake Tegern. She was excited that her three best friends were on their way to meet her there. A smile went across her face when she thought about all the topics that would be chewed over, dissected, and analyzed. Oh, yes, Mimi was ready for her “sisters.” It had been too long since all four of them had been truly alone, and now there were eight glorious, luxurious days ahead. It was her friends’ idea to get Mimi out of Miami as soon as possible, and it was their suggestion to meet at her favorite place, her parents’ summer home in Rottach-Egern. Her friends were fully aware of the situation and, as always, the “sisters” knew that the time for healing and bonding was due again.

“Gila, Gila, stell Dir vor wer an Board kommt, Ich kann es einfach nicht glauben.” The excited voice of the Austrian flight attendant faded as she sped by Mimi’s seat, rushing toward the entrance of the Amadeus class, interrupting Mimi’s thoughts. She turned around and saw other passengers turning and looking back also. Three flight attendants and the purser were standing by the door, anxiously peering out. Nothing was happening, so she let her eyes gaze out of the window again, thinking that probably some dignitary was boarding at the last minute.

Several seats were still available in the cabin, and so she was confident that the one next to her would remain empty. She and Frans had flown Lauda Air many times, and they were always given priority and special attention.

There was more commotion as the excited voices came closer. Out of the corner of her eye Mimi saw that right across the aisle from her the two stewardesses were busy putting pieces of luggage in the overhead compartment while exchanging soft words in between nervous giggles.

“Here, Mr. Crane, please, this is your seat,” the young blonde flight attendant said with awe in her voice. Mimi could not help but look and saw the back of a tall, well-built male in blue jeans and black T-shirt. A deep and slightly raspy voice said, “No, no, please, there is no room up here for this. Don’t we have an empty bin?” All three turned around and looked into the one above Mimi. It was empty. She had only brought her black bag on board, and it was sitting beside her. To her surprise she recognized the man immediately. In front of her stood Randae Crane, international rock star.

* * *

Frans went to his desk and poured himself some of the lemonade, still looking out of the big window. Then, reluctantly, he picked up the phone for his voice messages. Sam Schwartz, his lawyer, had called twice, asking to be called back. His assistant confirmed all his flight arrangements and left names and numbers of people he needed to contact the next morning. The last message was from Tomoko. She really wanted to talk to him. That’s all she said.

He called Sam at home. “Sam, it’s Frans. I hope I am not interrupting your dinner.”

“No, no, no…’ve been…waiting for your call.” Sam cleared his throat. “Frans, this is not what you want to hear,” he said, clearing his throat again. “The judgment for dissolution of marriage was signed today. As a matter of fact, they had finalized everything the way we all originally agreed on, and the court signed the documents before I had a chance to hand in the new papers. I am sorry we were late, but then you only talked to me last night about it. We sent a copy over to your house already. It should be on your desk.”

Frans rose out of his chair, and the color drained from his face. “What do you mean, too late? You told me last night that you would file immediately and there was a chance I would not be divorced until I’d come back from my tour. How could this be? Do you know what that means now? God damn it.” The palm of his hand slammed on the desk. He was shaking with anger, and the sudden crossfire of thoughts resulted in an instant headache. “Is that what I paid you a goddamn fortune for? You assured me you would be able to intervene. You’re supposed to be the best, Sam. What the fuck happened?”

Sam stayed cool and told him again that because of the cutoff discovery, and the fact that both parties had signed the settlement agreement, the date had been set for this day to finalize the divorce. Frans’s change of mind on a minor matter at the last minute just did not give him enough time.

“What do you mean, not enough time?” Frans shouted into the phone. “What the hell were you doing? Sleeping? Obviously not working your fastest. Shit, do you know what this means for me now? How am I ever going to get her back? I am up to my neck in work and am leaving in one week for two whole months. Damn you, Sam, I really…” His fist hit his desk so hard that the lemonade spilled over; ironically Mimi’s picture in the heavy silver frame fell on the floor. “She’s a bitch, Sam. She had it all figured out. Fucking sneak. Didn’t say one word to me, didn’t even say good-bye. I’m going to get even with her. I’m going to teach her a lesson, Sam.”

“Frans, give me a minute and listen to me, please. As your friend and your lawyer, I am advising you to stay calm. If you want her back, you won’t get her this way. You lost her because of your temper, besides other…umm…matters. Try another route. Try to change some of your habits and show her that you still care. Talk to her when you call Viola, be her friend. Don’t argue, be agreeable. Do things right, and don’t fight her. You’re a brilliant man, you’ll know what to do if you really want her back.” As always, Sam sounded calm but he also realized he had said too much. He knew Frans too well.

“Don’t lecture me now, counselor.” The suddenly pale maestro was forcing the words through clenched teeth. “I am extremely disappointed in you, and nothing you say tonight is going to change that. I will do what I have to do whether you like it or not. Good-bye, Sam.” He hung up the phone and put his head between his hands.

“Daddy, do I have to play the piano tonight?” Viola stood in the door, clutching the big knob in her little hand, looking at her father sitting at the desk holding his head. “Pearl promised to play cards with me before I have to go to bed.”

He turned around and looked at his beautiful little daughter standing there, waiting for an answer. “No piano tonight, princess.” His voice sounded tired. “Go play cards. I’ll come and say goodnight later.” He watched her close the door, smiling at him gratefully.

His left hand was still holding his head as he pushed the pile of envelopes around with his right. Then he saw the big manila envelope from Schwartz, Bernstein, & Cooper and underneath found another envelope, this one on Mimi’s stationery. He ripped it open and read:

Dear Frans,

By the time you open this letter you will have talked to Sam. Nothing was changed at the last minute. Everything remains the same as we agreed. I have made arrangements to ship all my belongings to Chicago. This will happen when you are on tour and I am in Europe with Viola.

Enclosed is our itinerary with phone numbers. Perhaps you will give yours to Consuela. This will allow Vi to get in touch whenever she wants. For the sake of our daughter, I hope that we can become friends again. I wish the best for your tour and your future.

Good-bye,

Mimi

***

That’s what the reporters had called it—an accident. But Jacopo and his family knew better. Guilia had left a letter for her son, Andrea, to be given to him after his twenty-first birthday. In the note she told her son that she had no choice but to kill herself and Lara. She kept apologizing for her weakness and told him how sorry she was and begged for his forgiveness. Whatever she did not say was easy to read between the lines.

The old man stopped walking, took off his hat, and wiped his forehead and neck with a big white handkerchief. He looked up at the sky and realized it had gotten much warmer overnight. He fanned his head briefly with his hat, then put it on again and continued to walk. Another hundred meters and he would be by the lake where he could sit on the little bench and take a rest before returning to the house.

The accident, the suicide, was because of that miserable ex-son-in-law of his. Frans van Diehm had made his daughter’s and her children’s lives a nightmare. And according to Jacopo, Giulia’s life was the entire family’s life.

Giulia and Frans had met at the Gustav Mahler Akademie in Vienna. A year older than Frans, Giulia studied voice with soprano Elvira Teller. Frans, known as the wunderkind from Holland, was a protege of conductor Heinrich Steiner. Arriving at the Akademie after he finished high school in Utrecht, Frans became the prized student of the world-renowned Professor Sondermann.

Giulia’s big brown eyes and long, wavy hair represented the classic Italian beauty. Even though Frans was nineteen years old, it did not take long for him to show the woman-chasing tendencies that would become a part of his adult life. Of course, Giulia did not see them. She was blinded by his musical talent, his chiseled features, his tall and lean body. Being young and vulnerable, she was flattered by his attention and soon fell for him. With her dark southern complexion and his blond, blue-eyed northern good looks, they became known to their fellow students as “Carmen” and “Siegmund.” Heads turned wherever they were seen together.

After completion of her studies, Giulia auditioned for Arturo Massetti in Naples, who hired her to sing Musetta in La Boheme. During the following two years she performed in concerts on well-known stages around the globe. Some critics faulted her technique but most agreed on her superb coloratura range and strong, clear voice quality.

Frans, who had won first prize in the Frankfurt International Conductors Competition, became associate conductor of the Frankfurt Philharmonic and was later appointed music director. Even though their schedules took them apart, they managed to steal away on rare occasions. During one of those blissful moments, Giulia became pregnant.

Jacopo remembered very well the day his daughter broke the news to the family. He had met Frans on a prior occasion when he guest-conducted at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, the summer festival in Florence. Jacopo had a funny feeling about the Dutchman from the beginning; their chemistry just did not mix. Sure, he admired what Frans had accomplished at such an early age, but he could not warm to this young man, soon to be his son-in-law.

Jacopo did not share his sentiments with anyone in the family, not even Anna, because the enthusiasm about this famous young couple was overwhelming. Instead he tried to ignore his intuition and pretended to join them in their happiness by throwing one of the most spectacular wedding parties in Italy.

He never understood why, after Andrea was born, Giulia gave up her singing career. She insisted it was simply due to the fact that she wanted her family together. Much later Jacopo found out Frans had given her an ultimatum: either they focused on his career or there was no marriage.

***

“How did you find me and why are you here?” She did not wait for his answer. “I certainly do not need any more bad press, especially since I just got through explaining these stupid rumors to my family. What if you were followed here? Have you forgotten that I am a married woman and….” She bit her lips as she realized what she had just said. “Well, I have a family and a reputation to protect.” She swallowed, hoping her heart would stop beating so rapidly. “What is it you want from me anyway?”

Randae walked toward her slowly. “You look even more beautiful when you are angry, and you have the right to be this way. I should have called instead of showing up here without a warning.”

Mimi was moving away from the door and away from him. She allowed her eyes to lock with his. She escaped by pouring some water and sitting down on one of the lounge chairs.

“I knew you would not risk coming tomorrow, and I was afraid you would not take my calls. To make a long story short, I really wanted to see you again.” Randae sat himself across from her, leaving a comfortable distance between the two of them. He explained that Lionel had easily found the address on the lake because he had knowledge of her parents’ business and name. He assured her that precautions were taken and no one had followed them. He was trying to make eye contact with Mimi again, but while he was talking she looked over the lake rather than at him. Randae stopped and remained silent for a long time. He watched her eyes track the darkness that was falling over the lake.

When she finally looked at him she shook her head. “I still do not understand what you want from me.” Her voice was as crisp as the evening air. Her eyes had narrowed in annoyance.

It was Randae’s turn to be lost for words, an experience that took him by surprise. He had always prided himself on his self-confidence. He was not manipulative, but he knew how to get his way. He certainly had the reputation of having the last word, especially with women.

He could not think of anything to say other than to repeat himself. “I came here because I needed to see you again.” And then he added softly, “I would like to get to know you better and hopefully see more of you.”

Mimi felt her heart beating faster again after it had slowed down for a bit. She sensed the same butterflies in the pit of her stomach as she had a couple of years before when a powerful personality had said almost the identical words to her. She had been going through a very rough time with Frans then and was feeling extremely vulnerable. She regretted that very secret encounter from the moment it started, because she was afraid of disappointing her children. They were so proud of her; the thought of ruining her reputation because of a temporary weakness had caused her to feel shame. Yet she had succumbed to temptation because at that time it felt good to be romanced, liked, and loved by someone even more famous than her husband.

And now she was sitting across from another well-known personality, handsome and younger than she was, feeling her nerves tighten and release, experiencing deja vu.

***

He smelled her presence before he laid eyes upon his naked wife. She was spread-eagled in front of his nose; her pointed toes touching the high C and the low A on either end of the piano. “Make music,” she moaned as she arched her back and then lifted her pelvis toward his face. The last thing he saw was her long blonde hair flowing like a river down the black shiny instrument.

“Aagh.” He heard himself exhaling heavily but he did not know if it was only in his thoughts. “Mimi,” he whispered, “I need you again. Please, don’t leave me now.” He pressed his eyes tighter and tried to lose himself in more of those exquisite memories.

She always surprised him, catching him off guard, but the rewards were matchless. While they were waiting for his dream house to be built on Star Island, they had stayed for more than a year in the penthouse of one of the luxury hotels on the beach. Early one morning, dressed in only a robe, he was at his usual place, playing his beloved Steinway.

He saw her coming in, her tanned body showing through the lace of her night slip. Her hair was tousled, her eyes still half closed. Mimi had just awakened. She slowly came closer and bent her upper body into the curve of the grand piano. Her head rested on her arms and she watched his fingers. They locked eyes, and before he could make another move, she had slid down and shifted her head from one instrument to another.

Ecstatically he kept playing Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” probably better than ever before. He did not stop either when, to his horror, he saw that their breakfast was being wheeled into the adjoining room. His heartbeat quickened even further from the heightened thrill of almost being caught, but Frans was certain that the white-jacketed waiter could not see Mimi. No sooner had the door closed behind the waiter than Frans and his music exploded simultaneously at the height of a crescendo.

“Mmmh,” he quietly moaned again, feeling a stirring inside him. He pressed his face deeper into the pillow. You were the best, he thought. How could I ever let you go?

***

It was a little after six o’clock in the evening when Sebastian drove into the picturesque village of Rottach-Egern. They still had to go halfway around the lake to get to the house, and for some reason one line of traffic was bumper to bumper.

“Scheiss Touristen,” Sebastian grumbled.

“Pardon me?” Randae looked up from his work.

“Ach Gott, noch mal…those stupid tourists.” The heavyset driver was translating with obvious contempt. “What are they doing here in the rain anyway?” He shook his head and fell silent again. He was not a man of many words.

Randae saw the slow-moving line of cars in front of them. The windshield wipers were going at top speed to give a clear view of the gray and wet surroundings. The mountains were wrapped in dark low-hanging clouds, and the lake was being whipped by heavy rain, creating ripples and holes on its usually smooth surface. The faces of the few people rushing by mirrored the gloom they felt inside as they sheltered themselves from the unpleasant weather under their umbrellas.

Looking through the darkened windows of the car gave Randae a cozy feeling as he sat dry and comfortable, knowing that soon he would feel the warmth of the one person who meant so much to him these days. He stretched his neck to see if there was an end to the congestion up ahead because now he could not wait to take Mimi into his arms, knowing she was so close. He had forgotten his cell phone on the plane, so there was no way of reaching her and letting her know he was almost there.

The remaining few kilometers took more than double the time before they finally reached the driveway. Sebastian’s chest was still heaving from suppressing his anger, although Randae thought he heard some grumbling guttural sounds as if the man was swearing under his breath.

“What the—?” It was a relief for Sebastian to explode loudly when he saw a light-blue station wagon blocking the driveway. A big but agile man jumped out, throwing a rain cape over his head and body, and came to their car. Sebastian lowered the window and barked something in German at the man, who equally loudly barked back at him. Then the stranger stuck his wet head into the car and explained to Randae in broken English that he was hired to patrol the property and required name and identification.

After matching the name to his list, he backed up the blue vehicle to make way for their passage. Randae had forgotten that Mimi had reluctantly agreed to hire a twenty-four-hour guard patrol, mainly to keep reporters off the property but also some rock-crazed fans of Randae’s, as well as nosy gawkers. It had taken some time for her to be convinced, but she finally gave in after Joshua and Zachary expressed concern not only about shielding herself and Viola from the intruders but also securing privacy and safety.

Sebastian handed Randae his bag and confirmed the pickup for the next day at half past four in the afternoon.

Before Randae got to the door, Sebastian had already pulled out of the driveway, and the blue station wagon blocked the entry once again.

A small envelope was taped to the antique oak door with Randae’s name written on it. For a moment he was afraid that something had happened. But as soon as he tore it open a broad smile came across his face.

There were only four words. At the top it said, “The door…” In the middle was the unmistakable imprint of Mimi’s fuchsia-colored lips. And underneath the imprint of her mouth it continued with “…is open!”

When he walked inside and locked the heavy door behind him he instantly felt the comfortable serenity of the old big house. In the foyer he saw one very high-heeled black shoe lying sideways on the floor at the bottom of the staircase. Three steps further up he spotted its twin. He picked up both of them and proceeded to climb the staircase. With the pointy heel of one of the shoes he scooped up a sheer leopard-print robe and hung it over the railing. He followed the striptease of clothes down the hallway, passing by one stocking lying seductively on the carpet. A few feet further he saw the other.

Randae could hear the music in his head as he envisioned the scene.

Next he spotted a lacy garter, followed by a pair of sheer leopard-print panties. The missing link was on the floor between her bedroom door and its frame, showing him the path, holding it open. He could see a flickering light coming through the slightly ajar door. His heart pounded with wild excitement as he slowly entered the room.

“Mimi?” He whispered her name, not wanting to scare her. The bedroom was aglow in candlelight, and he saw her curves under the silky sheet of the bed. “Mimi?” He softly spoke her name again, but she did not stir. He quietly went into the bathroom, took off his clothes and rinsed his mouth.

When Randae slid under the covers and looked at her beautiful face, framed by the shock of blonde hair, he knew he had come home.

“I love you.” He had barely breathed the words when he felt her index finger over his mouth.

“Sh-sh-sh-sh,” she said and lifted herself on top of him.

Randae closed his eyes.

Their lovemaking was exploratory at first, then teasing to the point where he thought he could not hold back any longer. But Mimi knew when to stop. Only long enough, though, to let his thrill ebb down before she would flood him with desire all over again.

When they were exhausted, Mimi finally spoke. “Welcome back,” she breathed into his ear. “How was your flight?”

“I’m still flying, and it is wonderful!”

***

“Jacopo!” At first he did not hear his wife’s soft voice through the open window. Then she called him again, this time a little louder. “Jacopo!” The old man walked back into the house toward the big room where a family meeting had broken up less than an hour before.

Anna stood out of her chair and was leaning against the heavy table. “Per favore.” She smiled and motioned to her husband. “Sono esausta.” She told him she was exhausted and asked him to please help her go upstairs. Slowly Jacopo walked her up the staircase, resting on every other step. He had tried to convince his ailing wife long ago to let him turn one of the downstairs rooms into a chamber for both of them but she refused. “As long as I can somehow still do it, please, let us sleep where we have been so comfortable most of our lives,” the proud old woman had answered.

Jacopo waited by the window, feeling the mild evening breeze, until Anna slowly came out of the bathroom. He helped her into the massive four-poster bed and covered her thin frame with the down comforter. “Che mano freddo,” he said when he took her hand and noticed how cold it was.

Her eyes met his, and she gratefully smiled when she felt his hands bringing warmth to hers.

“Tell me, Jacopo, is everything all right?” Anna’s voice was tired, but he detected her concern. She proceeded to let him know that she did not perceive the atmosphere among the family as easy going and jovial as usual. “I hope it has nothing to do with Andrea. He seemed tense and distant. How did he look to you?” Anna’s breathing was shallow, and her bony chest was rising with each quick breath.

“No, no, cara.” Jacopo shook his head. “Everybody was tense because it’s a weekday, and they all have lots of things on their minds…business things.” He brought his wife’s hand to his mouth and gently kissed it. “Andrea, too. You know how hectic his schedule is, and soon he’ll have to leave again to go overseas for a while. It’s hard on him whenever he has to leave the family.”

Anna sighed and squeezed her husband’s hand. “I hope you’re right. I wish he would find a good woman and start a family of his own. He needs to settle down.” She turned her head and looked at Jacopo with grave eyes. He could feel the hesitation in her voice before she continued. “I would like to see him come out of hiding while I am still alive. It’s been too long!”

Jacopo looked at her in amazement as he kept listening.

“His father is getting older. We don’t have to fear him anymore. I don’t ever want to see Frans again but…I have made peace with him.” She coughed, and Jacopo took the glass of water from the night stand to help her drink from it. Anna squeezed his hand and made sure she had eye contact with her husband again before she went on. “Don’t try to protect me, please. Il mio tempo e poco.” Her voice was soft but resolute when she told him that her time was short. “I can only die peacefully knowing that Andrea, too, will have laid down his weapons. He needs to put the past behind him. It’s time to come home!” A tear rolled over Anna’s pale sunken cheek. “You have to help him, Jacopo! It is not going to be easy. You all will have to help him. Promise me that.”

***

Zachary had charmed the nurse by telling her that this nursing home was by far the best in care and attention he had seen. He told her that he loved the fact that patients were surrounded by memorabilia that connected them to their past, even if they did not recognize any of it. He asked if he could take pictures of Mrs. Crane’s beautiful accommodations. The nurse saw no harm in his doing so.

With his hi-tech camera he made sure he focused and captured the family photographs around the room. They came out amazingly clear, and again he had them enlarged. He presented them to Inken. “What do you notice?” he asked his skilled mentor.

Inken studied the shots carefully and then questioningly looked at Zach. “Am I right to assume that my answer should be: Randae does not gel with the rest of the family?”

“Precisely.” Both Zach and Inken were bent over the table, studying the photographs closely, agreeing that nothing in Randae’s features resembled either the mother or the father.

In addition he seemed much taller and larger than the rest of the Crane family.

“Now please sit down.” Zach took another envelope out of his folder. “I went to one of those computer technicians whom the police use to project sketches of people, particularly children who have been missing for years. It’s incredible what they can do when they age these children twenty to thirty years.” Zachary’s face was flushed as he told Inken that he gave the computer genius one picture of the twelve- or thirteen-year-old Andrea and another of the approximately eighteen-year-old Randae and told him to enhance them digitally and project the two faces to anywhere between the age of thirty-five and forty.

“Well?” Inken moved her chair even closer.

Zachary Silverstein was silent as he pulled the two composites out of the envelope and put them on top of the other material spread out on the table.

There was a loud shriek as Inken’s hand flew to her mouth. “It can’t be. Please God…Oh no!” She kept staring at the evidence.

When Zach looked into her face, he saw the first tear roll down Inken’s cheek.

“What are we going to do now?” he whispered.

She needed a moment to find her bearings. “We can only wait until Monday morning and hope it is not too late.” She stopped to hold back a round of tears. “Tomorrow you’ll have to go to Chicago and meet with your brother and sister. And then,” Inken drew in a breath, “talk to your mother.”

Zachary let out a deep sigh. He was stunned at how his family had become part of a bizarre double-identity case. He was grateful, though, that Inken had given him a chance to put the pieces together. “I don’t know what to say, except…” He looked away, and then his eyes flashed right at her. “Except will you come with?”

Inken forced a nervous laugh. It was hard to believe that her best friend could be involved in such a messy story. “Of course, I will,” she said. “I am grateful you asked.”

***

Following Dr. Smith’s orders, the surgical nurse, Lynn, handed him the clamp. At the same time the perfusionist made preparations to discontinue the heart/lung machine in order to allow circulation to restore itself and resume function of the heart.

The OR team watched expectantly as nothing happened. The monitor showed asystole. There was just a flatline.

“What? What the fuck happened? It looked so good. What did I do wrong?” With a frantic look in his eyes and tiny beads appearing on his forehead, Dr. Smith screamed for the paddles. He placed them on either side of the heart to shock it. There was no response.

“Come on, come on, come on!” The feverishly working surgeon shocked the heart a second time. Simultaneously the anesthesiologist administered epinephrine, but nothing happened. All attempts to resuscitate the patient were to no avail.

In total disbelief Dr. Smith kept shaking his head and asked himself over and over again what could possibly have gone wrong. Not coming up with any answers he finally said with a sad sigh of resignation, “That’s it—let’s call it.”

Reluctantly he turned to Lynn to ask for sutures to close the chest of the deceased.

Lynn’s eyes were fixed on the open cavity, and it was her cry that brought life back into an OR that had temporarily turned silent. “No, wait! Look—I saw a flutter.”

Dr. Smith’s head snapped up. The sad look in his eyes turned into disbelief mixed with incredulous joy as he stared at the monitor.

“Oh my God,” he whispered and barely paid attention to the anesthesiologist, who told them that the patient was in normal sinus rhythm.

“Oh dear God,” he repeated more loudly, “This is a miracle.”

FATEFUL PARALELLS Reviews

“In this psychologically complex and romantic novel, Marlys Beider creates a bevy of fascinating, internationally jet-setting characters. But beyond the titillation of the beautiful settings and exciting people, she raises profound questions about the hidden forces that shape and direct our lives. Brava, Marlys!”
Guy U. Motanky, Ph.D.
*****
“This is a story of passion that keeps you turning the pages with its stunning revelations. You’ll fall in love with wealthy, smart and fearless Mimi and sexy, mysterious rock star Randae, who take forbidden love to another level. Settle down for a delicious read.”
Alice O’Neill
Los Angeles Features Syndicate

*****

“Marlys Beider gifts her readers with a first-class ticket to a jet-set world – an intercontinental romp tinged with intrigue, romance and mystery. She has skillfully drawn savory characters into an ever-thickening plot. Fateful Parallels is laced with love and a surprise ending that left me breathless!
S.C. Pemberton
Author of Murder in Winnetka

*****

“Juicy combination of romance and mystery, and a “voyage into the worlds of classical and modern music as well as a spectacular tour across the United States and Europe”
Felicia Dechter
Lerner Skyline

*****

“Sexy and Sophisticated”
Pioneer Press
Gerst, Ingram & Andries

I Am Here Summary

Twenty-two year old Kuri Berger has made an impactful impression on film and television audiences and is one of the industry's most sought after actors of her generation. For years she’s experienced strange hallucinations and heard voices that speak to her in languages she doesn’t understand. While filming in Germany, she visits the memorial site of the former concentration camp Dachau where she has an eye-opening encounter with psychiatrist Adam Gold, a compassionate, intelligent man who’s dealt with mysterious visions of his own. Though hesitant to disclose their past surreal episodes to the other, they both sense having found a kindred spirit.

As Kuri and Adam's love grows deeper with each passing day, they open arcane doors and face puzzling new occurrences. In order to overcome the enigma that pursues them, they must seek the source of their otherworldly connection—a link that transcends the bounds of time.

I Am Here Reviews

“Do you want to hear my theory of why I was misdiagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome before I was five years old? Shall I clue you in as to why I was incorrectly identified with autism spectrum disorder by yet another pediatric neurologist? Have you read those parts of my file that elaborate on the voices that spoke to me in languages I couldn’t understand? Or how about the dark and distant hallucinations I endured for more than a decade? Did or did I not, have schizophrenic episodes? Or . . . could it be that I might have been acting and lying all those years?”

Kuri Berger paused and, for a brief moment, reclined into the sofa in the psychiatrist’s office where hues of pale green and warm pink in the upholstery complemented the tones in the area rug and the tint of the painted walls; the subtle glow from two table lamps spread across the cozy room during this early evening hour. Still staring intently at her new therapist, Kuri leaned forward again. “But . . . what if my life really has been stranger than fiction?” A forced lopsided smile formed on her lips. “Doc Clayson believes that you’ll be able to help uncover what’s been haunting me all these years.” And, barely audible, she added, “Can you?”

***

Dr. Melanie Brichta had not stirred during this brief nonverbal communication. Surprised by a strange uncertainty, she was unable to interpret her immediate instincts. Never before in her long professional career had she experienced personal flashbacks from her own past while listening and observing a patient. She was particularly startled when, even during Kuri Berger’s momentary distress, their eye contact was never broken.

The therapist cleared her throat. “After I spoke to Dr. Clayson, I read most of your clinical reports,” she said calmly. “I believe I can help you.”

***

Ethan Berger left his family’s offices in a hurry, oblivious to his seething smirk. “What the fuck?” he grunted as he spotted Stan, the chauffeur, standing by the car across the busy street. “Fuck this shit,” he grumbled as he dodged traffic coming from both directions on LaSalle Street.

Stan held the door open and apologized for not being able to park in front of the tall White Birch building because of ongoing street repairs. Without looking at the older man who had driven the family for over twenty years, Ethan brushed by him and threw himself into the leather seats. As the door closed, he felt himself disappear behind the dark tinted windows. He brusquely ordered Stan to make a stop at Tavern on Rush. “We’re picking someone up! Then to my house! I’m in a hurry!”

Ethan was unable to control his fury and hatred over what had transpired in the past two hours.

“Son, I love you very much, but under no circumstances can I put my name to this! I’ve suggested before to find another venue interested in your ideas. I cannot jeopardize White Birch’s dignity— not now nor ever!”

The powerful voice of his eighty-year-old father kept echoing in Ethan’s mind, and he remembered how abruptly his carefully prepared ten-page presentation had been cast aside. It came to no surprise that his two older siblings were in full agreement with their father; like two bobbleheads, they kept nodding in unison.

***

Every inch of Ethan’s spacious condominium was meticulously designed to be perfectly balanced in tone and light intensity. He wanted the mostly open spaces to be practically minimalist, devoid of fuss and clutter, and he liked the hard beauty of marble, glass, and steel partnered with all gray and black décor. Some well-placed modern sculptures and wall hangings—all in a palette of copper, bronze, and rose gold—gave the sharply defined bachelor pad a bit of warmth.

He ordered Alexa to open the motorized window treatments, then told the virtual assistant to play Bruno Mars’s 24K Magic. Out of the corner of his eye, he watched Irina walk toward the guest quarters. It pleased him that she knew better than to throw her tote on one of the Vladimir Kagan iconic sofas and chairs, nor would she kick off her shoes on the white Thassos marble and Otta Pillarguri stone flooring. Instead, she went straight into one of the elaborate walk-in closets. Ethan followed so he could watch her strip off everything except the black lace bras, thong, and high-heeled sandals. After checking herself in the floor-length mirror, she slowly turned, posed, and gave Ethan a questioning look. “You approve, my emperor?”

***

She catapulted from the car as it raced down the autobahn, just before it took a direct hit from the drone that divebombed from above and exploded. Taking long, elegant steps, she quickly took position in a cornfield close to the exit ramp. She crouched and pulled out the high-tech laser weapon attached to her skintight uniform and aimed. She waited for the smoke and the shower of drone-debris to subside. When she could see the sky again, she stood and brushed the dust and dirt off her glossy midnight-blue sci-fi combat fatigue. She parted the tall green stalks, searching for the blue exit sign for Ausfahrt Dachau-Fürstenfeldbruck.

Assuming a regal pose, she let out a mirthless laugh. “Veni, vidi, vici,” she sneered, then turned and strode decisively through the field; the thicket of dark green leaves softly waved their tassels in the silky summer breeze. Like the ghosts of baseball players in Field of Dreams, she disappeared between the rows of corn.

“Cut!” John Gibson, the director, ran to her. “Perfect!” He beamed. “I’ve said it before, this character was tailor-made for you, Kuri. You nail every scene.”

***

An unexpected panic gripped her when she looked straight ahead at the wrought-iron gate with the infamous slogan ARBEIT MACHT FREI spelled out below the archway. “Work sets you free,” Kuri whispered. The night before, she had spent hours on her laptop, reading more about Dachau and other Nazi concentration camps, watching and listening to interviews with Holocaust survivors. She shivered despite the warmth of the summer day. She stood, as if frozen to the ground, and stared at the gate.

“Hi, are you part of the group from Texas?” A middle-aged man suddenly stood next to her, smiling broadly, extending his hand. “I am John Wexler, your tour guide.”

She shook her head and lowered her voice. “I’m not part of a tour—I’m by myself.”

***

Like a robot she walked from exhibit to exhibit, unaware of the visitors around her. She grew oblivious to the passage of time as her thoughts were flooded by the horrors perpetrated against the Romani, the gays, the disabled, the ethnic Poles, the political dissidents, and above all, the Jews. Her subconscious produced faces and voices that gave this nightmare even more weight in her mind. She felt as if she, too, had been stripped of her belongings and of her dignity; she, too, was forced into hard labor, starved, tortured, and subjected to unspeakable medical experiments. More than thirty thousand lives, she recalled had been taken on these grounds, victims of a horrific ideology.

….The room blurred as ghostlike images of people appeared in Kuri’s field of vision, their voices steadily drowning out Wexler’s speech. Her head began to spin, she felt her knees weaken. As she collapsed, she sensed someone catching her; then, everything went black.

***

He saw a shady spot under a tree nearby and gently placed the limp body on its back. With his bulky backpack, Adam elevated the youth’s legs and unzipped the vest to made sure there wasn’t a restricting belt or tight pants that needed loosening. He gasped when he saw the breasts protruding under the white T-shirt. “A girl!” he murmured, quickly closing the vest again. He studied her face and realized he hadn’t noticed the hood slipping off, exposing her white-blond hair with its fluorescent streaks of midnight blue and turquoise. As he took her pulse, he heard her call out in a small, hoarse voice.

“It’s so cold, so dark. Where are you?” Her right arm moved through the air, her hand clutching and searching for something. “It’s dark! Where are you?”

***

Without taking his eyes off her, he moved between another two rows of gravel beds. Eventually he stooped down, pulled a rock from his pocket and added it to the gravel. He lowered his eyes and, for a few moments, the world around him faded away. As soon as he allowed himself to rise, his eyes were drawn to her as if by a powerful magnet. He couldn’t understand this instant connection he felt with her. For years he had sensed an unexplainable constant existence of someone absent, and now, having met her, he wanted to stay in her presence.

“Impossible,” he whispered. He shook his head as if trying to obliterate a perplexing concept. “It simply is impossible.”

***

During his graduate studies at Harvard he had befriended Sanjay Argawal, another psychiatry major. Sanjay told Adam how he had suffered from burdening anxieties until a therapist in his native India was able to use hypnosis to lead him to a dramatic revelation. Adam found the details confusing at first, but Sanjay told him that in mostly Hindu India, the belief in karma and past lives was as old as time itself.

Shortly after their graduation, Adam visited Sanjay in Mumbai and wound up enrolling in classes at the Institute of Life, where he learned how phobias, physical illnesses, depression, and anxieties found full resolution as the cause was healed from beyond the current life. The more he discovered about the mind, body, and soul through past life regression therapy, the more he trusted these amazing techniques would eventually cure him as well.

It was eight months into his studies when Adam experienced his first past-life regression. Through the guidance of Darshita Khatri, his mentor and guru, the visions he could never convince himself were simply products of his overactive imagination suddenly gained new meaning. Even though Adam knew the existence of reincarnation was not scientifically accepted, Darshita Khatri helped him understand the apparitions as moments where his soul experienced life in another human body decades before him.

***

They had reached the barn when Max stopped walking. He went inside and returned with a shovel, kicking the door shut behind him. “My mother had just turned twenty-three when on April 27, 1945, she found two emaciated young people . . . teenagers, hiding in this barn, just a few days before the Americans liberated Dachau. Mother later found out that thousands of starving prisoners were heading toward Tegernsee. Many of them were so weak they did not make it; countless other prisoners got shot by the SS henchmen; somehow these two kids managed to escape from this deadly march.”

“Did you say . . . two kids?” Adam’s heartbeat quickened.

“Yes. A boy and a girl.” Max frowned. “But didn’t you say the father, your patient, escaped with his son? My mother never mentioned another man—only the young girl and boy.”

Adam swallowed, caught in the half-truth so soon. His mind raced, trying to find a way to clarify the discrepancy.

***

1941

More and more Jews are being rounded up and sent away. Bubbeh and Zaydeh tell us we must split up in order to be safe. Golda will move in with Agata’s cousin Janina and Waclaw Kuczok. Their thirteen-year-old daughter, Mara, recently died from pneumonia and whooping cough—so many people die from it these days. Mara had blonde hair and blue eyes, just like Golda. The Kuczoks are moving to a small village near the apple orchard where nobody knows them. Until the war is over, Golda will have to pretend to be their daughter, so she can pass as a Gentile. Agata swears her cousins are good people and that Golda will be well taken care of; she will be safe!

Tomorrow Golda will be picked up by Agata’s cousins. We cry because we’re sad, but there are smiles under our tears because we’re happy that Golda will be safe. Bubbeh, Zaydeh, Golda, Agata, and I sit in the living room. Bubbeh sits at the piano and asks Golda to sing her favorite song. I love when Golda sings—she has a beautiful voice.

Roter Mohn, warum welkst du denn schon, wie mein Herz sollst du glüh’n und feurig loh’n. Roter Mohn, den der Liebste mir gab, welkst du weil ich ihn schon verloren hab?...

***

Because I also look Aryan, Agata promises she’ll find a safe Polish home for me too.

But it doesn’t happen. When I walk home from studying with the old rebbe, two Nazis grab me while others of the German SS take hold of more Jewish boys.

Wie alt bist Du?” A skinny Nazi with thin lips and pockmarks all over his face slaps me. I am about the same height as him but definitely brawnier, so I stand up even straighter and stare him down. “I am fifteen,” I lie, answering in German. He takes a step back and through slits of eyes looks me up and down. Then, he puffs out his small chest and points to a group of Jewish men to my right. “Weitergehen,” he yells, and moves on to assault his next victims.

My heart pounds so hard, but I don’t want anyone to know how scared I am. “What is happening?” I murmur to the men I now stand shoulder to shoulder with.

“Don’t look them in the eye. They will beat you or shoot you,” whispers the man to my right.

“Don’t even talk,” breathes someone behind me. To my left, another man starts sobbing like a child. I see the skinny Nazi point his rifle and fire. I instinctively turn my head when I hear the dull, heavy sound of a body falling to the ground. I try to bend down to help, but the man to my right grabs my arm.

“Don’t,” he whispers, “or you’ll be next.”

***

Tommy Nova was a South African born singer, songwriter, and producer. He and Kuri had been dating off and on for more than a year. The twenty-nine-year-old rock star had achieved fame with an eclectic blend of electronic, pop, and hip-hop that was mixed with swing from the big-band era. Tommy was celebrated worldwide, always admired for his panache. Fashion houses took delight in designing his stage suits, always in the bright colors he loved, matched with unusual shirts and ties.

He stood in front of the hotel entrance, dressed in Comme des Garçon’s wide suspended knickers over a CDG T-shirt, surrounded by screaming fans. It was obvious he enjoyed posing with them for selfies, but the second he saw Kuri and Justin emerge from the van, he pushed through the crowd shouting, “There they are!”

Like a clutch of chattering chicks, the squealing horde followed their idol.

Tommy threw his arms around Kuri and lifted her off the ground, twirling her through the air before holding her aloft like a trophy to show the crowd. “Are you ready for me?” he whispered into her ear. “I got some surprises!”

***

When she returned from the bathroom, Tommy lay passed out on the sofa. She removed the cell phone from his chest and saw the time was 1:30 p.m. She took off his shoes and covered him with a light blanket. He was breathing evenly, deep in sleep; an occasional soft snore parted his lips.

Kuri looked at him and remembered the few moments where he had been kind and compassionate. “But you have a dark side,” she said, and wished he could hear her. “You neither have the patience nor the time I need to understand myself,” she whispered. “I met someone . . . someone who I feel can help me find what I’ve been looking for.”

She closed the door to the bedroom and curled up in bed. Ease spread over her face when she saw his handsome face, heard his modulated deep voice, sensed his spirit. Slowly she drifted into sleep with Adam.

***

I gotta get out of here . . . fast! Feeling unwell, Ethan sped down the long hallway and stumbled into the ultramodern men’s restroom.

He didn’t recognize the slumped figure staring back at him from the mirror—pasty, depleted, utterly miserable. Suddenly his vision faded, his knees and hands began to tremble. He looked around for support and staggered into the nearest stall just in time to vomit up whatever was in his stomach; the bitter, stinging substance simultaneously spewed through his nostrils and mouth.

The heaving stopped, but painful spasms continued. Ethan groaned and leaned against the door of the stall. He felt lightheaded; his mouth and throat were dry. Slowly, he opened the door and looked around the stark bathroom. He was alone. He went to the sink and rinsed his mouth. He took a quick glimpse in the mirror and shuddered. He washed his face and rinsed his mouth again, then ran his fingers through his hair. When the spasms and blurred vision began to ease off, he looked in the mirror again. “Shit,” he grunted, wiping flecks of vomit off his new Prada suit. He remembered the two Xanax he’d stashed in the pocket of his jacket. He gulped them down, chasing them with a handful of water.

***

“Quick. Where is it?”

Irina pointed to the left of the marble vanity. Expertly he laid out lines and snorted the white powder. “My drink?” he snapped.

She pointed to the opposite side of the marble vanity. He washed down an Adderall with a shot of tequila, then bent over the sink and rinsed his mouth with Listerine. Without looking at her, he asked, “You ready?”

“Puh! You need ask? I sit on hot coal here for long time.” She smoothed her form-hugging red dress and lifted her chin. “Well?”

“You look perfect! Remember, I’ll do most of the talking. Do not interrupt! I have a plan.” He pointed his index finger at her. “When you see her, don’t get too excited—I know how starstruck you are. Don’t fuck this up!” He bent down and tugged on his dog’s collar. “Let’s go, Lolli-girl. Now you can watch a snake selling snakes to a snake.”

It thrilled Ethan to see the surprise on Kuri’s face when he returned hand in hand with Irina.

***

The loud banging on the front door startled them.

“Oh no . . .” Before she moved out of the room, she looked into his eyes and said, “Adam, I love you—I am in love with you! He means nothing to me; he never truly did.”

After she walked out of the bedroom, Adam closed the door behind her and turned to pack his carry-on. He realized he felt neither nervous nor jealous, and despite the unexpected intrusion by Tommy Nova, Adam didn’t doubt Kuri’s love for him. As always, he believed that moving forward with a confident spirit made everything work out in the end. Suddenly, loud voices interrupted his thoughts.

…When Tommy caught sight of Adam, he stopped singing.

“Who’s this?” he shouted, unsteadily reaching for the table, trying to find his balance as he stood up. The ring slipped off his pinkie and rolled onto the floor. “Fuck!” His eyes searched for the ring, but then he turned his attention back to Adam. “Who. Is. This?”

“I’m Adam Gold,” Adam said in as calm a voice as he could muster.

“Oh! The shrink who picked up my sweetheart in Germany,” Tommy sneered. He fell onto the sofa and pointed at Adam. “Are psychiatric bedroom sessions your specialty? Ha-ha-ha.” He attempted to get off the sofa, only to collapse back into the cushions. He pointed at Kuri. “I had the ring . . . where is it?” he slurred. He leaned forward, his eyes searching the floor once more. Then, his index finger, still pointed at Kuri, moved downward. “Fifteen fucking-flawless karats somewhere on this fucking floor.” He laughed again. “Guess what? I showed your engagement ring to the paparazzi downstairs. They sucked up the news. They love me!” he cackled proudly.

“Tommy. You have to leave. Now!”

“No. Never. You’re a germ in my bloodstream. I can’t get rid of you.” He spoke slowly, garbling the words. He looked at Adam, pointing his middle finger at him. “Th-th-that’s all, folks. You’re excused, Doc. You can leave now.” Tommy leaned his head back and closed his eyes.

***

1945

…My own abdominal cramps are almost unbearable now, and my body rages with fever, but my shivers stop as soon as I lie next to Judith. “I need to rest,” I tell her, and promise I will feel better soon. She turns to me, and we move so close that our noses and lips touch. Unexpectedly her eyes widen.

“The pain, the hurt . . . all is gone!” Her freed laughter is pure, like vibrations coming from hundreds of crystal bells. “Look!” She weakly points upward. “Look . . . the light. Can you see it?”

I look to where she’s pointing and sense a golden white light that gently lifts me from my physical body; motionless, I begin to float.

“Do you hear the music? I’ve never heard sweeter melodies.” I hear Judith’s voice. “Dance with me,” she whispers.

I am gliding away from suffering and distress—I am free. “We are free—we’re floating on air,” I hear myself say, linking my fingers with hers. You and I . . . forever.”

***

“While I guide you back through time, your conscious mind may interfere and question whether what you see, hear, and feel is real or a product of your imagination. Let it go. There is no evaluation, no censure, no verdict.”

She rang the Tibetan bell again.

“Inhale the splendor. Exhale the trouble. Relax deeper.” She rang the Tibetan bell again, more softly this time. “Deeper . . . go deeper . . . you’re deep in a state of calm . . . so deep, you now feel your multidimensional being.” Melanie finished her last word with another silky tone of the bell.

“I will help you as you go back in time. You will grasp and comprehend all that was and make sense of all that is. If you experience sorrow and suffering on your journey, acknowledge it but do not dwell on it. Allow it to enable you to understand how to live your present life more valuable—more complete.”

Melanie rang the Tibetan bell again, then calmly placed two fingertips on the amethyst and amber resting on Kuri’s forehead. Finally, she lightly tapped on the other stones and crystals while reciting a saying by Swami Vivekananda. “Before the sun, the moon, the earth Before the stars or comets free Before e’en time had had its birth I was, I am, and I will be.”

***

“You are floating, carried by the white light. I will count you down. Five . . . the light guides you. Four . . . you move through spectrums and dimensions. Three . . . you arrive on the other side of the light. Two . . . find yourself. One . . . be there.”

Far, far away, the Tibetan bell tolled.

“Look at your feet. What do you see?”

“I see feet in white socks and shiny patent-leather shoes.”

“Can you look further up your body?”

“I see my legs, a plaid skirt. I see a white blouse; the collar is tied with a blue ribbon, but the ribbon is coming loose.”

“What else do you see?”

“I am jumping rope. I am good at it. I have copper hair and my braids are bouncing while I jump. I am counting. I am laughing. I am happy.”

“Are you by yourself, or is someone with you?”

“A friend is here. A girl. She has thick blonde braids, and she wears the same skirt and blouse as me. She’s very pretty.”

“Do you know her name?”

“Erika . . . her name is Erika von Schloßhauer.”

“Where are you?”

“In front of my house.”

“Where do you live?”

“In Berlin-Schöneberg.”

“Do you know your name?”

“Yes, my name is Judith Rozenblum.”

***

1942

There is hard knocking on the door, and I hear Herr Professor argue loudly with other men. We hear him shout, “Get out of my home!” Then, the door slams shut.

Mama and are I hiding in the larder. Mama is holding her hand over my mouth. My heart is beating fast.

Soon there is louder banging against the door; more thunderous exchanges of words. The front door slams shut again. We hear shuffling footsteps and know it’s Herr Professor. He looks defeated when he opens the door to the larder. He explains that someone in the building informed the Nazis about Mama and me. “I showed them the papers from my friends in government, granting permission to have you live with us as household assistants. I showed them authorization from the doctor that my wife and I depend on your aid, but neither the documentation or my arguments mattered; these scoundrels will be back tomorrow.” He wipes his eyes. “I am so very sorry.”

The next morning, when they come to take us away, Mama and I wear our nicest dresses under our best coats. We each carry a suitcase. I can’t turn around to look at Herr Professor, who stands with Struppi under the entrance door of our building. I’m afraid if I turn, I’ll run back. I hear my little terrier bark, and the pain in my heart is unbearable. I keep swallowing my tears.

***

…“We found our own little Mata Hari,” I hear a man shout near me. The applause and the laughter get louder, accompanied by thumping of heeled boots. Somebody pulls me up.

“Smile and bow,” hisses a voice; it’s Mollke. I obey, trying to ignore my naked body, visible under the sheer fabric.

When I raise my head, I freeze. There’s Werner von Schloßhauer, Erika’s father, in his SS Ober Gruppen Führer uniform. He stands by one of the front tables and points to me. “Komm her, Du kleine Juden Mata Hari,” he booms. Mollke pushes me forward.

“You’ve grown up nicely, you little red fox.” He roars with laughter. He turns to the other men and women at his table. “This fetching Jew-girl used to be in school with my daughter Erika . . . only until we cleansed, Aryanized, and privatized the institute,” he guffaws, and I can smell the alcohol on his breath

***

Irina picked up immediately, and before Kuri even was able to say a word, she heard the extreme distress in Irina’s voice.

“Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, Kuri! Ethan . . . he’s on floor; there’s blood. You must come here and help. Please, Kuri, I not know what to do.”

“Is he breathing?”

“I not know. I’m trying . . . it just happened.”

“What happened?’

“I think he overdose with bad drugs . . . oh my gosh!” Irina’s voice grew from panic to hysteria.

“Call nine-one-one, Irina. Call now!”

“No, no! I can’t. I’m afraid police will find . . .”

“You must call nine-one-one, Irina. Hold on . . .” Kuri turned to her alarmed-looking family members in the room. “Irina believes Ethan overdosed.”

…“Get off me or I’ll piss in your ugly face!” He saw her move away from him; he heard her talking on the phone.

“Oh no, oh my gosh, no . . . I not want to be here alone with him when police come. I can’t . . .”

“Who the fuck you talking to?” He heard himself slur the words. “Goddammit!” he groaned as he heard Irina mention the police. He wanted to stand, but he was unable to get his brain and legs working together. The pain was unbearable. He did not want to feel the way he felt; more than anything, he just wanted to go numb again. He vaguely remembered stashing oxycodone in his pocket; it took a tremendous effort, but he managed to slide a hand down and retrieve it, then reach up so he could push the pills between his lips; he swallowed. “Oh my gosh . . . what you doing?” He felt Irina’s fingers part his lips, but it was too late. He bit down hard and heard her sharp cry of pain. His own laughter echoed through his brain; like a parrot it kept mimicking the cackle and got louder and louder until the ear-shattering squawk pushed everything out of his consciousness. He passed out again.

***

“Well, Kuri, when you speak of cosmic clues, think of the possibility that the universe might actually take notice and nods at us from time to time, hoping we’ll perceive the signals.”

“Hmm.” Kuri crinkled her nose. “Adam recently tried to explain synchronicity to me. He said that synchronistic events are like small miracles, and if we pay attention, they can lead us to a place where we might understand more about the core that connects everything.” She tilted her head, intently looking the therapist. “What do you think?”

“Nobody has been able to give proof to synchronicity or explain it properly. But perhaps people and events that link us together become the reason for our desire to go deeper so we can peek through the crack of the door the universe leaves open for us.” Kuri sat quiet for a moment, gazing into space before she looked at the therapist again. “Wow . . . that’s profound. I think I’m beginning to grasp the basis of what you and Adam are trying to say.”

“The mystery of life never ends, does it?” Dr. B. said, adjusting her position in the chair. “Tell me, have you had any recent upsetting dreams and visions? You haven’t brought it up lately.”

***

…Adam sat quietly as other therapists exchanged their impressions about Ethan.

“What’s your take, Adam?” asked Anton Wills.

“I’ve recused myself from Ethan Berger’s treatment,” Adam reminded his colleagues.

“Why? Do you know him?” Deirdre Mullins said.

“I am close to someone in his family.”

“Let’s move on then,” said Anton Wills.

As the meeting continued, Adam noticed Deirdre Mullins stealing glances at him, quickly looking away whenever he turned his head in her direction.

“I’m sorry for gaping at you during the meeting,” Deirdre said later, catching up with him in the hallway. “I was able to put the pieces together when you mentioned you knew someone in Ethan Berger’s family.” Deirdre smoothed her skirt, then tightly folded her arms across her chest. “I might not look like someone who is infatuated with celebrities of any kind”—she kept shifting from one foot to the other—“but I am a huge fan of Kuri Berger, and I remembered seeing footage of Kuri and you on television. I read you’ve been dating for some time.” Deirdre blushed and smoothed her skirt again. “I’m embarrassed to confront you with this . . .”

“It’s okay,” Adam smiled. “I was hoping nobody here would make the connection; up until now I was lucky.” He leaned toward Deirdre and spoke softly. “I’d appreciate if you kept it quiet, though—I don’t want this stuff to interfere with my work.”

***

Adam did not move—he was spellbound by Irina’s narrative, as every detail he had read in Sarah Goldstein’s research fell into place. His soul swelled in jubilation, and the very moment Irina mentioned the names of Golda and Shimmy Messing, it was like an old forgotten melody coming to life again.

“My father always talk about his mother, Golda. He tell me many stories. He tell me she had beautiful voice. My father sing her favorite song to me many times. I remember all of melody but only some words—German words. I not know what they mean.” And just like that, Irina began to sing. Roter Mohn, warum welkst du denn schon? Wie mein Herz sollst du glüh’n…“

“Forgot rest of words, but melody is always in my heart.” She continued to hum.

Adam couldn’t believe he was listening to the song he heard time and again in his dreams—well before his past life regression therapy in India had set him on the path to understanding what it meant. Without realizing it, he began to hum along.

“You know this song?” Irina looked surprised.

Adam nodded tensely. “Yes. An old friend from my past used to love this tune—I have not heard it in a long time.”

***

Ethan had no idea it was almost midnight when, completely exhausted, he rolled onto his back. “Holy fuck,” he said hoarsely, “that definitely was the most exotic thrill ride I ever had.” He reached for the T-shirt next to him to wipe the sweat off his face and chest. Without turning his head toward Jo, he muttered,

“With your acrobatic performance, you ought to consider joining Cirque de Soleil—you’d be their star attraction.”

“I prefer a tête-à-tête show,” she said. “I don’t need a crowd or applause to tell me how good I am!” And, just like that, she straddled him again. “Did I tell you that I have a thing for Eurasian guys?” She moaned as she ran her index finger over the contours of his face. “You really turn me on, Ethan Berger—you’re even hotter than Henry Golding.”

…She pulled away from him to sit up and motioned him to do the same. She pointed at the night sky. “You know what that is?” she asked, but didn’t wait for his answer. “That’s the Milky Way, and we dwell in that galaxy. It has over two hundred billion stars and enough dust and gas to make billions more.” She tilted her head. “I’m like the Milky Way; I’m already worth billions but have enough energy to make more.” With a broad grin, she winked at him. “Because you have an appetite for opulence, you can help me achieve my goals.” She looked at the sky again and determinedly added, “We shall do great things together.”

Ethan swallowed. He couldn’t believe his luck. From the day he had met her, he’d been scheming how to finagle his ways into her life, and now, this night, without him having to make any effort, his target was being offered on a shiny silver platter. He pulled her onto his lap. “Tu me completas, mi carino,” he said in a low voice. Then, with an unknown acceptance of surrender, he kissed the woman who had become his lottery ticket.

***

As if hypnotized himself, Adam stood motionless by the sofa. He stared at Kuri—or was it Judith? His own memories from a past life had formed a single entity with what he had just witnessed. I found the proof, he thought, spellbound by his comprehension that his life was bound to Kuri’s by their shared experiences as Shimmy Messing and Judith Rozenblum; two teenagers robbed of their families by a cancer in history.

…“Kuri . . . no . . . I believe it’s still Judith who desires to remain in the spirit world; she’s impervious to my guidance.”

“Oh, no! She has to come back!” Adam bent over Kuri, feeling for a heartbeat, any sign of life. “Oh, please, no!”

“Your guidance will bring her back,” Melanie said calmly. “She needs to hear your voice.”

Adam lightly put his hand over the stones on Kuri’s chest; he watched his teardrops fall through his fingers onto her skin. “Please feel my touch,” he said softly. “Please hear my voice. I am here, waiting for you.” He lowered his head very close to hers and then he whispered, “Your soul is united with mine. No one can tear us apart. Eternally our lives shall entwine. Together, forever in heart.”

A sharp inhale parted her lips, but she remained silent.

***

A sound of air escaped Resi’s lips. Her lids fluttered, and slowly she opened her eyes, focusing on her son and daughter-in-law.

“They came,” she rasped in her unmistakable Bavarian dialect. A faint smile formed on her lips.

Was it the golden sun rays still sifting through the lace curtain, or did her skin suddenly begin to glow as if color was returning to her pale face? When she attempted to sit up, Max and Eva sprang to their feet, quickly adjusting the thick pillows behind their mother’s head and under her back.

“Yes, Mother, they came back,” Max said. “You always knew.” And then, he gently turned her head to the opposite side of the bed.

“Angels,” Resi said hoarsely, and in a weak attempt tried to stretch her arms toward Kuri and Adam; they each took one of her hands into theirs.

“Die Keksdose,” Resi rasped.

…“She’s asking for the tin cookie box. I wonder why.” Max got off the chair, walked to the foot end of the bed and with both hands raised the heavy dome lid off the old peasant trunk. He searched for a moment, then removed a vintage Haeberlein Metzger tin cookie box and put it on the table next to the bed.

“My father gave this to mother many, many years ago,” he explained. “As soon as the cookies were gone, it became mother’s treasure. She called it mein Gedächtnis Behälter, which means my memory container.” For a moment, he stared at the blue tin box where painted garlands of flowers framed images of couples in their traditional costumes from various regions in Germany. Gently, he unfastened the latch and opened the lid.

…Kuri handed the bag to Adam. “My hands are shaking,” she said. “I am overwhelmed by the significance of this moment.”

Adam slowly lifted the flap, carefully reached into the pouch, and removed an old matchbox. A blue dried cornflower and white daisy were glued to the top of the matchbox. Adam swallowed and looked at Resi. “May I open this?” he asked in broken German.

Another smile spread over the old woman’s face; she nodded. He laid he matchbox on the white linen duvet and slowly pulled the inside holder from its housing.

I Am Here Excerpt

“A seductive read portraying the machinations of a powerful family beset with problems of addiction, sibling rivalry, and psychological issues, leading to tantalizing forays of the paranormal—the veiled realm which psychiatry still struggles to fully understand and into which the author dares enter with convincing documentation.”
D. Kinne Tevis, MD

*****

“I found this science fiction novel fascinating and very inspirational. As a Holocaust survivor and a Dachau inmate, it brought back haunting memories of man’s inhumanity to man; yet, the author beautifully conducts a timeless love story that renews faith and brings hope for the future. All the honor to Marlys Beider. Kol-Hakavod.”
Dr. Arnold Clevs