Authors: Robert Grant
Tags: #Romance, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Medical, #Lawyers, #Legal, #Large type books, #Inspiration & Personal Growth, #Adventure stories, #Body, #Mind & Spirit, #Fiction, #Fiction - Mystery, #Genre Fiction, #General Fiction, #Happiness, #Mystery, #Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery fiction, #Personal Growth, #Spiritual, #Spirituality, #Spiritual life, #Spirituality - General, #Suspense fiction, #Suspense, #Thriller, #Thrillers
R o b e r t G r a n t
Copyright © 2014 Robert Grant
All rights reserved.
Library of Congress Control Number: 2014914306
NT Publishing Company
P.O. Box 43572
Louisville, KY 40253-0572
This book is available in print and ebook at most online retailers.
The names, characters, and events depicted in this story are the fictitious creations of the author, and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Product names, brands, and other trademarks referred to within this book are the property of their respective trade mark holders. Unless specified, no association between the author and any trademark holder is expressed or implied. Use of a term in this book should not be regarded as affecting the validity of any trademark, registered trademark, or service mark.
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No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form, stored in any retrieval system, posted on any website, or transmitted in any form or by any means including, digital, electronic, scanning, photocopy, recording, or otherwise, without the express written permission from the publisher, except for brief quotations in printed reviews and articles.
Please remember to leave a review of Naked Tao at your favorite retailer. You might also like The Nostrum Conspiracy by Robert Grant.
This is dedicated to my beautiful bride, Rebecca, whose help with this project has been priceless.
The Nostrum Conspiracy
I want to thank Rebecca for her many suggestions and insights that have been seamlessly incorporated into the story.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident…"
- Declaration of Independence
Change is inevitable, but there are days that bring more than most. This story is about a devil of a night and the unimaginable events that follow. So have yourself a glass of wine while I tell you all about it, or at least, the interesting parts.
It begins with a great victory. I had just won a huge verdict for my client, Pathogen. It wasn’t my first win as a young lawyer, but without a doubt, it was my biggest. The lawsuit was over a pharmaceutical patent. I know, you probably think this is pretty dull stuff, but bear with me. The healthcare crisis affects us all because everybody gets sick, or at least, that’s what we thought.
I had about twenty minutes to bask in the glow of victory before everything changed. That’s when I got back to the office and poured a celebratory drink. It was three fingers of the rarest bourbon in Kentucky, 23 year old Pappy Van Winkle.
That stuff is like liquid gold if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on it. It’s made in a small batch that is so small it’s damn near impossible to get unless you have serious money and connections. I had neither.
I found the bottle sitting on my desk with a note of gratitude from the CEO of Pathogen, Wilbur Goth. There was also an envelope on the seat of my chair. I don’t know about you, but it’s easy to miss something on your desk, unless of course, it’s ridiculously expensive bourbon. On the other hand, I never miss something on my seat.
It was a sealed manila envelope stamped “Confidential” in red ink. My name, Grant Li, was written in long-hand just above the red stamp. The penmanship was strong, but elegant like a woman’s handwriting.
The envelope was stuffed with documents. Since I wasn’t in much of a hurry to read another stack of paper and the fine whiskey demanded my undivided attention, I tossed the package onto my desk and sat down.
I have to admit, this was one of those shining moments that we get to experience from time to time. You know what I’m talking about. In these rare moments, all is right with the world. Everything is perfect and possible. I was on top of the world and it felt damn good.
I swirled the Pappy and watched the amber liquid roll along the sides of the glass. Next, I warmed it with both hands before sticking my nose over the rim and inhaling deeply. I enjoyed the distinctive scent of the oak barrel. It smelled a little like caramel to me. There was another scent that was a little more difficult to identify, maybe vanilla.
Finally, I sipped just enough to cover my tongue and left it there for a moment before letting it roll down my throat. The bourbon was smooth…both soft and full-bodied. I let out a contented sigh. I had finally reached the summit and life was good.
My feet were propped on the envelope, and as I mellowed with the drink, I began to wonder if it wasn’t somehow connected to this fine whiskey. Curiosity got the best of me, so I grabbed it from under my shoe and opened it.
That of course, is the exact moment when my great victory turned sour. As I read the contents, the drink slipped from my fingers. What I read was so compelling, that I hardly noticed the spilled drink in my lap.
About the time I had finished reading and my hands had stopped shaking, John Biggs stuck his head through the door to offer his congratulations for the day’s victory. John is a senior partner in the law firm and he has a reputation for being a tenacious litigator. That reputation and his legendary skill is the reason I chose this particular firm.
John had always been a good friend and mentor to me. Still, I wasn’t completely sure I could trust him with those documents. My indecision didn’t last long. Maybe it was the influence of the Pappy, or maybe I felt I had to trust someone with the secrets they revealed. Whatever the reason, I made a quick, but uneasy decision to let him read them. As it turned out, it was the wrong decision.
John’s smile faded when I offered the package. “What is this, Grant?” he asked.
“They appear to be internal memos written by a Pathogen scientist working on a weapons project,” I answered.
He raised an eyebrow. “Weapons project?” he asked.
“A bio-weapon,” I answered. “I thought that stuff was outlawed years ago.”
I detected an ever-so-slight shake of his head. “What do the memos say?” he asked.
“Pathogen has developed a weapon-grade virus,” I answered. “One of the project’s scientists was alarmed by its ferocity. Within minutes of exposure, the virus consumes all of the oxygen in the blood stream, starving every cell in the body. Death is swift and painful. The scientist begged them to shut the project down and destroy the virus.”
John gave a small nod and took the paperwork. He skimmed the first couple of pages, but it was obviously for show since his reading glasses were still in his shirt pocket.
He sniffed the air and said, “Your office smells like cheap booze. Are you drunk?”
His comment took me completely off guard. I had a bad feeling about the direction this conversation was taking and shifted slightly in my chair.
“Umm…no, of course not. I had one…but…” I stammered.
John suddenly seemed angry and cut me off. “This is not acceptable behavior for an attorney in this firm. I have to say that I’m extremely disappointed in you, son.”
His attack seemed bizarre and left me feeling a little muddled in the head. There was more to the documents than the bio-weapon. They contained a revelation that was far more shocking, if that’s possible, and I wanted to discuss it with him.
Sadly, all I managed to say was, “Son? I’m not your son.”
That was a mistake. John immediately adopted his court room persona. Before I could gather my thoughts and tell him what else was in the documents, he attacked again.
“Where did you get these documents and what makes you think they’re authentic?” he demanded.
I didn’t answer him because I was starting to get pissed off at his attitude. I was not the enemy. To control my rising irritation, I took a deep breath. It did not help.
Ch’ing always told me that irritation ages us. If it becomes chronic, then it kills us. He told me I needed to learn to relax in the face of a hopeless situation.
“Take a deep breath”, Ch’ing had said. “Breathe all the way down to your toes. If you can learn to do that, then your irritation will evaporate.”
By the way, Ch’ing is my crazy old martial arts master. He and Uncle Jim raised me. Ch’ing appeared out of nowhere the day of my parent’s motorcycle crash. Dad was killed. Mom survived, but still suffers from a severe brain injury that left her in a vegetative state. Uncle Jim is my mom’s brother and he is the only family I have left.
“Where did you get these documents?” repeated John.
“Someone left them in my office,” I said.
“Who left them?” asked John.
“I don’t know,” I answered.
“So once again, what makes you think they’re authentic?” asked John.
I couldn’t tell John the reason that I wanted to believe they were for real, so I just shrugged.
John let out a sigh and said, “That’s what I thought. I will see that they are destroyed.”
That was not the reaction I expected and I felt a wave a panic course through me. “You can’t destroy them,” I shouted. “You don’t understand what’s at stake here!”
“I understand exactly what is at stake,” he said.
I didn’t think he did at all, so I pointed to the package and said, “John, there’s more. Pathogen is suppressing some kind of miracle cure. The scientist calls it a game changer. He says it will blow the lid off health care as we know it. Pathogen is the largest pharmaceutical company in the world. They are in the business of healing people. Why would they suppress a medicine that could eliminate so much human suffering?”
His lips tightened into a thin line as he deliberately tucked the package under his arm. “Your question is not appropriate or relevant,” he said. “All you need to understand is that Pathogen is a client, and it is our job to protect them. That includes keeping their secrets. Revealing proprietary trade secrets will get you disbarred. Besides, we have already established that the documents are not authentic.”
What was he thinking? We had established no such thing! John was trying to brush this under the carpet and keep me quiet about it by threatening to have me disbarred. I was confused, and that pissed me off even more.
I fired back without thinking, “You know as well as I do, that if Pathogen is engaged in criminal activity, then we have an ethical duty to report it…especially if it poses a risk to people’s lives.”
Pointing toward the file I added, “If this is real, that bio-weapon is a threat to humanity and something has to be done about it.”
“Grant, this law firm is a business,” said John. “Pathogen accounts for 60% of our revenue stream. Our survival is tied to Pathogen’s survival and I will protect this firm at all costs.”
“I don’t want to represent people involved in things like this,” I said. “We don’t need them.”
John walked around the desk and placed a hand on my shoulder, “You are obviously too sensitive and naïve for this profession. I suggest that you find another line of work. Effectively immediately, your employment is terminated Grant.”
He had just fired me and walked away like I was nothing to him. As I sat there in shock, within what seemed like seconds, a uniformed officer appeared in the doorway. If I had not been in such a state, I would have noticed it was a Jefferson County Sheriff, but instead I assumed it was security sent by John to throw me out of my own office.
“Are you Grant Li?” asked the officer.
He handed me more paper and said, “You’ve been served.”
I didn’t think it could have gotten any worse, but it had. It was a summons and petition for dissolution of marriage. I had moved out a couple of months earlier when my wife told me she was in love with another woman. I had held out hope that we would find a solution to this problem. Clearly, she saw things differently and was headed in another direction. This was the end of a short and painful marriage.
Most guys that know about her sexual orientation snicker behind my back, like I’m not man enough to satisfy her. Or worse, they ask if I ever got a chance to be with the two of them. When I tell them no, I didn’t even know it was going on, they quietly shake their heads, like I’m even less of a man because of that too.
My wife had been a bully. It’s embarrassing for a grown man to admit that, but it was true. As I sat there reading the divorce papers and thinking about our miserable life together, I realized I was tired of being bullied. It was time to make some changes and the place to begin was with my boss.
My thoughts returned to the contents of the Pathogen documents. They spoke of a miracle cure…a game changer. I thought about my mom’s brain injury, and I felt the first sliver of hope I’d had in a long time. I needed to know more about this miracle, but John walked out with the documents. It was time to go get them.
I poured myself another glass of the Pappy, and this time I threw it back like it was rock gut. Once the burning in my throat subsided, I mindfully folded the divorce papers and then stuffed them into my hip pocket. I figured it was where they belonged…right there with all the other crap.
Unlike my small humble office, John has a big corner office at the end of the hall. Since it was after hours, his secretary wasn’t guarding the door. I strode down the hall with a righteous sense of mission. It wasn’t until I was just outside his door that I first sensed something was terribly wrong inside.
The mixed smell of urine and shit stopped me in my tracks, and then I heard an odd gurgling sound. I cautiously peered around the corner and into the room. John was dangling by the neck from a hideous fleur-de-lis chandelier in the center of the room. His swollen tongue protruded from a face bloated with blood that couldn’t escape because of the knotted red power tie squeezing tightly against his jugular vein. His limbs convulsed one last time before he went deadly still.
Hoping it wasn’t too late, I rushed to release him from the gallows. Once I had him on the floor, I checked his pulse, but it only confirmed what I already knew. John was gone. I knew it was pointless to try to revive him, but I fumbled to loosen the knot anyway.
At that exact moment, I was interrupted by a shrill scream coming from the doorway. It was John’s secretary. She held her chubby cheeks in hand and released a second scream. I turned toward her with an extended hand and opened my mouth to ask her to make a 9-1-1 emergency call, but she stabbed a finger at me and said, “What have you done?”
I should have stayed put, but my gut told me to get out as fast as possible. I had a strong sense of impending danger and Ch’ing had taught me to always listen to my gut. The lawyer in me wanted to manage the witness, but too much had happened too fast. I couldn’t process it fast enough, so I scrambled for the door. As you can imagine, that was a huge mistake that I would live to regret.