A Brush with the Beast, by Richard Sones, is an action-packed Christian Fiction novel. We are excited to share an excerpt from this book.
“Good morning, Mr. D.” chirped Gail. She was always happy, unnaturally happy. She was happy when no one was supposed to be happy. Nick didn’t like that about her, but she was the best secretary he had ever had. He groaned in response to her cheerful greeting and disappeared into his office. “It can’t be all that bad,” he heard her holler after the door had been shut.
Only fifteen quiet minutes had elapsed when a light tapping emanated from the door. “Sir, would you like a cup of coffee?”
“She must be on something,” Nick thought when he heard her. “Sure, Gail, come in.”
The door opened and the cheerful secretary came in using both hands to carry saucer and cup. She wore an off white dress that hung past her knees. Her silver hair was colored dishwater blond, but not so anyone could tell. It reached her shoulders in gentle curls, which bobbed slightly as she walked. “Here you go,” she said as she carefully placed the coffee on the desk in front of him. She had been his personal secretary for over seven years, yet their interaction was as formal as it was the first day. She had never heard anyone call him by his real name. “Will there be anything else, sir?” she asked.
“As a matter of fact, there is. Have a seat, Gail.”
The generally cheerful expression immediately disappeared from Gail’s face as she slowly sat in one of the two burgundy leather arm chairs facing the desk.
Nick felt a trace of satisfaction at seeing her grin dissolve. He knew she thought she was in trouble and decided to let her fret a little before going on. “Have you seen the stock price?” he asked sternly as he began to walk slowly around the spacious office.
“Sir, it’s always low this time of year, and with Energetic Digital Systems big layoff, the whole sector is down more than usual.”
He could hear the anxiety now in her voice. “Enough fun,” he thought, and abruptly changed the topic.
“Gail, I have a friend,” he began, at the same time wondering whether she would buy his story. “He’s been suffering from something debilitating. He experiences pain in his upper back from time to time.” Nick struggled to explain without letting on that he was talking about himself. “He’s been to doctors and had every imaginable test run without any help or answers. Well, I told him over the phone that I would try to help him.”
He stopped pacing and turned to face her. “She looks like she’s buying it,” he thought to himself.
“I want you to do some research to see if you can find some alternative direction to send him. He’s already tried everything conventional. Check out the offbeat, the bizarre, and let me know what you find. I’d like to help the guy if I could. He sounded somewhat downhearted when I talked to him last night. Any questions?”
A look of relief and that silly grin came back as she answered, “No, sir! I’ll get on it right away.” Her dress hem swished from side to side as she scurried out of the room.
Nick was good at delegating and good at holding people accountable. He had a low tolerance for failure and most everyone that worked for him knew it. He was certain Gail would have some options for him by the end of the day. Feeling better just thinking about it, he returned to his desk to set about the business of the day. He reached for the intercom set and pushed a black button about half way down the row.
“Bob, five minutes, my office. Bring me what you’ve got on the UN security bid.” Without pausing he turned to his computer screen and with a few keystrokes was engrossed in research. One of the keys to the success of Dervish was being able to find an opportunity and move quickly before others got the chance.
“Bob is here with the information you asked for,” Gail announced on the intercom.
“Send him in.”
“Good morning, Mr. D, I have…” Bob began.
“What’s the latest,” Nick cut him off. Tensely, Bob began to lay documents on the desk for Nick to look at.
“How many decision makers?”
“It looks like three so far.”
“What about the competition?”
“Well, sir, the word is not out on this one. Besides us, Energetic is the only bidder. It doesn’t look good for them given their current situation.”
“Good. Work it; let me know if I need to run interference on anything.”
With that, Bob picked up the papers and left.
The rest of the morning went much the same, concise meetings about the status of ongoing and pending work interspersed with keeping abreast of business news in excruciating detail. Occasionally he would be on the phone with a prospective client working a deal or trying to smooth relations with a present customer.
Lunch was brought in on a cart from the kitchen in the basement. One might think such a successful, rich CEO would want to get out and away for lunch, maybe for several hours. Not Mr. D. He didn’t choose business as a career for something to do. He loved his work, thought about it all the time, in fact, he even dreamt about it from time to time. He shamelessly flaunted his power and position. He viewed lunch more as an imposition than an intermission. He also recognized an indirect benefit of that viewpoint in that his senior employees tended to work through lunch as well or take short lunch breaks.
By mid-afternoon, Nick’s curiosity would not let him relax. He went to the door and looked out. Gail was on the phone, her desk littered with yellow sticky notes. As she spoke she scribbled on a steno pad that she held in her lap. Her voice was serious, so she probably wasn’t chatting with one of her friends, although he allowed her that little perk given the quality of her work. Besides, the big boss’s secretary ought to have certain privileges. He watched her discreetly for several minutes, waiting for her to finish talking.
When at last she put the receiver down, he blurted out, “Gail!”
“Coming, Mr. D.,” she said confidently, as if she was expecting his call. She gathered her notes and papers, sprang from her chair, and was in Nick’s office before he could return to his desk.
“I assume by that mess of paper that you found something.”
“Yes, sir. I have several leads you can look into,” she paused awkwardly, “for your friend.” She handed him a list of names and contact information. “I have them grouped by their approach.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I have the diet and exercise groups, the drug groups, the environment groups, and the spiritual groups. I’ve included contact numbers and a quick rundown of their methods and requirements, except for a couple of the spiritual groups.”
Her last statement intrigued him. “Do any of them sound for real?”
“I think they’re all gimmicks, just in it for the money, sir. You know what they say, a fool born every minute, soon parted from his money. For what it’s worth though, Maharishi Yoggi Swannee in Oregon sounds promising. His group uses a combination of mountain air resort, diet, exercise, and cannabis.”
Nick gestured for Gail to give him the stack of papers. “Thanks, Gail. I’ll look through this and decide what to pass on to my friend.” Did he give her the friend’s name? He couldn’t remember. Best not use one now and blow his whole cover.
Alone in the office again, Nick studied the notes now in his possession. “Maharishi,” he read silently to himself. “Probably Dave Smith from Tennessee with a beard,” he thought. One by one he scrutinized the papers. He wanted his pain to go away but without any publicity. One sure way to send the stock into a nosedive was to let word get out that the CEO had some strange disease. He couldn’t afford to disappear for a few months either. He didn’t think it would be a good idea to go over to Brother Jack’s Holy Brothers and Sisters Church to get healed either. He could just see the Times business news on that one. “Maybe this was a bad idea,” he thought. Nothing appeared to be remotely close to what he had hoped for. Still, he continued to read each note Gail had written. “The Ancient Order,” this note had nothing but an internet address. “Hmm,” he thought pensively, “all the info must be online.”
Nick’s desk was substantial by any standard. Dark cherry wood, highly polished and protected by a glass top, it wrapped around him to the left. A good portion of the top on the left was in fact a flat screen monitor that lifted up like the screen of a giant notebook computer. He pulled the keyboard shelf forward and typed in the address for the ‘Order.’ A blank white screen came up on the computer. As he watched, the screen started fading to gray. A small burning torch came into view in the middle of the screen as the background continued to fade. After about a minute the screen was completely black with the exception of the small burning torch in the center. He waited another minute, but nothing else happened. “Strange,” he thought to himself as he reached for the mouse. He clicked on the torch to see if anything would happen. “Aha,” he thought. The torch disappeared, and the screen began to lighten until it was a dull red color. There also appeared boxes labeled name, address, phone, and an “Enter” button. He filled in all the information asked for and then clicked on the “Enter” button. Nothing happened. It was as if the line had gone dead. He clicked again and again, waited several minutes, but nothing happened. “Amateurs!” he said out loud, then closed the computer.
“Maharishi,” he found himself looking at the note again. Looking at his watch he figured it was nearly two in the afternoon in Oregon. “What the hell,” he thought as he reached for his private phone. He carefully dialed the number and waited. Two rings, three…
“Path of Life, may I help you?” came a soothing female voice.
“Yes,” Nick responded. “Can you tell me about your operation?” He began to reconsider. “How much should I tell; how safe is this, anyway?”
“What would you like to know?”
“I’m interested in your alternative healing methods,” Nick said reservedly.
“I’m delighted you are calling; how may I help you?”
Nick was getting a little frustrated. This was not going to be easy. “How long does your program last?”
“Brothers and sisters must come without any hindrances.”
“Hmm,” he thought, “it must take a long time.” He then asked, “What types of things do you treat?”
“We allow the devoted to uncover their essence to the flow of the cosmos. It is the power of the flow that may alter the devotees’ reality.”
“Hoo boy,” he thought. “This is beginning to sound like big time commitment. It also sounds like bad press all the way around.”
“Thanks for your time,” he said and hung up the phone.
He looked at his watch again. It was later than he usually stayed. He got up quickly, walked over and opened the door. Gail was already gone for the evening. In fact, the whole office was empty. “They must have thought I was already gone,” he thought. He walked over to the closet, put his overcoat on and headed toward the door.
Nick arrived home troubled. Though the pain was gone today, he knew that it might return tomorrow. He felt increasingly powerless over his fate. He exited the limousine slowly and started up the massive stairs, not bothering to look up. Robert opened the door for him as usual; and when he did, a shiny black card about half the size of a sheet of paper fluttered to the ground. Nick bent down, picked the card up and looked at it. What he saw stunned him. His head began to feel light, and he sensed the feeling draining out of his legs. In the center of the blackness was a small torch. Immediately he turned the card over for some clue as to who had sent it. On the back in very small letters it read, “Midnight - Times Square - Alone.” He folded the card and stuck it in his pocket.
“Is everything all right, sir?” Robert asked.
“Fine, Robert, fine,” Nick replied. He barely spoke another word for the rest of the night.
Nick went to his bedroom at about ten. He lay down fully dressed, but his heart was racing too fast to get any rest. “What have I gotten myself into?” he wondered. “I should never have entered my address.” He tried to remember just how much info he had entered on the mysterious web site. This was way off the deep end. “Why the secrecy?” he thought. “Were these people that good or perhaps, that bad?” His mind raced with the pros and cons of actually going to Times Square. How much would he sacrifice to be free from the nagging, recurring pain? What if he didn’t go? Would these people drop it and leave him alone or had he opened Pandora’s Box. The more he thought the more he feared. He was afraid of both going and not going.
He decided that it made the most sense to go. At least he would meet and confront these folks. He was in a way relieved that they wanted a secret meeting. He wanted a secret meeting too. He just wasn’t going to ask for it in such a haunting way…
Richard Sones grew up as a citizen of the world. Moving every three to twenty-four months from continent to continent, he was exposed to many cultures. As an adult, he continued his tour of the world as a chaplain in the U.S. Army having served 28 years. As a consequence of many deployments, he has first hand knowledge of many varied customs and peoples. Happily married now 38 years, he is a father to four and grandfather to another four. He is still in ministry as the chaplain of a major hospital in El Paso, Texas. He lives just outside the city in the semi-desert where he has time to write, build things in his wood shop, play his guitar, and tinker with the yard.
Please visit Richard on Twitter.
To purchase please visit Amazon.
Please visit Richard on Twitter.
To purchase please visit Amazon.