What CARPATHIA is about
Another truly big novel has been released. Three times the length of a regular book and intensely exciting all the way, CARPATHIA is a 329,000 word, realistically presented, adventure-suspense-thriller that runs its course on a wide stage: Los Angeles, London, Bucharest, and the legendary spook-infested forests of the Carpathian Mountains in Romania.
The story involves the mysterious disappearances of individuals brave or foolish enough to hike into certain areas of the Carpathians. The victims are subjected to a kind of rape that causes them to lose their humanity.
Morris Lurch, an immunologist from a California university, searches for a fellow professor gone missing in Romania. Then Lurch’s wife, Jill, having received a warning through a drunk spiritist medium, goes looking for her husband.
Lurch’s hunt for the missing professor and Jill’s attempt to catch up to her husband are mined with danger, challenges, action, temptations, and painful enlightenment–particularly in the matter of hidden ways by which lovers can unknowingly cheat one another sexually.
Morris and Jill each have a mentor and partner in their journeys: Morris has his office assistant, a highly aggressive and sexually promiscuous woman; and Jill has a good looking and strong-willed protector who admires her, and who is Morris’s best friend. There’s a lot of steam but also a lot of romance, and a titanic suspense-filled struggle against the hidden forces of evil.
For a sneak preview of this book read the sample pages below:
Prologue: THE MOUND
THROUGH A NATURAL GATEWAY of monolithic boulders he walked into an open area that stretched for a mile or so ahead of him and to both sides. Most of this was level and grass covered, looking like a calm green sea in the moonlight, but on all sides it curved upward into pine covered mountains; and beyond those were higher and more rugged mountains that showed no trace of vegetation, but rather appeared to be towering black fortresses set up to prevent this tall, baggy-clothed old man from climbing all the way to heaven.
As though considering the seriousness of this obstacle, the man stopped just within the entrance to the high valley and leaned on his staff; but he looked around at the great meadow rather than at the high mountains in the distance and seemed to be making up his mind about which way to go from here. Before long he began to walk again, cutting a diagonal course toward the right over the high-valley floor, and eventually arriving at the far side. Here, near a thick grove of leafy spreading trees, he stopped and once more looked all about. At this point the ground was already sloping upward slightly toward the heavily forested mountainside. For a long time he stood still and looked up into the forest, listening, or maybe he was mesmerized by the haunting, melancholy beauty of lofty pine trees silhouetted against the golden moon. Then he began to walk again and came to a stop about twenty paces from an oblong, darker patch on the grass. The silver-haired old man spoke in a strong, low-timbered voice:
“Is that you, Professor McGrecken?”
For several seconds there was only silence, but then came a faint moaning which gradually changed until it sounded like weak laughter, or maybe crying. The old man now moved forward quickly and in a moment was kneeling beside the dark area. This turned out to be a rough looking mound, about six feet long, two feet wide, and a foot high.
The mound was a human figure almost entirely covered with dried leaves and leaf mold. Part of the face and one naked knee were visible, and here and there other small areas of skin showed through in the moonlight.
“Professor McGrecken,” said the old man, gently, “can you speak?”
“Who the hell are you?” said a masculine voice from under the leaf mold–a voice that sounded half strangled and yet as moist as the decaying material surrounding it.
“My name is Dej Borca,” said the old man. “I live in the same village where Gheorghe and Tudor Giuleste live. They told me what happened so I have come to offer whatever help I can give.”
“Well, isn’t that fuckin’ sweet of you,” said the voice from under the leaves. This was followed by the weak gurgling sound that seemed like a cross between laughing and crying.
“I am trying to learn all I can about the condition you find yourself in,” said Dej Borca patiently. “Also, if you have any message to leave for your family or friends, I would be happy to deliver it for you.”
“You speak damn good English,” said the man on the ground.
“I speak several languages.”
“Who cares?” said the other man. “But I guess I do have a message for you to deliver.”
“Tell me what it is and I will do my utmost to–”
“Oh, shut up with all that stupid polite sounding talk. Makes me sick…. You’ll find my backpack lying in the grass somewhere nearby. Inside you’ll find a packet of letters tied with a string. I want you to take them and deliver them to Doctor Morris Lurch–” (he laughed or cried for a moment) “–in Los Angeles, California. You know where that is?”
“Yes,” said the old man as he took a little notebook and pencil out of a pocket. He began to write, slanting the page toward the moonlight.
“Good,” said the man under the leaves. “Then take the letters, get on your mule–if you have one–and ride over there. It’ll be a long trip, but you’ll have clear going once you hit the ocean. I’m assuming, of course, that your mule can walk on water.” The moist gurgling that followed could now be identified more distinctly as laughter. At no time did any part of the man’s body move; only his lips and tongue seemed capable of motion. His eyes were not visible for the rotting leaves covered them too. “When you get there you’ll find Dr. Lurch at UCLA–that’s the University of California in Los Angeles–in the Immunology Research Department. Tie your mule to a fire hydrant, go inside, and give Dr. Lurch the letters. And tell him to show them to the District Attorney and to use them to knock shit out of Tom Burnson. Lurch and the Attorney will know what to do with the letters.”
Dej Borca was writing rapidly. “How do you spell Lurch?”
“Any fuckin’ way you want to,” said the gurgling voice. “In a way I wish you really could get the letters to him. It’d do ol’ Tommy good to get his neck in a sling for a change. If the letters are going to be used against anyone, I’d just as soon they were used against Burnson–the bastard. If that happened I only wish I could see the look on his face when he found out I had doublecrossed him. Especially since I’d have done it without any good reason…. What do you think, peasant?–does a person need a reason to screw somebody up good and proper?”
The old man continued to write, flipping over to a new page, apparently attempting to record every word he was hearing. He said, “No, a person does not need a reason to do anything. The will is free. Although subject to influence, the will is not subject to the law of cause and effect in the strict sense in which material objects are.”
“Shit!” said the voice from the leaf mold. “If there’s anything I don’t need right now its a fucking philosopher holding my hand.”
“What do you need?” asked Dej Borca.
“Nothing. Absolutely nothing. That’s the beauty of this whole thing.”
“I would be pleased if you would tell me all that you are experiencing–all that you have experienced since you have been lying here.”
“And I’d be pleased if you’d fuck off,” said the gurgling voice.
“I do not understand what you mean by that,” said Dej Borca, but it does not seem like anything I would want to do at present. Do you have any pain?”
“What’s it to you?… No, I don’t, but from time to time I feel uncomfortable and confused. And you’re part of the confusion. I want you to just leave me alone.”
After a moment of silence, Dej Borca said, “Very well, but any information you give me could be of help to others.”
The man under the moldering leaves laughed again. This time it sounded as though he might actually choke, but in a moment a bit of saliva spouted upward from his lips, and after that he said, “My free mind doesn’t want to be of any help to others, so I’ve just made up my free mind to quit talking to you.”
After that the man under the leaves said no more, even though Dej Borca tried several times to get a further response from him. Borca looked up at the moon which was dropping steadily toward the black peaks of the highest mountains. He got to his feet and began to walk about. There was clothing scattered here and there in the grass–a shirt, a pair of pants, hiking boots; he picked it all up. Then he found the backpack. Shouldering that, and taking up his staff and the bundle of clothing, Dej Borca once more walked up close to the heap of dried leaves.
“Does Dr. Lurch live in Los Angeles itself, or in one of the suburbs?” he asked of the heap. But there was no answer.
The old man turned and walked away across the moonlit valley floor of this high mountain meadow, toward the rocky exit and the trail that would take him back down to wherever he had come from.
PLACE: LOS ANGELES. Year: 1988–just before the fall of communism in Europe.
* * *
As Jill climbed up out of her swimming pool and shook the water out of her short blonde curls, she caught a glimpse of the next-door neighbor’s teenage son lowering his binoculars. He was on a third-floor balcony of the largest home on the street, where she had often noticed him on weekends or evenings when she went for a swim. The poor kid, she thought as she walked toward her towel. Probably doesn’t even shave yet, and already he’s saddled with the curse of all men–the need to ogle women. She had met him, along with his parents, and he seemed to have immediately fallen victim to a crush on her–maybe, she thought, because she had a petite figure that reminded him of teenage girls he knew. No, more likely he just drooled over the opposite sex in general, thirty-five year old little blondes included.
There was a high board fence around the yard, so the only lack of privacy at the pool was from the third floor of that particular house. As she leaned over to pick up her towel, a quick glance revealed that he once more had the binoculars to his eyes. She straightened up with her back to him and was suddenly overcome by a powerful, mischievous urge to give him the eyeful he had probably been dreaming about. After she had tied the towel loosely around her waist, she reached up between her shoulder blades to unhook the narrow strap of her bikini top. She took off the top; then, while making sure she didn’t look in his direction, she turned around slowly until she was giving him a full front view. Why were men, and boys, so intrigued with breasts? Even her husband, who had probably seen more naked mammary glands than most men, because as a medical doctor he had worked in a clinic for three years, was endlessly fascinated by her own modest bulges, calling them “perky little zappers with oversized pointers.” He had amused himself, while in the clinic, by giving descriptive names to the various types of breasts that had come his way. Out of the corner of her eye she could see that the kid still had the binoculars trained on her–and now probably couldn’t have lowered them even if his mother had walked up beside him or the great earthquake had finally come. She pretended to have trouble with the knot of the towel around her waist, but in a few seconds removed it and began to dry the top part of her body as she walked toward the exit from the pool area.
By the time she had reached an enclosed passageway to the back door of the house she could hardly believe what she had done and began laughing about it. Once in the main living room she peeked through the window and saw that the kid had left the deck. No wonder, she thought; he was probably in his room already, masturbating.
As she finished drying herself in the gold and blue master bedroom the phone rang, so she fell over on the bed to reach it. “Hello.”
“Hi, Jill–Steve,” answered a baritone voice that sent electrical sensations radiating out from an explosion in her solar plexus. She sat up straight and wrapped the towel around herself. “Hi, Steve.”
“I’m having my housewarming party sooner than I’d planned, namely tonight. Hope you can make it.”
Jill, angry at herself for the dynamic things going on within her, took a couple of seconds to come up with a response: “This is a very short-notice invitation. I don’t–”
“I haven’t told anyone about it until this afternoon,” said Steve. It’s a way of finding out who my real friends are. Anyone can find time to come to a party if they can plan for it ahead of time.” Jill didn’t need a science fiction video phone to be able to see Steve. He would be sitting straight-shouldered in an easy chair, or behind his desk if he had stayed late in his office at the law school as he often did, and yet would look relaxed and at ease. There would be a slight smile on his handsome face, and a combined look of playfulness and sincere goodwill in his dark brown eyes. He continued: “I’m kidding. There are better ways of knowing who your friends are, so if you can’t make it, don’t feel bad. It’s just that an old friend from my college days is going to be here tonight only, and I wanted him to be in on it. In fact, he’s involved in a special surprise I have planned for everyone. But you have to come to find out what it is. Also, since I’m leaving for London tomorrow … well, I just wanted to have this little get-together before the trip. You know I’m always thinking about the possibility of a plane crash.”
“I’m sorry,” said Jill. “Is it really such an ordeal for you each time you fly?”
“Well, it’s just something I have to live with. It’s all right. So, we’ll see you tonight?”
“Well, I’d sure like to go, but….”
“Well, if Morris was here, we’d probably go, but … I don’t know about going to a party by myself.”
“I see,” said Steve. “I understand your feelings, but this is simply a group thing. You won’t be paired off with me or anyone else. In fact, there’ll be several people here without partners. But think about it, and know that if you decide to come I’ll be real pleased, and so will everyone else.”
“Thank you. I’ll think about it. What time are you expecting people to arrive?–and what do we wear?”
“Around eight, and wear anything. It’ll be a relaxed atmosphere. You’ll come then?”
“Well, I haven’t had time to think about it yet.”
“All right,” he laughed. “By the way, you won’t have to get that pro bono brief done by tomorrow noon as I said. “I got an extension because of my trip to London. So you don’t have to worry about that.”
“Good. There are plenty enough other things to do.”
“Right. Well, goodbye for now, and hope to see you at eight. If not, I’ll see you in the morning at school just before I leave.”
After she had hung up she continued to sit there for a minute or so thinking about whether or not it would be right for her to go. She couldn’t come to any conclusion, but got up and slipped into shorts and T-shirt, fluffed out her short wash-and-wear blonde curls, and went down to the kitchen. It was almost time to pick up Becky from her friend’s place, but Jill didn’t know if she should do that or call and ask Fran if Becky could stay there for the night.
Why do I have to make such a big deal of everything? she thought. I wouldn’t be going out to have an affair. I’d just be going to have a good time being with other people. But would Morris approve of it if he knew? If she went, would she tell him about it when he got back from Romania? That probably wouldn’t make any difference, she decided, because she was going to be in trouble anyhow for having accepted the secretarial job at the law school.
She poured herself a glass of orange juice and sat down at the red and white checked table in the breakfast booth. Evening sunlight slanted into the kitchen through the sparse foliage of low palms and jacarandas, throwing a motley shadow pattern against the blonde cabinets and beige and white chessboard pattern of tiles on the floor. She was lonely for Morris, and yet she was excited about what had happened, and was still happening, since he had left. She was beginning to make moves in the chess game of life that she had thought she would never dare to make.
Just as she was feeling good about this, still looking down at the checkered pattern of the floor’s tiles, she experienced a sudden feeling of fear–an unreasonable impression that someone was there in the room with her. A moment later a shadow passed over the floor, and she would have quickly looked up toward the window to see what was casting it, but the shadow gripped her attention so that she couldn’t pull her eyes away. Then it was gone. She looked at the window, got up and stepped close to the glass. She had a fairly good view all around, through the spindly foliage, and there was no one in sight. Jill tried to remember why the shadow, or whatever it had been, had held her attention so rigidly, but she couldn’t put a tag on that. Had it been the shape of it that had frightened her? She couldn’t remember, but there had been something dreadful involved. It was like waking up from a bad dream and not being able to remember it. She stepped back to the booth and sat down, suspiciously looking at her orange juice.
After a while she decided that something must have blocked out light from the window after all–either that or she was coming down with a serious bug and had been on the verge of passing out. She gradually dismissed the whole matter and carried on thinking about the interesting things that had begun to happen in her life, and how they had come about.
Morris and Steve had been in the same company in Vietnam, with Morris being Steve’s captain during most of the action they had lived through together. Fourteen months ago they had renewed their acquaintance, after all those years, when Steve had moved from Des Moines to L.A. to teach at the Boscard Law School. Steve also had a degree in psychology and was much involved in a crusade to bring psychology into the courtroom to a greater extent, for he believed that deeper psychological insight into most cases would result in a truer application of justice. He was still single at thirty-eight and until three weeks ago had lived in an apartment crowded with his oriental art treasures and one St. Bernard called Pete.
A position opened at the school and Steve called and asked Jill if she’d like to try for it. It was no pushover job, for it involved, with the help of two other secretaries, taking care of the secretarial needs of eleven law professors including Steve. When she told Morris about it he laughed and said he hadn’t realized they were short of money. She didn’t say any more, but after Morris left for Romania she applied for the job in person and immediately landed it.
Her husband’s trip was unexpected. Professor McGrecken, one of the lawyers who taught at the school, had gone missing in Romania while on a lecturing tour through several Soviet-Block countries. It was not through Steve that she and Morris had gotten to know him, but through a businessman acquaintance by the name of Tom Burnson. Burnson had been much disturbed by the professor’s disappearance, for apparently they were close friends. He had immediately taken steps to personally go look for the missing man and had persuaded Morris as well as Morris’s assistant to take a break from their work and accompany him. Burnson also knew Steve, and had asked him to accompany him before he had asked Morris, for Steve was of Romanian descent and could speak the language. But Steve had declined, saying that other pressing obligations prevented it.
Adele Broglie, Morris’s assistant in the research department where he worked at UCLA, did go along. Tom Burnson and Adele were good friends and he had insisted on it. It didn’t bother Jill much, for Adele always seemed businesslike, and although she was rather good looking she had a touch of masculinity in her personality that Jill thought could hardly be appealing to any man. Besides, Jill trusted Morris completely.
When she and Morris had met, almost nine years ago, she had been out of college for a year and working as a lifeguard on the Santa Monica Beach. He had come walking energetically through the sand like some magnificent human stallion or storyland giant to the lifeguard tower where she was on duty.
He climbed up without asking permission and sat down beside her. “I’ve always wondered what the view is like from up here,” he said, looking directly into her eyes. “It’s even better than I thought.”
She didn’t say anything, just looked back at him, carefully studying his ruggedly chiseled face framed by moderately cut brown hair, some of which had escaped from being combed back and hung unkempt over his forehead. It was a decent face, she decided. Sure, maybe he had the hots for her–what man on the beach didn’t?–and maybe he had come up here to begin working his way from a close view of her bikinied body to an evening of passion; but if that was the case he would at least work at it slowly–she was sure of that. He had a natural, friendly confidence about him, and, for all his towering height and muscular bulk, he just couldn’t be thought of as threatening.
“My name’s Morris Lurch,” he said. “Every time I come here I see you, up here or down on the sand, and every time I see you I want to talk to you.”
He thought for a moment. “Because you’re so damned cute. But then I guess a guy is always hoping he’ll find more than beauty. I think its fun–no, more than fun, it’s exciting–to meet someone and start to find out what they’re like.”
“What do you hope to find?–I mean in people in general, when you first meet them?”
He rubbed his nose, which was generous but well shaped like the rest of him. His blue eyes, clear and tranquil, left hers for a moment but quickly came back. “A lot of things, I guess–like someone who can ask an intelligent question that’s hard to answer.” He laughed and it was a good honest sound.
Thinking about it later she was always amazed at what had happened then. Maybe she had been in the hot sun too long that day, or maybe she had been horny from the paperback romance she had just finished reading, or maybe it had been the man’s amazing ability to engender confidence combined with her own natural inclination to do sudden impulsive things.
She said, “We’re still complete strangers, aren’t we?”
“Yeah, I guess you could say that.”
“You think it might be exciting to kiss a complete stranger?”
He looked at her silently for just a moment. “Could be,” he said, “especially if she was you.”
“If you try to rape me up here I’ll scream my head off.”
“I’m not a rapist.”
“Then hurry and kiss me, before we’re not strangers anymore.”
He did, and they made it worthwhile. When they were done they had to dry their mouths on her beach towel, and they laughed about that so much that the sunbathers lying around nearby began staring up at them. She said, “Well, now we can find out more about each other.”
And they did. She found out that he was a medical doctor, that he was (like her) of German descent, and that he, (unlike her) could speak the language. By asking the right questions she learned many other things about him, and gradually, increasingly, was impressed by the easy power of his mind and body, recognizing him for what he was: an amazing juggernaut who moved forward over the obstacles of life, inflexibly and good naturedly, casually crushing them all under his weight like so many empty peanut shells. The giant thrilled her with his super masculinity like no man ever had. She fell in love with him immediately and they were married a few exciting months later. One of the interesting and unexpected results was that all pressures and anxieties of life were removed abruptly.
At first she reveled in it; but after eight years of being married to a loving good provider who treated her like an expensive ornament, she had become distinctly bored. She truly loved Morris for his kindness, responsibleness, his obvious love for her, and his simple boyish charm. But now, as she sat there in the kitchen booth, she had to admit that she had been finding him a bit boring, because during the last few months she hadn’t been able to talk him into going out anywhere (the unconquerable giant was showing signs of middle-aged tiredness after a hard day’s work) and even their lovemaking often seemed a bit like work–satisfying but prosaic.
The housewarming party, in the splendid big house that Steve had told her about, beckoned from somewhere in her heart–from somewhere in her need for freedom, adventure, and the presence of happy, friendly people.
She reached for the phone beside the booth. Unless Fran had plans for the evening, she probably would be quite willing to keep Becky for the night.
Then her hand stopped in mid-air as a part of her mind broke free from some inner confinement and she remembered what the shadow on the floor had looked like.
It had been a vague face, staring up at her with curious, evil eyes. But even worse than this, perhaps, she now remembered that just at the moment when she had seen the shadow, she had received two distinct impressions that had seemed contradictory. The vague face had been an illusion–something in her own mind only, as when hallucinating briefly while waking up in a semi-dark room; but at the same time she had felt strongly that a real conscious being was somehow momentarily with her, although not necessarily on the floor. And then these impressions had vanished along with the memory of them, until just now when the memory had returned.
Her trembling hand continued its interrupted journey to the phone’s receiver and she quickly punched out Fran’s number. If she was starting to crack up from being alone, Jill decided, it was definitely best for her to go to the party.
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