Two Years Earlier
Whitestone, Queens, New York
Alex Nicholas had often wondered what the last moments of his life would feel like. Would it be a shortness of breath, a cold sweat, a stabbing pain near the heart? Or perhaps a tender piece of Smith & Wollensky’s New York strip lodged in his trachea, refusing to go down. He was in a dangerous business, which might have been what led to this morbid fascination. More likely, he suspected, it was the result of attending all those gloomy Greek Orthodox funerals as a kid.
Or was it that shadow of a person nearby, someone watching him that he had caught a glimpse of more than once over the past few days?
He sat in his den, admiring his sleek Apple laptop. Although it looked like the same computer owned by millions of people, it was far more powerful. Inside the polished aluminum case and underneath the smooth white keyboard were over a million dollars of state-of-the-art upgrades and enhancements sourced from diverse specialized companies located all over the world and combined together by an obscure but strangely talented computer genius. The combination had resulted in a breakthrough. One that would change everything.
For a full minute, Alex just stared at his image on the screen. Using his laptop, he had taken the photograph of himself, and now he thought carefully about which words he wanted to place at the bottom of the screen shot. Then it came to him, the phrase that he had read days ago and that had stuck in his mind ever since. He began to type, watching the words appear below his image: Life is a dream; death is waking up.
Alex laughed. That will get their attention, he thought. Someday, hopefully not anytime soon. He smiled at his mirror image. I can’t wait to show this to Michael.
Alex often thought about his brother, Michael, the only remaining link to the family of his childhood. He wished they were closer, though there were plenty of reasons why they weren’t. Alex suspected it was either the business he was in or the women he married. He knew Michael wasn’t comfortable with either. But now that he had completed his secret project, Alex hoped to get closer to the brother that he sorely missed. He decided he would call Michael later—as soon as he’d had something to eat.
Moving quickly now, he signed off and closed the laptop. He carried the computer into his master bedroom and entered the spacious walk-in closet, quietly closing the door behind him. Inside was a row of custom-made wooden shelves, running from the ceiling down to the floor, each shelf jutting out at an angle, designed to hold and display two pairs of shoes. He removed the shoes sitting on the fourth shelf from the bottom and, gripping the polished teak, pushed it upward. The specially designed panel easily lifted up, revealing a hidden compartment. Alex placed his unique laptop snugly into the empty cavity and returned the shelf to its original position.
As he headed down his stairway and out the front door, he thought about the amazing breakthrough contained inside his computer and lightened his step. He was no genius when it came to electronics, and he didn’t understand how it worked—or even why it worked—only that it did.
And because it did, Alex now knew that he would live forever.