After a brain infection at birth almost killed him, Veil Kendry developed a unique power: His vivid dreams can transport him to the edges of time and to the minds of other men. A Vietnam veteran, martial arts instructor, and former CIA agent, Veil now makes a living painting landscapes unlike anything anyone has ever seen.
The highly regarded Institute for Human Studies has invited Veil to undergo a battery of tests at their Big Sur facility to better understand his abilities as an artist. Although Veil is game for anything, nothing can prepare him for the secrets hidden behind the walls of the institute—or the ensuing fight to stay alive.
Veil is the 1st book in the Veil Kendry Suspense Novels, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Vivid dreaming is his gift and affliction, the lash of memory and a guide to justice, a mystery and sometimes the key to mystery, prod to violence and maker of peace, an invitation to madness and the fountainhead of his power as an artist.CHAPTER 2
Dinner had been in the grand manner, French cuisine expertly prepared and graciously served in an elegant setting that provided a feast for all the senses. Now Veil Kendry stood on the great stone balcony outside the dining hall, sipping cognac as he watched moonlight splinter and dance on the shimmering surface of the sea hundreds of feet below him. Somewhere at the botton of the night, seals barked.
Kendry was impressed. The Institute for Human Studies was spread over the top third of a mountain in California's Big Sur, fifty miles from Monterey. The Institute was concerned solely with what its brochure described as "extreme people." Its staff probed the limits of human accomplishment and endurance through the exhaustive physical and psychological analysis of uniquely gifted individuals who came to the Institute by highly prized invitation. The equipment in the Institute's many laboratories was state-of-the-art, its approach relentlessly multidisciplinary, and its staff represented the elite in dozens of fields. Nobel laureates felt privileged to be invited to lecture or perform research at the Institute.
Veil turned around and studied the others who had joined him on the balcony. The world chess champion, a Russian, was chatting amiably, through an Institute interpreter, with an eleven-year-old Israeli violin virtuoso. In a dark corner the National Football League's all-time leading pass receiver was engaged in quiet conversation with one of the attractive hostesses who had presided over the dinner. An Australian bushman, a man who could trek for three days through open desert on a cup of water, stood stiff and obviously uncomfortable as he fingered a lumpy totem made of ostrich skin.
Veil was definitely odd man out at this gathering, and he couldn't understand why he had received an invitation to spend a month at the Institute. As far as he knew, all of the other guests possessed strikingly unusual talents. All he did was paint pictures, and he was not exactly reeling under the burden of success. Indeed, he was surprised that someone like Jonathan Pilgrim had even heard of him; the critics were once again genuflecting before minimalist art, and he hadn't sold a painting in months. He didn't have enough money in the bank to buy even one of the expensive bottles of wine that had flowed so copiously during the meal.
Veil knew that he was, to be sure, an "extreme person" — but Pilgrim and his research staff could not be aware of it without knowing the extent and consequences of his brain damage, or somehow gaining access to one of the nation's most carefully guarded military secrets. Both events were highly improbable.
Veil turned to his left to discover the founder and executive director of the Institute standing beside him. Jonathan Pilgrim, like most of the astronauts, stood just under six feet — Veil's height. Pilgrim, in his mid-forties, was lean and muscular. Thick, unruly brown hair was creased by a scar that radiated to his right temple from the lacy mapwork of nerveless, ruined tissue that covered his right cheek. His left eye was green, and a beige patch covered the empty socket where the right eye had been. A simple stainless-steel hook protruded from the left sleeve of his dinner jacket. Scars, hook, and patch notwithstanding, Veil thought, Pilgrim looked remarkably fit for a man who'd returned from the land of the dead.
"Colonel Pilgrim," he said, gripping the man's outstretched hand.
"I'm sorry I missed you at dinner, Kendry. Welcome to the Institute."
"I feel very privileged to have been invited, Colonel."
"Forget the 'Colonel' crap, Veil. My name's Jonathan."
Veil nodded. "All right, Jonathan," he replied evenly.
"I'm only 'Colonel' to some of the fools I have to cater to around here."
Pilgrim lit a cigar, puffed thoughtfully, then blew a thin stream of smoke out into the eddies of wind blowing across the surface of the sea. "Being highly gifted isn't all it's cracked up to be. Two sessions ago we had a man here whom a lot of people thought might be the smartest person on earth. He went right off the charts on all the standard intelligence tests, so we had to have an IBM mainframe design one that wouldn't put him to sleep. The night before he was to take the test, a hostess caught him stuffing silverware into the beaded purse he carried."
Veil smiled. "What did you do with him?"
"I threw the thieving son of a bitch out on his fat ass, naturally."
Veil's smile grew broader. He felt a strange bond of kinship with this gregarious, unassuming man who was one of the few people he admired and respected without reservation.
"Rare gifts sometimes carry a steep price tag," Pilgrim continued easily. "You'll find a lot of people here tonight with elevators that don't go all the way to the top."
"At the risk of branding myself, how do you know that my elevator goes all the way to the top?"
"Good instincts," Pilgrim replied, his one eye glinting with amusement. "Veil. I like that. Family name?"
"Not exactly. I was born with a brain infection, and a caul, and I wasn't expected to live more than two or three hours. My folks had a mystical bent, and I guess they figured that a little metaphysics at the christening couldn't hurt."
"It looks to me like they may have been on to something."
"What about you? Do you have a mystical bent?" "I believe in gravity, mathematics, and mystery."
"What do you use for an ethical system?"
"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, and watch out for the bad guys."
Pilgrim laughed. "Nobody's going to accuse you of not being forthcoming."
"I read the Institute contract before I signed it," Veil replied with a shrug. "I get a month of fresh air, great scenery, and legendary meals in exchange for letting you turn me inside out."
"True. We do want to extract as much information as we can from your mind and body, but that doesn't mean that you have to chat us up at cocktail parties."
"The pleasure of talking to you and answering your questions is mine, Jonathan. The fact is that I don't understand why you invited me here in the first place."
"Success isn't the criterion for being asked to come here; uniqueness is. Your work is unique."
"That and a dollar will buy me a cup of coffee in Times Square. But thank you, Jonathan."
"You've had your intake interview with Henry — Dr. Ibber. You'll be talking to a lot of other people from a number of different disciplines. You'll have all sorts of machines beeping in your face, be goosed in more holes than you know you have, and undergo hypnosis. If you have no objections, we may even try a few tricks with sensory deprivation."
Veil suppressed harsh, sour laughter that he was certain would be misunderstood. He had endured far worse than anything they could do to him here, had seen others endure far worse. He felt a chill. "I can understand running tests like that on an athlete," he said quietly, "but I'm not sure I see the point with a painter."
"Why? Because the creative act is, and always shall remain, a mystery?"
"Something like that."
"Well, you could be right. In any case, we'll be taking a long, hard look at the right hemisphere of your brain."
"I'll have no objections to anything you want to do with me, Jonathan. It all sounds very interesting."
"Good. Where did you learn to paint?"
"I'm still learning to paint."
"Critics call your work 'dream painting.' Is that how you think of it?"
"Not really. Most of my paintings are based on the colors and textures of dreams, but I never think of my work in terms of a label."
"Still," Pilgrim said in what seemed to Veil a curiously flat, neutral tone, "you must have exceptionally vivid dreams."
Veil hesitated before this probe into the deepest part of his being. Then he reminded himself of the commitment he had made, and he decided he would not cheat Pilgrim or his Institute. "I do," he said after a pause. "The cause is organic. The infection I mentioned caused some brain damage. In effect, it tore away the protective psychic membrane everyone else has between the conscious and subconscious. For me, dreams and reality are experienced in pretty much the same way — although I did finally learn to tell when I'm dreaming." He paused again, smiled thinly. "Before I picked up that particular skill, dreaming caused me one or two problems."
"Jesus, I would think so," Pilgrim said in a hushed tone that was just above a whisper. "You must know one or two things about terror."
Jonathan Pilgrim was a very perceptive and wise man, Veil thought. His reply was a shrug.
"Have you ever had a CAT scan?"
"A number of times. I can have the results sent here, if you'd like."
"We'd prefer to do our own."
"You'll find lesions on the pons and hippocampus, as well as some minimal synaptic damage."
Pilgrim nodded absently as he blew a smoke ring that was immediately swallowed by the wind. Veil had the distinct impression that Pilgrim badly wanted to pursue this line of questioning, but for some reason the director of the Institute for Human Studies now chose to remain silent.
"If you don't mind, there are a few things I'd like to ask you," Veil continued at last.
Pilgrim casually tossed the butt of his cigar over the balcony's marble railing. "Ask away, Veil."
"Where did you get the idea for the Institute?"
Pilgrim laughed softly. "In space, of course. Where else? Space is a bit spooky, and out there the brilliant insight came to me that we're just a bit spooky ourselves. I thought it would be nice if, one day, all the best people, ideas, and research connected with human studies could be brought together in one facility. After the accident, I had the time to put it together."
"How do you fund it?"
"We publish a number of scientific journals, as well as a hefty psychobiological newsletter that a few industries and government agencies find useful, and which they don't mind paying a lot of money for. We do recombinant DNA research, and we hold better than two hundred patents in the field. We do some contract work for corporations. We have an excellent sports-medicine complex, and most of the pro teams use us on occasion to evaluate prospects. We generate some money from books and lecture fees, and once in a while some film studio will spring with a lot of cash for the privilege of using the grounds for location shooting. I suppose we get more than our share of bequests, foundation money, and what's left of the government grants. For the rest, I go out and tap-dance."
"I'm very impressed, Jonathan. You've done one hell of a job."
"Well, I'm happy you could accept our invitation."
"What happens next?"
"Psychological tests. I've arranged an appointment for you with one of our psychologists, Dr. Solow, at ten in the morning. Okay?"
"You'll find a golf cart parked outside your cottage, and a map of the grounds on the desk inside. The psychometric labs are in the C building. If you don't feel like chauffeuring yourself, I'll have someone on the staff pick you up."
"I'll drive myself."
"When you're not scheduled for tests, feel free to wander around. Some of the things we do may interest you."
"I know they will."
"Is there anything you need?"
"A place to work out, if you have one."
"There's a fully equipped gym in the basement of F building. It has a weight room with a Nautilus, a pool, steam room, and sauna. If that doesn't suit you, you can always jog around the complex."
"No. Thank you."
"Then I'll be saying good night."
"Good night, Jonathan."CHAPTER 3
The seven Hmong tribesmen who've escorted him to the meeting site form a semicircle to protect his flanks and back. The Hmongs' automatic rifles are held at the ready as they peer into the surrounding jungle and listen intently for sounds of the enemy. Veil, his M-60 machine gun slung around his bare torso, stands in the middle of the clearing. The humid air is fetid with the smell of rotting vegetation and the human excrement used by the Laotians as fertilizer.
Shortly after three o'clock the helicopter appears in the southwest. Flying at a high altitude to avoid mortar and small-arms fire, the helicopter first appears as a mere speck in the azure sky. The whop-whop-whop of its rotors grows steadily louder as it approaches, then drops at a sharp angle from the sky to hover a foot off the ground at the far end of the clearing. Colonel Bean, Orville Madison, and an ARVN major jump from the Huey, crouch beneath the rotors, and hurry toward Veil. Bean and the South Vietnamese are dressed in fatigues; the sluglike Madison wears a tan summer suit stained with sweat at the crotch and from armpit to waist on both sides. Veil knows that Madison's presence is a bad omen. In addition to being an army officer, Veil is a Central Intelligence Agency operative; here, in the midst of an agency-run secret war in Laos, it is Madison who is Veil's superior, not Bean. A decision has been made which he is not going to like, Veil thinks, and Madison is here to make it stick.
"Captain Kendry, I presume," Colonel Bean says, gesturing derisively at the half-naked men who have now moved to surround them all. He very much dislikes Veil, fears him even more.
"You picked a bad time to call a meeting," Veil says in a flat tone. He addresses his controller, ignoring Bean and the ARVN major. "We had visitors last night, and they left a mess. They may still be around. I imagine the Pathet Lao would dearly love to capture two American officers, one South Vietnamese officer, and a CIA field officer inside their borders. After they take our pictures and tape our confessions, they'll have us all eating our balls for dinner. I'm sure they've been tracking that damn helicopter since you crossed the line. If you wanted to see me, you should have walked in."
Bean tenses and removes the safety on his rifle, while Madison glances nervously around him. Only the South Vietnamese does not react. He is a tall man, over six feet, and rangy. His face is as impassive as the Hmong who guard them. If any emotion shows in his almond-colored eyes, it is vague amusement.
"No time for that, Kendry," Madison says tersely. "I've got orders to make certain you hang on to your balls. You're coming out with us. Today."
"Bullshit," Veil replies without emotion.
Bean flushes and slaps the stock of his rifle. "Damn it, Kendry, you watch your mouth!"
Madison holds up a pudgy hand, silencing the other American. "Now, Colonel, just take it easy," he says, looking directly at Veil. "Everyone knows that Captain Kendry has bad table manners, but he also happens to be a bona fide hero — and that's what's been requisitioned."
Veil spits contemptuously, barely missing the CIA controller's foot. Bean clenches his jaw and looks away; the ARVN major stifles a yawn; Madison pretends not to notice. "Stop trying to blow smoke up my ass and get to the point," Veil snaps at Madison. He is aware of the core of steel beneath Madison's fat, but he has a very bad feeling about this situation and knows that he must constantly confront Madison in an effort to avoid being manipulated. He knows that he will lose in the end if the controller seriously wants something, but still feels compelled to struggle; Madison is always groping for the throat of the soul. "We've already been standing out here in the open too long. What the hell are you people doing here?"
"This meeting is about winning the war," Madison replies in a soft, dangerous tone. He does not take his eyes from Veil's face. "A whole continent of gooks can't beat us, but American families with their sons coming home in body bags or running off to Canada can. That's what's happening back home, Captain; we're losing support, and if we lose enough support, we'll lose the war. You didn't run off to Canada, and I'm here to make damn sure you don't go home in a body bag. You've made quite a name for yourself, both back in 'Nam and during the time you've spent here — although God knows how so many people seem to know you're in Laos. It doesn't make any difference; we'll find a way to use it. Charlie and the Pathet Lao call you 'Yellow Beast,' Kendry. There's a big price on your head. Did you know that?"(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Veil"
Copyright © 1986 George C. Chesbro.
Excerpted by permission of MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated Media.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.