He’s on the verge of making his dreams come true… Then a dream, a dead client, and a mysterious stranger shatter his world…
Kenneth Cartwright, Attorney at Law, is a success by all the world’s standards. He’s even landed the client that will earn him the law partnership he desperately craves. Yet, a simpler, happier life haunts his dreams, making him regret his life choices. Just as he begins to see hope of that life becoming reality, those connected to his wealthy client begin dying. Can Kenneth solve the murders before success destroys everyone he loves?
Kenneth’s nightly flashbacks are of a simpler life, one not nearly as successful as the one he’s living. Why does he wish the dreams were reality? More important, why do the dreams feel more real than reality itself? Will the trappings of success destroy him and everyone he loves before he discovers the truth behind his dreams?
Stacy stumbles across a sad yet successful lawyer in a coffee shop. How can someone who looks so successful be so empty? As their friendship grows they discover there’s more to life than just success, and that the love of money truly is the root of all evil. Will they survive the evil closing in? Will Ken finally discover the joy he’s been missing in his life?
Kenneth Cartwright sat in the City Java Cafe, a bohemian-style coffee bar located on the corner of downtown Dallas’s busiest intersection, Grand and Broadway, a little after ten a.m. The tall buildings shielded the cafe from much of the sunlight.
However, the sun’s reflection off the windshields of dozens of passing cars and heat radiating from the massive window to
Ken’s right told him that this day would be like most in that part of Texas on a late-spring day—blisteringly hot with no chance of rain.
He sipped a large nonfat mocha and stared out of the window at pedestrians walking past the cafe on the wide sidewalk, mostly other professionals rushing from one point to another.
It was Monday. Despite the good weather and sweet taste of mocha, a heaviness settled on his shoulders that belied his outward appearance. He wore his most expensive navy blue, custom-tailored suit, red power tie, and French-cuffed white pinpoint oxford shirt, complete with diamond-studded gold cufflinks. The ensemble complimented his closely cropped hair, dark brown and flecked with gray, though he wondered if his attempt to look successful and satisfied mattered anymore.
As a lawyer, Ken had been working on deposition questions for a case he had been dealing with for more than two weeks and was taking a few minutes away from his office, just one building to the left, and ten floors above his seat at the cafe, to let his mind relax. No book, no Kindle, laptop, or tablet computer, nothing but his mocha and the classical music pumping through the cafe’s tiny ceiling-mounted speakers that the noise of the many patrons almost drowned out, to occupy his thoughts.
Ken was a junior partner at the firm, thus, he was accustomed to senior partners dropping cases in his lap that they were too ill-equipped, too lazy, or simply too busy to handle, and this case was one of these, qualifying on all three of those levels to some degree. The deposition that he was preparing for the assigning partner would make or break the case, as well as Ken’s reputation. He knew such was the blessing and curse of being, as one of the senior partners called him, “the firm’s sharpest mind.” But that hadn’t compelled him to take a break from his helter-skelter life of one-hundred-hour workweeks and deadlines that even his work ethic wasn’t enough to meet. Nor was it Monday-morning depression. Instead, it was a question that had dogged him for as long as he could remember.
Why had he chosen the path he had taken so many years before?
By all the world’s standards, Ken was successful before his divergence to the law occurred. He had more money than he knew what to do with, a five-figure monthly net cash flow from the ventures other people now ran for him. Yet he had decided being rich wasn’t enough. He wanted prestige, too, the prestige that came from becoming a lawyer like his grandfather. So when he graduated college he moved on to law school, all the time collecting weekly checks from the many business ventures he had begun from his early teens and during his college years—paper routes, real estate investments, coin-operated laundries, and car washes—with the first dating back to his freshman year in high school. He had known at the time what led him to become so ambitious at such a young age, but he had managed to block out most of those haunting memories. His dedication to excellence in his studies and making money masked something deeper and very troubling in Ken’s psyche.
As with everything else that preceded it, he excelled at law school, too—at Harvard, no less. Upon graduating with his service as editor of the Harvard Law Review on his resume, as well as a summer clerkship with the firm after his second year in law school, he was offered a prestigious U.S. Supreme Court Clerkship, which was followed by a $200,000 a year associate offer at the multinational, one thousand-lawyer-plus law firm where he was now a junior partner, the partnership offer coming after only two years of brilliant work on the firm’s most challenging cases. Until this very moment he had no regrets.
“Why did I do it?” he whispered to himself as his eyes moistened.
His facial tension relaxed as he allowed long forgotten and suppressed memories to dominate his thoughts. As happened every few years at unexpected moments, images of another life flooded his consciousness. “I miss them,” was all he said before tears burst forth unabated. “Why?” He dabbed his eyes with the paper napkin in the hand not grasping the mug’s handle. “They are only a dream.”
The cafe was packed with people, a couple of them lawyers taking similar breaks from his own firm. He glanced around the room. No one seemed to notice him. The hustle and bustle of the city somehow masked his mental breakdown from almost everyone there. They were too busy either chatting and talking about their own lives, or ordering and then waiting for their coffees before other patrons mistakenly scooped theirs up by mistake.
Someone touched his shoulder and said, “Are you okay?”
He looked up, wiping the tears from his face with the sleeve of his suit coat. “Yeah.”
A young woman with long brunette hair dropping to the middle of her back stood next to him. She was plain, yet very pretty, probably in her early twenties, but she wasn’t dressed like a professional, or even a secretary or office worker. She wore a modest dress that fell all the way to her ankles. It had a high neckline and medium-length sleeves that covered her arms just past the elbows, with a pretty and bright flower pattern.
Dainty strap sandals adorned her small feet and topped off her cute and wholesome ensemble with a pink sun hat. She looked enough out of place to attract a few judgmental glances from some of the scantily-clad women in the cafe.
Her unique cuteness, almost girlish, also garnered a few stares from the men in the cafe. Ken bet they thought whoever got her was a lucky girl with her sweetness and innocent vibe.
Normally he would have said, “Bug off,” but he resisted the temptation. Actually, the temptation didn’t occur, which surprised him somewhat. “It’s just been a long morning.”
“Do you mind if I sit here?” She motioned to the seat facing his, glancing toward the cafe with all its occupied chairs.
He looked around, noting there was no other place for a lady to rest her tired feet. He said nothing, just nodded. She sat and gazed at him with gentle eyes.
“Who are you?” he asked. Part of him wanted to say, “Leave me alone. I don’t know you and don’t care to.” But he resisted.
There was something about this girl that made him want to get to know her better.
“Just a stranger in a strange land who noticed another stranger in need of a caring ear and maybe a nice word or two.” Somehow, coming from this girl, the words didn’t sound like a pickup line.
Up until that moment, Ken had not smiled for what seemed like weeks. His tears were certainly a sign he was sad, but his facial muscles had forgotten how to express the range of emotions they were capable of exhibiting. Up until then, his face reflected emotional blandness or total depression, with little in between, a horizontal grimness etched from one ear to the other. But now he felt free to express something altogether different. He allowed a large smile to sweep over his face, all of it, not just the upturned corners of his lips.
“Much better,” the strange girl said in response. “You look more peaceful and relaxed when you smile.”
He nodded his head and chuckled a little. “Thanks. I haven’t felt happy in a long time.” He paused a moment, using the silence to pick up his ceramic coffee mug to take another sip of the now much cooler drink, more out of the need to fill the lull in their conversation than from thirst. He glanced out the window for a brief moment then looked back at the strange girl.
“What’s your name?”
“Stacy.” She didn’t ask for his, just sat looking into his eyes, hands crossed in her lap. “So why the tears? What’s going on in there to make you cry?”
Setting the cup back down, he broke eye contact, choosing instead to stare at the cup. He wanted to tell someone what he was thinking, but he knew what he wanted to say was crazy. Was he going mad? He had read about Hindus and their belief in reincarnation, but the thoughts that periodically resurfaced in his dreams, as well as his daydreams, weren’t visions of an old life in another time. They were of the here and now, yet different somehow. But there was something about Stacy that Ken trusted. He believed that she, a total stranger, wouldn’t view his thoughts as those of a lunatic. He looked up, at first not saying anything at all. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, but was actually no more than a few seconds, he said, “You’ll think I’m nuts.”