PATRIARCH RUN is a thoughtful and character-driven, coming-of-age story. Think of it as Jason Bourne meets Good Will Hunting.
Billy discovers that his father might be a traitor, that he was deployed to safeguard the United States from a cyberattack on its military networks. After that mission, his father disappeared along with the Chinese technology he was ordered to steal–a weapon powerful enough to sabotage the digital infrastructure of the modern age and force the human population into collapse.
Against a backdrop of suspense, the novel explores the archetypal themes of fatherhood, rites of passage and self-acceptance through a set of characters that feel alive on the page.
Rachel never rode over the summit of the mountain because of the treacherous nature of that trail. It was against all rational judgement that she found herself on it now. At tree line the horse climbed over the ridge, stepped out of the spruce forest and onto the packed scree that made up the trail from there to the tundra. The mountainside below them gave way completely to granite cliffs.
The trail snaked along the top.
At the highest point among the cliffs, with nearly a thousand feet of empty space beneath the hooves of Old Sam, Rachel spotted two figures several hundred yards in the distance. She talked to the horse. Said she couldn’t be sure, but it looked to be a man and a bristlecone pine.
The horse walked on.
“Watch your step, Old Sam.”
As they closed the distance, Rachel recognized him and saw that he was untying a rope from the gnarled tree.
“You couldn’t have picked a better view.”
Regan had looked at her once when he first heard the hooves on the scree, then he went back to his rope. Now he looked up at her face. Looked the horse over. Then he studied her eyes. She had divined his purpose.
He looked away. “Yeah, it’ll do.”
The two knew each other, but had rarely had cause to speak.
“I don’t mean to meddle, but it seems to me that the rope is ill conceived.”
Regan finished retying the rope to the tree, tested the knot and asked, “How so?”
“Too much length, and the wind, along with your own momentum, will lacerate your flesh against the rock.”
He looked over the edge. “That occurred to me as you were coming up. I shortened the rope.”
“Not enough length, and it’ll be slow and painful.”
He studied the coil of parachute cord on the ground and said with very little inflection. “It looks about right to me.” Then he walked over to a granite boulder.
“Seems you’ve thought it through.”
He sat down and pulled off his right boot. “We’ll see.”
Rachel reached behind her and took out a water bottle. Drank. She offered the bottle to Regan with a gesture.
He put out his lower lip and shook his head almost imperceptibly.
She capped it and put it back.
“Mind if I ask you a question?”
“Go ahead.” He pulled off the other boot.
“Why the rope and the cliff?”
“I don’t follow.”
“When I was a kid, coyotes killed my dog. I heard the fight, but by the time I found her in the dark, they were already feeding on her guts.” He took off both socks and stood up. “They pulled her insides out through her anus.” He stepped over to the precipice and surveyed the valley.
“How old were you?”
Rachel nodded her head, which he didn’t see.
“With only the rope or only the cliff, I’d be left for the coyotes.”
“But this way it’s only insects and birds.”
He spun to face her, his widened eyes betraying surprise–or maybe alarm.
“Birds always eat the eyeballs first,” she continued. “Must be a delicacy to them. The insects just want a womb for their maggots. A nutrient-rich source to give their young a good start.”
Regan fidgeted with the socks in his hands.
“You could’ve picked a high branch.”
He looked distracted, as if he was still digesting the other image. “I thought of that.” He walked over to his boots, unbuttoning his silk shirt.
“A bear could cut the rope.”
“It seems you’ve thought it through.”
He took off his shirt, folded it and set it on a rock. “We’ll see.”
Rachel looked back over the trail. “Well, I best be goin’.”
She turned the horse, “Those are some fancy clothes.”
“Yeah.” He took off his belt. “The boots alone cost me eleven hundred dollars, and that was before tax.”
“I suppose it’s fitting.”
“It seemed that way to me, too, down at the house. But after being up here, I don’t think so.”
He wasn’t looking at her anymore. “I think I’ll be more comfortable without them.”
“What are you going to do with those eleven hundred dollar boots?”
He carried the clothes over to the bristlecone tree, put the boots on top of the folded shirt, the socks inside the boots and the belt around the boots. “Come back and get ’em if you like.”
“Well, I best be gettin’ along.”
“You know my place?”
“I know it.”
“We’ll be sittin’ down for supper around six. Sirloin and potatoes. If you have a mind to, you’re welcome to stop by.”
He picked up the loose end of the parachute cord and started tying a hangman’s noose. “I appreciate that.”
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