Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Last Scroll by James Fricton

Chapter 1. The Controversy



Julia Stone bites her lip as she stares out the window of the elegant, old world St. Paul Hotel. It’s June, and the first signs of summer are appearing with the tree buds giving way to the light green leaves. The birds are chirping and the sun is warming the cool misty morning. She watches the protestors across the street from the hotel chanting, “RESIST! RESIST! RESIST!” They have gathered in the park for the past few days to protest the newly elected government’s efforts to slash the bloated federal budget by shutting down safety net social programs for children and the elderly, the poor, the disabled, and the unemployed.

Julia quickly turns away from the window, pre-occupied with her own mission. She hurries to get dressed, wanting to catch Dr. Jack Killian before his landmark lecture this morning. He will be presenting the remarkable results of research involving the ancient knowledge found in the last of the Dead Sea Scrolls in a highly anticipated keynote address before the annual meeting of the International Society for Complementary Medicine Research. She grabs her cell phone, brief case, computer, and black jacket, and then heads for the elevator.

As she steps off the elevator on the ground floor, she sees Dr. Jack Killian in the distance. She hurries toward the lobby of the ballroom, hoping to catch him before his presentation.

Dr. Julia Stone is an attractive petite blonde with intense blue eyes. She is dressed professionally in a black business suit, fitting for the status of her faculty position in Medical Anthropology at Harvard. She likes to add a touch of flare to her wardrobe with a white silk shirt, partially unbuttoned, beneath the jacket, a silk scarf around her neck, and glossy white heels. In any crowd, she stands out as someone who knows what she is doing and where she is going. She smiles as she apologetically squeezes in the buffet line behind Dr. Killian and wastes no time in interrupting his casual conversation with others in the line.

“Excuse me. Dr. Killian!” She extends her hand to shake his, “Julia Stone. Do you remember me? I would like to meet with you after your presentation today? Would you have time?”

Dr. Killian is a distinguished looking older gentleman, with full white hair, an upright posture, a crisp clear voice, and a penetrating stare. He has an unusual level of vitality, clarity, and good looks for his age of sixty-five. As Director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine of the National Institutes of Health, the CAM Center, he has been around for some time in academic and administrative positions.

He was one of the forces behind the CAM Center and consistently cites the facts—thirty-eight percent of U.S. adults and twelve percent of children use some form of alternative care. Consumers have spent thirty five billion dollars on visits to these practitioners and purchasing alternative health products and classes. The rising out-of-pocket costs for traditional medical and surgical care for Americans have lead to crippling financial burdens, medical debt, and avoidance of care causing consumers to shift their dollars into more self-directed health care. Because of this, he demands more funding for CAM research, and usually gets what he wants. Julia Stone worked with him this past year on a grant review committee to help determine which research proposals receive funding in this next year.

Dr. Killian steps out of the crowded line for a minute to talk to her. “Dr. Stone. Nobody can forget someone as charming as you. I enjoyed working with you last year. Thanks for your efforts. There were lots of good grants reviewed, and I’ll have you know that we funded several of those that you reviewed. I’m glad you’re here. You’ll like this meeting.”

Julia is surprised that he remembered the grants she reviewed and even more surprised they were funded, considering how competitive the process is.

“Dr. Killian, please call me Julia,” she says cordially. “I’ve been following the research involving the last Dead Sea Scroll with great interest. The ideas behind this Prophecy Scroll are compelling and the controversy can’t be ignored.”

Dr. Killian does not shy away from controversy, and, in fact, he is known for inviting it into his lectures more than most accomplished scientists. “Then, you know about it,” he replies. “The knowledge from the last scroll is surprisingly universal and timeless. The research on it is compelling albeit controversial.”

“Yes. I’ve actually visited the Terme Project in Italy and have seen first hand the power of this knowledge to enhance health and well-being. But this research has stirred up a hornet’s nest with the use of sacred religious documents as the basis for research into the human life force. Where are you going with it and how can I help?”

They politely step back into the breakfast line. He picks up some coffee and a whole-wheat muffin while she selects some orange juice and a fresh plate of cut fruit. They carry it over to one of the tall coffee tables in the lobby outside the ballroom to continue their conversation. On their way over, a larger gentleman with short-cropped blond hair accidently bumps into Dr. Killian and spills his coffee. The man apologizes and brings him a new cup. Dr. Killian thanks him, and returns to his conversation with Dr. Stone.

“Julia, and please call me Jack, as much as we know about treating disease, we know correspondingly little about enhancing health. It seems like we’re in a losing battle. The Prophecy Scroll may wake people up to the advancing plagues in almost every domain of our lives and the slow dramatic decline of our planet. It provides tangible actions for individuals to prevent this demise and usher in a whole new era of promoting health and wellness, as well as, support peace and prosperity. But this will occur only if we prove it with science. I welcome the conversation, and the controversy.”

“Dr. Killian, ah, Jack, the research you’re funding is radical. You’ve even had threats. But for what? Measuring the human spirit? Using ancient documents in research? I don’t understand what the controversy is. The researchers are simply applying science to test the wisdom of texts from the Biblical era. Yet, some call the research blasphemy. Others say its heresy. Some believe it’s a threat to modern religion. Most call it a bunch of hogwash and mumbo-jumbo spirituality. Aren’t you afraid of …”

He interrupts her with an intense look, “Julia, I welcome skepticism, and the threats are empty attempts at getting publicity for their political cause. Many had the same reaction with advances such as evolution, use of stem cells, and global warming. They’re missing the point. Some people fear that science may prove that some of the basic tenets that underlie their faith and beliefs are different than scientific reality. They also fear the political change that may come with these new realities.”

“They’re fanatics,” Julia concludes as she sips her juice. “They have their own political and ideological agendas to push.”

“Yes, perhaps. But, it’s often that age-old conflict between science, religion, and politics that can stir people the most.” Killian drinks his coffee after taking a bite from his muffin. “Galileo, Newton, Darwin, and many other scientists were all persecuted when their science conflicted with the ideology of the day. Religion seeks knowledge through revelation, faith, and beliefs, whereas the scientific method relies on reason and empirical observation. Politics promotes whatever prevailing view is held dear by the power brokers at the time. They often clash, particularly as science advances and either validates or refutes long held practices and beliefs.”

“I understand, but death threats?”

“People get their undies in a bundle for many reasons,” he laughs. Then, he says more seriously, “You’ve seen the results at the Terme. The human spirit is a powerful force and the basis underlying most religions. However, when you threaten their religion, you threaten them. People are so volatile these days. Nearly every city has violent protests. Just look outside in the park across the street. People want change and social media spreads the message so fast. Surprisingly little things can trigger widespread unrest. We live in turbulent times. So, I’m not surprised some people take offense at this project.”

“But this is about discovery,” she says as she takes a bite of the cut peach in the salad. “Most people want a better understanding of the universe. This is the basis for improving life on earth.”

“Not if it forces them to change their beliefs or threaten their livelihood,” he says as he drinks more coffee. “The project is answering one of the greatest puzzle in all of mankind. What makes life? What makes us, as living beings, different than a collection of chemical reactions? And what exactly leaves us in death and relegates living things to a pile of dirt when they die?”

Julia listens intently with excitement in her eyes. This is exactly the research she wants to dedicate her career to.

He finishes his coffee. “We all recognize the existence of the living spirit, the soul, the life force, the chi, or however you refer to it. We need to know what this quintessential force of energy is that defines life, and as important, how do you measure and enhance it? Nobody has done so until now. I’m not talking about Stars Wars’ ‘let the force be with us.’ This is Nobel Prize type research. The researchers in Italy have shown that our spiritual energy and its daily fluctuations are real and measurable. On top of that, the profound impact that the Prophecy principals had in strengthening this energy has been as much a surprise to me as anyone. And we are only at the beginning. But that’s why the Terme Project raises such fury in some people. They feel as if their religious foundations are shaking right underneath them. But this is a battle I’m willing to fight. We must move forward.”

Other attendees, standing at tables close to the pair, begin to listen in, as the conversation grows more intriguing.

Julia stops eating, listens intently, and says nothing. She feels Killian’s frustration at the weight of the criticism against him.

He looks her directly in the eyes and states emphatically, “Listen! I’m the first to debunk these questionable theories without a scientific basis. We need more research to improve our understanding of the human spirit and strategies to enhance our well-being even if it flies in the face of religious dogma and political agendas. Diligent investigators, Paolo Nobili and Vanessa Venetre, have uncovered something special in their study of human energy fields. Maybe, for the first time, this elusive human life force can be measured. The technology they have is revolutionary. The wisdom unveiled in these manuscripts is unparalleled. The results are impressive. I’m excited to present some of it today, and open a few more minds.”

“I agree, the research is remarkable,” she replies as she finishes her breakfast and dabs her lips with a napkin. “The measurement of spiritual energy and its correlation with the daily actions in our lives is astounding. I found the wisdom in the Prophecy Scroll was not only profound but also surprisingly contemporary and universal. And they only touched on four of the ten manuscripts. The Seven Realms of Life, the Seven Beasts, the Rules of the Blessings, and the Blessing of Health are each remarkable in their own way. Do you know when they will obtain the others?”

Killian looks at his watch and feels an urgency to put the final touches on his slides and meet with the moderator before his presentation. “I’m sorry, Julia, but I need to go. I relish the opportunity to be the first speaker to wake up the audience and set the tone for the conference.”

“Of course,” she apologizes. “You must go. Thank you for the conversation.”

They gather their things and walk into the ornately decorated grand ballroom as he answers her last question, “The remaining manuscripts are being translated by scholars around Italy who understand the ancient Hebrew languages. When we have all ten, I believe it will provide us with a set of universal truths in enhancing the human spirit and can bring the seven Blessings into all of our lives.”

“I’m with you,” she responds enthusiastically. “I have a grant in preparation right now, and will need your advice before I send it in.”

“We welcome your participation in this research. I’ll present some of the results in the next hour. We can talk later about how to improve your grant’s funding potential. Does lunch work?”

“Lunch works fine for me.”

“Nice talking to you,” he shakes her hand before walking through the giant double doors towards the front of the spacious lecture hall. “See you in the lobby at noon.”

“Yes! Thank you, Dr. Killian. It will be a pleasure to hear you speak today. Good luck with your presentation.”

She watches him walk to the podium stage and considers what a great setting this is for a great man. The ballroom is decorated with three wrought iron and gold leaf crystal chandeliers that span the recessed ceiling and sparkle with color. The walls have black iron wall scones, red velvet drapes, and gold-trimmed mirrors that reflect the images of the radiant chandeliers and the high energy of the conference.

There is much anticipation for his lecture, as the audience begins to stroll in and find their seats. They have all heard about the controversy involving the research and now want to listen to Dr. Killian directly and make up their own minds about it.

She stands in the middle aisle watching him shake hands with the moderator. She is beyond excited to have finally opened up this conversation with the person at the National Institutes who can be most influential in helping her research get off the ground.

As Killian ends his conversation with the moderator, the man with short-cropped blond hair watches them from the back of the ballroom. He tucks his polo shirt neatly into his jeans, and slowly sips his coffee. Those who commit heresy and oppose the Manifesto will perish, and he will be happy to see it happen. It’s been planned perfectly for the morning, in front of a large crowd, when it’s least expected. There will be no fingerprints, no blood, no DNA, no links, and no evidence—other than the Manifesto left behind by the Messenger to warn others on the same path. He is just one of hundreds attending the conference. He will find the crime as shocking as everyone. He smiles at the brilliance of the plan.


A chance meeting with an old classmate leads Ryan Laughlin, a dedicated young physician, to an ancient Roman spa in a medieval village of Italy where researchers are studying two remarkable events that could change the course of history—a new technology that claims to measure the essence of life itself, the human spirit, and the final Dead Sea Scroll which was recently discovered in the West Bank.

The Last Scroll reveals universal truths about the nature of life through Seven Blessing but warns of Seven Plagues of the Beast that are emerging this century causing alarm and protests around the world.

While visiting the spa to learn these secrets and enjoy the food, wine, and culture of Italy, Ryan finds himself the target of a killer who claims the project is heresy and will do anything to stop it. In a deadly race through ancient Italy, he is desperately trying to save the only woman he has loved since the death of his wife.

What insight and power lies within the fragmented pieces of the Last Scroll?

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Genre - Romantic Thriller

Rating – PG13

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