Enjoy “Window Beyond the World,” a supernatural thriller set in the Southern California mountains. The novel is being serialized here in weekly installments. The co-authors are Sun columnist John Weeks, writing under his full name John Howard Weeks, and William S. Thomas, former Sunday Editor of The Sun.

A new chapter will be posted each Friday. There are 37 chapters in all. This free online edition is somewhat abridged for language and adult situations. For those who wish to read ahead, and enjoy the entire unabridged novel, it is available now in book form.

“Window Beyond the World” (iUniverse, $14.95), by John Howard Weeks and William S. Thomas, can be ordered from local bookstores or from online booksellers including


Naomi hinted broadly during the next week or two, hinted several times, in
fact, that she would love to see Lances place in the mountains. The prospect
filled Lance with anxiety though it was anxiety mixed with a definite thrill of
interest, because he liked Naomi. Naomi even tried to obligate him by inviting
him to her place, an apartment in Redlands, though she took pains to point
out that it didnt look like much because most of her stuff was still in boxes. It
was a half-hearted sort of invitation, and Lance felt confident he could decline
without giving offense.

In fact, he made a few attempts, at home at night, to clean his place up a bit.
It was the kind of desultory housekeeping you can do with one hand, while
holding a whiskey-and-Coke in the other hand. Stack dishes in cupboards
instead of on the counter. Get videotapes stacked in a pile instead of scattered
all over the floor. Straighten up a little. Put clothes away.

Some of the heavy-duty stuff, like scrubbing toilets and dusting and sweeping,
could wait for another time.

Then, he had a better idea. He had an old boat on the lake. Hed invite her
on that instead of to his house. That would be easier to clean up than the
house. Besides, it would be dark on the boat after their late shift at The Sun.
Harder to see. Also, a boat date starting at 2 oclock in the morning
wasnt likely to last that long, even though it was summer and the nights were

He didnt anticipate, though, the enthusiasm with which Naomi greeted the
proposal. In fact, she even suggested they go swimming and would not be
deterred by Lances warning that the water is cold in a mountain lake, even in

Well bring our suits to work and just put them on in the restrooms before
we leave and wear them under our clothes, she said, reading correctly his signals
that he wasnt ready yet to show her his house.

Of course, her idea to go swimming cost him an hour the next morning,
trying to find his swimsuit. He knew he had one, but had no idea where. He
finally found it at the bottom of a pile of old discarded clothes, unwashed and
forgotten in the cupboard under the bathroom sink.

He also didnt anticipate his discovery, much later that night, of how filthy
his boat would be. Maybe this wasnt such a hot idea. How long had it been
since hed had his boat out, anyway? He made Naomi wait while he found the
old broom, in the overhead rack above the boats back seat, and used it to clear
legions of cobwebs off the sides and top of the aluminum awning, along with
years of dirt, litter and tree debris off the deck and its ruined old carpet. Naomi
helped. She aimed the two flashlights they had used to climb down the steep
wooden steps to the lake from where they had parked their cars.

Naomi had changed after work into shorts, a long-sleeved T-shirt and a
light sweater. She wore sandals on her feet and her swimsuit under her clothes.
Lance was still wearing his work clothes, an old Lands End shirt with no tie,
chino slacks and scuffed loafers. He hadnt put his swimsuit on, but he had
brought it along, balled up in his hand as they walked down to the boat, and he
tossed it in once they got there.

Too bad the boat didnt have its old canvas cover. Lance couldnt remember
what had happened to it.

Finally, he allowed Naomi to step aboard. Sorry about the mess, he said.
I guess its been awhile since Ive been down here. The carpets pretty dirty,
Im afraid.

Oh, dont worry, Lance, for heavens sake. Im not the Queen of England.

I hope the engine starts.

You have gas and everything?

The gas can is hidden under the bench, he said, proceeding to lift it out.
Ive got to hook it up.

Yes, the gas can had some heft to it. There was gas in it.

Yeah, theres half a can here, he said.

The boat was an old 22-foot party barge, as theyre called, or deck boat,
essentially a platform on two pontoons with bench seating around the sides
and across the back and a drivers seat and console in the middle. A large,
ungainly, aluminum roof with a shelf across the back swayed and creaked overhead.

It had been a party barge indeed, a long time ago, the scene of many exploits
and hijinks, when Lance called himself the Lord of the Loch and his boat the
Bonnie Boozer. He had even flown a skull-and-crossbones pirate flag during
his epic parties, which would start during the day and carry on until night was
giving way to the next dawn.

The flag, though, was long lost now, and the boat had been idle for years,
except for the occasions when Lance would come down to put on a new registration
sticker and maybe run the motor for awhile.

No surprise, then, that it was a hard start on this occasion. Lance tried for
15 minutes or more to turn over the motor, to no avail. In fact, Naomi told
him after awhile to stop.

Lets just sit here and enjoy the night. Were still in a boat on the water. Its
just here in this spot instead of over there in some other spot. Lets just pretend
this is where we meant to go all along.

They sat and visited, for almost half an hour, but then Naomi went back
and had a talk with the engine. Lance tried again and it roared well,
coughed and spazzed, actually to life. They both laughed.

Lance untied the boat, backed it out of the slip, and guided it slowly, quietly,
leaving no wake behind, down the middle of the bay and into the main body of
the lake. They went all the way to the middle, the deepest part, before Lance
cut the engine. He didnt throw out the anchor. There was plenty of room here
to drift, and the water was too deep anyway for the anchor to reach bottom.

Its so beautiful, Naomi said. Thank you, Lance, for suggesting this. Its

The waters like glass, isnt it? Theres no wind tonight, and maybe no other
boats on the lake, at this hour, so theres no chop at all. Its great when its like
this. Great for swimming if you can stand the cold.

Im going to feel. Naomi kneeled over the side and slipped her fingertips
into the water. She gasped.

Oh, my! Yes, its cold! Brrr.

Yeah, its probably still in the 60s, maybe 70 or so, which is about as warm
as it gets up here, even in dead summer. Sometimes it gets to the mid-70s, but
thats still 25 degrees colder than your body temperature. Remember, were at
almost 6,000 feet here. Its an alpine lake.

There was a sudden sharp splash behind the boat. Naomi started. What
was that!

Lance laughed. Just a trout jumping.

As if to prove his point, a second trout leaped where they could see it, in the
wide moonbeam stretching away in front of the boat. It leaped all the way out
of the water, wriggling, turning, before splashing back into the lake.

Perfect! Naomi exclaimed.

The moon was full, casting its bright stripe of light down the middle of the
lake, right under their boat.

They enjoyed the scene, and they talked, for almost an hour. After one long
pause, Naomi said, You know what? I have a terrible confession to make. I
have to, uh, use the ladies room.

Lance laughed. Thats why the good Lord put this lake here for you. Jump
in and go for it. Knock yourself out.

Ouch! You cruel man! I think I had decided it was too cold to jump in.

Hmmm. Well, you could go for a ladder swim, as we used to call it.

A ladder swim?

Yeah, you only go in halfway. Ill show you. He picked up the folded boat
ladder where it lay next to one of the boats side gates, and shook the aluminum
apparatus into its extended position. He then fastened the top of the
four-step ladder to the deck, letting the rest of it drop into the water.

There you go, my lady. Your ladder awaits.

I dont know But Naomi was already taking off her clothes as she said
it. When she got down to her swimsuit, a simple black one-piece, she moved
gingerly onto the ladder and started letting herself down.

Hoo! she whispered when her feet hit the water on the top step. She
waited, then exclaimed again when her calves hit the water on the second step,
and again when her knees hit the water on the third step, and again when her thighs hit the water on the bottom step.

She prodded further down into the water with one foot but found nothing.
Is this the last step? she asked, plaintively.

Yes. Now you just crouch into the water and have yourself one fine ladder

Im not sure I can stand having the next part of me in the water. The water
is so cold.

Lance looked at her, bemused, but didnt say anything.

Nobody is around to watch us, right? Naomi asked.

Right. Except me.

Oh! You!

She shrieked as she pushed herself backward and fell splashing into the lake.
Oh! Oh! Oh! Yelping, she swam quickly all the way around the boat. Then
she swam around the boat again, only more slowly. On her third trip around,
she glided languidly.

You get used to it, she called out. Its nice. Ooh, its real nice.

There were splashing sounds. Naomi was busy in the water. Then she held
up her swimsuit, in her hand, and tossed it onto the boat.

Come on, she called and swam farther out into the moonlight.

Lance hadnt planned to swim, either. Now, though, a swim seemed like the
best idea in the world.

He stripped. He wasnt wearing his swimsuit, and he didnt put it on. He dove into the water headfirst, splashing Naomi. He came up for air and she splashed him back with the sharp of her hand. Hey! he yelled. They both laughed.

He splashed her again. She splashed back.

Then, impulsively, they embraced. Their eyes gleamed in the moonlight.

Much later, as they clambered back on the boat, they realized they had forgotten to bring towels. All they could do is put on their swimsuits and sit and shiver, try to air dry, which is quite a trick in the middle of the night at 6,000 feet.

Lances suit was dry, anyway, to begin with, but he let Naomi use it first to towel herself off a bit, so it was wet by the time he put it on.

They got so cold, they decided to go to Lances house to warm up. It was
Lances idea, in fact. Naomi followed in her car as he led her through a bewildering
maze of crooked mountain residential streets with whimsical names
like Fawn Walk and Elves Way, up hills, down hills, around a hundred corners,
it seemed, to his house. It was bewildering, but not far. The whole trip took
only seven or eight minutes.

Lance was anxious again, as he led Naomi down the short staircase to his
small, two-bedroom, one-bath, cliff-hugging cabin. I hope you dont mind
Early American Slob decor, he said, unlocking the door and showing her in.
Ive been a bachelor for many years, so be afraid, be very afraid.

Naomi smiled brightly as she looked around. Oh, it looks a lot more
picked-up than I expected, after what youve told me. At least you can move
around in here. My place is wall-to-wall boxes still.

She had already found the bathroom. She came out with a towel and started
working on her hair, which was still very wet. Pee-ew! she said. Of course,
this is going to lose you some points, mister. When was the last time you
washed any of these towels?

Sorry about that, Lance called from the kitchen. I think I can find you a
clean one.

He was discovering another problem, though.

It gets worse, he said, walking out and joining her. Youre about to discover
my secret identity. The Host from Hell. I have absolutely nothing to offer
you to drink. All I have is booze, and I know you dont want that.

Oh, just make me a cup of hot tea.

Sorry. No tea.

Coffee then?

No coffee.

Seriously? You dont have coffee?

Used to drink it. Dont anymore.

Okay. Water and lemon?

Water, yes. Lemon, no.

Okay, I tell you what. Heat up some water for me and Ill splash a little red
wine in it, if you have that.

Oh, yes. Red wine I have. But you drink wine?

I dont drink it anymore. But I take it now and then, just a little, as medicine.
Heart medicine. A little is good for you, you know. And something warm
will definitely be good for me right now. Im still cold. Arent you?

Yes, a little. But I have the real medicine, so Ill be warm before you know

He put a kettle with water on the stove, and then poured himself a glass of
cabernet sauvignon from one of several bottles on the sink counter.

Red wine is what you drink? Naomi said, following him into the kitchen.

Oh, yes, I drink red wine. If red wine is good for you, I will never die.
Though, actually, tonight is more like a whiskey and Coke night for me. Im
out of Coke, though.

You drink whiskey often?

Hmm, I guess I probably do. I drink a lot in general, in fact, and you
should know that about me. More than I used to. More than I should, I guess.
Youve probably heard. Or maybe you can just tell.

No, I havent heard anything like that. But I can tell youre a little unhappy
about something. Theres something wrong with your aura. Not enough blue.

Lance gave her a long, double-take look. Oh? he said.

You have some unfinished business, Im thinking. Some major unfinished
business in your life. Am I right?

So you used to work at the all-night Psychic Channel, didnt you? Lance
said, laughing. Actually, I cant think of anything major. My life is pretty noneventful
these days. I cant think of anything momentous that I might have in
progress. Of course, theres that screenplay I started in college

It was Naomis turn to laugh. You never know, she said. Maybe thats it.

The water was boiling. Lance poured some into a mug, then added what
amounted to maybe a tablespoon of red wine to it before Naomi raised her
hand to say when.

Too bad I dont have some cinnamon sticks and orange peel and cloves, or
whatever it is you put into it to make mulled wine. Of course, wed have to
ditch the water and put in a whole lot more wine, too.

Dont worry. Its fine, she said. Thank you.

He took the long, last swallow of his glass of wine, poured himself another,
and they repaired to the living room, where there were two large overstuffed
chairs, a small coffee table crowded with newspapers, books and magazines, a
very old stereo set, and a large-screen TV of much more recent vintage.

Lance removed one of the stacks of old papers from the table to make room
for Naomis drink, scowled at the dust, and went to the kitchen for a rag. While
there, he drank half of his glass of wine, and topped it up again.

Once they were settled, they talked first about superficial things, then about
substantial things. Naomi learned that Lance had been married twice, once for
a long time and once for a very short time, and that he had no children. He
also didnt seem comfortable talking about his past life. Lance, for his part,
learned that Naomi had lived all over the world, had never married, but had
two children, both grown. He also noticed that she talked easily about herself
about anything and everything, in fact.

Her candor, her warm affability, her uninhibited good humor worked a
spell on him. That and several more glasses of wine.

Maybe I do have some unfinished business, he said at one point.

Yes? she prompted.

And then he told her the whole story of his recent encounters with his
brother at Risenbird Park. Once he had committed himself to telling the tale,
he was briefly terrified at what he had done. She would think he was mad, a
psycho. What was he thinking?

But she listened with great interest to his story, asking questions, murmuring
sympathetically on several occasions.

He told her about the most recent meeting with Art, and how he had turned
back, too anxious to go on. He wanted to show me something. I know it. But
I was afraid, he said.

When he was finished, there was a long silence. Then Naomi put a firm,
friendly hand on his knee.

My god, she exclaimed. He needs your help in solving a great riddle. Ive
never heard of anything like this.

A riddle?

Yes. Your sister-in-law, Gwen, is clearly a revenant, one who has come
back, but your brother is not, and yet they appear together.

A revenant?

One who returns. Or, more exactly, one who comes back from the dead.

Whoa! Youre saying Gwen is a ghost?

Well, yes, sort of. When I say the word ghost I think of Casper or any
number of silly horror movies, but when I say revenant I think of a covenant
and tradition of philosophy, religion and folklore that goes back to the beginnings
of human thought and experience.

How do you know all about this stuff?

Years ago I edited a book on the subject by a professor at UC Berkeley.

So this isnt all that unusual?

Its very unusual, actually. I wonder what Gwen is doing with your brother.
How, and why, are they appearing together, interacting with one another and
with you? Art isnt a revenant, or at least not of the usual kind. Hes a sort of
double of himself, returned from an earlier time. Of course, a revenant is a
double, too, in a way. But let me ask you something. Youre sure Art is still

A troubled look twisted Lances face. Yes, hes alive.

You look uncertain.

I keep dreaming hes dead.

But hes alive. You are sure?

Lance sighed. Naomi, there was a period of my life when some pretty bad
stuff went down. Ive blocked a lot of it out of my mind. Ive made myself forget
a lot of things. I havent been in touch with my brother since that time, so
Im not sure of anything about him. Its been a long, long time since Ive even
seen the guy.

Until you saw him just recently, of course, in whatever form it is youre seeing
him. This is all very thought-provoking. I dont even know what to make of

Do I need to be afraid?

Afraid? Naomi paused, as if she was testing the word in her mouth. I dont think so. Not afraid. Of course, anything remarkable can be scary, intimidating. You know, that little thrill of the unknown. But nothing would ever be explored or discovered without a little bit of that kind of thrill. So, no. Dont be afraid. Be thrilled.

Lance teased her with a wide-eyed look, then laughed. OK, he said.

Naomi continued. Consider thisthe way I understand it, revenants are
just as likely to appear for good purposes as for bad. Though of course there
are some notorious examples of the latter. She contorted her face into a fierce
look. Vampires! she whispered.

Oh, for crying out loud, Naomi!

But revenants often appear for some practical, even beneficial purpose, to
give advice, to announce some portent. Sometimes, they need something from
you. Your forgiveness, for example, which sets them free to continue on their
journey. Or sometimes you need something from them. A warning, for example.
Directions. Sometimes you both need something from each other.

You sound like a believer.

A believer?

You think theyre real.

It doesnt matter what I think. And, it doesnt matter if theyre real or not.
Either way, something remarkable is happening. In your case, Gwen and Art
really are appearing before you in some form of themselves, and interacting
with you, or they are not, and you are only conjuring up images of them.
Rather fascinating images, though, I must say. Interactive, and three-dimensional.
In either case, something special is going on.

What do you suppose it is?

Maybe something happened during that time in your past, that dark time
you dont remember. Maybe your brother and his wife were involved. Maybe
the three of you need each others help to change something, to atone for
something, to redeem yourselves.

This is sounding like something from the Bible.

Well, it would, of course. The whole concept of redemption plays a key role
in most religions and philosophies, and you know its right at the top of the list
in Christianity. At the center of Christianity is Christ, and Christ is the

Yeah, I guess Jesus Christ would be your all-time Big Kahuna of revenants.

Thats right. He died. He came back. To save all of mankind, the Good
Book says.

Wonder who Gwen is trying to save.

Herself, maybe. Maybe Art. Maybe you. Maybe others, too. You wont
know until you find out.

Naomi lifted her hand and touched Lance gently on the temple. She looked
at him with an ardent intensity.

It seems to me a special opportunity is being placed in front of you. You
can choose to be afraid, to turn your back. Or, you can choose to see it

And you, as my angel, would advise me to see it through, Im guessing.

She smiled radiantly at him. As your angel, yes, I am telling you that you
must, must see it through. The next time your brother wants to take you up
that path, go with him. Find out what he wants to show you. Find out what he
needs to do. What the two of you need to do.

Buoyed, Lance adopted her enthusiastic tone. He allowed himself to speculate
freely, grandly, about the implications and possible consequences of the
reunion with his brother.

On his next trip to the kitchen, he rinsed out his glass and poured it half full
of Jim Beam.

He was feeling good. He settled back in and started talking again. He was
talking boisterously, full of high spirits. He was talking loudly. Laughing
loudly. He was making Naomi laugh, too. Even drunk, he was not without wit.

His thoughts continued to race, for awhile. Then, they slowed to the speed
of contented reverie. He sat in a comfortable daze, happily spent, admiring the
scene, admiring Naomi, admiring his almost-empty glass. His thoughts slowed
to a crawl, then drifted away.

When he awoke, the late-morning sun was high in the sky. He was hot,
sweaty. He reconnoitered, then remembered, and dread washed over him in
waves. He was alone in the room.

Naomi had left. He had pulled his old stunt again. He had passed out with
company present. He had abandoned his guest, and his guest had returned the
favor. Poor Naomi. She had let herself out and been forced to find her own way
out to the highway, with no directions or help from him. She was at home now,
thinking what a jerk he was.

Stung with remorse, Lance went to the bathroom, washed his face,
and shambled to the bedroom.

Naomi had not left. She was there, lying in his bed, looking at him. Smiling.

Youre alive, she said.

Oh, Naomi! I am so happy youre here! Lance said, a hand on his chest in
surprise. Naomi, Im so sorry.


I guess I fell asleep out there, didnt I?

Youre sorry for sleeping?

Well, no. I guess it was more like passing out. Too much wine.

Yes, I guess only the worst sort of men drink wine.

Yes, Im a bad, bad man.

A bad, bad man, she agreed, laughing gently.

Isnt this in a movie somewhere? Lance said, shaking his head. I know. It
reminds me of As Good as It Gets. I just saw that on video. I feel like Jack
Nicholson telling Helen Hunt that knowing her makes him want to be a better

And Helen Hunt says its the nicest compliment shes ever heard. Yes, thats
a sweet scene.

Naomi smiled at him. Her eyes gleamed. This is a sweet scene, too.

She patted the bed next to her and said, Come here.


“Window Beyond the World” (iUniverse, $14.95), by John Howard Weeks and William S. Thomas, can be ordered from local bookstores or from online booksellers including


If you go back in time, you’ll notice right away that the food is different.

For proof, check out “Joanne Dean’s Historical San Bernardino Cookbook,” available at the San Bernardino County Museum in Redlands.

Dean, a longtime Inland Empire resident and former member of the board of directors of the San Bernardino County Museum Association, spent decades collecting generations-old recipes from local families of Spanish, Mexican, American Indian and European descent.

Her book offers a time-travel ticket back to pioneer days. Remember, you’ll be hungry when you get there.

Here are a few sample recipes. Don’t let uncommon ingredients, such as acorn meal and juniper berries, deter you. These usually can be found at some health food stores, Asian markets, or online sources.


Mesquite is a common tree of the deserts of California, and its beans come in hard, pea-like pods. For use in this recipe, the beans must be dried. Grind the dried beans stone-on-stone, using a mortar-and-pestle, or in an electric blender or food processor. (Expect a loud clattering, since the beans are very hard.) Sift the resulting flour to remove hulls and debris. Mix with enough water to make a stiff dough. Cut into little cakes and sun-bake or oven-bake until very dry. Eat with coffee or milk.


Grind two tablespoons of juniper berries into a fine flour and mix with one cup of acorn flour. Add enough water, about one cup, to make a suitable dough, then mold into small round cakes, about three inches in diameter and half an inch thick. Cook on an ungreased skillet over moderate heat or in the oven for about 20 minutes, until browned.


For this recipe, use date flour or pitted whole dates that have been thoroughly dried in an oven. Grind one cup of dried dates stone-on-stone, using a mortar-and-pestle, or in a food processor. Boil three cups of water and slowly add the date flour and one cup of acorn flour. Stir until thickened, then serve.


Encase completely one rabbit, skinned and cleaned, in clean clay or dense bread dough. Place in a pan lined with aluminum and bake in a 350-degree oven for 1-2 hours, depending on the size of the animal. When done, crack and remove clay or dough shell, and serve the meat.


Traditionally, the fruits of the pricklypear cactus were stripped of their spines, then baked for 12 hours or longer in a pit oven. In the modern kitchen, wrap the trimmed fruits in aluminum foil and bake at 250 degrees for three hours. The result is soft, delicately flavored fruit.


I recently picked up a book at an antiques store in Ontario. It was a first-edition novel, in good condition, and inexpensive, so I bought it. There was art work on the title page that suggested it would be a tale of the American Southwest, which provided additional incentive.

It turns out that “Crazy Weather” by Charles L. McNichols, published by Macmillan Co. in 1944, is set in San Bernardino County. I’m delighted by this discovery.

I’ve only just begun reading it, but I can tell you it is the story of a white boy drawn to Indian ways. He lives near Needles, on the California side of the Colorado River. It’s the late 19th century, and the region is populated by a lively mixture of Mojave Indians, Mexicans and white settlers. Our young hero is charmed by Indian songs that tell of the mighty San Bernardino Mountains to the west, and the great sea beyond.

I’ll let you know how the story turns out.

Or, you can buy the book for yourself, and take the journey with me. I just checked on, and learned that the book is still in print! It’s available in paperback for $12.95.

How did I not know about this little treasure?


Enjoy “Window Beyond the World,” a supernatural thriller set in the Southern California mountains. The novel is being serialized here in weekly installments. The co-authors are Sun columnist John Weeks, writing under his full name John Howard Weeks, and William S. Thomas, former Sunday Editor of The Sun.

A new chapter will be posted each Friday. There are 37 chapters in all. This free online edition is somewhat abridged for language and adult situations. For those who wish to read ahead, and enjoy the entire unabridged novel, it is available now in book form.

“Window Beyond the World” (iUniverse, $14.95), by John Howard Weeks and William S. Thomas, can be ordered from local bookstores or from online booksellers including


There were so many things Lance Segundo couldnt remember. But, oddly, he
had an astounding memory for trivia. Entertainment, sports, government,
world events, pop culture. He could tell you the day and the hour the Challenger
exploded, and not only that, but what the top albums were that year,
which movie took the Oscar for Best Picture and which team won the World
Series. It probably had to do with his job. He was a copy editor, and a good
one, and thats what he did all afternoon and evening, at work read the
world, national and state news wires and pick stories, concentrate on them,
edit them, cut them to fit, write headlines for them. He was very well-informed,
that way.

On the other hand, he was forgetful, even oblivious, when it came to memories
of his own life, especially the more recent years. And it seemed like he forgot
more with each passing year. It probably had to do with his life now. He
applied himself fiercely to his work, which meant he was mentally exhausted
when his shift ended, usually after midnight. As a result, he did nothing more
when he got home than drink. Not usually, always. Sometimes he would try to
read, or even write. He had written the first 10 or 20 pages of a dozen novels.
But what he always ended up doing was just drinking and dreaming in front of
the television.

Because he drank, and stayed up late, he always slept late, which meant he
had no time the next day to do anything but get ready for work and start the
whole cycle over again.

He worked 9 or 10 hours a day, sometimes 11 or 12, so by the end of the
week he was exhausted, which meant his weekends were spent doing little
more than catching up on his sleep and getting caught up in his one, great,
remaining hobby. Drinking. He worked hard all week. He deserved a little serious
drinking time on the weekends. Okay, a lot of serious drinking time.

That was his life now, using his brain cells at work, losing his brain cells at

At work he didnt have time to think about anything but work. At home he
didnt think about anything at all. Sharp as a tack at work. Fuzzy and way out
of focus at home. No wonder his memories of personal things, his home, his
family, his past life were clouded over. He just really didnt think about these
things anymore.

Memories are funny things. You use em or you lose em. He had lost track
of his brother. He had lost track of his parents. He thought his parents were
still alive, when he thought about them at all, but he couldnt say it for certain.
He hadnt been in touch for a long, long time. He had no idea where they
might be living now. All that stuff was just a big patch of low-lying fog in his
brain. It was stuff he didnt have to think about, so he didnt.

He got paid to think and remember stuff at work. He didnt get paid to
think and remember stuff at home.

And another thing, there was never anybody to talk to at home. That was
another thing that kept the brain at low ebb.

Lance Segundo had no social life. Those were the breaks, but thats the way
it had to be now. Oh, he used to be a real party guy. Loads of friends. Yeah, and
he got loaded with them all the time. Ha-ha.

But since his big traffic ticket, several years ago, he made it a strict rule to
not drink and drive. Actually, he took considerable pride in it. Hey, this was a
great reform. A mighty concession to temperance and the straight and narrow.
Any time he wanted to get down on himself, and feel guilty, remorseful about
anything, his drinking, for example, he could always cheer himself up in a
cheerless sort of way, congratulate himself, clap himself on the back, give himself
a big goddamn high-five over the fact that he did not ever drink and drive.

Of course, that little rule of conduct didnt help much in terms of cutting a
figure in society. There was no more drinking with the boys and girls after
work, thats for sure. At the Players Club, a long-time hangout for editors and
reporters across the street from The Sun, they even had a cocktail
named after him from the old days. But now Lance was missing in action.
And parties on the weekends? No way.

In fact, you pretty much cant do anything, Lance had figured out, if you
dont drink and drive. A round of golf? Sorry. An afternoon of fishing? Dont
think so. A picnic in the park? Right, and drink Hawaiian Damn Punch? Not

So Lance had quietly withdrawn from the company of men. And women.
Many of his old cohorts had gone on to other jobs, anyway, and those who
were left mostly left him alone. For awhile, one would invite himself, or herself,
up for a visit now and then, and the two of them would sit and drink in Lances
living room, but most of those evenings had ended up with Lance passed out
in his chair and the friend having to let himself or herself out, so those evenings
didnt much happen anymore.

Its not like he had become a pariah or anything. He was still respected at
work more or less. People talked to him. They had to. And he was perfectly
pleasant and functional. And good. He was a good copy editor, damn it, and he
wrote good headlines.

But he was a little bit the man of mystery, maybe. People who had worked at
the newspaper awhile found out sooner or later that there was something in
Lances past it was better to not talk about. It was a secret that left a taint, and
the newer people in the office sensed it, too, even if they didnt know exactly
what it was. There was a cloud over Lance. No doubt about it. Beyond the
demands of the daily routine and the barest exchange of pleasantries, people
pretty much left him alone.

So naturally it was a surprise when Naomi Lake joined the copy desk and
from her first night on the job seemed to take a liking to him.

She was a character. She was older than Lance, maybe even 10 years older,
closer to 60 than 50, and she was attractive, and still youthful in many ways.
Quick body English, bright eyes, lots of energy. Given to laughter. Her hair had
streaks of gray, but she let it hang straight, parted in the middle, so it had a
Surfer Girl look instead of an Old Lady from Pasadena look. She wore long,
frilly, colorful skirts with boots or sandals, and snug, form-fitting topssometimes
T-shirts with scalloped sleeves, sometimes light sweaters, sometimes
sleeveless shirts with interesting buttons all of which flattered her slim figure.
She wore lots of jewelry. Silver bracelets with chunks of turquoise, big gaudy
rings, necklaces of assorted lengths, even toe rings, which you could see on the
days she wore sandals.

Interestingly, though, her ears were not pierced. She wore a silver cuff on
one ear, but no earrings. She also wore little or no makeup, and no discernible
perfume. Her nails were short and unpainted.

All told, Naomi Lake was a woman who would blend right in, look perfect,
in fact, Lance thought, at a New Age convention, or a hip coffee bar, or an all-night
paperback bookstore. She had that Santa Fe Woman, Earth Mother look.
She looked pretty damn cool, Lance thought.

You like angels, he said to her one day, her third day at work.

Yes! she said, smiling brightly. Well, they like me. I just like them back.

She wore two angel pendants, one by itself on a silver chain, the other on a
gold chain along with a chime ball and a triangular crystal. There were also
angels on a simple charm bracelet she wore on her right wrist.

It must be nice to have guardian angels.

Oh, everyone does. You have them, too.

Lance chuckled, ruefully. Well, I dont know, he said. Im not sure I do,

Then maybe you are one, Naomi said. Thats even better.


This wasnt the first conversation they had had, of course. They had been
introduced, her first night on the job, and he had found out she was from
Santa Barbara, a former journalist who had quit to become a teacher for several
years and now was getting back into the newspaper business. Lance got the
idea she had left her teaching job under unpleasant circumstances.

After that, they had talked several times, briefly, about various work issues
that came up. Sun style on this or that. Did the Sun spell
teenager with a hyphen, like in the Associated Press Style Book, or without, like
in the rest of the world? That sort of thing. They had complimented one
another on a headline or two. And Lance had said something about the Country
Music Awards one night that Naomi had found amusing.

But the conversation about angels was the first real exchange between them,
and it left a note of intrigue, of aroused curiosity in the air. In the old days,
Lance would have waited a moment or two, to let the intrigue ripen, then
asked Naomi if she wanted to join him for a drink after work. It surprised him
a little, but he couldnt help admiring the way her tight sweater looked on her,
and he found himself having actual, certifiable lustful thoughts. Those were
the old days, though. The good old days. He wasnt going to ask her out.

Didnt matter. She asked him out instead.

You know, I dont drink anymore, myself, but if you wouldnt mind buying
a lady a lemonade, I wouldnt mind seeing more of this town of yours.

Lance laughed. There was an awkward moment, because he had an automatic
inclination to demur, to make some excuse, to say no, but really, he was too taken aback by her fearless approach, so he said, Sure. Ill be happy to
show you a little of our fair city.

After work, they walked to the Players Club. There was less than an hour
until closing time, so it wasnt going to be a long ordeal, one way or the other,
Lance thought.

Naomi didnt order lemonade. She asked for iced tea. Lance asked for the

Nothing stronger for you? Naomi asked.

Better not, he said. Actually, I dont drink after work.

After work? She quizzed her eyebrows.

I mean, yes, I drink after work sometimes at home. I have a little rule
about drinking and driving.

Good for you!

Their teas had just arrived. Naomi lifted her glass to Lance. And good for
everybody else, for that matter, she said. Heres to that.

They clinked their glasses.

Was there a bad experience once?

He almost gasped at her directness. Instead, he smiled, somewhat wanly.
Yes, actually, there was. I got a ticket. A bad one. Several years ago.

Oh, dear. Im sorry you had to go through that. It could have happened to
me, God knows, in my drinking days. Drinking years, I should say. So it was
just a ticket? There was no accident involved?

Lance just looked at her for a long moment. Just a ticket, he said. But a
pained look knotted his eyebrows. I dont know. Maybe there was an accident,
now that you mention it. I dont remember. Ive sort of blocked out the whole
thing, Im afraid. It was a long time ago.

Im sorry, she said, lightly touching his hand. Im a terrible snoop. Forgive
me. It just means Im interested in hearing about you. Im a curious person,
and you can probably take that both of two ways. But I also know
curiosity killed the cat, and I dont believe in cruelty to animals.

They sipped their teas in silence for a moment. Lance lost the look of agitation
in his eyes. I knew you were a cat person, he said at last.

Oh, yes. Ive had many cats, though none at the moment, Im sorry to say.
But Im a dog person, too, although Im on temporary sabbatical in that
department, too.

So you had a dog recently?

She died several weeks ago.While I was packing up to move, actually. Poor
thing. She was just the most perfect dear.We had been together for years.Made
it easier to pick up stakes and leave, in a way, when she died. And more difficult,
too, if you know what I mean.

Yes, I think so.

Do you have pets?

Had a cat. It got out once, though, which is a real bad thing in the mountains,
where I live. They become instant coyote snacks, Im afraid.

Oh, how dreadful.

Yes, it is, Lance said, looking down, sorrowfully.

Though I suppose its not the coyotes fault, is it? Its just doing what it

No, it wasnt the coyotes fault. It was definitely Lances fault. Lance had left
the door open all night once, something you never, ever do if you have small
pets and live in the mountains. It had been one of those moments of temporary
inattention. Or, to put it another way, a technically more accurate way,
one of those moments of inebriation. Lance had been horrified, ashamed. Still

Naomi, sensing his discomfort, dropped the subject.

You live in the mountains, then, she said after a moment. You really must
tell me more about that.


“Window Beyond the World” (iUniverse, $14.95), by John Howard Weeks and William S. Thomas, can be ordered from local bookstores or from online booksellers including


Enjoy “Window Beyond the World,” a supernatural thriller set in the Southern California mountains. The novel is being serialized here in weekly installments. The co-authors are Sun columnist John Weeks, writing under his full name John Howard Weeks, and William S. Thomas, former Sunday Editor of The Sun.

A new chapter will be posted each Friday. There are 37 chapters in all. This free online edition is somewhat abridged for language and adult situations. For those who wish to read ahead, and enjoy the entire unabridged novel, it is available now in book form.

“Window Beyond the World” (iUniverse, $14.95), by John Howard Weeks and William S. Thomas, can be ordered from local bookstores or from online booksellers including


The next time Lance took the eastbound trip on Rim of the World, he felt sure
he would have another encounter. He even left home earlier than usual to
allow time for it.

And, yes, the Firebird was parked in the turnout, in the same spot as before.
Maybe they just never left, Lance thought with a rueful chuckle.

There was no sign of them, however. Lance parked next to the Firebird, got
out, glanced inside the car, through its window. The car was locked.

He walked to the little picnic area. It was empty.

Feeling a little confused, he explored the heavily wooded perimeter of the
picnic ground. Almost on the opposite side he discovered an old trailhead,
obscured by a prodigious stand of chest-high bracken ferns. Pushing his way
through, he found himself standing on a distinct, though heavily overgrown
path. It climbed sharply for maybe 50 yards to a round clearing of blue sky,
surrounded by dense foliage.

The scene was familiar in some way, unpleasant. Lance decided there was no
time, really, to press on. He returned to his car, and drove to work.

He felt compelled, though, to make the trip again soon. And he did, later
the same week, and this time Art was standing next to the Firebird, as if waiting
for him. There was no sign of Gwen.


Hey, guy! The two hugged.

Lets go for a walk. Here, want a little sip? Art dug a flask of Jim Beam
from the front pocket of his jeans.

Cant. Work day again. Weve got to do this some time when Ive got the
day off or something.

We will, Art said, taking a hit off the flask.

The two made their way to the trailhead at the back of the picnic ground
and pushed their way past the ferns. Art, who was leading, pointed up toward
the round clearing at the top of the trails first short stretch. He turned and
flashed Lance a sly smile. Remember when we were in Africa?

That was it. Of course. It looked exactly like that spot on that other trail, the
one the two brothers had dubbed the Window Beyond the World.

It was a pretty image, a circle of sky at the end of a tunnel of dark woods, but
it stood for something ominous. Something terrible had happened there. This
was a tunnel leading backward in time to some doom. Years of alcohol abuse
had almost drowned out the image, the memory, but now, suddenly, it was
struggling back to the surface. An image of Art falling, Art screaming. It was
the image of his dreams. But it wasnt real. Was it?

Lance felt a sudden rush of anxiety. He couldnt move. Listen, he said.
Im not going to have time to do this. Some other time, okay? I just cant do it
right now.

Art gave him a searching look. You sure? he said.

Lance nodded.

Art took another pull on the flask of whiskey, shrugged, then turned and
proceeded up the hill toward the Window Beyond the World.

Lance, feeling sick, or maybe just ashamed, or afraid, or maybe a thousand
other things, all of them unpleasant, returned to his car and drove to work.
More slowly than usual, as it turned out.

It was an especially stressful trip. He ended up being late for work which
was not good, for a man in his position.

Who knows? He might never have gone east on Rim of the World again. Or
not for a long, long time.

But then he met Naomi Lake.


“Window Beyond the World” (iUniverse, $14.95), by John Howard Weeks and William S. Thomas, can be ordered from local bookstores or from online booksellers including


One of my favorite California wineries is Kendall-Jackson in Santa Rosa, not only because it makes a great Chardonnay, but because it hosts the annual Heirloom Tomato Festival, one of the state’s great culinary events.

So, you see, I am a fan on two levels. I admire Kendall-Jackson because I love good wine, and because I love good food.

Naturally, when Kendall-Jackson produces a cook book that features trendy pairings of wine and food, I consider it a double dose of good news.

“Small Plates, Perfect Wines” (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $16.95) is a celebration of those “small-plate” dishes that are all the rage now.

Veteran cookbook author Lori Lyn Narlock compiles recipes by Kendall-Jackson Executive Chef Justin Wangler and his culinary team with wine suggestions by Kendall-Jackson Winemaster Randy Ullom. Extra food and wine notes are provided by Lou Rex, the Jackson Family Wines Director of Special Events.

Photos are by Dan Mills, with graphic design by Jennifer Barry.

It’s a luscious book, with more than 50 food-and-wine creations. How do Duck and Spinach Empanadas with Persimmon Chutney sound? And how about a glass of Kendall-Jackson Pinot Noir to go with that?

“Small Plates, Perfect Wines” is now available in bookstores, from online booksellers, and from the winery. Visit the Kendall-Jackson website at By the way, tickets go on sale in May for this year’s edition of the Heirloom Tomato Festival, which will take place Sept. 6. Tickets go fast.


Another fun note in reaction to my Feb. 8 column on Endangered TV-Free Zones. This one is from Edyie Schmidt of Mentone:

Loved your article about finding small TVs everywhere from gas pumps to
supermarkets. I had to laugh. My thought went to the 1973 movie “Soylent
Green” and really expected you to mention it in your article. The movie was
based on life in New York in the year 2022. The year really isn’t that far
off. If you haven’t seen the movie or remember it too well, it would be
well worth your time. Thank you for all the years of your wisdom of words. Our family has
totally enjoyed your columns.


Enjoy “Window Beyond the World,” a supernatural thriller set in the Southern California mountains. The novel is being serialized here in weekly installments. The co-authors are Sun columnist John Weeks, writing under his full name John Howard Weeks, and William S. Thomas, former Sunday Editor of The Sun.

A new chapter will be posted each Friday. There are 37 chapters in all. This free online edition is somewhat abridged for language and adult situations. For those who wish to read ahead, and enjoy the entire unabridged novel, it is available now in book form.

“Window Beyond the World” (iUniverse, $14.95), by John Howard Weeks and William S. Thomas, can be ordered from local bookstores or from online booksellers including


How is the Tofranil working out for you? the doctor asked.

Okay, I guess, Lance said. The driving is better.

Any new incidents?

“No. A few little thrills. No big ones.

Tell me about the little thrills.

Oh, occasionally, on the freeway usually, when Im boxed in by
traffic, and having to go faster than I like, Ill have a twinge.



Anything else?

The usual things, like I told you before. Im not crazy about
bridges still, or high sweeping interchanges. They give me the willies, especially when they sweep right.

And you dont know why that is?

No idea.

But you feel like the Tofranil is helping? Or do we need to try something

Its helping. It was getting to the place where I was avoiding
freeways altogether. I just couldnt handle it, driving that fast. Now, Im managing it.
Better, at least.

Lance Segundo was in the demon room. That was Lances name for it.
It smelled like soap, disinfectant and latex gloves. Dr. Merle Lin had
taken over a whole medical office building, as his practice had grown, so he saw
patients in any one of a number of different examination rooms. He
could take his leave of one patient, who would still be dressing, fussing in one room, and hurry to his next patient, already waiting in the next room, while a third
patient was being shown into a third room. Dr. Lin chronically overbooked
himself, however, so this assembly-line system, which was meant to streamline the
operation, was meaningless. Patients always had to wait. And they didnt do it
cheerfully, either. There was constant grumbling in Dr. Lins waiting
room. But patients kept coming back.

He was a good doctor. A very busy doctor.

Dr. Lin was an internal medicine specialist, but he would take an
interest in just about any kind of problem you might have. Skin rash? Okay.
Toothache? Okay. Going crazy? Okay.

Lance liked the fact that Dr. Lin was Asian. Even though the guy was
totally American-trained in conventional medicine, he must surely be
knowledgeable in the mysterious healing arts of the East. At least thats what
Lance told himself, and half believed it.

Dr. Lin was Lances regular doctor, and Lance had seen him only every
year or so, for routine checkups, until his first big anxiety attack. Now
he was coming in every month, because the doctor wanted to chart the effectiveness of various pharmaceutical approaches. Tofranil was the third drug they
had tried since the attack.

Lance had been on the freeway that day, on his way to work, and he had
looked back, right, over his shoulder, to see if the next lane was
clear, because he wanted to pass a bus that had slowed in the fast lane. He caught a
bright reflection from the bus as he moved his head. The silvery flash in
his eyes as he swept his gaze across the back of the bus seemed to trigger a seizure
of some sort. Lance thought he was having a stroke. He struggled to control
his eyes, his head, his hands, to keep from crumpling, rolling into a ball, the
fetal position, closing his eyes, leaving the car to crash where it would. It was
like he was paralyzed.

With great effort he fought to maintain, to control, to guide his car
to the right, one lane at a time, almost blindly, barely hearing the sound
of honking horns as one, or maybe two or three motorists swerved to make room
for him, until he could pull off the freeway. He stopped the car and sat
there, not moving except for the hammering of his heart, until his eyes seemed to shift back into focus and his neck, his limbs, his hands relaxed. The spell
passed. But he was badly shaken. All that day. Still.

Any new side effects from the Tofranil? Dr. Lin asked.

Im still having nightmares.

Yes, thats common for some people. Interesting, isnt it, that a
drug formulated to reduce anxiety would give you nightmares? Of course, we hope
your wide-awake self will benefit in a way that outweighs the side-effect.

Well, thank heaven I dont suffer all the side-effects listed in the
literature. Its a scary list, let me tell you. Nausea, sweating, constipation,

Memory loss, psychosis, Dr. Lin said, continuing the sentence after
Lance paused. Yes, the drug companies have to cover their rear ends,
dont they? List every possibility, so there wont be any surprises.

Memory loss? Lance said, intrigued.

Yes. Why? Is that a problem youre having?

I dont know, doc. I honestly cant remember. Lance gave him a blank
look, then laughed. Sorry. I couldnt resist. But seriously, yes, my
memory is terrible. The older I get, the worse it gets.

Dr. Lin nodded. Some memory loss is normal as you age. The mind will
lose, or discard, a certain amount of information as you go along,
without any prompting. But psychiatric drugs can prompt the mind to lose, or
confuse, a great deal of information. And if youre combining the drugs with
alcohol, the losses can be extreme.

Dr. Lin gave Lance a sharp look, then pressed when Lance looked away.

Youre still moderating your drinking, right?

Yes, Lance lied.

How much do you drink now?

A glass or two of wine after I come home in the evening, Lance lied.

And more on the weekends?

Maybe three or four, Lance lied.

Dr. Lin didnt relax the hard edge in his stare until Lance
reestablished eye contact. You dont need to hear my lecture again about drinking too much, he said.

I know it by heart, doc.

OK, and its especially important not to mix drinking with
psychiatric drugs. Right?

I know.

OK, lets move on then. Dr. Lin glanced at the notes he had been
making in Lances chart. We were talking about nightmares. How often are
you having them?

Had one last night.

Tell me.

Im skimming along, flying, over water. Suddenly theres a ramp in
front of me. I hit it and it propels me straight up to a great height,
breathtaking, dizzying. I see a vast mountainous landscape below. Its very beautiful. Im actually exhilarated. But the next instant I lose control. Its as if Im
breaking up in midair. I begin falling in a long looping arch to my right. I hurtle toward
the ground, my doom, my death. The moon, or maybe its the sun, is
strobing in my eyes, my brain, black white black white black white. I hear all
these jabbering voices and see all these faces, angry faces, sad faces, horrified

Then I woke up, all sweaty and panicky, and felt like hell for a
couple of hours.

Yes, that dreamIve heard that one before, havent I?

I have that dream all the time, with minor variations. More so

Ive asked you this before. Do you want me to arrange an appointment
for you with another specialist?

Id just be sitting in a room, talking to a doctor, same as I do
here, right?

Not necessarily a doctor. Or not a medical doctor, anyway. A
psychiatrist has a medical degree, yes, but a psychologist does not.

So whats the difference?

A psychiatrist will charge you a lot more.

Lance laughed. More than you?

Oh, yes.

Well, Im seeing you about every month now. Thats about all the
doctoring I can take. Ill just leave it at that for now.

Its up to you.

Lance shrugged. He was looking at the demon.

Lance called this the demon room because he could make out a demon
in one of the cupboard doors. The cupboards were unpainted wood, and the
whorls of the grain presented endless abstract images. The first time
he had sat in this room his eyes had locked on one image that formed quickly
into a distinct, complete figure. Every time thereafter he was able to conjure up the
same image immediately.

It was the figure of a devil with tiny feet and hands with long
fingers splayed over its swollen belly. A tiny, tattered wing was on each shoulder.
Its head was dog-like, with a long snout. It had dead, indifferent eyes, but a
garish, jokerlike grin. A stream of blood flooded from one of its nostrils all the way
to its feet.

Lance did not point out this image to Dr. Lin. The image reminded him
of one of his other recurrent nightmares, the worst one, the one where
he is with a woman he is not supposed to be with, and he is wracked
with shame, with remorse, and he is weeping, and she is weeping, and
suddenly her belly begins to grow. He watches as a baby is born, and its a demon child, born dead. He looks at the woman, and she is a demon now, too, but alive, and she is grinning. And she is Gwen.

He did not tell Dr. Lin about this dream.


“Window Beyond the World” (iUniverse, $14.95), by John Howard Weeks and William S. Thomas, can be ordered from local bookstores or from online booksellers including


In my entertainment column for the Feb. 8 Go! magazine, I complained that TVs are popping up in unexpected places, such as supermarket checkout lines, and on top of gas pumps at service stations. I stated my sincere hope that TVs never will be installed in certain, sacrosanct places, such as public restrooms. I don’t want distractions when I am in the restroom. It’s where I do my best thinking. In fact, I said, if TVs are installed in restrooms, I no longer can be counted upon to solve the world’s problems.

I received the following horrifying (and entertaining) note from reader Colleen McGurn:

I am in total agreement that there are far too many televisions out in the world. I refuse to dine in a restaurant that places TVs in the main dining room (BJ’s and CPK for example). If I wanted to eat in front of a TV I would do so at home.

Although I don’t know you, I feel terrible that I am the one to break this news to you. There already are TVs in restrooms. Where, you ask? Where else! Vegas! The land of sensory overload. ESPN Zone has TVs in the men’s room, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this phenomenon is spreading to other sports bars. God forbid you were to miss 45 seconds of a game.

It’s with you, John, in the john. Your plans for world peace are doomed.