The victim of an unspeakable crime, an infant rises to become a new type of superhero. Unlike any that have come before him, he is not a fanciful creation of animators, he is real.
So begins the saga of Robert James Austin, the greatest genius in human history. But where did his extraordinary intelligence come from?
As agents of corporate greed vie with rabid anti-Western radicals to destroy him, an obsessive government leader launches a bizarre covert mission to exploit his intellect. Yet Austin’s greatest fear is not of this world.
Aided by two exceptional women, one of whom will become his unlikely lover, Austin struggles against abandonment and betrayal. But the forces that oppose him are more powerful than even he can understand.
Miracle Man was named by Amazon as one of the Top 100 Novels of 2015, an Amazon Top 10 thriller, an Amazon bestseller and an Amazon NY Times bestseller.
Prologue A tall figure wearing a black-hooded slicker walked quickly through the night carrying a large garbage bag. His pale face was wet with rain. He had picked a deserted part of town. Old warehouse buildings were being gutted so they could be converted into apartments for non-existent buyers. There were no stores, no restaurants and no people.
“Who’d wanna live in this shit place?” he muttered to himself. Even the nice neighborhoods of this dismal city had more “For Sale” signs than you could count.
He was disgusted with himself and disgusted with her, but they were too young to be burdened. Life was already hard enough. He shook his head incredulously. She had been so damn sexy, funny, full of life. Why the hell couldn’t she leave well enough alone? She should have had some control.
He wanted to scream-out down the ugly street, “It’s her fucking fault that I’m in the rain in this crap neighborhood trying to evade the police.”
But he knew he hadn’t tried to slow her down either. He kept giving her the drugs and she kept getting kinkier and kinkier and more dependent on him and that’s how he liked it. She was adventurous and creative beyond her years. Freaky and bizarre. He had been enthralled, amazed. The higher she got, the wilder she was. Nothing was out of bounds. Everything was in the game.
And so, they went farther and farther out there. Together. With the help of the chemicals. They were co-conspirators, co-sponsors of their mutual dissipation. How far they had traveled without ever leaving their cruddy little city. They were so far ahead of all the other kids.
He squinted, and his mind reeled. He tried to remember in what month of their senior year in high school the drugs became more important to her than he was. And in what month did her face start looking so tired, her complexion prefacing the ravages to follow, her breath becoming foul as her teeth and gums deteriorated. And in what month did her need for the drugs outstrip his and her cash resources.
He stopped walking and raised his hooded head to the sky so that the rain would pelt him full-on in the face. He was hoping that somehow this would make him feel absolved. It didn’t. He shuddered as he clutched the shiny black bag, the increasingly cold wet wind blowing hard against him. He didn’t even want to try to figure out how many guys she had sex with for the drugs.
The puddle-ridden deserted street had three large dumpsters on it. One was almost empty. It seemed huge and metallic and didn’t appeal to him. The second was two-thirds full. He peered into it, but was repulsed by the odor, and he was pretty sure he saw the quick moving figures of rodents foraging in the mess. The third was piled above the brim with construction debris.
Holding the plastic bag, he climbed up on the rusty lip of the third dumpster. Stretching forward, he placed the bag on top of some large garbage bags which were just a few feet inside of the dumpster’s rim. As he climbed down, his body looked bent and crooked and his face was ashen. Tears streamed down his cheeks and bounced off his hands. He barely could annunciate, “Please forgive me,” as he shuffled away, head bowed and snot dripping from his nose.
Edith and Peter Austin sat stiffly in the worn wooden chairs of Dr. Ronald Draper’s waiting room as if they were being graded on their posture by the receptionist. Edith’s round cherubic face was framed by graying hair that was neatly swept back and pinned. Her dress was a loose fitting simple floral print that she had purchased at a clearance sale at JC Penny. Their four year old son, Bobby, sat between them, his shiny black dress shoes swinging from legs too short to touch the floor. Edith brushed the boy’s long sandy hair away from his light blue eyes that were intensely focused on the blank wall in front of him. Peter, dressed in his construction foreman’s clothes, yawned deeply having been up since five in the morning, his weathered face wrinkled well beyond his years. Looking down at his heavy work boots, he placed his hand firmly on Edith’s knee to quiet her quivering leg. When they were finally shown into Draper’s office, the receptionist signaled that Bobby should stay with her.
Ronald Draper was the Head of the Department of Child Psychology at Mount Sinai Hospital. A short portly man in his late forties, the few remaining strands of his brown hair were caked with pomade and combed straight across his narrow head. His dark eyes appeared abnormally large as a result of the strong lenses in his eye glasses and his short goatee only accentuated his receding chin. Glancing at his wrist watch while he greeted Peter and Edith, Draper motioned for them to take a seat on the chairs facing his cluttered desk. Draper had been referred by Bobby’s pediatrician when Bobby’s condition didn’t improve.
“Describe to me exactly what you’re concerned about,” Draper said.
Edit cleared her throat. “It started about a year ago. At any time, without warning, Bobby will get quiet and withdrawn. Then he’ll go over to his little chair and sit down, or he’ll lie down on the window seat in the living room. He’ll stare directly in front of him as if in a trance and then his lids will close halfway. His body will be motionless. Maybe his eyes will blink occasionally. That’s it. This can go on for as much as forty minutes each time it happens. When visitors to our house have seen it, they thought Bobby was catatonic.”
Draper looked up from the notes he was taking. “When Bobby comes to, do you ask him about it?”
Edith’s hands fidgeted. “Yes. He says, ‘I was just thinking about some things.’ Then, when I ask him what things, he says, ‘those things I’m reading about.’”
Draper’s eyes narrowed. “Did you say, things he was reading about?”
“He’s four, correct?”
Edith nodded again and Draper scribbled more notes.
“Do you question him further?”
“I ask him why he gets so quiet and still. I’ve told him it’s real spooky.”
“And how does he respond to that, Mrs. Austin?”
Edith shook her head. “He says he’s just concentrating.”
“And what other issues are there?”
“Bobby always slept much less than other children, even as an infant. And he never took naps. Then, starting about a year ago, almost every night, he has terrible nightmares. He comes running into our bed crying hysterically. He’s so agitated he’ll be shaking and sometimes even wets himself.”
Draper put his pen down and leaned back in his worn leather chair, which squeaked loudly. “And what did your pediatrician, Dr. Stafford, say about all this?”
As Edith was about to reply, Peter squeezed her hand and said, “Dr. Stafford told us not to worry. He said Bobby’s smart and imaginative and bad dreams are common at this age for kids like him. And he said Bobby’s trances are caused by his lack of sleep, that they’re just a sleep substitute—like some kind of ‘waking nap.’ He told us Bobby will outgrow these problems. We thought the time had come to see a specialist.”
Tapping his pen against his folder, Draper asked Edith and Peter to bring Bobby into his office and wait in the reception area so he could speak with the boy alone. “I’m sure we won’t be long,” he said.
His chin resting in his hand, Draper looked at the four year old who sat in front of him with his long hair and piercing light blue eyes. “So, Robert. I understand that you enjoy reading.”
“It’s the passion of my life, Doctor.”
Draper laughed. “The passion of your life. That’s quite a dramatic statement. And what are you reading now?”
“Well, I only like to read non-fiction, particularly, astronomy, physics, math and chemistry. I’ve also just started reading a book called ‘Gray’s Anatomy.’”
“Gray’s Anatomy?” Draper barely covered his mouth as he yawned, recalling how many times he had met with toddlers who supposedly read the New York Times. In his experience, driven parents were usually the ones who caused their kids’ problems. “That’s a book most medical students dread. It seems awfully advanced for a child of your age.” Walking over to his bookcase, Draper stretched to reach the top shelf and pulled down a heavy tome. Blowing the dust off the binding, he said, “So, is this the book that you’ve been reading?”
Bobby smiled. “Yes, that’s it.”
“How did you get a copy?”
“I asked my Dad to get it for me from the library and he did.”
“And why did you want it?”
“I’m curious about the human body.”
“Oh, is that so? Well, let’s have you read for me, and then I’ll ask you some questions about what you read.”
Smiling smugly as he randomly opened to a page in the middle of the book, Draper put the volume down on a table in front of Bobby. Bobby stood on his toes so that he could see the page. The four year old began to read the tiny print fluently, complete with the proper pronunciation of medical Latin terms. His eyes narrowing, Draper scratched his chin. “Ok, Bobby. Now reading words on a page is one thing. But understanding them is quite another. So tell me the meaning of what you just read.”
Bobby gave Draper a dissertation on not only what he had just read, but how it tied it into aspects of the first five chapters of the book which he had read previously on his own. By memory, Bobby also directed Draper to specific pages of the book identifying what diagrams Draper would find that supported what Bobby was saying.
Glassy eyed, Draper stared at the child as he grabbed the book and put it back on the shelf. “Bobby, that was very interesting. Your reading shows real promise. Now let’s do a few puzzles.”
Pulling out a Rubik’s cube from his desk drawer, Draper asked, “Have you ever seen one of these?”
Bobby shook his head. “What is it?”
Draper handed the cube to Bobby and explained the object of the game. “Just explore it. Take your time—there’s no rush.”
Bobby manipulated the cube with his tiny hands as he examined it from varying angles. “I think I get the idea.”
“OK, Bobby—try to solve it.”
Thirty seconds later, Bobby handed the solved puzzle to Draper.
Draper’s eyes widened as he massaged his eyebrows. “I see. Well, let me mix it up really good this time and have you try again.” Twenty seconds after being handed the cube a second time, Bobby was passing it back to Draper solved again. Beginning to perspire, Draper removed his suit jacket.
“Bobby, we’re going to play a little game. I’m going to slowly say a number, and then another number, and another after that—and so forth, and as I call them out I’m going to write them down. When I’m finished, I’m going to ask you to recite back whatever numbers in the list you can remember. Is that clear?
“Sure Doctor,” replied Bobby.
“Ok, here we go”. At approximately one second intervals, Draper intoned, “729; 302; 128; 297; 186; 136; 423; 114; 169; 322; 873; 455; 388; 962; 666; 293; 725; 318; 131; 406.”
Bobby responded immediately with the full list in perfect order. He then asked Draper if he would like to hear it backwards. “Sure, why not,” replied Draper.
By the time Draper tired of this game, he was up to 80 numbers, each comprised of five digits. Bobby didn’t miss a single one. “Can we stop this game now please, Doctor? It’s getting pretty monotonous, don’t you think?”
Draper loosened his tie. He went through his remaining routines of tests and puzzles designed to gauge a person’s level of abstract mathematical reasoning, theoretical problem solving, linguistic nuances, and vocabulary. Rubbing his now oily face in his hands, he said, “Let’s take a break for a few minutes.”
“Why Doctor? I’m not tired.”
“Well, I am.”
Taking Bobby back to the waiting room, Draper apologized to Peter and Edith for the long period during which he had sequestered Bobby.
“Is everything alright, Doctor?” Edith asked.
“Why don’t you take Bobby to the cafeteria for a snack and meet me back here with him in thirty minutes,” Draper replied.
When the Austins returned to Draper’s office, Draper had two of his colleagues with him. He advised Peter and Edith that his associates would assist him in administering a few IQ tests to Bobby.
Peter’s eyes narrowed as he looked at Draper. “What does that have to do with the nightmares and trances, Doctor? We came here for those issues – not to have Bobby’s intelligence tested.”
“Be patient, please, Mr. Austin. Everything is inter-connected. We’re trying to get a complete picture.”
Draper and his associates, one a Ph.D in psychology and the other a Ph.D in education, administered three different types of intelligence tests to Bobby (utilizing abbreviated versions due to time constraints). First, the Slosson Intelligence Test, then the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children – Revised (WISC-R) and finally, the Stanford-Binet L-M.
By the time the exams were concluded, Draper’s shirt was untucked and perspiration stains protruded from beneath his arms even though the room was cool. He brought Bobby back to the reception area, and took Peter and Edith into a corner of the room, out of Bobby’s earshot. “Your child isn’t normal. Are any of your other children like this?”
William Leibowitz has been practicing entertainment/media law in New York City for a number of years. He has represented numerous renowned creative people and many leading intellectual property companies. William has a Bachelor of Science degree from New York University (magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) and a law degree from Columbia University. He lives in the village of Quogue, New York with his wife, Alexandria, and dog, George.