Sneak Peek: Chapter 4

Troy Samuels entered the lab at the Diamond T five minutes before his appointed start time of 8:00 a.m. He walked to a locker that stood in one corner of the lab and traded his light jacket for a full-length white lab coat. Troy was a graduate from Colorado State University, and his brilliance in understanding the genetic code and gene manipulation earned him accolades and recognition from his professors. When Julian Reichert called the university and asked for their best and brightest, Troy Samuels’s name topped the list, and from the minute Julian met the affable, twenty-six-year-old graduate student, he took a strong liking to him.

The job and the grant from the Diamond T was a godsend to Troy, whose widowed mother helped pay his college expenses until his younger sister, Emma, enrolled in college. From that point, Troy and his wife, Shelly, lived on student loans and the income Shelly received as a secretary in the research department at the university. When their first child was born, Shelly quit work at the university and took a part-time job when they moved to Rifle where Troy could be closer to his work.

At precisely 8:00 a.m., Dr. Jonathon Ryder walked into the lab. On the previous day, Troy and Dr. Ryder flushed ripe eggs from the Domino cows and fertilized them in-vitro with sperm from the Diamond T Dominion III bull. Troy removed one of the petri dishes containing a single developing embryo from its temperature-controlled incubator and placed in under the light microscope. He sat at the table and looked into the microscope. The formation of life was unfolding right before his eyes as he watched the division of cells create the new beginnings of what would be a living, breathing animal. It was amazing to him that this embryo, now in the fourteenth hour of cleavage, could be split into two, four, or even eight individual, identical embryos, and that each of these embryos would become a living calf.

Today, he and Dr. Ryder would place one of these divided embryos into the uterus of the original mother and seven others in the uterus of “common” surrogates. This was a process that Troy and Dr. Ryder repeated monthly at the Diamond T with eggs that were recipients of the myostatin blocker gene, the gene that the two of them had successfully isolated months earlier. In one year’s time, one prize cow, producing eggs that were fertilized with the sperm from Dominion III, could produce dozens of superior offspring, but the calm, relaxing atmosphere that Troy thrived in at the Diamond T was about to change.

It was just after the announcement that Troy and Dr. Ryder had created the synthetic myostatin gene that Troy began noticing unusual events that concerned him. The first came when he noticed a gray sedan following him from the Diamond T to his home in Rifle. He wasn’t sure how long the car had been shadowing him, but he first noticed it on one of his late-evening drives home from Oak Creek Valley.

He hadn’t given it a second thought until he saw it in Rifle driving on the street in front of the apartment, and then it was at the bank and again near the grocery store. Now, every time he walked out of the door of the apartment, he looked for the gray sedan. When he asked Sherry if she knew someone who drove a gray sedan, she told him no, but Troy couldn’t ignore the mysterious way the car kept showing up.

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Sneak Peek: Chapter 3

Fifteen minutes before Julian Reichert arrived at the scene of the crash, Angeline walked into the lab at Calf Creek. The sun’s rays touched the tips of the pink ledges on the western edge of the narrow Calf Creek valley and began their descent along the cliff to the valley floor. Martin was in the lab early, continuing the work he started the night before. The state-of-the-art lab was a model of organization and sterility and reflected the expectations that were important to both Angeline and Martin. It was a welcome environment that aligned with Angeline’s dream. Her veterinarian was at a stainless steel table, his head and shoulders stooped over, looking into a microscope.

“Morning, Martin,” Angeline said. “You sleep here last night?”

“Hi, Angeline.” Martin chuckled. “I thought about it, but these stainless steel tables aren’t very soft. You and Elliott take your morning jog already?”

“As a matter of fact, we did. It’s a great morning in the canyon.”

Angeline’s appearance never went unnoticed by Martin. Her work attire could land her a job as a model for Western wear with her Wrangler jeans over boot tops and long-sleeved plaid shirt. Her auburn hair was gathered in a ponytail that hung through the back of the baseball cap and down to the base of her slender neck. More than once, Martin had expressed his opinion that the baseball cap was discord with her Western wear. She responded by telling him that she was on the cutting edge of starting a new trend, replacing cowboy hats with baseball caps. Angeline Reichert was comfortable in her own skin and in any setting.

The relationship between Angeline and Martin Evers extended far beyond their common goal of developing a top line of beef cattle. Over the years, Martin had come to know the two sides of Angeline that few people knew. There was the hard-driving business woman whose unrelenting focus on achieving her goals made her intolerant of anyone who did not buy into her vision. She was brutal. And then there was the kind and compassionate Angeline who had endeared herself to Martin and his wife, Cheryl. She had touched their lives by leaving a livestock show in Dallas, Texas, to be by Cheryl’s side when she lost their first child. Few people knew the compassionate Angeline Reichert.

Angeline walked to the coffee maker and poured herself a half cup of black coffee with one packet of Splenda.

“You hear the news this morning?” Martin asked.

“I haven’t,” she responded as she lifted the coffee cup to her lips. “Is there something I should know?”

“Lizard and Buzzy crashed on the Devil’s Backbone last night. They’re both dead.”

“What!” Coffee spilled from the cup as Angeline jerked her head up in surprise.

“The announcement was on the radio thirty minutes ago.” “Were there any details, like how it happened?” “Not many,” Martin said. “Initial reports were that the driver was just careless and left the roadway. Not a lot of details, but both occupants of the truck and two cows were killed, but I’m beginning to think your gate is only swinging on one hinge.”

Sneak Peek: Chapter 2

When Elliott, Lizard, and Buzzy were passing through Torrey, Utah, Julian Reichert drove his Dodge Ram truck under the one-hundred-year-old rock arch that marked the entrance to the headquarters of the Diamond T ranch. The rays of the rising sun turned the thousand peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains into gold as Julian and his right-hand man, Max Murphy, started the dusty drive onto the south quarter of the Diamond T. It was time to pull his breeding herd from the winter range and move them into the high country. The therapeutic trip to the south quarter of the Diamond T would take them the better part of ninety minutes, and then there would be the ride on horseback across high-rise plateaus and into remote canyons. Julian relaxed and settled into the drive, knowing that Duke, his favorite gelding, and Max’s horse, Conner, would be ready to hit the open range after the seventy-mile ride in the trailer.

Julian loved traveling to most anywhere on the wide expanse of the land that was his heritage, but he especially liked the trip to the south quarter. From beginning to end, the road passed through every ecological zone that characterized the grandeur of the West. From the flat meadows of the ranch headquarters, the road traversed up and above the quaking aspen/spruce forest and then passed below the towering crags of the Rockies to almost ten thousand feet in full view of magnificent hanging valleys suspended among the high escarpments. Traversing across the great divide and then down through Kellogg Pass, the road made a winding descent through the piñon/juniper foothills that were interspersed with stands of mesquite and then into the rolling hills, marked by scattered stands of oak and sage, a deer and elk hunter’s paradise. The oak gave way to miles of open grasslands, which served as a fertile buffer to the broken plateaus, ravines, and shallow, red-rock canyons that were sparse with vegetation but rich in splendor. This was the rugged beauty that molded the character that was Julian Reichert, and it was here that Angeline Reichert would learn the truth about the brother she never knew.

Julian pulled the truck into a turnout along Black Canyon Road, made a wide, 180-degree sweep, and parked the truck facing north. He stepped out of the truck and stretched the stiffness away. There was a time he didn’t need to give his muscles time to loosen up, and he was grateful that he could remember when. The fifty-seven years of the rancher’s life had taken their toll on his muscles’ ability to spring into action. He walked to the rear of the trailer and helped Max unlatch the steel gate and drop it to the ground. Julian spoke as he entered the trailer. He never forgot his father’s warning to never sneak up on a bear or a horse.

“Good boy,” he said as he patted Duke on the rear. “You survived another wild ride in the country. Let’s get you out of here and on the trail.” He backed the horse out of the trailer.

Duke, whom Julian’s son, Tanner, had given the John Wayne nickname, knew the routine. The halter was traded for a bridle, and then came the blanket and the saddle. Duke’s trickery taught Julian early in their relationship to wait for the gelding to exhale before tightening the cinch, always amazed at how long the horse could hold his breath.

“I know,” Julian spoke to the horse. “You’re not happy with a tight cinch, but you’ll just have to scratch your sad place and get happy.”

Max followed the same ritual with Conner, climbed atop the sorrel, and sat waiting for his boss. Julian put his foot into the stirrup, grasped the saddle horn with his left hand, the back of the saddle with his right hand, and lifted himself atop the steady gelding. He relaxed as he settled his 210-pound frame into the cushioned, custom Cordura saddle. He pulled on the reins, turned Duke south, and rode directly to the trail that led to the top of the Palomar Plateau. The powerful thrusts from Duke’s massive quads carried them up the 150-foot slope to the top of the grass-covered plateau. Here Julian had a vantage point that gave him a panoramic view for fifty miles in any direction. He and Max rode and stopped every few hundred yards to scan the distant draws and ravines with their binoculars, searching for wandering cows.

Off to the south was the postcard scene that Julian had seen before, and it was one that stirred him. Long grayish-black streamers of rain fell like a floating veil from the black thunderclouds high in the morning sky. An occasional desert breeze carried the smell of the rain mixed with wet sage, filling his senses, consuming him, soothing his innermost passions. There was nothing . . . nothing that stirred feelings of tranquility like the connection he felt to this time and place. Julian had seen it before: the dramatic forces of nature changing the landscape as summer thunder showers sent powerful flashfloods crashing through dry ravines. His memory of the thick, brown water that rolled more than flowed, coupled with the fragrance of the wet desert, served to open a vision in Julian’s mind of the forces of nature, through eons of time, sculpting the splendor of the West. He knew that below the dark clouds, twenty miles away, the earth was changing.

Sneak Peek: Chapter 1

It was evening in Calf Creek valley, and the setting sun crept toward the western horizon, pulling the shadows up the water-streaked ledges, transforming them from pink to red. An occasional Cadiz fly hovered above the water as Calf Creek coursed its way through lush green pastures around a cluster of outbuildings that were the center of Calf Creek Ranch. The creek meandered through the ranch on one short leg of its trip through the Grand Staircase National Monument, passing through deep slot canyons and over cascading waterfalls before emptying into the mighty Colorado River.

It was there in the stark grandeur of the upper reaches of the Grand Staircase that Angeline Reichert was preparing for the fight she believed was her destiny to wage. Her father, Rusty, and his father before him, William Reichert, built a ranching empire, a 640,000-acre spread known as the Diamond T, the largest cattle operation in all of southwestern Colorado. Rusty’s only son and Angeline’s brother, Julian Reichert, stole the Diamond T from Rusty, or so she had been told, and she was determined to get it back. She would extract her father’s lost heritage from her evil brother, the man who Rusty once called his son.

Angeline had never met her brother Julian, and she had no desire to meet the man who destroyed her father. The story was clear. Julian tricked his father into willing the ranch and its massive holdings to him as the sole heir, and then he pushed Rusty and his beloved wife, Lola, out of his life. Angeline could not stop asking herself what kind of man would strip his parents of their home and then relegate them to a lonely existence in a place that overlooked their lost dream—a small cabin on the outskirts of the ranch.

Angeline could never forget the sadness she felt when Rusty explained to her that it was there in the roundup cabin, where she was born, that he suffered the second blow to his life’s dreams. Lola died giving life to her. He reminded Angeline that she was what kept him going through his despair. He also revealed that she had an older sister, her namesake, also Angeline. That sister, twenty-two years her senior, and two years younger than Julian, died in an automobile accident at the age of twenty-seven. With the help of an Indian woman and her husband who lived near him, Rusty raised Angeline to adulthood, and it was there in the cabin he gave her her life’s mission. He told her how she would restore to him and to her that which was rightfully theirs. Rusty explained to Angeline that the power of the Diamond T was its reputation for producing the best beef animals in the west. He told her how he and his father, her Grandfather William, had built that reputation by buying and breeding the best animals they could find. Rusty described, through his anger, how Julian, over his objection, dramatically changed the way the Diamond T developed its line of cattle.

“Julian got pulled into the hocus pocus of genetic engineering as a way to change how new calves developed,” he told her. “It’s not right, messing with the way God designed to pass traits from one generation to another, but he’s done it, and you will use his own secrets to get the ranch back.”

Angeline didn’t argue with Rusty when he talked about genetic engineering because she knew she couldn’t change his mind. What she did know was that the Diamond T had developed a line of beef cattle that was superior to anything in the country, and they did it by altering the effects of a gene called myostatin.

Myostatin “manages” the development of muscle tissue by acting as an inhibitor to its growth. In animals, where the myostatin gene mutates, muscle mass increases, and the animals are larger and meatier than animals with the normal gene. Julian Reichert’s researchers created a synthetic gene that blocked the effects of myostatin, resulting in cattle that were 20 percent meatier than any other strain. The Diamond T generated in excess of ten million dollars annually, in sales of genetically engineered sperm and eggs and market beef.