Still crippled by agoraphobia and confined to the tunnels under New York City, Joe is haunted by the fact that he cannot even attend his father’s funeral. His father’s death brings threats to the safety of Joe’s underground home: guilt over the broken relationship that can never be healed, a mysterious box of papers inherited from eccentric inventor Nikola Tesla, and a ruthless enemy determined to steal those papers no matter the cost.
Mystified by why his inheritance is so valuable, Joe and his service dog, Edison, follow clues left a century ago by Joe’s famous ancestor to reveal the power of his family legacy. While Joe must rely on his considerable talents as a hacker, he must also reach out to friends.
But whom can he trust as he battles to save his beloved city from . . . The Tesla Legacy?
Chosen for Best New Mysteries and Thrillers at iBooks.
Featured in Kobo Next.
Listed under “Hot New Releases” on Amazon in Technothrillers, Historical Thrillers, and Animal Mysteries.
Wonderful review from Tesla documentarian at AllAboutTesla.com.
Great interview about The Tesla Legacy at The Big Thrill.
In depth profile in the Fascinating People column at The Edge Magazine.
Featured at Love that Book! First Chapters.
Listed at BestThrillers.com.
Chosen as Book of the Day by bookoftheday.org.
Lovely series review over at A Thrill a Week.
“Cantrell’s virtues are her intimacy with her characters and her delicious sense of subtle details that bring out the characters and the scenes…The Tesla Legacy is a tight, fast-paced novel that’s full of surprises.” — Matt Wenngraitis at The Daily 400
“Cantrell did a superb job of researching not only Nikola Tesla’s world, but also creating a WMD of creative proportions that is the focus of this thriller. I love the fact that aside from the use of the Internet in this story, the novel itself could have taken place in the forties. We have a modern hero that we somehow do not see in a modern way. That is what adds to the charm of this series and what make it unique.” — The English Major
“The Tesla series is an excellent, original and addictive series…Rebecca Cantrell is firmly ensconced as one of my go to Thriller writers now.” — Parmenion Books
“Rebecca Cantrell has created a fast-paced thriller that you may just read in one sitting, as I did.” — Stuff and Nonsense
“An unusual setting and unique characters make this a wonderful listening experience.” — AudioFile Magazine
“The book is bringing the together the legacy of genius Nikola Tesla (hence the title), and the modern world. This sci-fi book brings you new insights about technology, psychology, and well-written fiction. This book is dangerous as the Tesla oscillator: start reading it – and you will not be able to put it away. Highly recommended, and tell others.” — All About Tesla
“A great book, thoughtfully and intelligently written.” — Claire Loves to Read!
“This is a great SFF novel that works as suspense thriller and has some elements that could almost qualify it with the steam-punk category. Well worth the read; and for some of us it might be a one sit read.” — Com Net
“I defy anyone not to become fascinated by the world of Joe Tesla and be bewitched by the unique writing style. Rebecca Cantrell deserves to have many more readers discover her books. She is brilliant. I want more Joe Tesla.” — Northern Crime
“I want to turn on the TV and watch Joe Tesla and Edison…These are fresh stories, you have not read anything like this before.” — Amazon reviewer
THE TESLA LEGACY
46 E. Houston Street
New York, New York
Most men would not care about a simple pigeon, but Nikola Tesla was not most men. And so, when the pigeon found him in the vastness of the city, he recognized her as his own. Each dawn, her white wings cut through the cold air of New York and carried her over the bustle of horses and men to his windowsill. In the many months he had known her, she had come to trust him enough to feed from his palm, her cold beak tapping against his skin.
On this winter morning he stood with his window thrown open longer than usual, waiting for her. He checked his gold pocket watch again and again.
Finally, a white dot appeared against the gray light of dawn. The dot stuttered and dropped in complicated air currents. Worry fluttered in his heart as he watched her erratic flight.
She landed on his snowy windowsill, scattering clots of snow onto his rug and down toward the street below. With extreme care, he cupped her body. Her feathers were scarcely colder than the flesh beneath. Her silver eyes looked dull, but they showed no alarm—she trusted him.
He brought her inside and set her on a perch in an empty cage next to his bed. His other pigeons cooed in their cages, but she took no notice of them. Her head drooped down to her white breast. She had spent her energy reaching him.
When she warmed, he would feed her. His pigeon keeper, Mr. Smith, would arrive later that morning, and Nikola would ask him what else they could do for her. Mr. Smith had a deep knowledge of pigeons and their maladies. Surely he could make her well.
Nikola washed his hands and watched her from his stiff chair. With each blink, her familiar silver eyes disappeared for longer and longer, until they failed to open at all. Her chest no longer vibrated with breath.
With a sigh, he lifted the limp body from its perch. She had come to him not to be healed, but to die in warmth and peace. At least he had been able to grant her that.
He cradled the soft body between his palms before placing her inside a plain wooden box lined with a monogrammed handkerchief. He wrapped the warm silk around her like a shroud. Later, he would bury her in the park, but first he must do his day’s work.
He set the box on the table next to his bed, washed his hands again, and went to breakfast. He met with Mr. Smith and told him only that the white pigeon had passed away, and he would bury her himself. Mr. Smith said that nothing more could have been done for her, and she was fortunate to have a safe, loving place to take her last breaths. Nikola only nodded, and Mr. Smith did not press him further.
Mr. Smith was the only person who understood about Nikola and the pigeon. Other men would have considered him mad, but Nikola had loved the hen for a long time. The sight of her coming for her morning corn had moved him more than the arrival of his most distinguished visitors. She was the most loving constant in his life, and she had left him. Today was to have been a day of triumph, but melancholy had marred it.
Her image followed him down to his empty basement. With one hand in the pocket of his overcoat, he walked through the empty room. Today’s experiment must be conducted here, and not in his upstairs laboratory—not in front of his assistants. He wanted no announcements in the press before he was ready, as had happened so often before.
Tall wood-framed cages held the tenants’ belongings—ordinary items like bedding and furniture and brass candlesticks. Between the cages ran a line of steel columns. Those steel bars faithfully bore the weight of the building above. Taken for granted, they performed their essential task year after year, unyielding and eternal.
He stopped next to the column in the center of the room. Its base rooted deep into the earth beneath his feet, and its crown rose far above his head. This humble steel would serve as the perfect subject on which to test his newest device.
When he drew a metal object about twice the size of a deck of cards from the pocket of his black trousers, a feeling of satisfaction dulled his grief. He held the device in his palm, studying its clean lines. The object had a square base with a dial on the front and a curiously turned steel cylinder rising from the top. Its rounded casing could withstand temperatures of over two hundred degrees and pressure of over four hundred pounds per square inch. Hidden inside were highly efficient pistons built with the art and skill that marked his particular genius. He’d taken a picture of it for its patent, and he mentally compared the image to the object in his hand:
His long fingers stroked the casing. The ordinary-looking object held such immense power. He had built it to test a principle that appeared innocuous but could destroy Earth itself—an earth that contained him, his family, and, until recently, a precious white pigeon.
No one else had recognized this power, nor thought to harness it before, because no one else heard the vibrations of objects as he did. No one else felt the telltale tremble of everyday things with their fingertips. One’s perceptions could limit one, or set one free. He was free.
Using simple wooden clamps, he affixed the device to the column, tugging on the cylinder to make certain that it couldn’t be dislodged easily. He touched two fingers to the thick steel column so that his fingertips barely grazed the metal. With the other hand, he turned the dial.
In his mind he pictured gears inside moving in silent precision as they slowly accelerated to the requested speed, like a pigeon pumping its wings to fly. For a long moment he stood next to the column with his head cocked, listening with his ears as well as his hand. His fingers adjusted the device’s oscillation rate. Again, he waited and listened. He repeated this action countless times as he sought to tune his oscillator to the natural vibration of the steel.
Eventually, the metal under his fingertips trembled to a weak life. His device had matched the steel’s resonant frequency. Time would do the rest.
He left the Oscillator to its work while he unlocked a wooden storage unit containing spools of wire, a stained metal table holding glass blown into egg-shaped globes, and a ladder back chair. He grasped the chair by its top rung and placed it next to the column, then dusted the seat with his handkerchief, sat, and crossed one long leg over the other. He placed two fingers against the steel again like a doctor feeling for a pulse.
The metal’s deep song thrummed through his fingers and up his arm. The song vibrated in the synovial fluid in his shoulder, trilled through his stomach, and pressed against his ears. He closed his gray eyes to concentrate on the metal’s music, and a small smile crossed his pale face.
He was in tune with the steel.
Mesmerized, he listened too long. The column cracked, like lake ice after a long winter, once and then again. The steel trembled too quickly now. An ordinary man might not have seen the change, but he did. Tiny oscillations, no bigger than a pigeon’s heartbeat, shuddered down the column’s length.
Sounds intruded on his consciousness—a siren, the tinkle of breaking glass, the creak of other steel columns flexing. His device had succeeded, but perhaps too well.
With one decisive movement, he stood and reached to turn it off. Hot steel seared his fingertips. He gritted his teeth and tried again, but the dial had frozen in position, and the clamps, too, were stuck.
His device pounded remorselessly on.
His usually calm heartbeat sputtered in his chest. If he didn’t stop the motion soon, the column itself might shatter. Even the surrounding columns might break apart. If so, this beautiful building would collapse and bury its occupants, including him and his pigeons upstairs. He would not let this building become their tomb.
He wheeled on the heel of one patent leather shoe and ran for the cage. Thinking it a useless precaution the night before, he had nonetheless given in to a niggling doubt. He had taken a sledgehammer from its usual location in the corner and rested its handle against the table’s edge.
Now he was grateful he had. In two long steps he reached the hammer. He wrapped his long white fingers around the handle and returned to his device. He lifted the hammer over his head and brought its weight down on the deceptively small cylinder. The metal case cracked, but gears within continued to turn. He had engineered his device to withstand shock and force. Again, he brought down the hammer, and yet a third time.
The gears shrieked like a baby bird as metal ground against metal. He paused, then hardened his heart against his creation. He smote it blow after blow until the misshapen steel fell to the floor. He had stopped its mechanical heart.
Heavy fists pounded on the door above, and angry voices outside shouted for admittance. He had only minutes before one of his neighbors let them into the building. He must not be found down here with the device.
With movements quick and precise, he dug the flattened metal out of the scarred floor with a bent nail. Still too hot to touch, so he kicked it into a corner with the toe of his shoe. He polished that toe against the back of his immaculate trousers, smoothed his hair, and settled his jacket into place.
His long legs skipped every other stair as he flew to his laboratory. He entered and closed the door quietly behind him. His assistants looked at him with surprise. He smiled to allay their suspicions and glanced around the laboratory.
Glass had broken in this room, too. The windows had given way, and one assistant sported a thin cut across his cheek. An oval bulb lay shattered on the floor.
His device’s power was writ large in the destruction that surrounded him. Curious and exhilarating to think that something so small could produce such dramatic changes in the world. Yet he himself, like every man on Earth, had grown from an egg.
Angry voices grew louder. He couldn’t yet make out their words, but he understood the tone and recognized an Irish accent. The local constabulary, then.
Knuckles rapped against the door to his laboratory. Nikola glanced around once before calling out, “Enter!”
The door slammed open, and two men strode inside. They looked like life-sized windup dolls in matching blue uniforms with silver buttons and handlebar mustaches and worried eyes. They glared at him, although they could not know that he was at fault.
“There was an earthquake!” shouted the one in the front, the leader. He was the fatter of the two, and he had the larger mustache—blond shrubbery against a face as freckled as a plover’s egg.
“A horse fell down and was almost run over by the cab.” The other policeman clenched his meaty fists.
“I don’t suppose you know about that?” asked the leader.
Both men hovered in the wooden doorway as if afraid to venture inside.
Nikola would not have let the building bury his hen, or himself. “The danger is past.”
“What danger do you mean? Why is it past?” The man’s freckles squirmed when he spoke.
“Why, the earthquake. It is over. But I felt it here in the laboratory.” Nikola gestured to the broken glass on the floor so that they would see he hadn’t been spared. “It knocked my bulbs off the table, and broke my windows.”
The freckled policeman looked at him with his mouth still partially open. Native intelligence and suspicion shone from his snapping blue eyes. “Just a simple earthquake then?”
“What else could it be, my good man?” Their imaginations could conceive of nothing but this natural explanation.
The machine intrigued him, it did not frighten him. His heart soared at the thought of what such a device could do—send messages, perhaps, or destroy rock for mining. Glorious possibilities flashed through his mind. If only mankind had the wisdom to harness such power to good use.
A cold shudder ran down his spine because they did not. He thought again of the wisdom and courage his beloved bird had displayed by knowing how to find him and coming across snow and cold to say farewell. He had never met a person like her. And he never would.
He had already filed a patent for his device, which he had named the Oscillator, but he would revise the patent’s description so that the device could not be built properly from those plans.
He would build it again, refine, and test it again, until he knew that he could control it. After that, he would hide it away. The true device could only be used by one of uncommon courage and wisdom. He doubted that he would ever come to come to know such a person.
And so the device would remain hidden.
June 28, 1983
Mianus River Bridge
George Tesla was drunk. This wasn’t new for him, but the reason was. He was going to be a father. Fifty years old and he’d knocked up a thirty year old carnie.
You’d think someone careful enough to live through a trapeze act would be careful enough to not get pregnant. You’d be wrong.
Tatiana flat out refused to talk about abortion or adoption or any sensible solution to the problem. She was perfectly willing to talk about her leaving him to raise the baby alone, but nothing else. Her mind was set.
He leaned against the cold side of the bridge and took a long sip of Jack Daniels from his silver hip flask. He’d bought the flask when he was first made Professor of Mathematics at New York University. Another thing that would have to change, since Tatiana had told him she had no intention of giving up performing to be a faculty wife and move to New York. He couldn’t imagine his fiery Romanian trading her sequined leotards for wool skirts and pearls.
The flask clinked against the other metal object he carried in the pocket of his tweed jacket. Before he met Tatiana, he’d gone on a quest to find this little thing. It had been hidden before his birth, but he’d found it anyway. He’d been carrying it around for years—its weight a constant reminder him that he was squandering a great legacy. Many things were possible for those who were smart enough and daring enough. He was starting to suspect that he was neither.
A car roared down the road, its headlights blinding him. For good measure, the driver honked at him—another good citizen chastising him for being up here on a public road, drunk, at one in the morning. But he had nowhere else to be.
Seventy feet below, the black river rolled along like tar. If he jumped, that would solve all his future problems. He filed this away for later consideration.
He fumbled the metal object out of his pocket and sat it on the railing next to him. It didn’t look like much—a square metal base with a cylinder sticking out the top—but Nikola Tesla had told his father that it could do great things. Nikola Tesla had patented it, but it had never worked on a large scale. George wondered if he had patented a flawed device on purpose, to discredit his own theory. If so, maybe the object next to him really could do great things.
He clinked the flask against the side of the device. “To great things. For one of us.”
The device didn’t answer, so he wasn’t that drunk. Maybe it knew it wouldn’t work.
But if it didn’t work, why had its creator entrusted the secret of its existence to only one man?
George’s father said that he was the only one who knew about it, and he must have been because once George had figured out its location, he’d found the device waiting for him. If anyone else had known where to find it, they would have taken it.
He dumped the flask and the device into pocket and swung one leg over the railing. He wasn’t going to jump. He was a scientist, and he was going to do an experiment.
He rested his feet against the outside lip of the bridge. The river rushed below, dark and deep and cold, and he hugged the cold metal girder with both arms. At least nobody above could see him and beep at him.
It took him a few tries, because he was wobbly, and he nearly dropped it twice, but eventually he managed to clamp the device to the metal side of the bridge using tiny clamps he’d brought along. It stuck out from the side like an accusing finger. Like Tatiana’s accusing finger.
He cocked his head to the side and listened. No cars close by. The bridge was empty. Timing wouldn’t get any better than this. Time to start his experiment.
With one hand, he held on to the metal railing, slippery with dew, and with the other he turned the tiny dial on the front of the device. The device immediately started thumping away.
He jumped and nearly fell off the side of the bridge. He’d replaced the power source with batteries, but he hadn’t expected the old mechanism to work. He played with the dial, trying to match the natural frequency of the steel. Eventually, he seemed to get it dialed in because the bridge started to vibrate against his stomach.
It didn’t feel like much, maybe like a truck was driving by. Not even a truck. A car. A little convertible. Not a threat.
Headlights shone out in the distance, and he swore. From the sound of the engine, a semi truck was approaching. Probably nothing to worry about, but he ought to shut the thumper down. He reached for the device, missed it on his first try. Was it his drunken imagination, or was the bridge shaking?
Heat blistered his fingertips when he touched the dial, and it didn’t budge. He couldn’t turn the damn thing off. He could just let go and fall in the water, let all this be someone else’s problem, but his hand refused to let go of the railing. Maybe fear, or maybe a sense of responsibility.
Either way, he had to do something. He pulled the flask out of his pocket and pounded on the device. It moved a hair, then another. The truck thundered closer, completely oblivious. Two more trucks were tucked behind it. A convoy, trucking through the night.
When the truck hit the span he was holding onto, the bridge let out a tremendous crack. The device fell, and he instinctively caught it, his hand slipping off the bridge.
He tumbled toward the river. His feet hit the water first. It felt like he’d landed on concrete, and the force drove him deep underwater. He fought for the surface. He didn’t want to die. He wanted to see his child. He wanted to stand by Tatiana.
By the time his head broke the surface, he’d traveled a hundred yards downstream, still clutching the device. The span he’d been standing on had collapsed. He watched as a semi truck barreled right off the broken edge of the bridge. It landed nose down on the stony bank. That crash had likely killed the driver.
Another car piled on after, then a screech of brakes.
His head went under. He still held the device. It had burned the skin of his palm, but he didn’t let go. He couldn’t let it out of his possession.
He’d killed the men in those trucks, the people in that car. One drunken mistake and now those people weren’t coming home to their families, to their daughters and sons. He would never make that right.
The current dragged him remorselessly onward.
Subway tunnels trap New York’s heat. Heat soaks into sticky pavements and tired sidewalks. Hot, humid air blows into the tunnels’ open mouths and lingers in the dark places until fall.
Joe Tesla tried to pretend he enjoyed the heat in the upper tunnels, but it reminded him of the second ring of hell. Summer was meant to be spent outside, basking in the sun, his father had always said. Good times, not the second ring of hell.
Joe walked between steel rails that brought trains from the rest of New York into Grand Central Terminal. His service dog, a golden retriever/yellow Labrador mix named Edison, panted at his side. They were performing what was becoming a daily ritual where Joe went to the limits of the darkness, just to see if today he could break out into the light. Aversion therapy, psychiatrists called it.
It wasn’t working, but he would not give up. Today, more than ever, he wanted to break free of his self-imposed darkness and go outside into the light and fresh air. He wanted to go outside to say good-bye.
Ahead a square of daylight beckoned. Gray light filtered in the end of the rectangular tunnel. He drank in the sight of shining silver tracks outside. He glimpsed a tree in the distance. A real, green, living tree. Outside.