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The Vintage Club
By Darin Gibby

Genre/Category: Crime, Thriller, Mystery
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Can wine really make you live forever? Yes, if the grapes are an ancient varietal—or so the members of the Vintage Club believe. Made up of some of the world’s wealthiest industrial magnates, the club conducts secret scientific research to discover what has eluded humans throughout history: the elixir of life.

Their quest hits a snag when scientist Walter Trudell is murdered. The prime murder suspect is his godson Reggie Alexander, a patent attorney whom Trudell once saved from a life of poverty in northeast Washington, D.C. As soon as news of the murder spreads, Reggie goes into hiding—soon after his wife and son disappear.

After being chased by mysterious assailants, beaten unconscious, and planted with a bug, Reggie must come to grips with his own private demons while figuring out how to save his family. The Vintage Club is a thriller that both explores the ancient Christian symbolism of wine and imagines ways that modern nanotechnology could be used to discover the fountain of youth.

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AS THEY REACHED Andalusia between the Guadalquivir and Guadalete rivers, the soil turned chalk-white, the humidity soared and the mostly treeless landscape undulated gently. The Romans were near the ocean, in wine country, where the Phoenicians had first brought the fruit of the vine nearly a thousand years before. With its gentle dews, hot summers and alkaline clay capable of holding vast volumes of water, this region was the perfect place to grow grapes. Not just any grapes, but white Palomino grapes, which Tartessians turned into the first wine. These cherished grapes hung plump and heavy on the vine. They were currency for the Romans, as valuable as sheep’s wool and olives..

Roman slaves, mostly natives of this conquered land, toiled between the rows, carefully clipping clusters of the fruit and gently setting them in baskets, then hauling the baskets to winepresses where more slaves, five or six at a time, barefoot and grasping hanging ropes to keep their balance, stomped on the grapes. The juice collected in vats, then drained into casks where it would ferment, its sugars transformed into alcohol that would preserve the wine for decades.

The September sun was scorching, enough to dehydrate a man in a few hours.

“It’s jobs like this that make me wish I’d studied law,” Didius said as he rode alongside his friend Catus, a junior captain. “I should be making laws, not enforcing them for the emperor.”

“Lawyers,” Catus snorted. “The empire’s got too many of them already.”

“At least I could be in Rome spending my nights with Justina.”.

Catus and Didius, the latter mounted on a black Andalusian horse, led a contingent of ten foot soldiers in tunics, mail breastplates and helmets, each equipped with swords and daggers.

“Ha! You know you love a good fight as much as the next Roman, Didius. March for glory—isn’t that your personal creed?”

“This won’t even be a skirmish, and it’s a tale likely to ruin my career—yours too. Can you imagine our report to the Senate? They’ll laugh us out of the room.”