It was about 4:30 in the morning and something stirred Jay Cooper awake.
The retired lawyer, then in his early 80s, heard voices outside his home. He flipped up the blinds and went to the balcony.
That's when he saw them: An entire troop of soldiers on horseback; the French cavalry. He could tell by details on their uniforms.
Cooper rubbed his eyes. He wasn't dreaming. An entire regiment was lined up — on his green belt — ready to charge.
He woke Judy, his wife.
"We are under attack! We must leave. Get in the car — now!"
Judy, shaken, quickly looked outside. Jay looked again too.
The cavalry was gone. The green belt was dark and quiet.
"Honey, there's no one here," she said.
The couple slowly returned to their bedroom.
About 20 years ago, when Jay Cooper sat down to write a novel, he was a healthy, just retired 67-year-old, fully in charge of his faculties.
Cooper had cherished his legal career, but his passion always was storytelling. He had a keen interest in the Middle East.
All of those strings were tied into the adventure of his new hero, Sal Dematteo, an attorney whose life is turned on its head after he sees a dagger that once belonged to the ruthless law giver Hammurabi.
In Cooper's story, the day after seeing the dagger, Dematteo begins having visions of ancient Rome and Judea.
The story plays out with many other characters — some modern, some ancient; some real, some imagined. But, in the end, Cooper says "Hammurabi's Dagger" is about ordinary people and how extraordinary things can happen to them.
What he didn't imagine was something extraordinary was about to happen to him.
Jay Cooper's own visions began a little more than three years ago, after he'd completed his book and was looking for a publisher.
The visions came suddenly, and Cooper had no way of knowing at the time that they were just hallucinations. They seemed very real.
He saw faces in bushes. He saw gang members running around, pumping poisonous gas inside his home.