"What I’ve become was what I was born to be. It’s what I was born into—and it’s something beyond my control.”
Dr. Judson Esterhazy was the older brother of Helen Esterhazy Pendergast. Tall and handsome with patrician features and thick brown hair, he held a medical degree as well as a PhD.
Judson was born in Nova Godoi, Brazil to András Ferenc Esterházy and Leni Faust Schmid. The family left Brazil when Judson was young and settled in Rockland, Maine. The Esterhazys were known in town for being somewhat odd, though Judson was an excellent student and junior-class valedictorian in high school.
As adults, Judson and Helen both pursued medical degrees. Judson worked as a neurosurgeon and medical researcher, and the siblings worked together for a time for the charity organization Doctors With Wings.
Judson never married, settling in a large Victorian house on Habersham Street overlooking Whitfield Square in Savannah, Georgia. He was an avid collector of art, wine and antiques, including a small but particularly exquisite collection of ancient Greek pottery. He was also a dedicated sportsman and hunter.
Several years after Helen's death, Esterhazy received a visit from her widowed husband, FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast, claiming that her death was no accident. Judson listened to the news and appeared shaken and angry. He pledged to help Pendergast in any way possible, but he was privately unnerved.
In truth, Esterhazy had been directly involved in his sister's disappearance and would spend the next several weeks trying to prevent Pendergast from discovering the true nature of Helen's accident.
Thirteen years prior to the events of Fever Dream, Helen and Judson helped launch Project Aves, a covert research and development group within Longitude Pharmaceuticals. The project centered on a mind-enhancement drug culled from the avian flu virus, based on independent research by Helen and brought to Longitude by Judson, whose graduate school dissertation adviser was now the Longitude CEO. The research proved prohibitively expensive, and the project began cutting corners by ignoring safety protocols; eventually, one of the birds being used to cultivate and test the virus escaped and infected a family in a nearby town, the group elected to simply observe the innocent victims as test subjects. When the family ultimately died and the group buried their involvement, Helen threatened to expose the entire operation. Failing to buy her silence, Longitude CEO Charles Slade arranged a hunting accident on her upcoming safari with Pendergast, where Helen was mauled by a lion and apparently killed.
After Pendergast's visit, Esterhazy began tying up loose ends, attempting to erase any connection between himself and Longitude before Pendergast's investigation uncovered his involvement. He murdered former Project Aves group member Morris Blackletter, made a death threat to the group's former legal counsel, and killed John Blast, with whom he believed Helen may have shared her avian flu theory while they were both searching for Audubon's infamous Black Frame. When these acts failed to deter Pendergast, Esterhazy went after the FBI agent himself, but mistakenly shot Pendergast's partner, Vincent D'Agosta.
After the arrival of D'Agosta's fiancee, NYPD Captain Laura Hayward, Esterhazy met with Mike Ventura, Longitude's old security director, to keep Pendergast and Hayward from reaching Spanish Island, the secret–and still active–Project Aves laboratory facility deep in the center of the Black Brake swamp. Ventura's first attempt at derailing the investigation failed, as did Esterhazy's efforts at finishing off D'Agosta as the lieutenant recovered in a Louisiana hospital. Desperate, Esterhazy and Ventura intercepted Pendergast and Hayward as they approached the island at nightfall. Hayward caught Ventura by surprise, though he managed to shoot her in the leg before being disarmed, but as she began to question him at gunpoint, he was shot and killed by Esterhazy, who had decided to retreat rather than risk revealing himself to Pendergast.
Esterhazy returned to Savannah, intent now on vengeance. Comfortable that the secret of his role in Helen's accident safe, he invited Pendergast on a hunting excursion at the Kilchurn Shooting Lodge in the Highlands of Scotland, which Pendergast gladly accepted.
At Kilchurn Shooting Lodge in the Scottish Highlands, as Esterhazy and Pendergast stalked a thirteen-point stag deep into the moorlands of the Foulmire, Esterhazy put his vengeful plan into action, attempting to kill Pendergast under the guise of a hunting accident. He left the mortally wounded FBI agent sinking into a pool of mire, but not before letting him in on the biggest secret of all: Helen was still alive.
After successfully passing off the shooting as an accident–an inquest found him innocent of any wrongdoing, particularly since no body was recovered–Esterhazy began having suspicions that Pendergast had survived. While investigating a story about a possible sighting, he was ambushed by the agent himself, demanding to know the full story behind Helen's accident. He barely escaped with his life, and after fleeing back to the United States, began plotting to kidnap Constance Greene, who had been committed to Mount Mercy after claiming to have thrown her infant son overboard during a transatlantic cruise.
Posing as a psychiatrist who had previously treated her, Esterhazy gained access to Constance and convinced her that Pendergast needed her help. Together, they concocted a successful escape plan during an excursion suggested by Esterhazy, who promptly turned her over to the Covenant. She was taken to the luxury yacht Vergeltung by Esterhazy and Covenent agent Klaus Falkoner, who intended to use her to lure Pendergast into a trap. When Pendergast finally arrived, Esterhazy–who was already wary of Falkoner after watching him gleefully kill an overzealous reporter–looked on helplessly as his brother-in-law systematically eliminated most of the Covenant forces on the boat.
When Falkoner finally managed to force Pendergast to surrender himself to save Constance, Esterhazy, realizing that Falkoner likely planned to kill him as well, betrayed the Covenant, shooting Falkoner in the head and freeing Pendergast and Constance. He explained again to Pendergast that Helen was alive, and after a quick explanation of who the Covenant was, arranged to bring her to meet him in Central Park the following evening.
As he watched the reunion between Aloysius and Helen, he began to have hope that with Pendergast, he might actually stand a fighting chance against the Covenant. It was short-lived, however; the Covenant had learned of the meeting's location through an NYPD employee and set up an ambush, and Esterhazy was shot and killed while attempting to get Helen to safety.
The Esterhazys were part of an organization calling itself Der Bund, or "the Covenant," whose experiments in eugenics and genetic manipulation traced as far back as the Nazi regime, with the ultimate goal of creating the Fourth Reich. Judson and Helen–and their identical twin siblings–were themselves the products of the Covenant's ongoing research; even the family's move from the Covenant's base of operations in Brazil to Maine was a Covenant experiment, designed to test how their subjects would function in outside society.
Longitude's Project Aves was a Covenant satellite operation, and when the decision was made to kill Helen, it was Judson who was tasked with carrying it out–an assignment that ultimately pushed him to secretly break from the Covenant. The hunting accident was in fact an elaborate ruse in which Judson substituted Helen's profoundly retarded and terminally ill twin to convince Longitude and the Covenant that Helen had been killed. The deception worked, and Helen remained safely hidden for the next twelve years, when a random cursory examination of her rifle by Pendergast set him on the path to discovering what had really happened to her.