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The Missionary.......................................... ISBN-13: 978-0-8024-5569-7 .......................2 My Younger Brother’s Getting Married ................... ISBN-13: 978-0-8024-6289-3 .............................8 Latter-Day Cipher ...................................... ISBN-13: 978-0-8024-5679-3 .......................... 14 Bending Toward the Sun ................................. ISBN-13: 978-0-8024-5698-4 ......................... 20 Soul Runner ............................................ ISBN-13: 978-0-8024-0409-1 ..........................26 Rhapsody in Red ........................................ ISBN-13: 978-0-8024-5116-3 ...........................32 Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon ......................... ISBN-13: 978-0-8024-8733-9 ...........................38 My Hands Came Away Red .............................. ISBN-13: 978-0-8024-8982-1 .......................... 44 Miss Fortune ............................................ ISBN-13: 978-0-8024-6926-7 .......................... 50 I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires ....................... ISBN-13: 978-0-8024-8774-2 ..........................56 Discussion Questions .................................................................................. 62
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by William Carmichael and David Lambert March 2009 | 978-0-8024-5569-7 Chapter One The tall man guided his new Mercedes out of Avenue Casanova traffic and pulled in behind a battered Volkswagen at the gutter; he had just seen the Ford van several cars ahead of him pull over and stop, its emergency flashers on. He leaned to the side, straining for a clear view around the cars and trucks honking, jockeying for position, crowding the avenue. It was late—10:34, he affirmed with a glance at his Rolex—and the glare of so many lights on the rain-washed streets made him squint. He watched the van’s driver get out, wait for a break in the traffic, and then jog across the street toward some sort of commotion. There were children running—one was on the ground, a small boy. A heavyset man in a dirty white apron was yelling at the fallen boy, kicking him, and the boy curled into a ball. A girl threw herself between the fallen boy and the man; the man pushed her down. The van’s driver arrived and held up a hand, yelling at the man in the apron, who yelled back. There was nothing unusual about the scene. Sadly, it was played out scores of times on this and many other Caracas streets every night: hungry, homeless children scrabbling for a living, treated as nothing more than human refuse by the adults annoyed by them or who sought them for other purposes. One needed no more excuse to kick—or exploit, in any of dozens of unsavory ways—a street urchin than one did a stray dog. The tall man had seen the driver of the van, a missionary, make several such stops over the past few days, usually at night, chatting with groups of these children, teasing them, making them laugh, talking to them as long as the children were willing to stay. Twice the tall man had managed to get close enough to overhear the missionary asking kids where they lived, whether they had enough to eat, whether any of them were sick or knew other children who were sick, whether there were other homeless children nearby. The name on the side of the van was Espere la Aldea. Hope Village. The tall man knew exactly where
it was; he had driven past it, slowly. It was a mission—a place that took in young homeless ones. The missionary stepped between the angry man and the two children on the ground. The girl was talking to the fallen boy. She looked worried. The man in the apron pushed past the missionary and grabbed something from the young girl’s hand, then brandished it at the missionary—evidence, no doubt, that the children had stolen from him. The missionary pointed toward the children, spoke to the man, and then reached into his pocket and offered the man something, most likely money to pay for what the children had stolen. The man grabbed it from his hand and stalked away, still yelling back over his shoulder. Three or four other children wandered back as the aproned man disappeared. If these children had a home with a bed, they would undoubtedly have been in it by this time of night. A group of young men walked boisterously by, their clothes and voices loud, one or two of them taking swigs from their bottles of beer. The avenue was crowded with those seeking thrills, as well as the homeless. From across the street, a prostitute caught his eye and waved seductively. He ignored her. Peering around a passing truck, he watched as the missionary knelt and placed his hand on the forehead of the young boy the man in the apron had kicked. This was a good thing that the missionary was doing. The tall man admired him for it. Yes, it was time to meet him face to face. Maybe he was the right man for the job. Maybe not. *** The rain had stopped, at least for now. “¿Es relacionado cualquiera a este chico?” David asked. He removed his hand from the child’s forehead. The boy was burning with fever, gasping desperately for breath; his chest rattled. “Sí.” David glanced up at the girl who had tried to protect the boy; she could not have been more than ten. “He is my little brother. He started coughing five days ago,” she said. “And after he runs, he cannot breathe.” “What’s his name?” ”Ricardo. My name is Angela” David smiled and touched her arm. “Angela, where are your parents?”
Angela shrugged her shoulders. David saw this response often. It meant that the girl’s parents were drug addicts, or that they were dead, or that she had no idea where they were and probably hadn’t seen them in some time. He brushed Ricardo’s shaggy, lank hair from his forehead. For five years now David had patrolled the barrios of Caracas, witnessing the misery of an endless supply of impoverished and sickly and homeless children. Was there no end to the suffering here? Swarms of Latinos hurried by in the warm, humid night, seemingly unaware. Salsa music blared from one of the bars down the street. Honking cars, trucks, and buses jammed Avenue Casanova. The stink of urine rose from the gutter, a bitter note blending with the fragrance of fresh arapas, frying chiles, refried beans, and beer. “Vamonos, arribe!” someone yelled from down the street. Ricardo stared at David with sunken, panicked eyes, his back rising off the broken sidewalk in his effort to pull air into his lungs. “How old is your brother?” David asked Angela. “Siete.” There was no point calling an ambulance. They refused to pick up the homeless. David pulled out his cell and called his wife. “Christie, call Doctor Vargas and see if he can meet us at the clinic in forty-five minutes. Tell him I have a seven-year-old boy I think is in the acute stages of pneumonia. He can barely breathe.” There was a pause. “Is he wheezing?” she asked. “Big time.” “Okay. Get him here quick.” When David clicked off his phone and reached behind the boy to lift him, large oliveskinned hands reached down to help. David looked up to see a tall, well-dressed man. “Can I please help you lift the child?” The stranger spoke in English. “We can put him in my car just down the street if you need transportation to the hospital.” “Thank you,” David said, “but my van’s right here.” He gestured toward the white ninepassenger Ford van he used as both bus and ambulance. It was double parked, emergency flashers blinking, Espere la Aldea painted in bright red letters on the side. “I’m taking this child to my clinic.”
Before David could object, the tall man lifted Ricardo’s thin little body into his arms and headed for the van. David grabbed Angela’s hand and, weaving through honking, halting traffic, hurried ahead to open the back doors. Inside lay a mattress neatly wrapped with clean white sheets. The man gently laid Ricardo on the mattress. David motioned for Angela to climb into the back of the van with Ricardo. She hesitated. “What about my friends? Two of them are also coughing.” David looked back across the street, where seven children stood watching. He glanced at the well-dressed man, who shrugged. “We don’t have room,” David said. “I’m sorry. Right now, I can only take your brother and you. And for your brother’s sake, we must hurry.” “Then take Maria instead of me. She has been coughing for three days,” Angela replied. David looked at the stranger, then across the street again. “Jesus!” he whispered, then asked, “Which one is Maria?” Angela yelled, “¡Maria, viene!” motioning Maria forward. A girl David guessed to be about the same age as Angela wove her way through traffic toward them. Without asking, Angela quickly shoved Maria up into the back of the van next to her brother. Always choices, David thought, and most of them are bad. How can it be the will of God to simply choose among the least bad alternatives? He put his hand on Angela’s shoulder, urging her into the van with Ricardo and Maria. As she scrambled in, she smiled. Already a skilled negotiator, David thought. David shook the stranger’s hand and hurried to the driver’s door. “Thank you for your help.” He grabbed a business card from the dash and handed it to the man, then cranked the engine and slammed the door. “Why don’t you visit us?” he hollered through the open window, over the engine noise. “I would like to. Perhaps soon.” David barely heard him. He waved over his shoulder and inched out into traffic, his headlights reflecting on slick, wet streets. Ricardo hacked a loud, racking cough. David took a sharp right, leaving the business district and entering a darker, less congested area, a faster way home. Big raindrops began again, slowly at first, then pounding hard
and fast against the windshield while the wipers beat like rapid rubber drumsticks. And there was another sound. At first David thought that the windshield wipers were broken—the motor giving out, wheezing…and then he realized that the sound was coming from the back of the van. It stopped. David glanced in the rearview mirror. The boy’s sister hovered over Ricardo. “Angela, how’s your brother back there?” David asked. “Everything okay?” Angela’s bright little face tilted up, her eyes frightened. “Senor!” she said. “He cannot breathe! He is choking!”
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My Younger Brother’s Getting Married...
by Bethany Pierce April 2009 | 978-0-8024-6289-3 Prologue My mother always told me, “Find something you love to do and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Optimistic advice from a woman who resorted to selling Luna Lady Industry blush compacts and wrinkle reducers after nineteen years of teaching the first grade drove her to the proverbial nuthouse. But that is my mother, the forever hopeful. She is not one for empirical evidence. She believes life is good, despite all proof to the contrary. When the diary of Anne Frank left me in a rage, she recommended that I read something nice: it was best not to think about things I couldn’t change. She believes in marriage, though she and my father divorced when I was seven. She had no pain in childbirth. In our house glasses were half full; when God shut doors He opened windows; and you could be anything you wanted to be when you grew up, even—and especially—the President of the United States. Mostly I wanted to be an astronaut. I studied constellations and memorized the names of the planets. I hung upside down from the monkey bars to practice zero gravity and studded my ceiling with glow in the dark stars. Grandma’s new refrigerator functioned as Ship’s Main Computer. It was a black, shiny monolith with blinking green lights. When alone in the kitchen, I pushed the flat, plastic buttons, whispering: “Red alert!” and “Fire torpedoes when ready!” “You all right, Sugarpie?” Grandma asked when she discovered me in conversation with the ice dispenser. Later that day she voiced her concern my mother: “You’d better get that girl’s teeth checked. All she wants to do is eat ice!” Mom had heard worse. One week I’d only eaten freezer pops and baby food, training my stomach for an all-liquid diet. “Moon food” she’d called it, serving me a second helping of
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pureed green peas. Moon—ha! I was going to Mars. I practiced zero gravity for three years. When I was rejected from Space Camp, I realized it was best for a girl to keep her options open. * At age ten, I outlined ten prospective careers, which I carried around everywhere in the front pocket of my Star Trek the Next Generation Trapper Keeper. Top Ten Careers 1. Astronaut 2. Pilot 3. Stewardess 4. Forensic Scientist 5. Showboat singer 6. Prima Ballerina 7. Prima Donna 8. Wedding Cake Baker 9. Bank Teller 10. Famous Novelist I spent the subsequent years rehearsing to be an adult, tripping over legs that grew faster than my ambition, testing my abilities with scientific objectivity: o I got motion sick on the merry-go-round, which finally eliminated career one for good, taking careers two, five and six (all that twirling) with it. o I had a very nice voice and campaigned diligently for the part of the Virgin Mary in the Christmas pageant; unfortunately, Mrs. Beavis the church choir director, who favored
~ 12 ~
piety over talent, refused to give me a solo seven years running, discouraging my chances of parochial celebrity and, by extension, obliterating my hopes of national fame. o I baked a superb cake and knock-out brownies. Unfortunately, what talent I had in reading recipes could not surpass the pleasure I had in reading books. Lost in a Babysitters Special when I should have been watching the oven, I set fire to a pineapple upside down cake. The firefighters came. No one was hurt, though the wallpaper had to be replaced. This was the end of my kitchen privileges. o At fourteen I received my first checkbook. Consequently, banking lost its appeal. By the age of fifteen I had, in quick succession, eliminated every career possibility except one. The love of writing stuck. Chapter 1: Rejection(s) “I don’t know if we should see each other anymore.” He scratched the back of his head. We had not been dating long, but I knew that he scratched his head when he was nervous. “Ok,” I said. His announcement had taken me off guard. He mistook my surprise for hurt feelings. “I’m really sorry,” he said. “It’s nothing personal.” Outside the window to our left, students spilled onto campus, flooding the sidewalks. It was the change of the hour, which meant Adam would need to teach class in ten minutes. I realized he’d timed our breaking up to allow him a quick escape. I said, “Then may I ask why you’re breaking up with me?” “For one, there’s the whole religion thing,” he said, studying his tray where his mashed potatoes sat in the still-rounded shape of an ice cream scoop. He’d only ever bought me dinner at the cafeteria where we both had faculty discounts. That should have been the first sign. “You’ve got standards, Amy—expectations—I respect that, really. But I just don’t think our desires match up.” “Which desires?” I asked. “If you wouldn’t mind being specific.”
~ 13 ~
“No desire specifically,” he said, waving the question aside. “I mean all desires. Cumulatively. The things we want to do with our work, our futures. They don’t line up.” I flattened my meatloaf onto the plate with the butt of my spork. The sporks were new on campus, part of the ongoing save the earth incentive: SPOONS + FORKS = HALF THE WASTE!! They’d used 12,000 paper fliers to educate the student body on importance of recycling. “I’ve tried to see things from your point of view,” he said. “I’m fine with your having a faith, but I don’t think you’re okay with me not having one. I don’t understand why you have to judge me like that. I let you be yourself—why can’t you let me be me?” “I don’t judge you,” I said. “You do. In all the little things.” “What things.” I set the spork spinning on the table. “Specifically.” He gave me an annoyed glance. “Look, you’re a great girl. Too good for me, in fact. I would hate myself for ruining you. Amy.” He snatched the spork from my hand. “Will you stop that!” The people at the table behind us turned to look. I could feel my cheeks flaming red as my hair. It wasn’t a good look for me. “I’ve been feeling it, too.” I resorted to twirling my plastic knife. He cupped my hand in his. “You know I really like you.” “I liked you, too,” I said, pulling away. I wondered if he noticed the past tense. He was a writer. Of course he noticed. “I hope we can still talk?” “If you’d like,” I said. “There’s a poetry reading Thursday. Maybe we could go together.” I clasped my hands between my legs, drawing my knees together as if to keep my fingers warm. “Actually, no. I think Everett and I are going.” “Well, if you ever want to go hang out. I mean, just call me.” “You know,” I said, as he gathered his things. “For a novelist, that was a rather cliché break up.” “I have to go.”
~ 14 ~
I nodded. With a last apologetic look, he kissed my cheek and hurried for the door. That we were breaking up came as no surprise. I had meant to initiate this conversation a month ago, but vanity had fueled my procrastination: it had been good to have a boyfriend again. The novelty of dating Adam had worn off within the first three weeks, but for the two months that followed he had been a nice accessory, something to wear on my arm at faculty mixers and artist receptions.
Feeling For Bones 978-0-8024-6288-6
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Latter Day Cipher
by Latayne C. Scott April 2009 | 978-0-8024-5679-3 Chapter One There on the damp pine needles Kirsten Young lay on her back, a serene Ophelia in her dusky pond of blood. The dark irises of her bloodshot eyes stared unseeing into the branches above her. The sun had burst through the clouds of the sudden downpour and now blazed above the canopy of conifers and aspens in Provo Canyon. Deep in its recesses, the light filtered down in vertical sheets of champagne dust that played across the body. Her skin, once the faintest of olive, now was pale as churned cream, mottled and mordant in the dark pooling of what everyone called her hot Italian blood. An angry oval bruise, dark as a plum, marked the side of her forehead. The slit in her throat cut deep. There were hesitation marks like those a suicide makes, trying to summon the courage to complete the act. The final cut had been made deeply on the right side, almost curling to her left. Her left arm lay loosely at her side, still bearing at the wrist the friction marks from the plastic rope that had bound her. Her right arm crossed her chest, with the elbow supported by a rock underneath the triceps so the arm stayed in place. Her fingers curled slightly around her own shoulder, as if she gave herself a final hug in death. The tip of her thumb touched, delicately, the edge of the open wound under her left ear. The scene on the forest floor was meant to set things aright. No, no, she wasn’t Ophelia at all, he thought. She was Eve, temptress and sinner cast from the garden of Utah, wearing a hasty apron of cottonwood leaves heaped around and across her politely plump belly, from just below the navel to mid-thigh. Tiny rivulets of blood snaked down through the leaves. The other four wounds, the little ones, were postmortem, made after she’d already bled out. On the right side of her chest, incised with surgical precision, the first cut penetrated deep,
~ 17 ~
a backwards L. It depicted a carpenter’s square: the straightedge, true-maker, indispensable for right angles. The desired angularity could not, alas, be achieved on the soft roundness of this still-warm flesh. Nor could the second, the compass. On the left side, a chevron gaped open with edges that wanted to lose their definition, a tiny V on this day of defeats and victories. A third inch-long slit carefully cut into the muscle just above the knee that would never again bow. A final slit traversed her stomach just above the navel, a sign of nourishment for a body that would never again eat; of health for one who would only decay. They were all symbols only the initiated would understand. But below her navel mark, Kirsten harbored her own tiny secret, one that held the seed of her killer’s downfall, her own unwitting fleshly vengeance. In the sheeting light, her murderer stood above her like the angel guarding Eden, the knife-sword flashing this way and that in his gloved hand. He had brought along a plain white sheet he’d bought at a garage sale and kept stored in a plastic bag. But he changed his mind about putting it over her. She was beyond the veil now. His shoulders sagged beneath the once-white jumpsuit. The leaves embroidered on the green cloth apron he wore were speckled as a measles plant. The Exacto knife lay at his feet and he picked it up and threw it and the sheet into the stream. Then he laid the note carefully on the ground, its edge secured by a rock. The white cap still contained his close-cropped hair but it had lost its starched definition. It, too, sagged as he backed away from Kirsten, brushing over with a fallen pine branch the near-invisible footprints they both had made when they came to this, his sacred grove. His breathing was heavy as he recited. They’d said it was “the pure Adamic language” he’d learned that first time, at age nineteen, scared half to death by all the temple vows and disembodied voices behind the veils: “Pay lay ale. Pay lay ale. Pay lay ale.” He swallowed hard. “Oh Lord, hear the words of my mouth.”
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Chapter Two The man who discovered Kirsten Young, the one everyone thought was the first murder victim, found her quite by chance: He nearly tripped over the body after stumbling through the underbrush seeking a secluded place to relieve himself. Terrence Jensen, Dr. Jensen to his students but Terry to his family, jogged every day now, after his doctor told him that the stress of holding too much inside was going to kill him. Jensen had squelched a retort – how would you like the faith of 12.8 million followers on your shoulders, he’d wanted to ask – and thanked the doctor meekly for the free pedometer. Always one to take such a warning from an authority figure most literally, Jensen dutifully took up running to reduce his thickening waist and his stress level, and found that as his stamina increased so did his enjoyment. But reticent by nature, he would drive miles from his off-campus home to the new trails in the mountains northeast of Provo to run in solitude, this place where he could jog and talk to himself without anyone commenting. Later, he wondered if his secret sin of drinking a cola drink – forbidden on the Brigham Young University campus – had been what had made his bladder so urgent that he’d had to veer off the rain-slicked path. On other runs he’d occasionally encountered other hikers and runners, so he had to be careful. When he caught sight of what could have been a police car on the distant winding road he hid modestly even from that. But his mind tangled into the greatest dilemma of his life. With what elegance of speech and imagination, he wondered, can you extract fifteen words out of one Egyptian hieroglyphic, fifteen words that have nothing to do with the hieroglyphic itself. Mnemonics? He snorted. Even he couldn’t believe that. And how do you sell such a translation technique for scripture to an increasingly-literate group, with access to the Internet. Everyone was depending on him, the church’s foremost Egyptologist, to hold the line, to keep saying that these ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics could be finessed into saying what they did not say. He was still panting as he unzipped. His sinuses ached and the blood chanting in his ears was almost gregorian. His bladder was bursting. Relief was sweet.
~ 19 ~
Then he saw her. He didn’t dare come near – the woman was obviously dead. But the folded piece of paper under the rock—surely, he thought, he could look at that and put it back before anyone could get here. No harm would be done. He hesitated and dialed 911, only mildly surprised when the dispatcher recognized his name and took down the facts as he dispassionately related them: female, certainly dead, trail location; and yes, he’d wait. Jensen looked around for a stick but thought better of leaving fingerprints, so he took his water bottle out of his fanny pack and used it to push the rock off the piece of paper. On the outside was written in a small, neat hand the words, “THE SECOND PROOF.” Using his car keys, he coaxed the edges apart and unfolded it. It was written in a code that any student of Mormon history would have recognized at once, but few could read immediately. But Jensen could. He read it over twice, the color draining from his pinched face. Then he stepped closer and looked at the dead woman. Anyone who lived in Salt Lake City and watched the news or read a local paper knew Kirsten Young. Anyone of the millions of Mormons who wore temple garments under their clothes would know what the cuts on her meant. And anyone who could read the Deseret Alphabet, taught to schoolchildren in Utah during the 1860’s when Brigham Young’s word was law, would know the connection between Kirsten Young’s pitiful body and the note he held in his hand. One thing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints didn’t need right now was bad publicity, and Jensen knew that the media would alight soon after the police. Who to tell about the note? He first resolved to look for the raised ridges of the peculiar neckline of temple garments beneath the uniforms of policemen identifying which were brother Mormons. But he changed his mind. No. He wouldn’t tell anyone. He’d keep the note, at least for a while. He’d be protecting it. He’d be protecting everyone. He put the note into his fanny pack, squeezed into the little wallet full of gas receipts and gum wrappers, and walked back to the trail to meet them all.
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Bending Toward the Sun
by Tina Shelton May 2009 | 978-0-8024-5698-4 1985 (Gracey) Chapter 1 It was summer vacation, an 85-degree afternoon and me and Francine were so bored watching MTV videos, we decided to go outside and sit on the porch steps like all the other kids in the neighborhood. Some of the girls had taken to jumping Double Dutch. Some of them were being fast and sucking on lollypops while conversing with the basketball hoopers, but me and my sister Francine, we just sat there watching the people go by while wiping the sweat from our brow with the palm of our hands. So many days it felt like the afternoon was going to last forever as we sat there waiting for Mama to yell, ‘Dinner!’ so we could get on with the next section of the day. The time of day that caused the heat to mist cool and the hot smell of chorizos on Mexican carts and French fries in small brown bags to fade away. It was the time of day that called all the black folks to the couch to watch “us” on television. The Cosby show would soon be on. But on this particular day, the afternoon picked up its pace when Joanna came running down the stairs from her room. She was shaking and breathing hard like she’d just won the lottery and she couldn’t quite believe it. Fran and I looked at each other with grins that yelled excitement and ran up the porch steps to see what was going on. Even Grandma tore herself away from her favorite soap opera, General Hospital. “What’s gotten into you, girl?” Grandma said. She came from Mississippi and she still had her Southern accent even though I think she’d been up North long enough to drop it, but then again most the folks in Chicago still had a twinge of a Southern accent, and they liked to use it when they got all passionate about something, like Ricky Ricardo in I Love Lucy re-runs. She lived in the basement apartment, and came up to watch TV at our place, I guess
~ 23 ~
to change the scenery every once in a while. Bitter old lady she was, always fussin’ at Mama about the way she raised us. She says we don’t have enough woman-sense, “Them girls can’t cook to save they lives, they can’t clean, they don’t do nothin’!” One day she said to Mama, “I think that one there must think she’s a man,” talking about Francine. “Her chest is flat as an ironing board and look at the way she sit on the porch with her legs wide open.” I know it must have hurt Francine really bad because she just lowered her eyes and started biting her bottom lip. She always does that when she doesn’t want to cry. I told her you got to put on your invisible raincoat when you’re around Grandma. That way when she starts raining that crazy mess, it just rolls off your coat and you don’t feel a thing. But Fran won’t listen to me. She’s like a black turtleneck in 100 degree weather—just soakin’ it all in. It’s no wonder she’s still sane walkin’ around with all that pain in her skin. Now my oldest sister, Joanna, she was different. They say every family has a black sheep. That’s not really true. I’d say every family has a saint. That means every family has one member that gets special messages from God. They know when a baby’s about to be born and they know when somebody’s about to die. You got to watch out for those people too, because they’re like rare jewels in the dirt, they don’t know how special they are. Mess with them and God will get you. Joanna’s the saint in our family and everybody’s afraid of her. They think if they hurt her feelings she might run and tell God and He might strike them with leprosy like He did Miriam and what’s- his-name. Mama told me about Miriam one-day when she was sunning on the porch with a glass of sweet tea. She said Miriam came against Moses and was like ‘who died and made you big man in charge? I can do what you do.’ Yeah well then Mama said that’s when she got struck and didn’t get healed until Moses begged God on her behalf. Anyway we all took a lesson from Miriam, shut up and go with the program. And when Joanna came around with her signs and wonders we tried to stay real cool. I remember one time Joanna came runnin’ through the house and slid right into the sweet potato pie Mama had cooling on the counter. She was clumsy that way. The whole tin pan went splat right onto the floor—sweet potato gook was everywhere. Mama was so upset she went right over to Joanna and raised the back of her hand like she was gonna haul off and hit her. We all knew she was mostly upset because food on the floor meant the ants were on their way. They’d come out from the crevices and corners of the kitchen, between the floorboards
~ 24 ~
and behind the refrigerator. We found ants in our cereal, our flour, our cookies, everywhere and we’d all start screaming until Daddy had to come down with the ant spray. Then we had to throw all that food away. Anyhow, Joanna just stood there, looked like she wasn’t even breathing. She just stood there and Mama was glaring into her eyes until slowly her hand began to come down like a maple leaf from its branch, and somethin’ strange like fog covered her face, “Get a rag and clean this mess up,” she finally said. But on a day like today, Mama was all up in Joanna’s face trying to figure out what the matter was. “Joanna, what’s happened? Are you alright?” Mama asked, holding her by her shoulders. “Yes Mama, I’m fine. It’s just that...I saw Jesus. I just saw Jesus.” Everybody gasped, but Francine, you should have seen her. Her eyes got real big, seemed like she thought for a moment all her life-long problems would be solved. “What’d he look like?” Fran asked standing on her tiptoes. “I don’t know. I’ve never seen anybody that looked like him.” “Well, what’d he say then?” Fran asked, attitude now creeping onto her face. “I don’t remember.” Joanna said with a solemn look on her face. It looked to me like she was hiding something and she got so excited she forgot she was supposed to keep a secret. I knew not to push her, especially since she gave me that apologetic look that said ‘you understand, don’t you?’ I’d catch her later in private. “See Chartlotte.” Grandma said, walking away to finish her soap opera. “Told ya that child need to stop watchin’ all them TV preachers. First they take your money, then they make you hallucinate.” Mama walked away too. As soon as she found out everything was all right she went right back into the kitchen and finished cooking. As promised, evening did come that day. And Daddy came home just before we sat down to eat. It was always a joy to hear that old screen door stretch and slam as Daddy walked through. His very entrance made the air easier to breathe. Everybody was able to relax because we knew whatever insults flew our way Daddy was going to handle the mouth that slung
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them. His name was Charles, but everyone called him Moses cause he was like the judge in the neighborhood. Everyone came to him for advice about their problems. The police before the police, they called him. But Grandma said even in the South they called him Moses cause he always had enough sense to stay away from trouble even if he did do some things wrong. That started me to thinking, you must need a lot of “Moses” sense to know the boundaries between doing wrong that will get you into trouble and wrong that won’t get you into trouble. Daddy was very tall and slim like the trunk of a middle-aged tree at the edge of the sidewalk. And his face was very dark and fuzzy smooth. I loved to rub my cheek against his. It made me feel like we were one. Grandma told us never to marry a light-skinned man, because they act sediddy and always feel the need to go out and cheat on their wives, especially if their woman is dark-skinned. But she told us to be careful of the dark-skinned men too, cause they tend to act like badgers and sloths; mean and don’t want to do nothin’ cause they blame their failures on their skin color. “Dark ain’t never stopped the cotton picker,” Grandma used to say. I think she was talking about slavery, but I never wanted to ask. We figured if we all got milk chocolate toned men, we’d be alright. Grandma did admit though, that our Daddy was different than most dark skinned men. “He changed,” she used to say. “He used to be just like them knuckle heads out on the street corner; but I have to say that ain’t his number no more. He’s a good man.” Daddy always chuckled when he heard Grandma talk that way. Said she was as loony as a one-eyed seein’ dog. He had this way of making us into his branches when we were walking; Francine on one side and me on the other. He’d lift us up and we’d hang from his arms, firm and carved. Daddy had arms like Esau in the Bible. They were hairy. Joanna said God hated Esau when she told us that story. And I remember Fran and I started crying cause we thought that meant God hated our Daddy too. But Joanna promised us that one had nothing to do with the other. In fact, she said our Daddy was like Abraham because he got a whole bunch of blessings that would be passed down to us, like the chocolate candy bars Daddy always brought home on Friday nights. Joanna was Dad’s favorite, though. They’d always get together and have these deep conversations, the kind that make you roll your eyes and go to another room to be bored by yourself. At dinner Francine started the philosophical talk.
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“Hey Dad, guess what? Joanna saw Jesus today but she doesn’t remember what he looked like or what he said. Pass the rice Gracey.” I passed her the bowl with a look that let her know I was not pleased. “Is that right Jo?” Daddy asked, while taking a bite of chicken. His plate was stacked with macaroni and cheese, spaghetti, pork and beans, fried chicken and collard greens. The doctor told him to lay off the high cholesterol food, so he had taken to not eating corn bread anymore. “Yes sir,” Joanna said with her eyes on her food. She just had a plate of spaghetti. Mama and Grandma exchanged looks that I didn’t understand. “Well I’ll say. Most of us ain’t never goin’ see Jesus until the day we die. And here you are 15 years old and the good Lord done come down from heaven to talk to you. I tell you I’d give anything to just have a man-to-man conversation with the Lord. I need to know some things like, how long we goin’ be poor? Will I be able to send my girls to college? What does a Black man have to do to strike it rich? How in the world can I make my darlin’ wife happy?” He broke out laughing from his gut. It was so loud it made us all chuckle. “You make me happy every day, Moses. I touch my heart for you, you know that.” Mama kept her eyes down too. She’s been with my Dad 17 years, and still too shy to look him in the eye at the dinner table. “Look at me Charlotte. I know I make you happy, but I want to see you happy in a big house, in a nice neighborhood with a maid and a cook.” “Moses, I don’t need all that.” Mama said looking up to catch his stare. “Shoot, you don’t want it, I’ll take it.” Grandma said, “Enough of this nonsense. Y’all shut up and eat.” Her mouth was full, but she did at least cover it with a napkin. “That’ll be enough, Odella. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with talking about love. Nothing at all.”
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by Jon Guenther May 2009 | 978-0-8024-0409-1 Prologue Nigeria Dashing through the sewer system beneath the capital city of Abuja leaves a lot to be desired. I know, hardly a newsflash. Not only is it treacherous to negotiate, you also have to worry about dysentery and malaria. The half-dozen armed men who pursued us didn’t add much to the appeal. I stopped to catch my breath and assess my companion. Sweat beaded against his forehead and a few droplets lodged in his short, curled hair. His chest heaved as he leaned over, hands on knees. I knew him only as Mustafa, a codename actually; ARK gave codenames to everyone. The less we know about each other the better. ARK does a dangerous business. The thunderclaps of boots on concrete reached my ears. “Can you go on?” Mustafa nodded and replied, “Is hard to breathe.” “It’s the heat,” I said. The stench didn’t help either. “Let’s go.” When I thought about it, there wasn’t really any place to go -- at least not a safe one. This was an unfamiliar route, although it wasn’t my first mission here. There are a lot of persecuted Christians (PC’s) in Africa. They’re spread all over the continent, numbering in the tens of thousands, which makes my line of work tougher. Abuja had a high concentration, and being I had previous experience in the Congo I guess ARK figured me the perfect guy for the job. We raced toward a manhole beneath some nameless street in Abuja’s ghetto area. I had a contact there, one of my many throughout the world, who had arranged for some type of motorized transportation. A rare commodity in this neck of the woods. What I couldn’t figure was how someone had blown our cover and led us to our little marathon
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here. I risked a glance to judge the distance of our pursuers’ flashlights. Shouts and curses followed in their wake, echoed off the walls and left me with foreboding. That’s the prideful way of saying I was pretty scared. No matter how long you do this kind of work, the fear never completely goes away. I’d learned to release most of it to God but I still held on to a little bit now and again. In small portions, it can be a source of strength. We rounded a sharp turn and proceeded another fifty feet before reaching our rendezvous point. Mustafa had to slip and slide his way to a stop in order to avoid running into me. I looked at our escape route: a ladder mounted to the wall. Or what was left of it. Mustafa looked up and his expression said it all. The whites of his eyes were stark against the dark skin. I’d grown to know him over the past few weeks while we awaited our opportunity to leave and we’d become somewhat close. “Now what we do?” he asked. I shrugged. “Pray.” “Pray?” “Ball’s in His court now,” I said, taking his hand and jerking a thumb heavenward. We bowed our heads. I couldn’t really make out what Mustafa said for sake of my own earnestness, but I heard the same thing in his voice: conviction. I sometimes thought the guy had a lot more of it than I did, and he’d only been a Christian a short time. “Hallo down there!” a voice called from above. I knew that voice. I looked up and saw a face peer through the manhole, illuminated by the subterranean lights, recognizable even from that vantage point. Neela smiled and waved at us from her position. “Some rope?” I called. “Yes,” she said. Her face disappeared from view and a moment later her “rope” of bed sheets tied together sailed through the manhole. I tested it with my weight and then handed it off to Mustafa. I tied the end around his waist, secured it with a knot a firefighter taught me, and then yanked twice to signal Neela to pull. Mustafa left the ground like a field mouse carried off by an owl, save for the herky-jerky ascent as Neela pulled hand-over-hand. Strong little thing, that girl. The shouts of our
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pursuers drew nearer by the moment and I pressed my back to the wall and waited. I wished just a moment for the familiar weight of the .38 Detective Special I used to carry. That had been long ago, though, where violence seemed the best way to solve such problems. The lights in the sewer walls winked out and bathed the passage in darkness. Then Neela’s sheet rope hit me on the head. I tied it around my waist as the flickers of flashlights moved past. They seemed far away. I realized our pursuers were on the ledge in the main tunnel perpendicular to this one and with the sudden blackout they hadn’t noticed this adjoining passage. I watched them continue past while I ascended to the safety of friends as if I’d been lifted on the wings of angels. -2The desert has a way of building character. I think back to the many men of God who wandered in the great deserts in the Fertile Crescent. Abraham. Moses. John the Baptist. Jesus. When I consider who they were and where they began, and then how the wilderness steeled their minds and strengthened their bodies, it’s no wonder they became great leaders. They were the kind of men I aspired to be and this tidbit of wilderness on our big, blue marble had done plenty to get me started. We’d been traveling for more than a day. The “transportation” Neela arranged didn’t come by way of an engine, four wheels and air conditioning. Oh no, we got first class passage all the way: camels, donkeys and a guide named Sarda who spoke less English than the camels and donkeys. Fortunately, I’m fluent in French and I’d acquired an affinity for Lingala, standard trade language used throughout West Africa. An aside for future reference: I did learn here why it’s preferable to procure a horse or saddle mule over camels for these longer jaunts through the Nigerian desert. Despite the advantages of acclimation and speed in a camel, a long ride on one tends to wreak mayhem with the nether parts. Somewhere ahead of us, I hoped close, lay the border of Cameroon. This meant not only freedom but relative safety. As a former British colony first established in the 1600s, Cameroon had mostly enjoyed prosperity and peace, in addition to maintaining strong ties
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with the good ole US-of-A. English had remained the predominant language in the country and the capital city of Yaoundé, our destination, boasted all of the modern conveniences to include an airport and American embassy. “How much farther you think, Ezekiel?” Mustafa asked, using the codename ARK had chosen for me. I adjusted my position on the camel I rode next to him, trying to ignore the uncomfortable sensation of shorts riding up into places better left undisclosed. “Hard to tell. But I’m hoping we’ll reach Yaoundé by nightfall.” “And then what we do?” “Well, you’ll get on a plane bound for Italy, and I’ll be on my way to some other place.” Mustafa’s bushy eyebrows rose. “You not know where you’re going?” “I do,” I said with a smile. “I just can’t tell you.” “Ah-hah,” he said. He burst into booming laughter. “You must move in secret.” “Right.” “May I ask question?” “Cost you a quarter.” “Ha! Yes, I do not understand what has happened back in Abuja. How we escape from the soldiers?” By “soldiers” he really meant police -- or so they called themselves -- but unlike in most free countries the cops are more interested in arresting Christians than criminals. It’s like some kind of special interest group. There were dangers in every corner of the globe for men and women who believed in God. It seemed inevitable. If I’d learned anything over the past four years, the Jews weren’t the only ones persecuted for their beliefs. In fact, Christianity suffered more persecution in this post-modern age than any other religious sect: a hard statistic to swallow but no less true. I looked at him and expressed mild surprise. “How long have you been a Christian, Mustafa?” He shrugged. “Maybe four months.” I nodded and reached to the breast pocket of my khaki shirt where I kept a miniature, albeit incomplete, Bible. I’d made a bunch like them for my fellow Soul Runners to carry, translated into a couple dozen languages. It contained the books of Genesis, Psalms, Proverbs, and Isaiah
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from the Old Testament; from the New Testament the gospels of Mark and John, Acts, both epistles to the Corinthians and the Revelation of Jesus Christ. My colleagues had dubbed them “Short Swords,” aptly enough. This one happened to be in Swahili. I handed it to him and said, “Locate Psalm 91, verse 11, and read it aloud.” He did, in his native tongue of course, and I nodded and smiled as I translated it into English. “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” Mustafa smiled again. “I see no lights in the tunnels. Was that God that turned out lights?” While power failures weren’t uncommon in Abuja, I couldn’t resist a chuckle. “What do you think?” Mustafa said nothing else but I saw my reply got his wheels turning. A steady drone pierced the desert winds. It grew louder, and by the time I realized what it was the time to react had passed. I looked behind us and spotted the source. Through the shimmering, midday heat I made out a deuce-and-a-half truck bearing toward us. In the back were perhaps a dozen men or more armed with what appeared to be sub-machine guns and assault rifles. “Some angels would be good right about now,” I whispered.
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Rhapsody in Red
by Donn Taylor 978-0-8024-5116-3 Chapter 1 That Wednesday two weeks before Thanksgiving was a bad day to find a corpse on campus. It was already bad when Professor Mara Thorn came to ask my help. She did not know, but she found me battling the incessant music in my head and grieving for past Wednesdays when Faith was alive. That had become my Wednesday ritual: close the door of my office in the history department at five o’clock, return to my desk, and linger alone in memories of my wife while darkness brought in the chill of Midwestern evening. I would put off as long as I could my return to the home where Faith and I had raised our daughter, for that house with its silent piano now formed the center of the world’s vast emptiness. That afternoon, the orchestra in my head was augmenting my grief with Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings when someone knocked at my door. The office was dark, but through the door’s frosted glass I saw a shadowy form against the dim lights of the hallway. “Come in,” I called. The door opened and the dark form paused on the threshold. “Professor Barclay?” The voice was feminine, hesitant. “I’m Preston Barclay,” I said. “The light switch is beside the door to your right.” The shadow’s arm moved. Light flooded the office and revealed Professor Mara Thorn. I had never spoken with her, but I remembered her introduction last August at the year’s first faculty meeting. She was perhaps thirty-five years old, slender, with a pleasing face and shoulder-length blond hair. She wore no makeup, and her blue eyes held the faculty in a gaze that some described as earnest and others as defiant. I held with the latter view. It’s said that eyes are the windows of the soul, but hers were the embrasures of a fortress. Her expertise was comparative religions. And that raised the question why a nominally
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Christian institution like Overton University—the school we knew before The Crisis as Overton Grace College—would hire a Wiccan in its department of religious studies. Most faculty assumed she was part of the new administration’s diversity program. “Come in,” I said again. My internal musicians shifted suddenly from the solemn Adagio into a series of hideous discords. Harmonious or dissonant, though, that music is all I have left now of Faith. It’s not just a tune here and there, but constant, uncontrollable torrents of music inside my head. The clinical term is “musical hallucinations.” Psychiatrists and neurologists don’t know what causes them, but they say these hallucinations duplicate the ordinary function of listening to music—except that the hallucinated “sounds” don’t come from outside, but are generated internally through a weird malfunction of the brain. The experts have their theories, but I live with the reality. This internal music makes my life like living in a movie that some insane editor has mismatched with the music score from another. Professor Thorn began to close the door. “I’ve come to ask your help.” “Leave the door open,” I said. “Come have a chair.” I gestured toward a hardwood straight chair to the left of my desk. She removed her winter jacket and hung it on the rack next to my overcoat. She wore a long-sleeved violet blouse, and her blue jeans showed none of the currently fashionable fading or fraying. Still hesitant, she kept her eyes on me as she settled into the chair. To ease her mind, I circled the right side of my desk and took a chair opposite her. I hoped my coat and tie wouldn’t make her self-conscious about her jeans. The open door and the width of the room between us were minimum precautions in these days when a careless word can get a male faculty member accused of sexual harassment. Music may bounce around in my head, but I don’t have any loose screws. Professor Thorn let the silence linger, broken only by a few clicks from the computer under my desk as it ran one of those automatic programs I’ve never understood. I thought she might have changed her mind, but then she spoke in a rush. “Professor Barclay, I’ve come to you because everyone on campus respects you.” I adjusted my trifocals and tried not to look self-conscious. “A lot of people would disagree with that.” “They also say you’re not afraid to take an unpopular stand.”
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. . . but that was in another country; / And besides, the wench is dead. The quotation flitted across my mind, but I must have spoken aloud because she answered: “I’ve read Christopher Marlowe, too. Though that line may have been added later by Thomas Heywood.” Score one for her unexpected erudition. She moistened her lips and turned that blue-steel gaze on me. “Do you know Laila Sloan?” “I’ve talked with her a few times in groups over lunch.” I knew more than I was telling. Six years ago our administration added a nursing program to the school’s offerings. Too many of its students failed the required chemistry course, so the nursing faculty and administration tried to drop it from the curriculum. It made no sense to me to graduate nurses ignorant of chemistry, and I led a faculty movement that defeated the curriculum change. So the administration took the course away from the chemistry department and brought in Laila Sloan from a high school across the state, inserting her in the nursing department to teach it. Suddenly, all the nursing students passed chemistry. That made the administration happy. Except with me. That’s why I denied being courageous. We work on annual contracts here, with no provision for tenure. Teaching history is all the life I have left to me now, and I’d make a lousy used-car salesman. So ever since then I’ve been quiet as a church mouse with laryngitis. “I have a problem with Laila.” Professor Thorn looked down at the floor. “She has been friendly with me, more so than the rest of the faculty has.” Her eyes lifted and speared me again with that blue gaze. “But lately she’s made some suggestive comments.” “She’s an . . . outgoing person,” I said. “Maybe she doesn’t mean any harm.” Laila was a large woman of about forty, strong and robust. Rumor said she’d been cautioned about “inappropriate communications” with female students, but apparently no one had accused her of an overt advance. And her value to the nursing department ensured that the administration would overlook quite a lot of questionable behavior on her part. They apparently see no contradiction between their laxity in her case and their Draconian approach toward even the appearance of impropriety among less-favored faculty. Score one for institutional hypocrisy.
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I confess I didn’t want to get involved. For all I knew, this Wiccan professor might have invited the situation and then changed her mind. Professor Thorn’s lips tightened. “Laila still makes me uncomfortable.” “Then tell her positively to watch what she says around you,” I said. “The campus gossip mill says you’re into weight training and karate. You ought to be able to make it stick.” Her chin rose a fraction of an inch. “I’ve told her twice, and I’ve told her why.” Professor Thorn looked like she didn’t know whether to curse or cry. “In my teens I made a bad marriage to an older man. It took me three years to work up nerve enough to break out of it. By then I was sick of being treated in ways I didn’t like. I swore I’d never let it happen again.” She glared at me as if daring me to come across the room and touch her. I noticed for the first time that she held a cell phone in her hand. This seemed like a good time to study one sleeve of my coat. The cuff had frayed, showing a pinhead-sized patch of white thread. A few strokes with a Sharpie would hide it, and I wouldn’t have to buy a new suit. “This afternoon,” Professor Thorn continued, “Laila asked me to drive her to the post office to mail a package. I did, and we went through the same problem again. I told her again, and she threatened to complain about me to the administration. I’m new on faculty, and I can’t afford complaints. I need this job.” “What does this have to do with me?” I asked. I made a mistake then. I have a habit of walking back and forth while I’m thinking. A professor’s folly, Faith used to call it. When I stood, Professor Thorn tensed and flicked the cell phone open. Her fingers lingered over its buttons while her gaze searched mine. What was she going to do? Dial 911? I sat back down and made a show of adjusting my necktie. “I’m sorry if I startled you. Pacing is a bad habit.” “It’s . . . it’s all right.” She flushed slightly and closed the phone. “Will you go with me to talk to her? I can’t go to the administration, and the women faculty members haven’t exactly made me welcome.” I didn’t want to go because it would mean a nasty scene with Laila Sloan. For obvious reasons, I’d always been persona non grata to her. Still, Professor Thorn’s position as a new faculty member was precarious, and she did need a disinterested witness. I admit my conscience was bugging me because I had doubted her. She didn’t act like the kind of person who
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would invite an advance. Indeed, she seemed the pathological opposite. “All right,” I said. “Will we find her at home or on campus?” “At her office.” Professor Thorn’s tension eased a bit. “I dropped her there about an hour ago. She said she had papers to grade.” We stood, and I waited while she retrieved her coat. I didn’t help her into it because that might involve touching. When she had it on and moved out into the hall, I sauntered over and collected my overcoat and hat. Outside, trees and hedges bent before a gusty November wind off the plains. The beige globes on campus light posts sent nervous shadows skittering along the concrete walkways. Without warning, my mental music shifted from a Chopin nocturne into the frenetic finale of Beethoven’s Appassionata. We crossed the campus circle to what used to be called the chemistry building until the new administration renamed it the Center for the Natural Sciences. (Everything now is either a Center or a Service.) Without speaking, we climbed to the second floor, where the scent of floor wax surrendered to pungent odors from a chemistry lab down the hall. Professor Thorn stopped at the closed door of the only lighted office. We could see nothing through its frosted glass window. No one answered our knock. We knocked again and received no answer. Professor Thorn called, “Laila?” Still no answer. I called, “Professor Sloan?” She was an instructor, not a professor, but in the present situation I would not quibble over niceties of protocol. Again no answer. I twisted the knob and eased the door open a crack. “Professor Sloan?” Only silence. Even the music in my head shut down. I opened the door and stepped inside, with Professor Thorn close behind. I looked to my left and saw nothing. Then Professor Thorn gasped. Her gloved hands fastened on my arm like those of a giant blacksmith trying to crush an anvil. She buried her head on my shoulder. Quite a performance for a woman who didn’t want to be touched. Then I saw her reason.
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Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon
by Debbie Fuller Thomas 978-0-8024-8733-9 Chapter One Marty Andie sat across the courtroom wedged between her grandparents, blonde head tucked, jaw clenched in anger, eyes darting in dread. Avoiding my side of the room. She took my breath away, she was so, so beautiful. Quicksilver. A perfect amalgam of Deja and Winnie, my other daughters. There was no question that she belonged to us. Dad exchanged greetings with the sheriff as he passed our row. We weren’t strangers here. The first time we came to this courtroom, we petitioned to have Ginger’s hospital birth records opened. When you lose a child to a genetic disease that doesn’t haunt your family, you want to know why. Four babies were born on the night of October 31, 1993, at Interfaith Hospital. One was African American, one was Hispanic, and two were female Caucasians. DNA samples confirmed that the precious child I’d buried two years before wasn’t mine, and that Andrea Hayley Lockhart was actually my biological child. We weren’t trying to replace the child we’d lost, though the thought clawed my protective grief on sleepless nights. No one could ever replace Ginger. I didn’t just lose her. The minute the birth records were opened, I lost possession of her. Sole ownership. At least I never had to hand her over to strangers. Dad sat beside me doodling a perfect likeness of Andie on the manila folder stuffed with evidence that argued our right to disrupt her life. I squeezed his arm gently, so my nails didn’t pinch. Though we wanted Andie desperately, we only wanted the best for her and would accept whatever judgment the court handed down. She wasn’t a bone to be fought over by Dobermans. Was it right to take Andie away from her grandparents? I wasn’t fully convinced until
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I saw her picture in the tabloids. Her face side-by-side with Ginger’s, had framed my gut instinct that something was always slightly out of focus. I sneaked furtive glances across the courtroom. Andie chewed her nails with one knee pumping and bouncing. The grandmother touched Andie’s knee and her legs stilled. When Andie looked up, the grandmother’s eyes lingered on her face. They had no need for words. People filed in, blocking my view. The odor of stale tobacco and body odor intensified along with the crowd and the heat, aggravating my nerves, adding to the tension in my neck from straining to catch glimpses of Andie. What a shame, the way the grandmother dressed her. Andie’s skirt and blouse could have been sewn from my mother’s vintage yardage tucked away with her treadle sewing machine. There was a talcum powder-look about her, as though in the two years since she’d lost her parents, Andie had soared over adolescence, skimmed the surface waters of adulthood, and come to rest with her grandparents in their rocking chairs on the far shore. It couldn’t be healthy in a girl of thirteen. I glimpsed the familiar, unwelcome Mia Cross seated directly behind Andie. Mia was a local reporter who’d covered Ginger’s struggle with Niemann-Pick for the paper the year before, and hounded us for interviews when she learned about the baby switch. She’d obviously chosen her next victim. The judge entered from a side door and took his seat. Voices fell to a whisper. The bailiff called case after case, moving us closer to our own. A woman sought a restraining order against her boyfriend. A father requested shared custody with his child’s mother. A single mom wanted to garnish her ex-husband’s wages for child support. A uniformed sheriff waited at the door as a reminder to keep things civilized. A man at the end of our row squeezed past, and when I untangled my legs to let him through, my skirt twisted against the velveteen seat cushions. I wore the navy suit I’d bought for Ginger’s funeral. The polyester blend was more suited to that rainy spring morning than this July afternoon that groped for the century mark. I touched a tissue to my forehead and chin, wishing the humming electric fan faced us instead of the judge. The bailiff called our case. Dad gave me a nod of encouragement and I got to my feet,
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managing to keep my balance in three-inch heels while clutching the folder to my chest and straightening my skirt one-handed. We sat at the attorney’s table before the judge’s bench. I took the farthest chair, putting our attorney, Martin Walker, between me and Andie’s grandfather. Mr. Walker smoothed his tie into his jacket front and leaned toward me smelling like the fragrance counter at Nordstrom. “We’re in good shape,” he whispered, his breath minty-fresh. “The grandfather is diabetic and his kidneys are failing. Word is he’s looking at dialysis before the year is out.” He tugged at his jacket sleeves to make them even. “I don’t think the uncle will be a problem, either. He’s got DUIs in California and Oregon. We’ll use it if we have to.” He winked, like it was a good thing. What would Andie think of us vilifying her family? I felt an overwhelming urge to bake. Oatmeal cookies. Coconut Dandies. Molasses Joes with crystallized ginger. The attorney tapped his notes into a perfect rectangle and cleared his throat. A sweating white carafe tempted me with paper cups within my reach, but I knew I’d never keep my hands from shaking. We were sworn in by the bailiff while Judge Goodman spread out the paperwork before him. As he studied the file, the judge’s jowls sagged, creasing his face like a bulldog’s. He glanced up in Andie’s direction and then over to us. “This is quite a difficult case. Unusual.” He flipped through the papers, studying one in particular and rubbing his chin. He looked over the top of his glasses, throwing dark shadows into his eye sockets and brows. He addressed the grandparents. “Mr. James, you and your wife received guardianship of Andrea as maternal grandparents when your daughter and son-in-law perished in a hotel fire approximately two years ago, is that correct?” “Yes, Your Honor.” “And did the paternal grandparents express any interest in shared custody at that time?” “No, sir, they didn’t. It was all just too painful, I guess, and their health was bad. They send Andie cards now and then. Birthdays and such.”
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“I see,” the judge said, referring again to his file, “At the time, you resided on Dancing Dog Way. You now live at Whispering Pines Estates. Is that a housing development?” “Well, no, sir.” The judge looked up, the unanswered question still between them. “It’s a mobile home park, Your Honor.” “Would that be a senior’s park, by any chance?” The grandfather tried to clear his phlegmy throat, but it only pitched his voice an octave. “Uh, you see, Your Honor…” The judge’s head dipped down again to pin the grandfather. “Yessir,” he admitted. “Fifty-five and older.” Judge Goodman steepled his fingers. “Has Andrea been residing there with the knowledge and consent of park management?” I stole a glance at the grandfather. His knobby hands picked at the papers before him. “No, sir. They didn’t know about her living with us. Leastways, not until it come out in the paper. We just didn’t know what else to do, is all.” “How long has she lived at the mobile home park with you and Mrs. James?” “About a year six months, I reckon.” The judge’s eyebrows lifted, briefly easing the shadows on his face. “That’s a long time to hide a young girl in a senior’s park.” “She’s no trouble, Your Honor, and our —” The judge held up his hand. “Please don’t elaborate, Mr. James. We don’t want to create hardship for any neighbors who may or may not have been aware of your arrangement.” “No, sir. We sure don’t.” “And now that park management has been alerted to her presence, will they allow Andrea to continue living there?” “No, sir, they won’t.” He tried again unsuccessfully to clear his throat. I heard others in the courtroom do the same. “We’re gonna sell and buy a house so Andie can stay with us. The lady realtor said she already has some folks interested.” My attorney inclined his head to me and whispered, “It’ll never happen. It will be a
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contingency sale and they’ll never have enough for the down in that market.” Real estate was booming in the foothills, with retirees from the Bay Area and Sacramento scooping up land for mini-mansions. They were headed for deep water, and Andie was a passenger. “How much longer will they allow Andrea to reside at the park?” the judge asked. “They give us ‘til the end of the month. That’s all.” He sounded fragile. Heartbroken. I sat immobile, sensing disapproving eyes on my back. “Thank you, Mr. James.” Judge Goodman sifted through the paperwork again and turned his attention to me. A bead of sweat trickled down to my collarbone. “Mrs. Winslow, you are petitioning for custody of Andrea, is that correct?” “Yes, Your Honor.” “You are her biological mother?” My attorney spoke up. “She is, Your Honor. My client has submitted a copy of the birth records from the hospital. The DNA results are attached.” The judge flipped through his file and stopped. He tapped his pen as he read. “Andrea was switched at birth with Ginger Celeste Winslow, the biological granddaughter of Mr. and Mrs. James. The child has since passed away due to terminal illness.” He glanced at me apologetically. “This was how long ago?” He’d touched a nerve, referring to Ginger as their granddaughter, and I fought the urge to correct him. The attorney inclined his head to me, silently prodding. “Two years and four months,” I managed to say, “next Tuesday.”
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My Hands Came Away Red
by Lisa McKay 978-0-8024-8982-1 Chapter 7 We found the perfect log, and we didn’t have to walk an hour to do it either, which was good because it was taking the guys forever to carry it back. It was a bit hard on Brendan, as he was the tallest by at least six inches, and Mani and Mark were a good bit shorter than Kyle. “I don’t know how the Romans’ prisoners ever carried their own crosses all by themselves,” Kyle panted, using both hands to balance the log on his shoulder. Brendan grunted. “This is not even hardwood, not teak,” Mani said. “That would be very heavy.” “Correction,” Kyle said. “That would be impossible. This is very heavy.” “We would offer to help,” Drew said sweetly, “but it’s clearly men’s work.” “Haven’t you heard?” Kyle said. “You’ve been liberated. You can drink, smoke, vote, and join the army now. Isn’t that what you wanted?” “I couldn’t possibly.” Drew sounded shocked. “A real lady wouldn’t even consider such things.” Mani glanced back at her. It often took him a while to figure out when we were joking. “Well . . .” Kyle said suggestively. Kyle has the ability to take a single word and turn it into a whole sentence. I rolled my eyes and lifted my camera to take a photo as he grinned at me. “We’re almost home anyway,” Mark pointed out. As he said that, Mani stopped and cocked his head. Mark was right, we were close. But something wasn’t right. It took me a couple of seconds to work out that the angry hum I could hear rising and falling through the trees was the sound of voices. By the time I’d figured it out the guys had ditched the log and we were all moving, hurrying without knowing why.
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In front of me, Drew tripped and went sprawling. Mani, usually the first to help, sidestepped her and raced after Kyle, who was leading the way. I pulled her to her feet. “Are you all right?” I asked, moving again before I even had an answer. She nodded, not bothering to brush herself off. Ahead, at the very edge of the jungle, I saw Mani grab the back of Kyle’s shirt with both hands, forcing him to stop, half turning to face the rest of us at the same time. We were almost on them. Drew and I, Brendan, Mark, and Elissa, strung out in a line. I think it was Mani’s face that frightened me more than anything else. His expression was impassive, but his eyes were frantic. We all came to a stop. Five small steps from sunlight. Still shielded by the giant ferns and thick brush that choked the very edge of the jungle like a living noose. I could see the back of one of our tents through the green, and the roof of the church to the right. “Let’s go,” Kyle said anxiously. “Something’s wrong!” Something sure sounded wrong. We could hear a voice, yelling. Though we couldn’t understand what it was saying, the anger came through loud and clear. “No,” Mani said forcefully, still hanging onto Kyle’s shirt. He cocked his head and listened, eyes on the rest of us. “Wait here.” “I’m coming with you,” Kyle said. I nodded. Mani didn’t waste time arguing with us. “Stay behind me,” he said. Bent almost double, he turned left and wove through the bushes, tracing the edge of the tree line. I fell in behind Kyle, concentrating on not getting smacked in the face by branches, and almost ran into him when he stopped at the base of a tall palm. The voice was directly to our right, but I couldn’t see a thing through the foliage, even though I knew there was only about ten feet of bush between us and open ground. As the others arrived behind me in a muffled rush, Mani signaled us to stay put, dropped to his knees, and scooted into the leaves. Kyle followed him without a backwards glance. Brendan looked at me with a question in his eyes.
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I jerked my head towards the noise. There was more than one person yelling now. “I’ve got to see what’s going on,” I whispered. I don’t think Brendan actually heard what I said, but he got my meaning, nodded, and raised his eyebrows in the direction of the other three. Drew was hugging herself tightly, breathing in shallow gasps. Mark’s face was very white against his dark hair. Elissa seemed the calmest. I caught her eye and pointed towards the base of the trunk. She nodded and grabbed Mark’s arm as he took a step towards me. I dropped to my knees and started to crawl. I felt Brendan follow and prayed that the others would stay put. We were on Mani and Kyle almost immediately. They were lying flat, side by side, sheltered by broad banana fronds that were hanging low from a stunted trunk. I eased myself down beside Mani, forgetting about spiders and snakes and all the creepy crawlies, and looked out across the grass. Daniel and Mariati were standing in front of their house, Daniel half a step in front of his wife. Facing them stood a group of men. From where we were lying I couldn’t tell how many, but it was a lot. At first I thought that they were men from our village. Most of them were wearing the usual ragged jean cut-offs and T-shirts. Some were wearing white pants and loose belted tops with white head coverings or strips of cloth tied around their foreheads. All of them had long machetes hanging from the belts around their waists. One of them, their leader I guess, was standing between the crowd and Mani’s parents, hands waving in the air. It was his voice we’d been hearing. Every time he stopped yelling, the group of men behind him let out a roar of support. I realized they weren’t men from the village at the same instant I heard Mani whisper, “Tahima. They’re from Tahima.” Tahima. Batuasa’s Muslim pela partner village. “Allah-u Akbar, Allah-u Akbar,” the men chanted several times, getting louder with each repetition. “What’s going on?” Kyle murmured on the other side of Mani, his voice so low that I could hardly hear him.
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“He says that their Muslim brothers in Ambon sent them news this morning that there is an army of Christ forming to attack Muslim villages,” Mani whispered. He paused and listened again, breathing heavily.“He says that the Christians are burning all the mosques. That they are seeking out the houses of Muslims to destroy them, and that many Muslim brothers and sisters have been killed. They are martyrs and are now in paradise.” I saw Daniel trying to speak. His words were drowned out by the crowd. “Allah-u akbar! Allah-u akbar!” they chanted menacingly. The back of my neck prickled. Mani translated without being asked. “God is great, God is great.” The leader started to scream again, his voice shrill, cracking on one word. Mani’s voice was high and tight as he repeated in English. “There’s a letter on church stationery that proves that the Christian villages will rise up against the peace-loving Muslim villages. He says that in Mahosi the infidel Christians have burned the house of God and the holy book, the Koran. They have raped and defiled our Muslim sisters. They have dashed our babies against the rocks.” The tirade went on and on, the screaming pounding at me like a fist. Mani’s whispered translation washed over me as I stared at the scene in front of us, paralyzed, scrambling to put the pieces together in my mind. It didn’t make any sense. The leader shook his fist in the air and the crowd raised a new cry in a furious howl. “Allah-u akbar! Jihad! Jihad!” In front of the screaming crowd Mariati reached towards Daniel’s arm, and Mani froze, staring at his parents. I had never seen absolute terror on anyone’s face before that moment. “Jihad! Jihad!” Kyle started to wriggle forward. “We have to do something!” he hissed. In that instant Mani’s eyes cleared and he grabbed Kyle by the shoulder, slamming him down. “No!” he whispered violently. “No! They are calling for a jihad, a holy war. There is nothing you can do!” “But we could talk to them.” Kyle sounded desperate. “You think your white skin will save you? You will make it worse. If talk can help, Father will know what to say. I promised him I would protect you and Tina. I promised.” He choked
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on the force of the words, and Kyle sagged. “Where is Tina?” Brendan asked, next to me. I couldn’t see her anywhere. Daniel was still standing in front of their house, Mariati right behind him. The church was to his right, between them and the ocean. Even from here I could see Mariati trembling. “In the house,” Mani said hoarsely. “She would be in the house.” The crowd was in front of the house, to our left. From here, we’d be seen as soon as we stepped out of the bushes. I saw the answer the same time Brendan did. He grabbed my arm so hard I almost cried out. “Back from there, behind the tents. I can use the house as cover and get to the back window,” he said. He was right. If we crawled back around the edge and came out low behind our tents, the house would be between us and them. Mani had heard the last comment and started to move. “Stay here,” he ordered. “No, wait,” Brendan grabbed him. “I’ll get her. You stay here.” He glanced back towards Drew, Elissa, and Mark. “You need to stay.” I saw the look in Brendan’s eyes as they met Mani’s, and I wanted to scream at him for thinking what I knew he had left off. You need to stay . . . because if things go bad, if things go bad . . . I couldn’t even finish the thought. “You need to stay,” Brendan said again. “I’ll go with you,” I said to Brendan. “No!” they both snapped at the same time. “Go,” Mani said to Brendan, nodding his head. “Go now.” Brendan wriggled backwards and disappeared. Kyle, transfixed by what was unfolding out front, didn’t even glance up. “Allah-u akbar! Allah-u akbar!” The chanting seemed to be getting louder. It made me want to press my hands to my ears and curl up in a ball with my eyes closed. Some of the men from our village were starting to gather behind the crowd from the other village, but not enough. Many of them were probably out on the fishing boats, or hunting. “We have to do something!” Kyle said again, his voice shaking.
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by Sara Mills 978-0-8024-6926-7 Chapter 1 August 8, 1947 Two-thirty in the morning and it was sweltering. The whole city was wrapped in a grayish blanket of twilight and haze. The windows in my apartment were open, but there was no breeze, not even a stir of air to ease the heat. I should’ve been sleeping, working out in dreams what troubled my soul. Instead I sat curled into the windowsill of my apartment, staring down at the streetlight, waiting for daybreak. And the stillness made me crazy. Twelve blocks away, lying on the desk in my second-story office, was a file that could change my life, and it terrified me. Maybe I should have burned it when it arrived in the mail. Maybe if I’d just touched match to paper, I could have slept tonight. Maybe, but I doubt it. Instead, I was wide awake and had to know. Breaking the stillness, I rose. It took only a moment to dress and get ready for the day. No need to fix my long hair; like so many other nights, my head never touched the pillow. I buttoned the last buttons on the wasp-waisted suit jacket, smoothed down the matching grey skirt, and grabbed my black felt hat from the hall table. I positioned it at an angle and jammed the hat pin through to anchor it, then took a quick peek in the mirror. Dark circles under my eyes notwithstanding, I looked all right. No different than most of the women in this city, but in my line of work I knew exactly how deceptive appearances could be. I walked out the door, closing it with a soft click. My name is Allie Fortune and I was the only female P.I. in New York City. Most of the
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other private detectives in the city referred to me as the P.I. Princess. It was half insult, half endearment, but it made no difference. I didn’t care what they called me. The streets at three a.m. were night-quiet. Which wasn’t really quiet at all, just filled with sounds that went unnoticed during the day. The high-pitched tap of heels on pavement, the bark of a dog a long way off, and the hum of street lights. Dank cement and humidity are the scents of summer in New York. The sounds and smells flittered through my subconscious throughout the ten-minute walk. I stared straight ahead the whole time, avoiding eye contact with the other lost souls out wandering the darkness. The clatter of my shoes as I climbed the stairs to the office sounded like echoing thunder. I unlocked my office door. Black stenciled letters on opaque glass announced it as the office of A. Fortune, Private Investigator. I pulled my keys out of the lock, tucked them back into my purse, flicked on the lights, and avoided looking toward the desk. I needed just one more minute to get myself ready for the folder lying there. I removed my hat and placed it on the rack in the corner, crossed the room to run the tips of my fingers along the wooden filing cabinet, and made a pretense of straightening some of the papers on my desk. After another minute I was ready to face it. I went to the file, took a deep breath, and forced myself to flip open the cover. My breath stalled as I looked at the 8-by-10 photo. It was a clear shot, with no out-of-focus blurriness to make the identification difficult. I couldn’t bring myself to touch it, so I leaned closer. The man’s height and build looked right. He was in uniform, laid out on the dirt. There were no gunshot wounds that I could see. He didn’t look peaceful or angry. He just looked dead. Tears stung my eyes. He also didn’t look like David. My shoulders slumped and I let out a ragged breath. Shutting the folder I pushed it away so I didn’t have to look anymore. Letting myself slump into my chair I wondered if I had enough strength to keep up the search, but realized almost immediately that the alternative, giving up, was not an option. Straightening my spine I shored up my resolve once more. I would keep looking at photos and following leads until I found out what happened to him. Reaching across the desk I swept the file into the trash can. The label on it caught my eye and made me wince. A soldier being reduced to simply John Doe #5435 was cold, even for the bureaucrats at the War Office. Shoving a stack of files out of the way, I laid my head down on my desk, and the emotions
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I’d been holding in swamped me. I felt joy at knowing that it wasn’t him, but also the desperate wish that something, anything would stomp out that last flicker of hope I still carried like a talisman. For that instant though, the relief won out and I let myself sink into its coolness for a moment. The rise and fall of emotion left me drained. I glanced over at the long hard leather couch, my second bed, and wondered if there was any chance I could get a few hours of sleep before dawn. After a moment I decided it was at least worth a try. A sudden loud bang on my office door sent my thoughts flying and set my heart thumping. The knock came again, hard enough to make the door rattle and my breath jerk. I tried to make out a silhouette through the frosted glass but couldn’t see clearly. “Who is it? What do you want?” I couldn’t remember if I’d locked the door when I came in, so I rummaged through my desk drawer for something to use to defend myself. “I need your help. Please, I need someone to help me,” a woman’s voice called through the door. I set down the five-pound glass ashtray I’d been ready to fling, but I was still cautious. As a general rule when someone knocks on a door at three in the morning, it means trouble. They are either causing it or being chased by it. I wasn’t keen on either. I crossed the room and spoke through the door. “We’re not open for business. You can come in and tell me all about it tomorrow. Business hours are from eight to five.” “I can’t wait until tomorrow. I need help tonight. Now. Please, let me in.” I heard the fear in her voice. The silhouette changed as she shifted from foot to foot and hugged her arms to her chest. She seemed genuinely frightened, glancing over her shoulder as though searching for danger. I reached for the knob, turned the lock, and peeked through the crack before opening it all the way to let her in. She was a small woman. Dark hair, pretty enough face, but nothing special. She was neither a high-class lady nor a chippy. Her dress was at least three years out of style but neatly pressed. Still it had that Rosie the Riveter, cheap, industrial look to it. Her shoes looked tattered around the edges, as though she strode a lot of pavement in them. Her hair was caught up in a roll at the base of her neck, but wisps escaped to curl around the sides of her face. The dark circles under her eyes probably matched mine. Here was a woman who’d had little sleep and less money. Not
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the type of person who’d likely be able to afford my services. “Okay come in. But only for a minute.” I didn’t bother to hold back a long sigh. She entered my office, looking over her shoulder. I motioned for her to sit on the oxblood leather couch that ran the length of the room. She sat perched on the very edge, as though ready to jump up at a moment’s notice. She looked around, and it appeared she wasn’t overly impressed by what she saw. I tried to see it through her eyes. The office was small, with windows lining two walls, a battered wooden desk in the corner, and a bank of dark wood filing cabinets. The paint was peeling in places, but the room as a whole was fairly tidy. Papers were mostly put away, with the odd open file here and there. It wasn’t luxurious but it suited my needs. “Why don’t you start by telling me who’s after you?” “Why would you think someone’s after me?” Oh for pity’s sake. “Ma’am, you’re pounding on my office door at three in the morning, terrified and looking over your shoulder. Either someone’s after you or you’re loony. Now, I don’t care if you don’t want to tell me about it, but then you’re going to have to find someone else’s office to hide in, because you’re sitting on my bed.” I looked pointedly at the couch and the blanket draped over its back. She chewed at the edge of her fingernail for a moment before yanking her hand back down and placing it in her lap. She shrugged. “Okay, maybe someone is looking for me. Someone that I’d prefer didn’t find me, but they’re not chasing me per se.” I wasn’t sure if it was lack of sleep or her evasive answers that made me dislike her, but there was something about this woman that I didn’t trust. “Don’t you have somewhere else you could hide from this person who’s looking for you but not chasing you? Because I think it would be better if you left now.” I rose, ready to escort her to the door. The woman pulled herself up and ice edged into her voice. “I don’t know who you think you are, ma’am, but I’m sure your boss wouldn’t like you speaking this way to a potential client.” She glared at me. “In fact, I think I’m going to have to sit right here until Mr. Fortune arrives. I’m sure he’d like to know that his secretary is not making a good impression.” She then turned her face away from me and settled into the couch.
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I counted to ten in my head, but it didn’t do much to dissipate the annoyance I was feeling. “I’m Allie Fortune and this is my office. I’m the P.I., not the secretary.” I reached out my hand to her, giving politeness one last shot. “Oh. Miss Fortune, I didn’t . . .” I winced. “Call me Allie, please.” Despite the rules of etiquette, I much preferred people use my given name. “Now, let’s try the truth this time. Tell me what’s wrong.” “Well, Miss Fortune . . . I mean Allie, I need a private investigator because someone is trying to kill me.”
Miss Match March 2009 | 978-0-8024-6927-4
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I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires
by Cathy Gohlke 978-0-8024-8774-2 Prologue Ma left us to go south and live with Grandfather Ashton a full year before the Confederacy fired on Fort Sumter. When President Lincoln called for 75,000 Union troops to squelch the rebellion, Pa telegraphed Ma that North Carolina wasn’t safe, that he was coming to get her, to bring her home to Maryland, to Laurelea. Ma shot back, “Ashland is my home. I’ll defend it with my last breath. I am proud of our men who will do the same on the battlefield. Do not come unless you come to enlist with them. I will not go with you.” I wanted Ma to be proud of me, too—more than anything. And I was itching to fight, like every boy I knew, but not for the Confederacy. I’d cast my lot with Pa and the Henrys, and with Mr. Heath, their employer, in running Laurelea as a station—a safe house, part of the Underground Railroad. I’d run escaped slaves north on the freedom train, beginning with Grandfather Ashton’s son, born of a slave woman—the boy he’d planned to sell. I’d buried my best friend, William Henry, who’d died protecting us all for the same cause. I could not fight for states that bought and sold human beings. But with Ma and all her kin in the south, how could I carry a gun to her door? Pa made me promise that whatever I decided, I’d stay at Laurelea to help Mr. Heath and the Henrys with the farm and the Underground Railroad, that I’d wait to enlist until I turned eighteen. “Then think long and hard,” he said, “before you agree to shoot one of your countrymen—or kin—between the eyes.” It was a promise I sometimes regretted, but kept true, until the spring of 1864, until the day Emily’s letter came.
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Late May, 1864 Chapter One Our worst spring storm broke on the edge of midnight, a river thrown from the sky. By dawn the Laurel Run had overflowed its banks and was busy stripping the lower fields clean. I knew it even as I lay in my bed, listening to the downpour. Maybe it was the wind and thunder, or maybe my mind so bent on worry for our new crop, but I never heard the parcel thrust inside the parlor door, never heard so much as a knock or footfall. When, at first light I found it, battered and beaten, bound by twine, I knew that the messenger had taken care to keep it dry. But the seal on Emily’s letter was broken, proof that somebody knew our business. It wasn’t that violation that made the heat creep up my neck as I tore open the letter. It was the first words Emily’d ever penned me: “Dearest Cousin Robert.” She’d written on Christmas Day—five long months before. Still, it was a miracle that it had come at all, the mail from the south being what it was. “Yesterday,” she wrote, “I was visited by Lt. Col. Stuart Copeland, of the 11th North Carolina, lately a prisoner, exchanged from Fort Delaware, Pea Patch Island. Lt. Col. Copeland informed me that Papa—Col. Albert Mitchell—there, I’ve written his precious name—was chest wounded, and captured at the battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, 3rd July, along with his remaining men from the 26th North Carolina. He said that Papa, like so many prisoners at Fort Delaware, suffers gravely from smallpox.” It was the first news she’d had of him in over a year, and she was desperate to know if he lived . . . “I beg you, by all the love of family we have ever known, to forget the estrangement of this maddening war and do all you can for Papa.” I raked my fingers through my hair. It was a hard request. I’d turn the world over for Emily, if given the chance, but Cousin Albert was another matter. I figured him to be the reason, or a good part of the reason Ma never came home. “Gladly would I go myself,” she wrote, “but the railroads are a shambles, and Uncle Marcus is not well. I do not know if he will see the spring.” I couldn’t imagine Ashland without Grandfather, or Ma without him—and why was all this left to Emily’s care? She was no older
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than me. I took up the letter again. “I would send Alex, but Papa sent him to school in England for the duration of the war, and we have heard nothing from him in two years. The blockades prevent all such communication.” I felt my jaw tighten, remembering Emily’s younger brother. Alex’s first priority was always Alex. I couldn’t imagine him risking life and limb to help anyone, his father included, if it meant he’d inherit Mitchell House, and possibly Ashland, sooner. That was his life’s goal, even before his voice began to squeak. “As you can imagine, this horrible war has taken its toll on us all, especially your dear mother. I promise that Cousin Caroline will want for nothing that I can provide in this life as long as I live and am able to care for her. If there is any way you or Cousin Charles can come to her aid, I urge you to do so. But I beg you to see about Papa first.” My heart raced to think of going to Emily, and to Ma, that they might need me, might want me. It was the first news I’d heard of Ma in months. I tried to conjure their faces, but they wouldn’t come. I remembered that Emily was a younger, darker version of Ma, that Ma’s eyes were blue, and Emily’s brown. But four long years had passed since Ma’d left, longer still since I’d seen Emily, and there was not so much as a tintype to remind me. I forced myself back to the letter. “With this letter I enclose a parcel of comforts for Papa. I have no hope that they would reach him if I sent them directly to the prison. We have heard such stories of the prison guards. . . ” I set the letter on the parlor table and counted the days since the battle of Gettysburg. After ten months, stuck in a Union prison—chest wounded, and with small pox—I couldn’t hope that Cousin Albert lived. But for Emily’s sake, and for all she’d done and bound herself to do for Ma, I vowed to heed her plea, to go and see, and do my best by him. As soon as I’d seen to Cousin Albert I’d head for North Carolina, no matter that Grandfather had disowned me and forbidden Pa or me to set foot on Ashland. Grandfather couldn’t keep me from Ma if she needed Pa or me. And Pa was gone south over a year now, drawing maps of back roads and terrain for the Union, though no one was to know. Pa’d gone as a civilian, not willing to carry a gun. He said he wanted to help secure the Union’s power to settle the slavery issue, but wouldn’t fire on his countrymen. It didn’t seem to me that the secesh were our countrymen anymore. But Pa figured it was the politicians
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that seceded from the Union, that the southern people weren’t our enemy. He’d long ago decided he’d not take the life of another man. It angered me that Pa would not protect himself, that he’d march into enemy territory without a gun. It was the only thing in life that stood between us. I didn’t know if was still alive. So it was up to me. I’d bring Ma home—Emily and Grandfather, too, if they’d come. But it must be done quickly. My eighteenth birthday was in two months, and I wouldn’t wait one more day to enlist. I wanted Ma and Emily out of the south before then. It would put to rest every worry I carried over fighting the Confederacy. I packed my bag before walking up to Mr. Heath’s to tell him and the Henrys I’d be going. I almost packed Pa’s heavy black Bible, the one from the mantle that we’d always used for the evening read, then set it back. I wanted it to be here, to be waiting when Pa and I returned. I’d kept that read all the months Pa’d been gone, every night. I could never make the words stand up and sing like he did. I didn’t know that I’d ever draw the faith or strength from the Word, same as him. But I knew that reading it was a path to life, and that you never reach a thing without setting your feet straight and walking toward it. Leaving it seemed a pledge that I’d make it home, that we’d all be together again.
William Henry is a Fine Name 978-0-8024-9973-8
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More Group Reading Guides and Discussion Questions available at the NEW MoodyPublishers.com
1. Was David Eller’s frustration with what he saw justified? Was there another way that David Eller could have or should have gotten involved with the injustices of Venezuela? Or should he have stayed out of the political issues entirely and just concentrated on Hope Village? 2. David Eller thought he was listening to God when he got involved in the coup. He also felt God had given him a scripture verse as confirmation. Did David actually hear God or did David miss the voice of God? Does God ever lead his followers into crisis or allow crisis for a purpose? 3. What is your answer to those who say that if God was a god of love, there would be no starving children in the world? 4. Is God more interested in the problems and circumstances we face or is he more interested in our response to the problems and circumstances we all face? 5. What issues regarding communication and honesty in marriage do you see in this book? 6. The book ends with Christie reunited with David. What should her response be from this point on? If you were in her shoes, how would you respond? Could you/should you trust David ever again? Should she put conditions on her forgiveness? 7. There were many factors playing in David’s mind, including his sense of wanting to please his father and do something significant like his older brother seemed to have done. How do our childhood experiences, our parents and our siblings influence our decisions and our responses to life?
1. At the beginning of the novel, how are Press and Mara different in their basic character and values? How are they alike? 2. What experiences have led Press and Mara into their extremes of reclusiveness? What actions against them by other people? How accurate is Press’s statement that “The most obvious argument against Christianity is the conduct of Christians”? 3. After Press and Mara form a partnership, each one becomes the leader at different points in the novel. Where is Press better equipped to lead, and where is Mara better equipped? What in their backgrounds explains this difference? 4. As Press and Mara seek to defend themselves against false accusations, they violate a number of laws. Does the power structure’s unfair attacks on them justify their violations of ethics and law? 5. What ideas about worship do Press and Pastor Tammons share? Have they captured the essential idea, or are they missing something? What activities are appropriate for a worship service? 6. Is there a lesson we should draw from Press’s experience with Dogface? 7. At one point in the novel, President Cantwell is described as a cork (something without a level of its own, whose level and values are determined by external forces such as ocean waves) It is said that he needs to become a breakwater (something that maintains its own level and holds its own position, breaking the force of waves that attack it). In real life, is it better to be a cork or a breakwater? Or something in between?
Rhapsody in Red
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8. The novel portrays several tensions of mission and values that exist in Christian colleges today, such as academic standards vs. commercialism (i.e., profitable enrollment), education vs. indoctrination, and Christian heritage vs. secular values and pop culture. What is the proper balance of these opposed tendencies?
1. How does Andie’s physical description of the Blue Moon Drive-in reflect the spiritual lives of Marty and Andie as the story begins? 2. Marty says the drive-in is ‘family friendly’? Do you find this ironic, and why or why not? What are the comparisons between the future of drive-in theaters and the traditional family unit? 3. Marty seems eager to ‘replace’ Ginger but Andie isn’t eager to ‘replace’ her parents with Marty. What is the difference? In what ways does Marty make Andie feel that she wants her to replace Ginger? 4. Why was it so important to Marty to open a bakery? What does it represent to her, and how does it compare to her father’s desire to be an artist? What do Coconut Dandies represent to Winnie, and how does Marty’s baking contribute to her need for constant grazing? 5. How would you rate Marty’s parenting skills with respect to Deja? Compare it to the relationship between her father and her brother. How do you think Deja will ultimately turn out, and what will she be doing after high school (assuming she graduates)? 6. Marty has a mini-breakdown and ends up many miles from home. Contrast the reasons she left with the reasons she went back. What was the outcome? Did anything change for Marty? 7. At one point, Andie says her ‘heart-shape is plugged.’ What specific instances help to loosen the debris inside of Andie in regard to both the family and to God? In what ways is Marty’s heart-shape plugged? 8. After several years, Marty is still mourning her broken marriage. At what point does she begin to feel the need for closure? 9. When Marty ‘dropped’ the cake at Julian’s feet at the farmer’s market, would you say it was more accident or more subconsciously intentional? Who or what did he represent to her at that moment? 10. In what ways does Andie gradually accept that she is really part of the family? On what points does she feel a kinship with Ginger? 11. When Marty finds Ginger’s hospital bracelet, she reflects that we are all switched at birth and that God wants to reclaim us. What do you think she means? What would have eventually happened to Andie if Marty hadn’t ‘claimed’ her?
Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon
1. To what extent do the characters of this book remind you of yourself or someone you know? 2. Did any part of the story make you uncomfortable or angry? If so, why? 3. What themes and/or questions stood out to you as you read this book? How did different characters in the story interact with these themes? 4. How do the various characters react to the massacre in Mani’s village and the events that followed? Did you learn anything about the experience of trauma through their stories? Which character did you identify with most?
My Hands Came Away Red
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5. How did Cori react after returning home? Why might she have reacted like that? Were you surprised by any of her reactions? How were they similar or different to experiences you or others have had after returning from spending time overseas? 6. How have the various characters changed by the end of the novel? What changes were “positive/negative”? Why? 7. Has reading this book prompted you to reconsider some of your views or investigate further some of the issues raised (e.g. faith-based or sectarian conflicts, post-traumatic stress)? 8. The title of this novel was taken from a line on page 95. Do you think “my hands came away red” is a good title for the book? Why or why not? What are some of the images and meanings the title evokes? 9. Throughout the novel, the characters frequently make up their own stories about a boy named Jip and his pet monkey, Kiki. What did Jip and Kiki come to mean to the characters in the story? What role(s) did they play as a literary device? 10. What can you do to better understand people who have a different faith or worldview? 1. Robert said, “I knew that reading it (the Bible) was a path to life, and that you never reach a thing without setting your feet straight and walking toward it.” Do you agree or disagree? Why? Can you give examples from your own life? 2. Why do you think Mr. Heath, anxious as he was to see the end of slavery, sent food, blankets, clothing and spirits to a Confederate prisoner (whom he had never met), and who had fought to preserve slavery and secede from the Union? Are there people you feel called to help whose actions or beliefs similarly oppose yours? Help in what way? 3. Chap. Goforth and Katie Frances had both been active in Underground Railroad activities before the war and therefore must have hoped for an end to slavery. Why do you think Katie Frances chose to nurse in a Confederate field hospital rather than in a Union hospital? Why did Rev. Goforth choose to minister to the men of the Confederacy? What do you think of their choices and what would you have done? 4. Rev. Goforth said that he’d heard troops from both the North and South claim that God was on their side. And yet he challenged Robert to serve where he was called by God rather than to assume that God had chosen sides in the war. What opportunities and challenges to serve do you see in time of war, both within and outside the military? 5. Why do you think attending the Christmas Eve Moravian candlelight love feast was so important to Wooster? Is there a service, time, or place to worship that draws you with such magnetism? Explain. 6. Old George and Rebecca were still in slavery Christmas Eve 1864, and yet they helped Robert hide and leave Salem at great personal risk. Why do you think they did so? 7. It was only when Robert heard his own shrill demands that he realized he was treating God as his mother treated slaves. He realized that he was demanding to be in control. There are times when we all, like Robert, fight to control our lives and sometimes the lives of those around us. What did Robert learn about control and surrender? What does that mean to you? Explain. 8. In her old age what gift did Nanny Sara give Robert and the rest of the “family?” What can we do for those who follow us in years? 9. How did Robert’s experience during the war change and mature him? What do you take away from this book?
I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires
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