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Here for your enjoyment if the first chapter of my new novel, “When Dreams Vanish”.

When Dreams Vanish

Chapter One: A Moment of Triumph

Andreas had played a particularly grueling game in the afternoon in their crosstown rivals’ stadium. The tackling during the game had been brutal, and thousands of the opposition’s fans had rained down abusive language on them throughout the game. Driving to his house after the game, he had grimaced each time he had taken a deep breath due to the sore spots on his ribcage produced by the elbows of defenders. He began to smile thinking of the winning goal he had scored in the first minute of extra time. With that goal his team had scratched out a three to two victory.  

The clock above the arc at the end of the entrance of his house showed him it was nearly five as he entered. A few minutes later he seated himself in the dining room and tried to forget the game. While he searched the newspaper’s pages to see what kinds of entertainments were offered this Saturday night, his housekeeper, Mrs. Williams, prepared him a light meal. He closed the newspaper and thanked her when she placed the plate of beef stir fry and a glass of tomato juice in front of him. I need to go and watch something elegant, something where no one gets mauled to take my mind off this afternoon’s game, he thought.

Once he had eaten, he dialed the box office at the arena and reserved one of the few remaining seats left at the figure skating event taking place in the arena downtown. In the newspaper he had read the competition was for the country’s championship and featured ladies’ singles that night. Convinced the performances of the skaters would keep him from replaying this day’s game in his mind he looked forward to a pleasant evening out of his house.

Andreas had purchased the house at the end of the previous season. At the beginning of this, his second season with the city’s Falcons Soccer Club, he had also purchased himself a pickup truck to better explore the backcountry. It was something he wanted to do more of during the off-season. He had also purchased a rundown commercial property at the edge of the city along the lake. The property came at a bargain he had thought was too good to pass up. He intended to build and apartment block with a small shopping center and a recreation center on the ten-acre site. A week earlier he had viewed the first draft of the plan the architects he had hired showed him. He had become excited about the project when he had viewed the plan. He had asked them to add a walk along the lakeshore and make two changes to the parking area.

After playing his first four professional seasons in his homeland, the local club had purchased the twenty-four-year-old player from the German club and signed him to a lucrative three-year contract. Andreas soon began to enjoy the city, his new country, and his new way of life. His teammates befriended him quickly. In the past two years the team had gained recognition as a contender for the cup and had become considerably younger. He had become a fan favorite quickly. His thirty-six goals in the past season’s thirty-eight games won him the league’s scoring title. When, at the beginning of this season, the team’s ownership offered him a new long-term contract with the option to remain with the club in a leading capacity after his playing days, Andreas decided not only to sign the contract but also to remain in the country beyond his playing days. He began to look for a house and fell in love with the property of his three-year-old rancher.

The previous owners, a middle-aged couple going through a divorce, had put the house up for a quick sale. A teammate, whose wife was the real estate broker for the couple, had alerted Andreas to the property. The original owners had spared no expense when they had the five-bedroom house and the two-bedroom bungalow built. They had also hired a semi-retired couple. The husband and wife served him as housekeeper and property manager. After Andreas had toured the property with the real estate agent, he had decided to purchase the home. While he had felt there were too many bedrooms in the house, he loved that two of them were bedroom suites with full size bathrooms. Thinking about the bedrooms he decided to convert the largest one into an exercise room. For half an hour he spoke with Mr. and Mrs. Williams after the tour and hired them to continue in the jobs they had come to love. While the house with its acre property, its quiet neighborhood, and the price were more than Andreas had hoped to find, he sometimes felt something was missing for it to be the kind of home he had experienced in his parents’ house as a child and youth.

Andreas could hear the applause before he entered the arena. An accident on the way to the arena had forced him to make a detour and caused him to enter at the end of the first performance. An usher guided him to his seat high up near one of the ends of the ice surface. He had hoped to get a seat closer to the performers but felt happy to have managed to get a seat two hours before this event. Seating himself he soon felt himself caught up in the excitement and the anticipation of the spectators. Ninety minutes into the program he heard the announcer introduce the last skater of the competition. Andreas’ interest piqued when he heard she was a hometown girl.

He turned his eyes to the entrance. Highlighted there in a flood of lights stood a young lady elegantly but conservatively clothed in light blue. Trying to recall her name, he looked at his program. “Olivia Klein,” he read. She had tied her blonde hair in a ponytail with a ribbon matching her outfit. “She is beautiful,” Andreas whispered and watched her glide to the center of the ice. She closed her eyes to focus herself. With the first note of the music she began her routine. All thought of the game he had played a few hours earlier vanished. Spellbound by the skater’s spins, jumps and loops Andreas dared not to blink. He watched her perform the layback spin and the Lutz with confidence and go into a combination of jumps in harmony with the melody. The spectators all seemed to hold their breath as she started to attempt a triple axel. They broke out in deafening applause when she landed it perfectly. Andreas felt as if he was watching a life performance of a fairytale seeing Olivia Klein perform the Biellmann Spin and finish her program in perfect sync with the music. A few minutes later he heard the announcer speak of Olivia’s scores which placed her first, and with it she became the new champion.

During the interview with a television reporter soon after she had won the country’s title, the reporter asked her to tell him what gave her the most satisfaction. Olivia did not have to think long before she replied. “I love life.” A bright smile lit up her face as she said it. “I  gain a great deal of satisfaction from spending time with family and friends, singing in the church choir, playing the piano, enjoying several sports, helping children learn to skate, researching for my classes at the college, and volunteering my spare time in the church and at community events.”

The reporter began to laugh and asked, “Spare time, do you have any spare time? It sounds to me you need more than twenty-four hours in each day to do half of what you told me you love to do. Is there no one in your life who has swept you off your feet? It seems to me there can be no time left in your life for such a relationship.”

“Yes, there is a man whom I’m dating. As juniors we skated together. We started to date more than a year ago. We are both busy people and try hard to reserve time for each other.”

Andreas stopped to listen to the interview at this point knowing part of it would be aired on the local television stations after the evening news the next day. He was impressed with what Olivia said and with the confident way she spoke. An hour later he walked from the arena toward his car. As he left, he hummed the melody that had accompanied the last skater’s performance. On the way out he met a teammate and his wife and chatted with them for a few minutes. Several of his team’s fans leaving the arena greeted him and asked for an autograph. While they spoke, he caught a glimpse of Olivia Klein smiling at several fans who were surrounding her, eager for her autograph. She looks incredibly lovely, he thought. He tried to concentrate on his conversation with his fans, but his eyes kept returning to the young woman standing amid several admirers.

Olivia remained at the arena until the last of her fans and friends had left. She would see her friends at the party her best friend, Doris, had planned for the evening. Olivia felt happy and fulfilled. Her thoughts turned to the many hours of practicing over the last two years and the strict diet and daily routines her coach had demanded her to follow. She had not always appreciated the restrictions and had balked at her insisting that she needed to give up skiing for a few years. Her coach, Maria Rimby, had even frowned on her playing on the college ladies’ soccer team. She walked to where Maria chatted with another coach. “I’m going home now, Maria,” she said. She embraced her and thanked her for coaching her. It was all worth it, Maria,” she said smiling at her. “You ‘re the best. Thank you for putting up with me.”

For a moment Olivia surveyed the three groups of people still left in the entrance hall of the arena. She had hoped Mark would have come to watch this competition. He knew how much I wanted to win this title and how hard I had needed to train to have a good chance to win it, she thought.  Mark and Olivia had been a team at one time. Three years earlier they had won the junior dance title. When Mark had an accident the following summer that cut his skating career short, she had decided not to look for a new partner, but skate as a single. The young, former skating partner had remained her friend and fifteen months earlier they had begun to date.

Olivia sighed thinking of Mark as she left the arena. She felt elated winning the title, but not finding Mark among her many fans dampened her happiness more than she wanted to admit. Instead of driving to her apartment she decided to stop at The Oasis, a dining room and deli at the harbor, one of her favorite places to eat. The party her friend had organized in her honor was not to start until nine, and at the moment she did not want to be alone in her apartment. Once she had been seated, she noticed a young man being served a generous slice of apple pie with a scoop of ice cream on top of it. When the waitress left his table, the young man looked her way. Their eyes met for a moment. He began to smile at her making a wave of warmth rising within her. He soon began to enjoy his dessert and she glanced at him again. It occurred to her that she had seen him at the arena less than an hour earlier. She felt certain she had seen him elsewhere also, and she tried hard to recall where that might have been.

The dessert he ate looked delicious to Olivia. She knew Maria would not approve of her eating this item, but she ordered the dessert thinking winning the title deserved a small reward. Before she finished her eating, she noticed in her peripheral vision the young man making ready to leave. She looked up as he was about to walk past her. His smile sent a shower of heat through her being. He nodded at her, smiled, and was gone from her view. It took a minute for her to collect herself and finish her dessert. But her thoughts remained on the young man who had greeted her with a smile and a nod.

Olivia arrived at the Grant’s mansion twenty minutes before nine. Doris greeted her, took her by the hand and led her into the room the family called banquet room. The family’s servants with Doris directing them had set up the room festively. A large table loaded with finger food and fine wines stood at one of the walls. Across from it three colored floodlights lit up a movie screen. “We’re going to watch several handsome, eligible bachelors at their best tonight. I had to pay a paparazzi friend to get these clips, but it’ll be worth it. He told me there are several interesting clips included. By the way, I invited seven of our friends and our soccer team to the party, but none of the coaches. Matter of fact there will be no guys, not even Mark. We’ll have a blast without them tonight.”

For the most part the party was enjoyable for the girls. Pleasant chatter, lots of laughs at jokes and stories about each other kept everyone engaged. The fine wines, and the delicious snacks made for pleasant hours. Most of the girls did not use illegal drugs. Doris’ father had instructed his daughter to make certain no drugs would be consumed in his house and on his property. She made this known at the start of the party in no uncertain terms and kept a careful watch on the few she knew occasionally did use them. To her relief she did not need to tell anyone to leave.

When Doris announced it was time for the show the girls clapped noisily. The clips of the bachelors quickly became a hit with them all, especially the single girls. They whistled and shouted their approval. Clips of Mark and the Falcons’ German soccer player were among the sixteen men featured. Olivia sat up straight when she saw the first clip of Andreas. That is the man I saw at the Oasis, she thought. She recalled seeing Andreas mopped by fans when he had left the arena. To loud catcalls some clips showed well known single guys with little to cover them. At the end of this display the girls voted for who they thought won the loudest applause. It turned out to be a tie between Andreas Prinz and Ted Callas who had been in the news recently for running for one hundred sixty-eight yards and scoring two touchdowns for the city’s football team. To break the tie Doris insisted that she, as the host, be given a second vote. Doing a short suggestive dance, she declared Andreas the winner.   

Not until the middle of the following week did Mark come to see Olivia. He apologized briefly for missing her winning performance and not contacting her earlier. He told her the case on which he worked at the present time had demanded that he devote most of his time preparing for it. To make it up to her he picked her up at the arena after her practice the following day and took her out for dinner. For much of the evening he spoke about the cases on which he worked. While she did not mention it to him, it hurt her a little that he did not ask her to tell him about the title and cup she had won and how she had prepared for it for months. When Mark suggested they go to his apartment for a time after their meal, she told him she needed to prepare for a test at the college and asked him to take her to her place instead. In front of her apartment complex she thanked him for taking her out for dinner, kissed him briefly and hurried from the car.  

For the rest of the skating season Olivia experienced much success. Mark did come to watch her at two events and brought her a bouquet on one of those occasions. At the world championship she won a silver medal, and in the spring, she repeated the feat at the Olympics. Several of the reporters had told their audience they had rated her performance better than the gold medal winner’s performance. Olivia was happy, nevertheless. She had skated at her first Olympic competition and won a silver medal. She knew few people in the world could match this. What mattered to her was that she could feel proud of how she had skated and for what she had accomplished. At the end of the skating competitions she looked forward to the off-season and to spending time swimming, golfing, playing soccer. Not needing to rise at five in the morning every day to go to the rink also pleased her. Her coach had demanded she skate for an hour twice on three days each week and to do the prescribed exercises every second day during the off-season. Having more time to meet with her friends thrilled her, as did volunteering her time at several of the community’s events.

On the last Saturday of June Olivia, Doris and two of their teammates decided to go to watch the Falcons play the league’s leading team. The team was ahead of their hometown team by one point. The Falcons had lost both games to their rival the previous season and had tied them in their match at the opposition’s stadium at the beginning of the current season. This day the Falcons came out from their dressing room to loud applause from their many fans. The team in turn treated them to wonderful, fast match with pinpoint passing. Andreas put his team on the board in the first half with a booming shot into the top right-hand corner from twenty yards out. United tied the game early in the second half. The Falcons’ halfback scored with a header sixty-two minutes into the game, but the visitors tied the game once more a few minutes later. Four minutes from full time Andreas, on a give and go, broke through the defense, and gave his team the lead once more with a beautiful goal off the bottom left-hand post. At the second minute of extra time Andreas scored his third goal heading the ball into the net from a corner kick. The fans went wild shouting his name and singing the team’s song. Olivia and her friends had enjoyed every second of the game. She listened with interest to her friends raving about the handsome, highly skilled striker. While she had not voiced her opinion of him to her friends, she did find him attractive in every way. She had marveled at his skill, liked the respect he showed to his opponents, the way he interacted with the fans and the officials, and the fact he worked hard throughout the match. It told her a great deal about the man’s character.

Sunday afternoon Olivia, Mark, Doris, and a young man Doris occasionally dated met at the golf club for a nine-hole game. After six holes, to Mark’s chagrin, Olivia was at two below par while he was four over par. Doris and her friend were not accomplished golfers and played for the enjoyment of the game. That Olivia might top him in the game did not humor Mark, and he became quiet and moody. His attitude did not improve when Andreas approached and greeted Olivia in the clubhouse half an hour later. Andreas, along with one of his teammates, the teammate’s wife, and her sister were preparing to go out on the course.

Olivia remembered seeing him at the arena, at the restaurant, and at the party Doris had planned for her and their friends where they had watched clips of some of the bachelors Doris deemed hot, single men. She smiled at Andreas when she saw him and his friends walking toward her. For a moment she saw him in those clips again. He greeted her and introduced himself and his friends before he said, “May I tell you how much I enjoyed your performance for the country’s championship a couple months ago. “You performed the combination jumps beautifully and landed that triple axel perfectly. Congratulations. I had found your performance delightful.” They chatted for a minute longer before Andreas and his friends needed to go to tee off and left.

All the way down the first fairway Andreas’ thoughts remained with Olivia. From teammates he had learned she played soccer, was an excellent skier, snowboarder, and gymnast. According to his teammates she also played tennis and loved to swim. He also participated in many of these sports. Walking down the fairway he wondered what her golf score was this day. That she was beautiful, friendly, and unpretentious had not escaped him as well during the few times he had seen and chatted with her.

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Beyond The Horizon

Beyond the Horizon

Chapter 1:  The End of a Busy Day

Patrick Mayfield entered the house quietly. In cupped hands he held an injured meadowlark. He had discovered the bird lying in a crevice between two bales of hay in the stack of hay behind the barns to which he had gone for feed for the bull in the pen at the end of the loafing barn. The bird had tried to flutter up from the crevice when it had seen him, but it could not use one of its outstretched wings. Slowly Patrick bent down to get a closer look at the bird. It occurred to him that meadowlarks were seldom seen in this part of the Northwest of the country. “I’d love to hear you sing, little fellow,” he whispered. For a moment he wondered what he could do for the bird. It seemed to him the little creature looked at him with eyes pleading for help. “Emma,” he whispered. “Emma will know what to do with you.”

Slowly he reached into the crevice with both hands. He could feel the bird flapping its healthy wing and pecking at his fingers. When he withdrew the bird from the hay and had it securely in his hands, he made his way to the house speaking quietly to it to try to calm the little fellow. Taking his eyes from watching the bird in his hands Patrick saw Emma through the open door standing at the window. In his mind he could see a gentle smile gracing her attractive face. There had been times when he had seen tears there, but in recent years life had been good to them all. She did not turn to look who had entered the room. She knew only her husband entered the house quietly.

“Come have a look at our son, Patrick,” she said keeping her eyes glued to the kitchen window.

With big strides he crossed to where she stood. On the lawn at the back of the house he saw two boys wrestling. His son had his arms wrapped around the other’s head while that fellow had both his legs clamped around his son’s thighs. Patrick saw them twisting and turning trying to break free from each other’s hold to be able to stand up. He smiled watching them. “Looks like the boys are having fun and are enjoying some roughhousing,” he chuckled.

“Yes, they’re having fun. But they’re not boys any longer, Patrick. They’re young men. Your son is twenty, nearly twenty-one. His friend, Jesse, is a year older. I just wondered what will become of them, as I watched them greet each other. They have so little experience with all life throws at us from time to time.  Look at them.  They’re playing like a couple fourteen-year-old kids.”

“And I hope they’ll never quit playing.”

“I know you’re just itching to go out there to join them.”

Actually, I was thinking of getting a five-gallon pail of cold water and rinsing away the sweat they must be working up.”

“Your impossible Patrick. These two are at the gate through which they’ll go out into a big, unforgiving world, and they have had little real-life experience to prepare them.”   

“Oh, I wouldn’t say that. Brady finished high school at sixteen and his grade twelve marks were outstanding in a school loaded with tough teachers who demanded the best kids could give. A month ago he completed his degree in agriculture. He also took several courses in architecture and engineering while he worked toward his degree. He held down a part-time job all that time and paid for all his schooling himself. He’s done chores since he first started to walk. His rear end had become acquainted with my belt a couple times. And Jesse is almost done with his studies at the college. Not many kids from his village have stepped on a college campus. I’m sure he has ruffled a few of his people’s feathers too. I recall he had to face a bunch of hostile classmates in our town because he was a native boy. Stopping the bullying took Brady befriending him. He gave big Roman a bloody nose and set a few others straight before they left Jesse alone. Brady makes friends easily and Jesse can charm a gopher out of its hole on most days too. If you need to worry about any of our kids worry about our three girls. They’ve started to turn the heads of all the young punks in town.” He chuckled and said, “Maybe I should dust off and start wearing my gun belt again.”

“Yes, these two have done well as far as their schooling is concerned, and I’m proud of Brady and Jesse.  But they’re both second sons.  You know as well as I do our farm isn’t big enough to have both Berthold and Brady make their living here with us. Jesse will also have to venture into the world away from home. I know his mom is worried about him. He does carry a bit of a chip on his shoulders his mom told me. As far as the girls are concerned, I do worry about them. Our oldest will be eighteen soon. We’ve both taught them to be strong, to value themselves, to let no one take advantage of them, and to let the Lord guide them.”  She turned to look at Patrick and cried out, “What’re you holding in your hands?”

He grinned and lifted his hands for her to see better what he held in them. “I found this little rascal between two hay bales. Couldn’t fly away when it saw me, and I figured the family doc would know what to do with this creature.  You’ve fixed the aches of a Canada goose, an eagle’s wing, a cat’s paw, not to speak of the dogs and calves you helped.  I figured helping this little guy would be like shooting fish in a rain barrel for you. What do you think? Can we help our feathered friend?”

Speaking gently to the meadowlark Emma took it carefully from his hand. “Looks like a cat’s paw did a number on this wing. It’s not broken, but it’ll need time to heal. We’ll place it in the old bird cage, give it feed, water, time to heal and hope for the best.” She was about to ask Patrick to fetch the cage when the two young men burst laughing into the room. The meadowlark scared by the commotion tried to beat its wings and escape from Emma’s hands. She quickly covered it partially and drew it close to her. “Boys, boys, hold your horses,” she called to them in a hushed way. “We have a little creature here that’s hurt and frightened to death. You’re scaring it.”

Both charged toward her wanting a look at what was in Emma’s hand. Within seconds the young men stood over Emma’s hands and showered the frightened meadowlark with gentle words of affection much to its vocal complaints and apprehension. Emma finally put a stop to it. She told Patrick to bring the cage to the front room and walked from the kitchen. Brady motioned for Jesse to go and sit in the kitchen nook while he hurried to the fridge and snatched two cans of beverage from it. Half an hour later Emma and Patrick joined Brady and Jesse and answered their barrage of questions about the injured bird.

When they were satisfied with what they had heard, Brady called out, “Mom, Dad, guess what? Jesse is going into the wilderness to prove his manhood. It’s his tribe’s ancient custom for every brave to do this once a boy reaches a certain age, and he wants me to go with him.”

Patrick began to smile. He drummed his right hand’s finger on the tabletop and asked, “At what age do the braves of your tribe do this test of manhood, Jesse, and what are the rules you must follow to prove you’re a man?”

“Sixteen winters, Mr. Mayfield. You must have seen sixteen winters before you may go to test yourself. To do this test you must go from your village and travel beyond the horizon to a place far away from any settlement. There you must stay from one new moon to the next new moon. You can only take with you what your horse, and you can carry. There is one other requirement. That is, a brave must have proof, when he returns, that he has completed the encounter with nature. To do so he must bring back the pelt of a cougar.”

“But you are twenty-one, Jesse. Why didn’t you do this manhood test five year ago?”

The young man chuckled. He looked across the table first to Patrick and then to Emma. “I did it after my sixteenth winter and again after I graduated from high school.” His eyes shone with pleasure. “And after this time around I’ll probably do it again.”

“You failed the tests twice,” Brady asked with unbelief in his voice.

“No, my friend, I did not fail them. I find the land where no foot of man has left a mark and the waters which no brave has tasted keep calling me back again and again.”

Patrick reached his hand across to Jesse and poked it onto his chest. “You better enjoy this one then, my friend,” he said laughing. “You might find Spring Flower’s call will soon drown out all the shouts of the wild and will rob you of your wish for adventure.”

The grin on Jesse’s face grew wider. “Spring Flower is only seventeen. She must first learn all that her mother wishes to teach her. Her parents insist she finish the white man’s school and study for two years to be the nurse she wants to be. But one day I will take her to the most beautiful places beyond the horizon that I have seen, where like the fox I have marked off my territory.” Another grin spread across his face.

Emma smiled and said. “I applaud you and Spring Flower, Jesse. You are both wise. Your parents and your people will be proud of you. You will be a good example to many boys and girls in your village.”

After he had finished his degree in agriculture Brady had planned to work for a year or two and devote more time to the study of architecture or engineering. Over the years he had saved much of the money he had earned. When the time was right he wanted to look for a parcel of land to farm, but the picture Jesse had painted for him of the month in the autumn and spring he had spent beyond the horizon far away from family, friends and all humanity had infected him with the desire to know if he could survive in the wilderness for a month with only those things he and his horse could carry. Looking at his mother and father he groped for words and finally said, “I have decided to go with Jesse instead of looking for another job right away. My job with Henry Walker repairing Mr. Northam’s barn will be done in a week or so.” He looked at his parents waiting for them to tell him their reasons why he should instead follow the goals he had set for himself which he had shared with them a month earlier.

When he only saw them nodding, lightly he said, “Berthold will be back in two weeks. Then Dad won’t need my help any longer. Jesse tells me the next new moon happens eight days after that. Once more he looked from one parent to the other expecting them to speak of their objections. He saw his mother smiling at him. His father’s fingers drumming on the table told him he was thinking of a way to suggest to him to rethink his decision. Brady stared at his father and asked, “Dad?”

Patrick looked his son in the eye and slowly began to speak. “Brady, your mother and I have tried to give you kids roots, wings and the ability to recognize which roads are good roads to travel along and which are bad ones. “If you think this monthlong journey into the wilderness is one of those good roads, then travel it and enjoy it. I only wish there had been a Jesse in my youth who had invited me to do this kind of thing with him. Life is precious but will soon have many responsibilities and make demands on you. It’ll make it impossible for you to think you can take a whole month to go exploring and ride beyond the horizon to dream under the stars.”

Brady breathed a sigh of relief. Knowing he would not disappoint his parents meant much to him. Before he said anything in reply, the door burst open and four teenage girls swept into the room shouting greetings to them all and dropping their school backpacks onto the floor. Brittany, the Mayfield’s oldest daughter, had hooked her arm around Spring Flower’s arm and pulled her to the table. “Mom can Spring Flower stay with us tonight?” she asked. “The two of us with Brooklyn and Barbara want to rehearse our parts in the play our drama teacher is putting on. She can stay with me in my room.”

Once Emma had inquired if their friend’s parents had given their okay, and she had seen the girls nod, she said, “Spring Flower is welcome to stay. All four of you can peel the potatoes sitting on the counter and put them on the stove before you start to practice your play. The roast will be done in forty minutes. I’ll make the salad and we’ll eat in an hour.

“Have you unhitched the horses and fed them in the stable?” Patrick wanted to know.

“We have, Dad,” Brooklyn replied. We pushed the carriage under cover too. It looks like we might get rain tonight.”

With that the girls swarmed around the boys. They wanted to know why Jesse was there and if he would stay for the night too. Brady had to tell them about the doe and the fawn he had seen early that morning while he had fetched the milk cows from the pasture to the barn so he and their father could milk then. They carried on peppering the boys with questions until Emma finally told them to get busy peeling the potatoes.

After dinner, once the dishes were done and all eight of them had visited and teased each other for half an hour, Jesse and Brady left to go to Jesse’s village where they wanted to spend the night and plan their escape into the wild, as the girls had jokingly put it. The girls also soon left. They scurried downstairs to practice their parts in the play in which they had leading roles and to do their homework after that. Once they were alone Emma and Patrick decided to sit close to each other on the chesterfield. She took a book with her, a story written by Emily Bronte. Patrick had wanted to read the newspaper he had picked up in town earlier that afternoon. He was finally able to let his eyes look over the front page and the latest market prices for farmed goods. But before they opened the book and the paper they cuddled for several minutes. Only the ticking of the grandfather clock on the far side of the living room was heard in the house. Two dogs lay sleeping on the porch at the front door. Even the coyotes in the field that often roamed noisily in the pasture were silent that hour of the evening.

Chapter 2:  Leaving Home

The day after Berthold had returned home Brady and Jesse left the village with the morning still young. At dawn they had packed and loaded the items they had planned to take with them on the horses. They had gathered each item before they had gone to sleep the previous night. With the first rays of the sun they bid Jesse’s parents goodbye. Jesse went to spend a few minutes with Spring Flower while Brady checked their gear. Then, excited to be off, they set out. Their plan was to reach the town of Hunter’s Crossing at nightfall, a ride fifty-eight miles away. Although Jesse had wanted to go further, Brady had reminded him the next full moon was still nearly a week away and it was best to take care of the horses from the beginning. 

“Jesse, I agree the horses are in great shape and the terrain will not be difficult this day, but we need to make sure the stallions remain strong,” Brady said. “The terrain will get tough after we leave Hunter’s Crossing. Besides, it will be the last time for many days that we will see civilization, because you want to ride northwest into the wilderness from there.” For a few minutes longer they debated it. Then they agreed to stop near Hunter’s Crossing for the first night on their way to the horizon.

At Grand Creek, the nearest town, they made their first stop. They watered and fed the horses, ate fried porkchops and mashed potatoes at Ma Perkins’ diner, and stop to say hello to a few of their friends. They were well known in the town. Many people waved to them when they set out again and rode their horses on the grassy flats near the road. Only twice they stopped to rest the horses that morning. Every trail that shortened the distance to Hunter’s Crossing they took. It allowed them to arrive at the town before night fall.

The heat of the day had not yet lessened. Jesse looked up to the sky to gauge the time. He wiped his sweaty brow before he shielded his eyes. “Let’s leave the horses at Jim’s stable over there,” he said and pointed to a sign over an old building. “We’ll pay him a couple dollars, let him look after them, and you and I go and wipe away the memory of the past six hours and this heat with a draft. For more than thirty days after this we’ll be drinking nothing but water.” Neither of the two drank much coffee and a beer only occasionally on a hot day. Jesse’ idea sounded good to Brady. A few minutes later they entered Bulldog Brown’s saloon. 

They had not reached the bar when a voice reached them. “Well, well, well. Look who’s here. The featherless brave and the Indian lover.” Brady and Jesse looked toward the end of the bar to see Roman, their former classmate scowling and pointing at them. Two fellows near him grinned at his words. They looked to be with Roman.

“Hello Roman.  And a good day to you too,” Brady said and motioned to Jesse to go to the other end of the bar as far away as possible from their former classmate.

They had not gone far when they heard Roman shouting at them. “A good day indeed, men. A good day to settle a score, I say.” He swallowed the last third of his mug of beer, pounded the bar with the mug and motioned with his head for the two beside him to follow him. The room suddenly grew silent.

The bar keeper stopped filling the first mugs for the two newcomers. He turned and told Jesse and Brady to go outside if they didn’t want to have to pay for damages to his establishment. He had seen too many fights result in all kinds things, even furniture and mirrors being broken. To his young assistant he whispered, “Paul, go tell the Mountie there could be trouble at our place.” He picked up a shotgun from under the bar and pointed it at Roman and his buddies. “I’m gonna count to five,” he said. “If you three aren’t at the door then, you’ll feel some buckshot rip your pants.” The three had been bad news for him. Each day after they showed up, he had seen other customers come as far as the entrance. Seeing those three they turned and left, no doubt going to his competitor down the street.

Brady and Jesse didn’t need a second warning. They knew there was another saloon a block away and made their way down the street. They did not get far. Roman and his buddies were on their heels within a few seconds. Several of the patrons who had left the bar at the first hint of trouble also followed. Across the street the Mountie walked from his office.

“Darrel and Derek, watch me bust up that tall fellow by the side of that brave. He’s an Indian lover. Of all men in this country they’re the worst. I’m gonna show you how I deal with his kind of dirt.” He whispered something else to his cronies that Brady could not hear. 

He and Jesse stopped where they stood and turned around. “Look Roman, we didn’t come here looking for a fight. We’ll go down the street for a beer and you can go back to your mugs in there.” He pointed to the saloon they had just left. “What happened a few years ago is water under the bridge. Let’s forget about it. That way you won’t have to stop another nosebleed.” The moment he had said his last words he knew it was a poor choice of words. He watched Roman starting to run towards him with his buddies following close behind. He also spied a Mountie meandering across the street. The officer was a big man and looked to be in middle age. He seemed not to be in a hurry and looked relaxed.

“I’ll stop his two friends from getting at you,” Jesse said. He knew they would enter the fight as soon as they saw Roman take a few punches and lose the fight.

“You’re the one who’s going to nurse a nosebleed, Brady. There’s no Mr. Hadfield around to ban me from school and protect you from me getting even,” Roman snarled. He suddenly charged at Brady. The two fellows with him were going to run along with him, but Jesse quickly drew the rifle from the holster of Brady’s horse and let them know he would not hesitate to use it. They stopped quickly. Then slowly they backed a half dozen paces away from him and watched the fight.

Brady cast another quick glance at the Mountie. He saw he had stopped smiling in the crowd of onlookers. He wants to see this fight as much as the rest of them, Brady thought. He saw Roman charge at him. Quickly he ducked. Roman’s fist meant for his chin punched air above his head. Before Roman’s arm had stretched full out Brady hit him first in the stomach and then on his chin. “Back off, Roman,” he hissed. “I don’t want to have to hurt you again.”

“I’ll show you who’s gonna get hurt, Indian lover,” he snarled and dove at Brady, after shouting, “Come on boys let’s get him.” He had not seen Jesse threatening his buddies. 

Diving at Brady was a poor strategy to use against someone who was much faster in thought and action than he was. Brady brought up his knee before Roman’s head could connect with his stomach. The knee caught him flush on his forehead and nose. Slowly Roman picked himself up. He wobbled and looked around for his friends. Blood trickled from his nose. That’s when Brady smashed his fist hard on to his temple and dropped him to the ground. His legs twitched for a few seconds before he groaned and then remained lying still on the ground.

The crowd watching began to cheer. Some of the people called for Brady to pick him up and hit him again. Roman had long ago lost his welcome in town. When the people heard the Mountie telling them to go home, the onlookers moved on quickly. He pointed to Roman’s buddies. “You two take this pile of trouble across the street to my jail. Wait there for me. I have some advice for you two,” he said. He pointed to Jesse and told him to put his rifle away and added, “Before you shoot yourself in the foot, son.”

It surprised Brady to see how quickly Roman’s two buddies followed the Mountie’s demand and how fast the crowd dispersed. This officer obviously has a solid reputation in this town. I don’t want to get into his bad books, he thought.

A moment later the Mountie stopped in front of Brady. “My friend, you handled yourself well. I had wanted to teach this fellow a lesson or two myself a couple times. I’ll lock him up for a few days and then sent him packing. Meanwhile, you and your friend need to be on your way soon too. I want you two out of town in an hour. But right now, both of you come with me.” He turned without looking back. With powerful strides he walked across the street toward his office and the jail. 

Brady hesitated for a moment to let the officer’s words register. Then he said to Jesse, “We better go.” He followed the Mountie. Jesse walked along behind him. When they entered through the door over which a sign said RCMP, they heard the officer speaking to Roman’s two friends in a room behind the front office. Brady noted that the policeman spoke slowly but with authority.  

Brady heard him say, “You two should know better than to come into town and cause a disturbance. What will your fathers think when they hear I locked you up and charged you?  I’m going to give guys two choices. Go back to your families’ farms, help your fathers with the work and don’t let me see you in town for at least a month. Or join your buddy in his cell. I’ll charge you with a half dozen offenses. You’ll be looking at a nice stretch in jail.” It was hard for Brady to follow what he heard from that point on. Both men were speaking at the same time. In the background he could hear Roman complaining. A few minutes later Roman’s friends hustled from the room and ran out of the front door.

Smiling the officer walked from the backroom. “Now, what will I do with you two? My information is you two tried to avoid causing this little disturbance.” He asked them their names, why they were in town, how the confrontation with Roman started, where they called home and where they were going. After he had listened to them and was satisfied with what he had heard he said, “Okay, I’ll check out some of what you told me. If you were untruthful, I’ll come looking for you. Meanwhile, go and find that place beyond the horizon and prove what you’re made of.” He stopped speaking for a moment and looked from Brady to Jesse. “And next time you come into this town stop and see me before you decide to stop anywhere. One more thing. Let me know where the best fishing is when you drop-in next time.” He smiled at Brady and Jesse and told them they were free to go. 

They thanked the officer and turned quickly to leave. On the way out of the police station Brady noticed a wanted poster hanging on the wall of the front office among other announcements. The poster showed a sketch of a man called Cal Trost who had robbed a bank at Fort Fairview, a neighboring town. For a moment Brady imagined his own face on such a poster. It startled him. Acting on one bad decision is all it would take, he thought. Silently he thanked his parents for the values they had taught him and his siblings.

The Mountie walked out with them and told them to be careful. “It’s a good idea to leave an area where grizzlies feed, men. You’ll be crossing through some of their territories. By the way, that’s also true of the grizzlies among men.  Try not to forget that.”

“It looks like we’re not going to drink anything more here than water at Jim’s stable, Jesse. We better get our horses and leave town. When this Mountie talked to me, I thought he was going to lock me up too. I don’t want to give him a reason to change his mind.”

“You’re right Brady. We had planned to head into the backcountry from here. So, we’ll ride west for an hour and look for a good place to camp for the night.”

When they arrived at Jim’s stable, they saw a fellow they had seen at the back of the crowd. He paid Jim and thanked him for looking after his horse. When they walked into the stable Jim turned to them. “I’ve watered and fed your horses and checked for loose shoes, boys. You can go and get them. It looks like you’ve come from some ways. Are you still going far? These animals will need more rest before long. You’ll want to go no more than a few miles now.”

“We aim to head west toward Hidden Lake, Jim. We’ll make camp in an hour,” Jesse replied. “How are the trails in that direction?”

“Steep in places, but you’ll have no trouble following the trails. You boys heading to help fight the fire at Hidden Lake? I hear it’s now grown to thirty or forty acres. Everybody in town is worried a wind blowing up from the southwest could drive it this way.”

“No, we weren’t going there to fight a forest fire. We didn’t know there was a fire,” Jesse said.

“Well, you best not go in that direction if you’re not planning to help with the fire. If we get a stiff wind in the next couple of days that fire will grow and burn for a while.”

The fellow who had arrived at Jim’s stable ahead of them led his quarter horse from the stable. He had overheard what they had talked about with Jim. He stopped in front of Brady and Jesse. “I heard you telling Jim you wanted to head into the backcountry toward Hidden Lake. I suggest you ride on northward  instead for a bit more. Bridgetown is about twenty miles away. You can follow the Secord River for many miles into the backcountry from there. I’m Jack Miner. My ranch is an hour in that direction. You’re welcome to stay with me for the night. My wife and I don’t get much company now that the kids are all in college and some of our friends have moved away. From what I’ve seen, you guys are decent fellows. Your welcome to come with me and stay for the night.”

Brady offered his hand to Jack. “I’m Brady Mayfield and this is Jesse Hunt, Mr. Miner. You’re very kind. We wouldn’t want to impose on you. We don’t mind roughing it.”

“I’m sure you wouldn’t be any trouble. My wife would be happy to be able to feed more than just me. She cooks like she did when some of the kids still were home. We eat leftovers a fair bit of the time. But suit yourself. There are plenty of spots to camp for the night along the way. We’d love to hear where you two call home though.”

Brady chuckled thinking about leftover meals and Jesse said, “Brady, we’re not going to have a homecooked meal for a while. I think Mr. Miner’s invitation is really tempting.”

“I think so too. We’ll accept, Mr. Miner, as long as we can help with whatever chores you’ll need to do once we get to your place.”

“Great! Let’s get going then. And do me a favor and call me Jack.”

Jack pointed out interesting features of the countryside they passed. As they rode toward his ranch, he told them of the history of three old homesteads they saw now lying weathered and deserted. The time passed quickly. Once they had reached the top of another hill Jack stopped his horse and pointed down the valley. “That’s my place down there,” he said and smiled. Brady could not help but note that Jack was proud of what he had built in the valley below them.

After they had arrived and Jack had introduced them to Lucy, his wife, Jesse went with Jack to do the evening chores. Meanwhile, Brady picked up an ax and chopped wood at the woodpile lying near the horse barn. An hour later the four people enjoyed the meatloaf and mashed potatoes Mrs. Miner had made before they had arrived. She had cooked a bread pudding when she had learned the two young men would stay the night with them. During the meal while Brady and Jesse spoke of their family and friends, they learned that one of the Miner’s boys had played ball with Brady at the collage. Jack had also given them much information about the trail they would take in the morning along the Secord River that would lead them into the backcountry beyond the horizon.

“When I was younger, I’ve hunted in the part of the country around Bridgetown as far as Mystic Lake a couple days ride past the town,” Jack said. “It’s rugged country in places in there. Few people ever venture in that far, although the hunting was always great in that area. There is something about that lake that has always struck me as mysterious and threatening. I never remained near it for long, never made camp there.” He went on to describe the area around the lake. “There are sounds I heard there I could not identify and explain. I found fog could roll in at any time of the day unexpectedly. It brought with it a chilliness which seemed not of this world.

The two guests thanked the Miners when everyone was ready to turn in for the night and said goodbye. They told the couple they would leave at dawn and try not to wake them. But the Miners were up when Brady and Jesse came down from the rooms they had been given for the night. Mrs. Miner already had breakfast prepared and Jack sat in his easy chair smoking a pipe and drinking coffee.

The first sunrays touched the stable where the horses where kept when the men walked there to saddle them in preparation to leave. Brady observed his friend out of the corner of his eyes. It was clear to him Jesse was chomping at the bits in anticipation of heading into the wilderness this day. They had decided before going to sleep they would leave Bridgetown early in the afternoon and head toward Mystic Lake. In a few days their monthlong test would begin and they wanted to have an area selected by then where they would make their main camp. Twenty minutes later they thanked Lucy and Jack again for their hospitality and waved to them as they rode from the yard.

Late in the morning they arrived at Bridgetown, a clean town that had grown from a village to town status in the past ten years. At a diner called Klara’s Kitchen they ordered porkchops, the day’s feature dinner and ate a huge piece of warmed up apple pie with a liberal scoop of ice cream on top of it. While they ate, they went over the list of items they had packed to see if there was anything else they should try to take along. They found they had packed well before they had left home and decided they only needed to pick up a few more medical supplies and more salt. Jesse wanted to be on the way. Brady decided not to hold him back even though he had wanted to explore the town a little more. 

He liked what he could see of Bridgetown. The community was laid out with forethought. He could see two green spaces he guessed were parks. When they had entered the town, they had passed a large sports’ field. An ice rink for winter sports with covered areas for players and spectators stood on the opposite side of the road. The people they had met were friendly and were proud of their town. At the diner they had learned that a small hospital, a school, a sawmill and a rock quarry provided good jobs for the men and women of the town. 

Surrounding the town farms and ranches existed. Brady had thought to try to find out if any of them were for sale. His parents had always told the kids a piece of land of their own was worth more than money in the bank. From his childhood on to this day he wanted land he could call his own. For years he had determined to safe much of what he earned. For the last several years he had been zealous about it. In his early teen years, he had not only done chores at home, but had also done odd jobs for neighbors, friends, and the elderly in town. At fourteen and fifteen he had a three-hour job six days a week. He could have worked longer hours, but his parents had made sure he did not neglect his studies, and he had been unwilling to give up his time for sports and friends. His years at collage had always included a part time job. Now his bank account topped eight thousand dollar. He knew it was more than what most good half sections of land with buildings were worth. I’ll stop here on our way back and look around, he thought. He mounted his stallion and set out to catch up with Jesse who rode at a good pace far ahead of him.

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The Victorious Centurion

Brief Summary

It was the time in history when Rome with its legions ruled much of the known world with an iron fist.  Latinus Berinas one of Rome’s young centurions had conquered a Germanic tribe that had withstood the advance of Tiberus’ army seventeen years earlier.

Now the streets of Rome were alive with jubilant people, young and old.  They lined the streets to Capitoline Hill and Jupiter’s temple in anticipation of seeing the Centurion Latinus Berinas lead a troop of one hundred of the Empire’s most accomplished soldiers from the Field of Mars to Victory Square.

Latinus had risen quickly in rank to Legatus Legonis, the second highest rank to which a legionnaire could aspire.  In campaigns he commanded ten cohorts, nearly seven thousand men.  His fighting and strategic planning skills were envied by many officers of the highest rank.  His men admired him.  They trusted him with their life.  Tiberius, the emperor, held him up as the ideal commander and rewarded him generously after each victorious campaign.

His future looked bright.  He had riches and property.  Antonia, a senator’s beautiful daughter, loved him.  No one doubted that he would lead other legions to victory in years to come.  Yet, there were powerful men in Rome who devised schemes aimed at disgracing and crushing him.  They saw his victories and the emperor’s praise of his conquests a threat to their evil ambitions.  While their wicked plots failed, a man hanging nailed to a cross whose heart he pierced on a hill called Golgotha in far off Israel conquered his soul.

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The novel is now published in eBook format and can be purchased from Kobo, Scribd, Tolino, and soon from Barnes&Noble, Sony and other Digital Stores and Subscription Services. Beyond Redemption 4

Beyond Redemption’s short summary

Vanessa Haldersen appears to have it all.  She has a husband who adores her.  They enjoy many goods the world offers.  Her young son is her sunshine even on cloudy days.  The law degree she had earned can open many doors for her.  She loves her work with the West Bay police force where her track record leading the fraud, theft and burglary section of the force has been outstanding.

To infuse energy and new thinking into the struggling homicide unit her commander appoints her to head this unit.  With the appointment challenges arise that test Vanessa to the breaking point.  She feels she must quickly solve the murders of two young men before the killer strikes again. They were killed in similar ways by suffocation on different full moon nights.  Their bodies were left in secluded areas of West Bay.  Both men had been known to be illegal drug users.  No other clues existed, and no promising leads had been established.

When a third body of a young man is found on another full moon night, Vanessa knows the killings will not stop unless she finds the killer soon.  Her expanded investigations finally lead her to a young woman who battles a drug addiction.  This woman had known and had met with the first two victims for some time as well as with the twin brother of the third young man who lost his life.  Many signs Vanessa discovers point to her, and she becomes her primary suspect.  But Vanessa is not convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt she is the killer.  Digging deeper she finds out the young woman is the sister of the officer who is her assistant in the murder investigations.  This fact brings with it new questions, challenges and concerns.  When she is ready to charge the young woman to whom many signs point, Vanessa uncovers a lead that throws all she knows into question.  At the same time her young son is abducted, and she receives a telephone call telling her to drop the investigations, if she hopes to see her son again.


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Beyond Redemption,

I”m nearing the last chapters of the novel I’m writing.  Having just finished a difficult chapter to write I wanted to celebrate.  So I’m posting the third unedited chapter for your enjoyment.

Chapter Three

At one-thirty Vanessa left the police station.  The coroner had called and had asked to see her.  He greeted her briefly before he told her of his findings.  “We made an identification through an appointment card we found in his coats’ inside pocket,” he said.  “His name is Marcel Bishop.  He is twenty-seven and is an engineer for a construction company.  He is married and has a three-year-old daughter.  We have not contacted his wife.  She will need to have to come to make a positive id.”

“I’ll have our people check to see if he has a record or is known to us or to any law enforcement unit.  Did he have alcohol or drugs in his system?”

“No, no there’s no alcohol in his system.  Drugs are a different matter.  He had been drugged and had died of asphyxiation some time after that.  The drug caused him to lose consciousness, but it did not kill him.  We found an injection site on his back a little below his neck.  Given where that site is on his back, it would have been virtually impossible for him to have injected himself.  That icepick you found stuck in him had been pushed into his heart’s aortic valve shortly after he had taken his last breath.  He died at approximately eleven-fifty last night.  I think you will also be interested to know that the blood on his thumb and finger was not his own and had dried about the same time as the blood on the injection site.”

“Did you find anything else that might be of interest to me?”

Nothing!  Whoever committed that crime was careful to leave no evidence aside from that ice pick stuck into his heart.  We’ll look at everything again.  I’ll call you whether we find anything else or not.  Good luck determining a motive.”  He reached for his notepad on which was written an address.  “And I don’t envy you having to go to talk to his wife.”

They spoke for another twenty minutes then Vanessa set out to see the man’s wife.  She radioed the station, gave Kimberly the name and address of the victim, and asked her to begin procedures for checking into the victim’s background.  Before she intended to return to the station she wanted to talk to the man’s wife, but she knew the lady might need support and may not be able to answer her questions.  She was acquainted with the area where the victim’s family lived.  It took her a half hour to reach the house.  She tried to gather her thoughts in preparation for meeting the wife as she parked.  This was part of her job, the part she found most difficult.  She uttered a silent prayer as she walked toward the front door and rang the bell.

Vanessa could see the fear in the woman’s eyes as soon as she showed her the police badge and asked, “Are you Mrs. Bishop?”  The young woman’s lips began to quiver.  Vanessa’s heart went out to her, when she said her name was Amanda Bishop in a shaky voice.  “There is no easy way to tell you what I must say, Mrs. Bishop.  Can I come in for a few moments?”

“Yes, of course.  Please come in,” the woman stammered.  Vanessa noticed that Amanda Bishop was several months pregnant and asked her to sit down to help her cope with the tragic news she had to tell her.  “I am sorry to have to tell you your husband was killed late last night.”

The lady began to sob.  Tears began to trickle down her cheeks.  Vanessa let her weep for a few minutes before she asked.  “Is there someone I can call to come and support you?  You will have to come down to make an identification for us as soon as you are able to do so.”  Vanessa took her trembling hand and said, “I sorry for your loss, Mrs. Bishop.”

“Would you mind calling my mother, Officer?” she asked and gave Vanessa a number to call.  “My poor baby will be waking up soon.  How do I tell my daughter her father, whom she idolized, won’t ever come home again?” she lamented.

Vanessa called the number and briefly told Amanda’s mother, Mrs. Carstairs, the reason for her call.  The mother at first did not believe what she heard but assured her she would be on her way to her daughter’s house within the minute.  Before hanging up she pleaded with Vanessa to remain with her daughter until she arrived.

“What can I do for you until your mother gets here, Amanda, and please call me Vanessa.  It’s all right to cry.  I know this is the worst news anyone could have brought you, and if I can help in any way, please tell me.”

Amanda looked at her with tear filled eyes.  “How did my husband die,” she asked.  His brother had called him after dinner time last night saying he had taken some drugs and felt like he was going to pass out.  My husband rushed to his place right away.  He called me at about nine-thirty to say he would be a couple more hours and was going to take his brother to the emergency room.  When I went to bed and he had not come home, I thought after he had taken his brother to the emergency room, he had remained at the hospital with him.  He had done this several times before in the past months.”

“We do not have all the facts yet, Amanda.  What we have learned is that he had been given an injection which immobilized him.  Then he was smothered.  It is estimated he died a short time before midnight.  His body was found in the deserted parking lot at Riverside Park.  We believe he had been taken there and left there after he had passed away.  Given the time of night when this occurred there may not have been any witnesses.  We will send out news bulletins asking for anyone who had been in the area to contact us.  It appears a couple driving into that parking lot later found him and called our office well after midnight.”

“Was our car not in the parking lot?  Marcell drove to his brother’s place in our SUV.  It is a red Chrysler with roof racks.”

Vanessa shook her head.  “No. we have not found a vehicle belonging to him,” she said and asked for the license plate number and model of car.  She also asked Amanda when she might be able to come to the lab to identity and verify the individual’s body is in fact her husbands body.  “I would also like to speak more at length with you.  Information you can give us may well lead us to the killer or killers.”

Amanda wiped away her tears.  “You have been very kind to me Officer Vanessa,” she replied.  “If you can accompany me to the lab, I will do it tomorrow morning.  We can also meet then, and I will you help in anyway I can.”  She broke down with those words and wept silently.

Vanessa stroked her hand.  She wanted to wrap her arms around her but remained seated beside her allowing her to grieve.  Soon Mrs. Carstairs arrived, and Vanessa saying she would pick Amanda up at nine the next morning left.  She felt deeply for this family.  She wished she could do much more to support this young woman who with two infants would now have to face life without her husband.  Glad that Amanda had parents to whom she could turn to she walked to her vehicle.

Back at her office she called the head of the traffic division and passed on the information of the couple’s SUV and asked that she is notified immediately when it is found.  She also called Nadia Sprengler, her friend, in the public relations’ office.  She asked her to arrange times for her to speak to various media people to request air time and ask possible witnesses of the activities in the park the night of the murder to contact her department.

She began to make notes of her time with Amanda Bishop when Claire knocked and slowly entered.  “Sorry to come by so late,” she began.  “I stopped for a coffee with Brent and Tom.  After that I checked.”

Before she finished her sentence Vanessa said, “It’s all right Claire.  The coroner called to see me, and I left before you had returned.  He had a good deal of information for us.  Before coming back I stopped to see the victim’s wife.  That I could not do quickly.  So, I’ve not been here for long.  Please have a seat.”

Claire looked confused.  “This man was married?” she asked.

“I’ll tell you what information the coroner had for us.  It supports many of the conclusions we had drawn,” Vanessa said.  When she had finished relaying that information and had told her about her visit to Amanda she asked Claire what evidence she had collected.

Claire told her she had found nothing other than tire marks near the end of the parking lot that appeared to her to have been made by a vehicle whose driver was in a hurry to leave the park.  “It looks to me that the Ice Pick Devil, as the media has called him, has left us another victim and no clues that could lead us to him.”

“We haven’t got much.  The blood on the body’s hand may eventually be important.  I did find a small handful of black hair that had to have fallen into the grass from the dead man’s hand when he was draped over the railing in the park.  I have send it to get analyzed.  I have a hunch the victim briefly struggled with the killer and had grabbed hold of his hair.  The hair strands were quite long the coroner told me and may have come from a woman.”  She explained how she thought the hair came to lie below the man’s hand.

“There are many ways that hair could have been there,” Claire said.  “The victim’s hair color is sandy blonde.  It’s obviously not his, but it could have been there for a week.”

“I don’t think so.  It had not been subjected for long to wind and rain.  There also was one hair of the same color on his hand.  I kept it separate from the other evidence.  We will know if that bunch of hair came from the same person or not.  It appears to me this man struggled with his attacker while he was still in a lucid state.”

At this point Kimberly rang relaying information for which Vanessa had waited.  She thanked her and a moment later hung up.  Turning back to Claire she told her the information Kimberly had passed on to her.  It established that Marcel Bishop was not on the radar of any police unit.  “All they had on him was that he had requested a personal record check a year earlier.  He had been involved in planning a renovation for a public school and followed school district policy about adults in schools.  That personal record check came back squeaky clean,” Vanessa said.

For a few seconds Claire looked like she was shocked to hear it.  Finally she said, “Well, that creates a new twist to our investigation, doesn’t it?  We might have to consider a copycat possibility after all.”

“Or a mistake, or a different motive by the serial killer,” Vanessa said wondering if another reason they couldn’t see immediately could apply.  By the way, I had a call from a Detective Darren Whitestone in a small city east of Boston.  He has decided to open a closed file of a murder there.  When he heard of our investigations and thought there were several similarities in our cases to the case he has now reopened, he wanted to know more about what we had here.  It may pay off for us to put a countrywide memo out to see if there are other places where similar murders occurred in the past five or ten years.  Moving around the country maybe one way this individual uses to attempt to hide and to avoid incarceration.”

Claire did not reply immediately.  She frowned and seemed to be deep in thought before she asked, “What can I do to help all this move forward?  It just feels to me like the first three cases in our lap are growing cold.  There are a couple things I want to check on when we are finished here, but I want to get at those tasks you would like me to cover first today.”

“Thanks Claire.  I appreciate that.  Please try to contact Mr. Bishop’s employer today.  Find out how Marcel Bishop got along with everyone in the company and ask if any of their clients had lodged grievances against him.  Also, please see if any of the previous three victims knew each other, and if they had contacts in the Boston area.  I will be spending a good part of the morning tomorrow with Mrs. Bishop and her husband’s brother.  But before you go, can you think of anything we have overlooked?  What else should we explore?”

“I think we are doing everything we can do right now.  We need a break.  If I get an inspiration, I’ll get in touch with you.”  Claire turned and leaving the room said, “I’ll drop by to see you for an update tomorrow.”

“Yes, let’s touch base in the afternoon,” Vanessa called after her, “and thanks for your report.  Let’s hope we will get a break soon.”  She watched Claire leave and thought, she doesn’t smile a lot.  In fact, I can’t recall her smiling.  I wonder what dark days are in her past?

Vanessa spent the major of the afternoon going over the four files of the murders they were investigating since she had taken over this division.  She made a new list of the similarities and studied them for several minutes.  Looking at her calendar she penciled in times for interviews and called Kimberly asking her to get in touch with five people she had identified to see.  After making several phone calls, she sat back letting the time she had spent with Marcel Bishop’s widow replay in her mind.  I’ll check into Amanda’s background before I go home, she thought.  She shook her head.  “I don’t think she is involved in any negative way,” she whispered. “but I can make that determination after going over her background, looking at their marriage, and finding out all she did the night of the murder.”

Her heart went out to the young woman.  Meeting her and considering the house, it looked to Vanessa like she could have had a bright future ahead of her.  Judging by her reaction after she had learned of her husband’s murder, Vanessa realized the marriage was solid.  Those two little ones will miss their dad every day and at their school and sport functions, she thought.  What a pity!  The one on the way will never have seen him.  She sighed thinking of her son and the child she would bring into the world in a few months.

Learning of Amanda’s background was not difficult.  She had grown up the younger of two children, had attended a Catholic secondary school and had completed two years at a college where she had received excellent marks before she had married Marcel.  She had no blemish on her record not even a driving violation.

The clock on the wall showed Vanessa that it was nearly six.  She decided to call it a day and closed the Bishop file when Carmen, who now tended the front desk, rang her and told her a gentleman who wanted to see her.  “I have him waiting for you here in the reception area,” she said.  “He seems to know his way around here.”

Vanessa placed the file into the filing cabinet, put her coat on and walked from her office.  As soon as she opened the door she could see him standing at the front desk chatting with Carmen.  “Carmen, you said there was a gentleman here to see me,” she laughed.  “Where is he?”  See smiled at Casey and said, “It’s terrific to see you, Casey. Thanks for dropping by.”

“I was in the neighborhood and thought why not drop in and see my princess.  You know me.  Once I get an idea there’s no stopping me.”

“Well, I’m glad there was nothing stopping you.  But come to me office.  We’ll have a coffee and chat.  It’s been a long time, Casey.”

Seated in front of her desk they smiled, happy to see each other well.  “I just came in for a minute.  You’ll be swamped with work judging by the headlines in the news, but I thought I detected a note of frustration or worry when we talked on the phone recently, Vanessa.  Is everything all right?”

“Yes, those three murders have us guessing and up to our necks investigating them.  As of this morning we have another one that looks a lot like the other three.  We can’t rule out that we might be dealing with a serial killer.  I’ve also had a call today from a detective who had opened a cold case back east that suggests there are others like ours on this continent.  So, we’re trying to find out if there are others with similarities anywhere else.  But what about you?  Is retirement agreeing with you, or do you miss police work more than you thought you would?”

“Oh, I love the long weekends every week.  Sometimes they stretch out through the whole week,” he laughed.  “Simone and I also do a fair bit of traveling and visiting the grandchildren, but to tell you the truth, there are days when I do miss the investigations, the station, the people with whom I had worked.  I see Karl every now and then, and Charles and I go to the odd ball game.  I think of you a lot, princess.”  He stopped to look at her for a moment before he continued.  “And this will make you happy.  Simone and I started to attend church services in a little church not far from our house.”

Vanessa’s face beamed.  “That great, Casey.  I was just thinking I should invite you and Simone to a concert we are having at my dad’s church.  William and I are on the program.  We are bringing a special number in song.  We could get together afterward and visit.”

“I think Simone would like that, Vanessa.  It would give me a chance to make sure your William is behaving and not tempted by things that glitter.”  He embraced her and said, “You look more beautiful than ever. And how is your little guy?”

They talked for another ten minutes.  Casey told her again he thought Simone would like to come to the concert.  He promised to call her later that evening and confirm it with her.  He related his thoughts on the murders briefly to her before they said goodbye.

His visit had taken Vanessa’s thoughts off the cases in which she had been immersed for most of the day.  She felt lighter and was eager to get home.  Thinking of William and her son she left the precinct.

“Catch me Daddy,” Andreas laughed as soon as William had taken him out of his car seat and placed him on the ground in the three-car garage.  His little legs pumping like mad he raced out of the garage and toward the front door.  William hustled after him but remained an armlength behind him pretending to huff and puff in his playful attempt to catch his two-year-old son.  Just before the little fellow reached the stairs leading to the front door William reached for him, swung him around in his arms, kissed his brow and hoisted him onto his shoulders.  Andreas giggled while William, pretending to be out of breath, said, “Wow! You sure can run fast, just like a deer.”

As they entered the house William noting that the Buick was not on the premises knew Vanessa was not at home yet.  He looked at the clock on the mantle of the fireplace that showed it was almost six.  She hasn’t left a message, he thought, so she won’t be much longer.  He had heard of the night’s homicide on the early evening news when he tidied his office in preparation to leave for Marvelous’ house to pick Andreas up.  “I wish she would stay home with our son or just work part time,” he whispered, “but she loves her work, danger and all.  I know what it’s like to love what you do.  But then my work isn’t dangerous.”  He smiled thinking back to when he had met Vanessa and added, “At least it’s dangerous no longer.”

Believing Vanessa would have had a full and hard day he thought he would feed his son and then make wings and a salad for him and Vanessa, but before he settled on what to prepare for Andreas he decided instead of making wings to order in one of Vanessa’s favorite meals.  He remembered her saying she might make that dish when she got home this day.  “I’ll order beef, greens and red pepper stir-fries in and ask them to deliver it at seven-thirty” he whispered.  That should give Vanessa a few minutes to relax and spend time with Andreas.  He smiled thinking of his wife hoping she would not be much longer.

Vanessa drove down the hundred yards of the driveway to the house thinking I should have picked up something for dinner.  William and Andreas will be hungry.  She parked at the edge of the stairway to the front door not wanting to take the time to drive into the garage.  Her heart was with the two people in the house and she was eager to be with them.  When she walked through the door and glanced into the kitchen, she saw William seated at the kitchen island with Andreas on his lap feeding him.  He had looked up when he had heard the door close and began to smile seeing Vanessa looking at them.  Andreas raised both of his arms shouting, “Mommy,” with food spurting from his mouth.  William stood up with their son in his arms, licked off the food from the spoon he held and crossed hurriedly to her kissing her softly while Andreas reached his arms around her neck.

Vanessa’s heart sang.  Her day suddenly felt bright and warm.  From William’s kiss she tasted of the apple sauce he had fed Andrea.  “I see our son is having his favorite dessert.  Has he eaten his dinner too?”  She kissed her husband then took Andreas into her arms.  Smiling brightly at him she embraced and kissed him tenderly.

“He’s eaten it all even his broccoli,” William said.  He took his son from her so she could take her coat off.  If you want to relax for a minute, I’ll finish giving Andreas his applesauce and set the table for our dinner.”

But Vanessa took her son again and sat down with him saying, “Please let me finish feeding him.” She took the spoon he held out to her and asked, “And what did you cook for us?  I’m famished.  Whatever it is, it smells good.”

“Stir fries a la Sylvia’s Kitchen.  The order had arrived only minutes before you came.”  William laughed.  “I thought you might be tired and wouldn’t want to go out for dinner or start making something.  By the time I had prepared Andrea’s dinner it was a bit late for me do make anything more than a salad, so I ordered in from our favorite restaurant.”

They smiled at each other for a long moment.  The love in their eyes was unmistakable.  To Vanessa the harsh, hectic world of her day had faded away and given way to sunshine and calm.  She didn’t notice that William had walked behind her chair until he had placed his hands on her shoulder.  She felt him bent down to her ear and then heard him whisper, “I love you, and I’ve missed you.”  She closed her eyes for a moment letting his love sweep over her.


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As I had promised when I posted the first chapter below on this blog, I’m adding the next one.  I’ve had a busy time traveling down Island, watching my grandsons play hockey and trying to get all my books published on Amazon, which I hope will happen in the new year.  So I’ve had less time on the computer, but I have managed to finish several chapters of this new novels.  So please enjoy this still unedited second chapter while I keep plugging along on the next few chapters.

Chapter 2: The Siblings

Claire, Brent and Tommy had stopped for a coffee, after they had overseen the murder victim taken way.  They had also instructed the officers Vanessa had called to continue the search for clues and dust for fingerprints of the areas they had designated.  At the coffee bar Brent and Claire had flirted throughout the hour while Tommy had tried to remind Brent, his partner, that they needed to get back to headquarters.  After he had finally convinced Brent to leave and go with him to their cruiser, Claire had waited until the two officers were out of sight.  Then she took out her cell phone and quickly sent a text message.

Forty minutes later Claire knocked three times and ran her fingernails once along the side of the backdoor of the small goldsmith shop across town in a plaza of twenty-four shops.  The door opened a couple inches.  “It’s okay. It’s me,” she said, and the door opened fully.  A stunningly beautiful, young woman stood before her.  By her dress, the makeup and grooming of her black hair it was obvious this woman knew how to impress.  “Morning sis,” Claire said just loud enough for the lady to hear her.  The door closed softly behind her.  “We need to talk.”

“Claire, the store opens in twenty minutes.  It’s almost eleven, and I want to display a couple more items.  You’ll have to hurry.”  The woman flipped a strand of her black hair behind her ear in which a gold earing with a small black diamond pearl rested.

“I’ll make it quick, Sophia, but you have to hear me out.  We need to get Isabella serious help. It’s getting hard to cover up for her.  She is on our escort and drug unit’s radar now.  I hope she’s not dealing any of that illegal junk.  But how is she making her money?  How can she afford to by a Cadillac SUV and the outfits she wears when she goes out?”  She surveyed Sophia for a moment and could see the stress in her face.  She looked at her more closely and asked. “Why are you wearing all that makeup today?  Have you been crying?

Claire touched her cheek and thought she could detect a read streak under the makeup.  “It’s Isabella.  She has me worried,” Sophia said.  “I’m sure she’s not dealing, but she works as an escort two or three times a month.  It must pay well.  I always take extreme care to try to keep her out of trouble and leave nothing undone to make sure she has no access to drugs, but it’s not easy.”  She sighed and continued speaking.  “You shouldn’t have to cover up much.  I’m on her case.  Don’t worry big sis.  But how are you doing?  You haven’t been around for a month or more.  How are you?”

Claire looked at her younger sister and her heart sank.  Would she be able to get through to her this time?  “There have been changes down in my division.  I no longer lead the unit.  We have a new officer lead the homicide unit, and from what I’ve gathered nothing gets by this detective who is now in charge.  She is bright, has a degree in law and has a handsome husband.  You need to see him and tell me to keep my distance, sis.  But, as always, you’re changing the subject.  We need to sent Isabella to a topnotch treatment facility, and you need to agree not to let her quit there until she can stay clean for good.  Please sis. Do it for me.  She listens to you.”

“She listens only when she wants something.  You don’t know how terribly she is addicted.  She also always seems to attract some guy who is willing to supply her with what she wants.  You don’t know what it’s like to have an identical twin, Claire.  She hates to go to these dry-out places, and I can feel everything she feels when she goes through withdrawals.  I miss her terribly when she is not close to me and worry about her constantly.”

“So, you’re doing it to make yourself feel better, and not to help Isabella.”  She pulled a business card advertising an escort service from her pocket and handed it to her sister.  “I found this in the grass lodged between a couple small, broken off branches under a tree where I looked for clues early this morning.  No doubt the wind blew it there.  We’re investigating another murder and I’ve been trying to deny knowing how it got there.” Clair said, “but we both have a pretty good idea, don’t we?”

Sophia cast her eyes to the floor.  When she looked up again, Claire could see tears in her eyes. “I’m sorry it troubled you, sis.  I guess a customer must have dropped it or thrown it away.”  She sighed and took the wet card from her.  “Isabella overdosed on Heroin again a couple days ago.  She had gone out with this guy.  She claimed to be in love with him.  I guess she got the stuff from him.  He must be a dealer.  I’ve got her upstairs.  Why don’t you go up and see her?  She’s had a rough one, but she should be okay by now.  She’ll be happy to see you.”

“Go and get ready for your day.  I’ll go see Isabella for a few moments and stop to see you before I leave.  I’m on duty and can’t stay long.”  She left Sophia standing and climbed the two flights of stairs hurriedly.  Her heart ached before she entered the room where she knew her younger sister, Sophia’s identical twin, would be.  When she opened the door and took a step inside, she had to let her eyes grow accustomed to the near darkness.  The curtains were pulled and only a small table lamp standing on one of the small side tables lit the room.  Isabella sat in the center of the chesterfield, her knees pulled under her chin.  She appeared to be in a trance staring at the lamp.  She looked ghastly white, frail and lost.  Tears welled up in Claire’s eyes.  Siting down beside her sister she took her hand and stroked her hair.  She had sometimes wished her hair was a soft and black as the twins.  Pulling her close she said, “What have you done to yourself again?  Don’t you realize you’re killing yourself with these drugs?”

Isabella looked at her as if trying to remember who she was.  She had no words.  Only a deep sigh escaped her.  Her hands shook, as if she had recently experienced withdrawal symptoms.  Her eyes suddenly lid up with recognition.  “Claire, its good to see you,” she said, and a sad smile formed on her lips.

“Oh Isabella, I’m so sorry,” Claire whimpered.  “Here, let me hold you.”  She pulled her sister into her arms and stroked her hair again softly.  “It looks like you had a hard time again.  Do you want to talk about it?”  For a half hour she embraced her sister and tried to reassure her that they would overcome her addiction together.  Then she slowly fed her sister the breakfast she found sitting under the lamp.  Isabella had not touched it.  “You have to eat, sis.  Promise me you’ll start eating better from now on.  Look at you.  You must have lost twenty pounds since the last time I saw you.”  Isabella only nodded.  Claire sobbed silently.

The image of Isabella’ condition haunted Claire all the way back to the station.  She tried to supress her tears thinking of all that had happened to her once happy family.  Her parents had lost their lives in an automobile accident when a thirty-nine-year-old hockey player high on drugs who had been cut by his team ran head on into their car at high speed.  A year later the baby of the family, Mason, had committed suicide while he was high on cocaine.  He had not been able to deal with their parents’ death, and shortly after the accident he had begun to use all kinds of drugs, anything he could get his hands on.  Abigale, the oldest of her siblings had started to abuse alcohol after that.  Her husband had managed to get her into a treatment facility that had helped keep her sober for fourteen months, but she had recently relapsed.  Now Claire felt it was only a matter of time until Isabella would be lost to them too.

“Sophia and I will have to get her into treatment again and make sure she stays until she can deal with life without the drugs,” she whispered pulling into the station’s parking lot.  She sobbed, “When will this end?”

Her thoughts turned to Sophia for a moment.  Sophia had worked as a nurse after she had completed her coursework back in their hometown.  She and her boyfriend had planned to marry a year after their parents’ accident.  The two had been high school sweethearts.  He had enrolled in the police academy and had worked for the local police force.  Four months before their wedding he was shot in the head in a drug bust.  He had passed away in Sophia’s arms the same night in the hospital where she worked.  She had not been able to go back to work as a nurse after this.  A few weeks later she had decided to use her hobby of jewelry making as a career.  She had briefly worked for a large jewelry company before she had opened a goldsmith shop back home. After they had moved here she had opened this one.  To Claire’s delight Sophia did very well in her business venture, but she had not moved from grieving for her parents, for Mason and for her boyfriend.  Her bitterness even had increased when Isabella had become addicted and had lost her job because of it.

Claire parked and tried to pull herself together not wanting anyone to see her this way.  She dreaded having to go and meet with Vanessa.  Taking the key from the ignition she looked in the rear-view mirror of her unmarked police car, reapplied mascara and sat back for a moment to gather her thoughts.  Before they had left their hometown, she had dated a soldier who served with a unit overseas. He had stepped on a mine while he was on patrol.  Since then she had turned down a score of men wanting to date her.  While she wished she had the twin’s great looks, others saw in her a beautiful woman.  She looked at her watch and sighted.  “It’s one fifty-four.  “I’m going to have to come up with a lie why I’m so late that can’t be checked out,” she said.  Leaving the car she slowly and walked to the station.

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After  I published Against All Odds I have started on my next book a detective story.  I’ve titled it Beyond Redemption. Today I finished the third chapter of the novel, and I felt good about that   So, to celebrate I’ll post the first chapter unedited and all for your enjoyment.  To keep me working steadily on the book I’ll post other chapters down the road.  Please enjoy.

Beyond Redemption

Chapter 1: A Murder Victim in the Park

The cellphone on the nightstand had only rung softly for a few moments when Vanessa reached for it.  She listened to the caller briefly and replied, “Give me three seconds.”  She looked over at William glad he was a sound sleeper.  For a moment she watched him sleep peacefully.  His lips had formed a faint smile.  She blew him a kiss and hurried to the living room to take the call.  Forty minutes later she drove her Buick out of the driveway.

She had showered and dressed quickly before she had stopped for a minute at Adrian’s bed.  Slowly she had bent down to kiss his forehead and had whispered, “Love you.”  He’ll be two in three weeks she had thought, as she had hurried from the room. She had left a short note for William telling him she would call him later and had hurried to the garage.

Her thoughts remained with her child and her husband for a few more minutes, and the brother or sister they would give Adrian in six months, as she continued to drive into the city.  It had rained for a short time after midnight before it had cleared, but the streets were still wet.  She cast a glance at the full moon illuminating the night sky.  The sight of it caused her to shift her thinking to the call from headquarters.  “Another murder during this phase of the moon,” she whispered.  “This one makes four in five months.”  She shook her head recalling the three other incidents and thought of the similarities she had noted investigating those three slayings.

Some of these resemblances had become quickly apparent to her. All the three victims were known to the police for drug related offenses.  They were single men in their early twentieth or early thirties.  The cause of death in each case on first inspection was thought to the long, sharp hairpin with a black imitation diamond at its top stuck expertly through the heart.  Later it was discovered that these men had been drugged and asphyxiated.  Each of the victims had taken a call from someone phoning from a public telephone, according to their cellphones.  As for other clues that might identify the killer, to this day they had found nothing substantial.  All the bodies were found late at night or early in the morning in a secluded area away from nearby traffic but had been killed at a different place.  How the full moon fit into the mix was anybody’s guess, although Vanessa felt there was a reason.

The similarities had also convinced her each of the three homicides had been carefully planned.  It appeared to her they all had to be carefully executed as well.  All three cases were open and active, and she was determined to solve each of these cases.  She had continued investigating all three, and became convinced they were the work of one individual.  Her investigations had shown the three victims had died of asphyxiation after being rendered helpless, and the point of the pin into the heart, she was sure, was the perpetrator’s calling card.  Vanessa had also concluded this individual had a degree of expert knowledge about the human body.  In each case the pin had passed through the aortic valve.  Vanessa shuttered thinking a person could commit such heinous acts.

Dawn had not announced the new day when she drove into Central Park and pulled to a stop in the space to which the police officer standing in front of the cordoned off area had pointed.  She noticed two squat cars and an undercover vehicle some distance away. Vanessa did not know the officer and showed him her badge before she ducked under the tape.  Walking quickly toward the four other officers she saw searching the area in an arc around a body, she briefly greeted them as she reached them.

Claire Kinson her assistant detective stepped toward her and said, “Sorry to rob you of your sleep, Vanessa.  I was sure you wanted to see this before the body is taken to the lab.”  She turned to the two policemen who had stopped in their search for clues and introduced Vanessa to them.  “Detective Haldersen will oversee the investigation,” she said to them.

Vanessa had taken in the scene as she had approached. Now she let her eyes slowly sweep over the immediate area around the body draped over the guardrail in front of the small pond beyond it.  When her sight rested on the lifeless form of the young man a feeling of pity mixed with anger at the perpetrator touched her.  In the two years during which she had investigated criminal cases that had involved loss of life she had not gotten used to seeing a murder victim.

“Who found him?” she asked turning to Claire.

Claire cleared her throat briefly then said.  “Front desk got a call at 2:47 this morning from a female saying her boyfriend and she had pulled into the park’s parking lot to say good night, but she had refused to give their names claiming they didn’t want others close to them to know of their meeting.  Roberta called me and wanted to contact you.  I told her I would have a look and then call you, if I thought you needed to be in on this matter from the outset.  Harry and I did a walk-through, after we checked for signs of life.  Without touching anything Brent found the hairpin with a black pearl stuck in his chest.  I told two of the boys to secure a large area for us and pointed out where I wanted them to place markers.  There may well be tire marks on this pavement we might want to photograph.”

“Hm, let’s see if we can trace the call and find some names.  Does this appear to be the primary crime scene in your estimation, Claire?”

“It looks that way to me.  We’ll have a better idea about this once we know the time of death and are sure about what killed him.  It has the marks of the other killings we’re investigating, but we must rule out the possibility of a copycat act.  Those three unsolved cases you’re working on have been in the news day and night, and there are those loose canons out there who would do anything to gain some notoriety.”

For a moment Vanessa surveyed her assistant and thought about Claire’s comments.  She had expected a brief answer to the question about the crime scene.  It appeared to her briefly Claire had tried to belittle her by pointing to standard procedures any detective would know.  She was sure she had heard her stress the words you and unsolved like a challenge to her.  Vanessa was tempted to ask her what her problem was.  She had taken those unsolved cases over from Claire not long ago.  She had headed for the two years back on the force the theft and burglary division and had an excellent track record there.  The Chief had transferred her to homicide to lead that division.  Claire and she now worked on the unsolved cases together, but she decided against pointing these things out to stay focused on the case before them.  “You can continue with your sweep of the area,” was all she said to Claire.

She surveyed the position of the body draped over the two-foot-high guardrail.  It suggested to her the body was dumped out from a car driven parallel and close to the railing.  Since dead men don’t drive, the body had been in the passenger seat, she thought.  For a moment she tried to visualize someone unloading it from the trunk of a vehicle or back of a SUV.  Both those possibilities would mean the crime had been committed elsewhere.

Turning to one of the officers she said, “Tommy, please take photographs of the man where he is from many angles including a couple from above, and keep all vehicles from driving anywhere near this guardrail.  In the first light of the new day she noticed how young the man looked.  It evoked a new feeling of pity in her.

She walked closer to the corpse.  There she made a note of the left arm stuck partly under his body making his hand visible from where she stood.  His right arm hung over the rail and almost touched the grass on the other side.  “Whoever placed him here stood on his right side to do this,” she whispered.

She continued to scrutinize the ground immediately around the body, placed markers from his left side to about twenty feet beyond his right side and about six feet in front of the body.  Before she stepped over the railing at the markers on the far-right side, she told Tommy not to let anyone step into the area she had marked off until they had a chance to examine the entire area carefully in daylight and had taken all the photographs she wanted.  Turning to Tommy again she asked if they had found any identification on the man.  He in turn told her they had not checked for identification yet thinking it more important to secure the area first.

She considered the position of the body again and once more felt pity tugging at her.  Stooping low she examined the ground below the upper part of the body.  Something in the grass below the hand drew her attention.  In the beam of her flashlight she saw a few bunched-up strands of black hair below the hand.  It appeared to her that they had fallen from his hand held slightly open by rigor mortise.  Taking tweezers from her coat pocket she carefully placed them into a plastic bag she had taken out with the tweezers.  When she focused the light beam on the hand, she noticed a hair of the same color stuck between the index and middle fingers.  Something else she saw interested her, a bloodstain on the tip of the thumb and the index finger.

Daylight had replaced dawn when the coroner arrived.  Vanessa spoke to him briefly before he began his investigation.  As the medical examiner he would try to determine the cause and time of death, information Vanessa was hoping to receive quickly.  She turned back to examining a faint tire impression she had discovered to run parallel to the guardrail.  Only three and a quarter of an inch of the tire’s width she saw clearly imprinted on a patch of dry soil that she guessed might have fallen off the vehicle before the tire ran over it.  If that’s the case it had to be the rear tire, she thought, and given its nearness to the rail most likely on the passenger side.  She called Tommy Powers and instructed him to take photographs and measurements of the imprint.  “And Tommy, please bag some of that dry soil.  I want the lab to analyze it.  I didn’t find any soil elsewhere in this parking lot.  This might be useful to us. It might have fallen off a vehicle that had driven in here with the body sometimes during the night.”

She had searched for evidence for nearly three hours before she had felt satisfied she had not overlooked any clue.  Claire, Harry, Tommy and Brent Hooper had arrived at the scene before she had come.  They would also soon wrap up their work she knew.  She made careful notes of everything she had found that she had thought might be important to the investigation.  When she had completed that task, the coroner stopped by.  He informed her he had decided to do an autopsy and likely would order an inquest.  He told her he would call her later in the morning to let her know the approximate time of death as he turned to go to his vehicle.  She thanked him and returned to finish making notes of her findings.

“I’ll get Claire to wrap up here,” she said to Tommy who had come to ask if there was something else she wanted him to do.  “You can finish what you were doing and give Claire a hand, if she needs you.”

She walked to where Claire and Brent stood talking.  “Please wrap up here,” she told Claire.  “Make sure we have plenty pictures of the body and its position here.  “I’ll arrange for the body to be picked up and then head to the office.”  Her thoughts were still on the young man whose body lay draped across the railing like a discarded and forgotten doll.

“Can we talk about our findings?” Claire asked hoping to find out what evidence Vanessa might have gathered.

“Did you find anything that points to a killer?” Vanessa questioned.  She felt a deep urge to find that killer who seemed to enjoy destroying a life.  Claire’s question remained unanswered, lost in the turmoil in Vanessa’s mind.  Instead she said, “We have to catch this monster quickly.  My guess is this won’t be his last victim.

Claire surveyed Vanessa for a moment before she replied, “Nothing substantial.”

“Sometimes nothing substantial solves the case.  Come to my office once we’re all back at the office, right after lunch at the latest, and we’ll put our findings together,” Vanessa said, turned and excused herself.

Claire stared after her until Vanessa had almost reached her car.  Then she called Tommy and Brent to meet with her.  “She was rather curt,” she grumbled.  “I wonder what’s got to her?  Thinking of Vanessa for a moment longer a vision of William’s smiling face entered her thoughts.  “I’ll have to get her to ask me over to their place again,” she murmured under her breath.  “That man of hers is something special.  I wonder how she was able to snare him.”

Brent had observed her as he approached, “A cappuccino for your thoughts,” he said grinning at her.  “You look pleased about something.  I hope your thoughts were of me.”

“I was just thinking about stopping for coffee latte.  You can buy me one, Brent.  “I can use a few minutes to forget this and think about more pleasant things.”

Vanessa decided to stop for a bite of breakfast at a diner she passed on the way to the office.  After seating herself she dialed William’s cell phone.  “Good morning, sweetheart,” she said when he answered.  “Did you miss me this morning?”

“I miss you every second of the day when you’re not with me.  Did you know that every time I look at you I say to myself, “Will, what did you do to deserve to have the most beautiful woman in the world agree to be your wife?  I missed you when I found you gone this morning when I woke up.  Hopefully you weren’t called out to deal with something unpleasant, and that you’re having a good morning.  I had a fantastic breakfast with our boy and reluctantly dropped him off at Marvelous’ house.  You should have seen his face when he had finished his waffle.  His whole face had enjoyed the syrup and whipping cream from ear to ear.”

Vanessa giggled imagining how Adrian had enjoyed eating breakfast.  “Why did you drop him off reluctantly, William?” she asked.  “Your sister loves him.  And her two girls dote on him.  Adrian loves them all too.”

“Oh, I know all that, but I would have liked to have taken him to Jimmy’s place and taught him to play pool on my way to Harmony One,” he teased.

She laughed.  “I love how you can take my cloudy and dark days and turn them to clear skies and sunshine.  I love you.  What’s on your agenda today?”

“I have to deal with something that has come up unexpectedly this morning.  We will have to discuss it tonight.”  But Vanessa’s curiosity had peaked, and she pleaded with him to give her at least an idea what had come up unexpectedly.  There were not many things he could deny his wife.  “I had a visit from a corporation’s vice-president who came to tell me his company is interested in purchasing our five Harmony stores, both businesses and properties.  He told me his company would be willing to offer us twenty-two million.  He left us a document detailing that offer.  You’ll see it tonight.”

“Are you teasing me again, or is this on the level?”

“I’m not joking, sweetheart.  I have started to do some research into this corporation and have called Parker Rundle in Seattle.  He sold his wholesale company to them a year ago.”

Vanessa had no idea what the stores were worth and was about to ask William, if the offer was tempting to him, when the waitress arrived with her breakfast. They said goodbye shortly after this and soon her thoughts turned again to the murder she wanted desperately to solve.

The morning’s vision of the young man draped over that guardrail had touched a cord in her heart.  He looked so young and innocent, she thought.  What bad decisions did he make to be the victim of this targeted hit.  She guessed it likely had something to do with drug trafficking, but he didn’t fit the stereotype.  His dress was modest.  He had no weapons on him.  They had no mugshot of him down at the station, but it was mostly a gut feeling that caused her to think he was not connected to a gang or was involved in a criminal activity.

She shook her head and sighed.  I’m not going to leave a stone unturned until I find that killer, she thought.  First, we’ll determine if this murder was committed by the same person who is responsible for the other three in our jurisdiction.  She sat up strait finishing that thought.  Two things struck her.  She and her team had exclusively concentrated their search on males.  So far they had also not checked on other jurisdictions countrywide.  “We have to broaden our search,” she whispered, “and I’ll have that hair and bloodstain analyzed.  It didn’t look like there was a cut on his hand.  I want to find out from where that blood came.  With any luck we’ll find it’ll belong to the killer.  That kind of clue won’t help us a great deal in the early stages of our investigation, but every bit of evidence will help us proof our findings.”

She drove slowly to the station.  Her mind remained focused on all she had observed and found at the murder scene, as she steered her unmarked car through the increasing traffic.  She parked quickly when she had arrived at the station and walked briskly up the stairs.  She greeted her friend Kimberly at the front desk and asked her to let Claire know she hoped to be in her office now for a few hours.

Kimberly told her that Claire had not come in yet and said, “There was a call for you from the East Coast from a detective.  He said he was investigating a homicide in Boston.  The fellow said he had several questions he wanted to ask you about a case he had heard you are working on, and asked that you call him back.  Not knowing when you would be in I told him I would give you his request as soon as you were in your office.  I placed a note with his name and phone number on your desk.”

Vanessa thanked her and asked if Lee, her son’s earache had improved.  She entered her office and closed the door a moment later.  Reading the note Kimberly had left on her desk she decided to call Boston after she had contacted the lab and left instructions there.  Her call to Glenda at the lab had taken longer than she had anticipated, and she had barely hung up when Kimberly put through another call.  She drummed her fingers on her desk wanting to make that call to Boston, but this caller made her stand up strait.

“I know,” she heard the caller whisper and laugh low in a forced way.  The voice had Vanessa’s attention as much as its words and the laugh.  It appeared disguised as if spoken through cupped hands or with something stuffed in the mouth.  Before she could reply she heard the two words and laugh repeated and the phone go dead.

Vanessa hurried to Kimberly, “Did that caller say who it was?” she asked.

“No, he or she only asked for you.  For a second I had thought I recognized that voice, but suddenly it sounded different and kind of demanding.  When I asked who it was the caller said to hurry, and then I heard nothing else.  It was as if the phone had been left in an empty room.  The whole thing gave me the creeps.”

With her brow furrowed Vanessa asked Kimberly to see if the call can be traced and returned to her office.  She wondered what kept Claire, but she recalled telling her to meet with her after lunch.  She scolded herself for thinking her partner had taken her time to come and meet with her.  Once more she thought about the call from the detective who had left his name and number and wondered what he wanted to know.

Claire Kinson had been assigned to her four months earlier.  She had not been new to the force, but had worked in homicide in this jurisdiction for over a year after coming from a unit in the east of the country.  Despite trying to make friends with her Vanessa had realised they had not grown closer.  Vanessa had invited Claire to her home for dinner twice hoping to start to get to know her better and feel more comfortable around her. but if anything, those dinners had created more distance between them.  Claire’s eyes looked at the world with a coldness that Vanessa found unnatural.  Claire’s demeanor around Vanessa at times also appeared guarded and defensive, occasionally even offensive to her.

She sighed.  I must make more of an effort to befriend her and get to know her better, Vanessa thought.  I really know very little about her.  Who knows what demons have tormented her in her life.  She has never mentions anyone she is close to.  My impressions of her maybe totally wrong, and I must not judge her.  I certainly have no reason to be critical of the job she has done since she had become my assistant.  Her ability to think through and analyze complex problems is excellent.  She seems to get along with most of the people at the station.  I hope she doesn’t resent that I was given the lead in the section over her.

For a few moments Vanessa remained seated in her chair quietly trying to clear her mind in preparation for her call to Boston.  She had to wait for several minutes for the detective to take her call, after the receptionist had told her she would connect her to his office.  Subconsciously, she drummer the fingers of her right hand on her desk’s top trying to keep her mind from straying back to the scene in the park.

“Darren Whitestone here,” she heard a man’s voice finally say.  He briefly referred to his official identification then told her why he had called.  “I had opened a cold case a few months ago and had been investigation it without making much headway, when I learned of a case in your area that sounded like a carbon copy of what I have here,” he said.

He went on to speak of a young man who had been on their radar as a dealer who was murdered and found dumped in a wooded area away from traffic.  “He had a needle with a black imitation diamond stuck in his heart,” he went on to say.

Vanessa told him of the cases she was investigating and asked, “Did his time of death by any chance coincide with the full moon?”

After a moment of silence, the detective replied that this was the case.  “I had not placed any significance on that fact.  Is that significant in the cases you are investigating?” he asked and wanted to know more specifically what she made of it.  He thanked her for pointing this out to him.  “This might indeed help us narrow our search,” he added.

“It is a fact in all three of our cases.  As of this morning we have a new case to solve, a case identical to the other three,” Vanessa told him.  She asked him about witnesses, the cause of death and several other questions of interest to her.

They agreed it appeared they were looking for the same individual who had committed these crimes.  They spoke for another fifteen minutes and agreed to stay in touch with each other before they hung up.

It had only occurred to Vanessa this day that there might be cases in other parts of the country that were committed by the same individual she tried to find.  “It’s another item I must check out,” she said.  “It is possible there are other cases in this country and maybe abroad that were committed by this monster.”

She looked at her watch to find that much of the morning had slipped away.  The few leads and clues they had gathered trying to solve these recent cases brought to her mind her last assignment with her mentor in police work.  I wonder what Casey is up to these days, she thought.  She had worked with Casey before she had met William, and on his suggestion gone undercover to catch a jewel thief.  Casey had suspected that thief to be William, the man with whom she would fall in love while helping Casey solve those high-profile cases of the jewel thief who had left no clues only a calling card.

Casey had taught her much.  He had worked as a policeman for many years, had a sharp mind and had keen insight into human and criminal behavior.  She was tempted to call him just to run things by him and see what his thoughts were.  “He may need a little excitement.  Retirement must have some dull moments,” she giggled.

She had quit the force after that undercover operation, married William, completed her last year of coursework in law and had gone to work as a lawyer with a large law firm.  But she had found the work she had been often given to do boring and had soon begun to miss police work.  With William’s blessing she had returned to the force a year later with the theft and burglary division, the division Casey had led before his retirement.

She still knew Casey’s family home telephone number by heart and quickly dialed the number.  A smile formed on her face when, after she had greeted him, she heard his familiar voice say, “Hello princess.  How is my girl today?”


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Against All Odds

My book Against All Odds is now published in eBook format and can be found at Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Tolino, Playster, Scribd, amd Inktera.  Apple, 24 Symbols, and OverDrive should carry it soon also.

Against All Odds Final

For you to get acquainted with what the book is about I have copied the pages below


There comes a time in most people’s lives when someone who has come to know you asks, “Why do you do that?”  Or perhaps while discussing a significant issue with others a person asks you, “Why do you believe this?”  These also might be questions you are led to ask yourself after an experience that causes you to want to examine your habits or beliefs.  It is a good practice to do so occasionally, even if it is for no reasons other than to wish to change a practice or grow in understanding.

One of the admonitions the Apostle Peter gives us is to always be ready to give others an answer why we believe salvation and eternal life are attainable through Jesus Christ.  1 Peter 3:15, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: (KJV).  We are living in an age of information overload.  Confronted by the unrelenting flood of knowledge and news it has become most difficult to take time for reflection to quietly explore questions relating to who we are, and on what we have based our beliefs.  In Psalm forty-six verse ten the Lord instructs us to “Be still and know that I am God.”  The Psalmist reminds us to take time away from the whirlwind of our days to know what we believe in our innermost being.

Back when I had completed my first two or three books I had determined to eventually try to write a Christian adventure or love story. After self-publishing my sixth novel, I began to wonder and ask what I should write next.  I had written two historical adventure stories.  Two others can be classified as novels in the genre of crime.  Another is a romance novel, and one is a love story set in a fictional Christian background.  In it I explore how tragedies affect people and even shake the strongest faith.  Now I felt the time was right to attempt that Christian adventure story.  For inspiration for a story I had begun to read Christian novels.

I tend to get my ideas for stories from something I see, read or hear that intrigues me or causes me to ask serious questions.  My novel, “Secrets of Hawking Manor” grew from a painting of an old English country estate I had seen in a hotel with its own history.  The painting had captured my interest and imagination.  I couldn’t get the scene of the estate out of my mind.  I wondered what kind of people might have lived at that estate in its glory days, what their joys and their sorrows were, and what problems and opportunities their time in history presented to them.  I invented the characters, spent many hours researching the time in history in which I had set the novel and enjoyed writing the story of the lives of my characters.  These characters became my companions throughout the months I wrote the novel.  The research of the time in history in which I had set the storyline I found delightful and enlightening.  It inspired me to write a sequel.  I received my inspiration for the next five novels in similar fashion, and I enjoyed writing each one of those novels as well.

As I have mentioned, once I had completing my last novel, I decided to write that Christian book I had thought I would like to write years earlier, but inspiration and enthusiasm for the themes and characters I had explored abandoned me.  Even though I had played with several ideas in my mind the excitement I needed to settle on one of these and start to plan for plot and characters did not emerge with any of my ideas.  Then I read an account of one of the Apostles named in the New Testament.  That narrative did ignite my interest.  But the more I thought about writing a novel featuring a hero or a heroin who encounters adventures like this disciple had experienced on his travels two thousand years earlier, I realized it was not what I wanted my next book to be.

What I knew of these disciples’ lives and ministries, what I had read of the messages they had left behind was a reason for my faith.  Fictionalizing this did not appeal to me the more I thought about it.  Struggling to sort out what I wanted to write I became convinced I should find out as much as I could about each of these men who had followed Jesus for several years.  I was sure they had encountered many adventures and had to overcome many difficulties.  The idea struck me to search beyond what I knew of them and write about what I found out.

Consequently, I determined to challenge myself to do the mountain of research I knew it would require and write not a novel, as I had first thought to do, but a nonfiction account.  While I had read the account that morning which had inspired me, I had also felt deeply drawn to once more analyse the reasons why I had believed all biblical teachings to be true.  I had trusted that Jesus Christ is the Son of God through whom I had become reconciled to an almighty God many years earlier.  It was not that I had begun to doubt what I believed, but I thought it good to show how my experiences validated my faith and to share my testimony of the power of God’s love.

 Chapter 3:  Who Were the Disciples?

The twelve disciples or apostles as they were called after Jesus had risen were twelve men Jesus had called to spent time with him, to learn from him and to get to know him. A disciple is a student, an apprentice and an adherent and follower.  He wanted to teach them about God, show them who he was, explain what he came to do and tell them of the Kingdom of Heaven.

It follows, in my opinion, that his purpose also would have been to prepare them for a life of witnessing of what they had heard him say and saw him do.  We read in the Gospels that one day walking by the Sea of Galilee Jesus saw two fishermen mending their nets.  He called them to follow him, and told them he would make them fishers of men.  Incredible to me is the fact that they left everything and followed him immediately.  See Matthew 4:18-20.

Reading this begs me to ask, what kind of man was this who could ask two individuals working at their trade to go with him, and they do so straight away leaving behind their means to make their living?  Days before this Andrew, who had been a disciple of John the Baptist had introduced Peter to Jesus, but we read nowhere that Jesus had asked either of these two to follow him at that meeting.  In John 1:40-42 we read, One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.  He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah (which is translated, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. Now when Jesus looked at him, He said, ‘You are Simon the son of Jonah.  You shall be called Cephas’ which is translated, a Stone.” (NKJV).  Jewish people at this time were hoping for the promised Messiah to come, free them from Roman rule and set up a kingdom.

In Luke 3:15-16 we read of their waiting for this fulfillment of God’s promise.  “The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah.  John answered them all, ‘I baptize you with water.  But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.’” (NIV)

Andrew and Peter were fishermen.  They along with their father, Jonah, owned their boat and perhaps more than one.  It took much work to maintain the equipment needed to be successful at their trade.  Peter was a married man.  His wife’s mother lived them.  Their father likely had dependents too.  Clearly, Andrew and Peter were convinced this man who called them to follow him was no ordinary man.  It appears they did not debate whether their father could carry on alone.  They did not ask how they would support their dependants.

Jesus did not assure them of property or wealth when he called them.  He only promised to make them fishers of people.  They did not ask what he meant by fishers of men, nor what they would need to do or what it would cost them.  Neither did Jesus hide from them that they would face persecution and hardships for following him.

Most interesting to me also, reading and researching information about the individuals known as Jesus’ disciples was to realize that the twelve men were ordinary people like most of us are.  In fact, Mathew was a tax collector, someone the people at that time despised.  Simon the Zealot was a revolutionary who actively opposed the Roman occupation forces.  Several of them were fishermen.  They ranged greatly in temperament.  Some were headstrong and other timid.  There were those who firmly believed the Messiah would come soon, and there were doubters in this group of men.

Like Andrew and Peter, Jesus called the sons of Zebedee, James and John while they were at their place of work.  They too were fishermen.  It is thought by some writers that their father was a man of means.  Some writers suggest James and John were Andrew and Peter’s partners.  Being fishermen they, no doubt, at least knew each other.

One of the twelve, Judas Iscariot has become infamous over the centuries for his betrayal of Jesus.  Even after two thousand years it is not unusual to hear someone call a person who betrayed their confidence a Judas.  To me this disciple is pitiful.  He heard Jesus speak of how to reap treasures in heaven and many other amazing things.  He saw him heal lepers and calm a storm. He was a witness when Jesus raised their friend, Lazarus, from the dead.  What was Judas thinking?  What motivated him to sell Jesus out to those who wanted him crucified?  We know from the Gospels that he was responsible for the group’s funds and appeared to love money.  Still, it is hard to think he would betray his Lord for thirty pieces of silver.  I read in the Gospels that Jesus once asked what it would profit someone to gain the whole world and lose his soul in the process, and wonder what Judas state of mind was.  With that act he had fulfilled an Old Testament prophesy.  See Zechariah 11: 12-13.  Judas had sold his soul not for the whole world but for thirty pieces of silver.

The other men Jesus called also were common folk, men of average talents and means.  Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus and Thaddaeus were all called individually or brought to Jesus by another disciple.  These five are less known.  Less is written about them, but each one continued to the end of his life to be an eyewitness of the life of Jesus Christ, his crucifixion and resurrection, and each one continued to proclaim Jesus’ message against great odds and unjust persecution.

In the pages to follow I will attempt to find as much as is possible and describe each of the twelve men individually fully, and say to what conclusion each of their portraits has led me.  In addition, I will research and write about four others of whom we read in the Bible and who also were eyewitnesses or would have been able to meet and speak to eyewitnesses in their search for the truth about Jesus, the Messiah.

Who were these twelve men?  They were ordinary men.  No special accomplishments or talents had distinguished them from millions of other men before Jesus had called them to follow him.  Their education consisted of what was offered all Jewish boys who eventually would make their living at a trade commonly found at their time in history.  They lived in a country occupied by Roman legions and controlled by Roman law.  They lived in the hope that soon the Messiah who had been promised them by several prophets in the Scriptures would come and free them from Roman rule.

Following Jesus they at first had believed they had found the Messiah who would set up this promised Jewish kingdom for which the people of the land had hoped for a long time.  But being with Jesus for three years they learned of all that Jesus taught, and they began to realize he had not come to set up an earthly kingdom.  They saw the miracles he performed.  It had to convince them Jesus was more than just a man.  His death by crucifixion, his resurrection from the dead and his ascension opened their eyes to who he truly was.  They had realized that instead of freeing Israel from Roman rule they had found the Son of God who had come to prepare for them a place in his heavenly kingdom.  They had found he had come to offer them and all men women and children a life full of meaning on this earth and eternal life thereafter in the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Apostles One by One

Chapter 5: Thaddaeus

As I start this section I want to focus on the lesser known disciples first.  One of these men was Thaddaeus.  Little is known about his life.  His name in Greek means large hearted and courageous.  Some writers describe him as good hearted with a servant’s attitude.  Others thought he had been a Zealot and had not been opposed to using force.  He is sometimes paired with Simon the Zealot.  He is also referred to by at least three names.  Matthew in the tenth chapter calls him Thaddaeus.  At that occasion Jesus had called his disciples together to send them out to witness to the people of Israel.

Thaddaeus appears to be the name by which he is most often called.  Other names sometimes used are Labbaeus and Judas, son of James, as he is identified in Luke 6:16 and Acts 1:13.  From the account in Acts 1:13 we also learn that he was part of the group of disciples in the “Upper Room” after Jesus ascended to heaven, and the eleven disciples chose Matthias to replace Judas Iscariot.  He is also sometimes referred to as Jude, the son of James. Some scholars think he may be the author of the short Book of Jude in the Bible.  Still others believe later authors trying to distinguish him from Judas Iscariot shortened Judas to Jude in his case.

If he wrote that book of Jude, he was a master of crafting beautifully expressive language.  The opening greeting is delightfully worded.  The Doxology at the end of the book which is quoted below in its simplicity is nothing short of elegant and beautiful.

“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.” Jude 1:24-25 (KJV)

What we know for certain is that Thaddaeus was one of Jesus’ twelve disciples as his name appears in the lists when these men are named.  We also know he was one Jesus sent out along with the other eleven at the time described by Matthew in chapter ten. They were to go out to cast out evil spirits and heal the sick.  Their message was to tell the people that the Kingdom of Heaven was near.  That he was part of this group I believe shows he was seen by Jesus as worthy and able to carry out this task assigned to him and these men.  The assignment was not an easy one.  They were not to take with them things to sustain and protect them like bread, a change of clothes, money, a bag to carry things in or a walking stick.  See Luke 9:1-10.  Jesus also told them that they may not be welcomed by the people in some of the towns and villages, and he prepared them for that kind of eventual occasion.

Some writers examining the apostles suggest that Thaddaeus was the brother of James the lesser and perhaps even his twin.  Both are referred to in the Gospels as sons of Alpheus or of Cleophas and Mary.  They both called Galilee home.  It is likely, therefore, that they were brothers.  Some biblical scholars believed both were married and had children.  Some also suggest that these two men had been fishermen like several others of the disciples were.  There are scholars who believe they were brought to Jesus by James and John the sons of Zebedee.  We know from the Gospels that these later two were fishermen by trade.  However, it is not recorded in the Gospels what occupation Thaddaeus had practiced or how he came to be one of the twelve.

Still other accounts list him together with Simon the Zealot, a man actively opposing the Roman occupation of their country, an act that carried with it a penalty of imprisonment or death by crucifixion.  To the contrary, we know he did not attempt to fight when the band of soldiers and officers of the high priest came, led by Judas Iscariot, to arrest Jesus and take him first to Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas the high priest.  This band of Roman soldiers consisted of three to six hundred men trained to put down all riots or rebellions.  It appears they came prepared and equipped for a fight.  Only Peter drew a sword and wounded the high priest’s servant before Jesus told him to put his weapon away, but he was not a Zealot.

We find one event in the Gospels that featured Thaddaeus specifically.  After the Last Supper Jesus prepared his disciples for his death, and he comforted them.  He told them the world will soon no longer see him, but that they will see him again, and he would send them the Holy Spirit.  At that point Thaddaeus turned to him and asked a question that suggests that even with all the miracles he had seen Jesus perform he had not yet fully comprehended who Jesus really was and for what reason he had come to the world.  Perhaps he still hoped Jesus had come to overthrow the Roman occupation and set up a kingdom in Israel.

In John 14:22 (NKJV) we read, “Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, ‘Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?”  The prevalent belief by the people of Israel was that the Messiah would come to set up a kingdom and free them from Roman rule.  This disciple must have had no doubt that Jesus was the Messiah, but Thaddaeus had failed to understand who the Messiah truly was.  No doubt he imagined he would receive an important post in the kingdom when Jesus became king and had hoped that this time was close at hand.  We also know from the Gospel accounts that like most of the other disciples Thaddaeus abandoned Jesus when he was arrested and put on trial.

The talk of the town and in the area around Jerusalem centered all around the crucifixion and the things that had happened there on the weekend of the crucifixion.  The men walking to Emmaus spoke of it.  Luke in chapter twenty-four verses thirteen and fifteen tells us, “That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened.”

While we know they had deserted him and were hiding, it is still safe for us to assume that the disciple Thaddaeus and the rest of the disciples would have known Jesus had been crucified and had died shortly after this had occurred.  With that knowledge, no doubt, Thaddaeus’ dream of being freed of the Roman rule and of a separate kingdom rising in Israel had perished also.  This had to be a disappointment to him.  His understanding that Jesus was the Son of God came to him a little later, as it did to others of Jesus’ followers.  After Thaddaeus and the rest of the disciples had found out Jesus had risen from the dead they appeared to have been bewildered until Jesus came to them where they were hiding.

From the time of Jesus resurrection onward this man called Thaddaeus no longer had illusions about having an important place in an earthly kingdom.  Tradition tells us he travelled to preach and to heal people in Judea, Samaria, Syria and Libya.  It is also likely he had visited Beirut and Edessa, after Jesus’ ascension.  We know Jesus had prepared his disciples for the task of going out and telling people about him.  From those several earlier times when Jesus had sent them out Thaddaeus would have known he would encounter hardships and even hostile encounters.  Still, he went telling all people with whom he came in contact what he had heard Jesus say, what he had witnessed him do, and that he had come to this world to offer each man, woman and child salvation and eternal life.  To those who doubted he could have said, “I know it is so for I saw him alive shortly after he had died on that Roman cross.”

It is believed he preached in Edessa a town near the Euphrates River, healed many there and many believed the message he had proclaimed.  Tradition tells us that he also preached in Assyria and Persia.  Several scholars suggest he was martyred on one of his mission trips in the area of Ararat in present day Turkey in 65 AD, when he refused to renounce his belief in Jesus Christ.  It is believed he was shot with arrows or killed with an axe.

What may we conclude with a high degree of certainty from the fact that he chose to be brutally killed rather than deny that Jesus was the Son of God?  I believe Thaddaeus, called by Jesus to follow him, had heard his messages, had seen how he had lived and had observed how he had loved the people around him who were lost.  Convinced Jesus was the Son of God once he saw him alive again after he had been crucified, he valued his earthly life much less than the eternal life Jesus had promised him. Thaddaeus had glimpsed eternity. He could not but remain faithful to Jesus.  He witnessed most of the miracles Jesus had performed, and he was convinced now beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus was who he claimed to be, the Messiah, the Son of God.  If it could be possible for us to ask him, if he could vouch for all he had seen Jesus do, and if he had actually been with Jesus several times after he had been crucified and had risen from the dead, I have no doubt he would say something like, “I have touched the nail prints in his hands.  I know my Redeemer lives”

Chapter 19:  My Life Experiences

Reasons to doubt

But what have my own experiences taught me?  By nature, upbringing or by life’s early encounters I am skeptical.  For others to convince me of a point I will likely ask them to show me rather than just tell me. I know I learn best that way.  Common sense to me is one important guide also when making decisions.  I like to analyze and dig deeper when I deal with ideas and events that are not immediately transparent.  “Prove it,” is a phrase I have said more than once.  What then have the events in my life shown me?

On the previous pages I have already pointed to several reasons why I choose to believe what the Bible teaches.  For me the wonderfully accurate functioning together of all things I find in nature speaks of the existence of an all-powerful intelligence, God.  Having read and considered what the Bible declares I find I cannot dismiss biblical accounts as only stories of overactive minds.  The crucifixion and resurrection accounts are historical facts.  From my childhood onward those accounts have always had a profound effect on me.  Many prophesies of the Old Testament, I cannot deny, point to Jesus Christ as the Son of God, Emmanuel.  The life and testimony of the eyewitnesses are more than convincing of what Jesus taught, the miracles he performed and who he is, in my estimation.  But what have my life experiences taught me?  Do my experiences line up with what I have chosen to believe based on the above reasons?  Have I found that the almighty God of the Bible really is interested in the life of all individuals including me, and does he hear their and my prayers?

First let me recall events in my life giving me reasons that should have been sufficient for me to claim there is no God, or at least to believe there is no benevolent God.  I was born in Breslau, capital of Silesia. It was and is a beautiful city on the River Oder.  The city, after the Second World War, when the borders of Germany were redrawn by Russia and the Western Powers, became part of Poland.  It is now known as Wroclaw.

We lived in a comfortable home on the Koenig’s Strasse translated King’s Street.  My parents were well to do.  As a three-year-old child I remember going on one of my father’s business trips in an automobile driven by a chauffeur.  Few people owned motor vehicles at that time and fewer had chauffeurs to drive them.  I also remember a young lady who helped my mother with household chores and with us children.  I recall teasing this young woman in mischievous ways and now wish I had been always kind to her.

My early childhood memories of our home in Breslau are all happy ones.  I vividly recall Sunday afternoon strolls in the city and the countryside many times with my extended family.  We often stopped for cake or ice cream on these walks.  Swimming on my father’s back in the river was a favorite activity for me.  Listening to my mother reading to us and reciting poetry in her animated way always was a special time for me.  We sometimes visited my grandparents and aunts.  Some lived in the city and others in a town nearby.  These events were wonderful times.  Celebrating Christmas and Easter for all of us were always happy occasions.  But all this changed in the late summer of 1944.

The air raid sirens from that time on began to wail much more often, and when taking walks into the city center with my mother and siblings on warm days I could now see buildings that lay in ruin.  Early in the New Year my father could make no more business trips.  He, along with all able-bodied males of over fourteen years of age and older not in some way connected to the army for one of the permitted reasons, was now pressed into service and forced to defend the city from the advancing Russian troops.  I don’t recall seeing him any longer from that early January onward.  After the happy Christmas holidays, he was not home much of the time.  Bombing raids of the city increased daily.  We now often hurried to take cover in the basement or the shelters of the city when we did venture out on sunny days.  I did not understand what this was all about and wondered why people who lived in other countries wanted to hurt us.

I also noticed a change that had come over my mother.  The songs she used to sing or hum I no longer heard.  Her face often spoke of fear to me.  One day I watched her reprimand a small group of German boys bullying two other, younger children carrying home small milk cans.  I had sometimes also gone with my mother to the store with a one-liter milk can to purchase fresh milk.  These two children, not much older than I was, wore black armbands which I later found out Jewish children had to wear.  They had not been accompanied by an adult.  When I asked my mother why the older boys would not let these two pass by, she bent down to me, and I think her hands shook before she spoke.  Her eyes grew large.  She whispered to me, “You must not ever tell anyone what I just did out there.”  She usually took time to answer and explain all my many questions that I often asked her, but that was all she had said this day.  It had baffled me at the time that she would say no more.  We also made no more trips to my grandparents from that time on, and the young lady who had helped my mother came no longer to our house having been ordered to do duties in support of defending the city.  I’m sure despite my teasing her she would have liked to stay, but she had no choice but to obey.

At that time in Germany power was held by a few people.  Men called Gauleiters were top party officials and were powerful and greatly feared.  Disregarding their orders often resulted in the dissenter disappearing and winding up in a secret camp, now known by all as Concentration Camps.  Most of the subordinates of these men were feared also.  They reported the most minor offenses that sometimes resulted in dreadful consequences.  My grandfather during a parade of an army unit did not salute Hitler and for that offense was blacklisted, lost his job and could only secretly earn a living from that time onward.  One of his friends who had celebrated to much the previous night had dressed in a uniform of the Kaiser’s time who had reigned previously in Germany.  This friend had shouted from the horse on which he rode a salute to this dead King.  He was not seen or heard from again until after the war.  I was too young to have a clear understanding of all that had occurred in those days, but I did realize that many things had changed.  It had not escaped me that the smiles I had usually seen on the faces of the people I knew had disappeared.  I had sensed a condition in our neighborhood that I could not grasp at the time, but had eventually realized to have been fear and uncertainty.

It was near the middle of January that one day a man came to our house and told my mother we would have to leave our home that day and go to a village some distance to the west of the city where there would be a room for us in a house he had identified for my mother.  I don’t remember much about this village except it had snowed on our trip there and during the days we had remained there.  To me it had appeared that the lady of the house did not seem to care much for us staying in a room in her house, when she had showed us the room where we were to stay and the bathroom in the hallway.  She had looked somewhat older than my mother to me.  Her husband was likely where most able-bodied men were, in the army or recently conscripted.  I had not seen any children in the house while we were there, but in the backyard stood a swing set for children.

We were there for a little more than a week.  Then we were able to go back home, as the Russian army had been beaten back according to a conversation I had overheard.  The most vivid memory I have of that week in this village was of the one Sunday afternoon we had lived there.  I had followed several older children who were taking their sleighs to a hillside where they took turns sleighing down the hill.  I was happy because two of these children gave me a ride a few times, but as the day turned to dusk they began to leave to go back to their home.  I suddenly realized that I did not remember in which house we had our room.  The houses all looked the same to me.  I had followed the other children back and had walked past the house where we had our room.  I had walked back and forth on the street where I knew the house was without recognizing into which I should go.  When it was nearly dark I had become panicked.  Then I had spied my mother searching for me.  She had rescued me, but to do so she had to leave my two younger sisters behind alone to go out to find me.  While I’m sure she was displeased with me, she hugged me when she had found me.  It had been the first time in my life that I had experienced the feeling of being lost.  Its impact would remain with me for several years.

Back home in Breslau the air raid sirens sounded now daily and sometimes into the night.  Before we were allowed to turn on lights in a room at night we had to make sure drapes or blinds were pulled so no light could be detected outside.  Early in February the man who had told us to leave a few weeks earlier came to our house again and told my mother we had one hour to begin traveling westward.  I’m not sure if he had stipulated a village to which we were to go.  My mother had decided previously that if the fighting continued we would travel to Bavaria where one of my father’s sisters lived with her family, and to where his mother and other two sisters had gone weeks earlier.  My mother had packed, after we had returned from the village where we had lived for a few days, a backpack for her and a small one for my sister, who is a year younger than I am, and one for me.  These stood ready day and night for us to take in the event we had to flee again.  Under the mattress and blankets of my baby sister’s carriage she had stored valuables and money.  Our beautiful city had become a scary place.

Sections of the city now lay in ruin, and all women and old people I saw looked to me to be sad and afraid.  I could not understand why they spoke so little now and smiled no more.  On the first day or two we had traveled by train.  It had stopped often and did not move at night, as no lights were to be seen.  Often when we came to areas where the rail lines were damaged by bombs we had to leave the train.  At those times we walked.  One day my mother managed to get us a ride on a horse drawn wagon for a distance.  I vaguely recall sitting on it as it rambled along.  It was a short time later that we were able to catch a train again, although this one was a freight train.  The days had grown cold and it snowed lightly, I recall.  This train carried us to the outskirts of Dresden on February 12, 1945 according to my mother.  It was just before dusk when we had to leave the train, because of anticipated bombing raids predicted for this area.  Accompanied by the continuous droning of distant air raid sirens we began to walk toward the city to find a shelter for the night.

That trek into the city had covered about ten kilometers.  I can almost still feel the weight of the small backpack getting ever heavier, as I hung on to one side of the carriage.  My younger sister on the other side trudged along without a word, but I had begun to complain. At one point I sat down on the curb of the street we had crossed saying I wanted to go no further.  My mother, patient and creative had me soon up and moving and looking forward to something to eat that she was sure we would find at a shelter.

It seemed like an eternity before we came to a theater complex where we were invited to enter and stay for the night.  No opera, ballet or music artist would perform there that night.  Most of the seats had been cleared out and on the sunken floor we found straw and blankets spread out on top of it.  Other Flichtlinge (fleeing people in German) had already claimed a spot in the floor.

I remember throwing off my pack and coat at an empty place.  Flopping on the blankets and fully stretching out.  I was happy to have arrived at a warm place.  We did receive a bowl of warm soup and a slice of bread, and I soon forgot about my tired feet.  It was around ten that night that my mother suddenly told us to get our coats on again. To my sister’s and my loud complaints, she helped us button our coats and shoulder our backpacks.  To our questions she told us we would go and look for a better shelter.  The bombing attack sirens had not quit their eerie warnings as we trudged back into the darkness.  I don’t remember how long we walked.  Eventually my mother found an underground air raid shelter she thought would keep us safe.

After leaving the theater that had been prepared for the many women and children fleeing westward for their lives who had stopped for the night in Dresden, we came across a youth who seemed to wander around without having any place to go.  He looked to me to be the age of high school boys.  I had learned some years later that he was a young conscientious objector who wanted to stay out of sight for fear of being sent to prison.  My mother taking pity on him told him to stay with us.  She would eventually smuggle him into that underground shelter as her young, injured brother.  At the shelter she had found she was repeatedly told at first that it was full.  The person in charge kept telling her to hurry on in search of another shelter.  But that individual didn’t know my mother.  She was a strong-willed woman.  She would not budge and eventually had managed to persuade the woman in charge to make room for us.

The next day and for the next forty-eight hours the sirens wailed without stopping it had appeared to me.  Objects in the shelter shook.  I remember that the air inside the shelter appeared to vibrate sometimes.  Occasionally dust or sand dribbled from cracks in the ceiling.  The heat that next day became almost unbearable.  We learned eventually that the Allied warplanes had dropped not only bombs but also incendiary devices.  I can still see and hear in my mind an elderly lady continually crying.  She had gone insane from fear my mother had told me years later.  In my youth I wondered sometimes what had become of her.

The first morning when no bombs appeared to fall any longer and the sirens had stopped sounding the signal for active air raids, I wondered what had happened.  Shortly after daybreak my mother hurried to bundle us up, and soon we were ready to leave the shelter.  I will never forget picking our way from the city’s center to the outskirts of Dresden.  Everywhere I looked I saw ruins.  Parts of damaged walls reached into the sky where once buildings stood.  Smoke rose from many sites.  The streets were covered with rubble, parts of buildings and trees.  Hanging on a jagged wall still standing of what had been a tall building the burnout fuselage of a fighter plane stuck.  To my surprise I cannot remember what it smelled like around us that morning, as we tried to find our way out of the city.  For a good portion of the cloudy morning we walked in circles trying to pick our way through the debris.  To this day I wonder how my mother managed to push the baby’s buggy through all the debris obstructing the streets.  Not many people had ventured out into the open when we had left.  Dawn also seemed to struggle to advance.

Eventually we passed the place where the theater once stood, where we had stopped for one or two hours on our way into the city.  It took me quite a while to recognize the place despite not being able to stop staring at the wreckage and the men trying to clear away parts of the walls.  Even in my young mind, not yet six years old, a bell tolled with the message that my mother, sisters and I might have had to be pulled from those ruins that morning had we remained there.  My mother silently hurried us past the site.


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Several times in the last couple weeks I have been asked by people if I’m writing anymore books.  Others have asked how many books I have written.  To answer the first question let me say that I am in the process of writing a book.  This one is nonfiction and requires me to do a great deal of research.  It’s one of the big reasons it’s taking a long time to finish this book.

Other reasons are that after completing and publishing the last novel, “After the Last Game”, I took some time to get inspired about what to write next.  First I thought of writing another novel.  I even had come up with a title that appealed to me thinking I should write a mystery story and call it “Beyond Redemption”.  Then the idea of writing a nonfiction book began to appeal to me more.  I have not attempted to write one in that genre so far, and I like trying new things.  And to be honest, yes, I have had days when writer’s block kept me from the keyboard. It has all added up to no new book for quite some time. But I have finished a good third of this book I’m writing now, and I hope to be able to publish it in late spring.  So far I have leaned to title the book “Against All Odds”, but by the time the book is finished I may well settle on some other title.

As to how many books I have written, the number is six.  Two are historical adventure stories, two are love stories and two are a combination of detective and love stories.  Two condition I have set for myself in writing all novels are:  They are to make the stories lifelike and to keep the language clean.  Happy endings also appeal to me.  Although for the book I had thought of writing before the current one I had tried to imagine a protagonist for whom redemption would be out of the question.  I’d love to hear from those of you who have read some of the novels to let me know if I’ve been true to those conditions.

Secrets of Hawking Manor Storms_copy (1 use) Beyond the Breaking Point Cover

Beyond the Law 6 cover-2-of-in-joy after-the-last-game-2



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