Coming off the plane I noticed a group of three silent figures and by their deathly pale faces I recognized them: his mother, father, and pregnant wife. They stood together, strangely separated from the hustle bustle of the airport, waiting for me.
They watched in solemn silence as I wheeled the casket toward them. It was a tense moment. No questions were asked, no tears shed. The mother, still reeling from the shock of losing her son, did not cry. Instead she bit her lips, hard. The father wrapped his arm around her for support, but he was the one that seemed closest to the verge of collapse.
Then he steadied himself, somehow, and with a gentle motion, stroked the flag that wrapped the coffin.
“So sorry for your loss,” I said, feeling awkward for using a phrase that was too weak and all too common to convey what I was feeling.
He nodded his head to signal that he heard me, but neither he nor the mother could utter a single word. In their place, the soldier’s young wife came to me, holding something in her hand.
Softly she said, "When Charlie came home on his last leave, he gave me the Marine Corps emblem off his hat. At first I refused it, knowing that without the emblem, he risked not being readmitted to the base.”
I said, “Perhaps he had a premonition of what would come his way and wanted you to keep it.”
“Yes,” she whispered, clutching it to her heart. “I still have it. It's a cherished memento.”
Meanwhile, from out of nowhere, a lone bagpiper came by. In the midst of a busy airport he looked like an apparition from a different place and time, marching slowly towards us. As he strolled past the flag-draped casket I caught the music he was playing: it was an old song, written by an Englishman who in the early part of his life had been an outspoken atheist, libertine, and slave trader, only to find his faith after riding out a storm at sea.
The sound of it was magical. It quelled the noise of people fussing, people walking all about, rushing to and fro with suitcases and stuff. At the same time it calmed the silence, the angry silence in my heart, opening it anew to sadness and to joy.
It was then that the soldier’s wife took a step forward to the casket and placed the emblem on it, which for her meant the beginning of farewell, and for the fallen, the end of a long journey, the journey home.
Her voice trembled as she started singing for him,
Amazing grace... How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind, but now I see.
Her voice was so soft, so heartbreakingly delicate, and yet it made the hair rise on my head and the flesh quiver on my bones. I felt—oh, I can’t explain what I felt! It was not only grief for this man, who was a brother of mine even though I had never come to know him, but also pity for his family and for all us, civilians and soldiers, the fallen, the wounded, the loved ones back home, all the lives forever changed by this horrific war.
In my childhood, my mother used to sing Amazing Grace to me in place of a lullaby, because it had always calmed me down before she tucked me in, before she said good night.
Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
The music made me think of Natasha. In a complete reversal of emotion I found myself overcoming my rage, my sense of betrayal. Suddenly I realized that whatever had caused the break between us should be set aside. It was time to accept and be accepted in return.
“It must have been their way to bid him farewell,” I say. “Perhaps, you should be grateful to them—”
“You’re right. I really should. Conveniently, they left no trace of him.”
I try not to raise an eyebrow. “Conveniently?”
“Once they were done with him, there was no way to exhume the body or find out the cause of death.”
“That’s too bad.”
“Physically, I resembled him, to the point that people would often mistake me for him. So, taking on his identity was effortless, at first.”
I recall what he said to me on our first date. I find a delicious irony in the idea that an impostor can be better than the real thing.
In the face of my silence, he presses on. “News of his accident—if you want to call it that—didn’t make it to the papers. After all, his overdose seemed self-inflicted, and there I was, a living proof that he’s managed, somehow, to recover.”
“Oh, how fortunate for you.”
“Still, I felt unsafe, perhaps because of a pang of guilt. I feared that at any moment, someone might point at me and say, ‘There goes a killer!’”
He sighs into silence.
So I ask, ever so gently, “I thought you were going to talk about your wife?”
“Oh yes.” Now he presses both hands against his temples. “Back to her. At the time, she was in her late thirties. Not bad looking. Rich, bored, and desperately looking for a purpose in life. Having laid eyes on me, she found it. Grooming me for success—a brooding, destitute, dark man, who showed little interest in her—must have given her some sort of pleasure. And for a while, it served me well, too.”
I raise an eyebrow. “How so?”
“Well, stepping into a dead man’s shoes is a tricky thing. I couldn’t afford being recognized for the impostor I was. As Dr. Patel, I was already planning to resign from his job and start a new one elsewhere. Problem was, how to distance myself from his old buddies.”
“Become a recluse?”
“No, my solution was smarter than that.” He pours some wine into his glass and guzzles it down. His tone takes a cynical turn. “When she fell in love with me, I realized I should marry her. People seldom stay in the same circle of friends once they put a ring on their finger.”
“So, Susan was your excuse not to keep in touch with them?”
"About halfway through reading Overdose I got to thinking that it would make a great movie, a thriller to match anything that Alfred Hitchcock ever put on the screen (except maybe Vertigo). And then I thought 'If only Hitchcock were alive now. He would love this novel. It has all the ingredients he'd need.'"
Up until this moment I had entertained the hope that she might have had some secret plan to save me. My despair had compelled me to believe it.
Coming here in disguise—with that new, flower-laden hat and its little veil that changed her looks so much—showed me that Rochelle was fearless, especially at a time when she was wanted dead-or-alive. To deserve such notoriety, she must have forged some connections with French Resistance fighters, right? If so, couldn’t she pull some strings with them? Did they follow her to this place? Were they waiting in the wings to get me out of here, out of the hands of my captors?
I recalled old western movies, which I used to watch with my dad and Uncle Shmeel back in my childhood. Closing my eyes I could feel the warmth, sitting in-between them in the darkened movie theatre. I could just see the silver screen. Up there was the victim, his larger-than-life face utterly pale as the noose was beginning to tighten around his neck.
At that very moment, my heart raced. Uncle Shmeel would put his arm around my shoulder. “Don’t you worry, Lenny boy!” he would whisper, trying not to disturb the spectators around us. “Listen! Can you hear the hooves of horses, galloping?”
“Uncle Shmeel,” I would whisper back, “how can I hear anything? This is a silent movie!”
“Oh, but you can hear it,” he would reply, “inside your mind, inside your heart.”
And my dad would assure me, “Relief is on the way, Lenny boy! The cowboys are coming, any moment now!”
With that glimmer of hope I imagined myself now, just like that actor, standing under the gallows, hoping for a miracle. The rescue scene, exploding with a blaze of bullets, was sure to come, because my dad and Uncle Shmeel had promised it, because the plot had demanded it, and because how would the story capture your heart without the must-have happy end?
Yes. The moment was almost here. I had to believe it, then and now.
But as soon as Rochelle uttered the words Marriage before Death, my hope crumbled.
"The story of how they survived such horrors is extraordinary. Also extraordinary is the author's deep and gorgeous writing, interweaving desperation with descriptions of 'beautiful light streaming from high-arched, stained glass windows, rattling in the duel between the German artillery and ours.'"
- J.A. Schneider, author of suspense and psychological thrillers
Virtually Lace, book one in Uvi Poznansky’s High-Tech Crime Solvers series, snagged my attention in the first few sentences and never let go. This author paints a vivid picture on the canvas of the reader’s mind. Her richly drawn characters drive the story, and they drew me into her dramatic setting and creative plot so successfully, I could virtually see the story come alive. [See what I did there?]
The story opens into a dramatic scene, where Michael watches Lace drifting down the street against a panoramic view of Laguna Beach in an almost dream-like manner. With a slashing hook, the scene immediately set, and the dream-like mood lures the reader further into virtual reality. When Michael finds the body drifting on the tide, her throat slit, he realizes the police might think he’s a suspect.
A wonderful plot is born and the rollercoaster ride of twists and turns doesn’t disappoint. The romance between Michale and Ash, add just enough spark and the virtual reality Michael creates in an attempt to remember details steers this ride into an amazing tale.
I highly recommend Uvi Poznansky’s books. This is the third one I’ve read and I’ll definitely add more to my to-read list. I love this author’s ability to paint stories as beautifully as she paints canvas. She weaves emotion together with senses––visual, auditory, sensual and olfactory––creating a beautifully lyrical portrait with the written word.
I'm thrilled to present the new multi-author series High-Tech Crime Solvers, and the new volume in it, written by Barbara Ebel...
From USA Today Bestselling Author, Barbara Ebel, comes a gripping techno-thriller, part of a multi-author series tied together by an interlocking cast of characters, all centered around the fantastic new promise of high technology and the endless possibilities for crime that technology offers, in a world where getting away with murder can be not only plausible, but easy...if you just know how.
This volume presents Dr. Hook Hookie, a Molecular Genetic Pathologist, whose high-tech genetic analysis equipment is stolen from right under his nose.
Concerted thievery abounds at Monument Medical Center in Atlanta!
Dr. Hook Hookie may have a prestigious educational and military background, but he now spends his days discovering the most intricate mysteries of the human genome. The elderly scientist also extrapolates genetic information that informs patients of their hereditary health risks--deadly or not.
But Dr. Hookie isn't the only one with a use for the high-tech genetic machinery - a villainess stalks the Medical Center, and she isn't interested in telling people if they're going to die from cancer.
Her thievery goes too far while the cat and mouse skullduggery mounts.
Maybe, just maybe, Dr. Hookie's expertise as a Genetic Pathologist will help solve the crimes!
Here comes an epic historical fiction trilogy with a modern twist. Come along for the journey!
Volume I: Rise to Power
Here is the story of David as you have never heard it before: from the king himself, telling the unofficial version, the one he never allowed his court scribes to recount. Rooted in ancient lore, his is a surprisingly modern memoir.
Volume II: A Peek at Bathsheba
The most torrid tale of passion ever told: David's forbidden love for Bathsheba, and his attempt to cover up the scandal. Will he muster the strength needed to protect her and save their son from danger?
Volume III: The Edge of Revolt
The last thing David expects is that his beloved son will topple him from the throne. The betrayal threatens not only his life but also his legacy. Coming back to power will put Absalom in danger. Is David ready to counter his next move?
With a wide sweep of his hand, Mr. Armstrong gestured toward the conference table. Inlaid into its rosewood and mahogany grain was the company’s logo: a shield with two crossed swords.
Sitting down, Michael found himself swallowed up into an overstuffed leather armchair. His palms were clammy, which forced him to wipe them off on his pants under the table. In its burnished top, the president’s reflection slid across the surface, upside down.
“I appreciate people who come into my office and give me their best advice, even if it makes them uncomfortable,” said Mr. Armstrong. “I thought you might be candid with me today.”
“What d’you want me to tell you?”
“Everything you know.”
“Where, exactly, shall I start?”
Mr. Armstrong slammed his fist on the table, until the shield and cross-swords seemed to clack. “Start with your partner. What’s her name, again?”
“She’s an industrial designer, is she not?”
“The best! Our startup would not have been the success it was without Ash—”
“Perhaps so. But at this point, do we need her?”
“Excuse me, sir?”
“Given the new direction here,” said Mr. Armstrong, in a slow, grumbling tone as if talking to a rebellious child, “she can contribute little from now on.”
“I beg to differ,” said Michael, his muscles stiffening. “Given any direction, her role is vital. May I explain it to you, sir?”
“For the customers of this company—say, military planners, or soldiers in training—virtual reality provides an uncanny sense of immersion. It tricks their brains into believing they are walking on that narrow beam high above an enemy city or riding an amphibious vehicle up the shore, anticipating an imminent attack. Ash did amazing work extending the immersive qualities and emotional impact of this experience, even before putting on the headset and long after taking it off.”
“And how did she do that?”
“By having participants step inside a physical environment, with props that were designed by her. It resembles a cross between an art installation and a minimalist stage production. Entering it prepares them mentally for the journey, before they take a plunge into virtual reality.”
Haunted by discovering the body of a beautiful dancer, Michael creates a virtual reality simulation of her murder. Can he bring the mystery to life? Can he solve it in time, before the killer turns on the woman he loves, Ash?