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VOICE OF THE JUST

The Blue Sapphire Story



Allie Marie

This book is a work of fiction, and does not represent real events. Characters, names, places, and incidents are works of the authors imagination and do not depict any real event, or person living or dead.

VOICE OF THE JUST

The Blue Sapphire Story

Book 3 of the True Colors Series

Copyright © 2017 by Allie Marie

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission by the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations in a critical article or review.

Published by Nazzaro & Price Publishing

Published in the United States of America


DEDICATION



In loving memory of my mother

I miss you so much, Momma




ACKNOWLEDGMENTS


I have thoroughly enjoyed writing this series, and can only hope I’ve done justice to the extensive research I conducted. I also acknowledge that I may have created idealistic time lines to suit the plot and take full responsibility for that!

In this book, the mystery centers on Theresé’s desperate search for her mother. As I wrote the scenes, I thought so often of my own mother. Despite the years, I miss her every day. So in her honor, I also want to thank moms everywhere for all you do.

I owe a world of thanks to many people for their support and encouragement, or who inspire me.

To my husband Jack, for your unwavering love and support.

To my sister-in-law Ellia, for your creativity and thoughtfulness, and to my niece Becky for cheering me on.

To Nazzaro & Price, for giving me my start in the published world, with special thanks to Helen Brown Nazzaro for your wonderful editing, and to Julie Graham for your final eagle-eye proof.

To my “cover team.” Once again, my model Elayna and photographer Sidnie created the perfect ghost. And to Carmin, who inspired Becky’s last name. I love you girls!

To James Price, a special thank you for taking an idea and a photo and designing a cover that captured exactly what I imagined.

To Sandi Baum, for once more reading every word I wrote—and rewrote—and for keeping me focused. I appreciate your every comment and suggestion. My writing is better for your efforts.

To Laura Somers, your sharp eye and red pencil keep finding those pesky mistakes that still manage to sneak in. To Dawn for catching a few more along the way!

To musicians for the songs that tell the stories of life. A songwriter can tell a whole story in 250 words. It takes thousands for an author to tell the same story in a book.

To the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club: Wilbor, Bob, Donnie, Sammie, Freddie, Wayne, Jimmy.

To Lauren and the members of the Windsor Book Club of the Windsor Branch of the Blackwater Regional Library, especially Mary B. You are the best. You are a fantastic reading group and cheering squad.

To the Artesia Ladies Group, thanks. Hope to see you all next year!

To Greg Parker at Arthur’s General Store in Driver, Virginia for your support and clues about the Sleepy Hole Ferry.

To Audrey, Nettie, June, and Cathy of the Little Shoppes on High for your ongoing support.

To the Osfolk family, proprietors of the Bier Garden, the inspiration for the Bier Haus setting in my story.

To the Olde Towne Business Association and the Olde Towne Civic League for all you do to preserve the history and business of this district.

To my readers, because you make writing worthwhile.

I’d like to extend special thanks to the following for their invaluable insights for my research. Any inaccuracies are the result of my overactive imagination.

To Dianne Ringer for your valuable insight in developing Terry’s professional persona.

To retired Portsmouth Police Homicide Sergeant W. C. Gavin and to Senior Forensics Tech T. McCurdy for answering criminal and forensic related questions.

To Catherine Wilson and Penny Gagnon for answering a multitude of questions about their ancestral DNA experiences. I also referred to these sources for information about ancestral DNA: http://www.nij.gov/topics/forensics/evidence/dna/research/pages/mitochondrial.asp

http://www.dfs.virginia.gov/about-dfs/


To Philip M. Stoll, DDS, DO and to Wendy Schofer, MD for answering my many questions related to medical services. I’ll be in touch for Book 4!

To RN Bonnie Bee, Krystal Leigh, and soon-to-be RN Allison Jo-Lynn for the help each of you gave me as I created Joan’s medical scenario. To my dear friend Judy P. King, RN retired, and to all nurses everywhere, you are the backbone of the medical field. We don’t thank you often enough.

My colonial characters were not too fond of the British, but we love our friends across the pond, especially Dave and Nicky, Rodger and Pauline, whom we met during their days with the Hampshire Constabulary Band.

Many Portsmouth, Virginia landmarks are mentioned in this story. While real cemeteries are mentioned, however, they are in no way the resting place for the fictional characters described in this book. You can find out more about Portsmouth’s Olde Towne and other historic sites at:

http://www.dhr.virginia.gov/registers/Cities/register_Portsmouth.htm

The colors of our American flag are a recurring theme of the True Colors Series because they represent each heroine’s jewels as well as her persona. In researching the flag, I learned that its colors did not have the specific meaning with which they are today associated, but rather the colors of the Great Seal explain the meaning of the white, red, and blue.

Charles Thompson, Secretary of the Continental Congress, reporting to Congress on the Seal, stated:

The colors of the pales (the vertical stripes) are those used in the flag of the United States of America; White signifies purity and innocence, Red, hardiness & valour, and Blue, the color of the Chief (the broad band above the stripes) signifies vigilance, perseverance & justice.”1

You can find out more about the American Flag at: http://www.senate.gov/reference/resources/pdf/ourflag.pdf


During my research about Olde Towne, some historic information was gathered from the following sources:



For the Pass House referred to during the Ghost Walk:

http://pilotonline.com/news/local/history/what-s-in-a-name-the-pass-house-in-portsmouth/article_103de0b6-cbf2-5f8c-b75d-22da9c2dcac7.html

by Meghan Hoyer

The Virginian-pilot

July 5, 2010


For the Ghost Walk:

The Annual Olde Towne Ghost Walk in Portsmouth takes place on the last Friday of every October. I’ve tried to capture the essence of my experience at this event while adapting it for my storyline. For more information go to

http://portsmouthghostwalk.com/

Information for some of the Ghost Walk vignettes discussed in this story come from the booklet Ghost Stories of Olde Towne, Portsmouth, Virginia by Doris Kuebler Leitner.

Books by Allie Marie



THE TRUE COLORS SERIES



Teardrops of the Innocent: The White Diamond Story

Heart of Courage: The Red Ruby Story

Voice of the Just: The Blue Sapphire Story




THE PROPERTIES

After the Storm





PROLOGUE



Theresé and the Blue Sapphire

Near Yorktown, Virginia, August 1781


The break of dawn brought forth no sunlight, but more of the storms that had plagued us for days. Storms that reminded me of the horrible night when British soldiers attacked and wounded our mother and grandfather. My brother’s disguise as a British soldier gave us hope that they were cared for.

Thunder boomed in the distance outside as the rain eased. My sisters slept peacefully. Usually it was I who woke last, but I made up for it by working late into the night, sewing or writing letters dictated by soldiers who could not write.

This morning, however, I was up with my father. I prepared him a breakfast but, as he had done with too many of his meals, he pushed it to the side. He worried about his own father, but for my mother’s safety, his concern nearly drove him mad.

My beautiful mother’s sudden illness had forced us to seek shelter in our grandfather’s house. But his wife, Abigail, our step-grandmother, had made it clear to us we were not wanted. When grandfather discovered his wife tried to poison my mother, he arranged for us to leave immediately in a wagon. Working with the patriots, he helped smuggle weapons and ammunition to the French soldiers supporting the Americans.

On that night, soldiers had gunned down my mother and grandfather before our eyes. My brother Louis, disguised as a redcoat, shot the attackers and sent us on our way while he stayed behind to care for our loved ones.

We had hoped for news of those we’d left behind before now. Nearly two weeks had passed without a word, unusual given the number of contacts my father had. I feared if he did not hear some word of Mama’s condition, he would risk his life to go to Portsmouth to find her.

Papa, please eat something,” I begged as I pushed a plate of biscuits closer to him. My youngest sister Nicole and I had picked a basket of blackberries during breaks from the rain, and Marie Josephé had used them to add some taste to the flavorless firecakes we so often ate.

My father smiled and shook his head. “No, ma petit, I am afraid food is not on my mind.” He rubbed his eyes and then pinched the bridge of his nose.

Are you thinking of Mama?” I asked.

Every moment I am awake, I think of your mama, and when I sleep, I dream of her. I long for the day when my beautiful wife and our daughters live together again in a grand house, where we can watch our girls laugh and play. To one day see you wear the pretty jewels that your grandfather and I wanted to surprise you with.”

Papa, they were so beautiful. It pleased Mama to show them to us. Nicole thought they were the continental colors, but Mama told us how you chose them for us.”

I had told this story to my father a number of times but he seemed never to tire of it.

He said, “Diamond for our innocent Nicole, ruby for our brave Marie Josephé, and sapphire for our crusader, Theresé.” He smiled, but the light did not shine in his eyes.

Thundering horse hooves signaled the arrival of a wagon. A driver’s voice shouted, “Whoa!” as the creaks and groans of the wooden carriage came to a halt.

Dear God, please let there be word,” my father cried as he pushed aside the flap of the tent, taking no notice of the stream of water that poured from the shifting canvas. I stepped to the doorway, ignoring the drips as I watched Papa stomp through the mud toward the wagon. He reached it at the same time as several other soldiers from his brigade.

I recognized James, our brother’s fellow spy, ensconced within the British Army at Portsmouth. He lifted the canvas covering the back of the wagon. Lizzie, our step-grandmother’s unfortunate maid, scrambled over the sides, helped to the ground by my father. Her rain-wet hair dripped into her eyes, and her soaked clothing clung to her. Fresh mud clumped at the hem of her dress as it swept over the wet ground.

A small girl I had never seen before scrambled over the wall of the wagon and immediately wrapped her arms around Lizzie. Papa pointed toward our tent and gripped James’s arm in frantic conversation.

Lizzie scurried toward the tent, the little girl in tow. I reached for a blanket and held it as she came to the door. The commotion had wakened Marie Josephé and she came to my side.

Theresé!” Lizzie threw her arms around me and we held each other, unmindful of the wet. Lizzie embraced Marie Josephé next.

We did not expect to see you, Lizzie. How did you come to be here?”

My aunt has released me from my servitude. This child was sold as a servant to my aunt, and when I escaped, I brought her with me.”

I hugged Lizzie again, and asked, “Then have you news of my mother? Can you tell me how she is? And Grandfather?”

The color drained from Lizzie’s face and she said, “Your mother? Is she not here? I was told her family came for her.”

My heart sank to my feet.

She is not here, Lizzie.” I answered.

My sister and I gripped each other’s hand as cold, harsh fear washed over us.








CHAPTER 1



Terry

Portsmouth, Virginia, present day


Terry Dunbar tapped the speed dial assigned to her father’s cell number for the third time, and for as many times, received his voice mail response. She hung up without leaving a message, her stomach jolting with tension.

Her fingers flicked across the keypad as she sent text messages to her brothers asking for updates. Fear from the lack of news about her mother intensified with every unanswered query. She would arrive at the emergency room before they would have time to respond to her texts, but she had to distract herself somehow.

“Still no answer?” Terry’s sister-in-law, Beth Dunbar, switched driving lanes as she spoke, the clacking of the turn signal the only other sound audible in the vehicle. “Maybe your dad had to turn his phone off in the ER,” she suggested, trying to keep her fears in check for Terry’s sake.

“More likely it’s because that archaic phone he carries can’t transmit from inside the building,” Terry responded, prompting nervous giggles from the back seat where her friends Mary Jo Cooper and Stephanie Kincaid sat.

A night of fun had ended abruptly when Terry received the nerve-shattering call from her father that her mother was being rushed to the emergency room. The four friends had celebrated the long-awaited completion of their planned Bed and Breakfast in Olde Towne Portsmouth with a Girls’ Night Out Slumber Party. They had gathered for delectable food paired with festive wine tasting. Beth, now three months pregnant with her second child, drank sparkling water in place of wine. After a lively game of poker ended with a hefty pot won by the rookie player, Stephanie, the women spent the next two hours on girly things like manicures and pedicures as they chatted and shared news.

Stephanie then brought them up to speed on the new findings of her ancestry research, which had brought her and the Dunbar family together in the first place. Now engaged to Terry’s brother, Stephanie detailed more of the amazing ties that connected her to the Dunbar family in more than just social ways. After discussing the ghosts and strange occurrences she and Mary Jo had recently encountered, they were about to settle into their sleeping bags on air mattresses when the frantic call came from Terry’s father that her mother was being rushed to the hospital.

The friends scrambled into clothes and piled into Beth’s car for the twenty-mile drive to the Suffolk hospital.

Now the designated driver flipped the signal to indicate the turn into the ER parking lot. Beth entered the drop-off zone in front of the emergency entrance.

“Let me out here, please, Beth,” Terry said, already unbuckling her seat belt.

“Go with her, Mary Jo,” Stephanie urged. “I’ll come in with Beth after we park.”

“Thanks.” Terry jumped from the car before Beth came to a full stop, Mary Jo in frantic pursuit.

The two friends reached the automatic door at the same time and turned to each other to clasp hands.

The glass doors parted. Terry squeezed Mary Jo’s hand, then they dashed into the waiting room. Terry’s head whipped from left to right as her gaze swept the room, then back to the left. Her brother Connor, holding his son, stood and lifted one hand. Four-year-old Tanner slept soundly, cheek nestled against his dad’s shoulder. Connor shifted the little boy a little higher.

Charles Dunbar sat in a stiff-backed chair, perched on the edge as if ready to sprint at a moment’s notice. His elbows rested on his knees, his hands scrubbing his face.

“Daddy!” Terry rushed to him, arms outstretched. “Mom? How is she? I couldn’t get the phone calls to go through. What happened to her?”

Charles Dunbar rose from the thinly padded cushion and gathered his only daughter in his arms. He started to speak but his voice broke and he hugged Terry tighter. Fearing the worst news possible, Terry sucked in her breath and emitted a ragged, “No.”

“She’s okay so far, Terry,” Connor broke in quickly. “The doctors are with her now, and they just let Gage go back there.” He squeezed Terry’s shoulder, then his dad’s. Charles eased his hold on Terry to clasp his son’s hand.

“I’m sorry I scared you, baby.” Charles took a step backwards and cleared his throat. “I-I just…”

“Come sit down, Daddy,” Terry said, drawing her father back to his chair.

Charles choked up again and Connor took over.

“Dad said she wasn’t feeling well today.” He spoke softly, shifting Tanner’s weight to his other arm. “She was working on her high school reunion plans. You know how she gets when she’s on a project, she doesn’t eat right. She became a little nauseated at one point, but Dad got her to eat a little and rest.”

Charles spoke next, voice stronger. “She kept getting up to go to the bathroom. Then she stumbled and I heard her knock something over on the sink, so I went to check on her. She was leaning on the counter for support, her breathing labored and her speech slurred when she tried to speak. I checked her pulse. It raced like a ticking time-bomb, scared the hell out of me. I thought she might be having a stroke, or maybe a heart attack, so I got her to the bedroom and called nine-one-one, then called Connor. He got there about the time the medics were putting her in the ambulance.”

“Did they say yet what happened? Is it a heart attack or a stroke?” Terry’s own heartbeat pounded in her ears, and she was vaguely aware of her sister-in-law walking over to Connor. Mary Jo and Stephanie stood a few feet away.

Charles shook his head, his voice cracking again as he spoke. “I should have insisted she eat something, instead of letting her food sit.”

“Stop that now, Daddy,” Terry insisted. Her strong, strapping father suddenly seemed older and more vulnerable than she had ever seen him, his worry so intense that deep lines etched his face. She grabbed his hand. “You heard what Connor just said, she gets on a tangent with her projects.”

“Not only that, Dad, you shouldn’t give food to a possible stroke patient, so it’s just as well. Let’s wait and see what the doctor says.”

The words were no sooner out of his mouth when the double doors leading from the emergency room to the waiting room opened. Anxious faces turned to the nurse entering between the partitions, who requested the family follow her to an interior waiting room.

Sudden fear pierced Terry and her heart seemed to fall to her feet. She slipped her hand through the crook of her father’s arm, unable to prevent the thought that came to her mind.

Are they taking us to a private room to tell us Mom has died?

Charles clamped his free hand over hers and squeezed tight, his fingers ice cold. The same thought must have crossed Dad’s mind. She inclined her head on his shoulder. Every member of the extended family remained standing, silently waiting.

“Please, God, let there be good news,” Charles prayed out loud as the doctor stepped through the doorway, followed by Gage. She scanned her brother’s face as Stephanie rushed to Gage’s side, a sigh of relief escaping at his relaxed body language. Terry recognized the doctor as a family friend. He nodded as he walked toward them, and she scanned his face for a sign of the news he brought.

“Donnie?” Charles extended his hand to his long-time friend Donnie Stevens. “How is she?” The doctor shook his hand, and with his left, clasped Charles’ shoulder in a sign of comfort, nodding again.

“She’s resting at the moment.” The doctor spoke as he accepted hugs or handshakes from his friend’s children. “Sorry to see you under these circumstances, Charles. I wanted to come out myself to tell you we’ve stabilized Joan. We’re still running a battery of tests, but we’ve ruled out a heart attack or stroke. The medics correctly recognized the signs of diabetic ketoacidosis.”

“Diabetes? She’s diabetic?” Charles asked. “She’s never been diagnosed before.”

“This is what we call Type Two Adult Onset. She’s not making enough insulin to regulate her blood sugar. We’re giving her intravenous fluids to offset dehydration, and we’ve got her on an insulin drip to suppress the production of ketone bodies. We’ll monitor her every thirty minutes, and keep her under observation to prevent any complications and signs of infection.”

“She cut her hand a while back and it still had not healed,” Charles said.

The doctor nodded. “We’ll treat her for that. This could be a one-time episode and may never happen again, but we want to rule out any other conditions.”

“Will she have to be on insulin from now on?” Charles ran his hand through his hair.

“We’ll know more after all the tests are analyzed. Often, this type of situation is a wake-up call. Type Two diabetes can be diet-controlled, or may only require oral medications. Worst case scenario would be insulin shots. Joan is in overall good health, so with some life-style adjustments, she may never have another occurrence. We’ll get her set her up with a diabetes educator, a specialist who will help her understand this disease and develop lifestyle changes to manage her diabetes.”

“She’s gonna hate giving up her chocolate,” Charles said, the tension lines easing from his face as his comment brought chuckles from his children.

The doctor smiled. “It’s more about moderation and close monitoring. She may still be able to have an occasional treat, but this is something she’ll be dealing with for the rest of her life. Let’s get her through all the tests and see how she’s doing. Because she was so severely dehydrated, we’ll keep her here today, do what we need to do. She’ll probably be released first thing tomorrow morning. They’re getting a room for her now.”

“When can we see her?”

“It’ll be a few minutes before they move her. We don’t have any other patients at the moment. You can come back in twos.”

“Connor rode in the ambulance with her, and I was with her earlier,” Gage said. “Someone else can go in.”

“I’d like to go see her now,” Terry said. She turned to her father and added, “Dad, I can’t leave her alone tonight. I want to stay until they release her, even if I have to sleep on a chair in the waiting room. I want to be near her if she needs me.”

Mary Jo stepped forward and hugged first Terry, then Charles. “Steph and I won’t go in, Terry. We were just saying we shouldn’t bother her now. It’ll wear her out if we all traipse in to see her. Let her know we were here and we love her.”

“I’ll do that. Sorry to ruin our night, girls.”

“Stop that now, Terry,” admonished Charles in much the same tone his daughter had used earlier. The others nodded in agreement.

“I know, I know.” With hugs and goodbyes all around, Terry drew her father toward the nurses’ station. When the doors opened, she turned and blew a kiss to her friends and brothers.

As the doors shut behind them, she steeled herself to go toward the enclosure that held her mother.

“Dad, you go in first, and see Mom,” she urged. “I’ll give you a minute with her by yourself.”

Charles patted her hand and slipped through the curtain opening. Her mother’s warm voice greeted him, sounding strong.

Although relief coursed through Terry’s body, she needed a moment to collect herself. Her knees turned to rubber and she gripped the edge of the counter. Tears burned and pooled in her eyes, and she squeezed her lids shut.

“You okay, honey?” A light hand touched Terry’s shoulder. She looked into the concerned eyes of a pretty nurse with glowing skin the color of burnt umber.

Terry nodded and exhaled a deep breath. “I just needed a minute to collect myself before I see my mom. I wanted to give my dad a moment before I barged in.”

“Your mom’s doing fine now and she’s kept us laughing with her jokes. She’s a funny lady.”

“She’s my best friend.” Terry’s voice cracked.

The nurse patted her arm. “I know. I feel the same way about my mom.”

“I’ve never been so scared in my life.” Terry placed her hand over her heart and took a deep breath. She glanced at the nurse’s name tag. Cynthia Lynn, R.N. Terry memorized the name to send a thank-you note later.

Nurse Lynn wrote on a clipboard and then slid it onto a shelf. She turned to Terry. “We’re doing everything we can for her now. If she takes care of herself and keeps up with her medical treatment, she can manage her diabetes.” The nurse reached for a small container and began writing on the lid. “We’ll be moving her in about thirty minutes. If you need anything, let me know.”

“Thank you, Cynthia, every one of you, for everything you do in this ER.” This time Terry patted the nurse’s shoulder. The half-second it had taken for her to notice the nurse’s name and then use it brought a nod of appreciation.

With a sharp intake of breath, Terry steadied her nerves before stepping to the curtain opening. She glanced inside.

Joan Dunbar leaned back on the partially-inclined bed, her right arm tethered to tubes running from two bags of fluids hooked to an IV pole. Although she lay with her face away from Terry, she smiled. The curtain blocked Terry’s view of her father standing at the bed, allowing only a glimpse of his arm and shoulder holding tightly to Joan’s.

“Mom?” She poked her head inside.

“Come in, baby girl,” Joan called.

Her mother’s strong voice sent grateful tugs of relief washing through Terry. She slid through the opening and walked toward the bedside opposite where her father leaned across the rail. He held Joan’s free hand pressed against his forehead.

Terry slipped her fingertips under her mother’s, gently running her thumb across the skin. When her father glanced her way, she could see tears glistening in his eyes. He tried to wink, but instead caused a teardrop to slip out and trail down his cheek.

Seeing her mother and father so vulnerable floored her. She turned her back to reach for a chair, brushing at the tears sliding down her cheeks. She sat, then scooted the chair close to the rail.

“I’m sorry I gave everyone such as scare.” Joan moved her hand, still encased in Charles’s hands, and used her knuckles in a caress that stopped the teardrop rolling down her husband’s cheek. “Looks like I’ll be reducing my chocolate intake, though.”

She pretended to pout and gave a playful wiggle of the fingers of her hand with the IV to greet Terry, wincing at the discomfort the movement caused, then continued. “Take that worried look off your face, my darling daughter. I’m going to be fine. But I’m afraid I ruined the plans for your surprise birthday party, baby.”

Terry gulped back a sob, unable to speak over the lump in her throat. Finally, she managed to speak. “I don’t care about my birthday, Momma, I want you to be fine.”

Joan shifted in the bed and said, “Terry, I had a scare, I admit that, but from what the doctor says, they got me here in time. They’ll get me to a room, do some tests, and maybe I can talk my way out of here before tomorrow. Why don’t you two go home?”

“We’ll stay here until you’re settled in the room, Mom,” Terry said, voice firm now. “It’ll be a half hour before they take you up. But I’m staying the rest of the night, Momma, sleeping in a chair if I have to.”

“I’m blessed to be surrounded by such a loving family.” Joan’s voice caught and she swallowed hard, then fixed a smile. “Did you girls have a fun night?”

“We did. The girls all send their love. They came with me but were afraid to tire you out, and said they’d see you later.”

“Tell me what you did.”

Terry willed her voice to be strong, to match the attempt at normalcy her mother was making. “Well, Stephanie claims she never played poker before, but she won almost every hand and cleaned us out. We also caught up on all the gossip and guess what? Chase proposed to Mary Jo on Friday. She kept the news to herself until she practically poked our eyes out with that new rock on her finger.”

“Oh, I’m so glad those two knot-heads finally got their act together.” Joan’s face lit up with a happy smile.

“Of course, Stephanie also gave us an update on her genealogy research,” Terry continued. “Then we analyzed the encounters she and Mary Jo have had with their ghosts. By the way, when I arrived, a freezing cold gripped the room but I couldn’t find a source, and soon the temperature returned to normal.” Terry paused to catch her breath, then added, “Finally, we settled on ‘Clothiste’s Inn’ for the name of the bed and breakfast. I’ll take care of the final details this week, so we can get up and running. And it might be fun to hold a costume party for Halloween in the house before we have guests.”

“Hmm. Clothiste’s Inn. I like that.” Joan nodded in approval. “I really like that. I can already see how the place could be decorated for…”

“Mom, you’re in the hospital. You need to take it easy.”

“Oh, pooh.” Joan rolled her eyes. “I had a wake-up call about my health and I’ll have to change some things in my lifestyle, but there’s no reason for me to take it easy. But thank you for worrying.” Smiling, she settled back on the pillow, then sighed and closed her eyes.

‘We’re here, babe, if you need anything,” Charles said. He settled his wife’s arm by her side and leaned back in the chair, his hand still covering hers.

Mindful of the IV, Terry lightly clasped her mother’s fingertips and rested her forehead against her mother’s knees. Although her fears had moderated after seeing her mother, Terry’s ears pulsed with the pounding of her heartbeat as she leaned forward. Hot salty tears pooled on the sheet.

She’d been lucky enough to be born the daughter of two parents who loved each other deeply and whose generosity spread to others less fortunate. From the time she could remember, her parents were always making someone part of their family. While raising their own three children, they were foster parents to Mary Jo. Charles became a surrogate father to Chase, the Dunbar brothers’ childhood friend, now engaged to Mary Jo. And for a number of years Joan’s cranky distant cousin Hannah had lived with them while she recovered from cancer.

A whole army of soldiers would be waiting on Joan Dunbar hand and foot.

Terry’s eyes drooped, and she drifted into the twilight of sleep.

“I love you, Mom.” She spoke aloud in her sleep. Joan brushed her good hand across her daughter’s cheek, then slipped it back under her husband’s gentle fingers.


Miles away, in the historic Olde Towne section of Portsmouth, a dingy gray mist swirled in the attic of the B&B newly-christened as “Clothiste’s Inn.” Resembling a swarm of angry bees, the mist twisted into the shape of a woman. The faceless form darted from side to side. Able to pass through most objects as if they did not exist, the raging image seemed imprisoned within the building, bouncing from one wall and crashing into the opposite.

A shimmering blue-silver light illuminated the attic, revealing the figure of a young woman in colonial dress. In a voice loud and clear, she declared, “I will find my mother.”

As if sprayed with an effective insect repellant, the dirty whirl shrunk to a small stream that slithered into the unknown.







CHAPTER 2


After staying all night at her mother’s bedside, Terry accompanied her through the hospital discharge process and then to the diabetes educator’s office. She took notes throughout the conversation, loaded up on brochures and pamphlets about diabetes, then spent the entire evening searching the Internet. Joan had listened intently to the instructions and suggestions. She could still live a long and normal life if she followed the suggestions and made the necessary alterations to her lifestyle.

Returning to work on Tuesday, Terry had spent the morning in court. With only a muffin from Mary Jo’s French bakery for lunch, she then devoted the entire afternoon conducting further research until she was convinced her mother was not in imminent danger.

“Ms. Dunbar?” Becky Cramin’s voice followed the light tap on the door, just before she pushed it open and poked her head around the edge. Her fingers slid over the wall and found the electric switch, flooding the room with light.

Terry raised her head and blinked in surprise, her gaze shifting from the computer screen to her paralegal.

“Oh, my, Becky, I’m in the dark again.” Terry said it more as a question than a statement. When she was involved in preparing a case, she often lost track of time. Working by the light from the computer screen, she rarely noticed when the afternoon sun disappeared and darkness engulfed her.

Becky walked over and set a cup of coffee on the edge of the desk with her right hand, then reached for a file folder and a padded envelope she had tucked under her left arm.

“I don’t see how you can work without overhead light, Ms. Dunbar. I have to admit that when I step in here, I’m always expecting to be attacked by killer mushrooms growing in the dark.”

Terry inhaled an appreciative whiff of coffee before taking a sip. Then she set the cup down and leaned forward on her elbows and studied Becky, who shifted her gaze.

“Becky, we’ve been working together for nearly a year. When are you going to call me by my first name?”

The young paralegal’s elegant cinnamon-colored skin took on a serious blush as she twisted a lock of honey-colored hair. She kept her eyes averted and stuttered, “I-I just can’t. I admire you too much, but you’re also my mentor and my boss.”

“Well, start practicing now. We’re going to be working feverishly on the Wheeler accident case starting next week, and I won’t feel like I’m taking advantage of working you to death if we’re on a first-name basis.”

“I’ll try, Ms.—I mean Terry.”

“All right then, that’s settled.” With exaggerated motions, Terry dusted off her hands and reached for the padded envelope.

“Oh, my necklace!” she exclaimed at the sight of the jeweler’s address in the corner. “I’ve missed my necklace. Thank you so much for picking it up for me, Becky.” She fumbled with the sealed flap, managing to unfasten it enough to slip the contents through the opening. A long thin box fell into her lap.

“They sent it to another jeweler in Western Branch,” Becky continued. “She had the expertise needed to complete such a delicate repair job on an heirloom like this.”

With shaky fingers, Terry lifted the cover and drew the gold chain from the cotton lining. The precious metal warmed her fingertips, the gold cross dangling as she held the necklace to the light. A single sapphire stone rested at the juncture of the horizontal and vertical bars.

“It’s perfect,” she declared. “This pendant has been in my mother’s family for generations, passed down to daughters, then granddaughters. Mom gave it to me when I hung my shingle. We always thought it was a Celtic cross, but when I took it for repair, I learned it wasn’t actually Celtic. Someone had added rings to give it that design. I’ve worn it ever since, until I snagged one of the bands on a sweater, twisting it away from the stipes. That’s what they call the vertical part of the cross.” Terry peered at the edges. “You can’t even tell the circles were ever there.”

“Martin said to bring it back if you weren’t satisfied, but he also said he didn’t think that would be the case.”

“No, it’s perfect. I like it better without the extra ring around it.” Terry held the pendant up to the light, the familiar warmth tingling against her fingers. Light twinkled from the blue sapphire at the apex. She drew her other hand to her throat. Mysterious heat had often seemed to pass through the necklace, sometimes mild, sometimes irritatingly warm—occurrences that Terry had never shared with anyone.

How does one explain an inexplicable event?

“Are you all right?” Becky asked the question twice before catching her boss’s attention.

“What? Oh, I’m fine.” Terry shook her head to clear it. “Sorry, I’m just happy to have my pendant back. It’s kind of my lucky charm.” She set it back in the box and reached for a file labeled “Clothiste’s Inn,” hoping she appeared nonchalant under Becky’s concerned stare. She continued, “So our Bed and Breakfast is up and running? Certificate of occupancy and everything?”

“Yes. I’ve got the website and social media pages finished and ready for you to look over before they go public. All the inspections are finalized and you have the CO. Now you need customers.”

“I can’t thank you enough for all the legwork you did for me this week, Becky. With the worry about my mom, handling these things for me on top of your normal duties took a load off my mind.”

“My pleasure. I’m glad she’s doing well. And I’m so excited about Clothiste’s Inn. I want to give my parents a weekend there when they visit, hopefully for Christmas. They haven’t been back home for twenty years. They’ll love the new places in Olde Towne, especially all decorated during the holiday season.”

“The whole downtown area has changed and there is so much to offer visitors now. The Olde Towne Business Association and the Civic League work so hard to bring in new businesses. I love this time of year. We have less than three weeks before the Ghost Walk. Even though it’s too late for Clothiste’s Inn to be included on this October’s tour, maybe next year we can participate. I just hope we get some business by Christmastime. The other owners of historical B and Bs in Olde Towne tell me they do a booming business in the summer, however, so maybe we will as well.”

“Well, it’s probably better to be low key this year, anyway,” Becky said. “Has there been any more news about that skeleton the hurricane uncovered?”

Terry shook her head. “Not yet. We knew it would take a few weeks at the earliest to hear back from the medical examiner’s office. At least things have calmed down, and all of the morbid ghoul seekers have left us alone.”

Becky shivered. “Thank goodness for that. Are you going to be okay here? You didn’t have much to eat today.”

“Oh, I’m fine.” Terry shrugged. “I work better on an empty stomach. I can always forage at the café if I get too hungry. Has Sandi left?” Sandi Cross was her partner in the small law firm of Dunbar and Cross.

“Sandi went straight home from court, said the case was continued until Monday and to tell you she was going home to have an antacid cocktail consisting of—and I quote—‘liquid relief over ice.’ I’ll lock all the doors on my way out.” Becky paused and added over her shoulder, “See you at your belated birthday party Sunday. I wonder how your mom’s new sugar-free efforts will pan out for that.”

“We’ll find out. She’s got Mary Jo whipping up sugar-free desserts. See you.” Terry waved at Becky’s retreating back, yawned and then stretched. She picked up the file and settled in the chair to review the paperwork for Clothiste’s Inn. When the old house had come up for sale more than a year earlier, she and Mary Jo had jumped at the opportunity to purchase the property. The building stood between Mary Jo’s café and Terry’s law office, which had an upstairs apartment Stephanie rented. After overcoming a series of setbacks during the renovation, they were finally ready to open for business.

Terry flipped through the forms, pride coursing through her as she trailed her fingers across the business license that she would hang in the B and B office, the Certificate of Occupancy issued by the city inspections department, and the health permit from public health that would allow them to occupy the building.

The furniture had arrived and Mary Jo had taken photographs of the staged rooms for the brochure. Terry’s busy schedule had not even permitted a glance at the newly-decorated rooms, but she had perused the draft with interest. Once she and Mary Jo had given the final approval to the pamphlets, Becky had graciously done the legwork to get them printed and distributed, and ads placed announcing the grand opening. Terry leaned forward, scribbling a reminder to obtain the temporary sign permits for promoting the open house in front of the building.

Grand opening! Terry sighed and sat back in the chair, perusing the utility company paperwork. All systems were go and they were ready to announce Clothiste’s Inn open for business.

For a time, they’d wondered if the B and B would ever come to fruition. Due to a touchy legal issue, Mary Jo had suspended the remodeling during her deployment while moving forward with remodeling the café. On her return, however, she decided she wanted to continue its renovation in spite of the pending court case with her late fiancé’s mother.

Then Hurricane Abby roared through in a path of destruction that toppled an ancient magnolia tree and unearthed an old skeleton underneath, causing further setbacks to the small businesses the Dunbar-Cooper partnership had established.

Terry’s attention drifted from business forms, and she thought back to the day—was it really only a few short weeks earlier—when the strong Category 2 hurricane had torn through the East Coast. Her law office and the apartment received minimal damage, although during the height of the storm, Stephanie had had a harrowing encounter with a ghoulish specter.

But it was the Bed and Breakfast next door, and Mary Jo’s French café to its right, that received the most extensive damage when the magnolia tree had crashed onto those buildings.

If it had not been for the priority attention her childhood friend Chase Hallmark had given to performing the repairs in record time, the businesses would still have been suffering from the havoc the storm created.

And then the bones were uncovered. Terry remembered the scene. During clean-up in the aftermath, a construction worker discovered a skeleton entangled in the roots of the fallen tree. She and Stephanie arrived just in time to witness the skeleton shift as dirt unsettled around it. It seemed to point an accusatory finger in their direction.

She shivered. In the past, several instances had occurred of a skeleton becoming uncovered during excavations, and were later determined to have come from long-forgotten family burial plots.

The Olde Towne section of Portsmouth, established in the mid-seventeen hundreds and the scene of significant events that transpired during both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, had also experienced a deadly epidemic of yellow fever. The medical examiner had established that the remains were too old to have been associated with that event.

Although there were no signs of a family burial plot at this location, once the police and medical examiner’s office determined the bones were not the result of a current crime, the construction work resumed.

As word spread of the discovery, crowds gathered for several nights in hopes of witnessing a ghostly event. Teenaged vandals caught up in the temporary frenzy caused yet another set-back to the restoration, extensively damaging the interior and exterior of the building. Chase stepped up to the plate, working his crew overtime, even stepping in to perform labor himself, until they finished the repairs and he announced the inn was ready.

The fear that had consumed Terry the night of her mother’s medical emergency surfaced again. Shoving the business file aside, she pulled another folder from the pile on her desk and thumbed through the brochures she’d gathered so she could understand the disease better. Her mother was her best friend, and the thought of losing her brought her close to tears.

She glanced at materials she had already read several times, then closed the file. For the first time she noticed the pink “While You Were Out” slip informing her of a call from Detective Shellito, assigned to investigate the case of the old bones. Becky’s neat handwriting asked Terry to return the call. She reached for her phone, only to draw her hand back when she noticed the late hour. Nine-thirty. Too late to call. She scribbled on a sticky note to call on Monday and to check on the status of the old bones, and stuck it on the receiver of her desk phone.

When the news media announced the discovery of the bones, the curious flocked to the area. For several days, the sightseers peered past the yellow crime scene tape and the mesh construction fence Chase had used to block access, in hopes of catching a glimpse of zombies or otherworldly beings. Disappointed when no apparitions appeared, the crowds lost interest and eventually stopped coming.

But the ethereal events they eagerly sought mostly manifested within the walls of the old house now named Clothiste’s Inn. Both Stephanie and Mary Jo encountered young colonial ghosts begging them to find lost necklaces, but each also had encounters in the attic with an ominous spirit that seemed determined to keep them from finding the jewels.

Terry’s stomach emitted an angry growl demanding food. She rose to her feet and patted her midsection.

“I hear you, tummy,” she said aloud. She grabbed her purse and keys, turned out the lights, and headed for the back door. She stifled a yawn and arched her aching back. She was ready to head home when she realized the construction on the Churchland Bridge would send her the long way home.

It’s late. I wonder if Stephanie will let me crash there for the night.

As if on cue, car doors slammed in the parking lot. Stephanie’s infectious laugh drifted through the air, followed by a loud guffaw from Gage. Terry opened the door just in time to see Gage swoop Stephanie into his arms and swing her off her feet. Their laughter reverberated through the air, and he set her down again, pressing her against the side of the car as they wrapped their arms around each other in a passionate embrace. Stephanie laughed again at something he said, grabbed his hand and led him to the stairs out of her line of vision. Every few steps their footfalls stopped, followed by silence that Terry suspected involved a kiss, until they finally reached the top of the stairs.

Terry sighed. So much for crashing at Stephanie’s pad. Then she smacked herself on the forehead. She had her choice of four beautifully decorated rooms in the B and B.

Decision made, she punched a number on her speed dial.

“Hiya, Antonio. It’s Terry. I’d like a margarita pizza with just pineapple on it, crispy crust. For delivery.”

“Hi, Terry, not your usual order, I see.” The cheerful voice of the Italian chef crackled with laughter. “Tonight you are—how do you say—going rogue? Is that for delivery to your law office?”

“No, send it to the new B and B right next door to the law office. Tell the delivery person to come to the back door. And add a two-liter Pepsi, please.”

“Got it. Be there in twenty.”

“Make it fifteen and I’ll add a huge tip.”

“I deliver myself,” Antonio laughed. The pizza shop was right around the corner. “No ghosts are gonna get me, are they?”

“Not tonight, Antonio.” They laughed again as they hung up.


In the attic of Clothiste’s Inn, a gray mist formed, swirled once, and with a hiss, retreated.


Terry bypassed the B and B and walked straight to the café, rifling through the keys on her keychain until she found the right one to enter the back door. She flicked on the fluorescent lights, illuminating the kitchen in a silvery glow. The pristine kitchen gleamed. Terry walked around to the front of the refrigerated glass case to study the selections left over from the lunch hour. She passed her hand lovingly down the polished wood frame, remembering the heartache Mary Jo endured during the lawsuit.

Then Terry stooped to peer at the contents. “Rats, no chaussons aux pommes,” she muttered, pouting. The case contained none of the French apple turnovers that she favored but when her gaze dropped to the next shelf with four mini-éclairs on a doily on a china plate, she smiled in delight. “Aha, these will do.” She returned to the other side of the case and slid the door to one side, removed the plate with the pinky-sized éclairs, then reached in for two cream puffs on a lower shelf. She popped one in her mouth, and closed her eyes, savoring the delicate cream dessert as it rolled on her tongue. She scooped up the saucer holding the remaining three puffs, a perfect accessory to the éclairs.

Binge time.

The sudden aroma of fresh-baked bread wafted to her nostrils and she inhaled deeply.

Mary Jo had sometimes smelled warm baked bread when a ghostly image appeared to her. Terry straightened, expecting to see the ghost of Marie Theresé, the young girl who had loved to bake for her family during the American Revolution. Through extensive research efforts initiated by Stephanie, Mary Jo had learned the colonial girl was her sixth great-grandmother.

Terry spun around, gaze sweeping every corner of the room.

She was the only occupant.

That aroma must have come when I opened the case.

Terry said out loud, “Well, Marie Theresé, if you are here, hello.”

Greeted by silence, Terry shrugged and popped another cream puff into her mouth. She wrapped the éclairs and remaining puffs in foil, rinsed the dishes and placed them in the dishwasher. Then she scribbled a note to Mary Jo apologizing for taking the leftovers, and locked up behind her. Her high heels clicked on the walkway as her long legs carried her toward Clothiste’s Inn.

Out of habit, Terry touched her neck where her own heirloom pendant usually rested. She remembered then she had left the pendant in the box. She’d retrieve it first thing in the morning.

She missed her pendant!

At the back door, she paused with the key in the lock and her hand on the knob.

What would greet her when she opened it?

The last time she had entered the building, nearly a week earlier, was the night of the sleepover and before she heard the news of her mother’s illness. She was carrying a bundle of sleeping bags. As she tried to cram through the doorway leading to the parlor, a blast of frigid air struck her, so cold that her breath formed vapors.

Only when Stephanie followed her into the house a moment later did the room quickly return to normal. They could find no explanation for the dip in the temperature on that occasion or others.

But despite all the lore about good and evil ghosts haunting the building, and the harrowing incidents Stephanie and Mary Jo had experienced, Terry had never experienced a moment of fear in the house. She pushed the door open with a determined flourish, flipped the light switch, and set the foil-wrapped desserts on a counter. Kicking her elegant pumps to the side, she inched toward the dining room, her purse slung over her shoulder with the fingers of her right hand resting on her pepper spray.

Just in case.

Crossing her left hand in front of her, she fumbled along the wall for the light switch. Prisms of light cascaded from the elegant old chandelier and danced on the wall. She passed the stately cherry dining table and hesitated before entering the parlor. She poked her left hand along the wall to flip the light switch before stepping over the threshold.

This time the temperature was perfect. Terry shrugged and moved further into the room, listening for any untoward sound.

Silence echoed, the only real sound coming from her heartbeat hammering in her ears. Her gaze swept across the recently-delivered furniture, observing nothing amiss in the room.

A pair of prim blue and white checkered wing chairs and a Federal blue sofa faced each other in front of the fireplace. Ruffled country curtains Joan had sewn framed the bay window, topping a wooden Venetian shade closed over the glass. She stepped to the window and fingered the ruffle of one tie-back panel, remembering her mother’s enthusiasm at creating the frilly trim. Mentally she offered yet another word of thanks for her mother’s steady recovery. She didn’t know how she would cope if she lost either of her parents.

On the oak mantel above the brick fireplace, Mary Jo had hand-printed “Clothiste’s Inn” on a sheet of paper and taped it on the mantel until they decided on the design of a permanent placard. Centered on the mantel, an ornate silver clock stood on four filigreed claw feet. A mother-of-pearl inlay surrounded the dial.

Two polished silver candlesticks bearing slate blue tapers flanked either end, standing like tall and stalwart sentinels.

Terry stared at the candlesticks. Although the room remained comfortable, a chill washed over her. She studied the candlesticks. After Mary Jo had an encounter with the “evil” ghost in the attic, she’d uncovered a case containing more than a dozen pieces of handcrafted silver from the eighteenth century. Tarnished black and nestled in the old felt-lined crate, the pieces had been forgotten or misplaced for generations. A cryptic message left in the box stated that a great-grandmother wanted the pieces destroyed because the candlesticks frightened her. Someone in the family must have simply hidden the crate instead of destroying its contents.

Although she had not decided whether to leave any valuable heirloom pieces on display once the inn was open to the public, she agreed to use them for staging photos for the brochures.

Her gaze fell to the clock at the same moment three sharp raps at the back door signaled her pizza delivery had arrived. She went back to the kitchen door to find Antonio waiting on the stoop, holding up a pizza box in one hand and a plastic bag with the soda in the other.

“Why, you did deliver, Antonio,” she laughed. She greeted the elderly Italian man with a kiss on the cheek as she held the door open for him.

Mia cara, of course, only for you does Antonio deliver in person.” He set the flat white box with red-checkered trim and the bag on the counter, the saucy aroma of the pizza filling the room.

“That smells delicious,” Terry said as she sniffed appreciatively. “And of course, you are my favorite deliverer.” She lifted a hand to rub her lipstick mark from his cheek and he sidestepped her with the agility of a man half his age.

“You must leave my badge of honor, mia cara.” Antonio smiled, his eyes twinkling in the glow from the overhead light. “If only I was twenty years younger. I would whisk you back to the old country and make you my wife.”

“You are a rascal, Antonio.” She reached into her purse and drew bills from her wallet.

“No tip, Terry, you are too good a customer,” he commanded.

“Oh, come on, Antonio, please, you brought this to me.” Terry shoved the currency into his hand.

Antonio shrugged, sorted through the bills and returned a ten to Terry before stuffing the rest into his apron pocket. “I walk what? Five hundred feet? No need to tip. But grazie, bella dona.”

Terry kissed the old man’s other cheek. “Let’s give them something to talk about, Antonio!” She laughed. “Ciao, mio amico.”

“Ciao, bella dona. Lock this door immediately after I leave. And watch out for the fantasmi.” Antonio whistled, the warbling shrill sounding more like a spacecraft than a ghost. Terry laughed and shooed him out the door, his tune filling the crisp night air. Then she locked the door behind him.

With a sigh, she leaned against the counter and flipped open the box with two fingers, her appetite suddenly waning. Antonio’s harmless flirting had reminded her that she hadn’t had a date in weeks, and she missed male companionship.

She bit into a slice, wondering what was wrong with her. It wasn’t that she didn’t have the opportunity to meet the opposite sex. She had her fair share of men hitting on her, whether she wanted them to or not, whether they were married or not. Considering that the majority of men interested in her seemed to be married—all of whom she sent packing—she had not been involved with anyone for nearly a year.

“What do you expect?” She spoke out loud, plucked a chunk of pineapple from the pizza and enjoyed the tangy taste. “You’re the one who wanted to open your own law office. You’re the one with no life now, working until nine o’clock every night.”

She located a glass from the cabinet, poured soda, and then took a swig.

Not for one minute did she regret taking the chance to partner with her old college roommate Sandi. They met at William and Mary Law School, had become instant friends, and roomed together their final year. After graduation, Terry went to work in an Olde Towne law firm and Sandi in downtown Norfolk.

The ringing of her cell interrupted the reminiscing. It turned out to be a wrong number, but it was enough to break her from her reverie.






CHAPTER 3



Theresé

Near Yorktown, Virginia, August 1781


Theresé clutched at her throat. Anguish roamed over her father’s face as James spoke. His voice inaudible to her, he raised his hand to Étienne’s shoulder.

Her father clutched the younger man’s arm, and with his free hand raked through his hair, unmindful of the rain pelting down.

Papa!” Fearing the worst, Theresé sloshed through the mud and scrambled to her father’s side, her tears mixing with raindrops. “What is it?”


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