Ghosts, Part I

SH-autumn leaves for ghostsAs always, your recommendations to friends to stop by and visit here are deeply appreciated so please do not hesitate to spread the word. As long as you keep visiting, I’ll keep writing.

You can visit Carding any time in my novels, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, and The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life. The fourth in the series, Lights in Water, Dancing, will be out later this year.

You can subscribe to the Carding Chronicles by clicking the subscribe button on my home page. When you do, my stories will speed from my keyboard to your inbox every Thursday without any further effort on your part.

This week features the first part of an excerpt from my next Carding novel, Lights in Water, Dancing. I thought it appropriate for this spirited time of year.

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It was a fine fall day, the kind that local wags call an “eleven out of ten” because it was that perfect. Sunny, great big blue sky, cool enough for a feather-weight jacket, and a light breeze to keep the last gnats of the season at bay.

But Cassie saw none of it, didn’t feel the refreshing frisson of crisp air against her skin or smile at the brilliant foliage. She walked from the country club’s exercise room where she taught yoga every Wednesday morning to her car without knowing anything but the worry and anxiety gnawing at her heart.

She drove home that way, up the dirt road that ended at the house she shared with her Uncle Amos and daughter Tupelo, blind to the beauty of the New England autumn.

The chatter among her students that morning had been all about Reggie Rosen’s arraignment in the federal courthouse in Rutland on charges of fraud. Rosen had pleaded not guilty, a fact that made the good folks of Carding snort in derision because the man had been caught dead to rights embezzling funds from their school district’s accounts. They all knew it.

What they didn’t know was that Reggie Rosen was Cassie’s loathsome step-brother, and she was determined that they never know.

Reggie and what happened to him was the least of her worries, however.

Cassie had walked away from her family of birth many years before, making a life without dysfunction for herself and then for her child. If you knew her birth family (and her mother’s second husband), you could hardly blame her.

She thought…she felt…she intended…that that part of her life story stay firmly buried in the past where it belonged. But after listening to her students and then reading the stories in the local newspapers, Cassie felt her past stirring like Frankenstein’s monster.

When not teaching yoga or selling her herbal wares and crafts at the local farmers’ markets, Cassie hardly spent any time in town. She’d become so accustomed to keeping secrets, she didn’t cultivate friendships with folks in Carding nor did she listen to local gossip because it was easier that way. So she’d had no idea Reggie was impersonating the superintendent of schools in Carding until he’d been arrested.

In spite of the fact that Reggie had lived and worked and cheated and tried to steal lots of money from Cassie’s adopted hometown, he was not the main reason her anxiety level had shot up to code-red status. That had been tucked into the last sentence of the newspaper article commanding the front page.

Its words had branded Cassie’s heart. “Police are seeking Rosen’s stepsister, known as Margie Rosen, for questioning in the alleged theft of funds from Carding’s school district.”

Margie was a problem. No, those words are not big enough. For Cassie, her younger sister represented an insurmountable challenge to her life, everyone who mattered to her, and everything in it.

Amos sensed the storm battering his niece as soon as she stopped her car in their front yard. He didn’t ask what was wrong. Both of them maintained a strict adherence to principles of privacy because each had secrets to hide. Not asking made living together easier.

But he knew enough about Cassie’s early life to be worried about the fear he saw in her eyes.

She jumped when he asked if she wanted help unloading her car. He took note of her outsized reaction as well as her silence as he piled yoga mats into one of their supply carts, and wheeled it inside.

Cassie had not moved when Amos returned to the car. He could taste the question he wanted to ask on his tongue but he sensed it was not the right time.

“Amazing day, isn’t it?” he asked instead.

“What?” Cassie’s head jerked around in a circle. “Yes, I guess it is.”

Her backpack lay at her feet, her favorite sweatshirt draped over it.

“Have you been out to take a walk yet today?” he asked.

“No. Why?”

Amos smiled as he pressed the sweatshirt into Cassie’s hands. “Because days like this are rare, and they should be spent outdoors. We’ll be spending way too much time indoors soon enough. I can get the rest of your stuff out of the car. Why don’t you go ahead, and enjoy part of this day in the woods. It’ll do you good.”

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