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Posted April 9, 2011 by Taressa Klays in Novel Preview

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Sneak Preview “Reflection’s of Death” Now Available   Leave a comment

Prologue:

 

Reflections

Behind the glass,

lie shades of truth:

A sinister lass,

a past uncouth.

Only the blood of a kindred soul

can unlock secrets

the glass does hold.

And so it comes to pass one day-

the imprisoned soul comes out to play,

losing its bonds in the shades of glass,

revealing secrets of that sinister lass.

 

Prologue:

 Near Waterton, South Dakota, August 11, 1959

Five year old Jessica Marie DeBoine happily skipped along the carpeted aisle, inside the moving passenger train. Her long, dark haired ringlets swayed side to side. She was on her way to the dining car. It was almost lunch time and she was starving. She checked behind her periodically to make certain her parents, John and Sandra DeBoine, and her grandmother, Julia DeBoine, weren’t far behind.

Jessica stopped skipping and took her mother by the hand, pulling her. “Hurry Mommy, I can smell something good cooking.”

“Slow down, Jessie,” Sandra said. “Let Grandma and Daddy catch up to us.”

Jessica dropped her shoulders and stuck out her bottom lip. “Alright,” she said and let go of her mother’s hand. Jessica patiently waited for her father and grandmother, winding a ringlet around her finger. When they appeared behind her mother, she resumed skipping to the beat of the train’s wheels thumping along the track.

A blaring whistle blew unexpectedly with an unusual resonance. Jessica stopped skipping and turned to her mother, puzzled. She saw fear in her eyes.

“Jessie, come here baby,” Sandra said in a panicked voice, holding out her arms.

“Mommy?” An explosion sounded through the train’s car. She screamed and ran to her mother. Before Jessica could reach her open arms, the floor heaved upward. Piercing cries echoed around her. Jessica felt herself being lifted into the air and thrown. She heard glass shattering. Her head hit something hard and darkness swallowed her up like the torrent waters from a flash-flood.

 

Chapter One

 

Shadow Bay, Oregon, July 8th, 1979

Gabrielle Stone eased her yellow, rust-bucket of a Pinto up to the pumps of the filling station. “Damn, it’s closed!” She slammed her hands on the steering wheel and let out a guttural growl of frustration. The car seemed to answer her with a sputter and a shake, then the engine quit. “Great. Now what am I going to do?” She turned the key, half-hoping the vehicle would hum to life for a little while longer, or at least long enough for her to find a motel room. “This is unbelievable. It’s empty.” Me and my stupid ideas, she thought. I could have filled the tank several times over, but no, I had to push it. She sighed. “Oh well, not much I can do about it now except sit and wait till morning,” she said out loud.

     She pulled the keys from the ignition and scanned her surroundings. The smell of sea salt air filled the car as she rolled down the window and sucked in a deep breath. She watched the ocean surf beat the shore across the road until the last ray of light escaped into the horizon. A seagull sounded off in the distance while she thought, this is going to be home. “One more night,” she whispered and smiled. “One more night.”

She took her blanket from the rear seat and pulled it up to her shoulders. She thought about leaving the window down so she could fall asleep to the sound of the waves, but this was a dark and shadowy place, and she felt an odd sense of danger. She shivered and rolled it up. She pulled the lever, reclined her seat, and thought about all the wonderful things she would discover about her new life when she saw the lawyer in the morning.

     While lying back in the seat staring up at the roof of the car, her mind was filled with visions of wealth and a fancy mansion facing the ocean. She drifted off to sleep and a fitful dream. She heard loud screeching and the crashing of metal. Fire and sparks filled the scene while she stood just on the outer rim of disaster. A wrecked train lay in front of her with the passenger cars tangled in disarray. The smell of diesel and smoke filled the air. A woman’s shattered body dragged herself along the ground, stretching a blood-soaked hand toward her, crying, “Jessie. Jessie, come here, baby.”

The sound of weeping and shrieking surrounded her. Then all went quiet. She peered over the wreckage, horrified by the mass of metal and bodies strewn about the ground. Her focus returned to the woman who lay in front of her, eyes frozen in a timeless gaze of terror. She heard a pounding. Was it in her head?

     Gabby awoke, startled. A heavy-set bearded man banged on her window. She shielded her eyes from the sun and opened the window a crack.

     “You all right, Miss?” he said with a growl. “You can’t be parking here. I’ve got a business to run. Now move this heap,” he said, sweeping his arms.

     Gabby sat up straight and rolled down the window. “I can’t,” she said. “My tank’s empty. I’m moving in town today. My name’s Gabrielle Stone.”

     “Well, why didn’t you say so, Miss? How much do you want?”

     “Fill it up.” She felt puzzled by this brute’s sudden willingness to be polite. Was it her name? She wondered. She threw her blanket to the back seat and watched him scrub her windshield.

     He grinned, leaning over toward her window. “Can I check your oil?”

     “Sure.” She watched him bounce to the front of her car and open the hood. He seems harmless enough, she thought. Amused, she watched him pull the stick, wipe it on his jeans, put it back in the small hole with perfect precision, and slam the hood shut.

     “Looks good, Miss, but it’s pretty dirty. Should get that changed soon. That’ll be fifteen smackeroos.”

     She reached into her change purse, pulled out a twenty and handed it to him. He took it and half skipped his way into the front of the store. A minute later, he returned with her change.

     “So, you’re moving into Shadow Bay?”

     “That’s right.”

     “Where are you staying?”

     “I don’t know yet. Would you happen to know where Caulder and Associates is?”

     “Sure do. Head to that set of lights and hang a right. Go on up the hill and turn left. Can’t miss it.”  He stuck his hand through the open window. “Well, glad to meet you. Name’s Arne.”

     Gabby shook it with two fingers. “You can call me Gabby.”

     “I’m the only station in town, so I suppose you’ll be back for that oil change,” he said with a wink, “and the gas, too.”

     “Thanks, Arne.” She smiled. “Nice to meet you, and I’m certain I’ll see you again.”

     “Sure enough, Miss Gabby.” Arne slapped the roof of the car as she drove away.

     Five minutes later, she pulled up to a stone building with a weathered sign reading Caulder and Associates. A wave of excitement soared through her. “This is it.” She took a deep breath, picked up her shoulder bag, and glanced in the rearview mirror. Mascara circled her blue eyes, and her long, wavy, dark hair was a disgrace. “I can’t go in looking like this.” She brushed her hair and used a Kleenex to wipe the dark smudges under her eyes. That will have to do, she thought. After all, I haven’t seen a bathtub since I left South Dakota. She could smell her arm perspiration. “Phew, that’s bad.” She took a bottle of perfume from her hand-bag and sprayed her neck and arms. “That should do it.” She took another deep breath and got out of the car.

     She grasped the handle on the heavy-looking wooden door and tried to open it, but it wouldn’t budge. “Just my luck—closed.” She tried again. This time she pushed hard with her shoulder. The door flung open, and she fell into the entrance hall and against a man, knocking files out of his hands. His papers lay scattered all over the floor.

     “Oh, my God! I’m so sorry. The door was stuck and I—”

     “That’s okay, this door always sticks.”

     Gabby bent down to help him pick up the papers.

 “Don’t worry about that,” he said. “I’ll get them. Private stuff, you know.”

     “Of course,” she stammered. “I’m so sorry.”

     “Do you have an appointment? I don’t recall any on my calendar.”

     “Oh—yes, well, no. Not exactly. I’m early. I have a letter.” Gabby opened her shoulder bag and handed it to him. “Are you Brian Caulder?”

     “Yes-Oh, you’re Miss Stone. I didn’t expect you until tomorrow.”

     “I’m a day early. I can come back later if this is a bad time.”

     “No, now would be good. Why don’t you go upstairs, get a coffee, and make yourself comfortable. I’ll be up in a minute.”

     “Okay, sure.” She felt terrible. “I hope I didn’t mess up your files too much.”

     “No harm done.”

     Gabby climbed the stairs and located a coffee machine on a table in the waiting area. She was stirring in the sugar when Brian Caulder appeared at the top of the stairs.

     “Just let me put these away and I’ll be right with you,” he said, disappearing into his office.

She took her coffee and sat on one of the chairs where she could watch him through the open door. He was much taller than her five-foot-seven, and she figured a little older.  He wore a tan sports jacket that set off his sandy blond hair and broad shoulders perfectly. She guessed him for a football player during his school years. She didn’t know what brand of cologne he was wearing, but it smelled fantastic. She sipped her coffee, picked up a magazine from the table, and thumbed through it while she waited. Hmm …, odd, she thought. This magazine is all about Shadow Bay. I had no idea they published magazines about a small town like this. She shrugged—but the thought nagged at her.

      “You can come in now, Miss Stone,” Brian called from the doorway.

     Gabby put the magazine back on the table, picked up her coffee, and entered his office.  She looked at him and smiled. “Thank you for seeing me this morning.”

     “My calendar was clear, so this works out great. We have a lot to cover. The extra time might come in handy. Have a seat.” He motioned toward the guest chairs. “Give me a second while I find the right files.”

     “Sure.” She sat down and took another sip of her coffee while she looked around the room. The desk was large and cumbersome. It appeared to be centuries old. The walls of the room needed painting. They weren’t dirty, just grungy and dull. Atop the desk were file folders and a rotary dial telephone on one corner. Ringed coffee stains and an overflowing ashtray signaled long hours or a lack of hired help for cleaning. The floors were made of a dark hardwood, faded and scuffed, except for near the walls where their usage was minimal. A light grey area rug lay under the desk and chairs. It wasn’t what she expected for a law office.

     Brian looked up at her, frowning. “Is everything all right, Miss Stone?”

     She took a deep breath. “Yes. Everything is fine. I’m just a bit tired from that long trip.”

     “That’s understandable.”  He opened a large folder and took out the first two sheets of paper.  “Let’s get started, shall we?” His expression changed to one of sympathy. “First, I’d like to offer my condolences on the loss of your grandfather.”

     “Uh …, oh yes, of course. Thank you.”

     “I know you may not remember much about him, but we all knew him well. He was a good man. It was a sad loss when he disappeared seven and a half years ago.

     “I’m sorry I didn’t get to know him.” Her mind screamed at her. Know him? I never even knew he existed before I got this letter.

     “How much do you remember about your family?” Brian gave her his undivided attention. “I want to find out how much you recall about your past.”

     “Well, my parents died when I was thirteen. My Dad passed first; my Mom followed less than a year later. I think she was lonely for him. I was placed in foster care, where I spent the next five years moving from one foster home to the next, trying to fit in. I never had the chance to make any close friends. I’ve been on my own almost seven years now, since I turned eighteen. Hmm, what else.” She tapped her lip, thinking. “I didn’t have any sisters or brothers. My parents were the only family I had.” She leaned back on her seat and laid her hands on her lap. “That’s about it.”

     Brian looked down at the folder in front of him, looking distressed. “So you don’t remember then?”

     She straightened in her chair and folded her arms. “Don’t remember what?”

     “I’ll get to that in a bit. Now, let’s deal with your Grandfather’s Last Will and Testament.” He shuffled through the papers. “Here it is. Before we begin, I’ll need to see your identification.”  He considered Gabby. “We’re dealing with a large inheritance, so I’ll need copies for proof of identity.”

     “Of course.” She reached into her shoulder bag and pulled out her wallet. She removed her driving license, her birth certificate, and handed them to him.

     “I’ll also need your Social Security card.”

     She rifled through her wallet, one sleeve, then another. “It’s here somewhere.” She opened a zipper on the side. “Found it.” She breathed a sigh of relief and handed it to him.

     He stood. “I’ll be back in a minute or two. You might want to refill your coffee. We’re going to be here awhile.”

     “I’m fine for now,” she said. “Maybe later.” She watched him leave the room, then leaned forward, trying to get a sneak peek at the Will. All she could see was the cover page. She thought about standing and even flipping through it, but decided not to. She sat back, crossed her legs, and waited.

Chapter Two

 It was several minutes later when Brian Caulder returned and handed back the documents. “I verified your information, not that you seem like the imposter type.”

     “I sure feel like one,” she said, a little louder than intended.

     Brian furrowed his brow. “I’ve proven you’re the granddaughter of the late George DeBoine.”

     She felt irritated. “How could you know that, when I don’t?”

     “Let’s do the reading of the Will first, then—”

      She broke in. “Mr. Caulder,” she said forcefully but controlled. “I’ve got to know how I could possibly be this man’s heir before I hear what the inheritance is.”

     He exhaled aloud. “You’re right.” He opened a drawer on the left side of his desk and pulled out an old shoe-box. He handed it to her. “This box was your Grandfather’s.”

     She opened the cover and set it on the desk. Old black and white pictures were on top. Gabby picked them up, studying them. “Do you know who these people are?” She handed the pictures to Brian.

     “This one is your grandparents.” He passed it back to her, along with others of her grandparents. “They’re George and Julia DeBoine.” He glanced through the remaining ones in his hand. “There should be a few more.”

     Gabby picked through the letters and paper until she found another small stack of pictures. She stared at one of them. “Oh, my God. It’s me! This is amazing. My parents took a picture of me at that age. I have it with me.”  She looked at the next one. She stood between two people, a man and a woman.

     “Those were your real parents,” Brian said, leaning over his desk, “John and Sandra DeBoine.”

     “How come I have no memory of this?”

     “According to my records, you were found wandering in a field by the people you came to know as your parents. They took you to the local hospital to treat your wounds. The doctors diagnosed you with amnesia when you couldn’t recall your name or where you came from. They guessed you were involved in the train wreck that happened nearby, the same one that claimed the life of your grandmother and parents.”

     Gabby said, “That’s terrible—all of them dying.”

Brian continued. “Assuming you had no more family, they filed the proper documents and, when no one came forward to claim or identify you, they went through with the adoption.” He gathered up a batch of papers and handed them to her. “It’s all here in the adoption records. Didn’t they ever discuss any of this with you?”

     “No, until now I thought they were my real parents.” She set the records aside and focused on the photos. A recollection entered her mind. The woman in the picture standing next to her was the same one she had dreamed about. She was calling her Jessie. “Jessie,” she whispered. “My dreams, I’ve seen her. Could it have been real?”

Her hand flew to her mouth. “Oh no!” She sat, staring at the photo. Tears welled in her eyes. She looked up at Brian, sniffling. “In my dreams, I watched her die. She was my real mother.” She sat silent, rocking herself. She spoke to the picture, “I watched you die.”

     Brian picked up a box of tissue and offered her one.

     She accepted it and wiped her eyes. Gabby took a deep breath. “How did you know to look for me?”

     “I didn’t, but I had a gut feeling. It’s my job to find the next of kin, if at all possible. They never recovered the body of a girl your age in the debris.” He took out a package of cigarettes from his breast pocket and offered her one.

     “I quit a few months ago, but thanks.”

     “Do you mind?”

     “No, I don’t mind.”

He sat back, lit his cigarette, and took a long drag before continuing. “After your grandfather’s second wife Amelia died, I researched the possibility you were still alive. I checked the adoption records for the state of South Dakota and discovered the strange circumstances surrounding your adoption. It all fit. Finding you after that was easy. I had your adoptive name, and you happened to be the only Gabrielle Stone living in Waterton, SD, and you were the right age. I knew for sure when I saw you.” He pointed to the photograph. “The little girl is definitely you.”

     “I know.” She glanced at the snapshot and turned her eyes to Brian. “What was my real name? No, wait. Was it Jessie?”

     “Yes. It’s actually Jessica Marie DeBoine.” He picked up one of the papers he’d pulled from the folder earlier and handed it to her. “Your true Certificate of Birth.”

     “This is incredible.  My birthday isn’t August 11th, it’s July 12th. I’ll be twenty-five a month early. At least they managed to get the year right. I would have hated to find out I’m older than I thought I was, or younger for that matter.” She put the document on top of the box and contemplated for a moment. “Can I change my name back to Jessica DeBoine?”

     “You can. If you like, I could pick up the necessary forms at lunch.”

     “Yes, I’d like that. I think I’ll keep Gabby as a nick-name.”
     “Or you can add Gabrielle as part of your legal name,” Brian said. He put out his cigarette.

     “I like that idea better.” She never had a middle name before, at least one she knew about. She thought it made her sound prestigious. The corners of her lips lifted in a wide smile. “I’ll be Gabrielle Jessica Marie DeBoine.”

      “That sounds impressive.” He nodded in agreement. “Very impressive.” He checked his watch. “We still have about an hour until lunch, so shall I read your grandfather’s will?”

     “I’ll need another cup of coffee first—or maybe something stronger, if you have it. And then, yes, I’ll be ready for that. This has been quite a day, Mr. Caulder. And it’s just beginning.”

Brian Caulder smiled, mumbled something about finding some brandy, and left the room. He looked back at her once and smiled again.

As Gabby sat there alone, she took several deep breaths and closed her eyes for a moment. Could all this be really happening to her? Learning about her real parents, about to hear of a large inheritance—all in one morning. And, under it all, she felt an undertone of shadows, of even more secrets that might emerge in this strange town, this small bend in the road, this little dot on the map. A place—probably for a good reason, she decided—called Shadow Bay.

 Chapter Three

 Two empty water glasses with a few drops of brandy in each stood on Brian Caulder’s desk. “I’m sorry I couldn’t find any brandy snifters.”

Gabby smiled. “I wouldn’t know what one looks like. But I do feel better now.”

Brian put on an air of professionalism. “Normally my Father, Jacob Caulder, would be handling this estate, but he was called away on urgent business.” Brian paused. “All right. Now to the will. As I said, in the letter I sent you, your grandfather, George Michael DeBoine, is now declared dead. He’s been missing since the passing of his second wife, Amelia, seven and a half years ago. We spent the last six months locating you, and now that you’re here, we can proceed.” He took a deep breath and read from the document on his desk.

“Be it known that I, George Michael DeBoine, a resident of Shadow Bay, in the state of Oregon, being of sound mind, and body, do make and declare this to be my Last Will and Testament, expressly revoking all my prior wills and codicils at any time made.”

Brian paused and looked at Gabby over the top of the papers. “If you don’t understand anything, Miss Stone, feel free to ask.”

Gabby nodded. “I will.”

“I appoint Jacob Caulder of Caulder and Associates, in the year of our Lord, One Thousand Nineteen Hundred and Fifty-seven, in the town of Shadow Bay, in the state of Oregon, as my personal representative of this, My Last Will and Testament, and provide if this representative is unable or unwilling to serve, then I appoint anyone of Caulder and Associates of Shadow Bay, OR, as alternate personal representative to be authorized to carry out all provisions of this will and pay my just debts, obligations, and funeral expenses.

I further provide my personal representative shall not be required to post surety bond in this or any other jurisdiction and direct that no expert appraisal be made of my estate unless required by law.”

     While Gabby listened to the legal jargon, her mind drifted off, envisioning a beautiful white mansion with green shutters. The gardens displayed a variety of flowers that captured the sun and reflected it back, like caught in a prism of dancing colors. Giant fish statues spewed water from their mouths, cascading into stone ponds beneath them. The ocean pounded the shore behind the gallant home. She saw herself standing on a gleaming cobblestone driveway, mesmerized by the scene, sporting an ear to ear grin.

     “Miss Stone?” Brian stopped reading and looked at her, frowning. “Are you with me?”

      “Yes.” She was still smiling.

     “You looked like you were a million miles away.”

     “My apologies. I was daydreaming.” She sat up straight and focused.

“We’re getting to the important stuff now,” Brian said. “I promise I won’t bore you senseless anymore.”

“I’m listening.”

“Okay, in the event of my demise, I, George Michael DeBoine, do leave all of my personal possessions, including bank accounts, stocks, bonds, property, and any and all assets to my wife, Julia Marianne DeBoine. In the event the above named predeceases me, then all above mentioned assets will be left to my son, John Allen DeBoine. In the event there are more children of the marriage, then the following shall prevail. All assets shall and will be divided equally among them. If all prior heirs have predeceased me, then all the above mentioned shall and will go to my youngest rightful heir in my bloodline at the time of my demise.”

     Brian took a sip of his coffee and smiled. “This brings me to you, Miss Stone …, or Miss DeBoine. I think you’ll be more than pleased.”

     “Would you mind calling me Gabby?  I’m not used to having two last names.”

     “All right.” Brian lit a cigarette. “What all this means is, your grandfather has left you, his youngest rightful heir, all his assets. That includes the family home, which he held with his late wife, Amelia, and the furnishings, bank accounts, stocks and bonds. This also includes another insurance policy taken out on him by his late wife during their marriage. That also belongs to you.”

     Gabby sat forward in her chair, twirling her hair in anticipation. “How much?”

     “Pardon me?”

     She grunted, clearing her throat. “How much? I mean, you know, all together?”

     “We’ve liquidated all the stocks, bonds, and put them into a trust account. The banks need to see your original identification and certificate of death of your grandfather. I have that death certificate here for you and I think …, we’ve sufficiently identified you as Jessica DeBoine.”

     “So, how much?” she asked as loud as she dared without sounding rude. She slid forward to the edge of her seat.

     “After the state taxes, you’re left with the total sum of three and a half million dollars, including the real property, and all assets on that property.”

     She jumped to her feet. “Did you say three—,” and dropped to the floor in a faint.

Posted August 18, 2010 by Taressa Klays in Novel Preview

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Posted August 17, 2010 by Taressa Klays in Novel Preview