VOICE OF THE JUST
The Blue Sapphire Story
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
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 &
Published in the United
States of America
In loving memory of my mother
I miss you so much, Momma
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
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
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
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
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
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:
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
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.”
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:
by Meghan Hoyer
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
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
Heart of Courage: The Red Ruby Story
Voice of the Just: The Blue Sapphire
After the Storm
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
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
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
“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
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
“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
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
My sister and I gripped each other’s
hand as cold, harsh fear washed over us.
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
“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
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,
“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
“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
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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“I’ll do that. Sorry to ruin our
“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,
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“Martin said to bring it back if you
weren’t satisfied, but he also said he didn’t think that would be
“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
“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
“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
“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
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
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
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
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
“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
“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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.”
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
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.
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?”