An intense, chilling and compelling twist-a-minute psychological thriller.
When a young girl dies by hanging, terror strikes the hearts of the students and staff of a
Vancouver Island school. Mourning the loss of his mother,
RCMP Inspector Patrick Painter must push aside his grief to investigate the
child's dreadful death, only to find he’s on a collision course, with the past
and present crashing into a deadly game of secrets, suicide and murder.
Do you believe in a Family Curse?
Tragedy strikes local family once again.
Thirteen year old Nathan Winsloe died yesterday at his Metchosin home. He was found hanging from a belt slung over the bar of a clothes closet. At his feet lay a bouquet of shamrocks.
While authorities refused comment, a source who asked not to be identified said suicide was suspected. A family friend added that the teenager was distraught over his mother's recent death. Vivian Winsloe (nee Brownlee) died March 17 of an apparent suicide.
"Suicide is a learned behaviour," said Clare Mully of the Greater Victoria Suicide Prevention Unit.
Nathan is survived by his father and two sisters. The investigation continues.
The Victoria Observer, March 22, 1978
Behold, I shew you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.
—1 CORINTHIANS, 15:51
Act One synopsis, Rigoletto, an Italian opera by Giuseppe Verdi, 1851
In a sixteenth century ducal palace, a female guest attracts the philandering duke's attention. Count Monterone storms in, denouncing the duke for seducing his daughter. When mocked by Rigoletto, a hunchbacked court jester, Monterone thunders a father's curse upon him. A widower with only one child, Rigoletto is appalled.
Later at his home, Rigoletto is accosted by a professional assassin who offers to kill the young man seen spying on the jester's cherished daughter, Gilda. Rigoletto dismisses him and then embraces his daughter. He cautions her about leaving the house and orders her chaperone to guard her. Gilda denies being followed from church and Rigoletto departs.
Gilda is stricken with remorse, having concealed her love for the man who has been following her.
The duke steps from his hiding place, pays off the chaperone, and, pretending to be a poor student, declares his passion for Gilda. Upon hearing footsteps, he is forced to flee. Gilda, singing Caro nome, slowly retires upstairs.
That evening, Rigoletto is tricked by courtiers into assisting in the kidnapping of his daughter. When he realizes she is gone, the jester laments that Monterone's curse has begun.
Tremble, old man, at your ruler's wrath that you provoked,
There is no remedy. This outburst was fatal for you.
—COUNT MONTERONE & CHORUS, ACT 1
The child was not schooled in the hangman's knot. It certainly wasn't the sort of instruction covered in Sister Benedict's grade five class. The Sisters of taught their fifty six charges to live in peace with God and offered what the Mother Superior called a diamond education: reading, writing, arithmetic and religion.
More's the pity, for it took her a long time to die. Gasping, kicking and scratching at the smooth leather belt that, in the end, was just tight enough.
* * * * *
The casket disappeared into the grave, sunlight stubbornly streaking off its small brass nameplate. No, Mom, no! Constable Patrick Painter's stomach lurched and he gulped for air. He tasted salt water, seaweed and cedar. For an instant, he fled Holy Trinity's graveyard by the sea and gratefully felt the nearby
cool, wet touch on his face.
Memories of beach bumming and cove hopping sliced his consciousness as the red Coast Guard vessels winked at him from
. As a child, he'd been terrified of
losing his mother. Every night he'd say, "See you in the morning,
Mom," a childish command, he now realized. A desperate effort to receive a
promise of not being left alone…with him. He'd wait as long as possible to shut
his eyes, rubbing the soft sheets, to avoid the risk of sleeping and her dying.
Each morning, he would awake with a start. Then he'd leap out of bed, dash into the hall and listen for her soft voice. Only when he heard it could he relax. Sometimes he thought his bladder would burst, but finally he'd hear her, then he would race into the bathroom.
The beeping of his pager startled the small clutch of mourners just as his father reached down to grab a handful of freshly dug dirt. What the—? Flushed, Constable Painter peered up under dark bangs and caught the priest's critical glance. A disap-proving clucking of tongues slipped its way round the circle of onlookers. Cursing inwardly again, he instinctively slapped his side and the short, nasal bursts stopped.
Patrick looked away, eyes skittering from the moss pocked tombstones, to the round earth mound, to the grave pit—Mom!—finally, up into his father's black and staring eyes. The younger Painter knew, with the last sudden, sublime finality that strikes a driver careering off a bridge, that the horror was true. He was alone with the man he loathed.
Leonard P. Painter opened a large hand and a clump of
Vancouver Island soil plopped onto
his wife's coffin. A long, ragged scar gleamed on his left cheek, contrasting
sharply with his ruddy complexion. The recently retired staff sergeant of the
Victoria Police Department turned carefully on his heel and tramped away.
Several mourners struggled to follow, shoulders hunched with grief.
Breathing deeply, Patrick waited while the others followed suit. A small, well-dressed man arrived breathless and late, offered condolences and an envelope, which Patrick shoved unthinkingly into his suit pocket.
Finally, only he and the priest remained. Patrick knew he had deliberately left the beeper on. What was he hoping for? That he'd have to leave and so avoid the nightmare? You freakin’ wimp, Pat, you'd run from your own mother's funeral? You'd use the job excuse on her one last time? Despite himself, he snorted.
"Patrick?" A hand touched his shoulder. "Son, you all right?"
Painter blinked into the sun. "What? Oh, yeah. My mother's dead and if I were any better, I'd be twins."
"What?" The priest's sunken eyes stared. "Patrick, maybe we should—"
Marching off to his car phone, Constable Painter didn't hear the rest.
* * * * *
She struggled but couldn't grasp air. Voices of unattainable beauty rose round her like a shimmering fountain: lyric and mezzo sopranos rushed skyward, chased by a single clear treble. An astonishingly brilliant light enveloped her. Glowing faces and flowing robes darted across her path. Tempest Ivory inhaled profoundly, right from her toes; still no sound escaped her lips. She had to sing. She must!
The voices scaled atmospherically, forcing Tempest's hands over her ears. Ugly and sharp now, the bizarre harmonies jarred her. With a crackling whoosh, the light swallowed all the air. The unknown choir rushed at her like sheets of rain, their piercing shrieks pummelled her and she collapsed, trembling and gasping. Her soul shrivelled; she sobbed for her loss. A ringing crammed her skull and she woke with a gasping, heaving shudder.
Sunlight caressed her as she slowly began reattaching herself to her cool satin sheets, her cannon ball bed, her tiny cottage in pastoral North Saanich,
. The phone rang again. Her heart still
thudded, though her breath returned in frayed whispers. A ragged clank raised
the coppery hair on her freckled arms. She wasn't alone. Tempest bolted up,
started screaming, "Get outta my house!" and stumbled out of and
around her bed into her living room. British
A dark, hooded figure streaked from the galley kitchen into the narrow hall. Two strides to the front door. Too tortoise like to follow, Tempest unhinged her jaw, dug back into her spine and unleashed her only weapon. Her voice rose, effortlessly vaulting high C, saturating the tiny space, slamming the intruder's senses.
The figure stubbed its toe near the front door. With a surprised bellow, the prowler reached down, clutched the offending box and hobbled out into the dappled light.
Chest heaving in her lace nightgown, Tempest thumped barefoot onto her wooden porch. Just as her motorbike was thrown to the ground, she saluted the interloper with an angry, raised fist as he faded into the surrounding second growth coniferous forest.
Though incapable of physically describing her uninvited guest, Tempest could mentally replay the baritone's startled curse.
Nicola pens mystery and inspirational novels, creates interactive books for the iPad, podcasts about genre writing (The Novel Experience), and teaches electronic publishing, when she's not playing Old-Timer’s hockey, growing blossoms and bamboo or eating chocolate fudge.
Her first contemporary women's series, the Sisterhood of Shepherds, debuted with HEARTSONG in May 2014 (MantleRockPublishing). Nicola's swinging whodunit, TEED OFF! (republished in February 2014 by OakTreePress), features professional golfer and coroner Riley Quinn.
Her other novels include a psychological thriller (A HEMORRHAGING OF SOULS), six novels in The Church Choir Mysteries series and a multimedia online thriller, UNNATURALSTATES.
In addition, she has published three ebooks, YOUDUNIT WHODUNIT! HOW TO WRITE MYSTERIES, SELF-PUBLISH YOUR E-BOOK IN MINUTES! and TOP TEN GARDENING TIPS, as well as her first musical interactive children's book for the iPad, SAVING GRAPE-JELLY CHEEKS.
Nicola lives in a small seaside town on southern
Island, British Columbia
To purchase Nicola's book:
Nicola Furlong is giving away an e-book copy of A Hemorrhaging of Souls. The giveaway is only available to
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Off to read another great book!
Sandra M. Hart