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"Ms. Rosburg deserves credit for originality and a surpising conclusion." —Affaire De Coeur
It was still cool so early in the spring. Early in the morning as well. It had been barely two hours since the beadle, the Shomerim la-Boker, Watcher for the Morning, had been round from house to house knocking on doors to wake the ghetto denizens. The street was shady, too, as the Jewish population had nowhere to build but up, and haphazardly constructed buildings towered over the busy streets. Pina clutched her shawl more tightly to her breast.
The poorly built housing was the reason she hurried. Another building had collapsed recently, killing scores and injuring more. Her skills, and coin, were sorely needed.
Pina turned a last corner and found herself in front of the unimposing façade of The Scola Grande Tedesca. Externally, the Venetian synagogue did not present features of particular merit or interest. It was not prudent to attract the attention of the Rulers of the Republic, who had explicitly forbidden the construction of synagogues. She looked up at its five windows and hesitantly pulled open the massive door.
The synagogue's benign exterior belied the sumptuous, gilded interior. She glanced up at the women's gallery, then heard the sharp click of footsteps on the beautifully inlaid floor.
"Rabbi Levan?" Pina called tentatively.
"Oh, good. You're here, child. I am grateful. As many others will be." The traditionally garbed Ashkenazi teacher took Pina's hands in his own and squeezed them gently. He tilted his head in acknowledgement of her servant. "We should leave at once."
"Of course." Pina's eyes drifted to the large basket Andrea cradled. "I brought as much as I could. I know it's not enough. It's never enough. But ..."
"Hush, child." The Rabbi held a finger briefly to his lips. "Come. They're waiting."
Pina followed the black clad figure back onto the street. His slightly hunched back became the center of her focus as they wound their way along the crowded, narrow thoroughfare. Several minutes later the Rabbi opened the door to a tall, shabby tenement and gestured her inside.
The stench assaulted her immediately; unwashed bodies; the coppery odor of blood; human waste and vomit; the pungency of fear and despair. Pina heard the moans of the injured and dying, the murmuring of prayers. She followed the Rabbi out of the corridor and into a room packed with too many bodies to count.
Almost all the furniture had been removed. People lay in rows on the floor, only inches separating them. Several women, all with the yellow circles sewn on their breasts, moved among the maimed, offering what comfort they could. Two men working in blood-stained outer coats were doctors she recognized from previous missions to the ghetto. One of them looked up when she entered.
"Thank the Lord," he groaned, and pushed to his feet. His yellow patch was nearly obliterated by his patients' effluvia.
"God's angel has visited us once again in our time of need," the Rabbi said. His coal black eyes pinned her, and she looked away. She felt absurdly guilty, as if the plight of the people was her fault.
"You are not the cause of this," Rabbi Levan said softly, startling Pina with the accuracy of his statement. "Neither will you be the cure. But you are a blessing, and a light in the darkness."
The doctor who had risen stood before Andrea, who offered him the basket.
"There is material for bandages," Pina said shyly. "Herbs and salves as well. It's so little, but it was all I could manage. We're running low as well, and...."
"We know your dilemma," the doctor interrupted in a kindly manner. "We thank you for your generosity. And your courage." With that he turned away to resume his work.
"Can I ... can we help?" Pina looked up at Rabbi Levan. "You know my skills. I've helped before."
But the Rabbi shook his head. "You must not risk yourself by tarrying."
Pina couldn't disagree. It was becoming harder and harder to think up excuses to leave the villa, particularly for any length of time. And with the recent murders her mother was getting more and more protective.
"All right," she conceded reluctantly. "But I'll be back as soon as I can gather more supplies. Oh, and take these." Pina dug into the velvet sac tied to her belt and withdrew a few gold coins. She pressed them into the Rabbi's palm. His black eyes glittered, and she turned away before his tears of gratitude could spill.
mysterious deaths of several young women, daughters all of wealthy and respected families.
Once outside the ghetto, the streets broadened and the crowds thinned. The noxious odors faded, replaced by the everpresent, liquid fragrance of the canals. The elegant facades of the buildings in her neighborhood were familiar and comforting, and the sun was warm on her back. Yet suddenly Pina was struck with unaccountable unease. Gathering her skirts, she hastened her steps.
The gates to the courtyard stood ajar. It was not a reassuring sign. Since the murders began, her mother had been adamant about keeping the gates locked at all times. Pina slipped inside, Andrea at her heels.
Two flights of stone steps arced gracefully upward to the wide double front doors. They were closed, but Pina's premonition deepened. She ran up the stairs and pushed the heavy door inward.
The sound of keening came to her ears, a high, thin sound that stretched her nerves taut. It came from the direction of the grand salon. Pina bolted.
Her mother, dressed in her habitual black, stood in the center of the elaborately inlaid marble floor. Both hands were pressed to her temples and her normally perfectly groomed silver hair streamed around her milk-white face. She tilted her head back and uttered another animal-like cry.
"Signora Galbi ... Signora, please," the steward, a portly, balding man, pleaded. "You cannot carry on like this. You will make yourself ill."
"Si. Sit, Signora," her maid added to the chorus of importunities. "Sit and let me bring you a glass of wine."
Francesca remained apparently oblivious. Pina strode quickly across the floor.
"Ahhhhhhh ... Pina!" Francesca Galbi seemed to have been jerked sharply back to reality. She took her hands from her head and held them out to her daughter. "Pina!"
"What is it, Mother? What has happened? What's wrong?"
"Pina ... my daughter ..." Signora Galbi choked. It was all she could say. Throwing her arms around Pina's shoulders, she broke into wild, uncontrollable sobs.
It was several minutes before the older woman was able to rein in her explosive emotion. All the while, a half-dozen servants hovered with pitchers of iced wine, lavers of water, and linen towels, anything they thought might be of aid or comfort to their hysterical mistress.
When her mother had calmed somewhat, Pina's hands constantly stroking her back, she glanced over her shoulder at the steward. "Tell me what has happened," she demanded in a level voice. "What has happened to upset the Signora so?"
The steward merely looked uncomfortable. He exchanged glances with the other servants.
The steward visibly flinched. Signora Galbi broke into a fresh spate of weeping.
"It's Valeria!" her mother cried, pulling away, snatching at the few strands of hair left in the remains of her chignon. "Your cousin ... my niece ... my sister's baby!" Another shriek echoed through the cavernous, sumptuously decorated salon.
"Mother!" Pina grabbed her mother's forearms and forced her to look at her. "What about Valeria? What has happened. Tell me!"
"Dead!" An unearthly sound issued from Signora Galbi's throat. "Dead, like all the rest. Deeeeaaaaaaad ..."
Pina staggered under her mother's weight as she collapsed into her daughter's arms.
Excerpted from The Dream Thief by Helen A. Rosburg Copyright © 2005 by Helen A. Rosburg. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted September 21, 2012
Posted December 9, 2008
In Venice, young beautiful women are dying three bodies found in a boat and two in the garden of their family estate. There is not a mark on them and the authorities are baffled to the cause of death. Pina, an aristocrat with a pure and innocent soul, is not troubled by these deaths because she was not close to any of the victims. That changes when the cousin she grew up with dies in a similar manner. Her fiancée Antonio, who she doesn¿t want to marry, persuades her mother to keep Pina locked in the villa When they walk to church, Pina sees a handsome man who looks ill. He visits her in her dreams, sucking out the essence of her soul. When Pina¿s mother sees that she is wasting away like the other women who died, she heeds the advice of a wise man and gets her out of Venice to their summerhouse. Pina¿s mother tells the witch nearby what happened and she believes dark magic is involved. The man follows Pina and intends to draw out her soul so he can live but the witch stops him and makes him realize Pina is not like the others. She genuinely loves him and he remembers who he was before he became THE DREAM THIEF. Antonio is following the women intending to harm them because Pina¿s mother broke the betrothal but he is topped by a force more resolved than his purpose. Pina hopes she can cure THE DREAM THIEF and give him back his life. THE DREAM THIEF is a creatively original paranormal romancethat demonstrates love is more powerful than evil. Antonio is a sadistic, debauched, sadist who hides his true colors to everyone but Pina who sees his true essence. Pina¿s mother finally puts her daughter first after a year of mourning her husband¿s death helps Pina fight THE DREAM THIEF. Helen A. Rosburg is not only a talented and uniquely original storyteller but creates characters that the audience intuitively understands. Harriet Klausner
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Posted September 23, 2010
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