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SORROWS In the HEART
A Mystery Romance
By Amy Phillips
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2002 Amy Phillips
All rights reserved.
The road swept like a conveyer belt under the huge town car as Jason sped northward.
Bored with watching the monotony of trees and sky covering the flat countryside along the Interstate, Sarah, with her thick, rich brown hair pulled back into a soft twist, and casually dressed in linen slacks and a silk shirt, turned her gaze on him.
Her icy glances trembled with envy as she admitted to herself aging had only enhanced his good looks. His thick blond hair showed no signs of thinning or any streaks of gray. He was six feet tall, but his broad shoulders made him appear somewhat shorter.
Sensing her eyes on him, he turned to her. Giving her a questioning glance, he caught that stone cold look in her eyes before she quickly turned her head away.
Staring blankly out the window again, her thoughts brooded over this disastrous vacation to Palm Beach he had insisted they take together. It was to make amends, he told her.
But was it? She could not believe that, for they were quarreling constantly these past few days, and after that side trip to the Keys, they were hardly speaking to each other.
It exhausted her so completely that when they returned to their hotel suite last night, she immediately sank into a club chair.
"I'll need a week to recuperate when we get back home," she cried out in despair.
"I'm sorry you didn't see the fun in it," Jason answered, giving her his phony jovial laugh.
That gaiety in his laughter hiding his serious nature had begun to abrade her nerves in recent years.
Making a gesture of disgust she screamed in growing frustration. "You call riding in a crowded, old tour bus fun?"
Jason held back the anger building up inside him.
"I'm sorry about that," he said in a placating manner.
Upset that the vacation wasn't going as he planned, and that he wasn't able to ask for the divorce he's been longing for since his retirement he gave her a silent gaze then grabbed his pajamas, shaving kit and went into the bathroom.
Sarah sat rigid, staring at the closed door. Her thoughts, as they had many times, turned to his retirement.
The jolt of his sudden decision dwelled in her constantly, that even now, nearly a year later she still wasn't adjusted; it altered their lives completely.
Never once did he mention he would, or that he had thought about it. He had always said to her whenever someone retired from the Firm: retirement represents the pinnacle of boredom. She would never understand why he retired at such a young age; he was only 58 years old.
His financial world and its challenges had always invigorated him. Over the years she saw him become consumed by his desire for power and wealth.
However, she never seemed to be aware of his venal ways in the manipulation of industries and international cartels in order for him to gain that power. Jason made more money than she ever dreamed possible.
His newfound freedom only added to the tension growing between them; and his guarded privacy bothered her even more. He would often go off for extended weekends, saying too much togetherness was not good for them. His refusal to discuss where he had gone began to turn her to suspicion.
How foolish she had been all those years; never complaining about the long hours he spent with the company, or the times he cancelled their social engagements because of his business. Never did she fret about the days and weeks he would be gone, traveling to some far corner of the world, never knowing where he was, or when he would return home.
Sarah sighed wearily.
Although he still held an important place in her life, but in her heart there no longer was any love for him.
Becoming impatient, she let out a deep groan, muttering if he would ever come out of the bathroom.
* * *
Jason looked searchingly at himself in the mirror while he shaved. His mind began to fill with memories of the harmonious, happy years when they could never fall asleep without being in each other's arms ... remembering the elation they had shared when their sons were born. Byron, Adam, and then Jay, whom she insisted be named after him. Their personal happiness slowly dwindled until all that was left were the few happy times they shared with the boys when they were young.
With a heavy heart, he shook his head fiercely, and reluctantly returned to the bedroom. He saw that glint in Sarah's eyes so familiar to him whenever she was angry.
He silently watched her snatch up her nightgown off the bed; collect her toiletries then darted into the bathroom, giving the door a hard shove with her foot.
He still found it difficult to understand her quick, fiery temperament, and her unexplainable volatile moods.
Jason climbed into bed, still in his reminiscent mood.
He had no regrets retiring.
Never did she praise him for his business successes, or thank him for all the charitable contributions he had made at her requests. He gave her every luxury, for which she had never shown him any appreciation.
Never did she respect the dignitaries he brought home; but he had to give her credit for her hospitality to them, as he always expected of her.
Although the romance had gone out of their marriage years ago, her stately beauty kept him submissive, that even now he still felt a jealous possessiveness about her sexuality whenever he would notice other men admiring her accomplishments.
For years, the question he constantly asked himself: What had gone wrong with their marriage---would no longer bother him. He was determined that his life would not go on this way.
He turned off the bedside lamp, punched his fist hard into the pillow, and nestled into a comfortable position.
Much later he felt Sarah crawl into the other side of the king size bed.
* * *
Their usual habit of waking at 4 o'clock when traveling was no different the next morning, except for the morbid silence that lingered from the night before. Like two robots, they dressed and packed, each wishing the other would speak.
Jason tipped the bellhop for loading their bags into the trunk of the car then turned to Sarah, "I'm going back to check the room to make sure we haven't forgotten anything."
He left quickly, leaving her standing by the car with a questioning look on her face.
Showing her impatience when he returned, she said tightly, "It took you long enough."
"Sorry. Let's have breakfast here. It will save time by not having to look for a restaurant on the Interstate."
"We may as well," she snapped.
He led her back into the hotel dining room. After the waiter took their order silence again fell between them.
Jason put a teaspoon of sugar in his coffee and idly stirred it. Taking slow sips, he looked loathingly over the cup at Sarah's perfectly formed face defined by delicate cheekbones and high, rounded forehead. A slim Roman nose added elegance to her large emerald eyes, now sunken in deep dark circles.
Her youthful beauty would remain as ageless as the Sphinx, he was positive of that.
In spite of her many complaints about her poor health, he was certain she had the stamina of a woman at least twenty years younger.
When their food came, they ate quickly in that morbid silence.
Leaving the restaurant Sarah hung heavily on his arm as they walked back to the car. He knew she was tired. A sudden pang of sympathy hit him.
"How do you feel?" His words, although spoken stiffly, eased the tension between them.
"Much better," she answered in quiet acquiescence.
After settling her into the car, he slid into the driver's side, and braced himself for the long drive home, regretting the fact that she feared to fly.
* * *
While Sarah dozed for hours Jason would glance at her now and then; again reminiscing about their life.
She was the first generation born in the States to immigrant parents from Sicily, and was reared with the stern justice and moral culture her parents brought with them from the old world.
She claimed a paternal ancestor was married to a prince of the famous De Medici family of Tuscany. Agreeing her ancestry was more intriguing, only added to her snobbery. At first, he found her many factitious tales about her 'royal' descendants amusing, and then they became superfluous. When and how her family tree was planted in Sicily remained a mystery.
She often made it clear to him that she could never forgive his ancestors for leaving Ireland during the famine years in the early part of the nineteenth century and coming to the States as poor Irish immigrants.
Sarah's head jolted. "Where are we?" she asked.
She turned to the window and watched the grubby pines go by until a small sign beneath a huge billboard at the approaching exit, advertising beaches and hotels, caught her attention.
ST. MARY'S CATHOLIC CHURCH
Saturday and Sunday Masses were listed. She quickly read the crudely hand-painted words to Jason.
"We can make the six o'clock Mass, then have dinner and spend the night at one of the resorts near by," he suggested.
Mellowed by the familiar softness in his voice, her tone also became friendlier than it had been in days. "I would like that."
She smiled softly, thinking it had been many years since they attended Mass together.
He drove off the Interstate which led onto a two-lane asphalt road. Within a short distance, another sign nearly obscured by shrubs caught Sarah's eyes.
"Turn here!" she said quickly. About a mile later they found themselves on a lonely dirt road.
"We must be lost," Sarah groaned.
Suddenly a small clearing appeared and a tiny white house loomed through tall pines.
Jason parked next to several muddy, beat-up old cars at the side of the dingy building. A rusty bed of a pick-up truck jutted out from behind the house.
"This can't be a church!" she shouted in disappointment.
"What did you expect---a replica of St. Patrick's?"
He climbed out of the car. Sarah didn't budge.
"Come," he urged, reaching in to help her out.
Her eyes darted about the desolate-looking area.
An uneasy feeling hit her as Jason led her to the building covered with a thick coat of red dust. Underneath, white paint flaked off rotting boards. Above the entrance hung another crudely painted church sign.
Sarah tried to peek through the dirty windows on either side of the door, but faded and tattered curtains hanging over them blocked any view.
"I don't hear anyone in there," she said in a low voice.
"Let's go in, Mass should soon start," Jason commanded, taking her arm.
Resisting his hold, she began to remove her jewelry and placed the pieces in her bag.
"Why are you doing that?" he asked angrily.
"I, I don't know," she whispered.
He opened the grimy door and eased her into a large room dimly lit by a bare light bulb hanging on a long chain from the ceiling.
Loose floorboards squeaked under their feet as they walked to the old rusty chairs grouped in a semi-circle facing a makeshift altar.
Two small candles flickered on a long narrow table. On it a tattered Bible lay open. Behind it, in a corner, leaned a cross crudely made from tree limbs.
The dampness in the room sent a chill through Sarah.
"I don't like this. No one is here," she mumbled.
Feeling pensive, she tightened her grip on Jason's arm.
Their eyes shifted to a side door that opened and a man draped in a shabby, wrinkled robe, entered.
"Welcome, my friends," the priest greeted, giving them a quick glance and a wan smile as he walked to the altar.
"Good evening, Father," Jason said, releasing Sarah's hold on his arm.
The front door quickly swung open. Sarah turned.
She watched the two unruly-looking men walk in and slowly saunter toward them. The taller one wore faded jeans and a faded red shirt. The younger, stocky man with a grin on his face had on a new-looking denim jacket with bright metal buttons. His cheap, polished, high-heeled boots caught her eyes.
"They're carrying bags instead of collection plates," she whispered to Jason.
In a fleeting second she saw the lanky man raise his bag over Jason's head, then darkness enveloped her as a rough bag scratched down her face and wrapped around her neck; she could hardly breathe. Moments later she heard the sound of a thud.
"Jason!" she cried. The pounding of her heart echoed in her ears. She struggled to break loose the grip so tight her ribs hurt.
Arms that felt like steel carried her outside; her body floated in mid-air then hit the metal surface of a pick-up truck.
Strong hands held her kicking feet as someone roughly tied them together. "Hold still, damn you!" a voice shouted.
Another pair of strong hands grabbed her wildly flinging hands and tied them together. With swift motion she was shoved next to Jason, lying dazed from the blow to his head.
"Dear God, help me," she cried.
Two men jumped into the pick-up while the third one ran to the old van parked in front of the house. Motors churned and the vehicles began to move noisily along a bumpy road.
Over each bump, her body hit the bed of the truck and she gave a loud piercing cry.
"Crying won't help."
She barely heard Jason's muffled words through the burlap over the noise of the truck.
* * *
"I don't see the barn." Jade's voice screeched over the engine's roar.
"Yonder," CD hollered, pointing to an old dilapidated building hidden by an overgrowth of reeds.
He backed up the truck to the wide entrance, and Jade jumped out to push open the huge doors. They carried Jason into the barn and placed him on the muddy ground covered with hay.
"I'll go fetch her," Jade said, laughing as he ran out.
Sarah pounded her shackled hands into his chest as he lifted her off the truck. She slipped from his grip and fell to the ground; a muffled moan came through the burlap.
"She's worser than a colt," Jade roared as he tried to pick her up. "It ain't no use afussin'," he chuckled.
Before he could fling her over his shoulder she thrashed her hands directly on his face. With one swift thrust her long nails came scratching down his face, digging deep into his cheeks, tearing off a thick layer of skin.
In great pain, Jade let out a curdling cry, dropping her to reach for his burning face. "You little bitch!" he moaned, raising his arm.
CD came running out of the barn.
"Let's get her inside," he shouted angrily and grabbed Jade's hand as he was about to strike Sarah.
"See what she done," Jade bawled, reaching for his burning, bloody cheeks.
Ignoring Jade's wounded face, CD plucked Sarah off the ground and carried her into the barn. With undo force, he flung her next to Jason.
Sharp straws and tiny stones pricked her body. She gave out an agonizing cry.
"Stop it, Sarah," Jason shouted, "you're only ..."
A thundering blast shook the old structure, raining hay from the rafters.
"My God, my God." Jason cried hoarsely.
Sarah gave a faint scream before falling into unconsciousness.
CD turned to Jade, standing outside the barn door, holding his rife. "Why'd you do that, stupid? Put that damn thing back in the truck," he scolded.
Hearing Jason's moans he hopped over to the bound man.
Blood was seeping profusely through his white sweater.
He called to Jade, "You hit him, you big jerk!"
"I didn't mean to," Jade wailed. "I only wanted to scare that she-devil."
CD pulled a knife from his back pocket. With jittery fingers he carefully cut the sack from Jason's head.
His wide eyes stared at him. A rasping sound gurgled from his throat. His body gave several jerks then sank into the hay, lying motionless.
Jade, standing in a stupor, looked down at Jason. "Is he dead?" he muttered hoarsely.
"Yeah, he's dead!" CD1s voice rankled.
A feeling of remorse for the dead man took over his anger.
He walked out of the barn and paced back and forth, kicking at stones in his path.
Jade, cradling his rifle ran behind his brother.
CD turned to him. Giving him a mesmerizing look, he said angrily, "I told you to put that damn thing back." He yanked the rifle out of his hands and threw it on the bed of the truck, and started to pace again.
"What're we going to do, now?" Jade asked.
"We take him back to the house and put him in his car, and then take him out to the lake," CD sputtered.
"Let's get him on the truck." He rushed back into the barn with Jade trailing behind.
"What about her?" Jade grunted as he helped carry Jason out to the truck.
Excerpted from SORROWS In the HEART by Amy Phillips. Copyright © 2002 Amy Phillips. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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