The Langford College Art Museum Director Margaret Anderson is murdered mysteriously in her bed, a red feather replacing her vivisected heart. Pearl, Margaret's closest friend and a psychic, experiences confusing images related to the murder. Offering to help the police, Pearl connects with the local Orlando TV news anchorman Nick Rondinaro. Nick gets her access to additional murder sites as the bizarre murders continue.
In her house in the spiritualist community of Argo, Pearl paints the images on canvas. Driven by dreams, she goes with Nick to Chichen Itza in Mexico to make sense of her dream images. They meet Mexican Professor Guillermo Vasquez who explains the astronomy and mythology of the Mayan's 2012 End Time predictions and sorcerers from the Cult of Kukulkan - The Feathered Serpent.
Pearl sees images of Michelangelo's "Last Judgment", Picasso's "Guernica", and VanGogh's "Starry Nights" connected to Mayan sacrifices and the murders. She worries about the world's future, that Christian, Muslim and Jewish prophecies fueling religious conflicts may align with the Mayan predictions to destroy the world!
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The Feathered SerpentPearl's Necklace
By Robert Leahy
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 Robert Leahy
All right reserved.
Chapter OneRED FEATHERS
Pearl saw Cassandra slither through ferns into morning fog over the lake. She shrieked when a light beam, like a stab to her chest, spotlighted chaotic red feathers in the black cat's mouth. Angrily, she turned to reread The Orlando Chronicle headline about Margaret's murder, feeling the cardinal's death an omen. Then she looked at Magic, her white Persian cat resting on the couch, and tossed the paper onto the coffee table to embrace him. She cradled and stroked Magic, who purred and nuzzled her hand.
"Magic, who killed Margaret?"
She studied Magic's watchful eyes in his snow white face. Rubbing Magic's head, her heart pulsed into her throat.
Images poured over her: red feathers, a black cat, the suspension bridge, a tolling clock tower, a frescoed stone cathedral's stained glass windows shattering, a full moon turned blood red in a black sky, sacrificial victims plunged down rocky steps, and the Old Whore Death, taunting her.
Her eyes closed, she bowed and shook her head slowly. Amidst the chaos, an image flashed in her mind of Crystal giving her Magic in New Orleans, and calling this seeing a gift. She breathed hard and listened to her heartbeat. She heard Crystal say: Pearl you were born for greatness. God has purposes that we don't understand. Cherish your visions. They will guide you to your place in the universe.
Overwhelmed by death, her anger dissolved like a wave abandoning a beach full of shells; it exposed the tragic image on the suspension bridge at Cornell that shattered her life almost thirty years ago. She stroked Magic and struggled with turbulent feelings. Suddenly, she heard Coquina's voice.
"Pearl, turn on Channel Four News. Nick Rondinaro mentioned you. You there, Sweet Pea?"
Immersed in images, she started toward the wicker rocking chair to get the remote then grabbed the phone.
Coquina said, "You're there, Pearl, thank God. This is weird. Even Nick Rondinaro said it would take a psychic to solve it. Pearl, this one's out there!"
"Did he say I knew Margaret?" she asked, her hand shaking, as she started to pace around the living room, holding the phone and remote.
"Yes. He said he and you were close friends of hers. But I know how much you loved her."
Pearl winced. "Coquina, I loved her like the sister I never had. She was my closest friend. What can't the police explain?" she asked, clicking on the TV, anxiously waiting for the picture to appear in the black screen.
"How she died."
"The Orlando Chronicle said she was murdered."
"But how? They only said it was brutal. I've got a feeling it's some kinda Satanic cult, Sweet Pea. Have you had any visions yet?"
"Some confusing religious images."
"Why you call visions just images bothers me. A psychic has to embrace the spirit world, engage the universe."
"I've gotten images since I was a kid. Visions sound like there is a Grand Design, a bit too cosmic for me. I leave it to astrologers for cosmic explanations. Do they suspect her husband Raymond?" Pearl asked, then took a deep breath and sighed. "O.K., I see Nick Rondinaro."
"You hear Rondinaro just say Murdered wives point fingers at living husbands? Her husband found her and called 911. He's denying involvement. But he's scared. I'd love to do his chart. Raymond said he found her body on their bed. If he's not lying, my guess is he's next. You watch. It's a cult! Like those vampire killers they caught in Lake County. The police said there was a struggle. Hear what Rondinaro just said, The cause of death is a mystery, pending an autopsy. The Boys in Blue are scared to tell what really happened, Sweet Pea. This is too weird for words. I'm getting serious bad vibes. You oughtta stay out of it."
"Coquina, control your imagination. Please!" she said.
When Pearl saw the yellow police tape wrapped around several trees in the front yard of Margaret's beautiful house, she paced and struggled with bizarre images.
Her chest burned when she breathed. She stared at Nick Rondinaro, watching his eyes to see how Margaret's death affected him. She saw fear spawned by incomprehension.
She felt compassion for this man Margaret respected, a man who impressed her with charm and self-assurance. Then he moved onto another story, and her eyes drifted toward the lake as Margaret's life disappeared in the rush of more news. Holding the phone to her ear, saying nothing, she clicked off the TV.
"You still there, Pearl? I wonder what your mentor Crystal would say?"
"I wonder," she said, as images continued to appear.
"You told me Crystal advised you to leave Tampa to avoid those horrible fights with your mother. To stop wasting your life as a partygirl and follow your vision."
"The party-girl life was years ago. I'm making sense of my life these days, as best I can."
"I just can't see you as a party-girl. Just can't. You have too much class."
"Class was only money on a plane. When I dropped out of Cornell, being a flight attendant in First Class was like tending a stable of erection-jockeys. But I wanted to find a man to love."
"Erection-jockeys! Geez, you can get as crude as the rest of us. That's what I like about you. I'm a plain pudgy frizzy haired ex-Jew. But I can see why guys want you. You've got gorgeous blond hair, emerald green eyes and the body of a tall Rockette! Geez, get with it. But you're gonna have to find an incredibly special guy. You have so much going for you. But you have to resolve that shit with your mom. You foreseeing your dad's death must have terrified her. But Crystal thinks you're gifted."
"Foreseeing death is being gifted?" she said flatly. "Weird images flooded me today when I saw Cassandra carrying the dead cardinal. I've been getting religious images, mostly Christian and Mayan all morning, like the beginning of some religious war. Margaret's death is linked with them ... different from when I saw my father fall from the scaffolding at the Hyatt in Tampa. So weird," she said, then turning from the window, she walked toward the fireplace, thinking about Margaret.
"Crystal insists you're the most gifted psychic she ever met. But I'm telling you, there are evil spirits involved. Stay out of it!"
"I can't stay out of my best friend's murder," Pearl said, standing for a moment by the fireplace mantle.
She stretched her hand to touch several flowers on the orchid Margaret gave her, thinking her friend couldn't be dead. Holding her fingers to her lips, she drifted from her conversation with Coquina, worried about the flood of images.
"Police work chews up your tender soul. Like when you helped the police find that female serial killer. You know I worry about you, Sweet Pearl. Don't get freaked out about your friend's murder, let the police figure it out, Sweet Pea" she said, her voice strained.
"Thanks for your concern, Coquina. I'll be O.K." she said, but her mind went numb.
"Pearl, you're going weird on me"
"It can't be Raymond" she whispered.
"What did you say? I can't hear you!"
"Damn your cat!" she said, angrily. "He killed a cardinal this morning."
"You've lost it. You want me to come over? I don't want you freaking-out over this."
"No, seriously, Coquina. That bird's death and Margaret's murder are connected," she insisted. "Coquina, it can't be Raymond. Otherwise everything Crystal said about this gift would be wrong."
"Sweet Pea, should I count the times you told me you wished you never met Crystal? You whine that Spring Break dare from your Ivy League friends at Mardi Gras went horribly wrong. You wanted to be an architect like your father not a psychic!"
"Oh, come on, Coquina. I'm not that weird. Am I?" she said, uncomfortable hearing Coquina repeat things she said in frustration, when she tried to make sense of a life that threatened her sanity.
"Not weird? Get with it, Sweet Pea. I've been in Argo thirty years. But you're the weirdest piece of Christmas wrapping I've ever met. I gotta do your chart someday. Geez, I mean good old Molly McIntire, who left Maine to found this town because the constellation Argo is visible from here, had one spirit guide—a Native American named Gluscabi. In the three years you've been here, living next door to me, you've become a satellite dish for all the tortured souls in the universe. Maybe today's visions are picking up on Sarah Palin's End Times Rapture or the Mayan calendar end in 2012. I'm an astrologer. I believe planets affect us, so did Ptolemy the Greek astronomer who named the constellation Argo. It was the ship that Jason and the Argonauts sailed to find the Golden Fleece. And the constellation Aries is named for the Golden Fleece. The Mayans believed in astrology too. Let me do your chart to help figure it all out."
"Maybe I am a little eccentric," she said, with a shy laugh. "But as I said, I've seen images since I was a kid. Visions make me sound like a prophet. I told Crystal I'd move here to make sense of my life. A few years with folks like you should cure me, then I can move on with my life."
"Just don't go back to being a stewardess, go back to painting or finish your architecture degree at Cornell, that would make your father proud. I wish you luck, but we can't escape who we are, Sweet Pea."
"Hopefully we can at least finesse it" she said, wondering.
"I gotta do your chart someday. I'd love to do a past life regression with you too. You gotta come to terms with being psychic. You said that your mom calls it blasphemy. Geez, you said she never wanted you to mention your real name. But calling yourself Pearl, after that wild child in the Scarlet Letter, seems like a pretty weird compromise. You are one weird ex-Catholic chick with an electric brain. I worry about you. I'd want to do your chart, to help you know what you really want."
Listening to Coquina, as she sat rocking, weighing arguments for and against this gift, suddenly, she felt another rush of anger toward Coquina's cat.
"Coquina, right now I really want you to keep your damn cat from killing birds. I really want to know who killed Margaret. A flood of religious images hit me this morning, as if I was in the Sistine Chapel looking at Michelangelo's paintings. Others had to do with human sacrifice by the Mayans. I have no idea what they mean. Either I'm going crazy, or worse, I'm being tested in some mysterious way. My little Catholic girl soul is terrified. And whoever I'm becoming with this psychic gift you and Crystal are so giddy about, I have a horrible feeling that Margaret's death is just the beginning. I gotta go. Talk to you later."
"The beginning of what? Sweet Pea! Should I come over? You got me seriously worried. Sweet Pea!"
"No, Coquina. I'm really O.K. I appreciate your concern. I have to work this out by myself. I can't believe Margaret is dead. But I'm afraid of where it's leading. Let's talk later. Thanks for your concern. Bye" she said, and clicked the phone dead.
She walked to her bedroom. She dressed slowly in jeans, cotton socks and Nike Airs. Then she pulled her unruly blond hair into a ponytail. She put on the Langford College tee shirt that Margaret gave her, and walked into the living room.
"Pretty psychic, eh, Magic?" she said, and forced a laugh.
Magic followed her to the back door and sat motionless as Pearl closed the door behind herself. To the left, she noticed the Argo Hotel on the rise, pale yellow in the eerie morning light. She followed the path past Coquina's house, then houses of several other psychics, thinking about Margaret.
As she walked, she worried about some larger battle between her Catholic upbringing and religious wars among Jews and Muslims and occult forces dividing America and the world. But she felt this was a path to insanity, influenced by Crystal's grandiose vision of her.
She remembered Coquina's comment about changing her name when she moved to Argo. She thought about the name her father gave her: Kathleen, which he translated to her as Pure.
He insisted she inherited his brash Irish soul, "But you have genius to transcend anything I've ever achieved as an architect. You're destined to become Pure Donovan," he'd repeat, punctuated by his resounding glorious laugh.
She snapped off a fern and wove the frond between her fingers. She held it up spreading her fingers, remembering that as a child she believed God's design was demonstrated in everything, even a simple leaf.
She continued on the path, weaving and unweaving the fern through her fingers. She remembered Coquina's puzzlement that she called herself Pearl, after the wild child in Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter. Pearl felt the name fit. Troubled by religious symbols and occult images since childhood, she had to decipher them, the way the little girl had to make sense of her mother's Scarlet A.
When she got across the lake from her house, she saw Ariel Caliban standing on a ladder pruning his citrus trees. She nodded as he moved slowly off his ladder and ambled toward her.
"Pearl, I heard your name on the news this morning. Are you involved with the murder of that Langford Art Museum Director?" he asked, his limp pronounced with each step.
"Nick Rondinaro said the police may need a psychic," she answered, exploring his eyes.
"But he mentioned you. He must think you're the best."
"Thanks, Ariel. The police haven't called."
Ariel's eyes were in the shadow of his wide brimmed straw hat and weather wrinkled skin. He stood bow legged on the uneven ground. Pearl followed his rough and scarred hands as he put his pruning shears in the patch pocket of his bib overalls.
"Her husband did it," he said, emphatically.
"I doubt that. They loved each other."
"Love often turns to hate. How well did you know her?"
"She is ... was ... a good friend" she added, upset by the tense change.
"Don't get Argo connected to this murder," he said, harshly. "The media would love to exploit the mysterious murder of a psychic's friend."
"Ariel, this is a spiritual community. Don't I have an obligation to help?"
"When I came here in the Sixties after surviving the Vietnam War it was. I changed my name to Ariel Caliban for the characters in Shakespeare's Tempest. Ariel the spirit and Caliban the brute. I wanted to overcome my war experiences and help Argo create world harmony. But now Molly McIntire's glorious idea is being destroyed by people like you. You can't see beyond your need for fame."
"Fame?" she asked, squinting into the sun behind him.
"You have an ungodly need for fame. And lust for money. I hear you are going on that Oprah Winfrey talk show. Argo doesn't need that kind of national spotlight."
"Who told you that?" she asked, defensively."
"You're not the only psychic in town," he said, and laughed gruffly, pushing back his straw hat to rub his hand through a mane of silver hair.
"Ariel, I came to Argo because I believed it's a spiritual community. I've got faults. But love of fame or money is not among them. I've wondered about your name. But I thought Prospero the magician was the main character."
"I figured you would think that ... But for me, after the war, I wanted to resolve my spiritual and warrior sides and help others as a spiritualist."
"But Prospero's brother tried to kill him and his daughter to make himself Duke of Milan. Prospero had to resolve that and deal with Ariel and Caliban on the island where he was shipwrecked. That's what the play is about."
"And you are the female Prospero of Argo?" he said sarcastically.
She looked at him, shaking her head slowly side to side. "Ariel, we each have to resolve our lives. But with Margaret dead, all I know is I'm worried this may be much bigger than any of us can imagine" she said, her voice strained.
Excerpted from The Feathered Serpent by Robert Leahy Copyright © 2011 by Robert Leahy. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Red Feathers....................1
Chapter 2: Sage Wand....................13
Chapter 3: Extrasensory Perception....................23
Chapter 4: Chapel Sighting....................31
Chapter 5: Human Sacrifice....................38
Chapter 6: Juniper Springs....................44
Chapter 7: Anguished Mother....................50
Chapter 8: Obsidian Blades....................54
Chapter 9: Mama Costanza's....................59
Chapter 10: Dream Painter....................68
Chapter 11: Oxbow Incident....................76
Chapter 12: Celtic Cross....................86
Chapter 13: Gyge's Ring....................92
Chapter 14: Mayan Sorcerers....................97
Chapter 15: Blue Feather....................102
Chapter 16: Pyramid of Kukulcan....................112
Chapter 17: The Elders....................117
Chapter 18: Chichen Itza....................122
Chapter 19: Blood-Red Moon....................138
Chapter 20: The Pearl Necklace....................145