Five years ago, Katteya Gray's best friend, Gentle Fawn, died a violent death, and her case still remains unsolved. Katteya, a well-known shaman and psychic, has acquired some pretty strong investigative skills, assisting in criminal cases around the world. Now she has decided to put those abilities in action to discover the real reason for her friend's brutal murder.
Her family estate, Moonbow, waits for her. Katteya not only must face the facts of her friend's untimely demise; she also has dramatic ancestral issues to work out. The Gray family clings tightly to its secrets, and perhaps, as Katteya seeks the killer of Gentle Fawn, she may also solve some mysteries from her own shadowy past.
Encountering her old mentor and past classmates, Katteya navigates her home town and gets closer to the violent truth. Her mind is somewhat muddled by a newfound love interest, and the truth seems to be buried deeper and deeper beneath decades of mountain lies. Will Katteya solve the murder of Gentle Fawn, or will the secrets of Moonbow be her ultimate undoing?
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.52(d)|
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My Secret (Scarata Mia)
By Hélène Lapaire Justus
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Hélène Lapaire Justus
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe express train came to a halt, and as Katteya (Kat-tay-ya— nicknamed Katt) Gray stepped down onto the platform she realized how much she had missed her home. The beauty and majesty of the mountains were still as intoxicating as ever.
There are no words to fully describe the beauty of the mountains. The rugged majesty of the silent, gigantic sleepers seem unattainable by any life form, human or otherwise. The high peaks with halos of cloud showed no evidence of such to the naked eye.
Each mountain displayed its own character. One range was covered with mist, having semblance to a mirage, ghostlike in appearance; some were more domineering than others; a few stood alone in full regalia, formidable and unreachable; some had ledges forming row upon row of white snow rings, even during the summer seasons; others exposed their whole face to the summer sun and winter snow; some feigned to have a topping of marshmallow, soft and light; and some were absolutely bare. Razor-sharp edges formed steep slopes with tapered summits stretching far into the blue, and others had flat tops resembling a fortress wall. Perhaps here the eagle, the hawk or any other bird of prey made their homes permanently.
The mountains were only partially separated by deep gorges forming vertical valleys with suspended meadows. The crevices on the mountains gave way to the imagination—that of a giant snowplow hollowing a path of ridges for animals to walk the slopes or that of a giant fork tines horizontally cutting deep crevices filled with fine granulated white powder, making ready for the meandering or hibernating of the bear or any other creature existing deep in hidden caves.
Katt noticed the rays of the sun forming a golden crown around and over the huge pinnacle her hometown had named Owl Mountain. The mountain was double peaked, and the pristine white caps glistened and shone like two "mother of pearls" leaving an eerie feeling that you were being watched by two huge owl eyes, ergo—Owl Mountain.
Here too among these giants boulders stood the dark assortment of kingly pine, the tall thin alpine fir, the trembling aspen, the lonely popular, the white birch and ever-present Tamarac. The coarseness and ruggedness of the land seemed foreboding and mysterious to anyone who did not know or understand it. But for Katteya Gray it was home and she loved it. The forest had been her refuge for many years and the mountains had been her protectors.
Creeks, rivers, large and small waterfalls meandered throughout this paradise. The spectrum of the rainbow colors dancing in, above and around the waters was unceasing. The cerulean sky flaunted its color on both the water and the mountains. Chances were that the blue of the sky would eventually host a grouping of clouds that would open up and give the mountains showers of light warm raindrops in the summer and huge white snowflakes in the winter. It was a rehearsed cycle that Katt found mystical.
She had nearly forgotten all of it. It was easy to do when you stayed away for so long and lived in a concrete jungle of pavement and people. But she had returned. She was home and it felt great ... for the moment.
Five years. Had it been that long? She had lived five years in the big cities of the world making a 'name for herself' forgetting completely at times the comfort of the home fires and the people she had left behind. No, she had not forgotten everything but she had forgotten the rush the mountains gave when you live in harmony with them. Why had she been away so long? When she had first entered the city life she had missed Moonbow, her home estate, a great deal. Five years is a long time and the human mind and soul have a way of hiding and forgetting the past but memories have their way of making their return.
She had left to join the University mass. She had worked hard and spent many hours at the U working for a major degree in Criminology and a minor in Psychology. Her career now expanded the globe as a 'Special Agent' to the police forces throughout the world. Her forte was unraveling difficult 'unsolvable homicides' with the use of the degrees and parapsychology. She had received a psychic gift at birth by the Creator. Through cultivation, meditation and understanding she had acquired the knowledge of how to use this special gift from various persons during her growing years. She was always told and reminded that it was given to her for the betterment of herself and others.
She had just finished such a case when she got a phone call. Aunt Efie had called to see how "Katt was" and had also mentioned reading about "Katt's involvement in the apprehension of a serial killer in England". She had also insinuated that Katt sounded tired. The soft maternal voice had said that if Katt needed "time to relax she surely would be welcomed home." And then Aunt Efie had volunteered information without Katteya asking about the state of affairs at home.
"It's been long enough now, dear. It is time to come home," she had said. Katteya had given it some thought and made the decision that she was right. It was time to face the past. Besides she had heard in her Aunt's voice, an urgent plea for her to return. Katteya knew that Aunt Efie was not prone to emotional outburst but Katteya had picked up a slight tremor in the voice. Katteya remembered her words, "We can't talk on the phone, dear. If you could come home for a week or so it would be wonderful," adding, "everyone would like to see you."
Katt also remembered the delivery of the envelope that had come in the post within a few days of Aunt Efie's call. She remembered the jolt of 'heated' sensation as she had grabbed her mail from the mailbox. Her hand had stopped in mid-air. She had known the message inside was malevolent. One rather small plain envelope, 3 x 6 size, had fallen onto the floor. She had bent to pick it up. She remembered the spontaneous trembling that had caused her to drop it a second time. She remembered leaning against a wall and waiting for a few minutes for the trembling to cease, but it had not done so.
At the third attempt she became more focused and knew what to expect ... when she had bent down to pick it up, the pain returned and she had nearly dropped it for the third time, but with sheer determination and control she had held on to it. Hands shaking and her mind repeating "drop it" she had torn it open and in doing so the small card had floated out and settled onto the floor. The words bounced off the card at her ... Scarata Mia
Decision came swiftly and decisively.
She was home.
Had she done the right thing by coming home? Could she be of any help now or was she too late?
She spotted Aunt Efie not far off. Aunt Efie—Efie Brannigan. When she was growing up she had always called her Aunt Efie even though they were not related. She had been Katteya's surrogate mother. Her height and her weight did not amount to much, small boned and thin, she stood probably five-foot nothing. She had a pleasant disposition but when crossed, she would never hesitate to speak her mind. Discipline was just and punishment always fair; she made sure that the one receiving the punishment understood the reason for it.
Katteya smiled to herself. She remembered well ...
Mrs. Brannigan had managed Moonbow ever since Katteya could remember. She had been hired as a servant but quickly became the mistress of Moonbow although the estate belonged to Katteya's mother and father. This little woman had been there when Katteya had needed comforting and advice. She had encouraged and guided Katteya all through her childhood, her teen years and also in her adult years. To Katteya, Efie Brannigan was her 'mother' and the sinew that solidified her past and her future together.
Aunt Efie had changed. Her deportment was still meticulous but she had grown old in the five years that Katteya had been away. Seeing Katteya, Aunt Efie started to run. As she approached Katteya, she stopped and then with what seemed a giant step for her to take, she grabbed Katteya and held her tight for a few minutes without saying a word. Katteya closed her eyes and heard the whispered greeting in her ear, "OH won wash teh ... Scarata Mia"
Aunt Efie had not forgotten. Tears started to burn Katt's eyes and she quickly tried to dismiss them. She gazed into the eyes of the older woman and in English and in what seemed one breath the woman blurted out the words, "Welcome home baby. It is so good to see you. You haven't changed much except perhaps a little more beautiful than ever. I couldn't believe my eyes when I read in your telegram that you were coming home. I am so glad you are here. You do look little tired dear. Come, we will go to Moonbow."
Not replying immediately, Katteya looked around her and wished she had returned before or had never left Coolsprings. Actually that was not the truth. She had done the correct thing by leaving. She enjoyed visiting and working in Spain, England, Greece, Ireland ... living in Italy ... they were her world now. The world that existed before did not exist for her now but she should have returned for the funeral. Today, this was a respite, a visit mixed perhaps with a bit of challenge. Her future lay ahead in her 'new world', with her new friends and her new found desires and new challenges.
"I missed Moonbow Auntie, and some of the people in it, but I missed the mountains even more. I am glad I came back ... for now."
Aunt Efie smiled. She knew Katteya was tired and not at peace. The signs were very noticeable in Katt's eyes, those big, black beautiful eyes ... the eyes that showed so much emotion and passion. They hid nothing especially to Efie who knew her so very, very well.
"I am glad you are back too," replied Efie with a little uncertainty present in her voice and posture. Tucking the young woman close, she continued softly, "Come let's go home. Moonbow is waiting for you and I'll have you know it is as beautiful as ever. We have had a lot of rain in the past two weeks. I think it was getting ready to receive you and show you once more its splendor and beauty. Moonbow and the mountain are ready to receive you."
Katteya gave a short laugh. Her aunt always had a way to make Katt know that she was part of the human race. Katt remembered that when she was young Aunt Efie would always bring her back to reality by offering her cookies and milk and made her talk out the problem or thoughts that rambled around in her mind. Her teen years were no exception. Efie would always listen without interrupting the flow of some times unconnected thoughts and words that struggled in Katt's mind. The cookies and milk did help. Katteya smiled to herself and wondered if "Auntie" had that in mind for her this time.
Katteya knew Max would collect her bags so she did not worry about them. Max was the fill-in chauffeur, butler, and mender of all things for the household. He was putting the luggage in the trunk as they approached the car. He greeted Katteya with his usual smile and manner by offering her a simple "Hello Miss Katt. Welcome home". She was happy to see him and she told him so. As he opened one of the back doors of the Rolls-Royce, he gave her another cursory glance but said nothing as they got in.
The drive to Moonbow was splendid. Aunt Efie talked incessantly but Katteya paid little attention to what she was saying. Katteya could not recall the number of times she had traveled this serpentine road, and how each time the scenery captivated one's attention at every turn and twist in the road. The undergrowth, the heavy dense bush of boreal forest and hard rock faces of the granite changed each time the road changed direction. It was unbelievable how these giant pinnacles displayed their many faces to its visitors and inhabitants alike.
It was great to be back, to see, to remember, to reinforce how strong and protecting these giants were. But she was back to what?
Her mind shifted gears as she remembered 'the group'. There had been fourteen in all. Now only thirteen remained. Nicole Summerwind was gone. Like a mirror coming into focus she remembered them one by one.
Robert (Rob) Simmons, oldest of the group (a few years older than the others in the group although he did not act it), was well educated as an Engineering tech. Rob was tall, small boned, slender with wavy blond hair and eyes of a piercing azure blue. His build was not particular well proportioned in that his arms seemed too long for his body, but he carried himself well. More on the debonair side and seldom serious, he had a flippant attitude, which at times became annoying. Having fun was top priority. He had a nasty habit of always leaving you dangling in mid-air during a conversation. On the positive side of his nature, he was a good and caring friend. His friendship extended to everyone alike, and he seemed to have friends near and far. He loved good food and was very careful with money. He had left for South America two years prior to Katt's leaving for University. He had been assigned to some special project in Brazil.
Agatha (Aggie) Simmons was his sister. Spoiled and an irritant most of the time to the group. She was much younger and had a nasty whining voice. Mousy and timorous by nature she was obsequious to her brother and others around her. She never once got angry but she would whine until she got her own way. She was whey-faced but had a pleasant elf-like appearance, with hair of a chestnut color to match her eyes. She and Rob were divergent in nature ... she was short and dark, he was tall and blond; she was an introvert and he an extrovert. Katt was told that she now was the mistress of Hether House and cared for it meticulously. Nearly a recluse she seldom was seen outside the estate grounds.
Wes Forlund, the bully of the group ... he always seemed to be in some kind of 'enterprise'. He always had money and how he acquired it no one knew for sure. He was a fast talker and had irritating laughter with a mocking grin at all times even when he was angry. He was average height with straight blond hair and eyes of pale blue. His physique was well muscled. Wes was always dressed in the best of clothes. He had the attitude that 'clothes make the man'.
The other wheeler-dealer of the group was Zachary Spendy. Many people thought that Katteya and Zach would physically have it out one day. They did not get along at all. However three years prior to her leaving Zach had changed his mind about her. He had gotten in some trouble with the law and Katt had helped him sort things out. Then things began to change for him. He "grew up" as he had said. He settled down and married another group member, Joslynne Nickels. She was a nice, pretty girl and quite athletic. She and Zach had always participated in sports and now were managing the Young Athletes Group for Sports (YAGS) in and around Coolsprings.
Bill Darring had become a military man. The cliché that would describe Bill was that he was 'tall, dark and handsome'. He had the most beautiful smile and piercing brown eyes Katt had ever seen. He was always quiet and very aloof with an 'immediacy' about him. His deportment was that of a military man long before he ever became one. He and Katteya had a close relationship. They were only friends even though some thought that they suited each other and someday would perhaps marry. It was Nicole who had had a big time crush on him but to no avail. He never thought of her in any other way than a member of the group and a friend.
The other group members were Jamie Foxglove, model somewhere in California; Tanya Spinner and Cameron Good had made their commitment to each other permanently a couple of years after Katteya had left. They had purchased and ran the Coolsprings one and only Hardware Shop. Jim Forsight had become a Forest Ranger living in the hometown and remained single.
Shane Realgood was the youngest and quietest of the group. He carried his five-foot three corpulent body very well but had the most disorganized, carrot-red 'moppy' hair you had ever laid eyes on. He was a wonder kid with a pleasant perpetual smile on his round fleshy face. He cared about all things living, and was always 'there' when anyone needed his help. He accepted a person's word without questioning the veracity of it. It was not surprising to Katteya that he accepted Nicole Summerwind so eagerly.
Steve Gratton had been the other forté of the group. Steve was strong physically, mentally and spiritually. His eyes were a soft blue. He had a piercing level stare and seemed to know what you were thinking of. He had a strong rich singing voice and loved to dance and so Katteya and he were paired off in the musicals at school. They had a very close relationship. He had been sensitive to her needs and her gift. They had often talked about it. Some thought that he and she should marry but to everyone's surprise he had decided to join a religious order and become a priest. They had many conversations about his future so that when he had made the decision, Katteya had not been surprised. His non-judgmental attitude had made him the favorite with the group. He had left Coolsprings for the seminary approximately seven months prior to Katteya's leaving for University.
Excerpted from My Secret (Scarata Mia) by Hélène Lapaire Justus Copyright © 2012 by Hélène Lapaire Justus. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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