Search the Shadowsby Barbara Michaels
Haskell Maloney was cruelly orphaned when she was just a baby. Now, twenty-two years later, she receives confirmation of the bitter truth she always suspected: the fallen war hero whose name she shares was not her father. Her quest for answers—and a personal history—brings Haskell to the famed Oriental Institute in Chicago, a city in which/b>
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Haskell Maloney was cruelly orphaned when she was just a baby. Now, twenty-two years later, she receives confirmation of the bitter truth she always suspected: the fallen war hero whose name she shares was not her father. Her quest for answers—and a personal history—brings Haskell to the famed Oriental Institute in Chicago, a city in which her mother lived and thrived before her strange, untimely death. But by rummaging around in the darkness, Haskell's exposing much more than she bargained for. And now she's racing against the clock to discover who she really is . . . and why someone is suddenly determined to kill her.
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Nineteen sixty-five wasn't the worst of years in which to be born, but it certainly wasn't the best. It was, among other things, the year of Selma and of Watts. Martin Luther King went to Alabama that year; they met him with tear gas and with dogs. in Chicago they met him with night sticks. But the Voting Rights Act became law in 1965. You have to call that a plus.
It was the year of the "Great Society," which would eliminate poverty in America. An A-plus idea-if it had only worked. On a lighter level, the Rolling Stones hit it big with a song called "I Can't Get No Satisfaction," and Simon and Garfunkel swept the charts with "The Sounds of Silence." Diet Pepsi was introduced to the lucky American public, and in December, the month of my birth, Mary Quant unveiled the miniskirt.
On the minus side, there was that little far-off police action in Vietnam. By the end of 1965, U.S. planes had begun the bombing of the north, and there were over 400,000 American troops fighting, bleeding, and dying in actions that were never called a war. One of the ones who died was a boy named Kevin Maloney. For over twenty years I thought he was my father.
I don't remember anything about the trip home from the doctor's office. Not one blessed thing. I must have bought a ticket and gotten on the train at Thirtieth Street station. I must have left the train at Wayne, my usual stop, and walked home. The house was only a mile from the station and it was a pretty spring day. I do remember the weather. Partly because the sunshine and soft blossoms were in such bizarre contrast to my mood, partly because the pale pink petals sprinkling Pooch's black furmade him look so odd-like a painted porcelain statue of a cat,
He came out from under the azaleas in the front yard to bump against my ankles and mew his greeting. I had to respond-it would have been rude not to-and the necessity of acknowledging a friend shook me out of my stupor. I discovered that I had the front-door key in my hand. I put it in the lock, opened the door, and stepped nimbly aside to let Pooch in. It was pure reflex, like everything else I had done in the past few hours. Pooch weighed eighteen pounds, and he had no manners to speak of. if you didn't get out of his way, he ran right over you.
He headed for the kitchen. I stood looking around the familiar hallway, wondering why it looked so strange. I knew every object in it; I could have found my way in the dark. I had lived there for nineteen of my twenty-two years. Everything was the same--except me.
Jessie wasn't home from work yet. She had raised me from a pup, as she liked to say; she was my aunt, my mother's sister. At least I had always assumed she was. . . . We had our ups and downs--a lot of downs in those early years, and again when I moved into the typical schizophrenia of adolescence, as Jessie called it. I was a rotten kid. So Jessie said; it had become the lead line in one of our favorite routines. "God, you were a rotten kid, Haskell." Then I'd say, "Impossible. How could a rotten kid turn into such a perfect human being?" And Jessie would say, "The credit is all mine. It took a lot of nagging and spanking to turn a rotten kid into a perfect human being."
She had nagged-at least that's how I would have described it at the time. But she had never laid a hand, or a hairbrush, on me. For a single woman, dedicated to her career and having at best tepid feelings about children, she had been a superb mother substitute. I adored her. If she didn't adore me back, she was the world's greatest actress. How could she have lied to me? She must have known. She, of all people . . .
From the kitchen, Pooch's voice rose and fell in piteous complaint. His food dish must be empty. Instead of rushing to comply with his demands as I usually did, I went up the stairs. My feet automatically avoided the worn spot in the carpeting that Jessie always meant to fix. We never closed doors in that house. Hers stood open. I went into her room.
It was an austere bedroom, almost monastic in its lack of feminine furbelows. She always made her bed before she left for work; the plain white spread lay smooth and unwrinkled, marred only by a stubborn scattering of black cat hairs. The dresser top held her brush and comb and an eight-by-ten photo of me. The desk was organized with the same efficiency; a compartmentalized file held bills and unanswered letters. I sat down and opened the top drawer.
I didn't know what I was looking for, but I was still looking for it when I heard the sounds of Jessie's arrival-the scrape of the key in the lock, the slam of the door, a thud as she dropped something, and a loud "Damn!" She was as clumsy physically as she was well organized mentally, always dropping things and banging her shins on the furniture.
I had left my purse on the table in the hall. Jessie must have seen it;. she yelled, "Hey Haskell, I'm home," and then continued, scarcely drawing breath, "All right, you damned pushy cat, give me a break, will you?"
I went on searching the drawers. The lowest on the left was twice as deep as the others, containing files. Methodically I went through them-insurance forms, papers on the car, tax returns, receipted bills, Downstairs, Jessie's footsteps clumped from room to room, accompanied by the rattle of utensils as she fed Pooch and mixed her evening martini. She called again as she started up the stairs. "Haskell-where are you? Are you coming down? Do you want something to drink?"
Impatient as always, she didn't wait for answers. She went to my room first. Hers was farther down the hall, away from the head of the stairs. I was looking through the file marked "Legal Papers" when she came to the open door.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
Her voice was mildly curious rather than outraged...
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Meet the Author
Elizabeth Peters (writing as Barbara Michaels) was born and brought up in Illinois and earned her Ph.D. in Egyptology from the University of Chicago's famed Oriental Institute. Peters was named Grandmaster at the inaugural Anthony Awards in 1986, Grandmaster by the Mystery Writers of America at the Edgar® Awards in 1998, and given The Lifetime Achievement Award at Malice Domestic in 2003. She lives in an historic farmhouse in western Maryland.
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