Meet her in the Acts of Wars sneak peek (©2017 Roslyn Hardy Holcomb and Lisa G. Riley) below. You’re going to love her!
“What was it you came over to tell me?” Perish made her way back over to the table and looked at her late grandmother’s friends, Father Mike Clements and Cash Hayes, in turn. “And please, just tell me. I’d like to know before one or both of you gets murdered.”
Again, they both burst into laughter, but Perish didn’t smile as she sat across from them.
“All right, lass. You win, though you could let a couple of old men enjoy the warmth of your hearth and the pleasure of your company for a little bit,” said Father Clements.
Perish squashed the guilt that flared. “Are you going to tell me?”
“How much do you know about your parents?”
Perish frowned. “Only what Grandmother said in the letter she left for me when she died –that my parents shouldn’t have been together and that I should look for any clues about them in Sector One in Massachusetts or New York.”
Mr. Hayes shook his head. “There’s so much more to it than that. For years we tried to persuade Abigail to tell you what she knew, but she was such a stubborn thing, and she was concerned that the truth would damage you in some way.”
“Yes, soft-hearted and stubborn, that’s a perfect description of your grandmother,” began Father Clements. He drank from his cup, slurping up the last of his tea. “Anyway, she’d told you about how your mother showed up on her doorstep one day with you in tow. You were a wee bit of a thing, and your mother? Well she was outrageously beautiful. Her loveliness could almost stun the eyes. I wish we had thought to preserve that image with just one photo, but we were so busy trying to protect, that trifles like pictures were the furthest things from our minds. Danger surrounded her and anyone in contact with her. We had to be very careful. No one was safe.”
This was the first time Perish was hearing anything so specific about either one of her parents and she sat up straighter. “In danger? Protect her? Protect her from whom?”
Perish would have had to be blind to miss the quick worried look the two men passed between one another, and the silence that followed was deafening and pregnant with tension. “Tell me,” she demanded.
It was Cash Hayes who said quietly, gently, “Your mother wasn’t the one in danger, child; everyone else was. Especially you. She tried to kill you.”
Perish fell back in her chair. “Well.” She looked down at the table and tried to gather her thoughts. As a child she’d conjured up images of what her parents would be like. Never once had she imagined child murderers. Aware that the men were watching her and worrying about her, she looked up and met their eyes. She shrugged. “I wasn’t expecting champagne and roses, but I damn well wasn’t expecting that. Go on,” she demanded and made sure she kept eye contact. “Continue.” She said this to Father Clements because she knew he’d be her best shot at getting the entire story. Mr. Hayes would wimp out.
Mike Clements wanted to look away from Perish’s stare, but couldn’t. This conversation had been coming for a long time, and was due. She’d been owed it since she was old enough to understand, but he knew why Abigail had never told her. She hadn’t had the courage, and he didn’t blame her. Looking at Perish now, he had his own reservations. He sighed. At least the worst was over…mostly.
He reached for Perish’s hands, tightening his grip when she would have pulled away. “It’s all right, lass,” he told her soothingly and allowed himself a grin when her eyes narrowed suspiciously at his tone. “No, I’m not up to anything, Perish. This kind of thing calls for human contact and gentleness. Now, relax. I’m gonna tell you a story.
“It will be thirty years next April. It seems so long ago, that day does. I was visiting your grandmother. She’d invited me over for lunch and cards. Having just finished lunch, we were on the front porch of your old house trying to catch a breeze.”
Father Clements closed his eyes in remembrance and his voice turned reflective as memories, so bright and clear he felt he could almost touch them, assailed him. “I remember everything in fine detail because what happened that day was so momentous. It was hot, terribly so — about a thousand degrees in the shade. Abby was querulous — didn’t usually take much to make her that way, but this time she had a legitimate excuse. The heat was murderous. I was tempted to take off my collar to combat the heat, but had only taken off my jacket and was sitting around in short sleeves. Abby was trying to keep cool by waving this worthless paper fan back and forth, while also trying to convince me to play poker instead of the crazy eights that I’d agreed to…”
“No, Abby, I’m not going to play poker with you. I don’t like the avarice I see shining in your eyes.”
Abigail smirked. “Christ, Mike. That’s not avarice; that’s what we in the know call good old-fashioned confidence. Now what I see on you,” she began before taking a sip of the tall glass of lemonade that he was sure was rapidly warming, “is just pure cowardice.”
“Now none of your trash talking, Abigail Blackburn. You’re not gonna get me to play by insulting me or by being blasphemous. I will not play poker with you.”
Abigail snorted, but didn’t deny it. “Chicken,” she muttered and began to deal the cards. “Heard anything from Gibson lately? I haven’t even seen him at Mass.”
“That’s because he hasn’t been.” He studied his hand before placing a nine of spades on the discard pile. “He’s traveling.”
“Ah. I suppose he’s on another one of his secret missions,” Abigail commented and tossed an eight on the pile.
“I wouldn’t know. It’s secret.”
“Ha Ha. You’re a funny man… ”
When she said nothing else, Father Clements looked over at her, but she was staring out at the street. He followed her gaze and stiffened. The woman who stood at the end of the lane was bedraggled, but her beauty stood out, almost defiantly. He met her dark unflinching gaze, and couldn’t have felt more vulnerable if he’d just been pushed naked and wailing from his mother’s womb. Without thinking about it, he made the sign of the cross. Humor briefly flared in her gaze, becoming a twin to the unholy light that had been there from the beginning. He crossed himself again, this time with deliberation. She seemed to take that as a challenge, and as if his gesture had made her decision easier, she started to make her way up the lane.
“Stop right where you are.” It appeared Abigail had found her voice. It came out weak at first, but was at full strength before the third word was uttered. She’d said the command just as the woman was half way up the path. Father Clements was almost surprised when the woman stopped. No one brooked Abigail when she used that particular tone, though from the narrowing of her eyes and the tightening around the younger woman’s mouth, he could tell that she was sorely tempted to.
“What do you want?”
When the other woman spoke, her voice was so melodious that it was close to being bewitching and Father Clements had to resist the urge to cover his ears in a weak effort to protect himself. “I was told at the Trayvon Martin Justice Center that you may be willing to offer your assistance.”
“My assistance with what?”
“I do not feel comfortable with the holy man here. I would like to speak to you alone.”
“You just said what to me?” Abigail asked incredulously. “And then you expect me to be in your company alone? Willingly? Surely you jest.”
“If I were at my full power, old woman, I could make you.”
Abigail snorted. “Yeah, so guess what? The case for ‘no’ is only getting stronger.”
His body nothing but six feet of tension now, Father Clements waited for the young woman to answer.
Abigail didn’t give her an opportunity. “What do you want young lady? We haven’t got all day. Why would the Center direct you to me? They know enough about me to know that I don’t cotton to anybody up to no good.”
Small white perfectly straight teeth were bared in a brief, but recognizably cruel, smile. “Perhaps you don’t, but I am sure you will cotton to what I’m sure you would consider an innocent.” She half-turned so that part of her back was to them. She looked over her shoulder and over the top of the head of a dark-haired baby sleeping peacefully in a heretofore unseen carrier, and with a crafty look in her eyes now said succinctly, “Will you not?”
Acts of Wars sneak peek © 2017 by Lisa G. Riley and Roslyn Hardy Holcomb.