Author's Official Booksite PINKIE PARANYA

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Sedna heard the high pitched, excited voices rising in hysterical anger, tinged with fear. “Kill him! Kill him!”

Children shrieked and screamed, the sounds merging with the people’s shouts, ripping the smooth arctic evening apart in shreds.

She stood aside from the crowd rushing in one body toward a beach.

The sky was no longer sunny, but a dull gray and she smelled snow in the air.

Squat huts scattered over the tundra and, behind the huts, fish dryers fashioned of odd pieces of driftwood.

The chill wind off the water seared her flesh like a burn, even under the heavy furs she wore.

As a shaman, she had just returned from a mind-journey to speak with Tulunixiraq, the Raven Mother.

Now the pandemonium surrounding her crawled beneath her skin and became a part of her aching head as she struggled to normalize her thoughts.

“Sednaedna! Come and see the stranger. We need you to intercede for us,” one of the men called to her, just barely interrupting his headlong rush to follow the others.

People hurried by, shouting excitedly. “Come! Come!”

Others in the crowd slowed to shout at her on their dash to the beach. “The people need your counsel. Sedna, come!”

She looked down into the yellow, feral eyes of a snarling wolf and touched her hand to her head to calm her.

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The strong, cold wind from the Colorado plains blew across Casey Nichols’ face.

She drew the thin windbreaker closer to her body, wishing she had brought warmer clothes with her.

Her long, curly hair, torn from the ribbon at the nape of her neck, blew around her eyes, mixing with the tears pressing from under her closed eyelids.

She brushed them away with anger, wanting to hide them from Jake.

She wasn’t weak, damn it, and she wouldn’t cry.

This journey had to work out for them.

“Ready to send another message?” Jake asked.

They leaned against the porch railing and she bent forward, brushing a lock of blond hair from his forehead.

He looked healthier every day they were here.

“You okay, Son?”

He nodded.

His huge blue eyes, surrounded by bruised-looking skin, dominated his pale face.

A child of six, he looked much younger, and once more, she vowed to do whatever it took to change his condition from sick to healthy.

Since they arrived in Colorado two weeks ago, this game with messages inserted into the center of a tumbleweed was their playtime — a time when Jake could come outdoors and soak up the bright sun and fresh air.

He motioned toward the towering mountains behind them. “Do you miss our house back there?”

 

 

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The house crouched, brooding and silent, like a giant beast of stone and mortar.

Waiting for her—expecting her to come.

“Aren’t you at least going to the door with me?

” Jowanna McFarland turned to the strange old man who brought her out to the desert and now hurried back toward his truck.

“No ma’am. Got to get back.”

His large Adam’s apple bobbed in his skinny neck, a sheen of sweat beaded his weathered face.

Where is my father? Why didn’t he meet me?

Panic rising at her uneasy thoughts, she picked up one of her suitcases and reached for the other.

It was so hard to believe she stood at the foot of Superstition Mountains in Arizona.

She sensed that nothing much had changed in this desert land from the beginning to this year of 1948.

The letter clenched in her hand was hard to read through the tears she fought back, but she’d memorized it.

The long white envelope was addressed to Jason McFarland, her brother, dead for the past ten years.

Jowanna knew the contents of the letter by heart.

The signature was her father’s, who had abandoned his family eighteen years ago.

It wasn’t only the bare words that had dragged her out of her comfortable niche and brought her to this strange destination.

And it wasn’t only to confront him with their pain his leaving had caused the family, nor was it the mention in his letter of a gold mine he’d been searching for and finally found.

 

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Kate Macklin stared at the grotesque body of a woman in the water. She is down there.

The voice whispered into her ear, stiffening hairs on the back of her neck. No!

She put her hands over her ears, as if she heard the words out loud.

She slammed the lid on the laptop computer, knowing it wouldn’t help.

That was where the picture had come from.

Out of the window of the Amtrak car, Kate glanced down into a deep gorge alongside the train tracks.

 

The river crashed over the rocks, exploding in spumes of white, high into the air.

The Colorado countryside in the fall appeared brilliantly clear and sharp.

A sudden stab of unreality pierced Kate, and she closed her eyes.

In the past, she had seldom ventured out of her house.

Now, here she was, Katharine Macklin, speeding through another state, toward a destination she hadn’t yet determined and enjoying moment.

Until now.

Without warning, Kate’s fingers grew cold on the edge of the laptop and a sinking feeling settled in the pit of her stomach.

Her skin was as clammy and damp as if the spume sprayed over her from the water below.

Slowly, cautiously, she opened the computer, expecting—hoping to see the familiar spreadsheet with figures from one of her bookkeeping jobs.

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“Oh no! My purse fell overboard!”

Strangers ran to the side of the ferry and watched the brown, leather bag bob backward through the wake.

The reality of her entire existence floated away, destined to eventually sink in the depths of the dark water somewhere between mainland Australia and Tasmania.

She felt in the pocket of her jeans the thin fold of bills and a few coins. She wasn’t entirely broke—a tiny consolation.

Tears of angry frustration blurred her vision.

When she blinked and looked again, the bag was gone.

“Are you all right, Miss?”

An elderly couple leaned close, as if to shield her from the loss of her handbag.

Flynn Stevens tried to tidy her flyaway hair, which had come undone from the ribbon at the nape of her neck.

“No, I’m not. I’ve just lost my money, traveler’s checks and passport.”

What would she do? Nothing this bad had ever happened to her before.

“I still have my backpack, though.”

 

She pointed to the sturdy bag leaning against the railing.

The couple clucked like a pair of chickens looking for a nugget of corn.

“I realize I shouldn’t have kept everything valuable in one place. I’m usually more organized.” She took a deep breath, wanting to be alone with her misery.

“You poor dear.” The woman touched her arm in sympathy.

 

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Where was David? Had the ocean swept in over the ship deck and washed him overboard?

 Jenny’s heart raced as she peered out the porthole.

The last time she’d seen her brother, he was racing across the deck of the ship, helping the crew.

What did he know about walking on water-soaked decks with the ship half-tilting on its side?

The steamer tossed like a chip of wood in the ocean.

The sea sprayed high over the bow, turning the lines on the deck to shards of ice.

To Jennifer Kileen, the loud booming noises and sharp cracks sounded like the death throes of some giant sea monster.

She shivered and tried to rub away the goose bumps creeping along the top of her arms.

Nothing made of mere boards and iron could hope to withstand a storm like this.

She was too close to the end of their long journey to die in the cold water, without the comforting feel of Ohio earth beneath her feet.

Jeremy would never know what happened to them, or that they had come to the Northland looking for him.

 She wiped a clear spot to look out the fogged window.

A handful of women huddled, whispering together in a corner of the salon. They had come up from the dining area below the deck at the first sign of the storm.

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Marisa should have found her circumstances terrifying, but now anger blinded her. 

The stolen money, the promised inheritance, her father’s constant doubts as to her ability to do something on her own—none of these should have compelled her to come here.

Impatiently, she tapped her boot on the macadam of the Brazilian airport. 

Why was it so difficult to hire a private plane to take her into the jungle of Mato Grosso? 

Here she was in Brasilia, the Capitol city, and she might as well have been invisible.

She spoke to one pilot after another; polished, wearing suits and ties, they looked like businessmen from any American city. 

Most spoke varying degrees of English but could have spoken Portuguese for all that it mattered.

They looked her over with admiring stares, taking inexcusable liberties with their dark liquid eyes, and then promptly turned away when she asked them about Mato Grosso.

What was her stubbornness costing this time? Coming here, so far from her comfortable niche, wasn’t the first time she had burned her bridges.

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Chapter.

 

The girl saw no familiar trees, no tall peaks of snow-covered mountains, only flat whiteness surrounding them. Someone shrieked and the sound carried back to her.

She turned to watch in stunned fascination as the last boat gave a mighty lurch against a pounding wave and rolled in slow grace so that only the bottom bobbed on the surface.

The second boat did the same, causing a neck-snapping jolt transmitting to the two remaining vessels.

They tipped sideways for a long, terrifying moment before they bounced back into place.

Fear had not touched her yet. Her father, the leader of the group, would make it all right. He always had.

Ragged chunks of ice struck the sides of the wide skin boats and the wind howled and danced over the water.

Women and children huddled together, their mouths open in unspoken cries of fright.

The men stoutly braced themselves against the movement of the heaving sea. Tawny skin stretched over their facial bones in expressions of grim resignation. The men knew Ugruk’s power.

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Tiana, Gift of the Moon

“He comes! The giant sun-touched bear walked through our camp last night leaving his signs behind!”

Quaanta, a man who seldom showed his feelings, bent his head to peer into the tent at the two women and the girl sitting astonished before him.

“It is an omen. Surely it foretells the end of our hunger.” Grandmother was the first to recover from the shock of seeing her daughter’s mate in such a state of excitement.

Tiana, a child of nine summers shook her head.To slay a grizzly was forbidden under any circumstances, even if the tribe starved to death. Her father knew that.

Quaanta withdrew his head and shoulders from the tent flap. “The shaman has called a meeting in the kaslim, the big tent.”

The women and the girl sat in silence after Quaanta left. Finally they started dressing in their outer furs, with no words coming forth, so great were their apprehensions.

Outside, the bite of the northern wind sweeping down from the nearby mountains chilled Tiana to the bone in spite of her jacket made of badger skins and the wolverine cover for her head.

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Herr Schnoodle & McBee

Scrambling over garbage cans, Alexander McBee climbed up on the dividing fence, and dropped, bent over, breathing hard.

McBee’s heart pounded. He felt the exertion in every muscle of his body.

 “Barely forty and you’re unfit as hell,” he muttered when his breath caught up with him again.

 He didn’t think of himself as lazy. He just didn’t believe in sweat.

His first case in a month and already screwing up, but what the hey ... he was trying, wasn’t he?

“Hey, jerk! You tailing me?” The hoarse whisper sounded alarmingly close to his ear.

McBee pivoted, ready to get in a few licks until he recognized the voice of the sleazy bookie he had followed for days. So much for undercover.

“Yeah, I’m following you.”

It was hard slowing his gasps to somewhere near normal, noting the other fellow was not even breathing hard.

“What the hell for?” Blackjack snarled.

 “I paid you a deposit and you screwed up the big bucks. You were supposed to watch Marie, not me, you jerk!”

Private eye work could get complicated. When had he decided to switch from shadowing Marie to watching her husband?

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Katharine Macklin stared at the computer screen in disbelief. 

Little dolls stood in a parade in front of her, wrapped in see-through plastic. 

She rubbed her knuckles in her eye sockets, trying to clear her vision and bring back the bookkeeping program.

One...two...buckle my shoe. 

The snippet of nursery rhyme came clear, over and over in high pitched, whispery little voices. 

Kate’s throat tightened and the muscles around her heart constricted when she realized they weren’t dolls—but little girls. 

Why were they singing to her? An ominous dread settled around her shoulders. 

It was the psychic thing coming back to haunt her. 

It had helped to find her daughter when she needed it two years ago, but why was it here now? 

The familiar chills ran from the back of her neck down her spine and something told her she would have to call the police again.

“We’re facing a brick wall, Slater.” 

Captain Murphy glared at the man in front of him as if he’d grown two heads. 

“What do you mean you won’t come back to Homicide?”

The big man shrugged, towering over Murphy, causing him to move back a step. “I told you. I’m never doing homicide again.”

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