The year is 1863. After two years of battles, the Civil War has evolved into a bloody slaughter with scarcely a town or home on both sides untouched by the tragic loss of its young men. President Abraham Lincoln has just announced the first order of "Draft" in the history of the American Republic.
After Jeptha enlists, Fiona Dawes finds herself working their farm with her five-year-old daughter Bridget on a thin spit of sandy peninsula stretching out into the Atlantic from the rocky coast of Massachusetts.
Like so many women of her time, she struggles to keep the farm running. When her husband is reported missing--presumed dead, Fiona knows in her heart he is still alive. She decides to take her daughter and leave the farm to look for her beloved husband, but something sinister is brewing. Someone means to not only take their land, but see them dead.
From Massachusetts to New York to Gettysburg and through the war torn South, Fiona searches for her husband, making friends and enemies along the way.
Fans of history, mystery and romance are certain to enjoy, "Candle in the Wind."
Ric will be awarding A $10 Gift Certificate to Wild Child Publishing to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour, and one digital copy of "The Scrimshaw" to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour.
Fiona froze for an instant and then ran towards Bridget, but the man holding her pressed the knife more firmly to her throat and said mildly, “I wouldn’t advise that, ma’am, unless you want your daughter to end up like that stubborn old lady in the other room.”
Fiona stopped, staring at her child’s pale, tear-stained face. She shook her head with disbelief. “You—you killed that dear old woman for—what? Why?”
“’Cause she wouldn’t oblige us by telling us where you was.” He made a sour face and spat into the corner. “In the end, she finally made us kill her ’cause she wouldn’t talk, andya know what?”
Fiona could only stare in mute horror.
“I don’t believe she really knew. Don’t that beat all? She give up her life by making us think she know’d but wouldn’t talk. And that old darkie wasn’t much better. I didn’t think
she knew anything, but she kept babbling about how we was gonna hang fer what we done so we finally had to kill her too. Her body’s in the kitchen,” he said matter-of-factly.
He looked around the bedroom. “Lucky fer us, we found this little brat hiding under the bed up here.” He pulled at Bridget’s hair until she began to whimper. “So now if’n you don’t want see her pretty little neck spoutin’ blood all over this floor, you’re gonna tell me what I wanna know.”
“Tell you what? Fiona cried. “I’ll tell you anything—just don’t hurt my daughter!”
He grinned at his companion. “See, didn’t I tell you she wasn’t gonna give us no trouble?”
He turned back to her.
“All right missy, it’s like this. My employer—”
Fiona put her hand to her mouth. “Oh, my God! I remember you now. In New York. You were the man on the dock—the man who pulled a knife on us!”
“Yup, and now I’ve got a bigger one. And it’s pointed right at your daughter’s throat.” He smirked. “Remember? I told you you’d be seeing me again.”
His face became serious, and he snarled. “So now you tell me what my employer wants to know. Where is the—”
“Drop that Arkansas Toothpick and move away from the girl.”
Fiona spun around and saw a man standing in thedoorway holding a small pocket pistol.
“Mr. Singletary!” she cried in relief.
“Miss Fiona.” He nodded back.
The man holding the knife hadn’t moved. Never taking his eyes off Singletary, he said to his companion, “Go circle around him, Zeke, he ain’t got but one shot in that pistol so he can’t get us both.”
“That’s quite true,” Singletary answered nonchalantly.
“So step right up, boys. Who would like to be the one to receive another hole in his thick Cranium?”
The one called Zeke stopped. “Why don’t you go get ’em, and I’ll hold the girl?”
The man with the knife jaw hardened. “’Cause I told you to do it!” And with the last syllable, he shoved the Zeke towards Singletary.
Instinctively the older man fired, and Zeke screamed and pitched forwards. The man with the knife drew back his arm to throw it at Singletary, but before he could, he found himself battling with a ninety-pound bobcat in the form of a formerly sweet young Irish mother who had just seen a kindly old woman murdered and her only child threatened. He tried to throw her off of him, but she clung like a nettle, biting, scratching, and gouging every bit of exposed flesh she could find, all the while screaming a string of every curse that had been handed down in Ireland for the past thousand years.
“Damn you!” he yelled, and reversed the knife to bring it down on her head.
Suddenly, he squealed and clutched his arm. He snarled and heaved Fiona onto the bed and then took two steps backwards, kicked out the window glass with his boot, and crashed out through the shattered window.
Fiona shook her head to clear, and a tiny speeding form in a calico dress launched onto the bed and threw her arms around her.
“Hush, Bridget,” Fiona cried as her daughter sobbed into her chest. “Hush, little one, it’s all over. We’re safe now.”
But, she thought, clutching her daughter, were they?
Blue Ridge Mountains
Jeptha finished the last of his coffee and placed the dented tin mug on the ground next to the dying fire. He stole a glance at Major Mosby, watching them with an amused smile as if trying to decide how much of Jeptha’s explanation to believe.
In the end, Jeptha decided that their best chance for survival actually lay in telling the truth. If Mosby pegged them as deserters, it would be a drumhead court-martial and a quick trip to the nearest tree with a rope around their neck; and if he thought they were
spies it would be an equally final one-way trip before a firing squad. Therefore their best, and probably only, hope was in convincing the cavalier major that they were escaped prisoners of war and entitled to at least the nominal protection that offered.
Thus they found themselves in the ironic circumstances of trying to convince their captors that they were exactly who they said they were.
“Look, major,” Jeptha said for the dozenth time, “it’s true—all of it. My name is Jeptha Dawes and I’m a sergeant in the 5th Massachusetts. My companion, Corporal Josh Eldritch, and I were taken prisoner at the Battle of Gettysburg. We escaped from Belle Isle prison camp in Richmond four days ago. We’ve been on the run ever sinceand when you came upon us, we were hiding from a patrol of Home Guard troops. We’re not spies and we’re not deserters from the Reb army.”
“That’s the forces of the glorious Confederacy to you, sergeant.” Mosby said in a deceptively mild voice.
“Yes, sir—sorry, sir.” Jeptha replied, swallowing hard.
“And if you are who you say you are, where are your uniforms and where were you headed?”
“Like I said, sir, we were just trying to get to our lines and our uniforms were—lost, during our escape.”
“Hummm.” Mosby stretched out his booted feet towards the smoldering fire and stroked the ends of his silky moustache. “But if you really were heading for your lines, you should have been a hundred miles northeast of here.” His mouth smiled, but his eyes were hard chips of granite. “Poor sense of direction, sergeant?”
Jeptha felt the sweat beginning to soak through thin cotton of his shirt. “No, sir, major, but we figured that it would be easier to make our way across the mountains to Grant’s forces in Tennessee.”
“Guess you figured wrong, eh, sergeant?”
“Sure as hell got that right, major,” Josh muttered glumly from the other side of Jeptha. Mosby smiled but didn’t speak. A minute went by, and then two. The only sound around the campfire was the pop and hiss of pine branches burning down to embers and the occasional whinny from the hobbled horses. Jeptha knew that the major was trying to decide what to do with them. Shoot them as spies, hang them for deserters, or—what? Mosby couldn’t just let them go and say, “Nice to see you, boys. Here are your hats and give my regards to General Grant.” Sure.
Jeptha closed his eyes. He didn’t even know what to beg for: mercy, freedom, a quick death?
At last the major stood up and stretched. “I gotta admit that you boys present me with a pretty problem right enough. I’m inclined to believe you ’cause with those constipated accents of yours, you sure ain’t no Southern boys and I can’t imagine any Yankee spies getting caught so easy with so ludicrous a story.”
Jeptha began to breathe a little easier, but Mosby’s next words sent his heart plunging again.
“That’s on the plus side of the ledger for you, but on the debit side, there still remains the thorny problem of what in blue blazes am I gonna do with you? When we move, we
move hard and fast. We got no baggage trains or super cargo. We live on our horses and out of our saddlebags, so despite the fact that I’m inclined to believe you, I’ve got no facilities for prisoners nor am I inclined to bid you a good day and send the pair of you on your merry way.”
He was still smiling, but the edges of the smile were beginning to fade.
“So I hope you’ll forgive me when I say with all candor that the only solution that seems viable at this juncture is to ask you to finish your coffee and—shoot you.”
Oh, Jesus! Jeptha felt as though he was drowning. He couldn’t seem to draw a breath. He wanted to speak, say something to change the major’s mind. Some other way, but he couldn’t think—his thoughts kept scrambling around his brain like a caged rat. They were going to die. After all of this—the war, the battle, prison camp, escape, running, hiding—they were about to be executed as excess baggage. He would never hold his wife or daughter again.
He moved the toe of his shoe an inch and gave Josh’s foot a quick tap. Don’t look up, Jeptha screamed in his mind, but be ready to run when I do!
He dropped his hand to his side and clutched it around a handful of dirt. If he whipped it across the smoldering fire and caught a few of them in the eyes, maybe they could make it to the tree line before the rest of the Rebs could bring their pistols and muskets to bear. It wasn’t much of a plan, but it was better than going like lambs to the slaughter. He tensed his muscles and prepared to spring.
At that moment, Mosby fixed him with an amused stare as if he knew exactly what they were planning.
“Drop that handful of dirt, sergeant. Perhaps there’s another way.”
Jeptha swallowed and opened his hand, letting the dirt trickle through his fingers.
The major stirred the dying embers with a stick and asked, “If I was to put you two on parole, as it were—would give me your word, sergeant, not to try to escape?”
Yes! Jeptha wanted to scream. But didn’t he have a duty to the Union army to try to return and help end this terrible war in the only way that it could end to preserve the United States?
“Jep?” Josh said with.
Jeptha glanced at Josh. Could he ask Josh to pay for his sense of honor and crisis of conscience? And then there were Fiona and his daughter. He drew a deep breath and nodded.
“Very well, major, you have my word.”
MY TAKE on A CANDLE IN THE WIND ***
Candle in the Wind is more historic than romance. Mr, Wasley does a great job with the battles and details, worthy of the History Channel. Fiona is a plucky, endearing heroine who will charm most readers. Some wrong words caused a few stumbles in the read. As an eBook, it can be easily corrected. It doesn't ruin the story, however.
Candle in the Wind is an enjoyable read. Because of the gory battle scenes, it would not be advisable for the preteen set or those with queasy stomachs. This book should please those who enjoy history and finding our how people lived in the past.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Ric Wasley is a writer and lecturer as well as the author of the popular McCarthy Mystery Series set in Boston in 1968
Ric has a 40 year professional career history in advertising, publishing and marketing in Boston, New York and San Francisco. He has degrees in history and psychology and has been trained in debating, public speaking and stage acting. A large part of his 40 year career was spent in numerous professional and business settings as a presenter and featured speaker at seminars and professional meetings.
Ric has been a visiting professor at Worcester Polytech Institute. He also teaches a popular course on marketing for authors at prominent venues such as the venerable “Cape Cod Writers Conference”.
Of the five books in the McCarthy series which include the first two, Shadow of Innocence and Acid Test the most recent is, The Scrimshaw, the third in the McCarthy Mystery Series, which was released in late 2009. That will be followed by “Black Velvet Band, scheduled for 2014. In addition to the first two McCarthy Mysteries, Ric has also authored Midnight Blue, a quirky vampire tale that combines spectral creatures and nightwalkers with sex, drugs and Rock & Roll! Followed by Echoes Down a Dark Well, a paranormal thriller about reincarnation.
Ric has also authored the semi-autobiographical novella; At my Window with a Broken Wing, and two short stories; Embers and The Night. Plus a brand new story, Long Black Veil, that appears in the anthology, Weirdly Vol. 3, released in 2010.
Ric’s newest novel is Candle in the Wind, a Historical/Mystery from Wild Child Publishing and it will be available in April in both print and eBooks wherever they are sold.
Just like Mick in his McCarthy Mysteries Series, Ric thrived on music in the sixties and performed as a folksinger and in several rock bands all over New England. He played regularly in the Harvard Sq. folk music clubs in the late 60’s where he met music legends such as Bob Dylan and Joan Baez.
Wasley has been involved in both print and broadcast media as well as writing for business and commercial markets for over 30 years and continues to consult for a major media company. In addition to his novels and short stories, he has been published in several literary magazines in L.A. and San Francisco while living in California. Wasley currently divides his time between the Boston Metro-West and his home on Cape Cod where he continues to write, lecture and create worlds where the unexpected thrives.
Ric Wasley – Author – Speaker
Mystery Writers of America and the Cape Cod Writers Group
Author of The McCarthy Mystery Series:
The Scrimshaw – A McCarthy Mystery - 2008
Shadow of Innocence - A McCarthy Mystery - 2007
Acid Test – A McCarthy Mystery – 2004
Midnight Blue - A Mystery/Vampire/Romance - 2010
Echoes down a Dark Well – Tell-Tale Publishing - 2012
And New! … Candle in the Wind – Released in April 2013 from Wild Child Publishing
At my Window with a Broken Wing – Contemporary/Romance – 2009
Embers – Historical - 2008
The Night – Vampire - 2008
Long Black Veil – (Weirdly 3 – Anthology) Historical/Paranormal – 2010
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/candle-in-the-wind-ric-wasley/1114841377?ean=9781617980824