June 24, 2010

Judy Comer Franklin, guest author

Sanctuary Stones, JMC Publishing, paperback, 183 pages, $16.00 USD.

My guest author is Judy Comer Franklin. Judy has just released Sanctuary Stones, the second book in her May Scott Mystery series. Her first book in the series is Cold Passion. Judy was born and raised in North Carolina. She now lives in Tacoma, Washington.

Chapter One

December 1964

Autumn didn’t want to let go of the Wiltshire plain. There had been several days with wind and rain but the leaves, in their colorful splendor, wouldn’t release their hold on the tree branches and fall to the ground. The crispness in the air and sunny days belied the calendar, which indicated harsh winter should have arrived. Lazy smoke rose from the cottage chimneys and left a lingering smell in the air of comfort and home.
Roses spilled over the fences. Apples, some on the ground but more on the trees, were alternately used as weapons for children to throw at each other or to eat, with the sweet juice dripping down their chins.
Birds scratched around in the fields that had been turned under by the farmers’ tractor blades. By now, the birds would have started their migration south to the warmer climes of Southern Europe. This year, though, the geese and smaller birds waited for their inbred knowledge to tell them when to take flight. Their calendars were surer than the farmers, who shook their heads and wondered what was happening to the weather. It was the primary topic of conversation in the pubs and no one had an answer but everyone had an opinion.
The young girl leaned out of her opened bedroom window and took in deep lungfuls of air. She loved the smell of autumn and was happy that it had lasted much longer this year. Her bottle-blonde hair, the same shade as her mother’s, shone in the sunny afternoon. She turned toward the mirror that hung over her small dresser and pinched her cheeks, which were already rosy. Her blue eyes looked back and she smiled in anticipation of her afternoon. After rummaging around her closet, she pulled out a sweater, although she wasn’t sure she’d need it for the ride she was about to take.
Now, all she had to do was sneak out of the house, get her bicycle from the shed in back and make sure her mum saw none of it. She looked at the clock and knew it was time to leave.
She tiptoed out of her room and moved as quietly as possible toward the rear of the little stone house. When she opened the backdoor it made the familiar squeak that usually didn’t sound so loud.
“Sarah, where are you going at this time of afternoon?” her mum asked as she rounded the corner and saw her sixteen-year-old daughter halfway out the door. “It’s almost time to start our tea. Your dad will be home within the hour.”
“I need to go to the library and pick up a book for my school project,” Sarah answered, hoping her mum believed the lie. She could feel the slow flush that was creeping up her neck onto her face. “I’ll be home before dad gets here, I promise,” she said, knowing it was another lie.
Her mother looked at her daughter, saw the flush and asked, “Are you going to the stones? How many times have I told you to stay away from there? The Boat of the Dead’ll take you away to Avalon if you don’t stop it. You aren’t going there, are you, Sarah?”
“No, Mum, I told you. I’m going to the library. I’ll see you later, in time to help with dad’s tea.”
Sarah closed the door and ran for the shed and her bike. Her mother always seemed to know exactly where she was going, but Sarah didn’t believe that nonsense about the stones. She had always felt safe there, as if she was in the sanctuary of a church. It wasn’t scary at all, no matter all the legends that surrounded the stones.
The busy A303 that skirted the village went out to the area, but Sarah knew another way, across the fields and along a path that, for a little while, followed the River Avon. She didn’t like lying to her mum, but she just had to meet him. He had crept into her mind and heart and nothing could keep her from him, even the love she had for her mum and dad.
Her bike rattled over the rough path. The sky was a beautiful robin’s egg blue and the journey seemed shorter than it was because she enjoyed being outside on such a wonderful early winter day.
When Sarah reached a small rise, she got off her bicycle and stood for a few moments and took in the splendid view that lay before her. The massive stones that formed Stonehenge stood sentinel, as they had for thousands of years.
She hesitated and wondered at the small voice that she seemed to hear, coming from deep inside of her. “Don’t go,” it pleaded. “Go home to your mum and dad.”
Sarah got on her bike and considered turning around and peddling as fast as she could toward home. She took another look toward the stones just as he came out from behind one of the sarsens and waved to her. She waved and smiled but the voice was still within her, telling her not to go, to turn back now, before it was too late.

March 1965

“Mrs. Waters, you’ve got to help me,” Sarah said between sobs as she knocked on the door of the whitewashed limestone cottage at the edge of the village.
“Go away! I don’t want anything to do with any of you from around here,” the old voice said.
“I’m desperate, Mrs. Waters. You’re my only hope.” Tears and terror made Sarah difficult to understand.
A gnarled claw of a hand reached outside the door and creaked it open. “All right, child, come in.”
Sarah had never been inside this house but she’d spent plenty of time outside it, especially on All Saint’s Eve. It was a well-known fact that Mrs. Waters practiced the ancient arts of the goddess.
“I didn’t have anywhere else to go. I’m pregnant, Mrs. Waters, and I don’t know what to do.”
“Marry the boy.” A large tabby cat strolled into the room and sat next to the fire, which burned cheerfully in the grate.
Tears ran down Sarah’s face and her tragic eyes told the story.
“So, he won’t marry you, will he?” Mrs. Waters had heard this tale told a thousand times. She moved toward a large, soft chair and sat down.
“When I told him we were going to have a baby I thought he’d be happy, like I was. I told him I loved him and he said, ‘Well, there’s nothing I can do about that. And anyway, how do I know it’s mine?’ Then he walked off and I haven’t seen him since.”
Mrs. Waters looked at the young girl and heaved herself up from the comfortable chair. She walked over to a cabinet that covered the better part of a wall and opened one of the doors. Inside, bottles and boxes were stored in tidy rows. “Here’s what can help you, if that’s how you want to solve the problem.” She walked over to Sarah and handed her a small bottle with an undecipherable label on it. “Take this every night for a week and by the eighth day, he’ll be gone.”
“He?” Sarah asked as she looked at the bottle. It glistened in the firelight.
“Your baby boy,” Mrs. Waters said as she carefully watched Sarah’s
“My mum and dad would kill me if they knew. I’m their perfect daughter. I’ve always done everything they wanted. I can’t tell them. My mum couldn’t show her face in the village anymore. Dad would be the worst, though. He’d disown me. I’d never see them again. I don’t want to kill my little baby, but I don’t have anywhere else to turn.” Sarah put her hands over her eyes and rubbed them, as if she could rub the horror away. “How much do I owe you, Mrs. Waters? I have some money with me.”
“Naught. Just think hard about what you’re about to do, Sarah. Go to the sanctuary stones and listen to what they tell you.”
“I don’t know where they are. Tell me and I’ll go. Where are the sanctuary stones, Mrs. Waters?”
“You know, child. You’ve always known.”

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