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Chapter 2

     The silhouettes of the trees made it difficult to see the houses of Warren Street from the road.1  Their lights twinkled between the branches and leaves, glistening on the stone of walks and the wet pavement, giving only a hint at their true grandeur as the car coasted by. Claire took it in with a thirst she never knew she retained for home. Licking her lips, she waited for the house to come into view. She worried it would turn into the nightmares she underwent over the nights since her aunt told her she would go. Her father did not call to be sure she would attend. He did not even call to congratulate her. He was either too busy or too used to getting his way that it little mattered.

"Be there in just a minute, Miss," the driver said. He must have noticed her anxiety.

Claire's eyes flicked to the back of the man's head. She didn't recognize him. Father changed drivers too often to recall any. He sent this one to get her at the train station today for the first time. The man spilled some weak excuse that her father was stuck at work and couldn't be there himself. This was not unusual. He came to get her himself less and less, every year. Maybe he thought her too grown and capable. Still would have been a nice gesture.

"Hey," Claire said. "Can you do me a favor," She continued, seeing the man look at her in the rearview. "Drop me at the gate. I'd like to walk up."
     
"In them heels?" He piped in a Boston lilt, referring to her tall patents.

"I haven't seen it since Christmas. Heck I haven't seen it in spring since I was a kid," Claire said sitting back in the seat. She picked at the fingers of her gloves smiling.
     
"You're the boss, Miss Healey," the man agreed.
     
The limousine coasted along the street. Claire checked her carefully arranged hair to make sure it still all lay in place. She put the compact away satisfied and watched the vehicle pull up to the gate barring them from the sprawling set up. Claire stared at the lawn and the house beyond. Several fancy cars lined the circular drive.
     
The limo door opened with a pop and the cool spring air rushed inside the warm coach. Claire accepted the driver's hand. The gate ground open stealing her attention.
     
"Take this," he said, opening and handing her an umbrella. "I'll get it from ya later. Your dad'll kill me if he knew I let ya walk in the rain."
     
Claire smiled at him, half paying attention to what he said. She took the umbrella with thanks. She doubted if her father would deign to care.
     
"Watch them stones. I'll be out for a ride if ya twist your ankle," the man added. He looked at her nervously.
     
"Say," Claire looked at him concerned. She heard more than he said. "Are things all that bad here?"
     
The man adjusted his chauffeur cap and looked more worried.
     
"No, no, miss--not at all. It's a great gig," he said and forced a smile to be sure she believed him. "I just don't want to lose it is all.  Just started."
     
Claire eyed him with a frown. Her dad was a hard man, but seeing another grown man afraid of him was too much. She almost blushed with the shame of it.
     
"Well--thank you," Claire said, not knowing what else to say. "I promise not to breathe a word of this walk to anyone. Our secret," she told him.
     
The man nodded unconvinced.
     
Claire gave the driver a sheepish smile. She couldn't do anymore but keep her word. She turned on her heel and started up the cobblestone drive.  The walk turned into one of the longest she ever took, not outranking the walk to the door of her school on the first day. The thought made her smile and she felt her spirits ease in the shadow of the great house.
     
Behind her the limo rolled toward the livery hidden in the trees toward the back of the lawn. Without the head lamps, the whole scene really looked bleak. Claire sighed, resigned to accepting the night for what it was and no more. Her father methodically collapsed inward since mother took sick. She needed to remember his coldness for what it was too.
     
Reaching the end of her walk, Claire lowered the umbrella. Closing the arms of the contraption, she looked through the windows. She could see people milling about, holding drinks and glimmering like stardust. The rain on the windows made it surreal; something from a picture.
     
Claire's eyes caught sight of a new view beyond the old panes. He stood near her father, golden and confident, like he lived there all the time. He smiled and responded to someone's conversation. A woman reached out and stroked his arm, smiling too big to not be interested. Claire could not help but wonder who this Apollo was, or be interested herself.
     
"Claire?" She heard her name called from the shadows of the door.  
     
Claire looked to the dark. There she saw an outline of a suited man hanging back at the top of the stairs. The red ember of his cigarette glowed. She took a step forward squinting. He leapt down the steps to meet her, flicking the cigarette to the lawn.
     
"Claire!" He exclaimed.  
     
It was Edward Lynch; tall, dark and not handsome. He wore a fine suit, flashing his worth where his looks failed him. In fact, the only fine thing about him was the suit.
     
"Hello, Eddie," Claire fought to smile at him.
    
"My god, look at you!" He cried, taking in her outfit. "What a sight!"
     
Claire snickered at his attempts to sound hip, "Thank you, Eddie."
    
Eddie took hold of her arm and pulled her toward the door. He always behaved too persistent and too fervent. Claire tripped along behind him, recalling the chauffeur's concern about her twisting her ankle on the drive.  She wished he didn't mention it, as it apparently wanted to come true.  Holding the hat on her head before it whisked off, she tried to keep her feet solidly beneath her despite Eddie's zealousness. Claire unhappily leaned on his arm. The smell of smoke choked and made his presence even less desirable.
     
"I was hoping you'd make it," Eddie babbled. "Your dad said you were expected, but I know how New York can keep a hold on you." He grinned too much with too many teeth.
     
"Well, my aunt wouldn't hear of it and neither would he," Claire said as he pushed her in through the door. "So New York will just have to wait for me to get back," she added straightening herself.

Eddie shut the door and tore the umbrella from her hand. He shoved it in a bin with a pile of others and jumped for her coat. As he yanked the garment from her shoulders, the old butler came along the hall to meet them.
     
"Miss Claire," the butler said in his composed monotone. "Your father is expecting you," he said taking the jacket from Eddie before he mangled it in his enthusiasm. "Shall I take you in?"
     
"Hey, I was gonna--" Eddie started.
     
"Yes, please, Wilson," Claire said. She smiled warmly at him for saving her from the clod.

The butler bowed discreetly smiling back. He turned on his heel and walked toward the sitting room. He knew she didn't like Eddie all that much and she guessed he didn't like Eddie either. Claire followed the older man, thankful for the ally.
     
The butler entered the room ahead of Claire intent on announcing her arrival to her father. Before he could, a raven haired woman about Claire's age called to her. The startling sound brought everyone's attention to the door. The butler made his bowing exit leaving her to face them alone.
     
"Claire!"  The young woman cried, making her way to her with sparkling jewels and eyes. Her smile gleamed radiantly. She looked like a movie star.  
     
"Saraid Kelly!" Claire gasped. She felt relieved to see her girlhood friend. She wouldn't need to entertain Eddie now. The girls clasped each other in a brief hug. "Oh, Sarry--it's so good to see you again."
     
Claire could see her father frown. Beside him, Apollo's manifestation soaked in the moment with deep interest. Her father passed the little god his glass and waved him off. Claire smiled at the young woman who babbled on in front of her, but her eyes stayed with her father's friend. Her view became blocked by Father's approach. His companion retreated out of sight. She could not help but wonder who the man was and why her father did not wish to introduce them.
     
"Claire," her father smiled almost genuinely happy to see her. He kept his arms tucked behind him. "I am so glad you were able to make it," he told her, despite his body language to the contrary. He should hug her. He had not seen her in months. In that time, she finished school and grew up. He might want to be sure she was real. "Congratulations on finishing school," he echoed part of her thoughts, perhaps seeing the disappointment in her eyes. "My word, everyday you grow more like your mother." Something flashed over his eyes and he stared through her.
     
Claire opened her mouth to speak, but swallowed her words. She could see Apollo return from whatever recess that swallowed him. His brows knitted in a serious stare at her father's back. He overheard their exchange. He gave her a sympathetic meager smile. Claire snapped her eyes back to her Father embarrassed. She tried to force a grateful thanks, but it only came out a pathetic mumble. She stood there beside her childhood friends in an uncomfortable silence.
     
"Supper is ready," the butler called from the door.
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1   Street in Boston where many of the wealthier homes were located during the 1940s.  From The Jamaica Plain Historical Society, Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, www.jphs.org/.
Excerpt from my upcoming book "Op-Dec: Operation Deceit"

To be released Winter/Spring 2012

World War II
May-June 1942
Film Noir inspired

Op-Dec: Operation Deceit by K. Williams (Back of the book): (ISBN # 10: 1468193082, 13: 978-1468193084)

"A shadowy past becomes a sinister future."

It’s 1933 and the height of Boston’s social season. Claire Healey overhears a terrible argument between her industrial-tycoon father and her socialite mother. Claire’s father sends her mother away, declaring she is hysterical with fatigue. Displaced by this disastrous outcome, Claire is brought to New York by her spirited aunt, to be raised beyond the reach of the damaging turn of events.

Nine years later, Claire returns to her childhood home to face her past once more. The world has long since exploded in war. A mysterious stranger named Carsten Reiniger has infiltrated the scene, placing his commanding presence among the old familiar faces of Boston’s elite. Intrigued by the newcomer, Claire struggles to piece together his identity and finds a dangerous connection to her troubling past.

When Claire’s prying comes to light, she and her aunt are whisked away in the middle of the night to ensure their silence. Can Carsten Reiniger be trusted or is he implacably loyal to duty alone?

Cover art by Scott Deyett Ihgraphics.com

View the book trailer here: bluehonor.com/blog/2014/12/15/…
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