The Mark of Abel [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Larry Arnold
eBook Category: Mainstream
eBook Description: Fourteen years after meeting at Camp Runnymede in the Texas Hill Country, three friends live and work in nearby Denim. Gabrielle is always early, Sandalin is always on time, and Merry is always late. In a way, that's all you need to know about them. Sandalin Pell's life is precise. Her music is very much in demand. She and her concert harp travel around central Texas, playing for weddings, churches, and fashion shows, and auditioning for orchestras. Only a flair for organization keeps Sandalin's tight schedule running. Her life is completely in control, except for the orchestra chair that eludes her. Merry Weston couldn't be more different. She runs the Denim Rape Crisis Center, a job filled with schedule-bursting emergencies. That doesn't bother her; she's never had a schedule anyway. With grit and tenacity she keeps everything clattering along, only a little bit late. One of these days, though, Merry will have to think about tomorrow. And Gabrielle Adelade sits back and observes. She likes to arrive early, and watch things develop. That suits her employer, the Lone Star Review magazine: it makes her the best reporter on staff. In the long run, though, is observing enough? If they're that deep in their ruts, are they due for a change? Even small towns experience the violence that plagues society, and in The Mark of Abel three women depend on each other as they learn to deal with it.
eBook Publisher: Zumaya Publications, Published: 2007
Fictionwise Release Date: February 2007
Colleen's smile flickered for an instant, but Sandalin decided it was her imagination. When her friend spoke, her voice was as calm as always.
"Think it over," Colleen said. "We've three months until the program." She turned and gathered her music from its stand. "Are you ready to go?"
"I need to pack up my harp." Sandalin waved a slender hand in its direction. "Go ahead. I have my key, I'll lock up."
"Thanks. It's been quite a day. I'll take you up on that." Colleen headed for the choir room, waving over her shoulder.
Sandalin had the cover on and zipped and was easing the dolly under her instrument when she stopped. It was Gabrielle, not Merry who predicted Colleen would ask me to make my own wings. How did I mix that up? She shrugged and went back to work. It can't make any difference.
She eased the harp down the steps and wheeled it out of the sanctuary to the front door, then fished her key ring out of her shoulder bag. The square brass key that fit the front door jogged her memory. She had it because she was one of the Building and Grounds Committee, and they had received a couple of complaints that one of the tall lights in the parking lot wasn't working. She opened the door and glanced across to find the middle of the parking lot bathed in brilliance. Someone had probably caught the light just before the photoelectric switch had turned it on.
She looked again. Colleen's white Camaro was still parked by the pole, on the other side of the grassy divider. A glance down the hall told her the choir room was dark, as was the rest of the silent church. She peered back outside.
The interior of the car, directly under the light where Colleen always parked, appeared empty. The short hair on the back of Sandalin's neck was prickling. She glanced toward the office, thinking about calling the police. What can I say? "My friend's car is still parked by the church." That doesn't sound very threatening.
She took a deep breath and stepped outside, easing the door shut behind her. For as far as she could see the world was deserted. She headed straight out into the parking lot, swinging wide around the white car.
On the other side, Colleen huddled on the ground.
Sandalin ran to her. Colleen was trembling, her eyes closed. When Sandalin touched her shoulder, she slapped her hand aside and shrank back against the steel door. Her eyes opened wide, staring at Sandalin for a long moment before they reflected recognition. Colleen's slender fingers, tipped by elegant coral nails, found the snowy lapels of her jacket and pulled them closed.
"He raped me," she whispered. Her voice was dry and even, devoid of emotion.
Sandalin froze. She could feel him, right behind her. She waited.