Shadow of the Gypsy
by Shelly Frome
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Josh Bartlett had figured all the angles, changed his name, holed up as a small-town features writer in the seclusion of the Blue Ridge. Only a few weeks more and he’d begin anew, return to the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut and Molly (if she’d have him) and, at long last, live a normal life.
After all, it was a matter of record that Zharko had been deported well over a year ago. The shadowy form John had glimpsed yesterday at the lake was only that — a hazy shadow under the eaves of the activities building. It stood to reason his old nemesis was still ensconced overseas in Bucharest or thereabouts well out of the way.
And no matter where he was, he wouldn’t travel south over eight hundred miles to track Josh down. Surely that couldn’t be, not now, not after all this.
Quickly, he was outside in the snow again, searching frantically for the Christmas present. Trudging through the stands of evergreens in his slippers, shivering so hard he couldn’t stand it, frozen crusted pine combs under foot till he spotted the van in a clearing. There were shouts and threats. There was a bloodcurdling scream. He thrust himself forward to see, though for the life of him he didn’t want to see, didn’t want to ever know. A dagger flashed in the moonlight. Zharko’s hand raised up and plummeted down over and over, finally cutting off the screaming for good.
Spinning around, Josh scurried over the pine combs and raced off, shaking with fear and cold, searching for the Christmas present. Longing to join the kids beyond the woods, snug inside, embraced by their mothers and the warmth of the hearth, glistening presents dangling under the tree laced with tinsel and garlands of spangled light.
He thrashed around seeking this first-ever Christmas present that would make everything nice but found only his pillow and woke with a start. He sat up. There was no going back to sleep opting for dreamy images of walking to school with Molly as the weather turned to spring, buttercups lining the path. No way to erase anything. He was left with the same chill again from this morning turning into an ache that had no name.
An ache it was useless to gloss over.
Shelly Frome is a member of Mystery Writers of America, a professor of dramatic arts emeritus at UConn, a former professional actor, and a writer of crime novels and books on theater and film. He also is a features writer for Gannett Publications. His fiction includes Sun Dance for Andy Horn, Lilac Moon, Twilight of the Drifter, Tinseltown Riff, Murder Run, Moon Games, The Secluded Village Murders and Miranda and the D-Day Caper. Among his works of non-fiction are The Actors Studio: A History, a guide to playwriting and one on screenwriting, Shadow of the Gypsy is his latest foray into the world of crime and the amateur sleuth. He lives in Black Mountain, North Carolina.
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