Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Who Vol. 2: setting the scene

A crime has been committed in 1880s Kentucky—and it’s up to you to figure out WHOdunit! Play the game for a chance to win one of THREE autographed copies of Sharlene MacLaren’s LOVING LIZA JANE.

Here’s what you do: read through each of the scenes below. Collect the KEYWORDS from each scene (except Brook’s). Note: keywords point to the NOVEL, not the CULPRIT. Next, figure out WHOdunit! Finally, send an email with the five KEYWORDS and the NAME OF THE CULPRIT to review@christianreviewofbooks.com with the subject line WHO?

Entries will be received until 3 p.m. EST on 8 June.

Come back on Monday 11 June to read the confession of the culprit!

WHO? Volume 2

Brook – circa 1850s Englandby Roseanna Whitewww.ChristianReviewofBooks.com (There is no KEYWORD within Brook’s scene)

The very air was sinister, crackling with threat. Baroness Brook Moon looked out the schoolroom window at the clouds that hung low and black over the town. The rain fell in torrents, and lightning still rent the heavens in two every few seconds.

Brook would have given anything to be back home in the Cotswolds, among familiar faces. Instead, she had sought refuge from the storm in this one room schoolhouse in Kentucky, along with a handful of other strangers, all of whom were from places—and times—far flung. They were lucky the school’s new teacher, Liza Jane, had been preparing for classes and had let them all in.

Liza came over to peer out the window, too. She was a pretty little thing, her golden brown curls coming out of her bun, her well fitting dress bearing an ink stain that she didn’t seem to notice. “I hope it lets up soon. I’d hate to see Little Hickman Creek swell its banks.”

Brook offered a smile, but it was vague at best. She wasn’t about to make promises concerning this summer storm.

“Are we having fun yet, ladies?” The voice was distinctly American but had a different cadence than Liza Jane’s. Brook looked over to see the other female in the group of six, a woman named Audrey, who smiled as she joined them. “Figured I’d join you. Those men won’t stop staring at my legs.”

Brook’s lips twitched. Given that Audrey’s skirt stopped at her knees, the men’s attention was little wonder.

From outside came the sudden hiss of lightning, stumbling over the thunder on its heels. A loud crack sounded, and the group gasped.

“The tree!” Liza picked up her skirts and headed for the door at a run. Brook followed close on her heels, intending to stop the young woman from darting into the downpour. But when Liza threw open the door, Brook saw that the rain had stopped as suddenly as it had started, so instead she followed her.

“Oh no! That poor old oak!” Liza pressed a hand to her mouth and trudged through the mud toward the fallen tree, heedless of her dress. Brook opted for the stepping stones forming a crude walkway.

Audrey followed her lead, swiping away a lock of shoulder-length auburn hair. “Poor thing’s taking it personally, isn’t she? Of course, I guess I would too, if it were a tree at my school.”Brook lifted a brow. “You’re a teacher too, then?”

“Mm hm.” Audrey smiled, though it faded away when Liza turned slowly their way. Brook watched resolve mix with compassion on Audrey’s pretty face. “Come on, Liza, let’s walk around the school and see how everything else fared.”

Liza nodded, but it was half-hearted. She looked down at her skirt and pressed a finger to the dried ink stain. Audrey went over to her, stepping carefully in her slim-heeled shoes, and linked their arms together. They were about the same height, both lovely, but Brook couldn’t help but think they looked a little odd together, given their very different styles.

Another long rumble of thunder rolled over the Kentucky hills.

“You know what would make you feel better?” Audrey said as she led Liza Jane away. “A real cherry Coke.”

“A. . . what?”

Audrey’s laughter ran out through the schoolyard. “Never mind. Say, do you have a ladies’ room around here?”

“A. . . oh. Facilities, yes. I’ll show you. They’re around back.”

Brook shook her head as they rounded the corner of the building, her eyes then moving to the tall, dark-haired man who was ambling up from the other direction. Jose. He let out a whistle when he saw the damaged tree. “We’re lucky it didn’t fall toward the schoolhouse.”
Brook nodded, smiling at his Spanish accent. It had been several years since she’d had the pleasure of conversing in a Romance language, so she answered in what she assumed to be his native tongue. “Si. The Lord must have been watching out for us.”

He smiled, his warm brown eyes lighting up. They were compelling eyes, practically inviting one to relax and name oneself his friend.

Another deep voice sounded from behind Brook before Jose could answer. “I thought you were British, baroness. I am surprised you know Spanish.”

Brook spun around, pressing a hand to her racing heart. The man called Cutter stood there, smiling through the severe scarring on his lip. He had a pipe secured between his teeth, though how he had managed to fill it when one arm hung limp at his side was a mystery to her. Still, in spite of his appearance he had been a perfect gentleman since they’d met up inside, especially when he realized that she was the only one among the six who was also English. During the worst of the storm, he had regaled them with stories of his adventures as a surgeon on a ship in the Caribbean.

“I am,” she answered at length. “But I was raised in the court of Monaco until I was sixteen.”

“Ah.” Cutter puffed on his pipe and tilted his head to better see the destroyed oak as thunder rolled in the distance. “I’m afraid I won’t be much help in clearing that away.”

The final member of their group came up then, too, screwing his face up at the picture. Brother Julian gave his tan homespun robe a sweep with his chubby fingers and then lifted his bald head toward the heavens. “A judgment, perhaps? Or a warning? Has one of you committed some sin?”

The other two men both shifted, almost uneasily.

Brook was the first to shrug the question away. “Don’t be silly, Brother. It was simply a wayward streak of lightning.”

The monk revealed his yellowed teeth and spoke again in his high, grating voice. “Perhaps it is due to that shameful young woman daring to bear her legs.”

Liza Jane arrived back on the scene just in time to hear that and answered it with hands on hips. “Leave Audrey alone, Brother Julian. She has been very kind to me.”

Brother Julian was quick to offer a conciliatory nod. “As have you been, mademoiselle, to offer us all sanctuary from the storm.”

“Well.” Liza straightened her spine and nodded back, smiling when Audrey rejoined them. She held out a hand when a few drops of water started falling again. “I believe the rain isn’t quite finished—we’d better all get back inside.”

Jose led the way, moving to open the door for the ladies. When they stepped in, though, they all halted. Stared.

Brook had no idea what to say. Five minutes before, the schoolroom had been in perfect order, the supplies sparse but organized. Now. . . now desks were overturned, books thrown around and broken, slates scattered about the room in pieces, and even the potbellied stove pulled from its pipe.

Brother Julian shook his head. “Who would do such a terrible thing?”

Brook said nothing for a long moment. One of them had—no one else could have reached the school without being seen.

“Why?” Liza lifted a hand toward the destruction and then dropped it to her side. A tear slid down her cheek.

Audrey looped her arm through Liza’s again. “Who knows? But we’ll get it all cleaned up.”

“First, we’ll figure out who did it.” Brook folded her arms across her chest and looked from one person to another. “I was talking to one or another of you the whole time we were outside. But everyone else seemed to have been on their own for at least a moment. Long enough to do this while the thunder was going, I should think. So everybody might as well sit down until we figure out who the vandal is. It has to be one of us”

“Yes,” Jose agreed, darting inside and scowling. “But who?”

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