Book Debut: Keeper of the Lambs by Dr. Sue Clifton
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“Keep an open path and the WAY will find you.” Once again, the philosophy of Cayce McCallister leads her and sister Harri Wellington to a ghost-infested location, Bar None, a ghost town high in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho.
The spirits of the wicked madam Belle, miner Peg Leg Annie, and an evil preacher from the town’s history linger, playing havoc on the renovation efforts of handsome cowboy construction boss Hank and his crew. Cayce and Harri are joined by Cayce's artist daughter Piper and by the endearing Charlie and little ghost girl Sarah in solving the mysteries of Bar None’s past.
Cayce and Harri also come across information about three young girls who have disappeared from the area and hope to find out who murdered Johnny, the boyfriend of one of the missing girls.
The portals open and Cayce revisits Bar None a hundred years earlier while confronting the malevolent “Keeper of the Lambs.” And while solving the paranormal mysteries,Cayce and Piper hope to find love once again.
As Cayce stared into one of the dark crevices in the otherwise-shiny reflective surface, she sensed movement. The shadowy cracks undulated like silver and black waves on a shining but turbulent sea as they transformed into boisterous miners still dirty from a long day in the diggings. The drunken men grabbed on to tiny, slant-eyed, smile-plastered figurines that looked like they would crack and disintegrate in the tight embraces of their crude dance partners as they were jerked around the dance floor.
Blackjack dealers, card sharks, or cheats in striped or black collarless starched shirts with slicked back hair and waxed mustaches competed for the attention, or the money, of the miners at the gambling tables. One he/she thing dressed in baggy men’s pants and an oversized, dirty coat, dark hair cropped at the ears and covered by a beat-up man’s felt hat, danced alone, its peg leg resounding like a horse’s hoof on the wooden dance floor. Every past participant found life again in the silver tapestry behind the bar.
Cayce stared, trancelike, into the mirror, not noticing that Hank had moved to the barstool beside her. He sat quietly as he had promised.
The big, rounded bartender, his dark handlebar mustache out of place against his shiny, hairless head, slid a whiskey bottle down the slick bar top. The bottle passed right through Cayce’s hands, which were propped on the bar, but Cayce did not flinch as it passed through. The “it,” who Cayce recognized as Peg, grabbed the bottle at the other end, turned it up, and guzzled it, letting some trickle down her ugly scarred chin, which was not without a chin hair or two. Peg, with her new dance partner the whiskey bottle, headed back to the dance floor.
The swinging doors swung wide open, and two men dressed in black held them there. They stared at the bar crowd from their posts at the door.
The miners became silent, staring. Many hid their bottles behind them and pushed away from the petite girls as if their intentions had been innocent. The piano player stopped abruptly, moving behind the piano; the moneychangers stepped back from the tables, joining other groups of terrified onlookers; and the bartender slid down behind the bar, his bald head reflecting in the bottom of the mirror. Some miners dove through open windows, and those China figurines that could make it to the stairs fled upward, holding their frilly gowns high in their hands and scurrying like tiny, delicate mice racing to their dens.
Boom! Boom! Boom!
Foot-pounds? Or has the train left its phantom track and is hurling out of control into The Nugget?
Cayce glued her gaze to the mirror, hypnotized, but without the terror of those living the scene.
They act like they know who or what is coming.
She continued to stare into the pocked mirror.
What can stop time in its…cracks?
Boom! Boom! Boom!
The two men moved farther inside and stretched the doors open as wide as possible as the footfalls stopped at the doors.
The biggest, most burly man Cayce had ever seen filled the doorway. He looked to be at least seven feet tall with a bulky body to match, a clean-shaven face offset by dark, disturbed eyes.
He thrust his way into The Nugget, his piercing gaze darting right, left, and center, capitalizing on the fear-stricken faces of the onlookers. The man was dressed in black from head to toe and dragged a heavy wooden cross, the upper end resting on his shoulder like Jesus at Golgotha. Two more men in black marched behind him and then hurried to his side, taking the heavy burden from him and holding it against the wall in the saloon. The cross became a battle flag of what was about to ensue. In a voice that boomed louder than his footsteps, he released his wrath on the roomful of sinners.
“No whoremonger nor unclean person hath any inheritance of God!”
His voice exploded like ignited dynamite cutting through a mountain. He grabbed a long, black cat-o-nine-tails that had been tucked in his waistband under his coat and swung it as men and women screamed, covered their heads, and ducked, many stampeding toward back exits.
“’Neither fornicators, nor idolators, nor adulterers, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revelers shall inherit the kingdom of God!”
With each sin announced, the man lashed out with the whip, barely missing some bystanders.
Pop! Pop! Pop!
Again he struck the floor with the whip, each piece of metal on the end of the nine tails hitting at the same time, and then he turned it on an empty table.
The table and two chairs disintegrated, and the crowd shrank farther away; a few risked passing the giant’s helpers and hunkered down, scurrying through the swinging doors still propped open by men in black who showed no expression as they allowed the miners to escape. The burly giant then turned his attention to the card tables and struck out at them.
Two more tables broke apart, cards and money flew in every direction, but no one made a move to retrieve any of it. He stood where one table lay in pieces, his whip and his hands held high as he raised his eyes to heaven as if he were Jesus among the moneychangers in the temple at Jerusalem.
“For the love of money is the root of all evil…” His thunderous base voice halted in mid-verse as his gaze wandered up the staircase.
Belle, beautiful beyond comparison with any woman in the establishment, was dressed lavishly in a red silk gown; her delicate white skin signified false purity under the bright saloon lights. With her shoulders held proudly back, she teased the supposed man of God with her cleavage.
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