Emerald

Emerald

by Phyllis A. Whitney

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Overview

A woman heads to Palm Springs to stay with her great-aunt, a Hollywood star with a mysterious past, in this romantic suspense novel by an Edgar Award winner.
 
Ever since New York journalist Carol Hamilton was a young girl, her great-aunt Monica Arlen has been for her the stuff of glittering, starry-eyed fantasy. Now, the reclusive movie star offers Carol an escape of another kind. In flight with her son from an abusive marriage, she’s come to Monica’s isolated, fortress-like home on Mt. San Jacinto in Palm Springs—and not only for sanctuary. Carol hopes to do research for her biography of a once-celebrated life that has receded into the dark shadows of Hollywood history.
 
Surrounded by an entourage of secretaries, companions, and servants, Monica is willing to give Carol and her boy refuge, and to Carol’s surprise, she’s receptive to telling her story. On one condition: Carol must tell the truth about everything, including Saxon Scott, Monica’s most dashing and enigmatic leading man. Meanwhile, Carol is tempted by the prospect of a new man who could heal her wounded heart—or shatter it. But as she digs deeper into lore and legend, she discovers that her great-aunt’s secrets run as deep and dangerous as her past.  Soon Carol will find herself entangled in a real-life mystery, and the final scene could very well call for murder.
 
From the New York Times–bestselling “queen of the American gothics,” Emerald is a novel of glamour, intrigue, and romantic suspense (The New York Times).
 
This ebook features an illustrated biography of Phyllis A. Whitney including rare images from the author’s estate.
 
 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504045926
Publisher: Open Road Media
Publication date: 08/29/2017
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 332
Sales rank: 159,709
File size: 16 MB
Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.

About the Author

Born in Yokohama, Japan, on September 9, 1903, Phyllis A. Whitney was a prolific author of award-winning adult and children’s fiction. Her sixty-year writing career and the publication of seventy-six books, which together sold over fifty million copies worldwide, established her as one of the most successful mystery and romantic suspense writers of the twentieth century and earned her the title “The Queen of the American Gothics.”

Whitney resided in several places, including New Jersey. She traveled to every location mentioned in her books in order to better depict the settings of her stories. She earned the Mystery Writers of America Grand Master award in 1988, the Agatha in 1990, and the lifetime achievement award from the Society of Midland Authors in 1995. Whitney was working on her autobiography at the time of her passing at the age of 104.
Born in Yokohama, Japan, on September 9, 1903, Phyllis A. Whitney was a prolific author of award-winning adult and children’s fiction. Her sixty-year writing career and the publication of seventy-six books, which together sold over fifty million copies worldwide, established her as one of the most successful mystery and romantic suspense writers of the twentieth century and earned her the title “The Queen of the American Gothics.”

Whitney resided in several places, including New Jersey. She traveled to every location mentioned in her books in order to better depict the settings of her stories. She earned the Mystery Writers of America Grand Master award in 1988, the Agatha in 1990, and the lifetime achievement award from the Society of Midland Authors in 1995. Whitney was working on her autobiography at the time of her passing at the age of 104.
 

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

How bleak and empty the California desert seemed to my unaccustomed eyes. My rented car cut straight through, leaving the mountains of the coast behind. Even desert growth was the color of sand, and all the mountains that pulled in the distant edges of space were a bare, rocky umber. A somehow ominous landscape, reflecting my own fear and anxiety. It was natural to see danger behind every rock and drift of sand — it would be there in reality soon enough.

I'd always expected to love the desert on sight. I'd read enough about it, and in one of the foster homes where I'd stayed as a child, there'd been a woman — Helen Johnson — who had grown up in the Southwest. She'd filled my fanciful head with pictures and lore of the desert, so that I'd always been eager to see it for myself. But not under these circumstances. Not when endless stretches of sand gave me a threatening sense of exposure to eyes that might already be seeking me out.

As I glanced at my small son, dozing in the car seat beside me, he stirred, whimpered, found a more comfortable position, and slept again. The bruise on his cheek was still cruelly visible, and rage burned in me all over again. A cleansing rage that I welcomed. For far too long anger had been futile and self-destructive. Now I would use it to save my son, to save myself. Perhaps even to save my own life. I had no illusions about the man who would hunt me, and I knew that my "accidental" death would free him to take Keith.

At least this new, steady anger would sustain and nourish me, give me real purpose for the first time in my life. What had happened during this last year — and longer — was unforgivable. Some things are unforgivable, and I must never forget that again. For too long I'd felt hopelessly trapped. To make any move seemed more dangerous than sitting still. When his father had struck Keith so brutally, I'd been suddenly freed to act, and I must never become trapped again.

Yet Keith mustn't know how deeply I raged. He'd suffered enough, and my anger would only frighten him more. He must be protected from further hurt with every ounce of strength I could manage.

I owed nothing to Owen Barclay but my fury. He was no longer my husband, and he'd forfeited any right he might have to his son. Nevertheless, he would be relentless in his effort to find us and take Keith away from me, no matter where we went. That certain knowledge lodged in me like a knife, and I could never twist fully away from the fear and the pain.

Outside our car the desert continued to stream past like a tawny sea, its ripples warming in the light of late afternoon. Ahead of us lay the green oasis of Palm Springs, surrounded by desert and mountains, shielded from the outer world — offering sanctuary, just as it must have done to early settlers, not all that long ago.

I didn't think it would occur to Owen immediately that we'd flee to Palm Springs. I'd never told him much about my relationship to Monica Arlen, even though she was my only living relative. From the first he'd put down as starry-eyed adulation my affection for the great-aunt I'd really known only through her letters. The fact that she had been a famous movie star in the thirties and forties made no impression on Owen. Since he had connections everywhere, movie stars were a dime a dozen in his world, bought and sold like everyone else. Once he'd dismissed Monica as someone he couldn't use at the moment, we never spoke of her again. So how could he possibly understand her curious influence on my life? Monica herself couldn't be expected to understand that. I'd kept our correspondence, such as it was, from Owen, as I'd learned to keep so many other things that were basic to my life.

Eventually, of course, he would think of her as a possible haven for Keith and me — or his spies would ferret this out — but by the time he located us, we should be safely out of reach in Monica Arlen's fortress of a house high above Palm Springs. Out of reach, for a time at least. Time was what I must play for — time to think, time to recover my own sanity and give Keith the love and the quiet that he needed to become once more a normal little boy.

We'd left a cool November behind us in New York, but here the air conditioner hummed softly as I drove. Yesterday we'd flown to San Francisco, picked up a car, and started south, staying overnight at a motel along the way. By taking a roundabout route to Southern California, we might be able to delay pursuit a little longer.

On the phone yesterday morning, when I'd called from New York, Linda Trevor, Monica's secretary-companion, had given me specific instructions. We were to go straight to a hotel on Palm Canyon Drive, where she would make a reservation for us. By the time we arrived in Palm Springs, Linda would have prepared my great-aunt for our sudden appearance in her house. Linda, however, wanted to "brief" me first, so we must wait for her at the hotel. "Brief" was the very word she'd used, and it made me uneasy.

I'd never known my grandmother on my mother's side — Monica's sister. All of the family was dead now, except Monica and me. I'd lost my parents in a car crash when I was seven, and I'd grown up in a series of foster homes. My mother had always kept in touch with her aunt, Monica Arlen, and when Mother died someone wrote to Monica to let her know. That was when my great-aunt started to write to me, and her letters had become the one bright and glamorous light glowing at the end of a very gray tunnel. Much of the time they were the only happy events I had to hold on to. Sometimes small gifts accompanied her letters, and these I treasured. She never came to see me, or invited me to visit her, yet this never seemed especially strange to me. I took it for granted that her life existed on a different plane from mine, and I didn't expect someone who was practically a national goddess to concern herself with a mortal like me.

As I grew up, I watched her old movies whenever I got a chance — especially the award-winning Mirage — and I identified with every role she'd played. I read everything about her I could find in old library files. Once a great deal had been printed about her, though little had been published lately.

I even read about the city to which she'd retired out in the desert — Palm Springs. That was a further way in which I came to know about the desert, and grew to love it in my imagination. As a little girl, Monica had lived on a ranch — like Mrs. Johnson — so I longed to push away city buildings and look into distances of sand. I even grew a not very healthy cactus because it was a desert plant.

Of course I had the foolish, and secret dream of someday presenting myself to Aunt Monica, but I knew that I must first achieve something in my life worthy of her. Mostly I existed in a wonderful world inside my own head, and kept reality from intruding whenever I could.

When a seventh-grade teacher told me that I wrote rather well, I began to drive myself. I had to accomplish something spectacular and be forever rid of all that was boring and stupid — and without love. Even though the dream of meeting Monica Arlen faded a little as I grew older, the drive to achieve remained and sustained me through that series of foster homes until I was eighteen.

By the time Owen Barclay strode into my life, I was blindly ready for him. Not all that happened between us was entirely his fault.

Aunt Monica never realized that she was my idol, nor did she take any but the most casual interest in me. After all, I existed for her only in rather shy letters and the few snapshots I'd sent her from time to time. While for me she was there on movie and television screens — practically flesh and blood! — to watch in all those marvelous pictures she'd made with her constant costar, Saxon Scott. He too had played a role as the hero of my young dreams — handsome, exciting — not like ordinary men. And I was Monica in all those wonderful love scenes they played together.

What fantasies I'd built around the two of them during those growing-up years! Though my letters must have been awkward and self-conscious, she occasionally wrote to me in return. Always notes on pale azure paper, scrawled forcefully in ink the color of blue iris. She never had much to say, but I'd kept every word she'd written me. In my imagination she could never be less than perfection.

With age, when she began to have trouble with an arthritic wrist, she'd dictated, and her communications were typed by her private secretaries. Some years ago, while I was still in college, Linda Trevor had started to work for her, and had become a more personal contact for me with my aunt. I knew very well that Monica had merely been kind to a young relative who meant little to her, but I never faltered in my adoration. And when she suddenly and unexpectedly offered the money to send me to college, my hero-worship grew stronger than ever. It had been thanks to Monica Arlen that I was able to do something a little special, and thereafter my letters must have grown more open and loving.

During the last few years I'd heard from her only at Christmastime. She always sent the same card — never decorated with conventional holly or mistletoe — but with her own special iris symbol that she'd affected in her Hollywood days. The card was expensively engraved, with a few words scribbled in her strong, almost illegible handwriting.

By the time I finished college I was corresponding regularly with Linda Trevor, and we had become good friends because of our mutual admiration for the woman who had once been so great a star. Linda belonged to that curious species — the fan. I was a fan too, but I was also related.

During the last few years I'd come to know a little more about Linda Trevor. She was forty-two and had never married, though she'd become engaged recently to a man named Wally Davis. He was a few years younger than she was, and that was about all I knew of him. In spite of our friendly correspondence, we'd both held to a certain reticence in personal matters. Linda said little about Wally, and I wrote nothing about Owen. Mostly I told her about my burgeoning career as a writer of articles and interviews — something I'd continued successfully even during my marriage. And of course I told her about my feeling toward Monica Arlen, which continued strong. After all, she was my only living ancestor: Only a foster child can know the need for any sort of ancestor.

Though even there I couldn't be wholly frank, because my secret affection for Aunt Monica couldn't be told in full. While her home might offer me refuge now, I'd chosen her for another reason as well. All my life I'd dreamed of meeting her, and had never quite dared to suggest it. I understood that she'd become a recluse, saw absolutely no one under ordinary circumstances, and would probably never invite me to Palm Springs. Now, because my need was so urgent, I must see her. And even in my present fear I felt a sense of anticipation about our first meeting — the rather tremulous anticipation that I might have felt as a very young girl. When it came to Monica, I hadn't entirely grown up.

I'd phoned Linda yesterday in desperation, and had tried to explain a little. She knew of my divorce, but now I had to tell her more. Owen had forced his way into my apartment in the dangerous, violent way that was characteristic of him, and had struck Keith viciously when my son tried to protect me. I'd suffered such attacks before — once to the extent of being put in a hospital, but this physical cruelty to Keith was new. Usually Owen reserved more subtle and demeaning torments for his son. Immediate flight had been the only answer.

Linda had been warmly sympathetic on the phone, but nevertheless a little cautious. She said, "Monica is in a difficult mood right now. Carol — there's been some trouble here. So I won't tell her yet that you're coming. Just come, and I'll see that you get into the house. I know it will be all right, once you're here, and she'll be glad to see you when things quiet down."

This hadn't sounded reassuring, but I had no other choice. My own need and growing fear drove me. The moment Owen knew we were gone, he would never stop searching until he found us. So we had to take refuge in a place where we could be safe for a time from anything he might try. The law couldn't protect us until he acted — and by then it would be too late.

In the past, Linda had written often about Smoke Tree House, which was Monica's own creation. It existed on the side of a mountain behind chain link fences, with a private, guarded road leading up from town. Monica Arlen, like many wealthy and famous people, had sought safety and seclusion, building her haven in Palm Springs long before her sudden and dramatic retirement so many years ago. Now it seemed not only the one spot where Keith and I could be safe, but also a place where we could recover from all that had happened in the past dreadful years. I would find the quiet in which to plan calmly what I must do now. First of all, I must draw Keith out of his fearful retreat from life, and give him new interests and friends. Equally important to both of us, I must begin once more to earn my own living.

I was stronger now, and a great deal wiser than I'd been more than six years ago when I'd worked in Manhattan for the magazine Five Boroughs. I had been a staff writer, doing interviews, tracking down special stories from the Bronx to Staten Island, under my own byline of Carol Hamilton. The editor had seen in me not only a certain freshness when it came to putting words on paper, but a human touch as well. Not hard to accomplish, since I'd always escaped by imagining myself in other people's more colorful lives. My stories seemed to work, both for readers and for those I interviewed. Some fairly famous people had made startling revelations to me — which I'd managed to handle diplomatically on paper.

On that morning when Owen Barclay had stormed into the Five Boroughs office, nearly everyone was out for lunch. I had a deadline and was still at my typewriter. Since I was the only moving object in sight, he vented his rage on me.

Who did we think we were, he roared — putting out a rotten feature like that? Filled with wild untruths and thoroughly slanderous besides! How could we possibly imagine that he wouldn't sue?

I had stared at him in something like terror. I hadn't written the piece, and I was hardly in charge, except for being the only person around. At twenty-two I'd never had to face so much overwhelming energy, such sheer, angry power. I knew who he was, of course. I'd read the article and thought secretly that he must be quite a fascinating man. He belonged to that glamorous world I'd longed to be part of ever since I'd watched my first Arlen-Scott movie. He seemed to have accomplished everything in his fifty-three years. He'd made several fortunes in the stock market, was chairman of the board here, president of a company there. To say nothing of his rumored connections with gambling and the underworld. Later I was to regret that I'd chosen to ignore the seriousness of that network. "Barclay" wasn't even his real name, which had been Middle-European and unpronounceable. He'd readily admitted that he'd selected Barclay because it had the ring of Harvard, at the very least — which amused him, since he was entirely self-educated.

I'd thought him remarkably handsome, with his striking curly gray hair, dark eyebrows, and full, sensual mouth. As I looked up from my desk, he seemed enormously tall and broad in the shoulders, emanating strength and power. Vitality! A dangerous, exciting man — like Saxon Scott, whom I'd so adored in all those movies. He was dressed immaculately in a conservative gray business suit that had a Brooks Brothers look. The dignity of his adopted name, and the way he dressed were, however, the only proper and conservative things about him, as I was to discover.

It occurred to me that such a man would usually send his lawyers and not trouble to appear in person without warning or appointment. The very fact that he chose to make this attack on his own and alone seemed to indicate an unbridled and explosive temper.

As the ferocity of the attack went on, I suddenly stopped being scared and began to get angry myself. He had no right to pick on me. Though I couldn't think what to say to him, I began to bristle. My wordless indignation finally got his attention, and he stopped in the middle of his diatribe and looked at me — really looked.

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Emerald"
by .
Copyright © 1983 Phyllis A. Whitney.
Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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