From Mary Frances Fisher comes her debut novel, Paradox Forged in Blood, a book based on true events and stories passed down from the author's family.
A murder on Millionaire’s Row. A killer's chilling words, "Shh. I know where you live.” A woman tormented by her guilt-ridden past.
A historical murder mystery, Paradox Forged in Blood is set in Cleveland, Ohio, during the late 1930s. Four decades after the murder of socialite Louis Sheridan, the cold case is resurrected with receipt of new evidence that transports detectives back to Nazi Germany. The only living witness, Ellen O’Malley, must confront a haunting secret and her complicit actions.
|Publisher:||Cambron Publishing Group LLC|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.84(d)|
About the Author
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LEGEND HAS IT that Ellen Grace O'Malley's ear-piercing entrance into the world on June 7, 1916, was heard by anyone within a three-block radius of the modest home at 3104 Carroll Avenue. The oldest of eight first-generation Irish Americans born to Michael and Mary O'Malley, Ellen grew up in a culturally diverse neighborhood known as Ohio City, located in the heart of Cleveland. Ohio City was often referred to as Whiskey Island based on Irish immigrants with a fondness for homemade whiskey. Although it was also known as Irish Town, a strong contingent of Germans settled nearby. The Cleveland Irish stood firm and proud against surrounding prejudice and rising acrimony. In their fierce determination to immerse the family into an American lifestyle, Ellen's parents rarely spoke Gaelic. However, they bestowed upon their children the Irish traditions and folklore as well as a profound faith.
The O'Malley home became the favorite meeting place for the neighborhood kids. Painted a soft lemon yellow offset by black shutters and flower boxes bursting with a spectrum of warm colors, a feeling of contentment was bestowed on anyone who entered. Without consciously realizing it, the cozy atmosphere provided by select family photos artfully displayed, handmade afghans, needlepoint with comforting messages, fresh flowers, and their most prized possession — a dome-shaped radio — became a beacon of serenity to all.
The much-loved front porch served as the nightly gathering place for family and friends. The sweet fragrance of lilacs that graced the small front yard coupled with the sound of birds chirping provided a safe haven for Ellen and her siblings.
In keeping with the times and dictated by narrow lots, extensions to a home loomed upward. Lying on the grass and looking at the roof, Ellen believed her home stretched up into the heavens.
The first floor consisted of a parlor (rarely used except for company), the living room, four small bedrooms, and the kitchen. Ellen's father built cabinets in the kitchen, complete with leaded-glass doors, which proudly displayed her mother's cherished dishes from Ireland.
The second story housed two bedrooms set apart from the attic. The full basement contained a coal chute and steps leading to the cellar doors opening outward to the backyard.
The neighborhood teemed with children and loud proclamations of "Ollie Ollie Oxen Free" could be heard during games of hide and seek.
By unspoken rule, stints inside the home, including meals and bathroom breaks, were kept short during a game or you risked the chance of being replaced. Your team depended on you.
"It's my turn to pitch."
"Nuh-uh. You pitched two days ago."
"Pleease! Besides, it's my ball. Maybe I'll take it home where —"
"Okay, okay. For Pete's sake, don't get in a lather. We were just jokin'."
While the boys played ball, the girls played make-believe.
"I want to be the princess today. You can be my maids."
"I'm tired of this game. I heard my mom talk about a sugar daddy. We could pretend we're puttin' on the Ritz, like the society pages. And our daddies would give us lots of candy."
The girls giggled with delight as visions of unlimited chocolate and cotton candy made their mouths water in anticipation.
"Gee, that's a swell idea. Let's go home and get some sheets for fancy dresses. I have a box of broken lockets and shiny trinkets we can use for jewelry."
"Then we can meet at Ellen's house."
"With our flowing gowns, we can take turns standing on the cement block by the curb as we wait for the arrival of our fancy carriages. That way, our gowns won't drag on the ground."
"Whoopee! I can't wait! Then we can parade past the boys to —"
"Now why'd ya wanna spoil a good time hangin' around a buncha dumb boys?"
As the children debated the pros and cons about sports' careers and glamorous ambitions, their parents toiled to put food on the table and provide the loving comfort synonymous with home.
Ellen's sister, Marge, one year her junior, was a natural beauty with shoulder-length chestnut hair, forming waves around her heart-shaped face. Mayme was next in line, three years after Marge, and she possessed an artistic temperament prone to tantrums and theatrical posturing. When she wanted to make a point, Mayme shook her pixie-style brown hair and stared a person down with green eyes so large everyone thought they would bulge right out of her head. At the age of ten, Mayme began to stage plays for the family's enjoyment.
"Oh Romeo, Romeo, wherefa art thou?" She thought her dramatic presentation more than made up for performance deficiencies in diction and enunciation. Mayme practiced with her eyes closed in front of her siblings, trying to impress them with her acting skills. But when she opened her eyes to an empty room, giggling could be heard from her retreating audience. Following her creative reverie, Mayme stormed out of the room in search of a new audience.
The birth of Patrick Michael O'Malley in 1921, the first male to ensure the O'Malley name would carry on for generations, was a source of immense pride for his father.
Peeking into his handmade bassinet, Ellen marveled at Patrick's sky-blue eyes, dimples, and unruly mop of curly red hair. With his sweet temperament, it was easy to understand why he became a family favorite.
In her beautiful lilting voice, Mary sang her favorite Irish lullaby as she rocked her cherished son to sleep. Ellen reverently stood next to Patrick and reveled in the melodious sounds of "Magic O'er the Land." To christen the special occasion, Ellen brought in her mother's sewing kit and watched as she embroidered the initials PMO for Patrick Michael O'Malley on his blue baby blanket — a special honor for the newest member of the family.
Despite their newfound bliss, tragedy loomed on the horizon. The O'Malley family, and Ellen in particular, would soon face the harsh reality of life's fleeting joy morphing into despair, forever changed by evil.CHAPTER 2
AT SIX YEARS old, asleep in her trundle bed, Ellen awoke to an irrepressible urge for a glass of water. But she was so tired and didn't want to move, especially when she heard gentle snoring from Marge. Ellen fought the yearning until it grew stronger with each passing moment, as though someone continually nudged her to get up. Still sleepy, Ellen traipsed down the hall and passed by her baby brother's door. She saw her father standing over his crib and smiled to herself.
Ellen quietly entered the room but was shocked to discover the man was smaller than her father and smelled as though he hadn't bathed in weeks. Afraid to confront a stranger, Ellen slowly backed away and ran into her own room. Curiosity won out and she peeked from her doorway to see the man carrying Patrick wrapped in his blue baby blanket. The stranger was making strange cooing noises and handled her brother with the same gentleness as her own father. Ellen wasn't sure what to make of it, but it didn't appear he would harm Patrick.
After the man cleared the hallway, Ellen headed for her parents' bedroom. The door was locked and Ellen could hear strange sounds coming from within. The children had been warned not to enter their room if the door was locked. Unsure of her next step, and fearful of being reprimanded at disobeying her parents, Ellen returned to her room and decided to tell her parents in the morning. She buried herself under the covers.
When daylight arrived, Ellen prayed she made the right decision but awoke to a nightmare. Her mother's screams could only mean one thing — Patrick was gone. Frantically, they searched the entire house and found the cellar door ajar. Ellen kept quiet as she recalled what had transpired during the night and realized her mistake. Despite a search by the entire neighborhood, Patrick's whereabouts remained a mystery.
Ellen retreated to the cellar and fought the guilt that consumed her like a fire, refusing to be extinguished. Oblivious to the passage of time, Ellen placed her head on bent knees with eyes firmly shut as she attempted to make herself as small as possible. She sat in the deathly silence, far removed from the anxiety and fear emanating in the rooms above. When nighttime arrived and Ellen could not be found, her parents frantically searched their home.
"Ellen, me darling. Where are ye?" cried an anxious Mary O'Malley.
Hearing the concern in her mother's voice and realizing she was sitting in the dark, Ellen became afraid and called out, "Ma, I hid in the cellar."
Mary ran to the cellar and scooped up her weeping child.
"Whatever could ye be thinkin', me darlin?"
But Ellen refused to answer.
Ellen heard her mother's cries night after night while pacing the floors.
"Mary, me love," said Michael O'Malley. "Please come back ta bed. Ye know we'll be searchin' tomorrow. All the neighborhood are makin' trips to St. Patrick's Church, each prayin' for Patrick's safe return."
During this time, without realizing it, Ellen picked up the mantle of guilt — a recurring role she played throughout her life.
Ellen didn't know what to do. What if the man returned and hurt her entire family? The dilemma of telling the truth or protecting her family became too great, and Ellen had difficulty eating and sleeping. Although she wrestled with her ever-growing anxiety over the next few weeks, Ellen didn't know how much longer she could withhold the truth from her parents. Almost three weeks to the day after the kidnapping, Ellen divulged the events surrounding Patrick's abduction to her parents.
"I, I s-s-saw ..." Ellen stammered as her body shook with fear. In a low voice she continued. " ... Wh-what happened to P-P-Patrick."
Following her declaration, Ellen saw hope in her mother's face for the first time since Patrick was taken.
"Ellen, me dearest. Why haven't ye mentioned this before?" her mother asked in a tremulous voice.
"Because your door was locked and you told us never to bother you." Her parents exchanged guilty glances as Ellen wept until it reached a heartbreaking sound that defined the extensive burden she carried in solitude.
Mary cradled Ellen in her lap to soothe her and said, "Darlin', ye are not to blame. But, child, we need to know — whatever did ye see?"
"It was dark, and at first, I thought it was Da bending over Patrick. When I realized it wasn't, I ran back to my room where I peeked out and saw him carrying Patrick wrapped in his blue blanket. But the man was a stranger in our home when it was dark outside. Although he seemed gentle and comforted Patrick, something felt wrong. I wasn't sure what to do so I stayed in bed and didn't tell anyone. I'm so sorry." Ellen tried to be brave, but her chin quivered as tears continued to flow down her cheeks.
Mary comforted her oldest child.
"Me darlin, we know the tellin' is hard, but we need to know all of it. Can ye help us?"
Ellen nodded, and for the first time thought she could shed some of her deep-seated shame.
"Sweetheart, did ye see what he looked like?" her father asked in a voice cracking with anxiety and dread.
"He was very pale, shorter than Da, with greasy hair and smelled real bad."
Mary held her daughter until she cried herself to sleep. Mary laid her daughter down, gently covered her with a blanket, and kissed her forehead. Mary's heart was filled with grief and anger from her own loss and the malevolence that stole her child's innocence at such a tender age.
The following day, Ellen's parents returned to the Cleveland Police Station with their daughter's account, but the vague information failed to yield any leads and the case remained unsolved.
Several weeks later, Ellen was placing garbage into the bin behind their home when she found a newspaper article wrapped around fish bones and dug it from the trash. The man in the photo stared back at her with sinister eyes. Without realizing it, Ellen placed it in her pocket and silently trudged back into her home as panic consumed her. Mary found her daughter shaking in a chair with her small hands clenched into fists as Ellen stared blankly ahead. Mary wrapped her oldest child, clearly traumatized, in a blanket and carried her onto the porch swing. She held Ellen close and stroked her hair while slowly rocking.
Over the next three days, Ellen remained mute and refused to eat. When her father could no longer bear his child's suffering, he took her gently in his arms and whispered in her ear. Ellen's wracking sobs, held at bay as she bore her guilt in silence, were finally released. Ellen unclenched her fists to reveal an article torn from the newspaper about traffic fatalities. It featured a picture of the latest victim, a hit-and-run casualty around the time of Patrick's abduction. She looked into her father's eyes until he understood. Carefully looking at the man's features, Michael saw the similarities in Ellen's prior description.
"Ellen, me darlin, was this the man who took Patrick?"
Ellen put her head down in shame and whispered, "Yes, Da."
Armed with the newspaper photograph, Michael raced up to the police station where he breathlessly told his story to the officer on duty. "Officer Mulligan, me name is Michael O'Malley and I have here a picture of the cowardly man who took our dear Patrick. Me oldest child saw it in a paper and says it was he."
"Mr. O'Malley, this is good news. It's our first lead and we'll track down this man and his family to get to the bottom of this." He added, "You go on home now and let us do our job." When Michael hesitated, Officer Mulligan said compassionately, "I have children, too, Mr. O'Malley. You have my word we will do our best."
"But, Officer, surely ..." Michael couldn't finish his sentence as rage and helplessness choked any semblance of conscious thought. Instead, Michael put his head down, thanked the kind man, and returned home.
The next two days felt like a year as the O'Malleys waited to hear from Officer Mulligan, someone they trusted to keep his word. The family greeted the officer within seconds of his knock, and as he looked at the young children, he asked, "Mr. and Mrs. O'Malley, perhaps we could have a word in private?" "Children, run upstairs and play." They trudged up the stairs as it became apparent the kind officer did not bring Patrick home — surely, an ominous sign.
Entering the parlor, Officer Mulligan recommended Michael and Mary sit down before he reported his findings. Mary slumped into the nearest chair as Michael, too upset to relax, stood behind his wife in support.
"Now, Officer, what did ye find out?" Michael's voice was unsteady as he prepared for the unthinkable.
"We tracked down the accident report and identified the man in the photo as George Reams. He was survived by his wife, Dora. We went to their home and attempted to interview her, but it wasn't possible."
"What do ye mean, it's not possible? By God, if I have the doin' of it, I will make her talk."
Mary patted her husband's arm and said, "Michael, let the man speak."
"Dora Reams has not uttered a word, eaten, or moved since the untimely demise of her husband. We searched the home but didn't find any evidence of a baby. We interviewed the neighbors, and they confirmed the couple never had any children. From the neighbors' brief conversations with George, Dora became a recluse when she discovered she could not have any children. The mere sight of a little one sent her into a severe depression. We've done all we can, but there isn't much to go on. I wish I had better news, but all I have are the facts and they're a sorry lot at that."
Mary rose and escorted Officer Mulligan to the door before collapsing in her husband's arms. Their tears mingled as they realized the finality of Patrick's absence from the O'Malley home. With their hopes raised so high, they were crestfallen when their only lead failed to locate the light of their life.
The children were gathered at the top of the stairs and Ellen called down tentatively, "May we come downstairs now?"
Brushing away tear-stained cheeks, Mary and Michael shared a look — each drawing strength from the other — before they responded. "Yes, me darlin'. We need to speak with ye."
While Ellen and her sisters sat in the parlor across from their parents, the news Patrick may never return home started a fresh round of crying. To their credit, neither Michael nor Mary shed a tear as they consoled their children. Ellen, however, buried the combined guilt and sense of loss deep in her heart.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Paradox Forged in Blood"
Copyright © 2016 Mary Frances Fisher.
Excerpted by permission of Cambron Publishing Group LLC.
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