Seven Tears for Apollo

Seven Tears for Apollo

by Phyllis A. Whitney

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Overview

A retreat to Greece becomes a dangerous trap for a grieving and haunted widow in this novel from “a superb and gifted storyteller” (Mary Higgins Clark).
 
Ever since Dorcas Brandt’s husband, Gino Nikkaris, died in a plane crash, she’s been beset by troubling suspicions that his shady intrigues in the art world may have been the cause of his death. Desperate for both a new future and answers to the questions about Gino’s past, Dorcas whisks her daughter away to the Greek island of Rhodes. Among Gino’s family, friends, and former colleagues—and a kindhearted American named Johnny—Dorcas hopes to find a semblance of peace as she traverses the magnificent ruins and ancient fortresses.
 
But her dreams are soon dashed: There’s something accusatory and unforgiving in her late husband’s elderly female patron; the peculiar woman enlisted as her daughter’s nanny is a black hole of hostility; a new love is under threat; and as scrawled warnings appear and disappear before her eyes, she fears for her own sanity. Now, as her husband’s mysterious past casts a shadow over Dorcas’s every move, the young mother must confront not only a terrible truth but also the terrifying fate that awaits her on the white cliffs of the Aegean.
 
Set against a picturesque Mediterranean backdrop, this novel of lies and family secrets from a New York Times–bestselling and Edgar Award–winning author is “told with the skill that has caused Miss Whitney to be compared with Mary Stewart and Daphne du Maurier” (The Springfield Republican).
 
This ebook features an illustrated biography of Phyllis A. Whitney including rare images from the author’s estate.
 
 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504045889
Publisher: Open Road Media
Publication date: 08/29/2017
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 235
Sales rank: 95,731
File size: 17 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

The museum's statue of Apollo was a copy. The original held a place of honor in Olympia in the faraway Peloponnese. On his pedestal the god stood unclothed in the full magnificence of male youth. A scant drapery broke the line of shoulder and outstretched arm, drawn casually across the back to hang downward in marble folds above the left wrist. Stylized ringlets rimmed his brow and curled upward at the nape of his neck. The hand was gone from the outstretched arm, but his eyes, blank now in marble sockets, followed the direction of the lifted arm in its gesture of command. There seemed at first glance a feminine softness in the rounded curve of cheek and chin, the fullness of lip. But muscular strength underlay the rounding to lend, perhaps, a hint of cruelty that befitted a god who had blazed across the Grecian firmament with all the fiery splendor of the sun.

The girl who stood before the statue, staring upward through swimming tears, had something of the same classic beauty of the age to which the figure of the god belonged. She was in her early twenties, tall, with a slender column of neck supporting the heavy coil of blond hair she wore upon its nape. There was a grace of modeling to the line of her forehead and nose, although here was no chill marble but warm flesh that could feel the flicking lash of pain. Behind gray eyes, fully lidded, was a human brain, and where there is mind there is memory and anguish.

Seven times she must weep for Apollo, he had said, before she would shake free of the bonds that held her — whatever that meant. Gino Nikkaris had loved to speak like the Delphic oracle, mouthing fine, mystical phrases upon which many interpretations might be placed. She had stood weeping before this very statue five years ago when she had seen Gino for the first time. She had been seventeen then, and the presence of the statue had been incidental. It was her father's death, three months before, that caused her tears, and she had faced Apollo so that her back would be to the Sunday crowds thronging this place where her father had been a curator for so long that it seemed a second home to her.

Gino, knowing every line of the original by heart, had given the statue no second glance. He had looked at Dorcas Brandt and seen in her face, for all her fairness, the mark of Greece — a mark rightfully descended from a long-ago great-grandmother whose name had also been Dorcas. Gino was ten years older than she, but ten years were hardly more to him than to Apollo, and her very youth had appealed to him. The seeming helplessness of youth, the lack of experience had spoken to him strongly, had even played into his hands. What chance had she, lonely and too ready to trust, to resist the dark fascination that was Gino?

There had been no look of Greece about him for all that his father came from Rhodes. His family resemblance had been outwardly on the side of his Italian mother. But the hot mixture of the two countries in his blood had given him a storminess of impulse, a volatility, a leaning toward violence that made him as compelling to behold in his opposite way as was this calm and wholly Greek statue of the Olympic Apollo before which she stood these several years later.

A voice spoke behind her and she turned in quick dismay — as though the past could repeat itself. But it was only a museum guard who had known her father and herself as a little girl.

"Dorcas, isn't it?" he asked. "Mrs. Nikkaris, I should say. I was sorry to hear about the plane crash ... your husband ..."

He had seen her tears and misinterpreted them, but she had no wish to explain.

"Thank you," she said, and then brightly, blinking away the grief that could not be for Gino, but was only for the girl Dorcas Brandt had been and would never be again, "I'm going away soon. On a trip to Greece. It's a job, really. I'll be acting as Miss Farrar's secretary. But it will be a change and — and very interesting, I'm sure."

How lame that sounded. But there could be no putting into easy words all this trip meant to her. Partly because of a longing to renew herself and shake off the last vestige of her illness in the golden light of Greece. Partly as a pilgrimage — something she owed in spirit to those who were gone. And partly because of her need to find the wife of Markos Dimitriou; her desperate need to see the woman, talk with her, discover, if it was possible, the truth of what had happened.

The guard shook hands warmly and wished her a good trip. As Dorcas watched him move away, she thought of Markos, who had also worked in this museum, and had been her most trusted friend after the death of her father. Especially her friend during the last miserable year of her marriage to Gino. Markos had been near retirement when he died. Remembering, she stiffened herself against this particular anguish.

Gino, in a sense, had paid in retribution for any violent action he might have taken, dying himself in violence. Yet what he had set in motion had not ended with his death. She could defend herself only with the truth and she must find it without allowing herself to be destroyed in the process. There must not be another breakdown of the sort she had so recently suffered, no return to that place of nurses and doctors that fell just short of being an institution. As Fernanda Farrar had said, somewhat doubtfully, she must start anew.

There was young Beth to think of. Her daughter — and Gino's. Beth, who must never know what her father had truly been, who must not grow up to resemble him.

Dorcas looked up at the statue, and now her eyes were dry. "I've cried for you twice," she said softly. "They say that Rhodes was your favorite island, so if I must weep again, I'll do it there."

The whimsy cheered her a little. She left the museum and took a bus down the avenue for home. In the spring dusk street lamps were coming on and the great buildings marched in a shimmer of light down the length of their narrow island.

The building in which she and Gino had lived was an old one and no modern skyscraper. But it was high enough to give Fernanda Farrar the penthouse she occupied and into which Dorcas and Beth had moved after Gino's death. Dorcas had been willing enough to get out of rooms that bore Gino's stamp, glad to accept Fernanda's invitation to move upstairs. Fernanda had been something of a foster mother to Gino, but Dorcas had been fond of her in spite of that close relationship. Perhaps more than anyone else Fernanda had been blinded, dazzled, subjugated by Gino. Perhaps more than anyone else she grieved for his loss, although being Fernanda she would never give ground to a show of weakness. Until she was strong again, Dorcas would accept the sheltering wing she offered. Until the trip to Greece had been made and what must be done had been done, she could feel reasonably safe in Fernanda's penthouse. Nothing could touch her there.

The self-service elevator stopped at the fourth floor and she left it to pick up Beth, who was visiting a playmate downstairs. Beth was nearly four. She had Gino's dark coloring, but there, for the most part, all resemblance ended. Beth's was a quiet nature, imaginative and rather shy, except on those occasions when she lost her temper. Then she was alarmingly like Gino. He had loved Beth too well, too lavishly, too possessively. That, too, was ended. And better so.

The bow had pulled off Beth's silky-dark pony tail, her face bore a trace of currant jam, and she had a slightly doggy smell about her from playing with her friend's spaniel. When she saw Dorcas in the doorway, she left the dog to run to her mother.

"Mommy!" she cried with the warmth that always made Dorcas's heart turn over and reminded her painfully of the months when her illness had put her so far out of Beth's reach. She caught the little girl up and hugged her, doggy smell and all. They went upstairs together with Beth's hand in hers, and she unlocked the door to Fernanda's penthouse without presentiment.

At her touch a creamy-shaded light came on in the vestibule. In the living room beyond, dusk pressed against high windows. Clearly Fernanda was not yet home from her afternoon lecture. When Fernanda Farrar entered a room she automatically shed gloves and coat, hat and handbag as she crossed its width, even kicking off her spike-heeled shoes if her feet were tormenting her. But while the galley sheets of her new book lay spread upon the sofa where she had left them, and her pencil had rolled to the floor, the room was innocent of strewn possessions, the apartment empty of sound. The eminent Miss Farrar lived with an exuberance that did not tend toward so hushed a quiet as this. Since Hilda had taken the afternoon off, even the kitchen quarters were still.

Beth chattered happily about the spaniel and Dorcas walked, still without premonition, to the door of the guest room Fernanda had turned over to her and Beth. She flicked on the overhead light and stood transfixed in the doorway, her grasp tightening on Beth's hand.

It had happened again.

Although it was impossible for this to have occurred in a penthouse, high on the roof, the pattern had been repeated. The other time had been in the old apartment downstairs, with a balcony easy to the street. That was one reason why she had moved in with Fernanda, where she would be up here, far out of reach. Yet the evidence lay everywhere.

Drawers in her desk had been pulled open, her papers scattered. The bureau had been dumped free of its contents, hatboxes pulled from the closet, her traveling case opened.

"Look!" Beth cried in bewilderment.

Dorcas fought against the faintness that was a remnant of those terrible months when she could scarcely raise her head for lack of strength. That dreaded feeling must not come again, and she thrust the wave of vertigo back.

Last time there had been one strange touch in the confusion that had been left behind. An eerie touch that had been more frightening, somehow, than the mere disturbance of her physical possessions. Now she left Beth in the doorway and stepped into the room, reluctant, yet drawn by her own need to be sure. There was no marking on the bureau as there had been before. But she had no time to feel relief, for as she turned toward the beds, she saw the two chalked circles upon the dark wood of one — almost like disembodied eyes that watched her without blinking.

Fear ran sickly through her. This was deliberate. No chance prowler had been in this room. There was ugly purpose here.

Leaving the light burning, she turned from the bedroom and saw the open french doors in the living room — doors that gave onto the roof and garden that made this place so desirable. She did not need to step outside to remember the closeness of the next roof. A man who was not afraid of a good leap could make the distance easily. Yet such a possibility had seemed remote, unlikely, and Fernanda had assured her it could not happen here.

So let Fernanda find this, she thought. Let Fernanda decide what to do. Since nothing had been taken that other time, Fernanda had rather pooh-poohed its importance. She had said the chalk marks were the work of some zany prowler, and the police had also put them down to a nut. Dorcas had no desire to call the police now and deal with their further questioning. Let Fernanda handle this.

But she could not wait here for Fernanda or Hilda to return. She could not remain in the apartment with those two chalked circles staring at her. Yet she did not want to frighten Beth.

"Come," she said to the child. "Let's go down to the drugstore and have hot chocolates with marshmallows on top."

Beth regarded her solemnly. Her small, dark-eyed face with its cleft chin that was like Dorcas's own wore the stamp of awareness. A child seemed to have antennae that sensed falseness of tone and action. She was not fooled by this sudden cheery plan. Fear had touched her with its contagion, and Dorcas could not bear to see it in her face.

"We'll come back in a little while," she promised.

"When Aunt Fern is here to take care of us?" Beth asked.

"I can take care of you!" Dorcas said, too quickly.

Beth had grown all too accustomed to turning to Fernanda rather than to her mother. She could not be blamed, but this must change.

"Come along," Dorcas said more gently, and held out her hand. There was a second's hesitation before Beth took it and they went out of the apartment together.

The elevator carried them down, its elderly machinery creaking in the empty silence of the shaft. The dark wood of the lobby floor echoed to the sound of their feet as they hurried toward the door. Not until the cool air of early evening struck her cheeks did the faintness fade and a healthy lacing of anger sweep through Dorcas.

Gino was gone, but his hand still lay heavily upon her life. That slender, long-fingered hand that could nevertheless wield a force she would never forget. There was nothing definite in these two occurrences to point to Gino's friends, yet, instinctively, she knew. There was her experience of the past. Whenever he went away on a trip, he set one or another of his cronies to watch over her. For her protection, he said. But she'd always had a sense of being spied upon. Now, although Gino was two months dead, his friends had not left her alone. And there was the matter of the letter.

A few days after the air crash a man she had never seen before had called on her, asking for a letter that might have come for Gino from Greece after his death. In spite of his rather unpleasant persistence, Dorcas had dealt summarily with him. She wanted nothing to do with Gino's unsavory schemes and refused a bit indignantly to let a stranger go through Gino's papers. It was true that among other mail which had come in those few days there had been one oddly worded letter from Greece. She had made no sense of it and had put it away, meaning to puzzle over it when she had time.

She had not looked at it since she'd moved in with Fernanda, but perhaps she should read it again and see if she could make any sense of its gibberish. If it was in any way important, perhaps it was this that their "burglar" searched for, leaving his warning signature behind him.

At her side Beth skipped along the sidewalk, reassured, now they were outdoors, her hand in her mother's, the disturbance of the bedroom forgotten.

They sat in a booth, and Dorcas let Beth stir and dribble to her complete satisfaction, grateful for the silence of the little girl's concentration. Her eyes watched the big clock over the soda fountain. She would give Fernanda and Hilda a good half-hour. She sipped the hot liquid gratefully and tried not to think about anything unpleasant.

Beth, waiting for the chocolate to cool, wriggled to the edge of the seat and stared at a revolving rack of paperbacks nearby.

"There's one of Aunt Fern's books!" she cried, recognizing the cover from the copies she had seen in Fernanda's apartment.

Dorcas nodded. Fernanda's books were everywhere these days. Her lighthearted, screwball adventures at home and abroad had made good reading for the American public for more than two decades. Fern Farrar — Fernanda to her friends — had a genius for being in the right place at the worst possible moment, with adventure and hilarious confusion the inevitable result. The coming trip to Rhodes would not be a quiet one, Dorcas suspected. There would be little time for brooding and remembering. She would have to work to keep up with Fernanda.

Fern Farrar was doing a book on renowned islands, and Rhodes was to have its place in a lively chapter or two. The other islands had been collected during work on previous books, so she could afford to concentrate on Rhodes. Nothing could have suited Dorcas better, since rumor had it that Markos Dimitriou's wife had gone home to Rhodes.

The thought of Markos brought pain again. How well she remembered the visits he had made to the Brandt household ever since she was a child. An older sister of her father had kept house for them in the years after Dorcas's mother had died, and that house had always been open to Markos. When her father brought him home from the museum for supper, he would sometimes stay on till late at night. Dorcas could remember falling asleep to the sound of their voices as they sat, as likely as not, in the kitchen over ten-o'clock bowls of steaming chowder, arguing to their hearts' content over the modern Greece Markos had grown up in and the ancient Greece so dear to her father. An unlikely friendship between a man of considerable education and one of very little, yet warm and basic owing to a common philosophy of life as well as a common devotion and interest. Her father had gone to Greece on a brief trip only once when he was a young man, but according to Markos he had seen all the wrong things.

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Seven Tears for Apollo"
by .
Copyright © 1963 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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