I'm pleased to bring you the latest from Aaron Paul Lazar,
Spirit Me Away ~ a Gus Lagarde Mystery.
Boston, Massachusetts: It’s the summer of ’69—the parks are flooded with flower children and a hot new band called Led Zeppelin is set to appear at the Boston Tea Party. But for one newlywed couple just beginning their lives together, there will be no peace.
In the cradle of sex, drugs, and rock ’n roll, Gus and Elsbeth LeGarde are music students attending the New England Conservatory of Music, after a wedding kept secret from their families. When they discover a bruised and sobbing teenage girl on the Boston Commons who can’t remember who she is, or how she got there, the couple decides to “adopt” her to help find her identity.
But Gus and Elsbeth aren’t prepared to be plunged into a violent world of rape, abuse, and a ring of white slave traders who’ll stop at nothing to take back their property—or to acquire new flesh in the form of Gus’s beautiful young bride.
At times nostalgic, heart-stopping, and breathlessly dramatic, Spirit Me Away is a thrilling romantic mystery set against the colorful backdrop of the sixties—with an unforgettable conclusion at the greatest rock festival of all time.
Chapter 1June 28, 1969
The girl slumped on a park bench clutching a battered old guitar case. Long copper curls tumbled forward in an untidy mass, nearly obscuring her eyes. She covered her face with her hands, and it was at that moment I noticed her shoulders shaking.
The poor thing was crying.
Concerned, I stepped closer to the balcony railing to get a better look, wondering what was wrong.
I’d just wandered out to our terrace after working for two solid hours on my music theory homework. I needed fresh air, because I didn’t think my brain could process any more post tonal theory, 12-tone series, octotonic scales, or especially the impossible analysis of Bartok's String Quartet Number 4, first movement. And although the scenes on the Boston Public Garden were usually quite lively, filled with hippies sitting cross-legged on the grass, mothers pushing strollers, and dogs chasing Frisbees, I hadn’t expected to see this poor creature sobbing on the park bench.
I called to Elsbeth, who’d been playing a salty Brazilian tango on our beat-up baby grand. “Honey? Can you come here for a minute?”
The expression in Elsbeth’s dark eyes swung from musical enchantment to mild curiosity. She pushed back from the piano and joined me on the balcony. “What is it?”
I pointed to the girl. “Over there.”
My wife peered across Beacon Street to the sidewalk bordering the park, where the girl sat on the bench, weeping harder now.
“Oh, the poor thing. Another lost flower child.”
“Yeah.” A pang of empathy banged through me, which was always a bad sign. It meant I’d probably do something I’d regret. Regardless, I couldn’t help but wonder what had happened to the girl, who looked to be about our age, maybe eighteen or twenty. She wore typical hippie garb, like most of our Bean Town flower children, with patched bellbottom jeans, sandals, a tie-dyed tee shirt, and a suede vest with beaded fringe.
I slid my arm around Elsbeth’s waist, watching the street below bustling with activity. Groups of vibrant young hippies, flowing with beads, long hair, and whorls of colorful fabric, tripped and laughed, floating across the park to gather and play music.
Fat pigeons gathered and cooed at the girl’s feet, as if in tune with her sorrow. Their green metallic feathers winked in the sunlight.
Strains of the Doors’ “Break on Through” wafted from someone’s transistor radio. Taxis, cars, and buses engorged with passengers trundled past, honking and billowing black smoke. Throngs of businessmen hurried through the park, dressed in neatly pressed suits and crisp white shirts, ignoring the forlorn figure on the bench.
No one stopped.
No one gave her a second glance.
I turned to my wife. “We can’t leave her there.”
“I know.” She grabbed my hand, pulling me toward the door. “Come on.”
We hurried down one flight of stairs and crossed the street.
The Boston Public Garden—a grassy, expansive square that was home to the famous swan boats—teemed with people and mirrored its sister park, the Boston Common. Up until 1830, livestock actually grazed on the grass of America’s oldest public park. Charles Street neatly bisected both the Commons and the Gardens, as the locals affectionately called them. Venerable old streets with names like Tremont, Park, Boylston, and Beacon enclosed the greenery.
The girl’s shoulders continued to shake and long sobs wracked her body.
We approached her slowly.
“Honey?” Elsbeth said. “What’s wrong? Can we help you?”
“Huh?” The girl sniffled and looked up. Her orange granny glasses had slipped down her nose. Dusky violet eyes flashed with confusion and tears streamed along her cheeks. A large, oily spot stained her vest, her jeans were recently ripped and the knee bloodied, and her forehead was smudged.
“Miss?” I said. “Do you need help?”
She glanced from me to Elsbeth and back again. Her shoulders hitched once, and she lowered her face into her hands. “I don’t know,” she wailed in a shaky voice. “I just don’t know.”
Elsbeth perched beside her on the bench, and I couldn’t help but notice how different they looked. Elsbeth was brown-eyed and pale-skinned, with long, dark, curly hair pulled back in a mother-of-pearl clasp at the nape of her neck. She wore a black turtleneck, tapered jeans, and comfortable buckskin shoes. Her lipstick, in a deep shade of rose, was strategically applied to appear natural, and emphasized her full, bow-shaped lips. This lost girl had masses of wild hair the color of sunlight on amaretto, a beautiful cherry-gold. Her fair skin was flawless, and her eyes reminded me of purple grapes held to the sunlight.
Elsbeth tried again. “Honey? What’s your name?”
The girl hiccupped and looked at her guitar case, plastered in fluorescent stickers boasting the words “Flower Power,” “Peace,” and “Love Rules.” A tag hung from the handle. She touched it nervously.
“May I?” I asked.
She nodded. “Sure.”
I leaned down and flipped the nametag around. A single name was scribbled in bubbly handwriting. “Valerie,” I read aloud. “Is that you?”
Slanting her eyes at Elsbeth, then at me, she finally stared down at her hands. “I don’t know. I’m not even sure this is my guitar.” She began to cry in earnest again.
Elsbeth slipped an arm around her shoulders. “Listen. Why don’t you come inside with us? We’ll give you something to eat and get you cleaned up. After that, we can try to figure out what happened to you. How’s that sound?”
Valerie, if that was her name, looked at Elsbeth, wiping tears from her cheeks. “Okay,” she said in a small voice. “Maybe just for a few minutes.”
Visit his website at http://www.lazarbooks.com
and watch for his upcoming SPIRIT ME AWAY (2014), DEVIL’S LAKE(2014), and VIRTUOSO (2014).
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