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A Matt Conley Mystery
When Detectives Matt Conley and Danny Angelo are called to the site of a grisly murder in a forest north of Boston, they begin a journey that will span New England – and challenge their beliefs about reality and the supernatural.
Gypsies in a nearby campground lead Angelo to accuse knife-thrower Luca Starbird of the crime, while Conley’s in no shape to judge. His wife is dying, and Luca’s sister Gina bears an uncanny resemblance to the vibrant woman Lisa once was. The two could be twins.
Luca escapes custody, and Conley and Angelo give chase. Another horrific murder raises the stakes. Tragedy strikes in the White Mountains and Conley snaps. He goes into hiding with the Gypsies on the Maine seacoast, pursuing a mission of justice and redemption only he can unravel or understand.
Does Conley truly believe Luca is innocent? Or has he fallen under the spell of an enchanting Gypsy?
Page Count: 252
Word Count: 54450
Gypsy children watched. A dog with matted hair and a scar across an eye barked but kept its distance.
Conley walked to the unicorn van—was drawn to the van—and stood next to the painting of the bright creature flying through dark blue sky. He hunched against the side door, head down, and slapped his hand on the cold metal. The girl in the van would surely lead him to the knife thrower.
After a long wait, the latch clicked and the door slid sideways, a soft, squealing whir on a track. Gina appeared—no, Lisa—almond skin and liquid eyes just inches away. She was kneeling on a worn carpet whose frayed edges curled over the metal track and spiraled toward the ground. The old man lay on a thin mattress behind her. His eyes grew.
Conley raised his hands in a show of peace.
Or a plea for forgiveness?
A weak dome light shone in the middle of the ceiling, highlighting the colorful afghan that covered the man. His pale face was bone white.
Gina looked past Conley at the army that had invaded, and when she spoke her breath was warm and odorless.
“What do they want?”
“A girl was murdered nearby,” he said. “It’s about her.”
She sank back on her haunches and waved him in. He climbed inside, into humid air. Her shoulder touched his and he felt heat and firmness through her gossamer blouse. When she closed the door and made him part of her private space, he suddenly felt surprisinglycomfortable in the small space. Maybe even—welcome? More likely it was wishful thinking. God knew welcome wasn’t a sensation he felt much at home any more.
The woman bent toward a wooden box and her leg brushed his.
“What do you want, Mr. Policeman?” she asked, and opened an ornate cigar box whose top had La Corona printed in gold letters. A sweet, smoky scent filled the van.
“I want to help. I also apologize for my partner. He shouldn’t have attacked your…?”
“Your grandfather. I hope he’ll be all right.”
“I also need to talk with the man who threw the knives. Where was he last night?” Conley felt compelled to touch the old man. His skin felt like paper.
“My brother Luca was here with me,” she said and reached into the box. When she withdrew her hand the fingertips glistened. She caressed the ragged cut on the old man’s temple with the clear liquid and ran her fingers the length of the wound. Two more passes and the cut was gone, erased.
Like it never was.
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