Shadow of the Gypsy by Shelly Frome Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Josh Bartlett had figured all the angles, changed his name, holed up as a small-town features writer in the seclusion of the Blue Ridge. Only a few weeks more and he'd begin anew, return to the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut and Molly (if she'd have him) and, at long last, live a normal life.
After all, it was a matter of record that Zharko had been deported well over a year ago. The shadowy form John had glimpsed yesterday at the lake was only that --- a hazy shadow under the eaves of the activities building. It stood to reason his old nemesis was still ensconced overseas in Bucharest or thereabouts well out of the way.
And no matter where he was, he wouldn't travel south over eight hundred miles to track Josh down. Surely that couldn't be, not now, not after all this.
Quickly, he was outside in the snow again, searching frantically for the Christmas present. Trudging through the stands of evergreens in his slippers, shivering so hard he couldn’t stand it, frozen crusted pine combs under foot till he spotted the van in a clearing. There were shouts and threats. There was a bloodcurdling scream. He thrust himself forward to see, though for the life of him he didn’t want to see, didn’t want to ever know. A dagger flashed in the moonlight. Zharko’s hand raised up and plummeted down over and over, finally cutting off the screaming for good.
Spinning around, Josh scurried over the pine combs and raced off, shaking with fear and cold, searching for the Christmas present. Longing to join the kids beyond the woods, snug inside, embraced by their mothers and the warmth of the hearth, glistening presents dangling under the tree laced with tinsel and garlands of spangled light.
He thrashed around seeking this first-ever Christmas present that would make everything nice but found only his pillow and woke with a start. He sat up. There was no going back to sleep opting for dreamy images of walking to school with Molly as the weather turned to spring, buttercups lining the path. No way to erase anything. He was left with the same chill again from this morning turning into an ache that had no name.
An ache it was useless to gloss over.
Shelly Frome is a member of Mystery Writers of America, a professor of dramatic arts emeritus at UConn, a former professional actor, and a writer of crime novels and books on theater and film. He also is a features writer for Gannett Publications. His fiction includes Sun Dance for Andy Horn, Lilac Moon, Twilight of theDrifter, Tinseltown Riff,Murder Run, Moon Games,The Secluded Village Murders and Miranda and the D-Day Caper. Among his works of non-fiction are The Actors Studio: A History, a guide to playwriting and one on screenwriting,Shadow of the Gypsy is his latest foray into the world of crime and the amateur sleuth. He lives in Black Mountain, North Carolina.
Finding myself between projects, I often ask myself why I can’t simply go on with my life, do the chores, make the rounds, engage in social activities, etc.? Then I start to recall what other writers of fiction have disclosed. To cite a few, there’s the opportunity for revenge, a source of entertainment with the potential to entertain others, a chance to confront something or someone that will never play itself out in reality.
Personally speaking, I myself began to consider what Anne Lamott suggested on you-tube that led to the development of my latest tale Shadow of theGypsy. She put it this way: How alive are you willing to be? Diving deep within yourself, delving for your truth that potentially will become so meaningful it will double back on your readers’ lives? What’s truly at risk here during the course of this possible odyssey? What’s the driving force underpinning something you can’t afford to lose like a loved one; the chance of hitting the jackpot and a carefree life; a rung atop the ladder of success, etc. Now let it happen and work through the throes of the aftermath. Along these same lines, what are you so conflicted about you can’t afford to face the consequences? But if you do go through with it fictitiously, the pull of what happens promises to be much more compelling than continuing to remain stuck.
As a case in point, during the early days of vaguely contemplating Shadow, I recalled feeling greatly deprived as a kid because I never had a father and my mother barely looked out for me. On the other hand, it left me free to experience all kinds of things and see for myself. But to write about my own life was too pat, just a matter of this happened and then that. Nothing that built toward some meaningful closure. Nothing that would sustain my imagination.
But then, finally, came the trigger of the magical what-if? What if the mother in question was a complete mystery, a former foster child from Hungary who, rumor had it, had been taken in by some denomination which ran an exclusive private school in the pristine hills of Connecticut? What if she had some dicey connection with a rogue gypsy who was also from the “old country”? What would her estranged son have to gain by confronting her? What would he have to lose as his life potentially turned upside down? It was a start. It was a beginning.
It had promise well beyond the same old routine.
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