Amber Circle: Episode I [Amber Circle E-Soap Series]
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by T. C. Jilke
Description: Welcome To The World Of Amber Circle.....A place where lies, deception, and intrigue hide behind every door--where dirty secrets are buried in attics, basements, and cemeteries...where love and hatred blur into a blood-red haze of passion, danger, and even murder.....In Episode 1 of Amber Circle, Dana Grayson, an antiquities dealer with a "special gift" for the paranormal, arrives in Amberston to conduct research for a book she's writing concerning the supposed hauntings within the old town. One site in particular intrigues her, an ancient and decrepit estate known as Chantilly, oddly abandoned long ago by the Devon clan, the town's wealthiest and most influential family. When Dana checks into the historical Silver Belle--a former bordello and now a respectable Bed & Breakfast--she not only experiences vibrations from out of the past, but also finds herself unwittingly drawn into one of the town's greatest--and most lethal--mysteries.....Kendra Devon Tayte, young heiress to her family's fortune, visits her ill grandfather at Mercy Hospital. To her dismay, her worst fears seem to be coming true when Harold Devon--always her staunch supporter and one of the only men she completely trusts--confesses he has given up on life. Additionally, he reveals to her a shocking secret that has the potential of changing her life forever. To further complicate matters, Kendra witnesses a side to her grandmother, Olivia, that has her questioning the woman's sanity. Later, when Kendra decides to numb her emotional grief at a local club, a strange young woman introduces herself and gives her every reason to believe that even her recent marriage to the sexy Skylar Tayte is also in serious jeopardy.....Olivia Devon, Harold's wife and matriarch of the powerful clan now living on the cul-de-sac known as Amber Circle, has her own dark secrets concerning her hated spouse, several of the hospital employees, as well as the old family estate, Chantilly. In a desperate bid to salvage her reputation and her pride, Olivia decides to embark on a course of action that could systematically destroy the status quo of both Amberston's social and business community, as well as land her neck-deep in a quagmire of explosive legal trouble.....
eBook Publisher: Amber Quill Press, 2005
eBookwise Release Date: August 2005
1 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [110 KB]
Reading time: 64-90 min.
Like a phantom in the mist, the dusty white pick-up truck appeared seemingly out of nowhere, its four wheels spewing up clouds of gray-brown dust. Dana Marie Grayson stomped the brake pedal of her Saturn SUV, narrowly avoiding what could have been a fatal accident. Her tires squealed a protest on the highway, the sound raking her spine and lifting the hair on the back of her neck. The team of farm hands lazing in the bed of the slow-moving pick-up, their heads covered in wide-brimmed hats or bandannas, their bare arms and chests browned nearly as dark as the fertile soil and shiny with perspiration, appeared more amused than traumatized at their brush with death. Several had the audacity to blow her kisses or whistle like sex-starved teenagers, while a few shook their fingers at her, like surrogate fathers reprimanding their negligent child, matching the voice of censure blaring through Dana's skull.
Concentrate on the road, you idiot, instead of thinking about ghosts! Your inattention might have earned you and a dozen or so vineyard workers a fresh chapter in the damned book!
Only when the pick-up moved forward at a brisker pace did Dana release her brake pedal and inch the SUV forward, maintaining at least four car lengths between the vehicles. After cursing herself a final time, she drew a deep, calming breath, then ejected the David Arkenstone CD from the stereo, replacing it with Up! by Shania Twain. Instantly, the bouncy title track proved beneficial, giving Dana a boost of the "aural caffeine" she craved. When coupled with ethereal instrumental soundscapes, this straight, flat stretch of road, sandwiched with unchanging scenery, had become almost hypnoptic, and it would be nice, Dana thought with heavy sarcasm, to reach Amberston in one piece.
Still, despite the music and the recent near-collision, her mind kept wandering, and she couldn't help falling once again under the spell of the land. To the north, stately and orderly vineyards or groves of the plumpest, juiciest fruit stretched as far as the eye could see. To the south, meandering parallel to the road on which she traveled, the Silver River twinkled in the morning sunlight. Beyond its swirling banks lay another road, also bordered with an endless sea of bountiful crops. So perfectly did the landscape mirror itself, that it wouldn't have surprised Dana had she viewed her reflection on the road across the river, her SUV a speck of blue against a backdrop of dominating green.
When a thought popped into her head, Dana silenced the music, then snatched her handy microcassette recorder, dangling from its strap on the SUV's rearview mirror. She lifted the device to her lips and pressed the RECORD button.
"How many souls still dwell within these lavish fields, working the lush soil year after year, decade after decade, without complaint, toiling specters chained by love to the land they cherished in life? Or is it the other way around? Perhaps they have no choice but to continue the perpetual, back-breaking drudgery, controlled even after death by the hardier spirits of those who once lorded over them? I wonder what one might see should they venture into the groves and vineyards with only the moonlight as their guide ... might they witness legions of ghosts, the peasants and their masters, still laboring to draw life-giving sustenance from the soil in which their flesh and bones now reside?"
Dana snapped off the recorder and let it swing back into place. So much history, so many mysteries, and so much damned research ahead of her.
Thankfully, she had done much of the prelimiary work, especially when it came to the town itself.
According to most historians, Amberston, California, sprouted its roots in the 1840s, or thereabouts, during the great California Gold Rush. For nearly two full decades, the lawless mining town consisted of nothing more than a dual strip of derelict shanties and crude cabins, interspersed with a haphazard assembly of hastily crafted taverns, general stores, and bordellos, which flanked the northern and southern banks of the Silver River. Only after the American Civil War, however, once the lust for gold faded and more enterprising souls discovered abundant riches in the form of the lush, fertile soil, did the town take a structured shape.
Designed by architect and surveyor Rufus Chance Galloway (1832-1897), a former Confederate soldier who hailed from Savannah, Georgia, Amberston gained its current shape in the form of shady and spacious avenues, shooting out north and south of the river, with east/west expansion being rather limited by these bountiful fields. Galloway, who cherished the strategic uniformity of his birthplace on the opposite end of the continent, designed his adopted home in a similar fashion. Like Savannah, Amberston began as a series of squares--equidistant from each other--that eventually multiplied to twelve in total (half of Savannah's number, in fact) by the time Galloway passed away. The squares, six above the river and six below, each had surrounding wards--or tything lots--of homes, and trust lots for public buildings. And also like Savannah, a tree-shaded park dominated the center of each square.
But with the community being bordered on each flank by the prized fields, the residential east/west avenues would not connect to outside thoroughfares, but ended instead in twenty-four identical cul-de-sacs, giving Amberston the appearance of a perfectly manufactured caterpillar. Only the Silver River and flanking Main Street North and Main Street South--the heart of the business district--dissected the caterpillar's center and led to the outside world, eventually connecting with the nearest town of note, Fresno. The single avenue running north and south through the town's center--the caterpillar's spine, if you will--became known as Amber Lane North and Amber Lane South, wedded in its center by Silver Bridge. And acting as the caterpillar's head, at the top of the northernmost square, lay Amber Circle, the twenty-fifth cul-de-sac and the grandest of them all. On the southern end of town stood the final cul-de-sac, the ancient Devon Circle, and Chantilly, the one-time residence of the town's leading family who had moved years ago to the newly ordained Amber Circle.
The family in question was part of the reason for Dana's current visit to the area. As an antiquities dealer by trade, she had performed various "treasure hunting missions" for the Devon family, primarily at the behest of Harold Devon--the patriarch of the clan--and Kendra Devon Tayte, the old gent's granddaughter, an interior designer. The duo had certainly given Dana quite a list of "missions" throughout the years, and their hefty commission checks and bonuses had aided her in reaching her current state of financial security. Now, with some bucks in the bank, she could pick and choose her clients, giving her time to write the book of her dreams, The Hauntings of Amberston, the other reason for today's trip.
Just then, the tips of the village's tallest buildings dotted the horizon. "Amberston, Population 23,878" adorned a road sign, and another smaller sign seemed to pop out of the trees, calling for a reduction of the speed limit to thirty miles per hour--the official start of Main Street North.
Dana rather liked Amberston, with its quaint shops and cafes, its tree-lined playgrounds, picnic areas, and public gardens. To this day, the town amazingly retained its inflexible design, a caterpillar-shaped island in the midst of miles upon miles of cherished farmland. From her research, she knew that some citizens--perhaps claustrophobic individuals who felt boxed in by the strict layout--attempted to fight the Village Hall. They demanded for many, if not all, of the picturesque cul-de-sacs to be bulldozed and the outer fields crisscrossed with roads that would connect the town to California's bustling, economic-boosting thoroughfares. But each complaint had fallen on deaf ears, probably since most of the farmland targeted for dissecting belonged to Amberston's wealthiest families, who each had a well-paid representative on the Village Board to protect their homes and investments.
As predicted, however, this unwavering mindset regarding the village's layout did create some economic problems, especially when the post-war boom of the 1940s and '50s swept America. So without being able to build outward, the industrial-minded elite did the next best thing--they built upward. Eventually, mini-behemoths of concrete and steel began dotting the caterpillar's spine--mostly north of the river, the economic heart of the village--growing story by story and allowing unlimited residential and commercial space to those who elected to make Amberston their home or business empire. Dana saw a few of these skyscrapers now. Coveted commodities, as one might expect, and the majority of those symbols of economic power belonged to the Devon family, the county's chief landowners and the village's undeniable leaders.
When she reached Silver Bridge at the intersection of Amber Lane North and Main Street North, Dana pulled the SUV to the side of the road and parked, but she didn't kill the engine. She took a moment to relish the majestic view, then once again pressed the RECORD button on her microcassette device.