Silversword

Silversword

by Phyllis A. Whitney

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Overview

In the Hawaiian Islands, a divorcée is threatened by a dangerous deception from her past, in this novel from “a superb and gifted storyteller”(Mary Higgins Clark).
 
Hawaiian-born Caroline Kirby was only six years old when her parents died under mysterious circumstances, and she was shuttled off to live with her grandmother in San Francisco. Now, after years under the strict governance of the old woman, followed by an unhappy marriage, the young, newly single Caroline is anxious to return to the lush vistas of her island home, reunite with her long-lost relatives, and above all, finally defy her eccentric grandmother’s sinister warning to never question the past and never, ever go home again.
 
At first, Maui is even more splendid than she remembered, and family and acquaintances more inviting than she could have dreamed—including David Reed, a childhood friend who now offers the possibility of a new romance. But soon, in the imposing shadow of the Haleakala volcano, where her parents met their fate, Caroline begins to fear that her entire world has been built on a lie, and everyone she has come to trust is guarding a long-dormant secret so shocking it could not only change her life, but end it.
 
From the Edgar and Agatha Award–winning “Queen of the American gothics” (The New York Times), Silversword is a novel filled with “ever-reliable scenic suspense” (Kirkus Reviews).
 
This ebook features an illustrated biography of Phyllis A. Whitney including rare images from the author’s estate.
 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504045933
Publisher: Open Road Media
Publication date: 08/29/2017
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 354
Sales rank: 11,191
Lexile: 930L (what's this?)
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

All the way out to Pacific Heights in a cab I dreaded the coming meeting with my grandmother. I'd wanted for a long time to free myself of dependence upon Grandmother Elizabeth Kirby. I had managed to pull myself out of a marriage that was failing, and had begun to make my own life in my small San Francisco apartment. I didn't want to hear any more of what I knew would be critical advice.

From the first, Grandmother Elizabeth had sponsored Scott Sherman as the perfect husband for me. I was in love and willing enough, until I discovered that I was really in love with an imaginary ideal. Now my grandmother was totally incapable of accepting our divorce. Since Scott worked for her, I had another reason to be reluctant about obeying her summons.

Nevertheless, Grandmother Elizabeth's cool, cultured voice on the phone gave me no chance to refuse, or even postpone. Ever since my parents' death in Hawaii, she had regarded me as her possession — all that remained of the son she still idolized. As a child I couldn't escape her, and if I were honest, perhaps my marriage had been a means of running away from her direct control. I was certainly not going to run back, and today I would make that clear.

In a few minutes we would reach the hotel, and I must face her in that strange place that was her special creation, and in which I had lived since I was six. It didn't matter that Grandfather James had inherited the Prince Albert Hotel before Elizabeth married him. She'd made it her own from the moment she could get her hands on it. "Elegant, exclusive"— these were words she valued, and she had old Nob Hill money and wealthy friends to back them up.

Guests were apt to be a special clientele who avoided downtown showiness, and preferred the aristocratic quiet of the Prince Albert. Certainly Elizabeth Kirby had a drive that would never allow her to accept the idle life of a rich woman, and the hotel offered a splendid outlet for her ability to manage and direct.

Since the building dated back before the earthquake and fire of 1906, and was located well beyond Van Ness Avenue, where dynamite had stopped the fire, the architecture belonged to an old and distinctive San Francisco era. Its bay windows looked out at the water, and its high ceilings were carved with plaster rosettes from which crystal chandeliers still hung.

I can remember my sense of awe and dismay when I first came to live with Grandmother Elizabeth. In up-country Maui, where I was born, there had been nothing like the venerable Prince Albert. Nor had my Grandma Joanna Docket been anything like my father's mother, Elizabeth. In fact, I was told at once never to say "grandma." The word was "grandmother," and that was what Elizabeth wished to be called.

When my parents died I had been told as little as possible. Because of something never explained, I knew only that three frightened horses had fallen down a steep place on a trail, and my father had been killed outright. My mother was so badly injured that she had died some weeks later. Her sister, my Aunt Marla, had been hurt at the same time, and was found unconscious. Grandmother Elizabeth would never talk to me about any of this, though she'd been on Maui at the time. She had brought her son's body from the island for burial in California, and had taken me home with her.

I suppose this had seemed the best solution, though the wrench was painful and bewildering for me. After being cherished by my father and my beautiful mother, as well as by Grandma Joanna and Aunt Marla, I was taken from my lovely island and plunged into life with a woman who had been taught that demonstrations of affection were in bad taste; a woman, perhaps, who had never loved anyone except her son Keith, my father.

There are some wounds dealt to a child that, if left untended, never heal. It seemed as though these last twenty-six years since I'd come to the mainland had been years of restlessness and futile searching. I knew very well that this had to stop. I knew I must make something more sensible and satisfying of my life. But how?

The cab pulled up to the door of the hotel, and I paid the driver and got out. Even now, when I stepped into the Prince Albert's regal aura of dark, polished woodwork, handsome parquet floors, and ruby-red rugs, I could feel a sense of awe ready to take over. Watch it, Caroline, I told my self, bracing against the old intimidation these rooms had once held for me.

The lobby where guests checked in was small, with a black-and-white marble floor. I crossed it quickly, hoping that Scott, who managed the hotel for my grandmother, would not be around. If she had planned a meeting between us I would leave at once.

I nodded to the clerk at the desk and went into what Grandmother Elizabeth had always called the drawing room. There I stood for a moment looking around. These furnishings had not come from antique stores, but from my grandmother's home when she moved here from Nob Hill to take over the hotel and rescue it from becoming nondescript. Red damask draperies still hung at tall windows, and walnut paneling gave the room a dignified gloom.

As a child, I had grown to have a certain respectful affection for this room, if anything so beautifully grand and austere could inspire more than reverence. A wave of nostalgia swept me back to another room — a room in Grandma Joanna's house on Maui. That had been a room filled with treasures, where I'd felt comfortable and happy, and where I was allowed to touch anything I liked — a bright, cheerful room, in contrast to this dignified and somber atmosphere.

Grandmother Elizabeth's private sitting room — she had never called it an office — lay just beyond, and today the door was closed. That meant I would have to knock, and I postponed the moment when I must raise my knuckles to that forbidding panel.

It was too easy to fall back into childish fears, and I mustn't allow this to happen. I wanted nothing from this grandmother who had given me a home, but never shown me love. By this time I could recognize that it hadn't been entirely fair to blame her for not being like Grandma Joanna. Circumstances had damaged her, and there'd been nothing left but duty toward her son's child, who came from an alien place of which she disapproved.

Still remembering, I moved about the room. The black walnut sofa with its matching chairs had undoubtedly had its original red velvet replaced several times, since Grandmother Elizabeth would never tolerate shabbiness. I stopped before the banjo clock that had come from the East in the last century, and never quite kept time. It had fascinated me as a child, and so had the Queen Anne desk. I sat down for a moment, recalling the painful efforts I'd made in the beginning when I'd tried to write letters to Grandma Joanna, who never answered. That is, I'd used this desk until I was banished from a room that was intended for guests, whom I must never disturb.

I still recalled with the old stab of hurt the way I'd ended every one of those futile letters: I want to come home to Manaolana, Grandma. The island was still in my blood, as it always would be. And so was the ranch house that had been given the Hawaiian word for hope and confidence, though Grandmother Elizabeth had always put down such optimistic virtues. The memory of my mother had grown hazy, since Grandmother Elizabeth would never talk about her, and had quietly removed any pictures of her that might grieve me. At least, that was the excuse she gave for their disappearance.

Yet I could still remember my mother as a lovely, magical creature who wore scented blossoms in her hair and held me gently in cool, loving arms. She had never called me Caroline, or even Caro, the way others did, but sometimes Carolinny, and often just Linny. This I remembered clearly. Just as I remembered her beautiful, melodious name, Noelle. Sometimes as a child here in San Francisco, I'd spoken it aloud to myself over and over, trying to bring her back. Her hair had been pale gold and very long. I was dark like my father, and I wore my hair short, curling in below my ears. I couldn't remember the color of her eyes. Mine were a rather dark gray — almost charcoal gray. Scott had been an artist of sorts, though only as a hobby, and he'd attempted to paint me — but he could never get my eyes right, and he gave up trying.

In the beginning, whenever I asked Grandmother Elizabeth about my mother, she had put me off with unkind words. "Noelle was weak, fragile — a vapid sort of woman. I won't have you grow up to be like her." Since I didn't want to hear such things, I stopped asking, and lived with an emptiness and longing that never quite went away.

It was different when it came to my father, Keith Kirby. His memory had been kept vigorously alive, both for Grandmother Elizabeth and for me. There were albums of pictures — up to the time of his marriage, though none taken of Hawaii; none when I was small. Grandmother Elizabeth told me endless stories about him, and since I'd loved my father dearly and missed him so much, listening to her talk about him kept him alive for me over the years. I'd grown up loving and admiring him as I could never love and admire anyone else. Probably no real man could ever match the dashing romantic figure she'd built up for both of us to believe in. Certainly not Scott Sherman, even though he'd swept me off my feet in the beginning, and seemed to be all that I would ever want in a man.

Sitting here at the desk where I'd written letters to Grandma Joanna, I thought about her. I could remember her far more easily than I could my mother, and I had never understood her abandonment. I knew how much she'd loved me — not gently like my mother, but always fiercely, demanding more of me, teaching me, telling me I could do what I feared, and rewarding me with vigorous hugs. She never smelled of tropical blossoms like my mother, but more often of horses and sweat and sunshine.

Two strong grandmothers were more than enough for any child, heaven knows, but at least they were strong in different ways. Grandmother Elizabeth's strength required that others lean on her, listen to her, depend on her, obey her. Grandma Joanna had wanted me to be strong for myself, and she had done her best to instill something of her own courage and determination in that small child who was the daughter of her daughter, Noelle. I was still trying, without any notable success, to be what she'd wanted for me.

One thing would remain with me always — the sadness of that last day at the ranch house on the mountain, when Grandma Joanna had taken me on her lap and held me tightly — loving, but never smothering, wanting to send me away strong, even though her own pain must have been very great at the time.

There was nothing soft about Grandma Joanna — she had ridden horses all her life, and her thighs were hard and muscular. Just touching her I'd felt a sort of power that was always there for me — as though I could draw it into my own being and possess it myself. I'd had need of it in the time before Grandmother Elizabeth brought me to her home in the States. During those days so much that seemed frightening was going on around me that I couldn't understand, and which no one explained. I knew that something awful had occurred up on the mountain. A horse had needed to be shot, and people were hurt. One day I'd found Grandma Joanna crying, and that frightened me most of all — because she never cried. Aunt Marla had been in the hospital too, badly hurt, and I never got to see any of them again.

On the last day Grandma Joanna had held me and talked to me for a long time. "This will be hard for you, Caro honey," she warned. "But right now it's better to go with your Grandmother Elizabeth. I love you and I'd like you to stay, but that would be for my sake, not yours. You're very young, but you're already a special person. You are Caroline Kirby. You will stand up to life and earn the right to be happy. Even though everything here is pau for you, there are exciting times ahead and a good life. Because you will make it that."

Pau! The Hawaiian word still crept into my speech at times when something was finished, done. I'd clung to her then and cried, and she'd cried too, because she never held back feelings of love. In a strange way these new tears comforted me and made me stronger, when the other tears she'd shed only frightened me. I'd known her better than I did my mother or father, and she meant all that was safe to me, all that I loved and felt happy with — horses, the beautiful trees and flowers, and of course the mountain. Always the great mountain that flung its shadow across our days. The House of the Sun, Hawaiians called it. In its way it had ruled our lives, at times benign, but sometimes without mercy when the old gods were offended. Always there'd been a heart of mystery for me about the crater where flames had once burned, though Pele, the goddess of fire, had long ago left for an active volcano on the island of Hawaii, which was often called the Big Island, to avoid confusion with the name of the state. It was in the crater on Maui that the riding accident had occurred.

"You'll write to me, of course," Grandma Joanna said that day when she held me. "You're already good at your letters. And I will write to you. I'll be here when you need me."

But she hadn't been. Not one of my letters had ever been answered, and by now I didn't know whether she was dead or alive. Grandmother Elizabeth had said I must forget her; forget about Maul and Hawaii, and my dead mother. I had never forgotten. The last thing I'd said to Grandma Joanna had been that I would come back. But there had seemed to be no one to go back to — no one who wanted me. San Francisco, for all its wonders, could never make up to me for what I had lost, but I'd always felt I couldn't return to beauty that would break my heart, when those I'd loved were gone. Now perhaps that would change.

At thirty-two I still didn't know what I wanted to do with my life, but I had to get on with it — whatever that life was going to be.

Right now, I could put off the confrontation no longer, and I went to the door of my grandmother's sitting room. I knew very well why she wanted to see me, but there was nothing she could do to change the facts of my life, and my resolve to stand against her stiffened as I knocked.

"Come in." Her voice had never aged with the years. It was clear and strong, and every word was carefully formed, since slurring would have been abhorrent to Elizabeth Kirby. She had always worn her pride as an armor.

I stepped into her sitting room, where the colors were muted green and gold, and a fire burned on the hearth to warm this late September afternoon. She stood up to greet me, an elegant figure in her navy blue jacquard silk frock, with a heavy cameo framed in silver on a silver chain about her neck. Her upswept hair was nearly white, and, as always, every lock was in place, and a jade-studded comb my father had once brought her from Honolulu helped to restrain its heavy coils.

At least she came to greet me, though her kiss on my cheek was formal — she didn't like kissing and touching. Sometimes I'd wondered how my grandfather, dead now for twenty years, had ever come close enough to her to conceive a son. Unfortunately, she had loved that son far more than she'd seemed to love James, my grandfather. He and I had been friends, but he was even more afraid of her than I was, and sometimes I'd felt older than he would ever be.

"Sit down, Caroline," she said, gesturing toward a Chippendale chair drawn near the fire.

This room too I remembered from my early years. Especially since one end of it had been turned into a shrine to my father. Here I had always been welcome to study the pictures on the wall, the framed letters, the racing trophies he'd won in school. Even though this wasn't the father I remembered from Maui, it had been the closest I could come to him, and these memories were what Grandmother Elizabeth encouraged, until I almost believed they were really mine.

She had drawn a chair for herself close to the fire, sitting opposite me. "You know why I want to talk to you?"

"Yes." I met her look. "And it's too late. My divorce was made final two months ago."

The tightening of her straight lips betrayed disapproval. "I know that."

"I've taken back my own name," I told her. "I don't want to be Mrs. Scott Sherman anymore. You should be pleased to know that I'm still a Kirby."

"I am not pleased. I am shocked that you have so little sense of loyalty and commitment that you weren't willing to give your marriage more effort."

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Silversword"
by .
Copyright © 1987 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.
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