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A Suspense/Murder Mystery Novel Excerpt:

Hermes' Viper

by Joseph T. McFadden

Chapter One

STANDING BEFORE THE full-length mirror, wearing nothing but horn-rimmed glasses and bright red pumps, Sara thought of fire while rocking from side to side, admiring the potent pelvic pitch cocked above the high heels. The glass reflected golden tan skin, and wavy black hair hanging shoulder length. Erect nipples pointed through honey brown areolae, and a rich and exuberant tuft profiled a jet-black curl in the sidelong view of her swaying pubes. And in memory, snatches of the fatal night of fire come alive, the long ago lost child crying vainly for Mama to release her from the cellar prison beneath the glowing timbers falling about her head, the pit burning with the flames of a Biblical hell, cries never heard because Mama had burned to a charred remainder. Still the gunshots ring out, painful metallic echoes in the mind of memory.

In the remote entrance-hall shadows, the grandfather clock began striking the midnight hour. Turning to face the mirror, she thrust her pelvis forward and placed both hands inside her thighs, then brought them up across her belly as she sucked in a deep breath between clenched teeth. God, if only he knew what he was missing! Such beauty and passion. He had ignored her far too long, and soon she would have to take direct action. She would need divine guidance for this as she did in all things. Now she was ready to go to the source, her angel, for tonight's duties. The angel would know the aching desire smoldering from love unrequited, and admire her enduring dedication to the suffering, and to mercy! Who but the angel could understand this calling, this ability to supersede the entanglements and the restraints of ordinary human emotions when dealing with the destitute hanging on in the realm of death? And she does not understand it herself.

She walked from her bedroom through the library, glancing casually at her own collection of books on mythology, religion, poetry, and literature, among many other subjects, and hundreds of compact discs, all classical music, lined along the walls. People would be so surprised at her scholarly abilities! She crossed into the living room, now sacred because long ago she had converted it to an inner chapel. Lighting an incense taper, she walked naked on the high red heels, trailing smoke around her bare shoulders, and knelt at the feet of the white angel standing seven feet high behind a pulpit. Here she was safe with open fire.

She reached forward and touched the angel's foot, and organ music in full throaty solemnity pealed through the room. The sonorous tone, profoundly formal, took command of all emotion, dispossessing all thought, killing all feeling except guilt and dismay, obliterating all joy of life and love. The captive wind wailed through man-made pipes, the sepulchral sound of mourning, the denial of life, the celebration of death. She bent to the floor until the bridge of her nose touched the pulpit rail. Abjectly, she surrendered to the sound and wept the tears of childhood. At this moment, the nearly fatal fires of her childhood again flamed and flared within the thunderous music, and she reached up and touched the angel's foot. The music abruptly stopped. Complete silence, stronger than any sound, fell on the room. She stayed, awaiting guidance until she touched his foot again and a voice spoke: "Don't let them suffer, my child, don't let them suffer!" In the stillness, the bass echoes of his command reverberated through the room, then faded and died. She remained in silent meditation with her head bowed, and after a long moment rose to her knees, cupped a hand above the burning candle until the flame guttered. She opened her fingers and a cloud of jasmine smoke spiraled toward the angel's right hand, raised in benediction, and the flame flared again. She stood, and carrying the burning candle, walked behind the pulpit, carefully treading her way over loops and snakes of cable wandering in every direction from the angel's heels across the floor to disappear beneath long drapes covering the walls.

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