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The Retreat by Ross Malde
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Genre/Category: Crime, Thriller, Mystery
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The Retreat by Ross Malde
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Synopsis

Working together in a metaphysical shop, two psychics are drawn into intrigue when a female client of theirs disappears. Through use of their psychic talents they are able to locate her. A forensic scientist and a federal agent are working together on a separate case involving the murder of a journalist. The cases merge into one as the two pairs connect with each other.

All four are placed in danger from various sources and each is forced to rely on the skills and experience of the others for their survival, while each of them discovers talents that they were not aware they possessed. obooko.


Excerpt:

When Johanna returned she was exhausted. It was only 9:30 in the morning and it had already been a long day. She hadn’t expected anyone to be at the office early on a Saturday, but Steve was there. He apparently had pulled an all- nighter working on the user interface. It was their ongoing headache. It made her groan just thinking about it.

Even though all of the functions had been defined, there was the ever nagging problem of making the end product intuitive for even the most techno phobic little grandmother. Voting machines needed to be accessible to everyone and the precincts weren’t capable of having a technical consultant on location.

To complicate matters more, the code had to be extra compact for the machine capacity. Johanna vaguely understood the limitations all of the engineers had been working under. Not that she understood anything about programming code, but she was the one they all came to when they needed to vent. Unfortunately, Steve was in one of those moods and getting him out of her office had taken her half an hour.

She told Steve that she forgot to make a list for buying supplies and that she would only be around for about an hour while she figured out what they needed. “Any requests?” And of course there was. There always was. “See if you can get some of those Frappuccinos,” he had said as he wandered back toward his corner office. Finally, she was alone.

Fortunately, as systems administrator, she could access the files since she was the one in control of all the final changes to the final program compilation. With her as build control, the gatekeeper, it guaranteed that only one final version was created and the work of all the different programmers meshed. Many companies had dedicated people for just this job, but that was one of the reasons she had been hired. She knew the systems inside and out but she could also do everything else having many years experience as an Administrative Assistant and Office Manager. This job used all of those skills and many more that she never knew she had.

Her progress was slowed a little by her continual awareness of her door, which had to be monitored to make sure that Steve wouldn’t wander back in while she was busy. He sometimes did that, especially when he was tired. His brain tended to go numb from programming and then he just needed human contact, someone to talk to get things working again.

Fortunately, he left her alone until she went to the supply room. She had to at least appear to be compiling an inventory. Of course, he then burned another half an hour of her time before she could take a quick look and go home. By then she was done with what she really came in to do so it didn’t really matter.

Now, Johanna was sitting on the couch in her living room. She hadn’t even bothered to put her coat away, which was unusual, but it had been an unusual day. Jerald, her husband, was giving a seminar today and Johanna really had to get those files. Oscar really wanted them. There was no hurry now. She could rest. The soft overstuffed couch with its matching ottoman felt cozy and as soon as she sat down she found herself starting to drift off. She needed coffee.

Her body ached as she arose, a reminder that she had missed her morning workout. Maybe she would drop by the gym later.

The kitchen was large, with parquet floor, stainless steel appliances lining the wall on the right, the sink and counters on the left and a cutting board island taking up much of the middle. She was certainly happy that Jerald was into cooking and appreciated the importance of doing the kitchen up right. She thought of that every time she entered the kitchen. Until two years before, she never dreamed of having all Kitchen Aid, All-Clad and Henckels to work with. At the back beyond the appliances, there was a pantry door that hid at least two months food aside from meat and dairy and even the meat was accounted for if you included the freezer in the garage.

She reached up to the cupboard and retrieved her favorite cup. It was of medium size and made by a local potter. She loved the slightly rough feel it had in her hand. She looked down at the counter below and found that the coffee urn had not hit its two hour limit. Adding half and half and sweetener to the steamy brew, she decided to check her e-mail and then maybe take a short nap, though she never did that. Time was never so kind.

Cup in hand, she grabbed her purse from the living room and went up the immaculately carpeted stairs, the smooth custom banister sliding carelessly through her hand. The home office, converted from the extra bedroom, was perhaps the most interesting room in the house. One could tell a lot about people by observing what they read and this room was wall-to-wall bookcases. Both she and Jerald are avid readers and since their tastes varied from each other, there were literally hundreds of titles in at least three dozen genres. She knew that because she had gone through the ordeal of organizing them.

In the corner opposite the door was a complete computer station and desk that appeared to wrap around the user. It almost faced the door in a way that let her feel secure. It didn’t take her studying of Fung Shui to know she felt uncomfortable facing a wall. On the riser that protruded from the middle of the ‘L’shaped table, there was a massive gas plasma screen and on it hung a yellow post-it note.

She set down her coffee and purse and made herself comfortable in her ergonomic computer chair. She removed and read the note, then with a sense of dread crumpled it deep into her palm and dropped it into the rattan basket between her and the dark oak leg of the computer desk. Jerald had left the note on her monitor before he left. It was a good thing Jerald would be gone until late that afternoon and wouldn’t have had a clue what the message meant. It seemed innocuous enough. “Johanna, call Gretchen at the youth center.” But the message really said that something had gone wrong.

She turned on her computer, and sat there waiting only seconds for the high speed processor to kick in and her flat panel screen to come to life. Her thoughts drifted back to a couple of nights before when she went to see Merrill for her monthly Tarot reading.

Merrill had told her she was entering into something potentially dangerous.

And she had known it as well. Merrill always gave her accurate readings.

She thought about when she first met him. It was in Mountain View at the Psychic House. The store was best known for their psychics.

She hadn’t come in for a reading. She was there to buy a book on angels. It was a Wednesday evening about 7:30 and she noted that the parking lot was almost full, yet other than the rather stocky blond man looking through books in the Buddhism section, two customers at the counter, and the two clerks that were helping them, the store appeared to be empty. She remembered looking all around for a section containing angels and it was no where in sight.

The store was strange. There were books on various forms of witchcraft, eastern philosophy, Native American Beliefs and Practices and almost any other form of philosophy and pop-psychology one could imagine. The walls were a dreary red, and on shelves and counters throughout the store that were not covered with books were candles, incense, statuary, jewelry, and religious symbols of all kinds. But she could not find angels. She had felt perplexed.

“You look lost” the blond man had said.

She explained to him that she was looking for a book on angels.

It seemed odd to her when he just turned around, pointed down and said, “Like these?”

She had felt a little foolish until he explained that he actually was unable to find them at first and had to ask about them as well. He went on to explain that he was a psychic reader in the shop, and that maybe she should consider having a reading. “Not necessarily by me”, he said.