The Nightjar’s Promise
by Barbara Casey
The Nightjar’s Promise
Jennifer Torres, one of the three FIGs (Females of Intellectual Genius) who is a genius in both music and art, is the last to leave the closed rehearsal for her upcoming performance over Thanksgiving break at Carnegie Hall when she hears something in the darkened Hall. Recognizing the tilt of the woman’s head and the slight limp of the man as they hurry out an exit door, she realizes it is her parents who were supposedly killed in a terrible car accident when she was 15 years old.
Devastated and feeling betrayed, she sends a text to Carolina and the other two FIGs—THURGOOD. It is the code word they all agreed to use if ever one of them got into trouble or something happened that was too difficult to handle. They would all meet back at Carolina’s bungalow at Wood Rose Orphanage and Academy for Young Women to figure it out.
As soon as they receive the text, because of their genius, Dara starts thinking of words in ancient Hebrew, German, and Yiddish, while Mackenzie’s visions of unique math formulae keep bringing up the date October 11, 1943. That is the date during World War II when the Nazis—the Kunstschutz—looted the paintings of targeted wealthy Jewish families and hid them away under Hitler’s orders. And as Carolina waits for the FIGs to return to Wood Rose, she hears warnings from Lyuba, her gypsy mother, to watch for the nightjar, the ancient name for the whip-poor-will.
As they search for “The Nightjar’s Promise” and the truth surrounding it, Carolina and the FIGs come face to face with evil that threatens to destroy not only their genius, but their very lives.
The violin—European—was made from a Carpathian elm wood now extinct; the bow, made from the same wood, with horsehair strings and a silver frog. Near the delicate frog was a silk grip, aged and beautiful. Jennifer flipped her long blond ponytail back and forth, something she usually did whenever she felt a keen sense of accomplishment or unflappable determination, then carefully placed her violin and bow in the worn leather case next to her.
As she secured the latches, she became aware of an unfamiliar shuffling noise, a noise that somehow seemed out of place and intrusive in the stillness of the massive Hall. She glanced toward the exit door. With no warning the stone that she had been carrying around in her chest for as long as she could remember seemed to explode causing her to catch her breath. She wrapped her arms tightly around her body and bent over in her chair trying to breathe. The excruciating pain was made worse by the thought that someone had been listening to the closed rehearsal and watching her, and was now trying to slip away.
She didn’t understand why the rock came now. Things had been going so well. As the pain eased, she once again glanced at the exit door. When she did the black and white images that usually preceded the musical notes only she could hear flashed before her eyes. Violent, ugly, black, thick brush strokes—like one reversed “z” overlapping another.
It was happening again. This was the way it always started when a new musical composition was beginning to form in Jennifer’s mind. An image would come to her, black and white—like a charcoal or pencil drawing. Over time it would gradually change to color; and along with the color would come a beat—the cadence she called it; first softly, then pronounced, loud, and vibrating. When she felt the vibration of the cadence—after the black and white image had changed to color—it was then she knew she needed to capture its musical essence. This was when she wrote the notes on eight-stave musical paper as she heard them in her mind.
Her vision was blurred with tears as she stared toward the door leading from the Hall making it difficult to see. But she knew.
Even with the crushing pain in her chest, the confusion of black and white images dancing before her eyes, and the absence of light, she knew.
She heard the musical notes—indiscriminate and unformed—but that would soon change. Eventually she would hear the cadence; the images would become well defined and detailed. But now, instead, she saw the slight tilt of the woman’s head, the way the man walked favoring his left foot, and she knew.
The door opened, allowing the blinding brilliance of the late afternoon sunlight to stream into the darkened Hall that only moments earlier had been filled with music—her music, and she watched the man and woman vanish. The man and woman who had taken care of her and, she thought, had loved her. The man and woman who were dead—killed in a terrible car crash.
And in that one brief instant in time, the unbearable feelings of grief, the overwhelming sadness, and the confusion she thought she had overcome and made go away suddenly consumed her as though they had never left; and the thick glass walls she had so carefully built around herself in order to survive suddenly shattered.
THE MUSE OF MUSIC
Music has always been an intimate part of my life. As a toddler, I sang with my mother and father, usually church hymns, even though I didn’t understand the words. Miss Ollie taught me piano starting at the age of four, and then Mr. Mezner gave me accordion lessons so I could play in the school band.
During my formative years, I listened to what my friends listened to. It didn’t matter if I liked it or not. But as I grew older, I started to develop a preference in music. I found myself being drawn to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, and Smetana’s Moldau. I read about the Classical composers, symphonic movements, Romantic and Boroque music, fugues, tone poems and so much more. I spent hours in the university music library listening to every Classical composer I could find.
It was this music that I felt deep within my soul. It was a connection that never changed, so that even now, whenever I am writing, Classical music plays in the background. It varies, usually depending on what I am writing. It can be the dramatic overtures of Wagner, the sensual music of Beethoven, or the joyful sounds of Mozart. I relate to all of it, and I believe, like a muse, it makes me a better writer.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Originally from Carrollton, Illinois, author/agent/publisher Barbara Casey attended the University of North Carolina, N.C. State University, and N.C. Wesleyan College where she received a BA degree, summa cum laude, with a double major in English and history. In 1978 she left her position as Director of Public Relations and Vice President of Development at North Carolina Wesleyan College to write full time and develop her own manuscript evaluation and editorial service. In 1995 she established the Barbara Casey Agency and since that time has represented authors from the United States, Great Britain, Canada, and Japan. In 2014, she became a partner with Strategic Media Books, an independent nonfiction publisher of true crime, where she oversees acquisitions, day-to-day operations, and book production.
Ms. Casey has written over a dozen award-winning books of fiction and nonfiction for both young adults and adults. The awards include the National Association of University Women Literary Award, the Sir Walter Raleigh Literary Award, the Independent Publisher Book Award, the Dana Award for Outstanding Novel, the IP Best Book for Regional Fiction, among others. Two of her nonfiction books have been optioned for major films, one of which is under contract.
Her award-winning articles, short stories, and poetry for adults have appeared in both national and international publications including the North Carolina Christian Advocate Magazine, The New East Magazine, the Raleigh (N.C.) News and Observer, the Rocky Mount (N.C.) Sunday Telegram, Dog Fancy, ByLine, The Christian Record, Skirt! Magazine, and True Story. A thirty-minute television special which Ms. Casey wrote and coordinated was broadcast on WRAL, Channel 5, in Raleigh, North Carolina. She also received special recognition for her editorial work on the English translations of Albanian children’s stories. Her award-winning science fiction short stories for adults are featured in The Cosmic Unicorn and CrossTime science fiction anthologies. Ms. Casey’s essays and other works appear in The Chrysalis Reader, the international literary journal of the Swedenborg Foundation, 221 One-Minute Monologues from Literature (Smith and Kraus Publishers), and A Cup of Comfort (Adams Media Corporation).
Ms. Casey is a former director of BookFest of the Palm Beaches, Florida, where she served as guest author and panelist. She has served as judge for the Pathfinder Literary Awards in Palm Beach and Martin Counties, Florida, and was the Florida Regional Advisor for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators from 1991 through 2003. In 2018 Ms. Casey received the prestigious Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award and Top Professional Award for her extensive experience and notable accomplishments in the field of publishing and other areas. She makes her home on the top of a mountain in northwest Georgia with her husband and three cats who adopted her, Homer, Reese and Earl Gray, Reese’s best friend.
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