Penumbra

Penumbra by Carolyn Haines Page A

Book: Penumbra by Carolyn Haines Read Free Book Online
Authors: Carolyn Haines
Tags: Historical, Mystery
granddaddy, Mose, had put in all the cabinets, a beautiful light oak that gleamed whenever light hit it. The beds were hand-carved, one with cherubs and angels. Jade had chosen that bed for her own, covering it with a handmade quilt in a cherry blossom pattern, a gift from Ruth. There was a fireplace in the bedroom and indoor plumbing, something Jade had added herself. She turned on the hot water in the tub and went to the closet to select a dress. She chose a pale pink with a looser waist. Sitting in the hospital chair was uncomfortable enough without binding clothes.
    While her tub ran, she got out the ironing board and iron and pressed the wrinkles out of her dress. Ruth had instilled in her the necessity of neatness. Jade didn’t leave the house unless she was wrinkle-free and clean, with lipstick applied. She smiled at the thought of her mother, whose dark skin had never known cosmetics, not even lipstick. Ruth had chosen to ignore her gender. It was almost as if Ruth had chosen to become more shadow than substance. The thought troubled Jade as she hung the dress and went into the bathroom.
    She looked out the curtainless window. Her house was at least three miles from anyone else, something that concerned her parents, but she loved it. She shucked off her dress and underwear and stepped into the hot water. From her vantage point in the tub, she could watch the sun slip beneath the horizon. She didn’t particularly like dusk, because it marked a melancholia she didn’t understand. She loved the colors of sunset, though. Leaning back against the slanted porcelain tub, she let the hot water do its work on her tired muscles. She closed her eyes and sank lower, feeling the tug of sleep. For just a moment she relaxed enough to slide into a state where half-dream images raced through her mind. She heard the tip, tip of water dripping into the tub, but it was lulling. She heard the clock strike the hour of six. She heard the sound of footsteps on her porch.
    Jade opened her eyes, fear clutching at her heart. She slid deeper beneath the water, the window a point of vulnerability now. There was no telephone in the house. Jade had chosen to have the phone in her shop instead. For business. She’d never felt a need for a phone since she had a good car. The light switch was across the room, and Jade would have to leave the tub to reach it. Her nakedness would be obvious to anyone outside the window looking in. She slipped further down, until only her nose and eyes were above the water. She could only pray that if someone walked by the window, her dark hair would seem a shadow in a corner of the bathroom. But they would know where she was. The light advertised her whereabouts.
    There was no other choice. She got out of the tub, water sluicing to a puddle on the linoleum floor, her body shaking from fear. The memory of Marlena’s butchered body came back to her, the long line of black stitches that held her together. There was an animal on the loose.
    The knock that came at the front door made her bite back a scream at the same time it brought a measure of relief. A robber or killer wouldn’t knock, her rational mind told her. She grabbed a white bathrobe that Marlena had given her from the hook on the door and tiptoed out of the bathroom into the dusky bedroom. She moved silently to a front window and peeped out. Frank Kimble stood on her porch.
    “Jade,” he said, knocking lightly.
    “Just a minute.” She tied the robe tighter and went to the door, not intending to let him in. She only needed to know if something had happened to Marlena.
    “I need to ask some questions,” he said. His gaze dropped to the bit of throat revealed by her robe and then shot back to her eyes. A tingle of amusement touched her then, more a release from the tension than anything else, but she felt an irrepressible urge to laugh out loud. She did, and saw the incomprehension in Frank’s eyes.
    “You just about scared me to death,” she said,

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