Novels by Wm. Sharpe

Death by Lethal Affection, Justice Delayed, Uncle Joe Is Dead, and Not Forgotten are available from Amazon.com and from most other book sellers. They are all available in both print and Kindle versions.  Justice Delayed completes the MacCarty family story in Death by Lethal Affection and is the first book in the Nick Caldwell detective series. Death by Lethal Affection  is an exciting mystery story with a twist. Justice Delayed  introduces private investigator Nick Caldwell and his associates. Uncle Joe Is Dead  follows Nick Caldwell as he solves the murder of a beloved member of a well-known Chicago family. In Not Forgotten Nick and his team solve a 40-year old Saint Louis murder of a young couple and in the process uncover serial murders spread over several states. Information about his novels and other works will be shared here and on his web site.

After you have read each book it would be helpful if you would write a review. You could post them to the publishers’ sites, Goodreads, Bookpub, and other sites you use. They wouldn’t have to be long, and you don’t have to sign them on the publishers’ sites, if you would prefer not to.

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Short stories

By Bill Sharpe:  “Anton the Wizard”

By Bill Sharpe: “Why Is Nick Caldwell Smiling Tonight?”

By Bill Sharpe: “A BearhounD Thanksgiving”

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Essays

By Lara Sodon: “Did I Do That?”


WHITE ROSES AND IRON, THE GOTHIC ADVENTURES OF LILY SCHREIFF

By Barbara Neuhaus

Installment 6

~30~

     Time marches on. I hadn’t seen my son in ages, so it seemed. He was quite a busy man building houses and making a comfortable life for himself and his lovely Charlotte. Love changes when your child grows up. The love is equally deep, but it must find new forms of expression. No longer am I the one to hear every detail of his day. No longer am I the first person he brings his news, good or bad….these privileges belong to his wife now. As it should be. Yet, a day doesn’t go by that I don’t miss his sweet smile and those soft, deep brown eyes. Love evolves, it finds a way. But unequivocally, the honor of raising that boy was the best thing to ever happen to me. Holding him in my arms for the first time was nothing less than a miraculous experience for me. Not just because I was a thrilled new mother to my beautiful baby boy…but it was also the first time in my life that I knew, for certain, there was a God and He must see something good enough in me to bless me this way. Throughout his childhood, I marveled at him and was fully present in the day to day joy from being his mother. I never took motherhood for granted, knowing that some women ache to be mothers, but cannot. Bear knew how much he was adored and gave his father and me his love in equal measure. Liam and I have been incredibly proud of the man he grew to be, but as his mother, I miss him. I’m comforted by knowing that he is doing exactly what he should be doing by loving and caring for Charlotte. In fact, his ability to love so deeply is one of my favorite things about him. I’m glad he has Charlotte to share life with. She is a charming woman, someone I love more and more as time goes by.

     When Bear heard about his uncle’s hurtful deeds, he was initially livid. Once I had explained all that I had learned about Sebastian’s motivations, and my culpability in the situation, he tried to understand. Sebastian had always been eccentric, so this came as no surprise to my son. He also knows his mom has a tendency to smother and glom. Bear always took my smothering in stride and knew my intentions were never to be invasive, only to connect. At any rate, the brother-sister relationship was put to bed and not to be woken. And as for Bear, the one thing I knew I could do to stay connected was to cook and bring food to Charlotte and him. There would be time for catching up and enjoying the weather when the next meal is prepared for them. I looked forward to these visits like I look forward to those first signs of Spring. Ostara, or Easter is next weekend and I cannot believe it’s already 1921.

~31~

     Tucker had been enjoying the weather, too. He often nudged and prompted me to St. Steven’s cemetery and led me straight over to my parents’ graves. On this day, he was especially determined to walk over there. As we made our way to the front gate, I thought about those white roses, always in bloom. They disappeared in the snow, then appeared in delicate contrast against the black iron fence. Strong and delicate, light and dark, always in perfect balance.

     Tucker claimed his regular spot, circled it three times and lay down in the new grass, warmed by the sun. I took in the air, breathing in that sweet smell of Spring. I sensed the presence of Eileen and Vlad….but didn’t hear them or see them. Just a quiet knowing that they were near. I found the cemetery comforting. It was a peaceful place. I believe those souls that departed the earth were lingering here in spirit form, if only to comfort the grieving. But their own journey is surely not limited to the perimeters of the cemetery and their graves. What a sad existence that would be! No, I believe they are tasked with the responsibility of assisting their living descendants, aiding them in ascending into a higher level of awareness. Those willing to see and hear their ancestors can grow in ways beyond what they could without them.

     I knelt at the graves and brushed away some leaves from the stones that winter left behind. The backdrop of that iron fence was always a lovely sight, although the white roses I planted were struggling to seek warmth and light to grow. I visited my parents often through the years, but for the first time since they had passed, I saw and heard them! They appeared together and they looked so young and so peaceful. They died of consumption before Bear was born. They said that they have been watching me all these years, and so pleased that I had such a beautiful son. Mother told me that I’ve been a wonderful wife and mother. I learned that both of them were aware of Eileen and Vlad as my guides. In a sudden rush, I wanted nothing more than to embrace them both. I stood and reached out, knowing my effort would be in vain. I said to them, “Do you have any idea how much I miss you?” It was the first thought that came to my mind and it was out of my mouth before I could think of anything better to say. They smiled so sweetly, and my father said, “The veil is thin between us and I’m never far away. Oh, and I love that son of yours very much…” And then he said, “Those who live with terminal sickness live day by day, doing what they can to be happy… one day at a time.” With that, he cupped the right side of my face and I swear I felt his hand stroke my hair and then they were both gone. I looked over and saw Tucker, wagging his tail and looking up toward the sky….

     …and I thought, “God, how I hoped I would see them again….”     

~32~

Exulansis: n. the tendency to give up trying to talk about an experience because people are unable to relate to it.

From the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

     Even knowing that I had a few people in my life I could safely share these experiences with, I could never express the emotional impact they had on my soul. As Tucker and I headed home, I shed tears of joy. How blessed am I to have this gift!?

~33~

     I thought more about my parents’ appearance at the cemetery. I wondered why they hadn’t appeared to me sooner. I planned to ask that very question if they visited again. I reasoned that it was probably best this way, so that I could process my grief and keep my vivid memories of them intact before seeing spirit versions of them. Also, having the guides that I had were exactly what I needed. I learned to trust them and follow their guidance before I ever knew they were ancestors of mine. I have built honest-to-goodness relationships with Eileen and Vlad; albeit very unusual relationships. Still, there were so many times in my life that could have vastly benefited from the wise and loving counsel of my mother and father. They peeked into my world as I was oblivious to it. Father said he was always near. Mother said she was proud of my mothering of Bear and my marriage with Liam. I replayed their brief words again and again…soothing myself with the memory.

     My father also spoke of terminal sickness, and living day to day doing what you can to be happy…one day at a time. I believe he was referring to my rare condition, but I never thought of it as a ‘terminal sickness.’ But I suppose the repeated deaths have taken a toll on my body. I wondered if my time on earth was nearing an end. Were my father’s words meant to foretell something regarding my final death? I had no real fear of this, but I worried about Bear and Liam. I know that I would be absolutely inconsolable if either of them died before me. I also know their grief from losing me would be heavy. Living is hard, death is easy. 

     I spoke of my cemetery visit with Liam. He searched my eyes and wanted so deeply to understand and relate. He believed me unquestionably, which was all I could really ask of him. And yet, it exasperated me to have such incredible experiences that no one else could truly fathom. I did the only thing I could do, I kept the enigmas and the mysteries deep inside my soul, and it kept me fulfilled. Each interaction with my guides becomes a treasure to me. Whether a skill or a gift, my intention throughout my life has been to refine my ability to communicate effectively with them.

~34~

     Liam, Tucker and I slept quite soundly and woke the following morning with unusual energy. It seemed a perfect day to visit Bear and Charlotte. Tucker always seemed to know when we were going to Bear’s home…we packed a bit of snack food for the trip and fussed about getting dressed and ready. It was always a special time when we had plans to see him. Tucker waited by the door, eager to join us.

     Bear greeted us at the door, big hugs and bigger smiles were shared all around. Charlotte looked beautiful, as always. She had a natural beauty that needed no adornment. Her thick, shiny hair was pulled back into a loose bun and her makeup was barely there. She kept a tidy home and her easy mannerisms made everyone feel welcome. We got inside and saw many changes in the house. Renovation and decorating were ongoing investments of their time and money. They both had extraordinary vision and the skill to make a beautiful place to call their own. It was a labor of love for them both. Charlotte had impeccable taste and Bear was an expert builder who knew exactly how to execute her designs. 

     I smelled a delicious roast chicken in the oven, and we pitched in with the rest of the dinner preparations while chatting and getting all caught up on each other’s lives. After dinner, Bear and I had a lovely walk in the gardens outside. It was a warm evening and the sun was about to set. We often took walks together when he was growing up and we had many memorable conversations while taking in the air, especially in autumn and spring.

     He said that he had been experiencing some hard times, within himself. I listened. It was the only act of love I could offer. This is the lifelong challenge for an old soul, such as Bear. He has always had emotions that were on a grander scale than most people knew how to understand….whether it was joy, anger, love, worry, or anything else. It is hard to live in a world where you feel you must dilute yourself to be suitable or acceptable to others.

     It was an ebb and flow kind of thing, and we talked about how it feels like a blessing and a curse all at once to feel things so deeply. I understood him better than most, but even I could not reach the depths of his inner self. I think he appreciated that even if I couldn’t fully understand, I would always try.

     My failing was being far too slow to adapt my love and relationship with him as he grew into a capable man. He was a perfect baby, beautiful and joyous! He grew into a busy toddler with grins and gusto enough to fill my days with utter contentment. He became a soulful little boy and then a disillusioned young man…disillusioned by the harshness of the world and many of the people unworthy of his trust and friendship. With a tendency to be a bit gullible and naïve, he struggled and explored life’s offerings until he learned that he could build and create things that would last a lifetime or more. He challenged himself to learn and heal and grow. This gave him the outlet he needed. But he would always carry a heavy heart for all that is wrong in life. Through it all, that smile emerges, and I know that he will be okay. He will make it so. He found Charlotte and their love will grow deeper as the years pass. 

     It took me too long to see the man.

     After we walked and talked a while, I almost told him about the cemetery visit and my parents’ appearance. He knew about the other guides, and of course he knew how I acquired them. This was also something challenging that Bear had to process. As much as I wanted to share with him that his grandparents were watching over him, I stopped short because I didn’t want to talk about my own approaching death. He seemed to be having enough of his own matters without hearing that. But I certainly made sure that I took in every infinitesimal aspect of our visit and I hugged him tightly, even more so than I typically do. I made plans to bring a meal to them in the coming week. I enjoy doing it and it is an excuse to come by and stay connected with their busy lives.

~35~

     It’s never expected when it happens. Even after a long illness, the death is a bit of a shock. My entire life had been consumed with death. The death of loved ones, and of course my own multiple deaths. My final death from this life had arrived. There was a moment between life and death when I had to let go of ‘here’ in order to go ‘there.’ A passage that required that severing of any and all attachment to life. Your mind does not function as it does in life, it functions on a much higher vibration. All I needed to know was that my husband and son would be alright. Instantly, I was reassured of this and then I calmly consented, so to speak, to the end of my life. I existed now in spirit form. For the first time, I was truly Lily. Not Doris and Sonny’s daughter, not Sebastian’s sister, not Liam’s wife, not Bear’s mother. I was Lily and only Lily. There was no longer anything to fear; the pain of living was over. Profound relief, boundless freedom, and pure bliss were all I knew and became at once the total extent of my consciousness. Behind me were those I loved, but they were in another realm from me now. I moved rapidly forward, in darkness. But such a beautiful, peaceful darkness. There were no dangers in this darkness. I cared not one iota about my body, how it would be prepared after death, what would become of it, or how my funeral would be arranged. I was so very far away. I was on a brand new journey. I hadn’t an inkling of what that journey would look like, but I knew I was safe. For me, there was only peace.

~36~

     As fate would have it, my final passing occurred right outside of the tea shop and it was Emma who found me, and immediately got in touch with Liam at the foundry. She also called an ambulance for me. There was genuine sorrow in Emma’s heart for me and my family. She knew how much Liam and Bear loved me, how devastated they would be. When the ambulance driver, Benjamin, arrived to take me to the morgue, he saw Emma’s sincere concern for me, and it touched his heart. He had known Emma’s tarnished ways and he saw a complete change come over her. If this version of Emma could exist and become enduring, he would be a man falling deeply in love with her!  He intended to call on her at a later date, when a more appropriate time presented itself.

     Liam got in touch with Bear and the two of them handled the wretched business of final arrangements. Both knew how strongly I felt about the garishness and vulgarity of postmortem pageantry. Gone were the days of postmortem photography, but still there were plenty of modern funeral customs I personally found to be morbid. I expressed during life that I wanted no spectacle made of me in death. They honored my wishes and no viewing was made available to any would-be gawking. Reverend Harrison said some very kind words at the graveside just before burial. For our family, we believed respect for the dead meant no exhibition of the body or of the bereaved. I was laid to rest alongside my parents’ graves. This was Bear’s idea, and a lovely one. Liam made certain that the stone was engraved with a lovely sentiment in small scripted letters carved deeply into dark granite stone:

Lily Sturdy nee Schreiff

July 9, 1864- May 10, 1921

“Even as the sun goes down,
To end the light of day,
It’s rising on a new horizon,
Somewhere far away.

And though our world seems darker,

for the loss of those we miss,

we know our loved ones’ lives have dawned,

in a brighter world than this.”

     Liam and Bear were inconsolably distraught. Their grief crashed like waves when they just began to think they were coping. Each in their own way, they went on with their lives and stood tall in their pain. To the world, they seemed to be managing well enough. Inside, both were coming undone.

     Sebastian came to the grave, after all of the initial visits became less frequent. Alone he stood at my grave and did the dutiful thing of bringing flowers and having his own private moment with his memories of me. No tears, just thoughts drifting through his mind. He then set that part of his life behind him, placed it neatly into a box within his mind where he stored other such events. Perhaps Sebastian loved me now, no longer threatened by any intrusion on my part. I could now become a sister to him on his own terms, he reasoned. This works. I am now a memory and that is something he can adapt and accept. He can even create a better version of me to recall. I’ve become malleable to him now. A sister who loved and accepted him, as he was. Yes, this was a better sister to have, he confirmed to himself. With that, he stepped over to our parents’ graves. He placed flowers there, as well. It was the dutiful thing to do, which he did as absently as he did most things. He straightened himself up, sighed deeply and then drove away from the cemetery. He would likely not return.

~37~

     Emma was never the same after that event. She had never experienced such a traumatic experience. Rather than reacting in her selfish way, she set herself aside and cared only about handling the crisis at hand and caring about Liam and Bear’s wellbeing. The whole ordeal seemed to evoke her sense of empathy and compassion as nothing else had done in her life before. She began seeing Benjamin casually, and then more seriously. They shared many pleasant years together. Both were in their 50’s and never married before. They had no children, but that didn’t prevent them from enjoying all of the other blessings and joys of married life. Her soul-growth manifested her deepest desires and she never took Benjamin for granted, as he was her one true love. Benjamin had never found anyone who brought him so much joy. He loved everything about her and even helped Emma expand the tea shop to include a bakery. 

     Meanwhile, I found myself swept up in joining forces with my guides, Eileen and Vlad. They were no longer my guides, they were my fellow warriors in spirit. I’ve become an equal to the ancestors I was guided by. My parents were with me, too. Along with far more distant ones, we are the ancestral guides for all those we love. It truly was a brand new journey because my attachment to my loved ones is now pure, with no pain. Even as I know they are still experiencing life with all of the pain that goes with it, I also know their eternal joy awaits them. I know they, too, will forget all of their suffering, just as I have done. They will join me, all in due time.

     My first course of action was to ease the suffering of my grieving husband and son. It would be my greatest privilege to reach them. I pray they are able to hear me….