- 2014 Community Novel Project of the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library
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Downloading Superimposed Chapter 15 by Liv Howard
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Read Online: Superimposed Chapter 15 by Liv Howard
Holly looked at the wad of wet tissues in her hand before glancing around for a place to dispose of them discreetly. She didn’t see a waste bucket of any kind, so she made her way back to the galley and tossed them into a basket beneath the small sink. Holly stood a moment with both hands braced on the granite surface, taking a few deep breaths in order to suppress the wave of embarrassment consuming her now that the tears had subsided.
For the first time, she took a closer look at her surroundings. She had watched enough HGTV to know the jet was luxuriously appointed with top of the line materials. From the countertops to the glass backsplash, thick carpet, and stainless steel appliances, everything sparkled with the kind of clean that said both new and professional maintenance.
A small door opened to a narrow restroom which was equally beautiful and fully stocked with soft towels, hand lotions, and other expensive-looking toiletries. She wet a wash cloth with cool water and pressed it to her eyelids. Looking in the mirror, she could see the residual eye redness from her crying jag. Embarrassment warred with curiosity, anger, and a bit of shock.
“I just cried and snotted all over his shirt,” she told her reflection.
Staring into her own puffy eyes, she felt another tiny prick of tears when she thought of Joe Grimaldi and her unwilling but inevitable emotional attachment to the now deceased old man.
“Joe, what have you gotten me into? Fainting relatives who morph into assassins, knife-wielding strangers who kill without blinking an eye to rescue you like a damsel in distress, secret keys and passageways, lock boxes and private jets — it’s like I’ve fallen into an alternate universe.”
Holly took one more swipe at her eyes with the cloth and felt better when she saw the redness was fading. She tossed the towel into a waiting hamper, straightened her shirt, and walked back through the cabin and into the cockpit.
Pesha was speaking into the radio with a hushed but urgent tone. He was mixing both English and another language… German? No, it was too smooth, almost musical… Italian. That fit. He seemed to notice her presence because he glanced over his shoulder at her as she slid onto the plush leather seat. After speaking a few more words, he quickly ended his call, at the same time pulling a cell phone from his pocket.
“Fasten your seat belt. We will be landing in a few minutes,” he told her.
Questions tumbled through her mind, but she started with the most immediate.
“You said we were going to Germany?” She made the statement a question.
“Yes.” His fingers flew over the keypad, presumably making a note or sending a text message.
“Then why are we landing? We’ve only flown a few hours.”
His head jerked this time, pulling his attention from the phone. He gave an amused-sounding grunt and looked closely at her, his green eyes roaming from her pinned-up hair to her face and slowly downward. Holly felt the now-familiar stir of attraction and wondered if he was doing it on purpose.
“We have to make a stop,” he told her and slipped the phone back into his pocket. “The international flight is a long one, and we need to pick up a few things.”
She looked out the window and saw nightfall. The night was clear. For a few seconds, she had a sensation of being caught between night and day, suspended between earth and sky, lost in a nebulous now and an unknown… after-now. It was foreboding — the sense that her life had changed irrevocably and without her consent.
“…to last a few days,” Pesha ended.
“What?” She had missed what he said. “I’m sorry – what did you say?”
“You need a change of clothes, toothpaste, et cetera – enough to last a few days,” he repeated.
She felt the pressure as the airplane dipped slightly to one side and began its descent. “So where are we now?”
“Baltimore Washington Airport. We will be refueled in about 45 minutes, but you can get what you need in the shops.”
In the rush from the Grimaldi estate, Holly had stuffed Joe’s money from the desk into her pockets, but in the restroom stall at the Manhattan Airport, she’d transferred it to her purse. She’d been shocked at the fifty and one hundred dollar bills surrounded by a paper band, but did not have time to count it.
She had started to hide the key in her purse as well, but decided against that idea, not wanting it where it could be lost or stolen. Now the key was wrapped in a paper towel, rolled into a tiny ball, and pinned in the middle of an innocent-looking bun fashioned on top of her head.
“Do they sell underwear in airport shops?” she asked.
Pesha gaped for a second. “I… uh…”
It was Holly’s turn to smirk. Before she could take advantage of the upper hand, the airport came into view. The radio crackled again, and Pesha was occupied with the business of landing the plane.
It took only moments for them to land on an empty stretch of tarmac on the outskirts of the airstrip at least a quarter mile from the terminal. They were met by a black-suited driver of an equally black Lincoln with tinted windows.
Within seconds, they were on the highway where Holly rode in silence watching the city fly by and once again swallowing the questions burning her throat. She listened to the cadence of Pesha’s voice as he shot instructions to the driver in English then whipped out his phone and smoothly transitioned to Italian for a conversation that lasted several minutes.
“What was that about?” she wanted to know.
“Just some business,” he shrugged.
“Pesha.” Impatience colored her tone. “You’ve got to tell me something. Who were you talking to? Where are we going?”
He reached across the buttercream colored seats, and she saw him exchange a look with the driver in the rearview mirror before grasping her hand and responding. “There are things you don’t understand. Much more going on than a dying man’s last wish.” He squeezed her hand tight for a moment. “Holly, you have to trust me a while longer.”
“Why, Pesha? Because of how you killed Clara? Because you obviously have money and some kind of connection to Joe?” She tugged at her hand, but he held fast. “I don’t know anything about you,” she practically spat the words at him.
“Joe is – was – my great uncle…”
Holly interrupted, “So you say.”
“Listen, Holly, I’ll try to explain things when we get to Germany.” He tugged her closer as the car rolled to a stop. “For right now you must….”
“I know. Trust you,” she finished sarcastically. Holly resented the kick start of her pulse as he held her too close — almost kissing close.
The car door swung open, and Pesha drew her out to the sidewalk and into a boutique before she had time to take in her surroundings. They were met with two smiling women who visibly measured and dressed her in a whirlwind of tops, slacks, jeans, and even intimates. They produced an assortment of makeup and perfumes. Holly made her selections while a seemingly relaxed Pesha sprawled on an overstuffed sofa tracking her every move.
Before she could open her purse for payment, the purchases were placed in matching three piece luggage bearing Louis Vuitton labels. Pesha provided his signature, and they were back to the car where the driver loaded the bags into the open trunk that already held several bags with designer labels.
They rode back to the airport in tense silence during which Holly held herself as far away from Pesha on the seat as possible. Even in the dark, Holly could see the jet they now boarded was considerably longer and somehow more powerful-looking than the previous one. This one had a flight crew. She was ushered into a small but spacious-looking bedroom by a flight attendant who placed a Nordstrom’s bag on tiny dresser and exited without a word.
Holly picked up the bag and sat on the bed to look inside. She removed a deep purple satin two-piece pajama set and was fingering the delicate straps when Pesha appeared in the doorway. His eyes lingered on the garment before meeting hers. Her throat was suddenly dry, and her breath sped up.
Pesha cleared his throat and seemed to have trouble speaking as his voice came out a bit rough. “It will be a long night. Try to get some sleep. We’ll talk in the morning.”
Holly was awake and feeling refreshed the next morning when the jet landed briefly in London. No one left the airplane, but after it taxied to a stop near a large vehicle – again black with tinted windows – two men, one carrying a small package, came aboard. She watched as they met Pesha, shook hands, and disappeared into a conference room. They emerged only minutes later and exited without acknowledging her presence.
“Ms. Higgins?” The flight attendant, whose name tag read Marisella, spoke with a slight accent. “I will have breakfast ready as soon as we resume flight. Do you need anything right now? Coffee?” It sounded like co-fee.
“Yes, coffee would be wonderful. Thank you.”
A few minutes later, Holly was sipping delicious coffee from a cup so light and delicate in her hand that she lifted to read the name of the maker from the bottom. She expected it to be stamped Fine China, but it was not in English.
“Is there a problem with your cup?” Pesha asked.
Holly looked at him and then out the window at the huge white puffy clouds before taking another sip. “What about my car?”
“Excuse me?” Pesha seemed thrown by the random question.
“We left my car parked at Joe’s house. The police must have responded to Clara’s… death. My car is still there, but I’m gone. Won’t they ask questions? What if they call my mom?”
Pesha stared at the package he’d set on the seat next to him. He looked at Holly, his expression guarded. “It’s all been taken care of.”
“Taken care of by whom? How do I know the police aren’t looking for me right now? Have you seen any news reports?”
“Holly, it’s all very complicated. You must believe I have it under control.” He reached as though to grab her hand again, but she put down her coffee and folded her arms across her chest.
“Uh-uh,” she shook her head. “Not this time – not good enough. If you expect any further cooperation from me, you will give me some real answers. And where’s my phone?” she demanded. “It was in my purse last night, and now it’s gone.”
“As I told you, there is much you do not understand, and things can get… dangerous.”
He picked up the parcel, opened a flap, and removed a large brown envelope – the kind with bubble wrap inside. He opened the envelope and withdrew a stack of letters tied together with a worn leather cord. He turned them in his hands a few times before passing them to Holly.
“These might interest you, might answer a few questions for you. After you’ve looked at them, we will talk again.”
He continued to look at her with an expression she could not decipher. Holly took the letters and felt a strange mix of excitement and fear.
Pesha stood, but before leaving, he suddenly reached one hand and stroked a finger softly down her face from temple to cheek. His touch trailed fire along her nerves, and her mouth popped open with a swiftly indrawn breath. He murmured something that sounded like “Cara Mia” as he left the room.
“Where’s my phone?” Holly yelled at his retreating back.
Still tingling and fuming, she untied the cord and made a closer inspection of the letter on top. It was apparently very old. The return address was from Joseph Grimaldi in America, and it was written to Bella Guiseppina in North Carolina in 1949.
An impulse made her pick up the brown envelope, but like her coffee cup, the writing was in another language. She felt something sliding inside the envelope and upended it. A heavy gold coin fell into her palm. What in the world?
Putting a fingernail under the flap, she carefully opened the top letter from the stack and read the salutation. My Dearest Pina…
A tiny knot of tension had manifested itself as a headache by the time Holly finished reading the letters. She could also feel the jet making its descent and had heard the fasten seatbelt tone several minutes ago.
It wasn’t that there were a lot of letters – only seven. Six from Joe to Pina and one from Pina to Joe, but she had read each more than once. On the surface, Joe’s letters were light-hearted and a bit flowery. However, the underlying tone was one of loneliness and yearning. That he was in love with Pina was undeniable. Pina had been unavailable, living with a man named Andre and their child, Peter.
Peter? There was something… a memory, fleeting. Holly could not recall it, but she knew there was something important going on here. In spite of the comfortable temperature inside the airplane, a cold shiver wrapped itself around her — a thick blanket of trepidation.
By the time Pesha met her at the exit door, Holly had secured the letters and coin in her new carry-on bag purchased in Maryland. They exchanged no words as they deplaned and were loaded this time into a roomy white Cadillac Escalade.
Holly was struck by the silence and lack of vehicles or lights at the airport. It looked deserted.
“What’s wrong with this airport?” she asked.
“It’s RAF Gatow. A former military base closed a few years ago,” he explained.
“We landed at an abandoned airport? How is that even possible?”
“It’s quite possible.” His rueful smile did nothing to allay her concern. “I didn’t want to draw unnecessary attention to our arrival.”
They rode past a sign indicating Autobahn, which Holly knew was a major highway. When they turned onto a busy city street, theirs was the only vehicle of its size, but they moved smoothly through the traffic.
The buildings were tall, close together, and mostly covered from the ground to the second and sometimes third floor with graffiti. People walked or biked the brick sidewalks between cafés and businesses.
They eventually stopped on a roughly-paved, narrow road between four-story buildings. They unloaded and entered a light green building through a white door which led up a narrow staircase, three flights up, to a long hall.
Holly, unlike Pesha and the driver who were both loaded down, toted only her purse and carry-on bag. She was winded when they stopped at an apartment door. Pesha juggled his burden before producing a key and leading them into a small room.
“Narrow must be the theme of this country,” Holly thought, taking in the tiny living room, miniature stove, a sink no bigger than her purse, and a yellow Formica topped table with two folding chairs which she assumed was the dining room.
“Here is the bathroom,” Pesha showed a space with a miniscule shower, sink, and commode. Holly didn’t think she could sit on the toilet without her knees hitting the adjacent wall.
“And here is the bedroom,” he concluded by dumping her bags on the bed. There was barely room for her to move past him in the doorway. The outer door closed behind the driver.
“You live here?” she asked.
“Well, it’s not mine, but I do use it sometimes,” he answered.
Holly turned a complete circle and laughed. “So, private jets, expensive cars, and designer clothes, but this is where you stay?”
“Yes,” he laughed too. “It’s only for a few days. You will be safe, if not the most comfortable here.”
That sobered her. “Pesha, can we talk now?”
“Yes.” He moved back into the living room. “Why don’t you freshen up while I boot my laptop and make a few calls? We’ll get something to eat and have that talk.”
“Wait,” she halted him. “There’s only one bedroom.” Her eyebrow arched.
He held her gaze before quirking one corner of his lips. “Is that right?”
It took a full half hour for Holly to remove the key from her hair, manage the tiny shower, and find something to wear from the suitcases and garment bags. She loved the feminine fragrance of the Juicy Couture body cream and coordinating perfume.
She stepped into a matching lacy black lingerie set and then pulled a flame red spaghetti-strapped sundress over her head. It floated just above her knees in front, but dipped below them in the back. It flattered her full curves and golden skin.
She used a safety pin to secure Joe’s key to the thin fabric on the inside her bra beneath her left arm. Lastly, she slipped her feet into a pair of strappy Manolo Blahnik sandals that matched the red of her dress.
Upon entering the living area, she saw Pesha had been busy as well. The table was covered in a white eyelet cloth. There was a fresh green salad, a plate of fruit, and something that looked but did not smell like a Brat.
Holly was examining the table, but looked up in time to see Pesha examining her. He approached as though mesmerized, his eyes taking in everything at once. “Holly, you’re… you’re so beautiful — much too beautiful for this dump. I should have taken you out.”
She was tongue-tied by the way he was looking and speaking to her. Her senses were on overdrive from his familiar cologne, the warmth of his eyes, and the suddenly sensual lilt of his accent.
She gestured to the table. “That is lovely.”
Her stomach growled. They both laughed, and he pulled her chair out. “I’m hungry. This looks good. What is it?”
He laid her napkin across her lap and took his seat. “It’s a local favorite – Currywurst.”
“So it’s like Bratwurst that we grill in America?” she asked.
“In the same family, but wait till you taste it.”
Dinner was accompanied with banal small talk and eyes that kept connecting and moving quickly away. Finally, Holly laid down her napkin and took a sip of wine.
“More?” he gestured to the bottle.
“No more for me.” She folded her arms. “I’ve truly had enough.”
He jerked his head in that way he did when she caught his attention with something. This time it was her tone and attitude.
The silence stretched, and she thought he was not going to respond. But when he did, the question was unexpected.
“What do you know about your father?”
Chapter 16 will be published next week at http://www.tscpl.org/novel
About Liv Howard
Liv Howard is a graduate of Kansas State University. She is employed at SNCO Court Services as the Community Service Work Coordinator. She is the author of Moonsong a novel of historical Christian fiction. Moonsong is available for checkout at the library and for purchase at BN.com or Amazon.com.
An Interview with Liv Howard
What is your writing background? What sort of work do you usually write?
I have published one novel of Historical Christian Fiction called Moonsong. It is available at Barnes and Noble.com or at the TSCPL-I hope everyone will check it out.
Who are some of your favorite authors? Are there books, poems, or stories that have inspired your own writing? My favorites are Terri Blackstock, Colleen McCullogh, Reshonda Billingsley, Lisa Jackson and Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. My stories are inspired by the ones passed down by verbal tradition from my grandparents.
Why did you want to participate in the Community Novel Project? It was a new and interesting challenge—one that took me beyond the genre I would normally read or write.
Have you ever written fiction in collaboration with other authors before?
Do you usually write in a burst of inspiration, or is your work carefully outlined? Did writing for the community novel differ from the norm?
Inspiration! I have never used an outline and I don’t know what my characters will do from one chapter to the next. It was a bit different with the community novel because when writing my own fiction, those characters live inside my head, so I know them intimately. With the community novel, the characters and I had just met, so it took them a little longer to tell me their story.
What do you like about the premise and characters of this year’s Community Novel Project? What challenges you about them?
I like the mystery about them and their past. I like the challenge of pulling threads to find out how they are woven together and what patterns evolve as we try to weave them into a story.
What was your first reaction when you saw the chapter before yours?
I particularly enjoy the continuity of the “flashback” chapters. I found the events of the previous chapter a bit unexpected. The chapter before mine caused me to spend time isolating the plot lines, identifying the previous “clues” and then finding ways to advance the story that were both interesting and true to the plot.
What do you like most about the chapter that you contributed to the 2014 Community Novel?
I believe I was able to bring the reader into the story by personalizing the main character through her thoughts and reactions. I tried to bring greater detail to the surroundings while heightening the possibility of romance and danger.
What do you hope happens or doesn’t happen in the chapters that come after yours?
I hope the next writers resolve some of the previous clues, answer questions about the character’s history and relationship while staying true to the established plot lines.
What sort of writing can we expect from you in future? Are you currently at work on any writing projects?
I am currently working on two contemporary novels of Christian Fiction which I hope to release in eBook format this year. My first novel, Moonsong, included pieces of original poetry. I also plan to produce some nonfiction work that will be inspirational and informative for parents and singles.