Sunday, October 31, 2010

Everything Christmas by David Bordon and Thomas J. Winters

Tour Date: November 3rd

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It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

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Today's Wild Card authors are:

and the book:

Everything Christmas

WaterBrook Press (October 5, 2010)

***Special thanks to Staci Carmichael, Marketing and Publicity Coordinator, Doubleday Religion / Waterbrook Multnomah, Divisions of Random House, Inc. for sending me a review copy.***


David Bordon and Tom Winters are partners in Bordon-Winters, LLC, a book concept and packaging company that produces successful books and gift products. Their previous titles include the 101 Things You Should Do series, especially the popular 101 Things You Should Do Before Going to Heaven.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (October 5, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 030772929X
ISBN-13: 978-0307729293


December 1

Let Us Keep Christmas

Grace Noll Crowell

Whatever else be lost among the years,

Let us keep Christmas still a shining thing;

Whatever doubts assail us, or what fears,

Let us hold close one day, remembering

It’s poignant meaning for the hearts of men.

Let us get back our childlike faith again.

The History of Christmas

Many of our Christmas traditions were celebrated centuries before the Christ child was born. The twelve days of Christmas, the bright fires, the yule log, gift giving, carnivals, carolers going from house to house, holiday feasts, even church processions can all be traced back to the early Mesopotamians. These traditions were passed down throughout the known world and were popular in Rome long before the birth of Christ.

Most historians say that some three centuries after the birth of Christ, Christianity was spreading rapidly. Church leaders were alarmed that their converts continued to honor the ancient celebrations honoring pagan gods. Early Christians had chosen to keep the birth of their Christ child a solemn and religious holiday, without merriment. For centuries they had forbidden their members to take part in those ancient celebrations. But now it seemed it was a losing battle. As a compromise, they agreed to allow their members to partake in a demure and respectful celebration of the birth of Christ. Thus, the Christian celebration we know as Christmas was born in Rome, near the date 336 AD.

The actual date of Christ’s birth is unknown, so the early Christians chose December 25, probably to compete with the wildly popular Roman festival of Saturnalia. Eventually, most of the customs from the festival of Saturnalia were adopted into the celebration of Christmas and given new and sacred meanings.

Today, Christmas is both a holiday and a holy day. In America, it is the biggest event of the year, celebrated by people of all ages.

Christmas Every Day

William Dean Howells

The little girl came into her papa’s study, as she always did Saturday morning before breakfast, and asked for a story. He tried to beg off that morning, for he was very busy, but she would not let him. So he began:

“Well, once there was a little pig—”

She stopped him at the word. She said she had heard little pig stories till she was perfectly sick of them.

“Well, what kind of story shall I tell, then?”

“About Christmas. It’s getting to be the season.”

“Well!” Her papa roused himself. “Then I’ll tell you about the little girl that wanted it Christmas every day in the year. How would you like that?”

“First-rate!” said the little girl; and she nestled into comfortable shape in his lap, ready for listening.

“Very well, then, this little pig—Oh, what are you pounding me for?”

“Because you said little pig instead of little girl.”

“I should like to know what’s the difference between a little pig and a little girl that wanted Christmas every day!”

“Papa!” said the little girl warningly. At this her papa began to tell the story.

Once there was a little girl who liked Christmas so much that she wanted it to be Christmas every day in the year, and as soon as Thanksgiving was over she began to send postcards to the old Christmas Fairy to ask if she mightn’t have it. But the old Fairy never answered, and after a while the little girl found out that the Fairy wouldn’t notice anything but real letters sealed outside with a monogram—or your initial, anyway. So, then, she began to send letters, and just the day before Christmas, she got a letter from the Fairy, saying she might have it Christmas every day for a year, and then they would see about having it longer.

The little girl was excited already, preparing for the old-fashioned, once-a-year Christmas that was coming the next day. So she resolved to keep the Fairy’s promise to herself and surprise everybody with it as it kept coming true, but then it slipped out of her mind altogether.

She had a splendid Christmas. She went to bed early, so as to let Santa Claus fill the stockings, and in the morning she was up the first of anybody and found hers all lumpy with packages of candy, and oranges and grapes, and rubber balls, and all kinds of small presents. Then she waited until the rest of the family was up, and she burst into the library to look at the large presents laid out on the library table—books, and boxes of stationery, and dolls, and little stoves, and dozens of handkerchiefs, and inkstands, and skates, and photograph frames, and boxes of watercolors, and dolls’ houses—and the big Christmas tree, lighted and standing in the middle.

She had a splendid Christmas all day. She ate so much candy that she did not want any breakfast, and the whole forenoon the presents kept pouring in that had not been delivered the night before, and she went round giving the presents she had got for other people, and came home and ate turkey and cranberry for dinner, and plum pudding and nuts and raisins and oranges, and then went out and coasted, and came in with a stomachache crying, and her papa said he would see if his house was turned into that sort of fool’s paradise another year, and they had a light supper, and pretty early everybody went to bed cross.

The little girl slept very heavily and very late, but she was wakened at last by the other children dancing around her bed with their stockings full of presents in their hands. “Christmas! Christmas! Christmas!” they all shouted.

“Nonsense! It was Christmas yesterday,” said the little girl, rubbing her eyes sleepily.

Her brothers and sisters just laughed. “We don’t know about that. It’s Christmas today, anyway. You come into the library and see.”

Then all at once it flashed on the little girl that the Fairy was keeping her promise, and her year of Christmases was beginning. She was dreadfully sleepy, but she sprang up and darted into the library. There it was again! Books, and boxes of stationery, and dolls, and so on.

There was the Christmas tree blazing away, and the family picking out their presents, and her father looking perfectly puzzled, and her mother ready to cry. “I’m sure I don’t see how I’m to dispose of all these things,” said her mother, and her father said it seemed to him they had had something just like it the day before, but he supposed he must have dreamed it. This struck the little girl as the best kind of a joke, and so she ate so much candy she didn’t want any breakfast, and went round carrying presents, and had turkey and cranberry for dinner, and then went out and coasted, and came in with a stomachache, crying.

Now, the next day, it was the same thing over again, but everybody getting crosser, and at the end of a week’s time so many people had lost their tempers that you could pick up lost tempers anywhere, they perfectly strewed the ground. Even when people tried to recover their tempers they usually got somebody else’s, and it made the most dreadful mix.

The little girl began to get frightened, keeping the secret all to herself, she wanted to tell her mother, but she didn’t dare to, and she was ashamed to ask the Fairy to take back her gift, it seemed ungrateful and ill-bred. So it went on and on, and it was Christmas on St. Valentine’s Day and Washington’s Birthday, just the same as any day, and it didn’t skip even the First of April, though everything was counterfeit that day, and that was some little relief.

After a while turkeys got to be awfully scarce, selling for about a thousand dollars apiece. They got to passing off almost anything for turkeys—even half-grown hummingbirds. And cranberries—well they asked a diamond apiece for cranberries. All the woods and orchards were cut down for Christmas trees. After a while they had to make Christmas trees out of rags. But there were plenty of rags, because people got so poor, buying presents for one another, that they couldn’t get any new clothes, and they just wore their old ones to tatters. They got so poor that everybody had to go to the poorhouse, except the confectioners, and the storekeepers, and the book sellers, and they all got so rich and proud that they would hardly wait upon a person when he came to buy. It was perfectly shameful!

After it had gone on about three or four months, the little girl, whenever she came into the room in the morning and saw those great ugly, lumpy stockings dangling at the fireplace, and the disgusting presents around everywhere, used to sit down and burst out crying. In six months she was perfectly exhausted, she couldn’t even cry anymore.

And now it was on the Fourth of July! On the Fourth of July, the first boy in the United States woke up and found out that his firecrackers and toy pistol and two-dollar collection of fireworks were nothing but sugar and candy painted up to look like fireworks. Before ten o’clock every boy in the United States discovered that his July Fourth things had turned into Christmas things and was so mad. The Fourth of July orations all turned into Christmas carols, and when anybody tried to read the Declaration of Independence, instead of saying, “When in the course of human events it becomes necessary,” he was sure to sing, “God rest you merry gentlemen.” It was perfectly awful.

About the beginning of October the little girl took to sitting down on dolls wherever she found them—she hated the sight of them so, and by Thanksgiving she just slammed her presents across the room. By that time people didn’t carry presents around nicely anymore. They flung them over the fence or through the window, and, instead of taking great pains to write “For dear Papa,” or “Mama “ or “Brother,” or “Sister,” they used to write, “Take it, you horrid old thing!” and then go and bang it against the front door.

Nearly everybody had built barns to hold their presents, but pretty soon the barns overflowed, and then they used to let them lie out in the rain, or anywhere. Sometimes the police used to come and tell them to shovel their presents off the sidewalk or they would arrest them.

Before Thanksgiving came it had leaked out who had caused all these Christmases. The little girl had suffered so much that she had talked about it in her sleep, and after that hardly anybody would play with her, because if it had not been for her greediness it wouldn’t have happened. And now, when it came Thanksgiving, and she wanted them to go to church, and have turkey, and show their gratitude, they said that all the turkeys had been eaten for her old Christmas dinners and if she would stop the Christmases, they would see about the gratitude. And the very next day the little girl began sending letters to the Christmas Fairy, and then telegrams, to stop it. But it didn’t do any good, and then she got to calling at the Fairy’s house, but the girl that came to the door always said, “Not at home,” or “Engaged,” or something like that, and so it went on till it came to the old once-a-year Christmas Eve. The little girl fell asleep, and when she woke up in the morning—

“She found it was all nothing but a dream,” suggested the little girl.

“No indeed!” said her papa. “It was all every bit true!”

“What did she find out, then?”

“Why, that it wasn’t Christmas at last, and wasn’t ever going to be, anymore. Now it’s time for breakfast.”

The little girl held her papa fast around the neck.

“You shan’t go if you’re going to leave it so!”

“How do you want it left?”

“Christmas once a year.”

“All right,” said her papa, and he went on again.

Well, with no Christmas ever again, there was the greatest rejoicing all over the country. People met together everywhere and kissed and cried for joy. Carts went around and gathered up all the candy and raisins and nuts, and dumped them into the river, and it made the fish perfectly sick. And the whole United States, as far out as Alaska, was one blaze of bonfires, where the children were burning up their presents of all kinds. They had the greatest time!

The little girl went to thank the old Fairy because she had stopped its being Christmas, and she said she hoped the Fairy would keep her promise and see that Christmas never, never came again. Then the Fairy frowned, and said that now the little girl was behaving just as greedily as ever, and she’d better look out. This made the little girl think it all over carefully again, and she said she would be willing to have it Christmas about once in a thousand years, and then she said a hundred, and then she said ten, and at last she got down to one. Then the Fairy said that was the good old way that had pleased people ever since Christmas began, and she was agreed. Then the little girl said, “What’re your shoes made of?” And the Fairy said, “Leather.” And the little girl said, “Bargain’s done forever,” and skipped off, and hippity-hopped the whole way home, she was so glad.

“How will that do?” asked the papa.

“First-rate!” said the little girl, but she hated to have the story stop, and was rather sober. However, her mama put her head in at the door and asked her papa:

“Are you never coming to breakfast? What have you been telling that child?”

“Oh, just a tale with a moral.”

The little girl caught him around the neck again.

“We know! Don’t you tell what, papa! Don’t you tell what!”

William Dean Howells (1837—1920) Best known as an editor and critic, this American fiction writer produced more than forty novels and story collections. He challenged American authors to choose American subjects, portray them honestly, and create characters who use native-American speech. As a critic, he helped to introduce writers like Mark Twain, Hamlin Garland, and Stephen Crane to American readers.

What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past,

courage for the present, hope for the future.

It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow

with blessings rich and eternal, and that

every path may lead to peace.

Agnes M. Pharo

Scented Applesauce-Cinnamon


3 cups applesauce

3 cups ground cinnamon

Mix applesauce and cinnamon together until it is thick enough to hold a form. Flatten the mixture on a flat surface and cut into cookie-cutter shapes.

Place cookie shapes on a cookie sheet to dry for 3 to 4 days depending on the size and thickness of the cookies. If using as a hanging ornament, make a hole with a toothpick before drying.

Makes 15 ornaments.

Chestnut Dressing

8 Tbsp. butter

3 ribs celery with leaves, chopped

16 ounces chestnuts

1 large chopped onion

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1 pound sourdough bread, cubed

3 cups turkey stock

Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut a deep X into the flattest side of each chestnut and place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake 30 minutes, or until outer skin of chestnut splits. Wrap roasted chestnuts in a towel to keep warm. Peel off the tough outer skin of the chestnut and thinner inner skin with a sharp knife. Chop the chestnuts coarsely and set aside.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Empty skillet contents into a large bowl. Add cubed bread, parsley, and enough stock to moisten the mix, about 2 1/2 cups. Stir in chestnuts and add salt and pepper to taste.

Use to stuff poultry or place in a buttered baking dish, drizzle with 1/2 cup more stock, and bake 30 minutes to an hour.

Makes 10–11 cups.

Roasted Goose

1 goose, 10–12 pounds

1 orange, halved

kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

For giblet stock (used in gravy):

2 onions, quartered

1 carrot, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

2 pints of water

2 sprigs of sage

2 sprigs fresh thyme

1 Tbsp. cornstarch (to thicken)

The goose should be defrosted and left at room temperature for at least 2 or 3 hours before cooking to bring it to equilibrium. This will improve the overall texture of the finished product. Remove the giblets from the goose and set aside. Wash the bird thoroughly inside and out with cool water and pat dry with a kitchen towel. Cut away any loose pieces of fat. Then rub the orange inside and outside of the bird. Mix the salt and pepper and rub into the skin and inside the cavity of the bird to season it.

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Truss the bird by folding the wings back under the body. Then tie the legs together with butcher’s twine. Lightly prick the skin of the bird several times with a fork to allow the fat to adequately render during the cooking process. It is important not to pierce the flesh of the bird. Place the goose breast-side up on a rack in the roasting pan, and bake in the oven for approximately 30 minutes to develop some initial color. Then reduce the oven temperature to 325°F and continue cooking for approximately 3 hours.

Make a simple giblet stock to fortify and enrich the gravy while the goose is roasting by placing the giblets in a saucepan with some goose fat and cooking over low heat until browned. Add chopped onion, carrot, celery, herbs, and water. Bring to a boil and then simmer gently for about one hour. Strain and cool until needed.

The goose is done when the internal temperature of the thigh reaches 175°F. For a visual test to see if the goose is cooked, insert a skewer into the thickest part of the thigh. If the juices run clear, then it is ready. If not, then return to the oven for additional roasting time.

Once the goose is cooked, allow it to rest for 20–30 minutes. This will allow the meat to firm up and will help retain the juiciness of the bird. Remove all of the drippings from the roasting pan, strain, and remove the fat. Add these defatted drippings to the giblet broth and season to taste. To thicken the gravy, combine 1 Tbsp. of cornstarch with 3 Tbsp. of water and add to the gravy. Bring to a boil and simmer for 1–2 minutes or until thickened.

O Little Town of Bethlehem

Phillips Brooks

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!

Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.

Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;

The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

For Christ is born of Mary, and gathered all above,

While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love.

O morning stars together, proclaim the holy birth,

And praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on earth!

How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is giv’n;

So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heav’n.

No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,

Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.

Where children pure and happy pray to the blessed Child,

Where misery cries out to Thee, Son of the mother mild;

Where charity stands watching and faith holds wide the door,

The dark night wakes, the glory breaks, and Christmas comes once more.

O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;

Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.

We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;

O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!

Historical Note:

On Christmas Eve, 1865, Phillips Brooks was in Jerusalem, a trip intended to inspire spiritual rebirth after the horrors of the Civil War. Just a few months earlier, he had spoken at the funeral of President Abraham Lincoln. That clear night as he walked the streets of the Holy City, he had a sudden inspiration. Renting a horse, he set out for Bethlehem. After a solitary journey under the clear night sky, Brooks reached the tiny, remote village and was surrounded by the spirit of the first Christmas. His impoverished soul was refreshed as he considered what had happened there so many years before. Three years later on Christmas Eve, 1868, as he sat alone in his study preparing his sermon for the next day, he felt inspired to pen the words to this beautiful carol.

I, the Lord All-Powerful,

will send my messenger

to prepare the way for me.

Then suddenly the Lord

you are looking for

will appear in his temple.

The messenger you desire

is coming with my promise,

and he is on his way.

(Malachi 3:1, cev)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Finding Becky by Martha Rogers

Tour Date: November 2, 2010

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It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Finding Becky

Realms (October 5, 2010)

***Special thanks to Anna Coelho Silva | Publicity Coordinator, Book Group | Strang Communications for sending me a review copy.***


Martha Rogers is a former schoolteacher and English instructor whose first book in the Winds Across the Prairie series, Becoming Lucy, became an immediate best seller. Morning for Dove (May 2010) is the second book in this series. Her book Not on the Menu is a part of Sugar and Grits, a novella collection with DiAnn Mills, Janice Thompson, and Kathleen Y’Barbo. Rogers lives with her husband in Houston, Texas.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (October 5, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616380241
ISBN-13: 978-1616380243


Oklahoma Territory, June 9, 1905

Rebecca Haynes slammed her book shut. If those children didn’t quiet down soon, she would scream. A mother ought to be able to control her own young ones, but the haggard, worn look of the woman across the aisle told Rebecca that the problem was more than unruly children. She was just the type of woman Rebecca hoped to liberate in her efforts with the women’s suffrage movement. The landscape outside the train window sped by, drawing Rebecca closer to home with each clack of the wheels. To this point the journey had been quite pleasant, but when the mother with her brood of three had joined the travelers, all peace disappeared. Not that she blamed the mother, but the commotion was bothersome. Rebecca turned her attention to the youngsters. They had quieted down some, but the two older ones still roamed the aisles while the baby whimpered in her mother’s arms. She loved children, but she preferred the well-mannered, quiet ones like the cousins she’d met during her stay in Boston. A deep sigh escaped. How she would miss the friends she’d made while in college at Wellesley. Her aunt Clara had made sure she would have the best education possible, and Rebecca had loved every minute of it, but it was now time to go home and see what a difference she could make in the world.

She mused at the similarity of her situation with that of Lucy Starnes, one of her cousins from Boston now living in Barton Creek. Just as Lucy had come to live in Oklahoma Territory to live with her aunt and uncle, Rebecca had traveled to Boston to live with an aunt and uncle there. The difference being that Lucy’s parents had died, forcing her to move out West to live with family. Rebecca had gone back East to further her education and get to know her father’s family.

Now she was headed home to Barton Creek, where she hoped to begin the steps toward a career in journalism. Mr. Lansdowne, her new boss, had balked at first at the idea of having a female reporter working for him, but then he’d relented and hired her. Her father was bound to have had some influence there, but that didn’t matter. She had the job, and if she did it right, she’d be ready for a larger city paper when the opportunity arose.

A hand tugged at her skirt. A blond-haired little boy gripped the fabric with grubby fingers. She glanced over at the weariness in the face of the mother and realized the load carried by the young woman was taking its toll. Instead of scolding the child, Rebecca’s heart softened, and she took matters into her own hands. She grasped the boy’s hand in hers and removed it from her skirt, thankful for the gloves she wore. His bright blue eyes opened wide in surprise. “And what is your name, young master?”

At first he said nothing. He tilted his head as though deciding if it would be all right to answer. A grin revealed a space in his bottom row of teeth. “I’m Billy, and I’m six.”

“Hello, Billy. That’s a fine name.”

A little girl wedged her way next to Rebecca. “My name is Sally, and I’m six years old too. What’s your name?”

A smile filled Rebecca’s heart, her previous vexation gone. The two were twins. No wonder the mother had her hands full. Her heart filled with sympathy. “My name is Rebecca.”

The twins looked at each other, then back to Rebecca. As one voice they said, “We like that name. Can you tell us a story?”

“Children, please don’t bother the young lady.” The mother cast an apologetic frown toward Rebecca.

“That’s all right. I’ll tell them a story.” Doing so would give their mother a much-needed break to take care of the baby.

The mother rewarded her with a relieved smile. Rebecca reached down and lifted Sally to her lap while Billy climbed up beside her. Since she planned to be a writer, Rebecca decided to make up her own story for the two. As she wove the tale of two children on a great adventure across the plains in a covered wagon, Sally’s and Billy’s heads began to nod.

The young woman across the aisle laid her now sleeping baby on the seat and came to Rebecca’s side. “I’ll take them now.”

Though almost reluctant to let her go, Rebecca handed Sally to the mother, then picked up Billy. She followed the two back to their seats. The mother laid Sally on the seat facing her own, then picked up the baby. “You can put Billy by his sister.”

“Do you mind if I sit here and hold him? You must have your hands full with the three of them.”

A tentative smile formed. “That would be nice.”

Rebecca settled herself and shifted Billy so that his weight was more evenly distributed. Just as she craved to speak with another woman, the young mother might enjoy the same. “My name is Rebecca Haynes, and I’m going to Barton Creek.”

The weariness left the woman’s eyes, replaced with a sparkle of excitement. “I’m Ruth Dorsett, and I’m headed for Barton Creek myself.”

Rebecca searched her memory for a recollection of a Dorsett family in Barton Creek. Of course, in the four years she’d been gone, many new families had moved to the town. “I grew up there. Are you visiting, or do you live there now?”

A sadness veiled Ruth’s face. “My husband passed on a few months ago, so we’re going there to live with my parents.”

A lump formed in Rebecca’s throat. “I’m so sorry about your husband. Who are your parents? Perhaps I know them.”

“Their name is Weems. Ma owns a dressmaking shop, and Pa works in the telegraph office.”

“Oh, I do know them. I remember when Mrs. Weems opened her business. We were so glad to have someone who could keep us up-to-date on the latest fashions. She does wonderful work.”

“Thank you. They heard about the opportunities in Oklahoma Territory and moved there when Pa learned they would open a new telegraph office in Barton Creek.”

“Business is doing quite well for your mother. Will you be helping her?”

“Most definitely. Ma taught me to sew at an early age, and I’ve been doing it for my family. I was learning to be a nurse when I met my husband, a doctor, and quit to marry him. I helped with his practice until our babies came along, and then gave assistance whenever I could. Henry was killed in an accident with his buggy going out to deliver a baby on a stormy night. After he passed on, I didn’t know where to turn. I didn’t have the time or money to finish my nurse’s training. The people in Glasson, Kansas, were so helpful, but they weren’t family. After a few months, Ma insisted that I come live with her. She’s delighted to have her grandchildren so close.”

What a small world. Rebecca marveled at the coincidence. The people in Barton Creek were going to love Ruth and these adorable children who had captured Rebecca’s own heart with their big blue eyes and captivating smiles. Now that Aunt Clara lived in town as Doc Carter’s wife, she would certainly spoil them if Mrs. Weems didn’t, and Ruth couldn’t be much older than Lucy. They would be great friends, and Doc Carter could probably use her nursing skills.

The young woman’s desire to work with her mother in business and her nurse’s training impressed Rebecca. If more women would be willing to take charge and seek careers besides baking, cooking, and taking care of children and husbands, more would be willing to join the movement to secure voting privileges for women. Perhaps she could convince Ruth to join the fight. Women had as much right to have a say in who ran the government as any man.

“The twins told me they are six, but how old is the baby?”

Ruth eyed the sleeping child. “Emma is fifteen months old and just started walking without falling every few steps.”

“They’re all beautiful children.” Talking with Ruth reminded her of the story she wanted to write for the editor of the Barton Creek Chronicle. If she were going to be a success at the newspaper, she must show her capabilities right away. “Ruth, if you will excuse me, I have some work I must do before our destination. We’ll talk again later, and I’m happy to already find a new friend in Barton Creek.”

“So am I. It’ll be nice to have someone I can visit with and talk to on occasion.”

Rebecca placed the still sleeping Billy beside Sally. “I look forward to it.” Someday in the distant future she might have such a family, but at the moment her mission was to become the best reporter in Oklahoma Territory and then on to bigger and better opportunities in a larger city.

A grin spread across her face. No matter that she’d won the traditional Hoop Race at Wellesley. After her dunk in the fountain, she’d declared she would break the tradition and not be the first in the class to marry. Hoots and hollers from her fellow classmates told her they didn’t believe that. Let them laugh. She’d prove there was more to life for a woman than being a wife and mother. Although nothing was wrong with that, she simply wanted to see what the world had to offer before settling down, if she ever did.

Geoff Kensington studied the attractive young woman in the seat across from him. She had amazed him several times during this trip. First she’d been reading a book by Sarah Orne Jewett, then she befriended the children who had made enough noise to be heard across the prairie, and then she sat and spoke with their mother. Remarkable! None of the young women he’d known in Chicago would have had anything to with the children, much less their mother. Now the young lady furrowed her brow and stared at a tablet while she tapped a pencil against her cheek.

The stylish cut of her light brown gored skirt and braid-trimmed jacket was of a fashion he’d seen worn by women in the upper classes in Chicago, and it fit her form quite nicely. Her straw hat trimmed in matching ribbon and braid sat at a rakish angle on her upswept hair. He stroked his chin, trying to decide on the color of her hair. Finally he decided that it reminded him of the fine cherry furniture in his mother’s dining room.

In the conversation with the young mother, he had overheard her name, Rebecca Haynes. What a stroke of luck. She had to be kin to one of the men he hoped to meet on this trip. Ben Haynes, Sam Morris, and Jake Starnes were three of the most successful ranchers in the state, and he needed their support for the project he’d been assigned. Perhaps Miss Haynes was Ben’s daughter.

Geoff pulled out his pocket watch and checked the time. He had two hours to charm the lovely Miss Haynes before their arrival in Barton Creek. If his good fortune held out, the children would sleep until then, and he could have an uninterrupted conversation with her.

He stood and bowed. “Pardon me, Miss Haynes. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Geoffrey Kensington, spelled with a G, and I overheard you tell Mrs. Dorsett that you are going to Barton Creek. That is my destination also.”

Miss Haynes’s cheeks blushed pink. “Yes, Barton Creek is my home.” She smiled and indicated the seat next to her. “Please, Mr. Kensington, would you join me?”

“Thank you, I’d be honored. I do have many questions about the town.”

She laughed. “Ask away, but I haven’t been home for four years. I’ve been at college. Wellesley to be exact.”

So, Miss Haynes was not only pretty but well educated too. What a stroke of good fortune to have chosen the same train for the final leg of his journey. “That is a fine school for young women. What are your plans now?”

Her smile only served to accent her beauty. “I’m going to be a reporter for the Barton Creek Chronicle. It’s a weekly newspaper now, but Mr. Lansdowne hopes to publish it more often in the coming year.”

“How interesting. I’ve heard that more women are going into the field of journalism these days. Are you a supporter of the suffrage movement?”

Her eyes, more green than brown, opened wide with excitement. “Oh, yes, I am. I’ve read everything I can about Susan Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Carrie Chapman Catt. Did you know Mrs. Catt has been in Oklahoma, and that women here almost had voting rights granted to them in 1899? And she worked for a newspaper for awhile too. She’s wonderful.”

“Those are all fascinating women.” The animation now in her expressive hands and eyes beguiled him and reminded him of his sister, who was near Rebecca’s age. Even if he didn’t support the movement, he could appreciate her enthusiasm. It might even be a help to him in the business he had in Barton Creek. “Are you related to Ben Haynes, the cattle rancher?”

“I am his daughter. His aunt Clara is the one who insisted that I go back East to go to college. Both of my parents are originally from Boston.”

“I’ve never had the pleasure of visiting that city. I’ve spent most of my time in Chicago and St. Louis. But at the moment I’m more interested in Barton Creek.” And the attractive young woman seated with him.

“Then I shall be happy to share my town with you.”

Her voice had a musical quality that enchanted Geoff. This assignment would be the best one yet in his career. “I have business with your father regarding a cattle purchase. Perchance you will be able to introduce me to him when we arrive.”

“Oh, yes, I’d be delighted to do just that. Father has some of the best cattle to be found in the Territory.”

“Then I shall look forward to our meeting.” He grinned and sat back to enjoy her description of the people in Barton Creek.

Rob Frankston paced the platform at the train station. He flipped open his watch and read the numbers. Two minutes since he last looked. The train was supposed to be on time, but he could neither see nor hear any indication of it coming on the tracks.

The Haynes clan and several friends milled about as a group near the depot, as anxious to see Becky as he was. Of course their reasons were far different from his. He’d waited four years for Becky to return to Barton Creek. He’d loved her since they were thirteen, but she never gave any indication of her feelings one way or the other in those last years of school. Her correspondence with him while he attended the University of Oklahoma indicated nothing more than friendship, and even those letters declined the past year.

When she had up and proclaimed her plans to go off to college in the East, he had to bite back his own disappointment. Aunt Clara spotted his hurt. She took him aside one day and, without naming Becky, told him that if he loved someone more than life itself and let her go her own way, true love would bring her back. He prayed that would be true with Becky’s return to Barton Creek.

The newspaper had announced her arrival with bold headlines in the weekly edition. Rob read of her accomplishments and shook his head. Becky had certainly grown up and made her contribution to activities at the college. After reading the account, even his mother had been impressed, and that was no easy task.

He raked a hand through his dark hair and resumed his pacing.

Matt Haynes, Becky’s brother, made his way toward Rob. The tall, lanky cowboy had captured his sister Caroline’s heart, but he seemed in no hurry to court her.

Matt stretched out his hand in greeting. “I see you’ve decided to join us in welcoming Becky. She’ll be glad to see you.”

“I hope so, but she hasn’t written to me much this past year, so perhaps she’s forgotten her friends here.”

Matt laughed and clapped him on the shoulder. “Don’t worry. She was probably busy with all those things the paper said she did at Wellesley. You know our Becky. When she’s involved in something, she gives it all she’s got.”

Yes, he did know, and that was one of the things Rob loved about her. Back in their school days here, she had always been a leader and one to speak her mind and do things her own way. She could ride and herd cattle as well as any man on the ranch, but then could appear as a beautiful young lady on Sundays at church.

“She is really someone special.” He sighed. “I hope your father thinks I’m good enough for her.”

With hands on his hips, Matt chuckled. “You won’t have any problem there. You’re gaining a fine reputation in the law firm.”

Rob couldn’t be so sure about that. What with all the run-ins his mother had with Becky’s mother, the Haynes family might not be so interested in letting him become a member, good reputation or not. As the mayor’s wife, his mother may think it her duty to set high social standards and be particular about the people with whom her children associated, but he didn’t intend to let her run his life.

In the distance a train whistle sounded, and Matt nodded toward his family. “Come on over and join us. Be a part of our welcoming party.”
Rob grinned. “Think I’d like that.” He followed Matt back to the group. In the next half hour he’d know whether he still had a chance with Becky. If not, then he’d spend day and night winning her love no matter what anyone may say or do.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Black Madonna by Davis Bunn

Tour Date: November 1st, 2010

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It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

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Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

The Black Madonna

Touchstone; 1st edition (September 7, 2010)

***Special thanks to Libby Reed, Publicity Assistant, HOWARD BOOKS, a division of Simon & Schuster for sending me a review copy.***


Davis Bunn is an award winning author who serves as writer in residence at Regent’s Par College, Oxford University. His novels have sold more than six million copies in sixteen languages.

Photograph by I.D. Bunn

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Touchstone; 1st edition (September 7, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1416556338
ISBN-13: 978-1416556336


FROM THE CREST OF THE Herodium dig, Harry Bennett could look out and see three wars.

The isolated, cone-shaped hill rose two thousand feet over the Judean Desert. Herodium, the palace-fortress built by Herod the Great, had been erected on the site of his victory against the Parthians in 40 BCE. Herod had then served as king of Judea under his Roman masters, but he had been utterly despised by the Judeans. When Herod's sons were finally vanquished, Herodium had been evacuated. Over the centuries, the city became a legend, its location a myth.

Modern excavations had begun in the sixties, only to be interrupted by wars and intifadas and disputes over jurisdiction. Harry Bennett was part of a group excavating the original palace fortress. The current project was supervised by a woman professor from the Sorbonne. She had fought for six years to gain the license, and nothing so minor as somebody else's war was going to stop her work.

The volunteers came from a dozen nations, to dig and learn and bury themselves in history. Most were in their twenties and tried to keep up a brave face despite the rumbles of conflict and the brutal heat. The day Harry arrived at Herodium, three Scandinavian backpackers had perished hiking above the Ein Gedi National Forest. With water in their packs. Just felled by the ferocious heat.

And here Harry was, huddled under the relentless glare of that same deadly sun, using his trowel and his brush to scrape two thousand years of crud off a stone.

Officially Harry and the other volunteers were restricted to the dig and their hilltop camp. With Hamas missiles streaking the nighttime sky, none of the other unpaid staff were much interested in testing their boundaries. But twice each week the Sorbonne professor traveled to Jerusalem and delivered her finds to the ministry. When she departed that particular afternoon, Harry signaled to the Palestinian operating the forklift. Ten minutes later, they set off in Hassan's decrepit pickup.

The angry wind blasting through his open window tasted of sand as dry as volcanic ash. Hassan followed the pitted track down an incline so steep Harry gripped the roof and propped one boot on the dashboard. He tried to ignore the swooping drop to his right by studying the horizon, which only heightened his sense of descending into danger. North and east rose the Golan hills and sixty years of struggle with Syria. Straight north was the Lebanese border, home to the Hezbollah hordes. To the southwest lay Gaza, provider of their nightly firework displays.

All West Bank digs were required to employ a certain number of locals. Hassan was one of the few who arrived on time, did an honest day's work, and showed a keen interest in every new discovery. On Harry's first day at the site, he had put the man down for a grave robber and a smuggler.

The West Bank was the richest area for artifacts in all Judea. There were thousands of sites, many dating from the Iron Age, others from the Roman era, and more still from Byzantium. Many sites remained undiscovered by archeologists but were well known to generations of Palestinians, who fiercely guarded their troves and passed the locations down from generation to generation.

Hassan's former job wouldn't have sat well with the Israeli authorities. But people like Hassan took the long view. Eventually things would settle down, and when they did, Hassan would return to his real trade. In the meantime, Hassan hid his profession from the Israeli authorities, lay low, and remained open to a little persuasion. In Harry's case, that amounted to a thousand dollars.

They arrived in Hebron three hours later. The city crawled up the slopes of two hills and sprawled across a dull desert bowl. Entering Hebron around sunset, in the company of a Palestinian smuggler, was an act of total lunacy.

Harry Bennett wouldn't have had it any other way.

Clustered on hilltops to the north of the old city rose the UN buildings, the university, and a huddle of government high-rises built with international relief funding. Other hills were dominated by Jewish settlements. These were rimmed by fences and wire and watchtowers that gleamed in the descending light. The rest of Hebron was just your basic war zone.

Sunset painted Hebron the color of old rust. The city held the tightly sullen feel of a pot that had boiled for centuries. Even the newer structures looked run-down. Most walls were pockmarked with bullet holes and decorated with generations of graffiti. Harry saw kids everywhere. They bore such tight expressions they resembled old people in miniature. Looking into their eyes made Harry's chest hurt.

The streets were calm, the traffic light. Which was good, because it allowed them to make it to the city center early. It was also bad, because the Israel Defense Forces soldiers had nothing better to do than watch Hassan's truck. Two IDF soldiers manning a reinforced guard station tracked the pickup with a fifty-caliber machine gun.

Hassan said, "This idea is not so good, maybe."

Harry nodded slowly. He smelled it too, the biting funk of cordite not yet lit. But he would trust his driver. "You say go, we go."

Hassan's gaze flitted over to Harry. "You pay?"

"The deal's the same. You get the other five hundred when we're done."

Hassan wiped his face with a corner of his checkered head-kerchief. "We stay."

Harry halfway wished the man's nerve would fail and he would turn his rattling truck around. "Better to come in twice than not go home at all."

"You know danger?"


"I think maybe more than some. I think you see much action."

"That was then and this is now," Harry replied. "You're my man on the ground here. I'm relying on your eyes and ears. I can't tell what's real and what's just your normal garden-variety funk."

Hassan skirted a pothole large enough to swallow the neighboring Israeli tank. "Say again, please."

"Let's assume for a second that you and I can do business together."

Hassan pointed at Harry's shirt pocket holding the five bills—the rest of his fee. "This is not business?"

"I'd call it a first step. Say your man shows up like you promised. Say he's got the goods and the buy goes well. What happens next?"

"If the first buy goes well, you trust me for more."

"Right. But I need someone who can sniff out traps and see through walls. There's so much danger around here, my senses are on overload."

The man actually smiled. "Welcome to Hebron."

"I didn't go to all this trouble for just one item, no matter how fine this guy's treasure might be. I need you to tell me if we're safe or if we should pull out and return another time."

Hassan did not speak again until he parked the truck and led Harry into a cafÉ on Hebron's main square. "What you like?"

"You mean, other than getting out of here with my skin intact? A mint tea would go down well."

Hassan placed the order and settled into the rickety chair across from Harry. "There are many Americans like you?"

"I'm one of a kind."

"Yes. I think you speak truth." Hassan rose to his feet. "Drink your tea. I go ask what is happening."

All Harry could do was sit there and watch the only man he knew in Hebron just walk away. From his spot by the bullet-ridden wall, isolated among the patrons at other tables who carefully did not look his way, Harry felt as though he had a bull's-eye painted on his forehead. Even the kid who brought his tea and plate of unleavened bread looked scared. Harry stirred in a spoonful of gray, unrefined sugar and lifted the tulip-shaped glass by its rim. All he could taste was the flavor of death.

AFTER SUNSET, THE HEBRON AIR cooled at a grudging pace. Harry watched as the city square filled with people and traffic and shadows. The cafÉ became crowded with people who avoided looking Harry's way. Across the plaza, the Tomb of the Patriarchs shone pearl white. Beside the cave complex stood the Mosque of Abraham, a mammoth structure dating back seven hundred years.

The caves had been bought by the patriarch Abraham for four hundred coins, such an astronomical sum that the previous owner had offered to throw in the entire valley. But Abraham had insisted upon overpaying so that his rightful ownership would never be questioned. He had wanted the caves as his family's burial site because supposedly they were also where Adam and Eve had been laid to rest. Besides Abraham himself, the caves also held the remains of his wife, Sarah, along with Rebecca, Isaac, and Jacob.

The guy who made his way toward Harry's table resembled an Arab version of the Pillsbury Doughboy. The man waddled as he walked. His legs splayed slightly from the knees down. His round face was topped by flattened greasy curls that glistened in the rancid lights of the cafÉ. He walked up, slumped into the chair across the table from Harry, and demanded, "You have money?"

Harry kept his gaze on the square and the crawling traffic. "Where's Hassan?"

"Hassan is not my business. He is your business. You must answer my question. You have money?"

Harry was about to let the guy have it when he spotted Hassan returning across the plaza. When he reached the cafÉ's perimeter, Hassan seated himself at an empty table, facing outward toward the plaza, placing himself between Harry and any incoming threat. Harry relaxed slightly. It was always a pleasure doing business with a pro.

Harry said, "Let's take this from the top. I'm—"

"I know who you are. Harry Bennett seeks treasure all over the world. You see? We meet because I check you out."

"What's your name?"

"Wadi Haddad."

"Wadi, like the word for oasis?"

"Yes, is same." He wore a rumpled linen jacket, its armpits wet and darkened with sweat. He reached in a pocket and came up with a pack of filterless Gitanes. "You want?"

"Never learned to use them, thanks."

Wadi Haddad lit the cigarette with a gold lighter. The stench of black tobacco encircled the table. "I have much interesting items. Very nice."

"I didn't come to Hebron for nice, Mr. Haddad. I came for exceptional. You understand that word?"

"Exceptional is also very expensive."

"One of a kind," Harry went on. "Unique. Extremely old. And I have always been partial to gold."

Wadi Haddad revealed a lizard's tongue, far too narrow for his globular face. It flitted in and out several times, tasting the air. "How much money you have?"

"Not a cent with me."

"Then I also have nothing. Business is finished." But Wadi Haddad did not move.

"Here's how it's going to work," said Harry. "You show me the item. I photograph it."

"No. Photographs absolutely not to happen."

"I show the photographs to my clients. If they like, they transfer the money to an escrow account at the Bank of Jordan in Amman. You understand, escrow?"

"I know."

"Good. Then you bring the item to Jerusalem and we make the exchange."

"Not Jerusalem. Too much police everyplace."

"Okay, Mr. Haddad. Where would you prefer?"


"Too small. I like bright lights, big city."

"Then Amman."

Which had been Harry's choice all along. Even so, he pretended to give that some thought. "Okay, Amman. Hotel Inter-Continental. You got an account at the Bank of Jordan?"

"I make one happen."

"Then we're ready to roll. All we need is the merchandise."

"No photographs."

"Then no business. Sorry, Charlie."

"My name is Wadi."

"Whatever. I don't shoot, I don't buy."

"Photographs cost you a thousand dollars."

Suddenly Harry was very tired of this two-step. "Fine. But I take the thousand from the final purchase price. And don't even think of arguing."

Wadi Haddad did not rise so much as bounce from the seat. "Okay, we go. Not your man." He nodded toward Hassan. "Just you."

"Be right with you." Harry walked to Hassan's table and squatted down beside the man's chair. "You find anything?"

"Hebron is one tense city. People very worried."

"Yeah, I caught that too." Harry liked how the guy never stopped searching the shadows. "Where'd you see action, Hassan?"

"Nowhere. I see nothing, I do nothing. In the West Bank there is only IDF and terrorists."

"Wadi's taking me to check out the merchandise. He says I've got to do this alone. You think maybe you could watch my back?"

"Is good." Hassan held to a catlike stillness. "I see something, I whistle. I can whistle very loud."

Harry rose to his feet, patted the guy's shoulder, and said, "You just earned yourself another five bills."

WADI HADDAD MOVED SURPRISINGLY FAST on his splayed legs. He led Harry deep into the old city. The West Bank crisis was etched into every Hebron street, every bullet-ridden wall, every building topped by an IDF bunker. The streets were either dimly lit or not at all. But walking behind the wheezing Haddad, Harry had no trouble picking his way through the rubble. Behind him, the mosque and the cave complex shone like beacons. And up ahead loomed the wall.

The barrier separating the Jewish sector from Hebron's old city was thirty feet high and topped with razor wire. Searchlights from the guard towers and nearby IDF bunkers serrated the night. The wall gleamed like a massive concrete lantern.

Somewhere in the distance a truck backfired. Wadi Haddad froze. A searchlight illuminated the man's trembling jowls. Harry said, "You're not from here."

"My mother's family only. I live sometimes Damascus, sometimes Aqaba."

Aqaba was Jordan's portal to the Red Sea, a haven for tourists and smugglers' dhows. "Must be nice."

Wadi Haddad started off once more, Harry following close. But when Haddad entered a dark, narrow alley, Harry dug in his heels. "Hold up there."

"What's the matter, treasure man?"

The buildings to either side reached across to form a crumbling arch. The windows fronting the street were both barred and dark. The alley was black. Harry had spent a lifetime avoiding alleys like this. Then he saw a cigarette tip gleam. "That your buddy down there?"

"Is guard, yes. In Hebron, many guards."

"Ask him to step out where I can see him."

Wadi didn't like it, but he did as Harry said. The man emerged and flipped on a flashlight. In the dim rays reflected from the walls, Harry could see a face like a parrot, with too-narrow features sliding back from a truly enormous nose. The man's eyes were set very close together and gleamed with the erratic light of an easy killer.

"Ask him to light up that alley for us."

The man smirked at Harry's nerves but did not wait for Wadi's translation. The flashlight showed an empty lane that ended about eighty feet back with double metal doors. "What's behind the doors, Wadi?"

"Where we go. My mother's cousin's house."

Harry motioned to the man holding the light. "Lead on, friend."

The guard spoke for the first time. "You have guns?"

Harry lifted his shirt and turned around. "Make business, not war. That's my motto."

"He can search you?"

"Sure thing." Harry gestured at the doors. "Inside."

• • •

THE DOORS RATTLED IN ALARM as the guard pushed them open. Wadi called out and, on hearing no response, stepped into a neglected courtyard with Harry close behind. The dusty compound appeared empty. A pair of plastic chairs sprawled by a rusty outdoor table, their upended legs jutting like broken teeth. From inside the house a dog barked. In the distance Harry both heard and felt the grinding tremor of an IDF tank on road patrol.

Wadi led Harry to a flat-roofed side building of unfinished concrete blocks and opened a door with flaking paint. The interior was an astonishment. The front room was a well-appointed display chamber about twelve feet square. Two walls were stuccoed a light peach. A third wall was covered by a frieze of mythical birds carved from what Harry suspected was olive wood. The fourth wall held a narrow steel door with a central combination lock.

"Looks like I found the guy I've been looking for," Harry said.

Wadi held out his hand. "Thousand dollars."

Harry was about to insist he see the item first, then decided there was no reason to get off on the wrong sandal.

Wadi counted in the Arab fashion, folding the bills over and peeling the oily edges with his thumb and forefinger. He slipped the money into his pocket and motioned with his chin to the guard.

The steel door swung open on greased hinges. The guard stepped inside and emerged with a black velvet stand shaped like a woman's neck. What was draped on the stand took Harry's breath away.

The concept of women's ornamentation was as old as civilization itself. The earliest forms were fashioned as temple offerings and were considered to have magical properties. Many ancient cultures revered such jewelry for its talismanic power either to ward off evil or bring good health and prosperity.

In the very earliest days of Christianity, new believers drawn from Hellenistic temple cults often brought with them such ideas about the powers of jewelry. The necklace dated from the second century AD. The chain was a series of gold tubes, each stamped with a Christian design. It ended in an emerald the size of Harry's thumb. The gemstone had been sanded flat and carved with the Chi-Rho symbol.

Without asking, Wadi handed Harry a pair of white gloves and a jeweler's loupe. Closer inspection only confirmed Harry's first impression. This was a museum-quality piece.

The problem was, Harry could not identify it as a fake. Which was troubling, because Harry knew for a fact the item was not genuine.

Harry Bennett had nothing against a little smuggling. He would certainly not have helped anyone track down another treasure dog.

Counterfeiters, though, were a different breed of lice.

After nearly three years of roiling conflict, the Israeli Antiquities Authority had basically lost control of smuggling in the West Bank. In the past, the IAA had nabbed about ninety thieves each year for pilfering tombs, ruined cities, palaces, and forts. Since the latest political troubles began, however, arrests had slumped to almost nothing. The IAA knew without question that the worst culprits were getting away. The international arts market was being flooded with ancient Hebrew treasure. What was more, a growing number of these items were bogus. Extremely well crafted, their workmanship often able to fool museum directors and other supposed experts, but phony just the same.

The Israeli government had needed somebody with Harry Bennett's credentials, known throughout the world as a dedicated treasure dog. Somebody capable of infiltrating the system and identifying the source of the fake artifacts.

Only when Harry looked up did he realize he had been holding his breath. He handed the loupe and gloves back to Wadi and unsnapped the case of his pocket camera. "Okay if I shoot a few?"

Wadi smirked as he pulled the cigarettes from his pocket. The man knew a buyer's lust when he saw it. "Sure, sure, many as you like. You want tea?"

DICKERING OVER PRICE TOOK UNTIL well after midnight. Even so, when Harry stepped through the compound's steel door, the city remained noisily alive. Such was the manner of every Middle Eastern city Harry had ever visited, and it was one of the reasons why he relished the Arab world. These lands were full of pirates and their love of dark hours.

Wadi Haddad wore his sourest done-in-by-the-deal frown. "You give me no profit. My daughters starve."

Harry clamped down on his first thought, which was that this guy definitely hadn't missed a lot of meals. "Phone you in four days, right?"

"Four, maybe five. These days the border is very tight."

"Then maybe you ought to bring out the other items you're holding here for sale."

"You buy more?"

"If they're as fine as what you just showed me, sure, I think I can find buyers."

"Not same price," Wadi complained. "Too much hard bargain."

Harry was about to say what he thought of Wadi's poor-boy tactic when, from the distance, he heard a shrill whistle pierce the night.

The guard stood at the alley's mouth, searching in all directions. Wadi remained intent upon business, sucking on his cigarette and grumbling through the smoke as he walked past where Harry stood tense and rooted to the dusty earth. "Next time your price plus thirty percent. You pay or I go find—"

Harry leaned forward and gripped Wadi's shoulder and pulled him back. He slammed Wadi onto the alley wall, placing himself between the trader and the road. Wadi's breath whooshed out in a fetid cloud. His eyes registered surprise and rising protest. But Harry kept him pinned where he was.

Then the world of Hebron roared in rage and flames.

© 2010 T. Davis Bunn

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