How did a ghost find her way into my thriller?
August 28, 2017
The dark, bitter eyes were hypnotic. Any sign of life had dimmed behind them a long time ago.
I don’t write paranormal.
I write historical thrillers.
So why did I write about a ghost?
Where did she come from?
She certainly wasn’t planned.
As the Nazi storm troopers and brown shirts ransacked Baden Baden during the Night of Broken Glass, an old gentleman captured the following scene with his camsera:
The young woman was holding her young daughter’s hand when the brown shirt approached her. He leered at her and ripped the buttons off her blouse.
She slapped him.
He shot her point black between the eyes.
The child screamed. She was on her knees crying for her mama to get up, begging for her mama to get back up.
She was still crying when the bullet tore into the back of her tiny skull.
It was a tragedy.
It was insanity.
It was war.
Later in the novel, Ambrose Lincoln is on a train headed toward Baden Baden.
And as I wrote:
Lincoln’s eyes fell on the small, oval face of a young woman, maybe thirty, maybe not, with long raven hair and a beauty mark or a spot of mud under her left eye. She was barely five feet tall and wore a woolen dress the color of the earth. Her skin was pale, translucent, and had not yet been touched by the sun. She was barefoot and carrying a bleached cotton sack.
The small, oval face was pointed his way, and her eyes were dark, filled with bitterness and regret. They would speak long before she ever said a word. She stood and swayed awkwardly with the movement of the train as she walked toward him.
Lincoln tried to look away.
The dark, bitter eyes were hypnotic.
Any sign of life had dimmed behind them a long time ago.
“They are lying,” she said suddenly. Her voice was soft and distant.
“Who is lying?”
“The ones who were there.”
“And the ones who weren’t,” she said.
She sat down at the table and folded her hands on top of the white linen cloth. They were small, fragile, and scarred. Her nails were torn. Her fingers had been bleeding. Lincoln looked closer. It was a spot of mud beneath her eye.
“Where are you talking about?” Lincoln asked.
“My country,” she said. “Their country. It belongs to us all. It belongs to no one.”
“What are they lying about?”
“The night of broken glass,” she said.
In the distance, he could hear the mournful whistle of the train, and he saw a few scattered lights from a small town outside the window. The lights flew past, nothing more than a patchwork of flickering glares in the shadows, and then it was dark again.
“They will tell you that the windows were broken, that the streets were lined with splinters of glass, that drunken thugs attacked us. But the thugs are gone is what they will tell you, and life goes on as it always has.”
“Who will tell me this?”
“Your newspapers,” she said. “Your politicians. Your President.”
“The war has begun? They run from the war.”
“My war.” The trace of a sad smile touched her lips. “Soon it will be your war.”
Lincoln shrugged. “My war has never ended,” he said.
She reached out with her fingers and gently touched his hand. Her voice had become a fading whisper. “They broke our glass,” she said. “The broke our hearts. They burned our homes. They burned our little shops.”
“They killed us all,” she said. “They killed the old. They killed the sick. They killed a mother. They killed a child. They left them in the gutter to bleed.”
“How do you know?” Lincoln said.
The woman stood and walked toward the door. “I was the mother,” she said.
Ambrose Lincoln frowned. His eyes caught a glimpse of the bleached cotton sack she had left on the table.
He stood to catch her before she could leave the dining car.
She was gone.
It was as though she had never been in the dining car at all.
I didn’t know her spirit would confront Lincoln on the train.
Neither did he.
She would come to him again on a flight toward Austria.
Her horror was the horror of war.
Her story became Lincoln’s conscience.
He could not fail.
He would not fail.
He must keep his promise to a ghost.
So do I write paranormal?
I don’t know.
Her ghost seemed real to me.
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