The F.I.G. Mysteries
by Barbara Casey
THE F.I.G. MYSTERIES
Dara Roux, abandoned when she was 7 years old by her mother. Exceptionally gifted in foreign languages. Orphan.
Mackenzie Yarborough, no record of her parents or where she was born. Exceptionally gifted in math and problem-solving. Orphan.
Jennifer Torres, both parents killed in an automobile accident when she was 16. Exceptionally gifted in music and art. Orphan.
THE CADENCE OF GYPSIES: Book 1
Known as the F.I.G.s (Females of Intellectual Genius), three high-spirited 17 year olds with intelligent quotients in the genius range, accompany their teacher and mentor, Carolina Lovel, to Frascati, Italy, a few weeks before they are to graduate from Wood Rose Orphanage and Academy for Young Women. Carolina's purpose in planning the trip is to remove her unusually gifted, creative students from the Wood Rose campus located in Raleigh, North Carolina, so they can't cause any more problems ("expressions of creativity") for the headmaster, faculty, and other students – which they do with regularity. Carolina also wants to visit the Villa Mondragone where the Voynich Manuscript, the most mysterious document in the world, was first discovered and attempt to find out how it is related to a paper written in the same script she received on her 18th birthday when she was told that she was adopted.
THE WISH RIDER: Book 2
When Carolina and the F.I.G.s return to Wood Rose, Dara decides that she wants to try to locate her birth mother when she learns that she might be living in New York City. Carolina, Mackenzie, and Jennifer accompany her and their search leads them to a secret dangerous shadow world hidden deep beneath Grand Central, constructed in what Mackinzie identifies as chevroned magic squares—N X N matrixes in which every row, column, and diagonal add up to the same number—and cloaked in the discordant B flat minor key music that only Jennifer can hear.
THE CLOCK FLOWER: Book 3
The three FIGs—Females of Intellectual Genius—graduate from Wood Rose Orphanage and Academy for Young Women after returning from New York City where Dara learned why her mother abandoned her all those years ago, and they are now attending universities where they can further their special talents. This means they will be separated from each other and from Carolina, their much-loved mentor and teacher who is “one of them,” for the first time in their young lives. They vow to try living apart for one semester, in the so-called real world that doesn’t include the orphanage; but if things don’t work out, they will come up with another plan—a plan where they can be together once again. Dara is invited through Yale University to take part in an exciting archeological project in China. Jennifer, once again visualizing black and white images and the unusual sounds of another cadence that seem to be connected to Mackenzie, is engrossed in creating her next symphony at Juilliard. Mackenzie, because of her genius at problem-solving, is personally chosen by a US Senator to get involved in a mysterious, secret research project involving immortality that is being conducted in a small village in China—not too far from where Dara is involved with the archeological site. Once there, however, she finds herself facing a terrifying death from the blood-dripping teeth of an ancient evil dragon. Her best friends, the FIGs and Carolina, rely on their own unique genius and special talents to save her as she discovers the truth of her birth parents.
THE NIGHTJAR’S PROMISE: Book 4
Jennifer Torres, one of the three FIGs (Females of Intellectual Genius) who is a genius in both music and art, is the last to leave the closed rehearsal for her upcoming performance over Thanksgiving break at Carnegie Hall when she hears something in the darkened Hall. Recognizing the tilt of the woman’s head and the slight limp of the man as they hurry out an exit door, she realizes it is her parents who were supposedly killed in a terrible car accident when she was 15 years old. Devastated and feeling betrayed, she sends a text to Carolina and the other two FIGs—THURGOOD. It is the code word they all agreed to use if ever one of them got into trouble or something happened that was too difficult to handle. They would all meet back at Carolina’s bungalow at Wood Rose Orphanage and Academy for Young Women to figure it out. As soon as they receive the text, because of their genius, Dara starts thinking of words in ancient Hebrew, German, and Yiddish, while Mackenzie’s visions of unique math formulae keep bringing up the date October 11, 1943. And as Carolina waits for the FIGs to return to Wood Rose, she hears warnings from Lyuba, her gypsy mother, to watch for the nightjar, the ancient name for the whip-poor-will.
In their search for “The Nightjar’s Promise” and the truth surrounding it, Carolina and the FIGs come face to face with evil that threatens to destroy not only their genius, but their very lives.
Excerpt from The Nightjar’s Promise
In less than a half-hour, Carolina and the FIGs were standing in front of a large black wrought iron gate peering through the tall scrolled railings. Dara was the first to notice the words inscribed above the gate—Beit Almin. “That means ‘house of eternity,’” she said. “This is a Jewish cemetery.”
“That must explain why they weren’t buried in the cemetery in Fredericksburg,” said Jennifer. “My parents must have definitely been Jewish. You can’t get into one of these places unless you are Jewish.” Then, after a moment, “I never knew—we never discussed religion.” She looked at her best friends, “I guess that makes me Jewish, too.”
Inside the walled cemetery, there was only one massive mausoleum that had been built on the side of a hill that extended underground. After passing through the entrance, they followed the dimly-lighted path farther underground that took them to where the graves were located. Arranged in neat rows extending in different directions like a radial, each gravesite was covered by either a stone slab or a monument.
“These are like the Jewish catacombs in Rome, Italy,” whispered Mackenzie as she realized the enormity of where they were.
“It is the Jewish belief that the dead must be buried in a wooden casket underground—even in a mausoleum,” explained Dara, “and that the burial must take place within 24 hours of death.” She put her arm around Jennifer. “That must be why Schomer said your parents would be buried the day after the so-called accident. Keeping within the Jewish tradition—or at least the appearance—even though they were’t dead.”
“Why the stones?” asked Jennifer.
Dara looked around at the different monuments near where they were standing. Small stones had been placed on some of the monuments; others had flowers. “The stones indicate someone has visited. Symbolically they mean that love and remembrance is as lasting as stone,” she said. “It comes from the Old Testament stating that God is a rock.”
“There must be over a hundred graves in here.” Mackenzie glanced around, “and some of them are dated from the 1800s and even before.” Then, her problem-solving instincts kicking in, “I think we’d better split up and each of us can take a few rows to see if we can find the name ‘Torres.’”
Each FIG and Carolina started walking in a different direction, reading the inscriptions on the monuments they passed. It didn’t take long for Jennifer to quickly reach the end of one row and start down another when she saw it. It was only providential that she be the one to locate the large, gray stone monument, tall and ornate. It was the castle with a single tower that had been carved at the top of the monument that first caught her attention—signifying the name “Torres” just as Dara had discovered in her research. Her mother’s and father’s names were chiseled in the stone along with their dates of birth and death—the day of the car accident. Even knowing her parents weren’t buried there, seeing their names on a grave monument along with the date they supposedly died was sobering.
Even more sobering, however, was the fact that there were also fresh flowers placed at the base of the monument. Wondering who would have left the flowers, Jennifer bent down to more closely examine them when she became aware of a strange odor—like a nervous sweat smell, and something else—coffee, and then movement—someone approaching out of the shadows. The rock immediately exploded in her chest as abject fear swept over her and through every pore in her body. Without saying a word, the tall figure moved silently and purposefully toward her, arms raised and extended, hands flexing as though eager.
Flashes of the ugly, thick black lines, one crossing the other filled Jennifer’s thoughts pushing out all others, and, just as quickly, changed into images of brilliant gold, a garden, a young woman, and a single bird. She could hear ancient music playing in her mind—the lyre and harp, and something else… a hollowed-out ram’s horn, but all the while, the mute figure kept moving closer to her.
Jas was excited now. It was definitely the same girl as in the photo he had been given. This was the moment he had been waiting for, what he had dreamed about all these past months while sitting in the dark on a hard slab of stone in a stinking graveyard. The girl was in reach. She was small—petite. He would have no problem restraining her and getting her to his truck. He could almost hear the adulations of his superiors. His comrades would be jealous. He would be hailed as a hero.
With no hesitation, he lunged at Jennifer and grabbed her, covering her mouth with his hand and lifting her off the ground. Desperately, Jennifer fought to get away from him, kicking and punching, doing whatever she could but he was strong. He became the ugly black brush stroke crossed by another, he was the embodiment of intolerance and hatred. She bit his hand covering her mouth, tried to call for help, but she couldn’t, and she heard Carolina’s voice not too far away—unaware—“Do you smell that?”
Evil, dear daughter! It is present! The young girl needs help. Hurry—
—and a scream—Carolina’s scream—
Carolina ran toward the scuffling noises and the moving shadows, and there in the dim light she saw someone trying to drag Jennifer away. Terrified, she rushed forward striking out with every ounce of strength she had, thrashing and beating at his face, his arms, his body, trying to pull Jennifer away from this evil, when suddenly he let her go and then fell to the ground gasping for air, crawling, struggling to stand, bent over holding his side and arm.
Sobbing, Carolina put her arms around Jennifer and the two of them watched in horror as the staggering dark figure faded into the shadows from where it had come.
“Jennifer, are you all right?” Carolina held Jennifer in front of her checking for any injuries. There didn’t seem to be any. For a moment, Carolina wondered if she had even seen anyone—if anything had happened at all—except that both she and Jennifer were trembling, and her mother’s words of warning and the smell of nervous sweat and coffee still lingered.
She heard Dara yelling her name.
“We’re over here.”
“What happened? Who was that?” Dara asked, as she and Mackenzie ran toward them out of the dim light from another direction.
“We’re fine,” said Carolina still holding onto Jennifer.
“Are you sure? We heard a scream.” Tears ran down Mackenzie’s face. “And someone horrible—“ She held onto Carolina’s arm, afraid to let it go, as she glanced around at all of the grave stones and monuments surrounding them, visualizing them as hiding places for all things bad and wicked.
Dara continued to stare in the direction of where she had also seen the figure, her right eyebrow arched. Then, answering her own question, “Probably some pervert.”
Jennifer could only shake her head. Not only had there been that horrible man, there was someone else. Someone who had attacked him. Someone who had helped save her.
“Well, whoever it was, they’re gone now,” said Mackenzie, unable to say the word “was” clearly, and standing as close to Carolina and Jennifer as she could without toppling all of them over.
Recognizing the stone carving of the castle and single tower, Dara read the names on the monument. “You found it, Jennifer!” Then, noticing the flowers, “Someone else has visited here—recently,” she said, pointing to the fresh flowers.
Mackenzie gasped at what she saw, and then reached down to move the flowers to one side. There carved in the stone just beneath Jennifer’s parents’ names “Aaron and Esther Torres” were the words “and daughter.”
“Well, that is rich, isn’t it!?” said Jennifer, the paralyzing fear she had felt moments earlier no longer there as she fought back her enraged, twisted emotions. “They didn’t even bother to put my name on the monument. I was relegated to just plain ‘and daughter!’”
It would have been even more heartbreaking except for the fact that they knew Jennifer’s parents weren’t buried there because they weren’t dead. And neither was Jennifer. None of it made sense. “I think we need to leave this place—now,” said Carolina as she glanced around, still hearing the warning of her mother.
Originally from Carrollton, Illinois, author/agent/publisher Barbara Casey attended the University of North Carolina, N.C. State University, and N.C. Wesleyan College where she received a BA degree, summa cum laude, with a double major in English and history. In 1978 she left her position as Director of Public Relations and Vice President of Development at North Carolina Wesleyan College to write full time and develop her own manuscript evaluation and editorial service. In 1995 she established the Barbara Casey Agency and since that time has represented authors from the United States, Great Britain, Canada, and Japan. In 2014, she became a partner with Strategic Media Books, an independent nonfiction publisher of true crime, where she oversees acquisitions, day-to-day operations, and book production.
Ms. Casey has written over a dozen award-winning books of fiction and nonfiction for both young adults and adults. The awards include the National Association of University Women Literary Award, the Sir Walter Raleigh Literary Award, the Independent Publisher Book Award, the Dana Award for Outstanding Novel, the IP Best Book for Regional Fiction, among others. Two of her nonfiction books have been optioned for major films, one of which is under contract.
Her award-winning articles, short stories, and poetry for adults have appeared in both national and international publications including the North Carolina Christian Advocate Magazine, The New East Magazine, the Raleigh (N.C.) News and Observer, the Rocky Mount (N.C.) Sunday Telegram, Dog Fancy, ByLine, The Christian Record, Skirt! Magazine, and True Story. A thirty-minute television special which Ms. Casey wrote and coordinated was broadcast on WRAL, Channel 5, in Raleigh, North Carolina. She also received special recognition for her editorial work on the English translations of Albanian children’s stories. Her award-winning science fiction short stories for adults are featured in The Cosmic Unicorn and CrossTime science fiction anthologies. Ms. Casey's essays and other works appear in The Chrysalis Reader, the international literary journal of the Swedenborg Foundation, 221 One-Minute Monologues from Literature (Smith and Kraus Publishers), and A Cup of Comfort (Adams Media Corporation).
Ms. Casey is a former director of BookFest of the Palm Beaches, Florida, where she served as guest author and panelist. She has served as judge for the Pathfinder Literary Awards in Palm Beach and Martin Counties, Florida, and was the Florida Regional Advisor for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators from 1991 through 2003. In 2018 Ms. Casey received the prestigious Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award and Top Professional Award for her extensive experience and notable accomplishments in the field of publishing and other areas. She makes her home on the top of a mountain in northwest Georgia with three cats who adopted her, Homer, Reese and Earl Gray - Reese’s best friend.
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