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Here are a few excerpts from the Clock Shop Series and a few other stories.  I hope this is as much fun for you as it is for me.   
                                             Richard Ashland



3rd book in The Clock Shop series/  The Phantom Wedding Ring
Part of Chapter One:

Chapter-One
The Dream 
January 5, 2006The Rikker’s Mansion2:45 A.M. 

Mary Rikker wasaccustomed to waking up at 6:30 A.M to the sound of classical music softly emanatingfrom her clock radio.  But somethingstirred the air at 2:45 on this particularly cold January morning.  She sat up half expecting to see her husbandpropped up next to her and reading a novel. But Charles was sound asleep.  Shefelt anxious without knowing why, her face moist with perspiration.  And why were the lights on, the ones that wereactivated by a motion sensor? 

Severalyears earlier, Charles hired the system installed to automatically light thelong carpeted path (about twenty feet) to their private bath and a few feetfurther to their bedroom door.          

Mary sat up in bed; the low-wattagefloods that were recessed into the ceiling were lit.  Sitting up in bed wouldn’t activate the sensor,she knew.  Someone had walked throughtheir bedroom.  Perhaps Charles used thebathroom and climbed back into bed without waking her.  If so, the lights would stay lit for fiveminutes and then the room would be dark again. 

“Charles, are you awake?” she whispered.

 Noanswer.

Shereached over and rubbed his shoulder. 

“Honey,did you just use the bathroom?” she breathed into his ear.

Again,no answer. 

The lights blinked out.  He musthave gotten up, thought Mary.  Shegently rubbed he husband’s shoulder, and then rolled onto her side, snuggled herback against Charles’s and pulled the covers up to her chin.  She really needed more sleep; Mary wasn’t inthe habit of waking in the middle of her sleep cycle and struggled to relax hermind enough to nod off again.

Finally, hereyelids grew heavy and she was near to dreamland when the lights went backon.  At first she didn’t move, just laidthere, her pulse quickening.  “Charles,”she said loud enough to wake her husband. She sat up and turned toward him.]

“Charles, something’s going on with the motion sens . . .” she stoppedin mid sentence.  Charles wasn’t inbed.  In fact, from the appearance of thesheets and bed spread, he’d not been there at all.

“What the heck?” she mumbled.  “Charles, are you in the bathroom, honey?”she shouted.

Noanswer.
 
After thirty years of marriage,Mary had grown accustomed to waking up to an empty bed when Charles was travelingon intelligence assignments for the Pentagon. But he’d been retired for more than a year; no more missions and no morewaking up alone.  So where was he, andwhy did it look like he’d never been to bed?

Sheslipped her legs out from under the sheets and turned toward the vanity next tothe four-poster bed.  Her legs dangledoff the edge of the high mattress, her toes barely touching the carpet.  When Mary glanced up and saw her reflectionin the vanity mirror, she raised her right hand and ran it through herdisheveled hair, but her reflection didn’t. She reached over and tapped the brass base on her reading lamp twice; itchased away the shadows but her image in the mirror remained as before.  Confused and frightened, Mary slid off thebed, approached the vanity, her eyes wide open, and touched the glass.  Her reflection, once again, didn’t cooperatebut instead pointed to an object that sat on the corner of the vanity. 

Theobject didn’t exist in the real world, only in the reflection.  “What are you trying to tell me?” asked Mary,trying to make sense of something so bizarre that it had to be a dream; she wastalking to her own reflection.  Her otherworldly self pointed to her ring finger and then back to the object on thevanity.  Mary looked closely at thereflected item and then realized what it was. The three carat marquis-cut diamond was surrounded by two golden angels.  The last time anyone saw the ring was onSeptember 4, 1988; the day Gertrude Rikker passed away.  It was her one-hundredth birthday and momentsafter she stopped breathing, the ring was gone from her hand, at least that’sthe story everyone was given.

Maryhad seen pictures of the ring; pictures taken seven decades earlier.  Also, on the few occasions that she andCharles visited his great grandmother, Mary had seen it up close and actuallytouched the incredibly rare gem.  

Gertrudemarried William Rikker in Germany on April 15, 1906.  That’s the day William placed the ring onGertrude’s finger.  Eighty two yearslater it vanished at the moment of her passing and hasn’t been seen since.  At first, there were speculations of theftwhen Gertrude died in her son’s home in Grosse Pointe, Michigan.  Only her son, Robert, was at her side.  But Robert was eighty one years old and verywealthy and had no motive to steal the ring. Gertrude’s husband passed away eleven years before her and Robert threeyears after in 1991. 

Theday after Gertrude Rikker’s funeral, her will was discovered.  In that will, she spelled out the normalthings one would expect to see for an executer to handle.  But then there was an added, hand-written,clause at the end, a sort of addendum on a separate page.  It said not to look for the marquis diamondring.  And that it would appear at thewedding of the first born son of . . . And then the document stopped. The handwriting was in beautiful script but a bit shaky.  Perhaps Gertrude had written the instructionsshortly before her death, no one knows for certain.  And it was anyone’s guess as to whose firstborn son she referred to.  Most havespeculated that there was an additional page to the will, a page that wassomehow separated from the rest of the document.  An intense search of Gertrude’s personalaffects and her son’s home turned up no additional page, perhaps it neverexisted, or maybe it would appear with the ring.  

Maryslid off the bed, attempting to push her feet into her slippers, but they wereno longer next to the bed and her feet landed on wood that was so cold it madeher toes curl.  Where was the carpeting? She wondered.  She straightened her legs and attempted tostep toward the vanity, but was unable to move. She twisted around, glued to the floor, and leaned toward the bed but itwas gone.  She began to fall—she screamedand in the distance she heard Charles calling out to her, “Mary, where are you,where’d you go.”  She tried to answer,but words were no longer possible, she couldn’t speak. 


Lost In London:


Thomas Grant is headed for the Detroit Metropolitan airport to catch his flight to Atlanta, and then on toManchester, England.  At Thirty-seven he has only been out of the countryonce before, not including Canada, and that was a business trip to Italy that left him enchanted with Verona.   But this isn't a business trip or a vacation for Thomas. 

His half brother, William Marfleet, was killed three days earlier in a car wreck just outside of Manchester. . .Thomas has been called on to identify the body.  Thomas and William weren'texactly close, but they shared the same mother and were part of a close knit family and William's death was a shock to everyone.

Thomas Grant was not only bereaved with his brother's death but with his place in life.  As a boy, he dreamt that by the time he was thirty, he'd have a beautiful wife and a house full ofchildren to greet him on Christmas morning, and at least five best selling novels in the bookd stores.  But, alas, his marriage hadrecently ended in total disaster after only one year of no wedded bliss and no children, which was probably a good thing, and one best selling novel.

His prospects for the future were dim at best, at least in his own mind.   And to top off his grief of a failed marriage,Thomas must travel to a distant land, a cold and rainy place, to identify hisbrother's body.

After a long flight and wrestling with airport traffic and getting to his hotel, Thomas spent a sleepless night waiting for morning to come.   In the morning, tired, depressed and generally bent out of shape, Thomas summons a cab to deliver him to the morgue where he was to ultimately submit to one of the saddest moments of hislife.  An hour later he discovers that the body in the morgue does not belong to his brother.  The body is wearing William Marfleet's clothes and carried William Marfleet's wallet, driver's license, and credit cards.  But it wasn't William Marfleet. 

The Manchester police department is unable to help Thomas any further as it is now an international affair and turned over to Scotland Yard in London.  Thomas reluctantly boards a train to London but is somewhat relieved to think his brother might still be amongst the living, surely Scotland Yard will be able to help solve the mystery of his missing sibling. But days later he is till clueless as to his brother's whereabouts and finds himself walking the streets of London, cold and alone, and perhaps thinking he could disappear and no one would notice. 

The freezing January rain blasts against Thomas's face as he makes his way along a row of store fronts until he can no longer stand  the pounding.  Desperate for warmth, he pushes open the door to the first restaurant he comes to.  When he first enters the place, he is immediately hit with the aroma of grilled hot dogs and onions.  He looks up at the sign over the cash register; it says, WELCOME to ED's Coney Island; this warms his heart and wraps him in a sense of home and, he's glad to be out of the freezing rain.  

He sits at the counter and a few minutes later is drinking a hot chocolate and waiting for a Coney Dog and Fries.  And that is when he firstsees her.  She is standing in the doorway to the kitchen, wearing apron and holding a spatula. She is, without a doubt, the most beautiful woman he has ever laid eyeson.  Her high cheek bones, long dark hair and eyes that men only dream about.  He is staring directly at her and not even caring that she noticeshis attention.  And then the unexpected, she smiles back at him with lips that melt hearts and the corners of her eyes show a joy that could only mean she is in love.

Of course that's when Thomas realizes that she must be looking at someone else, behind him, perhaps a lover, or probably her husband.  Of course, that had to be it, because certainly as messed up as Thomas Grant was, no angelic creature like that could take interest him.   But when Thomas spins around on his stool,there's no one behind him.  He turns back to see her again and the door to the kitchen is closed; the most beautiful woman in the world is gone.  He realizes that his heart is beating as fast as if he'd just ran a city block chasing  down a bus.  He almost laughs out loud at the prospect of love atfirst sight and how lonely he must be, pitiful, in fact, for practicallydrooling over someone he'd only seen for a few seconds.

He looks down at his feet, stares at his wet shoes, now that his feet have warmed a bit, and he can feel them again.  He sees an apron appear next to him.  The red shoes beneath the apron probably belonged to his waitress who was bringing Thomas his order.  He looks up and nearly slides off his stool.  

It was HER again, the most beautiful woman in the world.  She was holding aplate with his chili dog and fries.

She says to him, "It's good to see you again!"

"Excuse me?  Have we met?"Thomas takes the plate and sets it on the counter without taking his eyes offhers.

"You probablydon't remember," she says.  

"Have you ever been to the States?"  

"No."  

And I've never been to Englandbefore.  So there you have it, a case of mistaken identity," saidThomas, wishing he was wrong. 

"I know you believe that, but we have met, you just don'tremember." 

"Believeme," Thomas said as he looked at her name tag, "Carmela, if we'd havemet before, I would remember."  

I know you believe that.  Look, it will be easier for me toshow you than to explain," said Carmela.   Then she asked, "What's yourname?"  

"Ithought you said we'd met before.  You should be able to tell me myname."

She silently stared at him for a few seconds.   Then he said, "Thomas, my name is Thomas Henning."

  She grabbed his hand gently and squeezed it.  "Nice to see you agian, Thomas."   The energy that flowed from her hand to hiswas electric, and he was drawn to her as though they had been together forever. 

She felt it too, her eyes bright with light that seemed to glowfrom within.   A voicefrom the kitchen shattered the moment:  "CARMELA!  Get back toWork!" 

"That'smy father, I have to go.  Meet me at seven tonight, between the two fountains in Trafalgar Square, I will bring something to show you, something you will want to see!"  

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