On Friday we announced that John Medler’s Quatrain is our Thriller of the Week and the sponsor of thousands of great bargains in the thriller, mystery, and suspense categories: over 200 free titles, over 600 quality 99-centers, and thousands more that you can read for free through the Kindle Lending Library if you have Amazon Prime!
Now we’re back to offer our weekly free Thriller excerpt:
by John Medler
Can a cynical college professor and his two rebellious teenagers find the missing 58 quatrains of Nostradamus in time to stop a terrorist attack on the United States, and will anyone believe them?
And here, for your reading pleasure, is our free excerpt:
April 1429. Vaucouleurs, France.
Cate was afraid. This was her first birth and her mother Isabelle was gone. The pain in her swollen stomach was like a blacksmith’s molten poker. Her fever had not broken in the last two days. The midwife had told her that this kind of pain was normal, but she didn’t think so. She knew that girls her age often died in childbirth, but she wasn’t worried about herself. Her Savior would take care of her if anything happened. Cate was worried about the baby. If the baby should die before being baptized…. No, she could not think of such things. She stretched out on the small wooden cot, trying to get comfortable. Each position was worse than the last. Her white cotton robe was saturated. The midwife tried to calm her by rubbing her wrinkled hands on her neck and pressing wet strips of cloth onto her forehead. Cate wished that her sister….
Her thought was interrupted by an agonizing convulsion of pain. Her scream caused villagers in the fields to turn their heads. Blood started pouring out between her legs. She grabbed the midwife’s blue shirt in desperation. “If it is a boy, I want his name to be Jacquemin, after my brother….” Cate didn’t get time to express her name preference if the child was a girl. Before she blacked out, all Cate could see was the grimaced look of concern on the face of the midwife.
Ann, the midwife, had seen cases like this before. The placenta had ripped from its moorings. She acted quickly, using a metal tool to pry the infant’s head through the birth canal. Seconds counted. She expertly removed the umbilical cord from around the child’s neck and the mucous from the child’s mouth. The infant looked a little blue, but within a few seconds, the infant gasped and began wailing. Success. The infant was a girl! She had beautiful red hair, like Cate’s sister. She placed the child and the umbilical cord in a pre-arranged bassinette. Her assistant Marie attended to the child while Ann attempted to save the mother, but there was not much she could do. Cate had lost a lot of blood. She kept placing water on the girl’s face, but after a few minutes, she realized Cate was lost. Her soul was now with Jesus Christ. She sent for the local priest.
Jean Colin, Cate’s new husband, was a young tax collector for the duchy of Bar. He was the son of the Mayor of the nearby town of Greux. He was not a horrible man, and he had his tender moments, but for the most part, he was someone who thought of himself first and everyone else last. He had not even wanted children, seeing them as a nuisance and an expense, but his beautiful wife Cate had insisted that God’s plan was for them to have children. Colin had fallen for her as soon as he had seen her pale cheek, her long blonde tresses, and her beautiful blue eyes. Cate’s father was a tax collector like him, and her dowry had been sufficient. She was by far the fairest young girl in Domremy. His hope was to move to Chinon or even Paris someday, where he might move up the ranks and improve his position.
Ann left the birthing room and went out to see Colin, who was nervously waiting in the hall.
“I am terribly sorry, Monsieur Colin, but your wife has passed.”
“What?” demanded Colin. “What do you mean she has passed?”
“Sir, the Lord has taken her. There was nothing we could do. She had lost so much blood.”
“No!” Colin pushed passed the hefty midwife, and rushed into the birthing chamber, where his wife lay on the cot, in a clump of sweaty and bloody sheets.
“No!” Colin lifted up his wife’s head, and looked for any signs of life. He could see she was gone. He didn’t cry. He was just numb. “My God! Cate, I love you so! Do not leave me!”
Ann watched from the hallway as Jean Colin cradled his wife’s body, willing her to return to him. Ann brought over his baby daughter in a blanket, hoping that the sight of the newborn would comfort him.
“Monsieur, you have a baby girl. She is just as beautiful as her mother.”
Colin took the infant in his arms gingerly, worried he would break the small thing. She was so tiny. Colin was happy to see his new child, but the loss of his wife was devastating. And he had to admit he was disappointed that the child was not a boy. All of his plans were dashed. He looked down at his daughter. A baby girl– what could he do with a baby girl? He was certainly not going to raise a baby girl by himself. That was for sure. He resigned himself to thinking it might all work itself out somehow.
For the next several months, as was the custom, the child was raised and breastfed by the midwife. Colin went about his tax collecting business for the most part, and visited his daughter once or twice a week. He seemed to take some comfort in the fact that the child had her mother’s beautiful blue eyes and his sister-in-law’s red hair. He loved his daughter, but he realized that he would soon either have to re-marry or do something with the child. By early July, Colin had heard news of the battles at Fort St. Loup, Fort St. Jean le Blanc, and Les Tourelles. Fearing that the English might kill him or his child if they learned that his sister-in-law had a surviving heir, Colin arranged for a traveling group of Visitation nuns to secret the child to Bordeaux in the south of France. Before he surrendered his daughter, Colin gazed at the wicker basket and gave his daughter one last tender look. She should have something to remember him by. That was only proper. He took out a small cloth. On it was stitched the Colin family crest—a shield of blue stripes, a knight’s helmet, and swirls of blue and silver. He tucked the cloth around the child like a blanket and kissed her goodbye. The nuns, believing they were doing God’s work, agreed to the mission, and by October 1429, young Jeanette Colin, niece of Joan of Arc, was safe in the convent in Bordeaux.
CHAPTER 1. VISION.
March 1538. Agen, France.
God had given her a glorious day. After a long, bitter French winter, spring was finally here. The light breezes of Gascony carried the sweet scents of almonds and honeysuckle. Children watched their wooden toy boats bobbing on the River Garonne. The peacock-blue sky and towers of cumulus clouds beckoned anyone who was still indoors to come outdoors and breathe the fresh air. Young Henriette loved days like this. On these days, her father would relax in quiet meditation on the green banks of the Garonne, smoking his pipe, eating cheese, and reading stories written in Latin. But the twelve year-old French girl would rather be in the fields. Just a mile or two out of town, hillsides filled with cheery sunflowers danced next to vineyards brimming with purple grapes. Agen was, after all, only a short distance from the world- renowned vineyards of Bordeaux, the bosom of French wine making. Henriette loved to pick flowers and twist them into pretty arrangements for her mother, Andiette. Henriette took in a deep breath of spring air, smiled, and hurried down the dirt path with her little terrier Pierre. Today Henriette would visit the almond trees, sprouting their white and pink blossoms, swaying in the wind, blowing buds around her like a springtime shower of pink and white confetti. Henriette planned to lay down with Pierre in the grass between the trees, letting the blossoms fall on her face, smelling the almonds, and eating slices of her mother’s nut bread. And if she got around to it, she might write a story. Henriette had an active imagination and cherished making up stories about far away lands and princesses and castles and stories of love. Her father had given her a white feather and bottle of India ink for her birthday. Papa was like that. He was always so considerate. She had borrowed some pieces of vellum from her father’s study to start her next story. She had also brought her Bible. The Lord’s Word was not only important for feeding the soul, but also a great source of inspiration when she got writer’s block.
Henriette scaled a small hill, pushing her way through thigh-high grass. When she reached the top of the hill, she saw the rows of almond trees ahead and her heart leaped. Surely no one could deny the Savior after seeing such beautiful wonders! “Come on, Pierre!” she beckoned to the brown and gray pup. She carried a small basket which contained some of her mother’s nut bread. She was trying to learn to cook these days but she had so much to learn. Mother had taught her last week how to make rabbit stew. How Michel had liked that! She thought of how savory the broth was when her Mother made it. She took in another breath of almond air as she skipped to a small clearing between the rows of trees. Henriette took the small blanket out of her basket and laid it on the ground, making sure there was no mud here which would ruin it. The grass here, though, was not wet and the spot was suitable. She pulled up her white cotton dress near the fringe and lay down on her back, staring up at God’s beautiful sky. What a day!
She thought of her mother and father and how much she loved them. She thought of her husband Michel. He seemed like a kind man so far, and he seemed so dedicated to his medical patients. Papa had assured her that Michel was not only a man of means but also a man of wit, and Papa never said that about anyone. Her father had become such close friends with Michel. The two talked often for hours, discussing the need for a book on grammar or the best cure for a plant rash. They had become inseparable. She did not mind being married to Michel. He seemed very smart, and marrying Michel made Papa happy. She just didn’t like the “consummation.” She had only had her first blood come out six months ago, and she was just not that interested in having a naked man on top of her. She did not understand why people were supposed to enjoy intercourse at all. It hurt and Michel’s underarms smelled and his beard was scratchy and it was just… well, not enjoyable. But Mother said girls must marry when they are twelve and can bear children, and sex was the only way to have children, so that was that. Henriette did look forward to having her own child, however. “How wonderful it will be to carry a child inside me,” she thought, “And then to have a tiny face smiling back at me, just like one of Jesus’ angels? What joy!” Her mother had told her that when God put a child inside her, the bleeding between her legs would stop. She wondered about that, because her blood had not come two weeks ago. Could she be pregnant?
She put such thoughts out of her mind and stared with wonder at the billowing clouds. She mentally drew a line between several of the clouds, picturing herself constructing a giant house of cotton fluff, where she would entertain pretty lady giants over for tea and make nice comments about the weather down below and serve almond cakes. She closed her eyes and faded off, almost asleep….
The vision fiercely gripped her, making her eyes pop out in fear. Even though her eyes remained open, it was as if she was asleep. If this was a dream, it was the most realistic dream she had ever experienced. She seemed to be seeing into another time—when, she did not know. There were two figures in the room. One paced back and forth on the floor, clearly agitated. The room was round, and the walls were cream-colored, with grand drapes the color of mustard. The floor was a deep blue color. In the middle of the floor was a crest of an eagle. The eagle was carrying a leaf in one claw and arrows in the other. Around the eagle were letters in a language which was not French, and which Henriette did not understand. As the scene unfolded over the next several hours, Henriette saw many things, very horrible things, and shook until her body turned cold.
When she woke up, she looked around her and noticed that it was night! How long had she been dreaming? The cool breeze felt good, because she was covered in sweat. Her arms and legs and face felt badly sunburned. She was exhausted. She felt like staying here under the stars and resting until morning, but she knew her mother, Papa and Michel would be worried about her. Henriette sat up and picked up her basket, but as she did so, she noticed her Bible was missing. She looked over to the blanket and saw her Bible was on the ground in the grass, opened. Next to the Bible in the grass was her white feather, blackened at the bottom, and an empty bottle of India ink. She looked at her hands and they were covered in ink, as was much of her white dress! That would be difficult to get out! Henriette looked at her Bible. There was handwriting-her handwriting!–all over many of the Bible’s pages. The Bible appeared to contain verses of some kind of poetry. For the life of her, she could not remember writing any of this. Henriette looked around her, wondering for a moment if someone was playing a trick on her and writing the verses in her hand to trick her. However, that was plainly not the case. No one knew she was even here, and there was not a soul around anywhere. She read the verses, and they appeared in some places to reference what she had just dreamed. But how could she have written all this and have no memory of it at all? The young girl worried she might be going crazy. She remembered hearing stories her Mother told her about Joan of Arc, and how she at first believed she was crazy when she heard the Lord speaking to her. Like Joan, if the Lord wanted her to write this vision down in her Bible, then she would do God’s will. It was not for her to question God. Was some handwriting in a Bible more fantastic than speaking through a burning bush or parting an entire sea? No, of course not. Henriette vowed to ask her father and her husband what this all meant.
Henriette found herself momentarily distracted by her hunger and devoured a piece of nutbread. Her hunger satiated, she packed up her things. Badly shaken and confused, the young French girl set off with her dog for the trail that would take her back to the village of Agen to her husband Michel de Nostradame, the man the world would later know as Nostradamus.
January 15, 2013. Salon-de-Provence, France.
The burly workman hired by Father du Bois aimed his sledge hammer at the stone wall in the basement of l’Eglise de St. Michel. After his last swing, the last remnants of the stone wall came down. Father du Bois aimed his flashlight in the murky black space beyond the wall. There was something back there, all right. The priest entered the room behind the wall and shined his light around. There was a staircase, leading downward to an old wine cellar. Huge, centuries-old, wooden wine casks ran along the wall. The groundwater leaking into the basement of the church was coming from a hole somewhere up in the rafters of this wine cellar. The next call was to the plumber, who would need to caulk the hole where the water was entering.
The workman asked the priest in French if he needed any more help. No, the priest said, the workman could go. Father du Bois looked through the labyrinth of cobwebs running across the room.. With a broom, he whisked the webs away and went down the stairs. When he got to the bottom of the steps, he inspected the wine casks. Behind each cask was a small, wooden fleur-de-lis nailed to the wall, which bore the name of the wine which had once rested within the cask. Father du Bois shined his light on the labels over each cask. That was strange. One of them looked different from the others. Father du Bois went back through the hole in the wall to get a ladder. What he would later discover would change the course of history.