I have finished the first draft of my new novel, The Treasure of Money Hill, which features Randall Oliver and is a prequel to my earlier novel, In Search of the Yellow Dog. It covers the time period between 1976 and 1984 and is set in Bogalusa, New Orleans, St. Tammany Parish and Dallas, Texas. I thought I had completed work on it last night about midnight, but I awoke at 3:00 a.m. this morning realizing there was a couple of ‘loose ends’. I worked from 3:00 a.m. till about 7:30 this morning. I’ll let it age for a week or so, then go completely through it. I expect it will be published and available for sell in July. Here is an excerpt from one of the early chapters:
Dear Miss Rawlings, It was so nice to meet you three years ago. I am preparing to meet my Savior and I have one request of you. Please light a red candle and pray for my soul before the blue window as the sun rises on the equinox. My legacy to you will be revealed. Yours eternally, Maude Devereaux
Colleen understood immediately what Maude meant by ‘blue window’. At the small church Maude attended there were several beautiful stained glass windows along the north and west walls, but only a solitary blue opaque window along the east wall. She resolved to comply with Maude’s dying request and looked at the calendar next to the telephone. The vernal equinox was March 20th, only ten days away.
She flew into New Orleans on Sunday the 18th, rented a car and drove to Bogalusa. She visited with Randall’s parents briefly learning the road connecting the Randall’s farm and the Jackson’s place was no longer passable. She drove back to the highway, turned right and drove south a few hundred yards to the turn-in to Bill and Lisa’s place. She spent the night there and the next day she and Lisa drove to Lisa’s Aunt Hilda’s home in Talisheek to spend the night. Being assured the chapel would not be locked; they drove from Hilda’s house to the chapel well before sunrise.
Colleen dressed like she was going to Sunday mass – more accurately like she used to dress for Sunday mass. She had not been to mass in over fifteen years; she wore a dress, stockings, high heel shoes, gloves and a hat. As she entered the small chapel she put a hundred dollar bill in the collection box. She had paid off all her debts several months earlier and Randall refused to let her help with the payments on his home so she was flush with cash.
She did her genuflection to the altar, took a red candle, lit it and placed it in front of the blue window on the east wall. She recited some prayers she had learned in catechism as a child and said a special prayer for Maude’s soul. As the very top of the sun appeared over the eastern horizon the dark blue window all of a sudden became a cascade of many colors; as the sun continued to rise an image of the Blessed Virgin appeared in the window. It lasted only a few seconds and the blue started to slowly reappear from the top, but at the very bottom of the window some words in French appeared – they glowed brightly orange, but only for a few seconds; and then as the solar disc completely rose above the horizon the solid blue color again engulfed the entire window.
Father Jacobs had been standing off to the side with Hilda and Lisa while Colleen was praying. He walked over while Colleen was still kneeling, concentrating on writing in her notepad and when he touched her lightly on the shoulder; she was startled, but did not scream. At five foot even he was more than a foot shorter than Colleen as she stood up in her high heels. He was elderly and almost completely bald except for small patches of gray hair around his ears. She could not tell from his faded skin in the dim light of the chapel what race he might be; they walked a few feet away from the window and sat in one of the pews. “How did you like our little miracle Miss Rawlings? It only happens twice a year, on the spring and autumn equinoxes.”
“It took my breath away – my heart is still pounding. What did I just witness?”
“We call it a miracle, but the Tulane group sent a physics professor and some of her graduate students to watch this a few years ago and they explained that it was all in the optics. As the sun rises directly perpendicular to the window on those two days of the year, the sunlight passing through the atmosphere acts as a prism and breaks the light into its component spectrum colors and as certain of the constituent colors strike the window those light rays activate minerals embedded in the glass. That creates the image and the words you observed.”
“All I can say is Wow! Who built that window?”
“We don’t really know. It was put in when the chapel was constructed in 1895. We think the window was built in Germany. No one knew about our ‘miracle’ until many years later. Maude was the first to observe it. It cannot be seen unless you are standing close and directly in front of the window.”
“Who built this chapel?”
“That was Maude’s grandfather, Jedediah Devereaux … Treasure hunters believe the message that appears at the bottom is a clue to where the pirates’ gold and the Confederate gold is buried at Money Hill. The message translates as, ‘The Blessed Mother shows you the path.’ The treasure hunters over the years have checked out every statue and image of the Blessed Virgin in St. Tammany and Orleans Parishes; even in cemeteries – if she knows the secret of buried treasure around here she’s not divulging clues to its location to anybody.”
Two days later back in Dallas Colleen was sitting at her desk at home studying her notepad. Randall got home about 9:00 p.m. and walked up behind her, lifted her hair and kissed the back of her neck. She responded by turning around and kissing him lightly on the lips. “Randall honey, I’ve been cogitating on this message …”
“I think you just wanted to use the word ‘cogitating’ in a sentence … That wasn’t really a ‘message’ to you – that window has been in place for almost a hundred years.”
“No, it was a message to me – Maude wanted me to read that message. Father Jacob’s translation was incorrect. Although it only flashed for a few seconds, I’m sure I copied it correctly. The message read: ‘Ma mère divine vous montre le chemin’. That translates to ‘My divine mother shows you the path’ – I don’t think that refers to the Blessed Mother or the Holy Mother, I think it is a son remembering his own mother as ‘divine’ or God-like in his eyes.”