The Nightjar’s Promise, Book 4 of The F.I.G. Mysteries, takes Carolina, Dara, Mackenzie, and Jennifer to the tombs of a Jewish cemetery in Virginia where Jennifer’s parents were supposedly buried following a horrible car accident and she was whisked off to an orphanage. Jennifer now knows, however, that all of it was a lie—the car accident, the death of her parents, her entire life. That single moment when she learns the truth is only the beginning of the strong emotional upheaval Jennifer experiences as Carolina and the FIGs help her search for the truth.
The Hall was hushed. The conductor, slightly disheveled, his arms now limp by his sides, smiled. They would be ready for their Thanksgiving performance. As before, no one spoke to Jennifer. They knew not to. After all, she was a genius with an unpredictable if not strange and prone-to-violence temperament—a FIG. She would remain turned inward, listening to the notes she had created and seeing the images until they were no more.
Not wanting to disturb her, the other musicians quietly packed up their instruments and followed the conductor quickly off the stage. Only Jennifer remained behind, still listening to the heart-breaking music, knowing what each note meant, lost in her “other” world. Liz, the graduate student at Juilliard who had been assigned to assist Jennifer with her needs while she was a student there, would be waiting outside for her no matter how long it took. She would make sure she got back to her room safely.
Gradually, Jennifer started to recognize the things around her. The images of The Wish Rider began to fade; the notes barely there. The lights in the great Hall had been left on but dimmed and would remain so until Jennifer was no longer in the building.
Jennifer’s violin and bow had been a gift from her parents before she turned two years old. Even at that young age, she had exhibited her genius having already mastered playing the piano—Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Brahms, she knew them all. By introducing her to a different musical instrument, her parents had hoped it would calm their emotional, erratic daughter—their prodigy disposed to fits of anger. Perhaps it would give her a new focus.
Like the piano, Jennifer had quickly mastered the violin. Yet, still her mood swings continued, her emotional outbursts remained unpredictable and misunderstood. And even though she was also exhibiting extraordinary talent in painting that seemed to accompany her musical abilities, by then her parents realized that no matter how many instruments Jennifer mastered and no matter how many art canvases she painted, she wouldn’t change. She couldn’t. That was her genius.
The violin—European—was made from a Carpathian elm wood now extinct; the bow, made from the same wood, with horsehair strings and a silver frog. Near the delicate frog was a silk grip, aged and beautiful. Jennifer flipped her long blond ponytail back and forth, something she usually did whenever she felt a keen sense of accomplishment or unflappable determination, then carefully placed her violin and bow in the worn leather case next to her.
As she secured the latches, she became aware of an unfamiliar shuffling noise, a noise that somehow seemed out of place and intrusive in the stillness of the massive Hall. She glanced toward the exit door. With no warning the stone that she had been carrying around in her chest for as long as she could remember seemed to explode causing her to catch her breath. She wrapped her arms tightly around her body and bent over in her chair trying to breathe. The excruciating pain was made worse by the thought that someone had been listening to the closed rehearsal and watching her, and was now trying to slip away.
She didn’t understand why the rock came now. Things had been going so well. As the pain eased, she once again glanced at the exit door. When she did the black and white images that usually preceded the musical notes only she could hear flashed before her eyes. Violent, ugly, black, thick brush strokes—like one reversed “z” overlapping another.
It was happening again. This was the way it always started when a new musical composition was beginning to form in Jennifer’s mind. An image would come to her, black and white—like a charcoal or pencil drawing. Over time it would gradually change to color; and along with the color would come a beat—the cadence she called it; first softly, then pronounced, loud, and vibrating. When she felt the vibration of the cadence—after the black and white image had changed to color—it was then she knew she needed to capture its musical essence. This was when she wrote the notes on eight-stave musical paper as she heard them in her mind.
Her vision was blurred with tears as she stared toward the door leading from the Hall making it difficult to see. But she knew.
Even with the crushing pain in her chest, the confusion of black and white images dancing before her eyes, and the absence of light, she knew.
She heard the musical notes—indiscriminate and unformed—but that would soon change. Eventually she would hear the cadence; the images would become well defined and detailed. But now, instead, she saw the slight tilt of the woman’s head, the way the man walked favoring his left foot, and she knew.
The door opened, allowing the blinding brilliance of the late afternoon sunlight to stream into the darkened Hall that only moments earlier had been filled with music—her music, and she watched the man and woman vanish. The man and woman who had taken care of her and, she thought, had loved her. The man and woman who were dead—killed in a terrible car crash.
And in that one brief instant in time, the unbearable feelings of grief, the overwhelming sadness, and the confusion she thought she had overcome and made go away suddenly consumed her as though they had never left; and the thick glass walls she had so carefully built around herself in order to survive suddenly shattered.
When the door had closed and all was still once again, she took her phone from her pocket. Breathing deeply through the pain and tears, trying to focus, she struggled with trembling hands. The black and white images blocked out her vision, and the discordant notes deafened her. Slowly and deliberately she pressed each letter—T—H—U—R. Again the ragged image of one backward “z” then the other surfaced in her thoughts along with something else—a bird? She pressed more letters—G—O—O—D until she had what she wanted, then she inserted the three email addresses—Dara, Mackenzie, and Carolina. Because there was no doubt in her mind, because she had never felt so helpless, so hurt, and so confused in her young life, and because she had never known such betrayal, she pressed the send button.
The last thing she saw was the one word she had entered. The word Carolina had told them to use if ever anything came up that was too big for them to handle. All they had to do was send their special word to each of the others and they would all meet at Carolina’s bungalow at Wood Rose—no matter when—no matter what. It was their special code. It was their promise to each other.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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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 Publishing, 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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