Greetings, Fire Enthusiasts! One night, two exceptional women meet; one black, one white. Both carry broken hearts and one has been dead for sixty years.
Okay, allow me to explain. You see, once upon a time, I wrote a horror novella that young Jimmy probably would have told you was high art. Except, it wasn't. It was worthy of only the bottom of the file cabinet....
However, there was Allison Belle. Who? Yes, I now. Although she appeared in many feature films of the fifties, no one really knew her name. She eventually gave up attempting to be something that she wasn't. She abandoned the glamour of Hollywood for Fresno, California in 1956.
In 1959, she disappeared altogether.
Sixty years later, real estate agent Joanna Johnson stepped unsuspectingly into the old Belle house and a story long forgotten. A devastating personal event opens a hidden door into the actress’s world. The mystery behind what broke Allison’s heart and what ultimately happened to her is revealed slowly by a series of long lost photographs the agent uncovers; the relationship she builds with the actress’s ninety year old husband; and through a series of “dreams” she has where she relives the moments captured by each photograph - herself a participant in them.
So what happened to Allison? That's a good question, but a better one might be: what will happen to Joanna?
The reviews have been good so far:
“This is a classic and most unusual tale of a vivid haunting that becomes life-threatening as Joanna begins to unravel more and more about Allison and her life in the Huntington Boulevard mansion. Highly recommended for anyone who loves a fascinating mystery intertwined with ghosts, intriguing characters, vivid memories, and a brave, and sometimes foolish, heroine.” - Author Marilyn Meredith
“What I liked about Garcia’s Photographs were the twists and turns, the resiliency that each character displayed, as well as how he told Allison’s story through the use of photographs. I appreciated the detailed storytelling, vividness, and background that Garcia gave each scene and the characters...I think readers will enjoy this captivating read.” - Morgan Lee Reviews
“Jo,” Anita said, breaking a lengthy silence, during which they sipped on their beverages. “Why don’t you take some time off?” Joanna bristled at this and began to shake her head. “Look, I know you’re a badass,” she began, holding her hand out like a stop sign before her. “God knows you’re the toughest woman I know. You don’t take crap from anyone. But this is a blow, sweetheart. Take some time.”
Joanna dabbed at her eyes with a tissue that had seen better days. It seemed to do more harm to her face than good.
“Give me that!” Anita said, taking the tissue away from her. Joanna released it with a sigh and dropped her hands beside her. Anita tossed aside the soiled tissue and quickly reached across Joanna for another. She folded it and then began to expertly dry the woman’s eyes and repair the damage to her make up. When she was through, she leaned back and surveyed her work. She then rolled the tissue into a ball and tossed it in the direction of her waste basket. The ball hit the lip short and fell to the floor.
“Mexicans suck at basketball,” Joanna said.
“Don’t be racist,” Anita said sternly, feigning outrage. “Hispanic women can be just as good as Blacks. Just because the high school team is as far as we ever get means nothing.”
“I love you, Jo.”
“I love you back.”
“Are you going to be all right?” Anita asked gently.
Joanna looked down at her hands atop her lap and took a deep breath before replying. “That’s why I’m here,” she said, glancing back into Anita’s eyes. “I can’t sit at home. I just lay there all night, hearing his voice as he slowly breaks my heart, over and over.” Her voice grew faint again. She mouthed the last: Please don’t send me home.
“Are you sure?” Anita asked, leaning forward.
Joanna nodded and took a good pull from her coffee. She held onto it with both hands for warmth.
“I’d really love to just give you the rest of the week as a good long weekend. Couldn’t you fly up and see Patrice? I bet Colorado is beautiful this time of year.”
Joanna shook her head. “It is, but I’ve had her voice in my head, too. No, I’d just be forced to deal with questions I can’t answer all weekend long. Three weeks from now is Thanksgiving. She’ll be home then. No, thanks. Just give me something to do. I’m between houses right now and don’t feel like hustlin’. What have you got?”
Anita leaned back on the couch and surveyed her desk from afar. She exhaled a deep breath and considered her response. Finally, she perked up. “Hmm? I do have something.” She stood and walked over to her desk. She ruffled through some folders before settling upon one in particular at the very bottom of a stack. She wiped some dust off it before opening it and rifling through the pages contained within. She stopped and looked up. “Are you sure?”
“Anything,” Joanna replied.
“We’ve sold a lot of houses in this agency, but there’s one house that we not only cannot sell, but it keeps falling back into our laps.”
“I don’t understand,” Joanna said, standing.
“We have a house the owner refuses to sell. The client has worked with us for decades, and certainly a lot longer than I’ve even been working here. He lives in So-Cal but continues to hold onto it.”
“What does he need us for?”
“He made some arrangement a hundred years ago where we maintain the relationship and simply find him renters with the notion being that we get to sell it one day.”
“Yep.” Anita handed over the file. He’s as old as the hills, but apparently still kicking. It’s been vacant for about a month.”
She flipped through the file and stopped to stare at the photographs. “The place looks fantastic.”
“Everyone thinks that in the beginning, but for one reason or another the house never keeps them long.”