Title: The Mystery at Sag Bridge
Author: Pat Camalliere
Genre: Historical Mystery, Amateur Sleuth, Paranormal
Cora Tozzi is a retired businesswoman who, after nursing her mother through her final illness, wishes only for a peaceful orderly world in her suburban Chicago home. When an angry spirit begins to leave cryptic messages on her computer and threatens those around her, Cora is forced to dig into the town’s notorious past to uncover secrets that will free the bonds that tie her and the spirit. With the help of her husband and their friend, Frannie, Cora uses her skills as an amateur historian in a search that takes them into unexpected terrain including subterranean passages, an eerie graveyard, and shadowy paths in isolated forests where a sinister predator is awakened. As they battle unpredictable supernatural powers, the story takes a poignant turn; the spirit’s life is revealed, and both women, a century apart, examine threads into the past and the future, their loss and longing linked across the generations.
After dressing, Cora wandered around tidying the house, mulling over past incidents she jokingly referred to as Angel dust.
She supposed other people had odd things happen they couldn’t explain. Cora thought she probably had more than most, but she had gotten accustomed to them over time. It had been years since she’d had such weird experiences, but in the past few months little odd phenomena had resumed, such as finding things where she hadn’t put them. One day she reached for a book she left on the bedside table, but it wasn’t there. She searched the house, then there it was, on the same table, where it had just not been. She watched drawers slide open untouched and paper clips jump across her desk. Rational explanations, like being out of balance, didn’t seem adequate.
Last week she found two batteries on the edge of her desk in front of her laptop. A small clock Cora kept behind her laptop lay face down in its normal place with its battery compartment open. At first she thought Cisco opened the clock and forgot to put the batteries back—for whatever reason she couldn’t imagine—so she asked him about it.
He gave her a blank look. “What are you talking about?”
“Didn’t you take the batteries out of my desk clock?”
He shook his head and gave her and irritated look. “No. I haven’t left the room. Why would I do that?”
“Well, it’s sitting there on my desk, open, and the batteries are sitting somewhere else. Come and look.” Cora dragged Cisco into her room.
“See? How did it get like that if you didn’t do it?” she asked, pointing.
“I guess you must have done it. There’s no one else here, and I sure didn’t.”
“Well, I didn’t do it—I’d remember.” She crossed her arms over her chest. “The battery compartment didn’t open itself, the batteries jump out and leap over the laptop, and stop at the edge of my desk. So what happened?”
“Old-timers’ disease?” he guessed, shrugged his shoulders, and went back to his office.
Cora’s first encounter with Angel happened when she was pregnant with her son, Patrick. After fixing dinner, she would lie down in the bedroom to wait for Cisco to come home from work. She knew the sounds of his arrival: a key clicked in the lock, the downstairs door creaked open, footsteps ascended the stairs, a key turned in the apartment door, the door brushed over the carpet. One day she heard the familiar sounds, but Cisco didn’t come to her room. When he came in a short time later, Cora asked, “What happened? Did you forget something?”
“No. Why do you ask?” he said with a puzzled look.
“Didn’t you just come home, then leave and come back?”
“No. I just got home now.”
She told him about the sounds, and he thought it was strange, but perhaps she was half asleep, dreaming, didn’t that make sense? Well…maybe. But the same thing kept happening.
One afternoon Cora and Cisco were sitting together at the dining table, facing the apartment door. Cora looked at the door, then at Cisco, who nodded that he heard too. Key in lock, door open, footsteps, doorknob squealing, and they saw the doorknob turn! Cisco jumped up and sprang for the door, as Cora yelled, “No—don’t!” Ignoring her, he threw the door open, but no one was there—no one in the hallway, no running footsteps, no sounds at all…only silence. The strange events then stopped—for a time.
Six years later, in their first house in the suburbs, Cora knelt at the head of her bed watching through a window as her two young sons played in the yard. With her back to the bedroom door, she heard Cisco enter the room and felt the bed sink as he sat behind her. When Cora turned to him, there was only a depression in the bed, as if someone was sitting there. She put her hand into it; it felt real, but it slowly disappeared. Was she going crazy? Could it be Cisco sat down, snuck out again, but the depression stayed? Silly, but if not, then what?
She had to ask Cisco. She found him in the basement, and he insisted he had not been in the room.
Afterwards, from time to time, Cora would occasionally sense a presence on the bed beside her, and she would find a depression there.
She talked to Lu about it, filling her in about the other experiences. Lu, as expected, didn’t question Cora’s story. “What should I do?” Cora asked her friend.
“Are you scared when it happens?” Lu asked.
“Surprisingly, no, I’m not,” Cora said. “In fact it’s calming, sort of…like someone cares and is watching over me and wants me to know. When I put my hand in the depression I feel calm, not so tense. Like I have a buddy, a protector or something.”
“Like a Guardian Angel,” Lu said, and Angel she became from then on.
Angel had a playful side. At Cora’s job, she would act up in front of visitors. She’d play her drawer prank, the person watching wide-eyed while a drawer opened itself. A staple might fly off the desk and strike the visitor on the arm. A paper clip would bounce with a “tink” from one desktop to another, or something would jump off a shelf. “What happened?” the person would exclaim, startled, and Cora would smile, look puzzled, then laugh and say it must have been a poltergeist. It could be embarrassing, but Cora thought it was funny.
Some twelve years ago, in their fifties with their sons grown, Cora and Cisco finally bought their dream house in Lemont, a far suburb southwest of Chicago. Semi-isolated by forests and situated on a rocky bluff overlooking the Des Plaines River Valley, the town’s remoteness gave them the comfort and peace they wanted.
Angel’s antics stopped, until their recent return.
Did she really think a supernatural presence watched over her? She was iffy about belief in the spiritual world. Her Catholic upbringing supported belief in an afterlife, and that presupposed the possible existence of spiritual beings, didn’t it? Communication between the two worlds was harder to accept though.
Nonetheless, she seemed to have more than her share of spiritually suspicious events. She couldn’t explain them, but she wasn’t going to waste a lot of time worrying. The incidents were curious, that’s all. Worth puzzling over for a bit, fun to talk about with the right friends, then put out of mind where they belonged. She had things to do—her life was busy. Odd things didn’t happen often and no harm was done. They could be ignored. Couldn’t they?
If there was a spiritual presence, though, why did it follow Cora? Luck of the draw?
Perhaps she was, as Cisco thought, embellishing when she couldn’t find rational explanations. These things happened to everyone, didn’t they?
Well, whatever Angel is or isn’t, seems she’s back. I wonder why…
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Why is your featured book a must-read?
Told with storyteller’s craft, The Mystery at Sag Bridge is fiction at its best. Rich landscapes and a world steeped in mysticism brings the world lushly to life. Written from Cora’s point of view, the story moves from past to present giving the reader a sensation of being pulled back and forth in time. Camalliere has created a compelling narrative with complex characters. Revealing how two women relate to their families, friends, and the community around them. Cora’s depth of character growth throughout the book is a testament to Camalliere’s skill and writing prowess. Whatever you are looking for in a good read, you will [find] a little bit of everything in The Mystery at Sag Bridge.
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Pat Camalliere is the author of the popular, five-star-rated Cora Tozzi Historical Mystery Series. She lives with her husband in Lemont, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. She serves on the boards of the Lemont Historical Society and Lemont Public Library District and is a member of the Chicago Writers Association, Sisters in Crime, and Society of Midland Authors. She speaks locally on a variety of topics and writes a blog that features unique history stories. Visit her at patcamallierebooks.com.
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Website and blog: www.patcamallierebooks.com