Friday, July 16, 2010

The Crimson Cipher; Refuge on Crescent Hill

The Crimson Cipher

By Susan Page Davis

Emma Shuster is recruited as a Navy cryptographer in 1915, to help expose enemies she didn't know America had. Lt. John Patterson introduces her to the Signal Corps after her father's brutal murder. She finds new strength in her faith as she strives to outwit her adversary, known only as "Kobold"—German for "goblin." When the young man who built her father's secret cipher machine is also brought to Washington, Emma is annoyed. But with Clark's arrival comes added danger.

Susan Page Davis is the author of 30 novels in the historical romance, romantic suspense, mystery, and romance genres. She's an ACFW Book of the Year Winner, and a two-time

Inspirational Readers' Choice Award Winner. Visit her Web site at

This book can be purchased at Amazon:
Barnes & Noble:, or Christian Book Distributors:

Chapter one

Wednesday, January 27, 1915

Emma Shuster hurried across campus against the cold wind coming off Casco Bay. Six inches of powdery snow draped the college's brick buildings in glittery icing, and Emma's heart sang.
A man in a blue wool coat with epaulets on the shoulders and a peaked hat of the same hue approached the Searles Science Building from the opposite direction. Navy, Emma concluded—a fine-looking officer. She looked away before he could catch her eye.

He reached the door of the brick building just as she did. "Hello." He smiled brightly and opened the door for her.

"Thank you." As she entered, she tucked the large envelope she carried under her arm, pulled off her knit gloves, and headed for the stairs.

"Excuse me," the man said.

She paused and turned toward him. "Yes?"

He unbuttoned his overcoat, revealing a uniform beneath. "I wonder if you could direct me to Professor Shuster's office."

Emma relaxed and smiled. "I'm just on my way up to see him, sir. If you'd like to follow me, I'll take you there." Her father was a Navy veteran. She wondered what the young man wanted with him.

He walked beside her to the third floor landing. The handsome stranger towered nearly a foot over her.

She supposed she should break the silence if she didn't wish to be thought rude. "Several of the mathematics and science professors have their offices up here."

"Indeed. I expect the climb keeps them fit." The young man smiled. "I'm John Patterson."

"And you're with the Navy, Mr. Patterson?"

"Yes. Lieutenant, actually."

They'd reached the door of her father's office. Emma gave a quick knock and turned the knob.

"Father, I've brought someone to—" She broke off with a gasp. Her father's slender form lay sprawled on the floor. Blood seeped onto the varnished oak boards and the papers strewn near him. "Father!"

She dropped her envelope and knelt beside him. Bending close, she touched his arm. The awful stillness of his body sent chills through her. A dry, fierce ache filled her throat. Pushing his shoulder slightly, she tried to speak again, but a sob wrenched her chest.

Patterson knelt on the other side and put a hand to the fallen man's throat. After a moment, he reached across and gently touched Emma's sleeve. "I'm sorry, ma'am."

"No, no! We need to call a doctor."

"I'm afraid there's nothing a doctor could do for him."

She wept then­­—great, hot tears splashing down her cheeks.

"Miss Shuster. Come and sit down."

Emma raised her hand to her mouth, staring at the blood. She struggled to stand, but her knees buckled, and she grabbed the lieutenant's outstretched arm.

He caught her as she wilted. "There, now. Let me help you."

He turned a wooden chair to face the door, holding her upright with his steel-like right arm.

"Sit down, miss."

Emma sank onto the chair and held her hands over her face.

"Can I get you anything?"

"No," she managed. "Thank you. Just...please, see to Father. Make certain..."

He left her side, and she shivered. She wanted to look over her shoulder and see what Patterson did—to assure herself that she'd been mistaken and only imagined the ghastly scene.

She didn't move.

The lieutenant came back, his jaw tense. "I'm sorry, Miss Shuster. I'm afraid it's too late."
A new sob worked its way up her throat. He touched her shoulder, and the weight of his hand through her coat was oddly comforting.

"We ought to call the police. Is there a telephone box nearby?"

"There's a phone in the front office of this building, to the right of where we came in."

"I'll run down there and call for an officer. Will you be all right?"

She studied his face, wondering how he expected her to answer that.

"I...don't think so."

"No, of course not." He squeezed her shoulder lightly. "I'm so sorry. Would there be people in

the other offices on this level?"

"Yes, probably." She bit her lip. "Professor Fairleigh is across the hall, and Dr. Shaw is next door."

"All right, I'll be right back."

He was at the door before she forced out a word. "Lieutenant—"

"Yes, ma'am?"

She wanted to say, "Take me with you," but she didn't. Even if she couldn't make herself look at Father again, she couldn't leave him unattended. She shook her head and clenched her hands in her lap.

"I promise I won't be long."

She nodded.

His knocking on another door echoed in the hallway. The murmur of voices was followed by quick, heavy footsteps. Short, sturdy Dr. Shaw appeared in the doorway. His gaze pinned Emma to her chair, then shot past her.

He gasped. "Good heavens! Whatever happened?"

"We don't know, sir," Patterson said. "If you would be so good as to go down and phone the police..."

"Of course."

Dr. Shaw's thick shoes clumped on the oak stairs. Far away a bell chimed, and the hubbub of students exiting their classes wafted up the stairwell.

Emma raised her chin and blinked back tears. Patterson stood ramrod straight, just inside the door, as though on guard duty.

"Thank you," she said. Thank you for sending Dr. Shaw, and for not going yourself—but she couldn't say that.

"You're welcome. And if there's anything else..."

"If you are a man of faith, Lieutenant, I'd appreciate any prayers you could spare this morning."

"You have them already. Miss Shuster, I'll help you in any way I can."

Her heart ached, and a fresh stream of tears bathed her face. Patterson reached into a pocket and produced a spotless cotton handkerchief, folded and ironed into a perfect square. He placed it in her hand and pressed her fingers around it. For a moment, the warmth of his hand spread to hers.

"I don't know what I'd have done if I'd walked in alone." She unfolded the fabric and wiped her cheeks.

Copyright 2010, Susan Page Davis

* * *

"It's history, mystery, and treasure hunt wrapped up in one suspenseful adventure! You'll want to keep the lights on while you read Dobson's plot-driven story. She so skillfully sets the scene in this memory-haunting house that you'll hear the creaks and footsteps." --Fiction Editor,

Christian Book Distributors

Refuge on Crescent Hill

By Melanie Dobson

Jobless, homeless, and broke, Camden Bristow decides to visit the grandmother she hasn't seen in years. But when Camden arrives in Etherton, Ohio, she discovers that her grandmother has passed away, leaving her the 150-year-old mansion on Crescent Hill. When Camden finds evidence that she may not be the mansion's only occupant, memories of Grandma Rosalie's bedtime stories about secret passageways and runaway slaves fuel her imagination. As she works to uncover the past and present mysteries harbored in her home, Camden uncovers deep family secrets within the mansion's walls that could change her life—and the entire town—forever.

Chapter 2

The Bristow family mansion watched over Crescent Hill like a battered Union soldier. Rain had pounded the brick walls for almost two hundred years, and a hailstorm had crumbled one of the four chimneys a decade ago. In spite of the weather that threatened to topple her, the house held strong, braving Ohio's volatile weather like she'd braved the War.
And like a good Yank, she harbored secrets deep inside her walls.

Jake Paxton wasn't interested in the architecture or the history of the old house, but he was very interested in its secrets . . . or at least Edward was.

Now that Rosalie had kicked the bucket—and the crowds of visitors were gone—he promised his grandfather that he would search the mansion, top to bottom, in a day or two. He needed to be sure none of the visitors were still hanging around town.

Edward made him swear he wouldn't get caught this time, like it was his fault that the detective caught him selling Mrs. Rolling's silver on Craig's List. How was he supposed to know her ugly platter was worth ten thousand bucks? Or that it was stolen? Or that Mrs. Rolling would try to buy another platter, only to discover that the replacement platter she purchased was in fact her family's heirloom?

Buck Houston had given him the stupid platter to pay off a gambling debt, and Jake had done what anyone else would do—sold it. If he'd known it was worth something, he would've asked a whole lot more than two hundred dollars. Mrs. Rolling never would have dumped ten thousand to buy the platter off Craig's List. A collector would've bought it instead, and he'd be scot-free.

Instead Edward bought his freedom. Jake still didn't know how he did it, but his grandfather paid the right people a truckload of cash—or at least, that's how much Edward said he paid—to get him out of the county jail. Edward considered it an investment, and he refused to let Jake forget that at any moment, he could put Jake in the slammer.

Edward would make Jake pay for the rest of his life. His only hope was that Edward's lifetime might not last too many more years.

Jake tromped through rusty iron gates that once guarded the gravel driveway. The expansive yard leading up to the mansion was mostly dead grass and weeds. The meadow on the east side of the hill sloped down to a forest that wrapped around the property and hid the Ashter River below. A pond lay beyond the trees along with acres and acres of fields, newly planted with corn.

On the west side of the house, across the street, was another slope. This one dotted with homes that weren't as lofty as the Bristow mansion, or as run-down.

When a tornado ripped across a field outside town a few years ago, its winds tore scads of shingles off the old mansion and delivered a branch through one of the cupola's windows. The tornado damaged many homes in town—ripping apart clapboard siding, shutters, and shingles—but unlike the Bristow mansion, their owners repaired the homes to their former Victorian glory.

There was no one left to repair this house—or at least no one who wanted the hassle of trying to patch it back together.
Maybe if they knew what was inside its walls, someone would try to keep it standing a little longer. But according to Edward, no one knew the most valuable secret of this old place except him . . . and now Jake.

He would search every inch of the house and prove he wasn't the idiot his grandfather thought he was. It didn't matter if the legend was a hoax. Edward was convinced the treasure was still there, and until someone proved him wrong, Jake would try to find it.

He bounded up six cement steps to the lofty doors of the Bristow mansion and rang the bell. No one answered the door so he strained his neck to look into the darkened window of the sitting room on his right. He could see the edge of the couch and an end table through the smudged glass, but nothing else. Eyes might be watching him from the other side of
the room, and he wouldn't know.

The thought made him shiver.

He wasn't the least bit frightened of any person—except maybe his grandfather—but the supernatural terrified him. He didn't care what anyone else said, ghosts were real and dangerous.

He rapped the knocker one last time, but no one came to the door.

Most of the town had eaten Sunday brunch or dinner at least once in this house, but Rosalie Bristow had never invited the Paxton family over for a meal. At least, not his side of the family. Edward's cousin Dotty Sherman had been a regular over at the house, but she never invited him along, even when Rosalie hosted the annual Christmas party for what seemed like half the children in town.

But now, after thirty-one years of living in this rat hole of a town, he would explore the house on his own terms. There was no one to stop him.

He put his ear to the door and listened.


He'd give it another day, to make sure all the visitors had really gone home. Then he'd find out if Edward's story was true.

More information about Melanie Dobson's books and information about the mansion that inspired this novel is available at Refuge on Crescent Hill can be purchased at bookstores or online at and
Excerpted from Refuge on Crescent Hill by Melanie Dobson. Copyright 2010 by Melanie Dobson. All rights reserved.

No comments: