While searching for her missing fiance, a naive young woman unwittingly compromises an FBI investigation and stirs up the murderous wrath of a crime family boss.
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When One Door Closes is set in Monterey, California, in 1968 - a time when the opposing forces of the summer of love and the Vietnam war are crackling and hissing in the air. For 23-year old Ramara McDougal, her summer of love ends abruptly when her fiancé, Rick Miller, is killed in Vietnam. Up until Rick's death, Ramara's life has been idyllic; now her days and nights are a blur of consuming grief -- a maudlin cycle she is either unable or unwilling to break. Then, in the predawn hours of a summer morning, a stunning event occurs: Ramara is jolted from her sleep by the presence of someone in her room. Opening her eyes, she sees Rick standing over her. His appearance is so lifelike that for a brief instant she thought his death had been just a horrific nightmare. When she attempted to embrace him, his form vanished like a wisp of smoke in the wind, taking with it everything Ramara thought she understood about life ... and death.
A few days later, when Ramara knocked on the door of Mae Gray Wolfe's overgrown cottage, she was seeking only an explanation; she had no idea she would be entering the mystical spirit world of a Native American shaman. Not only did the shaman explain why Rick's spirit visited Ramara, she also dissipated Ramara's grief with a strange ceremony, and then went on to make several predictions about future happenings in Ramara's life. Within only a few days, one of Mae Gray Wolf's predictions was fulfilled: Ramara did indeed meet a "young man with dark hair, named Tony." The circumstances of their meeting were quite unusual (Tony was in Monterey on vacation and found Ramara stranded on the side of a dark, seldom-traveled country road), and they each felt an instant attraction to the other. After three weeks of the most amazingly wonderful courtship, Tony asked Ramara to marry him and gave her an extravagant diamond ring as a token of his sincerity. Then he confided that before they could marry he had to return to San Francisco to straighten out a disagreement with his father. When Tony failed to contact Ramara or return as promised, another of Mae Gray Wolf's premonitions came to pass: That Ramara would "go through hell and high water" before she and Tony would share a life of happiness together, and that journey of travails was about to begin.
Ramara's desperate search to find Tony begins in San Francisco, where she unwittingly walks onto the sensitive turf of an FBI Task Force investigating organized crime; the main focus of their probe is Domenico Avellino, Tony's controlling father and also the ruthless boss of the west-coast mob, who will use deadly force to keep Tony from marrying outside of The Family. Another problematic situation arises when a rogue undercover detective develops a romantic interest in Ramara and comes to view Tony as an obstacle to gaining her affections. Further alarming, in response to the missing person report she filed with the police, the Monterey Sheriff has ominously advised her to "back off" from her search for Tony and "let the authorities handle it." When her own politically-connected father tells her she should forget about Tony, she suspects a cover-up, but refuses to give up on Tony. Ramara's highly-charged emotions then take another jolt when she discovers she is pregnant with Tony's child. Now, more than ever, she is driven by an urgency to find Tony.
Finally, after months of frustration, a beautiful young Asian woman (who works for an Avellino-owned escort service) arrives at Ramara's Monterey ranch, claiming that Tony is being held by his father in an apartment above Avellino's North Beach Italian restaurant, the Portofino. Following close behind the Asian escort is the wrathful Domenico Avellino, arrogantly unaware that Ramara is just as handy with a gun as he is. The path of Ramara's hellish journey now converges with those of her various nemeses. The FBI, who Ramara suspects of quashing her efforts to find Tony, launches its raid on the Portofino and finds Tony in a hidden apartment, but not before he has been shot by the rogue detective. Domenico Avellino is also shot, by Ramara, while attempting to break into her house; he and his accomplices are arrested and hauled off to jail, thanks to an observant ranch hand. Ramara emerges from her long ordeal feeling stronger and more empowered for it; she and Tony are reunited, with barely enough time for their wedding and honeymoon before their twins are born, proving that when one door closes, many more will open.
July 1968 – Monterey, California
It was barely daylight when Ramara McDougal forced herself to awaken from a terrible, restless sleep, and was suddenly conscious of a presence in her bedroom. Seeing the tall outline of a man standing at the foot of her bed, her body went rigid with fear.
As her eyes adjusted to the dimness she was relieved to see that it was Rick, her fiancé. But in the darkness she only sensed, more than actually saw, Rick’s features and his long, wavy blond hair. Later, she would recall that Rick was wearing his favorite pair of faded jeans and the purple and green T-shirt she had tie-dyed for him, the very same clothes he was wearing the last time she saw him, well over a year ago. But in her sudden, pounding excitement to see him there in her room Ramara overlooked the absurdity of his appearance.
“Rick!” She cried out excitedly as she threw off the covers and jumped out of the bed. “Thank God it was all just a nightmare.” Her bare feet pounded across the hardwood floor as she rushed with arms outstretched toward his six-foot frame. But Rick didn’t make a move toward her, nor did he speak. He simply stared at her with an expression that could only be described as opaque and unfathomable. There was an ethereal hue surrounding his form, a luminous, almost silvery aura. But in her overwhelming desire to see Rick as she wished him to be, she failed to notice any of those things. Her mind had conjured such an instant delirium of relief when she recognized his shadowy form that all rational thought was effectively short-circuited.
As Ramara attempted to put her arms around Rick he seemed to glide backwards out of her reach. Now, he stood with his back very close to the window, nearly blending in with the gauzy fabric of the curtains and the early morning light seeping through them. He continued to look at her, silent, but an extraordinary glow began to enliven his eyes. Those eyes were now radiating such a powerful intensity of love and compassion that they seemed to caress her in a healing glow, melting away the heaviness Ramara had been carrying in her heart for months.
As she again reached out to touch his arm she heard him say, “You’ve got to let me go, Ramara.”
Oddly, she was standing only a few inches from Rick’s face and saw that his lips had not moved, nor did she physically hear the sound of his voice. Stunned as she was by the mere sight of him, she could not even begin to comprehend the fact he had spoken to her telepathically.
“Rick!” She again appealed, reaching out to him, desperate to feel the warmth of his body. But as her hand touched his shoulder the form that she thought was his body rapidly evaporated into a misty, opaque cord that simply funneled through the window glass and vanished.
Ramara stood looking out of the window for close to a minute, frozen with shock and bewilderment, trying to comprehend what had just happened. But it was incomprehensible — Rick had been killed in Vietnam nearly a year ago. Yet, she knew beyond a doubt that Rick, or some form of him, had just been there in her room. She did not imagine it. Even his scent, that indefinable, familiar essence of his body, lingered in the air around her. But how could it be possible?
Unable to take her eyes away from the window, she slowly backed out of her bedroom and closed the door.