Ghostly visitations, a time-travelling romance and a genealogical mystery give a Seattle reporter from 1916 a new slant on life and the authors a Gold IPPY Award.
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Whispers Across Time, a novel by J. Robert Whittle and Joyce Sandilands
Oliver Ryan, a mild-mannered Seattle court reporter working in 1916 Victoria, BC, is drawn one stormy night to the local cemetery. Here he meets a ghost in a top hat who introduces himself as his Guardian Angel and tells Oliver he is now a mortal angel.
Deciding to test out his new skills, he travels to the Empress Hotel in the year 2000. There he is mistaken for an actor (due to his period dress) by a young teacher from Everett, WA. Striking up a friendship, he soon finds himself sharing his secret with her. Their adventures take them back and forth in history until his Guardian Angel returns to give Oliver a shocking ultimatum.
Readers of Whittle's Victoria Chronicles Trilogy will be pleased to find some of their favourite characters dropping into the story as well as many new historical tidbits of the Pacific Northwest, especially Everett, WA.
In May 2008, Whispers Across Time won the authors their second Independent Publisher Gold Medal (IPPY Award).
With time on his hands between assignments, he often returned to the courthouse experiencing some of the interesting court cases that did not involve American citizens or, he wandered the streets of Victoria, and that fateful night of December 5th, 1916 was no exception.
A storm, with its relentless rain and biting winds had, for the past 24 hours, raged down the Strait of Juan de Fuca blowing in from the Pacific, permeating every nook and cranny. Now deserted, the city streets became small rivers making travel, even on those which were paved, precarious.
Moving from bar to bar and trying to keep dry in his travels, by midnight Oliver found himself in the Brown Jug Saloon on Government Street. Not seeking conversation, he made his way to a small empty table in the shadowy corner. A soft-spoken loner, Oliver didn’t make friends easily and usually drank alone.
Half an hour later, struck with an impulsive thought, he gulped down the rest of his drink and left the saloon. Pulling his hat down hard on his head, he stepped out into the storm. With his coat collar buttoned tightly against his stubbly chin, he fought his way south along Government Street, his diminutive height making the distance a greater challenge. Walking purposely and, as quickly as humanly possible despite oft-concealed puddles, he passed the Empress Hotel and cut through the trees near the old Douglas House leaving the street lights behind. Now on Douglas Street, it took only minutes to reach Beacon Hill Park, its stark darkness appearing on his left while, to his right, several lighted houses gave him some measure of comfort. Listening for the sound of the waves, he soon found himself on a gravel surface—the main coastal thoroughfare, Dallas Road. Turning eastward he struggled on, unaware he was wet through, but blatantly aware of the crashing sound of angry waves pounding the shoreline only feet away.
Walking for what seemed like hours and having no idea where he was going or why, a single strike of lightning suddenly flashed before him, illuminating the wrought-iron gates of Ross Bay Cemetery. Instantly, he knew this was his destination.
He pushed the heavy gate open and moved cautiously through the darkness. Sober now and, his senses heightened, he was even more aware of the noises as the wind roared through the trees combining with the rumble of the sea.
A chill ran up his spine when a shaft of moonlight appeared lighting the graveyard and displaying an amazing array of monuments—granite crosses of all sizes, religious statues, and even a mausoleum—making his heart thud in his chest. Sitting gratefully on a flat-topped gravestone, he experienced a moment of lucidity.
What on earth am I doing here? he thought.
Imagination pushed logic to one side when he thought he heard his name being called. Looking around, he was not prepared for what happened next. From behind him, in the moonlight’s dim light, a ghost-like figure materialized. He tried to run away, to scream, anything, but terror held him rooted to his seat. He could only watch helplessly as the ghostly figure came closer. Eyes wide and teeth beginning to chatter, he smelled a hint of tobacco as a rush of cold air brushed his cheek, and a firm hand clamped onto his shoulder. It was the last thing Oliver remembered before his life changed forever.
Feeling a strange sensation, he became aware that he was no longer sitting on the hard surface; flailing his arms about, he felt tree branches pull at his clothes. In seconds, the darkness gave way to moonlight. I’m above the clouds and it’s not rainy! I can’t believe this, his thoughts screamed. And then he noticed he was not alone.
For the first time since feeling that strange sensation, he became aware of his ghostly chaperone.
©2007 J. Robert Whittle and Joyce Sandilands