Nearly two decades ago a charismatic man called Colin controlled an isolated community hidden in foothills north of San Francisco in what was supposed to be a life free of materialism. Instead, Colin turned The Refuge into a mass grave as he completed a sinister plan to exterminate his followers--all except three children, who slipped through his fingers and escaped with his secrets.
Today, Nick Board and the two beautiful sisters, Sarah and Aurelie, who escaped with him, are living quietly under the radar in the little bayou town of Point Judah, Louisiana. But when the bodies at The Refuge are uncovered, the nightmare of the past forces the friends out into the open. To survive, they must stay one step ahead of the man who has been waiting for them to surface. Driven by greed and anger, he intends them to take his secrets to their graves.
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March 31, 2007
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Excerpt from Target by Stella Cameron
In the Pointe Judah News seventeen years later:
MASS GRAVE UNCOVERED IN CALIFORNIA Skeletons of thirty-three recovered: Workers stumble on abandoned gold mine.
In one of the most horrific mass-death discoveries in California history, a sudden ground collapse during installation of a new cell tower has revealed multiple human remains.
Tangled skeletons suggest a desperate struggle to escape asphyxia in an abandoned gold mine.
Workers drilling at the site report that they became aware that they had broken into an existing cavity when surrounding earth began to cave in.The drill had pierced what is believed to have been a large vent intended to bring air into the mine. Most of the victims were heaped at the bottom of this hundred-foot-deep vent and are presumed to have been trying to claw their way up.
Officials have already tied the deceased to members of a northern California commune known as "The Refuge." Seventeen years ago, people in the nearby town of Grove noticed the sudden absence of commune members. Until then, people from The Refuge had frequented shops and other businesses in Grove.At that time, police visited the settlement and found trailers still filled with possessions,but the owners had left.
It appeared that these people had supported themselves with extensive marijuana cultivation.
All efforts to track down members of the commune failed until the recent discovery.
Officials have announced that pieces of identification for thirty-three people were found with the remains.Longtime residents in Grove recall some of the people whose photographs are on these documents as commune members.
The public is asked to contact their local police departments with any tips,and to be advised that intensive efforts are under way to complete positive identifications.
If you think one of your friends or relatives may have been among the dead, the police would like to hear from you as soon as possible.
Pointe Judah, Louisiana
This was it. Decisions had to be made.
Nick Board didn't want to admit, even to himself, that he was afraid, but he'd be a fool if he wasn't. He had to protect the lives of the people he loved, and his own.
He turned his Audi from Main Street into the forecourt of Ona's Out Front, the bar and diner side of Ona's business. In the same building, Ona's Out Back, an unlikely tea shop, lay directly behind the diner. He parked next to a familiar, bright yellow Miata that reflected dazzling sun-bursts off its spotless paint.
Inside, her elbows propped on the stainless-steel counter that spanned the windows, sat Sarah Board, one of his supposed sisters and the owner of the Miata. From the direction of her glance, she couldn't see him for the glare.
Nick got out of the car and faced Main Street, just to give himself a little time to settle down. Vehicles and people passed through the white-hot haze of midafternoon. He poked at the nosepiece of his sunglasses.
Two weeks ago the headline and lead article in the Pointe Judah News had stunned Nick, stunned Aurelie and Sarah and thrust them back where they'd learned not to go: to the day when Mary Chance had sent them to Georgia. He could not get past the conviction that she had suspected they were all in deadly danger. She had stayed to make sure he and the two girls got away. Nick had no proof, would never have proof, but he knew what he knew. While they escaped, she covered for their absence.
Today, after a relentless national media feast since the grave was discovered, a new story twist had come out. He had read about it on the Internet a couple of hours earlier.
He thought back to when he, Muriel and Ena set off for Savannah. By the time they arrived, the sisters had chosen new names, Sarah and Aurelie. In their fabricated lives, all but four people thought they were his sisters. The fourth was Delia Board, Mary's old friend, the CEO and primary shareholder of Wilkes and Board Cosmetics. Delia had taken in three teenagers and raised them as if they were her own children.
Even members of the Board clan--all retired now-- accepted the story that Delia had quietly adopted the three children of an old friend. Delia was the "whippersnapper" of the family and the old brigade didn't question anything she did as long as they didn't have to become actively involved in the business. The Boards had bought out the Wilkes, but the name of the company was too famous to change.
He couldn't have guessed then how grateful he would become that although they had taken the Board name, adoption was automatically out of the question. They had continued to hope his mother was alive, and to this day he and Delia didn't know whether Sarah and Aurelie had a family somewhere. They had steadfastly recoiled from the subject.
Aurelie was never far from his thoughts. he'd made up his mind he had to do something about his feelings for her. At least test the waters. But he would wait until this nightmare passed.