Petre saw a sliver of silvery light over the distant Carpathian
Mountains. “So you inherited our father’s eyes as well as his
ears,” he said. “What magic powers did I get?”

“I can’t fire a gun as well as you,” she answered.

He laughed. “If you could, you wouldn’t need me at all. And
the Communists would fall from power in days.”

The lights of the city of Brasov dotted the horizon. There, as in
all Romania, each apartment building and every place of work
had informants who told the Secret Police about any activities
deemed dangerous to the State. Going to Church or reading
the wrong books could place one under suspicion of treason.

“I can’t do this alone,” she said, adjusting the shoulder strap of
her AK-47. “Your aim is even better than Grandma’s.” She
smiled in thought. “It’s strange how these powers cross
between the genders and generations of our family.”

****
“Brother Petre, I was coming to speak with you about something else. I’ve had a dream about you.”

“What was this dream, Staretz? Your dreams have predicted the future so many times. Please tell me! What did you see?”

“First, Brother Petre, I don’t predict the future. When I first came here myself as a young man of sixteen, the Staretz at
the time identified the gift God has given me. It’s not prophecy exactly. My dreams show me what will come to pass only
in the realm of human action.”

“But they’re always so accurate. You’ve predicted so many disasters.”

“Never natural disasters, Petre. Only those things which humans cause by their action or inaction.”

“Why are your dreams always correct, then?”

“Because people are weak. They have no faith and they don’t pray enough. Nothing I’ve ever seen really had to happen
as I saw it. It could have been changed. A wise holy woman once told me that if only one person in every village in
Romania had really been prayerful, the Communists would never have taken over.”

They each crossed themselves, remembering the events of Romania’s past.

***

“Answers will come tomorrow,” he said. Andrew looked over his glass and suddenly put it down. “Oh my Lord!”

“What’s wrong?”

“Absolutely nothing. The most beautiful woman we’ve seen today just walked into the restaurant.”

Stefan picked up his glass and casually turned. “Dark blue business suit, blonde hair?”

“Who else?”

“She’s something,” Stefan said, turning back to face his brother.

“She’s looking all over the room,” Andrew whispered. “I hope her party is somewhere in my field of vision.”

Stefan smiled. “Let me point some things out. Business suit, hair in a tight bun, minimal makeup —”

“She doesn’t need any!” Andrew protested.

“I’m not done and haven’t made my point. Have you noticed that she’s also not wearing any jewelry?”

“Alright, so what is your point?” he asked.

“Look at her shoes.”

“I tried, but with those legs I never got there,” Andrew said. “Alright. Flats. Very functional.”

Stefan chuckled. “Don’t you see the signs? That, my dear brother, is a government employee.”

“So?”

“Spy Craft 101. She’s Securitaté.”

“You’re crazy!” Andrew said. “There’s absolutely no way that celestial being is one of them.”

Stefan raised an eyebrow. “You’re too distracted by her other attributes to notice that she’s packing a weapon, Andrew.”

He looked at her carefully and spotted the bulge below her left shoulder. “You’re right, she is,” he said. “I feel awful right
now. This could be an attack and I let my guard down. It won’t happen again.”

***

Stefan hurled the gun away, not even looking for his brother’s position.

As Andrew ran, he saw the gun flying through the open space. Calculating that his speed would not be enough, he dove
forward. Horizontal to the ground, his fingers managed to seize the sailing gun.

Stefan pulled the unconscious man in front of him. Looking back and forth between the two other assailants, he saw that
one of them was just pulling out his gun to fire on Andrew. The other was already aiming carefully and directly into
Stefan’s eyes. Stefan saw that the man was well trained and was about to take the shot. He watched the entire scene
unfolding as if in slow motion, so heightened were his senses with the terror of the moment.
A Place of Brightness follows a Romanian-American family
from the time of Communist Romania down to present-day
points across the globe.  Amidst a gathering storm of
dangers and intrigue, they face the pains of their deep
losses and celebrate the survival of love.

Stefan and Andrew Valquist had a strange childhood. Their
mother, who claimed to have fought as an anti-Communist
insurgent back in Romania, taught them everything she
knew before her death.

Now grown up and working as an Orthodox priest and a
soldier, the brothers' world is shaken when they receive a
message from an uncle they believed had been killed
decades earlier.

A trip back to their mother's homeland thrusts them into
danger when they narrowly avoid death at the hands of
mysterious assassins. Now they race against time to stop an
imminent attack on their ancestral home.
Excerpts from A Place of Brightness

Chapter One

The spring of 1962 awakens in the area of Brasov, a hundred
miles north of Bucharest, the capital of Romania. For fifteen
years the “Haiduci” have carried out guerrilla attacks against
the Securitaté — the Secret Police of the Communist
government. Now, in the final days of this insurgency, a
Haiduci family conducts what they hope will be their final
mission.

“I hate these moonless nights,” Petre said, plodding through
the darkness under towering pine trees.

“Look there,” his sister Doina said. She raised her walking staff
and pointed to their right. “It’s rising just now on the horizon.”
A Place of Brightness:
A Novel by Keith Massey