Sorry I've been absent the last few months, but I'm working on rewrites for my next novel. Just so you know I've not been idle, here's the fisrt chapter to wet your appetite for Where Darkness Dwells. A little about it first, would help. This novel, like my debut novel Kellen's Hope, is romance, but this one is on the line of fantasy. Not your space cadet fantasy, but the likes of Frank Peretti's This Present Darkness. You know, the spiritual warfare among angels and demons type of fantasy, which could be real, if you think about it. I hope you like it. :)
|Picture from iStock Photos|
Morgue hovered in a corner of the ceiling looking down on Markus, a lopsided smile spread across his flat face. The mortal, Markus, was only ten when Morgue received his assignment to wreak havoc in Markus' life, and it looked like his plans were finally coming to fruition.
Markus Morrow scanned the cryptic email a third time. Why would someone send an anonymous message like this? Why the mystery? And who in Halliwell knows I want to be a writer?
"Hey, Kat," Markus yelled. She was cleaning up after dinner. It being his last home-cooked meal for several days, she’d fixed one of his all-time favorites, Chicken Cacciatore. If everything worked out as planned, he'd find property to invest some of his inheritance, and where better than Halliwell? Eighteen long years had passed since he’d been back to their childhood home. Too long in his estimation.
If not for Kat, he never would have left. She once said, "Darkness dwells there." Her words exactly, but for him, it would always be home.
"Yeah?" Kat called.
"Come ‘ere. You’ve got to see this."
She stood beside him, wiping her hands on a blue and white checkered dish towel.
"Look at this," he said pointing at the message.
Kat leaned over him and read out loud. "Something strange is going on in Halliwell. You might want to check it out, get ideas for a novel." Her brows pinched. Straightening she looked at him. "Why send it anonymously?"
"Weird huh? While I’m there, guess I’ll see what’s up … if anything."
Plenty was up, and soon Markus would see. Morgue shot through the air toward Halliwell to await Markus' arrival.
"Odd it’d come the day before you leave," Kat said.
"Yeah, that’s what I was thinking."
"Well, you do love adventure and anything Stephen Kingish." She ran a finger up the back of his neck."
Markus gave a crooked smile.
"Maybe you’ll dig up ideas for that novel you’ve always wanted to write. You can’t say you don’t have time now. Just remember, I’m not into things that go bump in the night." She pulled her fingers through his hair, kissed the top of his head, and headed back to the kitchen.
He leaned back in his office chair and intertwined his fingers behind his head. Who sent this crazy email? Do they have ESP or what? There’s no way they could possibly know I’m going to Halliwell tomorrow.
Markus smiled. Whacky Mackey?
Back in high school that's what most kids called her. But not him. The only thing he didn’t like about her English class—the razzing he got from his peers for being teacher’s pet. But she had seen his writing potential and encouraged him. Although he had to admit, the woman did have her quirks. And as far as he knew, she was the only one in his hometown who knew that he wanted to be a writer.
But that was years ago and he didn’t even know if she was still alive.
Just before the following day a ray of sunlight burned a hole through the salty mist, spotlighting Markus and Kat. In all these years, never had there been a reason for them to be apart. He threw his small bag across the seat of his red Toyota truck, pulled her to him and gave her a lingering kiss goodbye. He hopped in and rolled down his window. "Look who’s spying on us."
Kat glanced over her shoulder and shook her head. "Poor man. Doesn’t know what to do since his wife died. Just sits there on his porch all day."
"Yeah, and watches the grass grow. Or should I say weeds."
She leaned in and gave him one last peck on the cheek.
"Love you," they said in unison.
Markus backed down the driveway, waved at Kat and then at their elderly neighbor sitting in a ratty lawn chair. The man stared at them from the shaded alcove of his porch like a lump of coal in a cold stove. Aw, I shouldn’t be so hard on the guy. If I lost Kat, I’d be in a similar state. Maybe I should offer to mow for him when I get back.
He took one last look at his own small patch of grass. It took him less than an hour to edge and mow both the front and back each week. The protruding roots of their Liquid Amber tree were sucking more and more life from their front yard. He figured if they stayed in this neighborhood it would suck the life right out of him.
He needed a change of place.
As he made his way to the San Diego airport the thought of revisiting their hometown and the possible prospect of adventure made his heart pump in eager anticipation, but he was already missing Kat with her raven black hair and green eyes. Fortunately, she was joining him in a few days.
She could have had anyone she wanted but by his good fortune she’d chosen him. Kat told him long ago she’d married him for his long wavy hair, which he knew wasn’t true. Thankfully, since it was beginning to thin. He'd cut it years ago to a more reasonable length. Being a realtor, he wanted to look the part.
As the plane made its descent toward the Fleming International Airport, Markus peered out the window at the new high-rises that had erupted downtown. He frowned at the changes and at the dirty sky. It was starting to look more like
The plane landed at , right on schedule. L.A.
The place was busier than he remembered.
He held his hand over his left ear to muffle the noise and called to let Kat know he landed safely.
An hour after leaving the airport Markus spotted the familiar sign, Welcome to Historic Halliwell. A smile spread across his face. He felt giddy like a kid entering a theme park.
Morgue, anticipating Markus' return, saw him drive into town and flew toward the rental car. He sat on the roof and clung to the top edges of the doors.
Exiting onto Main Street, Markus looked at the familiar and not so familiar landmarks to reacquaint himself with the town. A Shell gas station was still rooted on the left corner, across the street on the right, Pauline’s Pantry. Mel’s Original was a newbie to the neighborhood. Up the street he saw the four-story Carriage House Hotel where he’d be staying—passed the bank where his mom had worked, furniture and book stores, galleries, antique stores, small clothiers, and locally owned restaurants. Some housed in buildings dating back to the gold rush. Everything looked the same. He gave a sigh of relief.
I love this town.
While everything felt familiar, an uncomfortable tightness griped his chest. Years had gone by. Both happy and sad memories lingered.
He circled back down the highway and turned right onto Oak Street where he had lived nearly half his young years with Gram. Her house had taken root just one block west of town nearly a hundred years ago and didn’t seem to mind one bit the cutesy Bed and Breakfast sign now planted out front. A short wrought iron fence faithfully graced her borders. I’d love to have seen children playing in Gram’s old yard—especially mine and Kat’s.
But it wasn’t meant to be.
A botched abortion had screwed up her insides and she nearly died. She was only sixteen at the time. If her dad hadn’t walked out on her and her mom that summer, she told him she never would have been with the guy who got her pregnant.
But she never told him who the scumbag was.
He gazed at Gram’s old house and imagined he could still hear that creaky board on the second stair and those in the upstairs hallway by his old room. Had anyone ever nailed them down? Gram woke him every night when she stopped by his door to check on him before heading off to bed. Strange how a creak made him feel safe. He smiled at the memory. He missed Gram—wondered if she would have lived longer if he hadn’t moved away so soon after eloping with Kat.
Continuing up Oak Street, he headed toward the first home he’d known as a boy. His heart started to gallop like a racehorse. Seeing Markus discomfort, Morgue chortled. Turning right onto
Street, Markus took a deep shuddering breath and
slowed to a stop in front of the old clapboard house.
Why, God? What did they do? They didn’t deserve to die so young… What did I do? I was only ten! The joy he had on returning to Halliwell soured like an early grape. He clenched his teeth, blinking several times to stop the wave of emotions threatening to undo him, and rubbed his eyes with his thumb and forefinger.He shook his head and struggled to refocus.
White. The house had a fresh coat of sugary white paint. Had it ever been painted any other color? He helped his dad paint it just six months before that drunken kid broadsided his parents. Thankfully they didn’t feel any pain. At least that’s what the policeman said. All those layers of paint couldn’t change what happened.
Markus shook his head again and tried to remember happier times.
Memories came in waves, sounds of children playing—the laughter of boys on snow days when they should have been in school, and summer break. "It’s your turn Markus," Cory’s lispy voice rang out. "Count to fifty!" Before his eyes closed,
Cory headed toward his hiding place, a dead give-a-way, somewhere out back. Doug always waited for him to sit on the cool cement porch and start counting before stealthily sneaking away.
"Fifty," Markus yelled. Easy to find, he hunted for Cory first. He found him behind a trash can, one of the usual three places he hid. The boy didn’t have much imagination. And why he picked one of the stinkiest places to hide... When they raced back out front, Doug sat on the porch, safe, again.
Markus prayed the good memories would linger. Pray? He couldn’t remember praying since that horrific day his parents died. Nor had he been back to church. He drew in a deep cleansing breath, headed back to the highway, and exited on Broadway to see what he could find in the way of fast food. He stopped at a cheesy burger joint, wolfed down a burger, extra onion, no cheese, with a side of fries, then drove to the Carriage House Hotel and parked at the back of the building.
"Finally," Morgue said. He stood on the hood of the car and took flight to join the band of demons gathered in an old Gold Mine.
I'd love your thoughts and comments on this!
Have a Blessed Day,