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There was a marker in the ground where the Witch Tree had stood. The people of Monterey and Carmel valued nature. Tourists often came to study the words on the marker, or simply to stand and look at the sculptured old trees, the rocky shoreline, the sunning harbor seals.
Locals who had seen the tree for themselves, who remembered the day it had fallen, often mentioned the fact that Morgana Donovan had been born that night.
Some said it was a sign, others shrugged and called it coincidence. Still more simply wondered. No one denied that it was excellent local color to have a self-proclaimed witch born hardly a stone's throw away from a tree with a reputation.
Nash Kirkland considered it an amusing fact and an interesting hook. He spent a great deal of his time studying the supernatural. Vampires and werewolves and things that went bump in the night were a hell of a way to make a living. And he wouldn't have had it any other way.
Not that he believed in goblins or ghouliesor witches, if it came to that. Men didn't turn into bats or wolves at moonrise, the dead did not walk, and women didn't soar through the night on broomsticks. Except in the pages of a book, or in the flickering light and shadow of a movie screen.
There, he was pleased to say, anything was possible.
He was a sensible man who knew the value of illusions, and the importance of simple entertainment. He was also enough of a dreamer to conjure images out of the shades of folklore and superstition for the masses to enjoy.
He'd fascinated the horror-film buff for seven years, starting with his firstand surprisingly successfulscreenplay, Shape Shifter.
The fact was, Nash loved seeing his imagination come to life on-screen. He wasn't above popping into the neighborhood movie theater and happily devouring popcorn while the audience caught their breath, stifled screams or covered their eyes.
He delighted in knowing that the people who plunked down the price of a ticket to see one of his movies were going to get their money's worth of chills.
He always researched carefully. While writing the gruesome and amusing Midnight Blood, he'd spent a week in Romania interviewing a man who swore he was a direct descendant of Vlad, the ImpalerCount Dracula. Unfortunately, the count's descendant hadn't grown fangs or turned into a bat, but he had proven to possess a wealth of vampire lore and legend.
It was such folktales that inspired Nash to spin a storyparticularly when they were related by someone whose belief gave them punch.
And people considered him weird, he thought, grinning to himself as he passed the entrance to Seventeen Mile Drive. Nash knew he was an ordinary, grounded-to-earth type. At least by California standards. He just made his living from illusion, from playing on basic fears and superstitionsand the pleasure people took in being scared silly. He figured his value to society was his ability to take the monster out of the closet and flash it on the silver screen in Technicolor, usually adding a few dashes of unapologetic sex and sly humor.
Nash Kirkland could bring the bogeyman to life, turn the gentle Dr. Jekyll into the evil Mr. Hyde, or invoke the mummy's curse. All by putting words on paper. Maybe that was why he was a cynic. Oh, he enjoyed stories about the supernaturalbut he, of all people, knew that was all they were. Stories. And he had a million of them.