Most folks would say Will Ferris rushed off a mite too soon to swap his chaotic city lifestyle for anonymity in a small New England hill town. Perhaps the novelist extraordinaire should have given more thought to what he wished for.
Giving a young woman a ride into town seemed innocent enough until it started a cat and mouse game. He concluded that the woman with the fire and ice ir her eyes had an agenda. He could only hope that something would click inside his brain that would explain the strange events happening on his property. Was she a part of it? If it wasn't her, and it wasn't a game, a scare tactic or raw panic, what else could it be? He had no idea why life was taking him down this dark road, but something warned him he was about to find out.
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The Haunting of Will FerrisA Novel
By J.C. Nicholson
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 J.C. Nicholson
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe name is Will Ferris and I'm a writer. My life sounds like a country song: live fast, love hard and die young. Except I didn't die. I moved to the hills and started drinking.
I could tell you about New England, the place I call home, but I'm sure you've heard it all before - the frigid winters, the steamy summers, the unpredictable weather. What bothers me most, are the tricks the cold weather can play on one's mind. Though I'm not totally convinced it alters every single thought, I'm starting to change my mind about that, too. I'm beginning to think that it can happen and does happen. I really think I'm onto something big. I keep wrestling with the odds that it hasn't happened to me yet.
One of the problems is I drink too much. That statement is as honest as any of Abe Lincoln's.
Every Saturday like clockwork I go to Stubby's, a small bar where the locals hang out. I go to slosh down beer, play pool and try to forget the past. It usually takes care of everything that ails me, except this particular night it didn't. Before I realize it, a young woman approaches the bar asking if I'll smoke a joint with her. The first thing you need to understand is that I'm plowed. The best way to describe my condition is somewhere between bored and comatose. I'm far from good looking and at forty-eight years old I rarely get offers. I'm average in height, looks and personality. At least that's what my ex-wife says. My hair is sandy in color, the kind I usually have to slap down with hair spray to keep from looking like I just rolled out of bed. You know the kind. So why would anyone come on to me? That should have been the first sign that something was up.
You've probably guessed by now that I'm no saint. I've smoked a few joints in my day, so I take a few seconds to weigh the pros and cons knowing that what she's asking is pretty tame. I follow her because I'm smashed and fed up with drinking. I see her through the eyes of a major buzz, think she's attractive, but there's no question it's the liquor that keeps me from noticing she looks like the daughter of the devil himself. To make it short and sweet, something tells me it's a bad idea!
At her suggestion, we leave the bar. The plan is to smoke a joint in her car, but once we get there, there's a drunk passed out on the front seat. Before I can say a word, she tells me to get rid of him. Blitzed out of his mind, he begins firing four letter words at me. That prompts me to do the only thing a man in my condition can do to please a lady. I grab him by the hair and threaten to ram the car antenna down his throat if he doesn't leave. A few seconds later he takes off yelling more four letter words. Since I've got a sense of humor, I laugh. I have to say it was fun to watch the jerk run through the parking lot swearing and puking his heart out.
You probably think that was the end of it. Well, if it was, I wouldn't be telling you this story. As it turned out, it was just the beginning. No sooner do we settle in the car when she starts pressing me to take a hit. When I decline, she starts cussing me out. I have to admit her collection of toilet words surprised me. That's when I start to wonder what she's really up to. In seconds she starts screaming rape. Rape? The only excuse I have for not reacting to her words is the dozen or so beers that put my brain out of commission. I'm pretty sure everyone in Stubby's heard her, as well as the folks in the next three counties.
I'm about to leave when a few of her overweight friends pin themselves against the door and lock me in with their weight. All I want is to go home and forget I ever came here. I open the door a crack hoping to leave, when one of her fat friends locks my ankle in place. I only hope he doesn't snap my damn foot off.
Seconds later a bunch of car lights show up. I keep hoping it's the police or someone that will save me from these voodoo warriors, but instead, a mammoth-sized beastly woman emerges from a long, sleek Cadillac, pulls me out of the car by the hair and slams me into the ground with a pair of powerful arms. The thing I remember most about her is her body odor. It's stronger than the Texas wind. She puts her meat hooks into my legs and starts dragging me around the graveled parking lot, kicking and spitting, pulling and snorting like one of those Clydesdale horses, stopping just long enough to pick up one of my legs when it falls out of her fat hands. The pain in my body goes from moderate to excruciating. For a guy with a sense of humor, mine sure disappeared in a hurry. More car lights show up. That's when it occurs to me I'm about to pass out. People start to fade and voices start to disappear. Now what? With no feeling in my legs, and my heart pounding like a race horse at the finish line, it feels like someone just added a new groove to my skull with a sledgehammer. I'm sure the intention was to finish me off and toss me into a graveyard. That night I learned a valuable lesson. Liquor is not my friend, and never was. This is not the way I intended my life to end, but it almost did. The thing is; it keeps happening every night in my dream.
At forty-eight years old, I have no reason to believe I'm senile. Every night I go to bed with the devil in my head, and a prayer on my lips hoping that someone or something will save me. But no one ever does, no one cares. No one is listening. Not even God.
Chapter TwoR-r-r-r-r-r-n-r-r-r i-n-g! The alarm goes off and I shove my head under the pillow until I realize there's nowhere to hide. So I do the only thing left. I get up, shut the damn thing off, but can't remember why I set it in the first place.
They say life is filled with good and bad, everyone knows it. I know it too. Call me lucky, because most of my luck has been good 'till now. Other than the nightmare, I'm okay. Some say dreams are omens of things to come. What bothers me most is the urge I have to go back to Stubby's. But each time I get to thinking about what might have happened to Corey Masterson, I know I'll never go back. Corey is my drinking partner, my friend, and has been since I moved here. Only I haven't seen or talked to him in quite a while; nor do I know anyone who has, and that's what's bugging the hell out of me. Part of me wants to call him, but something else keeps telling me not to.
I check the clock, take a shower, remember it's Saturday and put my dusty jeans on, forgetting today's the day I'm supposed to pick Bobby up at the bus station. Bobby's my son and only child. He's home on spring break from college, and I'm clueless how to entertain him. It's not like we're close. We've never been close. When he was a kid we did lots of fun things together and he was easy to entertain back then. He's a little more sophisticated these days, which makes me wonder why he chose me over his city-slicker mother, who could have come up with a zillion things for them to do. For some reason I don't quite get why he zeroed in on me. The fact I'm clueless forces me to put my thinking cap on. So I sit with my cup of coffee brainstorming, wondering whether or not I've had enough caffeine to stimulate my brain. Since I haven't seen Bobby in a while, I decide I'm going to need a lot of help. I pour another cup of coffee, light a cigarette, something I seldom do and find myself staring out the window into nothingness, a perfect match for my brain.
My gaze wanders to the clock. Suddenly it hits me. I've got less than an hour to pick Bobby up at the bus station and it's at least forty miles away. Unless I boogie out of here right now, I'll never make it.
I get to the station just in time to see my son standing there looking around. He's not alone. He looks exactly the way I remember him. No, that's not true either. Not exactly! Bobby is taller, straighter and that little boy look has been wiped clean from his face. The boy is a man and looks savvy; like he knows something I don't. The look is written all over his face. But wait just a damn minute. Unless my eyes are deceiving me, that someone with Bobby is a woman, and she has the same look on her face he does. Not the look of a girl. It's the look of a woman. Not just a woman, but a gorgeous woman with long, red hair, so beautiful that I'm forced to bite my lip to keep the tears from spilling over. Damn it, she's as beautiful as Bobby's mother was.
Chapter Three"Over here Bobby," I shout. He keeps looking around like I'm part of the landscape. Did I change that much?
"Over here Bobby! I'm over here." I smile. He smiles back, not a big happy smile like he's glad to see me. I'd call it more of a confident, cordial smile. He's a big boy now. I guess he can smile any damn way he pleases.
"Dad! Good to see you," Bobby says, and shakes my hand. Somehow I doubt his words. The same girl follows him, so I guess she's part of the visit.
"Dad, this is Katherine Nally. Kate, this is my dad." We shake hands. I have this big question mark in my head about their relationship. I keep hoping it isn't written all over my face.
"It's nice to meet you, Katherine. Do you two go to the same school?" It seems like a reasonable question to ask a stranger. Katherine, I decide, is a classy name.
"Call me Kate. As a matter of fact we do go to the same school."
"Do you plan on becoming an engineer, too?" By now I'm sure she's going to hit me with some crazy made-up title they give to women in our society for the same job classification. To be sure it'll be one I never heard of.
"Yes, as a matter of fact I'm looking forward to becoming an engineer." Oh my God, what's this world coming to? Even women don't want women's jobs anymore. I decide the best thing is not to ask anymore questions, lest I say something I shouldn't, except I can't even guess at what that might be.
"Bobby, your visit comes as quite a surprise." Bobby smiles, but adds nothing more to my lame statement.
"Would you like to see the town, Kate?" Bobby asks.
"Is there more?" She asks staring at the empty bus station that sits amidst rows of blighted trees, snacked on for years by generations of beetles and left to rot in the middle of the dust and desolation. It's a town most people would call "no man's land."
"It might give you a feel for where you are in relationship to the rest of the world," Bobby says. Katherine smiles back. It's a smile a man my age recognizes. She's in love with Bobby.
"Is that okay with you, Mr. Ferris?"
"Call me Will." Of course it's okay. Why wouldn't it be? When we get to the pickup, Bobby throws the luggage into the truck bed and offers to drive. I nod my approval and away we go.
My question is what will happen if he decides to pass Stubby's bar on the way back? Will they recognize the pickup? I remind myself that Stubby's is off the beaten track and the chances of passing the bar are slim and none. I hope that turns out to be the case.
Chapter FourBobby sticks to the main road. I like to think of it as just another affirmation of my good luck. I remind myself not to take anything for granted. It's daylight. In every one of my dreams it was nightfall, and I'm certain that tossing down all those beers didn't help what transpired that night. The important thing to remember is to keep a sizable distance between me and Stubby's if I plan to survive in the hills that turned on me. How hard is that to remember?
"So, Katherine, what do you think of our little town?" Katherine smiles and shrugs.
"Small," she admits. Her true opinion is not to be found in her words, but in the tone of her voice. That says it all. Personally the three of us know it's smaller than small. It's the size of the dot at the end of an exclamation point. Of course she doesn't know any of the history of the town, or any other town for that matter. She's too busy being young and having fun to know or care about towns or history. It probably hasn't even occurred to her that towns have history. Katherine won't be ready to hear anything like that for at least another twenty years. It seems to me that time and energy are wasted on the young. We pass the last bend in the road and the house comes into view. The pickup turns into the driveway and stops with a jerk. The three of us get out and walk toward the house.
The house isn't much to look at. It's an old wooden structure that needs paint, surrounded by ten acres of land. The back of the house is filled with tall grass and woods and a small brook that ends at God knows where. The inside probably tells even less about the person living there with its second hand furniture, except for the rifle standing in one corner of the kitchen. I like to think of it as a declaration of my independence, of who I am and what I stand for. Everything in the house belongs to me and I feel damn lucky to have it. The divorce was ugly. No point in feeling bad. It's the way most divorces turn out. The kids invited themselves here and though I'm glad to have them, too many years have passed since the last time Bobby and I visited. In fact, the last time was three years ago, just before he left for college.
The house is uncommonly quiet since my dog, Daisy died. No one seems to want to be the first to start a conversation. I'm feeling tongue-tied myself and there's no doubt that Bobby feels out of place between his girl and his old man, but maybe that's not it either. Maybe Bobby is simply out of place with the old man. Maybe he's thinking if we'd have spent more time together we might have something to say to each other. I only hope a drink will loosen everyone's tongue.
"Would either of you like a drink?" I ask no one in particular, unsure what their reaction will be, convinced that sipping on a drink is better than staring at each other's shoes.
"Sounds like a great idea," Bobby pipes up.
"How about you Kate, would you like one too?" The red-haired girl, with the pale freckles sprinkled across her nose, gives me a thoughtful look before answering.
"It might be just the thing after that long bus ride." She replies with a long sigh. It looks like we've found some common ground.
"Beer or a highball?" Highball is a word most folks seldom hear or use, but it rolls off my tongue like it belongs here in this room with these people.
"Beer," Bobby says quickly. His dark serious eyes turn toward the girl's bored ones. "Katherine? How about you?"
"Highball, please," she says politely, as if the eighty-proof will save her from the monotony that's written all over her face.
"How long have you lived here?" Katherine inquires.
"Fifteen years. Maybe too long." Bobby guzzles his beer and begins to stir up the past. I laugh a few times, add a few words, but I can't stop my brain from jumping onto the train zooming inside my head. It's the one that starts at Stubby's Bar and ends up in a graveled parking lot that threatens to sweep me into a graveyard. My thoughts wander to Corey Masterson. Is the man dead or alive? No one seems to know. Whenever I get up the nerve to ask, the answer is always the same. No one has seen or heard from him in quite a while. I don't dare call Corey for fear my suspicion could be right. Corey could be dead. No one, including me knows that for a fact, but no one rules it out either. Did they do to Corey what they intended to do to me?
"So dad, what do you think? ... Dad?" I claw my way back to the present, away from my brain filling itself up with morose thoughts.
"What was that you said?"
"Dad, weren't you listening?"
"Of course I was listening, but my brain went into overload."
Bobby's words are a reminder that I'm only forty-eight, but at times I carry on like a man of eighty-four. Is the lack of senility the only ingredient that separates me from an eighty-four year old? Does Bobby even have a clue how old I am?
"We all get that way sometimes," Bobby says. Katherine, smiles politely. Her look says she doubts what Bobby is saying.
"Can I get you a refill?" I ask the smiling girl. But Katherine shakes her index finger back and forth, indicating she's not ready.
She may not be ready, but I have to say she's doing a damn good job of getting that eighty-proof down. She takes another sip from her glass, and I get a fresh beer for Bobby with the idea of going back to my gloomy thoughts whenever I get a chance to latch onto an empty moment.
Excerpted from The Haunting of Will Ferris by J.C. Nicholson Copyright © 2011 by J.C. Nicholson. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
One of the best reads in a long time! J.C. Nicholson reels you on page one and keeps you in suspense to the last word. Interesting characters, most especially Mr. Will Ferris. My favorite is "the Beast". You never know when "the Beast" will be back next. Edgy, exciting, mysterious, suspenseful and downright terrifying. I can't pick just one word. This book is a wild romp into the strange and unexplainable, in the best possible way.