Stillwell: A Haunting on Long Island by Michael Phillip Cash
Virtual Book Tour: 9/23/13 - 10/21/13
Genres: Paranormal, Thriller, Romance, and Suspense
I give Stillwell a five star revew. I loved it. This story is more than just a ghost story, it is also about love and learning to let go. I loved the good hauting moments in this story. Thank you, Michael for a good read.
Paul Russo’s wife just died. While trying to get his family’s life back in order, Paul is being tormented by a demon who is holding his wife's spirit hostage on the other side. His fate is intertwined with an old haunted mansion on the north shore of Long Island called Stillwell Manor. Paul must find clues dating back hundreds of years to set his wife's soul free.
This is an excerpt where Paul finds Stillwell.
It was just before two, and Paul knew he had to be home for Stella’s bus. There was no time to stop at the library, so he swung the car onto Route 25A and headed for the Stillwell estate. Route 25A was a state highway on Long Island. It served as the main east-west route for most of the North Shore, running for seventy-three miles from the Midtown Tunnel to Calverton in Suffolk County.
The route was known for its scenic path through decidedly lesser-developed areas such as Brookville, Fort Salonga, Centerport, and the Roslyn Viaduct. It was known by various names along its routing, the most prominent of which included Northern Boulevard.
He wanted to walk the grounds before he met with Melissa tomorrow. He felt outside his body, as if he was moving in slow motion. He knew that he drove but didn’t feel the passage of time. Still on autopilot, he was in a strange, suspended kind of state where things happened by rote. They got done, but he just couldn’t recall how. He reached out to the seat next to him and caressed the worn leather. It was Allison’s seat. His soul mate. She would know what to do with Jesse. His hand met empty air and closed into a tight fist. “Get your shit together, Paul,” he told himself. Hesitantly, he turned on the radio and felt a sense of relief when he heard Elton John singing “Yellow Brick Road.”
He pulled into the overgrown driveway surrounded by tall pine trees, just off the main road. Huge old gates that had rusted over years ago and were left unguarded Stillwell. Paul remembered they never closed them; they were broken at a wild party in the last century, by ancestors of the current owners that lived in the house. He had researched today on the Internet, learning the house was built by a prosperous farmer during the 1700s. This landowner was the first Andrews to arrive here from England. Craig had an attic filled with clothing belonging to different eras. Paul loved a Revolutionary War drum they had found there. Craig had made a wedding present of it and gave it to Paul and Allison when they married. He treasured it, and although it was buried under paper in his office, he liked to clean it off and bang on it with the children.
The house had a sorrowful reputation. Nothing tangible, just an overall aura of sadness that was often the subject of newspaper articles. He couldn’t recall any of the stories, only that there was something sad associated with the house. As if that wasn’t enough, now it could add a murder-suicide to its history, just for atmosphere, he thought ruefully.
At the end of a two-mile gravel driveway, the house stood proudly, surrounded by ancient trees that were lush with the beginning of fall colors. It was a two-story colonial, seventeen bedrooms, he recalled, and with seven or eight bathrooms. Maybe more. There were parts of the house he had never seen. There was a ballroom and a servants’ wing. It was locked up. A lone band of ripped yellow police tape floated on the crisp early fall air; it was attached to one of the wrought-iron railings. The word “caution” on the police tape waved on the breeze as if beckoning him to enter. He had no key, so he parked the car on the top of the gravel driveway and walked through the dense overgrowth toward the back terrace. He’d have to tell Melissa to have a gardener clean it up. It was silent there. He couldn’t hear any traffic from the main road, only the gentle chirping of birds and the trees swaying. There was a wall of French doors. It was beautiful. He knew the ballroom was here. A lone dove called gently for her mate, breaking the silence. Overhead two Canadian geese honked loudly, flying low. He recalled that they mated for life and found a well of jealously rearing its ugly head. He had mated for life. What do they do when one partner is taken away?
The terrace red bricks were broken and sprouting weeds poked through. Walking slowly, he peeked through one of the many panes of wavy glass at the light blue ballroom. Counting three Schonbek chandeliers, he calculated their worth, whistling softly.
He passed the big room and realized it was the family’s library. Still packed with books, it would be a nice touch for the open house. A roaring fire would really help when he did the showing. Pictures hung on green, blasé walls; overall, there was a feeling of faded wealth. Here and there were empty spots on the wall where he supposed Craig and his brothers took a family memento or portrait.
He sat abruptly on the first step, tears welling in his eyes. The bleakness of his life stretched before him as anger surged through his veins like hot lava. “You left me alone,” he choked to the empty yard. “I don’t want to do this,” he whispered, feeling so small, adrift, and unhappy. His thoughts wandered to his kids again, and an overwhelming feeling of helplessness surrounded him.
Sighing, he wiped his cheeks, ashamed of the tears and surprised he had this incredible supply of them, and ambled over to the last set of French doors. The bedroom. The master bedroom. It was the crime scene; he had read the report on his computer. He saw the dusty outline of the grand furniture and wondered how well they were able to clean it. He rubbed a small circle in the glass, pressed his eye, and blinked.
“Oh my God!” Bile rose to burn his throat when he saw the carnage inside. Guts and gore splattered the room. Streaks of blood and holes from the shotgun pellets peppered the white walls. Bits of brain and decaying flesh decomposed on the floor.
A chair was overturned, its brocade drenched with stains of violence. The carpet was black with dried blood. A lone slipper, a pink thing doused in blood, lay abandoned by its wearer on the floor. Reeling away, he wondered if Melissa knew it hadn’t been cleaned yet.
He started to run and fell into the bushes vomiting what little he had in his stomach. How was he going to look at that room with Melissa tomorrow? Stumbling to his car, he knocked over a planter with a dead bush. His breathing sounded harsh in his ears; he fumbled for his phone and dialed Melissa, his fingers shaking. It rang four or five times before she answered.
“Melissa?” His voice sounded strange to his own ears. “Have you been to the house?”
“Paul? Are you OK? Why?”
“I thought you said they cleaned it up.”
“They did, Paul. I inspected it yesterday. It’s all good, I promise.”
“Um...you sure?” He blinked hard.
“Yes. What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. Nothing. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
He dropped the phone in his pocket and sat in the car, stunned. Putting the keys into the ignition, he thought to drive away but stopped. He got out and warily went into the yard again. Wanting another look, now that he calmed his beating heart, he saw the small circle he’d cleared on the window earlier. Tentatively, his heart started pounding again as he approached the doors. Stupefied, he peered in and saw a stripped bed, wooden floors, and pristine walls. He shook his head then left quickly, wondering what the hell had just happened to him.
Paul turned from the dark window, twitching the drapes back in place. It was cold in the house; it had the dank feel of being unused. It had only been empty for a week, and yet it held a stale feeling of overripe food and decaying garbage.
The kids would be coming home tomorrow. He had sent them to his sister’s place for the past week. It was too hard to have to worry about their schedules when he was sitting by Allison’s side. The funeral was yesterday, and he asked his sister to keep them one more day. He needed to have some time to collect himself. He’d spent the last twenty-four hours sitting in the dark, staring at nothing, his mind too numb to think.
Lisa had taken over with the brisk efficiency of the nurse that she was trained to be. Stella was eating once again and Jesse and his twin, Veronica, were able to sleep at night. His sister’s was the safe house, and while he desperately missed his children, he couldn’t deal with their everyday drama while he stayed with Allison for her final weeks.
He played with the chain around his neck then placed the gold band that hung from it on his lips. He closed his eyes, feeling alone. It was his wife’s wedding band and it had never left her finger from the time he had placed it there almost fifteen years ago.
Everything happened so fast. Too fast. His mind replayed the last six months in a montage of colors flashing like an out-of-control merry-go-round. Only it wasn’t a happy ride. Well, he sighed, he had to admit that he did feel relief. It felt wrong to have this burden taken off his shoulders, but his wife didn’t have to suffer anymore. He admitted to himself that he was weary too. She had gone from bad to worse in such a short time. She had slipped into a coma. He held her skeletal hand for a solid week, watching hope die alongside his wife. His family had brought in food, but he felt no hunger. As he stayed by her side, nothing seemed important. Paul stared at her face, memorizing every curve, her deep dimple, the mole she hated above her upper lip. Every second counted, and he wouldn’t waste a minute on himself. His future yawned ahead in a great vastness of nothing that stretched endlessly before him. Alone, mute, and his thoughts jumbled in his head, he couldn’t find words to say what he needed. Did she know how happy she had made him? Did Allison understand how much she meant to him? Could she know that his heart was so numb, he felt as though he were a corpse? Though he sat caressing her hand, could his wife sense the man next to her was spent, empty? It was that burnt-out feeling like after drinking so much that the liquor loses its taste and cigarettes burn with dying fire.
The irony was that he was the smoker, even though he had stopped when the twins were born, thirteen years ago. Allison wouldn’t have it in the house. He cheated at work, chewing gum to disguise the smell on his breath. It had always been a huge fight, and while she painted all kinds of devastating scenarios if he continued to smoke, they never expected her to be the one to fall victim to cancer.
The twins were a rare handful for them. Married for just over a year, they were unprepared for the incessant work. He was building his reputation as a go-to guy for the McMansions that dotted Long Island’s North Shore. The pull of work and two newborns tested their marriage. Allison breast-fed until utter exhaustion—or as he liked to call it “udder” exhaustion—made her stop. She always laughed at that.
Jesse, his son, was all brooding intensity, while Veronica, the elder twin by six minutes, was sweet, faithful, and resilient. They were golden children, kissed by sunlight, with blond hair, freckles, and odd silver eyes, like their mother. They communicated in a strange language that worked only for the two of them. A silent collusion between the twins created a special insight, and they knew exactly what the other was thinking. When words finally arrived, they could finish each other’s sentences.
While he was happy with his family, Allison had wanted another child. Reluctantly, he agreed and was shocked at his devastation when she miscarried. His despair turned to relentless hope, and although they faced a period of secondary infertility, he pushed for seven years, and they became pregnant once again. He called her “Stella Luna,” because she was the stars and moon to him.
With Stella, he had time to play. She was a fey child, filled with whimsy and a touch of an old soul.
Brown-haired and brown-eyed, she was the image of his older sister. Shut out of the twin’s world, he made sure she never felt alone. When she turned two, her soulful brown eyes induced him to give up smoking once and for all. God, he wished he had a cigarette. Right now.
The house screamed with silence, its heavy pall smothering any sense of light. It closed over him. The acid ache in his gut he’d been experiencing since she got sick made its presence known. Padding to the kitchen, he went in search of milk to put out the fire. After he opened the refrigerator door, he stood for a minute staring at the empty shelves. He smelled the open carton of milk and recoiled at the odor. He never remembered buying it and could only guess how old it was. Well, the milk was plainly spoiled, as was the cheese. They had to be at least a month old. Maybe he should just eat the yogurt, let it kill him, and the kids would be done with mourning. Two for the price of one, he thought as he slammed the door. He’d have to go food shopping at some point. Yep, the kids were coming home tomorrow.
Paul slid on to the counter stool, holding his head in both hands. His skull ached as though there were a thousand hammers pounding behind his eyes. It pulsed with such intensity; he pressed his fingers against his eyeballs until all he saw was an iridescent halo. He sighed deeply and stretched backwards cracking his jaw as he yawned.
Dizziness assailed him and he gripped the granite counter with wet palms. “God,” he thought, “am I going to faint?”
Sweat dotted his forehead and he shivered involuntarily as a gray mist enveloped him, chilling him to the bone.
Out of the corner of his eye, he sensed a shadow dancing around him. He felt paralyzed and couldn't move.
Suddenly nauseous, he rested his unstable forehead against the counter and said “I gotta get some sleep.”
Born and raised on Long Island, Michael has always had a love for horror, thriller, paranormal and action writing. Earning a degree in English and an MBA, he has worked various jobs before settling into being a full-time author. He currently resides on Long Island with his wife and children. Brood X: A First Hand Account of the Great Cicada Invasion is his debut novel. His second novel, Stillwell: A Haunting On Long Island is his latest. Michael is currently working in his first novella. Look for The Hanging Tree in early October!
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