I swear I am distracted by so many squirrels. I am nearing completion of Cast Down; Masked. Nearing. I had lunch today with the brilliant Book Doctor, Ms. Elizabeth Capalbo. She bailed me out when I was nearing completion of A New England Haunting and has graciously offered to make time to help me hammer out Masked as well.
So, after emailing her my current manuscript I immediately flipped over to Cast Down; Seven More Wicked to get that a little further along! Seven More Wicked comes from the scripture that talks about what happens when an exorcism goes wrong. It says when an unclean spirit is cast out, it goes out to the arid places and wanders, then comes back to see its old home. If its old home is swept clean and empty it comes back, and it brings with it seven spirits more wicked than itself. So, if the unclean spirit isn’t replaced with the Holy Spirit, things get much worse for the person who was/is possessed.
As usual, the story takes place in one of the New England locations that haunts me to this day. Here’s a brief glimpse of the book’s opening….
When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.
The village of Rowayton, Connecticut is actually a suburb of the less affluent city of Norwalk, though residents of Rowayton didn’t like to admit to it. Rowayton was a small peninsula that stuck out into Long Island Sound and was once a humble fishing village consisting of tiny cottages originally built by fisherman who kept their boats at the docks within walking distance from home. Most homes were built without basements because of frequent flooding caused by nor’easters. Homes closest to the water were built on stilts.
And then the new money moved in. Modest old bungalows on lots of less than an acre were bought up for increasing amounts of money and the existing structures torn down. McMansions sprung up in place of the rustic cottages and small shops on Main Street became boutiques and salons. The once open beaches came private havens for residents only, and the demographics shifted dramatically.
The home at 7 Crickett Street had once been just a garage for a middle-aged fisherman in the early 1900’s. Once his marriage ended, he added living space to the garage – a bachelor’s kitchen, a living room with a fireplace and a small bedroom. He planted grapes in the side yard for making in wooden barrels and erected an arbor for the vines. He planted blueberry bushes along the fence that separated his property from the neighbors, and a wisteria vine was rooted in front of the little home, to the left of the Dutch door in front. The fisherman dug out a section in the middle of the yard and poured concrete, creating a wading pool for his young son who visited him every other weekend. A tiny weeping willow tree was planted beside it.
The fisherman eventually passed on and left the property to his then grown son who lived there with his new wife until their family and their bank account began to grow and they sought larger accommodations while renting out the little home for a few extra dollars.
By the time the willow tree overshadowed the small wading pool the old fisherman’s grandson was old enough to inhabit the cottage as his first home, and he stayed for many years. The home only passed out of the family when an offer that could not be refused was proffered and for the first time in a hundred years the property was sold.
The home sat empty, forgotten for years in the hands of the new developer/owner. Eventually the weeping willow was cut down. The wading pool was filled in. The little cottage was torn down and a new home was built; one that took up nearly every square foot of the property, save for the area the inground pool occupied.
The owners of the home, for whom it had been designed moved in just after the first of the year, very much looking forward to the warm weather which would eventually arrive so they could enjoy every amenity their new home and town offered.
Less than three weeks later a For Sale sign was planted in the frozen ground in the front yard and the home was listed at a bargain basement price. Fully furnished, as if the family had gone for a drive and never returned.
Realtor, Justine Robbins wandered through the home, taking photographs for the online listings. She turned up the thermostat just a touch to keep the pipes from freezing and to provide a welcoming atmosphere for viewers. She never met the family she listed the home for, and she wasn’t likely to since they’d suddenly relocated to the west coast. The clothes still hanging in their closets they insisted they would no longer have need of.
A native of Bridgefield, Justine thought it might be nice to have a home of her own so close to the water where she and her fiancé could start building a family and she knew he’d love to have a boat. The beach was a quick walk away and the schools were excellent. The asking price on the home was well below anything she’d seen for the area. As she meandered through the rooms, she imagined her own furnishings in place of most of what was there already. The former owners had chosen a rustic design for the interior and exterior of the home as though paying homage to the history of the village but had failed to choose furnishings to complement their original design idea.
Justine was imagining a log bed in the master bedroom when she heard what sounded like heavy footsteps in the hallway outside. She turned to look towards the bedroom door, now unsure if she’d locked the front door behind her or not. “Hello?” she called out as she saw a shadow cross the open doorway.
The shadow crossed the door without a body to follow and only a soft hissing sound answered her call. The young realtor stood frozen in the bedroom, eyes glued to the door, afraid to move. A cold draft that ruffled her short hair finally convinced her feet to move and she walked quickly out into the hall, heading directly for the stairs and the front door, which slammed behind her of its own accord.