Blackwater Val

Blackwater Val

By:  Crystal Lake Publishing  Completed
Language: English
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Richard Franklin has left his Midwestern roots behind to live on the coast of Maine with his family. But in the autumn of the year 2000, he must return to his Illinois birthplace on a sorrowful journey. His wife Michelle has been killed in New England by a hit-and-run driver who is never found, so back home he comes with her cremated remains, to fulfill a final wish and on her birthday scatter her ashes in the park along the river in Blackwater Valley—simply Blackwater Val to locals—the small town where they both grew up and fell in love. With him he brings his six-year-old daughter Katie who still grieves for her lost mother: Katie, who can sometimes guess who’s going to be on the phone before it rings. Who can stop all the clocks in the house, and break up clouds in the sky with her mind, and heal sicknesses, and who sometimes sees things that aren’t there...people who are no longer alive. All gifts she inherited from her mother. Only something isn’t quite right in the Val. Sinkholes are opening up, revealing the plague pits the sleepy hamlet was built over in the 1830s, when malaria and cholera outbreaks ran riot. Mysterious bird and fish die-offs begin to occur, and Katie can see ghosts of the dead gathering all around. But what she can’t see is the charred, centuries-old malevolence which has been waiting for her, and wants her for its very own. Or the pale Sallow Man who haunts the town’s nighttime streets...or the river witch—another Blackwater Val, of sorts—each of whom will be drawn one by one into the nightmarish bloodletting about to take place. ©️ Crystal Lake Publishing

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33 Chapters
PROLOGUE
PROLOGUESomewhere in Germany1945THE MANIAC, MARENBACH thinks within the unyielding darkness, partly in contempt, partly in fear.Mostly in fear.He squints in the musty gloom of his secluded shop at the small man before him, at the slicked-down hair and the dead, terribly vacant eyes. A bit of mustache set above a mouth of bad teeth, the nervous tic in one corner of that mouth. At the large German shepherd heeled by the man’s side.At the armed squadron of SS guards gathered in tight behind him.Marenbach blinks and proceeds Deutsch zu sprechen: “When would you wish it done, my leader?”“As soon as possible,” the little man says with vehemence. He also speaks in German, but the Austrian dialect is unmistakable. “The glory is coming to a close. It is almost over, I’m afraid.” The eyes seem to sadden.“May I see it?” Marenbach asks, holding out his hand. He prays that he doesn’t tremble; the dog is watching his every move.“By all means.” The man reaches inside his long leat
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CHAPTER ONE
CHAPTER ONE1BECAUSE OF THE skunk, they were marked from the beginning. It’d run out into the highway so suddenly that Richard Franklin had, in turn, run over it before he ever had a chance to brake. Startled, he jerked his foot off the gas pedal, feeling first the resistance and next the sickening give beneath his Bridgestone Firestones, and then the smell had hit. Richard and Katie glanced at each other, noses wrinkling. Franklin had resumed his speed, trying to get away from the invisible pungent wave as fast as he could. But it was already too late.With nothing else that could be done, really, he continued to cruise, approaching an overpass and keying up the power windows on the Chevy Blazer. He shook his head, teeth clenched grimly at the irony of it, letting out a disheartened sigh.“You okay?” he asked his only daughter.Katie nodded, looking down at her activity books. “Yes,” she said. “What was that, Daddy?” She pulled a magenta crayon with slow precision from its box.
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CHAPTER TWO
CHAPTER TWO1RICHARD DECIDED THEY should probably check into a motel before heading to the house, just in case. No telling what might happen later in the remains of this day, so, ‘better safe than sorry’ became his instant mantra. He drove back out to the rural fringes of town and got them a double room, at a place called the Nightlight Inn, not far from Illinois 72 and the old Penfield Monument Works—where most of the region’s grave markers were still made. Richard carried their luggage in, and sat two leather bags on the beds, opting to leave the third suitcase containing Michelle’s ashes and their emergency cell phone outside, in the vehicle. Then, after pondering a moment, he turned a light on and the television on low, and locked the unit up behind them before pulling away from the cheerless L-shaped motel. He couldn’t explain why, but Richard felt the need to keep his dead wife’s remains nearby for right now. It was just an unseen urge to stay close to her, he guessed, to keep
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CHAPTER THREE
CHAPTER THREE1REVEREND SIMON JULIAN strode methodically about the inner sanctuary of his church, extinguishing the candles. He didn’t touch them, heavens no, but blew their wicks from a safe distance into smoldering cinder with pursed, wrinkled lips. Some might have found it strange, this, how Julian chose to surround himself with the very things most portentous to him—silver and fire—well, some of his kind would find it strange, assured. Those of his own unique ilk. But the temerity of it never failed to amuse him, even though he did keep his distance.The man named William Salt, still guarding the doors, watched him as he made his way around the perimeter to the four corner alcove tables, each coated in brick-dust residue. He murmured something as he did this, something so soft that the Indian could not make it out, even with his well-honed ears. Salt did hear the last part of it, however, the Reverend’s final utterances.“Relinquish,” whispered Simon Julian, standing now befor
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CHAPTER FOUR
CHAPTER FOUR1“HELLO, RICH,” said Franklin’s father-in-law from behind the screen.“Hi, George.” Richard shifted on the porch, wishing dearly to God that he was someplace else, anyplace—even a few houses over, where he’d heard the White Sox game on the radio, would be better than this. Break out another cold brew, buddy! he felt like yelling. I’ll be right there! Who’s up? What’s the score?Then Deadmond pushed open the screen door and stepped out, extending one liver-spotted hand to him. Richard knew he had to be in his sixties, but the man looked a great deal older than that now. His face seemed haggard and worn, the eyes red and sunken behind his bifocals. He looked almost wizened beyond recognition, as if he’d aged fifteen years since the last time Richard had seen him, a month ago at Michelle’s funeral.He’s going to die pretty soon, Richard thought morbidly. On the heels of that, immediately: Jesus! What a thing to think!“How are you?” Richard said, letting go of Katie to
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“THEY POISON THE HEART”
“THEY POISON THE HEART”by Michelle Brooke Deadmond(an excerpt)This is how it was, the mud and the rivers running red with the blood of the innocents, their many death screams filling the air. This is what it had come to, but it all needn’t have been.In 1832, after being cheated repeatedly on promised land deals and erroneous settlements, Black Sparrow Hawk led the remainder of his people—by now starving and sick, at least half of them women and children—out of Iowa and crossed the Mississippi River one last time back into the Illinois prairie lands. Lands which had been taken unjustly, the land of his ancestors. Together, these dying bedraggled few would be hunted relentlessly and yet would continue to elude capture for several months, until meeting their tragic end. Before that, came the~~ Prelude ~~The scandalous treaty in question was struck in the year 1804 and dictated that the Sauk American Indian tribe vacate their land when eventually it sold, which it did a quarter
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CHAPTER FIVE
CHAPTER FIVE1NOT WANTING TO leave his daughter alone for too long, Richard headed down the hall. How in hell had he forgotten the history and facts about his own hometown like that? Jesus, he used to know them . . . was supposed to know them. And Michelle’s high school term paper—how had that slipped his ‘writerly mind’? It was almost as if a pall covered him, shrouding over his memories once he had left this place, and now that he was back the shroud was falling away . . . the pall lifting.He supposed it was true then, Thomas Wolfe’s immortal words, published posthumously of course: You really couldn’t go home again, not without displacement like this, without that feeling of having lost something, something which can never be fully retrieved.In actuality it was not all that surprising. He supposed he’d always wished to forget this place, and now he had. Literally. Selective bits, at least.Richard brought in Katie’s pastel crayons and her special activity book, the one she a
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CHAPTER SIX
CHAPTER SIX1THEY HAD CHEESE ButterBurgers and crinkle-cut fries at a Culver’s, not far from their motel. Richard grabbed an Imitrex and two Excedrin from the suitcase in the backseat, swallowing the tablets down with gulps of Cherry Pepsi from the soda refill fountain inside.The harsh restaurant lighting hurt his eyes, made his head pulsate, but finally the ache did begin to ease. They ate pretty much in silence in their booth. When Katie would glance up at him, Richard made sure to be grinning widely at her—she grinned back and laughed each time before returning to her food. That’s all she really needed from him, a little reassurance every so often.When they got to the Nightlight Inn he parked as close to their door as possible. The spaces nearest were mostly taken, and Richard had to settle for one several slots over. He carried the last suitcase containing their cellular phone and Michelle’s urn into the motel room, mentally noting that the SUV still smelled as skunky as eve
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CHAPTER SEVEN
CHAPTER SEVEN1WHILE RICHARD STIRRED in his sleep, caught up within the folds of some nightmare, others were awake this night. People bustled about Aubel Farms, where the working barns were well lit, a soft glow coming from the cast-iron wall sconces inside. Two of the Aubel family’s prize cows had decided to give birth at this late hour, and everyone involved was concerned due to the recent losses among the livestock.The midnight laborers went about their tasks with frowns of worry knitting their brows, hoping for the best. One of these farmhands, though, a haggard man in his fifties known as Ditch Richards, stood outside in the field now looking up at the sky. He went out to smoke a cigarette in private, away from the barns and the others. He began to wonder if it’d be like the last time; he prayed that it wasn’t. Dreaded it actually, dreaded having to burn any more dead-born calves. He stayed outside in the cool evening air and smoked for as long as he could, his eyes rimmed in
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CHAPTER EIGHT
CHAPTER EIGHT1IT WAS THE SMALL, black hours and the streets of the Val lay deserted, except for a stray traveler or two: Lucy Dixon on her way home, coming off the late-night nurse’s shift and zipping along now while visions of her pillow-top mattress danced in her head. Phil Jenrette, the local high school football coach, cruising toward the old freight yards across town, while his wife and children slept, in search of a prostitute by the railroad tracks—and either a young girl or young boy would do at this bleak hour, since Mr. Jenrette wasn’t too choosy in that way. And the kid whose name nobody could ever remember, heading out in his broken-down cargo van, choking and stalling and sputtering all over the sleeping village to deliver his morning edition stacks of The Rock River Guardian safely to their drop-off destinations.Each of them drove past the permanently darkened Lawrie Theater at some point or other on their witching-hour excursions, and yet none of them looked up. No
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