Monday, October 21, 2013
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
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.
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.
MY THOUGHTS:This was the second novel I have read by author Michael Phillip Cash, the first being Brood X. One thing I can say about this author is that he really knows how to draw you into his stories. With Stillwell you get a love-story wrapped up in a family tragedy that snowballs into a paranormal event. What I loved about this story was that it had so many layers to it. You start off with a very loving and devoted husband(Paul) trying to cope with his grief over the loss of his wife(Allison) to brain cancer. Before this Paul had taken a leave of absence from where he worked as a salesman to take care of his wife as she went through treatments. Paul starts to become deeper and deeper in debt and chooses to go back to work. A friend has a house their trying to sell, that is rumored to be haunted and was the site of two horrible accidents, but Paul takes on the challenge of trying to get it sold anyway. This is where things start to become strange. I don't want to give to much away so you will have to read to find out all the exciting details and how the story unfolds!! This author really knows how to pull a story together, the ending was very unexpected and didn't go where I thought. This book was extremely thought provoking and interesting. I would recommend to anyone looking for an exciting read!!! I gave this book 5 stars!