I am rewriting the stories that appeared in my 2014 book, The Green Crystal Stories, and published at Amazon for a short while before I shelved it. Why did I shelve it after I spent months designing the cover and editing the writing to what I considered a polish? Because it wasn’t done. By the time my readers reached the last sentence of the last story, they discovered that I hadn’t resolved the main character’s major problem. “To be continued” I wrote at the end, which, in hindsight, wasn’t fair to everyone who expected a true ending. So, I am republishing the book with a true ending this year and offer it free as often as Amazon will allow. I owe it to my readers.
Meanwhile, between writing and polishing that ending, I am offering the original stories here in chapter-by-chapter installments. The first one is the short story, “Night of the Hellhounds.” This is different from the novel with the same name that I wrote last year. For example, friends Dave and Amy Evans and Vree Erickson are siblings in the novel, and Lenny Stevens lives where Dave and Amy live in the short story. If you’re confused, read the novel for clarification, drop me an email, or both.
Anyway, in the short story, “Teenagers Lenny Stevens, Dave and Amy Evans, and Vree Erickson encounter ghosts and demons and struggle to survive atop mysterious Myers Ridge.”
Night of the Hellhounds
Beware the strangeness at night that it may come for you.
November 3, 2012
It was the weekend after Halloween, dark and cold on the night Lenny Stevens parked his Schwinn next to the garage at Dave Evans’s place on Myers Ridge. Dave had told him he would be behind his dad’s barn. Lenny found him there, roasting hot dogs on a stick at a fire that failed to advance any warmth. His tent was set up behind him, and his twin sister Amy had her own tent behind her. She sat cross-legged across the fire from Dave, whispering and giggling with Vree Erickson. Lenny’s heart pattered while his gaze caressed Vree’s long hair looking golden in the firelight. Amy saw him, patted her sleeping bag and told him to sit next to her. He did, sandwiching himself between the two girls and snuggling under Amy’s blue blanket, which she draped over their shoulders. He quickly warmed, all the while smelling hot dogs and wood smoke and perfume that smelled like oranges.
They wore sweatshirts and blue jeans and jackets to ward off the night’s chill, and Vree had on white furry mittens that seemed to make her all the more beautiful to Lenny. He said hello to her and she nodded and smiled and remained silent while Amy controlled the conversation about Mr. Baretti — a tenth grade teacher she didn’t like. When she finished, Lenny opened his mouth to make small talk with Vree. He never got a word out.
“I’m glad you’re here,” Dave said, seeming to awaken from the trance the fire had put him in. “Take a look at the old Myers place and tell me what you see.”
The old, burnt shell of Myers Mansion was to Lenny’s right and at the bottom of a hill. It languished inside a thicket of property almost a hundred yards away and barely visible in the darkness. No moonlight broke the cloud cover then, so he squinted to see the spooky remnants of the mansion destroyed in June by an unknown arsonist. The police were still investigating the fire and Lenny and his friends had their suspicions of the culprit — he figured it was Craig Coleman and his gang of toadies who liked to smoke and drink there, even though the place was supposed to be haunted.
“Dave thought he saw ghosts,” Amy said. She gave him her whittled stick and a hot dog to roast. “Always with the ghosts.”
He looked again at the house, excited about this new turn of events. The once prominent house had been built ninety years ago by a once-famous Broadway playwright named Benjamin Myers who became even more popular writing blockbuster screenplays for Hollywood before he and his wife mysteriously disappeared.
“You saw Myers and his wife’s ghosts?” he asked.
“Apparitions of some dogs,” Dave said; “three of them as plain as day. They vanished right before you came.”
“You saw his dogs? The hunting dogs that froze to death?” Lenny almost dropped his hotdog while he fumbled to pierce it with the stick.
“How did they freeze?” Vree asked. She, who had moved last year to Ridgewood, inched closer to Lenny. He began to tell her when Amy interrupted.
“It’s a dumb story that says the county sheriff found Benjamin Myers and his nine hunting dogs frozen inside the house on a hot summer day.”
“It isn’t dumb,” Dave said.
“Yes, it is. I checked the town’s newspaper archives that time I did an English paper about Cathleen and Benjamin Myers. There was no mention of anyone or anything frozen inside the house the day they disappeared.”
“So, how did they disappear?” Vree pressed closer to Lenny when she said this.
“No one knows,” he said as he relished the feel of her body against his; “but it started a half-century of ghost stories.”
“The police concluded that Mr. and Mrs. Myers died in a plane crash during a trip to the Caribbean,” Amy said.
“Which isn’t official,” Dave added. “Myers and his wife always flew using pseudonyms, and no bodies or substantial wreckage were ever found, which means there’s no confirmation that they died at sea.”
Amy sounded irritated when she groaned. “It makes more sense than believing that he and his dogs froze to death, or that Cathleen jumped to her death at the bottom of Widow’s Ravine.”
Lenny glanced at where a trickling stream separated the two properties. A half-mile away to his left, the stream fell into a steep-sided gorge called Widow’s Ravine, a place that the rest of the legend claims Cathleen Myers jumped to her death after she found her husband and his dogs frozen. He told Vree about the legend and added, “Her screams can be heard whenever her ghost relives the suicide and plunges into the ravine.”
“For the record, none of us have ever heard anyone screaming from Widow’s Ravine,” Amy said. “And I’ve never seen any ghosts.”
“Well, I have,” Dave said.
“Whatever.” Amy popped a peppermint Life Saver candy into her mouth and offered Vree and Lenny some.
“And I’m not the only one,” Dave said before swallowing the last of his hotdog. “Our cousin Ricky says Alan Baker was driving up here one night after the fire when he saw a pack of wild-looking dogs on the Myers property. When he aimed a flashlight at them, they vanished. Then, as he was driving away, he felt the weight of invisible animals jumping on the hood of his truck. He hurried home and discovered that something had scratched the truck’s paint and dented the hood.”
Amy shook her head and said, “I wouldn’t believe anything Alan Baker says.”
“I’m just saying what Ricky told me, is all.”
They quieted and Lenny cooked his hotdog and ate it without a bun or any dressing, just the way he liked them, and snuck glances at quiet Vree cloud gazing. He looked up once or twice and wondered what she saw there.
A stick snapped behind Amy’s tent and caused him turn partway to the left. The dark shape of a human figure stepped around the tent and into their midst.