This is a novel in which my “slightly psychic” detective Will Castleton travels from my haunted town of Green River to Dennis’ downright evil town of Angel Hill. Yes, Green River has more than its share of malevolent ghosts and corrupt small-time criminals, but in terms of pure, soul-shattering demonic wickedness, Angel Hill is like Green River on steroids.
Will’s in for some harrowing times…
In RETURN TO ANGEL HILL, Will’s psychic friend Mazie, whom readers will remember from DEATH SIGHT and THE CASTLETON FILES, calls on Will to accompany her when she’s forced to return to her ghost-infested hometown of Angel Hill, Missouri – a town she fled decades before, having nearly been psychologically shattered by a harrowing vision in the woods.
A death in the family pulls Mazie back to Angel Hill, but soon after stepping foot on her native soil, she and Will are caught up by spectral forces that twist a ghastly crime from the town’s past into an all-too terrifying present…
The prologue to the novel tells why Mazie left Angel Hill all those years ago…
RETURN TO ANGEL HILL
by David Bain & C. Dennis Moore
These were days that would never fade from memory, no matter how many years or how much distance was put between them. Mazie had never doubted the reality of the supernatural world. Spending one’s formative years in a place like Angel Hill, Missouri, it was hard to deny the existence of things like ghosts. And if ghosts, why not more? Why not demons and angels, why not unnatural forces, why not living energy whose only purpose in the world was to cause harm?
As her powers began to develop in her teens – she sometimes sensed impressions, sometimes whole stories, from the past after touching someone or something – the older and stronger she got, the worse the energies and the harder they were to shut down. And if the psychic energies constantly bombarding her brain weren’t enough, the town, as an entity unto itself, was sometimes just plain mean.
A week before Mazie left town for good, nine-year-old Ryan McKay vanished. In the rest of the world, suspicion would lean toward abduction: Someone has taken Ryan McKay and now the search for him begins. Hopefully he’ll be found alive, scared, but unharmed, maybe in the passenger seat of someone’s old pick-up, looking longingly out the window as they pull up to some gas station or a fast food place where Ryan’s abductor can hide the hand holding the gun behind his door. Ryan may look at the cashier with a plea in his eyes but he won’t say anything and that cashier will think “That kid looks weird. But familiar. Where have I seen him?” Then it’ll click and the cashier will tell the manager who will call the police and Ryan will be returned safe and sound. Or, in the worst case scenario, Ryan was abducted and murdered and his body will be found a few days later in a ditch or in someone’s basement or back yard.
But this wasn’t the world. This was Angel Hill.
At nineteen, Mazie was hot shit. Her abilities to read objects and people had grown over the last six or seven years and she was starting to enjoy doing it. She kept them to herself, only her grandmother and an aunt knew what she could do, and only because they shared the same gift. So, when it worked, Mazie used her abilities as a no-fail lie detector, uncovering the bullshit boys fed the girls, or the lies girls told their friends, and always calling people out for it. It quickly began to alienate those around her, and she feared that telling the few friends she had left about how she did what she did would just drive them away too, and no one wanted to be alone – not in a town like Angel Hill, because, here, sometimes the shapes one saw in the shadows moved.
But then this business with Ryan McKay happened and everyone knew something was up, but in a town like this, where secrets are the order of the day and where there are some things you just don’t talk about . . . people kept quiet.
Ryan had last been seen near a wooded area off the highway, a place kids went to play and live out their fantasies. These woods served as Tarzan’s jungle, or the woods surrounding Camp Crystal Lake for the more daring role players. For some it was the perfect place to live out their recent action movie star fantasies.
Mazie went out there one rainy afternoon. She had no trouble finding it. She felt the vibrations as soon as she got out of her Chevy Nova. The walk through the woods was tense and her stomach was in knots. She’d never felt anything this strong before. It simultaneously pulled her forward while trying to hold her back. To go toward it was a compulsion she didn’t think she could resist now that she was actually here, but something inside her, an inner voice she would come to trust with her life in time, tried to tell her to turn back and get as far away from this place as she could. And quickly, at that. But she couldn’t do that. Because Ryan McKay, a little boy she had never met, had never even heard of, was missing, and Mazie knew that if she could shed any sort of light on this subject at all, if her gifts could be used in the slightest way to help get him home safely, or at least provide some answers if returning home was no longer a possibility, she couldn’t, in good conscience, deny that responsibility.
The ground was slick with mud, and not easy to cover with twigs and rocks and hills to contend with. She grabbed a root growing jagged out of a hillside and hauled her bulk over a slick hill, then had to hold herself steady against a series of trees to get to the bottom without falling on the wet ground. Even though she’d never been here before, it wasn’t hard to find with her head acting as a divining rod as those vibrations rattled her brain. The closer she got, the less she wanted to do this thing.
Finally her gifts told her this was the spot, that something powerful had happened here. She looked all around, trying to find a scrap of shirt, a broken twig he may have snapped during a struggle, anything she may be able to pick up some information from.
Silvery mist swirled about the trees as a breeze whispered in. The rain brushed her face like an unwelcome suitor, making unwanted advances. The sun was a distant cold whiteness behind the wall of dark gray above.
She walked slowly forward, cautious, expectant. Her heartbeat pounded in her ears, almost as loud as the warnings she felt to leave this alone, turn around, go back to the road, get in the car and get far away from here. But she couldn’t do that.
Her stomach felt like she hadn’t eaten all day, like it was about to consume itself and she realized she had to pee. Her shoes were soaked, as were her socks, and she hated that feeling between her toes.
Finally she stopped in a spot she felt was the spot. Whatever the was, it was here. And she felt it coming to a boil in her veins, in her brain, deep in her gut.
She steeled herself against what might happen, what might have happened to Ryan McKay and, in effect, what might happen to her when the visions came. Then she reached down her wet hand and laid the tips of the first two fingers on her right hand on the ground.
Mazie fell to her knees and cried out as lights and colors filled her head, a sensation of falling forever made her vision swirl and her balance was for nothing. She lay writhing in the wet leaves, her fingers stuck to the ground, trying to shake off these feelings of pain and confusion. She saw nothing of Ryan McKay and everything of an eternity spent in darkness. She felt lonely. She cried. She wanted to scream but something inside made all of her muscles suddenly seize and she froze on the ground, her back arched, stomach up, legs curled back with her right arm twisted backward over her shoulder and her fingers still pressed into the dirt. Her head cocked dangerously to the left. Her mouth hung open and she spilled drool down her cheek. A sound came from her throat in a voice she knew wasn’t hers. Her left arm was so tense the muscles shook and twitched.
Everything inside her was violence and hurt.
Then it passed through her like a wave, starting at her toes and rising up her body, making her pee her pants, churning her gut, issuing another scream from her throat, making her vision go dark for a moment. Her head felt like her skull was cracking, and finally it went out through her raised fingertips and back into the ground and Mazie lost contact and quickly scurried back from the area, then fell weeping in the leaves and mud, crying out every ounce of shame and loneliness she had felt since her powers first emerged.
“No good,” she said, tears streaming down her face. “It’s no good. I didn’t see him. I don’t know.”
She had feared coming away from this trip with nothing to offer the parents of Ryan McKay, and that’s exactly what had happened. But it was even worse because she knew now there was no way she could continue to live in Angel Hill with a presence like that in town. And while the idea of leaving the only place she’d ever known terrified her, the idea of ever coming into contact with something that strong again filled her with a hopelessness she knew would never be overcome. So the decision, really, wasn’t even something she had to consider. Mazie had to leave Angel Hill as soon as possible.