Hospitalized after drowning during a rescue attempt, newly graduated U.S. Marshal Will Castleton is besieged by visions of a hulking executioner torturing a bound man. A perilous race against time leaves Will broken, unsure if he even wants to join the marshals. Escaping to his Michigan hometown, Will finds his father dying, a young woman’s ghost desperate to communicate with him, and a biker kingpin out to make a statement by taking out local law enforcement’s golden boy.
DEATH SIGHT is the first novel in the Will Castleton series, mixing crime and the supernatural. For a glimpse of Will’s future, check out THE CASTLETON FILES, featuring five adventures from diverse points throughout Will’s career.
482 pages in print
PART 1: DROWNING
The dead stared at him with dark, empty, accusing sockets that formerly held their eyes.
Will’s feet were rooted in a nightlit desert.
A full moon. A dry, coppery odor to the air. Cacti. Rocks. Low dunes rising out of the ankle-deep water - for the desert was also the shore of an infinite sea.
One of him. Hundreds of them - everyone who would now die because he was still alive, all the ghosts he would ever create, ever encounter.
He could not make out the faces of most of the throng of shadowy figures.
Those in front he recognized, however.
They were the faces of an entire SWAT team, cops from several branches of law enforcement, still in their tattered uniforms.
Horribly disfigured, all of them.
Only half their flesh still on their raw faces.
Their eyes infinite wells of unfathomable dark.
He knew the corpse, the spirit that stood at the forefront. Cummings. A decent, if overbearing cop in life.
Will could see Marshal Cummings’ tongue through the hole in his flesh, through the gap in his teeth, his jaw.
Will could see the tongue move like a thick worm as Cummings said, “Look down, Castleton.” The water wasn’t water at all.
It was blood.
“The tide will rise,” Cummings said. “You’ll drown in an ocean of blood before you’re through.”
Then Will would realize he was already covered in the stuff.
The vision would wash over him, even when he was wide awake.
Will would come out of it screaming.
Thus, the powers that be sent him to see Smith.
“The blood and the darkness,” Will said. “The death. The outright evil.”
“Not what you signed up for,” Smith said.
“I mean, to put bad guys away, yes. To do some good in the world, yes. But a U.S. Marshal’s supposed to protect federal witnesses, oversee major meth lab busts, that sort of thing. My life since the accident, though…”
“Not what you signed up for,” Smith repeated. He clicked his ballpoint pen, working his thumb, making a sound like a castanet. Maybe it was good this shrink had a nervous habit. Will had thought the whole thing about psychiatrists scribbling in a notebook while you talked was a myth, but not with this guy.
“We can’t always predict the directions our lives will take.”
Will straightened in his chair, frowned at the man. “Are you being funny?”
Smith laughed. A fiftyish man, silver, slick-backed hair, suspenders, red tie, blue button-down shirt, his sport coat slung casually over his high-backed leather chair. Smith’s clothes were probably worth more than what Will paid for his new apartment here in the city per month, Will in his biker boots - he’d rode his Harley here - jeans, Hold Steady concert t-shirt, a black leather jacket which he’d refused to take off so he could leave faster.
“Sorry. Poor word choice.” Smith clicked his pen again, reclined slightly in his chair. Smith sat behind his big faux-mahogany desk. Will hunkered in a seat to the side. Open space between them. There was indeed a couch, but Smith hadn’t suggested he use it.
Smith raised his eyebrows at Will as if he expected Will to speak.
Will chose not to.
Mist had collected on the window which took up the entire eastern wall of the room. Lake Michigan loomed beyond, cold and gray and choppy. Wind buffeted the building.
Something hissed like a cat and Will flinched involuntarily - an unseen timed aerosol canister had sprayed an artificial pine scent into the room from high atop Smith's numerous, heavily-laden shelves of psychology texts. “Listen, Mr. Castleton. Will. Do you think you can trust me?” “Tell you the truth, I’m afraid I’m going to end up in some scholarly journal as Patient X. Or, worse yet, in a tell-all book. I have trust issues when it comes to talking about the skeletons in my closet. With good reason, but I think it's one of those things I'm supposed to ‘reveal’ to you, like it's a deep, dark secret.”
“I’m my own boss. I don’t need to publish. All the confidentiality laws apply to what you want to do here. And I can’t write for shit. My girlfriend - wife now - wrote all my papers in college.”
“You must be a great psychiatrist then. How'd you pass your exams?”
“I might be exaggerating a little. But I won’t write about you.”
“You could get a ghost writer. That would be particularly ironic in my case.”
“So you're ready to talk about that aspect of your life? The alleged ghosts and such? I understand about the extreme nature of the cases you’ve been involved with. Your accident in Florida, the dead girl in Michigan, what you witnessed in Arizona. These things couldn’t have been easy. But the claims of supernatural involvement…”
“They’re not ‘claims.’”
“Sorry. Bad word choice again. Let me put it this way.... These waking nightmares you’ve had - ”
“Visions. Before the fact.”
“The ones in Michigan…”
“Okay, those were after the fact. Obviously.”
“I think it’s important we talk about these visions.”
“Look, I get it. You’re saying I’ve experienced terrible things and I'm having waking nightmares about them. You’re going to try to convince me my claims they were visions are some sort of mental compensation on my part, my way of dealing with latent guilt or something.”
“Why would anyone feel guilt when they’ve helped solve crimes? When they’ve put bad men in jail for what they’ve done?”
“I don’t feel guilt. That’s just it. What I feel is spooked. What I feel is … manipulated by some higher force. Like my life’s not my own. And whatever this thing is, it keeps wanting to draw me back in. To draw me back under. I feel like I’m drowning again. But this time I’m drowning in blood, not saltwater.”
“Interesting. Why don’t you start by telling me about the accident.”
Will opened his mouth. Closed it.
“Okay, they’re just claims. I didn’t really have visions. I just got lucky in the hospital in Florida. I just did some spectacular detective work in Michigan. I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time in Arizona. Can I get a pass now? Can you tell my bosses I said what they wanted to hear? Can I go back to work now?”
Click, click, click went the pen.
“I think it’s important we talk about these events in your life.”
“Is there an echo in this room? But okay, let’s talk. You’ve got to make your money some way.”
“Your accident. There was a death involved.”
The guy wasn't going to be rattled.
Will sighed. He clasped his hands in his lap, stared down at them.
“A death. Yeah.”
He looked up and met Smith’s eyes - which he hadn't really done up until this point. They were a washed-out blue. Surprisingly mild. Interested. Non-judgmental. And there was, perhaps, a depth Will hadn’t expected to see there. “Okay, if we’re going to play this game,” Will said, “let’s play it full on. I’ll tell you this much - if I feel guilt for any of this bullshit my so-called superiors are making me come here and talk about, it’s for what happened on that god-damned boat…”