Want a taste of BROODING before commiting to a purchase? I have decided to post the first few chapters online to better whet your appetite. I will provide links at the end of each to the next chapter, and to Amazon and my e-Store.
PROLOGUE – VALIANT & GOODFELLOW
Nicholas Goodfellow is not the Devil, but he knows him.
Standing in a cemetery on New Year’s Eve, snowflakes swirling about him, he hides at a distance among the trees, a shadow amidst shadows, studying the small funeral party. Bedecked in black boots, faded jeans, white poet’s shirt, and a black velvet jacket – Modern Victorian Casual – he finger combs his long blond hair, cocks an aesthetic eyebrow, and sighs disappointedly.
Summoned from abroad by his superior, Nicholas had been told that his new assignment was of monumental urgency. He’d considered many possibilities on his supersonic flight here to Kansas City – everything from racial tensions to terrorist factions to assassin grooming – yet is more than a little insulted when finally espying his quarry.
There are only two people in the funeral party, not counting the Reverend: a rail-thin woman in her mid-sixties, and a little boy perhaps five years old. The lad is so fair of countenance, Nicholas has to look twice to make sure the tyke isn’t actually a little girl. Donned in coat, cap, and mittens, the boy stares blankly at the handsome coffin suspended over the open grave.
As the minister reads from the Bible, Nick takes note of the name on the temporary grave marker: Susan Davis. This is surely the right place, but why in Hell would the services of such an accomplished demon be required at such an inconsequential funeral? Sensing motion above and behind the boy – practically Dickensian in his waifishness – Nick looks up … and gets his answer.
The man standing guard over the runt is seven feet tall, adorned in a bright tunic, wrist cuffs, gladiator shins, and shiny armor that do little to conceal his massive shoulders, barrel chest, and the ample wings pleated upon his back. With anvil jaw, kind blue eyes, and hair as long and blond as Nicholas’ own (when the demon chooses to appear in such a guise), the angel cocks his head at Goodfellow, grins knowingly, and says, “Hello, Nick. I’ve been expecting you.”
Nicholas nods and chuckles. “Valiant, my old friend,” he replies with a wry British lilt. “I should have known. My hopes were dashed when I saw my mission was such a wee pretty one. I may not know what lies in store for such a broth of a lad, but surely your presence at his side portends very special plans.” Stepping nearer to the boy, Nick leans down and inspects him more closely. “Look at those eyelashes,” he speaks. “Kind of a girlie boy. Reminds me of a shepherd boy we fought over centuries ago. I’ve learned not to underestimate such ragamuffins. Worlds can be turned upon such a puny axis.”
Valiant squats down and places one massive hand upon the boy’s shoulder, ministering what comfort he can on such a horrible day. As he gazes up at the handsomely-visaged demon, he asks, “What would you like to know?”
Nicholas chuckles again and scoffs, “Bollocks, Val. What are you saying? You’re going to offer up such background information freely?”
“Why not? Who’s to say such knowledge wouldn’t hinder your efforts more than help.”
“Touché.” Nick points at the fresh grave, asking, “The boy’s mother?”
Gesturing toward the old woman, Nick further asks, “His grandmother?”
Valiant nods again.
“And his father?”
Valiant stands up and replies, “To understand this boy, you do indeed need to know the story of his parents. In fact, it is essential. But perhaps it would be easier to show you than tell you.”
“And how do you intend to do that?”
Valiant proffers his hand.
Nicholas just stares at it. “You must take me for a bloody fool.”
Offering it more fervently, Valiant tells him, “We were once closer than brothers, you and I. Just because you deserted me when your master chose to lead his rebellion against our Lord doesn’t mean that I’ve lost all affection for you. God has instructed me to tell you everything you need to know about this boy. Further, He has given us the ability to step back through time so I may show you the strange circumstances of his parentage – a tale both touching and tragic. We need to go back about fifteen years or so. It involves murder and mayhem, sex and sin, drugs and demons, legalism and hypocrisy … you know, all of your favorite things. The fighting will come soon enough – believe me, I am looking forward to it as much as you – but this is only the beginning. Take my hand.”
Nicholas Goodfellow hesitates for a moment, but finally reaches out and grasps the hand of his angelic old friend.
As a vortex of white/blue light flashes around them, pulling them into its electric maw, they are soon deposited in another part of town, hovering over what looks like a majestic old movie theater.
Descending through the roof and into the dark, cathedral-like auditorium, they spy – amongst the sparsely populated house – a thirtysomething man and a pre-adolescent boy, seated next to one another, eating popcorn, drinking soda, popping Milk Duds, and watching a black-and-white film.
The man looks like a hippie or a biker, and the little boy …
The little boy is …
PART 1 – DANGEROUS GRACE
The little boy was mesmerized.
Had his parents known where he was right now they would have been quite displeased. He was with his Uncle Ty, and the black-and-white images flickering on the gigantic screen before him were like nothing he had ever seen. Hugging his knees to his chest and resting his chin between them, ten-year-old Albert Morehouse watched wide-eyed as the thriller unfolded.
A woman named Marion Crane (played by Janet Leigh), who had just stolen $40,000 from her employer, was checking into a motel in the California desert run by a shy, modest, and boyishly handsome young man named Norman Bates. After sharing supper with him, Marion retired to her room to take a shower. What happened next would have a profound impact on the little boy watching this film–at least in regards to his passion for cinema–an impact that would shape his future in ways he couldn’t imagine in his first year of double digits.
Most people would argue that little Al was too young to attend a Hitchcock festival, but Uncle Ty’s enthusiasm was as infectious as it was potent.
The theater they occupied was called The Lux – “latin for light,” Uncle Ty had told Al. The Lux was a classic movie house, built in the 1920s, which had been rescued from ruin by its current proprietor. The restoration had obviously been expensive, but the owner seemed more intent upon preserving history than recovering any financial investment. The theater was enclosed by an unseemly strip mall, yet stood its ground like a sacred relic from a time long since passed. In addition to its multi-bulbed marquee and cylindrical ticket booth, it held two balconied houses. The first house showed second-run films at $1.00 a ticket; the second, whatever classics the owner felt like running.
As a sheltered preacher’s kid, Al had little-to-no experience with cinema (patronage of such was roundly frowned upon by the church board), and yet even to one so green, Al knew this place was special. Not to mention gorgeous; with an altitudinous ceiling, Roman columns, paisley-velour wallpaper, gold-leaf fleur-de-lis, a massive oval stage, and classic film posters in ornate frames, the room strongly resembled … a sanctuary: The Church of the Flickering Screen.
Al was too young to know the word irony, but – somehow, being here – he understood it fairly well.
When Ty Morehouse had seen in the newspaper that The Lux was hosting a series of Hitchcock films this week, he quickly made plans – furtive plans – to take his favorite nephew Al and indoctrinate the boy. Ty’s brother was Pastor at Trinity Methodist, situated three blocks from The Lux. Since Rev. Morehouse and family resided in the parsonage next to the church, this made Ty’s plans a little tricky. But Tyler Morehouse had been outwitting – if not out performing – his little brother for most of their lives.
At thirty-five, Ty was two years older than his “saintly” sibling, and had certainly taken a different road in life. A physically- and religiously-abusive boyhood had heavily influenced their adult lives, driving one to seminary and the other to the University of Hard Knocks. Although each Morehouse brother had his preferred manner of coping with this unsavory past – the ways were as disparate as they were desperate – often each method proved … problematic.
Ty was a twice-divorced, currently unemployed carpet layer, who rode a Harley-Davidson, had long hair, half a dozen tattoos, and who often ingested herbal substances which altered his frame of mind. (Al knew nothing about those mind-altering herbs. Even if he had, his opinion would not have swayed: he thought Uncle Ty was way cool.) After the double whammy of his second marriage going belly-up, and getting laid off of a job he’d held for three years, Ty Morehouse was temporarily living with his brother’s family – he’d resided in their basement for over six weeks now. Al couldn’t have been more thrilled.
Al knew that his uncle hurt inside. He occasionally saw a distant pain in the man’s eyes, but this knowledge only made him love his uncle all the more. In addition to spending gobs of quality time with him (like today), Uncle Ty accepted Al just the way he was. Al considered it an honor to return the favor.
Though Al’s dad was wont to sermonize about “God’s Unconditional Love,” the preacher’s own attitude was often so critical and judgmental – toward his sons and brother – that his message was rendered moot.
Despite all he’d been taught, Al thought that sinful Uncle Ty showed him far more unconditional love and acceptance than his saintly father ever did.
Again, Al didn’t know the term, but realized nonetheless, it was ironic.
Al loved the Lord. He’d asked Jesus into his heart a few years before, had memorized countless Bible verses at the behest of his Sunday school teachers, and had a firm grasp (far beyond his years) of the Judeo-Christian theology in which he’d been steeped all of his life. Yet in Al’s little window of experience – which revolved greatly around Trinity Methodist – it seemed the actions of most Christians rarely mirrored the grace, mercy, and compassion of God’s Son while He trod upon this earth. Much like irony, the word hypocrisy was also beyond Al’s vocabulary, but he had an instinctual understanding of the term that was rather remarkable. Yes, his Uncle Ty was flawed, but at least he was genuine. In Al’s book that went a long way.
As Hitchcock’s PSYCHO drew to a close, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) sat in a secluded room at the police station. Watching a fly crawl on his hand, his mother’s voice spoke softly in his mind: “I’m not even going to swat that fly. I hope they are watching. They’ll see. They’ll see and they’ll know, and they’ll say, ‘Why she wouldn’t even harm a flyyy.’”
As the lights came up in the sanctuary of The Lux, Al looked up at the man seated next to him and – with a glint in his eyes and a grin on his puss – said, “Uncle Ty, that was awesome!”
go to CHAPTER 2.