A woman’s homecoming is met with death threats, a treacherous killer, and a legendary monster in this supernatural thriller series opener.
Behind a legend lies the truth . . .
As a child, Eve Parrish lost her father and her best friend, Maggie Flynn, in a tragic bridge collapse. Fifteen years later, she returns to Point Pleasant to settle her deceased aunt’s estate. Though much has changed about the once thriving river community, the ghost of tragedy still weighs heavily on the town, as do rumors and sightings of the Mothman, a local legend. When Eve uncovers startling information about her aunt’s death, that legend is in danger of becoming all too real . . .
Caden Flynn is one of the few lucky survivors of the bridge collapse but blames himself for coercing his younger sister out that night. He’s carried that guilt for fifteen years, unaware of darker currents haunting the town. It isn’t long before Eve’s arrival unravels an old secret—one that places her and Caden in the crosshairs of a deadly killer . . .“Masterful, bone-chilling fiction…one intense thriller. A Thousand Yesteryears will keep you guessing, gasping and turning the pages for more.” —Kevin O’Brien,New York Times–bestselling author
Release date: April 26, 2016
Publisher: Lyrical Press
Print pages: 250
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A Thousand Yesteryears
December 15, 1967
Point Pleasant, West Virginia
“Do you think Caden Flynn will go?” Eve Parrish kept pace with her friend, Sarah, as a brisk December wind pushed them down Main Street toward the Crowne Theatre. Eager for a glimpse of the movie poster that had everyone in the tiny river town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia talking, she barely felt the sting on her cheeks. Her mother would box her ears if she knew what Eve was up to, but all the boys at school said the poster hung in the window, plain as day for anyone to see. That had to mean she could sneak a peek. She was twelve now, practically a teenager.
Her parents had called The Graduate racy, and Mrs. Quiggly, who sold brown eggs and fresh milk from her farm outside town, said the poster was shameless. She wanted to bring a petition against the theater and make them take the “vile thing” down.
“Silly, busybody,” Aunt Rosie had chided behind her back. Never one to get hung up on proper behavior, Aunt Rosie did artsy things like taking photographs and hosting moonlight picnics for friends. She even had a darkroom in her home and occasionally sold shots to the local paper who proudly displayed them with the byline Photo courtesy of Rosalind Parrish.
“I heard Caden tell Wyatt Fisher they should take their girlfriends to see it,” Sarah said, interrupting her thoughts.
Eve gasped. It was bad enough the boys might see a movie as shocking as The Graduate, but more appalling that girls would go, too.
“Maybe they’ll chicken out.” She had a hopeless crush on Caden, an awkward situation given he was eighteen and the brother of her friend, Maggie. Although careful not to make a fool of herself whenever Caden was around, she usually ended up tongue-tied.
Sarah shrugged and tugged the collar of her coat higher against the wind. Several cars drove by in the pre-holiday rush, the glow of headlights holding the night at bay. Sunset was still a half hour away, plenty of time for Eve and Sarah to reach the theater and ogle the poster. The movie didn’t open until next week, but the buzz it generated had already swept through their school.
“I wish Maggie was with us,” Eve said with a touch of melancholy.
Sarah rubbed her reddening nose. “Me, too.”
The walk to the Crowne was only a few blocks from the Parrish Hotel, owned by Eve’s parents and Aunt Rosie. Despite the short distance, it was cold enough to make her wish she’d brought a scarf. At least she’d have something titillating to share with Maggie once she saw the poster. Maybe her gushing about how improper the advertisement looked would make her friend smile.
“Do you think she really saw the Mothman?” Sarah’s voice was barely audible. Nervously, she glanced over her shoulder as if fearing the giant birdlike humanoid would sweep from the sky. “Was she near the TNT?”
Eve shook her head.
A remote area of dense woods and small ponds, the TNT had once been used to store ammunition during World War II. Eve’s father had taken her there on a few occasions, allowing her to explore the abandoned weapons “igloos.” But ever since the Mothman was first spied in the region, she hadn’t been back. Her father said bad things happened there, and Mrs. Quiggly insisted the place was a haven for UFOs.
“She was visiting Nana and followed Mischief into the Witch Wood.”
A fat orange tabby, Mischief belonged to Maggie’s grandmother, an elderly woman who everyone called Nana. She lived in a sprawling house snuggled up to a thicket of woods at the farthest end of town. Eve and Maggie had dubbed the thicket the “Witch Wood” after discovering a sycamore tree that resembled an old woman with legs.
“But it’s too cold to go into the Witch Wood now,” Sarah protested.
Eve nodded. She, Maggie, and Sara occasionally played there, but usually in the spring and summer when the trees were green with leaves, making it easy to catch caterpillars and grasshoppers.
“Maggie was afraid Mischief would get lost.”
Sarah made a pffing sound. “As if! He’s always getting into trouble and always finds his way home. I wish she hadn’t followed him.”
“Me, too.” Eve bit her bottom lip, worrying it between her teeth. She’d visited her friend for a brief time yesterday, finding Maggie huddled beneath the blankets in her bedroom. She hadn’t been to school for three days. “She’s afraid to go outside.”
They had almost reached the theater. Farther down the street, traffic was lined up at the red light that led to the Silver Bridge. Her father would be home soon, returning from Gallipolis, a neighboring city nestled on the Ohio side of the river. He’d headed there earlier in the afternoon to meet a friend, and like everyone else, would need to cross the Silver Bridge.
“I heard the Mothman’s eyes are red,” Sarah said.
“Maggie thought so. She told me when she couldn’t find Mischief, she got an odd feeling, like something bad had happened. Her skin broke out in goose bumps.”
Sarah’s eyes widened. She rubbed her nose again. “My mom says people get a weird sensation when they see the Mothman. I’ve heard her talking about it to my dad when she thinks I’m not around.”
“My parents do the same thing.” How strange to be focused on something scary when everything around them reflected the festive mood of the coming Christmas holiday. The streetlights on Main were decorated with cheerful ribbons, wreaths, and pinecones, and a lighted Christmas tree brightened the display window of G. C. Murphy, the local five-and-dime. At the store entrance, a man in a Santa Claus suit called out holiday greetings and beckoned shoppers inside. A sense of excitement and seasonal cheer hung in the air.
“Maggie was scared.” Eve wet her lips, remembering what her friend had told her. “She thought she heard a noise. Like scraping, or someone digging.”
“What did she do?”
“She crept closer, but stayed hidden behind the trees. At least, she thought she was.”
There was no mistaking Sarah’s nervousness as she squeezed her mittened hands together. “But she wasn’t?”
Eve shook her head, only then realizing how frightened she was for her friend. A lot of people thought the Mothman was trying to warn the town about something terrible, like a looming disaster, and that’s why it kept reappearing. But Maggie said the creature was awful. A hideous monster with hateful eyes that bored into her soul. Those who’d seen it said its eyes were so ghastly, they couldn’t recall any other feature of its face. Rumored to be at least seven feet tall, it had large wings that allowed it to fly vertically like a helicopter. Most said it was gray in color, and the Mothman’s terrifying eyes glowed scarlet even in the daylight.
“She got close and peered through the trees,” Eve explained. They stopped in front of the theater, but the poster they’d come to see no longer felt important. Someone blew a horn as the light for the Silver Bridge turned green, but traffic remained at a standstill. “That’s when she saw it, crouched on the ground.”
“What was it doing?” Sarah’s eyes filled with fear.
“Maggie didn’t know. It was hunkered down with its wings draped around it like a cape. Then it turned and saw her, and she screamed.”
Sarah looked like she wanted to do the same.
A chorus of horns blared from the stalled traffic, causing Eve to knit her brows. “Why do you think all the cars are backed up like that?”
Sarah appeared too focused on the story to pay attention to the vehicles bottled up at the entrance to the Silver Bridge. “Did she run? Did it chase her?”
“Of course she ran. Wouldn’t you?”
“I would have screamed my head off.”
“Me, too.” Her heart kicked into a prickly rhythm. Was it because of her fear for Maggie, or the cold sensation that crept over her as she stared at the unmoving traffic two blocks away? Instinctively, she headed for the backup, Sarah keeping pace beside her. “Maggie heard it chasing her, but she managed to get away and run to Nana’s home. She didn’t tell anyone about it until two days later. She pretended to be sick so she wouldn’t have to go to school.”
“But Dr. Pullman couldn’t find anything wrong with her.” Sarah’s observation was half question, half statement.
“Nope. And that’s when she had to tell the truth.”
“How awful.” Sarah soaked in the story as they continued walking, seemingly unconcerned they hadn’t stopped to gawk at the poster for The Graduate as planned. The sidewalk was busy with Christmas shoppers heading in and out of G. C. Murphy and the local bank.
Any other time, Eve would have delighted in the festive mood, but something didn’t feel right. Was she the only one who sensed the ominous undercurrent in the air? And why were there so many birds flitting around overhead, as if they couldn’t find a place to rest?
“What happened to Mischief?” Sarah asked.
“He came back later. I heard he was fine.”
“He’s such a bad cat.” Sarah shook her head. “I feel just awful for Maggie. Do you think anyone believes she saw the Mothman?”
“Her parents didn’t. They tried to convince her she saw a large bird or something.”
“What about Ryan and Caden?”
Ryan was Maggie’s other brother. Only a year older than the three of them, they often hung out with him and his friends. Fun and kind of goofy, he was unlike Caden, who Eve thought as dreamy and mysterious as an ancient knight.
“She said Ryan believes her, but Caden thinks she’s overreacting.”
“Well, he is eighteen.” Sarah shrugged. “He’s one of them. An adult.”
How could she have a crush on an adult? “My mom was talking to Mrs. Flynn earlier, and she said Caden was going to try to get Maggie to go Christmas shopping tonight. You know how she’s wanted to visit that new department store in Gallipolis? He thought that might get her out of the house.”
“I hope it worked.”
“Me, too.” Eve’s stomach did a queasy flip-flop. Did she really hope so? It would mean Caden and Maggie would be on the Silver Bridge. “It’s getting near dinner time. If it worked, they’re probably headed back right now.” Like my dad. “Do you notice all the birds?”
Sarah eyed the sky. “Yeah. Weird, isn’t it?”
More horns from the stalled traffic.
“Something’s wrong.” She started walking faster, bypassing the Santa who waved shoppers into the five-and-dime with a hearty “ho-ho-ho.” As the doors opened and closed, the cheerful notes of “Jingle Bells” carried onto the street, spurring her into a jog.
“Eve, wait.” Sarah hurried to catch up. “What’s wrong with you?”
“The traffic.” Goose bumps broke out on the back of her neck. “Look.” She’d never seen it stacked up like this before. Friday nights were always busy, especially around rush hour, but even with the addition of Christmas shoppers, there were far too many cars.
The pungent tang of exhaust snarled with the rumble of idling motors as they neared the entrance for the bridge. From her vantage point on the sidewalk, she spied the tall rocker towers erected against the sky. The sun had yet to set, the fiery ball ebbing toward the horizon, painting the silver framework with splashes of tangerine and copper.
“The light’s green,” Sarah said at her side. “Why aren’t they moving?”
Eve glanced at the traffic signal just as it cycled to yellow, then red. Not a single car had inched forward. “The light must be out on the Ohio side. Everything’s backed up.”
“So people are going to be stuck on the bridge.”
Like her father. Like Maggie and Caden.
It shouldn’t have bothered her, but an unsettled feeling gnawed at the pit of her stomach. The Silver Bridge defined Point Pleasant, much like the Parrish Hotel. Eve had been on the bridge once when the rocker towers swayed slightly, but her dad had told her they were designed to be flexible, and she shouldn’t be afraid. The towers moved with suspension chains to help reduce strain on the bridge piers. She didn’t understand the construction, but knew the people of Point Pleasant were inordinately proud of their beloved Silver Bridge.
Sarah shook her head, apparently deciding they’d seen all there was of interest. “Hey, we missed the poster for The Graduate. Let’s go back.”
Eve nodded, trying to mask her uneasiness. “Okay. If my dad’s on the bridge, he’s going to be stuck in traffic anyway.”
She started to turn from the sight when a deafening boom split the air like thunder. A woman’s shrill scream knifed deeply into her bones. Within seconds, the terrified shriek was echoed by a dozen more voices raised in horror. Those stalled in traffic poured from their vehicles. On the ramp for the Silver Bridge, reverse lights flashed as cars tried to back away from the traffic signal amid a mad chorus of blaring horns.
“Oh!” Sarah shrieked. “Oh, no. No, no, no!”
Her friend lurched forward, rushing toward the bridge, and Eve jerked in her wake as if pulled by an invisible string. A sob built in her chest. It wasn’t happening, couldn’t be happening! But even before her gaze fell on the rocker towers looming above the Silver Bridge, she understood the horrified screams, the frenzied bleat of car horns, the chaotic cries of starlings wheeling overhead.
As if trapped in a slow motion bubble, the solid framework twisted sickeningly above a bridge crippled with stalled traffic. Christmas shoppers, truckers, workers returning at the end of the day, even visitors crossing from state to state. How many lives were clustered in that frozen string of cars? Her father. Her friend. Caden.
“Daddy.” The name was a pitiful squeak, pushed past the lump in her throat. She lurched another step, vaguely conscious of people swarming past her. They came from cars and stores, from traffic that had stopped haphazardly on Main Street. Screams and voices that made no sense. Birds shrieked above her. Somewhere in the background “Jingle Bells” still played through the open doors of the five-and-dime. Even the suited Santa raced past, waving and hollering for people to get off the entrance ramp.
A scream built in her lungs. Someone yelled for police, someone else for an ambulance. Three steps ahead of her, a woman huddled on the street, hugging a small child to her chest. From the look of the open car door behind her, she had been on the ramp but managed to scramble free, abandoning a brown station wagon. Both the woman and the child were sobbing.
No more than thirty seconds had passed, Eve was sure. Why couldn’t she scream? Why couldn’t she look away from the twisting rocker towers? In the span of a single heartbeat, they collapsed, the entire bridge folding like a mammoth deck of cards. A heap of metal, steel, and headlights plummeted into the Ohio River.
Eve stumbled to her knees, the scream in her chest ripped lose in a mournful wail.
In little more than sixty seconds, the Silver Bridge was gone, claiming the lives of those she loved.
Point Pleasant, West Virginia
Eve Parrish stared through the windshield of her Toyota Corolla at the two-story house her aunt had bequeathed to her in her will. A house she remembered fondly from childhood, it had been in her family for four generations, just like the old hotel in downtown Point Pleasant.
Tightening her grip on the steering wheel of the parked car, she vowed to worry about the hotel later. One problem at a time.
At twenty-seven, it was staggering to find herself the sole owner of her family’s homestead and the Parrish Hotel. She’d inherited the latter after her father died, and Eve’s mother had signed her ownership of the property over to Aunt Rosie. Not long afterward, her mother had uprooted them, determined to put the tragedy of the Silver Bridge in the past. It had always been Aunt Rosie who came to visit Eve and her mom in Pennsylvania.
But Aunt Rosie was gone.
Why couldn’t she have told them about the cancer? Eve would have done something, anything to help. Insisted she get treatment.
“She didn’t want treatment,” Adam Barnett, Rosie’s lawyer had explained as he’d passed her the keys for the hotel and the house earlier that day. “She went quickly, which is how she wanted it.”
Eve swiped a tear from her cheek. Aunt Rosie had planned to marry in the summer of ’68, but the Silver Bridge altered those plans. Shaken by the tragedy, Eve’s aunt had called off her engagement to Roger Layton and never married. Was that why she’d allowed herself to go so quickly once diagnosed with breast cancer? Did she think no one loved her?
A spasm of guilt twisted Eve’s stomach. Her small apartment was only six hours away in Harrisburg, but her mom had drilled a steady dislike of Point Pleasant into her head from the time they moved away. It was the place where her father had met his end in the icy waters of the Ohio River only weeks before Christmas and a hotspot for bizarre Mothman and UFO sightings. Was it any wonder her mother had insisted on burying the town in their past?
Right or wrong, Eve hadn’t returned in fifteen years. She barely recognized the sparse streets now, so changed from the thriving river community she remembered. She’d been glad to see the Crowne Theater still in operation, but saddened to know G. C. Murphy’s had closed its doors. How she, Maggie, and Sarah had loved their soda fountain.
Taking a deep breath, she popped the door on the Corolla and stepped onto the street. Aunt Rosie’s house—the same house in which her father and his sister had grown up—was located several miles from downtown Point Pleasant. Every bit as imposing as she remembered, the large two story was offset by a covered porch and a towering chestnut tree in the front yard. Her father had once hung a tire from the lowest branch at Aunt Rosie’s behest so Eve and her friends would have a swing when they visited.
Reluctantly, Eve glanced to the house next door. Not quite as large, the cheerful colonial looked in far better condition than the imposing structure Eve had inherited. The paint appeared fresh, the shrubs neatly trimmed. Colorful blooms had already sprouted in the flowerbeds, and a pot of pansies welcomed guests to the front porch.
She’d spent countless afternoons playing in Maggie’s home. Countless Friday night sleepovers when they’d stayed up late eating Mrs. Flynn’s peanut butter cookies and giggling about boys. She’d never told her friend about the crush she’d had on Caden, but Maggie had known. Best friends always did. Unlike his sister, Caden had survived that fatal night on the Silver Bridge.
With an inhale of determination, Eve hooked her purse onto her shoulder. She would leave her overnight bag and suitcase in the car for the time being. She’d packed light, hoping to finalize plans for the house and hotel within two weeks. Hopefully, Adam Barnett could recommend a real estate company capable of handling residential and commercial sales.
He’d warned her about the break-in. “Nothing taken, it appears. Just vandalism. It happens sometimes when a house sits empty. Probably teenagers looking for a thrill. I had all of the damaged items removed and disposed of as you requested.”
The key turned easily in the lock. According to Mr. Barnett, the vandals had gained entrance through the screened porch in the rear, and then busted the kitchen door. Both doors would require reinforcing. With any luck, the rest of the damage would be minimal.
As she stepped inside, a swarm of memories assaulted her. The house smelled stale, closed up for too long, but a trace of Aunt Rosie’s signature scent lingered beneath the mustiness. A light bouquet that whispered of spring flowers and clover. On the heels of having visited her aunt’s grave at the cemetery, the fragrance brought tears to Eve’s eyes. Hugging her arms close to her chest, she blinked them away.
Mr. Barnett had made sure all of the utilities were working, but it was stuffy in the house. She’d have to set the ceiling fans to circulate the air. At least no one had covered Aunt Rosie’s pretty furniture with those dreadful white sheets people used when closing an estate.
Her aunt had kept most of the furniture Eve remembered from childhood. The gold and crystal lamps on the end tables were new, but the heavy-footed couch and easy chairs upholstered in crimson brocade were as she remembered, if faded from time. Black walnut tables and thick butternut drapes covered with climbing grapevines accentuated the décor. Surprisingly, there was little damage to the room.
Tracing her fingers along a chair rail, she headed for the dining room. Whoever bought the old monstrosity would have to crave a home with character. It certainly had that. From its wide windowsills to arched openings and massive moldings, it echoed the detailing of a different time.
In the kitchen, she found the door leading to the screened porch reinforced with plywood to prevent further break-ins. The upstairs fared worse. The room her talented aunt had employed as a dark room had been completely ransacked. Mr. Barnett had been hesitant to volunteer the information but said there were chemical spills, and many of her aunt’s beloved photos had been found torn and littered on the floor. Looking at the damage, Eve felt a slow burn of anger that someone would destroy her aunt’s work. They had no right! As if in mockery of the act, the vandals had used black spray paint to leave a large squiggle on the wall like a brand. Stupid, stupid kids.
Two of the bedrooms had barely been touched, but the last—her aunt’s room—had suffered nearly as badly as the dark room. The contents had been dumped from the dresser and closet. At least Mr. Barnett had seen to it that her aunt’s lovely clothing had been piled on the bed for her to sort through and replace. Someone had obviously overturned the bureau—the mirror was shattered— and the bedspread had been ripped off and thrown on the floor. This time when the tears welled, she couldn’t stop them. It wasn’t fair. Her aunt had been taken prematurely at forty-nine by an ugly disease, and this is how her memory was honored? Lifting a soft terry robe from the bed, she inhaled her aunt’s scent and pressed the fabric to her cheek.
“I’m sorry, Aunt Rosie. I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you when you needed me.”
Eve jerked reflexively when a sharp pounding interrupted her thoughts. Given the vandalism she’d witnessed, her heart lurched frightfully, sending a flutter through her stomach. It took a few seconds before she placed the sound as someone banging on the front door. Mr. Barnett had indicated someone from the sheriff’s office would likely stop by to talk to her about the damage. She hadn’t expected them so soon, but was eager to learn the details of the report. Tucking a stray strand of hair behind her ears, she hurried down the steps, then yanked open the door.
“Why hello there.” The petite woman standing on her front porch offered a friendly smile.
“I…” Eve mentally stumbled, her mind doing cartwheels. Something about the woman was familiar. The appearance was off—there was gray in the woman’s hair that hadn’t been there before, and her eyes looked watery, not bright like Eve remembered—but the inflection of her voice was the same. She swallowed hard. “Mrs. Flynn?”
“I saw your car. Maggie said you were coming.”
Her dead friend’s mother smiled indulgently and patted her hand. “It’s all right. I realize things are different now.” Turning, she roamed to the edge of the covered porch and rested her hands lightly on the railing as she gazed over the front yard. “Maggie has waited a long time for you, Eve.”
Flummoxed by her unexpected arrival and the strange comments, Eve trailed after her. “Mrs. Flynn? I…don’t understand what you mean.” Surely, her best friend’s mother wasn’t discussing Maggie as if she were still alive. Perhaps the woman was ill. Her odd behavior made the whole scenario seem like a dream.
A car passed in front of the house, sending a flutter of leaves into the yard on a puff of air. The breeze smelled of honeysuckle and exhaust, and a clingy kiss of sunlight warmed Eve’s face. She couldn’t be dreaming.
“Did you know they didn’t find her body until June of ‘68?”
Eve bit her lip, uncertain how to respond. When her mother had uprooted them the spring after the bridge collapse, the bodies of three victims were still missing. She’d later learned that Maggie’s remains had been located during the summer, but there was no talk of returning for the funeral. Her mother wouldn’t hear of it.
“I’m so sorry.” At least her father’s body had been discovered in the debris pile on the Ohio side of the river, allowing him the dignity of a proper burial. Not Maggie. For nearly six months, her remains had been battered and misshapen by the cold currents of the river. If the knowledge ripped at Eve’s heart, how much more the heart of her friend’s mother?
“Would you…would you like to come inside?”
“No thank you, dear.” Mrs. Flynn turned to face her. “I just wanted to welcome you back. Maggie asked . . .
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