A weekend getaway at a lakeside camp takes a sinister turn when a group of ghost-hunting friends uncovers a long-buried secret. As past and present collide, they realize that the evil still haunting the lodge might not let them leave alive!
Welcome to Loon Lake Lodge. Try to survive...
Featured on Kindle Vella, this suspenseful tale of supernatural horror inspired by the award-winning Dead of Winter is a thrill-a-minute ride that will keep you on the edge of your seat!
Release date: January 22, 2023
Publisher: Independently published
Print pages: 112
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All the Colors of Death
This had to be a joke. It looked like someone had slapped a thin layer of pavement over a deer trail with the world’s largest frosting knife and then tried to pass the resulting mess off as a road. Oh, and what a ride this was turning out to be. Blind turns, cracked asphalt, nowhere to turn around, no place to pull over unless into the side of a cliff was an option—there had to be a better way to get to the lake!
Leave it to Cody to pick the scenic route over the quickest or safest one. I hunched over the wheel and leaned into the climb with white knuckles and a mouth as grim and crooked as the yellow line that should have been in the middle of the road.
Climb, level-off, twist, and turn: two hours passed in this manner while Whiteface, Saranac Lake, and Vermontville faded into rearview memories. More unmarked roads and more glimpses of unknown bodies of water came and went before I finally found the right turnoff.
Was it, though? I double-checked Cody’s last text, then tried shooting one his way, just to make sure.
No service. Great. I thought I’d left the cell phone dead zone behind when I left Warrensburg.
Touring the lesser back roads of Upstate New York with no map, no cell coverage, and a gas tank teetering a breath over its halfway mark hadn’t been on the itinerary when I left the house this morning. I tossed the phone on the seat, then slumped back with a sigh. Should I try it or turn back? The engine ticked in time with my mounting frustration. This looked like it could be the right place. The way to it, anyway.
Not that I could have asked for directions if I’d wanted to. There was no traffic on the road, no houses nearby, and not a road sign in sight. Not even those cute ones people sometimes make for their summer camps: crude arrows, funky cutouts, or studies in wood-burning calligraphy. There was nothing before me but a field of bedraggled weeds and frostbitten Queen Anne’s Lace.
After making a mental note—From now on, Cody doesn’t get to pick these locations—I threw the SUV into gear.
A short time later, I slammed on the brakes. Throat dry, heart pounding, I stared through the windshield while fighting the urge to flip the Jeep in reverse and forget this sorry place ever existed. Because this—what I was looking at right now—hadn’t been in Cody’s directions.
My God, it was here. Really here.
Someone had done a real number on it, too. Rusted chain links, still attached to splintered boards, dangled from one post. The rest of it, warped and lichen-splotched, boards bare and weathered grey, struck a warning chord in me. As did those strips of plastic that fluttered from the gateposts. While some still retained hints of yellow to rival the trembling birch leaves, the rest looked like banners abandoned on a battlefield.
I squinted at them, swallowing hard. Were those pieces of crime scene tape? Cody hadn’t mentioned anything about this being a crime scene, past or present. Not that he would, of course. He never told us what we were investigating or gave us directions until the last possible minute, believing we’d be more open to a place, more receptive to its activity as blank slates. He’d only recount its backstory in piecemeal after we’d had a chance to poke around.
Although I’d never say this to his face—better for all involved to keep his ego in check—his eccentric approach had its merits. Well, it worked for me, anyway, even if the sound of that tape was setting my teeth on edge right now. What the heck was he getting us into this time?
I looked away, rubbing my face with both hands. Of all the places to look for ghosts! Would our site be in the same condition as the gate? Broken and abandoned, left to rot amid ragweed, briars, and goldenrod at the edge of a lake?
After freeing my ponytail from the headrest, I glanced over at the gatepost again.
This time, I almost fell out of my seat.
Wide yellow leaves from a climbing vine trembled in the breeze. Leaves, but no tape.
Anyone else’s eyes would have been playing tricks on them after such a long drive, but I knew I hadn’t imagined it. It wasn’t the first time something like this had happened, although usually, it was just a glimpse, the barest flash of insight, there and gone like a scent on the wind. Had the shock of seeing the gate somehow spurred it into being, fleshed it out more fully? Could it be a message? A warning?
Warning. The word rang through me, brassy and dissonant, its echoes radiating out like shockwaves from a gong strike.
The gate, the tape: a crime. This had been a crime scene. It all fit, which made me squirm in my seat. Murder or suicide? Either way, someone had died here. Still a little queasy from the last vision, I didn’t have a sense of who yet, but male or female, those spirits didn’t go quietly, if they left at all.
My chin dropped, following my hands as they fell into my lap. I closed my eyes and took slow deep breaths, hoping to stem the coming vertigo. It never seemed fair for someone who had died horribly to be tethered to the spot after the fact, forever doomed to haunt the place where they’d taken their last breath. Alone, forgotten in the wake of the next big trauma, pushed to the margins of the world to fade into obscurity—it was easy to believe how so many of those ghosts grew bitter and vindictive.
Once the whirling sensation passed, I eased my Wrangler into the narrow space between the posts, pausing only long enough to scan the drive, a dirt track that meandered through the meadow before curving slowly out of sight.
At first glance, nothing about this place screamed death or murder. Anyone else coming upon the road in this sun-dappled meadow would have stopped to take a picture. The birch and hardwoods here, still resplendent in their autumn coats of crimson, ginger and acid green, were postcard perfect!
In the distance, evergreen peaks reared through a thinning and more withered canopy. I squinted, shading my eyes with one hand. No sign of a roofline yet but then, there were so many trees!
Too many. As if the forest was standing in the way of something. Standing guard or hiding something beneath all those soaring trunks and spreading branches, all those fluttering leaves. My stomach twisted at the sight, adding another lump to the one already there.
The whisper threaded through the trees, the voice as thin and worn as the tape on the gate. Fraying and ragged at the ends as if the throat voicing it had forgotten speech. I jolted in my seat, the restraint biting into my hip as my torso swiveled to the sound. Then, leaning forward, I strained to hear more.
A coincidence, I told myself when the wind teased my hair, ruffling it like the bright colors on the branches. An auditory trick, like the spirit voices some people want you to think you’ve heard on an EVP. Another instance of the brain connecting dots, ever insistent to forge a link between bursts of random sound and reality where none ever existed.
Still, when a twig snapped nearby, I locked the door, closed the window, and cranked the radio full blast. My insides, a tangled wreck ever since Cody announced plans to spend the weekend here, were getting more intertwined by the minute.
Because while logic might explain away the wind in the trees, it screeched to a standstill when presented with disappearing crime scene tape and a gate that, until now, I’d seen only in a dream.
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