THE LEYWARD STONES, BOOK 1
©2021 Crystal Crawford. All rights reserved.
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, business, events and incidents are the products of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Chapter 1: The Visitor in Shady Ridge
Frank wasn’t my first dead body. I’d seen Norm, our elderly neighbor from the trailer at the end of our street, when they’d pulled him from the drainage ditch behind the Shady Ridge trailer park the year before, all gray and bloated. They said he’d had a heart attack while taking out his trash, and rolled down the hill into the ditch. It was four days before they found him. But Frank was the first I’d discovered myself, a dull-thump roadblock my sneaker struck on my way down the poorly-lit alley to the dumpster with our trash early in the morning before school. I walked home and called the cops.
Death didn’t shock me the way kids in books or movies always seem to be shocked. Shady Ridge felt dead to me already, all of us marching toward the end at our own paces, some just faster than others. It was just at the cusp of summer, the last week of my second-to-last year of high school, and I couldn’t wait to graduate and get out of there-- to somewhere, anywhere. Well, anywhere but Florida, ‘cause Pops said Florida was nothing but sand, swamps, summers so hot you could fry eggs on car dashboards, and crazies wrestling gators. He said it in a happy way, like it sounded fun. To me it sounded even worse than Shady Ridge.
Pops said I’d probably flunk out just before graduating, but I knew he didn’t believe it. He was just that way sometimes, ‘cause he knew I usually did the opposite of whatever he told me. Besides, he smirked while saying it. He always smirked when lying.
That week on the cusp of summer felt like rounding the bend of the P.E. track with twelve laps still to go, and I wasn’t sure I’d even make it to summer before the boredom killed me, much less through summer and a whole other year to the end of high school. But that week was also when I realized there was magic in our town—and not the feel-good, Christmas-with-the-family kind. Real, shiver-in-your-flip-flops-and-run-for-the-hills magic. The Traveler.
He appeared right next to the lump that had been Frank the night I found him, as I waited for the cops. First I’d been alone in the dark alley with Frank, staring into his glassy, lifeless eyes reflecting the moonlight, and then there was a third person. I thought he was a homeless man at first, foraging the alley for the discarded junk that always seemed to be there. The moon lit his face and his brown eyes narrowed as they locked on mine. For a second I thought I saw another shadow move against the dumpsters, but when I glanced over, nothing was there and when I looked back, the brown-eyed man was gone. Frank’s glassy eyes still stared, pooling moonlight. The sirens arrived a moment later, and I stepped beneath the trailer park’s one streetlamp to show the police where to find the body. But before we took two steps, the lump that had been Frank stood up and stumbled towards us.
“What time is it?” Frank mumbled, and the cop turned to me.
“F-Frank,” I stammered, eyes frozen on the dead man walking.
“Not him, you.”
“What? Oh. Lena.”
“You’re the one who called?” The cop pulled out his phone and tapped something on the screen.
“Who’re that?” Frank slurred, swaying on his feet.
I nodded, too shocked to speak.
The cop eyed Frank, then me, and shrugged one shoulder toward Frank. “This your dead body?”
The cop shook his head and turned to Frank. “Come on, let’s get you back to your trailer so you can sleep it off. Which one is yours?”
He was dead, I knew he was dead. I’d seen his eyes.
END OF EXCERPT
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