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Ghost Story set in 1977 Natchez, Mississippi.
It is the summer of 1977, on the cusp of a technological revolution that will soon cause the world to shrink. Seventeen year old James Earl Williams arrived in Natchez, Mississippi, looking forward to a new beginning far from the world of his New Jersey childhood.
After years of life in gang riddled neighborhoods and fast paced crime, life has come to a virtual standstill.
But all is not as quiet as it first seems. Supernatural forces are beckoning to James, searching for a treasure hidden deep inside him. The changes he expected when he arrived are far different from the transformations about to overtake him and his family.
His first surprise comes in the form of an annoying nightly sound - one that his grandparents dismiss as the natural decline of their ageing homestead. The second surprise fits inside a pair of tight blue jeans, has bright blue eyes and long wavy black hair - Jolie Lefleur Dimanche. And she has had a dream impossible to ignore, one which lures her into a torrid relationship with James Earl. Tormented by the past and present, love and hope will entice James Earl Williams into a dark place where dreams and premonitions come alive.
One wrong decision could easily take him to a place of no return.
A small fieldstone wall embedded with wrought-iron fencing surrounded Heaven’s Gate Cemetery. The entrance was only a city block behind the Holiness Cathedral Church and at near capacity, it was decorated with some of the oldest graves in the state of Mississippi.
The gently rolling land stretched lazily into the distance, with its back directly against undeveloped wilderness. Heaven’s Gate belonged primarily to the Holiness Cathedral Church and a handful of board members. Though little management was necessary, it wasn’t maintained to the best of standards.
Lately a few spotty patches of weeds had squatted on the front of the property giving it an unkempt appearance. Nevertheless, sunrise can make even the most cold and dreary of places seem warm and inviting. The sun’s rays began to erase the last wisps of ground fog hovering over its captive audience.
Most of the “late” members of the church and many generations of local community were permanent residents. The scattered monuments and tombstones were a mixed garden, proof that death does not discriminate against victims of past wars, diseases, and old age. The earth freely accepts all comers into its folds.
Over the entrance was an ornate arch that once displayed the expert handiwork of a master iron artisan, now embellished with dark flakes of rust.
A love vine crowded one encrusted side of the arch and gateway, entangling itself tightly in a grip of life throughout the metal façade. The other side was also on its way to summertime obscurity with the beginnings of a morning glory vine. Profuse violet blossoms were opening in expectation of the rising sun.
Noble aged Live Oaks and odorous moss hung thickly, blocking out all but a few rays of early sunlight from the unkempt grounds.
On the back wall of this blessed land of the dead, was a small section undermined by one of the largest Live Oaks in the cemetery. The powerful roots had lifted and ruptured the stone wall, grasping the earth with giant fingers while supporting the massive bulk of the expansive upper growth. Yellow crime scene tape haphazardly spat from tree to brush to headstone, marking the desecration of a sleeping soul.
Strewn dirt. Splinters of decayed and rotted pine. An overturned headstone. Evidence of a morbid visitation.
The flattened stone read:
The Mortal Remains of
Syrus Earl Ames
Rest In Peace
1780 – 1824
Most of the rainwater had subsided, but clouds of mosquitoes were rife and appalling in the thickness of the dank humid air, all vying for access to the hole full of brackish rainwater.
The quietness and peace dissipated as invading footsteps squished through the hole in the fence. Nearby, two tiny black eyes watched lazily as the pair of grimy mud caked feet came nearer and stopped a dozen paces short of the open grave.
Out front, at the main entrance, another visitor hurriedly pressed through the arched gate and vines. Light tan uniform, gray Stetson hat, holster with a tight gun belt and a badge.
Slowly with determination, the uniformed man advanced toward the back through the multitude of gravestones in the direction of the other living visitor, making frequent stops and looking cautiously in all directions.
Upon reaching the open gravesite, he slowly made a circle around it looking at the depressions in the soil, disturbed leaves, any signs of who had been excavating the dirt from the resting place of the ancient Syrus Earl Ames. The officer heard a soft squishing of wet grass behind him, slowly unholstered his weapon and turned to find…, Billy Don Poole.
“Good God boy…. I almost shot you,” said the uniform. “Are you crazy, coming here so soon after the dig? I already cleaned up after you once, but this ground is a recording device now that it’s soakin’ wet. Anybody with good eyes or a good dog could sift you out in a heartbeat.”
“I came back to make sure you did your part of the job, and you did want to get paid didn’t you? Here’s something for you,” Billy said, handing the uniform a small envelope. “I’ll have one more ‘lil something for you to do in about two weeks. There’ll be another storm, a real floater. Not much reason to pay you, but it’s always good to have the law on your side.”
The officer looked at Billy strangely, wondering how this stodgy guy thought he could predict the weather.
“Pleasure doing business with you,” said the uniform, ignoring the slight. It was good money for keeping his mouth shut and misdirecting evidence. “Now you better leave while I’m here so I can cover your tracks.”
There was the low rumble of an engine at the front of the cemetery. Idling, then stillness. The faint sound of a car door opening and closing.
“You better leave now…, go!” said the uniform.
He picked up one of the abundant broken branches nearby and vigorously swept the ground behind the slick footprints. Careful to trample in the footsteps left by Billy, then quickly disposed of the branch over the fence as he heard footsteps swishing through the deep grassy path of the graveyard.
Slowly a young man in a pale blue t-shirt and jeans determinedly made his way in the direction of where the uniform was waiting.
He was holding a piece of paper and making frequent stops to see which direction to navigate. He spun, getting his landmark and turned back toward the open grave. Now with more intensity, he focused on what appeared to be a hint of yellow in the distance. In a few moments, he closed the gap, when he heard a voice.
“Hold it there, son,” said the uniform.
“Deputy? Is that you?” asked James Earl.
“Who are you?” asked the uniform.