In “The Shadows” retired TV news anchor turned novelist Bill Brown offers a collection of short stories inspired by some of the tales he was told as a reporter.
Brown writes what he describes as ‘supernatural thrillers’ and science fiction. His novels usually have a local hook. His first two, “Blood Mountain” and “The Alien,” are based on the giants of Lovelock Cave and a UFO that Project Bluebook says blew up over Nevada years ago.
His latest volume is a collection of short stories that blend both fact and fiction. The facts come from reporting ghost tales at Halloween for Reno’s KTVN Channel 2 News and then weaving those into narratives. Some of the stories are uplifting; others probably should not be read right before bedtime.
In this excerpt from a story called The House, a successful young couple purchases a new home on a cliff overlooking the ocean in a quaint idyllic Oregon town. They soon find out there are other occupants, and they aren’t friendly. At dinner with the security crew their alarms start going off from the house, and they investigate. Then all Hell breaks loose:
“Oh, Georgie, glad you are here.” Thomas seemed to relax for a moment but then was back to his professional mode. “We have perps in the house and garage. They opened the doors like a calling card. Georgie, this is the biggest shit bag I have ever seen. The guys are in there now. Shouldn’t be long.”
“I am glad it was you and not us. Nothing but rookies on tonight…”
The first radio message came from the garage. “Uh, Thomas, we’ve got a problem here. There’s nothing in here but busted furniture and ripped boxes.”
“Whoa, what? But we all saw the lights and heard the noise.” Thomas now knew something else was at work.
“Yeah, boss. All the teams are in place. The place is surrounded, no one in or out. And yeah, we heard and saw it, too, but I am telling you there’s no one in here.”
“What the hell?” Thomas leaned against the SUV, a dazed look in his eyes. “Is there a tunnel, a place to hide?”
“No, sir. Just four walls, a concrete floor, and a whole lot of broken crap.”
“All right, come on out after one more sweep. CSI is on the way.” Thomas saw Georgie raise an eyebrow. “We’ve got it all recorded, my friend—video and audio, inside and out.” Georgie nodded.
The radio beeped again.
“Thomas? Andy. The house is clear. I repeat, the house is clear.”
“Andy, that’s just not possible! We recorded it both at central and here. These things just don’t happen.”
“Thomas, the guys just came down from the attic and up from the basement. Nothing. They shot some pictures in both areas of some weird hanging bushes or something. Kinda like bundles?”
“Well, folks. I know you want to see what’s going on inside the house. I am hoping you have no intentions of trying to stay here tonight.” Thomas’ voice had no intent of implying that was a question. It was more of a strong request. “After you, Devin, Georgie.” He extended his arm pointing to the front door.
“Oh my God.” Laura’s eyes brimmed with tears and Paul stared in disbelief. “What the hell happened in here?” Devin looked on in shock. Georgie just softly whistled.
Kitchen cabinets were open, broken plates, glasses and cups were strewn everywhere. Furniture was turned upside down and some of the cushions were ripped open with the contents shredded and scattered. Glass in the cabinet doors was shattered. Surprisingly, grandma’s China was untouched, but everything else in the same cabinet with it had been smashed.
Paul picked up one of the China plates and turned it over. On the back he saw the maker’s mark and the year 1938. He carefully placed it back. At the same time members of the CSI unit came through the front door with the lead deputy asking, “What bomb went off in here?”
Georgie motioned for them to set up their gear and spread out. “I know it’s a lot, guys, but do your best. Dust everything. We need prints, samples, anything. You don’t smash this much without making a mistake. Blood samples, mud, grass, anything.”
“Did you get ‘em?” the lead investigator asked routinely.
“Get who?” Georgie asked turning away before seeing the deputy with the same shocked look everyone else had. “Thomas, you say you and the teams were outside and heard all of this?”
“From start to finish,” was the response.
“Did you see any of the video before you went in?” “Yeah, Georgie, there was what looked like lightning anomalies; like something moving in front of the lenses but you could see right through them. Our guys at Central are running it all for errors and you will have it the moment we can get it to you.”
“Is there anywhere else someone could hide?
Crawlspaces, sub flooring, hidden rooms, anything?”
“We have kicked down every door and searched everywhere. We even ran thermal scans—nothing.” Andy came down the stairs and into the main room. “Hi, Lieutenant. We even tried this new lidar radar thingy that the guys have. No hidden walls or rooms.” Andy pulled a bottle of water from inside his body armor. “Mr. and Mrs. Albright, I’ll take you upstairs but it’s the same as down here, and in some cases it’s worse.”
“Worse?” Laura didn’t see how that could be possible. “Yes, ma’am. Your mattress was cut to shreds and there is something scratched into your headboard. Here, I took a picture that will be evidence, of course, but take a look. I think it might be a word.” He held up his phone and expanded the image on the screen. “I’m not sure, but that looks like an ‘S’ and then maybe an ‘I’ and then maybe an ‘N’?”
“May I see that, or better yet, can you send that to me on my phone? I’ve got a special program app that may help.”
Seeing Thomas nod, yes, Andy said, “Sure. What’s the number?”
“Wait. You’ve got an iPhone. Just hold it next to mine. There, I’ve got it. Now…let’s see.” Paul tapped a couple of keys while explaining. “This is one of the experimental apps our company has been assigned to help promote. It’s called ‘FullSight.’ See the pixels moving around? Okay. S-I-N-N-E-R-S. Sinners? Now what does that mean?” He held it out for the others to see.
Excerpt from The Shadows published with the permission of the author, who holds the copyright.