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Appearances

WORD FESTIVAL 2017
Saturday, Oct. 21 at 7 PM
Congregational Church
Tenny Hill
Blue Hill ME
Word Festival

Stephen Pickering will be
guest speaker–book signing
================
MURDER BY THE BOOK
Friday, Oct. 27 – 4PM and
Saturday, Oct. 28
Friday requires ticket
Saturday is free
Jesup Library
Bar Harbor, ME.
Murder By the Book

Stephen Pickering has workshop
with Katherine Nichols-10:30 AM
Author Panel: 1:15 PM

BAD MOON RISING-Chapter 1, Part 1

BAD MOON RISING by Stephen J. Pickering
Chapter 1 – Part 1 

Sam took a breath and his mouth began to form the words that his thoughts had not and would not release.  Carl gripped the steering wheel with both hands as he stared at the taillights of his father’s Ford pickup. They were moving at a sedate forty miles per hour but Carl’s knuckles were white as he drove his ’69 Roadrunner. “Leave it alone,” Carl said. “But I didn’t. . . .”  Carl cut off his little brother’s words. “You were going too,” he said. “Just leave it alone,” Carl repeated as his own thoughts screamed inside his head. They were screaming to be let out.

The three walked into their home together like survivors of some epic battle. “They got stuck on the soft shoulder on the Fish Creek Road,” Arnold said to his wife. “I had to pull them out.”  She didn’t notice the still wet blood on the sleeve of his insulated denim jacket. She didn’t think the dazed and subdued demeanor of the boys was unusual. She was sure that Arnold had not been pleasant when he found them and she didn’t dare ask about Carl’s black eye. The three never spoke about the incident though Carl had nightmares for several months with the first beginning that night.

Just three hours earlier Sam Peterson had no way of knowing that his young life was about to change direction. Like most 14-year-old boys he had not yet plotted a course for his life. He lived one minute at a time and worried about what happened when it happened. Sam was only five foot four inches tall and weighed a hundred pounds soaking wet. He had long blonde hair which accentuated his feminine features and hazel eyes.

One would call Sam pretty. Not the description he wanted. He compensated by dressing like he spent the weekend at Max Yasgur’s farm with three hundred thousand of his closest friends. He wore torn bellbottom jeans, black T-shirts and Converse Low-Tops with no socks. Sam’s parents were not impressed but he was a good kid and they tolerated his taste in clothing. It worked for Sam.

“Sam,” his mother called out. “Will you take care of the trash for me?”  “In a minute,” he said. “I’m doing my home work.”  Anne smiled in disbelief but Sam was actually doing his freshman geometry homework, something he normally put off until just moments before the class was to begin. He was sitting at his small desk that was manufactured by rapists and murderers in the Thomaston State Prison wood working shop. His parents gave all three boys desks from the prison last Christmas. New desks, in their new rooms, in their new house, life was good.

Sam shared a sparsely furnished room with his 11-year-old brother Darren. The room had two beds, two bureaus, two desks and one closet. Sam’s thoughts bounced from parallelograms to Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon. These four fueled Sam’s dreams of excitement and fame. He didn’t realize that he had surrounded himself with senseless death and wasted opportunities. Yet, before this year would be over, three of the four would be gone and Sam nearly got to where ever they were going before them.   Sam’s door was open and he could hear Carl, his 17-year-old brother, trying to explain to their mother why he didn’t need to take Sam with him when he went to see his friend, Gary Grover.

Anne Peterson was a striking woman. Tall with dark brown hair, almost grey eyes and fair skinned. She had just received her teaching degree the hard way. She took classes at night and on weekends during the regular school year and day classes in the summer. She did it in five years and graduated with high honors. Not bad for a mother of three with a part time job picking out crabmeat for a local seafood dealer.

Anne thought that if she made Carl take Sam with him, Carl would at least try to stay out of trouble for fear his brother would tell on him. What Anne didn’t realize was that Sam worshiped his brother and never would betray Carl’s trust. As added insurance, Carl threatened to beat the living shit out of Sam if he ever told Mom and Dad about his occasional indiscretions. Anne also didn’t realize how many times she nearly lost two sons instead of one when she sent Sam along with Carl. Tonight would be one of those nights.

Carl Peterson was the antithesis of Sam. Six foot one, a muscular one hundred and seventy pound three sport athlete, short blonde hair and sharp blue eyes. Carl wore straight leg black jeans, cable knit sweaters and brown penny loafers. He was nothing like the prep school student he looked like. Though very intelligent he lived hard and fast and was well on the way to discovering that alcohol might be a cure-all for all of life’s woes. Alcohol was something that would control the rest of his life. Of course what was about to happen was going to seize his entire being and never relinquish it. Not even alcohol would be able to flush away the memories of March 17, 1970.

Carl had been drinking beer since he was 13 years old. His parents didn’t suspect anything until he was 16 years old when he crashed his car and the deputy found beer bottles in the back seat. Anne also suspected that Carl may have been experimenting with marijuana. That’s what parents call it when they find out their child is using drugs. Experimentation, a phase, something they will grow out of. Carl wasn’t experimenting. He had it figured out and he liked it.

Anne called out, “Sam. Your brother is going to Stonington and he would like you to come along.”  “Right,” Sam said to himself, or did he say it out loud? Sometimes you can’t tell. Sam knew Carl didn’t want him to come along but Carl and his friends had gotten used to Sam being there and they learned to trust him. “Yeah sure mom. I’ll be right there,” Sam called back. Sam heard the front door slam as Carl left and the next sound he heard was Carl’s Roadrunner starting. It seemed to start hard but Carl explained to Sam that the 383-cubic-inch engine had a very high compression, 10:1, whatever that meant. Carl said that was the reason it seemed to start hard but when it did start it was music to Sam’s ears. Even their father was impressed.

As Carl explained, the 383 had 1967 GTX 440 heads. The camshaft had a high lift and long duration. Carl said this meant more fuel to the engine and more power. It had a Holley 850 cfm, double pumper, four barrel carburetor with mechanical secondaries mounted on a stock cast iron intake manifold. It had Hooker headers that dumped into two and half inch dual exhaust with little Thrush mufflers.  Arnold Peterson, the boys’ father, loved the car and was scared to death at the same time. It was a killing machine in the wrong hands and Carl seemed to be proving to anyone who saw him drive the medium blue Plymouth with the flat black hood that his were the wrong hands.

Sam approached the passenger side of the big square Plymouth and smiled as he listened to the slow labored idle of the engine. It was one of those quiet afternoons. It was the kind of quiet that comes just before a storm. So quiet you can hear the flapping of a bird’s wings or the sound of a cat’s tongue as it laps milk from a dish. If not for the low rumble of the powerful motor Sam would have likely heard the deer chewing on cedar boughs just 50 feet into the woods from where he walked.  There was no predicted storm on the horizon, at least not one caused by converging weather fronts.

As Sam slid onto the black vinyl bench seat Carl grasped the long, chrome-plated, strangely bent gear shift lever, put the blue beast into reverse and slowly backed out onto Route 15. “Where are we going?” Sam asked. Sam was eager for a ride in his brother’s car and did not think about why he was actually there. “Shut up,” Carl said. Carl was annoyed that Sam was sent along to keep an eye on him. Sam was cool about the drinking and driving fast. He actually seemed to enjoy the driving fast. Today was different. Carl’s friend, Gary, didn’t like having the “little punk” along. Gary especially didn’t like Sam around when he was making a sale of marijuana to Carl. You couldn’t trust “little punks” no matter whose brother they were.

Carl revved the 383 to about 3,500 rpm and quickly released the clutch. The Plymouth violently squatted in the rear as if it were a cat about to pounce on its prey. The front end lifted as the torque of the powerful motor tried to twist the car in two. The Mickey Thompson 60 Series rear tires made a weak little squeak as the car was catapulted south on the narrow two lane country road. Carl liked the fact that the Roadrunner hooked up so well. Most guys with powerful cars liked long smoky burnouts like the drag racers on television did to heat up their tires before a race. Sam was fond of burnouts too and the feeling of being slammed into the seat as the car launched was pretty cool, he thought.

Carl, with blinding speed, slammed the shifter into second. This caused the rear of the car to slide to the right and the Mickey Thompson’s began to smoke. This would have caused Sam to fall over in the seat but he was used to this maneuver by now and he clutched the armrest with one hand and braced his other on the seat. Sam couldn’t suppress the big grin on his face. One day when Carl was in a good mood he had actually let Sam drive the Roadrunner. Carl patiently explained the nuances of gas pedal and clutch release and compensating for the violent torque with the steering wheel. Carl told Sam, “If I can see your hand move, you’re shifting too slowly.”

The engine rpm’s built quickly and Carl wasted no time muscling that long, bent, chrome shifter into third gear. This gear change caused the rear of the Plymouth to snap to the left and Carl managed to control the direction change and had the car pointing straight again. The 140 mph speedometer shot past 90 mph as they reached the sweeping left turn in the road. The big square car seemed to plow into the corner like it wanted to dig a hole into the pavement. Sam wasn’t very impressed with this part as it always seemed that they would leave the road and crash into the trees.

Click HERE to read Chapter 1 – Part 2

BAD MOON RISING-Chapter 1, Part 2

BAD MOON RISING by Stephen Pickering 
Chapter 1 – Part 2

The trees were menacingly close to the edge of these rural roads and their leafless limbs seemed to reach out trying to pull the car into their dark and unforgiving home. Carl managed to overcome the laws of physics and keep the trees waiting for another chance on another day. Carl let off the gas, shifted easily into fourth gear and let the speed drift down to 50 mph for the rest of the trip to Mountainville. Yeah, their mom thought they were going to Stonington, but Stonington actually had a police department and Gary did not want them snooping around his “business”. The plan was to meet Gary at the Walker Estate near the Haystack Mountain School in the Mountainville section of Deer Isle.

This was a short but exciting ride for Sam. The excitement, if you could call it that, would not end with the ride in his brother’s muscle car.    Carl gently shifted down through the gears as he turned down the dirt road that led to the Walker Estate. The branches of the large spruce trees that lined either side of the road created a canopy that blocked the now receding daylight. The dirt road became a tunnel that separated two different worlds. Sam and Carl left the world of the average and the normal and entered the world that was usually the domain of the privileged and carefree.

Carl drove slowly as if he were letting a thoroughbred race horse cool down after a hard run. The Roadrunner was indeed a thoroughbred and the Walker Estate used to have a stable of riding horses so this was as it should be, Sam thought. Sam especially liked the Walker Estate. Not for its 6,400 square feet of living space, its three field stone fireplaces, the eight bedrooms, six bathrooms and a huge screened and covered porch overlooking Southeast Harbor and Whitmore Neck.

Sam had never been inside the sprawling estate and seen the two stainless steel kitchens with its three dining rooms, its maple and oak floors and the magnificent double staircase that looked as though it should have been in an English palace rather than a summer cottage in Deer Isle. At 14, he wouldn’t really have noticed the fine architecture and ornate wood trim. Sam had heard his father call the place a summer cottage. To Sam, cottage meant a structure that was a little bigger than a camp. The Walker Estate was nearly six times bigger than the home he and his family shared. He liked this place because his father used to come here as a boy and mow the huge lawn and tend to the riding horses. He liked being in this place and imagining his father at the same age as he.

Sam wondered or tried to imagine what his father thought about life in general at 14 years old and more specifically, did his father’s expectations as an adolescent match the results that he achieved as an adult or did they fall short. He wondered if the Korean War, that eighteen month detour in his father’s life, changed his planned course. He wondered if the Viet Nam War would be over before he turned eighteen. It certainly seemed as if it would last long enough to swallow up his brother Carl, who would be eligible for the draft in four months.

Sam’s fear of fighting in a war in a foreign land was normal enough. What wasn’t normal was that he and Carl were about to get a firsthand look at what happens in war; what can happen when your very existence is at stake; what can happen when a soldier’s training takes over and puts the normal human mores and rules that govern civilized lives into a little locked safe for just a few minutes. Just a few minutes that would undoubtedly alter Sam’s and Carl’s future. The future that they hadn’t planned yet but surely had thought about. They would be unable to do anything but watch, with no control, as the course of their lives was perversely rerouted by driving down the tunnel between two worlds.

Carl carefully backed the Plymouth around the corner of the boathouse. Carl wanted to be able to see who was coming down the driveway before they saw him. The owners surely wouldn’t arrive until after Memorial Day but he didn’t know how often the care taker checked on the place. He could quickly escape parked this way.  He knew his car would be recognized but at least he would have time to come up with a story as to why they were there. Besides, they were only trespassing and there weren’t even any signs prohibiting that. Screw the people from away. Carl would roam around Deer Isle wherever he liked. This was his home. Not many could say that their families had lived here for ten generations. He was entitled, at least that’s the way he saw it.

            Carl had tuned the radio’s AM dial to WMEX in Boston. That seemed so odd to Sam. The only radio stations that played rock music for Maine listeners in coastal Hancock County were in Boston, Massachusetts. WMEX and WRKO. A five hour drive from Deer Isle but less than 150 miles across the Gulf of Maine. “Badgeby Cream had just started. A short song but the opening bass riff played by Jack Bruce totally enthralled Sam and he could do nothing else for the next couple of minutes but listen.

Carl liked music just fine but he liked beer more. He reached under the seat for that last bottle of Michelob that he had saved from last weekend’s six pack. Not being twenty one didn’t stop Carl’s ability to acquire beer. All you needed was to know someone who was of legal age and willing to break the law for you. They were easy to find in Deer Isle and Stonington. The biggest hurdle was having money. Isn’t that always the biggest hurdle in any endeavor?  It certainly seemed that way. Today, Carl’s beer money was being converted to pot money. Carl and his friends saw pot as a harmless recreational drug and they saw no danger in using it. Peace, love and dope had been the mantra as the 60’s ended. The mantra did not include money. You needed money if you wanted dope and the people in the dope business were more dangerous than the drug if you got between them and the money.

            Eight new Ford pickups with two men in each truck were just now crossing the light green suspension bridge that connected the mainland to Little Deer Isle. It almost looked liked a parade but there was nothing festive about this group. They were the dark clouds of the impending storm crossing the Eggemoggin Reach.

            It was twenty five minutes before four in the afternoon. Gary was not going to be there until four thirty. Normally Carl would have driven around awhile before arriving at the Walker Estate, but gas had just gone up to thirty cents a gallon and the Roadrunner got only seven miles per gallon. Carl needed to conserve his cash. He lived off the money he earned with his father lobster fishing in the summer. He had an occasional weekend job in the winter working on a scallop dragger or loading trucks at the Co-op. He preferred not to work in the winter but he would have to work full time soon enough.

            Carl reached over and turned up the volume. “Love Me Two Times” by the Doors was playing and Carl loved the Doors. Sam said, “I like this song too.”  Sam sounded like a puppy dog trying to get his master’s attention. Carl laughed, “You don’t even know what the song is about.”  “I do too!” Sam stated indignantly.  What the song is about, Sam thought to himself. What did he mean by that?  It’s a cool song. What more is there?  Carl chuckled to himself. Carl wasn’t about to explain blowjobs to his little brother. Not that Carl had experienced that sexual pleasure but he was aware of the concept.

Gary Grover had bragged about Naomi Findlay’s expertise in that particular sexual act. Gary had done a lot of things that Carl hadn’t. Well, if you believed Gary’s stories and Carl was inclined to believe about anything Gary said. Sam summed up Gary with one word. Asshole. Arnold Peterson felt the same way as Sam about Gary but neither had ever heard the other use that particular word. They both used it quite often but not in the brief exchanges between father and 14-year-old son. That was as it should be but very soon the prospect of Sam hearing his father refer to someone as an asshole would be so minutely insignificant compared to what Sam and Carl were about to witness from their father.

            Fontella Bass was in the middle of belting out “Rescue Mewhen they both noticed a new Ford F300 Camper Special four wheel drive pickup emerge from the tree lined driveway and make its way slowly in to the large semi-circular parking area. It was a pale yellow truck with a camper secured in the body. It was a cloudy afternoon and the sun was beginning to set but there was enough light to see that the two men in the truck weren’t from Deer Isle. The Rhode Island license plate should have been their first clue but all the two boys noticed were the two men staring back at them. The men had long hair drawn back into ponytails. The driver had a long scruffy beard and the passenger had a more neatly trimmed beard.  Carl took the last swallow of his beer, slid the empty under the seat and prepared to leave.

            Frank Silveira was the passenger in the Ford truck and John Silveira, Frank’s brother, was driving. Frank was the president of an outlaw motorcycle club known as The Slayers. They were over six hours from their Warwick home but they were not lost. “Somebody supposed to be waiting for us?” John asked. “No,” Frank said. Frank’s “no” was cold and ominous. John knew not to pursue it further. John also knew that whoever was parked in the blue Plymouth was not going to have a good evening. “You and O’Shea can greet our visitors,” Frank said.

Click HERE to read Chapter 1 – Part 1