Ghost story, anyone? Today, Cynthia is sharing an excerpt from her upcoming novel, The Legend of Billy Bead, coming soon! Don’t forget to comment afterward or sign up here for an entry into our Month O’Screams drawing.
THE LEGEND OF
Love was lost and
one heart grew sour,
Due to one groom’s
He should’ve been
wise, swallowed his pride,
And apologized to
Because she lost her
mind, then he lost his life,
There was no second
His bride waved her
hand and said the words;
He never stood a
Now when the moon is
full and the ocean mourns
And the owl flies in
Pain and grief fill
the lonely church
Where Billy Bead
they go again. Right across my backyard, through my wash I hung on
the line just this morning. Oh! Little William stepped right in my
potater patch. I can’t believe it! Stinkers. They know better than
that! I s’pose they’re heading for the church again. Billy Bead
was sure makin’ a fuss last night. He woke me up twice with all his
Petal Cook finished
drying her hands on her favorite tea towel, the white one with the
embroidered cherries along one edge. It had that nice waffle-weave
texture to it and felt so soft on her rough hands. She thought it
looked pretty snappy, too, and brightened up her ancient kitchen.
Lord knows it needed all the help it could get. The poor house was
built in 1887 and new paint was just at the top of the to-do list.
took one more look out the window that sat above her kitchen sink and
clucked her tongue at the sight of the four boys running through the
field next door. John mowed just the day before and Petal could still
smell the fresh-cut grass in the air. She grabbed her sweater from
her favorite chair and headed for the front porch. She knew where
those boys were going. Why should this day be any different.
her regular seat in her rocker on the porch, Petal pulled a quilt
over her legs and settled in to watch the boys. She admired the way
their tiny legs could run so fast. It had been a long time since she
could move like that. They reached a small group of bushes next to
the church then crouched down as though planning their attack.
before she was born, the church still stood despite decades of
relentless storms blowing in off the Pacific Ocean. The paint was
gone, much like her house, but the bones were solid. It would stand.
At least for as long as it needed to.
making his move.
Fitzgerald, the oldest of the boys at eleven, was tip-toeing across
the grass toward the church. He hesitated twice before continuing his
journey. Ten more steps. Eight more steps. Five. He stood at the
bottom of the back stairs leading up to what was once the kitchen,
but hadn’t been used in generations.
sadder than a church no longer used for worship. Probably should just
bulldoze the place, but the timing isn’t right. I just can’t do
was frozen on the bottom step. Petal knew it would be a miracle to
get him up those last four steps alone, but she’d seen this dance
before. She knew he had back-up.
stepped out from behind the bushes. Hard to tell if he was nervous,
but she could swear she saw him shaking even from this distance and
without her glasses. He looked several times in every direction
before running across the expanse to stand behind Matt at the base of
Petal knew William was about ten years old, and she thought the twins
were maybe eight, though they were big for their age she’d heard
her great-granddaughter say. Their names were Manny and Bryn, and
they ran together once summoning up the courage. They held hands
across the field and hid behind William when they reached the church.
what, boys? You do this nearly every week. What do you hope to find
in there anyway? Poor Billy Bead. They just can’t leave that poor
ghost alone. Guess I shouldn’t be surprised, though, what with
Billy being the local celebrity of sorts around here. He’s right up
there with Jake the Alligator Man. Although, a photo with Jake is a
helluva lot easier to get than one with the local tortured soul. But
God knows we don’t have much else happening around here except
worrying if the tourist dollars will be enough to see everybody
through another winter.
flash of light from one of the church’s windows caught Petal’s
we go. Been some time since he’s pulled the light trick. Must mean
business, poor bastard.
flashes followed, not too bright, but enough to make any passersby
wonder, since the church had no electrical power. The naysayers
always chalked it up to squatters with flashlights, but locals knew
no human would last five minutes in that church. If you didn’t die
from goosebumps the size of Texas, it’d be your heart racing eight
million miles a minute from the fright of it all.
Bead sure don’t like visitors.
from across the field, Petal heard the all-too-familiar scraping
sounds. He knew the boys were close. His show was starting; the boys
would soon be gone. Until the next time they paid Billy a visit.
flashes of light. And then a crash, like a chair being tossed through
a window or into a large mirror. Petal couldn’t remember what all
was in the church anymore. It’d been so many years since she
stepped even one foot inside. She’d inherited the place as-is. Deed
called for one dilapidated church, the resident ghost was free.
the hell are you doing in there, Billy Bead? Moving the furniture?”
Petal shouted into the summer wind that smelled of blackberries and
anticipation. She reached into her pocket and pulled out her cell
phone. Dialing a number she could’ve dialed in her sleep, she
studied the church across the field.
someone answered, Petal only said, “You need to come over here,
honey.” She turned the phone off and slipped it back in her pocket.
boys, who had nearly made it to the top steps of the back porch of
the church, turned tail and ran when the crash sounded. Screaming the
whole way for all they were worth, the three Kraiter boys dove behind
the bush again, but Matt stopped before reaching cover. His head
snapped up and he turned quickly back to the house.
unmistakable wail of an infant was coming from inside the church.
“What the hell is
THAT, William?” Bryn cried.
it, Bryn! Both of you! Pipe down!” William slowly stood, as did his
younger brothers. They all came out from behind the bushes one by one
and walked toward Matt.
make any sense,” Matt said.
a baby get in there?” asked William.
don’t know.” Matt looked at the windows of the church. There were
no more flashes of light or strange noises. It was quiet except for
the sound of the baby, who sounded pretty pissed off. “It’s quiet
in there now. Stay here with them and I’ll go look in the window.”
be fine. I’m just going to look.” Matt walked to the bottom of
the steps again and laid his hand on the rail. He listened for the
sounds Billy Bead made when a body came near his church.
went up one step, then another, and listened.
baby was crying, but that was the only noise. One more step and he
was on the porch, which was about the time he remembered the doors to
the church were always locked.
An incredible noise rocked the rickety back porch and sent Matt to
his knees. He covered his head with his arms as debris fell around
him. He’d nearly fallen down the stairs, but managed to keep his
balance during the blast. He thought he heard the other boys
screaming his name through the ringing in his ears.
all was quiet. Even the baby had stopped crying. Matt peeked through
his arms toward the back door, terrified of what he would see.
door had blown off the back of the church and was dangling by only
the top hinge. As it creaked back and forth from the blast, the last
of the dust settled, leaving an open doorway into the church.
crap, Matt! Forget it! Let’s go home!” The sound of William’s
voice was far behind him as Matt stared into the gaping darkness of
Billy Bead’s church.
was the sound of the baby that snapped him back to reality. There was
no way he was leaving now. He stood, determined to know what was
going on. Brushing off dust and bits of blown-apart backdoor, Matt
walked toward the doorway, praying the ghost stories were somehow all
Matt entered the back room of the church, his goose bumps went away.
Inches of dust covered everything. Cobwebs got stuck in his hair. But
a feeling of peace flooded over him, despite the fact that it was
everything that should have scared him to death.
he could see now it wasn’t pitch black inside the church. His eyes
just needed a moment to adjust to the filtered light streaming
through the stained glass windows. The back room looked like it had
been part kitchen and part store room. Junk was piled everywhere, but
crossed the room and stopped at the door leading into the sanctuary
because he couldn’t believe what he saw. The church pews were
pitched and tossed everywhere like a giant game of pick-up-sticks. No
human could have done that. The pews were solid wood and from the
looks of the floor, had been nailed down at some point.
the walls up as high as twenty feet deep scratches marred the surface
and reminded him of the marks that always happen on the inside of
their barn door every time they have to lock up their male dog when
their bitch is in heat.
is in here definitely wanted out.” Matt looked from one side of the
room to the other, and wondered where the baby was.
tiny coo followed by a little cough came from the direction of the
altar to his left. He walked around a rather beat-up upright piano
the keys had been torn out of, and saw the floor of the altar was
littered with chunks of wood, pages torn from hymnals and Bibles and,
of course, piano keys. Right in the middle of the mess was a baby,
naked as a jaybird.
longer crying, the baby seemed to be playing with its toes. Matt
walked over to it and bent down, his mind unable to wrap around the
meaning of its presence.
did you get in here, buddy?”
baby looked at him then peed straight up, hitting Matt in the chest.
Matt looked down and made a face at the warm, wet spot now spreading
across his jacket. Since it was dirty anyway, he pulled off his
hoodie and used that to wrap the baby in. He scooped him up and
headed back the way he came.
he was leaving the church, he waited for the wrath of Billy Bead to
protest his taking the baby, but nothing happened. The church was
silent. The only noises were coming from the baby, a strange
combination of cooing and crying out, gurgling and yawning. But as
soon as Matt’s feet hit the grass, the baby grew quiet in his arms.
boys ran up to him and they all peered at the infant. He stared right
was there a baby in the old church, Matt? Whose is it?” Bryn’s
big brown eyes peeked over the jacket blanket.
what is that smell?” Manny wrinkled his nose.
I don’t know why there was a baby in the church, guys, and that is
the smell of pee. The little turkey pissed right on me.”
the twins said at the same time.
what? What do we do with a baby? Should we take him to the police?”
don’t know, William.” Matt looked at his best friend. “But I
think it’s Billy Bead, come back to haunt someone. Did you see his
saw the whole thing from her front porch.
the door off the back of the church was a new one. She hadn’t seen
him pull that stunt in the seventy-five years she’d been living
next door. And on top of that, he’d nearly killed that Fitzgerald
what’s got into you today, Billy Bead?” Petal’s blue eyes
bounced between the back porch of the church and the boys in the
yard. They’d be okay. Billy would never hurt the boys.
you, you old sonofabitch?
on, Billy Bead. What’s wrong with you? First all that racket last
night, a body couldn’t even sleep. And now tearing off your own
back door? What’s next? You better leave those boys alone. Don’t
make me get up outta this chair.” She wagged one bent finger toward
then her heart tripped a beat when Matt walked toward the back door.
“Is he going in there? What on earth is he doing?”
stood, the faded quilt falling to the floor at her feet. She moved to
the top of her own porch steps, holding the rail for support while
her heart ran full of worry for that little Matt Fitzgerald.
Bead has never hurt a soul yet, so why would he start today? What the
hell are those boys doing? They better not follow Matt up into that
descended her steps, wishing her knees worked like they once used to.
have to remember to get Cicely to help me put a ramp on this house.
Maybe she can bat those eyes of her at John and he’d help us out.
Man’s gotta be able to do more than mow the damn lawn.
the time it took Petal to reach her front walk, Matt had returned
from inside the sanctuary. She saw him come out of the back door of
the church and her heart sighed with relief until she saw he was
carrying something wrapped in the red jacket he’d worn into the
began the slow journey down her walk lined with her favorite pink tea
roses. The weeping willow needed a trim, as its branches brushed her
frail shoulders as she walked by.
looked up at that moment and they stared at each other. He started
walking, with the Kraiter boys in tow, heading straight for Petal at
a brisk pace. Matt carried the bundle as though he were afraid to
drop it, but also as though he didn’t want to hold it anymore. They
met at her mailbox. The fancy one she insisted on, with cherries
painted on the side.
Matt was out of breath and shaking. “We found a baby in the old
baby, Miss Petal! We think it might be Billy Bead!” Manny tugged on
her shirt sleeve, pointing at the baby Matt held in his arms.
Bead? Well, how can that be, boys? You ever heard of a ghost coming
to life as a little baby?” Petal smiled at the boys, but her smile
didn’t reach her eyes. She hadn’t yet looked at the baby,
terrified of what she might see.
it’s him, Miss Petal! He blew the dang door right off the church!
Didn’t you hear that?” Bryn pointed to the church where the door
still hung crooked from its last hinge.
and look at his eyes! It’s Billy Bead!” William reached over and
pulled the hoodie back so Petal could see into the infant’s face.
sad round face with beautiful pale skin and puffy cheeks sat under a
full head of wavy dark brown hair. A tiny dimple sat just off-center
in the baby’s chin. Petal gasped when she saw it, but her blood ran
cold when she looked into the baby’s eyes.
left one was blue and then right one was green.
Christ on a cracker. Billy Bead’s come back.
Cynthia L. Moyer spends her days raising kids and
weaving tales in the southwest corner of Washington State. She has red
hair and blue eyes, her children are Chinese, and her husband is a
forester who plants over a million trees each year. Paper or plastic?
We’ll take paper, thanks. Connect with Cynthia at her web site: www.cynthialmoyer.com.