Scroll down to read a synopsis and the first pages of Jennifer's 67,000 word YA Horror, The Long Walk Home ...
When you're the target of the sadistic town bully, being the night watchman of a haunted graveyard has its advantages ...
After sixteen-year-old Tommy Quinn's deadbeat mother cleans out their bank account and bolts, Tommy, his dad, and little brother find themselves homeless until his dad gets a live-in position at a historic graveyard. The job seems okay at first, but the cemetery, known to the townspeople as The Devil's Graveyard, has a long and sordid history. Tommy's dad's main duty is to stand guard at night to keep the place free of vandals and psychopaths, but soon he's hitting the bottle again. In order to keep the job and their new home--even if the house is creepy and most likely haunted--Tommy's going to have to pick up the slack.
After Tommy pisses off the main bully at school, the goon and his friends come to the graveyard looking to vandalize the place ... and Tommy's the one standing guard. Self-defense soon turns into casualties and a semi-deserted graveyard with a few open graves becomes a convenient way to cover up the mess, until a similar incident happens again ... and then again. Guilt-ridden and fearful of what exactly the seven foot thing that came out of the shadows to defend him was, Tommy wonders if the horrors of the Devil's Graveyard are more than just a superstitious town's urban legends. He soon realizes that living at the Devil's Graveyard will eventually cost him, or someone he loves, their life.
Although this is not a vampire tale, the story is inspired in part by suspected vampire, Mercy Brown's grave in Exeter, Rhode Island, known locally as Vampire's Grave, as well as a historic cemetery near my home in Warwick. I believe this story will appeal to fans of April Tucholke's Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea and Kendare Blake's Anna Dressed in Blood for its atmosphere and eeriness. It is also a throwback to old-school horror and should interest fans of Stephen King's Carrie and The Shining.
I scanned the motel room one more time before packing the last of our stuff while my dad sat in the car studying the map, scratching his head. He glanced at the directions he'd scrawled on a napkin from the coffee shop as I climbed in the front seat.
"Sooner or later, you're going to have to suck it up and buy a cell phone," I said. "If you had one, you could Google the directions."
My father frowned, never taking his eyes off the map. "I don't need Google to tell me how to find my way from point A to point B, Tom." He turned to the back seat. "Tyler, you all strapped in?"
Tyler nodded, shoveling a fistful of Fruit Loops in his mouth. My dad straightened his tie in the rearview mirror and sneered to check his teeth. Then he reached in his jacket pocket and took a swig from his flask and tucked it back quickly, like the faster he did it, maybe I wouldn't notice.
He popped a piece of Trident in his mouth and threw the map in my lap as he pulled out of the parking lot of the Red Roof Motor Lodge: Thirty bucks a night, one-fifty for the week, or your best value, four bills for the month.
"Okay men, this is an important one. Be on your best behavior. No horsing around. No interrupting me."
"We know, we know," Tyler said, shoving another handful of cereal in his mouth, multi-colored loops sprinkled all over the back seat. We'd been through the same routine and heard the same spiel a million times, like my father was trying to cast a spell or say a prayer. So far, the spells and prayers weren't working and Annie at the Red Roof Motor Lodge had given us the boot for not being able to pay for the last two weeks.
My dad was quiet on the highway, gripping the steering wheel with hands at ten and two, which meant he was either nervous or had been hitting the flask a little too hard that morning. My bet was both. Just taking the edge off, son. Keepin' the ole hands steady.
We got off route 95 at exit 3 and took a few turns past a school and some other forms of life before landing on an unmarked dirt road in the middle of the woods.
"You sure this is right, Tommy?"
I shrugged. "It's the route you highlighted." I pointed to the yellow line on the map. "If you had a phone ..." I began, but shut myself up when I saw my dad's jaw clench. Life had dealt him enough shit lately. He didn't need more from me.
Suddenly, he sat up and smacked the dash. "There it is! See there, Tom?"
"Yup," I said, staring at an old, dilapidated farm house with a cemetery in the back.
We pulled into a gravel drive and my dad shifted into park and turned to Ty. "We're here, little man--Jesus Christ, Ty! What the hell?"
Tyler sat in the back seat covered in red Capri Sun. "I spilled."
"Tom, see if there are napkins in the glove box and try to get him straightened up. This job is a big deal, boys. One that could finally change all our lives." He closed the car door and walked up the path to a little shack next to the house with a sign that said OFFICE as I wondered how a job as a caretaker of an old graveyard was going to change our lives, exactly. Unlike Tyler, who at six was still blissfully unaware of ninety percent of the shit happening around him, I was old enough to know we were now officially homeless. The caretaker job came with free room and board, which upped the ante for my dad, big time.
I found nothing but old maps, beer caps, and the car's registration in the glove box, so I got out and opened the trunk to get Tyler a clean shirt from one of his bags. "Put this on," I said, tossing it to him in the back seat as my dad walked out of the OFFICE and over to the car quickly with a purposeful glint in his eye. I couldn't tell if he'd gotten the job, but I was pretty sure he hadn't received the don't call us, we'll call you line he'd heard a thousand times.
He opened the car door and stuck his head inside. "Boys, come on," he said in a breathy whisper. He glanced back at Tyler who was fighting to put his clean shirt on right-side-in. "Mr. Bruno wants to meet you both."
"Who's Mr. Bruno?" I said, reaching in the back seat to help Ty get his arm through the sleeve.
"Well, hopefully Mr. Bruno will be my new boss if all goes well. Now come on boys. Best behavior, okay?"
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Ty said, unbuckling himself and climbing over bags to get out of the back seat.
We followed the determined pace of my father up the path to the OFFICE and walked into a small, smoke-filled room with an enormous man sitting behind a tiny desk covered in Styrofoam coffee cups and paperwork.
"Mr. Bruno, these are my boys. Thomas and Tyler."
"Nice to meet you boys," Mr. Bruno said, smiling the kind of smile where you don't actually show teeth. He had a stub of a cigar jammed into the side of his mouth that bobbed as he talked. "So, what do you two think? Should I hire your dad for the job?"
Tyler looked at Mr. Bruno with his mouth slack open, like it was a trick question.
"My dad's a very hard worker, Mr. Bruno," I said, trying not to sound rehearsed. My dad beamed at me and ruffled my hair in one of his aw shucks modest moments.
Bruno turned to my dad. "As you know, the pay's not great. This land's been in my family for generations, that's why I'm here, but the general upkeep and operations come from the sale of plots, which is minimal. The rest is subsidized through the Historical Society. The housing is definitely the biggest perk of the job."
My father nodded in agreement.
"Also, we got a problem with vandals out back, here." He jerked his thumb at the wood paneling behind him. "This job requires a lot of long, cold nights," Bruno said, scanning all three of our faces for any sign of doubt or resistance. "It's not a job for the faint-of-heart. Lemme tell you, I've had more men quit on me, pack up and leave in the middle of the night than I care to count."
"So, the job is keeping watch of the graveyard at night?" I said, and immediately saw my father shoot me one of those Shut up and speak only when spoken to looks.
"Among other things," Bruno said. "But that's a big part of the job. Keeping watch from dusk 'til dawn." He moved the cigar stub from one side of his mouth to the other and then back again. "Why don't we just install cameras, you ask?"
I didn't ask.
"We do things the old-fashioned way here."
I half-expected my technology-phobe father to yell out an Amen!
"Sure, it would be cheaper to install a few cameras, but cameras can't identify punks and degenerate hoodlums dressed in black at night and they certainly can't catch them before the damage is done. Besides, the cops don't do squat around here." Bruno struck a match and relit his cigar, blowing out a couple of smoke rings as he stared at me. "Would you want someone doing black magic on the grave of your loved one?"
I shook my head, confused as to what the hell Mr. Bruno was talking about.
"How about chicken guts strewn over your grandmama's eternal resting place, or 666 spray-painted on your grandpappy's headstone?"
I shook my head, biting my lip to keep from bursting out laughing at the thought of actually having relatives I called grandmama and grandpappy.
"Like I said, this cemetery is old. One of the oldest cemeteries in New England, in fact. I'd like to say it has a bright and colorful history, but in actuality, the history is rather dark and sinister, but let's save those tales for another day. Needless to say, a lot of urban myths have come out of this place and it seems to attract the crazies."
I glanced at my father and I could tell he wasn't listening to one word Bruno was saying. Anxiety and desperation was floating off him like heat from blacktop.