Thursday, April 24, 2014

Crawford Hill By Robin Hewitt Tour



Book Excerpt

Chapter 1
Derek Crawford IX
September 2005

The Anger Management counselor was starting to tick me off.

I had a dog to feed and a dozen other things to do, and a two-hour anger management assessment session was not my idea of a healthy alternative to paying a damn speeding ticket, especially since the old man’s voice kept rattling in my head.

Keep it off your Permanent Record.

Two hours smiling and nodding thoughtfully at a twit two degrees behind me psychology-wise told me I could look back at the roots of an angry reaction, and once I confront the root I will be able to conquer and change the reaction. Or some such.

Show her your root and then see her reaction.

I wonder what her reaction would be if I asked her how to exorcize the old man’s dead voice…

I went into “pleasantly interested” mode and as she yammered I filled out the forms and tests and gobbledygook and let my mind wander into the files of the past, pinpointing the nugget of irritation to the moment of its conception in order to analyze, mask, and compensate accordingly.

If I’d have done that when the stupid keystoner cop pulled me over for speeding instead of going off on his sorry ass I wouldn’t be in need of an anger management assessment in the first place, and I was damned if I was going to risk getting red-flagged at airports over calling officer-just-doing-my-job-McCormack a fat-assed pig humper. The thought of his beet-red face as he furiously scribbled tickets while leaning on the trunk of my car made me smile and I could hear the old man laughing in my head.

I wonder how red his face would’ve gotten if a bitch in the trunk had dripped blood on his shiny black shoes?

The counselor must have noticed my smile and approved, as she cleared me after the first half of the session and the government’s brief intervention into my life was over.

The old man would have had a camera outside the door to record the faces of the ticked-off folks coming out. The ones that had to come back to have more of their anger managed.

I drove home at the limit and without incident, fed the dog, gave up on the rest of it and crashed on the couch, still shaking my head over the premise of managing my anger.

How long now, a dozen years since I first saw the shrink?
I’ve been pretty cynical about counselors, social workers, therapists, and other so-called Do Gooders since I was 15 years old. That was a year or two after my sister Barbs died, and then my sorry-assed excuse of a mitochondrial DNA donor Cindy Lu died, and I aced the stupid IQ tests again, and they sent me to the sorry-assed yappy bitch school counselor.

Mrs. Eva Snelling, counselor-at-law of Centerville high, had turned 36 the first week of May, married the town chief of police George Snelling 12 years ago when he was just a constable and she was fresh out of college, owned one cat and two cars, had an in-ground pool but no kids to play in it, and was a size 12 although she hoped to lose a few pounds this summer.

I was subconsciously filing these facts and the rest of the crap she was spewing into a giant inhaling nose-shaped filing cabinet in my head. I knew it was her “warm-up-the-new-kid routine” during the infamous first session, and I was wondering why it took her six years to finish college and trying not to look bored when she zinged me with an innocuous question that avalanched into a shitstorm before I had a chance to see it coming.

Quick like a bunny.

She was yammering about her clothes and had descended into dry cleaning vs. machine washing when she asked me if I knew how to iron shirts. I was dumbfounded by the question and answered without thinking.

Women’s work anyways.

“Why in the hell would I iron shirts?” I clamped my mouth shut and looked down at my shirt before the rest came out; exactly how did my shirt ironing abilities or lack thereof relate to the facts that my granny and sister and sorry excuse of a mother Cindy Lu were all dead, my old man was a brutal drunk, and my IQ score was so far off the charts that some clerk just maybe finally figured out that I might just be a tad bit bored in good old Centerville High and needed to go see a counselor and check out?

I was already finishing tenth grade, having moved up a year the first day of first grade when they discovered I was reading a book a day. Now I wanted to test out of high school, or at least start some college courses to get a few semesters lead.

To be honest, the woman flat out stupefied me; I had passed into the realm of boredom ten minutes into the room which caused me to blurt that we didn’t have an iron. This rapidly descended into a discussion about my mother: did I remember her ironing? Did she stop? If not, why didn’t I iron my shirts?

That’s what a wife is for.

Washing, Ironing, Folding, Entertaining…


Well, the damn iron died a few months ago, and I was pleased to report to Mrs. Smelling that dead Cindy Lu’s housekeeping or lack thereof had nothing to do with the state of my education.

The iron had died of natural causes from an overload of iron sediment from our well water; I didn’t bother with the detail that it had been leaking a bit since the old man used it alongside Barb’s head when she got too sassy a few years ago. I had my poker face back on and was congratulating myself on the recoup when she blindsided me.

Holy wah.

Where’d the water come from, how did the pump work, how old was the pump, had the well been tested…the questions came like projectile diarrhea of the vocal chords.

I lost her when she asked the age of the pump. I mean, I was 15 years old. Just because I have an IQ of 186 doesn’t mean I know everything, or care to. How am I supposed to know how old an ancient outside water pump is? Carbon date the sucker? It was older than her sorry fat ass, that’s for sure.

It was too late. Before I knew it we were talking about the shithouse being plugged half the time because the drains were messed up and I was stumbling out answers as fast as I could think.

The bottom line was Mrs. Smelling decided she was required to report to the social worker that my dad just might be an unfit parent and that we had no running water or working plumbing in our house. She introduced me to the social worker Mr. Hal Fegnorini “just call me Hal” to make an appointment to check the house, and said she would see me on Monday for an update.

The shit really hit the fan that night when I had to tell the old man that Mr. Hal Fegnorini “Just call me Hal” the social worker was coming to check the house for proper sanitation facilities and perhaps his alcohol level, too, at two the next afternoon, even though it was a Saturday and he usually had the weekends off.

Even though the old man was already pointing to the basement door I was able to get in that we didn’t have a boat charter scheduled that weekend so he could show the lodge as our sanitation access and thereby skirt the law. I caught him before his temper really blew, and he quickly switched to formulating a plan to schmooze his way through the house check.

After the welts on my ass stopped hurting from our insubordination trip to the Darkroom, I spent most of the evening and night cleaning the kitchen and living room of the piles of newspapers, car parts, empty bottles, and other crap that the old man had started to hoard.

Aside from calling every hour or so for a fresh beer the old man sat in the darkened living room of Crawford House, occasionally grumbling to himself as he lit Pall Mall after Pall Mall with his Zippo lighter. The lighter had been his dad’s, and the mechanism was worn to a soft snicking sound each time the lid opened.

The snap of its closing was my subconscious gauge of his anger as I scrubbed out the water bucket, cleaned the iron residue from the well water off the ladle, and swept out the kitchen. A few hours later I was off to bed, tomorrow’s dread like a lead weight in my stomach.

By the next day I was much calmer. I had checked and found there was no law saying you had to have plumbing, and the old man was notorious for flying under the radar. By the time two o’clock rolled around the house was clean and coffee made, and I was on standby to play waiter if the need should arise.

The old man greeted just call me Hal at the door, shaking his hand and offering him a coffee or a beer in his best Good-Old-Boy manner. One thing I’ve got to say about the old man: once he’d got his “How’s your fishing arm” routine shining on a tourist, cop, grocery clerk, or social worker, very few have a chance, man or woman.

He’d zone in on the person and do a near-instant assessment; not just as a predatory instinct but an almost Sherlockian talent. He’d notice shoes and lint and loose buttons and all kinds of crap about people, always looking for a clue to their weak spot.

After a cursory scan of the water bucket, just call me Hal kind of did a half shrug towards the old man and raised his eyebrow at me with a “what can I say?” kind of look.

“Since it’s been reported, I guess I’ll have to write this up. There might be a fine and a follow-up involved, too, I suppose.”

The old man’s poker face served him well, but I’d seen the look he shot my way. I resigned myself to the bite of the belt and hoped it wouldn’t be in the Darkroom again tonight, and hoped the old man could talk his way out of the fine before he decided to hang me from the hook before unbuckling.

“Well now, seeing as today’s Saturday and not a day of work for someone on the school board payroll, will that report and fine have to be on paper or can we do a little business in a charter or something like that in trade?”

The old man was smooth, and his calmness rattled the social worker for a second, long enough for the old man to know he’d won the hand. He flashed me a mean grin as he pulled two beers from the fridge.

“To tell the truth Mr. Crawford, that’s the real reason I scheduled this visit for a Saturday,” replied just call me Hal as he popped the tab on the can. “I can tell by your son’s high grades and your family situation this is most likely a case of an intelligent teenager feeling a bit of rebellion from missing his momma, if you know what I mean. Gets bored and exaggerates to the school counselor, who gets all excited and calls me in.”

It was obvious just call me Hal had never met the likes of Cindy Lu.

Hal took a swig of his beer and tipped the can at the old man for emphasis as he continued. “I can take care of Mrs. Snelling so this doesn’t go on his permanent record. I know just what that woman needs to keep the words from flowing.” He winked at the old man.

“As long as you’re good for your word that there won’t be any more complaints to the counselor from you, young man?” asked Hal as he turned to me.

“No Sir,” I stated firmly. “Mrs. Snelling will certainly agree this is a complete misunderstanding. Our home is fully plumbed just a few steps down the path, in the lodge where my dad runs his business.” I was in my best Beaver Cleaver mode, eyebrows knitted earnestly.

I waved my hand towards the fridge. “Take a look, our fridge is full. So is the one downstairs, and the one in the lodge, too.” I pointed towards the lake. “My dad’s a great provider, and he pays me to work the charters with him, too.”

I nodded towards the old man, looking him straight in the eye. “As long as I keep my grades up, that is!” I grinned my brightest for the two of them, and could see the results as I put my arm around the old man’s shoulder in my best adult manner.

He clapped me on the back the way he liked to do if he wanted to award or punish me, and just call me Hal was looking a bit misty-eyed as the old man turned from me and offered his hand to Hal. They did some male-bonding thing that I didn’t understand yet, and the next thing I knew just call me Hal the social worker and the old man were joking and discussing baseball, the proper discipline of teenagers, the pros and cons of grounding vs. spanking as punishment, and personal alcohol preferences.

The old man invited Hal to join him for the ballgame down in the basement rec room, which really ticked me off. The bastard had made me clean the filthy kitchen and living room for the visit and then takes the guy downstairs. I shrugged as I made sure there was an extra twelve pack in the fridge and ran upstairs to grab a couple of books, optimistic about my odds of escaping the belt tonight as the old man and Hal settled in downstairs in the ratty recliners, laughing and chatting in anticipation of the Detroit Tigers opening pitch.
As you walked down the basement stairs you find yourself in the laundry area, where two freezers and a spare fridge share space with several toolboxes and the now defunct washer and dryer. Not that they didn’t work, the thing was the old man didn’t want to spring the cash to have the water and sewer lines dug up and replaced so the damn things could function. He won’t even let me dig up the back yard and connect to the lodge, which has a separate run to the road and works just fine. The second line runs water and sewer to the old carriage house-garage, the boat house, and the lodge, so those buildings drain independently from the house. When you need them to.

The rec room door was 20 foot or so straight ahead from the basement stairs. Once the scene of childhood blocks and toys, the room now consisted of a 19-inch portable TV and VCR, the recliners, a dusty old sofa, and a full-sized pool table whose mildewed felt was covered by a drop cloth and a dingy sheet. A matching sheet was tacked over the door to the Darkroom, next to the rack of pool sticks. The old man’s movie projector setup where he screened his own as well as the special mail order films was called the Darkroom: secured by an ancient wooden door, the chucking of its deadbolt was dreaded by every member of the family.

By the second inning the old man was telling fishing stories and they were talking walleye size. I was reading the college English prerequisites, trying to figure out what I could test out of if they let me. When I took a round of beers down the old man was pouring tequila shots and I knew he had made a deal with just call me Hal. When a pitching change came up the old man started showing off his movie camera setup and I knew he and Hal had hit it off and I would probably be clear of the Darkroom punishment tonight.

I hovered upstairs in the kitchen, knowing as the old man settled in he’d want me running drinks as the game played on. I settled in at the kitchen table with my psych book and kept one ear trained to the open basement door, figuring I could do a couple of chapters an inning with no sweat. I might even be able to finish the work and test out of that crap, too. Might have two semesters of college done before I graduate high school.

If I can sweet talk that bitch Mrs. Smelling, who started all this crap.

When I took down the third round of drinks Hal suggested that I join them for an inning or two, which made the old man scowl. I referred to my studies to placate him, and I could hear their conversation drift up the stairs as they continued talking about teens and beer and discipline and such, with the old man taking the view that he’d rather have a kid party at home than not know where they are or what they’re doing with whom. Just call me Hal felt that if a kid was disciplined right in the first place they’d know not to break the law; and so their banter continued as I read.

By the fourth round they started insisting I join the party for the rest of the game.

“Whet your whistle with the men for the first time, boy?” suggested the old man, half waving the tequila bottle my way.

“No thanks, Sir. I’m going to try and finish my book before the game is over, if that’s okay with you, Sir.” I gave him a smile and my best suck-up wave as I turned back towards the stairs.

I forgot how fast he was. Quick like a bunny.

“Don’t tell me no, boy. When a man offers you a drink, you offer him your hand. Then you take the drink, and you take it like a man.” The ceiling flashed by as the old man yanked me back by the hair. The bottle was rammed halfway down my throat before I could shut my mouth.

I could hear them laughing while I threw up into a wastebasket. By the time I rinsed my mouth out with water and my eyes had stopped watering and I turned back to the room the old man had handcuffs attached to two corners of the pool table and the camera ready. He walked up the stairs and shut the basement door, unbuckling his belt and staring at me as he came back down the steps.

That’s when the real party got started.

He had me cornered and handcuffed and bent over the table in no time, my face mashed into the grimy dustcover and the voice of good old just call me Hall the social worker egging him on in the background as he leaned in and talked to me.

“You’re 15 years old, boy. If you can’t shake your daddy’s hand when he offers you a drink, then your mamma missed the mark when she taught you your manners.

“Well I’m telling you right now boy, Cindy Lu is dead and gone and it’s time for you to step up to the plate, so to speak.

“Tonight I guess you’re going to learn I’m going to teach you the rules once and for all.

“You’re going to learn not to talk about family and business to outsiders, and you’re going to learn how to take it like a man, that I been easy with this belt because you’re my boy.

“You’re going to learn once and for all I call the shots on Crawford Hill, whelp. I’m going to let Hal here give you a taste of this belt, and when he’s done you’re going to shake his hand and thank him like a man, boy.”

He pulled my head up once more and offered the bottle; almost gently this time. When he let go of my hair I could hear him call out as he walked to the camera.

“Take ten with the belt like a man, boy, or maybe I’ll let him give something else to you like one.

Make a sissy-boy out of you in no time if you start giving me any sass, whelp. You remember that when you see that fancy fat-assed pig-humper counselor lady on Monday.”

By the end of that Saturday night I was begging to have that bottle back, and when the old man was done I shook Hal’s hand like a man and thanked him.

I vowed I would never puke tequila again.

Monday morning Mrs. Eva Diarrhea Mouth found what was left of her cat sucked up in the in-ground pool filter. The bottom corner of the patio door screen was torn a bit and there was a scattering of squirrel acorns, grim evidence to the path the miscreant pussy had taken in falling into the pool.

I was surprised how upset she was that afternoon at our appointment. Sad cat story, apology for the plumbing misunderstanding, and she’d filed the paperwork for me to skip 11th grade. Her eyes were red-rimmed, and she seemed to have a hard time finishing her sentences.

Whether she knew Hal Fegnorini’s proclivity for whipping 15-year-old boys or not when she sent him out to talk to the old man, I figured the least I owed the Nose was a good ass-whipping herself some day.

For now, the demise of the cat had a pretty awesome effect.
When it came to closing off the tunnels, I did the old man or his daddy, or his granddaddy one better as I prepared the old house and its secrets for the possibility of new owners.

Two hundred years of Crawfords on this land whelp don’t you screw it up.

Each doorway was systematically bricked or stone-walled up, right through to Cindy Lu’s now devoid-of-leather dominatrix chamber. The chamber itself, like the rest of the underground network, was devoid of evidence and I left it and the Darkroom doors as my last project for security’s sake.

Taught you a lot of lessons in that room.

The night before I bricked up the top half of the Darkroom door I drove the Deuces two hours south down the Detroit River and went whore hunting in Toledo. When I was finished with her I returned home to finish bricking up the past.

“Here’s one for the memories, old man.” I leaned over the Darkroom door and dropped the prostitute’s warm heart onto the cement floor, smiling at the plop of its wet landing.

That’s my boy.

It was midnight and it was my birthday and it was close to the end of the current Five Year Plan.

I was twenty-nine now, three months away from flat-lining out the old man’s family trust codicil, because there was no way in hell I was going to bring another Crawford whelp into this house before I turned thirty.

Whelp of mine or not I’ll kill you if you don’t.


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About the Author

crawfordhill-author-150_dark_scream_book_toursBorn and raised on the shores of Michigan’s Lake St. Clair, one of Robin Hewitt’s earliest memories is of Mama warning her to beware of The Bogeyman, who lived in the caves on the banks of the Clinton River. Although extensive teenage explorations brought her to the conclusion that Mama had actually been worried that she would fall in the river, she never forgot the warnings or the idea that a monster could live beneath our feet, slinking out at night to strike terror in the hearts of unsuspecting women and children.

Robin still lives a few miles away from Lake St. Clair. With extensive experience writing non-fiction articles and books, Crawford Hill is Robin’s first published venture into the world of fiction writing.


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About the Book

Derek Crawford smiles pleasantly at the anger management counselor as the voices in his head beckon him into spiraling madness.

A burned-out and now unemployed child psychologist, Derek lives alone in the Victorian mansion on Crawford Hill. From his great-grandmother’s widow’s walk on the fourth floor he can watch the lights of Centerville blinking on as the sun sets over Lake St. Clair.

From the basement he can enter his great-grandfather’s network of caves, and prowl beneath the homes of the unsuspecting town.

As he nears his 29th birthday, one voice is getting louder. More persistent. It’s the gravelly voice of his old man, dead a dozen years but no less demanding than when he whipped his belt across Derek’s back.

Only one year left whelp, don’t you screw it up.

Derek knows he’s closing in on the deadline: to inherit Crawford Hill, he must be married and father a son before he turns thirty. A legacy he’s determined not to fulfill, because he refuses to chance perpetuating the insanity and bloodlust of the Crawford family tree.

He’s determined, that is, until unsuspecting Valerie Fleury knocks on the door of Crawford House. Against his better judgment, he invites her in for coffee and more, and a glimmer of hope pierces his soul. Until she mentions she’s working with the cops. Until she starts asking about the caves, and his parents, and a series of rapes and murders that are occurring around Centerville. Again.

That wench would look good barefoot and pregnant. Or dead and bloody.

With the stakes rising in proportion to the body count, Derek must confront the memories he’s spent his adult life learning to bury, and risk unleashing his encroaching madness to save the woman who might hold his redemption.


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