Title: GHOST HAMPTON
Author: Ken McGorry
Genre: Paranormal Thriller
Lyle Hall is a new man since his car accident and spinal injury. The notoriously insensitive Bridgehampton lawyer is now afflicted with an odd sensitivity to other people’s pain. Especially that of a mysterious young girl he encounters outside a long-abandoned Victorian house late one October night. “Jewel” looks about 12. But Lyle knows she’s been dead a hundred years. Jewel wants his help, but it’s unclear how. As if in return, she shows him an appalling vision—his own daughter’s tombstone. If it’s to be believed, Georgie’s last day is four days away. Despite Lyle’s strained relations with his police detective daughter, he’s shocked out of complacent convalescence and back into action in the real world.
But the world now seems surreal to the formerly Scrooge-like real estate lawyer. Lyle’s motion in court enjoining the Town of Southampton from demolishing the old house goes viral because he leaked that it might be haunted. This unleashes a horde of ghost-loving demonstrators and triggers a national media frenzy. Through it all strides Lyle’s new nemesis in high heels: a beautiful, scheming TV reporter known as Silk.
Georgie Hall’s own troubles mount as a campaign of stationhouse pranks takes a disturbing sexual turn. Her very first case is underway and her main suspect is a wannabe drug lord. Meanwhile, Lyle must choose: Repair his relationship with Georgie or succumb to the devious Silk and her exclusive media contract. He tells himself seeing Georgie’s epitaph was just a hallucination. But a few miles away the would-be drug lord is loading his assault rifle. Berto needs to prove himself.
He heard her here. She was one of the whisperers. It seemed weirdly flattering at first.
Ensconced in the MediCab that exhausted evening of the detour, Lyle had the windows down, allowing in fresh air and the angling rays of the setting sun. Commuter traffic from the train station had been annoyingly redirected onto Poplar Street. Fred crept forward, foot on the brake, with eight more cars ahead of them. Wrung out after his wrongheaded foray to Southampton, Lyle’s arms and shoulders ached; muscles, joints, his hands too. And he felt the onset of what Dr. Susan Wayne called “free-floating anxiety.” In Lyle’s case, a blob of uneasiness that could intensify into inchoate dread.
He was slumped in his Mr. Potter when the imposing shambles of a house came into view on his right. Everybody called it Old Vic. Sporting dumb old “No Trespassing” signs as long as anyone could remember, it was commonly held that Old Vic was once a brothel. Long ago, when Bridgehampton was part of the East End’s whaling industry, before it grew into a high-end summer getaway, real-estate bonanza and snob haven.
Then there’s the suburban legend that Old Vic was haunted. Who says? No one and everyone, whether they believe it or not.
The MediCab was crawling by Old Vic when Lyle first heard the whispers. He rose on his elbows, his chair secured to the van’s floor, and listened. Cats in heat. No, wait. This was more subtle, conversational. A furtive murmur that piqued his curiosity. He needed to listen again.
“Hey Fred, make a right at the corner, please?”
“Course correction, Mr. Hall?”
“I want to circle back for another look at the old house. And Fred, call me Lyle, okay? Lyle is fine.” It had been six months with the same driver.
Fred made the turn. Any such whim of Lyle Hall’s, he knew, was good for a crisp off-the-books twenty. It was even worth a twenty to stop at the ATM—Lyle would entrust Fred with his debit card and pass code to avoid the hassle. He also let Fred smoke.
Fred drove around the block clockwise. From each side street Lyle got a view of Old Vic’s battered cupola poking above the trees and roof lines of summer homes. It was unsettling—the cupola, a little booth standing atop the third story, was Old Vic’s most exposed and weather-beaten feature. Any paint was scabby and vestigial. The cupola’s large oval oculus suggested a blinded Cyclops, its leaded glass shattered by determined boys with BB guns long before Lyle was born.
They turned onto Poplar again, and approached the house.
“Slow down, please, Fred? Actually, could you park?”
Fred did so. Odd request, but Mr. Hall is, or was, a real estate tycoon.
“And roll down the windows, please? And mind turning off the radio? …Thanks. Cut the engine too, please, Fred? …Thank you.”
If Mr. Hall wants to smell Old Vic, Fred figured, this could be worth more than one folded twenty. He glanced at Lyle through his mirror, lit a butt, and texted his wife.
To the west, clouds glowing orange and pink were eclipsed by the hulking old house. It grew darker. The last of the traffic was now gone. Lyle strained to hear. He tried to listen harder, if that’s possible.
About the Author
Ken McGorry has been writing since third grade. (He learned in first grade, but waited two years.) He started a school newspaper with friends in seventh grade, but he’s better known for his 23 years as an editor of Post Magazine, a monthly covering television and film production. This century, he took up novel-writing and Ghost Hampton and Smashed are examples. More are in the works, like the promised Ghost Hampton sequel, but he’s kinda slow.
Ken lives on Long Island with his wife and they have two strapping sons. There are dogs. Ken is also a chef (grilled cheese, and only for his sons) and he enjoys boating (if it’s someone else’s boat). He has a band, The Achievements, that plays his songs (try https://soundcloud.com/ken-mcgorry). Back at Manhattan College (English major!), he was a founding member of the venerable Meade Bros. Band. Ken really was an employee of Dan’s Papers in the Hamptons one college summer, and really did mow Dan’s lawn.