Thanks for reading A Place Without Shadows. I hope you dug it.
I am hard at work on Book 3, and we are looking atÂ Spring 2015 release. Sign up for the Unregulated newsletter in the upper right-hand corner of this page, and I will let you know as soon as it is available. I also send out invitations to Q&As and the occasional free story.
Here are some bonus features as my way of saying thanks for reading.
- In the right-hand area of this website you’ll find the Spotify’Â A Place Without Shadows’Â playlist. This is the playlist I listened to everyday while writing the book. I think you’ll find some of the song match the book thematically.
- Click here to view my ‘Writing the Light Out’Â video series. This is overÂ 2 hours worth of videos (and growing).
Finally, here’s a deleted scene from A Place Without Shadows. This was the original opening scene. In the end, I decided it was better to start with Frank, but I hated losing this scene. I think it’s a fun one. Enjoy!
Rook Mountain – June, 2014
A group of men came to kill Nate Grayson one evening while he was watching football.
In the time before Zed came to Rook Mountain, Nate had been a San Francisco 49ers fan. Heâ€™d memorized stats and listened to sports talk radio endlessly as he delivered Mariaâ€™s Pizza. In those days, he rarely felt more alive than he did in those moments when he experienced the thrill of battle vicariously through his gridiron heroes.
But then everything changed. In the ten months before the Unfeathered and Regulation Day, Zed showed him things. Things inside the pocket watch with the broken clock symbol. Things that changed the way he viewed the world forever. Football suddenly seemed like an inconsequential game enjoyed by much more childish men and women. And after the Unfeathered appeared, after Regulation Day, Zed rewarded his faithfulness with abilities most men could only dream of. For eight years, Nate possessed such precise control over his own body that he had been able to make it melt and reform miles away. He was able to look into other peopleâ€™s minds using the sheer force of his own will.
But that was over. Now he was expected to go back to watching football.
He sighed and took a drink of his whiskey. This wasnâ€™t the 18-year-old scotch the RESPys used to travel across the state to acquire for him. This stuff came in plastic bottles. Money was tight these days. There was talk of a book deal and a ghostwriter to handle the writing chores, but so far all Nateâ€™s agent had given him was vague promises.
He wished heâ€™d died that day on the rooftop along with Becky Raymond. Or, even better, he wished he would have grabbed hold of Zedâ€™s leg and got sucked into that mirror with him. Nate had no idea what was on the other side of that reflective glass, but it couldnâ€™t be worse than this.
It had been three months since things in Rook Mountain had returned to their drabby, pre-Regulation normalcy, and for Nate they had been three months filled with repetitive questions from government agents and ice-cold stares from his fellow Rook Mountaineers. The people of Rook Mountain turned on Nate and the other selectmen almost immediately after the clocks started again. As if the people hadnâ€™t been right there for eight years, first voting the Regulations into law and then enforcing them day after day. As if he and his fellow town leaders had personally pulled every trigger, heated every branding iron, and swung every cleaver.
At least he still had his home, a large Victorian near the center of town. Zed had given him the house after Nate was elected. The displaced family, the Hansens, hadnâ€™t been too pleased with the situation. So far, no one had shown up to kick him out. Maybe the Hansens liked those weird cabins on the edge of town where theyâ€™d been living the last seven or so years.
The chime of the doorbell made Nate jump. The dinging echoed through the large, nearly empty living room and slowly faded away. He glanced at his watch. Nine thirty-two. He set his whiskey down hard on the end table, sending a few drops of liquor over the edge of the glass and onto his fingers. He held his hand to his mouth and sucked the liquid away, enjoying the sharp burn of the whiskey on his tongue, then struggled to his feet and waddled toward the door. On his way, he switched off the table lamp, leaving only the blue glow of the television to illuminate the room.
He pushed the curtain aside and squinted out into the night. What he saw made him take a step back. He tried to count the shapes on his porch, but they blended together in the darkness. His hand fumbled for the switch on the wall. He flipped on the light and his heart sank.
Eight men stood on his porch. There was Philip Green, the number eight branded into his cheek. There was Gus Hansen, whose wife and oldest son had both been lost to the Unfeathered. Gusâ€™s brother Teddy stood beside him. Vern Bryant glared at the door, clutching a baseball bat in his one remaining hand. Nate couldnâ€™t make out the faces of the other four men.
The doorbell rang again. The noise unnerved him even though there was a thick oak door between him and his late-night callers.
He closed the curtain with a shaking hand. No way was he opening the door. These men all felt they had reason to hate him, never mind that Zed and the selectmen had protected them from the Unfeathered for eight years. If these guys had a few drinks in them, who knew what they might do?
Heâ€™d wait, and if they didnâ€™t leave heâ€™d call the police.
He turned away from the door and froze. A mountain of a man stood in the middle of his living room. Ty Hansen.
Even in the near darkness, Nate could see the big man was grinning.
â€œYou should keep the back door locked,â€ Ty said. â€œMy mom taught me that. If I left the door unlocked Iâ€™d get a tongue lashing like you wouldnâ€™t believe.â€
Nate stumbled backward until he felt the wall behind him. He reached into his pocket, searching for his cell phone, but his hand came up empty. He’d left it next to his bed, like usual.
â€œWhat are you doing here?â€ he asked.
Ty ambled over to the front door, twisted the deadbolt, and pulled the door open. â€œWe wanted a little chat.â€
The eight men on the porch poured into the living room. The large open space suddenly seemed a lot smaller. The final man eased the door shut behind him.
Ty picked up Nateâ€™s glass of whiskey off the table and took a sip. His face scrunched as he swallowed. â€œThis stuff is terrible, Grayson. My Uncle Teddyâ€™s moonshine is better than this.â€
Nate looked around the room. Two men blocked the front door. Another two men stood in front of the hallway that led to the only other exit. He was trapped. Heâ€™d have to talk his way out of this. He thought of Zed and the way the man so effortlessly played the crowds, reading their moods and subtly shifting his message based on their ever-changing reactions. Nate would have to do that now. He needed to put everything the great man had taught him into practice right here and now. He forced himself to stand up a bit straighter.
Gus Hansen stepped in front of the others. He seemed to be the leader of this little posse, so Nate looked him in the eye and said, â€œHow can I help you gentlemen?â€
Gus grinned with a smile almost identical to the one Nate had seen on Tyâ€™s lips moments ago. â€œWe came collecting. Youâ€™ve owed each man here for quite some time.â€
Nate cleared his throat to give himself a moment to think of something Zed-like to say, but Gus continued.
â€œOh, donâ€™t worry. Weâ€™re not like those leg breakers you see on TV. We arenâ€™t here for vengeance. We just want whatâ€™s ours.â€ He looked around, as if seeing the walls and ceiling for the first time. â€œMe, for instance? I want my house back. My buddy Phil hereâ€™s gonna be a little harder to please. You heard about his wife?â€
Nate glanced at Phil. The number eight branded on his cheek stood out in the television’s blue light . â€œYes, I did. Iâ€™m sorry for your loss.â€
Helen Green had killed herself two weeks ago. Sheâ€™d been a strong supporter of Zed, one of the few Nate kept on his mental list of people he could count on. Sheâ€™d enforced the Regulations with legendary gusto. At the time, people in town had considered her a role model and a patriot. Now folks were calling her sadistic.
Nate had considered the idea of pulling Helen and a few people like her together into some sort of local political party and trying to reclaim the leadership of Rook Mountain so the town could be run in a way that would make Zed proud. But Helen had stuck a shotgun in her mouth, used her big toe to pull the trigger, and made him strongly reconsider the political support heâ€™d find in this town.
Phil didnâ€™t respond to Nateâ€™s condolences. There was a fire in his eyes that said maybe he wasnâ€™t up for listening to pleasantries at the moment.
â€œAnd old Vern here wants his hand back,â€ Gus continued.
He pointed to a short man near the back of the group. â€œTerrence would like his daughter back. You remember her? Sally Howell. Blonde girl. Worked at Food City on the weekends. She tried to leave town with her boyfriend, and a couple of your RESPys caught up with them. Your crew labeled her a Regulation 1 breaker. No one outside the immediate family even showed up for the funeral.â€
Nate held up his hands, showing them empty as he spoke. â€œIâ€™m very sorry for everything thatâ€™s happened to you. Things werenâ€™t perfect over the last eight years, Iâ€™ll totally admit that. But you have to agree we did our best in tough circumstances. Lives were at stake every single day, and we protected them the only way weâ€”â€
Gus slammed his palm into the wall next to Nateâ€™s head. â€œYouâ€™re not listening, Mr. Grayson. We didnâ€™t come here for excuses. We came here to get whatâ€™s ours. So if you could go ahead and hand over Vernâ€™s hand, Philâ€™s wife, Terrenceâ€™s daughter, my house, and my wife and son, weâ€™ll all be on our way.â€
Nate instinctively leaned back against the wall, cringing from the stringent smells of moonshine and tobacco coming off Gus. â€œMr. Hansen, I canâ€™t change the past.â€
Gus opened his eyes wide in mock surprise. â€œOh, you canâ€™t? Thatâ€™s awful surprising, Mr. Grayson. I thought you selectmen types were all-powerful and all-knowing. You knew what was best for the town, right? Even when it meant making us hurt each other. You can appear and disappear anywhere you want, right? Hell, you could pop into my bathroom while Iâ€™m taking a dump and thereâ€™s nothing I could do about it. I assumed youâ€™d be able to help us sort out our little problems.â€
Nate stammered. â€œMr. Hansenâ€¦ Gusâ€¦ I donâ€™tâ€¦â€
Gus leaned closer until their noses were almost touching. Nate could see the coarse black and gray whiskers poking out of the large greasy pores on the manâ€™s face. â€œOh, thatâ€™s right. You lost your superpowers, didnâ€™t you? Now youâ€™re just a man, capable of getting branded or losing a hand or, hell, even dying.â€
Nate looked around the room, trying to gauge the faces of the other men. That was the moment he knew he was in serious trouble. They werenâ€™t smiling. No one was laughing. These werenâ€™t just some drunks looking to raise a little hell or throw a scare into him.
These men were here to kill him.
Something that had been creeping in the back of his mind since the doorbell rang now came to the surface. There might be a way out of this, if he was lucky enough to be one of the chosen. He didnâ€™t know if it would work. For all he knew, it was a legend, but after all he had seen over the last eight years, he was inclined to believe the unbelievable. And right now he was desperate enough to try it.
â€œThereâ€™s something youâ€™ve got to understand, Mr. Grayson,â€ Gus said. â€œThose government folks are running around town scratching their heads and punching numbers into their spreadsheets. Theyâ€™re still trying to figure out if weâ€™re all crazy or if we were abducted by aliens or what. Theyâ€™re gonna be debating and thinking on this for the next decade. But they arenâ€™t asking the right questions. While theyâ€™re talking about the whats and whys, theyâ€™re forgetting about the whos. Somebody needs to answer for all the innocents who died while you were in charge.â€
Gus reached into his jacket and pulled out a pistol. â€œWe arenâ€™t gonna make you suffer, as much as you deserve it.â€
Nateâ€™s mind was spinning. He knew he couldnâ€™t talk his way out of this. Zed could have, maybe, but Nate was no Zed. He couldnâ€™t fight them all off. Truth be told, he couldnâ€™t have fought most of them off individually. There was only one option left.
Gus raised his weapon and pointed it at Nateâ€™s head.
Nate squeezed his eyes shut as tightly as he could and whispered, â€œSanctuary.â€
And he disappeared.
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Thanks again for reading.