Thursday, 11 December 2014

Return to Sender by Mindy Halleck

Return to Sender
by Mindy Halleck



1955 ~ Father Theo Riley never wanted to be a priest, nor a killer. The former boxing champion and Korean War veteran gave up more than a career when he went into the Army. He lost the only thing he ever wanted: his love, Andréa Bouvre. Friends thought Theo entered the priesthood to mend his broken heart or atone for the massacred orphans he couldn’t save in Korea.

However, the truth is much darker and more damning, tied to a blood debt and family secret that has haunted Theo since he was a boy. He drinks to forget he ever had a life of his own—waits for death, prays for mercy, and hopes for a miracle. He gets all three when a child goes missing, another shows up on his doorstep, and the love of his life drives back into his world; the seaside hamlet of Manzanita Oregon.

Theo’s dream reunion with Andréa becomes a nightmare when a serial killer who considers himself a holy man targets the town and everyone Theo loves. Drinking days decidedly behind him, Theo and some old warriors set out to send evil back to hell and a few good souls to heaven in RETURN TO SENDER.

Excerpt Three:
POV of protagonist, Theo Riley

It rained hard the night we evacuated the children from their orphanage, harder than I’d seen, even on the Oregon Coast. The smell of wet dirt, trees, and napalm. That’s the smell I remembered most, the chemical and petroleum of burning napalm. We scrambled with the kids up Korea’s dominating T’aebaek Mountain—the mountain was nearly the same height as Neahkahnie but had limestone caves tunneled deep within. Massive stalagmites hung heavy throughout the corridors. Ancient bamboo-roped bridges built across chasms linked the vast rooms of the caves to one another. It was otherworldly. But the surviving nun knew the place, the Karst Caves, and said we’d be safe. Water spouted from innumerable cracks and seeps; the sound of rain and falling water was everywhere.

We clawed our way up the hills and out of the valley of death. The CCF had entered the war that week and were as ubiquitous as the rain. The NK were ruthless and bloodthirsty and wanted those kids—and now us—dead. The kids and dedicated nun were too vulnerable for us to abandon for slaughter, so we, my buddy Lieutenant Peters and me, abandoned our orders instead.

AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Mindy Halleck is a Pacific Northwest author, blogger and writing instructor. Her short story, The Sound of Rain, which placed in the Writer’s Digest Literary Contest blossomed into her first novel Return to Sender. Halleck blogs at Literary Liaisons and is an active member of the Pacific Northwest writing community. In addition to being a writer, Halleck is a happily married, globe-trotting beachcomber, antiquer, gardener, proud grandma, and three-time cancer survivor.
Mindy’s Amazon Page:
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Neahkahnie’s Black Demon: Using History & Local Lore

By Mindy Halleck

My childhood summers were spent in the beach hamlet of Manzanita Oregon. My novel Return To Sender (RTS) takes place in that Manzanita of the 1950’s and 60’s where legends and ghost stories ruled our marshmallow roasting nights.

Manzanita is now a swanky beach town with high end homes and posh hotels. Long gone are the days when we stayed in shanty shacks, trailers and tents. Gone are the sun-splashed days when my cousins and I stood on the windy beach studying Neahkahnie Mountain, pondering the many myths of ghost hauntings, and the pirate’s gold that had eluded an army of treasure hunters, most of whom traveled to Neahkahnie with a lofty hunch, a sharp shovel and a hopeful wheelbarrow.

What we feared most was what the Indians called the ‘black demon’ who guarded that elusive treasure.

We hide in the bushes at the foot of the mountain and looked up through binoculars. We were the gang of summer-kids (Manzanita vacationers) ranging in age from five to twelve. If you ever saw the movie Gooneys (also filmed on the Oregon Coast) then, that was us, but with two scared-ie-cat girls as leaders.

Anyway, that black demon as legend told was left behind one summer afternoon a few hundred years ago. Indians near Neahkahnie Mountain were astounded when two sailing ships approaching their coast –the first ships they had ever seen on the Oregon coast and that they said looked like “great birds” –began to “thunder” and puffs of smoke blustered from their sides. After considerable noise and smoke, one of the ships began to list, and was cast up on the beach near the foot of Neahkahnie. The other set sail over the horizon and was not seen again.

One day at low tide the colorful strangers (pirates) brought their belongings from the “dying bird” ashore, including a huge chest that took eight men to carry. With considerable determination, they hoisted the chest a short way up the mountain, where they then dug a deep hole and lowered it inside. The black giant, whom the Indians supposed was an evil demon, was ordered by a knife wielding white man, to step forward. When he did, he was struck down, and his body flung into the hole with the chest. The men then filled the hole with sand and returned to the beach and their small boats. The Indians watched all night. The men rowed away in the moonlight, never to be seen again. The Indians did not disturb the demon’s resting place, but legend holds that the sand at the end of the mountain then began to turn black in winter and that the black demon is often heard bellowing his wrath across the sea, and that when treasure hunters have gotten close, he has manifested great tragedy in their lives.

So despite that ill-omened info, we summer kids climbed Neahkahnie, pulling ourselves up by tugging on the slopped junipers or jagged rocks of the path. When someone fell or got hurt we claimed they were pushed by the black demon. Eyes bulged. Paranoia set in. Every natural sound had an unnatural effect. We never made it to the top but instead would make it about halfway up the path on the side of the mountain and as if we’d seen something we’d turn and run yelling and screaming back down. The gang of younger kids followed in accord.

I use this black pirate ghost in my story when Theo fills his duffle bag with the black sand and when Solomon reveals what he knows about the long sought after treasure. I believe that adding layers of real legend and folklore enhances storytelling and elevates it to mythical proportions.

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