Cast Down; Remnants
The following is an excerpt from one of the new Cast Down series novels I'm working on. This one is called "Remnants". It's a companion novel to "A New England Haunting" and can be read independently of the first book, though it will make a little more sense if read as part of the series. Old friends from Ridgefield may recognize the location I've chosen and put a spin on for this book. I'm using the first concept for the cover art here, but there is a piece of original artwork being created for the amazing cover that will go on the book once it's finished!
Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
The old mansion that burned down. It was a common phrase used in town when referring to the three hundred acres on the east side of town. The old mansion hadn’t actually burned down, it had been torn down but for some reason the idea of a massive fire consuming everything except the chimneys and the marble staircase seemed to be the way people in Bridgefield wanted to remember it.
The sprawling estate was originally built for the owner of a prestigious hat factory in New York City, who fought in the battle of Gettysburg and often entertained the likes of Mark Twain. In addition to the imposing forty-five room stone mansion there were carriage houses, a massive swimming pool and several modest homes occupied by servants and caretakers. There were fountains and gardens and miles of trails through the woods. There were also stables; one that sheltered up to twenty horses, and one, closest to the main house was built for just a single special horse; the Palomino pony, favored pet of the estate owner’s young daughter.
The property was sold shortly after the horse, startled by a snake on a wooded trail, threw the girl to the ground, breaking her neck. The beloved pony’s fate was never recorded.
The next owner of the estate was an international jewelry magnate who set foot in the home exactly twice after closing the deal, though ownership was not transferred again for several years. It was widely rumored that his wife hated the home at first sight and refused to move even a single piece of furniture into it after the initial walk through. The mansion sat vacant for some time while the magnate hoped for his adamant wife to change her mind. The caretaker living in one of the servant’s cottages shot himself in the head one snowy winter night. He was found early the following spring by a prospective buyer.
Less than two months after the grisly discovery of the caretaker, a consortium of physicians purchased the estate with a sanitorium in mind. The venture never got off the ground. The plethora of accidents and the death of one contractor during the renovation process brought the project to an untimely end.
The estate’s next incarnation was a short-lived “dude ranch” which failed almost immediately. The elegant architecture of the small castle hardly lent itself to the rustic ranch feel the new owners were trying for. The few guests they had departed long before the end of their bookings and not a single guest ever completed a ride along the miles of scenic trails. Most of the former servant’s cottages were used by the seasonal employees and quickly fell into disrepair. The luckless Palomino’s former abode was converted into an office with a small kitchen and upstairs sleeping area.
Priests became the next residents of the mansion. They stayed only slightly longer than the guests of the dude ranch, though the secluded property had seemed so utterly perfect for prayer and meditation. Although the Order demolished the small dwellings on the land to curtail temptation, they kept the tiny stable/office as a simple retreat for people from the outside wanting to get away from it all for a few days and participate in some of the quiet, comforting rituals. The visitors were free to stay in the little building, which now had a wood burning stove upstairs for warmth, and to wander the old riding trails through the vast woods.
There were no real explanations shared with the town as to why the Fathers quite suddenly ceased to occupy the estate.
The town of Bridgefield grew up around the abandoned property and ownership changed hands again. The wealth of the town continued to increase exponentially, but no longer were estates of such a size in demand. The manor sat vacant and rumors started to grow along with the incidents of vandalism. Tall tales of satanic worship and black masses in the woods soon began to pop up. People whispered of missing pets and livestock from the area, and bonfires seen late at night. The stories of witches’ covens circulated and did nothing to discourage local teens from hiking to the old mansion with coolers of beer and bags of pot.
This time the new owner was someone who had no intention of living there at all. A smart developer jumped on the rock bottom pricing and brought in a crew to strip down the old mansion for salvage, made his money back on that alone and then subdivided the land into generous five to ten acre parcels which were gradually purchased and built upon. He found it curious that the most interesting lots were the ones that sold last; the lots with the old chimneys, the marble stairs and what could still be seen of the swimming pool that he’d filled in for safety.
On one side of the development was Garvey Road, which the Cross and Barton families soon began building on. The opposite end became Hopewell Road, where the one remnant of the estate remained intact; the single stall stable, which had been so many times repurposed. It made a lovely little guest house. At least that was what Janet Smythe and her new husband thought when they began building their home many years later.