"HIDDEN HAMPTONS" ...Coming to Bookstores Soon!!
Nothing has prepared any of us for the changes taking place from the Pandemic. My life has had a cataclysmic shift as I deal with the loss of my brother in Flint Michigan, without the benefit of a proper funeral... This, all the while, working every waking hour with people who are frantically looking to move here to the Hamptons, either to a new home or a simple rental--Anything that will act as a fortress against the unknown.
So, now it is time to publish--the final edit is just finishing up and I will be formatting and making a cover for the book itself. It will be just weeks now before it hits the bookshelves--I am relieved and very excited to share another excerpt with all of you.
If you have been keeping up with the original story, after reading THE SLED, A LITTLE BIRD TOLD ME, A PURPOSEFUL LIFE, and UNTOLD STORY, you will find the excerpt below a little more revealing of the HIDDEN HAMPTONS. Keep in mind that I am writing this book as one of fiction but I have taken the stories from real-life happenings here...ENJOY!
THE STORY UNFOLDS
I sat across from Fred at the stainless steel table. The metal chair stuck to my bare legs, and so I pulled at my skirt hem to lessen the contact with it. The metal was almost refreshing to my skin on this hot fall day, but it was the stickiness that made me almost queasy; what the heck made this chair sticky? I thought to myself. I needed to put my attention back on Fred. He needed me more than ever right now!
As Fred shared this part of the saga with me, he could not control the way his hands were shaking. I noticed that he held them together to try to halt the startling movement but to no avail. He was in a state that I had never seen him before. Even the night of his drunkenness was not this bad! At least then, I could blame the liquor. This time, it was sheer fear and anguish that permeated his being. His shoulders shook under his awful orange prison garb.
I did not want to look at anything below his face. Still, there was that stubbled cheek and chin and again, the deep sea-blue eyes, so liquid yet firm in the way he looked at me.
I have held him in the highest esteem since the day I met him. There was a time, however, when I began to question my judgment when I had started to suspect that Fred was keeping things from me. But I could not quite figure out what so-called “things” he was hiding. It was driving me up a wall.
Now, we were in a face-to-face situation. I was telling Fred that he needed to tell me everything. I was finally going to get my answers. His information sharing would be a clarifying time for the two of us. I was hoping that it would not destroy my trust in him.
Many times over the years, I have had moments of clarity; usually, they came from my hard work and my ability to analyze a situation and come to an awareness of facts. In this case, I was searching for a reason to think that Fred was a victim of this apparent crime.
“My darling Holly, I do not want to hurt you any longer,” Fred said as he sat, facing me in his orange jumpsuit. “ I want to tell you how this all happened so that you can see how I became involved in such a questionable activity.”
He looked down as he said that, trying to keep his mind from halting as the story unfolded. He swallowed hard, and I knew that he was in agony.
Fred’s story began right after he found out about the agreement with the former tenant after his father had told him about the “Right of First Refusal” agreement that he had signed with Jayson Slattery.
Fred thought he could get the right legal advice to help his father. But Jon Stevenson was determined to search for his legal help on his own. He needed to defeat Slattery, in what would be one of the most complicated lawsuits of all time. At least that is what Fred thought as he read the deposition.
Fred’s father hired a lawyer from Riverhead, and he was a Town attorney. He would know the strict laws regarding property rights and questionable legally binding agreements. In short, he was going to try to claim trickery in the way Jayson Slatery got Jon Stevenson to agree to and sign such a document. Behind it all, the lawsuit suggested, was criminal intent to defraud a naive man into turning over his entire farm for a pittance.
Fred found out about Jon’s lawyer just before he filed the papers for the lawsuit. He went to Riverhead to talk Jon’s lawyer out of taking the approach of trying to prove criminal intent. The retainer that Jon had given to his lawyer came right out of his bank account; it was all he had left. The last $15,000 from his life savings was now in the lawyers' pocket!
Fred was outraged that a lawyer would require such an amount upfront and immediately suspected foul play. The hired attorney had a rough reputation, and Fred was sure he would not be able to handle the complicated case of property fraud.
Instead, Fred said to his father, “Look, Dad, I know this lawyer who knows the law better than anybody out here! His name is Carl Benencort, and he has a long history of getting agreements thrown out because they were not legal!” Jon Stevenson was not about to go along with his son—a pattern that was well established in the Stevenson family. He did not want to give Fred the satisfaction of saying, “I told you so, Dad!”
“Dad, you can’t get someone to sign something like what you signed without legal involvement! Don’t you see that? This Slattery guy didn’t know what he was doing, and neither did you. It's just that simple, and we need to get you the legal help required to toss out the agreement. It’s not worth the paper it’s written on!”
The argument that ensued was long and painful to Fred as he watched his father lose control. Jon Stevenson became a monster. There were no other witnesses to the fight, but Fred told me later that his father became physical and attacked him. He struck him in the chest, saying to Fred, “I don’t want your pathetic help here, damn it! You don’t know anything about what you are saying. This guy I hired is a top-notch lawyer, and I intend to use his help ‘til I get every penny
back, and all my land too!” Jon’s face was beet red, and his muscular frame was shaking as Fred had never seen before. Jon then went after Fred and grabbed him by the throat.
It took all Fred’s strength to push his father off him. Until the fear of death came into Fred’s mind, he had no desire to harm his father. Now, it was a life and death struggle, and Fred had to hit his father so that he understood that Fred was not going to be his victim. He struck his father in the jaw. Jon’s head swiveled from the blow, and he fell head-long into a pile of hay, nearly hitting his head on the giant tractor tire.
From the time that Fred turned fourteen, he had always towered over his father. That was an issue with Jon, who fought the idea that his son would be a much larger man than he would ever be.
When Fred grew into a 6’ 4” man of eighteen, Jon Stevenson was sure that Fred was not his son—how could Jon Stevenson have fathered a giant of a man, someone who could outdo him in any chore or challenge? No way! He thought: This kid is someone else's, and I can’t imagine whose!
So, in time, Jon Stevenson fought the fight in his mind; his second son was not his, plain and simple. He fought the idea and never gave “the kid” a chance to outshine him.
Jon Stevenson even went so far as to tell Fred that he thought he was not Fred’s father. That put Fred in a position of trying to prove that Jon was his father, even looking for physical characteristics that would match Jon’s.
He knew that his mother’s side of the family had all been tall. Even though he and his father rarely saw his mother’s family after she died, Fred was confident that his father knew he had inherited his height from the other side of the family. The battle over his heritage soon vanished from his father’s mind, but Fred still carried the scar of what his father assumed to be an irredeemable flaw.
Jon Stevenson was a “bandy” little man who stood 5’ 8” at the most, though he was a muscular man who could handle bales of hay better than most men his age, readily throwing a bale from the wagon in the barn to the haymow above his head. Now, he was on the ground at his son’s feet, and he could not tolerate the shame of it all. For the first time in his life, Fred finally had the upper hand where it concerned his father.
Jon Stevenson came to his feet in a quick jump and lunged at Fred again. This time, Fred grabbed his arms and held them. He twisted Jon’s arms behind his back and said in a voice that even he did not recognize, “This is the last time I will ever do anything for you; you have made my life a living Hell, and you know it! Go, do your thing with the lawyer who is just waiting to take you for a ride! Your ignorant, stubborn ways will get you killed one day, just you wait!”
Fred yelled this so loudly that the barn seemed to shake from the old, buried rage that fumed from his mouth. He finally pushed his father away from him and walked out of the barn, never to return.
Jon Stevenson stumbled from the violent push and landed against the barn door. He yelled at his son’s back, “Don’t you ever come near me again! I don’t need you in my life—you have only been a burden for me all these years!!” And Fred just kept walking, hearing the voice he for so long feared. This time there was no fear, only the dark resentment that he felt in his frame, in his blood as it pulsed through his bruised neck. The anger that he had pushed down for so long was coming out his nose and his ears and his mouth as he no longer held back the sadness and pain.
Neighbors later said his howls resounded a mile away. They heard the yelling and the shouting but knew nothing of the anguish felt between these two men. They only felt the high emotion that moved through the dusk as the rage between Fred Stevenson and his father rose to a crescendo unmatched by any other conflict in memory.
So, much later, when Fred had left the farm and headed to Southampton to try to distill this horrible interlude with his father, he had no idea that Jayson Slattery was heading in the other direction, toward Sagaponack to confront Jon Stevenson. Perhaps they passed each other on the highway. Perhaps they would each know the real strength of this old farmer by the end of this day.
Fred drove quickly to Southampton. He had to talk to someone; he should go to the little church that meant so much to him in his youth. Perhaps he would go there and find solace, peace.
As Fred walked through the heavy wooden church doors and saw the candle burning on the narthex, he felt a warmth come over him. Maybe the heat from the candle? It was huge, and there were smaller candles next to it. He knew that he could light a candle for someone, say a prayer, and light a candle. Maybe he needed to do that for his father. As soon as he burned the candle, he felt an enormous rush of emotion. He had an understanding of his father for the first time.
Fred had a conversion; He was, for the first time, able to fully and completely see what his father was suffering. It wasn’t complicated, nor was it awe-inspiring. It was pure knowledge, an understanding of his father's simple life.
Jon Stevenson lived his life for his family’s legacy. He lived his life only to pass along what was passed along to him. The 120-acre farm was a life mission of sorts. It was a marker for the history books, an identifier saying: Here too was a man who came through a long family line. He passed along the message that there was a man who struggled and fought for the right to live on the land, to farm it and raise crops. He also had a family to think of until the time comes where Fred shall pass the torch.
Well, now there is no longer something to pass along. It is gone, dead, and forever a monumental loss. No one can make it easier; no one can appease the lost pride or assuage the pain.
Jon Stevenson may have been the last in the line to carry forward his charge. His mission lay in ruins at his feet, and his anger burned in his soul.
Now, sitting in the sacred silence, Fred felt the fear again. This time it raised the hair on his head and arms. He saw what could happen, and he had to get back to the farm; he had to get there to stop what he feared was about to take place. He needed to stop something that no one could stop if it were allowed to unfold.
Fred rushed to his pickup and jumped into the cab and started the engine. He only closed the door after he was already well on his way, pushing the truck at a rate he had never driven it before. He had to get to his father; he had to stop his father from doing something foolish.
“What did you think was going to happen?” I interrupted his dialog, so fearful for Fred and his poor father. “I was sure he would end it if I didn’t get to him in time—My foolish pride got to me, and I was not even thinking of what I would say to my Dad!” Fred’s hands were now anxiously twisting as he proceeded with his story.
The road was dark now, and the truck was racing at a rate of speed Fred never had driven. He didn’t slow down, even running the red light at the monument in Bridgehampton. People can wait..I have to get to my Dad!
There were so few cars on the road that night, Fred had no problem getting to the farm in record time. He jumped out of the pickup truck just inside the gate to the barn-yard, calling his father’s name as he ran to the house.
Nothing. No one was there. The barn was empty, too, and Jon’s pickup truck was gone.
Only now did Fred begin to calm down, thinking that his father probably went to Sag Harbor as he did many times after dark. Jon had a favorite place to hang out there in the Village. It was the Corner Bar, a rowdy place where all of his friends hung out to drink their beer.
Fred started to feel a little foolish, but just to make sure he was right, he went to Sag Harbor to see if he could see his Dad’s truck. It took him a while to get there. Traffic was heavy on the Sag Harbor Bridgehampton Turnpike, and he couldn’t speed as he had out on the highway. There was the truck, right where Fred thought it would be. It sat silently in the darkest part of the street, a shroud of dust and dirt covered the hood and the roof.
Fred thought to himself, “I should have known! This guy is not about to do himself in—he has so much vigor he would never think to do something so crazy.”
Then Fred drove to his favorite bar in Sagaponack. The Old Stove Pub had been there for so long that it was a real fixture, a place where Fred would go for an excellent Greek meal when he had nothing else to do. The bar there was always full of both city people and locals. He loved the environment. It felt like home to him. The Greek owner and his wife ran the joint and served the best traditional Moussaka and lamb chops with chopped cucumbers and yogurt. Fred had spent many a long evening in this old farmhouse-turned-restaurant, and he loved it as if it were his only anchor in his hometown. He ate more meals here than he did at the farm.
He sat at the bar and looked around the room. Then he saw a face he didn’t think he would ever see again.
As he sat facing the door, a man walked in with another man. Jayson Slattery had not changed a hair on his head since Fred first met him so long ago. He looked fit and handsome. There was an air about him that reminded Fred of a magazine ad. Slattery seemed in a jovial mood as he greeted the owners and took a special seat in the dining room. He must be a regular here, Fred thought to himself.
The man who came through the door with Jayson Slattery was a very tall thin man. He had a fedora or some such hat on his head, and he was also wearing the biggest overcoat Fred had ever seen."