NOVEL – COMING SOON
CHAPTER 2 – SHADOWLAND – AN EXCERPT
Over a thick wooded forest and crystal clear blue lake, a huge old fashioned yet strangely contemporary mansion sat on 2000 secluded acres somewhere in upstate New York. The perimeter of the main house was surrounded by a large and extremely high metal electrocuted fence and only one road went in and out through a steel electrocuted gate in the front. Past that first gate, some half a mile through the woods later was a huge wall and that wall had only one gate going in and out, as well. This was the second check point. On each side of that last gated driveway were two towers, each tower was manned with two armed guard, who were on duty 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Once inside the two guarded gates the driveway eventually snaked up to the estate itself, which was surrounded by huge flowery gardens, stretching green hills, thick woodlands and large white gazebos to name a few of the illuminating sights upon first glance. The scope of the enormous emerald lawn surrounding the mansion gleaned deep green and seemed to roll forever behind the mansion like castle itself. Further back, past the green grass were the vast wonderlands of choppy fields, swamps, trees and thickets as far as the eye could see. This was Fantasy Island inland. This was a world off the grid, a world in which had been reported even generated its own electricity. This was Shadowland, the myth, the legend. Rumors have often swirled as to its actual existence and the question still remained, because very few ever get a peek inside.
The owner, William J. Stanton III sat on a lawn chair under an enormous umbrella in his enormously well groomed grassy backyard with a double barrel Krieghoff Optima Drilling $12,000 12-gauge shotgun casually draped over his lap. I had spoken with the editor of Simon, who contacted another man. That man contacted me the next day and soon after we met at a small café in Los Angeles. A day after our meeting the man I met referred me to a P.O. Box at the downtown Los Angeles Post Office, in which contained an envelope Inside the envelope was a note, a cell phone, a stack of cash and one plane ticket. The note said:
Dear Jack Pratt,
Mr. William J. Stanton III would like to hire your services to write his memoir. Please arrive at his place of residence at the address xxxxxxxxx. Enclosed is a plane ticket and a stipend of $5,000 in get around money. A car will be waiting for you at xxxxxxxx Airport when you arrive. Mr. Stanton III expects you in two days on the date of xxxxxxxxx to arrive at his residence at noon promptly. I will meet you at the airport and our car will take you right there. You will stay at Mr. Stanton III place of residence. If you do not wish to take on this opportunity and job then please phone me A.S.A.P at 555-1313…if you wish to accept this offer then press the send button in the cell phone included in the envelope.
I had my skepticism but decided to take the job. After a long flight, in which I packed light I was now sitting two feet behind William J. Stanton III, as instructed. Behind both of us, some thirty yards away was Pablo sitting on a lawn chair. Pablo was dressed in oversized baggy dungarees, red Fila shoes, two gold chain crosses and a wife beater T shirt. Pablo was twenty and had just gotten into this country two years ago. His English was improving William J. Stanton III told me and at the end of the week, he would likely be let go for reasons he didn’t explain. He would tell me later that Pablo had one task here.
“You met Warren, which is not his real name mind you?” William J. Stanton III said to me.
“Stocky guy? Yeah we talked.”
“After you leave here, a car will take you to the Waldorf where you will rest for the night. Tomorrow a car will pick you up and take you to La Guardia once more. Warren will then fly with you back to Los Angeles where a meeting has been arranged. He will handle everything, but you will accompany his and record or write what you see. Got it?” he went on. “There will also be a videographer documenting the event.”
“Yeah, I got it. Can I ask what the meeting pertains to?” I said.
William J. Stanton III was wearing hunting boots, a New York Yankees baseball cap, khaki pants, and a white T-shirt under a hunting vest completely filled with shotgun shells. On his hands were thin high end rubber tipped shooting gloves.
“I have a deal lined up with some fringe companies and a cable channel. I am starting my own broadcast network, TV, syndicated radio, print and social Media. It will be called The Truth Network, where we will focus on the truth, something different than what we see and hear on every other channel!” William J. Stanton III snapped.
“I see. So you are starting a conservative channel?” I replied.
“Let’s call it The Truth Network, politics are irrelevant here. I refuse to label it. It doesn’t sway one way or the other, it is just the truth and there is always one truth.”
From the back porch, a screen door squeaked open and the butler, someone I would come to know as James Simmons walked slowly down the four small steps and onto a cobblestone walkway. He followed the walkway to the grass and continued toward us. James Simmons carried one silver platter with one can of coke and one rather large plastic big gulp sized cup. James was an older man in his late 50’s or so and had served William J. Stanton III for decades now. He walked slowly and had a big bulky medical boot adorning his right foot along with a protective clump of bandages, plaster and molded plastic. He slowly approached us and William J. Stanton III immediately bounced up swiftly from his lawn chair and quickly shot at two pheasants that took flight from a pile of thick brush some forty yards in front of us. He nailed them both with two precise shots! The quick sudden blasts didn’t startle James Simmons one bit. He was steady, like a rock. The birds fell dead in unison to the ground in a two soft thuds. James Simmons was dressed in a black suit, white sterile gloves and a white dress shirt. He gave William J. Stanton III the large drink, which is this – gin, gin, more gin and some grapefruit juice.
“You’re drink has arrived sir,” James Simmons declared tactfully.
“Thank you James my good man. God damn! I always drink my breakfast!” he said to me. “Good to see ya James! And how is that wretched foot coming along?” William J. Stanton III said with weird gusto more so for the drink than anything else. I had seen this behavior before, mostly in seasoned drunks.
“Should be back to normal in about two months, the Doctor said. It seems they have saved the pinky toe.”
“That is good news my fellow patriot! Good god damn good news indeed!” William J. Stanton III gulped his drink, set it down then suddenly turned and fired quick and precise at two brown rabbits that just happen to pop out of the woods. He nailed both of them with two more swift shots. Boom! Boom! They both fell over dead simultaneously. He re-loads his shotgun with two shells from his vest pouch in the blink of an eye. He had obviously done that before.
William J. Stanton III waved his arm towards Pablo, who jumped off his chair and into a golf cart. Then Pablo high tailed it out to the two pheasants some sixty yards away.
James the butler walked over to me and handed me a can of coke.
“Did I ever apologize for shooting you in that damn wretched foot?” William J. Stanton III said drinking, while watching Pablo. Out in the yard…Pablo casually and quickly snapped the necks of the two pheasants ending their suffering and puts them in a bin on the back of the golf cart. He then motored towards the two rabbits.
“I don’t believe you have apologized yet sir,” James Simmons perked up.
“Fair enough. Well take this as a lifelong supply of apologies. I apologize. Now I’ll be needing a refill here shortly, my good man,” he said matter of fact. James expected as much, turned and slowly headed back down the cobble stone walkway to the mansion. William J. Stanton III then swiftly jumped up again and shot two times at a flock of geese that suddenly flew overheard. Pablo, who was out in the yard quickly dove to the ground. Then, just like that, two fat geese fell to the ground not too far from Pablo’s golf cart. William sat back down with a grin of accomplishment…fine shooting as usual his expression seemed to convey. He gulped his drink with tremendous gusto.
“How about those two?” he said to me.
“Yep, you got them.”
“Well done sir,” James replied without a look, as if conditioned to do so and then continued on his slow and steady way back to the porch even though his boot was difficult to maneuver.
“These dumb birds James! They’re a menace!”
“Yes they are sir,” James said not breaking stride.
“I think we will be having goose for dinner! Notify Pumpkin Patty about today’s new dinner arrangements if you will my good man!” William J. Stanton III yells in James Simmons’ direction.
“Pumpkin Patty…yes…as you wish sir,” James Simmons replied opening the porch screen door. William called Pat – Pumpkin Patty because she made the best pumpkin pie in the northern New York area. She also hated the name.
Pablo was racing around the lawn like a lunatic picking up dead animals, twisting their necks and dropping the dead carcasses into a bin on the golf cart. I was amazed at such events. He then raced in front of us another twenty yards away or so to a gazebo, where another Hispanic gentleman named Benny stood in a white chef coat. Under the gazebo Benny feverishly skinned, gutted and processed these various animals. Pablo skid sideways and dropped the bin onto the table and peeled back out. He wheeled behind us, parked the golf cart back by his lawn chair, took a sip of water and waited once again like a ball boy at a tennis match.
Benny grabbed a huge knife and cut the heads off of the two geese. He then hung the carcasses onto metal hooks and began to rip the feathers off. He was efficient in his movement. When he was done, he threw the geese carcasses into a sink and began to gut them. He washed them clean and inspected them once more and when the carcasses passed this final inspection he then quickly vacuum-sealed the dead geese into a plastic bag, one for each dead goose. After that he put them into another bin and continued that process for the rabbits and pheasants. This whole process was quick and when that bin was half full, he walked the bin down the cobblestone walkway and set it on the back porch, where another man took them inside the house to put into freezers.
“I’m buying a media company and we will be on TV and print newspapers!” William J. Stanton III said. “As you know the media is left and full of shit. My company will be the monkey wrench in their gibberish!”
“It will take more than money. It will take know how. That is partially why you were hired.”
“So not to write your memoir?”
“Not just yet, but eventually if all goes well. Right now, you are in charge of the print division of my newspaper and you will on board to point this media juggernaut in the right direction. We need a truth seeking media channel and I will deliver it!”
“I can’t stand watching this country I love be slandered in the eyes of public opinion! Fuck those cocksuckers!”
Carlo, a Greek man took the bin into the house, past the Taj Mahal like living room and just past the kitchen. There was a walk in freezer door. The Meat locker had hundreds of shelves and he walks along the many marked shelves, “A,” “B,” “C,” “D,” and he soon came to “G.” He opened the bin, pulled out a vacuum packed freezer bags and places it on a shelf next to twenty seven other frozen vacuum sealed plastic bags marked “Goose” and wrote the date. He stacked them in back and did the same thing for the rabbits and pheasants.
And now, a little history: In 1912, the great grandfather of William J. Stanton III became one of the founders of The Phillip Norris Tobacco Company. Back then, William J. Stanton invented the filter tip in which was put onto the ends of non-filter cigarettes. This created a phenomenon to smokers everywhere and made smoking much safer and healthier or so this was the highly touted advertisement claim at the time. His patent and invention soon revolutionized the tobacco industry and in 1920, partners George J. Whelan and Rueben Ellis offered William J. Stanton payment for the use of his filter tip invention, which are still on every filtered cigarette in the world today. They offered William J. Stanton, the sum of $200,000 for the use and rights to his patent and invention with no further payment, but William J. Stanton in keen mind turned that contract down in favor of stock shares. Since his invention would be at the end of every cigarette that was filtered, which made up over 90% of the cigarettes at Phillip Norris, he demanded 60% of all the shares of Phillip Norris stock, but settled on a counter offer of 49%.
His salary at Phillip Norris was $15,000 a year, which in 1925 was a handsome salary, but it was his shares of stock that began to take off in value. As Marlboro became the staple American cigarette, each with Stanton’s own patented filtered tip attached, the company grew exponentially and William J. Stanton stepped out of the business in 1935 at the age of 45 and then proceeded to live off the vast interest from his stock. Ironically he died in 1952 from lung cancer, leaving his son, his fortune. His son had another son and it was in 1970 with the introduction of the “light” cigarette, purchase of The Miller Brewing Company and subsequent purchase of General Foods, that Phillip Norris became the leader of all tobacco based products as well as one of the most expensive and most lucrative companies in all the world. Suddenly Stanton’s shares of stock rose drastically. William J. Stanton’s grandson was sole heir to the Stanton fortune, which in 1988 quadrupled again due to Phillip Norris buying Kroft Foods. From there, they have purchased many other corporations and currently have ten multi-billion dollar companies all under the Phillip Norris International brand. Of all this, William J. Stanton III currently owns 40%, which translates to 40% of all the companies under The Phillip Norris International brand as well. He has bought off Forbes and other magazines to not include him in their annual list of the world’s wealthiest people, in which he’d be right at the top. No question about it. Instead, he prefers to fly under the radar and for good reason. There is no estimating how much William J. Stanton III’s estate and inheritance is really worth, but it’s safe to say that owning 40% of one of the world’s largest corporations in the world can cause you to have quite a few enemies, who time and time again offer to buy him out and cut him loose. But he refuses to sell under his Great Grandfather’s name and his very own birthright. Some have said he is worth 150 Billion and I wouldn’t doubt it. Though, it’s likely more than that. What I would find out was that William J. Stanton III had funding government revolution type money. He had – take a trip to the moon, build a colony and spaceship to come back type money. He had – buy a bunch of islands and a few small countries along the way type money and then some.
So like his Father, Grandfather and Great Grandfather before him, William J. Stanton III was brought up filthy rich and the stories of his adventures, spending sprees and unbridled craziness have since become the thing of legend. For this reason, William J. Stanton III decided to live “off the grid” for personal safety and personal lifestyle. He also hired a large military trained security team, which one hardly sees. He also hired a personal assistant, a security minded bodyguard of sorts, someone trained in weaponry and someone who was also able to multi-task and basically look after him. This man was called John John and yes according to him that is his real name. William J. Stanton III said I will soon meet this mysterious, powerful, tactical genius of sorts.
So as William J. Stanton III briefed me on his vision for this new media company in which would report news honestly and without bias, something that has never been done before, TWO rednecks suddenly walked out of the woods. The first one had a long gray beard, overalls, big dusty black derby hat and puffed a pipe. The other, more robust one was in a flannel shirt and New York Yankees ball cap that looked 50 years old.
“Who the hell is that?” I riffed startled.
“Oh! Pinball what can I do for you?” William J. Stanton III asked as the two men emerged from the woods.
“William, my main man, we are setting up and you keep shooting all over the damn place, and right over our heads! A few shots even came close to blowing up the damn still!” Pinball Charlie said puffing a pipe.
“I won’t hit your still. I’m a trained professional,” William J. Stanton III replied.
“A trained professional of what exactly?” Pinball Charlie added.
“The balls on this wino,” William whispered to me under his breath.
“You are in no danger Mr. Pinball! You have the Stanton guarantee!”
“Well what the fuck does that…” Pinball erupts until Red hit his side prompting him to shut up.
“Say again,” William J. Stanton III said as he reloaded his shotgun. I watched in awe at this bizarre occurrence.
“I said, you hired me and Red here to make you the finest liquor in all the world and we know how to do that, but if you keep shooting at us, it’s bound to cause some problems in the production process if you know what I mean,” Pinball shouted before puffing his pipe again.
“You have my promise that you won’t be shot. I guarantee it and a Stanton guarantee is as good as gold my fellow man. I am highly skilled,” William J. Stanton III went on pretty drunk by now.
“That’s great and all, but do you think you could shoot in the other direction? Just for the heck of it. To make it more challenging, you know what I mean?
“The other direction eh? More challenging…Hmmmm…”
I prayed that he didn’t just shoot them both.
“Not that I doubt your abilities sir, but it’d just make things run a little smoother is all. You know for the top tier drink,” Pinball Charlie added.
“Thank you sir.”
“And how is that booze coming along?”
“Well we buried the still with rocks and some good mud, so looks fine so far. Still need a bunch of sugar, fifteen pounds I’d say for the 120 gallons we’ll make. Other than that, I think we could use some chewing tobacco and cigarettes. The coolers are full, but tobacco could be a problem heading into tomorrow,” Pinball Charlie said looking out standing tall and defiant.
“I will tell James to keep you boys up to your damn gills in tobacco. So how long will it be Mr. Pinball?” William J. Stanton III shouted.
“The hose is in the creek, as we speak, a nice fresh creek with good clean water to cool the worm. Could be six days, could be fourteen days, could be twenty five days, it all depends.”
James finally made it back to William J. Stanton III and stopped. He breathed a bit heavier now.
“You’re drink has arrived sir,” James Simmons said.
“Thank you my good man.” William grabbed it up, handed me a can of coke and a large envelope.
“Oh say James, can you get Pinball and Red here…what did you hillbilly’s want?”
James stopped in his tracks.
“Beechnut chew, about fifteen or twenty pouches would be gravy and say oh about twenty or thirty cartons of Marlboro reds if you can get them,” Pinball Charlie said loudly.
“I will visit The Tobacco Room,” James said nonplus and then hobbled on.
“Yes sir, I am way ahead of you. I am getting you another drink as we speak sir. In fact I will likely be bringing back the whole bottle of Tanqueray,” James added.
“Now you’re thinking ahead my good man! And ice! We must have ice!” William J. Stanton III wailed to the heavens and then quickly rose up again fast and precise. He shot crazily at the sky twice with the shotgun shells and once with the .22 caliber barrel that hung under the double barrels. Then he stopped in awe. I looked up and didn’t see anything. Pinball Charlie and Red looked up too and then they looked at each other, like William was mad. Both their faces said one thing, “what the fuck is he shooting at?”
A grim realization washed over William J. Stanton III. Rumor had it he was “eccentric,” but if you asked me it was more like a “condition,” a condition many lifetime drunks stumble upon.
“Did you get em?” Pinball said like a smart ass.
“Never mind that I am a trained professional and we must practice!” William J. Stanton III shouted, playing off the fact that he was now completely drunk out of his mind. It was 1:30 p.m..
“So just to reiterate, like we were saying, and since we are camping out here in these damn woods for maybe three weeks to a month or who knows how damn long, but we’d really appreciate it and would prefer not to get shot if you follow me sire,” Pinball yelled, but William J. Stanton III wasn’t listening.