Friday, December 4, 2015

The Beast of Barcroft by Bill Schweigart

About the Book

The Beast of Barcroft_SchweigartTitle: The Beast of Barcroft
Author: Bill Schweigart
Genre: Urban Fantasy / Horror
Fans of Stephen King and Bentley Little will devour The Beast of Barcroft, Bill Schweigart’s brilliant new vision of dark suburban horror. Ben thought he had the neighbor from hell. He didn’t know how right he was. . . .
Ben McKelvie believes he’s moving up in the world when he and his fiancée buy a house in the cushy Washington, D.C., suburb of Barcroft. Instead, he’s moving down—way down—thanks to Madeleine Roux, the crazy neighbor whose vermin-infested property is a permanent eyesore and looming hazard to public health.
First, Ben’s fiancée leaves him; then, his dog dies, apparently killed by a predator drawn into Barcroft by Madeleine’s noxious menagerie. But the worst is yet to come for Ben, for he’s not dealing with any ordinary wild animal. This killer is something much, much worse. Something that couldn’t possibly exist—in this world.
Now, as a devilish creature stalks the locals, Ben resolves to take action. With some grudging assistance from a curator at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and the crackpot theories of a self-styled cryptozoologist, he discovers the sinister truth behind the attacks, but knowing the Beast of Barcroft and stopping it are two different animals.


Ben attended the next neighborhood meeting at the Barcroft Community House. The neighborhood was in an uproar. The local councilwoman, dressed in a power suit and a brittle smile, attempted to calm the riled crowd. “I hear all of your concerns, but if everyone does their part—”
A tall man with a southern accent stood up. “Ma’am, all due respect, this is bullshit. Let’s call a spade a spade here. We all know the problem is stemming from one individual. The only question is: What are you going to do about it?”

“Again, I empathize with you, but the county can only cite an individual when complaints are made. The individual has thirty days to comply or a fine will be levied.”
It was maddening. After the meeting, Ben introduced himself to the seething tall man by telling him his address. His neighbor’s face went from seething to incredulous. “Wait a minute, you’re the next-door neighbor?”

Ben nodded.

“Brother, why am I just meeting you now?”

It was a legitimate question, Ben thought. It was his first meeting. He had spent the spring traveling back and forth to New Jersey, tending to his ailing father. When his father finally succumbed to the cancer, he suddenly found himself with time to fill and plenty of anger to burn. Since there was no breezy way to tell the man all of that, he said nothing. It was a rhetorical question anyway.
The man put his arm around Ben and yelled, “Lisa, get over here! This is the idiot who moved next door to her!”

That was how Ben met Jim, his best friend in Barcroft.

Jim introduced Ben to the rest of the neighbors on 3rd Street South, who were thrilled to have another join their ranks against Madeleine. They pumped him for information, and Ben was frustrated enough to share everything he knew. They were also eager to gossip about their own horror stories with her. The knot of neighbors pieced together her history for Ben. She had come from Seattle about ten years before, and at first, she was lovely. She was a practicing psychiatrist, until she began self-medicating. Then came harder drugs, eventually leading to her license being revoked. “After that,” said Jim, “she became a licensed raccoon rehabilitator.”

“Is that even a thing?” asked Ben.
“Whenever a raccoon gets run over or something and leaves behind babies, she takes them in. How you get a permit for this in Arlington, three miles from the damn Fourteenth Street Bridge . . .” He threw up his hands.

Jim’s wife, Lisa, a nurse, leaned in. “I’m not supposed to say this, but she comes into my emergency room every couple of months to be treated for animal bites. Raccoons are not friendly.”

A white-haired man named Stuart, tall and stooped, raised his hand to continue where Jim had left off. He had piercing blue eyes, and as he extended his finger to continue, there was just enough of a flourish to capture Ben’s attention and he suddenly remembered seeing the man at the summer block party, performing a magic show for the neighborhood children. He liked him instantly. “With the alcohol and street drugs, she started sideswiping cars. And she fed the birds beyond all common sense. She’d just dump a bag of seed on her front lawn and every chipmunk, rat, and rabbit in the D.C. metro area came to 3rd Street. Foxes too! One turned out to be rabid and the county had to come out and put it down. We all banded together and knocked on her door, begging her to see the light, but she kicked us off her property and put up a fence instead.”

“So that’s why she dumps the seed in her backyard now.”
Stuart nodded.

An older woman who stood just outside the ring of neighbors made a clucking noise. “Fence doesn’t do me a damn bit of good. She runs her garden hose ’round the clock so her critters can have running water. My yard is swamped more often than not.”

“Shit runs downhill,” said Jim.

“And Hazel is definitely in downhill territory,” said Stuart.

“What do you two know? You’re at the top of the block. You don’t have to contend with the rats or the runoff,” she said, then leveled a gaze at Ben, adding, “or the barking dogs.”
Ben looked at his feet. “All the animals stir him up . . .”

“Don’t worry about it, man,” said Jim. “Hazel could hit the lottery and she’d bitch about the taxes.”
Hazel continued, unfazed. “I was having a toilet installed once, and out of the pipes sprang five long, skinny rats. One right after the other. Five long, skinny rats, I tell you . . .” She glared at Ben, relishing her moment in the spotlight.

“Eye on the prize, Hazel,” said Stuart. “What are we going to do?”

“We organize,” said Jim. “We file complaints, one right after another, forever and ever amen. We rotate. At the end of thirty days, one of us files another. Tall grass, rats, bird droppings, whatever. We get our Big Bad Wolf on and we huff and we puff until we blow that goddamn house down. You in, next-door neighbor?”
Ben thought of his house and car, perpetually caked in pigeon shit, and the rat burrows multiplying beneath his fence, eroding the barrier between him and chaos.

“Hell, yeah, I’m in.”

Author Bio

Bill Schweigart is a former Coast Guard officer who has drawn from his experiences at sea to write the taut nautical thriller, Slipping The Cable. Schweigart’s debut is a modern entry to the rich tradition of the sea novel: everyone is confined aboard ship, tensions run high, and the setting itself is deadly, but not nearly as deadly as his characters. If you have ever suffered an impossible boss, ever wanted to fall off the grid and start over fresh, or just wanted to lose yourself in a high seas and high stakes adventure, Slipping The Cable is a must read. Schweigart lives in Arlington, VA, where he is currently finishing his second novel, a supernatural thriller set in the shadow of Washington, DC.