Saturday, March 18, 2017


THE SPECTER OF THE BLACK CAT, the fourth book of the Z-Dawg series finds Zack in attack mode deep in the heart of Old Marblehead, Massachusetts. Strange things have been happening. The evil Thaddeus T. Slackbottom has arrived back in town.  And no one’s talking! Church bells ring out and dogs howl at midnight, for no apparent reason, every September 22nd, ever since Wilmot Redd was  hanged as a witch  in 1692.  Nobody can account for why a mangy black cat is stalking the town. In fact, it seems the black cat has been hanging around Abbot Hall for hundreds of years, as long as anyone could remember! Now it seems to be following Zack and his friends, Cory and Bean.  How can that be?  When Zack and his friends find an old box in Bean’s attic, written by Bean’s ancestor, Samuel Martin, admitting to murdering and plundering a ship, for gold and precious jewels, during the Civil War, Zack knows their lives are in danger. Samuel Martin left behind a series of strange riddles.  Can they figure out the
riddles in time?  Because--Thaddeus T. Slackbottom would do just about anything to find out the contents of the box! And time is running out!!!

The Bloody Massacre 1864

Secrets… buried… layer upon layer… piled up and up… until generations of townspeople forgot to remember their past. No one remembered the fall of 1864, over one hundred and fifty years ago, when the worst nor’easter of the nineteenth century buried the tiny town of  Marblehead, Massachusetts deep in snowdrifts. No one remembered… that is… except for the Slackbottoms and the Martins. But they weren’t telling!

One fateful night in 1864, the sloop Sea Lion was on its return trip to Bath, Maine, from Baltimore, Maryland, when its troubles began. The Sea Lion had unloaded its usual cargo of granite at Baltimore, but instead of riding high in the water on its return trip out of Baltimore harbor, it was riding low, laden with illegal gold, silver, and priceless jewels, stashed deep in its belly. The Sea Lion was on a secret mission, financed by rich Southern plantation owners – Confederate sympathizers – in a last-ditch effort to exchange the priceless bounty for rifles, bullets, and cannons. Their intent was to arm the Confederate soldiers, win the Civil War, and change the history books forever after. The sloop was bound for Nova Scotia, still a British colony at the time.
There was a better-than-even chance that history could have been re-written. The Confederates could have won the Civil War, if they had acquired the weapons they so desperately needed. But a secret operation to pirate and plunder, for riches beyond their wildest dreams, was about to take place off the coast of Marblehead, Massachusetts. Having been inadvertently tipped off by a relative of one of the South-sympathizing fishermen, two devious fishermen and their crew of four trusted friends plotted their greedy plan, inadvertently helping turn the tide of war toward victory for the North and thus ending the Civil War. …Under cover of the worst blizzard to ever hit Marblehead this early in the season of 1864, two long-time friends and expert fishermen, Samuel Martin and Mortimer Slackbottom, set about their deliberate plan to pirate the bounty on board, slaughter its crew, and sink the sloop, Sea Lion. They knew the rugged coastline off Marblehead with its jagged rocks and hidden perils like the back of their hands. They both came from a long and proud line of fishermen, dating back to the early-1600s. When the surprise nor’easter reared its ugly head and churned up the seas, the Sea Lion hugged the coastline, and that made their sinister plot that much easier.

It was during that white-out of a nor’easter that the decks of the mighty sloop Sea Lion turned a bright blood-red, in spite of the
pounding rain trying to erase the evidence of evil. It was in the middle of a moonless night with relentless winds whipping sideways across the deck, when a man named Mortimer Slackbottom and a man named Samuel Martin, along with their band of four, committed cold-blooded murder of the worst kind.
They surprised the sloop’s crew of six, wielding knives and swords with the precision of surgeons, slicing throats, and killing everybody on board in a matter of minutes. Not a single bullet was fired.
The victims were frozen in time, their lifeless fingers icy white and tightly gripping the mast or railing in a desperate effort to undo time. Their frozen faces were contorted in unnatural ways, eyes staring straight ahead, captured in a still image, in a death stare. Samuel Martin never forgot that haunting look of surrender, that a person gets at the precise moment of death. After the slaughter, the mangled bodies were heaved overboard, including legs and arms sliced into pieces, strewn about and tangled in the loose ropes of the sails. Into the turbulent seas the bodies went, with precision speed and without conscience – for a bounty of silver, gold, and jewels worth millions of dollars.
They pirated and plundered the ship. Their rough and bloodied
hands scooped up the precious jewels of the wealthy Southern plantation owners, who were desperately hoping to barter their gold and jewels for rifles, cannons, and other weapons to win the Civil War for the South. Quickly, the fishermen-turned-pirates loaded their little fishing boat with as much of the bounty as they could muster, before the rudderless Sea Lion sank, being battered against the rocks in the storm. And then Mortimer Slackbottom suddenly turned against the four friends – committing four more murders in front of Samuel Martin’s eyes, tossing four more bodies into the churning sea! Now down to a crew of two, the men struggled against the wind and the bitter cold of the storm, and rowed ashore into a sheltered cove. The atrocities took place in mere minutes, but it would haunt Samuel Martin for the rest of his life.
And on that fateful night, the good people of Marblehead stayed put in their homes, buried under two feet of snow, waiting out the storm by the fire. It was like a ghost town, and the good people of Marblehead were none the wiser. In the white-out conditions of the blizzard and lashing winds, gusting as high as 80 miles per hour, no one heard the gruesome sounds of plundering and the blood-curdling death screams not that far off the shore.
And all the while, through the killings, through the bounty haul worth millions, through the dumping of the bodies overboard into the salty sea, and for the next twelve years from 1864 onward, Samuel Martin’s conscience ate him up. The boom-boom-booming of his heart raced erratically, a ticking time bomb. He was haunted in his dreams by what he had done with his own hands. He was haunted by the surprised faces of the crew, bloodied and dying on the crimson deck of the Sea Lion, trying to hold onto the rigging, hands frozen in place, faces frozen in a death stare. That sight tortured him relentlessly.
He had never been involved with even a minor crime, never mind a horrific crime that would change the outcome of the Civil War. That’s what kept Martin from insanity, the knowledge that the blood money would prevent the South from buying arms from the British and from winning the war. Martin desperately tried to convince himself that he had had a decisive hand in bringing about an end to this horrific Civil War, which pitted brother against brother. That most noble of thoughts kept him from going insane. Until that fateful day when he actually did – go insane!

No one knew exactly where or even what really happened. For the next 150 years, rumors of buried treasure circulated among the Martins and the Slackbottoms. Other rumors abounded – of a terrible secret that caused a fist-fight between two good friends, and suddenly two families were instant enemies; of the mysterious disappearance of Mortimer Slackbottom, scurrying out of town a few days after the blizzard, to reestablish his family in the South for generations to come; and of the tragic suicide of Samuel Martin twelve years later. Secrets buried.


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