Sometimes I arise at the dead of night
And take the clocks and stop them, every one.
—Der Rosenkavalier, Act 1
Thank you for reading The Last Handful of Clover! Book Two: Gifts Both Light and Dark will begin on Tuesday. The following “front matter” will appear in the printed book.
First, this book would not have been possible without the love of my family, who were exceptionally tolerant and supportive during the five-year writing process. Hopefully, they will forgive all the little details of our lives together that have made their way into this story! Special thanks go to: Yvon Goguen, Etienne Brossard and Rocco Renda.
I am grateful to la Collection nationale in le Grand Bibliothèque de Montréal, which provided me an unparalleled environment for writing—at least until COVID sent us all home. Still, most of this book was composed in a cubicle of their magnificent reading room, and I hope to return there very soon.
A very special thank you goes to my inspiration, mentor, muse, and angel (although not the kind of “angel” in this book). My wish is that every writer should be lucky enough to have a friend and colleague with such insight, wisdom, skill, love, and heart. Thank you, Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz!
And last (but certainly not least), thank you to my “Founding Patrons,” who showed awesome faith in me and my work by joining my Patreon page for the initial release of this novel, even before the first chapter was available. I’m so grateful to each one of you!
Bob koshin Hanson
Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz
Rodney Wilder, Jr.
The poem excerpt in Book 1, Chapter 38, is from Henry Scott Holland: “Death is Nothing At All.” Emily Dickinson’s line in the same chapter is from her poem number 479: “Because I could not stop for Death.”
Map 1: The Hereafter
Map 2: Downtown Salt Lake City
Synopsis of Book One: The Hereafter
Three days after he was shot in his own home, Richard Pratt (57) returns to the world of the living. As he struggles to make sense of the strange netherworld in which he finds himself, his much younger partner Keith Woo (32) struggles to cope with the grief that comes from having his partner of ten years die in his arms.
But Keith and Richard are not the only ones dealing with tragedy. In fact, all of Salt Lake City is slowly falling under the grip of a spree of violence whose scope is only starting to penetrate the consciousness of the city residents.
On the same night that Richard returns, airman Bradley Seward (40) brutally attacks a dozen teenagers in a suburban theater. In the aftermath of the killings, we meet two more ghosts: Mattie Sowersby (8) and Billy Travers (15). Mattie is a dark and evil presence who possessed Bradley Seward and used his body to murder the theatergoers, and Billy is her guardian, who has been helplessly following her since they both died in 1857.
Meanwhile, Richard Pratt is struggling to stay sane as he must bear witness to his grieving lover while being unable to communicate or interact with him at all. After a day of this, and suffering from overwhelming grief and panic, he finally flees from the home they had shared.
It is in a park near to their home that Richard encounters Mattie, the first ghost he has seen, and welcome proof that he is not completely alone. But unfortunately, the mad little girl flees from him, leaving him lonelier and more confused than ever. In a desperate rush to return to his husband, a delivery vehicle strikes Richard in the street—his ghostly body shattering like glass. This is how he learns that ghosts can be “reset”—a painful and terrifying process which returns him to the location where he died.
What he does not know is that Billy Travers (who was following Mattie) witnessed his reset. Sensing that there is something unusual and powerful about this new ghost (but not understanding who he is or where he died), Billy sets off on a quest to find him.
Meanwhile, in the Salt Lake Detention Center, we meet Howard Gunderson (22): the young man who shot Richard Pratt through the front window of his home. It is a crime that he doesn’t remember, and he fears for his own sanity. Carla Grayson (47), the detective that is overseeing the investigation, is fascinated and moved by the vulnerability of the boy, and his desperate confusion about what is happening to him. After Carla’s departure from his cell, we learn that, like Bradley Seward, Howard committed his crime because he was possessed by a ghost. This one is named Justin Kimball (18), and he returns to possess Howard again, in a brutal act of domination and humiliation.
Justin is obsessed with Richard Pratt, after having been used and betrayed by him in life, decades earlier. But his possession of Howard only started out as a need to use the boy as a random tool to enact his revenge. Now, he has become obsessed with the young man. And in possessing him more than once, he is defying a strange and powerful presence that calls itself God, and whom Justin has sworn to serve.
Now back in his house, Richard struggles between a desire to stay with Keith, and the pain that comes with watching his partner grieve his death.
Helping his husband through his mourning are Keith’s two best friends: Michelle (33) and Pil Kilani (38). Michelle grew up with Keith, and Pil is a huge Maori man from Hawaii that Michelle met on her LDS mission. The bond among these three friends has always been strangely powerful and has only grown through the tragedy of Richard’s death less than a week before.
Richard accompanies the three friends to a funeral home, where Keith must make some of the final arrangements. Richard is disturbed to learn that his corpse is in the mortuary’s basement, and he accompanies Pil and Keith down into the meditation room, where Keith wants some alone time with his late husband. There, Richard has the surreal experience of gazing at his own coffin.
There is an old woman in the room with them, who Richard believes is an attendant. But she is another ghost named Tuilla (82), who is an old Goshute woman that was murdered by the Mormons in 1847. She watches Richard silently, but with great interest.
A few days later, Richard accompanies Keith and his friends to a hearing for the man who is accused of his murder. This is his first chance to see Howard Gunderson, who he has by now heard much about. But during the hearing a strange thing happens: Howard suddenly convulses, throws the table he’s sitting at across the room, and violently lunges down the aisle of the hearing room. Richard only has time to register that the young man is rushing directly toward Keith with murder in his eyes. Luckily, Pil smashes the attacker with a well-placed blow to the chest, and Richard is shocked that the boy appears to split into two as he hits the floor. Howard Gunderson is lying on the floor of the hearing room, and next to him is Justin Kimball: the boy Richard loved and wronged decades earlier, and who he believes committed suicide. Justin clearly sees and recognizes his old lover, and Richard simultaneously realizes that the young man is a ghost. Justin snarls at him with hatred and darts from the hearing room, with Richard in pursuit.
Outside, before Richard can approach Justin, a hand darts out and grabs his wrist. It is the first time Richard has been touched since his death, and it shocks him into silence. He turns to see an equally shocked teenage boy standing at his side.
It is Billy Travers, who has finally tracked down Richard after his reset. Both are amazed that they can touch each other, and Billy quickly drops Richard’s wrist. Billy refuses to explain who he is, but he asks Richard to come with him. And although Richard is torn between wanting to approach Justin, and wanting to be with Keith, he finally decides that only Billy has the answers he seeks.
He follows the boy from the courthouse grounds.
The Last Handful of Clover is a supernatural thriller by Wess Mongo Jolley. Thanks for reading! If you are enjoying this story, please consider supporting the author on Patreon.
For more information (including maps of the story’s world and a contact form) visit the author’s website.
To read previous chapters of this book, go to the Table of Contents page.
If you’re interested in listening to the book, rather than reading it, the audiobook is available at the Patreon link above, and also as a podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Anchor, and all other podcast platforms. Visit the podcast page for more details.
Copyright 2021, Wess Mongo Jolley. All rights reserved.