“Welcome to Bellevue, where the mountains meet the sea…”
Harry awakes on a ferry with no memory of how he came to be there. The boat is bound for Bellevue, a place he has never heard of. When he goes ashore, his attempts to leave are thwarted.
Feeling trapped and alone, Harry gradually gets to know and trust some of the locals, and hopes he is on the way to learning the mystery that holds him in this strange seaside town.
But then a series of murders grips Bellevue, threatening Harry’s new friend Xanthe, and renewing Harry’s desperation for answers.
Welcome to Bellevue is a fantasy action and adventure story, from first-time author Seth Robinson and is set to be released this week! While you’re waiting to get your hands on the novel, we’re pleased to bring you an excerpt from chapter two of the novel. You can also take a look at an earlier version of Welcome to Bellevue’s first chapter, published earlier this year.
– I –
My sweaty, slept-in clothes made my mind up for me. I couldn’t stomach the idea of taking a shower then putting them back on, so I went down to the bar, hoping I could get directions to a new wardrobe, or at least a laundry.
There were more people in the bar now – maybe ten or so, mostly sitting in pairs and sipping drinks. There was a young red-headed guy in a bad suit and tie tickling the ivories, playing what he probably thought was smooth, ‘inoffensive’ dinner jazz. Really, it was elevator music. Dean was at the bar, shaking up a couple of late-afternoon cocktails. ‘Feeling rested and shipshape, Harry?’
I was caught off guard by his enthusiasm. ‘Feeling alright, I suppose. Is there somewhere around here where I could pick up some fresh clothes? Like a Target or something?’
Dean chuckled in that mystical, all-knowing way that bartenders have. ‘No Target, but if you take a stroll down towards the pier, there’s Bailey’s General Store. Nothing fancy, but they’ll help you out. Do you need a map?’
I pulled the one Esther had given me out of my jacket and offered it to him. He drew a little star down by the water. ‘Will they still be open?’ I asked.
‘Yeah, they keep the place open until after sundown. I think they get an evening bait rush.’
I gave him a half-hearted chuckle. The welcoming committee hadn’t been all that informative, but I could already tell Bellevue wasn’t the sort of place that had ‘rushes’. I didn’t think it would hurt having Dean onside either – who better to answer questions than the local bartender? ‘Hey Dean, this might sound like a bit of a silly question, but it’s all been a little hazy lately. Where is Bellevue?’
‘You missed the sign?’ He chuckled, ‘It’s where the mountains meet the sea. Most beautiful place on Earth.’
I wanted to say, ‘Is this like, Canada, or France, or what?’, but decided I was going to have to change tack. It seemed like discretion might be the better part of valour. I settled for, ‘You know, I’ve never been out of the country before.’
‘Is that so?’ I nodded. Dean didn’t add anything. He just stood there smiling, his arms folded.
‘Yeah, I guess I’m a bit of a homebody.’ I glanced at the clock above the bar. ‘Is that still on New York time?’
‘It’s Bellevue time, holiday time. Take it easy Harry, you’ve got to slow down from that big city pace.’
Surely, surely, he was being intentionally infuriating. No one was actually that vague. I opened my mouth to say something else, to challenge Dean, when a soft kick at the base of my stomach – a literal gut feeling, if you will – told me I’d be wasting my breath. It felt like Dean and I were running lines, like everything the bartender said had been pre-planned. Knowing I’d get a canned response, I decided that I’d pushed hard enough, for the moment. I turned away and made for outside. It felt like I’d managed a little victory, that I’d crossed a border. I knew what was happening, and I’d managed it without looking like a crazy person.
Is that so?
I was in the lobby when I realised what a nothing statement that was. Dean hadn’t given me anything. The cool press of the afternoon air met me at the Timberlane’s front door. It wasn’t the same ocean cold I’d felt on the way in – this was crisper mountain air – but I had a feeling it could be plenty mean if it wanted. I’d need to get myself a heavier jacket. Between the mountains and the sea – that prime bit of real estate the town was so proud of – Bellevue’s climate seemed to be on the nippy side of fresh. There were people out on the streets now too, enough that it no longer felt like a ghost town. I smiled at a middle-aged woman in a coat as she walked past with her beagle, and an elderly couple who were enjoying coffee on their porch. In both cases I got friendly, reciprocal smiles, but nobody seemed inclined to chat.
I reached the cobblestoned main street near the water and checked my map. Dean’s star was closer to the northern end of town. There was a café, a second-hand bookstore, a bakery and a photography studio with signs advertising same day development and holiday portraits – apparently the people of Bellevue still used film.
Bailey’s was a long, low building with a wooden front. The store’s name had been pasted up in green vinyl across the front windows and there were a couple of teenagers hanging out near the door. One was leaning against a pillar, blowing pink gum bubbles as he watched his friend battle the cobblestones on a skateboard.
Growing up in New York, in the best-case scenario that gum would have been a cigarette. In the worst, well, that was likely to be a horror show the kids in Bellevue couldn’t even imagine. I actually found the scene kind of charming – these kids were so far removed from my own experience. Growing up in a place like this must have been so peaceful. I imagined kids riding their bikes at twilight and going fishing off the pier. Hopefully Bellevue was a little bit more Stars Hollow than Derry.
I tried smiling at the two teenagers as I passed, but they were both practicing the sullen, dull-eyed disinterest they would be refining for the next three years. For a small town, no one seemed very interested in newcomers. Deciding it wasn’t worth trying to talk to them, I pushed the door open and stepped into Bailey’s, pleased to hear the merry jingle of a good old-fashioned bell above the door again.
Bailey’s was a bubble of warmth with its wooden floors and wall panelling, and rows of neatly ordered shelves and tables. My guess was that the furniture had all been cut from the pines on the ridge, the same as the building and every other building in Bellevue –with the exception of the stone hotel, which seemed to have been hewn from the mountain. They were a resourceful bunch.
‘Hello.’ A man with bottle cap glasses and an electric shock of grey hair peered over the top of a mechanical cash register.
‘That’s me, same as the name on the door.’
‘And I guess maybe it was your dad’s store before you? All the way up to his grandad, right?’
‘That’s right.’ Bailey smiled knowingly. ‘I take it you’re staying up at the hotel? Already met Dean?’ I nodded. My snark seemed to go over his head, or perhaps he was choosing to ignore it. I got the feeling that irritation wasn’t on the list of approved emotions in Bellevue. ‘Well, I suppose I’ll have to thank him for another referral next time he’s down this way. What can I do you for, Mister …?’
‘Harry. And clothes, please. Seems I didn’t pack appropriately.’
‘Folks seldom do,’ he said without irony, as if strangers just appearing in town was a regular Sunday. He came around the counter and gestured theatrically to the back of the store. There were several racks of clothes, along with a curtained booth off to the side. ‘If we’ve got it, it’s here on the racks. We’ve got most sizes, so ya should be able to find something that suits. We don’t really stock evening wear or anything fancy like that, but Bellevue isn’t that fancy a town anyway.’
Bailey left me to it, and I spent ten minutes digging. It was a far cry from Target – Dean hadn’t been lying – but I came away with two pairs of blue jeans, three T-shirts, a corduroy overshirt and a fleece-lined bomber jacket. It was the latter I was most excited about – just looking at it warmed me up. I folded my new clothes into the basket Bailey had left outside the changing room, except for the jacket. I put that baby on then and there – I’d wear that home. Well, back to the hotel anyway.
I did a lap of the store and was pleased to find a new notebook in the stationery section. It was the last one on the shelf, one of those black-and-white mottled ones that schoolkids are always carting around. It was small enough to fit in my pocket, which was perfect. I stuck the notebook and a box of 2B pencils in the top of the basket and grabbed a toothbrush, razor and shaving cream before making one last pit stop in the map section. It was sparse. In fact, there was only one map on offer, the same freebie Esther had given me at the visitor centre. ‘Surprise, surprise,’ I muttered.
‘Do you need a hand with something?’ Bailey called from a couple of rows over. It was the first thing he’d said since I had gone to try on clothes.
‘I was just wondering if you had any more maps?’
‘There should be a stack there, isn’t there?’
‘Of the town map, yeah, but I meant more like a state map or something.’
‘Oh, sorry. We must be fresh out.’
Oh yeah, Gramps, fresh out my ass.
‘I’ll even take an atlas. Or … a birdwatching guide?’
Bailey frowned. ‘Uh, no. I’m afraid we don’t have any of those either.’
I peeked over the top of the aisle. He continued to count stock by the counter, seemingly unfazed by my interrogation. I grabbed my basket and returned to the front counter to pay for my haul. I reached for my wallet, then froze, hand stuck in the back pocket of my jeans.
My wallet …
Driver’s licence. Credit card. Library card. The little leather folder was a freakin’ catalogue of plastic with my name on it! How had I not thought of that before? I jerked the wallet from my pocket and flipped it open. The little plastic window where my driver’s licence should have been was empty, as was every other card slot. The wallet was completely devoid of any kind of ID. It was worn like I’d been carrying it for years, but there was nothing of mine in there. Its only contents were a stack of hundreds, as though I’d sold my identity for what must have been at least three grand.
‘Everything alright there?’
‘Fine, thanks,’ I smiled.
Bailey folded each item carefully and stacked them neatly in a brown paper bag.
‘Come by again soon. We always love new faces around here.’ The old man’s eyes twinkled like a cartoon character’s – there wasn’t a shred of sarcasm. I realised then that our ten-second chat might have been the highlight of his day, and I felt guilty.
‘Will do.’ I forced an unconvincing smile. He was a nice, old-timey man with old-timey manners, but I couldn’t help but feel he was blocking me. It felt like everyone I’d encountered so far was blocking me, either intentionally or through ignorance.
Big-city guy with his big-city attitude. You’re gonna have to check yourself, Harry. That won’t get you very far here.
I could imagine the sniggers and eye rolls every time I left a room. This time, when the bell rang as I opened the door, it sounded like a jibe.
I had to get out of this place.
The cover art for Welcome to Bellevue was conceived by Christopher Allan and Anna Nechkina, and designed by Stevie Troy.
Cover photography by Stevie Troy.