PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Keith Rommel’s latest novel, The Devil Tree, based on the Port St. Lucie, Florida legend is has been released in hardcover.
About the Book:
Back in the 1970s, a series of bizarre incidents occurred at what has since been known as “The Devil Tree.” Beneath this ancient denizen, evil was wrought by a sick serial killer, calling upon forces most evil and dark. People were hung there … and bodies buried there … exhumed by the police. Overcome by superstition, some tried to cut down the tree, to no avail. Since then, it has stood in a remote section of a local park — left to its own devices — quiet in its eerie repose — until now!
Best-selling psychological-thriller author Keith Rommel has imagined the whole tale anew. He’s brought the tree to life and retold the tale with gory detail only possible in a fiction novel. Action-packed, with spine-tingling detail, this thriller is beyond parallel in the ground it uncovers … one author’s explanation of what may have really been said — what may have really happened — under Port St. Lucie’s “Devil Tree.”
The big oak tree had crooked limbs that reached for the sky and a trunk over twenty feet in circumference. The thick canopy above blocked the midday sun, making the air seem ten degrees cooler than the scorching ninety-degree heat beating down from the hot Florida rays.
Port Saint Lucie was a quiet town and seemed to be a world within its own. Dirt roads and cheap housing had the allure to invite northern folks in hopes of escaping the bustle of city life, high costs of living, and the brutal cold winters that took their toll on the mind, body, and spirit.
For Marion, so far the change of pace was nothing short of perfect. The house she lived in was beautiful, her neighbors were pleasant; the air seemed cleaner and the sky a different kind of blue.
Looking at the ground surrounding the oak tree, she thought it the ideal spot to have a picnic with her two children, Bobby and Judy. She had Bobby carry the white and red checkered sheet, which was folded into a neat and manageable square. Judy helped by carrying the wicker picnic basket but struggled with the weight. Neither her mother or her brother offered to help her because she insisted she could do it and didn’t want help from anyone. Headstrong and full of temper, she was a handful.
Marion fiddled with a transistor radio and tried to get a clear signal so they could listen to music while they spent some quality family time on this perfect day out.
“Right here,” Marion said to Bobby, pointing at the flat ground underneath the giant oak. She mopped the sweat from her brow and looked up the hulking trunk and into the intricate weave of branches that was marvelous to the eyes. Spanish moss hung down, and if it wasn’t daytime the oak might have left the impression of a creepy Halloween prop.
Bobby placed the blanket down and did a fine job of getting all the wrinkles out of it. Marion assisted Judy in placing the basket down on the corner of the blanket, and although she didn’t say so, Marion thought she was thankful for the assistance.
She kicked off her shoes and stepped onto the squares and sat cross-legged. The ground was soft enough, and a coolness from the soil seeped up through the blanket, adding to the relief of being out of the direct sunlight.
“Yes, this is perfect,” Marion said, and the radio caught the marvelous chorus of “Norwegian Wood” by The Beatles. “Put your shoes off to the side before you step on the blanket,” she told the children. “I don’t want you tracking dirt all over the place before we eat.”
The kids did as they were told and Marion looked around, admiring the spot she had chosen. It was the first time she had been to this particular part of town and was glad she’d come across it. She had seen a couple of fishermen on her way in, tugging on the invisible lines they had cast and drinking Blue Ribbon beer. The men had looked over their shoulders at the sound of her car, but she had pulled far enough into the oversized lot that she couldn’t see them from her space.
The water in the canal looked clean enough to cool their feet if they needed, and the flow of water was slow enough that it posed little to no threat of sweeping them away. But she would decide whether or not they would go into the canal after the children had eaten and if they behaved well enough.
Bobby and Judy sat on the blanket, their legs folded Indian-style just like their mother. Bobby’s face lit up as he admired the giant oak and the things that dangled over him.
“Do you think I can climb it when we’re done eating?”
Marion thought about it. There was no question the tree was strong enough to hold him. But the sharp angles of the branches and clumps of Spanish moss made her nervous. She’d heard something about there being chiggers in moss. Despite the warm weather, she shivered just thinking about those nasty biting mites.
“I don’t know, Bobby, let Mommy think about it,” she said but already knew the answer to be no. She just didn’t want to start the picnic on a negative. “Let’s eat some lunch then afterward I’d like to go down to the water there and have a look. Maybe we can get our feet wet.”
“Neat, Mom,” Bobby said.
Static filled the Zenith 500 transistor radio, and Marion fiddled with the small dial, delicately turning it until the tuning was sharp. The Beatles came back to life and she couldn’t help but sing along in an emotional whisper.
She opened the basket and handed Bobby and Judy their bologna sandwiches, which were cut into fours. The children placed them into their laps and ate neatly and with manners.
“How did you find this place, Mom? It’s really neat,” Bobby said and was unable to keep his eyes out of the canopy. The tree seemed to invite him up the hefty trunk and into the tangle of branches. The vantage point from up there must be spectacular, he thought, and he bit into his sandwich with an ailing whine in an attempt to sway his mother’s thinking.
Marion ignored him and continued to take in her surroundings. Their 1966 Studebaker Wagonaire was parked about thirty yards away, cooking in the midday heat. She grabbed her own sandwich and unfolded the foil. As she sat there, taking tiny bites, a sudden chill rocked her body. The cold that came up through the ground and the shade of the giant oak maybe took away too much of the warmth, she decided. Marion looked at her children with the flesh goosed on her arms.
“Are you guys cold at all?”
“No,” Judy said. “It’s nice here. I like it, Mommy.”
“Yeah, Mom, it’s really neat here.”
The Devil Tree
Authored by Keith Rommel
Black & White on White paper
BISAC: Fiction / Occult & Supernatural
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