When mystery writer Joel Bass opens Chester House for men who have lost their bearings, he cannot comprehend the extraordinary friendships, dramas, and lovers he shares and experiences.
Like the father figure he is, Joel takes Mason Abraham under his wing, welcoming the gay runaway to Chester House. Soon he learns Mason is quite the handful and seeks help from his best bud, Officer Buck Fields.
While keeping an eye on Chester House, Officer Fields also sets his sights on journalist Zac Cramer, who knows all the town's heartfelt and strange stories and doesn't know the cop wants to give him more than a ticket.
Also at Chester House is actor Andy Pass, attractive and alluring Scott Sebold, strange Fell Grind, and Stetson-wearing cowboy Manning Dawn. Who are all These Men, and how do their relationships pan out? Only time will tell.
We didn't talk on the drive along Lake Erie and across Templeton. Awkwardness floated between us, collecting in a deep pool. Honestly, I didn't expect the stranger to open up to me. None of the tenants of Chester House did at first until their third or fourth week. It had always taken them that amount of time before they felt safe, adjusting to the privacy of their rooms, a free bed, food, a bathroom, and quiet. Mason, I told myself, wasn't going to be any different.
I stopped at the red light at the corners at Jenkins and Weston Streets. More Christmas lights decorated the telephone poles. Christmas trees were scattered here and there, proving the festive season. I pointed to a man in front of us who stepped inside the backseat of an Uber and sat down. "That man ahead of us. Do you see him?"
"I do," the stranger in the cab to my right whispered.
"That is a famous man. And very rich."
"Who is it?"
"David Walker. The movie scriptwriter and producer from Hollywood. You ever see any of the Weston Warrior movies?"
"Couple of them."
"He owns the franchise and wrote all eight movies. Plus, he's written and produced probably three dozen other movies. I've lost count. I grew up with him."
"What's he doing here in this small town by the lake?"
"His family lives around here. Rumor has it he's retiring here in Templeton."
The light changed and the Uber pulled out in front of my truck. It made a left and headed toward the lake and Elk Island. I steered the Frontier straight and moved through the green light. "We'll be at Chester House soon. Sit back and enjoy the ride. You're in good hands."
Less than four minutes later I pulled the truck into the drive at Chester House, a three-floor Colonial on the outskirts of Templeton. The place looked like a gingerbread house covered in bright, colorful lights. Two Christmas trees and seven illuminated penguins decorated the front yard. Red and white lights lined all the windows, the eave, and front door of the house.
I pointed to a soaking wet man in his early forties who paced in the front yard. He wore jeans, gloves, a scarf, a winter jacket, and a knit hat. I told the kid to my right, "That man lives in Chester House. He's been here for five years. A great guy. Super nice. He's an actor."
"What's he doing in the rain?"
"His name is Andy. Andy Pass. He's an actor. He's probably going over his lines for an upcoming play. The scene probably takes place in the rain or something like that."
"Interesting," the kid whispered. "There's a Templeton police car here. Is something going on?"
I chuckled and parked the truck beside the city cruiser. "No worries. Let's get you inside. The police car belongs to my best friend, Buck Fields. Like I told you before, you're safe here."
"It's a lot to take in."
"I get that."
We steered our views over at Andy in the front yard. He leaned into the big oak and started talking to himself, or an imaginary someone in front of him. His right hand moved up and down. Then he his voice became louder, his eyes flared and his eyebrows rose.
I told the kid to my right, "Yeah, he's definitely practicing his lines. I'll introduce you to him later. What do you say you take a deep breath and we'll go inside, you can meet Buck, and another tenant named Scott Sebold? Then you can get a hot shower, some food in you, and enjoy a comfortable bed."
Mason nodded. "Thanks, Joel."
"It's what Chester House is here for. Now, let's dodge some raindrops."