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The Ghost of Bella Lakeside

By John JC Unger All Rights Reserved ©


Chapter 1

The rented Navigator practically flew down the winding two lane Canadian road, pristine Lake Erie flashing every few seconds between the Yank cottages. This was where he had spent two eye-opening summers as a teen; basically becoming a man here, and for the next two glorious months of this 2005 summer, the Oscar nominated actor Chase Derrick would be reliving those days in a rented mansion called Bella Lakeside and doing about as close to nothing as possible. And no one except his trusted manager for the past 25 years, Tom McIntyre, knew about it.

How he needed this.

Though he was one of the fortunate few, the combination of everything had caused him to lose something precious. Whether it was shallow Hollywood...his frantic movie career...the fact that he was almost fifty...the occasional prescription drug use where there had never been any; whatever had caused it, it was time for a break. He’d given McIntyre strict orders not to call, text, or Email and wondered how long that would last. On a normal day they talked at least a dozen times - there were constant decisions a movie star had to make.

Cruising along while trying to catch views of the lake, the memories were starting. This was where he’d suffered his first hangover, lost his innocence, and through a small group of immature but church-raised buddies, managed to learn what real character was all about. The lake was what he’d waited to see the most. With all his success in life he should have been happy but he wasn’t and that was why the on-line pictures of the luxurious B&B on this little island near the town of Kingsville in Southern Ontario had caught his attention.

First of all it would give the privacy he so desperately needed - being a humble farming community that didn’t give two hoots about movie stars, but it also had a European flair, looking like a villa in the south of France. Built in the fifties by a famous inventor, it was hidden away on the island called Sea Cliff and had been completely refurbished and modernized.

The engine purred after the 60 mile workout it had just gone through, coming all the way from Detroit’s Metro Airport, across the majestic Ambassador Bridge to Windsor and then through forty miles of pristine Canadian farmland, and seemed as relieved as him to have reached their destination.

Now he was ready for a wind-down; no bitchy directors and greenhorn executives never satisfied with women hitting on him constantly...not that it wasn’t flattering in his younger days but now, not so much. Most of them were only interested in his screen persona and not him but who the hell was ‘him’ anyway? He didn’t know anymore. He’d been married once in the eighties, and despite what all the tabloids said back then, he never cheated on his wife. But she did cheat on him, and he never got over it. Over time he’d forgiven her; he’d always been off somewhere shooting movies while grocery store tabloids claimed he was having affairs, and it was tough on her. Bruce, Sly, Tom; they’d all gone through this and managed to find the love of a good woman but somehow that had escaped Derrick.

And then there were the drugs. As a teen in the 70s he might have taken a toke now and then but it certainly took no precedence in his life. But as the years passed and his career took off, the pressure to stay on top was overwhelming and sometimes, a little pill took all the stress away. He wasn’t hooked...yet, but he didn’t like the person he’d become and on this trip, he was going to find the old Chase Derrick or bust.

Excitement overtook him now as he crossed the last hurdle, the small cement bridge that arched over the narrow channel separating the golden cornfields of Essex County from the leafy Sea Cliff Island; the holy entrance to two months of comfort and relaxation. On his right was the small marina that harbored mostly boats from across the lake in Ohio and some from Canadian ports of the Great Lakes. He strained to catch a glimpse of the tinted windowed 36 footer rented for his use and as he did, almost lost control of the car.

“Crap,” he shouted hitting the brakes and slowing and then started laughing. What the hell’s your hurry dude? He muttered. Thirty seconds later he was moving slowly under the arching maple trees that lined either side of Bella’s long circular drive, pulling up in front of the mammoth creamy three story building. This castle certainly was impressive and he’d been told it had quite a history.

Hell he’d hung out on the island day after endless teenage day just a few hundred yards from here in the little cantina with his Yank buddies and Bella Lakeside was never mentioned but of course back then they were only interested in the girls coming off their daddy’s boats. And the other thing was it was hidden by an orchard of enormous maple trees; no one could see it.

Stepping out of the car he felt a rush. Everything seemed just like the on-line pictures, the crotched walls, the bushes neatly trimmed; all the golden purple flowers blooming, the long sidewalk leading to the front entrance spotlessly clean. From out of that door now came a middle aged lady in yellow, 60s style dress, hurrying toward him and smiling broadly. He had spoken to Maggie several times on the phone.

“Mr. Derrick, you’re here at last, and how are you?” She said with English accent giving a gentle hug. With that hair style she even looked like Margaret Thatcher.

“Good Maggie! How are you? And how’s that husband of yours?” He’d spoken to Bert also, though she was definitely in charge. Current owners of this property, the couple preferred to live in an apartment above the large garage that stood down the lane and used the main house for rental income. The guest list was impressive as everyone from golfer Gary Palmer to the Governor General of Canada had stayed here over the years.

“Bert is fine, and he’s seeing to the boat right now - wanted to have it ready for you in case you wanted to go out.”

“No, I won’t be going out today, maybe tomorrow.”

“Yes sir, well everything is absolutely fine and we’ve been waiting for you. Last time we spoke you mentioned...Lee Anne was it? Will she be staying with you?”

He knew this was coming. After thirty years of dating some of the most glamorous women in the world, he should have recognized the signs. But he didn’t with Lee Anne. She apparently lost interest and picked up with another actor. He had really liked her too and thought, after six months, they had a nice thing going. Worst of all, Mr. Winkey went into hibernation - another reason he had to get out of town.

“I’m afraid not Maggie. She didn’t work out.”

“Oh I’m so sorry Mr. Derrick. Well you know there are some truly lovely Canadian girls here.” He remembered. Particularly the older one with whom he’d lost his virginity at the ripe old age of seventeen, one steamy hot summer night on a blanket in the sand, not very far from the place they now stood. Not only were there some natural beauties here but they were also instilled with certain values - an erotic attraction no Hollywood starlet wannabe could touch. Not that it mattered to him, big movie star that hadn’t gotten it up in a month. His doctor said it would come back naturally. The question was, when? Boy if the paparazzi ever found this out.

The two of them walked and talked on the long sidewalk, eventually reaching the front door. It was impressive; three stories with modern windows and surrounded by an elaborate plethora of trees, shrubs and gorgeous flowerbeds.

“Oh yes,” Maggie continued, “I want to alert you. We have a company coming out to give an estimate for a pool enclosure. I think it’s a marvelous idea. Not sure if it will withstand the winters here though. That wind coming off the lake can be brutal. The young lady will be here around three and she won’t disturb you - she just takes quick measurements and she’s on her way. I’m letting you know because you requested privacy so you may not want to let her see you.”

“So no one knows I’m here?” This sounded like a foolish question but it was important. Though the name Chase Derrick may not have packed the same punch as Ford, Stallone or Willis, he did have a supporting role Oscar nomination plus he’d done all the talk shows numerous times; he was one of Ellen’s favorites. Being a celebrity had its perks but if the rabid Hollywood press found out he was here, his vacation would be over. He’d spend the rest of his time hiding in his bedroom and even that wouldn’t guarantee safety or privacy. For the most part, this area was populated by simple, hardworking folks that hardly paid attention to movie stars. The last thing he wanted to do was upend their lives.

“The only ones who know are Bert and me. You have complete anonymity.”

“Great Mag’, well I’ll call you if I need you but really, I just wanna’ chill you know?”

“I completely understand, dinner at six?”

“Nah, I’m just going to make a salad okay? Is there salad stuff?”

“Oh yes, the refrigerator is ready to go, freezer too. There should be enough coffee for a couple of days and I’ll be going to the store anyway.”

She left him alone in the huge old house. Though much of the structure was from the second build in the 1970s, the inside had been completely modernized to suit even the most discriminating resident. Originally designed by a prized student of Frank Lloyd Wright’s, it looked every bit the part and taking a deep breath, he felt like he was home. Through the main area with vaulted ceilings he sauntered toward the large front room with the entire wall made of tinted glass facing south across calm greenish blue water as far as the eye could see.

Because the place was built into a hill that rolled down to the beach, he was actually on the second floor now and stood reverently, taking in the spectacular view and thinking how blessed he was. Seventeen miles out, Pelee Island’s tree line was clearly visible and a hundred yards down the gentle rolling hill on which Bella Lakeside stood, a private sandy beach called out for his bare, citified feet. There must have been some Feng Shui involved in the design of this place - the sun rose perfectly on the left and set on the right and could be witnessed any time in shade or light from several decks that reached over the lake below. To get out on these decks, a voice command was all that was needed.

“Open,” he said and the door slid slowly. Now he stepped out and the view consumed him. Everything was so fresh and still; only the slight rustling of leaves and an occasional sea gull could be heard. He hadn’t experienced this in ages. There wasn’t much of it in his life anymore and the older he got, the more it mattered. Gazing trance-like at the magnificent scene before him, something moved across his peripheral vision back in the living room but when he turned to look there was no one there.

“Hello?” He shouted through the open door. Fatigue, he thought. Maggie wouldn’t have let someone in this house without his knowledge - she went by the book and he liked that about her, then remembered about the aluminum girl and ducked back inside. The last thing he needed now was to be spotted by someone and have the paparazzi driving around disrespecting this paradise.

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