Authors: Norah Wilson,Heather Doherty
Book 1 in the Casters Series
Something Shiny Press
P.O. Box 30046, Fredericton, NB, E3B 0H8
Copyright © 2012 Norah Wilson and Heather Doherty
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the copyright owners and the publisher of this book.
This book is a work of fiction. References to real people, establishments, organizations, or locations are intended only to provide a sense of authenticity, and are used fictitiously. The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious, and are not to be construed as real. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the authors.
Smashwords Edition, License Notes
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Edited by Nancy Cassidy,
Phat Puppy Art
Book Design by
Hale Author Services
Please note that bonus material in the form of an excerpt from
Into the Night
, Book 2 in the Casters Series, appears at the end of this book. That bonus material will make this book appear several pages longer than it actually is. Bear that in mind as you approach the end and are anxiously trying to judge how much story is left!
October 11, 1962
I went out again tonight.
I just had to! There was no room for anything in me beyond the need to escape. As soon as my legs would hold me, I got off that cot and crossed my attic prison to the stained glass window. I looked at the Madonna trapped there in the colored glass. Her image was dull in the night, yet—in its own way—alive with the moonlight shining through. I saw her eyes clearly. And it really felt like she saw mine too—saw my horror.
Yes, this gentle lady knows my suffering. She’s silent yet offering. And it’s terrifying, what she offers!
I will not be damned for what I must do. I. Will. Not!
I touched the cold glass, Dear Diary. I laid my hands on it and looked up into those blue eyes. I smiled, despite the nightmare of this room. I smiled as I prepared to say the words that would set me free, if only for these darkened hours.
Because out there... out there I’m free from the locks, the bindings. The pain. Even my lonely isolation. Out there I join with the night. And it joins with me!
I spoke the words. I whispered them as I tapped on the window. Then, once again, I was one with the dark night.
It was terrifying
And yes—it was wonderful.
T WAS THE
cold that woke her.
Eyes still glued shut with sleep, Alex Robbins threw her arm wide, fumbling for the covers she must have thrown off in the night. Except her knuckles came in stinging contact with a hard surface instead of a soft mattress.
What the hell? Her eyes flew open.
The ceiling above was unfamiliar, but from the way it slanted so sharply, with raw, exposed beams, it had to be an attic.
She was in an
She jackknifed up, then wished she hadn’t as sharp, stinging pain arrowed up from between her legs. Gasping, she leaned to the right, shifting her weight onto her hip to alleviate the discomfort. Oh, God, her
hip! Her shirt hung open, buttons missing, and she wore nothing from the waist down.
Her heart pounded, and a wave of nausea rolled over her as she struggled to process the obvious.
Who had done this to her?
The memory was like a hammer, just outside her awareness. Relentlessly pounding. Forcefully driving at the walls of her mind in an attempt to break through the barrier. She pressed her fists to her forehead for long moments, straining for the memory. But it wouldn’t come. Oh God, it wouldn’t come! But something
happened! And that terrified her, like nothing had ever terrified her before.
She turned her frantic attention back to the room. Definitely an attic, but where? Everything was dusty and gray and still, as if stopped in time. The dark rafters above her rose to a peaked roof. The lighting was low, only the smallest amount of diffused sunlight filtered into the room.
—there had to be a window.
Alex cringed at the pain low in her belly as she turned. Beside her lay a musty, dirt-streaked overcoat and she pulled it up around her, covering her nakedness. A low window was directly behind her and she only had to scoot back a few feet to look outside. The top two-thirds of the window shone with a multitude of bright colors, but she didn’t even look at the pattern in the stained glass. She just raised herself up enough to peer through the clear glass at the bottom.
It was barely morning. Probably just past six, judging from the rising sun. Alex was looking out on a river—the Saint John River. She recognized this stretch of it. At least she was still in Mansbridge. And as she studied more of her surroundings through the window—the buildings around the bend in the river, a transport truck rumbling down the road on the other side of the Saint John—she knew where she was.
“I’m still in Harvell House!” she whispered. There was little comfort in that.
Alex had come back to school early; the other students wouldn’t be arriving for two more days. She’d had little choice in the pre-Labor Day arrival. Her parents had had enough of her, and she’d certainly had enough of them. Two phone calls and it was arranged, Harvell House would take her early. “Reject Row” the town called it. Harvell House was the residence where the loneliest went, the oddest ones, and of course, as in Alex’s case, the very worst of the bad apples who attended the Streep Academy.
She turned her attention back to the room. As her eyes adjusted to the low lighting, she could make out more detail. A mattressless crib, its sides high and slats wide apart, stood in one corner, flanked by two dressers and an old rocking chair. Alex’s stomach clenched as she saw the wide cot, the one tatter of thick rope knotted onto the metal frame.
But no, it hadn’t happened there.
She pulled the dirty coat tighter around her. Whoever had done this to her—whoever had
her—hadn’t done it there on the cot, but here on the floor. Here where she sat now. She couldn’t remember it happening, but with stomach-churning sickness and body-burning anger, she knew the truth of it.
And it had to have been rape. Her sexual experience was a whole lot thinner than most people probably thought, but she knew enough to know consensual sex didn’t leave you feeling like
The memory hammered—again and again.
Under the meager covering of the coat, Alex brought her knees up and wrapped her arms around them. The action caused the coat to gape at the top. She looked down at herself, at her beloved tattoo just above her right breast—a bleeding red rose. She’d gotten it back home in Halifax during the summer in celebration of her 17th birthday. They’d all gotten one—Alex and Anika and Chelsea. Anika had dared a small musical note on her ankle. Chelsea a wide, blue tramp stamp on her lower back. But Alex had been drawn to the bleeding red rose displayed on the tattoo shop’s wall. She’d gotten that. Gone back once more over the summer to have the job completed.
And now, at the sight of the bruise from unknown hands continuing to form around that bleeding flower, she curled up into a ball on the floor let the tough-girl tears flow.
How had this happened? She’d been back in Mansbridge twenty-four hours. Last night had been her first night at Harvell House. Who could have done this to her? Who would have
Who even knew she was back?
How did she get here?
Come on, girl, remember!
But that was just it. She couldn’t. No matter how hard she tried.
Had she been roofied?
The caretaker—John Smith—had signed her in to Harvell. Quiet, harmless-looking old geezer. As always, he’d barely made eye contact with her. The housemother, Mrs. Betts, had been summoned. Tired, apathetic, annoyed to be woken at two in the afternoon, she’d shown Alex to the second-floor room she’d be sharing in September with two girls, one of whom she’d never even heard of, and the other she knew to be a total B. She fully intended to bunk with Leah and Kassidy again this year, but she would save that news for when her posse could back her up. So instead of arguing about it, Alex had lain down on the bed. She’d read for a bit, had a short nap, cracked open her flask and... Her flask! Was that it? Had someone on the bus ride slipped something into her bottle? Unlikely. She’d had it in her carry-on and had used that as a pillow most of the way. She’d changed buses in Moncton, but the bag hadn’t been out of her sight. Not for a minute.
She just couldn’t remember. And if she couldn’t remember, how could she tell anyone? Especially with her reputation in Mansbridge. She’d had almost as many run-ins with the local law here as she’d had with the Halifax Regional Police. And the force was so much smaller here. Every one of them knew her. Or thought they did.
She’d get up. Of course she would. She’d fight this feeling of brokenness. She’d get up and wrap the coat around her and make her way back to her room, and get showered and dressed. But she was going to stop crying first. Get a hold of herself.
Starting by getting out of this stupid fetal position. She wasn’t a baby.
She rolled onto her back. Through tear-filled eyes she glared up at the rafters steepling above her, silent witness to her—There was something there. She wiped at her eyes to get a better look. Papers?
No not papers, exactly—a yellow-edged book, way up on the rafters, tucked in what looked to be a rough-carved place in the wooden beam. She wouldn’t have even noticed it had she not been lying flat on the floor.