Nothing To Fear

Excerpt

Chapter One

Wight's Landing, Isle of Wight Bay, Maryland
Wednesday, July 28, 2 a.m.

Ow. That hurt. It was his first blurry thought as fingers gripped his shoulder and shook. Hard. That really hurt. Stop it.

The shaking continued, but he wouldn't open his eyes. It couldn't be morning yet. He drew in a breath, smelled her perfume. It wasn't fair. She'd promised him the whole week off. No lessons. No flashcards. No stupid word games or speech therapy. Just fun in the sun. Fishing, crabbing. Riding the waves. Video games all night. Sleeping in as long as he wanted, till lunch if he wanted. Yet here she was, shaking him awake.

He knew she'd break her promise. They all did, sooner or later. He'd just wait her out, just like he'd waited out all the other speech therapists. Sooner or later, they'd leave. Cheryl had stuck around longer than most. He had to give her credit for that.

He swatted her hand and tried to roll over, but she grabbed him and yanked him up by his T-shirt. Her hand clamped over his mouth just as his eyes flew open. Just as he took in her face, white as a ghost in the moonlight and her dark eyes, wide and scared. Not just scared. Cheryl was terrified and in that moment, so was he. He stopped struggling.

"Say nothing." She mouthed it. He nodded. She let go of his mouth and pulled him from the bed, shoving the processor in his hand. Normally he fought putting it on, put her off as long as he could. Now, he slipped it behind his ear without a word.

And flinched as the roaring began. As the processor “turned on his ears” as Cheryl would say, instantly changing the calm, quiet world of his deafness to a loud painful mess of sound. He concentrated to ignore it. To hear what he needed to hear in the ocean of noise. Now she didn't say anything, just pulled him across the room, into the closet.

She pushed him in the corner and to the floor. Crouched down to meet his eyes.

"Someone's downstairs.” She whispered and signed it at the same time, her normally smooth hands shaking. Her whole body was shaking. "Paul went to check. Don't come out until I come get you." She gripped his chin. "Understand? Stay here. Say nothing."

He nodded and she snapped upright, grabbing the stack of lifejackets that his father had stored on the top shelf of the closet. Then they were covering him, smelly and musty. The door closed and he was left in the darkness.

He was hiding. Like a coward.

Temper began to simmer, mixing in with the fear. He wasn't a coward. He was going to be thirteen, for God's sake. She'd shoved him in the closet like a little kid. Buried him under a pile of smelly lifejackets, while Paul went to check. Carefully he pushed one of the lifejackets far enough away from his eye to stare at the door, trying to think of what to do. He wasn't going to just sit here while someone broke into his house. He certainly wasn't going to let Paul take all the credit for chasing them away.

Dim light appeared at the crack under the door and all his courage disappeared. Someone was in his room. He shrank back into the corner of the closet, his heart beating so loud he thought he could hear it. The hairs raised on the back of his neck. Painful shudders shook him. No way. I have to do something.

A scream cut through the ocean of sound. Cheryl. I have to help her.

But his body was frozen. Frozen into a useless lump in a closet under a pile of lifejackets. He concentrated, listening. Pushed the roar aside like Cheryl had taught him to do. And listened.

There was nothing. They were gone. He should get up. He should.

Then there was a loud crack of sound, so loud it hurt. His head jerked back, struck the closetwall, that pain mixing in with the other.

A gun. They had a gun. Someone had shot a gun. Cheryl. They'd killed Cheryl.

And they'd kill him, too. Or worse. Do something. Do something.

What? He didn't know. Didn't know what to do. Dad. What would his father do?

He felt a sharp pain in his chest. He was too old to cry for his parents, but he wished they were here. Wished they hadn't picked tonight to go into Annapolis. It was their anniversary. They'd gone dancing. They'd come back and find him dead. Mom would cry.

He blinked, realized his own face was wet. He was hiding in a closet, crying like a baby, while they killed Cheryl. And he couldn't move.

He flinched at the second shot, quieter this time. Then more screaming.

She was screaming. Cheryl was still alive. Screaming. The sound stabbed his brain like a million knives. He could hear it. Feel it. A million knives slashing. Heart pounding, hands trembling, he yanked the processor from behind his ear.

And it was quiet. The minutes ticked by in his head. Then the closet door opened.

He shrank back into the corner, clenching his eyes shut, his teeth together. Trying not to make a sound. One lifejacket was pulled away. Then another. And another. The musty smell no longer tickled his nose and he could feel the air on his face.

He made himself open his eyes, felt the whimper stick in his throat. Looked up.

She was tall, taller than Cheryl. Bigger. Her hair was wild.

Her eyes were crazy. White. She had white eyes.

Her mouth was smiling, an evil smile that made him want to scream.

But he didn't. Because her shirt was splattered with blood and in her hand she was holding a gun and it was pointed at him.

Copyright © 2005, Karen Rose Books, Inc.