A distant father
And a malevolent evil that
kills without mercy
Luke Merrill is twelve years old when his mother drops dead in the family’s living room. Luke’s father, an aloof man burdened by his past, sends Luke to the exclusive Bain Ridge School in the Rocky Mountains. It’s there that the mystery of a missing boy comes to light and Luke’s real troubles begin.
“One day Sean Jeffries was at school and the next he was gone,” a classmate explains, “and the last place anybody saw him was your room.” When the boy’s frozen corpse is found a deadly pattern materializes and the facts gnaw at Luke’s soul. His suspicions fall on a cold hearted boy with a reputation for violence. Then he focuses on Jared Kray, his sickly roommate who harbors thoughts of bloodshed and savors breaking the rules. All the while, the spirit of Luke’s dead mother reaches out from the grave and claws at his sanity. The truth, he soon learns, is far worse than he could’ve imagined.
When another innocent life is taken and others are put in mortal danger Luke finds himself trapped not only by the evil that roams the school’s grounds, but by a hellish force that’s seized him from the inside. The hideous truth unfolds on a cold January night and Luke is pushed to an agonizing decision that may cost him everything he’s got left including his own life.
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Hi from Athens, Ohio where I’m hunting scary stories. A few days ago my guide took me to what used to be the state psychiatric hospital and the now abandoned TB ward. A few pictures are below. We didn’t hunt ghost, although we did consider it. Rather, we walked the grounds, absorbed the feel of the old structures and let our imaginations run rampant. I have to tell you, if those old red bricks could talk they’d scare the hell out of us all – I’m certain. In all seriousness, in some places even the trees look worried.
I will see you soon and with new stories to tell…
“I sleep with the windows open,” he said, using the same gentle tone of firmness he’d used to raise his six children. This nurse, she looked young enough to be his granddaughter.
“But it’s the middle of winter and so cold.”
She looked like she’d been raised well, good posture and smart eyes. She was the kind who’d listen to an old man’s war stories, even feign polite interest. But he didn’t tell those stories anymore. Hitler, the Nazis, it was all black and white photographs in school books and boring documentaries on cable to the young. They would never know what it was like to lay in a hole of frozen dirt and listen to a boy’s death cry. He hoped they never knew anything like that.
“One winter in Germany messed up my thermostat so bad that this feels like a warm night in summer to me,” he said. “I’ve slept with the windows open since I came home from Europe. Drove my wife crazy in the beginning, but she learned to use me for warmth and we wound up with six good kids.”
“I’m sure it did, but – .”
“You supervisor will tell you it’s okay,” he said.
She left him. He waited in the dark and fell asleep. The wailing woke him up.
Poor boy, he thought, dead all these years and here he was carrying on.
The old man stayed still, the cold all around him, and he listened; and he was surprised when the young nurse came rushing into his room, her face ashen and full of worry.
“Do you hear that?”
None of the nurses had heard the boy crying before, not a one of them. “Don’t you worry about him,” he told her. “That boy’s been gone a long time.”
She hurried out of the room. A little later he saw the reflection of red and blue lights in the window pane. She’d called the police. That made him smile a little bit, amused. He listened to the crackling sound of their radios as they roamed the grounds. They found no dying boy.
The young nurse returned to his room. “There’s no one out there,” she said.
“Oh, but there is, we just can’t see him anymore.”
And at that moment, the dying boy resumed his crying. Jagged sobs, suffering, agony…
“I meant to kill him,” he said.
She looked back, horrified.
“That’s what soldiers do,” he said. “But I only hurt him. Death took way too long.”
He thought telling more more, how they’d huddled in the dirt and talked about putting him out of his misery. They worried that a muzzle flash would be a target and that one of them would get killed. He’d said goodbye to enough friends that winter, they all had. So in the end they decided that one enemy could die slow and other got a chance to live through the night.
“I don’t understand,” she said.
Outside, the boy let out a long and sorrowful yell. Her hands went to her ears, like she could stop it. So very young, he thought, too young to hear what dying sounds like. But weren’t we, too, way back then?
“That’s the awful thing about it,” he said. “Does anybody?”
In the morning they’d moved on. He saw the boy first, sprawled out on his side, one arm stretched out like he was reaching for his own friends. His face had frozen in an open eyed mask of pain.
“Truth be told, I look forward to seeing him. I want to look him in the eyes and tell him that I didn’t mean it, that I’m sorry.”
She sat down on the edge of his bed and for long minutes they listened to a boy’s cries rip the winter night open. He got louder and louder and soon he was right outside the window.
“You know what,” the old man said.
“I want you to let him in.”
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