Authors: Richie Tankersley Cusick
As if trapped in a nightmare, Lucy forced herself to peer down into the gaping hole. She was sure she hadn’t imagined the sound this time, certain now that it wasn’t an animal.
The voice was all too frighteningly human.
“Please!” it was begging her. “Please…”
Pressing both hands to her mouth, Lucy tried not to scream. For she could see now that the grave wasn’t empty at all, that there was something lying at the very bottom, camouflaged by layers of mudslide and rising rainwater.
As a sliver of lightning split the clouds, she saw the girl’s head strain upward, lips gasping for air. And then the girl’s arm, lifting slowly … reaching out to her…
“Please… is someone there…”
Lucy stood paralyzed. She watched in horror as the girl’s head fell back again into the mire, as water closed over the anguished face…
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First published in the UK by Scholastic Ltd, 2003
Published by Speak, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2005
3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4
Copyright © Richie Tankersley Cusick, 2003
All rights reserved
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA:
Cusick, Richie Tankersley.
It begins / Richie Tankersley Cusick.
p. cm. – (The unseen; pt. 1)
First published in the UK by Scholastic Ltd., 2003.
Summary: After a horrifying encounter in a graveyard, Lucy cannot get over feeling that she is being watched, but is unwilling to trust the one person who might be able to help her.
[1. Supernatural—Fiction. 2. Psychic ability—Fiction. 3. Grief—Fiction. 4. Orphans—Fiction. 5. Family problems—Fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.C9646Itab 2005 [Fic]—dc22 2005043446
Printed in the United States of America
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To Audrey, Suzie, B.J., Lynn, Michele, Victoria and
the whole special gang—for your
fun, your faith and your friendship. I love you all
She had deceived him!
He realized now with a terrible certainty that she’d deceived him from the beginning—planned this whole thing from the very start.
And she knew everything about him—
—what he was and what he’d done and all he was capable of doing . . .
She’d sought him out and gained his trust, for one purpose and one purpose only.
To see him destroyed.
After he’d been so careful … so cunning all these years … concealing the very nature of his soul … the ageless secrets of his kind …
And he’d trusted her. Taken her. Loved her more than he’d ever loved anyone.
Tears clouded his vision.
As though he were seeing the future through a dark red haze, a veil of blood.
He glanced down at his hands.
His strong, gentle fingers, wielding the power of life and death.
He hadn’t even realized he was gripping the dagger, the dagger of his ancestors, nor did he remember even drawing it from its sheath.
He was gripping the blade so tightly that a stream of his own blood seeped from his fist. He watched it, strangely mesmerized, as it dripped onto the cold stone floor and pooled around his feet.
He hadn’t thought he could feel such pain.
Not from the knife, for he had borne far worse injuries than this in his lifetime, had suffered the ravages of a thousand tortures. But those scars had faded quickly, like shadows swallowed by night, and the few that remained were points of honor to him now, sacred testimonies to his very survival.
No, this pain was different.
This pain burned from deep within, filling him with rage and a craving for revenge.
A craving so intense, he could almost taste it.
She should never have come here.
Not into this deep, dark place, not in this miserable weather … and
not at night.
“A graveyard,” Lucy murmured. “What was I thinking?”
But that was just it—she
been thinking, she hadn’t had
to think, she’d only felt that sudden surge of fear through her veins, and then she’d started running.
Someone was following her.
Not at first, not when she’d first left the house and started walking, but blocks afterward, six or seven maybe, when the storm had suddenly broken and she’d cut through an alley behind a church and tried to find a shortcut home.
No, not home!
The words exploded inside her head, angry and defensive.
Aunt Irene’s house isn’t home, it won’t
be home. I don’t have a home anymore.
The rain was cold. Even with her jacket Lucy felt chilled, and she hunched her shoulders against the downpour, pulled her hood close around her face. She hadn’t even realized where she was going; there was no sign posted, no gate to mark the boundaries of this cemetery, just an unexpected gap through the trees. She’d heard the footsteps and she’d panicked, she’d bolted instinctively into the first cover of darkness she could find.
But this was a terrible darkness.
Almost as dark as her own pain.
She crouched down between two headstones, straining her ears through the night. It had taken her several minutes to become aware of those footsteps back there on the sidewalk, and at first she’d thought she was imagining them. She’d thought it was only the rain plopping down, big soft drops, faint at first, but then louder and faster, sharper and clearer. Until suddenly they seemed to be echoing. Until suddenly they
seemed to have some awful purpose, and she realized they were coming closer.
She’d stopped beneath a streetlamp, and the footsteps had stopped, too. She’d forced herself to look back, back along the pavement, across the shadowy lawns and thick, tangled hedges, but there hadn’t been anyone behind her.
No one she could see, anyway.
She was sure of it.
And that’s when she’d run …
“I’m afraid you’ll find Pine Ridge very different from what you’re used to.” How many times had Irene told her that, just in the one agonizing week Lucy had been here? “We’re right on the lake, of course, and the university’s here, so there’s plenty to do. And we’re only a half-hour drive to the city. But our neighborhood is quiet … rather exclusive, actually. Peaceful and private, just the way residents like it. Not at all like that old apartment of yours in the middle of downtown.”
But Lucy had loved her old apartment, the tiny, third-floor walk-up that she and her
mother had filled with all their favorite things. And the sorrow she’d felt at leaving it only grew worse with each passing day.
She’d been too depressed on their ride from the airport that day to notice much about Pine Ridge; she had only the vaguest recollections of Aunt Irene pointing things out to her as they’d ridden through town. The college campus with its weathered brick buildings and stately oaks. The renovated historical district with its town square and gazebo; its bars, coffee shops and open-air cafes; its bookstores and art galleries and booths selling local crafts. They’d passed farms and fields to get here, and she’d caught occasional glimpses of the lake through dense, shadowy forests. And there’d been frost sheening the hillsides, and she remembered thinking that she’d never seen so many trees, so many vibrant autumn colors …
“And it’s safe here in Pine Ridge,” her aunt had assured her. “Unpleasant things don’t happen.”
You’re wrong, Aunt Irene …
Lucy pressed a hand to her temple. That all-too-familiar pain was starting again, throbbing behind
her eyes, stabbing through her head, that agony of unshed tears, of inconsolable sorrow …
You’re wrong, because unpleasant things
anywhere—horrible, bad things—
and just when you think they couldn’t possibly ever happen to
“Oh, Mom,” Lucy whispered. “Why’d you have to die?”
For a split second reality threatened to crush her. Closing her eyes, she bent forward and clamped her knees tight against her chest. She willed herself to take deep, even breaths, but the smell of stagnant earth and rotting leaves sent a deep shiver of nausea through her.
Don’t think about that now, you cant think about that now, Mom’s gone and you have to get out of here!
Very slowly she lifted her head. Maybe the footsteps had followed her in here—maybe someone was waiting close by, hiding in the shadows, waiting for her to make the slightest move. Or maybe someone was coming closer and closer this very second, searching methodically behind every tombstone, and she’d never hear the footsteps now, not on the soggy
ground, not with the sound of the rain, not until it was too late—
Come on, move! Run!
But where? Where could she go? She wasn’t even sure where she was, much less which direction to run in.
“Unpleasant things don’t happen …”
Lucy’s heart hammered in her chest. She clung desperately to her aunt’s words; she ordered herself to
them. Maybe she really
imagined those footsteps back there. Maybe it
just been the rain and she’d panicked for nothing. After all, she hadn’t really been herself since Mom’s funeral. As mechanical as a robot and just as hollow inside, moving in slow motion through an endless gray fog of days and nights, confused by the long, empty lapses in her memory. But shock did that to a person, Aunt Irene had informed her, in that cool, detached tone Lucy was beginning to get used to—
shock and grief and the unbearable pain of losing someone you love …
I can do this … I
to do this …
Lucy got to her feet. Steadying herself against one of the headstones, she pushed her long wet
hair back from her face, then turned slowly, blue eyes squinting hard into the gloom. High above her the limbs of a giant elm flailed wildly in the wind, sending down a soggy shower of leaves. The sky gushed like a waterfall. As the moon flickered briefly through churning clouds, she saw nothing but graves in every direction.
Just dead people, Lucy.