Home > Black Dawn (Night World #8)

Black Dawn (Night World #8)
Author: L.J. Smith

Chapter 1

Maggie Neely woke up to the sound of her mother screaming.

She'd gone to bed as usual, with Jake the GreatDane sprawled heavily across her feet and the threecats jockeying for position around her head. Hercheek was resting on her open geometry book; there were homework papers scattered among theblankets, along with fragments of potato chips andan empty bag. She was wearing her jeans and a flowered pajama top plus the only two socks she'dbeen able to find last night: one red velveteen anklet and one blue cotton slouch sock.

Those particular socks would eventually meanthe difference between life and death for her, but at the moment Maggie had no idea of that.

She was simply startled and disoriented frombeing wakened suddenly. She'd never heard thiskind of screaming before, and she wondered howshe could be so certain it was her mother doing it.

Something...really bad is happening, Maggierealized slowly. The worst.

The clock on her nightstand said 2:11A.M.

And then before she even realized she was moving, she was lurching across her bedroom floor,with piles of dirtyclothes and sports equipmenttrying to trip her up. She banged her shin on a wastebasket in the middle of the roomand ploughed right on through. The hallway was dim,but the living room at the end was blazing withlight and the screams were coming from there.

Jake trotted along beside her. When they got tothe foyer by the living room he gave a half growl,half bark.

Maggie took in the whole scene in a glance. Itwas one of those moments when everythingchanges forever.

The front door was open, letting in the cold airof a November night in Washington. Maggie's father was wearing a short bathrobe and holding hermother, who was pulling and tearing at him as ifshe were trying to get away, screaming breathlesslyall the while. And in the doorway four people were standing: two sheriffs, a National Park ranger, and Sylvia Weald.

Sylvia. Her brother Miles's girlfriend.

And knowledge hit her quick and hardasa hammer blow.

My brother is dead, Maggie thought.

Chapter 2

Beside her, Jake growled again, but Maggie only heard it distantly. No one else even lookedtoward them.

I can't believe how well I'm taking this, Maggiethought. Something's wrong with me. I'm not hysterical at all.

Her mind had gotten hold of the idea quiteclearly, but there was no reaction in her body, no terrible feeling in her stomach. An instant later itswept over her, exactly what she'd been afraid of. A wash of adrenaline that made her skin tinglepainfully and a horrible sensation of falling in her stomach. A numbness that started in her cheeksand spread to her lips and jaw.

Oh, please, she thought stupidly. Please let it notbe true. Maybe he's just hurt.That would be allright. He had an accident and he's hurt-but notdead.

But if he were hurt her mother wouldn't bestanding there screaming. She would be on her way to the hospital, and nobody could stop her. So thatdidn't work, and Maggie's mind, darting and wheel ing like a frightened little animal, had to go back

to Please don't let this be true.

Strangely, at that moment, it seemed as if theremight be some way to make it not true. If sheturned around and sneaked back to her bedroombefore anyone saw her; if she got into bed and pulled the blankets over her head and shut hereyes...

But she couldn't leave her mother screaming like this.

Just then the screams died down a little. Her father was speaking in a voice that didn't sound at all like his voice. It was a sort of choked whisper."But why didn't you tell us you were going climbing? If you left on Halloween then it's been sixdays. We didn't even know our son was missing...."

"I'm sorry." Sylvia was whispering, too. "Wedidn't expect to be gone long. Miles's roommatesknew we were going, but nobody else. It was justa spur-of-themoment thingwe didn't have classeson Halloween and the weather was so nice andMiles said, hey, let's go out to Chimney Rock. And we justwent...."

Hey, let's go.He used to say that kind of thing to me, Maggie thought with a strange, dazed twinge.But not since he met Sylvia.

The male sheriff was looking at Maggie's father."You weren't surprised that you hadn't heard from your son since last Friday?"

"No. He's gotten so independent since he movedout to go to college. One of his roommates calledthis afternoon to ask if Miles was here-but hedidn't say that Miles had been gone for almost aweek. I just thought he'd missed a class orsomething...." Maggie's father's voice trailed off.

The sheriff nodded. "Apparently his roommatesthought he'd taken a little unauthorized vacation,"he said.

"They got worried enough to call us tonight-but by then a ranger had already pickedup Sylvia."

Sylvia was crying. She was tall but willowy, fragile looking. Delicate. She had shimmering hair sopale it was almost silvery and clear eyes the exactcolor of wood violets. Maggie, who was short andround faced, with fox-colored hair and brown eyes,had always envied her.

But not now. Nobody could look at Sylvia nowwithout feeling pity.

"It happened that first evening. We started up,but then the weather started turning bad and weturned around. We were moving pretty fast." Sylviastopped and pressed a fist against her mouth.

"It's kind of a risky time of year for climbing," the female sheriff began gently, but Sylvia shookher head.

And she was right, Maggie thought. It wasn't thatbad. Sure, it rained here most of the fall, but sometimes what the weather people called a high pressure cell settled in and the skies stayed blue for amonth. All hikers knew that.

Besides, Miles washt scared of weather. He wasonly eighteen but he'd done lots of hard climbs in Washington's Olympic and Cascade ranges. He'dkeep climbing all winter, getting alpine experience in snow and storms.

Sylvia was going on, her voice getting more jerkybreathless. "Miles was...he'd had the flu aweek before and he wasn't completely over it. Buthe seemed okay, strong. It happened when we were rappelling down. He was laughing and joking andeverything.... I never thought he might be tired enough to makea mistake...." Her voice wavered turned into a ragged sob and the ranger puthis arm around her.

Something inside Maggie froze. Amistake?Miles?

She was prepared to hear aboutasudden avalanche or a piece of equipment failing. Even Sylviafalling and knocking Miles off. But Miles makinga mistake?

Maggie stared at Sylvia, and suddenly somethingin the pitiful figure bothered her.

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