Charles Grant - Night Songs

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Charles Grant - Night Songs
Название: Night Songs
Автор: Charles Grant
Издательство: неизвестно
ISBN: нет данных
Год: неизвестен
Дата добавления: 29 август 2018
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Night Songs - читать бесплатно онлайн , автор Charles Grant
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And if they could get that boat and go for the police…

He began to run.

Lilla. Crazy Lilla.

He swallowed and promised his mother he'd be back before she knew it, back with the right words and the right way to move his hands and the right everything and before she knew it she wouldn't have to walk that way anymore or do what Gran said or be hurt or anything. He promised her as he sprinted off the tarmac onto the path that led to the cliffs.

He knew where Lilla was.

He wasn't the only one who liked to crawl around in the caves and hunt for buried treasure and look for pirate bones all left in little piles; he'd seen her there a lot, and if she was afraid of Gran like Colin said she was, then it was the perfect place to hide. The other things couldn't get her there, because look what happened to old, fat Tessie Mayfair when she tried to get Colin. Fell right off. She fell right off and took forever to get back.

Though he didn't know why, he knew it had something to do with the salt in the water. He ran over the spongy ground, swinging the picket sword back and forth ahead of him, ducking when a spray of leaves whispered and sliced past his face, jumping over dead branches tossed to the ground by the wind. It was dark in here, but not as dark as it would be when night finally came. Dark, but not as dark as the day before when all the leaves were on the trees.

And there were darker shapes deeper in the woods that paced him and ran ahead of him. He wasn't sure who they were, or if it was only his imagination, and purpose gave way to panic as he tried to lengthen his stride.

His chest hurt. His left arm hurt. There was a stinging inside his head that wouldn't go away, and a roaring in one ear that made him dizzy.

He didn't dare stop. He had to stop. Just for a minute, it wouldn't take long, just for a minute so he could catch his breath and start all over.

He slowed, gulping and holding his right side, bending over, coughing, and spitting dryly on the ground.

Then he straightened and reminded himself what he had to do.

He ran hard, heard a thrashing, ran as hard as he could, and came around the last turn before the trees fell away.

Eliot Nichols stood in the path, watching.

Matt slipped and skidded to a stop just before he ran into the deputy, holding out the makeshift sword and slashing it back and forth while he looked desperately around him.

Nichols moved toward him, empty shirt sleeve flapping like a broken wing, face pale, eyes dead white.

"Go away," Matt said huskily, not wanting to leave the path in case there were others out there waiting. "Go away, you son of a bitch."

Eliot reached out, his hand streaked with dried mud and blood.

Matt shouted as loudly as he could and threw the picket at Nichols' head. It struck the deputy flat on the mouth and snapped his head back as if he'd been shot.

Matt bolted off the path, batted away the brush, took a moss-covered log in a leap and landed still running. He didn't look back; there were too many things trying to snare him and trip him and pull him down into the mud, too many dark places where he knew he heard voices telling him to join them.

He swerved around a boulder, ducked under a branch, and tripped over something he couldn't see at his feet.

He yelled as he fell, turned as he hit the ground and found himself crouched on the flat above the cliffs. He was alone.

Above him the Screamer was ripping apart the clouds, allowing him just enough light to see the ocean below-white, and gray, and a belligerent, swirling black. The wind shrieked and the Atlantic bellowed; the clouds tore themselves to writhing shreds and the waves sideswiped the cliff face on their way to the mainland.

Harsh stinging spray drenched him instantly, and he blinked away the water as he crawled to the spot from which he knew he could climb down. He looked over the edge. The tide was in and high; another twenty feet and the most persistent waves would ride over the top. He licked his lips and tasted salt. If Lilla was down there, then there was only one place she could be. If she'd climbed any lower she would have drowned by now.

He willed her to be alive.

He willed her not to be as crazy as they thought.

He wiped his hands on his shirt and lowered himself over the edge.

The rock was slippery and dark, almost green, and the worn spots on the steep pathway were filled with trembling water.

His ears ached from the waves that slammed the rock below him.

His chest ached, and his knees. When he reached the first ledge he dropped against the rock face and covered his eyes with his hands.

The cave was less than six feet away.

All he had to do was get up and move over, climb over a low mound of smooth stone and he'd be there.

That was all, and he didn't want to do it.

"Mom," he whispered, "Mom. Mom."

If Lilla wasn't there, then his Mom was really dead.

A wave hunched and surged without breaking, sliding off the cliff face and falling back into its trough.

He grunted, not sure if the water on his face was from the ocean or his tears, and staggered to his feet. The wind shoved him back down. He cried out as he began a slow slide toward the edge, clawed at the rough path until he felt the sliding stop. He wanted to be back in school; he wanted to be in his room watching James Bond and Christopher Lee; he wanted to be in Colin's studio, looking at all the paintings Colin said were no good but he was keeping them around just to keep his ego down. He didn't know what ego was, but if Colin said that was important then he guessed it had to be. He wanted to be up top again. He wanted…

He sobbed, and crawled, and made it to the mound that rose as high as his head. He reached up and gripped the top, pulled himself to his knees and with a shout threw himself over.

He fell only two feet, slid two feet more under the cave's ragged overhang. The mouth was only four feet across, but the cave itself dug twenty feet into the island, the roof lifting enough so that someone like him could stand.

He sat up, pulled his legs under him and knelt.

"Lilla?"

He frowned as he tried to listen for an answer, peering into the dark to see if he could spot her. "Lilla?"

He cupped his hands around his mouth and called her name again before he took a deep breath and moved deeper inside.

There was no light at all now.

At his back, the ocean.

The cave widened, and the battle sound of the surf was so loud it was almost silent.

Halfway to the back he began to cry.

She was gone. He was wrong, and she wasn't here. There was nothing on the ground that he could see, no candles, no lanterns, no flashlights. She wasn't here, and he had wasted all this time for nothing.

He dropped to his knees heavily.

Not here. Lilla wasn't here.

His mother and Colin were dead.

He drew up his legs and folded his arms around his calves, pushed his chin to his knee and let the tears come. He didn't care if he sounded like a baby. He didn't care.

"Aw, nuts," he sobbed. "Nuts. Goddamn."

Then he looked up and saw the shadow in the cave.

It was outlined by the last of the day's light, and it was moving toward him. Slowly. Without a sound. Its hands at its side, its head lowered.

He couldn't pull away; he was as far back against the wall as he could go, and he was so awfully tired that all he could do was shake his head. If there were words to stop the shadow he would have said them, but Lilla had all the words and he was just a kid and now he was going to be just like his mother.

The figure stopped.

It knelt before him.

It leaned close so he could see it.

"Hello, Little Matt," said Lilla with a smile, in a voice he wasn't sure was actually her own. "I sent the wind away. Can I play with you now?"

THREE

NIGHT

Colin could think of nothing to say, and for a moment wished he'd been killed in the accident. As it was, he felt as though a great mass of living tissue had been scooped out of his chest and replaced with cold lead. A thin line of acid scorched across his forehead, and he stifled a groan. Peg didn't need that; she was beside him now, weeping silently as they followed Garve toward the dunes.

Ah, Matt, he thought, then pushed the thought away. There was neither sense in, nor time for, dwelling on the boy now. It was too late. He and Peg had regained consciousness at the same time, had seen the open car door and realized within seconds that the boy was missing. It had taken them a while to dig themselves out, a while longer in a frantic search of the yard and house before Peg had stopped dead in her tracks, turned to him and said, "Gran." Nothing more was needed. The boy had gotten out, and had been caught.

Colin stumbled over nothing and Peg took his arm, smiled at him grimly and pulled at him until they'd caught up with the others. Garve and Hugh were carrying the cans of kerosene taken from the cruiser's trunk; Lee held the shotguns. They'd been at the car when he and Peg finally reached it, using the first-aid kit from the glove compartment to bind their minor injuries. Lee's ankle, however, had been twisted, and she favored it with an awkward limp.

"I think my head's gonna fall off," he said quietly, gingerly putting a finger to the bulky bandage hastily cross-taped to his forehead. "God."

The side of Peg's neck was swathed, and she kept plucking at her shirt as if she were trying to pull off the blood. "I'm going to light it myself," she said tonelessly. "I'm going to burn that fucking old man my own goddamed self."

He shivered, not entirely from the chilled air, and took the fuel can from Tabor's hand to relieve him. The chief nodded his thanks, took a weapon from Lee and walked with her in front. Hugh was silent. His glasses were broken, the lenses smeared and shattered, yet he wore them anyway and couldn't stop reaching up to push them back into place.

"They'll be waiting for us," Garve said as they neared the bend in the road. Several of the streetlights were out, but there was still enough light from one on the corner for them to see the first dune. Tidal water from the yards poured into the street, swept over their shoes, surged now and again midway up their shins. "I don't know. I think they'll be waiting."

Of course they'll be waiting, Colin thought in sudden anger. What the hell did he expect them to do? Keep right on strolling into the goddamn ocean? Of course they were waiting-because Gran willed it.

The wind coasted directly into his eyes and he kept his head averted to keep his vision clear. He saw shadows beyond the curbing, shadows behind him, but he was too numb, too enraged to pay them close heed. Out of a whole town already cut down to a handful by the storm, there were only five of them left; out of a whole town, five to kill the dead.

Lee thrust a warning arm out, and they stopped at the road's bend-the Estates on their left, the dunes straight ahead, and Gran's shack in the darkness, off to the right.

At the top of the first dune stood Alex Fox, his blue suit jacket flapping, part of his neck missing. Susan was beside him, her mouth grotesquely sagging.

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