The Dark Divine Page 36

Those strange things had stopped years ago--before Daniel ever left town--but now they were happening again. Maryanne had died from the cold, but her body had been abused like the ones found on Markham Street. Then James went missing ... and the blood on the porch. And I couldn't forget what had happened while I was stranded on Markham Street itself. What might have happened if Daniel hadn't come along?

Could it really be a coincidence that any of these things started happening again only after Daniel had come home? Could the monster have followed him here? Or maybe he was the one who was tracking it.

Daniel said he'd returned because of art school, but I'd felt there was something more to it. Was this it? Was the Markham Street Monster back? Was Daniel here to protect us from it?


I must have fallen asleep eventually, because I was startled awake by a loud thunk outside my bedroom window. I rolled over and looked at the clock: 6:00 a.m. I heard the thunk again, so I stumbled out of bed and went to investigate. It was mostly dark out, but I could still see that the side yard was empty. The thunking continued. It seemed to be coming from the backyard. My legs were so stiff I practically had to slide down the stairs on my butt. I was in the kitchen when I saw Daniel out in the backyard. He was driving a wood fence post into the frozen dirt--with his bare hands. I couldn't tell for sure because his back was to me, but it looked like he was holding the post in one hand and then swinging his arm, presumably whacking the top of the post with the butt of his hand. No mallet, or hammer, or any tool was even nearby from what I could tell. He'd probably gotten such an early start so he could do it his way.

I was about to go out and join him when I ran my hand through my hair, and my fingers lodged in a nest of snarls. I watched Daniel take another swing, sinking the post a good three inches into the ground, and I suddenly felt compelled to he cleaned and dressed in something more flattering than my flannel yellow-ducky pj's.

By the time I'd done my makeup, flat-ironed my hair, and changed my sweater three times--why was everything I owned so boxy?--Charity was in the kitchen perusing one of her science hooks and eating sugared cereal from her private stash. Which meant that Mom wasn't up yet. The thunking noise had stopped, so hopefully Mom and James would sleep in for a while longer. I peered out the window. "Did you see where Daniel went?"

"Nope," Charity grumbled. "I was about ready to go strangle him for making all that racket, but he was gone by the time I got down here."

"Sorry," I said, like anything Daniel did was my fault.

"Meh." She shrugged. "I was gonna get up early today anyway. I've got to write a whole first draft for my research paper this weekend."

"Oh." I stared farther out the window. "I wonder where he went."

"The Corolla's gone. Maybe Dad took him to the hardware store or something." Or maybe whoever took the car last night never came home. I didn't hear the garage door last night, and I hadn't fallen asleep until at least three a.m. Dad's study was closed and locked, and the light was out. If Daniel wasn't with Dad, then where had he gone?

I sank into a kitchen chair. Perhaps Daniel's reason for fixing the fence so early was because he'd changed his mind about wanting to see me again.

"May I?" I reached for Charity's box of Lucky Charms.

She nodded. "Did you hear about Mr. Day's granddaughter?"

"Jessica or Kristy?" "Jess. She's missing."

Little frosted three-leafed clovers tumbled into my bowl. I hadn't seen Jessica in years. She was in Daniel and Jude's grade growing up, but her family had moved to the city when she was a sophomore. "Doesn't she run away on a bimonthly basis?"

"Yeah, but never seriously. She's never missed a holiday before. When she didn't show up for Thanksgiving, her parents called the police. Her friends said they were with her at a party downtown the other night. They said she was there one minute and gone the next. It was in the paper." Charity scraped the bottom of her bowl. "The Markham Street Monster strikes again." I dropped the cereal box. "Is that what they're saying:

"Yep. There was even a little blurb at the end of the article about James wandering away. I don't know how they even heard about that. They say the monster might have tried to take him." There was a sudden edge to her voice. She looked at me over the cereal box. "You don't think--"

"They're just trying to freak people out to up their sales." I wished I could believe what I was saying, but I knew now the article might be right. "Where's the newspaper anyway?"

"Jude surfaced a few minutes ago. He took it back downstairs," Charity said. "The paper said the police are waiting for test results on that blood before they release a statement." My heart did a little flip-flop in my chest. What would they find with those test results? I pushed away the bowl of too-sweet cereal.

Charity turned the page of her book. A large silver-gray wolf stared back at me from the page. I couldn't help shuddering as I thought of those animal tracks deep in the ravine.


I told myself I was not waiting for Daniel. I was simply working on my make-up assignment for Mr. Barlow, out on the porch, in November, where I might just happen to see Daniel if he decided to come back. I settled sideways into the porch swing, where I could see the walnut tree in the side yard, and the street--hut like I said, I was not sitting around waiting for a guy. It may have been the lack of focus, but no matter how hard I tried, my attempts to draw the walnut tree still didn't feel right at all. I was fighting the urge to chuck my charcoal pencil across the porch when I heard someone come up beside me.

"I'm glad to see you haven't given up on me," Daniel said.

"Took you long enough," I said, trying not to betray that I'd worried he wouldn't show. "Where'd you take off to anyway?"

"Maryanne Duke's."

I glanced up at him.

"Apparently, she left her house to the parish. Your dad is letting me stay in the basement apartment until I figure some things out. I moved my stuff over there this morning."

"I'm sure Maryanne's daughters are just crazy about that."

Daniel smirked and sat down next to me on the swing.

"Did you see the newspaper this morning?" I asked, trying to sound nonchalant. Daniel's grin fell into a frown.

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