16-year-old albino Drake Stevenson lives a life alone in his world of video games and comic books, dreaming of one day saving a real princess. But fantasy becomes reality when his lawyer father suffers a heart attack, and the Stevensons are forced to move to flyover country in order to take up the family business: Stewardship of the oldest and largest cemetery in the state.
There, among the weeping angels and willows of Centralia Cemetery, Drake meets Scarlet, an unusual girl who needs his help to find her killer.
Complicated by his albinism, a mentally unstable sister bent on high school domination at any cost, and a jock with a deadly secret, Drake sets out to find the shattering truth about a murder no one will speak of, to help a girl no one can see.
|Publisher:||Black Rose Writing|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)|
|Age Range:||13 - 18 Years|
Read an Excerpt
The first time my sister Brie tried to kill me, I'd been six-years-old. A budding sociopath, Brie's murder attempt had been to lock me outside of the house at noon during a summer heatwave.
She had been eight.
Now a senior in high school, Brie's still two years older than me, and she's since graduated to full psychotic, cum laude. As for the age difference, well, I get reminded of that about once an hour or so ...
"I'm older, Drake, so I ride shotgun."
"Drake, you have to help Mom with the dishes. Elder's privilege."
"Drake, Mom and Dad left me in charge! You're just the stupid baby, Milk Dud."
That's right. Milk Dud. Brie's nickname for me, lovingly bestowed for my white skin and white hair. At least, that's the reason she always gives me. But, as those of you of the candy-loving persuasion have no doubt already realized, the problem is Milk Duds aren't white. In fact, they're dark, almost black. Not that my sister allows silly things like 'facts' and 'reality' to spoil her fun.
Once, during one particular apocalyptic argument, I pointed out to Brie that Milk Duds were in fact chocolate colored candies. She responded by calling me a racist with no sense of irony.
So, I dropped the issue.
"Did you know that New York's Calverton National Cemetery is the largest cemetery in the United States?" I said. "That's over a thousand acres of dead bodies!"
I was reading from an old book Dad had picked up on the subject of boneyards. I hadn't relished the idea of being stuck in the back seat of our Lexus SUV for six hours with only my sister and parents for immediate company, so I'd decided to brush up on my knowledge of graveyards. Not because I dig the dead — I'm not that guy and this isn't that kind of story. Rather, it was because my dad had recently accepted the job of managing the largest and oldest cement city in the state.
"No one cares, dumbass," Brie said, her face buried in her phone. She was texting someone furiously, probably one of her many boyfriends from back in the city. I didn't really care.
"Brie," Mom said in what I lovingly thought of as her classic you're-being-a-total-brat-to-your-brother voice, which sounded like Brieeeeeeeee.
She looked back at me from the front passenger seat. "Drake, honey, maybe you should give that graveyard book a rest?"
"I'm kinda interested," Dad said from the driver's seat. He peered at me in the rearview from behind his sunglasses. "There's nothing for radio out here. I mean, if we're going to be living at a cemetery, we ought to know these things. Right?"
"Okay, then check this out," I said, leaning forward in my seat, hyped that Dad was interested in something I had to say. "In 1876, a bunch of goons actually tried to steal Abraham Lincoln's body!"
I saw Dad's eyebrow raise in the rearview. "What happened?" he asked.
I skimmed the dense pages of the book for the pertinent information. Hadn't writers ever heard of bullet points? "Um, says here the goons tried holding the body for ransom, but were arrested. But get this — the government was so worried it would happen again, they buried old Abe in an unmarked grave for twenty-five freaking years!"
Mom frowned. "Don't say 'freaking', hun."
"Stole Abraham Lincoln's dead body?" Dad breathed. "Helluva job defending those guys in court."
"Don't say 'helluva', Pumpkin," Mom chided. "And you know you're not supposed to talk about work."
"Right-you-are," Dad mumbled.
Dad was a lawyer. A good one. At least, he had been, until he lost one of the firm's biggest cases for one of their largest clients. He'd suffered a major heart attack during session and was later deemed medically unfit to continue in the world of suits and judges, for the foreseeable future.
"So, what eventually happened to old Abe?" Dad asked.
"Seriously, do we have to?" Brie growled from the seat next to me. She looked up from her phone long enough to give me a look that said, I'm going to lock you outside at noon without your stupid trench coat or your stupid hat or your stupid old-person glasses and you'll roast, Milk Dud, you'll be cremated by the sun, you'll be filled with cancerous tumors so big they'll need a forklift to bury your festering corpse!
She had tried that once before. It was the aforementioned first attempt on my life when I was six. Later attempts were more subtle, like the time she swapped out all the lightbulbs in my bedroom for UV daylight bulbs.
You see, I have type one oculocutaneous albinism. In English it means I'm an albino — or as I prefer, a person with albinism. And yes, my skin is really really pale. Like, ghost-status pale. And my hair isn't blond, it's the color of freshly fallen snow in the Alps on a cloudless moonlit night. And no, my eyes are not that pink color you see with white rabbits magicians like to pull out of top hats, unless you happen to see them in bright direct light, like a camera flash. They are, however, a rather striking shade of blue-violet.
In my sister's words: I am a freak. But hey, I still consider myself one of the luckier ones. My eyesight — a serious issue for people with albinism — isn't completely lame. I have some problems with depth perception (I'm never going to be a catcher for the Cubs or a wide receiver for the Packers). So, it's unlikely I'm ever going to drive a car or operate a wrecking ball for a major construction company.
Such is life.
Oh, and if that wasn't enough, I also have hyper-photophobia, a complication many with albinism suffer with. It means that most light, and especially sunlight, burns my eyes.
For many of us 'ghosts', enjoying a sunrise over a beautiful clear lake is akin to staring into the sun with binoculars during a full-scale migraine. Totally not fun.
And just for the record, I don't intentionally call myself a ghost, either. I don't like being called an albino, and if I have to be referred to that way, then like I said, 'a person with albinism' is better. But I got referred to as 'ghost' so much as a child it stuck, for better or worse. Them's the facts.
It's not all bad, though. Unlike many with my condition, I had the good fortune to have been born in the United States of America, where generally the worst that happens to someone with my condition is name-calling and daily ridicule.
If I had been born in some country in Africa, for example, where sunscreen barely exists and many 'albinos' are hunted down to have their limbs hacked off for use in weird magical ceremonies, my life would be far more desperate. Most of the time I have only my sister Brie to worry about, which is almost as scary as those crazy, machete-wielding, limb-amputating witch doctors. Sticks and stones, I suppose.
I pretended I couldn't see Brie's venomous gaze shooting laser beams into the side of my head like Superman carving his way through six inches of reinforced titanium-steel alloy, which was no easy feat. My wraparound near-blackout sunglasses helped some with that. And with the collar of the my trench coat turned up and my fedora tilted down low over my brow, it was as if I were Doctor John Griffin in H.G. Wells' The Invisible Man, even though I kinda based the look on the antihero Rorschach from Alan Moore's Watchman. What can I say? I'm a geek as well as a ghost.
Refocusing my attention on the book, I said, "Says here that in 1901, they dug Honest Abe up and reburied him in a steel cage inside a vault ten-feet underground, then poured ten tons of concrete over the top of him for good measure."
"Damn," Dad said, and whistled.
Brie reached over and tore the book from by gloved hands. Her eyes were wild with frustration and fury. "Isn't it bad enough that we're moving to this stupid town without you spewing dumb graveyard facts for six hours?" She powered the window down, letting the cool fall air blast the warmth from the Lexus, whipping her golden hair around in crazy tangles.
Without a second's hesitation, she tossed the book out of the open window.
"Brie!" Mom cried.
"What's happening?" Dad demanded.
"The usual," I said, rolling my eyes behind my shades as the window slid back up. "The Psycho-Fairy strikes again."
My nickname for my sister is based on a number of firsthand observations and experiences. Firstly, that she routinely does crazy crap like trying to kill me or tossing my books out of moving vehicles. Secondly, she is without a doubt mentally unstable. For real. She takes meds. You should see her without them. Let me the count the ways ...
There was her whole 'kill Drake Stevenson' phase (which resurges from time to time); her pre-school 'stabbing sharp objects into total strangers' phase; her junior high 'cutting and self-harm' phase (which stopped when she became afraid of scarring her goddess-in-themaking body); her ever popular 'hysterical tantrum' phase (usually coupled with suicide threats); and most recently, her 'manipulating boys into doing the stupidest things for her' phase.
I'll admit, that last one can sometimes be amusing. But mostly it's just sad to watch.
"Drake, quit that!" Mom barked, turning to glare at me. "That is not funny. Apologize to your sister, immediately."
"Sure, like I'm the one who just threw Dad's book out the window. You're right, I must be the crazy one. So sorry!"
Dad pulled the car over. As the SUV rumbled to a halt on the shoulder, an uneasy silence fell, so deep I suddenly felt as if we were a mile under the ocean.
Ahead on the side of the road, an old sun-faded sign read ' EL OME TO BEAU FUL CENTRALIA!'. Beneath that, a newer looking sign painted in red, white, and blue read 'RE-ELECT MAYOR COBBS'.
"Sheesh. Never thought I'd see this place again," Dad said.
"Brie, baby, go and get your father's book," Mom asked half-heartedly.
Brie was not listening, of course. Her earbuds were stuffed way past the Surgeon General's recommended distance into her ear canals, yet I could still hear the electronic pounding of whatever computer-created 'music' she was listening to. And her face was jammed so close to the phone's glowing screen that her chewing gum bubbles almost touched the glass before deflating. She was the only person I knew who could actually get a tan from her cellphone.
"I'll get it," I said, sighing. I reached for the door handle, aware that beyond the tinted glass and the gauze pull-down blind of my window lay the nuclear-flash brightness and irradiating blast furnace of the Hateful Sun — my kryptonite.
"No, no, honey, let Daddy do it," Mom protested. "It's too bright out, you'll get one of your migraines."
"Babe, he's gotta learn to do things for himself eventually," Dad muttered. "Kid can't hide in his damn room for the rest of his life."
They began arguing as I cracked the door open, slid out, and slammed it shut behind me, half-expecting Dad to floor the SUV and leave me stranded on the side of the road, the dust from their departure choking me, the cancer-forming rays of the Evil Sun beating mercilessly down upon my body.
Honestly, right then, part of me wished it would happen. Sever all ties with the Stevensons once and for all time. To be free of Dad's obsessive drive to achieve, Mom's constant helicoptering, Brie's murderous impulses, would almost be a dream come true.
Almost. Except for the part about being stranded in the middle of nowhere with only the Death Star — our benign sun to you — for company. That would major-league-suck.
I peered down the length of empty highway. Even with my ultra-polarized 99-percent UVA and UVB mirrored wraparound sunglasses, my eyes were already watering from the light. The blacktop was reflecting so much sun it was like walking on glass, and as for the sky ...
I squinted, pulled down the brim of my fedora until it almost touched my nose, and began the trek back along the road.
From the car I heard the muted voices of my parents having a full-on yelling session, the kind that put talk radio and political debates to shame.
I decided to take my time, let the parentals hash it out, allow the storm that had been building since we left the city and our former lives behind to break, just a little.
And anyway, it felt good to stretch my legs. We had stopped at a few gas stations along the interstate, but Dad's insistence that we get to our new house before dark meant that stops were kept at a minimum. Even since his heart attack, Dad still drives five to ten over the limit, and the only reason we stopped for potty breaks at all was because the womenfolk of our little exodus caravan flat-out refused to use the empty coke bottle method.
I kicked a (possibly) urine-filled plastic coke bottle off the shoulder and into the dirt. Highway 13's shoulder was littered with beer cans, shredded tires, and what looked like clusters of spent shell casings, but were likely cigarette butts. In the few minutes since stopping and leaving the car I had seen exactly zero cars pass us on either side of the two-lane highway.
That feeling of being underwater filled my ears again, and I tried to yawn to relieve the pressure and get them to pop. I'd heard the phrase 'the silence was deafening' plenty of times before, but it wasn't until that stretch of Highway 13 that I truly understood what it meant. And as I trekked back along 13's littered shoulder to where I thought I could see the graveyard book, I realized that even the cicadas weren't chirping anymore.
Too cold? Maybe. The first fingers of fall were visible in the forest of oak leaves on my left. To my right were fields, endless farming fields, empty now in their post-harvest state. Some single oaks dotted the low hills. But mostly the fields were empty. No crickets a-cricketing, no bugs a-buzzing. Even the birds were silent. An uneasiness crept into me. I was reminded of the introduction to any number of Stephen King novels about small towns in Maine filled with vampires or ghosts of psychotic teenage girls. And then a horrible realization struck me. The town of Centralia (pop 1300 elev 130ft, according to the welcome sign) was about to receive a sunlight-fearing 'ghost' and his older sister, who most certainly could make King's Carrie character curl up in a corner and cry for mommy.
"Poor Centralia," I said to the empty road, "what have you done to deserve the Stevensons?" My voice fell flat on the shoulder, sounding as dead to my ears as roadkill.
I reached the spot where the book had landed, between a patch of dead grass that sprouted from the cracking asphalt and the rusting remains of a muffler. I leaned down and snatched the book up, dusting it off with my gloved hands. One corner of the hardback was a little dented, but otherwise the volume appeared unscathed. I slipped it into the pocket of my coat and turned with the intention to head back to the car.
Instead, I froze.
Something in the grass winked at me. A twinkling flash of gold. The coruscating light caught my eye with a stab of pain that left stars in my vision. I closed my eyes and waited for my sight to clear before opening them again. Doing so, I realized I was standing between a set of dark skid marks that went off the road and into the underbrush and trees of the shoulder. I studied the twin tracks for a moment before tracing the rubber lines back to the road.
The tracks came from the southbound lane, crossed over the faded double yellow lines, mounted the shoulder, and disappeared into the brush. And now I also saw the broken safety glass sprinkled along the ground like a dusting of tiny twinkling sugar cubes. A shard of headlight. The dark patch of an old oil stain ...
"What's the hold up, Son?"
Turning, I saw Dad leaning out of the window of the SUV. I took the book out of my pocket and waved it. "Found it!" I called.
"Let's go!" he called back, pointing at his watch.
I was about to leave for the second time when the light struck my eye again. I turned and this time pinpointed the source easily. Without hesitating, I leaned down and snatched up a piece of gold jetsam. Upon closer inspection I realized that I held a ring; an ugly, chunkily designed ring, like those high school keepsakes parents spend way too much money on in an attempt to justify having wasted five years of their kids' lives.
I tried to make out the designs around the center cut stone, only to be foiled by my bad eyes. Despite Dad's growing impatience, I took off the glove of my right hand, exposing the pallid skin to the day, and brushed the tips of my fingers over the cool metal. I felt shapes there, maybe letters ...
I suddenly shivered, despite the layers of clothing I wore. The ring felt heavy in the open palm of my left hand, bright against the black of my leather glove. Something about the piece of jewelry made me feel uneasy, as if I were at that very moment being watched ...
"Drake! You want us to leave you behind?"
I started. Hastily, I pocketed the ring to inspect it later, thinking, I suppose, that I might find whose it was and return it to them.
Excerpted from "The Graveyard Girl and The Boneyard Boy"
Copyright © 2017 Martin Matthews.
Excerpted by permission of Black Rose Writing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part One: The Arrival,
Part Two: The Departure,
Part Three: Homecoming,