Authors: C.B. Day
Book One of the Heaven’s Gate Trilogy
By C.B. Day
Text copyright © 2012 C.B. Day
Cover design by Daniel Thiede
All Rights Reserved
To my husband and children, for their love, patience
and support, and for my fan fiction readers, for their inspiration and
Table of Contents
the SWAT team stormed the motel room, the first thing they saw was the little
girl. She was sitting on the edge of the bed, holding her blankie and sucking
her thumb, her bare legs hanging over the edge, absentmindedly kicking at the
The television set blared
-- Wile E. Coyote getting crushed by a falling anvil, courtesy once again of
The girl turned her big,
brown eyes and stared at the men. She didn’t scream; she didn’t cry; she just
looked at them as if she had been expecting them all along, as if they were as
natural a part of the rundown room as the peeling speckled wallpaper and the
rust-colored shag carpet.
They turned and fanned
their guns around the room, looking for the man who had taken the girl, the bad
man who had hurt other little girls, the man who was lurking in the corner or
hiding under the bed. But he wasn’t there. The door to the bathroom was
closed, however, so they surrounded it.
Two of the men, who
looked like bugs in their funny helmets and gas masks, began talking to her,
touching her hair, her arms as if to reassure themselves that she was there,
really, really there. Was she alright? Was she hurt?
While they wrapped a
blanket around her, another bug-man kicked in the bathroom door and rushed into
the bathroom, brandishing his gun.
“Oh dear God,” he choked
out, his voice sounding tinny and far away as he backed out through the door. An
acrid smell floated out with him.
The other men rushed into
the bathroom to see what he had seen. Suddenly, they had to strain to move
their feet, as if springs were pulling them back. They looked down and saw the
faded linoleum had melted and was sticking to their boots, stretching apart
like long strings of taffy. They searched the floor and saw where the shiny,
gooey plastic turned scorched and black. There, in the middle of the floor,
lay a pile of ash, flecked with little chips of white. Teeth. Bones. The
body was still smoking, its whispery tendrils rising up to leave a film of soot
on the ceiling. One of the men kicked the pile, revealing a few misshapen
lumps. A putrid smell washed over them as he kicked around the remains, musky
sweet and tangy, like copper.
One by one the men came
out, holding their hands over their faces. One rushed to the little Formica
table in the corner, thrust up the front of his helmet, and vomited into the
wastebasket. Walkie-talkies started buzzing and bulbs started flashing and
everything seemed to get hot and loud all at once.
The first man, the man
who had kicked in the bathroom door, knelt before the little girl on the bed.
“What happened? Who did
this?” he asked the little girl. “Was there someone else here with you?”
The little girl just
stared at him with her big brown eyes and sucked her thumb. She had no idea
what he was talking about.
Chapter 1 – Home?
The transfer happened
with little fuss. I didn’t have much to take with me from Alabama: Holy
Family had required uniforms, so I had little clothing of my own. The things
my mother kept sending me Dad had deemed “too showy;” he’d promptly packed them
up to send to Goodwill. Mom had said to leave my treadmill; she’d get me a new
one. So I loaded up the backseat of her Audi convertible with my books and
climbed in, ready to put my past behind me.
As Mom backed out of the
long, rutted driveway, I took one last look at the house in which I’d lived for
almost ten years. Dad wasn’t there to wave goodbye. He was probably down at
the church, praying for a miraculous intervention to keep me from moving to
Atlanta. Resentment flooded through me, and I crossed my arms, refusing to
acknowledge the fluttering in my stomach.
“Ready to go?” Mom asked,
looking into the backseat at me with an expectant look in her eyes. I nodded
and she accelerated. In an instant, a cloud of dust obscured my view of the
We rode in silence. My
request for a change of custody had come as a surprise to my mom. She’d never
challenged the original arrangements; had never pumped me for information nor
probed to find his failings as a father. It was like she wanted him to be a
good dad, was even rooting for him. When I’d insisted on talking in private
with the court-appointed mediator, she hadn’t questioned it. She’d never tried
to get me to explain why I wanted to move back to live with her.
Now, as we wove in and
out of the fast lane, she kept her end of whatever unspoken agreement she had
with my dad and left me to my own thoughts. But I didn’t want to think.
Instead, I let the steady hum of the asphalt under the tires lull me into a
“Here we are,” Mom said
briskly, jolting me out of my reverie as she made a sharp turn. The two hours
had gone swiftly. I was surprised to see we were in a neat subdivision, almost
My Mom still lived in the
same big house in the suburbs we’d had before my parents had separated. It
made no sense. She had to drive miles to get to the airport. She lived
alone. The house was a massive colonial looming ahead of us at the end of a
cul-de-sac: great for a family with young kids, a bit much if you were a
single not-quite divorcee.
The perfection of it was
jarring after living as we did in Alabama. Even though Dad and I technically
lived in a decent neighborhood (thanks to the generous check Mom sent every
month), our house was pretty sad. Dad had blocked out most of the windows with
aluminum foil, nailing their sashes shut, and had installed double deadbolts on
every door. The yard was a dead zone with bare patches of dirt and stubby
clumps of straw -- all that was left of the bushes some previous owner had once
planted. From the mint green and plum wallpaper that looked like it came from
an old Holiday Inn, to the saggy garage door, the entire place looked like
someone had abandoned it in circa 1992. The covenants had expired on our
neighborhood, so the neighbors just shook their heads and whispered amongst
themselves about what a shame it was.
I felt a little twinge
looking up at my new home as we pulled up the driveway. With its pretty white
shutters, sparkling glass, and wide expanse of green grass, it should have been
cheery, but the yawning windows looked just as sad to me. As she pulled into
the spotless garage, I wondered again why Mom had lived here by herself all
“You remember, your room
is at the top of the stairway. I can help you carry your books up, if you’d
like.” The corners of her mouth contorted, as if she was either forcing, or
trying to suppress, a smile. I couldn’t tell which.
I nodded, sitting in my
seat, my hands folded in my lap, while she got out of the car and opened the
door for me. I looked up at her face, uncertain. I hadn’t thought about the
fact that I didn’t really know my Mom. I hadn’t really lived with her in over
She blew out a long
breath and reached in to squeeze my hands.
“Welcome home, Hope.”
Later that night, over
pizza, we reviewed her plans for the week. And I mean plans.
“I’ll be taking you in
tomorrow for your first day. But I need to leave first thing in the morning on
Tuesday. My secretary prepared my itinerary for you,” -- she passed me a
glossy blue folder from a neat pile in front of her –“in case you need to reach
me. I won’t be back for a few days, but I asked Mrs. Bibeau down the street to
check in on you after school.”
I just nodded, my mouth
working the cheese and pepperoni.
“The school already knows
you’re coming. I filed all of your papers. I made you an extra copy” – now, a
red folder emerged – “to keep in your backpack in case there is any confusion.
We’ll just need to go to the front office when we get there.” Here, she
frowned. “Until you get your drivers’ license, I am afraid you’ll have to take
the bus. I know that is less than ideal, but it is the best I can do right
now. After you make some friends, I’m sure they’ll be more than happy to pick
you up. Until then, you’ve got to be out of the house by 7:25. Here is your
Under her breath she
muttered, “For the life of me, I can’t understand why your father didn’t let
you get your learner’s permit. You’re so close to being old enough to drive
yourself…. I just hope we can get you behind the wheel quickly. I’ll have to
sign you up for Driver’s Ed.”
I almost told her it
wasn’t necessary, but bit back my response. It probably wouldn’t help her any
to know that my father had been letting me drive behind the wheel of his old
Honda for years, part of his plan for “emergency preparedness.” Whatever that
Without pausing, Mom
turned to the pile. “I’ve assembled a list of emergency phone numbers for you,
and compiled all the information on the classes you’ll be joining.”
Another thick folder hit the table. “I wasn’t sure what you’d like to eat, so
just in case, I got this set of delivery menus for you for when I’m gone.” She
fanned them out in front of her. Her voice was starting to get a hysterical
edge to it.
“Mom,” I interrupted,
touching her lightly on the arm. “It’s ok. I’ve cooked for myself before.
I’ll be okay.”
She sagged back into her
chair. “Of course you will. I just feel so bad, leaving so soon after you’ve
gotten here. If your father knew he’d…”
“But he doesn’t. And
nobody’s going to tell him.” I leaned back in my chair and crossed my arms,
pleased that an opportunity to defy him had presented itself so soon.
Mom smiled weakly. “No,
I supposed not. The judge took care of that, didn’t she? Unless he’s
assembled an army of spies, he won’t be able to see you for a good three
I winced. I wouldn’t put
it past my father to have concocted some elaborate scheme to track my
whereabouts 24/7. He may have even implanted a chip in me, I thought. Memo to
self – check for weird bumps when you take a shower tonight.
My mom interrupted my
thoughts. “Here’s a cell phone for you.” She set it down next to my plate.
It was sleek, gunmetal grey with a cool graffiti case. “It is pre-programmed
with my cell, Mrs. Bibeau’s number, my secretary’s number, and some emergency
numbers. I’ll try to call you each night to see how your day went, kiddo, but
it may be late. I’m not sure how your classes at Holy Innocents compared to
Dunwoody High’s, so you may have some catching up to do. Or you may find them
too easy. If you find you have time on your hands, you could think through your
extracurriculars. I picked up this information on the ones I thought might
interest you from the school. Maybe we can talk about it tomorrow night after
you get home and have a sense of your class load.”
I stopped playing with
the stringy cheese that had dripped off of my slice and stared at her blankly
as she set the list on top of the pile. “Extracurriculars?”
Mom’s lips compressed
into a thin line and her eyes got sad. “You’re a perfectly healthy fifteen-year-old
girl, Hope,” she said, softly. “Your Dad did what he thought best, but….” She
stopped then, choosing her words carefully. “You should be out in the world,
honey. Not locked up all day.”