Read Nightrise Online

Authors: Anthony Horowitz

Tags: #Family, #Action & Adventure, #Juvenile Fiction, #Fantasy & Magic, #General, #Fiction, #People & Places, #Horror & Ghost Stories, #Brothers, #United States, #Supernatural, #Siblings, #Telepathy, #Nevada, #Twins, #Juvenile Detention Homes

Nightrise (2 page)

BOOK: Nightrise
11.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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"He's clean!" he announced.

A few people laughed. They were enjoying this. They wanted to see what would happen next.

Under Jamie's guidance, the man placed two coins against Scott's eyes. They were old English pennies, larger than modern coins. Next, he was blindfolded. And then, to finish, a black hood was placed over his head. It was like an executioner's hood. It completely covered his eyes, his nose, and his hair. But it left his mouth free.

Jamie went into the audience. He stopped beside a blond woman in a tight-fitting dress. Her boyfriend was sitting next to her. He had his hand on her thigh.

"Can you give me something from your handbag?" Jamie asked.

'You want something from my handbag?" The woman giggled, then glanced at her boyfriend. He nodded, giving her permission, and she pulled out a small, silver object. Jamie took it and held it in the palm of his hand.

"It's a key ring," Scott said.

Jamie held the key ring up so that everyone could see. The audience applauded again. Several of them were talking now, whispering to each other, shaking their heads in disbelief.

"Let's make this more difficult," Jamie called out. "I wonder if anyone here has a business card. How about you, sir?"

He had stopped in front of two men sitting next to each other. All he had noticed so far was that they were both wearing brown linen suits, which in itself was strange because nobody in Reno ever dressed very smartly. On the other hand, he always tried to look for someone in a jacket when he reached this part of the act. From his experience, a man was more likely to have a wallet and, in the wallet, a business card. Women took longer, searching in their handbags. The act was supposed to last eighteen minutes. If he went over, he'd get slapped. Or worse.

Jamie waited for the man to reach into his jacket pocket, and when that didn't happen, he looked down.

That was when he knew he had made a mistake. At that moment he wished that he had gone to any row but this one. Jamie had been struggling to get through the act in the damp, sluggish heat of the theatre.

The air-conditioning was failing as usual. But the very sight of this man was like cold water thrown into his face.

It wasn't just that he was ugly. Jamie had met many unpleasant-looking people when he was doing his act — indeed he sometimes wondered if there wasn't something about the Reno Playhouse that actually attracted them. But this man was beyond ugly. There was something almost inhuman about him, about the way he was gazing at Jamie with eyes that were a very faint shade of blue, so faint as to be almost colorless. The man was quite bald but he hadn't lost his hair with age — nor had he decided to shave it off. The polished skull was unblemished, as if there had never been anything there to begin with. His face was the same. He had no eyebrows. There was no stubble on his cheeks or chin. His whole face looked like a mask stretched tight over a bone structure that kept it in a shape but allowed it to express no emotion at all. He had very small, very white teeth. They looked false.

"He wants your card," the man next to him said. He spoke with a soft, rasping voice and a Southern accent.

This man had hair, tangled and black, tied in a pony-tail — as well as a wispy little beard, sprouting in a triangle just under his lower lip. He was wearing plastic sunglasses that offered mirror reflections instead of his eyes. He smelled of cheap aftershave that was failing to hide the truth. He needed to change his clothes more. He needed to wash. It was impossible to say if he was younger or older than his companion. Both of them were ageless.

Jamie realized that several seconds had gone by and nothing had happened. He swallowed. "A business card," he repeated.

The silence stretched on. Jamie was about to move away. Surely he could find someone else who would cooperate? But then the bald man shrugged and reached into his jacket. "Sure," he said. "I've got a card."

He took out a wallet, opened it, and removed a white card, balancing it for a moment between soiled, cracked fingernails, as if considering. Then he handed it to Jamie. Jamie held it in front of him. There was a name and, below it, a company.

COLTON BANES NIGHTRISE CORPORATION

Beneath that was an address and a telephone number. The letters were too small for Jamie to see in the half-light.

The man was looking at him curiously, almost as if he were trying to see into him. With difficulty, Jamie turned back to the stage. He tried to speak but his mouth was too dry. He swallowed, then tried again.

"Scott, can you tell me who this man works for?" he called out.

Silence from the stage. What was happening now?

Then Scott spoke. "Sure, Jamie. He works for the Nightrise Corporation."

The man smiled. "That's absolutely right," he said loudly, so the whole theatre could hear. But his voice was almost taunting Jamie, as if he didn't care one way or another if the trick had worked. "The boy got it in one."

There was even more applause this time. There were only forty-five people left in the theatre but they were genuinely absorbed. It was the only real mystery they had seen all evening. Days later, they would still be wondering how it was done.

And none of them had guessed the simple truth, even though it was the only possible explanation and was staring them in the face. There were no microphones. There were no hidden signals. There were no codes or messages being sent from offstage. The trick was that there was no trick. The two boys could genuinely read each other's minds.

But the Nightrise Corporation knew. That was why they had sent these men here tonight. To see for themselves.

It was time for Scott and Jamie Tyler to disappear.

TWO

Backstage

The performance was over. Scott and Jamie had half an hour until the next one began, so the two of them went back to their dressing room. A narrow, L-shaped corridor, lit by harsh neon tubes, ran all the way around the back of the stage with an exit door at the end. As usual, they had to pick their way past the costumes, baskets, and props that were already set out for the next performance. Swami Louvishni's bed of nails was propped up next to Zorro's chains and straitjacket. A papier-mé cow came next and then a broken piano missing most of its keys — these last two left over from some other show. On one side, a bare brick wall rose forty feet up to the ceiling — this was in fact the back of the stage. On the other, a series of doors opened into small, square rooms. The entire area smelled of fried food. The theatre backed onto a motel with its kitchen directly opposite. Often when the boys left, they would see the Filipino staff in their striped aprons and white paper hats, hanging around, smoking.

As they made their way backstage, there was a sudden whining and a dog bounded out of one of the doors. It was a German shepherd, ten years old and blind in one eye. It belonged to Frank Kirby, who used it when he was pretending to be Mr. Marvano, master illusionist. Twice a night, the dog sat behind a secret mirror, waiting to appear in the cage.

Jamie leaned down and patted its head. "Good boy, Jagger," he said. The dog had been named after the lead singer of the Rolling Stones. Jamie didn't know why.

"Hey—Jamie!"

Frank Kirby was in his dressing room. Zorro was with him, sitting at a table with a glass and a half bottle of whiskey in front of him. Jamie hoped the escapologist hadn't drunk too much of it yet. One night Zorro had been handcuffed on stage, tied up, and locked into his chest…where he had promptly fallen asleep. He'd lost a week's wages for that. He and Kirby often hung out together. They were both divorced. They were both in their fifties. And —Jamie couldn't avoid the thought — they were both losers.

"What is it, Frank?" Jamie asked. He leaned against the door and felt his brother brush past behind him.

Scott hadn't stopped.

"There's a rumor we may be moving." Kirby's voice was always hoarse. Smoking thirty cigarettes a day probably didn't help. "I hear maybe we're getting out of Reno. You know anything about that?"

"I haven't heard anything," Jamie said.

"Maybe you can ask your uncle Don. He never tells us nothing!"

Jamie was tempted to say that Don White never told him anything either. But there was no point. Frank knew that anyway. So Jamie just shrugged and went into the room next door.

Scott was already there, lying on the single bed with its dirty mattress and striped blanket. All the rooms were the same: completely square with a window looking out onto the parking lot, with the motel on the other side. Each one had a washbasin and a mirror surrounded by lightbulbs. In some of the rooms, the lightbulbs actually worked. Jamie glanced at his brother, who was staring up at the ceiling. There were a couple of old Marvel comics on the table and a half-empty bottle of Coke. That was it. The two of them never did anything between shows. Sometimes they talked, but recently it seemed to Jamie that Scott had begun to retreat into himself.

"Frank thinks we may be moving," Jamie said.

"Moving where?"

"He didn't say." Jamie sat down. "It would be great to get out of here. Away from Reno."

Scott thought for a moment. He was still gazing at the ceiling. "I don't see it makes much difference," he said at last. "Wherever we go, it'll only be the same…or worse."

Jamie took a sip from the Coke bottle. The liquid was warm and flat. It was like drinking syrup. He turned his head and examined his brother, lying there on the bed. Scott had unbuttoned his shirt. It hung loose at the sides, exposing his stomach and chest. The shirts looked good on the stage but they were cheap, black nylon and made Scott and Jamie sweat. Scott's hands were loosely curled by his sides. At that moment he didn't look fourteen. He could have been twenty-four.

Jamie often had to remind himself that the two of them were exactly the same age. They were twins.

That much at least was certain. And yet he couldn't help thinking of Scott as his older brother. It wasn't just the physical difference between them. For as long as he could remember, Scott had looked after him. Somehow it had never been the other way around. When Jamie had his nightmares, lying in some run-down hotel or trailer in the middle of nowhere, Scott would be there to comfort him. When he was hungry, Scott would find food. When Don White or his girlfriend, Marcie, turned nasty, Scott would put himself between them and his brother.

That was how it had always been. Other kids had parents. Other kids went to school and hung out with their friends. They had TVs and computer games and went to summer camp. But Jamie and Scott had never had any of it. It was as if real life went on somewhere else, and they had been dumped outside.

Sometimes Jamie thought back to life before Uncle Don had come and introduced him and Scott to The Circus of the Mind.

After all, it hadn't been that long ago. But the days added up into weeks and then months, and now it was as if a single, long road had been smashed through all his other memories and all that was left were shabby theatres and circus tents, hotels, motels, trailers, and camper vans. Hours spent on the dusty highways crisscrossing Nevada, always on the move, often in the middle of the night, chasing the next dollar…wherever it might be.

He wondered how he had managed to survive the last three years without going mad. But he knew the answer. It was stretched out on the bed in front of him. Scott had been the one constant in his life, his only true friend and protector. They had always been together. They always would be. After all, it was only when the adults had tried to separate them that The Accident had happened, the beginning of this whole bad dream in which they were now trapped. Jamie examined his brother. Scott seemed to have fallen asleep. His bare chest was rising and falling slowly, and there was a sheen of sweat on his skin.

He thought back to what Scott had told him, that night in the big tent where they were performing —just outside Las Vegas. It had been the end of the first week. The first public showing of the telepathic twins.

"Don't worry, Jamie. We're going to get though this. Five more years and we'll be sixteen. They can't keep us then. They can't make us do anything we don't want to do."

"What will we do?"

"We'll find something. Maybe we'll go to California. We can go to Los Angeles."

"We could work in TV."

"No. They'd turn us into freaks." Scott smiled. "Maybe we could set up some sort of business…you and me."

"At least we'd know what the competition was thinking."

"That's right." Scott warmed to the subject. "We could be like Bill Gates. Make billions of dollars and then retire. You wait and see. Once we're sixteen, we'll be unstoppable."

They still had two more years. But Jamie was aware of a growing anxiety. It seemed to him that with every day that passed, the dream was fading. Scott was becoming more silent, more remote. He could lie still for hours at a time, not quite asleep but not awake either. It was as if something was being slowly drained out of him, and Jamie was afraid.

Scott was the strong one. Scott knew what to do. Jamie could go on performing. He could put up with Uncle Don and the casual brutality of his life. There was just one thing that scared him.

He knew he couldn't do it on his own.

***

At the far end of the corridor, in a corner office with views in two directions, Don White was sitting behind a desk that he couldn't possibly hope to reach. His stomach was too large. He was. an immensely fat man with flesh that seemed to fold over itself as if searching for somewhere else to go. It was ice cold in the room — this was the one place in the theatre where the air-conditioning worked — but there were wet patches on the front of his shirt and under his armpits. Don sweated all the time. For a man his size, even walking ten steps was an effort — and he looked permanently exhausted. There were dark rings under his eyes and he had lips like a fish, always gulping for air. He was eating a hamburger.

Tomato ketchup was dribbling between his fingers, dripping down onto the surface of the desk.

There were two men sitting opposite him, waiting for him to finish. If they were disgusted by the spectacle in front of them, they didn't show it. One was bald. The other had dark hair. They were both wearing suits. They both waited silently while Don finished his meal, licked his fingers, then wiped them on his trousers.

BOOK: Nightrise
11.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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