The Wolf (Black Dagger Brotherhood: Prison Camp #2)
Willow Hills Sanatorium
Connelly, New York
It was a stormy Halloween night when two boys, aged thirteen and thirteen and three-quarters, squeezed through the torn section of a chain-link fence hung with all kinds of “No Trespassing” signs. The one who was older by eight months got his jacket caught on a rusty grab, and the tearing sound was one week without his iPad. Minimum.
“Dammit,” Tiller said as he pulled at the snag.
“C’mon. Let’s get this over with.”
He shouldn’t have brought Gordo, but Isaac was sick, and Mark was grounded for what they’d all done the weekend before. Stupid fire. They hadn’t meant it to get that big, and besides, the leaf pile was gone now and that burned lawn in the Thompsons’ side yard would grow back.
As rain started to fall a little harder, Gordo came over and yanked at the jacket. “Take it off.”
Tiller shoved his ghost-hunting equipment into his buddy’s chest, unzipped the front, and got out of the sleeve. Then he gripped with both hands and pulled as hard as he could—
The release was immediate, and as he landed on his ass, he got rain in his eyes and mud all over him. “Fuck!”
Gordo bent down. “I gotta be back before midnight.”
Like the guy thought Tiller was going to hang around until things air dried. Sometime next week.
“Relax.” He got to his feet and flapped the jacket around. Palm-cleaned his jeans. “What, are you scared?”
“No, dumbass. And we’re s’posed to be online in an hour.”
The guy was lying about not being afraid. Which was why he’d been third choice when Tiller had decided he couldn’t handle going alone. Not that he himself was nervous or anything.
Tying the jacket around his waist, he felt like he was wearing his mother’s kitchen sponge, but as he looked around, he forgot about the cold and wet. The trees had no leaves on their clawing branches, and the bushes, with their twisted, finger-like extensions, seemed ready to follow the fence’s example with poisoned thorns—
Overhead, lightning flashed.
Good thing Gordo also jumped.
“Where is the place?”
“Up here,” Tiller said, even though he didn’t know where they were going.
As they continued on, he let Gordo keep hold of the night vision cam and the EVP recorder because he was trying not to run back for the fence, and not sure whether he was going to win the argument with his feet. The deeper into the acreage he went, the more he just wanted to get the video and send it to the seventh grade group chat and have this shit be done with.
“How far is it?”
Except the trek felt endless, and the trees seemed to move all around them, and Tiller started to lose faith, too. So he fired up the EMF reader on his phone and swung the sensor around, the beeping noise making him think of that submarine movie his father liked to watch, the one with that guy, Stewart Seagal or whatever. The ghost-hunting app, which he’d installed for free, made him feel like he had a flashlight—
The howl came from over to the right. And it was loud and long. And it didn’t sound like just a dog, even a big one like a German shepherd or a Rottie. Whatever was making that noise was much larger.
Tiller grabbed for Gordo, but the kid did the same thing at the same time, so he wasn’t a wuss. As his phone shook in his hand, he almost dropped it. Which would have been a month without his iPad. Or longer.
“I want to go home.”
Gordo sounded like a damned baby. Except, yeah, Tiller wanted his mommy, too, not that he was going to say anything about that.
“It’s just piped in,” he blurted.
Tiller shoved the kid off. “Like how they do in haunts to scare people going through the mazes. That wasn’t real. Come on, like there’s a wolf inside this fence?”
“You think there’re speakers in the trees?”
“Just keep going. Jesus.”
Tiller put the phone back up because he needed to look like he was in control. Otherwise, he was going to lose Gordo and have to do this alone. And he was not not sending the video—
“I’m out,” Gordo announced.
Turning around, Tiller marched back to the kid. “You want to look like an idiot after we didn’t jump into the quarry this summer?” He and Gordo really should have just frickin’ done the dare. Then they wouldn’t be here. “We promised the footage, we’re going to get the footage. Besides, nothing is going to happen.”
He grabbed Gordo’s arm and dragged them both forward. When more lightning flashed, they both squeaked and ducked down. Tiller recovered first, and he kept ahold of the other kid. No fucking way he was going to let his cover get away. If something went wrong, he was faster than Gordo and it was like in Zombieland. Rule #1: Cardio—
“See?” Tiller said. “It’s just right there.”
His feet stopped, even though he’d intended to keep going. And Gordo didn’t argue with the no-more-walking.
As thunder rolled through the dark sky, another flash lit up the looming structure before them—and the Willow Hills Sanatorium got way too real. The rotten old building was twice the size of the school they went to, with five floors and two big wing-thingies. Broken windows, busted shutters, and nasty stains running from the roof all the way down to the weeds made the place look like it was possessed.
And maybe that was true, Tiller thought as he took in the empty eye sockets in the towering wall of the centerpiece.
“What’s that?” Gordo mumbled.
“What’s what.” God, he should have brought . . . well, he shouldn’t have come here at all. “What’s your problem.”
Gordo shook his head. Standing there in his Minecraft sweatshirt, with his shaggy brown hair in his scared eyes, he reminded Tiller of a fence post jammed into the ground.
The kid wasn’t looking at the building.
The Wolf (Black Dagger Brotherhood: Prison Camp #2)