Home > Birds of Prey - A Novella of Terror (Serial Killers #2.2)

Birds of Prey - A Novella of Terror (Serial Killers #2.2)
Author: Blake Crouch

A Watch of Nightingales

Winston-Salem, North Carolina, 1969

“Get in here, boys!” Jeanette shouted. “It’s happening, and you’re missing it! Andrew! Orson! Come on!”

The eight-year-old twins raced each other down the hall and into the living room, where they skidded to a stop on the green shag carpet.

“You have to see this,” their mother said, pointing at the television screen.

“What’s wrong with Dad?” Orson asked.

Andy looked over at their father who sat on the edge of an ottoman, leaning toward the television with his forearms on his knees and tears running down his face.

“Nothing, son,” he said, dabbing at his eyes with a handkerchief. “Just never thought I’d be alive to see something like this.”

“Can we go outside?” Andy said.

“It’s too late,” Jeannette said. “Ya’ll need to get ready for bed.”

“Aw, come on, Mom. Just for ten minutes,” Orson begged.

“Five minutes,” their mother said. “And don’t make me come out there looking for you.”

The boys rushed out the front door into the night, the screen door banging shut after them.

It was July and warm, lightning bugs floating everywhere like airborne embers, sparking and fading, sparking and fading.

“Look at me!” Andy screamed, running out into the long, cool grass in the front yard. “I’m floating!”

When the boy stopped, he glanced back toward the driveway, saw his brother lying on his back, staring up at the sky.

Andy moved back toward him in exaggerated hops, pretending to bounce along through reduced gravity.

He lay down on the warm concrete beside his brother, their shoulders barely touching, and stared up into the sky.

The gibbous moon shone with a subdued brilliance through the humid southern night.

“I can see them up there,” Andy said.

Orson glanced at him, brow furrowed. “Really?”

Andy smiled. “Of course not, I’m just kidding.”

“I knew that.”

They were quiet for a bit, and then Orson said, “I think there’s something wrong with me.”

“I know, my stomach always hurts after Mom’s meatloaf, too.”

“No, it’s not that.”

“What?”

“You ever feel different?” Orson said.

“Different? Like how?”

“Like from other people, stupid.”

“I don’t know. I don’t guess so.”

“Yeah, that’s because you’re normal.”

“So are you.”

“No, I’m not.”

“Yes, you are, you’re my brother.”

“That doesn’t make me normal, Andy.”

“I know you and there’s nothing wrong—”

“But you only know my outside. You don’t know what’s inside. The thoughts I have.”

“What thoughts?”

“Just thoughts.”

“Normal ones?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Like what?” Andy asked.

“I don’t want to tell. They’re mine.”

“Tell me.”

Orson looked over at Andy. Now there were tears in his eyes. Glassy in the moonlight.

“You’ll tell Mom and Dad.”

“No, I won’t.”

“You promise?”

“I promise.”

Orson looked back into the sky.

“Everyone’s real excited about what’s happening.”

“I know.”

“But you know what I’m thinking?”

“How could I?”

Orson hesitated. Then: “No, I don’t want to say.”

“Orson.” Andy reached over and took hold of his brother’s hand. “You can trust me. Always.”

Orson blinked twice, and then said, “I wish Neil Armstrong would die up there.”

“Why?”

Orson shrugged. “I don’t know. But I wish his friend would leave him on the moon or the Eagle would blow up or a space monster that no one had ever heard of before would crawl out of a hole and eat him. Everyone would be sad, and I’d be….so happy.”

Andy stared at his brother, an airy fluttering in his stomach now, and it wasn’t his mother’s meatloaf.

“You can let go of my hand if you want,” Orson said, and that look on his face would never leave Andy—fear and defiance and rage and a deep, deep sadness.

The screen door banged open.

Their mother’s voice echoing through the woods across the street, calling for them to come inside and get ready for bed.

Andy squeezed his brother’s hand tighter.

A Day at the Beach

North Carolina Outer Banks, 1977

They were a happy, black-eyed family, and the day was perfect.

Late August.

The heat broken by the breeze coming off the ocean.

A few stray clouds way out over the Atlantic, but otherwise, the sky pitch-blue and already beginning to deepen toward evening.

Rufus Kite and his five-year-old son had started after lunch, and now, six hours into the project, it loomed over the beach like the ruins of a Scottish castle. They’d constructed a moat all the way around—two feet wide and a foot down to the water table. Luther had even put a crab inside as a standin for a real monster. The tide would be upon them anytime now, and already the noise of the surf was getting louder as it inched closer. Luther sat in the middle of the castle, surrounded by two-foot walls, digging trenches and passageways while his father dripped wet sand along the top wall. It looked like disintegrating masonry.

Ten yards behind the castle, Luther’s mother and sister reclined in beach chairs under the shade of an umbrella, Maxine tearing through the last fifty pages of a Ludlum novel, Katie curled up sleeping in her chair, the eight-year-old a deep bronze—the only member of the Kite clan who could catch a tan.

They’d driven onto the beach eight hours ago, the kids riding in the back of the old Dodge pick-up truck as Rufus drove all the way out to the southern tip of the island—a spit of sand jutting out into the sea.

At this time of day, they had it all to themselves.

A man had been fishing a few hundred yards up the beach for the last several hours, but he was gone now.

A fishing trawler loomed like a ghost on the horizon several miles out, nearly invisible through the haze.

“If we build it big enough,” Luther said as he packed the damp sand, fortifying the wall, “maybe the tide won’t knock our castle down?”

 

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