Night School Fracture excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

 

THIS EXCERPT CONTAINS SPOILERS. IF YOU HAVEN’T READ NIGHT SCHOOL LEGACY YET, TURN BACK NOW!! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

 

Shoving the phone back into her pocket, Allie shivered as the bitter February wind cut through her and moved closer to the tall pine tree that sheltered her.

She’d been waiting nearly twenty minutes. If it took much longer …

Her throat worked as she swallowed hard.

The gate in front of her was tall and imposing, topped with sharp spikes of black metal. As far as she knew, this was the only way in and out of Cimmeria Academy’s grounds. Nearly a mile from the school building at the end of a long drive, it was opened and closed by remote control. Only the headmistress and a cadre of carefully chosen security guards were allowed to operate it.

Cars were relatively rare at Cimmeria Academy. Most teachers and staff lived on site. Still, delivery trucks and post vans came and went each day, as did the security guards who worked for Raj Patel. She’d been observing the rare traffic for a few weeks and she knew a delivery van arrived just before four o’clock most days. It was nearly four now. If she was lucky, the van would enter through those gates before she was discovered.

Her hiding place was very close to where she’d been when Jo was killed. The memory of that night, eight weeks ago, tortured her. If she closed her eyes, she could see it all – the blanket of white snow, the blue moonlight, the fragile body thrown like a rag doll on to the road … The cloud of blood blooming around her like the petals of a deadly flower.

She opened her eyes.

Tonight there was only an empty dirt road.

She took a shaky breath.

Am I really going to do this?

She’d been asking herself that question ever since she’d reached the gate. Part of her wanted to cry. Part of her wanted to run back to her room. But she did neither. Instead, she steeled herself.

She had to get out of here. If she wanted answers about what was really going on, she needed to get away from this school and find them.

An icy breeze shook the trees, showering freezing raindrops down on her. Shivering, she wrapped her scarf tighter around her neck. The roar of branches swaying above her disguised the noise of the car engine for a long moment. By the time she’d clocked it, headlights were visible in the distance.

Dropping into a crouch well out of the path of the high beams, she waited, poised like the athlete she’d been before the attack. The stance hurt every part of her damaged body – her knee most of all – but she ignored the pain. Now wasn’t the time to listen to her body. Now was the time to run.

Breathless, she watched through the bars of the fence, invisible in the shadows in her dark coat and jeans. She expected a red mail van, but saw instead a dark, low-slung car.

Allie’s breath caught in her throat. Several of the security guards drove cars like that. It had to be one of them.

The sleek car approached the gate slowly and rolled to a stop.

In an instant Allie decided: she would do it anyway. Whoever was in that car it didn’t matter. She was going to run.

She readied herself. This was her chance. Maybe her only chance.

But nothing happened. The throbbing in her injured knee became more acute. Staying still was excruciating. She couldn’t do it for long.

Closing her eyes, she willed the gate to open but it didn’t move. Something must be wrong.

Maybe they know. Maybe it’s a trap and Raj has already sent the guards to grab me. Maybe they’re coming for me right now.

Her mouth went dry. It was hard to breathe.

Then the big metal gate shuddered and, with a metallic creak, began to roll open.

Her lips moving silently, Allie counted eight breaths in and out before it clanged to a stop, fully open. The road beyond curved into the dark woods. In the deepening twilight it seemed to disappear just beyond the gates – as if there was no world out there any more.

Pulling the phone from her pocket, she dropped it on to the ground. She hated to do it, but its signal could be traced – it was no use to her now. She had to trust that Mark would do as they’d agreed.

All she needed was for the car to drive far enough into the school grounds to allow her to get out without being noticed by the driver.

But an achingly long moment passed and the car didn’t move. Its engine idled like a cat purring as it toyed with its prey. From where Allie crouched, she couldn’t see the driver.

What the hell is the problem? Frustration made her want to scream. Will you just drive?

Just as she was beginning to fear she’d been spotted, the black Audi’s tyres crunched on the gravel drive. Slowly, it began to move towards the school building.

Almost immediately the gates began to close again but she didn’t dare move. The car was still too close – the driver might see her in his mirror.

With all her muscles tense and burning she waited, eyes fixed on the gates as she willed the car to pass out of view. But it moved with slow deliberation. Almost as if the driver was looking for someone.

The thought made her queasy; she took a deep calming breath to steady her nerves.

Don’t lose it now, Allie, she told herself. Focus. If he knew I was here he’d get out of the car.

Watching the gate’s slow progress, she counted three breaths. Four.

Five.

It was nearly shut now. The car was still within view but she had no choice – if she didn’t go now she might never get out.

And that was not an option.

Springing from her hiding place she tore through the trees, legs pumping, knee aching, breath burning her lungs. The gap between the gate and the fence looked tiny. Too tiny. Had she miscalculated? Was it too late?

Then she was there, hands clutching the cold bars as if she could somehow slow their progress. But the gate was automatic – unstoppable. Its movement was steady. Uncaring.

Allie didn’t hesitate – shooting through the tight gap as the bars yanked at her jacket like bony fingers, shoving her shoulder so hard her breath hissed between her teeth at the pain.

With a strangled cry, she ripped herself loose, tumbling to the ground on the other side just as the gates clanged shut.

She was free.

 

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