Read Rain of the Ghosts Online

Authors: Greg Weisman

Rain of the Ghosts

RAIN of the GHOSTS

RAIN OF THE GHOSTS
.

Copyright © 2013 by Greg Weisman. All rights reserved.

Printed in the United States of America. For information, address

St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.

www.stmartins.com

Design by Anna Gorovoy

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data (
TK
)

ISBN 978-1-250-02979-9 (trade paperback)

ISBN 978-1-250-02980-5 (e-book)

St. Martin’s Griffin books may be purchased for educational, business, or promotional use. For information on bulk purchases, please contact Macmillan Corporate and Premium Sales Department at 1-800-221-7945 extension 5442 or write [email protected]

First Edition: December 2013

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

For Beth, Erin & Benny …

something to read together …

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Thanks to Jeffrey Katzenberg, Gary Krisel and Bruce Cranston for setting the stage for Rain’s creation. (And to Kim Mozingo, Tanna Harris, Emily Gmerek and John Hardman for making that setting more fun.)

Thanks to John Skeel for developing Rain with me. To the conference room gang (Bruce Cranston, Darin Dusanek, Lydia Marano, John Skeel & Jon Weisman) for their help in fleshing out the concepts. And to Sam Bernstein for handing me the key to the last missing Ghost.

For help with research, I’d like to thank Darin again and John. Plus Wally Weisman, Chris & Steve Leavell, Jordan Mann and Jennifer Anderson. And thanks to Jennifer and Seth Jackson and the rest of the Gathering Players for allowing me to see Rain, Charlie and the rest live. Plus Lex Larson for providing the Cache, and Eirik Paye for help with the map.

Thanks to Jeffrey K., Julie Kane-Ritsch, Peter McHugh and Ellen Goldsmith-Vein for giving me and getting me the chance to write this. (And Sue helped, too.) And thanks to Michael Homler for giving me an annual kick-in-the-pants to keep at it.

Also at St. Martin’s, Lisa Pompilio designed our lovely jacket; Sarah Jae-Jones held my hand through last minute panic, and Elizabeth Catalano, Meryl Gross, Edwin Chapman, Joe Goldschein and Aleksandra Mencel all pitched in. It’s appreciated.

Special Thanks to Beth, Erin & Benny, Sheila & Wally, Robyn & Gwin, Jon & Dana, Jordan & Zelda, and Danielle & Brad, for their unending support.

MAP TK

RAIN of the GHOSTS

CHAPTER ONE

DRUMS

Rain could hear the drums as she raced past me. Of course, I knew there were no drums, but Rain usually had a soundtrack going nonstop in her head, and right now it was playing a major tribal beat. Or maybe that was just her pulse. She was pedaling like mad through the streets of San Próspero. Anxious but exhilarated. She didn’t notice my companion or myself, but every other downbeat, she’d look back over her shoulder.
Were they behind her, ready to shoot? Would they be around the next corner? Or both.

It was eight, nine o’clock at night on a Thursday. The moon hadn’t risen yet, but San Próspero was a tourist town, a tourist island, so downtown was always well lit. A fine mist hung in the air, diffusing the light from the streetlamps, bathing everything in a soft glow. It was early September, hot and humid. It might rain any minute. Moisture, half condensation, half perspiration, beaded on Rain’s copper skin, on her arms, legs and forehead. Her long dark hair, braided into a thick black rope, trailed behind her as she accelerated. Rain and Charlie were riding ten-speeds they had “rented” from Charlie’s mom. (There hadn’t been time to tell her about it.) Rain leaned in as her royal blue bike slid around a corner. Charlie followed suit on his gold one. He too looked over his shoulder. They had never been caught. But tonight the invaders seemed to be everywhere. I glanced toward Maq, but he was engrossed in the study of a mosquito that had lighted on his leathery arm. Clearly, he and I weren’t going to intervene to help the kids.

Rain spotted another enemy contingent, coming down Brown’s Road and heading straight for them. “Charlie! Evasive maneuvers! Veer off! Veer off!”

Together, and without hesitation or deceleration, they took the next corner, racing down a side street paved with cobblestones. The vibrations rattled up through their tires, playing out in Charlie’s voice as he glanced over at her, “They control the whole island!”

Rain’s face was a mask of intensity, but a sly smile crept into her eyes and then onto her mouth as the drums in her head pounded louder. “Never surrender!” she shouted back at him.

Charlie’s dark brown eyes looked forward again. Two more at the other end of the street. He pointed ahead with one hand: “We’re surrounded!” But Rain had already seen them and was pedaling even harder. Charlie matched speed, and their foes seemed to rush toward them. Then in perfect synch, the two teens turned down a dark alley, the bikes at a forty-five-degree angle.

The alley was practically an obstacle course. Charlie yelled out, “Dumpster at ten o’clock!”

“I see it!”

Dumpsters, wooden crates and other garbage made it impossible to ride abreast in the thin corridor between the two brick buildings. Rain pulled out in front. That was natural. She always took the lead. And Charlie always let her. He was very aware he always let her. He frowned slightly. They approached the mouth of the alley.

Rain called back over her shoulder, “We’re almost out! Veer left!”

“No! They’ll be waiting for us! Go right! Right!”

This time Rain’s smile was obvious. She broke the alley and shot off to her left. Charlie shook his head ruefully, but he was hardly surprised. He followed her. Now they were on Camino de las Casas heading north toward the ocean. The street was packed with small shops on both sides, and there wouldn’t be another place to turn off for half a mile. Charlie pulled up alongside, intent on reasoning with her at high speed. But it was too late. Both kids skidded to a harsh stop, a look of horror etched on their faces. The drums had instantly gone silent. They were caught. Trapped. And their attackers were preparing to shoot. “We’re doomed,” Charlie whispered.

Fortunately, the enemy—Bernie Cohen—was neither the swiftest nor the most coordinated of individuals. With his left hand, he fumbled for the outsized and outdated camera that hung around his neck against the background of his electric blue and gold Hawaiian shirt, while simultaneously pointing at Rain and Charlie with his right hand. The fact that he was right-handed made the whole camera manipulation thing that much more difficult. “Look, Maude,” he said, “local color.”

“Oh, they’re perfect, Bernie. Get a picture.”

“I am.” But his right hand still hung in the air, and his wife’s insistent elbow nudging only served to distract him further.

“Get a picture, Bernie,” Maude kept saying. All this gave Charlie and Rain time to reevaluate the danger. Two tourists. Hefty and old. (Well, not really old. Bernie was only fifty-seven, and Maude was fifty-five. But to the two thirteen-year-olds, the Cohens seemed ancient.) Better yet, they were slow. There might still be time. Bernie now had a firm grip on the camera, but Rain and Charlie were already struggling to turn their bikes around.

It wasn’t exactly a graceful endeavor. They were straddling the ten-speeds, and they were too close together. Charlie’s pedal came very close to hooking the spokes of Rain’s front wheel. “Hurry,” she cried in a panic, “he’s going to shoot!”

“I can see that!” (Really, Bernie & Maude and Charlie & Rain had much more in common than any of them realized.)

Once they had the bikes facing south, they hopped on the pedals and pushed off, fighting inertia. They had to get far enough fast enough so that Bernie wouldn’t bother to shoot. Frankly, they wouldn’t have made it if Maude hadn’t given Bernie one last good elbow to the ribs, squealing, “Bernie, they’re getting away!” Bernie had both hands on the camera and was taking aim, but he stopped to meet Maude’s disapproving glare. By the time he rediscovered his viewfinder, the kids had disappeared into the mist.

I had left Maq to his bloodsucking friend. For reasons I still cannot explain, I felt a need to be there, to see even these events in person. I watched from the shadows as Bernie lowered his camera. His mind wasn’t hard to read.
Drums,
he thought,
I think I hear drums.

CHAPTER TWO

THE N.T.Z.

Rain knew Charlie was cross. She didn’t have to glance over. She was sort of refusing to glance over.
Just wait for it,
she thought, and she kept pedaling.

Two seconds later, he said: “I
told
you to head right.”

She knew he was right (correct), was usually right (correct). But she said, “Wouldn’t have helped. There’s only one safe place now. How long have we been out?”

Charlie looked down. His father’s thick digital timepiece hung loosely on his wrist. It was in stopwatch mode. “Thirty-eight minutes. Not a record. But respectable.”

“Forget the record. They’re out in force tonight. And it doesn’t help that you’re wearing a t-shirt that says, L
OCAL
C
OLOR
in big black letters. Let’s head for cover while we can.” And then, with all the melodrama she could muster, “To the N.T.Z.!” He nodded, and they both accelerated one more time.

Four and a half minutes later, they had reached the south end of the Camino where it abruptly met the San Próspero jungle. Immediately—and practically without slowing—they hopped off the bikes and stowed them out of sight among the dense ferns. Then—and again without slowing—Rain Cacique and Charlie Dauphin vanished into the green.

Or seemed to, anyway. There was no real path. But this island, this jungle, was their home. Thirteen years had taught them exactly where to go, how to move. They dodged branches and vines without thinking, stutter-stepped over roots, swung their hips around bushes, whirled past entire trees. More than anything, their progress resembled a kind of well-rehearsed free-style choreography, set to the fast tempo of the drums in their heads. The dance was quick and light; they left little trace behind, and their surroundings betrayed little movement, particularly in the light fog. Soon, the ground beneath their feet began to slope upward.

Charlie broke the silence first. He felt frustrated. Frustrated that they were almost caught. Frustrated that he always, always followed her lead. Even when he knew she was wrong. Even when
she
knew he was right. But
that
topic was too big to face, so: “Is it my imagination or is a simple game of
Attack of the Killer Tourists
getting harder and harder to win?”

She looked across at her lifelong best friend as they continued their uphill trek through the thick tangle. His big brown eyes met hers, and she wondered why she was always pushing things with him. It was all a jumble in her head. The tourists. Her parents. The tourists. The Ghosts. The tourists. The game. The tourists. Even Charlie. Maybe, it was because her life was entirely too mapped out. The mantra, “
Tourists own my future,
” played nearly as loud as the drums. There didn’t seem any way around that. And for the first time it occurred to her that baiting Charlie was just a dopey attempt at rebelling against the inevitable. She risked his friendship, because she could.
I’m so stupid,
she thought. “Just keep moving,” she said.

The unpath steepened, and the mist fell away. Seconds later, they reached THE SIGN, and they knew they were almost there. It was a P
ED
X
-ING
sign that some long ago, nameless—but legendary—teen had stolen from downtown. Now it stood, incongruously planted in the middle of this dense growth of jungle. Its two iconically rendered pedestrians (one male, one female—and both tourists of course) were surrounded by a crudely painted red circle with a red diagonal line running through them. Above the circle, the initials
N.T.Z.
were painted in big red letters.

The sight of it immediately brought smiles to their faces. The air seemed crisper; the weight of their “futures” seemed to vanish from their shoulders, and Rain was even briefly aware of the scent of wild vanilla orchids coming in lightly on a breeze. Without stopping, they plunged through a last dense stand of banana trees. “Go! Go!!” Rain yelled, as the drums reached their crescendo, and they BURST into the N.T.Z., arms raised in triumph!

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