Authors: Chris Grabenstein
Tags: #Mystery, #Horror
THE HAUNTED MYSTERY SERIES BY CHRIS GRABENSTEIN
Winner of the Agatha Award and the Anthony Award
The Hanging Hill
Winner of the Agatha Award
The Smoky Corridor
The Black Heart Crypt
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Text copyright © 2011 by Chris Grabenstein
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
Random House and the colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
The black heart crypt / Chris Grabenstein. — 1st ed.
p. cm. — (The haunted mystery series; bk. 4)
Summary: A 200-year-old ghost inhabits a living ancestor in order to take revenge on eleven-year-old Zack and his family.
[1. Ghosts—Fiction. 2. Demonology—Fiction. 3. Revenge—Fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.G7487 Bl 2011 [Fic]—dc22 2011001939
Random House Children’s Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.
for J. J. Myers,
who is the love of my life and,
hopefully, my afterlife
did not want to chase a slobbering black dog with glowing red eyeballs up into the Haddam Hill Cemetery three nights before Halloween.
It was Zipper’s idea.
They were in the backyard after dinner, playing with a squishy yellow ball, when Zipper picked up the other dog’s scent and went tearing down the highway after it.
“Zipper? Halt! Stay! Come!”
Zack wasn’t exactly sure which command to use to stop his dog from chasing after the thundering black beast, which had to be some kind of hellhound; otherwise its eyes wouldn’t be a pair of red-hot coals.
But Zipper did not halt, stay, or come. The small dog slipped through the cemetery’s wrought-iron railings to pursue the monster, which had so many rippling muscles Zack figured it must belong to the Gym for Gigantic Dogs.
Of course he couldn’t squeeze between the railings like Zipper had, and he wasn’t much at scaling fences, especially
when his glasses got all foggy, so he dashed around to the back of the cemetery, where he knew there was a gate because one night, back in June, he and his friend Davy had hidden in this very same cemetery to escape a knife-wielding nut job whose body was being controlled by an evil ancestor.
Yep. Ghosts can do that. They can slip their souls into the bodies of family members and totally take them over.
Zack yanked open the gate and shuffled through the sea of leaves smothering the ground between tombstones. A chilly autumn nip was in the air. The moon was hidden behind a pile of angry dark clouds. The sky was a murky black. Three nights before Halloween, this cemetery was creepier than ever.
“Zipper?” Zack’s voice echoed off a marble monument. “Where are you, boy?”
Finally, his dog barked a quick volley of yaps to let Zack know he was extremely busy.
Then Zack heard a deep, throaty rumble. The demon dog!
“Hang on, Zip! I’m coming!”
Zack swung around a concrete angel and raced over to a tomb the size of a small cabin—the biggest, darkest mausoleum in the whole Haddam Hill Cemetery. Its arched wooden doorway was sealed tight with a black heart-shaped lock. Even in the gloom of night, Zack could read the name carved into the stone slab over the entryway:
“Zipper?” No answer.
Zack trotted around the stone building, which sort of looked like a miniature church made out of gray Lego blocks.
He heard a weird whimper that sounded like a weary sheep bleat.
His dog came padding around the corner of the blockhouse with a bewildered grin on his snout.
“The big black dog disappeared on you, didn’t he, boy?”
Zipper wagged his tail excitedly, as if to say,
Yeah, yeah. It was freaky
Zack bent down to rub his buddy’s head.
“Well, maybe next time you’ll listen to me when I tell you not to chase after devil dogs.”
Zipper leapt up to lick Zack’s face. Zack laughed.
That is, he laughed until he heard the sharp slice of a shovel blade digging into dirt.
was in the cemetery.
Zipper hunkered down on the ground in pounce mode.
Zack pressed his back against the Ickleby family crypt in an attempt to disappear into the shadows.
Sticky cobwebs attacked the back of his head, making him feel like he’d just brushed up against a giant wad of cotton candy. Peeling away the gooey strands, Zack peered over at a cluster of grime-streaked headstones, where he saw a burly man with a bushy beard, who was dressed in coveralls, sinking his shovel blade into the ground, digging up rocky clumps of dirt. A softly glowing lantern propped atop a nearby headstone projected his hulking shadow up into the tangled tree branches, where it loomed like a floating ogre.
Fortunately, the guy wasn’t a ghost. Zack could tell. Ever since he’d moved to Connecticut from New York City with his dad and stepmom, he’d learned a whole bunch of
junk about the spirit world—what ghosts can do and what they can’t. He probably knew more than any eleven-year-old should legally be allowed to.
For instance, he knew that a ghost could take over the body of its blood relative, but unless it did that, it couldn’t do much besides wail and moan and try to scare you into hurting yourself.
A ghost couldn’t hold a shovel, and in Zack’s experience, digging a hole in the ground by lantern light wasn’t exactly something an evil spirit took over a relative’s body to do. He felt pretty confident that the dude digging the hole wasn’t a ghost or a possessed person.
The man started singing as he dug, a tune Zack recognized from recess on the playground:
“Don’t ever laugh when a hearse goes by
For you may be the next to die.”
Zack looked at Zipper and put a finger to his lips. They would try to tiptoe out of the graveyard without being seen or heard.
“The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out
The worms play pinochle on your snout.”
Zack and Zipper crept closer to the gate. The man kept digging, kept up his steady
“There’s one little worm that’s very shy
Crawls in your stomach and out your eye.”
Zack and Zipper made it to the graveyard gate.
The digging stopped.
“Isn’t that right, boy?”
Okay. Zack didn’t remember those lyrics. He pushed open the squeaky gate.
“Freeze!” the gravedigger shouted.
And this time, Zipper obeyed, too!
the distance, Zack heard a stray cat meowing at the moon.
Then he heard boots clomping up behind him.
“I heard you callin’ to your dog, boy,” said the man, who kept coming closer. “Zipper. What kind of name is that for a dog?”
Slowly, Zack turned around.
The man was standing six feet behind him, holding his clay-draggled shovel like a knight’s lance with one hand, the flickering lantern with the other.