I am pleased to share an excerpt of Natalie D. Richards latest YA thriller!
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Thursday, October 19, 1:13 a.m.
Fairview Public Library
I've broken curfew for plenty of stupid reasons, but climbing the public library? I can't really be thinking about doing this.
I am, though.
Not that I could tell you why. Why would a perfectly rational guy decide to take a jog at one o'clock in the morning? Any why did that jog turn into a dead-panic sprint, until I stopped in this alley, sweaty and alone on the narrow strip of pavement between the parking lot and the book drop?
I can't figure out most of tonight, but I know this: I want to climb to the top of the Fairview Public Library.
It's not a good idea. Climbing that wall has Terrible Choice written all over it.
But it'd be easy. Thirty, maybe thirty-five feet tall, which I could scale in my sleep. Especially with all those chunky slabs of stone creating perfect crevices for my fingers and toes. I can't believe I've never noticed them. Back in fourth grade, I walked here every other Tuesday for class visits It was a building full of books then. Now it's an unexplored vertical trail, my ticket to a view I've never seen.
I do this a lot: scan buildings for ascent routes. That's what happens when you love climbing. I want to climb rocks and trees and the football stadium and the water tower. And apparently the library.
Seriously, I could do it in five minutes. Maybe less.
Which is still plenty of time to get arrested in this town.
Here, tucked close to the side of the building in the alley, I'm not easy to see from Main Street. Halfway up the wall, though, I'd be exposed.
So, don't be stupid.
I'm twenty-five feet up with no harness. Thais fact hits me square in the chest, and in the span of one breath, my heart turns to a bag of worms. I grip my toes and push close to the wall to steady myself. Panic and stupidity lead to most climbing accidents, and I've already covered the stupidity bit.
"Not smart," I tell myself, and that's all I allow. I'll have to rub this lesson in later, when I'm back on the ground without an assortment of broken bones.
When my heart slows to a steady thud-thud-thud, I start looking for a better route. I'm maybe ten or fifteen feet from the top. With my adrenaline wearing off, it feels doable. This is not a difficult climb. Once I'm up, the fire escape ladder on the back of the building will make for an easy way down. I just need to do it.
I relax into my feet and start up the path closest to the second-story window. I still have that sill if I need it.
I push off my right foot as I reach up, a good pinch at a comfortable reach. Excellent. Plus, I see a perfect lip for my left hand, so I push through that leg to snag the next hold. My grip sticks, but something snaps. My left foot drops hard, leg scraping stone. I lurch in the opposite direction, forcing my center of gravity to the right.
Was it the brick? I glance down at the wall below, seeing freshly cracked stone where my foot used to be. Bits of mortar and rock lay in the grass, and my stomach drops into my feet.
I was standing on that seconds ago. If it had broken any earlier, I'd have fallen. I lick my lips, heart pounding. Nothing about that brick looked wrong. There was zero warning.
Which means there might not be a warning next time.
Unbelievable. I kicked in the freaking window.
A shard hits my big toe, and it jolts me into action. I drag myself to the right of the mess, my face scraping mortar. The window I broke is tall and wide with arched glass that looks...expensive.
I'll worry about it later. I need to finish this and get down before something else goes wrong.
Nothing does. The rest of the climb passes without incident. At the top, I haul myself over the concrete cornice and drop to my backside, panting in relief.
I should bolt for the ladder, by my legs have turned to jelly. I need a minute to catch my breath. I enjoy the view, which is nothing to sneeze at. Fairview is easy on the eyes from up here. A row of postcard-worthy businesses line Main Street, embellished with flower boxes and understated window displays. Here and there, iron benches rest under neatly trimmed trees- an invitation to linger.
Beyond Main Street, the streets give way to a sleeping patchwork of lush, green lawns with curving gardens and winding paths. And houses. Large, beautiful houses.
One of those houses is yours.
My throat squeezes, and I lean forward, staring at the soft glow of streetlights and curved streets. It is the definition of peaceful and safe, but I'm not feeling either of those things. I feel like I'm peering into another dimension. Like I'm seeing something I've never seen. Which is ridiculous. I live down there. Fairview has always been home.
A flash of blue and white lights. The police. There's a single cruiser six or seven intersections down Main Street, so someone must have seen me. Adrenaline floods my senses.
Get up. I have to get up.
My body is heavy. Immobile. What the hell is wrong with me? I need to run!
But I don't. Moments later, the cruiser turns into the library parking lot, and it's like my body is frozen. My eyes follow the car as it parks, then trail the beam of the spotlight across the library walls. Shrubs and mulch are illuminated. Then, the cherry tree. Next, my discarded socks and shoes.
I wonder what they'll do when they figure out I'm up here.
I wonder what it'll feel like when they take me away.
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