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About the Book

Tory Brennan is as fascinated by bones and dead bodies as her famous aunt, acclaimed forensic anthropologist, Tempe Brennan. However living on a secluded island off Charleston in South Carolina there is not much opportunity to put her knowledge to the test. Until she and her group of technophile friends stumble across a shallow grave containing the remains of a girl who has been missing for over thirty years.

With the cold-case murder suddenly hot, Tory realises that they are involved in something fatally dangerous. And when they rescue a sick dog from a laboratory on the same island, it becomes evident that somehow the two events are linked.

On the run from forces they don’t understand, they have only each other to fall back on. Until they succumb to a mysterious infection that heightens their senses and hones their instincts to impossible levels. Their illness seems to have changed their very biology – and suddenly it’s clear that the island is home to something well beyond their comprehension. It’s a secret that has driven men to kill once. And will drive them to kill again…

About the Author

Kathy Reichs is a forensic anthropologist, formerly for the Office of the chief Medical Examiner in North Carolina and currently for the Laboratorie de Sciences Judiciaires et de Médecine Légale for the province of Quebec. A professor in the department of anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, she is one of only eighty-five forensic anthropologists ever certified by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology, is past Vice President of both the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and the American Board of Forensic Anthropology, and serves on the National Police Services Advisory Council in Canada. Reichs's first book, Déjà Dead, catapulted her to fame when it became a New York Times bestseller and won the 1997 Ellis Award for Best First Novel. Her latest novel, Mortal Remains, was an instant Sunday Times bestseller.

Her website is www.kathyreichs.com.

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Contents

Cover

About the Book

About the Author

Also by Kathy Reichs

Title Page

Dedication

Acknowledgements

Maps

Prologue

Part One: Islands

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Part Two: Infection

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Part Three: Incubation

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Chapter 53

Chapter 54

Part Four: Insight

Chapter 55

Chapter 56

Chapter 57

Chapter 58

Chapter 59

Chapter 60

Chapter 61

Chapter 62

Chapter 63

Chapter 64

Chapter 65

Chapter 66

Chapter 67

Chapter 68

Chapter 69

Chapter 70

Chapter 71

Epilogue

Bones of the Lost

Copyright

This ebook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author’s and publisher’s rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.

Version 1.0
Epub ISBN 9781446440919
www.randomhouse.co.uk
Published by Young Arrow 2011
2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1
Copyright © Kathy Reichs, 2010
Kathy Reichs has asserted her right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the author of this work.
This is a work of fiction. Names and characters are the product of the author’s imagination and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
Published by arrangement with the original publisher, Razorbill, an imprint of Penguin Inc
First published in hardback in 2011 by
Young Arrow Books
The Random House Group Limited
20 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London, SW1V 2SA
www.rbooks.co.uk
Addresses for companies within The Random House Group Limited can be found at:
www.randomhouse.co.uk/offices.htm
The Random House Group Limited Reg. No. 954009
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
ISBN 9780099543930
This book is dedicated to the good people and dogs of Charleston. Thanks for welcoming me to the neighborhood!
Also available by Kathy Reichs
Déjà Dead
Death du Jour
Deadly Décisions
Fatal Voyage
Grave Secrets
Bare Bones
Monday Mourning
Cross Bones
Break No Bones
Devil Bones
206 Bones
Mortal Remains
(Published as Spider Bones in the US)

Acknowledgements

First and foremost I would like to thank my son Brendan, without whom Virals would not have been possible. Thanks for all your hard work. I would also like to thank my tireless agent Jennifer Rudolph Walsh, and the entire staff at William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, for encouraging me to follow through with this project. I am grateful to Don Weisberg at Penguin and to Susan Sandon at Random House UK for believing in Virals from the beginning. Finally, a hearty thanks to Ben Schrank and Jessica Rothenberg at Razorbill for helping me navigate the new challenge of writing young adult fiction. I appreciate you all!

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PROLOGUE

A GUNSHOT IS the loudest sound in the universe.

Especially if the bullet is coming at you.

Crack! Crack!

Bullets slashed the forest canopy. Overhead, monkeys screeched and scattered.

Down below, I ran.

Heedless, legs hammering, I pounded through the undergrowth. Mind blank. Terrified.

Find the path!

Shapes zoomed by in the black. Trees. Bushes. Startled creatures. Gun-toting killers? I couldn’t tell. Heart thumping, I barreled forward in a dead sprint. Blind.

A root snagged my foot and down I went. Pain detonated in my leg.

Get up! Get up! Get up!

Something large zipped past in the darkness. I froze.

“Ben?!?!”

No reply. Sudden stillness.

Waiting here means death. Move!

Scrambling to my feet, I bolted into the night.

Was Hi up ahead? Shelton had gone left, darting into the foliage.

Please be Ben that ran by me!

We hadn’t had a plan. Why would we? No one knew we were here, or what we were doing.

Who the hell is trying to shoot me?

Exhausted, I gulped air.

Later, after the change, I could have run forever. Fast. Tireless. My perfect vision piercing the night’s shadows. Not gasping, lost in the shapeless dark.

These thugs wouldn’t have stood a chance, whoever they were. Not with our powers unleashed. My pack would have savaged them. Planned without speaking a word. Stalked them like they were kittens. Then taken out the trash.

But not that night. I was in trouble. Fading. Scared shitless.

So I ran. Hard. Branches clawed my limbs and ripped my skin. Finally, I hit open space.

The beach! I was close.

A voice hissed from the void.

“Tory! Over here!”

Shelton.

Thank God.

In the starlight, I could just make out the boat. Vaulting the railing, I dropped into the bow and turned to scan the shoreline. Clear. For the moment.

“Where’s Hi? Ben?” I whispered, panting, sweat-drenched. I was definitely on tilt.

“I’m here.” Ben eased from the darkness. A quick bound and he was in, sliding behind the controls. Keys in hand, he paused, afraid to turn the engine. Afraid not to.

Hi was still out there.

We sat, tensed, waiting. My courage leaked from my shoes.

Come on, Hi. Show. Please, oh please, oh please, oh please

PART ONE:

ISLANDS

CHAPTER 1

THE WHOLE THING started with a dog tag. Well, a monkey with a dog tag. Take your pick. I should have known it would be trouble. Should have sensed it. But I wasn’t as perceptive then. I hadn’t evolved. Yet.

Wait.

I’m getting ahead of myself.

It was a typical Saturday morning at home, though my home is anything but typical. It’s unique—bizarre even. Which means I fit right in.

There are lots of interesting things about where I live, if you like the outdoors as much as I do. Not a nature lover? You might find my hood a bit … out of touch.

Because I live on a deserted island. Well, a pretty empty one, anyway.

Morris Island. My home away from normal homes. The end of the line. Nowheresville. The back-ass of Charleston. It’s not so bad, if you aren’t prone to loneliness. Which I am, but whatever. I’ve come to appreciate the legroom.

Morris isn’t imposing, as islands go, only four square miles. The northern half is an unremarkable strip of rolling, sandy hillocks. Then, in the middle, sand hills rise thirty-to-forty feet, marching south as the island widens. The western reach consists of dense marshland bordered by shallow tidal bays. To the east, the boundless Atlantic Ocean.

Dunes, swamps, beaches. And quiet. Plenty of quiet.

Only two modern structures exist on our teeny little landmass. One is the complex in which I live; the other is a road. The road. Our only connector to the outside world. It’s a one-lane, unmarked, narrow strip of pavement that winds south through dunes and marshes before leaving Morris and crossing Lighthouse Creek to Rat Island. Eventually the blacktop meets the highway at Folly Beach, then passes Goat Island on the way into the city.

Rat. Goat. Folly. You’ll have to ask the Charleston Historical Society who picked such delightful names. There are dozens more.

It was all new to me. The year before, I’d never been south of Pennsylvania. Then I crashed into my dad’s life.

About my “roommate” …

Christopher “Kit” Howard is my father. Kit and I have known that fact for exactly six months. That’s when I moved to South Carolina to live with him.

I had no choice, after what happened to Mom.

After the accident.

I’m not sure why, but Mom never told Kit about me. He had no idea he was a father. Had been one, in fact, for the last fourteen years.

Kit’s still not over the shock. I see it on his face every now and then. He’ll wake from a nap, or come up for air after a long stretch of work, and literally jump when he notices me. I see it register: That’s my daughter. I have a daughter who is fourteen and lives with me. I’m her father.

Same shock for me, Pops. I’m working through it, too.

How do I describe my newfound dad? Kit is thirty-one, a marine biologist and research professor at the institute on Loggerhead. A workaholic.

He’s also a clueless parent.

Maybe it’s all too new—you know, the astonishment of learning you have a half-grown kid. Or maybe Kit remembers his own wild youth. In any case, he has no idea what to do with me. One day he chats me up like one of his buddies, and the next he treats me like a child.

To be honest, I own my share of the blame for things being sticky. I’m no saint. And I’m just as lost about having a father.

So here we are. Together. Smack dab in the middle of nowhere.

That day, I was classifying seashells by species. Corny? Maybe. But I’m a science nut. I live for figuring things out, finding answers. Mom always joked that it was hard raising a kid who was smarter than most college professors.

My take? I just do what I do.

Piles of shells littered the kitchen table. Sundials. Shark’s Eyes. Turkey Wings. Recently cleaned and buffed, they gleamed in the early morning sunlight.

I removed a new specimen from the bucket at my feet, making sure not to dribble bleach-water onto my clothes. It was a Scotch Bonnet, easily recognizable: white, egg-shaped, with red and brown spots circling its grooved outer surface. Pleased with the rare find, I set it aside to dry.

Reach. Pull.

My next draw was a mystery. Ark? Cockle? Both clams are abundant on the South Carolina coast.

Despite having soaked in bleach for almost two hours, the shell’s exterior was covered with caked-on debris. Barnacles and encrusted silt obscured all detail.

Excellent. I’d been looking for an excuse to use my power tools. They were a gift from my great-aunt Tempe.

You may have heard of her.

I was shocked when I found out. I’m related to Dr. Temperance Brennan, the world famous forensic anthropologist. She’s kind of my idol. When Kit first told me, I didn’t believe him, but his story checked out. Tempe’s sister, Harry, is my grandmother.

So there’s a celebrity in my family. A renowned scientist. Who knew?

Okay, at that point I’d only met Aunt Tempe once. But that wasn’t her fault. After all, like Kit, she’d only known of my existence for six months.

Aunt Tempe’s job is pretty intense. She identifies corpses. Seriously. A dead body might be burned, or decomposed, or mummified. It could be maggot city, or just a skeleton. Doesn’t matter. Aunt Tempe determines who the person is. Was. Then she and the cops try to figure out what happened to them.

Not bad, if you’ve got a steady stomach. I think I do.

Learning about my aunt helped me understand myself. Why I have to answer every question, solve every riddle. Why I’d rather read about fossilized raptors or global warming than go shopping for handbags.

I can’t help it. It’s in my DNA.

Aunt Tempe’s specialty is teasing facts from bones. What better way to use her gift than to clean dead mollusk shells?

That’s all shells are, anyway. Bones.

Digging a Dremel cordless rotary tool from my kit, I attached the bristle brush head and gently abraded the encrustations on the shell’s surface. After a few moments I switched to a sanding drumhead to remove more dirt.

Once the larger barnacles were gone, I grabbed my Neytech micro sandblaster, hooked its line to a small air compressor, and delicately bathed the seashell with aluminum oxide sand. Next, I used a dental pick to scrape off the final pesky particles. After washing away the remaining grit with a Water Pik, I went back to the rotary tool, this time with the polishing head. Done.

The shell glistened on the table before me. A spotted tan oval with a purplish interior. Four inches long. Prominent radial ribs running from the hinge to the edge.

I double-checked my guide to the South Carolina coast, confirming my guess. A Giant Heart Cockle. Dinocardium robustum.

Mystery solved, I placed the shell in its proper pile and dipped back into the bucket. Empty.

Time for something else.

I decided to fix a snack. Slim pickings, since Kit hadn’t been to the Piggly Wiggly in over a week. I suppressed a pang of irritation. The supermarket was located thirty minutes away on James Island; it’s not like he passed it every day.

Island refugee living. It’s a blast.

I settled for carrot sticks. Old ones. Addicted, I popped a Diet Coke. I know what you’re thinking. But I do try to eat healthy. Just leave me my caffeine, thank you. The heart wants what it wants.

I checked my phone. They were late. No text, either.

I considered my options. Zilch on TV. No surprise. Nothing called out from my unread book pile. The Internet was a snooze. Zero news on Facebook.

No homework that weekend. It was late May, and most of the teachers seemed as anxious as the kids to end the year gracefully.

I was stuck. Only fourteen, I couldn’t exactly hop in the car and take off. Plus, where would I go? To hang with my pals in town? Please. Everyone who likes me is an island refugee, too.

That left local options. Limited, to say the least.

Where were they, anyway?

Have I mentioned that my block is the most remote strip of housing in Charleston? On Earth? No one else lives anywhere near us. Most maps don’t even acknowledge that Morris Island is inhabited. Our whole neighborhood consists of ten townhomes built inside a single 430-foot reinforced concrete structure. Forty souls total. That’s it. Nothing else.

From our place it’s a twenty-minute drive until you glimpse the first road sign. At that point you’re still far from civilization, but on the right track. My friends and I usually skip the road and travel by boat.

Impressed? You should be. After all, how many people do you know who live in a converted military barracks? And I’m not talking this century. This building is super old.

During the Civil War, Morris Island guarded the southern approach to Charleston Harbor. The Confederate Army built a stronghold called Fort Wagner to block access to the island’s northern tip. Good call. The rebels had big honking guns up there. Wagner straddled the only path the Yanks could use to get to them.

Fort Wagner, Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island, and Fort Sumter, a manmade hunk of concrete in the middle of the harbor, formed the core of Charleston’s defense against attack by sea. In 1863, the Union army tried to storm Wagner. The 54th Massachusetts Infantry, one of America’s first regiments of black soldiers, led the attack. It was brutal. And, unfortunately, a total bust. Even their commander was killed.

I watched a movie about it once. I think Denzel won an Oscar. He earned it, made me cry. And I don’t often do that. Maybe I was supposed to root for the Charleston soldiers, but I’m a Massachusetts girl. Besides, I’m not siding with slave owners, no way. Sorry. Go Union.

Fort Wagner was abandoned after the war, but the basic structure survived. Now Morris Island is a nature preserve held in trust by Charleston University. That’s my father’s employer. Ditto for everyone else living out here. When the university converted the old Fort Wagner barracks, it offered free housing to faculty working on Loggerhead Island, its offshore research facility. Loggerhead is even smaller and more remote than Morris.

My dad jumped at the offer. Ever try to live on a professor’s salary?

I continued to wait impatiently. I’d planned to go down to Folly Beach, but my ride was AWOL.

It felt like a no-show, so I decided to go for a run, one of the things for which Morris provides a great venue. I climbed to my room to change.

Every home in our little world is identical. Four stories tall, each goes up more than out. Any variation comes from personal taste in decorating and allocation of space.

In our case, the bottom floor is an office and single car garage. On the second floor, you’ve got the kitchen, dining, and sitting areas. Floor three has two bedrooms—Kit’s in back, mine in front overlooking the commons.

Our top floor has a large room we use as Kit’s media center. I call it the Man Cave. It opens onto an outdoor roof deck with an incredible ocean view. All in all, not too shabby, though four flights of stairs can be a killer.

While lacing my Adidas, I glanced out my bedroom window. A familiar figure was bounding up the jetty from the docks. Hiram, at top speed. Which, to be blunt, isn’t impressive.

Hi was puffing hard, chugging up the incline toward the main building. His cheeks were flushed and his hair was pasted to his face.

Hi does not run for pleasure.

I grabbed my keys and bolted.

Something was up.

CHAPTER 2

OUTSIDE, I WAITED for Hi to appear.

I stood on the common fronting our row of townhomes. Sun pounded the grass. Half the size of a football field, our lawn is the only large green space around.

Beyond the common, palmetto palms curve up from the sand, defiant, determined to add character. The trees were the only objects breaking my view of the sea.

Hand-shading my eyes, I squinted westward. A soft morning haze shrouded the ocean, cutting visibility. Somewhere out there is Loggerhead, I thought. And Kit, working another weekend.

Out of sight, out of mind, I guess. Whatever. He rarely spent time with me.

Still no Hi.

Only May, but already temperatures were hitting the nineties. The air was heavy with the smell of grass, salt marsh, and sun on concrete.

I admit it. I am a sweater. I sweat. I began doing it then. How do these Southerners stand the heat?

Back in Massachusetts, the late spring days would still be pleasantly cool. Perfect for sailing on the Cape. It was Mom’s favorite time of year.

Finally Hi appeared at the side of the yard, chest heaving, hair and shirt soaked. I didn’t need psychic powers to know there was trouble.

Hi trudged to me, clearly out of gas. Before I could speak, his finger shot into the air, begging a moment. Hands on knees, he worked to regain his breath.

“One.” Gasp. “Minute.” Gasp. “Please.”

I waited, thinking he might pass out.

“In retrospect, running up here was a bad plan.” Quick inhales, more hiccup than gasp. “It must be a hundred degrees. My boxers are toast.”

That’s Hi, always the gentleman.

Hiram Stolowitski lives three units over from Kit and me. Mr. Stolowitski, Linus, is a lab technician on Loggerhead. A quiet, dignified man. Hi does not take after his dad.

“Let’s get out of here.” Hi was still sucking wind, but less than before. “If my mother sees me, I’ll be hauled off to temple or something.”

Hi’s desire for cover was not total paranoia. Mrs. Stolowitski’s sporadic bursts of piety often led to forty-minute drives to the Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim synagogue in downtown Charleston. Took practice, but I can finally pronounce it.

While we may not see eye-to-eye on the whole God thing, most Morris Islanders agree: we live way too far out to be regular churchgoers. Or temple.

To be fair, the Presbyterian church I allegedly attend is miles closer than Hi’s synagogue. Kit and I attended a service once. Took me ten seconds to see he’d never been there before. We made no second appearance.

I hear the Big Guy’s pretty understanding. I hope so.

Ruth Stolowitski also runs the community watch program for our complex. Unnecessary? Absolutely. But don’t tell Ruth that. She’s convinced that the only thing preventing a Morris Island crime spree is her ceaseless vigilance. In my opinion, total isolation works pretty well. Who’s going to rob us? A crackhead crab? A jellyfish junkie?

To avoid his mother’s ever-watchful eye, Hi and I trooped to the side of the building. Which, mercifully, was in the shade. The temperature dropped ten degrees.

Hi’s not fat, but he’s not slender, either. Husky? Plump? You pick. With wavy brown hair and a penchant for floral print shirts, Hi certainly stands out in a crowd.

That morning, Hi wore a yellow-and-green vine arrangement over tan shorts with a torn left pocket. Uh-oh. Don’t let Ruth see that.

“You all right now?” I asked. Hi’s face had moved from plum to raspberry.

“I’m exceptional,” he replied, still short of oxygen. “Wonderful. Thanks for the concern. You complete me.”

Hi Stolowitski is a master at sarcasm.

“What possessed you to run all the way up from the dock?” As the words left my mouth, I realized the insanity of my own jogging plan.

“Ben crashed his boat while fishing for drum in Schooner Creek. He drove too shallow and ran aground.” Hi had finally regained his breath. His distress was evident. “He went airborne and slashed his leg on something. I think it’s bad.”

Ben Blue lives in our complex, but sometimes stays in Mount Pleasant with his mom. I’d been waiting for Ben and Hi to take me to Folly.

“How bad? When? Where is he?” Worry made me babble.

“He got the boat to the bunker, where I was, but then the engine died.” Hi smiled ruefully. “I paddled the old canoe back here to find Shelton. Thought it would be faster. Dumb move. It took forever.”

Now I knew why Hi was so exhausted. Canoeing in the ocean is hard work, especially against the current. The bunker is only a mile and a half from the complex. He should have walked. I didn’t rub it in.

“What now?” Hi asked. “Should we get Mr. Blue?”

Ben’s father, Tom Blue, operates the boat service connecting Morris to Loggerhead Island, and the ferry running between Morris and Charleston proper.

Hi and I looked at each other. Ben had owned his runabout less than a month. Mr. Blue was a stickler for boat safety. If he found out about the accident, Ben could lose his favorite possession.

“No,” I said. “If Ben wanted his father’s help, he’d have come back with you.”

Seconds passed. On the beach, gulls cawed the day’s avian news. Overhead, a line of pelicans rode the wind, wings outstretched to catch the best breeze.

Decision. I’d try to patch Ben up myself. But if the wound was serious, we’d get medical help. Angry parent or not.

“Meet me on the path.” I was already hurrying toward my house to grab a first aid kit. “We’ll bike to the bunker.”

Five minutes later, we were racing north on a strip of hard-packed sand slinking through massive dunes. The wind felt cool on my sweat-slicked skin. My hair streamed behind me in its usual hopeless red tangle.

Too late, I thought of sunscreen. My pale New England skin offers only two tone options: white or lobster. And sunlight really kick-starts my freckles.

Okay, full disclosure. Modeling agencies aren’t trying to sign me or anything, but I’m probably not bad looking. I can admit it here. Already five-five and hoping for more, I’m graced with my mother’s tall, slender physique. She left me that much.

The path we rode swept northwest from our complex to the tip of the island, Cumming’s Point. On the left, high dunes. On the right, sloping beach, then the sea.

Hi pedaled behind me, panting like a steam locomotive.

“Should I slow down?” I yelled back over my shoulder.

“Try it and I’ll run you over,” he called. “I’m Lance Armstrong. I live strong.”

Sure you are, Hi. And I’m Lara Croft. I eased off gradually so he wouldn’t notice.

Since much of Morris Island is marsh or dune, only the northern half has ever been suitable for construction. Fort Wagner was built there. Same with the other old military works. Most were simple ditches, trenches, or holes.

Not our bunker, baby. It’s killer. We stumbled on it while searching for a lost Frisbee. A total fluke. The thing’s so hidden, you have to know where it is to find it. Long abandoned and forgotten, no one else seems to remember it exists. We intend to keep it that way.

Five minutes more pedaling, then we cut off the path, curved up and around the face of a gigantic sand hill, and plunged down into a trough. Another thirty yards and a wall of the bunker was visible, barely, among the dunes.

A dozen yards to the right of the bunker’s entrance, a side trail wandered to the beach below. I could see Ben’s motorboat tied up to a half-submerged post at the edge of the surf. It rose and fell with the low waves breaking the shore.

I dismounted and dropped my bike to the sand. Just then, a muffled curse broke from the bunker.

Alarmed, I ducked inside.

CHAPTER 3

TIGHT SQUEEZE, THEN I was in, blinking to adjust my eyes. That first slap of sunlight and shadow is always a shock.

As hideouts go, ours may be the best ever.

The main chamber is probably fifteen by thirty. Wood-beamed walls rise ten feet to the ceiling. A window slit runs the length of the wall opposite the entrance, framing a kickass view of Charleston Harbor. A wooden overhang masks any hint of the opening from outside.

A second, smaller room lies to the left of the first, accessed by a low passageway. Same squeeze as the front door. From that chamber’s back wall, a collapsed shaft leads deeper into the hill. Mongo creepy. No one goes in there.

Ben slouched on an old bench in a corner of the front room, injured leg propped on a chair. Blood trickled from a gash on his shin.

He regarded me a moment. Then, “I asked for Shelton.” Ben never wastes words.

Nice to see you, too.

Behind me, I sensed Hi shrugging. “Tory found me first. Ever try telling her what to do?”

Ben rolled his eyes. Nice ones, dark, with lashes I’d die for.

I arched a brow, revealing what I thought of their comments. “I brought a first aid kit. Let me see your leg.”

Ben scowled, kept a close watch on my movements. I saw through his macho act. He was afraid I’d hurt him, but couldn’t let on.

Good. Be nervous, wuss.

Unlike the rest of us, Ben has reached the magical age of sixteen. Shelton rounds that corner next fall, and Hi just turned fifteen this spring. We are closing out a rough freshman year. Ben is finishing up as a sophomore.

Instead of buying wheels like a normal person, Ben had just put all his savings into an old, sixteen-foot Boston Whaler runabout. He calls her Sewee.

Don’t get the name, right? Neither did I.

Ben claims to be part Sewee Indian. I’m skeptical, since the Sewee were absorbed into the Catawba tribe over a century ago. How can anyone actually claim ties? But Ben has a temper, so it’s not a point we argue.

I guess a boat’s better than nothing. A non-wrecked one would be, anyway.

“Is there a reason you were showboating in the tidal bay?” I was dabbing iodine on Ben’s shin. The wound wasn’t a stitcher, thank God, just ugly.

“I wasn’t showboating.” Ben sucked in his breath as I tied off the bandage. “I tried to get closer to shore, where the fish were. I misread the depth.”

“Catch anything?” I asked innocently.

Ben’s scowl deepened. My guess hit home.

“And how about putting on a shirt there, pal.” Hi needled.

Ben’s eyes rolled to him.

“Hey.” Hi spread his palms. “This is a classy bunker.”

Having delivered his opinion on clubhouse etiquette, Hi crossed to the room’s only table and sat. The rickety wooden chair listed to port. Reconsidering, Hi moved to the bench.

Ear-tucking thick black hair, Ben leaned one muscular shoulder against the bunker wall. Of medium height, there wasn’t an ounce of fat on him. Ben’s eyes were brown-black, his skin copper or bronze depending on the season.

“I thought Shelton could figure out how to fix the runabout,” Ben said.

Diplomatic. He was trying to apologize without actually apologizing.

Ben obsesses about his boat. Sensing he was more worried about the damage than he was letting on, I accepted the olive branch.

“If anyone can fix her, Shelton can,” I said.

Ben nodded.

Ben’s mother, Myra Blue, lives in a condo near the Mount Pleasant marina. Ben and his dad share a unit on Morris Island. Though the marital status of the senior Blues is unclear, taking our cues from Ben, the rest of us honor a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

My guess? Ben bought the runabout because it’s easier to zip across the harbor to Mount Pleasant than to drive all the way around.

“I’ve got my phone,” I said. “I’ll text Shelton.”

“Good luck scoring a signal,” Hi offered as I headed for the door. Ben remained silent, but I felt dark eyes on my back.

Hi was right. Cell reception is sketchy on Morris, practically nonexistent at the bunker. After zigzagging the dune-top for a good ten minutes, my message to Shelton finally went through. Descending, I was pleased to hear my phone beep an incoming text. Shelton was on his way.

Worming through the entryway, I thought about Ben. He was cute enough, but Lord was he moody. I’d moved to Morris six months earlier. Since then we’d had almost daily contact, but still I couldn’t say I understood him.

Did I like Ben? Did that explain all the verbal sparring? Closet flirting? Or was Ben simply the only option in a very, very small pond?

Or was I just nuts?

On that happy note, I popped back inside.

Hi had dozed off. Ben was still slumped on his bench. Crossing to the window, I hopped onto the ledge and nestled into one of the old cannon grooves.

Out in the harbor, Fort Sumter looked like a miniature Camelot. Well, a gray and crappy Camelot. My mind wandered. I thought about Arthur and his knights. About Kit. About poor Guinevere.

About my mother. The accident.

Deep breath. The memory was still a raw wound I tried not to poke.

Mom was killed last fall by a drunk driver. A mechanic named Alvie Turnbauer ran a stoplight and T-boned her Corolla. She was driving home from picking up a pizza. Turnbauer was leaving Sully’s Bar and Grill where he’d been downing Coronas all afternoon.

Turnbauer went to jail. Mom went to Resthaven Memorial Garden. I went to South Carolina.

Nope. Still too soon.

I turned my thoughts to other things. Sandals I’d seen at the open market. Paint colors I might like for my bedroom. A rough spot on a molar I feared was a cavity.

Eventually, a voice boomed from outside the crawl. “Someone call for a mechanic?”

In popped Shelton, holding a manual and a paper-stuffed folder. Ben perked up immediately.

Shelton Devers is short and skinny and wears thick, round glasses. His chocolate skin favors his African-American father, but his eyelids and cheekbones hint of his Japanese mother. Shelton’s parents both work on Loggerhead Island, Nelson as the IT specialist, Lorelei as a veterinary technician.

“So wise to consult an expert.” Shelton raised both arms. “Be at peace, brother Ben. I can save your boat.”

A beat, then Shelton’s mock-solemn expression morphed into a grin. Snorting laughter, Ben shoved to his feet, anxious to get to work.

No surprise that Ben wanted Shelton’s help most. He’s a whiz at anything with pieces, parts, or pixels. Shelton loves puzzles, ciphers, and anything with numbers. Computers, too. I guess you could call him our techno guru. It’s what he calls himself.

Shelton’s weakness? A fear of all things crawly. At his insistence, bug spray is kept in the bunker at all times. He won’t win any athletic awards, either.

Ben and Shelton spread the manual and papers across the table. Soon they were bickering about the nature of the malfunction and how to fix it.

Who knows? If they hadn’t repaired the boat, we wouldn’t have gone to Loggerhead that afternoon. Perhaps none of this would have happened.

But we did.

And it did.

CHAPTER 4

IF YOU CAN’T find the problem, just admit it.” Ben’s voice carried a sharp edge. “I don’t want more damage.”

I could tell Shelton was irked by Ben’s lack of confidence. His body tensed. At least, the south half of it did. His head and shoulders were hidden inside the boat.

“I’m just running the possibilities, one at a time.” Shelton’s head re-appeared. “Relax, man. I’ll figure it out.” Clutching a schematic, Shelton dove back into the wires of the boat’s electrical system. Ben loomed over him, arms crossed.

“Anything I can do to help?” I asked.

“No.” Two voices, one reply.

Well then.

While Hi lounged in the bunker and Ben and Shelton argued over the boat, I sat on the beach. Out of the way.

In front of the clubhouse, a stone outcrop curves into the ocean, creating a small, hidden cove. The rocky spur protects the shoreline, conceals the boat and its tie-up from passing crafts, and, my favorite, isolates a cool little beach just five yards long.

I glanced at the narrow path ascending to our sanctuary. Even this close, the window was impossible to see. Uncanny.

Shelton says our bunker was part of a Civil War trench network known as Battery Gregg. Built to guard Charleston Harbor, much of the maze remains uncharted.

This place is ours. We must keep it secret.

Strident voices crashed my thoughts.

“Is the battery switch on?”

“Of course it’s on. I smell gas—maybe the engine’s flooded. Let’s give it a minute to clear.”

“No, no, no. Maybe the engine doesn’t have enough gas. Pump the rubber ball.”

“You can’t be serious. Hey, make sure that silver toggle switch is pushed into the cowling or it’ll never start.”

Fed up, and feeling useless, I decided to rejoin Hi. No matter the heat outside, the bunker always stayed pleasantly cool. Halfway up the path I heard the outboard roar to life, followed by howls of delight from the amateur mechanics. I turned. Ben and Shelton were high-fiving madly, grinning like fools.

“Well done, genius squad,” I said. “I’m impressed.”

Parallel tough-guy nods. Man fix boat! Man be strong!

“What now?” I asked, hoping to divert the two from actually beating their chests.

“Let’s take her out, make sure she’s good,” Ben offered. “Maybe run down to Clark Sound?”

Not a bad idea. Boating had been our original plan for the afternoon. Then I had a sudden thought.

“What about Loggerhead? Maybe we can locate the wolfdogs. The pack hasn’t been spotted for days.”

Confession. I am a canine fanatic. I love dogs, maybe more than humans. Heck, no maybe about it. After all, dogs don’t gossip behind your back. Or try to embarrass you because you’re the youngest in your grade. Or drive cars and get killed.

Dogs are honest. That’s more than I can say for a lot of people.

“Why not?” Shelton replied. “I wouldn’t mind seeing the monkeys.”

Ben shrugged, less concerned with the destination than the journey.

“I can’t believe you jokers fixed it.” Hi was picking his way down to the beach.

“Believe it, clown. Too much brain power here to fail.” Still pumped, Shelton threw another palm Ben’s way.

“Oh, I’m sure.” Hi stretched, yawned. “It was something highly technical, I suppose? Something requiring mechanical ability? Nothing as simple as tightening a wire or flipping a switch, right?”

Ben reddened. Shelton developed an interest in his sneakers.

Score one for Hi.

“You up for a run out to Loggerhead?” I asked.

“Let’s do it. Monkeys are always funny. You pretty much can’t go wrong with a monkey, right?” Hi paused. “Well, unless that monkey wants you dead, or does needle drugs or something. Then it’s wrong, and a bad monkey.”

Hi dropped into the boat, oblivious to our stares.

Minutes later we were skimming across the sea. I have to admit, it was wicked cool. Even for someone who spends as much time on boats as I do.

I bet I’m the only person you know who ferries to school. Twice a day, straight shot over the harbor. Monday through Friday. Rinse. Repeat. It’s the only reasonable way to get there.

The gang and I go to Bolton Preparatory Academy in downtown Charleston. Very hoity-toity address, all antebellum homes and Spanish moss–draped trees. With ivy-covered walls and pigeon-pooped statues, Bolton Prep is as pretentious as its neighborhood.

I shouldn’t complain. Bolton is one of the best private schools in the country. Kit could never afford the tuition, but the university picks up most of the check. Another perk for CU parents working on Loggerhead.

One tiny problem. No one there likes us.

The other students are all super rich. Most never let us forget that fact. They know how we got in, and why we arrive each day as a group. I’ve lost track of the things they call us.

Boat kids. Charity cases. Peasants.

Trust-fund babies. Elitist jerks. Snobs.

Frankly, I was happy to be going anywhere that day besides school.

We Morris Islanders stick together. The guys were already tight when I arrived. Especially Shelton and Ben. Hi’s a bit of an oddity. Sometimes I’m not sure any of us know what to make of him, but he definitely keeps us on our toes.

The boys accepted me right off. Not enough options to be choosy. Plus—tooting my own horn—it was clear from the get-go how bright I am. Like them.

Unlike most of our classmates, we actually like learning new things. Must come from our parents. For me, meeting other kids who are into science was like finding buried treasure.

Kit wasn’t thrilled that my only three friends were boys. I pointed out that no other high school kids live on Morris. And that he knows all their parents. He had no rebuttal. Whitney, Kit’s girlfriend, is the only one playing that song now.

Though we may have started as friends of convenience, the four of us have really connected. Of course, I had no idea how connected we’d eventually become. Or why.

Ben took the long way to Loggerhead to avoid shallow water. It adds time, but the shortcut through the sandbars is too risky at low tide. Better to play it safe.

Shelton rode in front, scanning for dolphins. I sat in back with Hi.

Bow and stern, I reminded myself. The boys spent hours learning nautical terms. Future pirates? News reports say they’re back in business.

Now and then the bow rose, dropped with a smack. Spray washed over us, salty and cool. I loved every watery drop.

I could feel a smile spread over my face. The day was looking up.

After twenty minutes of open water, a blue-green blur took form on the horizon. I watched it grow and solidify into a landmass.

Eventually we drew close, slowed, and pulled alongside a sugar-white beach.

The sand stretched ten feet back from the water. Beyond it, high-canopied trees and a dense understory shrouded any view of the island’s interior. Waves lapped the shore. Frogs and insects performed an afternoon symphony of whines and hums. Now and then a branch rustled and an animal barked overhead.

There wasn’t a man-made thing in sight.

Ben throttled down. The boat bobbed gently as we cruised by, observing the landscape in silence.

A sense of mystery cloaked it. Something primal. Untamed. Wild.

Loggerhead Island.

CHAPTER 5

WHOA WHOA WHOA! Comin’ in hot! Hit the brakes!”

Shelton recoiled as Sewee clanged into the pier. I lost my footing and smacked the deck with my butt. Hard.

The boat scraped along the wharf, screeching in protest. Tough day for the mighty vessel. Complaint box material.

Springing up, I somehow managed to snag a stray mooring line attached to the quay. We steadied, came to rest. Docking complete.

Not exactly smooth, Captain.

“No brakes on a boat.” Ben grimaced, disappointed with his seamanship. “Parking’s tricky. I’m working on it.”

“Work harder.” Hi rubbed a banged knee. “You currently suck.”

I couldn’t do it,” I said, hoping Ben wouldn’t sulk.

He chuckled instead. “Not my best effort, but the ship’s okay.” A strong backslap. “Come on, Hiram. No harm, no foul.”

Hi conspicuously pointed kneeward.

Ben shrugged. “No blood, no foul?”

“Sure. But now my back hurts, so you still lose.”

Shelton popped onto the dock and secured the lines. A few loops and tugs, and we were moored. Practically valet.

“Done.”

“Let’s hustle, people! Go time!” Hi, looking green, climbed over the side and wobbled down the landing. “I have something ‘natural’ to do in those woods.”

Seasickness. Look out.

I disembarked and followed with the others.

Loggerhead Island is a speck compared to Morris, only half a square mile. No residents. No roads. No Starbucks. Just a few buildings clustered together on the southern end. Don’t be fooled though, it’s a serious place. High tech. Top-of-the-line labs, state-of-the-art equipment, twenty-four hour security. Small, but expensive.

The Loggerhead Island Research Institute. LIRI. But Loggerhead works just fine solo.

The island got its name from the sea turtles that nest on its eastern shore. Pirates were the first European inhabitants. Seeing it as a great spot to dodge colonial authorities, Blackbeard and his pals holed up and stored “inventory” between attacks on merchant ships. Or on other pirates. Or maybe they partied with other pirates. I’m not really sure.

Anyway, that phase didn’t last long. Eventually, the Brits rousted the pirates and some Lord Powderedwig built a cotton plantation. Slaves did the work, of course. Jerk. But one day they got him. Big lesson. If you’re a jackass who buys other people, don’t set up shop hours from help. Should your slaves object to the arrangement, you’re fish bait.

The military took Loggerhead next. Bases, guns, et cetera. After that, the island lay empty for several decades. In the seventies title was given to CU, and the university filled it with primates.

No kidding. Most of Loggerhead is now a monkey colony. Free-ranging rhesus monkeys. Hundreds of them, literally running wild in the trees and on the ground. It’s not like they can escape. Too far to swim elsewhere.

True, the research compound is fenced, but that’s to keep primates out, not in. The chain-link is only partly effective. Smart little buggers, they sneak through constantly. Like pocket ninjas.

The island truly is an amazing place. Wander into a simian clash and the sound is unbelievably loud. I mean, who wouldn’t want to hang out in a giant monkey cage once in a while?

To be clear, the institute does not conduct product testing or anything like that. The research is purely veterinary medicine or observational work, like behavioral studies. Otherwise, I wouldn’t go there. Or let Kit work there.

Pretty awesome, huh? There are only a few other places like this on the continent. Scientists come from everywhere. You need beaucoup shots and major clearance to get access.

Well, most people do. We just crash the party.

I stepped from the dock onto a narrow beach flanked by high, rocky promontories. Seagulls fluttered from our path, squawking in annoyance. I scanned my surroundings.

Loggerhead is shaped like a penguin with the “head” facing northwest. The penguin’s middle bulges slightly, making him appear well fed. The docks are located on the southern end, extending from the imaginary avian butt. From where I stood, features composing the penguin’s feet limited my view.

To the right, a conical peak sprouted from the island’s southeastern corner. Tern Point. To the left, a tree-choked plateau rose sharply to twenty-foot cliffs overlooking the sea. The small bay by which we’d entered lay cupped between the point and the plateau, its beach and dock completely shielded from rough seas.

No wonder pirates loved the place. Seclusion. A good place to stash a ship in a pinch. Yo ho ho!

The island’s northern end is marshland that peters out into a short tidal flat. You can’t walk the last hundred yards, too marshy-mushy. Not that you’d want to. Gator country. Snap, snap.

Though Loggerhead’s top and bottom are inhospitable, its sides are beautiful. Nothing but white sand. The long, narrow western stretch is named Chile Beach because of its shape, but old-timers call it Dead Cat. Hear the surf whining across the sandbars, just once, you’ll understand. The real prize lies on the eastern shore: Turtle Beach. Shorter and wider, it’s paradise. Best in the world.

That covers the perimeter. The island’s interior is all closely packed forest crisscrossed by creeks. Plus monkeys.

From the dock where we came ashore, a trail climbs northeast, up and over a steep rise that hides the LIRI buildings from sight. Hi was halfway along it.

“He’s useless on boats,” Ben said.

Agreed. Hi even got sick on the ferry.

“Let’s give him a second to … unwind,” I said.

“He’s looking for somewhere to puke.” Shelton was somewhat less delicate. “A man needs privacy in his weaker moments.”

No one argued with that. We’d all seen the Heaving Hi Show. Sequels always disappoint.

“You really want to find the dogs?” Shelton tugged his earlobe, a nervous tic. “They’re no joke, Tory. You got lucky last time. It was crazy.”

Half right. What I’d done was stupid. Wild canines can be unpredictable, even deadly. Especially wolfdogs. And I certainly had put myself in danger. But I don’t believe luck played a role.

Point of fact: I’ve never in my life felt threatened by a dog or wolf. For some reason, canines respond to me. It’s like we speak the same language. I can’t explain it.

The pack didn’t scare me; I was looking forward to seeing it. But I knew the others were uneasy with the idea of drawing too close.

“Shelton’s right,” Ben said. “Dog whisperer or not, you can’t take a risk like that again.” He skipped a pebble over the water. “I thought you were done. I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t been there.”

“The whole scene was unreal,” Shelton agreed.

Here’s the story.

Some years back, a graduate student departing a research station in Montana found a half-dead female wolf cub buried in a snowdrift. Having no other option, and against all rules, he smuggled the puppy with him to his next posting—Loggerhead. Somehow he lost track of his ward. Upon completion of his project, unable to find the pup, he simply left.

Over time, the wolf pup became an unofficial pet for Loggerhead’s staff. Nicknamed Whisper, she moved like smoke, appearing silently for her meals, then disappearing into the woods.