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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group


A Novel

Jonathan Maberry

St. Martin's Press



It’s like that sometimes.

It starts weird and in the wrong place.

This did.

Rain Thomas went to bed on Thursday and woke up on Saturday. She had no idea at all that someone had stolen a whole day from her until she arrived twenty-three hours and forty-eight minutes late for a job interview.

The interview did not go well.


Her alarm clock always sounded like an outraged cricket. It yelled her awake and then seemed to dodge her flailing hand until she finally caught it and slapped it silent. Bastard. She patted the bed next to her, looking for Joplin, but he was gone. He almost never stayed the night. That was the arrangement. He lived two doors down in an identical brownstone walk-up, and last night, let’s face it, had been a booty call. She’d called him this time. It worked out to about fifty-fifty on who called whom. Great sex, some nice holding, and then retreating to separate corners.

That was fine. Rain preferred to sleep alone. Sleep being the operative word.

The warm lump by her feet was her dog, Bug, a mixed breed of rat terrier, Cavalier King Charles, Chihuahua, and god knew what else. She was small, cute, loyal, and semi-hysterical. Bug liked to crawl under the covers and burrow into the darkest, warmest spot on the bed.

Rain hovered on the warm edge of slumber, wishing she could roll over and drop back down. There was a dream she wasn’t finished with. She tried to swim deeper, even though it was dark down where the full dream was swimming. Dark and a little scary.

But it was important. She was sure of that.

Against her will, the day coalesced around her. Her apartment was a little icebox on the fifth floor of a Brooklyn brownstone that looked like ten thousand others. The steep sets of creaking stairs were her gym membership. She wore pajama bottoms, socks, and a sweatshirt to bed but she was always cold. Even in summer. The landlord didn’t turn the heat on until the end of October, and when he did, it sounded like a cokehead monkey was beating on the pipes with a hammer. What little heat leaked out of the radiator didn’t have the enthusiasm to reach out to any other part of the room. No one was allowed to have a space heater. Fire hazard. Sneaking one in was the best way to get evicted. The upside was that the cockroaches didn’t like the cold, and most of them stayed downstairs in the laundry room.

Fun times.

The apartment was on West 238th Street in Kingsbridge, several light-years from the encouraging footfall of gentrification. She had one room that was half the size of her mother’s walk-in closet, with a kitchenette in the corner and a bathroom in a cubbyhole so small that she had to squeeze between the toilet and sink to get into the shower. The windows were nailed shut, and it looked exactly like the kind of apartment they’d put in a movie if they wanted to show how freaking depressing someone’s life could be. Joplin’s flat was a two bedroom with a full kitchen, which he’d inherited from his dad and had turned into his art studio. Sometimes she went over there, but it was every bit as cold, and he was a slob. A gorgeous slob, she had to admit, but one who hadn’t evolved his social skills past his dorm room days at art school.

Rain rubbed her face with her palms and then glanced at the clock.


“Shit,” she said. The interview was at nine thirty all the way in the city.

She had every intention of jumping to her feet and going full whirlwind through her morning routine. Bathroom, shower, clothes, makeup, out the door, bagel and coffee on the 1 Train.

That was the plan.

Why bother? asked her inner voice. You won’t get it anyway. They’ll do a background check and you’ll be out on your ass.

It was a familiar voice—the part of Rain’s mind that ran a constant disapproving commentary on everything she did. It was one of several voices that vied for attention inside the untidy mess of her brain. One of the legion of counselors she’d sat with over the years suggested the label of “parasite.” That fit. It lived within her and knew everything about her, but it had no interest at all in her well-being, though it was slippery and sly and often pretended to be the voice of her common sense, her better angel. As if.

Rain tried hard, every single day, to ignore that voice. Sometimes she managed, but it was persistent, relentless, and it knew all her secrets.

She put her face in her hands and tried not to cry. Not because her life was so hard. Her life had always been hard. And not because she couldn’t remember the dream, even though she felt she had to. No. Rain Thomas cried because this was another day when she wouldn’t score some rock and smoke her way off the planet. Another day. It was day number one thousand one hundred and six of not using, and it hurt every bit as badly as day one. She hid behind the closed doors of her palms and waited for the tears. Waited. But they didn’t come. Not that morning. It wasn’t a relief, though, because she knew they’d show eventually. They always did. People patted her on the back for getting her shiny pink three-year coin from Narcotics Anonymous. They told her she was strong. Joplin told her she was tough as Supergirl.

The hell did he? The hell, in fact, did anyone know?

Bug, disturbed by her attempts to get up, wormed her way from under the blankets, stuck her black nose and brown eyes out, and peered at Rain. There was a flutter of blankets from the dog wagging her crooked little tail.

“Good morning, fuzzball,” said Rain thickly. Bug wagged harder, but her eyes cut to the night table where a Ziploc bag stood next to the clock.

“You want your morning cookie, don’t you?”

A more enthusiastic wag.

Rain took a crunchy treat from the bag, broke it into three small pieces, and placed them on the mattress. It was a ritual. If she didn’t do that, Bug would not emerge from the bed at all. Now she wormed her way on her belly like a World War I soldier sliding under barbed wire strung across no-man’s-land. She took the first treat. Moved farther. The second. The third. By then she was completely out of bed and lay there, stretched to her full length, which wasn’t much. A tiny body spotted with black, white, and brown, a tail that had been broken before Rain adopted her from the shelter and which perpetually canted to the left.

“Mommy has a job interview today.”

Bug wagged her tail with great enthusiasm. Rain’s cheering section.

“Think I’ll get it?”

Bug sat up, hoisted a leg, and began licking her own crotch.

“Gosh, thanks for that note of encouragement,” said Rain. She braced her palms against the edge of the mattress and pushed up against the gravity of her need. She stumbled across the cold floor, squeezed into the bathroom, and tried to make herself look like someone worth hiring. Worth trusting.

That was going to take a lot of makeup.

Copyright © 2018 by Jonathan Maberry