Home > The Darkest Corner (Gravediggers #1)

The Darkest Corner (Gravediggers #1)
Author: Liliana Hart

PROLOGUE

 


The summer sun beat down with a vengeance on the day thousands would die.

Sweat glistened on pinkened skin, but the discomfort was easily forgotten with every crack of the bat. The air was stagnant—thick with humidity—and the scents of popcorn and beer mixed nauseatingly with the steam from the hot dog carts. Unforgiving metal benches blistered the thighs of those who were unfortunate enough to be seated on the east side of the stadium. The announcer said it was one of the hottest days on record for the month of June, like it was something to be excited about.

Ten-year-old Carrie Anne Fitzgibbon swatted at a horsefly as big as her thumb and shot her mother a scathing look. She didn’t see why they had to drive all the way from San Antonio to stupid Omaha, Nebraska, just to watch her brother play baseball. Brothers were the worst.

Curt had ruined everything. Julie was her best friend in the whole world and Julie would never ever have another tenth birthday party, even though Julie’s parents had promised her she could have post-birthday cupcakes with Carrie once they returned. It wasn’t the same. Her life was ruined.

“Stop pouting, Carrie,” her father said. “Look, Curt is up to bat next.”

She sat between her parents, her arms crossed over her chest, and tried not to show interest in her brother, who was currently taking practice swings inside the stupid little circle. She hoped he struck out.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” her mother said. “The Bulldogs have never made it to the College World Series before. This is history in the making.”

“Julie’s birthday party would’ve been history in the making,” she muttered under her breath.

Her mother reached into the small cooler at her feet and pulled out one of the icy washrags to lay on the back of her neck. Her blond hair was the same color as Julie’s, pulled back into a ponytail.

“Can you imagine getting to play in front of twenty thousand people?” her mother went on excitedly. “It’ll be something he can tell his grandkids one day. And there are pro scouts here. This could be his chance to get into the majors.”

Carrie’s denim shorts and royal-blue Bulldogs shirt clung damply to her skin, and she wished she’d listened to her mother’s suggestion to wear a baseball cap. The top of her head felt like it was on fire from the heat.

“Whoop-de-do,” Carrie said sarcastically.

“I’ve had enough of your attitude, young lady,” her father said. “You’ll straighten up right now if you want to see Julie when we get back home. Otherwise, you can be grounded for the rest of the summer.”

She kicked the back of the seat in front of her, but knew not to push it. Her dad had his angry face on, and the last thing she wanted was to be cooped up inside the house for the rest of the summer.

“Can I get some popcorn?” she asked, deciding to switch tactics.

“Good idea,” her dad said, whistling between his teeth as Curt was announced to bat. He took his wallet out of his back pocket and pulled out a twenty without taking his eyes off of home plate. Her mother had her iPhone out and was busy recording.

They don’t even care about me, Carrie thought angrily. All they’ve ever cared about was stupid Curt and his stupid baseball. She’d heard her grandma say once that Carrie had been their accident baby. Her mom, her dad, and Curt had probably been perfectly happy before she came along.

They probably wished she’d never been born.

She shoved the money in her pocket and made her way to the aisle, apologizing to an old man for stepping on his foot in the process. And then she ran up the concrete steps all the way to the top, tears stinging her eyes.

It wasn’t much cooler in the shade under the covered area where the concession stands were, but at least she was out of the sun. The stadium was huge, and the covered area went the entire way around the ballpark.

Dad hadn’t told her to stay close or come back quick like he usually did, so she decided maybe she’d get her snacks from the other side. Maybe they had different choices. As she set off, her stomach felt squishy because she knew she’d get in trouble if they found out how far she was going. But she tilted her pointed chin and walked off defiantly. It’s not like they would notice she was gone anyway. They were too busy with Curt.

She heard the crack of the bat and the crowd go wild with cheers. Curt must have done something good, but she didn’t stop to try and see what was happening with the game.

It wasn’t until she’d been walking awhile that she realized she couldn’t remember what the number was for the section where their seats were. The butterflies in her stomach were fluttering harder and she really had to go to the bathroom, but she stood in line at the concession stand on the opposite side of the park, one that served the exact same food as the one she’d seen just by their seats.

Carrie ordered a hot dog with chili and cheese and a Coke, because she wasn’t supposed to have soft drinks. She figured she might as well break all the rules she could at one time. Once she had paid and shoved the change back into her pocket, she took her dog and her drink and started back the way she’d come.

A glimpse of the field caught her eye. She liked how green the grass was and that they’d cut it to look like a checkerboard. The sand was reddish, and she’d watched in fascination as they’d wet it down before the game started. Her dad always said there was nothing in the world like baseball—the people, the energy, the loyalty to the team whether they won or lost.

Carrie stood in the arched opening that led to a section of seats and looked at the crowd, swallowing hard at the thought of finding her parents again among so many people. She took a deep breath and tried to think about what she’d been told to do if she was ever lost. There was no policeman she could ask for help, at least not that she could see, and there was no way she was staying put and waiting for someone to find her. It would be hours.

She tried to remember what their section looked like, and then it hit her. They’d been sitting just behind home plate. And from where she was standing now she could see the front of the batter, and she had an even better view of the outfielders. All she had to do was make it back to home plate.

Carrie breathed a sigh of relief and took a sip of Coke, wetting her dry throat. And then something curious caught her eye. A huge puff of smoke went into the air just behind the dugout. Players and people sitting in the stands scattered, climbing over each other as they tried to get onto the field. It looked like they were having trouble breathing and many of them were crawling on the ground.

The concrete beneath her feet trembled, and her shoulder bumped the wall as she lost her balance. And then there was a giant boom in the air that was louder than any of the fireworks she’d ever watched. Her Coke and hot dog dropped to the ground. Chaos erupted, and the people around her were screaming and pushing as they tried to run. Her bladder released, and urine ran down her legs as fear overtook her. She didn’t know what was happening, but she stood in the middle of the fray alone, wishing for her mom and dad. She tried to run, but it felt like the ground was moving beneath her feet.

A man bumped her as he ran by, and she fell, landing inside the door to one of the restrooms. She huddled in a ball on the ground and screamed for her daddy as the earth fell apart around her. The people who’d been running seemed to fall away as the floor disappeared and the ceiling caved in.

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