Poison Ink by Christopher Golden
The Story
An Excerpt
The Author




















Poison Ink by Christopher Golden

Excerpt © Christopher Golden. Do not reprint without permission.

On the last Friday night of summer, Sammi Holland and the girls went downtown in search of ice cream. They planned to meet at Krueger's Flatbread for pizza beforehand, a necessary preamble to the main event: an utter debauchery of swirl-ins and sprinkles and fudge sauce at England's MicroCreamery. Afterward, the five of them would wander Washington Street, peeking in the windows of the candle shop, the art galleries, and the bohemian café on the corner, ending up at Cruel and Unusual Books. No way were they getting out of there without hitting the bookshop. Sammi could be very persuasive.

Downtown Covington didn't draw a lot of teenagers. Most of their classmates from Covington High School would be at the mall tonight. But Sammi and the girls just weren't the sort who hung out at the mall.

Unless they were going to the movies, Sammi and her friends steered clear of the Merrimack River Walk. The long, outdoor strip mall had been built less than ten years before, complete with movie megaplex, massive bookstore, and tons of chain clothing stores. On Friday and Saturday nights, hordes of high school kids from Haverhill, Methuen, Jameson, and other nearby towns roved the sidewalks along the River Walk in gaggles, half of them talking on their cell phones or texting their friends who hadn't come along. Like the "main drag" in old movies and TV shows, the River Walk was all about seeing and being seen - half mating ritual and half dance of supremacy.

Sammi had no interest in that kind of poseur crap, and neither did the girls she hung around with. The five of them had been oddballs and loners all their lives, until they had found each other. Now they were like sisters, and all was right with the world. Or mostly right. So tonight Sammi walked along a stretch of cobblestoned sidewalk on Washington Street with Caryn Adams.

"Come on," she said, hooking her arm through Caryn's and dragging her away from the window of a closed gallery. "We're late."

Caryn fell into step beside her, grinning. "You're just lucky that place isn't open. Then we'd be really late."

"Aren't you hungry? I'm starving."

"Haven't you ever heard of the ‘starving artist'? " Caryn said. "Kind of comes with the territory."

"Yeah, right. All those fashionistas who design dresses for the red carpet crowd, they're starving artists. If they're only eating carrot sticks, it isn't because they can't afford a decent meal."

"No argument. But first they had to suffer. They had to get down in the trenches and fight it out with all the other ambitious artists."

Sammi laughed. "You make it sound like war."

Caryn glanced at her, the fading summer sunshine gleaming on her caramel skin. "There are all kinds of wars."

Sammi blinked. She knew Caryn wanted a career in fashion desperately. Of all of her friends - of anyone she knew - Caryn had the most purpose and drive. But sometimes it verged on obsession.

"You must chill. Seriously. One of these days we'll watch the Oscars together and they'll ask, ‘Who are you wearing?' and the answer will be ‘Caryn Adams.' I know this. We all know it. But between now and then, you really have to chill. School starts on Tuesday, and tonight's supposed to be about just being together."

Caryn softened. "You're right. That me, the one who was getting all tense? Just sent her home. Girl is not allowed to come out tonight."

Sammi smiled. "Good."

Grinning, they turned off of Washington Street into Railroad Square. Sammi and Caryn were roughly the same height - five feet three inches - and close enough in size that they could share clothes. The spaghetti-strap top Caryn had on had come from Sammi's closet, while Sammi had pulled on a couple of tank tops, going for the layered look. Caryn wore sneakers, but Sammi stuck with the strappy sandals she'd worn most of the summer.

They walked alongside the concrete wall of the elevated train platform toward the old brick factory building that housed Krueger's Flatbread. Most of Covington had been mills and factories once upon a time, like so many cities built north of Boston on the Merrimack River. In the past few years, the downtown had undergone serious renovation, the old buildings gutted and reclaimed for apartments, offices, and storefront shops. Much cooler than any mall.


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