Shutter

Shutter by Courtney Alameda

Book: Shutter by Courtney Alameda Read Free Book Online
Authors: Courtney Alameda
concrete-and-steel tunnel like a plastic straw. Focusing on the chains growing under my skin didn’t help, nor did thinking about Dad’s half-open eyes and worrying whether he’d shaken off the alcohol. Danger and death always stood a few steps away from me. Down here, where claustrophobia beaded my brow with sweat, where pressure popped my ears, where the tunnel groaned from the weight placed on its back, I almost believed in curses and centuries-old vengeance.
    Instead, I tried to remember what it was like to be a kid, when every activity felt like a no-holds-barred adventure; the boys and I used to climb into the drainage ditches and old wells on the Presidio property. When we got older, we started exploring the city’s big tunnels, the secret ones. Every teen knew about the Prohibition-era tunnels under Nob Hill and Chinatown—places Helsing swept clean once a night. But few knew about the labyrinth beneath Ghirardelli Square, or the spidery corridors under Coit Tower, the places you needed to pack heat if you meant to walk out alive. And one of Oliver’s pet projects was to find San Francisco’s fabled underground military base, which he believed to be hidden under Golden Gate Park, or on an odd day, the Marin Headlands. He’d already tried to convince the last surviving members of San Francisco’s old Suicide Club to tell him—twice.
    My other senses became hyperactive in the blackness. I saw with my hand, fingers catching on boxes or pipes, or sliding over slick, painted surfaces. Our boots’ rubber soles made no sound on the floor, so the only noise we made was the faint scrape of skin on concrete.
    Sounds tailed us, an echoey voice here, a clank there. Creeping closer. We’d gone over two miles before the first clear, masculine voice grazed my skin:
    “The place’s empty. You sure you saw someone on the cameras, Antonio?”
    “Yeah, a bunch’a kids.”
    The words pushed us forward, faster. Just give up , I begged them. I chanced a look backward—four or five bright spots chewed through the darkness. The men closed the gap fast, and it wouldn’t be long before their lights got close enough to touch us. I nudged Ryder’s pack with my hand, urging him on faster.
    After a few hundred yards more, the tunnel bent upward. Ryder’s pace shifted and slowed with the steep incline, and Oliver’s hand pulled harder on my pack, his breath ragged. Physical exertion wasn’t good for a boy with twenty stitches in his chest.
    We’d gone up about fifty feet when Jude cursed under his breath—
    A clang, a clatter. A flash of light rolled down the incline, bright as a here-I-am flare, a wreck of shouts breaking out of its wake. I watched Jude’s flashlight rock at the incline’s base, mouth agape.
    “Move,” Ryder shouted, grabbing me by the hand and plunging up the hill. He lit the way with his Maglite, making the tunnel bounce and bob like a shaky-cam movie. We ran flat-out—Ryder taking one stride for my two and half dragging me—as orders to Stop! and Halt! slugged into our backs.
    By the time we made it to the top, my heart felt like a punching bag and my lungs burned. The lights from our pursuers’ flashlights ricocheted off the ceiling as Ryder and I scrambled over the ridge. I stopped to glance back; Oliver ran with a hand pressed into his chest, and as he crossed to flat ground, he slumped over and put his hands on his knees. A smear of blood edged his palm.
    “Oliver,” I cried.
    Jude got to him first. “No time,” he said, throwing his weight under Oliver’s arm and urging him forward. Oliver couldn’t run and stumbled—his breath came in wet, gasping spurts, and he leaned heavily on Jude.
    Ryder thrust his flashlight into my hands. He ran back to the others, squatted low, grabbed Oliver’s thigh, and performed the fastest fireman’s carry I’d ever seen, lifting Oliver like a sack of flour.
    “Go,” Ryder shouted at me, starting off at a slow jog. Oliver groaned. I turned and ran,

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