Fiction Dobyns, Stephen Boy in the Water

ISBN 13: 9780140285208

Boy in the Water

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9780140285208: Boy in the Water

Lying deep in the wooded New Hampshire countryside, Bishop's Hill Academy is a school running out of control. Jim Hawthorne, newly appointed head, has been brought in to save the school. Eager to escape the demons of his own past, he is determined to succeed despite the shadiness and resentment amongst his staff. But when a boy is found dead in the school swimming pool, a terrifying madness is unleashed. For behind the school's ivy-clad facade is a long history of corruption and violence and, as winter closes in, the routine of classes and meetings gives way to savagery and murder.

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Sliding off the railing, Hawthorne stood and stretched. It was nearly one in the morning and he had a few files left to read. He would spend the weekend going over student files, then start scanning them onto floppy disks. And he wanted to read the files of students who had transferred or dropped out. Some he would telephone. Even if he only got an earful of complaint, it might be useful to hear why they had left. If he worked all weekend, maybe he could keep his mind fully occupied. Skander had invited him to dinner on Saturday night and he looked forward to that. Hawthorne glanced up at the dark windows of Adams Hall. A sudden breeze sent the dried leaves of the ivy rattling and whispering. Strangely, he had a sense of being watched. He looked more closely at the windows.
Suddenly, Hawthorne had a shock. Somebody was standing at a third-floor window looking down at him. It was a man. There was something very odd about his clothes. With a feeling approaching horror, Hawthorne realized that the man was dressed in a fashion that had gone out of style a hundred years earlier. The stern white face and thin beard the somber clothing - the man stared down at Hawthorne with such anger that it was all Hawthorne could do not to turn away or cover his eyes. The figure was standing about a foot back form the glass, dimly illuminated by the security lights along the walkway. Hawthorne waited for him to make some sign but he stood at the window, forbidding and lifeless.
Forcing himself into action, Hawthorne ran across the terrace toward the French windows. Once inside he paused long enough to grab a flashlight from the hall table, then he hurried through the door separating his quarters from the rest of the building. He stopped to listen. The only noise was the wind moaning through a crack. Hawthorne ran for the stairs, taking them two at a time as he dashed toward the third floor. His shoes had rubber soles and made hardly any nose. He kept the flashlight off; there was enough light in the stairwell from the windows. When he reached the third-floor landing, he opened the fire door and listened again.
From farther up the hallway, he heard laughter, manic and inhuman. Hawthorne moved quietly through the door and down the hall. The laughter grew louder with breathless hysteria. Here the only light came dimly from the open doors of the classrooms. Touching the wall with one hand, Hawthorne moved forward, gripping the flashlight but not turning it on. The laughter seemed to be coming from a classroom halfway down the hall, which looked out over the playing fields. Hawthorne calculated that it was in this same area that the man had been standing. He paused at the doorway. His hands were sweating and he wiped them on his pants. The high tenor of the laughter, its tenacity without pause for breath, its noisy echo in the empty classroom - Hawthorne imagined it spewing forth from the dead mouth he had seen.
He flicked on the flashlight and stepped into the classroom, sweeping the beam across the desks and blackboard. There was no sign of the man he had seen at the window. Then, on the teacher's bare desk at the front of the room, he saw a set of jittering white teeth jumping and turning in the circle of the flashlight's beam. The awful laughter was coming from the teeth. Hawthorne gripped the doorjamb and watched the teeth hop about on the desk, approach the edge, then scuttle back to the center. He felt for the light switch and turned on the overhead fluorescent light. The white teeth and bright pink gums were a toy, a plastic toy. Laughing and twitching, they again skittered to the side of the desk, balanced briefly on the edge, then fell to the floor with a crash and were silent.

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