Night_of_the_hidden_fang_cover_final

Bestselling author T. James Logan writes a lot of different kinds of things, from science fiction, fantasy, and horror to working on roleplaying games and screenplays. In his persona as T. James Logan, he loves to recapture bits of childhood, those times when a glimpse of a werewolf on television kept him up at night, those times when crushes were crushing, and those moments of youthful exuberance when the world was all possibilities.

He lives in Denver, Colorado, with his family, plus a dog and a cat, neither of which are lycanthropes—at least he's pretty sure.

Night of the Hidden Fang by T. James Logan

Mia's only friend is gone.

Adults are acting weird - well, weirder than normal.

A rash of strange disappearances around town is going all but unnoticed.

When she finds some half-eaten human bones, her safe, suburban world is thrown upside down. Are they her friend's bones?

Three runaway boys seem to know what's happening. But what are they running from? And is it going to follow them to her doorstep, even as she's finally caught the eye of the hunky poet from her English class?

If you love stories about plucky, teenage heroines (and a dog) with wild chase scenes and the world on the brink of disaster, you'll love Night of the Hidden Fang.

 

REVIEWS

  • "I was really impressed by ... the way Logan uses the genre to cover some timeless issues of what it's like being a teenager, with the challenges of becoming independent from parents, dealing with grief and loss, developing self-confidence, sexuality and restraint. He manages to touch on so many pertinent themes all in the context of an adventurous fantasy sci-fi story. Well done!"

    – Becky Parker, ProAudio Voices
  • "For people who like thrillers, people who like horror, and people who want to read wild chase scenes with plucky heroines (and a dog)."

    – Kater Cheek, author of the Kit Melbourne series
  • "Of interest to teens or readers who enjoy stepping back into the world where firing an F-bomb across your parents' bows is radical rebellion and a single kiss can rock your world... The book's action-packed, short chapters make it a fast, easy summer read."

    – New Myths
 

BOOK PREVIEW

Excerpt

Prologue

Harvey Roach groaned. "Oh, crap, not again."

The spot of mustard stain on the front of his uniform looked like a little dollop of dried vomit next to his Pinkerton Security Services badge. He rubbed at it with a napkin, succeeded only in smearing it around, then gave up and shoved the rest of the cold hot dog into his mouth, washing it down with warm Mountain Dew.

He leaned back in his chair and sighed, rubbing the grain out of his eyes from the incessant flicker of the surveillance monitors. The hard, wooden office chair—circa 1940—creaked with his weight. Fortunately, Beeckman wasn't scheduled for a site check tonight, and, conscientious supervisor that he was, he always made sure to let Harvey know when he was coming. Harvey rubbed at the mustard stain again. No one would likely see it except Shelly when she did his laundry, but it still made him look like a slob. He crumpled up the food wrappers on the desk and tossed them away, then picked up his dog-eared copy of The Maltese Falcon.

A shade of movement on one of the monitors caught his eye. Father McManus walking alone down the hallway from his office, at this time of night, probably going to the rectory, likely a few glasses of hooch closer to bed. The camera paused in that view for fifteen seconds, then cycled to the interior of the gymnasium, then the industrial arts shop, the entrance hallway to the original Saint Sebastian's orphanage, the area surrounding the security shack, an adolescent boy in pajamas shuffling toward the second floor bathroom of the boys' dormitory. The boy scratched his head and disappeared into the bathroom.

Harvey considered texting Katrina again. Might be nice to line up a woman on the side, for contingency purposes. Trina liked his gun. Shelly rode his ass too much, kept telling him he should have higher aspirations than being a "rent-a-cop." God, he hated that term. He was a Site Security Specialist. But nooooo, that wasn't good enough for her. "Why don't you apply to the police department again?" she would whine. "Why don't you go back to school and finish your criminal justice degree? You could even apply to the F.B.I. then!" As if he could ever get into the F.B.-frickin'-I. Besides, someday, after a few years of experience, he would open his own private investigations office. Private dicks were way cooler than Feds. The idea of working for the government gave him a case of the shudders.

He leaned back into the ancient chair, feeling that moment of doubt where he might fall over backwards if he weren't careful, then eased into the chair's rearward limit and flipped through the Hammett novel. He would be finished with it before morning.

Shelly could go pound sand. Where else could he get on-the-job training and time to read detective stories?

The monitor flicked through its sequence of cameras again. The worst that ever happened here at Saint Sebastian's School for Children was the occasional glue-head sneaking into the bathroom at night to sniff himself into a coma, or scampering off to some midnight skateboard rendezvous. This place was the end of line for most of these kids. Next stop, living under a railroad trestle or in juvenile detention. At least Father McManus gave them three squares, a roof, and a school, a place on the fringe of the city, surrounded by farmland on three sides, away from the black and Hispanic ghettoes or white-trash trailer parks, away from gang territories, hookers, pimps, and drug dealers.

The human eye detected movement more than shapes, especially at night—he knew that from training—and it was movement that caught his glance again. The boy was standing in the dormitory hallway, staring at something in the bathroom, backing slowly away. He was speaking, but the cameras had no audio pickups. Then he spun and tore down the hallway, his eyes gleaming with fear in the dim light.

"Crap," Harvey sighed, tossing down his book. He pressed the button to hold the monitor on that camera feed. Damn kids.

The lights in the hallway went out, but the kids weren't supposed to be able to access the switches. The light from bathroom spilled out and formed a bright smear in a sea of electronic black. A low-slung shadow appeared in the hallway, like someone bent over. The silhouette of a face suddenly filled the screen, and the camera went black. Those cameras were near the ceiling. What had that kid been standing on?

"Dammit!" Harvey jumped to his feet, checked his gun and pepper spray, and rushed out of the security shack, heading for the dormitory. He hoped it wasn't another suicide attempt. Some of these kids showed up with their psyches scarred by abusive adults, either relatives or foster parents. A real variety of real pathologies. Pathology was a technical term. Harvey just called it "effed-up." It happened once six months before Harvey started here. One belt, one shower head, and one young meth-head, done.

He whipped out his massive ring of keys as he ran, searching for the right one.

Somewhere, a fire-door slammed. Where had that come from? The back of the dormitory? Somebody making a run for it? Somebody too stupid to realize that this was their last shot at avoiding juvenile detention? What had the kid in the hall been running away from?

A few seconds of fumbling at the door with the five-pound jumble of brass and zinc and steel, and he was inside, running for the stairwell to the second floor, where that camera was mounted.

The hallway was still dark, and the heavy puffing of his breath echoed down the empty, tiled corridor. The light from the bathroom still spilled a skewed rectangle onto the floor and wall. He ran for the bathroom, certain he was going to see some emo junkie hanging from a shower head by a bedsheet or left in a beaten bloody pile.

But when he reached the bathroom, he saw no such thing. Nothing at all in fact. Empty. Spic-and-span. Not even a dribble of errant urine on the floor, even though the kid who had run looked like he had practically peed himself. But what was this? Two long parallel scratches gouged into the paint of a toilet stall door, about two feet from the floor, so fresh that flakes of paint still hung from the edges. Why would someone want to deface the door so close to the floor? Most graffiti or vandalism happened at eye level.

Somewhere a door slammed, then a strange scratching-running sound. He pulled his Maglite and ran toward the noise. Sounded like it came from the door to the far stairwell. This building held three floors of boys ages six to eighteen, with the oldest boys on the top floor. At the far end of the hallway, the plastic box covering the light switches and thermostat controls were shattered, as if by a hammer. Shards of plastic littered the floor.

He flipped the switches, and the hallway lights flickered on. Another slamming fire-door, this one far below, drew him in a gasping rush into the stairwell. Looking over the banister down well, he saw a flicker of shadow disappear through the fire door. He charged down the stairs two and three and a time. Shelly would kill him if he fell and broke his neck. Seconds later, he plowed through the fire door back out into the night air. The rattle of the chain link fence snagged his ears. A trio of shadows landed on the other side of the fence, shapes barely glimpsed in the darkness before they dashed into the cornfield beyond with the rustle of leaves.

Harvey sighed and pulled out his cell phone.

Father McManus picked up on the second ring. "Good evening, Harvey. What can I do for you?"

"I think we have some runners, maybe three."

Father McManus sighed. "Did you see them?"

"Not clearly, no."

"Thank you for letting me know, my son. I'll call the teachers."

Harvey stood up straighter. "I'll start investigating and find out who's missing."

"I'll come over to the dormitory in a few minutes."

"Yes, sir."

Father McManus hung up, and Harvey went back inside. He pressed a special alarm button on his keychain. The alarm bell erupted through the building. By the time he made it back into the hallway, packs of boys—wearing expressions of varying ratios of sleepiness, fear, and annoyance—were shuffling from their rooms, waiting beside their doors, rubbing their eyes.

Harvey's first task was a head count. A storage locker on each floor held the room rosters. Starting with the youngest first-grade boys, he systematically worked his way through them, checking names off the list. Four boys to a room, with a handful of empty slots here and there. When he reached the top floor, he sensed an immediate increase in the tension. Downstairs, he had seen a lot more fear and uncertainty in their eyes. On the third floor, the eyes were downcast, subdued. He sensed secrets being hidden.

A deep scratchy voice from right behind jerked a yelp of surprise out of him. "Harvey, what's going on?"

Harvey spun, clutching his chest. "Where the hell did you come from?"

"You were preoccupied. What's up?"

Harvey cleared his throat. "Well, seems we got some runners, Mister Slade." The wrestling coach's sharp blue gaze burned into Harvey like propane flames. Thick shoulders and muscular chest, hands on narrow rippling hips. What Harvey wouldn't give for a physique like that. "I was just about to do a head count."

"I'll give you a hand."

"No need for that, Mister Slade, I—"

Slade turned away, oblivious. "I'll do some looking around." He walked away with a swift but strangely careful stride.

"Right. You do that," Harvey sneered to himself. "Arrogant prick." The way Slade moved creeped Harvey out a little.

He returned to his task. The headcount revealed three boys missing. Now for a check-off to determine who they were.

As he worked his way down the lines on both sides of the hallway, he soon recognized the pajamas he had seen on the video, the kid from the bathroom. The kid's skin was sheened with sweat, and his face was as pale as a boiled egg. Harvey couldn't remember all of the kids' names, but this boy's was on his list—Carlos Moreno.

Carlos glanced up at Harvey, saw Harvey's distinct attention, then looked away again, fidgeting.

Harvey took Carlos by the shoulder. "C'mon. Let's go talk down there."

The boy's arm tensed like a bundle of steel cables. "I didn't do nothin', man!"

"You're not in trouble."

One of the other boys jeered. "Maybe he oughta be!"

Harvey took Carlos to an empty dorm room at the end of the hall, sat the trembling boy down on the mattress, and said. "You're not in trouble, Carlos."

"Then what's this about, man?"

Harvey suddenly felt like a real P.I., starting a real investigation, and pride ballooned in his chest. He'd have this solved before the police even got here. "You saw something. I want to know what it was."

Carlos' hands became fists between his knees. "No way, Harvey. Forget it. You wouldn't never believe me anyway."

"That's 'Officer Roach' to you. You went into the bathroom. You came back out again in an awful hurry. What did you see?"

According to the roster, Carlos was fifteen, a freshman. He played junior varsity running back. According to Harvey's own eyes, Carlos looked ready to cry. "What did you see in the bathroom? When I looked in there, it was empty."

"You're lucky."

"What did you see? Did someone attack you? Are you hurt?" There was no visible blood or bruises on the boy.

"You wouldn't believe me."

Harvey loomed nearer, frustration tightening his jaw, his fists. This punk kid was holding out on him. "Tell me!"

Carlos swallowed hard, shoulders sagging. "They was monsters, man! Three of 'em! Big, hairy, goddamn monsters. With teeth like this and—"

"Cut the crap, Carlos!"

Carlos clamped his mouth shut and he sighed. "See? I told you you wouldn't believe me."

Harvey had to admit that the kid looked too terrified to make this up. "You sniffing anything? Any drugs?"

"Naw, man. I don't do that crap."

"Yeah, you're squeaky clean, I'm sure. This'll do for now."

Harvey caught Carlos shooting him a look of contempt as the boy left the room, but the terror in that boy's face...that had been real. This kid wasn't smart enough to be that kind of actor. But seriously? Monsters? He scoffed and shook his head.

What about the scratches on the toilet door?