Title: DownburstAuthor: Katie RobisonPublisher: Quil BooksPublish Date: 10 January 2012Pages: 276ISBN: 9780985046514Genre: Young Adult, dystopianSeries: The WindstormOther books in series: Coiled Snake (Winter 2012)
Kit’s only goal is to stay alive. Right now, that means dodging brutal gangs while peddling fake I.D.s on the back streets of Winnipeg. But things get complicated when Kit sells a license to a girl named Aura—a girl who could almost be her twin. Caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, Kit is plunged into an underground society with heart-stopping surprises at every turn. To protect herself, she’s forced to assume Aura’s identity. But storm clouds are gathering on the horizon, and when Kit learns the truth about Aura, she knows she has to get out before the storm breaks. There’s only one problem: escape isn’t an option.
Suddenly, staying alive just got a lot harder.
"[Robison's] debut takes flight, leaving readers eager for the next installment. A thrilling head-rush of an adventure." -Kirkus Reviews
July is Downburst Season, so right now the ebook is on sale for only $2.99 (on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes)! Visit Katie Robison's website for a calendar of events--including other giveaways and goodies, like a sneak peek of book two. Additional information is available on her Facebook and Goodreads page.
When I was two, the wind tried to kill me.
At least, that’s what my mom told me. My real mom, the one whose voice slips into my dreams at night. We were playing at the park and eating ice cream sandwiches. I can almost remember that day—sitting on an apple-colored swing, dabs of chocolate crust sticking to my fingers.
Mom said I wanted to see the waterfall, so Dad walked me over to the edge and hoisted me onto the stone retaining wall. I gripped his hand and leaned bravely over the edge, peering at the churning water beneath my feet. My father, the photographer, saw something he liked and let go of me so he could grab his camera. At that moment, a gust of wind came barreling through the trees and shoved me on the back. I shrieked as I reeled forward, about to tumble to the rocks below, but Dad grabbed my shirt just before I fell. Mom was furious, of course. She was furious when she repeated the story too, that blue vein on her forehead bulging beneath her smooth, brown skin. It’s one of the last things I remember her telling me.
She may have been right about the wind. Even now, a lifetime later, it seems bent on my destruction. As I lean out of my hiding spot, the gale pulls my hair free of the limp elastic that’s holding it back in some semblance of a ponytail, and grime and cigarette butts fly into my face. Kava, I curse, using one of Mom’s favorite words. Stupid Canadian squall. I spit out the dirt and shield my eyes with my arm so I can continue to watch the road.
I step back into the protection of the alcove, really an enclosed driveway for the food equipment company that owns this building, though it’s so narrow I can’t imagine the delivery truck can be anything impressive. Piles of trash have collected in the corners, another gift of the wind, and beer cans and crushed cartons mingle with the mounds of dirt. I’m careful not to brush against the walls.
Joe was impressed when I staked this spot out on my own. “Not bad for a rookie,” he said. The store itself, with its faded paint and soot-caked bricks, is ready to go under. One of the upper windows is broken, and I can hear the wind whistle its way through the jagged glass. But it’s the location that’s the sweet part—the shop is on a curving one-way street, and the two nearest streetlamps have both burned out. Across the road are dirt parking lots surrounded by chain link fences, empty now that business hours are over. There are more empty lots on either side of the store, and the nearest buildings are either abandoned or closed for the night. All in all, it’s the perfect place to make some cash.
Assuming the person bringing the cash actually shows up.
I hazard another look down the road, fingers kneading the frayed corner of my jacket. Nothing. They must have lost their nerve. Joe will be wild, but I can’t risk waiting here any longer. Looking carefully in both directions, I step onto the sidewalk.
Staggeringly bright xenon headlamps suddenly whip around the corner as a red BMW hurtles down the street toward me. I shuffle backward, ducking into the niche and smacking my heel on the corner of a brick. I curse at the driver and rub my foot.
Before I poke my head back out of the recess, I count to ten, giving the car plenty of time to pass. But when I peer around the wall, I curse again. The BMW is still there, and now it’s backing up, moving slowly, as if the people inside are looking for an address. It must be them. Idiots. They’re going to get us all arrested—or worse.
Deciding not to chance it, I retreat further into the shadows of the alcove. I’ll just tell Joe they never showed. But then the driver’s window rolls down, and a girl sticks her head out into the night. She checks the number on the store sign against the paper in her hand, looks up and down the street, and as I feel the weight of the envelope in my pocket, I remind myself what it will mean if I do this job. Clenching my trembling fingers, I step back onto the sidewalk.
When the girl sees me, I gesture for her to turn down the lamps. Her head disappears inside. A second later, the lights go dark.
“Do you have the money?” I ask when I reach the car. My voice doesn’t quaver. I’m getting better at this.
A heavy fragrance escapes through the window and drenches the air, the combination of thickly applied perfumes and hairspray. Synthetic vanilla and jasmine. I fight the urge to cover my nose.
“Here.” The girl extends her hand, a stack of crisp twenties pinned under her neon blue fingernails. The polish on her thumb is chipped, and I wonder if she’s been biting her nails, like I have.
I take the bills and count them quickly. One hundred … three hundred … five hundred … it’s all there. Where do they come up with this money? Probably their rich parents. The things I could do with five hundred dollars.
I pull the envelope out of my pocket and hand it to the blue fingernails. As I look up at the girl’s face, I feel my eyes widen, and I’m glad her attention is on the envelope so she doesn’t notice. It’s like I’m watching my reflection, maybe even my twin. We have the same jawline, the same hard angles that suddenly swoop into a rounded point beneath our big lips, the same flat spot on the tips of our long noses. Same straight eyebrows, same cocoa-colored skin with thick, espresso hair.
I remember now. Joe said the girl could have been me when he was putting the license together. I thought he was just taunting me. I had no idea he was being so literal.
The girl hands one of the I.D.s to a person in the passenger seat before putting her own license in her purse. As she bends down, a neon blue highlight slips from behind her ear and onto her cheek. Then she looks up, and I meet her gaze for the first time. Her almond eyes narrow, and suddenly I see myself the way she does, not as her twin but as a nobody. I lower my own oval eyes to the curb.
“Are we done here?” she asks. I nod, stepping back. Joe was wrong. That girl could never be me. I could never be her.
She must have been waiting with her foot on the accelerator because the headlamps immediately flare to full power, and I have to jump backward to keep my feet from being crushed. The tires squeal as they fight for traction on the curving road, the sudden clamor fracturing the cultivated silence of the neighborhood.
Spinning around, I shove the money down the tattered lining of my windbreaker and book it in the opposite direction. The girl’s reckless exit could have signaled anyone within half a mile. Great. Now I’m not going to be able to use this spot again.
The cash feels heavy against my ribs. Obvious. Like anyone who looked at me would know how much I’m carrying. I realize I’m practically running and force myself to slow down. I try not to look around too much, but it’s hard to keep my eyes from flicking toward every movement in the dark streets and alleyways. How in the world did I get into this mess? I ask myself yet again. Selling fake identification wasn’t exactly the kind of work I imagined finding when I ran away from home.
The cops aren’t the only ones I have to worry about. There are the gangs too. I’m an easy target for a mugging, a skinny girl on my own, carrying a cool five hundred. And just a few streets away is the train yard, the entrance to the North End. Shredder territory.
It’s the Shredders I’m worried about the most. Another gang would probably just take the money and let me go, but the Shredders enjoy hurting people, torturing people. They didn’t earn their name for nothing. I reach for the switchblade tucked in my jean pocket, a souvenir from my one and only excursion to the North End. The cold steel makes my fingertips tingle.
It happened the first week I was working for Joe. He got a big client, a desperate client, and desperate people always mean good money. The man and his family needed to leave the country. Passports are a lot harder to make than driver’s licenses, but Joe’s the best in the business and he said he’d do it—for a price, of course. The man’s only stipulation was that the trade had to be done north of the city center. He knew a good place.
As the new delivery girl, I was given the job. Joe didn’t trust me yet, so he made me wear a tracker and told me that if I ran he would find me and kill me. I wondered why he didn’t just get the money himself, but once I entered the North End, I understood: he didn’t want to risk his own neck.
Upheaved pavement, broken glass, graffiti-smudged doors, overturned dumpsters, charred houses, trashed yards, gutted stores, splintered fences, hostile stares, that was the North End. I’d never seen anything like it. By the time I reached the rendezvous point I was visibly trembling.
When the man handed me the money, I didn’t want to count it; I just wanted to get out of there. But I knew Joe would accuse me of stealing if I came back with less than the promised ten grand, so I flipped through the bills. Quickly. Then I stuffed the money in my windbreaker, gave the man his passports, and took off.
I was ten yards from the train tracks, ten yards from safety, when they found me—five of them. For a moment, all I saw were the shaved heads and the red tattoos that covered their arms and necks, the drooping cargo pants and the stained wife beaters. But the worst were the scars. All of them had burned the letter S somewhere on their body. Their forearms, their heads, their cheeks.
I hesitated for only a second before I started to cross the street, but then one of them crossed as well. I turned to go back and found that another one had circled behind me, a puffy red S curving around his eye. He smiled and revealed a knife.
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