The Casquette Girls by Alys Arden
Published November 17th, 2015
Published by Skyscape
Genre: YA Paranormal/Fantasy
Seven girls tied by time.
Five powers that bind.
One curse to lock the horror away.
One attic to keep the monsters at bay.
After the storm of the century rips apart New Orleans, sixteen-year-old Adele Le Moyne wants nothing more than her now silent city to return to normal. But with home resembling a war zone, a parish-wide curfew, and mysterious new faces lurking in the abandoned French Quarter, normalneeds a new definition.
As the city murder rate soars, Adele finds herself tangled in a web of magic that weaves back to her own ancestors. Caught in a hurricane of myths and monsters, who can she trust when everyone has a secret and keeping them can mean life or death? Unless . . . you’re immortal.
The warm air lingered, and dampness wrapped around my skin as if we had entered a gym locker room. I flicked the light switch just to be certain. Nothing. We both reached for our phones. That feeling of peculiarity versus familiarity swept over me once again.
The total silence had crept into the house with us, but after sixteen years of hearing the pendulum swings of the old grandfather clock in the foyer, an impression of the sound was left burned in my mind. The phantom ticks became louder in my head as we crept through the foyer and into the living room. My father walked a few feet ahead of me with his makeshift flashlight thrust forward and his right arm extended over me in a protective stance. There had been countless reports of people breaking into homes and squatting in the less-flooded neighborhoods.
By the glow of our phones, nothing appeared to be out of place – not that either of us could remember exactly how we had left it.
No signs of water or mold. My father exhaled loudly.
“I’m going to get the hurricane box,” I said, already halfway through the dormant dining room when he yelled my name in protest. The thick, old walls muffled his voice.
Despite the long journey, I felt incredibly alert – my eyes darted back and forth like an animal’s as I surveyed each room – and, now that I was alone, I became very aware of the beating of my own heart. The deeper I moved into the house, the harder it pounded, until the beating reverberated in my ears.
When I entered the kitchen, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was very wrong. And yet everything seemed okay…
My hair lifted from my shoulders, sending waves of shivers down my back. A delicate touch brushed my neck.
“Who’s there?” My body twisted around, and I ducked away.
A slow creak answered.
I spun towards the noise, dropping my phone in the process. I bent to find it on the tile floor, and when I rose, my head collided with something soft but solid, nearly knocking me back down.
My hair yanked backwards.
“Who’s there?” I yelled, thrashing my head.
I screamed in pain when something small and sharp pierced the skin at the base of my neck and clawed all the way up to my cheekbone.
High-pitched screams assaulted me. Blood smeared from my neck to my face as I covered my ears, screaming back. I continued to flail wildly in the dark – the intruder’s wings flapped frantically in my face.
“Dad! Kitchen!” My head jerked backwards again as my hair became entangled with the bird’s talons and ripped from my scalp.
Each time its feathers touched my skin, a wave of shudders went down my spine, making my feet dance. My arms got scratched up shielding my face. I fell to my knees, ripping the last of my tangled hair free from the bird’s claws. Tears poured.
“Adele! Where are you?”
I crouched in a ball next to a cabinet as glassware began to fall from the counter and smash onto the tile floor around me.
“What the hell?” he yelled over the ruckus, sliding onto the floor. “Are you okay?” He pulled me close.
His heart raced against his chest. In the illumination of his phone, I saw the crow’s giant black wings open and close, breaking everything they came into contact with.
He helped me up, then swiftly grabbed a broom from behind the refrigerator and shooed the trespasser out the kitchen door. I followed and slammed the door shut.
“Are you hurt?” He held the light of his phone up to my face. My hand and arm covered the wound, but his eyes still bulged, causing me to look down. Red covered most of my right shoulder. I wiped more blood off my face with the back of my other hand.
“It looks worse than it is,” I lied, my throat raw from screaming. The wound throbbed, but I kept it covered so he would calm down. “All of this over a bird?” I tried to joke, fighting the tears.
He still clutched the broom in one hand and his lit phone in the other. I don’t know if it was the anxiety, the weariness, or just how ridiculous we both must have looked, but I started laughing, and soon he did too.
He put the broom down and wrapped his arms around me. “Home sweet home.”
“Never a dull moment.” My voice was muffled into his shoulder. I squirmed trying not to get blood on his shirt. “Wait a second.” I raised my head. “That door must have been open.”
“The kitchen door… I never opened it for the crow to fly out.”
He held his phone up to shine the light on the old brass doorknob. Someone had definitely smashed the lock to force the door open. He tapped the keypad on his phone three times and brought it to his ear.
“Dammit! No service.”
They had warned everyone not to come home yet…
He gave up on the call, went to the pantry, and lifted out a large cardboard box onto the kitchen counter. I didn’t need my phone light to know it was appropriately labeled “Hurricane Box” in my six-year-old scribble. On the side, written in a range of green Crayola to Sharpie, was a list of every hurricane it had been used in, along with the date. We were pretty diligent about keeping it fully stocked because we weren’t the type who evacuated every time bad weather brewed in the Atlantic.
He pulled out a robust first-aid kit.
I nervously removed my sticky fingers from the wound.
“I’m taking you to the hospital.”
“Dad, there aren’t any hospitals.”
“Dammit.” He hesitated for a second before he managed his manly-dad-poker-face.
“Dad!” The tears began to well again.
“I’m sorry, baby, it’s not that bad. I didn’t mean to scare you,” he lied. “It’s just a lot of blood.”
He pressed the gauze against my face. “Damn bird.”
When the bleeding subsided, he spun the lid off the bottle of rubbing alcohol. My face scrunched at the chemical smell. “It’s gonna burn,” he said gently and poured a generous stream of the clear liquid down my face and neck.
My limbs twisted into each other. I tried not to yelp as the solvent spidered into the wound, burning like fire. He covered the clean wound with new gauze and pressed my hand over it.
“Stay here, and I’ll check out the rest of the house.”
“No, I want to see!”
“Okay, but just stay put for two minutes. Keep applying pressure. I’ll be right back. I promise.”
Something about his exit made me suspicious. I attached the gauze to my skin with some medical tape and dug through the remaining contents of the supply box: a transistor radio, an assortment of nonperishable food items, various kinds of batteries. Voilà. Two flashlights. I flicked them on and off to test the batteries.
When he returned, the beams of light revealed a small black object in his hand. I did a double-take. “What is that?” I exclaimed in a loud whisper. “You own a gun? Do you even know how to use that thing?”
“Calm down, sweetheart. It was Grandpa’s, and it’s always been locked up in the safe.” He seemed oddly at ease holding the weapon, as if it was something he used on a daily basis. Who is this guy? I gently placed the second flashlight into his free hand. And what else had Grandpa locked up?
Let’s go,” I said and filed behind him.
He led the way back down the hall and into his bedroom, waving his light around to check out the state of his things. I continued to the rear of the room and opened the large pocket doors that separated his bedroom from his studio.
My brain refused to register what I saw in front of me. I hastily moved my flashlight from one thing to the next.
“I’m so sorry, Dad.” I couldn’t think of anything else to say.
He rushed over, slid the wooden doors completely open, and stepped into the workspace.
Most of my father’s life work was in total disarray, strewn about the large, open room. I focused my light on the rear wall and gasped. My flashlight was shining straight into the back courtyard – a humungous Greek-revival-style column from a neighboring house had smashed through the exterior brick wall and created a gaping hole at least seven feet tall and ten feet wide. Does it still constitute as a hole if a giant could walk through it? Wind, rain, and Lord knows what else had poured in. I thought of the crow as I slowly approached the gap, and wondered if there were any other animals lurking in the house.
“Adele, stay back. There might be structural damage.”
Backing away from the hole, I picked up two unstretched canvases and tried to separate them, but they had fused upon drying. I put them down to avoid any further damage.
“Come on, Dad, there isn’t much we can do tonight.” My hand rested on his shoulder as I pulled him away from the acetylene tank he was examining. “We’ll get a better look in the morning.”
We did a quick run-through of the rest of the house and ended back in the kitchen. To our relief, everything else appeared unscathed.
“No crows, squatters, gaping holes or pools of standing water,” my father said, dodging broken glass on the floor as he brought a chair to the kitchen door. He jammed it under the broken knob, securing the door for the evening. “Anything else can wait until the morning as far as I am concerned. Can you get through the night without electricity? I can set up the generator in the morning.”
I nodded with a jet-lag-induced yawn. “Definitely.” It was only 8:30 p.m. (3:30 a.m. Paris time), but I was so tired I could have slept through another hurricane.
I agreed to sleep in the living room to appease my father’s fear that the back of the house might have structural damage, although I’m not sure it would have made a difference where we slept if the house did cave in. I didn’t mind, though – after the crow incident, I was still kind of spooked. Not that I would have admitted it.
By the time I got back from a bottled-water toothbrushing, my father was snoring on the love seat. I sniffed an old afghan; when the smell didn’t make me scowl, I pulled it over him.
Lying in a heap of blankets and cushions on the floor, I felt better than I had in weeks. Just being home brought on a small smile. Although it quickly faded when I thought about Dad’s studio. His schedule was erratic because of the bar, so it was hard for him to meet people outside of the nightlife, who he tried to avoid since he was solely responsible for me. The only thing that truly seemed to make him happy was his art.
Why couldn’t that column have fallen into any other room in the house? Even my own bedroom would have been better. I wondered if any of his paintings or charcoals had survived. A sinking feeling inside told me, unlikely. At least his main medium was metal…
I pulled out my phone and hoped a quick text to Brooke would go through.
Adele 8:57 p.m Made it home. Able to sleep in the house. Full report tomorrow. xo.
I was out cold before she had a chance to respond.
REVIEW TO COME
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Alys Arden was raised by the street performers, tea leaf-readers, and glittering drag queens of the New Orleans, French Quarter. She cut her teeth on the streets of New York and has worked all around the world since. She either talks too much or not at all. She obsessively documents things. Her hair ranges from eggplant to cotton-candy-colored.
One dreary day in London, while dreaming of running away with the circus, she started writing The Casquette Girls. Her debut novel garnered over one million reads online before being acquired by Skyscape in a two book deal. Rep’d by ICM.
2 physical copies open US only.