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The Midnight Club


About The Book

Now an original Netflix series!

From the author of The Wicked Heart and The Immortal comes a beautiful and haunting novel about a group of five terminally ill teenagers whose midnight stories become their reality.

Rotterham Home was a hospice for young people—a place where teenagers with terminal illnesses went to die. Nobody who checked in ever checked out. It was a place of pain and sorrow, but also, remarkably, a place of humor and adventure.

Every night at twelve, a group of young guys and girls at the hospice came together to tell stories. They called themselves the Midnight Club, and their stories could be true or false, inspiring or depressing, or somewhere in-between.

One night, in the middle of a particularly scary story, the teenagers make a secret pact with each other, which says, “The first one who dies will do whatever he or she can do to contact us from beyond the grave, to give us proof that there is life after death.”

Then one of them does die...


Ilonka Pawluk checked herself out in the mirror and decided she didn’t look like she was going to die. Her face was thin, true, as was the rest of her, but her blue eyes were bright, her long brown hair shiny, and her smile white and fresh. That was the one thing she always did when she looked in the mirror—smiled, no matter how lousy she felt. A smile was easy. Just a reflex really, especially when she was alone and feeling down. But even her feelings could be changed, Ilonka decided, and today she was determined to be happy. The old cliché sprang to her mind—today is the first day of the rest of my life.

Yet there were certain facts she could not wish away.

Her long shiny brown hair was a wig. Months of chemotherapy had killed off the last strands of her own hair. She was still very sick—that was true, and it was possible that today might be a large portion of the rest of her life. But she wouldn’t allow herself to think about that because it didn’t help. She had to concentrate only on what did help. That was an axiom she lived by now. She picked up a glass of water and a handful of herbal tablets and tossed all the pills into her mouth. Behind her, Anya Zimmerman, her roommate, and a sick girl if there ever was one, groaned. Anya spoke as Ilonka swallowed the half-dozen capsules.

“I don’t know how you can take those all at once,” she said. “I’d throw them up in a minute.”

Ilonka finished swallowing and burped softly. “They go down a lot easier than a needle in the arm.”

“But a needle brings immediate results.” Anya liked drugs, hard narcotics. She had the right to them because she was in constant excruciating pain. Anya Zimmerman had bone cancer. Six months earlier her right leg had been chopped off at the knee to stop the spread—all in vain. Ilonka watched in the mirror as Anya shifted in her bed, trying to make herself more comfortable. Anya did that frequently, moving this way and that, but there was no way she could move out of her body, and that was the problem. Ilonka put down her glass and turned around. Already she could feel the herbs burning deep in her throat.

“I think these herbs are working. I feel better today than I’ve felt in weeks.”

Anya sniffed. She had a constant cold. Her immune system was shot—a common side effect of chemotherapy and a frequent problem for “guests” at Rotterham Hospice.

“You look like crap,” Anya said.

Ilonka felt stabbed, nothing new, but knew she couldn’t take Anya’s comment personally. Anya had a coarse personality. Ilonka often wondered if it was her pain that spoke. She would have liked to have known Anya before she became ill.

“Thanks a lot,” Ilonka said.

“I mean, compared to Miss Suntan Barbie out in the real world,” Anya said hastily. “But next to me, of course, you look great—really.” She snorted. “Who am I to talk, huh? Sorry.”

Ilonka nodded. “I really do feel better.”

Anya shrugged, as if feeling better might not be such a good thing. As if feeling anything but closer to dying might just be postponing the inevitable. But she let it go, opening a drawer in her bedside table and pulling out a book. No, not just a book—a Bible. Big bad Anya was reading the Bible.

Ilonka had asked her the previous day what made her pick it up and Anya had laughed and said she was in need of light reading. Who knew what Anya really thought? The stories she told when they met at midnight were often dark and ghoulish. In fact, they gave Ilonka nightmares, and it was hard to sleep beside the person who had just explained how Suzy Q disemboweled Robbie Right. Anya always used names like that in her stories.

“I feel numb,” Anya said. It was an obvious lie because she had to be in pain, ten daily grams of morphine notwithstanding. She opened her Bible at random and began to read. Ilonka stood silently and watched her for a full minute.

“Are you a Christian?” Ilonka finally asked.

“No, I am dying.” Anya turned a page. “Dead people have no religion.”

“I wish you would talk to me.”

“I am talking to you. I can talk and read at the same time.” Anya paused and looked up. “What do you want to talk about? Kevin?”

Something caught in Ilonka’s throat. “What about Kevin?”

Anya grinned, a sinister affair on her bony face. Anya was pretty: blond hair, blue eyes, a delicate bone structure, but too thin. Actually, except for Ilonka’s dark hair—her hair had been dark—they looked somewhat alike. Yet the blue of their eyes shone with opposite lights, or perhaps Anya’s shone with none at all. There was a coldness to Anya that went beyond her features. There was her pain, the tiny lines around her eyes, the pinch to her mouth, but there was also something deep, something almost buried, that burned without warmth in her. Still, Ilonka liked Anya, cared about her. She just didn’t trust her.

“You’re in love with him,” Anya said.

“What makes you say something stupid like that?”

“The way you look at him. Like you would pull his pants down and take him to heaven if it wouldn’t kill you both.”

Ilonka shrugged. “There are worse ways to die.”

That was the wrong thing to say to Anya. She returned to her Bible. “Yeah.”

Ilonka moved closer to Anya and leaned on her bed. “I’m not in love with him. I’m in no position to be in love with anyone.”

Anya nodded and grunted.

“I don’t want you saying things like that. Especially to him.”

Anya turned a page. “What do you want me to say to him?”


“What will you say to him?”


Anya suddenly closed her book. Her cold eyes blazed at Ilonka. Or maybe, suddenly, they weren’t so cold. “You told me you wanted to talk, Ilonka. I assumed you wanted to discuss something more important than needles and herbs. You live in denial, which is bad, but it’s much worse to die that way. You love Kevin, any fool can see it. The whole group knows. Why don’t you tell him?”

Ilonka was stunned, but she tried to act cool. “He’s part of the group. He must know.”

“He’s as stupid as you are. He doesn’t know. Tell him.”

“Tell him what? He has a girlfriend.”

“His girlfriend is an imbecile.”

“You say that about a lot of people, Anya.”

“It’s true about a lot of people.” Anya shrugged and turned away. “Whatever you want, I don’t care. It’s not as if it’s going to matter a hundred years from now. Or even in a hundred days.”

Ilonka sounded hurt, which she was. “Are my feelings so obvious?”

Anya stared out the window. “No, I take back what I said. The group doesn’t know anything. They’re all imbeciles. I’m the only one who knows.”

“How did you know?” When Anya didn’t answer, Ilonka moved closer still and sat on the bed near Anya’s severed leg. The stump was covered with a thick white bandage. Anya never let anyone see what it looked like, and Ilonka understood. Anya was the only patient at the hospice who knew she wore a wig. Or so Ilonka hoped. “Do I talk in my sleep?” she asked.

“No,” Anya said, still focusing out the window.

“You’re psychic then?”


“You were in love once?”

Anya trembled but stopped quickly. She turned back to Ilonka. Her eyes were calm again, or maybe just cold. “Who would love me, Ilonka? I’m missing too many body parts.” She reached for her Bible and spoke in dismissal, “Better hurry and catch Kevin before Kathy gets here. She’s coming today, you know. Visitors’ day.”

Ilonka stood up, feeling sad, despite her recent vow to be happy. “I know what day it is,” she muttered and left the room.

Rotterham Hospice did not look like a hospital or hospice inside or outside. Until ten years before, it had been an oil tycoon’s seaside mansion. Located in Washington State near the Canadian border, it overlooked a rough stretch of coastline where the hard blue water was always as cold as December and crashed as white foam on jagged rocks that waited with stern patience to punish any would-be swimmers. Ilonka could hear the roar of the surf from her bedroom window and often dreamed of it, both pleasant and disturbing dreams. Sometimes the waves would lift her up and carry her out on peaceful waters to fantasy lands where she and Kevin could walk side by side in healthy bodies. Or else the cold foam would grab her and impale her on the rocks, her body split in two and the fish feeding on what remained. Yeah, she blamed Anya for those dreams as well.

Yet, even with the nightmares, she loved being near the ocean. And she much preferred Rotterham Hospice to the state hospital where Dr. White had found her rotting away. It was Dr. White who had started the hospice. A place for teenagers to go, he told her, while they were preparing to make the most important classroom change in their lives. She thought that was a nice way of putting it. But she made him promise to buy her a wig before she would allow herself to be boarded with thirty other kids her age who were dying.

But, of course, she was not dying, not for sure, not since she’d started taking good care of herself.

Ilonka’s room was on the second floor—there were three floors. In the long hallway through which she strode after leaving Anya, there was little evidence that the mansion had been transformed into a place for the sick. The oil paintings on the walls, the rich lavender carpet, crystal chandeliers even—she could have been enjoying the hospitality of “Tex” Adams, the man who had left Dr. White his favorite house. Hospital and hospitality, Ilonka mused—yet the words were practically cousins. The odor of alcohol that touched her nostrils as she reached the stairway, the flash of white below her that signaled the beginning of the nurses’ station, and, most important, the feeling of sickness in the air told her, or anybody, that this was not a happy home for the rich and healthy. But a sad place for the young and poor. Most of Dr. White’s patients came from state hospitals.

Not Kevin, though—his parents had money.

On the way down the stairs she ran into another member of the “Midnight Club,” as they had named it. Spencer Haywood, or simply “Spence,” as he liked to be called. Spence was the healthiest person in the hospice—next to her, of course—even though he had brain cancer. Most of the guests at Rotterham spent their days in bed, or at least in their rooms, but Spence was always up and wandering about. He was on the thin side—actually, everyone at the hospice was on the thin side, or just plain emaciated—with wavy brown hair and one of those half smiles that was suspiciously close to a smirk forever etched on his face. He was the joker in the group—every group needed one—and his energy was contagious, even for teens who had painkillers trickling through their bloodstreams. His face was as wild as his stories. It was a rare night when a dozen people didn’t get blown away in a Spencer Haywood tale. Ilonka loved being with him because he never talked as if he was going to die.

“My favorite girl,” he said as they stopped together on the stairway above the nurses’ station. He had an open envelope in his right hand, a sheet covered with minute handwriting in the other. “I was looking for you,” he said.

“You have a friend who wants to sell me life insurance,” she said.

He laughed. “Life and medical. Hey, how are you doing today? Want to go to Hawaii?”

“My bags are packed. Let’s go. How are you doing?”

“Schratter just gave me a couple grams twenty minutes ago so I’m not even sure if I still have a head on my shoulders, which is a great way to feel.”

“A couple grams” was two grams of morphine, a strong dose. Spence may have been able to walk about, but without heavy drugs he got horrible headaches. Schratter was head nurse of the day shift. She had a backside as broad as the moon, and hands that shook like the California coast on a bad day. When Schratter gave you a shot, you usually needed stitches afterward. Ilonka nodded toward his letter.

“Is it from Caroline?” she asked. Caroline was his devoted girlfriend—she wrote practically every day. Spence often read her letters in the group and it was their opinion that Caroline had to be the horniest chick alive. Spence nodded with excitement.

“There’s a possibility she might visit next month. She lives in California, you know. She can’t afford to fly, but she thinks she can take the train up.”

A month was a long time at Rotterham Hospice. Most of the patients were there less than a month before they died. But Ilonka thought it would be in bad taste to suggest the girl come earlier.

“From what you’ve told us about her,” Ilonka said, “you’ll need transfusions of all your vital fluids after her visit.”

Spence grinned at the prospect. “Some fluids it’s a joy to have to replenish. Hey, I’ve got to tell you why I wanted you. Kevin is looking for you.”

Her heart skipped—so high it almost crash-landed. “Really?” she asked casually. “What for?”

“I don’t know. He told me if I saw you to give you the message.”

“He knows my room number. He could have come to get me.”

“I don’t think he’s feeling very good today,” Spence said.

“Oh.” Kevin had not looked well the previous night. He had leukemia and had fallen out of remission three times, which was all the doctors said was allowed. Three strikes and you were out. Yet, like herself, she couldn’t imagine Kevin dying. Not her Kevin. “I’ll stop at his room and see what he wants,” she said.

“You might want to wait till later,” Spence said. “I think his girlfriend is there now. You know Kathy?”

Now her heart did crash-land. “I know Kathy,” she muttered.

Spence noted her change of tone. Anya was wrong: no one in the Midnight Club was an idiot, especially not Spence. “She’s an airhead, don’t you think?” he asked. “She’s a cheerleader.”

“I don’t think the two are always synonymous.” Ilonka shrugged. “She’s pretty.”

“Not as pretty as you.”

“That goes without saying.” She paused. “Will you be there tonight?”

“Like I have a dozen other pressing engagements. Yeah, I have a killer story ready for our meeting. You’ll love it, it’s completely disgusting. How about you?”

Ilonka continued to think of Kevin, of Kathy, and of herself. “I have a story to tell,” she said softly.

They bid each other farewell and Ilonka continued on her way. But when she reached the bottom of the stairs she turned away from the nurses’ station because Schratter would get on her case about taking something stronger. All Ilonka used to control her pain was Tylenol 3—a combination of Tylenol and codeine, lightweight stuff compared to what the others were swallowing. Ilonka did have pain, almost continuously, a burning in her lower abdomen, a cramping. She felt a cramp forming as she strode toward Kevin’s bedroom, thinking what it would be like to see him with her.

But Kevin wasn’t in the room he shared with Spence. There was nothing of him in there except six of his paintings, science-fiction scenes of star systems in collapse and ringed planets spinning through jeweled nebulae. Kevin’s work was good enough to be on the covers of the best science-fiction novels—easy. Ilonka didn’t know if he painted anything since he had come to Rotterham. She didn’t know if he had brought his paints, or even a sketch pad. Kevin didn’t talk much about his art, although all the others agreed he was a genius.

There was one painting of his—a blue star, set in a misty star field—that caught her attention. It had done so in the past as well, the few times she had come to his room, and it was odd because it was the simplest of his works, and yet it filled her with—what? She wasn’t even sure what the emotion was—hope, maybe. The star shone so enchantingly blue, as if he had painted it not with oil but with light itself.

Ilonka left Kevin’s and headed for the waiting room located near the entrance of Rotterham, knowing she was making a mistake but unable to stop herself. She didn’t want to see Kathy—the very thought of the meeting made her ill—and yet she felt compelled to face the girl again. As if to see why Kevin preferred the cheerleader to her. Of course, the comparison was ridiculous, apples to oranges. Kathy was healthy and beautiful. Ilonka was sick and—well, beautiful, too. Really, Ilonka thought, Kevin is a fool. She didn’t know why she loved him so.

Yet she did know why.

She thought she did.

It had to do with the past. The ancient past.

Ilonka found Kathy sitting alone in the waiting room. The girl could have been cut out from the summer casual-wear section of the paper, even dressed in warm clothes. Her long hair was so blond her ancestors must have migrated from the beaches of California. She probably wore suntan lotion to bed. Yeah, she looked healthy, so fresh she could have just been picked from a tree in Orange County. And worst of all she was reading a copy of People magazine, a weekly issue Ilonka equated with the Satanic Bible for its depth of insight. Kathy looked up and smiled at her with teeth that had probably never bitten into anything unnatural.

“Hi, I’m Kathy Anderson,” Kathy said. “Didn’t I meet you here last time?”

“Yes. My name is Ilonka Pawluk.”

Kathy set aside her magazine and folded her legs, covered in gray slacks that had never been on sale. Kathy’s parents had money, too, Ilonka knew. Her sweater was green, thick over her large breasts.

“That’s an interesting name,” she said. “What is it?”

“?‘Ilonka’ is Hungarian, but my mother and father were Polish.”

“Were you born in Poland?”


Kathy nodded. “I thought you had an accent.”

“I left Poland when I was eight months old.”

Her comment was designed to make Kathy feel stupid, but the girl was so unaware she didn’t notice. Also, Ilonka had been told by others that she did have an accent—understandable since her mother had mainly spoken Polish at home before she had died. Ilonka had never known her father. He had disappeared before she’d left Poland.

“Where did you grow up?” Kathy asked.

“Seattle. You’re from Portland?”

“Yes. I go to the same high school as Kevin.” Kathy glanced about. “Does he know I’m here?”

“I think so. I can check if you’d like.”

“Would you please?” Kathy shivered and lost her happy face. “I have to admit this isn’t my favorite place to be. I’ll be glad when Kevin’s better and able to come home.”

Ilonka almost laughed, and she would have if she hadn’t been so close to crying. She wanted to shout at the girl. He isn’t coming home. He’s not your boyfriend. He belongs to us now. We’re the only friends he really has, the only ones who understand what he is going through.

He belongs to me.

But she didn’t say anything because Kevin would be upset.

“I hope it’s soon,” she said, turning to leave.

It was at that moment that Kevin came through the door.

Seeing Kevin, even seeing him every day, it was always his eyes that drew her attention. They were brown, large and round, powerful without being intimidating. They sparkled with humor as well as intelligence. The rest of him wasn’t too bad, either, even though he looked terribly ill. His hair was brown and curly, soft as an infant’s, despite the hint of gray that had crept into it in the last two weeks. She didn’t know how it had survived the rigors of chemo, which she knew he’d been through, but perhaps he had lost the hair and it had grown back. She’d never had the nerve to ask, thinking it would draw attention to her wig.

Kevin had been a track star only six months earlier, the past spring, and he had the build for it, broad shoulders, long firm legs. She heard he’d come in third in the mile in the state championships, and occasionally he talked about the Olympics and great runners he admired. He also talked about painters he admired—Da Vinci and Raphael and Van Gogh. That he was both an artist and an athlete intrigued her.

Yet neither of these was the reason she loved him. It had to do with something that couldn’t be seen, something that couldn’t even be talked about. Yet, perhaps, it could be remembered. She did indeed have an interesting story ready for that night’s meeting of the Midnight Club.

She remembered her first meeting with Kevin. She had been at the hospice two days before he arrived. She had found him sitting in the study by a roaring fire, wrapped in a red flannel robe and curled up in a chair with a book on his lap. She hadn’t known at the time, but with his condition, he was sensitive to the cold. Spence, who shared a room with him, often joked that Kevin must be preparing them both for the fires of hell with the temperature he kept in their room.

Anyway, he looked over as she had entered the room, and she never forgot how his eyes just stuck to her face, and how hers had done the same. They must have stared at each other for a good minute before either spoke. In that minute Ilonka both found and lost something precious, a friend more dear than all the gems in all the wide world. “Found” because she had loved him at first sight, and “lost” because he was obviously a patient and was presumably going to die. He had said the first words.

“Do I know you?”

She had smiled. “Yes.”

She smiled as he entered the waiting room now. He had on the same red flannel robe—his favorite—under a dark blue down coat. He had on black boots as well, and she worried that he planned to go outside. His face was gaunt, his color poor. He looked sicker than he had the previous night, and even then she was anxious when she said good night that she might not see him again. He didn’t smile as he usually did when he saw her but coughed instead. Behind her she could hear Kathy getting up.

“Ilonka,” he said. “What are you doing here? Hi, Kathy.”

“Kevin,” Kathy said, her voice strained. It was obvious the sight of him shocked her.

“I heard you were looking for me,” Ilonka said. “I came looking for you.”

He moved farther into the room, his walk unsteady. She wanted to reach out a helping hand but didn’t know how he would react, especially with Kathy so close. Kevin was, for the most part, easygoing, but she had noted on a couple of occasions that he was sensitive to embarrassment.

“I wanted to talk to you about a couple of things,” he said. “But we can talk later.” He stepped past her and turned his attention to Kathy, and the simple act was like a sword in Ilonka’s side. “How was the drive up?” he asked his girlfriend.

Kathy forced a grin, failing to erase the fear in her eyes. She was not a complete fool. She could see how sick he was. Ilonka stood there for a moment feeling completely unwanted. She watched as they hugged, as they kissed. Kathy took his hand and led him toward the front door. It was then that Ilonka wanted to run after him and zip his coat up all the way, and fix his scarf, and tell him how much she loved him, and ask why he didn’t love her and what was he doing with this girl who didn’t love him. But instead she fled from the waiting room.

A few minutes later she was at the opposite end of the hospice in an empty room that was small and could have been a nursery before the mansion was converted. Here the windows looked directly out over the wide grassy lawn that led to the ocean cliff. The waves were a fury today, the foam splashing thirty feet in the air each time a swell pounded the rocks. Hand in hand, Kathy and Kevin walked toward the cliff, their hair tossing in the cold wind. Kevin looked so thin that Ilonka thought he might blow away.

“If you let him get wet he’ll get pneumonia,” she muttered. “Then he’ll die and it will be your fault.” She added, “Bitch.”

“Ilonka,” a voice spoke at her back.

Ilonka whirled. It was Dr. White, her benefactor and the head boss. Dr. White had the perfect name because his neat mustache and beard were as white as first snow, and his round pink features made him look like a good old country doctor, if not Santa Claus himself. He never wore white, as most doctors did, but dark wool suits, gray and blue, and tweed hats when outside that complemented the sturdy wooden cane he was never without. He limped into the room now, hatless, cane in hand, and sat on an easy chair that had been set near the foot of the bed that took up a good part of the room, sighing with relief as he did so. His right leg was badly arthritic. He had broken it as a young man, he told her, while running from the bulls in Pamplona. He removed his gold-rimmed glasses and gestured for her to have a seat on the bed. His arrival had startled her and she wondered if he had caught her swearing at Kathy. She sat down.

“How are you, Ilonka?” he asked. He was always kind to her, going out of his way to get her anything she needed. With so many patients under his care, she didn’t know why she deserved his special attention, and yet she was grateful for it. Only the day before Dr. White had brought her a bag of books from a used-book store in Seattle. He knew how much she loved to read.

“I’m feeling great,” she said, though she had to fight to keep her voice steady. Her grief over seeing Kevin with Kathy continued to burn inside her, like a second cancer. “How are you, Dr. White?”

He set his cane aside. “I’m the same as I always am: happy I can help you young people, and frustrated I cannot help more.” He sighed once more. “I was just at State in Seattle and I met a girl about your age who could have benefited from being here. But I had to turn her down because we have no more room.”

“What about this room?” Ilonka asked.

“There will be two extra beds in here by tomorrow morning, and then three new patients I already promised places.” He shrugged. “But it is an ongoing problem. I don’t want to trouble you with it.” He paused and cleared his throat. “I came here to talk to you about the test you wanted me to schedule for you tomorrow.”

“Yes. Have you scheduled it?”

“Yes, I have. But I was wondering if you want to put yourself through it. You know these magnetic resonance scans take forever and you have to stay cooped up in that narrow box.”

Ilonka felt a lump in her throat to go with the hole in her heart. It was not turning out to be a good day. “Are you suggesting that the test might be a waste of time? I really am feeling better. I think my tumors are definitely decreasing in size. I’ve been taking all the herbs I asked you to get for me: chaparral, red clover, pau d’arco. I’ve read all the literature on them. They do work in a lot of cases, especially with cancers like mine.”

Dr. White hesitated before speaking, yet his eyes didn’t leave her face. He was used to dealing with difficult cases and didn’t flinch about confronting them directly. Really, she was breaking the fundamental agreement of a hospice by requesting additional tests. A hospice was a place to go to die with as much comfort and dignity as possible. It was not a hospital where you went expecting to get well. He had told her as much when he had brought her to Rotterham.

“But, Ilonka,” he said gently, “your cancer had already spread through much of your abdomen before you started on the herbs. Now, I am not knocking natural treatments—in many cases they have produced excellent results. But in those cases it has almost always been when the disease is in its early stages.”

Almost always,” she countered. “Not always.”

“The human body is the most complex organism in all creation. It doesn’t always behave as we expect. Yet I feel tomorrow’s test will be an unnecessary hardship for you.”

“Is the test expensive? Will you have to pay for it personally?”

Dr. White waved his hand. “I am happy to pay for anything that will make you feel better. Money is not the issue here. Your well-being is.”

“But how do you know that I’m not better? Only I know how I feel, and I tell you the tumors have shrunk.”

Dr. White nodded. “Very well, let me examine you.”

“Now? Here?”

“I want to do a gross examination of the abdominal area. Before you came here I could feel the tumors with my fingers. I want to see if I can feel them still.” Dr. White moved to his feet.

“But this will be a superficial examination. We have to see inside me to know what’s really going on.”

“True. But at least it will give us an idea. Come, Ilonka, let’s see what we have.”

She carefully eased herself back onto the bed. The strength had gone out of her stomach muscles; it hurt to flop back. Dr. White examined her stomach. His hands were warm—as always, he had the healing touch—yet the contact made her stiffen.

“Not so hard,” she whispered.

“I scarcely touched you,” he said.

She drew in a sharp breath. “You’re right, it’s fine. It doesn’t hurt that much. Not really at all.”

“But the area is very sensitive.” His fingers probed lower, over her scars. She had been operated on three times, and the last incision had yet to heal. His fingers could have been scraping raw nerve.

“I pulled a muscle there the other day, I think.”

“I want to press down here a little.” His hands were just below her last scar.

She was sweating. “Do you have to?”

“Breathe slowly and deeply.”


“Sorry. Did I hurt you?”

“No. I’m fine. How does it feel?”

“Very lumpy. Very stiff.”

She forced a laugh as a drop of perspiration fell into her eye. “You wouldn’t be any better off if they had cut into you as many times as they cut into me.”

Dr. White got up. “You can pull up your pants.” He turned his back to her and returned to his chair. But he did not sit down. He picked up his cane instead and leaned on it. He waited while she put her clothes back together. Finally he repeated, “The area is very sensitive.”

“But the muscle tissue has been cut and sewn together many times. Naturally it is sensitive. Can you really tell the difference between a lumpy muscle and a tumor?”

“Yes. The tumors are still there, Ilonka.”

That took her back a step, about a hundred of them. She nodded weakly. “I know that. I didn’t say they weren’t. I’m just saying that they’re smaller, and I believe a scan of the area will bear that out.”

“If you honestly feel you need the test I will take you to the hospital tomorrow.”

She held his eye. “You feel it will be a waste of time?”

“I feel it will be an unnecessary hardship for you.”

“I want the test.” She stared out the window.

Dr. White did not respond immediately. He glanced out the window, too, in the direction Kathy and Kevin had walked. The two young lovebirds were not visible at the moment, and for that Ilonka was grateful. She glanced at the doctor. There was a faraway look in his eyes.

“Did I ever tell you remind me of my daughter?” he said.

“No. I didn’t know you had a daughter. What’s her name?”

“Jessica. Jessie.” He tapped his cane against his right foot, as if forcing himself to return to the present. “I’ll come for you at ten o’clock. Maybe we can go to McDonald’s afterward.”

She didn’t want to tell him that she was avoiding junk food. “Thank you, that would be wonderful.”

He turned. “Goodbye, Ilonka.”

“You take care of yourself, Dr. White.”

When he was gone Ilonka went once more to the window to search for Kathy and Kevin. It was as if they had wandered too close to the edge of the cliff and fallen and been swept out to sea. She couldn’t find a trace of them anywhere. Yet she wasn’t really worried for their safety. Kathy was young, pretty, and rich. She had much to live for and wouldn’t take unnecessary chances.

Ilonka headed back to her room. Along the way she stopped at the nurses’ station and asked Schratter for Tylenol 3. Her abdomen hurt where Dr. White had touched it. Everything hurt, especially her soul. Schratter gave her a half-dozen pills and asked if she wanted anything stronger. But Ilonka shook her head because she wasn’t like the others—she didn’t need hard narcotics. Yet when she was in her room, lying on her bed not far from the dozing Anya, she tossed all six of the pills in her mouth and chased them down with a glass of water. She usually took only two at a time. The pills took anywhere from twenty to thirty minutes to take effect. She lay back and closed her eyes. It was four in the afternoon. She would sleep for a few hours and then wake up, fresh for another meeting of the Midnight Club. It was all she had to look forward to.

Before she passed out she prayed she would dream of the Master.

And he did come to her, later, and told her many things.

But it was only a dream. Maybe.

About The Author

Christopher Pike is a bestselling young adult novelist and has published several adult books as well—Sati and The Season of Passage being the most popular. In YA, his Last Vampire series—often called Thirst—is a big favorite among his fans. Pike was born in Brooklyn, New York, but grew up in Los Angeles. He lives in Santa Barbara, California, with his longtime partner, Abir. Currently, several of Pike’s books are being turned into films, including The Midnight Club, which Netflix released as part of a ten-part series. The Midnight Club also draws from a half dozen of Pike’s earlier works. Presently, The Season of Passage is being adapted as a feature film by Universal Studios while Chain Letter—one of Pike all-time bestselling books—is also being adapted by Hollywood. At the moment, Pike is hard at work on a new YA series.


Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon Pulse (September 20, 2022)
  • Length: 224 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781665930307
  • Grades: 9 and up
  • Ages: 14 - 99
  • Lexile ® HL730L The Lexile reading levels have been certified by the Lexile developer, MetaMetrics®

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