Read the First Chapter of NIX Free Online
When the hunters first rolled into town, Nix was wearing a nine-year-old named Callie.
She was a cute little thing with flaxen pigtails and pink Minnie Mouse barrettes. Middle class, white-collar family, very low-key. The kid loved to play with porcelain dolls, and she went with her mommy and her aunt to church every Sunday—or she used to, anyway. Nix didn’t have the patience for shit like that, and her cover wasn’t so important that she couldn’t risk blowing it once in a while. Or so she’d thought.
In hindsight, stabbing Aunty Ida in the gut with gardening shears might have been what caught the attention of those hunters in the first place. But the woman was such an obnoxious old bitch, Nix could hardly be blamed for that little slip up. Kid was better off this way.
Nix watched the hunters drive up to the Sonora police station in their rusted piece-of-shit Ford. When they got out, they were surprisingly clean cut and well dressed. Like they were fooling anybody. She could see the gun rack in the back of their vehicle—this was California, not Texas. They stood out, even in the middle of nowhere.
Nix had been in the game a long time, she knew what to look for. Unfortunately, chances were good that they did too.
Callie’s mother came up behind the swing and gave her daughter a gentle push, lifting Nix up just high enough that she could get a clear view over the bushes on every upswing.
There were three of them. A weathered old man led a twenty-something boy into the station. The boy’s suit was ash gray, the man’s a charred black. They were no doubt impersonating some high-end law enforcement. Feds, probably. Nix scoffed.
A girl was sitting in the cab of the truck, waiting, her head bent over something in her lap. Still too young to pass as a federal agent. The old guy might be a problem—weren’t they always?—but all in all, the lot of them didn’t look particularly competent.
Nix could almost make out their license plate from here, if she could just--
The swing stilled with a weary screech and Nix looked up to see Callie’s mother with her hands on the steel chains, holding Nix in place.
“Time to go, Callie,” Mother Dearest said.
The woman never missed an opportunity to get in Nix’s way. “I’m busy,” Nix told her. “Leave me alone.”
Mother’s pencil-drawn eyebrows rose and her mouth opened, lips red and spotted pink where the lipstick had worn away. In her most grating voice, Mother started in on her usual lecture, saying, “Excuse me? Now, I know things have been rough lately, but that attitude of yours, young lady, isn’t—”
Nix’s patience dried up like the woman’s prematurely wrinkled face. Mother had behaved for a while, but Nix could tell she was about to start pushing at those boundaries again. If Nix didn’t discipline her, she’d never learn.
“Listen, you stupid bitch, back off or I’ll do to you what I did to Aunty Ida.” Nix was aware that the syrupy-sweet, little-girl voice wasn’t lending her threats any credibility, but that didn’t make her any less serious.
Children chattered around them, crawling over the slides and monkey bars, soaking up the bright sunshine. A gust of wind swept through the playground, carrying their giggles and shouts, distorting the noise. No one tried to sit near Nix.
Mother gawked stupidly. “Wha—what did you just…?”
Nix rolled Callie’s baby blues. If the hunters were here for her, she’d deal with them when the time came. Otherwise, she’d just have to stay under the radar until the storm passed. No sense in losing a perfectly good setup if it wasn’t necessary. So long as this year’s archnemesis didn’t catch wind of her location, Nix was in the clear—honestly, drive one Mercedes off a cliff and you never hear the end of it.
Nix jumped off the swing in a fit of exuberance. “Mommy! Mommy! Can we get ice cream? Please please please?”
It was enough to distract the woman temporarily. And Nix did love ice cream. Being nine really had its benefits. Kids had always been her favorite style. They usually came with a fleet of servants at their beck and call, and ample resources—secondhand, but still. And best of all, whenever she got caught with blood on her hands, adults would dote all over her with their concerned and earnest expressions. They’d give her crayons and ask, “Oh honey, are you all right? Did someone hurt you? Now, just tell the nice officers what the scary man looked like, okay?”
The adults were almost as adorably naive as the kids. And this one, little Callie, she was Nix’s new favorite. The others always screamed and cried and kicked up a fuss inside their heads. But Callie? Nix opened up Aunty Ida in the sunroom over iced tea and oatmeal cookies, and Callie complained that she was missing her cartoons.
Kid was a natural, a real charmer. Nix didn’t want to give her up so soon, but with these idiots in town…well, she could always kill them, she supposed. That would have to be enough reassurance for the time being.
The old guy turned before the door to the station closed, his gaze meeting hers across the road. He held her eyes and Nix held his. Then he looked away and the moment passed.
Nix took Mother’s trembling hand and smiled up at her.
Horror writer, author of NIX Series, spinner of tales, weaver of webs, twisted mind.
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