Eat the Dark

Eat the Dark

by Joe Schreiber

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“A harrowing, up-all-night read with delicious scares at every turn. Joe Schreiber knows just what terrifies us, and his masterly skills are on full display.”—Tess Gerritsen, author of The Bone Garden

“One part noir, one part horror, one part the uniquely talented Joe Schreiber. Dark, chilling, scary—I couldn’t put it down.”—Peter Abrahams, author of Nerve Damage

Escorted from prison under heavy guard, murderous psychopath Frank Snow is scheduled for an emergency brain scan at Tanglewood Memorial Hospital, an institution that is closing its doors after one final night of operation. But Snow has something far more terrifying planned. And once the lights go out, a fiendish game of hide-and-seek begins.

Alone in the dark with a homicidal madman who knows their fears, their secrets, and their every move, MRI technician Mike Hughes, his wife and child, and the other unlucky souls trapped in the hospital have no choice but to duel with the devil incarnate. If they play by their stalker’s twisted rules, some of them might just survive. But there’s more to Frank Snow than the naked eye can see . . . or the sane mind can bear.

Praise for Eat the Dark

Eat the Dark is a tight novel of terror. Well written, fast paced, with a grip like a claw. I loved it.”—Joe R. Lansdale, author of The Bottoms

“Reminiscent of Stephen King’s early work, Eat the Dark is a terrifying, claustrophobic, bone-chilling, unputdownable masterpiece of suspense fiction. Human monster Frank Snow is a wonderful creation.”—Jason Starr, author of The Follower

“I didn't just Eat the Dark–I gorged on it. It’s a master class in fast-moving, scary-as-sh*t storytelling.”—Duane Swierczynski, author of Severance Package

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345502513
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/16/2007
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 208
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Joe Schreiber is the author of Chasing the Dead, Eat the Dark, and No Doors, No Windows. He was born in Michigan but spent his formative years in Alaska, Wyoming, and Northern California. He lives in central Pennsylvania with his wife, two young children, and several original Star Wars action figures.

Read an Excerpt

Mike Hughes thought: It’s dead.
From where he stood, Tanglewood Memorial Hospital rose like a pile of bones, the remains of some animal that had fallen down behind the acres of trees that surrounded it and never gotten up.
On the other side of the rotunda, he saw workmen on scaffolding and ladders, hammering sheets of plywood across the windows, filling the evening air with the reassuring tap-tap-tap of endless American labor. They’d been working all week, covering every door and window to dissuade any thieves or vandals who would soon be tempted by Tanglewood’s unwatched grounds, and now the work was virtually complete. The entire building was boarded shut in an irregular crossword puzzle of wooden planks.
In two hours it would be dark. It was the Fourth of July weekend, temperatures in the mid-nineties with the kind of humidity that gave even the lightest fabrics an itchy, clutching dampness. Mike continued along the walkway, the moist heat creating little sweat blotches on the front of his blue scrub pants, and stopped outside the main entrance, where two men in yellow hard hats were packing up the last of their tools and carrying them to a waiting pickup.
“Almost done?” Mike asked.
“Just about,” one of the men said, not bothering to look up.
“How are people getting through?”
The hard hat nodded vaguely off to the right. “Emergency room exit.”
Mike followed the cement path beneath the long overhang where for decades ambulances had dropped off casualties. Exchanging sun for shadow, his eyes lost their squint and his face softened, becoming younger, friendlier. He was thirty-four years old, an age that had once seemed as insurmountable as Everest but now felt as lived-in as his old beach sandals. Parenthood had added the first wrinkles around his eyes, and his hairline was beginning to thin. Lately, without saying anything about it, Sarah had begun buying low-fat snacks and sending salads with his supper, which he knew was as close as she’d ever come to remarking on the fact that they were both, unthinkable as it once seemed, broaching the hinterlands of middle age.
Mike went inside, walking past Steve Calhoun in his alcove set just within the emergency room entrance.
“Seven o’clock already?” Calhoun asked, scowling down at the Sports page.
“Ain’t you the eager beaver.” The security guard shook his head. “My old man said never trust a fella that isn’t late for work once in a while.”
“Sounds like the model employee.”
“Then there’s you,” Calhoun continued on, “never been a minute late in your life. Coming in early, even.” He seemed to mull it over in his mind. “Man like that must have something real special waiting for him downstairs.”
“Excuse me?”
“Come on, sweet Jolie Braun?”
Mike flushed. “Now listen—”
“Okay, take it easy,” Calhoun said, looking up from his newspaper to nod at the wall of video monitors rising alongside him. “I get paid to notice things, that’s all. Doesn’t mean I got to tell nobody.” A smile crept over his face. “You’re a married man, ain’tcha? Got a kid at home?”
Mike set his hands on the security counter and leaned forward, forcing Calhoun to meet his eyes. “You’re way off base on this.”
“Not that I blame you. Lord knows I’d give my left one to get my hands around some of that.”
“All right, all right, don’t get all bent out of shape.” Calhoun leaned back on his rickety stool and Mike heard the big key ring on his belt jingle. “You know, I’m surprised they even made your sorry ass come in to work tonight. You must have really pissed somebody off up the food chain, huh?”
Mike blew out his breath, relieved at the turn in conversation. “Must have.”
“And the midnight shift no less?” Calhoun scowled at him, the incredulity building in his eyes like an impending sneeze. “Christ Jesus, there ain’t even anybody here! Ambulance fleet transferred the last patients out to Good Sam’s this morning. All that’s left is files and furniture. Otherwise this whole place is as hollowed-out as my checking account.”
“Suits me.” He watched Calhoun’s hand move automatically to the breast pocket of his uniform, finding the soft-pack of discount cigarettes, shaking one out and installing it expertly between his lips. Though he couldn’t have been much older than Mike, Calhoun’s entire physical appearance betrayed a lifetime of spectacular misuse and neglect. He was a scrawny, limping, unshaven man with an enormous Adam’s apple who nonetheless evoked a kind of brute durability, as if the very ligature of his body was strung together by alcohol-cured leather.
For the three years Mike had worked at Tanglewood, Calhoun’s “office” had been a gauntlet that he had to run just to get to the time clock. Here the security guard sat with his keys, cigarettes, and closed-circuit video feeds from every corner of the hospital, as protected as any endangered species: the gainfully employed American functional alcoholic. And from the current smell of things, Calhoun hadn’t waited until he was home to start drinking.
Let him say what he wants about Jolie Braun, Mike decided. Nobody would believe him anyway.
“Ayuh.” Calhoun grinned in a way that made his long chin appear to grow even longer. “I guess you ought to have it quiet tonight.” He looked around with the comical bewilderment of the person the universe had chosen as its straight man more often than not. “But I still don’t see why they couldn’t give you one night off.”
“I appreciate your concern.” Mike was already leaning into the first step that would carry him away from Calhoun and whatever remained of this conversation when he heard rubber squealing up the service road in front of the hospital. Turning, he saw a line of police cruisers pulling into the rotunda, followed by an ambulance. Officers in blue uniforms were already getting out, moving with the swift urgency of men about their work.
Calhoun glanced up. “What the hell is all this happy crap?”
“Got your patient here,” a young cop in sunglasses said, walking up, thrusting a fat stack of pages in Calhoun’s direction.
“Hold it.” Calhoun put down his paper and stood up. But the EMTs were already opening the back of the ambulance, unloading a stretcher with a man in an orange prison jumpsuit strapped to the rails. The man stared into the blue summer sky with an absolute vacancy of expression that seemed to Mike’s eye neither childlike nor tranquil. Like the hospital, he thought, the man on the stretcher looked dead.
“Says here he’s going for an MRI,” the sunglasses cop said. “Either you two geniuses know where that is?”
Mike nodded. “I work there.”
“Yeah? Well, that makes you my new best friend.”
Craning his neck, Mike tried to get a better look at the face of the man strapped to the litter, but the shadows of the officers surrounding him continued to float over his features, obscuring them like a series of ill-fitting masks. It felt like the man’s face was hiding from him, ducking away just when he thought he might catch a glimpse of it. The cops, all five of them, stood looking at one another across the stretcher. Mike realized that the paramedics had already climbed back into the ambulance; within moments the vehicle sped off, leaving them there with the silent passenger.
“Who is this guy?” Mike asked.
Nobody said a word.

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