Check out an exclusive excerpt from Here Lies Daniel Tate by Cristin Terrill! The novel hits shelves June 6.
In Cristin Terrill’s YA thriller, Here Lies Daniel Tate a teen runaway proves to be a master at the art of deception. But when his latest quest for a warm bed lands him in the role of a high profile kidnappee returned home, the real Daniel’s past begins to catch up with him. Who can you trust for answers when the truth of matter lies with Daniel?
Into true crime? Love a good mystery and a unreliable narrator? Wet your appetite for this summer’s thrilling novel, with an exclusive excerpt! You’ll definitely want to keep reading this one. Be sure to enter to win a copy of Here Lies Daniel Tate below!
‘Here Lies Daniel Tate’ by Cristin Terrill exclusive excerpt:
The first question everyone always asks is, what’s your name?
I won’t tell you, because I don’t want to lie to you. I want to tell the truth for once; no fake names like the ones I used to give when people asked me. I had no choice back then. I was a born liar and, by the time everything began, I barely remembered my real name anyway. I left that boy dead and buried in a Saskatchewan town where the snow somehow turned gray the moment it hit the ground. I don’t mean that metaphorically, like I just shed his name and history, although I did that, too. I mean I killed him.
I crept back into town one night, skirting the bright pools of light from streetlamps and avoiding the houses where I knew dogs barked. Old, stale snow crunched under my feet. Inside my coat pocket I fingered a glossy baseball card that was creased and fraying at the corners from too much handling. It wasn’t a real baseball card, just a picture of me in my T-ball uniform with my name in block letters across the bottom. I was six in the picture, and already there was a gap in my smile, the tooth knocked loose by a closed fist. But I was still smiling.
When I reached my mother’s house, I stood in the darkness below the trees outside and watched her through the window. She was sitting in her usual chair, flipping channels on the television. I hadn’t seen her for a year, and I guess I expected to feel… something. But I didn’t. There was only the familiar hole in my chest where the feeling should have been.
I dialed her number from memory. Snow fell and clung to my eyelashes, and I blinked the flakes away to watch her. After three rings, she rose from her chair and crossed to the ancient handset mounted on the wall.
“Hello?” she said, the word partially muffled by a cigarette.
“Mrs. Smith?” I said. Not exactly that, of course, since “Smith” isn’t my name. “This is Officer Green of the Royal Mounted Police.”
“Yeah?” she asked. Getting a call from the cops didn’t faze her. “It’s about your son,” I said. “I’m sorry to tell you there’s been an accident.”
I told her I was dead, hit by a speeding car as I crossed an icy road. I watched her close. She didn’t move or speak for a long time.
Then she said:
“I don’t have a son.”
She hung up and went back to her chair, and that was it. I left, and I left the boy I’d been behind with her, dead and buried in the dingy gray snow.
But that’s not where this story starts, not really. It began on another snowy night a few years later, with police lights bathing the world in red and blue.
I hunched against the cold at one of the few remaining pay phones on the east side of Vancouver. It was too fucking cold to be on the streets. I dialed 911 and counted along to the rings. After the seventh, someone answered.
“Nine-one-one. What’s your emergency?”
“Hello?” I ground my voice down against the back of my throat, making it sound low and gravelly. “My wife and I just came across this kid, and there’s… well, there’s something wrong with him. He seems really out of it.”
I heard the dispatcher suppress a yawn. Either bored or new to the night shift. “How old is he?”
“Like fifteen or sixteen,” I said. I’d learned by then what a crucial part of the scam that was, and luckily I had enough of a baby face to pull it off. “I think maybe he’s lost. Someone should come get him. It’s freezing out here.”
She asked for the address and told me they were sending a car. I sat down on the sidewalk in a protected alcove that had once been the doorway of a boarded up pharmacy. The cement was like ice through the fabric of my jeans, but I wouldn’t be there long. I pulled my baseball cap down over my eyes, flipped up the hood of my sweatshirt, and waited.
The squad car pulled up with its siren off but its lights flashing, painting red and blue beams across the lacy curtain of falling snow. I burrowed deeper into my hoodie and bowed my head to hide my face under the brim of my cap.
“Hi there,” one of the officers, the younger one, said as he climbed out of the cruiser. His voice was kind, but he kept his distance. Fresh out of the academy and still a little jumpy. “You okay?”
The older officer was less cautious and crouched down beside me. He had a ring on his left hand, maybe kids of his own around my age at home. “Hey, buddy, what’s your name?”
I didn’t speak. I didn’t even look up.
“Come on, you’ve got to know who are you,” the older officer pressed, his tone light and teasing. “Everyone knows who they are.”
“Okay,” he said when I didn’t respond. “How about you come with us? You’ve got to be half-frozen.”
He reached for my arm, and I recoiled violently. It wasn’t a hard reaction to fake. The officer held up his empty hands, while his partner’s hand flew to the holster at his side.
“Hey, hey, it’s okay,” he said. He looked back at his partner, who was still poised to grab his gun if I turned out to be violent. “Jesus, Pearson. Relax, would you? We’re not going to hurt you, son, I promise.”
I gradually let them talk me up off the sidewalk and into the squad car. They tried to engage me in conversation as they took me back to their station, but I kept my head down and my mouth shut. I used to talk, tell some sob story, but I’d learned there was more power in silence.
They stuck me in a holding room with a vending machine sandwich and a cup of hot chocolate until they could figure out what to do with me. I would have preferred not to have involved the authorities — it was riskier this way — but Covenant House was full and it was cold. These guys were my best chance for a bed. It took about an hour for them to come back with a small white woman in jeans and a messy ponytail. I had moved to the corner of the room, sitting on the thin carpet with my knees pulled up to my chest. She crouched down at my eye level, but well out of my reach, so she’d obviously been doing this for a while. She told me her name was Alicia, in that low, soothing voice that people who work with troubled children or wild animals seem to be born with. She worked at a province-run care home, and she was going to take me there so I could get some sleep.
“Then, tomorrow morning,” she said, “we’ll work all this out.”
The cops passed me off to her like I was a piece of lost lug gage. Alicia sat beside me in the back of a squad car as a deputy drove us to Short Term 8. When we got there, Alicia’s coworker Martin — a big black man with the widest, whitest smile I’ve ever seen — took over. He took me to a bathroom and waited outside while Alicia went to get me something to change into. I washed the dirt from my face, frowned at the pale stubble that was reappearing on my jawline, and rummaged through the cabinets to see what was inside. I found a half a tube of toothpaste and rubbed some across my teeth with a finger. Martin knocked on the door and handed me a T-shirt and pair of sweatpants that smelled like mothballs and laundry detergent. After I’d changed, he showed me to an empty bed in a room where two other boys were already sleeping.
“You need anything?” he asked. I noted the way he curled his shoulders in, trying to minimize his physical presence. He was that kid everyone assumed was a bully because of his size but would never hurt a fly. Made sense he’d ended up in this line of work.
I shook my head and climbed into the bed. The sheets were worn thin from a thousand washings, but they were cool and soft against my skin. A much better bed than the pavement or some shitty adult homeless shelter, and as long as I kept my mouth shut, I could probably keep it for a couple of weeks.
My eyes flew open. I’d been dreaming about a small, dark space, and then someone was standing above me, their hand on my arm. Before my eyes had even focused enough to make the person out, I had hit their arm away and scrambled back until I hit a wall.
“Whoa, sorry!” A skinny black boy stood beside my bed, rubbing his arm. He shoved his glasses farther up his nose with one knuckle. “I just wanted to tell you breakfast is ready.”
I felt a little bad — I could tell from the sting in my hand how hard I’d hit him — but I couldn’t apologize. And, anyway, he shouldn’t have touched me while I was sleeping.
“Hey, what’s your name, man?” the other kid in the room asked. He had a shaved head and an amateurish tattoo on the side of his neck that looked like it was made with a safety pin and ink in juvie. His eyes were full of evaluation as he looked me up and down, trying to get the size of me. I met his gaze coolly.
“You deaf or something?” he said.
“Hey, guys!” Alicia appeared in the doorway with my clothes, clean and folded, in her hands. “Head on to the dining room, okay? Martin made pancakes.”
Both boys gave me wary looks before leaving the room. Alicia closed the door behind them and sat on the bed closest to me, knitting her fingers together in front of her.
“Hey,” she said. “How you feeling this morning?”
“Ready to talk?”
I shook my head.
“That’s okay — you don’t have to,” she said. “But can you tell me your name, at least? We’ve got a lot of boys around here, so ‘hey you’ isn’t very effective.”
In response, I swallowed and looked down at the bedspread, worrying it between my fingers.
“Okay, no problem,” she said, “but we’ve got to call you something. We picked you up at the Collingwood Police Station, so how about we call you Collin for now? That’s a pretty good name.”
I shrugged again.
“Okay, I’ll take that as a yes.” She smiled and went to put a hand on my shoulder but wisely reconsidered. Instead, she handed me my clothes. “Get dressed, and then we’ll go get some breakfast. You can meet the other guys.”
Alicia waited outside while I changed into my old jeans, tee, and hoodie, and then she showed me to the dining room at the other end of the building. The room was overflowing with boys and noise and the ambient heat of so many bodies packed in such a small space, and I could feel her watching me, waiting to see if I’d freak out. I probably should have faked it to keep up my traumatized act, go hide myself in the bedroom and refuse to come out, but dammit, I was hungry.
Alicia sat, and I sank into the empty seat beside her. She handed me a platter of pancakes, and I forked three onto my plate while I felt eyes around the table sliding in my direction.
“Guys, this is Collin,” Alicia said. “He’s going to be staying with us for a while. He’s a little on the quiet side, so don’t bug him, okay?”
The other boys, a dozen or so, reacted in a variety of ways. A couple said hi, a couple grunted, a couple didn’t respond at all. After that everyone went back to their pancakes, and that was all it took for me to become one of them.
When I still wouldn’t talk on my third day at Short Term 8 — wouldn’t tell the staff or police who I was or where I’d come from so they could return me there —
they took me to a government psychologist. I pulled out all the stops for her. The night before the appointment I bit my nails until they bled, because I knew she would notice. I cowered in my chair when she talked to me and rocked back and forth ever so slightly when she started to push. She told them to give me time, that I would open up when I was ready. Just like I knew she would.
I figured she’d bought me at least a week.
“Jason! Tucker!” Martin called from the hallway. This is how we were awoken most mornings. The only thing my two roommates had in common was they hated getting out of bed. “I said, get up!”
Jason moaned, and Tucker rolled over, jamming his pillow over his head.
“What about Collin?” Jason said. He pushed himself into a sitting position and groped for his glasses on the bedside table. “Doesn’t he have to get up?”
“That’s not fair!”
“I know. Life’s a bitch.” Martin appeared in the open doorway brandishing a water pistol. “Now wake up!”
He shot streams of water at both of the boys. Tucker told him to go fuck himself, and Jason sputtered and protested that he was already up.
“Don’t make me get the hose,” Martin said. “Be in the dining room in five. Collin, come down whenever you’re ready.”
“What the fuck makes him so special?” Tucker demanded, but Martin was already gone. I smiled, rolled over, and went back to sleep.
I liked it at Short Term 8. Three square meals, a bed of my own, and enough noise from fourteen other boys to drown out the voices in my head. Besides Jason, who was a sweet kid who brought me Oreos whenever he raided the pantry behind the staff’s back, and Tucker, who was an asshole, the other boys mostly ignored me. If you don’t speak for long enough, people eventually stop seeing you as an oddity and start seeing you as a piece of furniture, which suited me just fine. I liked to blend in to the chaos they caused until I as good as disappeared. Sometimes Alicia or one of the day staff would remember I existed when the others gave them a break and would take me aside for a kind word and a reassuring hand on the shoulder, which was all I needed.
But I knew it couldn’t last.
The cops got impatient first. They wanted to close the file on the kid they’d found in the snow and move on. They sent a couple of detectives over to talk to me. The day manager Diane had just arrived to take over from Alicia, and she took charge of getting boys out the door while Alicia sat beside me in the lounge. The detectives opposite us pulled out their notepads and pens, and I hung my head, keeping my eyes on the floor. One of them — the bigger one, whose buzzed haircut suggested a man who’d never quite let go of the military even years after rejoining civilian life — had been looking at me real close since the moment they’d arrived, and I didn’t like it.
“We need you to tell us your name, son,” the smaller one finally said after a reasonably polite preamble.
I started to rock back and forth in my chair, and I bit on the nail of my thumb. It was probably too late for my theatrics to do any good, but it wouldn’t hurt to try.
“Did you run away?” the smaller detective asked. “Were you being hurt?”
I didn’t say anything, and Alicia put a comforting hand on my knee.
“We can protect you,” he continued, “but we’ve got to know who you are.”
“Alicia.” The big detective spoke for the first time. “If this boy is really so traumatized he can’t answer a simple question, I don’t think it’s right for him to be staying here. He should be section sixteened.”
Section sixteen. Every kid who’s spent time in care or on the streets knows what that means: a psychiatric hold.
“Come on, Frank,” Alicia said. “Dr. Nazadi said he just needs some time.”
The detective turned to me. “Son, we need to know who you are. I want your name and where you’re from, or we’re going to have to take your prints and your picture and find out for ourselves.”
“This isn’t necessary, Frank,” Alicia said.
“Isn’t it?” he asked. “There aren’t a hundred other kids who could use that bed?”
Alicia glanced at me from the corner of her eye, and the detective was looking at me with a hard glint in his.
It was over.
That night I waited for Short Term 8 to go dark and quiet before I climbed out of bed. I’d had a good run here, but this was the end of the line. No way was I going to let them stick me in a mental ward or put my prints into the system. The bed wasn’t worth it.
I put on my warmest clothes, including the decent winter coat Martin had procured for me, and packed what little else I had in my backpack. I looked down at Jason for a second. I would miss him, I guessed, as much as I could miss anyone. I didn’t bother looking at Tucker.
I crept through the quiet building in my socked feet, boots held in my hand. Martin and Alicia were the staff on duty this time of night, and they were predictable. Martin would be at the television in the common room watching whatever sport was on with the volume turned down low, and Alicia would be on the computer in the office. They were pretty much there just to make sure no one died or burned the place down.
I crossed through the dining room, running my fingers along the grain of the table in the spot where I usually sat as I walked past it. I peered around the door of the dining hall to get a look at the front office. As I’d guessed, Alicia was in there, catching up on celebrity gossip on the Internet. I’d have to get past the office to get to the front door, and the office walls were lined with windows.
I thought about trying to sneak past her. If I crouched down low enough, I could get under the windows. But that wouldn’t get me past the open door unnoticed unless Alicia also happened to be in a mild, Kardashian–induced coma. I could go out an emergency exit, but that would set off the alarm, and the idea was to get out without anyone noticing I was gone until the morning. Anything that might wake Jason and Tucker or prompt Alicia and Martin to do a bed check was too risky.
Finally, I decided on the easiest option. I would wait. I felt like there were ants crawling under my skin every moment I was trapped in there, but I had all night. The important thing was to just disappear.
I sat down behind the door of the darkened dining hall. Neither Martin nor Alicia had any reason to come in here, and by cracking the door, I could see Alicia in the office. Eventually, she would get up to go to the bathroom or get herself another Diet Coke from the kitchen. I just had to be patient.
I’m not sure how long I waited. Maybe an hour. Finally, Alicia got up from her chair. I watched her walk down the hallway toward the staff restroom, and then scrambled to my feet and grabbed my boots. I had maybe a minute to get out before she came back. I stuck my head out into the hallway, checking both ways first. Alicia was gone, and the glow from the common room in the other direction meant Martin was almost certainly in front of the TV. I took a step into the hallway. My left foot had gone numb from being folded under me, and it came awake with painful pins and needles as I snuck toward the front entrance. There was an alarm panel beside the door, and I started to punch in the code I’d watched Alicia plug into it the first night they brought me here. I heard the distant sound of a toilet flushing. My finger slipped, and I hit the wrong button. The light on the panel flashed red.
“Shit,” I whispered, and quickly reentered the correct code. The light turned green, and I heard a door opening. I yanked open the front door and slipped through it, pulling it nearly closed after me. I tried to slow my breathing as I stood on the outside, ears straining. Had Alicia gotten there in time to see the door closing behind me? Could she see the small gap I’d left so that she wouldn’t hear the noise of the latch catching when the door closed? I waited, but nothing happened. Short Term 8 stayed quiet.
I carefully put on my boots and then, millimeter by millimeter, eased the door closed, the snick of the latch almost inaudible. Nothing. I was out.
I zipped up my new coat and started the walk to the bus station. I only had a little bit of cash that I’d gotten under the counter doing odd jobs my first few days in Vancouver, but it was enough to get me onto a bus and out of there. My feet crunched on the salted pavement, and soon I was downtown, where there were enough people for me to blend in with that I felt safe taking the hood off my head. I tried to remember how long I’d been doing this, moving from city to city, scamming my way into juvenile care homes by pretending to be younger than I was. I’d left home for good at sixteen. Sometime after that there’d been the petty robbery that went really, really wrong, and I’d gone from being a runaway to being someone on the run. The danger of being caught had long passed, but once you start running, it’s hard to stop, so I hadn’t stayed in any one place for long. Since I couldn’t say exactly how long I’d been doing this; I’d lived so many lives that it was hard to keep track.
I arrived at the bus station, which was lit up even in the middle of the night with fluorescents that gave the place a queasy, yellow glow, and walked up to the ticket window.
“What…” I cleared the frog from my throat. I hadn’t spoken for days. “What’s the cheapest bus ticket you’ve got?”
The cashier raised a perfectly drawn on eyebrow at me. “You don’t care where you’re going?”
She gave me a couple of options, and I picked the $82 bus to Calgary that left in less than an hour. After she handed me back my change, I had enough money for a coffee and muffin now and a sandwich on the road later.
I was standing in line at the station McDonald’s when I spotted him. Martin. He was hard to miss since he was a head taller than almost everyone else around.
I didn’t feel much anymore, but I did still feel fear. Every animal feels fear. It was a nice change from the usual nothingness, actually. I dropped my head, slipped out of the line, and began to walk slowly in the opposite direction from Martin. There weren’t enough people here in the middle of the night to disappear into the crowd, so I would have to be careful not to do anything to attract his attention. I headed toward the men’s restroom I’d clocked earlier. He would check it, but if I hid in a stall, maybe he wouldn’t find me.
How did he know I was gone? Maybe Jason or Tucker had woken up and reported me missing.
As I was headed to the men’s room, a cop on a radio started to head toward it too. He went inside, and I changed directions, flipping my hood over my head. I strolled toward a side exit instead. I’d wait around the corner until a few minutes before my bus was scheduled to leave and then slip back inside.
“Collin!” a voice called. I ran.
The footsteps behind me were moving fast. I dashed toward the exit just as a woman with a huge rolling suitcase came through the door I was aiming for. She slowed me down for only a few seconds, but it was enough. Martin caught up to me, a helpful cop on his heels. I immediately dropped to the ground and wrapped my arms over my head, burying my face against my knees. When in doubt, play the traumatized child.
“Hey, it’s okay, man,” Martin said, kneeling beside me and putting a careful hand on my back. “I know you’re scared, but everything’s going to be okay. Come on, let’s go home.”
I went with Martin back to Short Term 8, and Alicia hugged me hard as soon as I came inside. They took me back to my room. Jason and Tucker were both awake, and I wondered which one of them had ratted me out. My money — not that I had much left — was on Jason. Tucker was a dick, but he also wouldn’t care if I ended up dead in a ditch somewhere. He rolled his eyes at me and turned over in bed when I came in, while Jason handed me a mini Snickers from the candy stash he kept hidden in his dresser. I was pissed at him, but I was also hungry, so I took it.
I bit into the candy bar as I walked to the bathroom down the hall. I could hear faint voices coming from the kitchen and crept closer toward them. They were probably talking about me, and I wanted to know what they were saying.
The kitchen had double swinging doors, and I pressed my eye up to the gap between them. Alicia was making tea.
“The cops must have scared the hell out of him,” she was saying as she poured milk into two mugs and handed one to Martin. “Threatening to section him like that. If he understood what they meant, it’s no wonder he ran.”
“Yeah, but they’ll take him away for sure now,” Martin said. Alicia sighed. “Poor kid.”
I wasn’t going to any fucking mental ward.
Locked up. Walls and darkness closing in on me, suffocating me, the close air stale from my breath…
I would do whatever it took to prevent that, whatever they wanted.
“I have to tell you something,” I said the next morning.
Forks hit plates and silence descended on the dining table, like something out of the movies.
Alicia recovered first. “Sure, Collin. Why don’t you come to the office, and we’ll—”
“My name’s Daniel,” I said. “Daniel Tate.”
The name meant nothing to Alicia. She hadn’t grown up in Southern California, where my name had made headlines.
Daniel Tate, son of the food packaging heiress. Daniel Tate, American prince. Daniel Tate, the boy who disappeared.
Did you believe me when I said I was some no-name runaway from the Canadian backwoods? You shouldn’t have. I told you I was a liar. That boy was just one of my many fictions. I invented him because he was tough enough to survive when I wasn’t, and because even his terrible life was better than the truth.
Text © 2017 by Cristin Terrill. Used with permission of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
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