READ THE FIRST TWO CHAPTERS: The Redpoint Crux by Morgan Shamy
The highly-anticipated Phantom-inspired summer read is FINALLY here! Morgan Shamy debutes with The Redpoint Crux, a dangerous game of ballet, murder, love, and loss. The darkness lurking just behind the curtain captivates Red and begs the idea...
The show is never really over.
Pre-order your copy here in time for Shamy's release day on June 9th!
The Redpoint Crux, Morgan Shamy
"Dark and achingly beautiful, The Redpoint Crux will break your heart then make you whole again. Shamy is a true storyteller with a gift for weaving wounded characters with twisting plots and a gorgeous, haunting world." —Evelyn Skye, New York Times bestselling author of The Crown’s Game
"An addictive mystery woven into a tapestry of lush theatre and ballet lore." —Wendy Higgins, New York Times Bestselling Author
Fans of The Phantom of the Opera and Black Swan will enjoy this thrilling debut.
When Megan Van Helsburg gets kicked off the U.S.A. Climbing Team, she has no choice but to return home and leave her climbing career behind. With no coach, no money, and no prospects, she joins the corps de ballet determined to improve her strength and agility. But the ballet theater is in dire straits. Not only do a series of murders break loose, but the ballerinas are becoming deathly thin and brain-dead. As Megan investigates, she meets Bellamy, a tortured young man who lives beneath the depths of the theater. Megan falls hard and fast for Bellamy, who becomes her mentor, but something is off about him. It isn't until the company announces they're doing Giselle for the fall performance that Megan realizes the parallels between the ghost story and the lives around her. Megan must find a way to not only save her climbing career, but balance her feelings for Bellamy, and stop the murders and dying girls before she, too, is numbered among the dead.
Boulder, Colorado, August
Dying wasn’t on Red’s to-do list that day.
At least, not at the top of her list.
If she had been asked if she wanted to die the week before, it might’ve been a different story. Of course, then she had just been pulled from a competition due to an “incident” and banned from the U.S.A. Climbing Team for the next six months. “Breathe and get some perspective,” Coach had said.
It was the only competition in which she hadn’t taken first place in the last five years.
It had been the end of her world.
Red stared up at the towering pines and tried to ignore the piece of rock protruding from her chest. She should have been panicking. It would have been the appropriate reaction to falling off a cliff and landing on a series of sharp pieces of granite, but she was strangely calm. She didn’t feel any pain. Probably because it was a mortal wound—it was the deadly ones you didn’t feel.
She shouldn’t have been out there climbing alone. Coach had strictly forbidden it when she left their motel room that morning. It wasn’t like he was her dad telling her what to do; he was just looking out for her. He was four years her senior, and they had been dating for the past year. It was convenient since they were on the road together twenty-four seven. A coach with benefits.
Red hiccupped, swallowing a hysterical laugh.
If she had her phone, she would send the climbing world one last message. It’d definitely make national news. Seventeen-year-old world-class climber, Megan “Red” Tucker dies alone in a freak accident. Reports say that she reached out to her fans just before death, advising them never to climb alone and to always be prepared. She could hear the talk now:
At least she died doing what she loved.
She wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
A year before nationals. What a shame.
Red shook the thoughts away. Maybe the wound wasn’t that bad. Maybe the rock hadn’t hit any major organs. She squinted down at the jagged entity sticking up through her purple tank top, the blood around it blending into the deep hue.
Okay, maybe she was panicking.
Her breaths came out in short gasps, and when she coughed, something inside her throat gurgled. She struggled to move, but her limbs tingled, and she started to feel disconnected from her body.
She was dying.
Red peered up at the cliff, her vision swaying. The events of the last hour replayed in her head. She’d had that hold. She’d had good footing with a great pocket on the right. She should have been able to stick that jump. She cursed herself for trying to free solo that thing. She knew better, but all her climbing gear was back at home two thousand miles away.
Cold seeped into the back of her jeans. She wasn’t sure if it was from the damp ground or the blood leaving her body. Another cough—a wet, rattling sound.
A rustle came from the bushes to her left, and Red froze. She turned her head and stared into the dark shrubbery, her heart beating fast. Maybe she wasn’t alone. Maybe help was nearby.
A lean figure unfolded from the forest. She couldn’t see any of his features, just his outline against the dark green of the mountain. It was a guy, not too tall. Thin frame. Wild hair. His silhouette extended from the trees.
Help! Red tried to scream.
He didn’t move to save her. The man crossed his arms and leaned against the nearest tree. He cocked his head to the side and stood there, like Red was taking a nap instead of drowning in her own blood.
Help me! She tried to scream again. What is he doing? But her voice didn’t work. She should’ve been able to plea for help or give a dying message. If she couldn’t contact the climbing world, then she should be allowed to give her last words to someone—even this stranger. She realized she’d give anything to breathe normally again.
“Would you?” the guy asked.
Red was jerked from her thoughts and stared back at him. He tilted his head further to the side and his stance melted deeper into the tree.
“I’ve seen enough death to know what you’re thinking.”
Red opened her mouth again, not sure whether this was a dream. Or maybe she’d already died and this was her hell: doomed to watch this man do nothing as she bled to death over and over again.
“I can give it to you, you know—life.”
The figure pushed off the tree and loomed over her. He remained nothing more than a shadow, and Red searched for any form of recognition.
The guy bent down, so his head was only inches from her face. She squinted and her vision blurred.
“There are consequences, though.”
“Please. Just—” She broke off into a fit of gargled coughs.
“Shh. Don’t talk. You’ve punctured a lung.”
Red’s eyes widened. Her mouth opened and closed. She reached up and felt the sticky pool of blood that flowed from her chest.
“I need your consent,” he said. “Otherwise, I have to let you die. And from the looks of it, I’d say you have about a minute left.”
Consent? Just call 911! Find a forest ranger. Somebody! Or carry me back to town!
“Do you want me to save you? Blink twice if you want me to save you.” His voice was merely curious—neither urgent nor disinterested.
Blink? Blink? She was clearly dying, and he wanted her to blink?
Spots clouded her vision. Like her voice, her eyes wouldn’t work much longer.
“Tick tock goes the clock.” His voice was almost taunting. His neck bent side to side.
Red gasped for breath. Her airway closed off and liquid filled her mouth. The man spoke again, but his voice drifted far away. Her eyelids fluttered. The last thing she saw were the white clouds as they moved over the tops of the pines. The man’s silhouette hovered over her.
Darkness closed in.
Halifax, Nova Scotia, September
Along the backside of the theater, a small road sat quietly, tucked into the shadows of the city. Small shops lined in rows, squeezed together with narrow alleys in between. Boards covered the windows. Dried flowers hung from upper story balconies. The only light was a sliver of moon slipping through the clouds, the streetlamps having burnt out a long time ago.
Liam kicked a piece of trash, and it rattled down the street. Things had changed since he was last here. Four years ago, this place had been full of life, full of color, full of… hope. Now, he returned to a place more dismal than his mood. Where was everyone? Had his parents run everyone off? Perhaps he shouldn’t have left. Perhaps he could’ve done some good here, instead of going off to that Russian boarding school. He would’ve preferred Julliard, but his parents insisted on a foreign education, and Kirov’s School of the Arts was supposedly the best.
Liam turned down one of the alleyways between the shops, where a red fluorescent sign hung above a plain, unassuming door. Pulling his dark brows together, he gave three sharp taps, waited a few seconds, then gave two more. They better not all be gone.
A man as tall as a lamppost and just as thin opened the door. He wore a hooded cloak that covered him from head to floor. The fluorescent sign cast an eerie glow on his face. Bones jutted from his skin, his long blond hair covering his white eyebrows. The top part of his body bent in half as he leaned down and looked Liam in the eye.
“You’re back. It’s been awhile.” His eyes slithered sideways to look behind Liam. “You’re alone. You sure that’s wise this time of night?”
“Hello, Bart.” Liam pushed past, annoyed by the man’s theatrics. This skeleton of a man might scare outsiders from coming into their hideout, but Bart was nothing more than an actor and a security guard on the side.
The halls hadn’t changed since Liam had last been here. Cement from top to bottom and torches every few feet. Flames flickered, and his shadow lengthened in front of him as the floor curved downward in a slight decline. Liam wound deeper underneath the ground, the air growing cooler, until goosebumps prickled his skin.
Finally, the hallway stopped, and he pushed open the door at the end. For the first time since he had come back to the city, Liam breathed a sigh of relief. Something was finally the same. The dim lighting, circular tables, and the bar that stretched from one end of the room to the other were all familiar. Small groups of people huddled together in hushed conversations. Even the lone Scotsman perched at the end of the bar was the same.
A smile tugged at Liam’s lips as he sat next to his kilted friend. As per usual, Thomas MacDaniel had a single glass of amber liquid in front of him, untouched. His sandy hair hung in shags over his narrow face, his eyes staring intently into the glass.
“Why didn’t anyone tell me?” Liam asked without preamble. “You should’ve warned me that this place had”—he stopped, grabbed Thomas’s drink, and tossed the contents onto the floor—“become destitute.”
Thomas scowled where his drink had been. He motioned the barkeep for another.
“Didn’t you think this information was pertinent?” Liam continued. “Thomas, the theater is my livelihood. When I heard it was going under, and that my parents had run off without a word—”
The barkeep set down another glass. Liam took in the barkeep’s black vest fitted tightly over his lean frame. Black hair spat in every direction, flattened only by the eye patch that covered his right eye. He seemed familiar, like Liam should have known him, but the name evaded him.
Pursing his lips, Liam snatched Thomas’s glass, and poured the liquid out onto the floor again before Thomas could object. The barkeep glanced at the mess, shook his head, and brought another. Liam reached for it, but Thomas slammed his hand down.
“Careful,” said Thomas. “My mood is worse than yours. Ruined livelihood, or not.”
Liam cracked a large smile, eyeing the fading slap mark on the young Scot’s face, and the door that had just slammed behind him. He saluted Thomas’s empty glass. “To the money—or girlfriends we’ve lost, then.”
Thomas turned back to his drink and stared.
“So… which one was it this time?” Liam asked after a moment. “Blonde? Brunette? Redhead?”
Thomas rolled his shoulders uncomfortably. “Redhead.” The Scot’s accent was more pronounced as he whispered, “You know I have a weakness for them.”
“Oh, right. And how many girlfriends did you have while I was away?”
Liam threw his hands up in mockery. “Fine. Be the tight-lipped grump. But if you’re looking for another girl to hook up with, I suggest hopping on a plane to Russia. Those Bolshoi ballerinas and their legs…”
The two fell silent. Both stared at their glasses. One empty. One full to the brim.
“Why do you torture yourself?” Liam asked. “Staring at that full shot of whiskey? I know we both vowed to never drink like our fathers did, but that just seems like agony. I get the whole moody metaphor thing—with staring into what haunts you the most—but we are nineteen. It’s time to move on. Do you know how difficult it was to keep my promise to you back in Moscow?”
Thomas said nothing. Just continued to stare at his glass.
“If I hadn’t been ‘Liam Reynolds III, son of Mr. And Mrs. Reynolds of Bournonville,’ I wouldn’t have been invited to any of the parties. Yet I still lived and kept my oath.”
Liam heaved out a breath. He spun in his seat and perused the room. A couple of men dressed as Russians sat perched in the corner, wearing white puffy shirts, red pants, and dark boots. Don, the hotheaded Spaniard, arm-wrestled a man in a villager costume. Liam smiled. He was glad Don was still here after his time at school. The men around Don also wore open white shirts, but with high-waisted black pants.
Theater folks. They were still in their costumes from the show that night. He had heard that the audience was sparse.
Liam rubbed a hand over the back of his neck. This theater was everything to him. Growing up with absent parents who did nothing but travel and attend fancy parties, the walls of the theater had been his home, his safe house. It’d be devastating to see this place go, not only for financial reasons, but for nostalgic ones, too.
Liam spotted a young man sitting by himself, clearly inebriated from his flushed cheeks, droopy eyelids, and an empty bottle dangling from his hand.
Thomas snorted, shaking his head. “I’m surprised you don’t know.”
Liam stared harder at the boy, taking in his rumpled clothes, pale skin, and red hair. Recognition hit hard. No. It couldn’t be.
“The last time I saw him he was—”
“At his father’s funeral? Yeah. It’s Nathan Van Helsburg, one of the twins. I think he is single-handedly keeping this place in business.”
“Well, you certainly aren’t.” Liam sat back and drummed his fingers on his thighs.
The Scot ran a finger around his untouched glass. “I know what you’re thinking. And it’s not a good idea. Their father was involved with dark things. It’s best to leave him and his family alone.”
“Their father was the most talented violinist I ever knew.”
Silence fell again.
“And Nathan’s sister?” Liam asked. “Megan?”
“She left a few years ago for the lower forty-eight. A professional climber, apparently. It’s crazy to think she used to be the most promising ballerina here in Halifax. Now she’s traveling the world with her boyfriend. Sad to see so much talent go to waste.”
“How do you know all this?”
The Scot lifted a brow.
Liam’s mouth slid upward. “Oh, right. Redhead.”
Thomas scowled. “No. The twenty-first century. Social media. And it’s called caring. I’m surprised you don’t.”
Thomas nodded to Nathan. “After their father died, the twins were left alone with a sick mother. Nathan dropped out of school and became the janitor at the theater. Megan changed her name, applied for dual citizenship, and has been rock climbing ever since.”
Thomas narrowed his eyes. “You grew up alongside them. Your father was best friends with their father. You should have cared enough to at least have checked in on them once.” He spun on his stool, and muttered back into his glass, “And now, because your parents ran off with all the theater’s money, that lad will be out of a job. Who knows what will happen to him.”
Liam blinked like he’d been slapped.
Who knows what will happen to him. To Megan, too.
Thomas was right. The twins’ father, Stewart Van Helsburg, had loved Nathan and Megan more than life and constantly worried for their welfare.
Just like Stewart had cared about Liam’s welfare.
And the theater’s welfare.
Stewart had loved the old building as much as Liam did, if not more.
Liam paused, his mind churning. He observed the boy for a moment before his mouth spread into a wide grin. He clapped Thomas on the back. “You always know how to give me the good ideas.”
Liam hopped off his stool and parked himself in front of Nathan. He appraised him closer. Freckles. Straight red hair. Good bones and strong shoulders. No doubt he was popular with the ladies, but Liam crinkled his nose. Not only did he stink, it was sad to see him in such a pathetic state—and he was seventeen, drinking as a minor. He glanced back at the bar. The barkeep was gone.
Nathan’s head flopped to the side, taking Liam in. “You have a problem?” he slurred. “Cause if you do, I could take you. Try me.”
Liam coolly looked over the room. “Oh? I don’t doubt it. Listen, Nathan.” Liam set his elbows on the sticky table and leaned in close. “Can we go talk in private? Man to man? We have some things we need to discuss, but I think we should go get you cleaned up first. Is that alright?” He reached for Nathan’s arm.
“Bug off!” Nathan jumped up from his chair and it toppled over. Daggers shot from Nathan’s eyes and he swung the empty bottle toward Liam’s head.
Liam ducked, pushing his chair toward Nathan, circling back around to the bar. “We’ve got a fighter, Thomas!”
Thomas shook his head and stared back at his untouched glass.
Nathan teetered to the side, before bringing the bottle up and around, slicing it down toward Liam again.
Liam dodged, holding his hands out in front of him. “Whoa there, Nathan, I just want to talk to you about your father. We used to be good friends. I thought we could—”
“Don’t. Talk. About. My. Father!” Nathan took another try at Liam’s head.
“Do you not remember me?” Liam asked. “Your father and I. We—”
“Oh, I remember you.” Another swing, and Liam darted to the side.
The room remained indifferent to the fight, keeping to themselves, their conversations a low hum.
“Come on, Nathan. I just want to ask a few questions—”
“Leave me alone!”
Nathan took a jab at Liam’s gut, but he swayed to the side and rammed into a table. The bottle dropped from his hands, crashing to the floor, glass shattering everywhere. Nathan hung over the table, his face smashed into the wood.
Liam sighed, taking in the mess. Talking to Nathan wasn’t going to work. Not with him so intoxicated. He only needed to ask him a few questions, not to dismantle the boy. Liam’s eyes flicked to the corner of the room and his brows shot upward.
Nathan stumbled to his feet again before he charged, rushing forward, trying to take Liam down. Liam gave one last dodge and gripped Nathan by the shoulders, steadying him.
“Listen,” Liam said, “I don’t want to fight you. But I know who does.”
Nathan squinted, eyes clouded. “S’cuse me?”
“Hey, Don! It’s been awhile!”
The arm-wrestling match in the corner stopped. Don’s chiseled face popped up. “Mr. Liam! Un honor verte!”
“An honor to see you, too! Hey, this kid over here says you’ve got nothing on him! And that your pants are ridiculous.”
Nathan staggered back, frowning.
Don’s mustache twitched. The Spaniard rose from his chair, and his long legs and heavy boots carried him forward. He grabbed Nathan by the shirt and yanked him up close, their noses inches apart. Nathan’s head lolled backwards before it straightened.
“You,” Don said. “I’ve seen you around.” His eyes dropped to Liam. “Does he need a lesson? Theater style?”
Liam waved his hand. “He isn’t an appreciator of the arts like we are. And he did insult your pants.”
The Spaniard grinned and gave Liam a single nod. “Then I think”—he threw a fist in Nathan’s gut—“he needs”—another fist across his face—“a lesson.” Nathan grunted as Don shoved him to the floor. “I’m always happy to oblige.”
Another kick to Nathan’s face and he passed out.
“And the point of that was…?” Thomas called across the room without looking up from his glass.
Liam winked. “I’m saving my livelihood.”