|Author|| Kathy Reichs
|Publication date||January 2016|
| Preceded by|
| Followed by|
Trace Evidence is the unofficial, sixth installment of the Virals series, written by American forensic anthropologist, Kathy Reichs and her son Brendan Reichs. Trace Evidence includes the three short stories originally published as eSpecials, as well as the all-new, never-before-seen Virals adventure Spike, set after the events of the last full-length book, Terminal.
Fourteen-year-old Victoria Brennan has found herself in an airport, in semitropical South Carolina, in mid-November, briefly after her mother passed away in a car accident. She has come all the way from Westborough Massachusetts, meaning that she is roughly 940 miles away from her previous home. She is waiting on Christopher "Kit" Howard, her father, whom she has never met, to pick her up. Eventually, he arrives and is very, very nervous. After briefly making a fool of himself, Kit gets Tory's two bags into the vehicle and takes her all the way to Morris Island, in the Lowcountry. Tory questions Kit's living situation at first, but once glance at the ocean makes her reconsider. As she admires it, she meets Whitney DuBois, Kit's ditzy girlfriend. Her mood is instantly soured by the woman, though she is relieved to find that Whitney does not live with them on the island. Once inside, she goes up to her new bedroom to get settled in, and charge her phone, then heads out to go on a jog around the island. She weaves past Whitney's offer to have Kit follow her, and heads out on her own. As she's jogging, she begins to hear a couple voices, and see's three boys huddled beside a tide pool. A heavy-set kid, wearing a red and blue Hawaiian shirt and clashing orange shorts, a short, skinny black kid with thick glasses, and a boy with shoulder-length black hair, a deep, dark tan, and no shirt. She watches for a moment, then realizes what they're poking at. Seeing as it's a loggerhead sea turtle, she yells at them to stop and comes in to aid them. She finds that it's got a silver hook in its flipper, which is why it hasn't moved. All of the boys are extremely confused when Tory mentions that she is Kit's daughter since they have never seen nor heard of her before. Tory promises to explain later. Ben runs down the beach to go fetch Kit since Tory forgot her phone and nobody has his number. While Ben is gone, Tory removes the hook from the turtle's right forelimb. When Kit arrives, he scolds Tory for removing it, as it's incredibly dangerous, but he lets it slide, places a LIRI prototype on its shell, to monitor the turtle's movements, and heads back home, leaving Tory to get to know the boys.
Tory explains to the boys that her mom passed away in a car accident and that she didn't know Kit until after it happened. As a result, she moved down to Charleston to live with him, and will now be attending Bolton Preparatory with the boys. She doesn't reveal her age, as she hates being the baby of every circle. The three boys explain that while Bolton Preparatory Academy is one of the finest academic institutions in the country, the students that attend them are, in Ben's words, "a bunch of trust fund jackasses". In return, the boys introduce themselves. The boy with long hair is Benjamin Blue, the heavyset kid is Hiram Stolowitski, and the one with glasses is Shelton Devers. Ben's father, Tom Blue, owns a boat named Hugo, which will be taking them to school each morning. Following their brief introduction, Ben throws a frisbee at Hi, but misses and nearly hits Tory in the face. He retrieves it, and this time hits Hi right between his shoulder blades. Hi throws it back, but it gets caught in an updraft and flies inland. Tory challenges Ben to find the frisbee, and he takes the bait and goes with it. The group spends a while looking about, with Hi mentions that if you challenge Ben to do anything, then he'll do it. Eventually, Hi spots the Frisbee 20 feet away, hanging on a bush. A slash of darkness in the lime-green hillside catches Tory's eye, and upon closer inspection, it turns out to be an old, forgotten Civil War bunker.
Despite the boys being cautious, Tory decides to crawl through the small opening and finds herself in a chamber the size of a classroom. The walls consist of squared timbers riveted together, with the ceiling at least ten feet high. A low door is cut into the left-hand wall, leading deeper into the hill. On the opposite side of the entrance, is a wide rectangular window, carved through solid rock. A bench runs beneath it, splintered and covered in bird droppings at the moment. When Tory looks out, she can clearly see the Charleston Harbor. The window is halfway up a cliff that drops into a rocky cove below. A wooden shelf overhangs the window, faced with stone and shielding the chamber from the sunlight, and the view of outsiders.
Ben frightens Tory when he comments on the view, having come in when they didn't hear a response from her. They call the boys in, and soon, they're all inside of the bunker. Hi wanders over to the second opening and peers inside. Moments after he squeezes through, they hear a loud crash. Ben finds Hi lying atop a pile of scrap wood. He goes to help the kid up, and as he does, something tumbles off behind Hi. She shouts for them to stop, and has Ben redirect his flashlight across the room, halting into an inky void. Ben shifts backward, making the entire pile shift. Hi panics, despite Tory's attempts to keep them calm, and dives towards Ben's extended hand. The wood disappears down the hole, but Ben manages to yank Hi back from it.
Following their experience, Shelton asks who they should report their finding to, but Ben asks why they should tell anyone. Hi agrees, saying that the bunker would make for a "badass clubhouse". He begins to ramble, and Tory asks if they're really 'super best friends'. The teenagers put their hands into a circle, and let out a garbled cheer, sealing their friendship. Then, the boys decide to introduce Tory to Loggerhead Island.