The Calling Page 24

I struggled to think of a way to finish that line. Daniel waited patiently.

“It… It’s about his sister,” I said. “Or it starts there. Kind of. Do you remember the tattoo artist? Her—”

The bang of a screen door made us both jump. Footsteps thumped on wood. Then the woman stepped off the front porch and strode to the ATV.

“I guess I have to wait a little longer to hear the rest,” Daniel said.

When the woman disappeared on the ATV, we headed for the cabin.

The interior looked like I expected. Two rooms—a main one and a tiny bedroom. Dusty stuffed fish and moth-eaten elk heads on bare walls. A wood plank floor that seemed as if it hadn’t been swept in years. Cobwebs decorating the ceiling. Furniture that would have been rejected by Goodwill. Mouse droppings everywhere. A few dark furry bat forms hung from the upper eaves. In the city, the place would have been condemned as a public health hazard. Here, it was just a typical hunting shack.

As we searched for food, I found the file the woman had been reading. It was tucked in a cupboard. When I picked it up, Daniel shook his head.

“We can’t take anything like that. Risky enough stealing food. They’ll definitely notice if their papers are missing.” He walked over. “Are they … about us?”

I showed him the top one, a topographical map of the island. Beneath it was a list with all our names on it.

“Okay, read fast,” he said. “I’ll find food.”

I skimmed the document. More than once I had to slow down, not sure I was understanding. I forced myself to keep going, assimilating as much as I could while jotting down names and phrases on a pad of paper left on the table.

Daniel came back. “Got nuts and granola bars, drink boxes, and two bottles of water. We can refill the bottles at streams. I could take more, but then it’d definitely be noticed.”

“That’s good. Just give me a sec to finish—”

Footsteps thumped on the front porch. Daniel grabbed the papers from my hand. As he put them back, I dashed into the bedroom. There wasn’t a closet. I dove under the bed.

I doubt anyone had cleaned under there since it was moved into the room, and maybe not even before that. The inch-thick dust I could live with. It was the mouse droppings and used tissues that would have sent me scurrying for another place. But there wasn’t time. Daniel dove in behind me, and we lay with our heads near the foot of the bed, so we could peer out the doorway.

I watched boots walk in—expensive hiking boots and a few inches of denim pant legs. One person. Male. He let the door swing shut behind him, and headed straight for the cooler. He popped open what sounded like a beer bottle, and chugged the contents.

As he drank, he wandered, the thump of his boots punctuated by the tap-tap of texting. Then hegrunted.

“Damned hellhole,” he muttered. “Oh, sure, there’ll be cell service. Right. The only thing this island has is mosquitoes.”

Our mosquitoes weren’t bad at all—I only had a bite or two after a day in the woods. He was just being cranky. It sounded like the same man who’d hit the deer, and obviously, his mood hadn’t improved. He muttered some more as he tried to text again, then picked up the radio, hit a button, and complained to someone on the other end.

“If it’s an urgent message, I can relay it to headquarters,” said the man on the other end. “But I have a feeling it’s not urgent, Moreno.”

“No? You don’t know Sheila. If I don’t call her by tonight, she’ll be throwing my things out of the apartment window, sure I’m shacking up with some girl in Vancouver.”

“I’ll let you call her on the satellite phone later, okay? If you get your ass back out here.”

“Yeah, yeah. I was just grabbing some water.”

He disconnected. We waited for him to go. And waited. Apparently, he wasn’t done drinking his “water.” At least five minutes passed before he finally made his way toward the door.

He got the door open, then came back and rustled around in the pantry. A pause. Then “huh.” I knew Daniel had been careful about putting everything back the way he found it. Daniel was always careful.

The guy grabbed a granola bar, wrapper crinkling as he ripped it open. He munched it on the way to the door. We watched his boots as he hesitated. He turned, as if looking around the cottage. Then he took another bite, and chewing loudly, headed out.

“He made us,” Daniel whispered as he shot from under the bed.

I scrambled after him. “What?”

“He knows we’re here.”

“Are you sure?”

Daniel was already at the door, throwing it open and charging through.


BY THE TIME I caught up, the man was facedown with Daniel on his back, as if he’d knocked him flying clear off the porch. Knocked the radio from his hand, too. It lay a few feet from the man’s outstretched fingers.

“Moreno?” The other man’s voice came over the radio. “What’s up now?”

The man—Moreno—lifted his head to answer. Daniel slammed his face into the ground so hard I winced.

A moment of silence, then the other man sighed and disconnected.

“Guess you made one too many unnecessary calls,” Daniel said.

“No,” Moreno said. “He realized I’m in trouble. He’s coming.”

I glanced at Daniel, but he shook his head. The man was bluffing. He motioned for me to stand watch, though, just in case.

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