The Calling Page 31

“My dad’s not Father of the Year material,” Daniel said. “But he isn’t evil. If our parents did know, then it’s like Rafe said about his mom—they agreed to this experiment because they honestly thought it was a good thing. Right or wrong, they didn’t mean to hurt us. I’m not as sure about the St. Clouds, but I still believe we can trust our parents.”

“So let’s go back to Salmon Creek,” I said. “Check it out. See if it’s safe to return. Agreed?”

They all nodded.

There was, however, one question still to be resolved. Should we try to find Nicole?

Daniel and Hayley voted no. I wanted to look for her. Corey wavered, and I could have swayed him, but Sam locked it up by voting to keep going. I think that surprised the others—voting against finding her cousin. It didn’t shock me, though. It fit pretty well with the image I had of Samantha Russo.

So I was outvoted, and we pushed on, hoping to find the road I’d seen from the ridge.

I wasn’t angry with Daniel for opposing me. I saw his point, too. We had no idea where to look for Nicole. She wasn’t at the cabin. We didn’t have the energy to go back over the mountain, to see if she’d still be there. I really doubted she was. Leaving her behind was just a really, really tough decision to make, and I admired him for having the courage to make it.


“CAN WE WALK ON ahead?” Daniel whispered after we’d set out.

I nodded and told the others we were going to scout a little and to just keep us in sight.

He moved to the side to let Kenjii take the lead. “So what did you read in that cabin?”

I told him what I’d deciphered from the handful of memos I’d found. And “deciphered” was the right word. While they weren’t written in secret code, they were intended to be read by people who already knew what was going on. There was no overt mention of benandanti or skin-walkers or supernatural powers of any kind. That meant I had to combine what I already knew with lots of guesswork.

The St. Clouds were a real corporation—I’d seen its subsidiary names on products and heard their corporation mentioned in the news. The same seemed to be true for the company that was after us—the Nasts. Piecing that together with the cryptic messages we’d found on Mina Lee’s answering machine, I deduced that these were two rival corporations: the Nasts and the St. Clouds.

It seemed that these companies were both staffed by supernaturals. A progress memo had said things like “Working on getting the Enwrights flown up. Their unique skills could be helpful in this search” and “A scent tracker would be a huge benefit. Would love to hire a ww on contract but company policy forbids. Meeting with Josef Nast today to discuss.”

Call me crazy, but I was going to bet theEnwrights’ unique skills weren’t an astounding ability to read wilderness signs. As for a supernatural scent tracker, I suspected “ww” meant werewolf—Sam had said such things really existed.

When Daniel and I had hacked onto his mother’s old computer, we’d found references to an experiment in Buffalo that had gone wrong. We’d thought it was another drug-testing venture. From another memo I’d read in the cabin, I now suspected something very different.

“Project Genesis,” Daniel said. “There was a Delaney on that list, too. And an Enwright, I think. Was it another branch of our experiment?”

“No, ours was referred to as Project Phoenix. Meaning they’re resurrecting extinct supernatural types, like Rafe said. It looked like the Nasts were concentrating on our group. The memo said they were leaving cleanup on Project Genesis to the St. Clouds, and they’d get involved later if it looked ‘profitable.’”

“Cleanup?” Daniel swore. “Not liking the sound of that.”

“Apparently the St. Clouds ‘lost control’ of some ‘assets’ and were searching for them.”

“In other words, the subjects took off.”

I nodded. “I think so. The only other thing I got from the memo was the name of the guy in charge of the Edison Group. Dr. Davidoff.”

“Davidoff…?” He swore again. Dr. Davidoff was the guy the St. Clouds sent for our annual checkup.

“He’s dead,” I said. “Like a bunch of other members of this Edison Group. Killed in an ‘incident’ last spring.”

“So I guess we know why he skipped the summer teleconference.”

I nodded. We walked in silence for a few minutes, then fell back in with the group.

We’d been walking for about thirty minutes when Daniel asked me to do another treetop check. I’d been avoiding it—really couldn’t afford to stumble into another pit of grief and regret right now—but that bird’s-eye view of the region was invaluable. Also, while I could gauge our direction by the sun and the foliage the others felt better if I climbed to “check.”

So I found a tree and scaled it. Yes, I thought about Rafe, but after that cabin visit there was so much else swirling around my head that I could push it aside.

Kenjii took up position at the bottom. A few minutes later, she stood and gave a chuff, meaning someone was coming. I peered down to see Sam approaching Kenjii warily, looking around for me. I considered ignoring her, but when Kenjii glanced up, Sam spotted me.

I climbed down to the lowest branch. She waited for me to jump to the ground. I didn’t, just said, “What’s up?”

“I wanted to talk to you.”

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