The Calling Page 33

“Okay,” I said. “I guess I can believe that Nicole doped me, if she just thought it would ‘encourage’ me to get with Rafe. But killing Serena? Trying to kill me? Over a guy?”

“Have you forgotten how she acted after the crash? How she ranted about you and Daniel?”

“Her father had just died.”

“So it did seem out of character to you. Right? Not a side of Nicole you’ve ever seen? Well, I’ve seen it. I saw it when I first moved in with the Tillsons. She was used to being an only child and all of a sudden, she wasn’t. She started stealing things and blaming me. Spiked my orange juice once, hoping I’d go to school drunk. I couldn’t prove any of it until I found her planting clinic meds in my room. I caught her off guard and she lashed out and it was just the kind of paranoid talk you heard after the crash—how I was stealing her parents, how I’d probably killed mine. Ugly, crazy talk. Then, a couple of hours later, she came into my room crying, saying she was stressed out over exams and she’d been taking cold medicine and she didn’t know what happened to make her act like that, but she was really, really sorry.”

“And you believed her.”

“Of course I did. She was totally freaked out. I started thinking she wasn’t responsible for the missing stuff, that I’d made a mistake about vodka in my OJ. Sure, she’d planted the drugs, but you know how stressed she got over exams. Add cold medicine and it could push her over the edge. So I let it go. But I’ve caught glimpses of that Nicole a few times since. I don’t know what’s wrong with her, Maya. Maybe it’s mental illness. Maybe it’s whatever drugs they have her on. Maybe it’s a side effect of the experimental stuff. But she’s not stable. That’s why…”

She took a deep breath. “That’s why I didn’t want to go back for her. I feel bad about it, but … we can’t. She’s dangerous.”

Kenjii perked up. She looked to the left, then tore off.

“Daniel’s coming,” I said. I thought fast. “We can’t tell him.”

“He should know.”

“What? That we suspect Nicole killed Serena? That she tried to kill me? Over him? She’s gone, so I’m safe. He’s safe. And if he thinks Serena died because of an accidental drug side effect, then I’m going to let him keep thinking that as long as possible.”

She paused, then nodded. “Okay, you’re right.”

Daniel appeared, Kenjii at his side. He looked from me to Sam.

“All clear,” I said. “Sam and I were just discussing what her parents told her. About everything.”

I looked at Sam. She hesitated, then nodded. “Right. You should know, too. It’s not much but … you should know.”

Daniel nodded, then said to me, “Did you see anything?”

I shook myhead. “I could see a lot better from the hilltop. We’re still heading in the right direction, but I couldn’t spot the road.”

“Let’s keep going then. Sam? Talk and walk.”

Sam’s story was similar to Rafe’s. Like his mother, her parents had left the experiment. In her case, though, that had always been the plan. Many of the parents hadn’t been real couples. To ensure the best results, the scientists had performed in vitro fertilization using men and women who both carried the latent genes. But Sam’s parents met during the initial screening process, and fell in love. Neither of them had any interest in living as experimental subjects—they just wanted their child to be a benandanti. So they played along up to the point where Sam was conceived and her DNA was modified to reactivate the gene. Then they bailed.

As Rafe’s mom and mine found out, though, the St. Clouds weren’t willing to let them go.

“Resurrecting extinct supernatural types isn’t a public service,” Sam said. “The St. Clouds run a business. They hire supernaturals and that’s how they get the advantage on human corporations, though they still have to compete with the other Cabals.”

Daniel nodded. “The guy who left a message on Mina Lee’s answering machine said something about double-crossing a Cabal and paying the price. So that’s what these corporations are called?”

Sam didn’t respond.

“Right,” I said. “So it’s a big secret and you’re not going to confirm. Now move on.”

“There’s no secret, I guess,” Sam said slowly. “Only…” She turned to face us. “You guys probably feel like you got ripped off. Lied to. Betrayed. But I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing. Imagine being four years old and moving to a new town, being told that now you have a new last name and you can’t tell anyone the old one. Then you’re five and you’re moving again, and you have another name, and the other kids go to school, but you can’t. Then you’re six and you move, and you’re talking to a nice lady at the park and she calls you by your old name and you forget you aren’t supposed to answer to it. She tries to take you, but your parents stop her, then your dad goes after her, and you aren’t sure what he did to her, but you’re pretty sure it was bad. And that night you’re in a hotel, with all your toys left behind, and you hear your mom crying about how they almost lost you, and you know you can’t ever, ever slip up again.”

She surveyed our faces. “Try living like that, and I bet you’d become really careful about everything you say, too. I bet you’ll think that maybe, just maybe, growing up in a nice town, with everything you ever wanted, isn’t such a terrible thing. Maybe you’ll think the lies weren’t so bad.”

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