The Calling Page 4

“I know you are. How do we get her down? We’re over the strait now. Does that help? Water?”

“I don’t think so. I need open ground. Just a small piece, but I can’t find any. It’s all trees and—”

“What about that island?”

Daniel pointed to one of the many small islands dotting the strait below us. It was partially bare, as if the owner had cleared it for building.

“I—I can try,” Sam said.

From most people, the hesitation would be expected. From Sam—the girl who was afraid of nothing—it meant our chances were slim. But what choice did we have? Nicole was trying to rouse her dad. Hayley was doing the same with the pilot. I took the headset and got on the radio again. No one was responding. So either we tried to land or we kept flying until Sam lost control and we plunged into the strait.

“You can do this, Sam,” Daniel said. “You know you can.”

He kept reassuring her as I worked on the radio. Why wasn’t anyone answering? The pilot had been talking to someone just before he collapsed.

Or had he? Even if he had, I realized it was probably whoever he worked for. Whoever told him to drug the mayor and fly us off course.

And who was that? Who would do that? The same people who’d chased us through the blazing woods?

“You’re doing great,” Daniel said to Sam as treetops came into view. “Hell, I could jump out from here.”

“You might want to do that,” she said shakily.

“Tell you what,” Daniel said. “Take her lower, and if you don’t think you can set her down, everyone will jump. Everyone except you and me. Okay?”

She nodded.

“And it’s not like landing a plane, right?” he continued. “You just set her down, nice and—”

A yelp from Hayley cut him short. I wheeled to see the pilot shoving her aside as he started for us.

Hayley screamed, then said, “He burned me! Oh my God.”

I could actually smell burned fabric, and there was a brown patch on her shirt. As the pilot lurched forward, I swore his eyes glowed.

“Hey!” Daniel said. “Hold on!”

The pilot yanked Sam out of the seat and slid in.

“Just put her down here,” Daniel said. “We lost—”

The pilot pulled up on the control stick and the helicopter started to climb. Too fast though, lurching sideways. The helicopter spun. A treetop passed the windshield. Nicole shrieked.

The helicopter dropped. The pilot swore and reached for something—

The tail hit the tree. Metal crunched as everyone went flying.

“Seat belts!” Daniel shouted as the helicopter lurched.

I heard Corey yell, “Holy hell!” and looked back to see a hole in the tail end of the helicopter.

Daniel yanked me onto his lap, and managed to get the belt over both of us.


She stumbled to me and I grabbed her with both arms, wrapping them around her as tight as I could.

I heard Nicole yell, “Dad!”

And then we hit.


THE HELICOPTER LANDED NOSE down and tilted onto its side. My head cracked against Daniel’s and I must have lost consciousness for a moment, because next thing I knew, water was flooding in.

The helicopter creaked as it teetered, and I knew we must be perched on an underwater ledge … over what could be a very deep body of water.

I twisted to tell Daniel, but he was already pushing me toward the other side, saying, “I know.” Then, “Everyone! Get over there!”

I glanced back to see Nicole and Sam sitting there, just staring. Corey bent over Hayley, then picked her up. She lay like a rag doll in his arms.

“She’s okay,” he said. “Just unconscious.”

“Dad!” Nicole shrieked.

I turned toward the front seat. The pilot was dead. He’d gone out the windshield, and was now draped over the crumpled front of the helicopter. Tendrils of blood snaked through the water all around him.

Mayor Tillson still wore his seat belt, but he was wedged in, the crushed dashboard pinning his big chest. Blood dribbled from his mouth.

I pressed my fingers to his neck. No pulse.

“He’s—” I began.

“No, he’s not!” Nicole shoved me so hard the helicopter rocked.

“Let’s get him out of there.” Daniel looked for Corey, who was still holding Hayley. “Sam? Give me a hand? Nic and Maya, stay over by the door with Kenjii and keep that side weighed down.”

Sam and Daniel grabbed the mayor under his armpits and pulled, but he wasn’t budging, and with every wrench, the helicopter rocked. Daniel bent to peer under the crushed cockpit, and Sam checked her uncle for a pulse. When Daniel came back up, shaking his head, she shook hers, too, biting her lip and blinking hard.

Daniel turned to Nicole. “He’s gone, Nic. There’s nothing—”

“No, he’s not!” she shouted. “You’re only saying that because Maya did. You always listen to her.”

Everyone stopped and stared. Sweet, quiet Nicole stood there, her face twisted with rage, hair coming loose from her ponytail, spiking around her face, her mascara running.

I moved up to Daniel and Sam and whispered, “She’s in shock. Let me see if I can get his legs free.”

“There’s no use,” Sam said. “He’s—”

My look shushed her. I squeezed in as far as I could to get a better look, but the slightest movement made the helicopter rock.

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