The Calling Page 40

“Then twenty minutes more,” Daniel said. “To be sure.”

When it finally seemed as if anyone searching for us had to be gone, I told Corey to check his watch. He was just doing that when I heard the sound of the front doorbells.

Footsteps followed. Still only one set. Again they circled the shop.

“Definitely empty,” Moreno said. “They’ve got to be out there.”

A voice came through his radio. Then the door bells jangled again.

“They’re trying to use the dog.” It was Antone. “But she’s not cooperating. She just lays down and growls at anyone who touches her.”

Good girl.

“Well, there’s no one in here,” Moreno said. “What we really need is the Enwright witch’s sensing spell and a werewolf tracker.”

“Preaching to the choir, buddy. I’ve been hounding head office for two days now. They finally agreed to send the witch. No chance on a werewolf, though.”

The door to the back room opened.

“What have we here?” Moreno murmured. A creak as he opened the trapdoor. Light filtered past the stacked boxes.

“Got something?” Antone called.

“Nah, just storage for the booze.”

“Well, check it out.”

Moreno chuckled. “Happy to, boss.”

We held our breath as he pushed aside a beer case. I glanced over at Daniel. He had his eyes closed. Sweat shone on his forehead. His lips moved as he tried to mentally persuade Moreno that he’d looked hard enough.

Let it work. Please let it work.

Moreno hesitated. Then he backed out and yelled. “Just boxes. You want a beer?”

I didn’t hear what Antone said, but Moreno laughed and let the trapdoor fall shut. The bells over the door jangled a few minutes later. Daniel checked his watch. After twenty minutes, he helped me crawl forward, open the hatch, and listen.

“Nothing,” I whispered.

“Give it another five minutes.”

We did. Then I insisted on going first to check. I crept to one of the broken front windows, listened hard, then peered out.

The yard looked empty. I checked the side window. Same thing. I glanced back toward the storage room.

Hayley had made her sacrifice. Time for me to do the same.

I went out the side door. Looked around. Circled the building. Nothing. I took a deep breath and walked to the road, shoulders up, gaze forward, tensing for the first shout. Or the first shot.

When nothing happened, I looked around for Kenjii. Even whistled softly. They’d taken her. I pushed down a stab of panic. She’d be fine. If that man wanted to prove he was on my side, he’d take good care of my dog.

I looked both ways along the road. Empty.

When I went back into the store, Daniel was out of the crawlspace.

“All clear,” I said as I walked in.

“You shouldn’t have gone outside.”

“Yes, I should have. Better one gets caught than all of us. That’s how it has to be from now on. As long as one gets home, we all have a chance.”

He nodded. I gathered supplies from the store as he got the others. I took two incredibly overpriced backpacks, too. And, no, I didn’t pay for them. Daniel didn’t mention it, either.

It was one thing to worry about that when we thought we were nearly to safety, but another when it looked like we still had a very long journey ahead of us.

We hadn’t talked about Hayley yet, or what we planned to do. For now, we just needed to put some distance between us and the store, in case they returned.

As we walked, I pulled out the newspaper I’d found.

“Getting caught up on current events?” Sam asked.

“No,” Corey said. “She’s doing her research for that essay we have due next week. You know Maya. Escaping a forest fire, helicopter crash, and crazed would-be kidnappers is no reason to ask for an extension.”

“I’m sure she brought it for fire-starter, guys.” Daniel glanced over. “Maya…”

My gaze was glued to the article as I read. When I tripped over a fallen branch, Daniel grabbed my arm and steered me to the side. Then he read the headline over my shoulder.

“Is that…?”

I nodded. I tried to explain, but the words wouldn’t come. I handed him the paper. He finished reading it.

“That’s not…?” he murmured when he finished. “How…?”

“Okay, what gives?” Corey said. “Personally, I wouldn’t care if the U.S. declared war on Canada. Doesn’t seem relevant under the circumstances.”

“This is relevant.” I passed the paper to him and Sam.

They read the first few lines.

“How can they…?” Sam began. “That’s not possible.”

“Well, apparently, it is,” I said. “They lost contact with our helicopter shortly after takeoff. Our flight disappeared. Search crews found the wreck last night.”

“South of Vancouver Island?” Corey said. “Okay, my sense of location can be a little screwy, but that’s not where we went down.”

“It was found by a private search party,” I said. “Hired by our parents’ employer. Someone retrieved enough wreckage to move there and convince people that’s where we went down. They recovered the bodies of the pilot and Mayor Tillson.”

“I get that. But this?” Sam jabbed her finger at the middle of the article. “This is not possible.”

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