The Calling Page 50

“How far?” Corey asked.

“He didn’t say,” I lied. “But it can’t be too far.”

Daniel glanced at me, then nodded.


TWENTY KILOMETERS IS INDEED “too far” when you’re ready to drop already. “I should have listened to Corey,” Daniel said. “I was so sure I could convince that guy. It’s worked until now.”

“Not on Moreno,” I said.

“Sure it did.”

“At the store, yes, but we couldn’t get him talking earlier. Obviously it’s not going to be a foolproof power or you’d have the ability to make anyone do anything. My guess is that they have to want to already. The woman at the tattoo studio wanted to get rid of us. Moreno wanted to skip searching a filthy crawlspace. That old guy really didn’t want to help us.”

“In other words, don’t rely on special powers.”

“Same way I’m not going to let you run in front of a moving van even if I have healing abilities.”

“Okay, so—”

Corey—who’d been walking ahead with Sam—let out a whistle. He gestured to a tractor trailer, pulling out of what looked like a parking lot.

We jogged up to Corey and Sam.

“Please don’t be closed for the season,” Corey murmured as we picked up speed. “Please don’t be staffed by witches and demons, lying in wait for us. Please, please, please, just give us a break.”

As we approached, we saw the sign. REDWOOD MOTEL AND RESTAURANT. There were three vehicles in the lot—two cars off to the far side and a pickup with a topper in front of the restaurant doors.

“This is good,” Corey said. “Tell me this is good.”

“People. Phones. Food.” I grinned over at him. “Yep, this is good.”

Daniel caught Corey’s arm. “We should let the girls handle this.”

“Huh?” Corey said. “We just need to make a phone call, right? Hell, I’ll give them my other twenty to cover it.”

“I just… I think we should hang back. We’re in rough shape. That guy with the van was worried about me, not Maya.”

Corey sighed. “Fine. For once, you’ve earned the right to paranoia. Go get ’em, girls.” He passed me the twenty. “Just in case.”

I told Sam we should go through the side door and slip into the bathroom to clean up before we talked to anyone. The side door actually led into the motel office, but no one was at the desk. A sign referred customers to the restaurant for service. A glass door separated the two. Through it, I could see the bathrooms at the rear. I was waiting for the server—a blond woman about my mom’s age—to turn her back when I caught sight of a newspaper on the motel office counter. One look atthe lower headline and I realized I could use it, which meant cleaning up wasn’t the right move.

I picked up the newspaper and walked into the restaurant. The server looked up, as did the sole patron—a guy about thirty-five.

“Can I … help you?” the server said, gaze traveling over our dirty clothes.

“I hope so.” I set the paper on the table she was resetting and pointed to the headline: MISSING ISLAND TEENS DEAD. “That’s us.”

The woman glanced at the paper, then at us. Her lips tightened. “That isn’t funny, girls.”

“I’m not joking.”

“Those poor kids are dead and—”

“No, they’re not. Someone made a mistake. I’m Maya Delaney. This is Samantha Russo. Our helicopter went down off the northeastern coast. We’ve been walking through the woods for three days.” I gestured at my clothes. “As you can see.”

“You can’t be—”

“That’s our names right there,” I said, pointing at the list in the paper.

“Prove it.”

“Our helicopter crashed in the ocean, lady,” Sam said. She pulled sodden rectangles from her pocket and dropped them on the table. “That’s my ID.”

I opened the paper to an inner page where the piece continued. There were photos of two missing kids. Rafe and Nicole.

“How the hell did they get Rafe’s picture?” Sam muttered.

“Those aren’t us,” I said.

“Convenient,” the server muttered.

It wasn’t convenient. It was intentional. Submit photos of the kids they knew weren’t wandering around the forest.

There was a class picture at the bottom of the article. It was tiny and blurred, although my copy at home was perfect.

“We’re in this one.” I pointed to the class shot. “That’s me, and that’s Sam over there.”

“I think that’s Bryan,” Sam said.

“Is it?” I squinted. “Maybe…”

It was impossible to tell, really. I wouldn’t even be sure which one was me if I didn’t recognize my tie-dyed shirt.

“Okay,” I said. “Our pictures might not be recognizable, but come on. Why would we lie about it?”

“Same reason my own kids lie,” the server said. “To get attention.”

“Seriously?” Sam said. “We’re going to hatch this elaborate scheme, and launch it in your crappy little—?”

I stepped on Sam’s foot.

“We’re dirty,” I said. “We’re exhausted. Look outside. We didn’t come in a car. So how did we get here? Where did we come from?”

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