The Calling Page 51

“Nanaimo, I’ll bet.” She said it the same way people in Nanaimo would say Vancouver, with a sneer that said nothing good came from the big city. “Maybe Victoria.” She peered at us. “Probably Victoria. Only rich kids can afford to mess up nice clothes like that. Private school, I’ll bet. You talk like you come from a private school.”

“We do.” I jabbed my finger at the paper. “Salmon Creek School. Privately owned by the St. Cloud Corporation. Our teacher’s name is Mrs. Morris. She’s the mother of Hayley, one of the girls they said died. There are thirteen kids in our class, which covers grades eleven and twelve. We’re in eleven. Look, do you have a computer? I can show you Maya Delaney’s Facebook page. Which has my photo on it. I’ll have to use my password to access it because all my details are set to private. That should prove it’s mine.”

“You kids these days are too smart for your own good,” the server said. “I’m sure you’ve got Facebook pages set up for this scheme.”

“What scheme?” Sam said, her voice rising. “What possible motivation could we have to do this?”

“Attention.” The server crossed her arms. “I bet you’ve got friends out there taping us. Make fun of the locals. Post the videos on YouTunes.”

“YouTube,” Sam muttered.

“See?” She shook her head. “Spoiled brats. You aren’t even thinking about these poor kids and how their parents must be feeling.”

“Yes.” I met her gaze. “I am thinking about how my parents are feeling. They think they just lost their only child. I need them to know that I’m alive.”

I glanced at the lone customer. He looked away quickly and focused on his lunch.

I turned back to the server. “If I can just use your phone—”

“Why? To call your friends to come and get you? Better get walking, girl. It’s a long way to town.”

She kicked us out after that. There was nothing we could do, nothing we could say. She knew the story—those kids had died in a crash on the other end of the island. DNA said it was the missing kids and everyone who watched CSI knew DNA never lied.

“It’s official,” Sam said as we walked out. “We’re screwed. The universe is conspiring to destroy us.”

“If it was, I think it could have managed that a few times by now.”

“Ah, but that’s the trick. You cheat death, it keeps trying. Didn’t you see that movie?”

“All of them, actually. Serena loved—” A brief pause. “She loved horror movies.”

“Did she? I’d have thought her more the romance type.”


I glanced back to see the man from the restaurant.I slowed to let him catch up.

He was a little older than I’d first thought. Maybe forty. Sandy brown hair. Short beard. Golf shirt. Trousers. Loafers. He looked like a schoolteacher.

“I’m sorry about what happened in there,” he said. “I don’t know anything about that helicopter crash—I’m on vacation with my family, and haven’t been reading the papers. But I’ve got a girl about your age, and I can’t imagine her going to all this trouble to pull a prank. Even if she did…” He shrugged. “Kids do silly things sometimes. No excuse to strand them in the middle of a forest.”

I noticed Daniel and Corey circling around by the trees and subtly motioned for them to wait.

“Thanks,” I said. “We really just need to call our parents. If I could borrow your cell phone, that would be great.” I pulled out the twenty. “I know it might be an expensive call, but this should cover it.”

“No, no.” He waved the money away. “You make that call and you take as long as you like.” He reached into his pocket and came out empty. “Huh. My phone must have fallen out in the truck. Just a sec.”

He walked to the pickup. We waited. A couple of minutes later, he came back shaking his head.

“Phone not there?” I called.

“No. It’s the damnedest thing because my wife made sure I brought it. I hope it didn’t fall out when I was getting gas.”

“Can you do us a favor then?” I said. “Talk to the server and get her to let us use hers? I can pay, like I said.”

He shook his head. “I already tried putting in a good word for you. She’s having none of it. I’ll have to give you girls a lift into town.”

On Vancouver Island, hitchhiking is considered a perfectly feasible way to travel, prohibited only on the highway, where you could get hit. In Salmon Creek, though, we got stranger-danger classes from kindergarten. Ours were probably a little different from most—we were taught that anyone in Salmon Creek could be trusted; it was the rest of the world we needed to watch out for.

Some kids did start hitching rides into town when they hit that awkward “old enough to hang out in Nanaimo but not old enough to drive there” stage. If I’d tried it, I’m not sure who would have killed me first—my parents or Daniel.

I didn’t trust this guy. I didn’t like his story about the cell phone. I didn’t like his excuse for not helping us with the server. Even if I totally believed him, I wouldn’t have gotten in the truck. So why was I considering it?

Because he had a truck. And we needed it, and if he did turn out to be a creep, even Daniel wouldn’t argue about abandoning him by the roadside.

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