The Calling Page 54

Corey jogged up. “Guy sent Daniel flying when he pulled away. We tried waving and yelling, just to get him to stop, but he didn’t hear us. Luckily, we saw where he turned. Took us awhile to get here, though.”

“I screwed up,” I said. “I’m sorry.”

“You got the truck,” Corey said. “Seems like it worked to me.”

“Yes, please make her stop,” Sam called from the truck. “She’s been apologizing since we got away and it’s really getting on my nerves.”

“Sam was shot,” I said, lowering my voice. “I really screwed—”

“Make her stop!” Sam yelled. “I got shot a little. He got shot worse. We now have a truck. Mission accomplished. It was your plan, Maya, but we all agreed to it. Stopping to whine is only going to get us nabbed by the cops when that bastard calls 911.”

“I wasn’t whining,” I said.

“Close enough.”

Daniel took the driver’s seat. Corey and I got in the back with Kenjii. I directed Daniel to take the next side road, where it would be safer for us to stop so I could get out and take a better look at Sam’s injuries.

The bullet had gone clean through her calf muscle, missing the bone. The bleeding had stopped and I could remove the tourniquet. I cleaned the wound as best I could, then bound it with bandages from the glove box first aid kit. I wanted to find a town and a drugstore, clean and dress it properly, but Sam refused. We were only a couple of hours from Salmon Creek. Plenty of supplies there.

So we went home. God, it felt good to say that. After three days of hell, home was so close it was almost surreal.

Except we couldn’t actually just drive into town, because there was a very good chance the Nasts had Salmon Creek staked out. Or the St. Clouds could also be there. That meant we had to get to someone’s house without cruising down Main Street. So we took the long way in, circling around the north and coming in from the west.

I wanted to go home. To my park. To my parents. Maybe I was being selfish, but I thought they’d be our safest point of contact. The others agreed, but there was no way to drive into the park without going down Main Street. Any other route was a few kilometers’ hike and Sam couldn’t do that. I wasn’t sure any of us could.

The next best bet was Corey’s mom. She was the sheriff, and had raised Corey and his brother, Travis, alone after his dad died. His father had worked in the lab, though. Had he been the one who’d signed on to the experiment? Had Corey’s mother been left in the dark, like Daniel’s dad? We didn’t know, but I trusted her enough to go there. The others did, too, which, considering my recent track record with character judgment, was more reassuring.

Corey lived in what we jokingly called “the burbs,” which meant that hishouse was on the outskirts of town. The forest edged the property, so we could park elsewhere, then sneak up.

“Guess Mom’s taking the day off,” Corey said as we drew close enough to see the sheriff’s SUV in the drive.

“Considering she thinks you’re dead, I’d imagine she’s taking a lot of days off,” I said.

He paused at that, as if it was the first time he’d really thought it through. Everyone believed we were dead. His mother and his brother, Travis, would be in there, grieving…

“Let’s get inside,” he said.

We went through the backyard. The house looked fine, as did the ones around it. The fire had obviously been stopped or diverted before it reached town.

Travis was allergic to dogs, so I put Kenjii in the garage with a bucket of water filled at the tap. In the meantime, Corey tried the back door, but it was locked. He didn’t want to knock, so he retrieved the house key and opened the door.

When I followed him in, the smells of the house wrapped around me. My arms started to tremble and at first I thought it was the change starting again, but then I realized it was relief.

We were safe. Finally safe.

I followed Corey into the living room. When I looked at the sofa, I wanted to throw myself on it. Sprawl across the cushions and turn on the TV. Curl up and watch the flickering images until I fell into a deep sleep.

I’ve never actually done such a thing in my life. Sure, I watch TV. But we don’t have one at my house and I’d never felt the lack, because I don’t like being cooped up inside.

Now, after three days in the forest, that human part of me was sick of trees and streams and forest paths. It wanted a sofa and a TV and a shower. God, it really wanted a shower.

“Mom?” Corey called. He cut himself short and swore. “I probably shouldn’t do that. Scare the crap out of her.” He took a step toward the kitchen, then paused. “Or maybe I should yell. Warn her before her dead son appears from nowhere.” He glanced at us. “Arghh! I’m overanalyzing. When this is over, I need a long break from you guys.”

“And we’ll need one from you,” Sam said.

“Just relax,” I said. “Call her. Find her. It doesn’t matter. You’re about to give her the best heart attack of her life.”

He grinned. “Right.”

He took off, jogging through the house, calling for his mom. Sam started to follow, then saw we weren’t and realized this was a moment we should leave to Corey.

I collapsed onto the sofa with a sigh. Daniel plunked down beside me, then twisted to stretch out, legs going over mine.

“Oh my God,” I said, shoving his feet off my lap. “Do you know how bad those smell?”

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