The Calling Page 59

Daniel grabbed my shoulder and turned me around.

A snarl, louder now, and I glanced over to see the dogs watching us. Two more came running from between the buildings.

“Holy hell,” Corey whispered.

“Can we go now?” Daniel said.

Corey nodded and turned to run, but Daniel stopped him.

“Slowly,” I said. “Don’t turn your back on them. Canines are all about dominance. You run, they’ll chase. Back away slowly. Stay together.”

We did that. One of the dogs started toward us. Another took a tentative step.

“And if they attack anyway?” Corey whispered.

“Then we run.”

The two dogs took a few more steps our way. Then the smallest one dove for the bloody bundle of fur, snatched it up, and raced off. The other three tore after it. We breathed sighs of relief and hightailed it back to Corey’s house.

After we told Sam what we’d found, Daniel said, “They’re clearing out the town.”

“That doesn’t make sense,” she said.

“Doesn’t it?” I said. “The Nasts know about the experiment, so Salmon Creek isn’t a secret anymore. Between the fire and the crash, the St. Clouds have an excuse for pulling up stakes.”

“So now what?” Corey said. “No one’s here. We have no idea where anyone went. We’re just as screwed as we were this morning.”

I shook my head. “We have food, water, and transportation. That’s a lot more than we had this morning. All we need is a way to track down our parents. We might find that at my place—we have shortwave radios.”

It was just the excuse I’d been waiting for. With every step we’d taken, I ached to go home, but there was still the risk of getting there, and I hadn’t dared without a good reason.

“We might not need to go all that way,” Sam said. “If we can get to my place, my cell phone’s there.”

“You have a cell phone?” Corey said.

“Every teen has a cell phone. Or so my aunt and”—her voice caught—“uncle thought. I told them I didn’t have anyone to call, but I think they figured that would change if I had one. It’s in my room.”

Daniel’s hand went to the small of my back as he leaned down. “We’ll get the phone, then we’re going to your place. I promise.”

I nodded. We got Kenjii and headed out.


AGAIN, WE SNUCK IN the rear. That’s the advantage of living in a forest—every yard in Salmon Creek backs up to it.

The Tillson place was only half empty. The St. Clouds must have been working in stages, first taking what people wanted most—personal items—then coming back to remove the rest and clean up.

The movers were stillworking on the upstairs, apparently. It really didn’t look much different from what I remembered from visits with Nicole. I suppose that’s because the only person whose personal belongings had to be taken was Mrs. Tillson.

I thought about that. I guess I hadn’t realized it before. Mrs. Tillson thought her entire family was gone. Her husband dead, only child killed in the same crash, along with the niece she’d been raising.

“She took my stuff,” Sam said.

“Hmm?” I turned.

“My stuff’s gone.”

“Well, yeah,” Corey said. “She didn’t expect you’d want it.”

“No, I mean…”

Sam shook her head and looked away, and I understood what she meant. Mrs. Tillson had removed mementos of Sam, just as she had her own daughter’s. I could see in Sam’s face that it meant a lot.

She found her phone hidden under her bed, turned off. “I’m going to call her. Sorry, guys, you can go next—”

“Yes, you go first. We’ll…” I motioned the guys out. “I’ll get washed up.”

The guys had already cleaned up. Or done the best they could with a quick wash and teeth brushing at Corey’s. There hadn’t been any spare toothbrushes, so I’d done mine with my finger and tried not to look in the mirror. One glance had told me that no amount of touch-ups was going to help. I needed a twenty-minute shower.

“And this clothing is getting burned,” I said as I raked a comb through my tangled hair.

“There’s a fireplace downstairs,” Corey said. “I’ll take it for you right now.”

I gave him a look. “Once I have something to wear.”

“Grab a shirt from Nic’s room,” Daniel said. “She won’t mind. It might be a little small but…”

“That’s fine,” Corey said with a grin. “I won’t mind either.”

It was good to see him grinning, even if there was a hint of desperation in his goofing around. We were all on the edge of panic, trying not to think about what happened in Salmon Creek, what happened to our parents, where we’d go from here.

Still, there was no way I was wearing anything of Nicole’s. I’d sooner put on Sam’s stuff, even if black really wasn’t my color.

I was about to ask Sam if I could borrow something when she came out, phone in hand. Her expression said she hadn’t talked to her aunt.

“There’s a signal, isn’t there?” I said. “They can’t block the whole town.”

“No, I’ve got a signal but…” She looked up. “Her cell number’s been disconnected. I tried a few times.”

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