The Calling Page 7

“So they wanted Mr. Tillson?” Hayley asked.

Daniel shook his head. “We think whoever set the fire either bought off the pilot or planted one of their own guys. I heard Mr. Tillson say that the first helicopter had already landed in Victoria. That means whoever is behind this wanted ours. In the evacuation plans, we’re all supposed to be on that helicopter. Not Mr. Tillson specifically, though. Just an adult to chaperone us.”

“So in sedating him, they were getting rid of our chaperone,” I said. “They wanted one of us.”

I thought of the list Daniel had found, with the word skin-walker on it, and I thought of the man in the woods, who’d called me by name. So I seemed to be the one they wanted. But when I glanced up, Sam looked like a cartoon character with a “Who me?” bubble over her head.

“It doesn’t matter who or what was the target,” I said. “We need to figure out what we’re going to do now.”

“Why do we need to do anything?” Hayley said. “They’ll come looking for us.”

“Um, yeah,” Sam said. “That’s Maya’s point. The people who tried to kidnap us will come looking for us to finish the job.”

“You don’t know that.”

“Sam’s right,” Daniel said. “The first people who come for us will likely be the kidnappers. It’d be safer to get to a phone and call our parents.”

Everyone looked around. The mainland was a dark blob on the eastern horizon. To the west was Vancouver Island. About a kilometer of water separated the two.

“Umm…” Corey began. “Not to question your judgment, buddy, but that’s a bit of a swim. The water’s damned cold. I bashed my knee good in the crash, and I’m not the only one who’s hurting. I get what you’re saying, but the pilot’s radio seemed to be out, so they won’t know where we are. If we light a fire, someone out boating might see us.”

“That’s a good idea,” Sam said. “Or it would be. If we had matches to light a fire. Or if anyone was actually out boating.”

“Why don’t we just find a place to hide?” Hayley said. “That way, when someone does come, we can see if it’s a real rescue or not.”

“How the hell are you going to tell the difference?” Sam said. “Ask them? And no one’s going to find the crash site. You know why? There is no crash site.”

She pointed out over the empty water. When the helicopter had dropped over the ledge, it had disappeared. Only a few small pieces of debris floated, already being dispersed by the tide.

“And we don’t know that the radio equipment wasn’t working,” Daniel said. “Whoever wanted that helicopter may know exactly where it went down.”

That didn’t keep Corey and Hayley from arguing that weshould stay put, and Nicole from quietly agreeing. Which only pissed off Sam all the more. To us, the danger was obvious. We should be in the water already, swimming for Vancouver Island. To the others, it was too much to believe, too much to take in. Easier to think this was all a tragic mistake and that a rescue team would find us at any moment.

Eventually, Daniel and I managed to persuade them that no one was going to come for us. There was no shelter on this island, and there could be cottages just past the shoreline on the mainland.

Finally, they all agreed to swim for it.


SWIMMING FOR THE SHORE was not a simple matter. Daniel and I were soaked, but the others were dry from the knees up, and in October, they’d need that dry clothing. The problem was how to get it across.

There weren’t any backpacks in the debris floating from the wreck, but Daniel rescued a piece of plastic. The others stripped to their undergarments, wrapped up their clothing as best they could, and put it in the plastic. Daniel made sure Corey put his headache medication in, too. Corey got migraines. Bad ones. Unfortunately, all he had on him was a couple of tablets he carried loose in his pocket.

By the time we got to the water’s edge, we were all shivering so hard I could hear teeth chattering.

A layer of marine fog covered the surface. As I stood there with my toes in the icy water, tendrils of fog slipped around my ankles and I remembered a line about fog coming in on little cat’s feet.

Cats. Cougars. Skin-walkers. Rafe.

My stomach clenched and my toes clenched, too. I closed my eyes and struggled to ground myself.

“Can you see the land?” Nicole whispered beside me.

I pointed. “See the treetops above the fog?”

She nodded, then rubbed down goose bumps on her arms. “About earlier. I—I don’t know why I blew up like that.”

“Your dad just died.”

“I know…” She nudged a submerged rock. “I’m still sorry.”

“It’s okay.”

“Are you sure we should do this?” Hayley called from a few feet away. “It’s so cold. Is it safe?”

I looked over at her and Corey and Sam, standing along the shoreline, arms wrapped around themselves, their faces as gray as the fog. Fear and confusion on every face. Terror on Sam’s, as she stared wide-eyed into the fog.

Daniel and I went first. Kenjii circled me as I eased into the water. When she realized I wasn’t just taking a walk into the surf, she leaped in front of me, barking, ordering me to dry land. I continued on, up to my waist now. She snapped at my fingers and tried to herd me back to shore.

“Maybe there’s something out there,” Nicole called. “Didn’t someone catch a great white shark a few years ago? And we have plenty of killer whales.”

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