Spirit Page 51

“You don’t know anything.” God he was sick of the lectures. She and Michael were perfect for each other.

He flung himself out of the chair and stalked through the door.

Chris and Nick were in the living room with Becca. They all looked up when he passed. Becca called out to him, but he kept going—up the stairs instead of out the door.

Then he locked himself in the bathroom and tried to keep from punching the mirror.

He needed to calm down.


What the hell did Hannah know? Had Michael sent her out there? He was ready for a knock at the door, for someone else to want to talk.

It made him think of Kate, how she’d been willing to do anything but talk. Only her methods of diversion weren’t this unpleasant.

He turned the faucet on cold and splashed water on his face, letting the water run off his chin. He looked up at the mirror to make sure it didn’t look like he’d been crying.

Then he kept on looking.

What had Michael said yesterday? There is nothing about you that would make me say you look exactly like that guy. Take a look in a mirror sometime.

When his father had been alive, Hunter had always kept his hair short—not quite the military crew cut, but short enough to be preppy. He’d never had a single piercing.

Then the car had been crushed in the rock slide, and he’d found himself with twenty-six stitches across his hairline, leaving him with white hair to grow back in its place. He’d gone through the funeral, through the packing of their house, through his mother’s withdrawal, without feeling anything.

Except when she reminded him how much he looked like his father.

Then he’d felt resentment.

And anger.

And guilt.

He’d gone to the grocery store one day—because his mother couldn’t be bothered with basic needs—and some biker guy with three hundred and some tattoos and piercings had said, “Nice streak, kid. You need some metal and ink to go along with it.”

Then he’d handed him a card for a local tattoo place.

The burn of the needle was the first new thing Hunter had really felt in weeks.

So he’d kept asking for more.

He stared into his eyes in the mirror.

Michael was right. Hunter looked nothing like his father anymore.

And instead of feeling good about that, it made him feel like shit.

He ducked and dried his face on the towel.

Hannah was right, too. He couldn’t fix the accident. He knew that.

Could he fix this mess with his mother?

Did he want to? Did she want him to?

The upstairs was still empty, thank god. Hunter went into Nick’s bedroom, where the two boxes from his grandparents’ house were stacked in front of the closet.

He cracked open the first one. The photo of his father and uncle was right on top, just like yesterday. Hunter set that aside and kept going.

Yearbooks, from his high school in Pennsylvania. Old, outdated magazines—really, Mom? Old notebooks from school that he’d never need again. His Xbox, with the case of games.

Because he totally felt like gaming with everything else going on.

Some paperbacks he didn’t remember reading, more magazines, more crap he’d never need. And then a brown Pendaflex folder with a rubber band wrapped around it. He could see the edges of file folders and wondered if she’d packed up his old school records, too.

The rubber band snapped when he yanked it out of the box, and two folders slipped out. He expected old report cards.

He found records, but not the school kind.

The top folder was about the Merricks. Personal information that he already knew, like their address and phone number. Grainy photos that had to be several years old, because one included their parents. Chris looked about ten.

Pages and pages about their powers, about surveillance, about potential Elemental hazards linked to the family.

His heart was pounding so hard that he couldn’t believe it wasn’t causing a racket all the way downstairs.

He knew the Merricks. He could read theirs later. He flipped to the next folder.

The Morgan family. Tyler, a Fire Elemental. No extreme risk. Emily, an Air Elemental, deceased. No risk. Pictures, but Hunter didn’t need them. He knew their stories.

The Ramsey family. Seth, one of Becca’s attackers. No extreme risk, according to the file, but obviously they were only talking about the Elemental kind.

Hunter didn’t know the next family, but he wondered if the Merricks did.

In the fourth folder, as soon as he opened it, he recognized the kid in the picture.

It was the boy who’d shown up with Calla when they’d been trashing his grandfather’s kitchen. Hunter felt ready to choke on his heartbeat.

Noah Dean. So he was related to Calla.

But there were no pictures of her, just this boy.

Well, of course. Calla had only just moved here a few years ago, to live with her aunt when her father was deployed. All these files were ages old.

Hunter checked the birthdate and quickly added. Noah was thirteen. Too young to be in high school.

No wonder Hunter hadn’t seen him anywhere around school. He’d been next door to the high school all this time, at the middle school.

Hunter wondered if Noah was among the missing from the carnival. He’d have to check the news.

Then something else occurred to him: had his mother gone through this folder?

He stared at the pages in his hand. The rubber band on the Pendaflex had been old, or else it wouldn’t have snapped so readily. But why would she have given him a stack of files and papers without going through them? His name wasn’t on any of it, and it certainly wasn’t packed up the way he kept his things. He’d never seen these files, so she hadn’t found them in his room.

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