Spirit Page 54

“No wonder they’re not getting into it with us at school,” said Gabriel.

“They’re all kids,” said Nick. “They probably just figured out what they are.”

That meant they weren’t under heavy surveillance—yet. “Were they injured in the fire?” said Hunter. “Is there a list on one of the news websites or anything?”

Michael got his laptop and they checked. None of the names matched the list of the missing.

But Hunter noticed something else: Calla Dean was listed as missing, not one of the confirmed dead.

Did that mean something? He’d seen her fall.

Then he dismissed it. The Guide—Silver—wouldn’t have left her lying in the middle of the carnival.

“Well,” said Gabriel, “no one is stopping us from going over there to see.”

“Going over where?” said Michael.

“The middle school.”

Middle school. Nick was right—they were all kids. It was a new wrinkle.

Hunter had been ready to hand these files over to Kate, thinking it would be so easy to solve this problem, to redeem himself in his father’s memory.

But they were kids.

He thought about Calla in the middle of the fairgrounds. She’d been too young to die, for sure, but she’d known what she was doing.

Had she organized the next group of Elementals into something they weren’t ready for?

He needed to talk to these middle schoolers, to figure out which side they were on.

And he needed to do it without the Merricks.

“Let’s not be stupid about this,” said Michael. “There’s a Guide in town. If we figured out these kids were working with Calla, then he will, too. We need to stay the hell away from them.”

“No way,” said Gabriel.

“I agree with Michael,” said Hunter.

They all looked at him in surprise. He shrugged and lied through his teeth. “Well, I think we should give it a few days. Calla was obviously the ring leader. Let’s see if they make another move.”

Hunter glanced at Simon, a kid who was bullied mercilessly. Hunter knew what the Merricks had gone through for years. He wondered if these new Elementals were going through the same thing.

And he wondered if it would have been easy, too easy, for Calla to convince them to rebel.


While they shared a campus, the middle school and high school had different hours. Hunter and the Merricks had to be at school early, the middle schoolers didn’t start until after nine. He couldn’t exactly skip class to stake out seventh and eighth graders—that would probably draw attention.

Instead, he decided to head over at the end of the day, to watch the younger students as they bolted for the buses to go home.

But that meant Hunter had seven hours of class time to kill.

Other students spent that time building locker shrines to the students who’d lost their lives. Hunter spent most of it feeling like he could have stopped the whole thing.

Or like he was betraying the Merricks somehow.

He tried to talk himself out of that feeling. He wasn’t planning to feed Kate information about them. And what were they doing for him anyway? Letting him live in their house until they decided to pack up and leave town? Michael had made a comment this morning that he was going to figure out how much money they had to work with. There was talk about leases and walking away from the business and—Hunter had to leave the room, because it all pointed toward leaving him here to deal with this mess.

And even after reading through all the files, he had no idea where his mother stood on everything. She wasn’t a Guide—unless she’d also hidden that from his father. Hunter had run all kinds of scenarios through his head, but he couldn’t make any of them work at all. Did she approve of his father’s profession? Of Hunter continuing his mission? If she didn’t, she sure wouldn’t have left him with weapons hidden among his things.

To say nothing of his father’s old files. Did she know about the Merricks? Those files had been held together by an ancient rubber band; he didn’t get the impression anyone had read through them recently.

He wanted to call her, to confront her and demand answers.

But maybe she didn’t have answers. She’d hidden those things when she could have come right out and given them to him.

Not to mention that he’d spent months grieving for his father and wondering how anyone would ever understand him again. She’d known. All this time—she’d known.

His thoughts were spinning out, not finding traction anywhere. Hunter actually looked forward to fourth period, when he could see Kate and tell her what he’d learned, what he’d planned.

But Kate didn’t show for fourth period, and his texts went unanswered. Now he felt like a fool, sitting around like an eager puppy expecting a bone.

As usual, he was standing at a crossroads, with no idea which direction was right.

Instead of heading to the cafeteria at lunch, he went out back, to where a few concrete picnic tables were lined up under the pine trees. The weather was still crap, with rain dripping between the branches to soak the ground and seal the chill to his body, but it was outside, and deserted, and he could feel the elements and think.

He lay on one of the tables and stared at the sky. The gun dug into the small of his back and the rain seemed to aim straight for his eyes.

He remembered Kate’s words from yesterday. Don’t you trust anyone?

No. He didn’t. It had been his father’s last lesson, and Hunter had learned it well.

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