The summoning, p.11
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       The Summoning, p.11

         Part #1 of Darkest Powers series by Kelley Armstrong
 
Page 11

 

  Yet I had no proof except marks on my arm that were already fading. Even if I still had them when I showed the nurses, Derek could say I'd lured him into the basement and flipped out, and he'd had to grab my arm to restrain me. After all, I was a diagnosed schizophrenic. Hallucinations and paranoia went with the territory.

  I had to handle this myself.

  I should handle this myself.

  I'd led the proverbial sheltered life. I'd always known that meant I lacked the life experience I'd need to be a screenwriter. Here was my chance to start getting it.

  I'd handle this. But to handle it, I needed to know exactly what I was up against.

  * * *

  I took Rae aside.

  “Do you still want to see Simon and Derek's files?” I asked.

  She nodded.

  “Then I'll help you get them. Tonight. "

  Fourteen

  WE FOUND MRS. TALBOT setting out the evening snack. Carrot sticks and dip. Yum. Whatever complaints I had about Annette, at least I could always count on brownies at home.

  “Hungry, girls? I'm not surprised. No one ate very much at dinner. ”

  She held out the plate. We each took a stick and dipped it.

  “Chloe and I were thinking, Mrs. T,” Rae said. “About Tori. ”

  She set the plate on the table, eyes downcast as she nodded. “I know, dear. She's taking Liz's leaving very hard. They were close. I'm sure she'll feel better once they can talk, but until then she may feel a little down while we get her… medication adjusted. We'll need you girls to be extra nice to her. ”

  “Sure. ” Rae licked dip off her finger. “We were wondering, though, whether it might be easier for her if she had the room to herself. I could sleep in Chloe's. ”

  Mrs. Talbot handed Rae a napkin. “I don't want to isolate her too much but, yes, she'd probably be happier alone for now. ”

  “Just for now?”

  The nurse smiled. “No, you can move in with Chloe permanently, if that's what you'd both like. ”

  * * *

  While Tori was downstairs watching television, Rae started to move, as if afraid Miss Van Dop or Dr. Gill would veto the change.

  She handed me a stack of T-?shirts. “It's Simon, isn't it?”

  “Hmm?”

  “You want to know what Simon is in for. ”

  “I don't—”

  She draped her jeans over her arms and waved me out. “You two have been chatting every meal. At first, I thought maybe he was using you to throw Tori off his trail, but she wasn't paying any attention today, and he kept talking. ”

  “I'm not—”

  “Hey, you like him. That's fine. ” She opened Liz's bottom drawer. It was empty—every trace of her cleaned out while we'd been in class. “I don't care for the guy, but that's just my opinion. Maybe he's just stuck up with me because I'm not in his league. ”

  “League?”

  She held up a pair of jeans and pointed to the label. “You see anyone else in this place wearing jeans from Wal-?Mart? It's a private home. You gotta pay for it, and I bet it costs more than Motel 6. I'm the designated charity case. ”

  “I—"

  “It's cool. You treat me fine. So did Peter and—” a somber look around her new room “—Liz. Derek's a jerk to everyone, so I don't take it personally. If I'm only getting the cold shoulder from Simon and Tori, I can live with it. That's why I think those two are perfect for each other, but if you like him and he likes you? None of my business. But you're smart to run a background check. ”

  She headed back to her old room, me at her heels. “My friend's mom did that with a guy she was supposed to marry. Found out he had three kids he'd never mentioned. ” She grinned over her shoulder. “I'm pretty sure Simon doesn't have kids, but you never know. ”

  As we finished clearing out her drawers, I considered letting it go at that. But I didn't want her thinking I was the kind of girl who gets into a new place and immediately starts scoping out the guys. If I wasn't ready to tell the nurses about Derek, I should tell someone. That way, I'd have backup for my story if I needed it later.

  “It's not Simon,” I said as we returned to her room, clothing finished. “It's Derek. ”

  She'd been in the middle of plucking a photo from the wall and fumbled it, cursing as I rescued the fallen photograph.

  “Derek? You like—”

  “God, no. I meant Derek's the one I'm checking out—and not that way. ”

  She exhaled and leaned against the wall. “Thank God. I know some girls go for the jerks, but that's just nasty. ” She flushed as she took the picture from me and reached for another. “I shouldn't say that. It's not his fault, the whole…” She faltered for a word.

  “Puberty smackdown. ”

  A grin. “Exactly. I should feel sorry for the guy, but it's hard when his attitude is as ugly as his face. ” She stopped, photo in hand, and glanced over her shoulder at me. “Is that it? Did he . . . do something?”

  “Why? Does he have a history of that?”

  “Depends on what that is. Being rude, yes. A jerk, yes. He ignores us except when he doesn't have a choice and, believe me, no one complains. So what did he do?”

  I considered my words. I didn't want her to insist I talk to the nurses, so I left out the throwing-?me-?across-?the-?room part and just said he'd been following me, popping up when I was alone.

  “Ah, he likes you. ” She handed me a photo to hold.

  “No, it isn't like that. ”

  "Uh-?huh. Well, you'd probably rather it wasn't like that, but it sure sounds like it. Maybe you're his type. At my school, there's this guy I like, on the basketball team. He's even taller than Derek, but he always goes for tiny girls like you.

  I took another photo from her. “That's not it. I'm absolutely certain of it. ”

  She opened her mouth and I felt a flash of annoyance. Why is it that every time a girl says a guy is bothering her, it's fluffed off with oh, he just likes you, as if that makes it okay?

  Seeing my expression, Rae snapped her mouth closed and took down another picture.

  I said, “He freaks me out and I want to see what his file says. Whether there's any reason to be spooked. Whether he has, you know, a problem. ”

  “That's smart. And I'm sorry. If he scares you, that's serious. I don't mean to make jokes. We'll get the facts tonight. "

  Fifteen

  BEDTIME AT LYLE HOUSE was nine, with the lights out and the no-?talking rule coming into effect an hour later when the nurses retired. Each side of the upper level had a bedroom for its assigned nurse. Liz had said there was no door linking the boys' and girls' areas, but according to Rae, there was one between the nurses' rooms, which gave them quick access to the whole upper floor in an emergency.

  So while Rae swore Mrs. Talbot was a quick and sound sleeper, we had to take Miss Van Dop into account, too. An early break-?in was too risky. Rae set the alarm on her sports watch for 2:30 and we went to sleep.

  * * *

  At 2:30, the house was still and silent. Too still and too silent. Every creaking floorboard sounded like a gunshot. And in an old house, most boards creak.

  Rae followed me into the kitchen, where we took two juice boxes from the fridge and set them on the counter. Then I opened the pantry door, turned on the light, and returned to the hall, leaving both doors half open.

  Dr. Gill's office was at the west end, near the boys' stairs. Rae had checked out the lock a week ago. It was only a regular interior key lock, not much tougher than the kind you can pick with a coin. Or so she said. I'd never had any reason to open a household lock—probably because I didn't have siblings. So I watched and took mental notes. All part of gaining life experience.

  Rae had watched Dr. Gill get her file out once, during her session, so she knew where they were kept. The office had an all-?in-?one printer, which made things easy. I stood guard. T
he only hitch came when she copied the pages, the swoosh-?shoosh of the scanner head loud enough to make me nervous. But the files must have been short because by the time I looked in, she was returning them to the folder, copies made.

  She passed me two sheets, folded in half, then she returned the file to the drawer. We backed out of the room. As she reengaged the lock, the unmistakable sound of a creaking floorboard made us both freeze. A long moment of silence passed. Then a fresh creak. Someone was coming down the boys' stairs.

  We took off, padding barefooted down the hall. At the half-?open kitchen door, we darted inside, then into the open pantry.

  “Come on,” I stage-?whispered. “Just pick something already. ”

  “I can't find the Rice Krispie bars. I know there were some last week. ”

  “The guys probably—” I stopped, then hissed. “Someone's coming. Get the light!”

  She flipped the switch as I closed the door all but a crack. As I peered through the gap, Derek stopped inside the kitchen door. He left the light off as he looked around, moonbeams from the window casting a glow on his face. His gaze swept the kitchen and came to rest on the pantry door.

  I pushed it open and stepped out.

  “Cracker?” I said, holding up a box.

  He looked at me and, in a flash, I was back in the basement, sailing through the air. My smile fell away and I shoved the box into his hands.

  “We were getting a snack,” Rae said.

  He kept watching me, eyes narrowing.

  “I'll get the juice,” Rae said, squeezing past.

  Derek looked over at the boxes we'd left on the counter. Proof that we'd only been raiding the kitchen. It had been my plan, and I thought it was so clever, but as his gaze swung back my way, the hairs on my neck rose and I knew he didn't buy it.

  I stepped forward. For a second, he didn't move and all. I could hear was his breathing, feel the sheer size of him, looming there.

  He stepped aside.

  As I passed, he took a cracker sleeve from the box and held it out. “Forgot these. ”

  “Right. Thanks. ”

  I took one and fled into the hall, Rae behind me. Derek followed us out but headed the other way, toward the boys' side. When I turned to go up the stairs, I glanced down the hall. He'd stopped outside Dr. Gill's office and stood looking at the door.

  * * *

  We lay in bed with the lights out for fifteen minutes, long enough for Derek to either tell the nurses on us or just go back to bed. My fingers kept brushing the pages I'd stuffed in my pajama waistband. Finally, Rae scooted over to my bed, flashlight in hand.

  “That was a close call," she said.

  “Do you think he'll tell the nurses?”

  “Nah. He was getting a snack himself. He wouldn't dare tattle. ”

  So Derek had just happened to get up for a snack while we were breaking into Dr. Gill's office? I hated coincidence, but surely the printer hadn't made enough noise for him to hear it upstairs.

  I pulled the sheets out and smoothed them on the mattress.

  “That's Derek's,” Rae whispered as she turned on the flashlight.

  I tugged the second page free and held it out. “You want Simon's?”

  She shook her head. “That's Derek's second page. There wasn't one for Simon. "

  “You couldn't find it?”

  “No, there wasn't one. The dividers in the drawer are marked with our names, then the file folders are marked again. There wasn't a divider or a file for Simon. ”

  “That's—”

  “Weird, I know. Maybe they keep it someplace else. Anyway, you wanted Derek's, so I figured I shouldn't waste time searching for Simon's. Now, let's see what Frankenstein is in for. ” She moved the beam to the top of the page. “Derek Souza. Birth date, blah, blah, blah. ”

  She shifted the light to the next section. “Huh. He was brought to Lyle House by a children's services agency. No mention of that father they're always talking about. If child services is involved, then you can bet he's no dad of the year. Oh, here it is. Diagnosis… antisocial personality disorder. ” She snorted a laugh. “Yeah? Tell me something I didn't know. Is that really an illness? Being rude? What kind of meds do they give you for that?”

  “Whatever it is, they aren't working. ”

  She grinned. “Got that right. No wonder he's been stuck here so long—”

  The hall light clicked on. Rae dove for her bed, leaving the flashlight behind. I turned it off as the bathroom door closed. When I made a motion to toss it to her, she shook her head, then leaned out and whispered, “You finish up. Find anything interesting? Tell me in the morning. ”

  Whoever was in the bathroom—Tori or Mrs. Talbot—seemed to take forever. By the time the toilet flushed, Rae was asleep. I waited a few minutes, then turned on the flashlight and read.

  With each sentence, the ball of dread in my stomach grew. Antisocial personality disorder had nothing to do with being rude. It meant someone who showed a complete disregard for others, who lacked the ability to empathize—to put himself in another person's shoes. The disorder was characterized by a violent temper and fits of rage, which only made it worse. If you didn't understand that you were hurting someone, what would make you stop?

  I flipped to the second page, labeled “background. ”

  Performing a standard background check on DS has proved difficult. No birth certificate or other identifying records could be found. They likely exist, but the lack of concrete information on his early life makes a proper search impossible. According to DS and his foster brother, SB, Derek came to live with them at approximately five years of age. DS does not recall—or refused to share—the details of his life before this, though his responses suggest he may have been raised in an institutional setting.
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