The summoning, p.28
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       The Summoning, p.28

         Part #1 of Darkest Powers series by Kelley Armstrong
 
Page 28

 

  “I'm smart-?mouthing but keeping it light, you know? Goofing. Next thing I know, one guy pulls a switchblade. It's closed, though, and I'm staring at it like an idiot wondering what it is. Cell phone? MP3 player? Then, flick, out comes the blade. I tried to make a break for it, but it was too late. Another guy kicks out my feet and down I go. The guy with the blade is standing over me, and I'm readying a knock-?back spell when Derek comes ripping around the corner. He grabs the guy with the knife, throws him aside, punches a second guy, and the third runs. Second guy gets up—he's fine—runs after his buddy. But the first guy? The one he threw off me?”

  “Doesn't get up,” I whispered.

  Simon speared a leaf on the tines of his rake. “Derek was right. There was no gun. But you know what?” He lifted his gaze to mine. “If a guy came at Derek with a gun, he'd have kept his cool and handled it smart. But he wasn't the one in danger. I was. With Derek, that's a whole different thing. It's in his nature, my dad says, the—” He started raking hard, tearing through new grass and dirt. “So that's how it happened. I was a smart-?ass and I couldn't back down from a bunch of rednecks and now Derek…”

  He trailed off, and I knew Derek wasn't the only one who blamed himself for what had happened.

  “Anyway,” he said after a moment, “you didn't bring me out here to talk about that, and if I keep yapping, Derek will track us down. I get the feeling this isn't something you want to discuss with him. ”

  “It's not. ”

  I told him about Rae. “I didn't know what to say and that only made it worse, but she caught me completely off guard. Now Derek's going to think I let something slip or I was chatting with my girlfriend, telling her my secrets, which I didn't do, I swear—”

  “I know. You aren't like that. ” He leaned on his rake. “Rae's right about Brady. I used a knock-?back spell on him. It was careless and stupid, but after what happened with those other guys, I wanted to be quicker on the draw, you know? When I saw Brady was trying to get into it with Derek, I just… reacted. ”

  “You wanted to diffuse the situation. ”

  “Yeah. And if Rae caught you guys coming in last night, that's Derek's fault. He should have been on the lookout. He's got the ears and the—” he stopped “—the eyes. He can see pretty good in the dark, better than us. Normally, he'd have noticed Rae, but he must have been busy thinking about the escape. ”

  Not preoccupied—sick and feverish. But I couldn't say that.

  Simon went on. “He's been in a mood, too. Crankier than usual. He broke our shower. Did you hear about that?” He shook his head. “Snapped the handle right off, so I had to tell Talbot it had been loose. But as for Rae, we're going to have to tell him. ”

  “Do you think she's one of us? A supernatural?”

  “Could be half-?demon. If she is, though, what does that mean, for us, being here? Four out of five kids? Maybe Liz, too, if she's a shaman? That's no coincidence. It can't be. ” He paused, thinking. “We'll worry about that later. For now, I'm more concerned with her knowing about our plan. ”

  “She doesn't just know. She wants to sign up. ”

  He cursed under his breath.

  “She'd be useful,” I said. “She's way more street smart than me. ”

  “And me. It's just…” He shrugged. “I'm sure Rae's cool, but I wouldn't have argued about it just being the two of us. ”

  He glanced over at me. My heart started pounding double time.

  “There's a lot I want to talk to you about. ” He touched the back of my hand, leaning so close I could feel his breath against my hair.

  “What's this about Rae?” a voice demanded. We turned to see Derek crossing the lawn.

  Simon swore. “Anyone ever tell you your sense of timing really sucks. ”

  “That's why I don't play the drums. Now what's up?”

  I told him.

  Thirty-eight

  SIMON DOUBTED RAE HAD supernatural powers. There were fire half-?demons, but by fifteen she should have been doing more than leaving marks that barely qualified as first-?degree burns. He didn't think she was lying. She was just too eager to believe.

  I suspected he was right. Given up at birth, displaced by younger siblings, tossed into Lyle House with strangers and forgotten, it would mean so much to Rae to be special. I'd seen it in her face that morning, glowing with excitement.

  The person slowest to dismiss the idea was Derek. He didn't say he believed Rae was a half-?demon, but his silence said he was considering the possibility. Last night was still bugging him—and me—our failure to find or dismiss a connection between us, Samuel Lyle, and those supernatural bodies in the cellar. If Rae was a half-?demon and Liz might be a shaman, then the possibility we were here by chance plummeted.

  You could argue that a group home for disturbed teens isn't an unusual place to find teenage supernaturals, especially those who don't know what they are. Our symptoms could be massaged to fit known psychiatric disorders, and, since everyone knew it was impossible to contact the dead or to burn people with your bare hands or toss a kid aside and break his neck—the obvious solution would be that we were mentally ill. Hallucinating, obsessed with fire, uncontrollably violent…

  But there was nothing paranormal about Tori's mood swings. Peter had apparently been in for some kind of anxiety disorder and that didn't fit the pattern either.

  Still, I couldn't shake the feeling I was missing something, that the connection was there and my brain was too distracted by other problems to see it. I suspected Derek felt the same.

  Whether Rae was a supernatural or not, we all agreed, she should come with us. To Derek, it wasn't so much a matter of should we let her come as do we dare let her stay. What if she retaliated by telling the nurses? I couldn't see that, but after we were gone, if they came down hard on her, she'd cave before Derek did.

  Derek's only condition was that we'd keep the details about our powers and our plans vague, at least for now.

  * * *

  I told Rae, and then Derek dropped the bomb none of us expected. We had to leave that night.

  Since it was Saturday, we'd have all day to prepare, and chores gave us an excuse for poking around the house, gathering supplies. Tonight Miss Van Dop was off and the weekend nurse was much less likely to realize we were up to something. It was better to go now, before anything else went wrong.

  Once I got past the initial “OMG, you mean tonight!” panic, I had to agree the sooner we left, the better.

  So, while Rae stood guard cleaning the girls bathroom, I packed.

  I'd packed for camp many times but, in comparison, this was agonizing. For every item I put in, I had to consider how badly I needed it, how much room and weight it would add, and whether I'd be better off picking it up on the road.

  The brush was out, and the comb was in. Deodorant, definitely in. My iPod and lipgloss might not be essential for daily life, but they were tiny enough to keep. Soap, a toothbrush, and toothpaste would need to be bought later because I couldn't afford to have anyone notice them missing from the bathroom now.

  Next came clothing. It was still cool, especially at night. Layering would be the key. I packed as Aunt Lauren taught me when we'd spent a week in France. I'd wear a sweatshirt, long-?sleeved pullover, and T-?shirt with jeans. In the bag, I'd have two more T-?shirts, another pullover, and three pairs of socks and underwear.

  Would that be enough? How long would we be on the run?

  I'd been avoiding that question since I'd first offered to go. Simon and Derek seemed to think we'd find their dad pretty quickly. Simon had spells and just needed to travel around Buffalo, casting them.

  It sounded easy. Too easy?

  I'd seen the looks in their eyes. Derek's barely concealed worry. Simon's stubborn conviction. When pressed, they'd both admitted that, if they couldn't find their dad, there were other supernaturals they could contact.

  I
f it took longer than a few days, I had a bank card and the money from my dad. Simon and Derek had a bank card, too, with emergency funds their dad had stashed for them, at least a thousand dollars each, they thought. We'd need to withdraw as much as we could immediately, before anyone knew we were gone and started tracking us. Derek would keep his card and cash in case he needed it, but we'd have Simon's money plus mine. That would get us through.

  Whatever happened, we'd be fine. Another shirt, though, might not be a bad idea.

  Shirt… That reminded me…

  I shoved my backpack under the bed, slipped down to Tori's room. The door was ajar. Through it, I could see that Tori's bed was empty. I gave a gentle push.

  “Hello?” She sprang up from Rae's old bed, ripping out her earbuds. “Knock much?”

  “I—I thought you were downstairs. ”

  “Oh, so you were going to take advantage of that, were you? Set your little scheme in motion?”

  I opened the door and stepped inside. “What scheme?”

  “The one you and your gang have been planning. I've seen you skulking around, plotting against me. ”

  “Huh?”

  She wound the earbud wire around her MP3 player, yanking it tight, as if imagining it going around my neck instead. “You think I'm stupid? You're not as sweet and innocent as you seem, Chloe Saunders. First, you seduce my boyfriend. ”

  “Boy—Seduce?”

  “Then you bat your baby blues at tall, dark, and gruesome, and next thing you know, he's trailing you like a lost puppy. "

  “What?”

  “And now, to make sure everyone in the house is against me, you pull in Rachelle. Don't think I missed your powwow this morning. ”

  “And you think we're… plotting against you?” I sputtered a laugh and leaned back against the dresser. “How do you get that ego through the door, Tori? I'm not interested in revenge. I'm not interested in you at all. Get it?”

  She slid to the edge of the bed, feet touching down, eyes narrowing. “You think you're clever, don't you?”

  I slumped back against the dresser with an exaggerated sigh. “Don't you ever quit? You're like a broken record. Me, me, me. The world revolves around Tori. No wonder even your mom thinks you're a spoiled—”

  I stopped myself, but it was too late. For a moment, Tori froze in mid-?rise. Then, slowly, she crumpled back onto the bed.

  “I didn't mean—”

  “What do you want, Chloe?” She tried to put some bite in the words, but they came out quiet, weary.

  “Liz's shirt,” I said after a moment. “Rae says you borrowed a green hoodie from Liz. ”

  She waved toward the dresser. “It's in there. Middle drawer. Mess it up and you can refold everything. ”

  And that was it. No “Why do you want it?” or even “Did she call asking for it?” Her gaze had already gone distant. Doped up? Or beyond caring?

  I found the shirt. An emerald green Gap hoodie. A personal effect.

  I shut the drawer and straightened.

  “You got what you came for,” Tori said. “Now run along and play with your friends. ”

  I walked to the door, grasped the handle, then turned to face her.

  “Tori?"

  “What?”

  I wanted to wish her luck. I wanted to tell her I hoped she got what she was looking for, what she needed. I wanted to tell her I was sorry.

  With everything that went on at Lyle House, and the discovery that at least three of us didn't belong here, it was easy to forget that some kids did. Tori had problems. Expecting her to behave like any normal teenage girl, then shunning and insulting her when she didn't, was like mocking the slow kids at school. She needed help and support and consideration, and she hadn't gotten it from anyone but Liz.

  I clutched Liz's shirt in my hands and tried to think of something to say, but anything I did say would come out wrong, condescending.

  So I said the only thing I could. “Good-?bye. ”

  Thirty-nine

  I STUFFED LIZ'S HOODIE INTO my bag. It took up more room than I could afford, but I needed it. It could answer a question I really needed to answer… just as soon as I worked up the courage to ask.

  When Derek had announced we'd be leaving that night, my first thought had been there's not enough time, but there was too much time. We did homework we'd never submit, helped Mrs. Talbot think up meals we'd never eat, all the while fighting the urge to slip away and plan some more. Both Rae and Tori had noticed my “powwows” with the guys, and if we kept it up, the nurses might suspect it was more than teen hormones at work.

  I warned the others about Tori, but no one seemed concerned. It was like I told her—she was totally out of our minds. Insignificant. I wondered whether that hurt her most of all.

  * * *

  We spent the evening watching a movie. For once, I paid so little attention that if I was asked for a log line ten minutes after the credits rolled, I couldn't have given one.

  Derek didn't join us. Simon said his brother was wiped from the night before and wanted to rest up so he'd be clearheaded for helping us tonight. I wondered whether his fever was coming back.

  When Mrs. Talbot asked after Derek, Simon said he “wasn't feeling great. ” She tut-?tutted and withdrew to play cards with Ms. Abdo, not even going upstairs to check on him. That's how it always was with Derek. The nurses seemed to leave him to his own devices, like his size made them forget he was still a kid. Or maybe, given his file and his diagnosis, they wanted as little contact with him as possible.
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