The summoning, p.32
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       The Summoning, p.32

         Part #1 of Darkest Powers series by Kelley Armstrong
 
Page 32

 

  “Hold on,” I said. “That's all you've got. I'm layered up. "

  He turned his head away. I stripped off all three shirts, gritting my teeth as the fabric brushed my wound. I reminded myself that I'd barely felt it before he told me it was bad.

  I put the top two shirts back on and handed him my tee. He ripped it, the sound echoing. I must have looked alarmed, because he said, “No one's around. I can hear them searching the warehouse. ”

  He wound the strips around my arm. Then his head lifted, tracking something, and I caught the faint sound of a voice calling, then an answer.

  “They're all in the warehouse now,“ he whispered. ”Time to move. I'll try picking up Simon's scent. Follow my lead. "

  Derek zigged and zagged through the obstacle course of debris, never slowing. Luckily, I was behind him, where he couldn't see how many times I rapped my knees or elbows swerving past some obstacle.

  Finally, he slowed. “Got him,” he whispered, and jabbed a finger at the south side of the factory. We steered that way. When we neared the corner, a figure leaned from a recessed doorway, then retreated fast. Simon. A moment later, Rae stepped out and waved wildly before being yanked back, presumably by Simon.

  We raced over and found them in a deep narrow alcove that reeked of cigarette smoke and looked like a main entrance.

  “What are you doing here?” Rae whispered, staring at Derek as if in alarm. “You're supposed to be—”

  “Change of plans. ”

  “Good to see you, bro,” Simon said, slapping Derek's back. “I was worried Chloe'd never find us. There's a whole bunch of people looking for us. ”

  “I know. ”

  Simon moved to the edge, looked out, then walked over to me, handing me my backpack. “You okay?”

  I nodded, keeping my injured arm out of sight. “They have guns. ”

  “What?” Rae's eyes rounded. “No way. They'd never—”

  “Tranq guns,” Derek corrected.

  “Oh. ” She nodded, as if tranquilizer guns were standard issue for tracking runaway kids.

  “Who've you seen?” Derek asked Simon.

  “Van Dop, Davidoff, and, I think, Talbot, but I'm not sure. No sign of Gill. ”

  “She's back at the house,” I said. “But there are two more we didn't recognize. A man and a woman. ” I looked at Derek. “Undercover cops, you think?”

  “No idea. We'll worry about that later. Right now, we're sitting ducks. We need to get out of here. ”

  As Derek moved to look out, Simon leaned down to my ear. “Thanks. For finding him. Was everything okay?”

  “Later,” Derek said. “There's another warehouse farther back, with broken windows. It's probably abandoned. If we can get to that—”

  “Chloe?” Rae said, staring down at my arm. “What's all over your sleeve? It looks like…” She touched the fabric. “Oh, my God. You're bleeding. You're really bleeding. ”

  Simon ducked around to my other side. “It's soaked. What—?”

  “Just a cut,” I said.

  “It's deep,” Derek said. “She needs stitches. ”

  “I don't—”

  “She needs stitches,” he repeated. “I'll figure something out. For now—” He swore and jumped back from the opening. “They're coming. ” He looked around, scowling. “This is the lousiest hiding place…”

  “I know,” Simon said. “I wanted to find a better one, but. . . ” A pointed look at Rae said she'd refused to leave.

  “What's wrong with here?” she said. She backed up against the wall. “It's completely dark. They won't see me. ”

  “Until they shine a flashlight on you. ”

  “Oh. ”

  Derek strode to the door, grabbed the handle, and gave it a test pull. Then he braced his feet, took the handle in both hands, and heaved until the tendons in his neck bulged. The door quivered, then flew open with a crack as loud as a gunshot.

  He frantically waved us inside. “Find cover!” he whispered as I hurried past.

  We raced through into a wide hall flanked with doors, some open, some closed. Rae headed for the first. Derek shoved her past.

  “Keep going!” he whispered.

  He loped by her and led us to a second hall. Then, he motioned for silence as he listened, but even without super senses, I heard the whoosh of the door and the clamor of footsteps.

  “It's open!” a man yelled. “They came through here. ”

  “We've got to get out,” Derek whispered. “Split up. Find an exit. Any exit. Then whistle, but softly. I'll hear you. ”

  Forty-four

  AROUND THE NEXT CORNER, we split up to search for an exit.

  The first door I tried opened into a long, narrow room filled with worktables. No sign of a way out.

  Back in the hall, I could hear voices, but distant, searching the rooms nearest the entrance, presuming we'd ducked into the first one we saw.

  Hurrying toward the next door, I spotted a figure in the room across the hall. I stopped short, but too late. I was already standing in plain sight.

  As I pulled my heart from my throat, I realized the man had his back to me. Dressed in jeans and a plaid shirt, he was the same size as the man with the gun, and had the same dark hair. I didn't remember the plaid shirt, but he'd been wearing a jacket.

  He stood on a raised platform, gripping the railing, looking down at a big industrial saw. He seemed intent on whatever had caught his attention.

  I took one careful step forward. When the man shifted, I froze, but he only seemed to be readjusting his grip on the railing. I lifted my foot. The man did the same—stepping onto the lower bar of the barrier.

  He climbed onto the railing and crouched there, hands gripping the bar. Something moved below him and my gaze shot to the saw. The blades were turning—spinning so fast that the glint of a distant emergency light bounced off like a strobe. But there was no sound, not even the motor's hum.

  The man tested his grip on the railing. Then, suddenly, he pitched forward. I saw him hit the blades, saw the first spray of blood, and I fell back against the wall, my hand flying to cover my mouth but not before the first note of a shriek escaped.

  Something—some part of him—flew from the saw, landing in the doorway with a splat. I ripped my gaze away before I could see what it was, staggering back as running footsteps sounded behind me.

  Arms grabbed me. I heard Simon's voice at my ear. “Chloe?”

  “Th-?there was a man. He—” I balled my hands into fists, pushing the image back. “A ghost. A man. He j-?jumped onto a saw. ”

  Simon pulled me against him, his hand going to the back of my head, burying my face against his chest. He smelled of vanilla fabric softener with a trace of perspiration, oddly comforting. I lingered, catching my breath.

  Derek wheeled around the corner. “What happened?”

  “A ghost,” I said, pulling away from Simon. “I'm sorry. ”

  “Someone heard. We gotta go. ”

  As I was turning, I saw the ghost again, standing on the platform. Derek followed my gaze. The ghost stood in exactly the same position, gripping the railing. Then he stepped up.

  “It's r-?repeating. Like a film loop. ” I shook it off. “Never mind. We—”

  “Have to go,” Derek said, pushing me. “Move!”

  As we started down the hall, Rae let out a piercing whistle.

  “Did I say softly?” Derek hissed under his breath.

  We veered into Rae's hall to see her standing at a door marked EXIT. She reached for the handle.

  “Don't!” Derek strode past her and cracked the door open, listening and sniffing before pushing it wide. “See that warehouse?”

  “The one, like, a mile back there?” Rae said.

  “Quarter mile, tops. Now go. We're right behind—” His head whipped up, tracking a sound. “They're coming. They heard the whistle. Yo
u guys go. I'll distract them, then follow. ”

  “Uh-?uh,” Simon said. “I've got your back. Chloe, take Rae and run. ”

  Derek opened his mouth to argue.

  Simon cut him off. “You want distractions?” He whispered a spell and waved his hand, fog rising. “I'm your guy. ” He turned to me. “Go. We'll catch up. ”

  I wanted to argue but, again, there was nothing I could offer. My powers had already proved more hindrance than help.

  Rae was already twenty feet across the lot, dancing in place like a boxer, waving for me to hurry up.

  As I turned to go, Derek shouldered past Simon. “Get in the warehouse and don't leave. For one hour, don't even peek out. If we don't come, find a place to hole up. We'll be back. ”

  Simon nodded. “Count on it. ”

  “Don't stay in the warehouse if it's dangerous, but that'll be our rendezvous point. Keep checking in. If you can't stay, find a way to leave a note. We will meet you there. Got it?”

  I nodded.

  “They must be back here,” someone called. “Search every room. ”

  Derek shoved me through the doorway.

  Simon leaned out, mouthing “I'll see you soon,” with a thumbs-?up, then he turned to Derek. “Show time. ”

  I started to run.

  Forty-five

  WE WAITED IN THE WAREHOUSE for one hour and forty minutes.

  “They caught them,” I whispered.

  Rae shrugged. “Maybe not. Maybe they saw their chance to get away and they took it. ”

  A protest rose to my lips, but I swallowed it. She was right. If they had the opportunity to escape and no easy way of alerting us, I'd want them to take it.

  I lifted my numb rear off the ice-?cold cement. “We'll wait here a bit longer, then we'll go. If they got away, they'll hook up with us later. ”

  Rae shook her head. “I wouldn't count on it, Chloe. It's like I said, the way they act, the way they behave, it's always us against them, and 'us' means the two of them. No one else, except maybe that missing dad of theirs. ” She shifted into a crouch. “Did they even give you any idea where they think he is? Or why he hasn't come for them?”

  “No, but—”

  “I'm not arguing, I'm just saying…” She crawled to the opening and peeked out. “It's like last year, when I went out with this guy. He was part of a clique at school. The 'cool kids. ' ” She added the quotes with her fingers. “And, sure, I kinda liked getting to hang with them. I thought it'd make me one of them. Only it didn't. They were nice enough, but they'd been friends since, like, third grade. Just because I had an in didn't mean I'd ever be one of them. You've got these superpowers. That gives you cred with Simon and Derek. But…” She turned my way. “You've only known them for a week. When push comes to shove…”

  “Their first priority is each other. I know that. And I'm not saying you're wrong, just—”

  “Simon's nice to you and all, sure. I see that. But—” She nibbled her lip, then slowly lifted her gaze to mine. “When you were back there, looking for Derek, it wasn't you Simon was worrying about. He didn't even mention you. It was all about Derek. ”

  Of course he was worried about Derek. Derek was his brother; I was some girl he met a week ago. But it still stung a little that he hadn't mentioned me at all.

  I'd been about to tell Rae about the part of the plan she missed, to make this our permanent rendezvous point, and keep checking back. But now it would sound like I was trying to prove the guys hadn't turned their backs on me. How pathetic was that?

  I still thought they'd come back after things died down. It had nothing to do with whether Simon liked me or not. They'd come back because it was the right thing to do. Because they said they would. And maybe that makes me a silly girl who's watched too many movies where the good guy always comes back to save the day. But it's what I believed.

  That did not, however, mean I was sitting here like an action-?flick girlfriend, twiddling her thumbs waiting for rescue. I might be naive, but I wasn't stupid. We'd set a rendezvous point, so there was no need to stick around any longer.

  I crawled from our cubbyhole, looked, and listened. I waved Rae out.

  “First thing I need to do is get money,” I said. “I've got my dad's but we might need more. There's a daily withdrawal limit, and that's probably all I'll get, so I have to act fast, before they put a trace on it or freeze the account. Derek said the nearest ATM was—”

  “What are you doing?” Rae asked.

  “What?”

  She took hold of my arm and pointed at the blood. “You don't need money; you need a doctor. ”

  I shook my head. “I can't go to a hospital. Even if they haven't put out an APB on me yet, I'm too young. They'd call my Aunt Lauren—”

  “I meant your Aunt Lauren. She's a doctor, isn't she?”

  “N-?no. I can't. She'd just take us back—”

  “After they shot at us? I know you're mad at her right now, but you've told me how she's always worrying about you, always looking out for you, defending you. If you show up at her front door and say that Davidoff and his buds shot at you, even with tranquilizers, do you really think she'll march you back to Lyle House?”

  “That depends on whether she believes me. A week ago, yes. But now?“ I shook my head. ”When she was talking to me about Derek, it was like I wasn't even Chloe anymore. I'm a schizophrenic. I'm paranoid and I'm delusional. She won't believe me. "
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