The summoning, p.33
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       The Summoning, p.33

         Part #1 of Darkest Powers series by Kelley Armstrong
 
Page 33

 

  “Then tell me exactly what the gun and the dart looked like, and I'll say I saw it, too. No, wait! The dart. Derek pulled one out of his shirt, right? Do you know where it is?”

  “I—I think so. ” I thought back, pictured him dropping it in the delivery bay. “Yes, I know exactly where it is. ”

  “Then let's go get it. ”

  * * *

  It wasn't that easy. For all we knew, the factory yard was swarming with cops searching for two teen runaways. But when we looked out, the only people we saw were a half-?dozen factory workers, heading in to work Sunday overtime, laughing and talking, lunch pails swinging, takeout coffees steaming.

  I took off my blood-?soaked sweatshirt and swapped it for Liz's hoodie. Then we crept out, moving from cover to cover. No sign of anyone looking for us. That made sense. How many teenagers run away in Buffalo every day? Even escaping from a home for disturbed kids wouldn't warrant a full-?out manhunt.

  Last night, it had probably been only Lyle House employees chasing us. Maybe board members, like Tori's mother, more worried about the home's reputation than our safety. If they wanted to keep our escape quiet, they'd be gone before any factory employees arrived. By now they were probably in a meeting, deciding what to do and when to notify our parents—and the police.

  I found the dart easily, and put it into my backpack. Then we headed for the business district, looping three blocks past Lyle House and keeping our eyes open. Nothing happened. We found a pay phone, I called for a cab, and gave the driver Aunt Lauren's address.

  * * *

  Aunt Lauren lived in a duplex near the university. When we walked up her steps, the Buffalo News was still there. I picked it up and rang the bell.

  After a minute, a shadow passed behind the curtain. Locks clanked and the door flew open. Aunt Lauren stood there in a short bathrobe, hair wet.

  “Chloe? Oh my God. Where—” She pulled the door open. “What are you doing here? Are you okay? Is everything all right?”

  She tugged me inside by my injured arm and I tried not to wince. Her gaze shot to Rae.

  “Aunt Lauren, this is Rae. From Lyle House. We need to talk to you. ”

  * * *

  As we went inside, I did a proper introduction. Then I told her the whole story. Well, the edited version. Very edited, with no mention of zombies, magic, or werewolves. The boys had been planning to run away and they'd invited us. We'd gone along just for fun—to get out, goof off, then go back later. Knowing Aunt Lauren didn't care for Dr. Gill, I included the part about her attacking me in the yard with her wild accusations. Then I told her about the gun.

  She stared down at the dart, lying on her coffee table, on top of a stack of New Yorker magazines. She picked it up, gingerly, as if it might detonate, and turned it over in her hands.

  “It's a tranquilizer dart,” she said, voice barely above a whisper.

  “That's what we thought. ”

  “But—They shot this at you? At you?”

  “At us. ”

  She slumped back, leather squeaking under her.

  “I was there, Dr. Fellows,” Rae said. “Chloe's telling the truth. ”

  “No, I—” She lifted her gaze to mine. “I believe you, hon. I just can't believe—This is so completely…” She shook her head.

  “Where did you find Lyle House?” I asked.

  She blinked. “Find?”

  “How did you find it for me? In the yellow pages? Through a recommendation?”

  “It came highly recommended, Chloe. Very highly. Someone at the hospital told me about it and I did all my research. Their recovery rate is excellent and they had glowing reports from patients and their families. I can't believe this happened. ”

  So I hadn't randomly arrived at Lyle House. It'd been recommended. Did that mean anything? I fingered Liz's hoodie and thought about us—all of us. No ordinary group home would track runaways with tranquilizer guns. The ghost had been right. There was a reason we'd been at Lyle House and now, withholding the truth from Aunt Lauren, I could be putting her into danger.

  “About the ghosts . . . ” I began.

  “You mean what that Gill woman said?” Aunt Lauren slapped the dart back onto the magazines with such force that the pile fell, magazines sliding across the glass table-?top. “The woman is obviously in need of mental help herself. Thinking you can communicate with ghosts? One whiff of that to a review board and her license will be revoked. She'll be lucky if she isn't committed. No sane person believes people can speak to the dead. ”

  Okay, forget the confession…

  Aunt Lauren rose. “I'm going to start by calling your father, then my lawyer, and he can contact Lyle House. ”

  “Dr. Fellows?”

  Aunt Lauren turned to Rae.

  “Before you do that, you'd better take a look at Chloe's arm. ”

  Forty-six

  AUNT LAUREN TOOK ONE look and freaked out. I needed stitches, immediately. She didn't have the supplies at home, and I had to have full medical attention. Who knew what I might have severed or what filth or germs might have been on that glass? While she was rebandaging me, she made me drink a bottle of Gatorade to replace any fluids I'd lost from bleeding. Within ten minutes, Rae and I were in the back of her Mercedes, tearing from her garage.

  I dozed off before we reached the first traffic light. I supposed all those sleepless nights had something to do with that. Being in Aunt Lauren's car helped, with its familiar smell of berry air freshener and its soft beige leather seats and the faded blue spot where I'd spilled a slushie three years ago. Back home. Back to normal.

  I knew it wasn't that simple. I wasn't back to normal. And Derek and Simon were still out there and I was worried about them. But even that worry seemed to fade as the car bumped along, like I was leaving it behind in another life. A dream life. Part nightmare, part… not.

  Raising the dead, escaping from the clutches of an evil doctor, tearing through abandoned warehouses with people shooting at me. It all seemed so unreal in this familiar car, the radio station tuned to WJYE, my aunt laughing at something Rae said about her choice of music, saying I complained, too. So familiar. So normal. So comforting.

  And, yet, even as I drifted off, I clung to the memories of that other life, where the dead came to life and fathers disappeared and sorcerers conducted horrific experiments and buried the bodies under the house and boys could make fog appear from their fingertips or turn into wolves. Now it was over and it was like waking up to discover I couldn't see ghosts anymore. The feeling that I'd missed out on something that would make my life tougher but might also make it different. An adventure. Special.

  * * *

  I woke to Aunt Lauren shaking me.

  “I know you're tired, hon. Just come on inside and you can go back to sleep. ”

  I stumbled out of the car. She caught me, Rae diving in to help.

  “Is she okay?” Rae asked my aunt. “She lost a lot of blood. ”

  “She's exhausted. You both must be. ”

  When the cold air hit, I yawned and gave my head a sharp shake. I could make out a building in front of me. I blinked hard and it came into focus. A yellow brick rectangle with a single, unmarked door.

  “Is this the hospital?”

  “No, it's a walk-?in clinic. I called Buffalo General and Mercy and their emergencies are packed. A typical Sunday morning. Between the Saturday night gunshot wounds and the drunk drivers, it's a zoo. I know a doctor here and we'll get you straight in. ”

  She looked up as a small, gray-?haired woman rounded the corner. “Oh, there's Sue. She's a nurse here. Rae, Sue's going to take you over to the waiting room, get you some breakfast, and check you over. ”

  I peered at the woman as I struggled to focus. She looked familiar. When she stopped to talk to my aunt, I realized she must be her friend. But even after she walked away, it niggled at the back of my foggy brain, s
ome connection I wasn't getting.

  It wasn't until we were inside that I remembered where I'd seen her. Just last night, clutching the chain-?link fence, calling my name.

  I wheeled on Aunt Lauren. “That woman—”

  “Sue, yes. She's a nurse here. She'll take good care of—”

  “No! I saw her last night with the man who shot at us. ”

  Aunt Lauren's face crumpled and she put her arm around me. “No, honey, that's not the same woman. You've been through a lot and you're confused—”

  I pushed her away. “I'm not. I saw her. Is she the one who recommended Lyle House? We need to get out of here. ”

  I ducked out of her grasp and raced back to the door. I grabbed the handle, but she caught up, holding it shut.

  “Chloe, listen to me. You need to—”

  “I need to get out. ” I pulled on the door with both hands, but she held it fast. “Please, Aunt Lauren, you don't understand. We have to get out of here. ”

  “Would someone please help Dr. Fellows?” a voice echoed down the hall. I turned to see Dr. Davidoff striding toward us.

  A man hurried past him, coming at me with a syringe.

  “That won't be necessary, Marcel,” Aunt Lauren snapped. “I've already given her something. ”

  “And I can see it's working very well. Bruce, sedate Chloe, please. ”

  I looked up at Aunt Lauren. “Y-?you drugged me?”

  Her arms went around me. “You'll be okay, hon. I promise. ”

  I lashed out, hitting her so hard she stumbled back. Then she turned on Dr. Davidoff.

  “I told you this wasn't the way to handle it. I told you to leave it to me. ”

  “Leave what to you?” I said, taking a slow step back and hitting the door.

  She reached for me, but my hands flew up, warding her off.

  “Leave what to you?”

  The man with the syringe caught my arm. I tried to yank away, but the needle went in. Aunt Lauren stepped toward me, mouth opening. Then a woman hurried down the hall, calling to Dr. Davidoff.

  “The team just called in a report, sir. There's no sign of the boys. ”

  “Surprise, surprise,” Aunt Lauren said, turning to Dr. Davidoff. “Kit taught them well. Once they're gone, they'll keep running. I warned you. ”

  “We'll find them. ”

  “You'd better, and when you do, I expect that brute to be handled the way he should have been handled years ago. Put down like a rabid dog. Wait until you see what he did to Chloe's arm. ”

  “D-?Derek?” I struggled against the pull of the sedative. “Derek didn't do this. I cut myself—”

  Aunt Lauren caught me as I slid down the wall. I tried to push her away, but my arms wouldn't respond. She shouted for them to hurry with the stretcher, then leaned over me, holding me steady.

  “You don't need to cover for him, Chloe,” she whispered. “We know what he is. ” A glare back at Dr. Davidoff. “A monster. One that didn't belong in the…”

  I didn't catch her next few words. The hall flickered, fading.

  When I focused, I saw her face over mine. “But we won't let him hurt Simon, Chloe. I promise you that. When you wake up, you're going to help us find Simon and bring him home. I know he's important to you. He's important to all of us. You all are. You and Rachelle and Simon and Victoria. Very special. You're—”

  Everything went dark.

  Forty-seven

  I LAY AWAKE, STARING AT the wall. I couldn't bring myself to roll over and look around. Couldn't even bother lifting my head from the pillow. I could feel the pull of the sedative, luring me back into sleep, but I kept my eyes open, gaze fixed on the green painted wall.

  Aunt Lauren had betrayed me.

  When she'd thought I'd been fooling around with Derek, I'd felt betrayed. Now I looked back on how furious I'd been and my throat tightened as I prayed I could go back there, to where that was the worst thing I could ever imagine her doing.

  It was all a lie.

  She was a lie. Our relationship was a lie.

  Even when I was a child seeing bogeymen in the basement, she'd known perfectly well I was seeing ghosts. My mother knew it—that's why she'd insisted we move.

  I fingered my necklace. Was this more than a silly talisman to convince me I was safe? Did my mother really think it would protect me? Is that why Aunt Lauren had insisted I wear it at Lyle House? Simon said necromancy was hereditary. If both my mother and my aunt had known about the ghosts, it must run in their blood.

  Did my father know? Was that why he stayed away from me? Because I was a freak?

  I thought about my mother. About the accident. The hit-?and-?run driver had never been found. Had it really been an accident? Or had someone killed—?

  No. I squeezed the thought from my brain as I clutched the pillow tighter. I couldn't let my mind start running away like that or I'd go crazy.

  Crazy.

  Aunt Lauren knew I wasn't crazy, and she let me think I was. Shipped me off to a group home.

  A group home filled with other supernatural kids.

  When Aunt Lauren said we were special, she'd included Rae. So she must really be one of those half-?demons. What about Tori? What was she? Did her mother know? If her mother worked for them, she must know, and if she did, and blamed Tori for not getting better…

  What kind of parent would do that?

  But hadn't my aunt done the same thing? Only she sweetened it with smiles and hugs and maybe that was worse. Right now, it felt worse.

  Was Lyle House where they sent us when things went wrong? Put us there and medicated us and tried to tell us we had a mental illness? But why? Wouldn't the truth be easier? Why not tell us when we were young and prepare us, and teach us how to control it?
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