The Reckoning / Page 22

Page 22


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Thirty


“ANDREW?” I PEEKED INTO the kitchen, where he was getting a snack with the guys.


“Hmm?”


“That book you were going to let me read…”


“Oh, right. My laptop is in the office. Should be all powered up.”


“Is there a password?”


He smiled. “Nope. As valuable as I think unpublished manuscripts are, there’s not really a black market for them. There’s a link to the book right on the desktop for you.”


He gave me the title.


“Tori wanted to take a look, too, if that’s okay?”


“Absolutely. The more feedback I can get from the target audience, the better. If anything sticks out-problems with the characters, the plot, the language-let me know.”



Tori rolled her eyes at the lack of security on Andrew’s laptop. Like most people who weren’t tech-savvy, he presumed if he deleted stuff, it was gone. Or maybe he knew traces remained, but figured we wouldn’t know how to find them. And he’d have been right…if we didn’t have Tori.


We started with an email search and found the ones he’d exchanged with Margaret, removing any doubt it’d been him. There were also a few between him and Tomas, where Andrew seemed determined to ensure a safe transfer of Derek to the Pack. Had he really been that concerned for Derek’s safety? Liam clearly had orders to kill if necessary. Was that decision made behind Andrew’s back? That would explain why he’d seemed so genuinely shocked when he’d found out what had happened to Derek and me.


Or maybe I just wasn’t ready to see Andrew as one of the bad guys yet. I’d liked him. I really had. Yet it only took one more email for those feelings to evaporate, one that had nothing to do with Liam and Russell or the Edison Group. When Tori found it, we both read it and read it again, neither of us saying a word until I managed a shaky, “I-I’d better get the guys.”


“I’ll see if there’s more,” she said as I raced off.


I finally tracked down Derek. He was alone in the library, thumbing through a book.


“Found you,” I said on a sigh of relief.


He turned. His lips curved in a quarter smile, gaze softening in a way that did something to my insides, made me pull up short, momentarily forgetting why I was there.


“I-Is Simon around?”


He blinked, then turned back to the shelf.


“He’s upstairs. He’s really pissed about Andrew so that’s probably the safest place for him until we’re ready to go, or he’ll say something to him we don’t want said. You need him?”


“Actually, m-maybe I should show you first.”


He glanced over his shoulder, frowning.


“We found something.”


“Oh.” He paused, like he was mentally shifting gears, then nodded and followed me out.


Tori swiveled in her seat as we came in.


“There are more,” she said. “He sent one every couple of weeks. The last one was only a few days ago.”


“Good,” I said. “Would you mind keeping an eye on Andrew?”


“Sure.” She took off.


“Wait.” I grabbed Derek’s sleeve as he headed for the chair Tori had vacated. I wanted to say something. I didn’t know what. But there was no way to tell him that wouldn’t be just as much of a shock, so I ended up stupidly murmuring, “Never mind.”


When he read what was on the screen, he went absolutely still, like he wasn’t even breathing. After a few seconds, he yanked the laptop closer, leaning in to read it again. And again. Finally, he pushed back the chair and exhaled.


“He’s alive,” I said. “Your dad’s alive.”


He looked up at me and, I couldn’t help it-I threw my arms around his neck and hugged him. Then I realized what I was doing. I let go, backing away, tripping over my feet, stammering, “I-I’m sorry. I’m just-I’m happy for you.”


“I know.”


Still sitting, he reached out and pulled me toward him. We stayed there, looking at each other, his hand still wrapped in my shirt hem, my heart hammering so hard I was sure he could hear it.


“There’s more,” I said after a few seconds. “More emails, Tori said.”


He nodded and swiveled back to the computer, making room for me. When I inched closer, not wanting to intrude, he tugged me in front of him and I stumbled, half falling onto his lap. I tried to scramble up, cheeks burning, but he pulled me down onto his knee, one arm going around my waist, tentative, as if to say Is this okay? It was, even if my blood pounded in my ears so hard I couldn’t think. Thankfully, I had my back to him because I was sure my cheeks were scarlet.


I hadn’t misunderstood his look earlier. This was something. Or it would become something, I hoped. God, I hoped. Right now, though, there was too much else going on. I hated that, but I was kind of glad of it, too, giving my brain time to stop spinning.


After a second-still perched on Derek’s knee-I forced my attention back to the screen.


I read the first email again. Dated two months ago, it was a chain of three messages, the first, short and to the point.


It’s Kit. Got myself in some trouble. Do you know where the boys are?


Andrew answered.


No, I don’t. What kind of trouble? How can I help?


The reply was longer.


Nasts caught up with me. Saw an article on D. Tracked me down before I could run. Went with them to distract them from the boys. Kept me a few months until I finally gave them what they wanted. The boys are long gone. Thought EG, but no sign at the lab. Maybe Nasts? Child services? No idea. I need help, buddy. Anything you can do. Please.


He signed off giving a phone number and saying both it and the email address were temporary, but he’d be in touch again in a couple of weeks.


I flipped to the next email as Derek read over my shoulder. There were three more of the same-Mr. Bae begging for news, Andrew saying he was looking for Simon and Derek, but his Edison Group contacts swore the boys weren’t there.


The last one from Mr. Bae was dated three days ago, when Andrew had supposedly been held hostage by the Edison Group. That meant he’d gotten this after he knew where Simon and Derek were.


“There’s one more on the list,” Derek said. “It must be a reply.”


It was, sent the night when Andrew and the others had been staking out his cottage, waiting to make their fake SWAT team swoop and gather us up.


Still nothing. I might have a lead, though. A guy who works for the Cortezes says there’s a rumor they’re holding a couple of teenage boys. I’ll call as soon as I have more.


“Cortezes?” I said.


“A Cabal, like the Nasts. Corporations run by sorcerers. Rich and powerful. More Mafia than Wall Street, though.”


“So Andrew was lying.”


“Not just lying. Trying to send Dad on a wild-goose chase when he knew exactly where we were.”


“This changes everything.”


He nodded.


“We need to get out of here.”


He nodded again, but didn’t move. I leaned forward to grab a pen and paper from Andrew’s desk, then jotted down the latest email address and phone number. When I handed it to Derek, he took a second to even notice my outstretched hand.


“You okay?” I said, twisting to face him.


“Yeah, just…Andrew. Getting rid of me, I could see. But keeping Dad away…Dad trusted him.”


“And now we can’t,” I said. “Which sucks, but the main thing is that your dad’s alive.”


He smiled, hesitant at first, then a blazing grin broke through that made my heart stop. I recovered and grinned back and went to throw my arms around his neck, then stopped, blushing. Before I could pull back, he caught my elbows and put my arms around his neck and pulled me into a hug.


Then he jumped, chair swiveling so fast I nearly went flying. I heard footsteps in the hall and I scrambled off his lap just as Simon swung in, breathing heavily, like he’d come running.


“Tori said you wanted to see me? Something about Dad.”


I moved aside so Derek could show him the emails, then stepped into the hall to watch for Andrew and to leave them alone. This was the news they’d been waiting for and they’d gone through hell thinking it might never come, so I tried not to eavesdrop.


“Chloe?”


Derek stood in the doorway. He motioned me back in. Simon was at the keyboard, control panel open.


“There’s no Internet connection,” I said, “if that’s what you’re looking for. No phone either.”


“Andrew has a cell,” Simon said.


“Too risky,” Derek said. “There was a pay phone at the service station. We’ll call on our way out, set up a place to meet him.”


Simon’s eyes lit up at the thought of finally talking to his dad. Then they clouded with anger, the thrill of seeing news from his dad warring with the pain of Andrew’s betrayal.


“So we’re going now, right?” I said.


“Yeah,” Derek said. “We’re going.”


Thirty-one


BY NOW, WE WERE experts at this escaping thing. We filled Tori in, then split up to gather what we needed-clothes, money, food. We took turns, two packing while the other two hung out, talking so Andrew didn’t wonder why he had a house with four teenagers in it and sudden silence. Thankfully Andrew spent the whole time in the kitchen. I don’t think any of us could have faced him.


Tori and I were on make-our-presence-known duty when Derek slipped in with an armful of ski jackets.


“Found these in the basement,” he said. “It got cold last time.” He passed me a red one and gave Tori a blue one. “Simon’s finding one that fits, then coming up. We’ll head out the back door. You three will go on ahead. I’ll stay inside and make sure Andrew doesn’t come out until you’re safe in the woods.”


“And if he does?” I asked.


Derek rubbed his mouth, meaning he’d rather not plan for that possibility.


“Don’t tell me you’ll have any problem taking him out,” Tori said. “After what he did to you? I say we handle him now, save us all this sneaking around. I’ll use the binding spell. You guys tie him up.”


“Works for me,” Simon said, coming up behind us. “I still remember my knots from Scouts.”


Derek hesitated. Then he looked at me, which surprised me a little, and I said, “I-I agree,” not really sure he was looking for that, but he nodded, and I said, more firmly, “It’s the best way. Otherwise, once he figures out we’re gone, he’ll-”


The doorbell rang. I wasn’t the only one who jumped. Derek grabbed our bags, ready to bolt.


“Guys?” Andrew called. “Can someone get that? It’s Margaret.”


“That makes things a little tougher,” Tori murmured. “But not much. She’s old, and she’s just a necromancer.” A glance at me. “Sorry.”


“Guys?” Andrew’s footsteps tapped down the hall.


“Got it!” Simon called.


“We’ll take out Margaret first,” Derek murmured. “Tori can bind her. Simon can tie her. I’ll go for Andrew. Chloe? Move the coats and bags into the closet, just in case.”


Move the coat and bags? Sometimes I really wished my powers were a little more, well, powerful. I hefted two backpacks as Derek headed for the kitchen and Tori and Simon went to the front door.


I was coming back for the second load when I heard Margaret’s voice. Had Tori’s binding spell failed?


“This is Gordon,” Margaret was saying. “And this is Roxanne. With Russell and Gwen gone, we thought it was safe to bring a few more of our members in to meet you. Now, let’s all go review our plans.”


Tori wanted to take on all four, but suggested it only halfheartedly. Four adults versus four kids meant bad odds, especially when we had no idea what supernatural types Gordon and Roxanne were. Our plan, then, was to sneak out as soon as they started their meeting. Except they wanted us in on that meeting. Simon opted out-he couldn’t face Andrew-so Derek and I covered for him. I was the one they most wanted to talk to anyway, asking more questions about the Edison Group laboratory and staff.


I had to call on all my years of drama training to pull off that performance. That, and not look in Andrew’s direction any more than absolutely necessary. I seethed the whole time, knowing they didn’t care what I said, that they weren’t planning on going back. I had no idea what they were planning, only that we weren’t sticking around long enough to find out.


Finally, they released us.


“Get Simon,” Derek whispered to Tori as we hurried down the hall. “I’m going to move the bags out to the woods. Chloe? Cover me.”


It would make more sense for Tori-the girl with the spells-to cover him, but I didn’t suggest it. Derek still didn’t trust her enough for that.


Tori didn’t even make it as far as the stairs, when a voice called, “Kids? Are you back here?”


Derek swore. It was Gordon, the new guy.


“Over here,” I said, walking to where he stood in the hall. Derek followed.


Gordon was about Andrew’s age, average height, with a potbelly and graying beard, the kind of guy who’d be recruited to play the office Santa.


“Do they need us again?” I asked.


“No, they’re busy making plans, so I thought I’d say hi. We didn’t get much of a chance to chat in there.” He walked over to Derek and beamed a wide smile, shaking his hand. “You don’t remember me, do you? I’m not surprised. You were just a little guy the last time we met. I used to work with your dad. We played poker on Tuesdays.” He clapped a hand on Derek’s shoulder and steered him into the living room. “Andrew tells me you’re quite the science whiz. I teach physics over at…”


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