If I’d been thinking clearly, I’d have done it systematically. But I’d been busy worrying about Simon and Chloe. I’d sent her into that warehouse, thinking it was safe because we’d be right behind her. Only we weren’t and now I wasn’t sure how safe it was. I should have come up with a better plan. She trusted me and I’d be responsible if she’d been captured.
We’d finally found a room with a hatch that led into some kind of storage space above the ceiling. Whatever it was supposed to store, though, no one seemed to bother anymore, probably because it was hot as hell and stunk of bat shit.
“That’s good, right?” Simon said when I told him what the stink was.
If he meant it was better than rats, I wasn’t telling him I could smell those, too. I just grunted and said, “If you can stand the smell, we should stay up here.”
“Um, why?” When I started to say it was the best hideout place, he said, “Guano, bro? Bat shit means bats. Bats mean there’s a way out.” He thumped me on the back. “You’re the science guy, aren’t you?”
“Freaked out and not thinking straight. And, yes, just because a bat can get in, doesn’t mean we can get out. Still, a lot of bat shit means a lot of bats.”
Which meant, presumably, an easy way in, not just a crack in the roof. As I started moving, Simon grabbed my arm.
“Yeah.” I paused. “Which means there’s some source of light up here.” Even I couldn’t see in total darkness.
We moved around, Simon holding my shirt until his eyes adjusted to the low light enough that he could see to move, too.
We passed a bunch of support beams, and then I saw it—a broken vent on the ceiling. The light seeping in wasn’t from the moon though. It was the gray light of dawn.
I thought of Chloe hiding in the warehouse. It felt like she’d only left a few minutes ago. Had it been an hour? More? Damn it. I should have been keeping track. I would have, too, if I had my watch on.
An hour was nothing, when you came down to it. For all the girls knew, we’d taken off out another door and were hiding somewhere else, waiting until the coast was clear. Chloe would wait. It was Rae I was worried about, but if she’d stayed an hour, she’d stay longer. No need to rush now, and it was better if we didn’t. Take it slow and careful.
The hole was big enough to let Simon pass, but not me until I ripped off the rest of the vent. I stuck my head out and looked at the nearly flat roof. It was deserted.
“—stand up and call attention to myself. I know.” I’m not a moron, his look added. He always took stuff like that the wrong way. Chloe, too. If I give them a friendly suggestion, it’s just because I’m making sure they know what to do, not because I presume they don’t.
Sure, Simon would say if it was a friendly suggestion, I should make it sound a little friendlier. To me, the instruction is important, not the delivery.
I crawled through. We were near the front of the building. As we crouched there, a truck rolled up to the gates. I grabbed Simon’s arm to tug him back. He gave me another look, one that pointed out that he hadn’t been going anywhere.
A heavyset man climbed out, unlocked the big gates and pushed them back. He got back in his truck and parked it in the employee lot.
“The factory’s opening for the day,” Simon said with a grin. “Davidoff and his guys are going to have to leave now.”
I wasn’t so sure. The man looked like an employee, but still . . .
“Let’s go get Chloe and Rae,” Simon said, starting to rise.
“Hold on? It’s been over an hour. We need to—”
I wasn’t, and that bugged me. I didn’t trust Rae to stay in the warehouse, and I knew Chloe wouldn’t let her leave by herself. I was pissed off with myself for not making sure she remembered my instructions. I was pissed off with Simon for agreeing to let Rae come along. I was pissed off with Chloe for not leaving me at Lyle House when I told her to.
“She was supposed to go with you,” I said. “That was the plan. She screwed up the plan.”
“Excuse me? Are you saying Chloe deserves to get caught because she stayed behind to make sure you were okay?”
“Course not. But if she’d followed the plan, none of this would have happened.”
“How the hell do you know that? Those guys were on our tails as soon as Rae and I got here. No way they had time to assemble a team that fast after you were spotted.”
“But still it’s her fault. Somehow, some way, it’s Chloe’s fault because it’s always Chloe’s fault.”
“What’s your problem with her anyway? In the last few days, she’s learned she’s a necromancer. She’s discovered there’s a whole supernatural world out there. And she’s adjusted. I couldn’t have done that. I’d be useless. Freaked out and in total denial.”
“She’s coping well. I said that this morning.”
“To me. Not to her.” He shook his head. “Never mind. Whatever your problem with Chloe is—”
“I don’t have a problem with Chloe. You’re right. If we can get to her, we should. As soon as possible.”
Only we couldn’t. When we reached the rear of the roof, we saw Davidoff and Mrs. Talbot—the head nurse from Lyle House—conferring. They stood right in the path to the warehouse. I surveyed the lot for another route, but any way we went, we’d cross their path.
“We have to wait it out,” I said.
Simon looked toward the warehouse, and I knew he was worried about Chloe. After a second, he shook it off.
“You’re right,” he said. “She’s fine. We told her to wait, so she’ll wait, and if that’s not safe, she’ll find a hidey-hole and come back later. We have a plan. She’ll stick to it.”
We tried to find a vantage point where we could watch the warehouse, in case Chloe and Rachelle left it, but there was no safe spot with a perfect view.
After a few minutes, we couldn’t even see Davidoff and Talbot. They’d moved toward the exit door. Had they gone back inside? Or were they right under the overhang? I couldn’t see them and they were too far away for me to hear them if they were. So we waited.
WouldChloe wait for us? When it came down to it, who were we to her? Just a couple of guys she barely knew. Guys who’d helped her figure out what she was and promised to get her help, but still damned close to strangers.
And who was Chloe to me? Someone I’d taken advantage of. Someone I’d only helped because she was the key to getting Simon out of Lyle House. At least, that’s how it started.
Chloe came to Lyle House a week ago. The nurses announced it by saying there was a new girl, so we had to clear out. Or the others had to clear out. I wasn’t allowed to leave. I was too dangerous. In January, I’d thrown a kid against a wall and broken his back. That started the chain of events that led to our father disappearing, and Simon and me coming to Lyle House.
I could argue that the kid had been going after Simon with a knife. I could argue that I hadn’t thrown him very hard. I could argue that I hadn’t meant to hurt him, and that everyone misunderstood because they didn’t know I had super-strength. But Iknew I had super-strength, so I should have been more careful.
Enough about that. The new girl came. I was there. If it had been Simon, he’d have gone downstairs to introduce himself, make her feel welcome. I didn’t leave my room. Didn’t even sneak out for a look at her. Not important. Didn’t care.
I only started to care after Simon did. When he met her in the kitchen, he’d flirted with her, and told me she was cute. I hadn’t noticed that. I did notice the glitter in his eyes when he said it, and that’s when I started paying attention.
Simon liked girls. Always had. They liked him back. When we came to Lyle House, though, that changed. One in particular, Tori, made an idiot of herself falling over him, but he wasn’t interested. He said if girls were at Lyle House, they had problems and he didn’t want to take advantage of them. While I’m sure that was a factor, the truth is that Simon had changed. He’d withdrawn. He barely ever took out his sketchpad and he was never more than politely friendly to the girls.
So when he said he thought Chloe was cute, I knew something had changed. Not that he’d found the girl of his dreams, but that he was finally getting back to himself. Waking up. And when he did, I could convince him to leave and find our dad.
Then came a lucky break I couldn’t have imagined. Over lunch, Tori told us Chloe was at Lyle House because she saw ghosts. That got my attention so fast I almost choked on my casserole. I’d looked up, and when I saw the horror in Chloe’s eyes, I knew Tori was right.
I don’t know much about schizophrenia, but I’d read a little on it when I did a project on dopamine receptors. Some schizophrenics have auditory and visual hallucinations. They really believe they’re hearing and seeing these things. So if you were schizophrenic, wouldn’t you admit to “seeing ghosts” and figure everyone else was a moron for missing them?
It wasn’t a perfect theory. It bore investigation, though. When Chloe stayed in the basement to fold laundry, I snuck down. I caught her talking to a ghost, and I knew from her reaction that she wasn’t schizophrenic. She was a necromancer.
I couldn’t have asked for a better stroke of luck. Simon finally liked a girl again, and she was a supernatural. She needed help. Our help. Or, in this case, hishelp. Chloe was tiny and cute and shy, just the kind of girl to bring out Simon’s inner knight-in-shining armor. He could help her, and all he had to do was take her out of Lyle House and find our dad.