I didn’t sleep. Simon drifted off a few times. The first two times he woke up, he said, “Did Dad call?” After that, he stopped asking.
We got up at dawn. I made breakfast. Simon didn’t want any. I said we couldn’t have him get low on the road, and that made him eat. It was too early to leave anyway.
While Simon paced, I packed food. I knew we wouldn’t get good choices on the road and I really needed to make sure Simon’s blood sugar stayed stable. If it went too low, he’d get tired. Too high, and he’d get irritable. He’s pretty good at managing it himself, but his attention was somewhere else right now, so it was up to me to keep him on track.
I was checking carb counts on stuff when the doorbell rang. Simon’s footsteps thudded from the bedroom, then slowed as he realized Dad wouldn’t ring the bell. I glanced through into the living room and saw a car in the drive—a big dark blue sedan, like an unmarked cop car.
“Simon!” I hissed, trying to get his attention, tell him not to answer.
He waved me back. I hesitated, but he was right. If it was the cops, then it would be worse if we didn’t answer. Besides, they could be coming to tell us something about Dad. As he opened the door, I eased back to watch from the next room. The angle was wrong, but I could make out two uniformed cops.
“He’s in the shower,” I called, withdrawing so the cops wouldn’t see me.
He slammed the door, then very carefully locked it. He ran down the hall, thumping as loud as he could, yelling, “Dad! There are a couple police officers here to see you!”
He slowed, quieting his footsteps and slipped into the kitchen, whispering. “Now what?”
It wouldn’t be long before the cops figured out Dad wasn’t coming. If they were here with a warrant for my arrest, then I was pretty sure they could break in to find me, especially since they’d already heard my voice. We had to get out.
The house didn’t have a back door or a garage. Sneaking out the side wouldn’t be safe. So Simon grabbed our bags and jackets as I took out the screen on the dining room window. I waved Simon through. It was a tight squeeze for me, but I made it.
As we crossed the back yard, heading for the tool shed, I could hear the cops talking on the porch. It was just small talk at first, then one said, “Ring it again.”
“I just did,” the other replied. “And it’s gotten very quiet in there.”
I waved Simon behind the shed. When he went for the rear fence, I shook my head and whispered that I was listening to the cops.
“We’re stuck outside the house,” the one said to his supervisor. He explained what had happened so far, then said, “How long do you want us to wait before going in?” He paused. “I know.” Pause. “I know. But considering what we’re dealing with, a little caution is in order, don’t you think?”
The hair on my neck rose. I shook it off. No reason to freak out. They meant they were dealing with a kid with a history of violence and possible steroid use.
“Fine, we’ll go in. But we want backup on the way. Got it?” Pause. “No, right now or I don’t budge from this spot.”
“She wants you to go around and cover the back, in case they bolt.”
I backed up behind the shed fast. The gate squeaked as one cop came into the yard. Simon frowned at me.
His frown grew. I knew what he was thinking. If these guys had come to arrest me—or ask Dad to bring me into the station to be charged—then that was serious, but not the kind of thing that would make a normal man—especially a lawyer—grab his kids and go on the run.
Was I sure these were cops? The uniforms said so, but I couldn’t get close enough to see how real they looked. And the unmarked car with uniformed officers seemed a little weird.
They hadn’t said a word about Dad specifically. Did they know he wasn’t here . . . because they worked for the people who’d taken him, and were now coming back for us? But wouldn’t it have been safer to come last night? Wouldn’t they have been concerned that we’d leave? Or report Dad missing?
I ran my hand through my hair. Too many damned questions. My brain doesn’t deal well with ambiguity.
“Did you get a good look at those cops?”
“Was their uniform right? For the local police?”
Being an artist, Simon pays more attention to detail than I do. He’d have noticed if they were state cops, but I doubted he’d seen the local ones often enough to say, “Hey, that badge isn’t right.”
I looked around. The chain-link fence Simon had started climbing earlier was our best way out of the yard. I peered at the house behind us. The windows were dark. Did that mean the neighbors were gone already? Or not up yet? I had no idea—our rear neighbors could be a family with kids or old people, and I wouldn’t know. Never paid any attention. I should have. I really should have.
I listened. Everything seemed quiet in the house behind ours—whether they were away or asleep, we’d be safe as long as we were careful. I waved for Simon to go as I stood watch. I followed over the fence, then we snuck along to the street.
“Now what?” Simon murmured as we reached the sidewalk.
“Act normal, like we’re heading into school early for a practice.”
I took out my cell.
I motioned for him to wait, then dialed information. When I asked for the local police, they put me right through. Growing up fast means I don’t sound like a kid a few weeks from his sixteenth birthday, so when I asked for Detective Fulbright, the dispatcher put me right through. It rang three times, then voicemail picked up.
“That didn’t do any good,” I muttered as I hung up.
“I was trying to find out if the detective sent those guys,” I said.
We walked half a block, then Simon said, “You know who we shouldcall. Andrew. Dad said if we were ever in trouble—”
“If you thought that still applied, you’d have brought this up last night.”
“I know we haven’t seen Andrew in a couple of years—”
“After he and Dad had a big fight.”
“But they’re still in contact,” Simon said. “And Dad never said we should stop using him as an emergency contact.”
Simon fell silent. I knew that didn’t mean he was giving up, just that he wasn’t sure of his position on the matter. Neither was I. When we were little, Andrew Carson was Dad’s best friend. They used to work together, so Dad said if we were ever in trouble, that’s who we should go to. But a couple of years ago, they had a falling out. They still talked and Andrew sent us birthday and Christmas gifts. We just didn’t visit anymore.
Did that mean we shouldn’t call him? I wasn’t sure, and I suspected the reason I hadn’t suggested it already was that I wasn’t all that comfortable with the idea of running to Andrew.
Simon had always been Andrew’s favorite and sometimes I felt like . . . I don’t know. I guess I’m touchy about that, especially considering Andrew knows I’m a werewolf. I can’t help jumping to the conclusion that’swhat makes him hold back, when the truth is that Simon’s just a whole lot easier to like.
So I said we should call Andrew.
“No, you’re right,” he said. “We will, if we need to, but there’s that guy in Albany we can try first. The one who got Dad his job. He knows about us. Maybe he can help. Before we do that, though, we should find out if those guys at the house are really cops. Because if they aren’t, then they must be the ones who took Dad, so we should follow them.”
“How? Run after the car really, really fast?”
He gave me a look. “ Driveobviously. We have Dad’s keys. You look old enough that no one’s going to pull you over.”
“Let me call the department again,” I said. “I’ll—”
A cop car rolled around the corner—a real one, complete with decals. I grabbed Simon’s arm, but it was too late to get away before they saw us.
I tried to keep walking, calmly, as the car approached. The officers looked our way, then the car rolled past.
Simon let out an exaggerated sigh of relief, cut short by a quick intake of breath. I followed his gaze to the car’s brake lights, flashing red. The tires chirped as the car stopped on the wet road.
I shook my head. The car turned around and came back. The officer behind the wheel rolled down his window.
My last name was Souza, but Brown was the one on my ID, and I’d been using it so long that I probably wouldn’t even answer to Souza.
“Detective Fulbright has been trying to get hold of your dad,” the cop said when I nodded.
“He should be at home.”
I held my breath, waiting for him to say a car had already been there. When he didn’t, Simon leaned forward and said, “We saw a car heading over there. Looked like an unmarked cruiser. We figured they were going to talk to him.”
When the cop said he didn’t know anything about that, Simon grinned. “Good, because we thought maybe they were coming to arrest Derek. Just our luck, they’d come roaring up once we got to school.”
The cop assured him they wouldn’t do anything like that. “If they decided to charge him, your dad can bring him in.”