“Let’s get the hell out of here,” Kieran was saying. “It’ll be fine, Jack, come on.”
We were ganging up on him, trying to convince Jack to go on an outing for ice cream, or iced coffee or frozen yogurt or anything to help put a damper on the summer heat. Paranoia, however, was still hanging like a cloud over his head.
“I just ate,” he complained. “Besides, Seb will be here any minute.”
“Ha!” Kieran laughed.
“We won’t be long,” I argued. “Besides, you ate five hours ago.”
We both looked at him as he held a short mental debate and finally agreed.
“Froyo!” Kieran yelled and was on his feet. He was more anxious to get out of the house than I was and probably would’ve settled on an outing to Walmart.
I wanted to drive, eager to sit behind the wheel of anything that resided in Kieran’s garage but my choices were few. After Kieran had everything sent to storage, only the Bentley could hold all three of us. I drove fast and maybe a little crazy, my stale adrenaline finally unleashed after having sat dormant for days. Even Jack seemed to relax, resting his elbow on the windowsill and allowing the hundred degree heat to hit him full frontal. I caught him enjoying the ride, closing his eyes and smiling into the wind.
I followed Kieran’s directions and parked, already eyeing the line for yogurt as it trailed out the door and snaked down the sidewalk.
“Jesus, that’s worse than the lines at Magic Mountain,” Kieran muttered as we climbed out of the car. It took us nearly thirty minutes to get our dessert but we didn’t really mind. We ate outside, on a wooden bench shaded by a short, squatty palm. A cool breeze had started and the air became pleasant, more tolerable. We kept the conversation light and it was just what we needed. No discussion about our enemies, about my safety, about Sebastian’s whereabouts…nothing. Kieran was teasing Jack about his fear of roller-coasters which he vehemently denied.
“Please,” Kieran started. “You won’t even go on Space Mountain at Disneyland.”
“It’s dark in there man,” Jack argued as if he couldn’t believe anyone could possibly enjoy that ride. He scraped his spoon along the near-empty side of his bowl, finishing off the last remnants. “You can’t see where you’re going!” he mumbled.
“Dude, it’s Disneyland. There’s nothing scary there.”
“It’s pretty tame,” I agreed, “except Tower of Terror.”
“Yeah, I’m all over that. We should go sometime, strap him in,” Kieran said.
“I’m not going,” Jack said, tossing his empty bowl in the trash, basketball style.
“Fine,” Kieran replied. “We’ll go and leave you on It’s a Small World with all the five year olds.”
“I don’t like that one either,” Jack argued, crinkling his nose and crossing his arms. “Those dolls freak me out.”
“Like I said, whiney-bitch.”
Jack chuckled under his breath.
I smiled, getting up to throw away my trash, and headed over to the water fountain not far from us. I glanced across the courtyard, across the sea of people who had gathered to enjoy their evening treats, and caught sight of someone staring back at me. He was of medium height, with spikey hair and tattoos on both arms. I recognized him immediately and smiled when he waved at me. It was Shane. I waved back and took a quick drink from the fountain, eager to tell Jack who I’d seen. According to Shane, they hadn’t seen each other in months. Jack would be pleased to see him.
“Hey, I just saw Shane,” I said as I made my way back to the bench. Kieran and Jack were still laughing about some joke.
“Shane?” Jack asked, the laughter fading from his voice.
“Yeah, I saw him at the party the other night and just now,” I answered. I turned around so I could point him out and frowned when I couldn’t see him. He had already disappeared into the crowd.
“You saw him at the party?” Jack asked, the smile instantly gone from his face.
“And just now?”
“Yes, he was across the courtyard,” I said pointing that direction.
“What did he look like, Ny?” Jack asked, already on his feet and scanning the crowd. Kieran stepped onto the bench and brought his hand to his forehead.
“I’m telling you, it was him. He looked like Shane.”
“Are you certain? Was it actually him or someone similar?”
“It was Shane, I’m certain of it. He waved at me, Jack.”
He didn’t question me again; my adamant response was answer enough. Kieran hopped off the bench. Jack’s hand was suddenly around my arm. “Let’s move,” he said with urgency, heading toward the parking lot. “Kieran?”
“I’m here,” he answered, already falling in step behind us. “You wanna just jump to the house?”
“Not without checking it first.”
“I can do that.”
“No, I need you here. Don’t take off just yet.”
“I think you’re both being ridiculous,” I said. “Nothing’s happening. I saw Shane, no big deal.”
“It is a big deal, Ny,” Jack answered.
“Because Shane’s out of town.”
“How do you know that?”
“Cuz it’s Monday and I know he had a race yesterday. There’s no way he got back here in time.”
Kieran continued to glance around, a sickening look began to form on his face. “If Grace did see him, that means they’re here…,”
“I know,” Jack interrupted.
“They know your friends with Shane…,”
“He’s in danger, Jack.”
“What’s going on?” I asked. “Jack, you’re hurting my arm.”
He released his grip on me and dropped his hand to my waist, navigating me toward the car. I still wasn’t convinced the guys weren’t overreacting. Years of running and fighting and near misses had made them overly cautious and downright paranoid but I really couldn’t blame them.
“You drive,” Jack ordered me and tossed the keys my direction. We climbed in the car and I started the motor, pulling out of the parking space with ease. Jack fished his cellphone out of his pocket and punched in Shane’s number. Kieran directed me out of the parking lot and toward home. We took the back roads, avoiding the freeway.
“He’s not answering,” Jack replied. The worry in his tone was evident. He continued to monitor our surroundings, his head on a swivel.
“It’s OK, Jack,” I assured him. “He’s probably just busy.” I turned my attention back to the road and screamed, catching sight of the pedestrian directly in front of us. I stomped down hard on the brake pedal and Jack grabbed the wheel and wrenched it toward him, sending the back end of the car into a skid. It came to an abrupt and screeching halt, sitting sideways in the middle of the road. I glanced outside my side window at Shane still standing in the road, unmoving and unfazed, staring us down. He seemed unconcerned that we barely missed hitting him.
“What the hell?!” I barked, breathing heavy. And in that instant, something monstrous smashed into the other side of us. There was a loud crash and the sound of crushing metal. Another car, a large one, had slammed into our right side, nearly missing Jack’s passenger door. The impact slammed my head against the left window and pushed the car a hundred feet from our location. I saw white as the airbags deployed; glass and plastic flew like parade confetti across the cabin. My traumatized body settled and I heard Jack yell my name in question. It was muffled and I shook my head, shaken out of my trance by the noise.
Kieran was already gone, whether he had jumped before the collision or after, there was no way to tell. Jack reached toward me and then everything happened at once as the car erupted in complete and total chaos...