He’s only connected to me, to nobody else–just to me. Why? What’s so special about me? I don’t understand why he’s going on about my grandmother, but if whatever that is isn’t the reason then… why me…?
I just stared at the man, Professor Rood. Or Redding. Or whoever he was. He just stared back, obviously very nervous. Very twitchy. Suddenly I was struck with a thought. Was this how I looked when I first went to live with Hal? All… twitchy and scared like this? If I was, it was because of Doug. And he is like this–because of his sister. Was his sister really that scary? Were these really the people my mom said to avoid?
I tried remembering everything that had been said but it was over twenty years ago. Around our sixteenth birthday. Reddings. Scientists. Avoid. What else?
“What will she do to me, if she thinks I’ve got some sort of special connection?” I asked, wrapping my arms around myself and shivering.
“Do anything sh-she can to find out wh-what it is,” he answered. “I w-will try to g-get you out. As s-soon as I can. I think we have until S-Sunday before she t-tires of the current tests she’s running.” He nervously began rubbing the back of his head again.
“When is that? In case you haven’t noticed, I’m kinda like a caged up toy right now,” I said, regretting the harsh tone as soon as I said it. He was trying to help, after all. Or was he? Maybe he was as bad as his sister and just tricking me.
“Th-th-three days,” he stammered, looking rather guilty. “The b-biggest hurdle is the distance. We are… l-literally miles f-from anywhere. It’s a l-long walk on foot, th-that’s why usually helicopters are used.”
I remembered the chopping sound around the time Doug brought me here. “What about cars?” I asked.
He shook his head. “No t-tracks. Just w-wilderness and a c-couple meadows w-where the helicopters l-land…”
“How did you get here then?” I demanded. “To this… house? Hut? Wherever I am! Where am I, by the way?”
“A s-small hut in the r-r-restricted s-section,” he said, wincing at my angry voice. “Four-th-thirteen’s shack. B-because of his temper and aggression w-we had to place him f-far from the other experiments.”
I rubbed my forehead, processing this. “Temper and aggression. So what… did he run away? Why was he outside of this place? Destroying my life?”
The man was now practically tugging at the hair on the back of his head. “He had g-good control over wh-what little power he had… so m-my sister chose him among others t-to go into society and… and try to function… To s-see how they got along.”
She sent someone out that she knew had a temper, that showed… aggression. I knew right then not to trust the female. But him? Was this still some trick? “So how do I get out of here? Run off and try and find civilization?” I asked.
“N-no, you’d be found l-long before you’d g-get out,” he said.
“So… what do I do?” I asked, feeling like I was clutching at straws now.
But Professor Whatever just gave me a small smile. “Do you know h-how to ride a horse, Sebastian?”
The police weren’t doing anything anymore, they couldn’t be. They had given up. Not that they said this, but I felt like they had. Time was essential in a missing persons case, and time was running out. That’s what I was told.
As if there were some big clock somewhere, ticking down to zero. There was no clock. There was no ‘out of time’. Sebastian was out there, waiting for someone to find him. He did not have an expiration date.
So when I found the note on my doorstep, I had no idea what to do.
It looked like a kid had written it. There was a map inside, and I saw several circles. A big circle around a huge, privately owned wooded area about a hundred miles away. Then a small red circle inside it, and then an even smaller red circle in that with the word “here” written inside.
Was this where Sebastian was? Who had left this note? I considered just running out and looking for him myself but I did the supposedly smart thing by taking the note to the police. Which they dismissed.
DISMISSED! The only real clue, and they insisted that one of my kids had done it because they were scared. They dismissed the only clue to my Sebastian’s whereabouts!!!! I was so furious that I coulda just ripped them to pieces but I kept my temper. Somehow.
When I got home, I asked both Duncan and Serenity but they both denied it. They also both kept asking me, “Is this where Mom is? Is this where the police are going?”
“We’ll find out,” I told them then after about half an hour of thinking, I called my in-laws to make sure Kaylee hadn’t gotten out and written this note. No, she had been at the house all day long. So it wasn’t her.
Who was it? Maybe it was someone who really knew where Sebastian was, who was just… disguising their handwriting and spelling to look like a kid? Or maybe it was… well, I had my suspicions who it might be. If it was, then it was a trick. But if it wasn’t, then this could be the only lead.
After another hour of thinking, I called Zari and Julie and asked them if they’d please come and watch the kids while I took an overnight trip.
Horses. Horses? “Horses?” I demanded, not sure if I had heard right. “What on earth are you talking about?”
Professor Whatever looked around yet again then stepped closer, dropping his voice to a whisper. “Th-the quickest w-way other than helicopter is h-horse. It’s only a f-few hours’ ride from th-this hut to the town, off our p-property. Maybe…” He looked past me, as if figuring it out. “If you k-kept to a brisk trot and g-gave the horse breaks, maybe an occasional g-gallop… p-probably about five hours. On foot it w-would take m-much longer. Many m-more hours longer.”
I folded my arms, deciding he was a bit of a nutcase. “Yeah, I’ll just get the horse I have folded under the bed and make the escape.”
He blinked then went red. “I d-didn’t m-mean right this s-second!” he half-wailed. “I w-was going to g-get you a horse, and a m-map with the t-trail marked. I c-could get it b-by Saturday.”
“The day after tomorrow,” I said, trying to work out the dates in my head. “You’ll help me escape. Why? I want to know why.”
His lips twisted into a smile. “D-Danevbies, always c-curious. I s-swear, I’ve heard the w-word ‘why’ more t-times from your family than anywhere else.” I just raised an eyebrow, waiting for his reply. “I t-told you, I’m your g-great-grandfather. I g-guess if you weren’t told, you w-wouldn’t believe me.”
“I’m sorry but you’re closer to my son’s age than you are to my age, and you expect me to believe this whole great-grandfather thing?” I asked.
He chuckled a bit at that. “My s-sister found out a w-way to d-defy you…th…”
He trailed off and then gasped. “Son? Wh-what…? I’ve b-been so busy I have n-not kept up with wh-what is going on in your f-family. Of course, I n-never thought to s-see any of you again.” He stepped closer and grabbed my shirt lightly. “You have a s-son?”
“Yes,” I said, pushing his hands away since I felt so uncomfortable with him touching me. “I’m a parent. I have a son. Actually, three sons. And three daughters. And a husband. And I want to get back to them right now!”
“D-did you have a k-kid with him?” Professor Whatever’s eyes were giant saucers. “P-please tell me! Did you have any k-kids with f-f-f-f… f-f-… Doug?”
My arms dropped down and I avoided that big gaze. “Yeah, biologically my oldest son and oldest daughter are his,” I said, not going into the whole thing of Duncan not being biologically mine. “Why? You just want to keep up tabs on us?”
He backed away, taking in quick, shallow breaths. “Oh. Oh no. Oh n-n-nonnono!” He pressed his hands against his mouth, knees quaking. He looked absolutely terrified. “If sh-she f-f-finds out, oh no, oh no.”
“Your sister?” I asked and he nodded wildly. “Why would any of that matter?” Though I felt a bit sick in my stomach. Almost as if I knew.
“N-none of our Fours have h-had children,” he stammered. “Except one. And th-the ability was passed d-d-down to the child and w-was… was…” He gulped and closed his eyes. “M-much more p-powerful than any of th-the Fours we m-made.”
It was like a punch in my stomach. Duncan? Serenity? “What…? Do you mean one of my kids–or both of them–can do what Doug does?”
“I d-don’t know,” he whispered. “The F-Four that repr-produced had th-three ch-children and only one… only one had the ability.”
“Did your sister find out?” I asked, already suspecting the answer.
“Yes. She w-wanted to do…” He trailed off and looked really upset. “But she n-never got to d-do anything. The F-Four t-took all three of h-her children and d-disappeared. W–we have not found th-them, even y-years later.”
I turned away from him, eyes closed. “Your sister sounds like a crazy, crazy… crazy…”
“She isn’t all th-that… …. sane…… sometimes,” he drew out as his eyes darted around the room. Great, her own brother can’t vouch for her sanity. “I don’t know wh-what she’d do your k-kids, Sebastian, b-but it won’t be all th-that good.”
“So she doesn’t find out about them,” I said, taking in a deep breath. “I’ll escape. And she’ll never know.”
He began nodding in agreement, though I suspected he was just trying to pacify me. “Sh-she might not f-find out, she… she is very busy…” He rubbed the back of his head yet again, then looked at his watch. “I sh-should go. I w-will try to get the… horse and m-map to you as soon as I c-can.”
He started to go to the door then he stopped and staggered closer, grabbing my arms. “I w-won’t let her d-do anything to your k-kids if she finds out, S-Sebastian. I swear.”
Then he was gone. I saw out the door as he left. I considered just running for it now, except that he was telling the truth. I knew he was. There would be a long, long journey ahead of me if I left the shack. I’d probably get completely lost. Then caught. And if I was handed back over to Doug after running away… It would not be pretty.
So all I could do was wait, wait for Professor Whatever to help me escape.