“Did Mom say anything about . . . him?” I almost said Dad, but I know I shouldn’t call him that. Not out loud. We all know who I’m talking about.
Javier shakes his head. “Nothing yet,” he says. “There’s no reason to think he’s anywhere around here, but let’s keep on as we’re doing. Stay inside as much as you can stand. Stay offline. The longer we can keep where you are a secret, the better and safer for all of us.”
“You could at least let me talk to my friends,” I tell him. I really mean Dahlia. “They won’t sell us out.” She won’t sell me out.
“And your friends tell other friends, and pretty soon everybody in Norton knows you’re back. You think your mom isn’t the best piece of gossip ever to hit this place? Nobody’s going to pass up the chance to talk about it.”
He’s right, of course. The friends thing is half-hearted. Javier takes his job seriously. So does Kez—who’s off at her real job as a cop right now, investigating some break-in around the other side of the lake. I hope it isn’t our house. I worry about that . . . about the kids from school who might break in, trash our house, take selfies in my bedroom humping my pillow. Go through my stuff, not that I have a lot of stuff after all the years on the run. It still hurts to imagine what little privacy I’ve ever had being violated.
But maybe it isn’t our house. Maybe the Johansens’ big-ass flat-screen TV finally got jacked. Or their Mercedes SUV.
Maybe someone’s ransacked Lancel Graham’s old house; after all, we might be killers by association, but Graham really did kill people. If Graham’s house gets trashed, I not only can’t be sorry about it, I approve. He was a sick, evil man, and if Mom and Kez and Sam hadn’t gotten to us in time . . . God only knows what would have happened. No. I know. It’s what happened to his other two victims, and to all the girls my dad killed.
I try not to think about it.
Connor comes in from outside. He’s been out awhile, because he’s wearing a coat and gloves, and he sheds the outerwear and slumps on the couch, where he immediately picks up a book. He glances at me but doesn’t say anything. Maybe he thinks we still aren’t talking.
Maybe we still aren’t.
“What time are we going?” I ask Javier, because at least it’s a distraction.
“I said we’d check with your mom first.”
“You also said I wasn’t going to get to shoot any guns. So there’s nothing to ask yet.”
He gives me a look. “I’m calling. If I don’t get her, I’ll leave a message.”
“Going where?” Connor asks. I ignore him.
“To the range. It closes at eight,” Javier says. “I’ll go in for closing, get everything done for the day, make sure everybody’s cleared the building. Then I’ll come back for you, Lanny. Kez can stay here with you, Connor.”
“Wait, you’re going to the range? Why can’t I at least go along?” my brother asks, just as I knew he would.
“Because you’re a kid,” I tell him. “So, no. You can’t go.”
But Javier is watching him, and he says, “Do you want to?”
Connor shrugs. He keeps reading.
“Is that a yes?”
“Sure,” he says. But I see the flush darkening the skin at the edges of his jaw, around his ears. Not quite a blush, but close. It’s not in my brother’s nature to show it, but he’s excited about getting out of here, too. Maybe even about the guns, though he’s always told me he doesn’t like them.
I check the clock and groan. We still have hours to kill. I look over the games and finally plug Assassin’s Creed into the game console and hip-scoot my brother out of the way. He gets up and goes to his room and shuts the door. Fine. Good. Though I’d kind of expected him to offer to play. He likes this game. That’s why I picked it.
“Jerk,” I say under my breath, starting it in single-player mode. Then I pause it, get up, and open his bedroom door without knocking, because I know that will piss him off.
His back is to me, and for a second I think I’ve walked in on him doing something way personal, but then I realize he’s on his phone. “Are you calling Mom?” I ask him.
“No.” There’s a look in his eyes that surprises me.
“Who were you calling?”
“Nobody,” he says.
“Because if you’re calling Mom—”
“I’m not calling anybody!”
He explodes. It shocks me, because I know Connor has a temper, but it usually takes a long, long fuse to make it go off, and this is out of nowhere, and he’s shouting. “Just get out, okay? Stop pretending to be Mom, you’re not good at it!”
I back up, and he lunges forward and slams the door in my face. I have to jump back a few inches, or I’d have gotten it right in the nose. “Jesus!” I yell back and hit the door with the side of my fist. “Throw a tantrum, why don’t you, you brat!”
He doesn’t respond. I don’t expect him to. I glare at the door for a few seconds, then turn. Javier’s looking at me. “What?” I snap.
“Do you think it’s okay when he barges into your room when the door is shut?” he asks.
“Then don’t do it to him. I know your mom taught you better.”
If he was even a little bit less nice I’d tell him to shut up, but I don’t. I flop back on the couch, pick up the game controls, and start up. I’m not as good at this as my brother is, but I don’t suck. For a while, I get pulled into the game world, and I’m glad for that, glad to leave everything behind and feel the walls around me fade out.
But it all comes back when Javier suddenly is right there, turning off the TV. “Hey!” I protest, because I was right in midjump, and now I’m going to lose a life, but he puts a finger to his lips, and his dark eyes are very fierce, and I shut up. Fast.
I hear something. Tires on gravel. Javier goes to the window and eases back the curtain. I can’t tell for a second if it’s okay or not, and then he eases his gun out of its holster and says, “Get your brother and stay out of sight. No noise. Go now.”
“What is it?” I keep it to a whisper. My pulse is pounding, and I feel hot all over. Then cold. “Is it him?”