Page 92

On the morning of the sixth day, I opened my bedroom door, ready to face another day locked in an empty house—at least I’d be going back to work the next day, where Will and Tasha would have to take responsibility for keeping me under guard—and found myself looking at my father. I froze. The hair on the back of my neck was standing up for some reason, like he was an intruder, and not my father, who loved me, and had been there since the day I woke up from my coma.

He looked at me solemnly. Then he held up the copy of Don’t Go Out Alone that I’d left on the kitchen table the night before, and asked, “Is this the source of the signal interference in the house?”

“I…” For a moment, I couldn’t think of anything to say. Finally, I nodded, and said, “It has a scrambler in it to stop people from listening in on me. Or Nathan. It’s his book, really, but he let me borrow it because I hadn’t read it as many times as he had, and it seemed sort of important that I understand it, and—”


“—anyway, we thought we’d be seeing each other again sooner than this. I know I scared you, but do I really deserve to be locked in like some kind of animal? You’re acting like I did something unforgivable, and all I did was get scared! And—”


This time, I stopped talking, eyes wide as I stared at him.

He shook his head, lowering the book—but not, I noted, handing it to me. “How sure are you that this works?”

“How did you know it was doing anything at all?” I countered.

“I was scanning for SymboGen bugs. I’ve been scanning for the last six days. You shouldn’t have let them into the house without notifying me.” He sighed, shoulders slumping. For the first time, I wondered if the past five days hadn’t been as hard on him as they had been on me. “All the bugs I’ve found have been nontransmitting. That meant that something had to be blocking them. Why didn’t you tell me about this?”

“When, exactly, would you like me to have done that? After you grounded me and sent me to my room, or during one of the times when you left me here alone to think about what I’d done?” I glared at him, barely resisting the urge to snatch the book out of his hands. “I tried to tell you. I tried to tell you a lot of things. You never gave me the opportunity. Every time I opened my mouth, you either sent me to my room or walked away. Oh, and that ‘legal guardianship’ bullshit? We are so done. I am taking you to court after this, if that’s what it takes, and I am moving out.”

“Sal…” Dad stopped, taking a deep breath. Then he said, “I’m sorry. I overreacted. You have to understand that I was frightened. There was every chance that SymboGen had taken this opportunity to bug the house, and I couldn’t risk you saying something before we’d managed to find and deactivate all of their listening devices. It was best for everyone if I seemed to be unreasonably angry with you.”

“Why would SymboGen be bugging our house?” I asked. “I already answer all their questions.”

He hesitated, looking at me with an expression of such profound sadness that I rocked back a step, trying to figure out what was going through his mind. Finally, he said, “I’m going to ask a question. I need you to answer me honestly. Can you do that?”

I nodded, not quite sure I trusted my voice at the moment.

“Good. This book”—he held up Don’t Go Out Alone—“where did you get it?”

“It’s Nathan’s,” I said.

“Where did Nathan get it?”

This line of questioning was starting to make me uncomfortable, for reasons I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I frowned. “I don’t know. He had it when he was a kid.”

“I seriously doubt it came this way, since children’s books aren’t normally equipped to block top-of-the-line surveillance devices from doing their jobs,” said my father. “I’m not playing around, Sal. Who gave you this book? It’s extremely important that I speak with them.”

When I first got home, shaken by my experience in Lafayette and seeing Tansy’s blood-speckled face every time I closed my eyes, I would have told him about Dr. Cale and her lab without hesitation. After five days on house arrest, I just shook my head. Too much about this wasn’t adding up. “It’s Nathan’s. He said I could borrow it if I wanted to. It was really important to him when he was a kid, and I wanted to understand him better. So I borrowed it.” Before Dad could react, I leaned forward and grabbed the book out of his hand, pulling it out of his reach. “Thank you for giving it back. I remember how important it is to respect other people’s property.”


All the anger that I’d been trying to hold back suddenly bubbled to the surface, pouring out of my lips before I had consciously decided that I was going to speak. “Why did you shut off the Internet? Why haven’t I been allowed to watch the news? What’s happening out there? You ask me questions like you think you have a right to answers, but you’re not willing to let me know what’s going on, or why you’re scared. It’s not fair, and I won’t do it. You raised me better than that.”

“Sal, in a very real way, I didn’t raise you at all.” Dad’s words were quiet, even a little bit sad, like he was admitting something he didn’t want to say to anyone, much less to me. I stopped breathing, and didn’t start again until he continued, saying, “Your accident may have made you a better person—it did, in a lot of ways; I can’t lie to myself about that, even if that makes me feel like I’m betraying the memory of my little girl—but it also made you unpredictable, in some ways, because I don’t know what you’re going to do when the chips are down. You don’t have the training Sally had, and baby, I don’t have the time to give it to you. Sometimes, you’re just going to have to trust me, and do as I say, because there isn’t time for me to explain.”