“Where are we?” I pulled myself back up into the seat. “Where are the others?”
Chubs sat in one of the middle seats, dividing his time between the book in his lap and the world of trees just outside the tinted car window. I moved, trying to follow his gaze, but there was nothing to see.
“Somewhere near the lovely city of Kingwood, West Virginia. Lee and Suzume are checking something out,” he said.
I had leaned forward without realizing it, trying to see what he was reading. It’d been years since I’d even seen a book, let alone read from one. Chubs wasn’t having it, though. The moment my shoulder brushed his, he snapped the book shut and turned to give me the nastiest stink eye he could muster. Even with his too-small glasses and my knowledge of his little fancy lady kit under the front seat, I reminded myself there was a distinct possibility he was capable of killing me with his brain.
“How long did I sleep?”
“A day,” Chubs said. “The general wants you up and ready to report to duty. He’s in one of his go-go-go moods. You may only be a Green, but he’s expecting you to help.”
I chose my next words carefully, ignoring the smug look on his face. Let him think that if it made him feel better. He was smarter; there was no debate about that. He probably had years of education on me, had read hundreds more books, and could remember enough math to actually be useful. But as small and stupid as he made me feel, there was no ignoring the fact that all it would take is one touch, and I could have read him the contents of his brain.
“Liam’s a Blue, right?” I began. “Are you and Zu both Blue, too?”
“No.” He frowned, and it took him several moments to decide whether or not to reveal his next bit of information. “Suzume’s Yellow.”
I sat up a little straighter. “You had Yellows at your camp?”
Chubs grunted. “No Green, I just lied to you—yes, we had Yellows.”
But that didn’t make sense—after all, if they took the Yellows out of Thurmond, why wouldn’t they have taken them from all the camps?
“Did…” I began, unsure of how to ask this. When she first pulled me into the van, I thought she was just shy and skittish around strangers. But I hadn’t heard her utter a single word in the entire time I had been with them. Not to me, not to Chubs—not even to Liam. “Did they…do something to the Yellows? To her?”
The only way the van’s atmosphere could have electrified faster was if I had thrown a live wire into a full bathtub.
Chubs turned toward me sharply, drawing his arms up, crossing them in front of his chest. The look he leveled at me over his glasses would have turned a weaker soul to stone.
“That,” he said slowly—precisely, I thought, to make sure I understood, “is absolutely none of your business.”
I held up my hands, retreating.
“Were you even thinking about what could happen to her when you followed her?” he pressed on. “Do you even care that your friends in the green SUV would have gladly scooped her up?”
“The people in the green SUV—” I began, and would have finished, had the door not suddenly rolled open behind us. Chubs let out a noise that could only be described as a squawk and just about flew into the front passenger seat. By the time he had settled himself down, his eyes were almost as wide as Zu’s, who stood watching him from the door.
“Don’t do that!” he gasped, clutching his chest. “Give us a little warning, will you?”
Zu raised an eyebrow in my direction, and I raised one right back at her. After a moment, she seemed to remember the reason she had come and began waving us outside, her bright, sunny-color glove flashing.
Chubs unbuckled his seat belt with an aggravated sigh. “I told him this was a waste of time. They said Virginia, not West Virginia.” He turned his gaze back toward me. “By the way,” he added, “that SUV was tan. That’s some photographic memory you have.”
An excuse leaped to my throat, but he cut me off with a knowing look, and slammed the door behind him.
I jumped out of the van and followed Zu. As my feet sunk into the mud and sad, yellowed grass, I had my first good look around.
A large wooden sign, leaning back like someone had nearly run it over, said EAST RIVER CAMPING GROUNDS, but there was no river, and it certainly wasn’t your typical camping ground. If anything, it was—or once was—an old trailer and RV park.
The farther we walked from the minivan, the more nervous I felt. It wasn’t raining, but my skin felt clammy and cold to the touch. All around us, as far as my eyes could see, were the burned-out silver and white husks of former homes and vehicles. Several of the larger, more permanent trailers had entire walls ripped or charred away, revealing kitchens and living rooms with their insides still intact, if not waterlogged and infested with animals and slowly rotting leaves from the nearby trees. It was like a mass grave of past lives.
Even though screen doors had been ripped off or warped, even though some RVs knelt on whatever tires had been slashed, there were still signs of life all around. Walls were decorated with pictures of happy and smiling families, a grandfather clock was still counting time, pots were still on stoves, a small swing set remained undisturbed and lonely on the far end of the grounds.
Zu and I navigated around an RV that was now on its side, following a path of deep footsteps in the mud. I took one look at the RV’s rusted bones and immediately turned away, my hand tightening around Zu’s gloves. She looked up at me with a questioning look, but I only shook my head and said, “Spooky.”
When the rain came, it hammered against the metal bodies around us, rattling a few of the weaker roofs and screens. I jumped back with a yelp when a trailer’s door fell into our path. Zu only jumped over it and pointed ahead, to where Chubs and Liam were locked in conversation.
It had taken me a second to recognize Liam. Under his jacket, he wore a blue sweatshirt with the hood pulled up over what looked like a Redskins hat. I had no idea where he managed to find them, but a pair of aviator sunglasses obscured a good portion of his face from view.
“—isn’t it,” Chubs said. “I told you.”
“They said it was at the east edge of the state,” Liam insisted. “And they could have meant West Virginia—”
“Or they could have been screwing with us,” Chubs finished for him. He must have heard us approaching, because he jumped and turned around. The moment he locked eyes with me, he scowled.