There were no human screams as I crept up the stairs behind her. She stood in the middle of the small living room, her hands on her hips as she scanned from left to right. The house appeared to be empty.
I grabbed her around the waist and a gasp escaped her mouth. My other hand found her camera, ripping it off her helmet and tossing it against the wall.
She tore my arm off her stomach and swung at me, just barely missing my cheek. I tried to catch her eye but she came at me again, hard and fast. I ducked and swiped at her legs with my foot. She jumped over them and smashed her right fist into my cheek.
I blinked, surprised. She was good for a Thirty-nine.
I dodged the next punch, grabbing her arm and twisting it behind her back. I pulled her closer to me, until her face was inches from mine. I didn’t want to speak while her com was still in her ear, so I stared straight into her eyes.
Her face crumpled in confusion and she shoved me away, lifting her arms like she was going to keep fighting me. I raised my hands in surrender, pointing with one finger to my bar code.
She hesitantly took a step forward, nudging her helmet farther up to reveal wisps of long brown hair. Her wide brown-gold eyes flew up to mine, full of suspicion and curiosity.
I reached into my pocket and she grabbed my wrist, her fingers digging into my skin. I gave her an annoyed look and shook her off, pulling Leb’s note out. I held it toward her and she frowned at it for several seconds before plucking it from my fingers.
Her eyes skimmed over the words quickly, her expression unreadable. When she looked up at me again I reached for the com in her ear. She let me take it out and I clenched it in my fist.
“Do you want to come with me?” I whispered.
“To this reservation thing?” she asked, glancing down at the note.
“Yes.” I took a quick glance behind me, through the front door. Callum was still slumped against the fence, his face lifted to the sky.
She didn’t answer for several seconds. She pressed her lips together, her eyebrows lowered in thought. When she looked up at me again I was almost certain she would say no. A few weeks ago, before Callum, I would have said no.
She barely nodded.
“Yes?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said, carefully folding the note and slipping it into her pocket.
I crushed the com in my hand and dropped the pieces on the ground. I pulled the tracker locator from my pocket and waved it over her body until it lit up, above her left collarbone.
“Your tracker,” I whispered as I took my knife and sliced just under her neck. She didn’t flinch as I pulled the tracker out and carefully placed it on the ground.
“Wren,” I said.
“Addie,” she said. “You know my father?”
“Yes, but we need to run. They—”
A scream pierced the night, strangled and terrified. I whirled around to the front of the house, my eyes searching for Callum.
He was gone.
I bolted out the door, Addie’s footsteps following behind me as I flew down the steps and onto the grass.
The fence next door was open.
The front door broken down.
I raced through the yard and what remained of the front door. The kitchen was in total disarray, chairs scattered around the room, the table overturned.
“Callum?” I yelled.
A grunt came from the back room and I ran down the hallway. I came to a sudden stop at the bedroom door.
The human was sprawled out on the floor, Callum’s hands around his neck. The man’s eyes stared blankly past me.
He was dead.
Callum loosened his grip and opened his mouth wide, poised to take a big chunk out of the human’s neck.
I dove across the room, pushing Callum off before he could sink his teeth in. We hit the floor together and his teeth scraped against my arm as he growled and flailed. I pushed his arms into the wood as I hauled myself on top of him.
“Callum,” I said through gritted teeth, slamming his arms down as he struggled against me.
I looked from the dead man to Callum. I couldn’t let him see that. If I got him out of the room I wouldn’t have to tell him at all. He didn’t need to know.
“Get his feet,” I said to Addie, grabbing Callum underneath the arms.
She did as I said, yanking Callum’s feet together when he tried to kick her.
“He’s an Under-sixty?” she asked as we lifted him off the ground.
“She’s gone! Thirty-nine is gone!”
The man’s yell from next door made both our heads snap up. We had to hurry. Addie ran backward through the room and for the door at the rear of the house, whipping her head around every few seconds to see where she was going as we lugged Callum with us.
The front door banged open as we flew out the back and I looked desperately for a hiding place. There was no way to run far with Callum like this, not with them right behind us.
The backyard was fenced in by some rotting wood and I sprinted across the grass, Callum bouncing in my grasp. He wasn’t struggling much anymore. Instead he was blinking and shaking his head, as if trying to clear his thoughts.
Addie unhooked the gate and we scrambled into the alley, yells and footsteps not far behind us. I dug my fingers into Callum’s shoulders as we ran. I couldn’t come this far and get caught.
Addie made a sharp turn as we approached a poorly paved road dotted with run-down homes and a few shops. I let her lead since she knew the town better than I did, and I didn’t have any other bright ideas.
The shouts were louder as she tore through a yard and around to the back of a house. A dim light flickered inside and I tried to run as quietly as possible.
We were headed for a shed, a tiny rectangle-shaped one that looked like it was barely big enough to fit all three of us. Addie dropped Callum’s legs and they skidded against the dirt until he found his footing. He gently shrugged me off and I let him go as Addie threw open the shed door.
We raced inside and I stumbled over a rake and a toolbox before finding a spot against the wall. Callum slid down next to me and I wanted to tell him not to sit, to be prepared to run, but he looked so utterly freaked out that I couldn’t find the words.
Addie tried to close the door but it looked like she’d broken the lock, so she gave up and held on to the handle, keeping it closed as she leaned forward to listen. There was yelling nearby and I closed my fingers over the gun on my hip.
“Is that Adina? What happened?” Callum whispered, turning his face up to mine. His eyes were huge and worried, like he already suspected something.
“You lost it for a minute there,” I whispered as the voices outside began to fade.