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“Lucky as hell,” Kezia says, looking at Sam. “Guess you saw it coming?”

“No. My back was to it.” He jerks his chin at me. “She saw it coming.”

I’m staring at my house. Willing for no one to approach it while I’m gone. Nobody’s in sight. They’re okay. It’ll be okay. “I didn’t see enough,” I say. “Just a blur. He—I think it was a white guy, but I can’t swear to it—popped up from under the window. I’ll be honest, mostly I just paid attention to the muzzle sighting in and to getting us out of the way.”

Kezia nods. “All right. You two, sit down where you were.”

“I need to go home,” I say.

“In a sec. Just sit down. I need to see this.” There’s a ring of command in her voice. I back up, never looking away from the house, and slip into my seat at the table.

After a beat, Sam turns his chair back upright and sits. I can tell, from the way his fists are clenched on the table, that sitting with his back to the window is not comfortable for him right now. Coffee drips from the table’s edge and soaks into the fabric of my running pants.

I hate this. I can see the road from here. I can’t see the house. “Make it fast!” I tell Kezia, but she’s already outside, going around to the window.

Sam and I stare at each other in silence. He’s pale, and beads of sweat have started on his forehead.

“You’re keeping an eye on my back, right?” he says. I nod. He shifts a little, and I wonder what kind of discipline it takes to stay where he is, with a virtual target on his head. What kind of trauma it might bring back up inside. “Thanks, Gwen. I mean it. I’d have never seen that coming.”

“He’s gone,” I tell Sam. “We’re okay now.” I’m sore, scratched in bleeding red ribbons from shattered window glass, and I think I’ve torn something in my left shoulder. And I need to go. Now.

Kezia appears in the shattered window behind him, and Sam’s sixth sense kicks in; I can see the shudder that goes through him. Effort holds him in place. “It’s okay,” I tell him. “It’s Officer Claremont. You’re all right.” He’s gone very pale now. A bead of sweat runs down the side of his face, but he doesn’t move.

Behind him, Kezia extends her arms, miming a shotgun. “Had to be my height or taller,” she says. “He got up close and personal about it. I’m standing where I’d pick, but his footprints are maybe another foot closer up. Gun had to be damn near against the window glass.” She lowers her imaginary gun. “Bold son of a bitch. You’re lucky either one of you is alive.”

She’s right. I’d seen the embedded buckshot in the wall across the way, behind where I’m currently sitting. Sam’s brains would have ended up there, and for a second I can see the wall painted red, pale pink, sharp shards of bone. I’d have been drenched in his blood. His skull would have been shrapnel.

“Coming in,” Kezia says as she disappears from view. I see Sam relax a little, and he gets up and moves his chair around to the side of the table, out of line from the window. I don’t move. I figure it’s best I keep my eyes on it where I am, because some of Sam’s paranoia has replaced some of mine, momentarily.

“Christ,” Sam says, reaching for the roll of paper towels that is still, miraculously, on the table. It has a few holes punched through it. He unrolls some sheets and mops up the spilled coffee. “Bastard killed my favorite cup.”

It’s so random that I almost laugh, but I know if I start, it’ll spiral out of control, so I don’t. I start cleaning up the fragments of coffee cup near me, but then I realize what I’m doing. What he’s doing. “Sam.” I put a hand on his arm, and he flinches a little. “Stop. It’s a crime scene.”

“Shit.” He leaves the paper towel, soaked now with brown liquid, limp in the middle of the table. “Right.”

Kezia comes back inside. She’s making notes in a Moleskine notebook, and as she does, she says, “Okay, I’m going to ask the two of you to please move outside now. As soon as another unit arrives, I’ll get the crime scene secured. Detectives are on the way.”

I stand up and move to the door, where I have a sight line of the house again. Nothing’s changed. I pull the phone from my pocket. “You just left the house to come here, right?”

“No,” Kez says. “I had to respond to an officer down, up on the main road. All hands. I was just coming back when I got this call. Sorry. But I knocked and told them I was going before I left. Your daughter said they’d be fine.”

It hits me in a rush, and I see Sam’s eyes widen, too. He says, “Was there an officer down?” He beats me to it by just a breath.

Kez’s face goes blank, then hard. “No. Couldn’t find anything.”

It strikes all of us that the report and even the shooting here . . . those were diversions.

Sam is on his feet in the next second and grabs his shotgun and my backpack. He tosses the backpack to me, still on the move, and I am already running, running as if the monster is chasing me.

“Wait!” Kezia yells after me. I don’t. I run faster, faster, I can’t stop. I hear the roar of engine behind me and swerve to the side, and Kezia slows while Sam throws the door open and beckons. I dive in and narrowly miss slamming the door on my legs. She’s right. This is faster.

I watch the road slide under us. Kezia Claremont drives like a fucking lunatic, but there’s no one blocking the road, and it’s a short haul; she takes the turn onto my drive and fishtails on the gravel, then hits the gas to drive us up with a lurch toward the house. The red paint glares from the garage, growing larger like a fresh wound, still bleeding.

And then I’m out. I’m running for the front door. It’s locked, and as I unlock it and open it, the alarm starts its frantic, warning beeps. I punch in the code and pull in a deep breath. Thank God. The alarm’s still on. The kids haven’t gone anywhere. It’s okay, they’re safe.

I drop the backpack on the couch and head down the hall. “Lanny! Connor! Where are you?”

No answer. No sound at all. I’m still moving at the same pace, but time seems to slow down. The hallway grows darker. The closed doors on either side loom larger. I want to turn back, to wait for the others, but I don’t. I can’t.

I throw open Lanny’s door and see that the covers are in a tangle on the floor, pulled off; one side of the fitted sheet has slipped free, and the other dangles loosely. Her laptop is on the floor, open and upside-down at an acute angle. I grab it and look. A screensaver of a colorful Day of the Dead skull bounces gleefully from corner to corner. Her screensaver only lasts a short while before the computer sleeps. More than five minutes, less than fifteen. This isn’t her. She’d never treat her laptop like this.

I put the computer on the mattress and look around, open the closet though I’m dreading what I might find. I check under the bed.

“Gwen—” That’s Sam’s voice from behind me. I look over my shoulder. He’s facing into my son’s room. There’s something still and quiet about his voice, and when he glances at me, the pupils of his eyes are pinpoints, as if he’s staring into a bright, white light. I move toward him, and he stops me with his free hand outstretched, a guardian trying to keep me from a fatal drop, but he can’t really stop me without using that shotgun in his other hand.

I slip past him and grab the door frame to keep him from pulling me physically back.

I see the blood.

It’s straight out of my nightmare. There’s blood smeared on the twisted fabric of Connor’s light-blue sheets. There’s blood on the floor, in dark strings. There’s a long, clean tear in a pillow leaking puffs of blood-flecked feathers.

My son is not there.

My children are gone.

I feel my knees start to buckle, and I hold myself up with a grip on both sides of the door frame. Sam’s talking to me, touching my shoulder, but I can’t hear him; as I get my legs under me again and start to lunge forward, though, it’s Kezia Claremont who wraps one strong arm around my waist and spins me away, where she holds me with my back to the wall. Her gun’s back in her holster, and her brown eyes study me with commanding intensity.