Clearly, they’d made their decision.
The result was a mishmash of frames scattered over the main hall and up the staircase. Most of the Psi had done drawings or paintings of Haven itself, but others had decided to do self-portraits. Some wove bracelets or potholders, others sewed messages, and some even melted beads together to make flat plastic flowers and smiley faces. Liam and Ruby had diligently framed them all.
The last one on the wall, a picture of a short, dark-haired woman and a taller blond guy, their arms linked, their faces smiling, was drawn in careful strokes of crayon. My face was reflected in the glass, and, just like that, I could see Liam’s there instead of mine, smiling that dumb, proud grin of his.
“If you wouldn’t mind…” Lisa gestured to the row of neatly lined-up shoes—sneakers, sandals, boots, all in different sizes—along the wall. I kicked off my tennis shoes next to a pair of dirty red rain boots.
The TV was on in the living room, a sweet, upbeat song chirping from the speakers. I glanced in and saw twelve or so kids riveted by an animated movie I didn’t recognize. As we passed, a girl emerged from the room. She rubbed tiredly at her eyes, making a beeline for the bathroom.
Her crown of dark curls bounced as she came to a sudden stop in front of me, and her eyes went wide. “Zu?”
Oh God, I thought. She saw the explosion, she thinks—
But instead of running away, she let her face bloom into an enormous grin.
I actually could have cried, the relief was that strong. “Hi. Yeah.”
She latched onto my hand, pumping it up and down. It wasn’t a handshake, but a gesture of pure, mystifying excitement. As she looked up at me, her expression turned urgent. Serious. “Do you still like horses?”
“Do I—what?” I blinked.
“You said in your interview that you liked horses,” she insisted. “Do you like Arabians, Percherons, Clydesdales, Lipizzans, or a different kind best?”
Lisa laughed. “Sorry, Sasha, she doesn’t have time to talk right now. We have to steal her for a little bit.”
“Okay!” the girl said, giving my hand one last shake. “You can come to our room—it’s the blue one—and we can talk some more then!”
“Okay,” I said, still mildly startled. She continued past us down the hall, giving Jacob a high five along the way.
I gave them both a questioning look.
“It’s easier just to show you,” he said. “Plus, it’s on the way.”
Lisa led us down the hall. We swung a left at the dining room, and just before we reached the kitchen, she stopped beside a bulletin board on the wall that was overflowing with newspaper and magazine clippings. One face smiled out from every single photograph.
“Wow…this is…” I didn’t have the words for it. I stared at the photographs from my speeches and publicity shoots, the articles about every event I’d attended.
“Sorry,” Lisa said. “I hope you’re not embarrassed. You know how Liam gets. I think he just…wanted everyone to know you.”
Because you never came back.
“There’s one for Charlie upstairs,” Lisa said. “It’s smaller, though. He doesn’t get out as much as you do…did.”
An old, battered hubcap hung over the massive kitchen table, taken from a van hidden deep in the woods near a different lake. I turned away, unable to bear looking at it a second longer. “Can we just go wherever we’re going to talk now?”
“This way,” Jacob said, nodding his head toward the back door.
The small room—which had clearly been added on to the original structure—was about ten degrees cooler than the rest of the house. It was no small feat, considering the back wall was lined with server towers. A built-in desk wrapped around half of the space, and every inch of surface area was covered in either screens or computer units.
Miguel sat at the center of it all, his fingers pounding the keyboard in front of him like a piano. He swiveled back and forth in his chair to the beat of a muffled song coming out of his massive headphones.
As we came in, he tore his gaze away from his task. The computer screens illuminated his naturally tan skin, making his face glow.
“Hiya, Zu. Long time no see,” he shouted over the music in his ears, continuing to type. It was always amazing to see how many different things a Green’s brain could process at once. Three different computer screens flashed with code as Miguel smiled at me—the confident smile of a heartbreaker who knew the exact level of charm he possessed.
Jacob let out a noise of exasperation, affectionately pulling the earphones off Miguel’s head. The other boy caught Jacob’s hand before he could pull it away, planting a kiss on the back of it, with a wink. Jacob pulled back his hand, flustered, but pleased.
If that wasn’t confirmation enough that they were together, Miguel set his headphones down next to a photo of the two of them on the desk. A symphony of electronic beats and violins poured from the earpieces until Lisa leaned over and hit the MUTE button on the keyboard.
“Hey, Miguel,” I said. “Thanks for getting my message.”
Miguel ran a hand back over his dark hair, scratching just above where he’d tied it into a bun, and shrugged. “No problem. Glad everything worked out.”
“Before I forget,” I said, turning to the others. “Can I get those phones? Miguel, I’m wondering if you have a charger—”
He pulled open a nearby drawer. Dozens of charging-cable bundles were lovingly arranged inside. Lisa passed me the phones, and I handed them to him, pointing at the cell phone I’d used to take the photos of the kidnappers.
“Priyanka did something to that,” I told him. “She took out a part and put it in the other—”
Miguel opened the back of both phones, and somehow did the exact reverse of what Priyanka had done in the car. Jacob put his hands on the other teen’s shoulders, leaning over Miguel’s head to watch. “She just removed its SIM card. No big deal.”
At the sight of its screen finally lighting with power, I released a shaky breath. At least there was that.
“What’s the status at the hole?” Jacob asked, searching the screens for a feed.
With two keystrokes, Miguel changed the footage on the monitor directly in front of him. “So far, mostly fretting. And pacing. A bit like you, I’ve got to say.”
Jacob gave him a look that Miguel only returned with a small smile.
Sure enough, Roman was prowling back and forth across the ten-foot space. His posture was rigid, and he seemed incapable of taking his eyes off what I assumed was an out-of-sight door. There wasn’t much to the shed except a small bench to sit on, but it wasn’t a hole in the ground like the name implied. I shouldn’t have felt as bad as I did looking at them.
“This is quite the setup,” I said. “What are they fretting about—the fact that they got caught?”
Miguel typed in another command, and the footage jumped back ten minutes. He keyed up the volume. I braced my hands on the desk and leaned in.
“—doing to her,” Roman said, anger ringing through the words. “I’m so stupid! I shouldn’t have let them take her out of my sight. Now we have no way of knowing if they’re going to hurt her or not.”
Priyanka had been feeling along the edges of the walls, as if searching for weak joints. At that, she glanced over her shoulder at him. “She’ll be all right. Don’t act like she’s some helpless damsel. She got us out of most of the trouble we got ourselves into. If they try anything, she’ll fight like hell.”
“Still…” Roman said, stopping in the middle of the shed. His head fell back and he clenched his fists at his side. “I know. I know. I’m not doubting her. I just don’t…I don’t like this. We shouldn’t have let them separate us—”
“It’s a lot of that,” Miguel said, speeding forward through the other footage. “‘Should we break out and find her? She’s coming back, don’t worry. Should we try to talk to the kids outside? Why would they separate us
? Et cetera.’”
I felt both Jacob’s and Lisa’s eyes on me as I stood upright again. My mind was spinning. “Well…it’s not like they’re going to reveal their plans out in the open for the kids standing guard to hear.”
The footage caught up to the present, snapping out of fast-forward. I watched as Priyanka reached out to catch Roman’s hand. After a small battle of wills, Roman relented. He slumped down beside where she’d planted herself on the bench, and Priyanka rested her head against his shoulder. Instead of closing her eyes the way I thought she might, she glanced up.
Directly into the camera.
“Is she a Yellow? She immediately identified the location of the cameras and mics,” Miguel said.
Huh. A lucky guess? I couldn’t imagine Miguel putting them anywhere remotely obvious.
“No, Green…at least that’s what she told me,” I said. “You guys don’t happen to have a copy of the old skip tracer and PSF database, do you? I was hoping you might be able to search it.”
“Sure do, and I already tried it,” Miguel said. “Ran captures of their faces through the system. No records, though that database is almost five years old at this point.”
“Roman said they avoided being picked up, which I’m guessing also means they avoided being registered, too.”