“Hey, Hallie, Zach, have you seen Eric? We’ve not heard from him all weekend.” John, one of Eric’s football friends, asked as he found us waiting outside our next class.
“Um, no.” Zach swayed his head, “He was supposed to message me about doing something Saturday, but I never heard from him. I assumed he got caught up with something.”
“I haven’t heard from him either, is he not in?” Now it was mentioned, I’d not seen him all day either. He usually came to say hello, or he’d wave at me from a distance as we were at our lockers, but I’d not seen him at all.
“No, he wasn’t in Math or economics. He went out with a couple of his older buddies this weekend for a drinking session while his Mom and stepdad are out of town. I haven’t heard from him since he tried to convince me to join them Saturday afternoon.”
Zach shrugged, “Maybe he’s just at home nursing a hangover then?”
“Yeah, maybe, although it’s not stopped him before.” I could tell by the way John’s dark pink lips twisted and pouted, he wasn’t convinced, and he was growing concerned, “He knows his scholarship to college is riding on his attendance and grades. Plus, our finals for the game are on Saturday. He wouldn’t miss the chance to call us for training.”
“I got a key.” Mahala interrupted with a small smile, “My Aunt won’t be back until tonight. I’ll go there straight after school to check in on him.”
“All right, thanks, Mahala.” John nodded, relaxing a little, “I better get to class, see ya.”
“I hope he’s okay.” I sighed as I watched John run down the corridor.
“I’m sure he’s okay.” Mahala reassured me with a nod and wide smile, “John’s right, but sometimes these things happen. Not like Eric is someone who doesn’t make a mistake or screw up.”
“True, let us know if he’s okay, please?” Zach pleaded.
“I shall do.”
“Apologies class, I got a little caught up, and I forgot I locked the classroom door. Please, go in.” Mrs. Atkinson called as she sped down the hall and unlocked the door. “Please be careful. I’m helping Mr. Himsworth store the art projects in here, and some are still wet.”
“Okay, so who can tell me which European country shares its borders with the most neighboring countries?”
“Germany,” Hannah called out.
“Excellent, Miss Gray. Now, which European country has the biggest port?”
Before anyone could answer, a knock came at the door, and Mrs. Heffernan stepped in, looking a little frantic and out of breath.
“I’m awfully sorry, Ms. Atkinson, I need Mr. and Ms. Paxton urgently, please.”
“Very well, please, you two, go with Mrs. Heffernan.”
“Bring your stuff, too, please.” The look of growing concern on Mrs. Heffernan’s small face left me feeling a little uncertain.
Zach and I exchanged perplexed looks as we put our things in our bag and followed Mrs. Heffernan out.
“Is everything okay?” I asked, worried as we followed her down the hall.
“Your parents called, and they need you home immediately. Mr. Haya-, um, your boyfriend is here to collect you. Sorry, I can’t pronounce his surname, he said it rather quickly.”
“It’s Hayawaka, pronounced, Hy-uh-kaa-wa,” I confirmed.
We used his Japanese surname rather than Pope when we moved here; plus, he’d been using it to disguise the fact he was a Pope before now. It came more natural for him to use the name that was his mother’s maiden name over his father’s surname.
My heart picked up speed as we approached the front desk. Emmett nor Alicia would pull us out of school for just anything; something had to be wrong.
“Masato? What’s going on?” I asked as I approached him, wrapping my arms around him tightly. The warmth of his embrace leaving me feeling a little more settled, although not by much.
“I don’t know. Emmett called while I was at work, told me to get home and grab you two on the way as quickly as I could.”
“Please sign out, put it under family emergency.” Mrs. Heffernan handed us a clipboard with a sign-out sheet on.
I quickly scribbled down my name and details and gave it to Zach.
“So, they said nothing?” Zach asked as he handed the board to Mrs. Heffernan.
“No, just we had to get home as quickly as possible, Emmett sounded pretty spooked about something though.”
“You’re free to go. I’ll open the gate for you. If you two need anything, please don’t hesitate to let me know.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Heffernan.” I nodded, taking Mastao’s hand and making our way outside.
“Wonder what’s going on.” Zach sighed as we drove out of the school’s parking lot.
“Me too. Emmett didn’t sound like himself when he called. Something’s got him freaked out. I tried to get it out of him, but he refused to tell me until all three of us were home.”
“You think it’s got something to do with the Vampires, or Wolves nearby?”
“I don’t know Zach, it’s possible.”
I gasped as I clapped a hand over my mouth, “You don’t think there’s been another attack, do you?”
“Maybe, but I don’t see how. We’ve kept eyes on them every night.” Masato tried to sound confident as he spoke, but I knew he was just as concerned as I was right now. It took a lot to freak Emmett out, and in all my years, they’d never pulled me from school before.
“Doesn’t mean there couldn’t be one past our surveillance. Let’s hope it’s something else.” I begged.
I wasn’t much for praying, but right now, I was praying that I wasn’t right.
We were silent as we made the rest of the journey home and found Emmett and Alicia stood in the living room. Emmett had Alicia in his arms, both looking upset and distraught.
“What’s wrong?” Zach asked quietly, alerting them to our presence.
“Sit down, please.” Emmett motioned to the couch, as he cleared his throat and tried to regain some composure.
We all exchanged hesitant looks before we moved and sat ourselves down; all of us felt the air of tension that filled the room.
“We, uh, we were out in the woods, checking things out, like we usually do.” Alicia’s voice choked and wavered as she spoke, she didn’t bother to try and hide behind a tough stance like Emmett, “You know, looking for any unfortunate victims of the clan’s hunger. We don’t relish in covering their tracks, but it’s for our safety too. Most do clear their tracks, but not all.”
“Anyway, we went a little further out because I caught the scent of something that almost made me vomit. Well, dry heave, given I don’t vomit. Anyway, not the point. So Alicia and I decided to check it out.”
Alicia and Emmett exchanged forlorn looks as my heart picked up the pace. I could hear Zach’s and Masato’s begin to pound too as they both grabbed my hand tightly.
“We found a small group of boys around an extinguished campfire ten miles out, near one of the dirt tracks.” Emmett continued after he took a deep breath. “Alcohol bottles were scattered everywhere and four bodies. All four bitten, drained of blood.”
“Their bodies had been burned as well.” Alicia sniffed, and I knew if she were capable, tears would be falling from her eyes. Fear clawed at me like a raging beast as she continued, “Obviously an attempt to cover their tracks, but we found a wallet in the car nearby.”
Emmett’s stance collapsed and turned sluggish, “We recognized the car, too.”
“We’re so sorry, Hallie, Zach.” Alicia choked, her hand covering her mouth. The look of sympathy and heartache evident.
The words she said next caused my world to screech to a sudden stop and my heart to shatter into a million pieces.