“With Turner,” he filled in for me. “Our techs have already gone through the phone, pulled anything valuable off. We didn’t know about the money though. Not yet. We do believe the intention was to fake May and Amelia’s death, then whisk them off to an island or something out of reach. Our presence – mine and yours – disrupted that. The bombing at the house was botched, so now they’re scrambling.”
I closed my eyes, processing his words and trying to think of anything else I may have picked up on without realizing it at the time. “She… drugged me. Before I knew about the money. Why, when I was protecting her?”
“She must’ve realized you wouldn’t be down with whatever her plan was from there. She didn’t bring the money with her, so it must’ve been there at the apartment, waiting. So that apartment was always in the plan – your presence wasn’t. And… maybe not Amelia’s either.”
Thatmade my eyes pop open. “What?”
He pushed out a sigh, returning back to his propped position against the table. “Loren – the doctor – said that little girl had probably been suffering with that ear infection for several days. She wasreallysick, with something that should’ve been minor to treat… but May didn’t. Why?”
“Maybe… maybe she was… I don’t know. But she loves that little girl. I’ve lived basically in their backyard long enough toknowthat.”
“And you’ve been aroselong enough to know that doesn’t mean shit. Not when it comes to money, or whatever kind of twisted love thing her and Tommy had –have– going on. Think about this.Reallythink about it. She was keeping Amelia home from school, sick, but not seeking treatment for her. The bomb that sheknows aboutshows up at the house – and she intended to bring itinside. But we were there. We threw that plan off. She ends up having to bring you to the apartment with her – not in the plan, so she drugs you. But then I show up again. We’re not suspicious of her yet, so while I’m confronting you, she slips out.Without her sick daughter. Why?”
I blew out a rush of air, unable to deny the very obvious truth in front of me.
“She never intended for Amelia to be part of the escape either.”
It was so messed up to say it out loud, but… it wasn’t particular far-fetched, and not even that surprising. Being in theGardenhad exposed me to truly the worst kinds of people, and a mother willing to harm – or even kill – a child was pretty in line with what I’d seen.
In a way… Amelia was lucky.
“Do we know where she is?”
I swung my legs off the bed, suddenly finding a patch of clarity to direct my mental energy toward, and using it to shake off the last remnants of drug-induced cloudiness.
The thorn smirked. “I thought you’d never ask.” He pushed away from the table, coming toward me with his hand extended as I stood. “I’m Wilder,” he reintroduced himself.
I stared for a moment, then accepted the gesture, allowing my hand to be swallowed by his larger one for a brief, firm shake. “Tamra.”
“Welcome to the team, Tamra.”
“I’mnotpart of any team,” I denied, pulling my hand away. “I’ll help find May, but that’s all. After that… I’ll be on my way. Or I’ll die trying.”
Wilder lifted his hands in defense. “That won’t be necessary, at all. Nobody wants to keep you against your will. But… there’s a community of us, trying to channel what we can do into something good. Trying to build something that feels like home again – Iknowyou need that too. We all did. If you want to be a part… you’re more than welcome.”
“No thanks.” I shook my head. “I never was one for group projects.”
He nodded. “Understood. But… just so you know, the offer will always stand.”
Of course it did.
It wasn’t a new offer, not really – just one I’d suppressed to the recesses of my mind. I remembered the signal that had been sent up. Especially with me already being in the area from my little family research and all.
But the same paranoia that had kept me alive, kept me from heeding the call.
What if it was a trap?
What if this had all been some big, elaborate test, some training ground to prove my loyalty?
No matter how unlikely it seemed, it wasn’t outside the realms of reality, so I maintained my distance. And now, all this shit had still landed right on top of me.
“You still need to talk to Alicia,” Wilder said, opening the door of the room where we’d carried out this whole reunion. “You think you’re up to it, or you need a little longer?”
I lifted an eyebrow. “Well, I’m lucid, if that’s what you’re asking.”
A ghost of a smirk played at his lips as he led me down a hallway, and opened another door. “You… might need a bit more than that. But I think you’ll be okay.”