Brian walked behind and to her left, his own eyes trying to pick out details in the gloom. He felt the hairs on his neck rise and knew something was horribly wrong. Where were their parents? Why hadn’t they warned the children? Why hadn’t they asked them for their help?
The smell of sulfur assailed their nostrils when they got to the front rooms of the house. A fire burned in the living room fireplace, nearly down to coals. Furniture was knocked over, black singe marks marred the hardwood floor and area rugs. Grit crunched under their feet. Brian stooped to investigate as Jordan turned slowly, taking in details. Crystalline grit clung to his sweaty fingers. It had a familiar odor to it that he could detect, even with the sulfuric smell.
“Cumin,” he whispered. His tongue flicked out. “And salt. They were fighting something.”
“But what? And where are they? Why didn’t Zofia warn us?”
“I don’t know.”
They searched the downstairs thoroughly, but the living room was the only place that showed signs of violence. Jordan shivered.
“There must be a door or window open somewhere. Let’s look.”
They made the circuit again, this time finding a window in her father’s office open. Someone had used it. The screen was out, lying in a broken heap on the ground. The snow below was trampled as if hurrying feet had jumped out and run away.
“Where did they go?” Jordan’s voice squeaked like a little child’s.
“I don’t know, but your dad’s car is gone.”
“They left us?” Her voice rose to a near shriek. “All alone? They left us?”
“We aren’t alone. We’re together and we have Zofia. Maybe they figured we were safer where we were.” He closed the window, locking it. “And they were right. Misdirection, remember?”
Grabbing Jordan’s hand, he dragged her back through the house.
“Go upstairs and change into warm clothing. Boots, hat, gloves. We’ll need food and water. Do you have camping gear?”
“In the basement laundry room, on the shelves. The backpacks are already full of anything we’d need in an emergency. Dad’s pretty OCD about that.”
“Great. Change and meet me here in five minutes.”
“No. Get your stuff and come upstairs. I’m not going in that room alone.”
“Jordan, don’t be ridiculous. Take Zofia with you.”
“I don’t want to be alone up there. I’m scared.”
Brian took her elbows firmly in his hands. He gazed intently in her eyes, commanding her with his voice. “Jordan, you’re not a coward. Put on your big girl panties and do it.”
Her spine stiffened and he could tell he’d made her mad. Good, if she’s angry, she can’t be afraid.
“I’ll get you for this,” she muttered, storming past him.
“Sorry I don’t have a pillow handy,” he countered. “Must have left it in my other pants.” He dodged her jab with the end of the tonfa.
Brian changed quickly and went downstairs to get the backpacks. They were fully stocked as Jordan said they were. He grabbed a few more weapons from the dojo and scurried upstairs.
Jordan met him in the kitchen. She had a square of leather across her chest and she put several knives in slits.
“They aren’t just for cooking,” she remarked. “Steel, full length tang, oak grip, brass rivets.”
“Good. I got some things from the dojo. We’re as prepared as we can be.”
“I called Andre. He said they were already on the way. Ginnifer got a warning. They’ll be here soon.”
“We need more provisions.”
“They’re set. I asked.”
Andre’s truck pulled up outside. They bustled down the steps and dropped their packs in the truck bed before hopping in back seat with Sweet. Ginnifer and Louisa sat up front with Andre. Zofia hopped in the back with the packs and lay down between them.
“What’s wrong?” Ginnifer asked.
“Our parents disappeared. We were downstairs in the dojo and they were gone when we got upstairs.”
“Freaky, man,” Sweet said.
“You didn’t hear anything?” This from Louisa.
© 2016 Dellani Oakes