Five

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The streets were deserted the next morning. Gray clouds rolled over Los Angeles and threatened the parched city with rain, which made me feel better about the way I felt. Maybe, since it the weather was so ugly, everyone else would feel as bad as I did.

Because today was the beginning of the end.

Melissa was half-asleep in the passenger seat as I rolled down the freeway. After we had gone to Alvin's and received the bad news, we had immediately left in a hurry because there was nothing left to do but get away from Los Angeles.


"I have bad news," Alvin said.

"Well, that's not what I wanted to hear," I claimed.

"I traced the number, but the phone was deactivated over a week ago." Al handed me my cellphone. "She must've done it after she texted you to prevent being traced."

I stared down at my phone that was now basically useless. Would having this on me be a bad idea? Should I ditch it? At this point, I didn't need a phone anymore. The less people I had contact with, the better.

I threw the phone back onto the table and watched it slide over to Alvin's coffee cup.

"Deactivate it," I demanded. "Destroy it. I don't care. I don't need it anymore."

Then Melissa and I left in a hurry.


The first stop was Kings County, where I would visit our old friend Dave Stanley and attempt to get as much information out of him as I could. After all, he was Paige's father. It was only fair that he took some responsibility for raising such a twisted person.

I was careful not to speed too much. Even though I was eager to put as much distance between me and Los Angeles, I still needed to be cautious. The last thing I needed was to be pulled over.

Then the silence was broken.

"What are you gonna say to him?" Melissa asked.

I thumbed the wheel. What the hell was I going to say to Stanley? 'Hey Davie! Long time, no see! Looks like your daughter is even more crazy than you! How's the prison food?'

"I don't know," I admitted. "He's likely to refuse to even sit down when he realizes it's me."

"But if he does?"

"I'll ask him if Paige wants to be buried or cremated."

Call me crazy, because maybe I was at this point, but I found the comment funny. Melissa didn't seem impressed with my dark humor.

"I guess you really don't know," she said with a sigh.

The conversation died, but I was desperate to hear Melissa's voice. When she talked, the voices in my head went silent. But my cynicism and icing her out had put a damper on our relationship, and it's not like I was doing a very good job repairing it.

"I'll show him the note Paige left in Anna's coat pocket," I revealed. "He'll probably know a little more about it than we do. And, if he's feeling generous, hopefully he'll tell me."

Melissa turned from the passenger window and faced me. "What if he hasn't had contact with Paige?"

"I doubt that's the case since Paige's motives seem to be rooted in Stanley's arrest."

"Well, I think we can agree she's a bit unhinged," Melissa said. "Who's to say any little thing wouldn't set her off and make her snap?"

I pondered the idea of Paige being crazy enough to use the arrest of Dave Stanley as motivation to kidnap a child. She had to have a decent relationship with him, right? It wouldn't make sense if she didn't.

"You lived with her for two months..." Melissa shifted in her seat. "You shared a room with her... How did you not see?"

How did I not see Paige coming from a mile away? I had sensed fakes before, AKA Melissa when we had first met. I should've known better. I should've been more aware...

I squeezed the wheel. "I was distracted with something else, I guess."

"Or in other words..." Melissa started. "You were distracted by me."

It was true. I had been distracted. I had been arrested and thrown into prison because of her, so when she joined me at camp, all my attention had been directed at ignoring her.

"I was still so upset with you," I admitted. "Seeing past that became impossible, which would justify why I hadn't focused at all on Paige. She obviously took advantage of that. Maybe that was part of her plan."

"Are you saying this too could be my fault?"

"No." I looked at her. "It's mine, because I should've let you explain yourself. I should've heard you out."

"The fact that you didn't made sense."

The memory of being betrayed by Melissa resurfaced. The blinding pain no longer haunted me. We were past that. We were past all the lies and the bullshit.

"I told myself for the longest time that I would never do what you did," I started. "That I would never turn my friends in..."

I fell silent for a minute.

"But now..." I took a deep breath. "I realize that's not completely true."

Now that Anna was gone, I was fully aware of how far I would go to get my sister back. Given, my situation was much different than Melissa's. Yet, I would leave Derik. I would leave mom and dad and Willi. I would even leave Melissa.

I would do it in a heartbeat.

Of course, I felt guilty thinking that, but it was true.

"I wouldn't be too upset if you did turn me in," Melissa joked. "It's only fair."

I smirked. "You'd go to prison for me?"

I could see the red on her cheeks. I quickly wondered how far Melissa would go for me, and what that meant. Hell, she was risking her life by accompanying me on this blind chase to find Paige and my sister.

"Only if you promised to get me out," she said.

"Well, I can't make any promises." I took her hand. "Chapman kind of hates us now."

I caught her staring at our conjoined hands with a smile. Okay, maybe I was doing something right.

"Then you better dig a tunnel or something."

I felt the warmth in my chest as a laugh escaped my throat. It was the first time I had laughed out loud in a week. The first time I had felt that kind of warmth spread through my body like fire.

Andit felt good to feel something again,even if it was only for a short moment.

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