16. One Last View

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None of us moved or spoke for minutes. I don't know what the others were thinking, if they were thinking at all, but I was thinking about the steam in Carl's story, the way it spilled from the cracks and stained the underground air pink. I was thinking about the blood that had melted the faces off his crew. Blood as hot as the blood of the earth itself, deep down where magma flows. And I was thinking about the eyes in the mountain. Both of them. One had been blinded by Cricket's knife, but the other eye . . . the eye that Carl had sensed down there in the darkness of Widow's Peak . . . the eye whose eternal gaze was aimed up at Honaw . . .

Was the other eye watching us now?

"Billy," I said, "I think it's time for you to give us back our phones."

His gaze fixed on the rising fog, Billy reached into his pocket, pulled out our phones in one big handful, and dumped them in my lap. I stared down at the pile, knowing something was off but unable to pinpoint what. It was like one of those picture-problems teachers give young kids. Two apples, a pear, and a rock sitting on a table. What here does not belong? Smartphone, smartphone, flip phone, switchblade.

Switchblade.

There was a crash inside the house. After the torture my ears had just been through, the sound of breaking glass was soft, almost pitiful. Billy ran in through the front door, leaving Ash and Nip and I standing there on the porch. His footsteps crunch-crunched through the kitchen and down the hall. As he banged into his father's bedroom, I heard a twig snap on the side of the house and turned my head in time to spot a pale form moving across the yard.

Carl Rascoe loped like a two-legged jackal, one red oven mitt pressed to his right eye, his jaws stretched wide. Jagged gashes bled on his stomach. Tears streamed down his face. He slipped into the woods and became a flitting whiteness among the trees before he vanished entirely.

I looked back at Nip and Ash, but they were staring into the house. Only I had witnessed Carl's escape.

Billy burst onto the porch and vaulted down into the weeds. His hood fell off. He ran along one side of the house and less than thirty seconds later appeared on the other side, moving slowly, unsteadily. "The window. He broke the window. He's gone." Billy put his hands in his unwashed hair, like he was about to start uprooting it. "He's gone. I'll never find him. He's gone."

"Billy—"

He spun on me. "What?"

His bloodshot eyes, his bitten knuckles. I shut my mouth.

"I'm sorry," Ash said to him. "Really."

Billy sat down in the weeds.

The feel of metal in my palm reminded me. The switchblade. The phones. I reached for mine and flipped it open. No reception. I reached for Ash's. The same. Nip's. The same. Not a single bar of service between them.

Ash was watching me.

I shook my head.

"Sandy," she said.

I nodded. It was all I could manage to do. My aunt's name had grown barbs. I couldn't speak it, couldn't even think it, without cutting myself.

"We have to go," said Ash.

I nodded again.

"We have to go." Ash turned to Nip, who was staring at the pink fanning out above the tree line. It was hard to look at, the fog. It was even harder to look away from. The way it moved, the way it seeped across the sky, heavy and thick . . .

Only liquid was supposed to move like that.

"Nip." She gripped him by the shoulders.

"This is really happening, isn't it?"

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