JEREMEY'S HAND SHOOK as he handed me his phone. I looked at the text message.
Harper: I warned you
My heart gave a single pound against my rib cage, a heavy thud that echoed in my ears like I was underwater. "Shit, shit, shit," I repeated myself over and over again, still holding the phone, my hand shaking as I tried to make sense of the message.
"Where's your phone, Harper?"
I drew heavy breaths in through my nose and stood up. My vision went dark for a second with the sudden change in elevation. My head spun, and colors faded to grays. I felt like I was about to pass out. I imagined myself swaying, and my head slamming into a concrete wall. I reached out my hand to brace myself, but found nothing but empty air. I blinked a few times, and finally my eyes unclouded, stars flashing in my vision like lightning bugs on a late July evening.
I set Jeremey's phone down on the glass end table and ran my hands along the pockets of my jeans, checking for a phone I knew wouldn't be there. I couldn't remember having it when I woke up that morning. I pressed my thumb and index finger into the corners of my eyes and then pushed my hand back through my hair, trying to think.
"Where's your phone?" Jeremey repeated himself.
"I don't know," I finally responded, pinching my eyes shut and trying to concentrate.
"Did you drop it last night?" His voice was stern.
I opened my eyes. Jeremey had gotten out of his chair and stood right in front of me, glaring at me. I thought back to the previous night. I remembered using my phone as the light. I remembered setting it down by the basement window to get a better look, and I remembered...
"Harper?" Jeremey's voice broke as he said my name. He wasn't so much angry... he was scared.
"I forgot it." My voice came out as a whisper. "When the truck came... when the dogs came—" I paused. "I set it down beside the window to the basement to get a better look, and then when you shouted about the headlights, I didn't think about it. I forgot to grab it. I just..."
"You left it there?"
I bit my lower lip and nodded.
"Fuck," Jeremy hissed. He turned away from me. He paced across the porch, pushing both hands through his hair and continuing to whisper curses under his breath. Finally, he turned back to face me.
"Jeremey, I'm sorry," I apologized. "It was an accident, I didn't mean to. It all happened so quick, I wasn't thinking. I'm sorry."
"It's okay," he said. "Fuck." He bit his lower lip.
"I mean, he probably already knew it was us," I tried to rationalize it. "The dogs barking, chasing us. The headlights. He probably already knew. He probably saw us. There wasn't anything on my phone for him to find anyway. It doesn't matter that much that he found it. He already knew."
"Yeah, yeah." Jeremey paused again. "But the thing is, Harper, think about where he found your phone. It wasn't just in his yard. It wasn't just on his property. It was right next to the window to the basement. Right there. And... what you saw. God, I don't even know. I don't even know what that was. But he knows now. He knows you saw..."
"Her," I filled in the blank for him.
He winced when I said it.
"What are we going to do?" I asked.
Jeremey sat back down. "I need to smoke," he said, running his hands up and down his jeans. "Fuck, hand me the bark box." He reached out his hand, beckoning for it.
I breathed in and nodded. I got down on my knees and pulled the peppermint bark tin out from under the old wicker chair where I'd been sitting. I handed it to him, and then kneeled down on the baby-blue painted wooden floor in front of the end table, rather than taking my normal seat in the chair.
Jeremey's hands slipped once as he tried to open the pink and white tin, but on the second try he got it. He took out his grinder, and then he opened a plastic bag and took out a bud. He placed it in and I watched as he pulverized it with the millstone, neither one of us saying a word as he worked, allowing ourselves to be mesmerized by the simple process. Finally, he took out some rolling paper and spread the dust into the fold. He licked the edge of it as he rolled, sticking it all together. I took out my lighter and lit it, and then we smoked.
"What are we going to do?" I let out the breath I'd been holding as I repeated the question. We were half way through the joint and my heartbeat had returned to almost normal.
Jeremey took a puff and then passed to me. "I don't know, damn. I don't have any idea. What was the threat he told you before? You'd be amazed what wind..."
"Can spread," I finished his sentence, smoke streaming out of my nose and mouth as I spoke.
"What does that mean?" Jeremey wondered aloud.
I shrugged. I had no idea, and also, I had other thoughts on my mind, more than the threat. "Jeremey, what about the girl? What are we going to do about her?"
He shook his head. "What do you mean, what are we going to do about her?"
"We have to do something," I said. "He's keeping her in the basement. Joshua has her locked up down there. Who knows what he's doing to her. We have to help her!"
Jeremey shook his head. "Okay, okay. You're right. But maybe we should go to the cops, talk to them and let them know..."
"What cops?" I shouted. "Officer Darren? Yeah right. He doesn't do shit all. He'd laugh at us if we told him anyway. All the other cops are gone, Jeremey. When's the last time you saw a cop car around town that wasn't parked in front of the station or in Officer Darren's driveway?"
"Okay, okay," Jeremey said. "Calm down." He held out his hand, and I passed him the joint. "We don't know enough yet. We don't have any idea who this girl is. We don't know why he has her there. It could be really, really dangerous." He took a drag and coughed as he exhaled smoke.
"We need to go back," I said. "We need to go back to the farm house and find out more. Maybe we can break into the basement and get her out. The lock on the cellar door... we could cut that. And if not, maybe break the window. We need some tools or something. We could do this, Jeremey. And if we get her out, I bet she'd be able to tell us more about what's going on at the farm house. What Joshua is planning there."
"Okay," Jeremey agreed. "But we have to be careful, Harper. Like really fucking careful. Joshua knows we were there now, so I'm sure he'll be watching the house even more closely. It won't be so easy to break in. We can't risk it again like we did last time. I don't think we'll be that lucky again."
"You're right." My mind flashed back to the dogs, and I shuddered. I didn't want to think about what would have happened if they'd caught us. "We'll be more careful this time. I can call into work tonight. We can plan during the day. Get some tools. Stake out the house and wait for him to leave, or wait for him to go to sleep."
"Okay," Jeremey said. "Here." He held out his phone to me.
"What's this for?" I asked, taking it without thinking.
"For you to call into work." A small grin snuck onto his face. "Remember? You lost your phone."
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•• Wattys 2018 Winner •• Wattpad Featured Story •• One day, a wind blew into the town of Millstone and didn't stop. Slowly people moved away. It was like the town was trying to clear itself out, as though it was preparing for something sinister. Whe...