Chapter 13

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The cycle hummed along the access road leading away from Sunset Bay. Alex glanced down at the twins, squeezed into the sidecar. He was compelled to check on them every few seconds, after what had nearly been a fatal error. The episode in the store had terrified and shocked him back to his ultra-aware state, which he had allowed to go dormant and he quietly chastised himself for failing to spot the man. Henry could've been harmed, or worse, the man could've disabled Alex and then did what he wished to both twins. He could've killed them.

Alex kept the cycle steady at fifty miles per hour; slow enough to keep the twins feeling safe, yet fast enough to outrun anything that might try to engage them. Out of the rushing scenery to his right came a voice. Alex started and surveyed the shoulder of the road, whizzing by in a blur. It had sounded like someone clearing their throat. He snapped his head toward Henry and Annabelle. They were staring straight ahead, their large, round helmets bobbing with every vibration of the cycle.

Even if the twins had shouted at him, the wind zipping by Alex's ears would've drowned them out. Yet the voice had sounded very near.

"Alex?" A female voice. The girl was at his right-hand side, seated five feet away, seemingly floating in the air and maintaining pace with the cycle. He ignored the vision.

"I know you can hear me," she said. This was the first time the hallucination had been accompanied by a voice.

Out of frustration, Alex twisted the accelerator. The engine's hum rose to a whir and the cycle rocked backward, causing the connection between the sidecar and the bike to groan under the tension. It sounded like it might snap. Henry and Annabelle cried out.

"Alex!" shouted Annabelle.

Alex brought the cycle to a quick stop, shut it off and turned to the twins. "Sorry, guys. I'm just not happy with myself."

"How come?" asked Henry.

"Because I let the man in the store sneak up on us." He sighed and scanned their surroundings.

"It's okay, Alex," said the hallucination. "I'm here to help you."

Henry shrugged. "Yeah, but how could you know?"

Alex glanced at the girl and discovered she wasn't just floating in the air, but there was a background behind her. She was seated on a chair in a small room. Concrete wall and floor. He looked away.

"I should've been more careful. That was my fault. I'm sorry."

The twins stared up at their big brother. They both smiled.

Alex forced a grin, but it quickly faded. "It won't happen again. I won't let anyone do anything bad to you two...I promise."

Annabelle grabbed Alex's hand. "We know." Henry placed his hand atop his sister's.

"Good. Let's get home before the sun's down, okay?"

The children nodded.

The hallucinatory girl stared, but Alex didn't waver. She had dirty blonde hair pulled into a ponytail and ice-blue eyes that bored into his soul. More of the room had become visible. Now, between Alex and her was a series of vertical metal bars. There was a door with a lock. He was unable to tell if the girl appeared to be locked behind the bars, or if he was.

Her lips parted and she began to speak. "I need you to trust-"

"Alex?" asked Annabelle.

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