THE HARRISON ESTATE | MERIDIA FALLS
I still can’t shake the image from my mind. Poor Steve, the love of my life, frozen like everyone else that was caught in the freakin’ time bomb.
“Don’t stress, Marilyn,” Teddy says, as he weaves between the low-hanging mist pockets. “Stephanie says everyone will return to normal when the effects of that device wear off.” He speaks like he’s reciting a poem or something.
My face screws up as I aim my normal just-stop-talking stare at Teddy. He smiles, which looks suspiciously like a smirk. I take a deep breath and swallow the rising anger in my stomach. I don’t know why, but Teddy Chen really does wind me up — he always has.
He walks up to the Harrison mansion’s front door, set inside the elaborate porch that Logan took me through this morning… jeez, was that just this morning? I shake away the jetlag feeling as Teddy twists the door handle, carefully keeping the diamond half-glove between his hand and the pain-inducing metal.
“Locked,” he says, glancing over his shoulder.
“They must have gone around the back,” I say, pointing to the left-hand side of the mansion where the gravel path snakes around the corner.
Teddy shakes his head. “If they’re still here.”
I check my watch, probably one of only three still ticking in this town. “They’ve been gone too long. We shouldn’t have split up.” I glance over my shoulder back down the path to the Harrison Estate entrance. “There’s no way we could have missed them… Something must have happened.”
Teddy tosses the half-glove to me and pulls out his gun. “Let’s check around the back.”
“I wish whoever did this chose a warmer freakin’ second to freeze,” I say, pulling my coat tighter.
I follow Teddy around the path, past a silver Mercedes — Logan’s grandmother’s car. I’ve seen it parked outside the coffee shop a few times.
“They must have come this way,” Teddy says, waving his gun at the open kitchen door behind the car.” He strides in front of me. “I’ll go first. Stay behind me.”
His voice is stern, lower. Different to his usual higher pitch. I’m beginning to believe this is his natural tone. But why does he hide it? My eyes fall on his gun as he advances on to the door. He hid the gun too… and the fact he was writing for Penny’s paper. What else is Teddy Chen hiding?
“Are you coming in?” he asks, snapping me away from the questions racing through my mind.
I follow him inside the mansion, right into the hot kitchen. It’s like walking into the middle of summer — not that we get much of that in this town. The heat blasts into my face, making my cheeks tingle. “It’s difficult to breathe,” I say, stifling a cough.
“Logan!” Teddy shouts. The echo mutes, like it can’t penetrate the frozen second.
I wait, hoping that Logan answers. But there’s just silence. “That way,” I say, pointing at the open double doors. The mansion layout is still fresh in my mind — so is my failed attempt at making lunch in this kitchen.
Teddy advances slowly through the doors, the gun shaking in his hand.
“What the hell!” He stops still in the doorway. Is he frozen? Then he turns around, pointing his shaking gun to the left. “It’s Stephanie.”
I rush past him into the dining room. Stephanie stands statue-like, her hand raised as if she was trying to fight. A man grabs her arm; he, too, is frozen still. Frozen at a weird angle, with his legs taped together. Anne Harrison, Logan’s grandmother, is frozen in a chair next to them both, a large pair of scissors sitting on her knee and a coil of rope around her ankles. In front of her is a young woman. It’s like a bizarre horror-movie dinner party.
“That must be Harmony Hart,” I say. “The woman that set Logan up.” A brief flash of her sprinting out of that awful room at Serenity Grove plays in my mind, then a more solid memory of her and Logan’s grandmother strolling through the coffee shop last summer replaces it. I latch onto the memory when I remember what they had been talking about — Isaac’s apples.
Teddy glances at an open safe on the wall across from the dining table. “I think they were attacking Mrs. Harrison — robbing her.” He pauses and kneels next to Harmony. “Look at this. Someone taped her legs together.”
“I noticed,” I say. “They did it to him too.”
“Logan!” Teddy shouts again, but his voice trails off as notices something on the floor in front of the large dresser against the back wall. He runs over and kicks his foot over the floor. “Oh no! There are remnants of another webcam.” He glances around the room. “Someone was watching — someone knew they were here.”
“But where’s Logan?”
Something white glistens on the floor next to a smashed decanter. Diamonds. It’s the other half of the glove. I launch forward, scooping it up. My heart skips a beat… There’s a message written in a puddle of orange liquid. A message intended for us.
“Teddy! Look at this.”
“Damn it!” he says, running his hand through his hair. “I don’t like this.”
“We need to get the Trackers,” I say. “It’s our only option.” I run over to Stephanie and use the diamond half-glove to reach into her pocket. I pull out the small black ball Jane gave her and drop it to the floor. I bring my heel down on top, shattering it like a smashed lightbulb. A foul smell like rotten vegetables rises from the floor. I cover my nose. “They weren’t wrong about the smell!”