The Witness Book Two By KM Peterson Draft 2

Prologue My summer at Camp Freedom made me think things were good. My memory was back, I had a sort-of boyfriend, and my fears were gone. Yeah right. Life doesn’t work that way. There’s a reason my brain blocked out the memories. And some days, actually most days, I wish I could forget. Sure I didn’t have mental breakdowns every few weeks anymore that left me mentally crippled. Instead there was a sort-of constant wound at the back of my mind. Sometimes I thought it was just a scar that the bleeding would stop. Then I had another nightmare. Or Scott let slip Jonas was writing me letters from his cell. Or Zach accidently touched me in the exact same way Jonas had once, and next thing I knew I was screaming at him, or huddled in my bathroom with everyone locked out. You can’t run away from your past. I know that better than most. Changed my name, moved across the country, lost a parent. But everyday Jonas and his minions lurk at the back of my mind. My name is Jules Glau. So why can’t I stop being Jessica Helms?

Chapter 1 The car sped forward. I squished myself into the back seat, pulling at the uncomfortable skirt I was wearing. It was long to help with the cold of winter, but made of wool that itched to no end. December 15th. My day to testify. My first day anyways. I had to testify tomorrow again, and Scott warned me that I would probably have to again. American government courts can take years with a trial like this. Prosecution of a sex slave trader. You would think it would be simple, but Jonas has so many contacts everywhere. I went into Witness Protection for a very good reason. And it wasn’t just for the name change. Being held captive for three days. Two of which were in Jonas’s basement. My eyewitness testimony was the key to the trial. It would put Jonas behind bars forever. And prevent anybody else from ever having to go through what I went through. So is the pitch anyways. “Stop moving. You’re making me nervous.” Scott Knurts, my U.S. Marshall, joked slightly. Something unusual for him and his serious persona. Then again, I have never seen him on this sort-of day. He adapts slightly to every situation. The mask never slipping. Well, almost never. Even then you had to be watching closely to see it. “Sorry.” I apologized. I clenched my hands and took one deep breathe. Held it for five seconds, and then let it out slowly. A tiny bit of the tight anxiety in my chest was released. “We’ve gone over this a hundred times. Practiced in the courthouse. You know what to do.” “I know.” I got slightly defensive, looking at the floor. “Jessica.” Scott’s tone took a softer tone, but I cringed slightly at the name. The name I was born with. But Jessica felt so damaged, I liked being Jules more. But Scott had to call me Jessica while we were here for the trial. Jonas doesn’t know my

other identity. And I would like to keep it that way thank you very much. “You don’t have to look at him.” Scott’s voice softened slightly. Of course he knew what I was thinking. “Yes, I do. That’s one of the questions, and I have to point at him.” My eyes were still on the floor, and what little anxiety had gone out with that deep breathe came back tenfold. “One time. After that you look at the prosecutor or at me. And you don’t have to be too brave. Juries like tears. Well they don’t like them, which makes them vote in your favor.” Scott was rambling. Since when did he ramble? Was he nervous, or just trying to compensate for my own jitters? “Right.” I stilled myself, “I can do this. One look. Answer questions. Tell the truth. Cry a bit for the audience and then I’m home free!” “Camp Free, really.” Scott leaned back into his seat next to me. Camp Free. Well, Camp Freedom. That’s where I got to escape to after the trial. Two weeks of Winter Camp, mum only allowed me to be gone over Christmas cause she had to run the café. And because Zach was going. The thought of Zach made me want to smile. He couldn’t come to the trial, but on Friday I would see him! I wonder how I became so attached to him. Though, it has been a week since I even spoke to him. No communication during the trial. Iris was here to enforce that rule, no getting around it. Oh yeah, Iris. Turns out Scott has a partner. Who knew? Especially who knew that she was at Camp Freedom the entire time, became one of our counselors, and I never even knew? I didn’t even find out until the school year started this past August. Just a sort-of, “Surprise guess what I have a partner, have had one for years. Did I never tell you?” I think that might just be Scott’s general behavior though.

The car slowed, and I glanced out the tinted windows. We circled the court-house, and then pulled in at the back where no press was gathered. “Ready?” Scott was on the outside, his hand on the door-handle. “No. Let’s go.” He pushed the door open into the cold winter air. I quickly climbed out after him, cursing my skirt as I stumbled into a patch of ice. “Come on.” Iris opened the door from the inside, “Get in now.” Bossy she is when she’s got her gun strapped to her side. The warm air greeted us inside, and I shook my hair out a bit. Scott straightened his already perfectly vertical tie. I think it might be a nervous habit, but the funny thing is that he looked more comfortable in his suit than anything else I had ever seen him in. There was also the badge, gun, and handcuffs at his belt. A court-house is on of the very few places they are allowed to say, “Hey! I’m a Marshall! Look at my shiny badge!” So they all walk a little taller so to speak. “We have ten minutes till she has to be out there.” Iris said, glancing at her watch. “Right, so if I’m going to puke I should do it now?” I asked, only half joking. Iris pointed at the bathroom, “Knock yourself out.” “Now that you mention it.” I stepped into the singleperson bathroom quickly, locking the door behind me. “Deep breaths Jules.” I told myself, leaning on the locked door. After a few deep gulps of the chemically enhanced air, I stepped in front of the mirror. “Jessica.” I corrected myself. “Jessica [name].”

"My name, is JESSICA." I said to the mirror, enunciating and dividing Jessica into several different parts. Then spelling it out. Jessica. Till I slipped back into her. Timid, and feeling the urge to run. Crap. I still needed Jules. I think I might be going crazy. Talking about myself like I am two completely different people? I must have that disease. Whatever it is where you have multiple personalities. Actually, I think it’s just called that isn’t it? “Jessica?” Scott was knocking on the door. “I’m fine! Be out in a minute.” I called to him through the door. “Okay.” I didn’t actually here him leave the door, but these walls were thick. And overly decorated with wall paper, candle holders, and paintings of landscapes. “Right.” I looked in the mirror one more time. “I am fine.” The eyes in the mirror told a different story. But the girl in her nice clean skirt nodded confidently back at me. “Let’s go confront some demons shall we?” I spun around and pulled open the door. Ready. As much as I ever could be.

Chapter 2 Three hours later I was allowed to step down from the stand. Only after the judge extended me being up there again tomorrow. This is what we expected. Scott was there the second I stepped down. He put a hand on my back, guiding me to the back of the courtroom. I felt a little shaky after sitting there for so long, but he kept me moving forward. A few people crowded around us, but Iris stepped in and moved them away from me, “Stand back!” She said loudly, a single hand at her right hip. They moved away quickly, and the second we were out of the courtroom Scott had me nearly running. There seemed to be something urgent... Then I saw why. Scott had been trying to get me out quickly enough that we didn’t run into Jonas on his way out. Trying. But he failed. Jonas suddenly appeared with his lawyer. He looked at me, brown eyes sparking for a moment. He licked his thin lips as his lawyer chattered into his ear. I froze, and Scott looked around wildly. We were trapped in a way. Jonas was standing in our way to get out. There is was again. The urge to run. To put as much physical distance as possible between me and him. I took one involuntary step back, but there was Scott’s hand. Pushing me forward, and holding me steady. An internal war raged in my head. Safe, or not safe? What was safe? Then he was gone. Whisked away. But not without one final look at me. A single up and down of his eyes, the upward tilt of his lips. And he was gone. “Jessica.” Scott said carefully, “Come on.” I breathed deeply, steadying myself. Then I nodded, “Right.” Onward.

That night I practically ran into the hotel bathroom, locking the door behind me. I blasted the shower, and stood in the running water, allowing myself to replay questions and responses. “Jonas [name] states that you came to his workplace willingly.” “I did.” “Why?” “He said I might be able to do some modeling for him. I thought I would be able to make some money.” “And he didn’t imply that any kind of sexual transaction would occur while you were there?” “No.” There were endless questions. “What did he do? How did Mr. [name] react when you did this? Did you tell him no?” Of course I said no. I screamed it over and over. Then the constant re-asking of questions, asking them in a slightly different way. It made me want to scream! Without really thinking I slammed the palm of my hand into the shower wall. Damn! Why couldn’t they just put the bastard behind bars? KNOCK! “Jessica? You all right in there?” Iris’s voice came through, obviously she heard my hand making contact with the wall. “Fine!” I called back, “I just. Slipped.” I closed my eyes, the lie had come out awkwardly. “I’m fine.” I repeated, hoping to make-up for it. She didn’t knock down the door. So I finished up my business, turned the water off, and slipped into a warm robe heated by the shower’s steam. This hotel was not shabby. The room was large, and clean. With a flat screen TV, and plenty of fluffy towels.

I was happy to lounge around playing conversations with Zach over in my head to keep myself distracted. And planning out what we could do over the next two weeks. “All right, I have pizza!” Scott walked in the adjoining door between our rooms holding a box with a bag on top. I jerked my thoughts away from possible ice skating to the cheesy mess of Chicago style pizza. “Thanks!” I sat up inhaling deeply the smell of cheese and tomatoes. Scott set the box on a table and flicked the TV remote, “Going to do anything with this?” “Nope.” I didn’t want to channel flip. I usually ended up on something that I didn’t care about anyways. It might as well be something other people care about. He turned the TV to a local basketball game. Something I could glance at, and not really care about, but it provided noise over the otherwise silent room. Iris was reading some sort-of novel as the two of us ate at the small table in the room. After consuming plenty of cheesy goodness, Scott ran through a few plans with me. “One more time on the stand tomorrow. Mostly just the same, you don’t even have to look at Jonas, that’s taken care of. He will be in a room to the side.” I nodded. Good. I wouldn’t be as nervous then. “Afterwards we go to another hotel, still undetermined which one. Stay one night, and then it’s driving for six hours to get to Camp.” “And the fun begins!” I said smiling. Scott just nodded. He glanced at the clock, “Now it is up to you to amuse yourself for the next few hours while I go talk to some people.” He stood, brushing off a few imaginary crumbs from his lap.

“Some people being?” I let the sentence carry my question. Always curious where he was going. “None of your business.” He said. “Right.” I figured as much. “Sleep. Eventually.” He shook his head. I wasn’t sure who slept less, me or him. “Only if you do!” I called after him as he left the room. Then I locked it behind him out of mere boredom. Iris looked at me, “Hey, any food left?” She asked, not bothering to get up and get it herself. I put the remaining two pieces onto a plate and put it next to her. Not that Scott and I had saved them for her or anything. Iris is kinda funny about food. Unless there is some left over that it appears nobody will eat she will not touch it. Iris didn’t say anything as she picked up the now cold pizza. I walked over to my bag and pulled out my ipod. Best way to forget things was to put a good song on repeat. Good way to fall asleep sometimes too. The bed was cool as I lay on it. I grabbed the blanket from the foot of it and pulled it over my legs, keeping my bare feet warm. And I watched Iris slowly consume the food, while reading her book, legs crossed and head resting against the wall. A few hours later, the lights were out, and I had drifted off into a half sleep. But the door opening made me open my eyes. I looked over and through the still open door I saw Scott’s outline come in. He glanced in the room, and seeing me awake moved forward. But as he came forward, I suddenly realized that he wasn’t wearing the same thing he had left in. And he seemed to have gained a bit of weight... When the shadow spoke I felt sudden ice in my veins, “Jessica. My little café girl.” The shadow leered over me, and I was frozen. Unable to move. Unable to scream as Jonas slid his body over me. Holding only a fraction of his

weight of me, pressing into me. I couldn’t breathe from the weight. I woke up still unable to move, but gasping as if he really had been there, crushing the breathe out of me. After a few seconds I sat up, coughing. The room was mostly dark, save for light coming from the one lamp in Scott’s room. It hadn’t been on when I fell asleep, so I slid off my bed and peered into the room. Scott was sitting at the desk, going through what I guessed were files. “You should be sleeping.” He said without looking up. I glanced at the clock. Two in the morning. “So should you.” “Not exactly. Either Iris or I have to be up. And I’m letting her sleep for another hour.” “Oh.” I leaned against the door, watching him read for a minute. Then a question I had thought of earlier came to mind, “Scott, after this is over. Am I done? I mean, do I stay Jules in Seattle or...” “You stay in Seattle. Jonas isn’t one to give up, even after sentenced. I questioned him once.” Scott stopped looking at the papers instead turning to me, “After the incident at camp, I got in to ask him some questions.” I had no idea he had done this, and Scott continued slowly, “The man talks in riddles. And seems to have a disgusting obsession with you.” His voice rose slightly with anger and distaste. This I already knew. And Scott angrily returned to his files. “He wrote you letters. Has been writing you letters. Talking about prison life among other things.” I looked at the papers on his desk. Photocopied handwritten letters. I didn’t recognize the handwriting. No way I could really, I’d never seen anything Jonas had written. I saw my name a couple times in there. Jessica. Scott saw me looking and closed the file. “Go to bed.” “But-”

“You don’t want to read them.” He wasn’t looking at me, or at anything really. “Trust me. You don’t want to read them.” And I did. Trust him. So I left him alone in the room with the files, crawled under the covers of my bed, and tried to think of good things. Like not testifying tomorrow. And going back to Camp Freedom. And kittens and rainbows.

Chapter 3 The next morning I repacked my bags, set them on the edge of the bed, put on the same itchy skirt, and went back to court. Two more hours of questioning and I was officially done. For this part of the trial. After we stepped out of the courthouse, I let loose a great sigh. “We are DONE!” I said. “For now.” Iris said, but she looked a bit relieved. “I’m surprised Jonas didn’t try anything.” Scott frowned slightly, “It seems unlike him.” “Cause he knows it won’t work.” I just barely remembered to keep my voice down. “Scott can we actually go somewhere for food? Not just eat in another hotel, but actually sit down at a restaurant to eat?” “No.” “Aww come on. I’m here in my town, and I can’t even see it!” “Doesn’t matter. Jonas might not want to kill you to stop you from testifying, but it would be within his psyche to kill you out of revenge. Or just for fun.” “Kill-joy.” I muttered. Even though I agreed with him. “Kill is the key word in that sentence. Now come-on. This one’s a bit further out.” We hit rush hour traffic, so it took an hour to get to a hotel that was 10 miles away. Scott let us stop to get Chinese which we ate in our rooms. Just like he said. “I’m gonna get fat off all this take-out.” I said to him, throwing away empty cartons and giving Iris the “leftover” egg rolls. “Yeah,” He laughed a bit, “That’ll be the day.” “Can I have my phone back?”

“And there’s the punch line.” “Come on! I’m done. Two phone calls.” “And how many texts?” “Mum put me on unlimited! So we don’t have to deal with that issue anymore.” “I’m not concerned about your phone bill.” “Please?” I tried to put on a puppy dog look. “I won’t say anything that may compromise our position or anything.” “Tomorrow.” “Oh come on!” “Tomorrow morning. No sooner! Now occupy yourself.” “Whatever.” I replied before stealing the television remote from Iris. I stayed up watching various comedic shows, and then The Christmas Story two and a half times. It was being played on three different channels! Eventually Iris turned off the lights in our room and crossed into Scott’s. I heard low tones as the two of them conversed, but didn’t bother to try and listen.

CHAPTER 4 The next morning around six Iris woke me by putting a hand over my mouth. I jumped away, startled to see her with her gun out. She took the hand away from my mouth and put a finger to her lips. Then I heard the knocking at the door. It was blocked by the bathroom from where I was lying, but judging from the fact Iris was standing here with me, Scott was probably at the door. I sat up and pushed a few covers off. Iris prevented me from moving any further. “Who’s there?” Scott asked from our side of the door. I only just barely heard, “Delivery!” “What kind of delivery?” Scott’s voice reverberated around the room. “I only deliver them sir. I don’t know what’s in them. I’m supposed to take them to a girl by the name of Jessica?” “I’m sorry there’s no Jessica here.” “It’s odd sir, but the delivery request form says that you would say that.” “All right.” I desperately wanted to see the scene, but I had to stay where I was, hidden from sight behind the wall. “I am going to open the door.” I heard Scott unlock the door, but not unhook the chain. “Hey easy!” And now the delivery man knew Scott had a gun. “I’m a Federal Marshall. See,” Presumably now he was showing the man his badge. “Now put the package on the ground.” There was the sound of a slight thump. “And walk away.”

“But I need someone to sign!” “They can sign for you down at the lobby desk.” “All right. You have a nice day!” A minute later Scott undid the chain and opened the door. Iris let me up then, and I scrambled to look. He picked up the package and quickly shut the door. “Who know’s I’m here?” I asked. “Almost nobody.” He said inspecting the box carefully. Everything was printed, no handwriting. “Iris do you?” Iris pulled out a pair of latex gloves. How very CSI of her. Oh two pairs! Another for her. Scott slid them on and put the package on the table. It was about the size of a Kleenex box, well two Kleenex boxes put side by side. Scott took the letter opener off the desk and sliced open the top. “Wait!” I said before he opened it. “What?” “What if it’s a bomb or something?” I asked, mind running slightly crazy. “Then it’s a very light bomb.” Scott rolled his eyes, but did take half a step back. Carefully he opened the box, and when nothing went BOOM! He looked inside reached in and pulled out a single rose. Tied to it was a deep blue ribbon. I stepped back. That color... “Jessica?” I swallowed, “That’s probably from Jonas. Is there anything else in there?” Scott shook his head. Again I swallowed, suddenly thirsty, “Right. How did he find us?” I tried to make

conversation, to distract myself from images in my mind. Feelings. “Jessica. Where have you seen this ribbon?” Scott shook the rose in front of my face. “Jules. Er, Julia. The girl who told me to run. She had it around her neck.” I closed my eyes and there she was, Jonas’s knife just below the ribbon. Crimson red starting to appear next to the blue. “Right, we’re leaving.” “But how did he know?” I asked, not moving as Scott started throwing things into bags. “How did he know we were here?” “Something tells me he didn’t.” Scott said, looking at his phone. None of us had noticed it buzzing. “Knurts.” Scott answered the phone, “Yes. Yes, we have one too. Just came this morning. Delivered to every single one?” “I don’t understand.” I said turning to Iris who was packing her things now too. Gun reholstered at her side. “This room is one of dozens around the city kept around the clock by the government. Based on the calls.” Iris looked at her own phone, which was now buzzing too. “They all got one.” “[Iris’s last name]” She too answered her phone. “Yes sir. There’s one here too. Knurts opened the box. Yes he had gloves on.” And she started walking towards the window, still talking to whoever it was. Will Jonas ever leave me alone? Will he ever just let me live my life in peace? Suddenly I felt angry. Extremely angry. I balled up my hands, digging my nails into my palms slightly, feeling the bite of pain just to get some of it out. “Come on.” Scott closed his phone and gestured at me, “Get dressed. There will be a forensic specialist here soon

to take the box. He sent them to over twenty rooms, and that’s only what’s arrived so far.” My anger drained slightly, “You guys have 20 hotel rooms owned by the government?” “More than that.” Scott scratched the back of his head, thinking, “It must have cost him a pretty penny to get this many roses. Especially in winter!” “Yeah well, money is something Jonas has plenty of.” I said, picking up my bag of clothing and going into the bathroom to change. I did my thing, putting on comfy sweats to wear for the long car ride ahead of me. But before leaving the bathroom I cracked the door to listen to Scott and Iris. “You sure this message was intended for her?” Iris was asking him. “Who else?” “There are rumors.” “Rumors. That’s it. I think if it was true they would tell me.” “I think you fail to realize things are not going well for you Scott. After the shooting-” “Listen I know some people have been saying I’ve gone soft.” “And they would be right!” “Right to you! Nobody worries about the mental state of these people. We’re told to just dump them and let them fend for themselves? Nobody to talk to, nobody to rely on. And the secrets they carry can eat away at you forever.” “They aren’t children. They can learn to cope.” “But some of them are!” “And the things they see make them grow up fast.”

“I think you fail to see the point here Iris.” “No I think you do!” I decided to step out now, their argument was starting to get loud. I pulled open the door, making sure to let it bump into the wall. “OK. I am decent.” I said putting my bag on the bed, not letting them see the information I know had on my face. “Right.” The two had already packed everything up, and neither of them let the argument show on their faces. Though Iris did look a tad perturbed. “Breakfast?” I asked hopefully. “I’ll take you.” Scott said, moving forward quickly. We took the stairs down three flights to the breakfast hall, then piled two plates with all the continental breakfast we could manage. We took it back upstairs, though I nearly dropped my yogurt trying to opened our door. I was laughing when we entered the room. Unfortunately the Forensics person had arrived, and glared at me. I quickly lost the grin. “Take your food into the other room ok?” Scott said, careful not to use either of my names. “OK.” I agreed, quickly going through the connecting door to stop the glaring technician. As I ate my eggs and yogurt I listened to the Forensics person as Scott various questions, Who delivered the box? At what point did he put on gloves? Did the delivery man have gloves on? Ect. By the time I had eaten, brushed my teeth, and completely packed up all my stuff, he was finally leaving. “I’ll see you in January.” He said to Scott. Scott shut the door behind him and turned to the food he had gotten. Now gone cold. Or warm in the milk’s case.

He tossed everything out, save for the dry cereal. “Come on. We have to go, we’re already running late.” I hopped off the bed and pulled on my snow boots. Scott had warned me, Camp already had almost two feet of snow. I figured I might as well wear them up there. Better hot now than wet cold socks later. We stopped back in the lobby for more food and to check out. Then we were off! Scott gave me my phone back, but Zach was already on a plane. I was able to call mom though. “Hey! How did everything go?” “Fine. Lots and lots of questions.” I said, not mentioning this morning’s little delivery. “Oh I’m sorry I couldn’t go with sweetie. But things are just sort-of crazy here. I can’t afford to leave the café.” “I know. It’s fine mom.” In truth the Café was sinking. Without Dad to counteract all of mom’s shortcomings, things were falling. Though, Zach’s younger sister Crystal was working part-time there, and was a huge help. Still, things were not going as well as they could. “Oh Crystal says hi.” Mom said. “Hi Crystal!” I said from my end. “Mom, are you working right now?” “Just doing some things in the kitchen. We’re having a poetry reading tonight, local artists coming in to do some readings. I’m making sure there are enough scones.” I laughed. Mom was always trying new things. “Ok, well I’ll let you go then. You know I can’t take my phone into camp, but I should be able to call from the payphone.” “All right sweetie. You have fun! Zach too!” “Bye mom.”

“I love you!” “Love you too.” Then I hung up. “How is she?” Scott asked from the driver’s seat. “Good. Working.” I said, handing the phone to Iris. “OK. Five more hours to go!” Scott said, checking the dashboard. “Less than that perhaps.” I groaned. He was going to speed. Not just, 5-10 miles over the limit like everyone did. Nope, once we hit the highway we were flying past mini-vans and semi’s like they were driving backwards. Four hours and one stop later we turned down a very familiar road. There were no signs to mark that this was the way to Camp of course, but somehow I just knew. We were stopped at the gate, and a guard stepped forward. “Knurts! Glad to see you man.” “Hey! Kelso. How are you?” Scott greeted him. “Not too bad. You?” “I dunno, two weeks with a bunch of teenagers.” “Ah, you love it and you know it.” Scott just laughed, “You gonna let us in or what?” “Go ahead.” Kelso waved at the other guard on the inside who pushed a button to open the chain like fence. I glanced at the top. Razor wire. And there were enormous street lights. Nobody was getting in. Glad to see the security. “Talk to you later.” Scott said, rolling the window back up. But the car was already freezing. I zipped up my parka. We drove another 15 minutes before arriving in the parking lot. “Everyone should start arriving in about half

an hour.” Scott said, glancing at the clock. “The first few buses anyways.” The three of us stepped outside, and I inhaled deeply. Pine trees and snow. The sky was light gray with clouds. The parking lot was mostly clear and salted; there were already a few cars here. Scott started walking and I followed him leaving my bags in the car. We walked down to the mess hall, and walked in. There was a great fire going in a fireplace that I either didn’t notice last summer, or had just been put in. “Stay here.” Scott said, and then he took the stairs up to the 2nd floor. A place I had only been once, to talk about a dead girl... Happy thoughts Jules. I told myself. Iris went with Scott, leaving me alone. I pulled off my parka, admiring the new decorations. Twelve new teams were assembled. So twelve new banners hung. Though, the colors were all the same. Scott let it slip I was on team 11 again. No sense really in changing that. I set my coat on table eleven and walked over to the fireplace. It had a built in sort-of seat which I took advantage of. I wasn’t really cold, but still, once people saw this, odds were it would become impossible to snag a spot on here. After a few minutes I heard an odd banging noise coming from the kitchen. The thought of the kitchen brought another wave of sadness. Cherrie. The wonderful old foreign cook. She turned out to be a contact for Jonas in here. I found out later he threatened her granddaughter, but still. After another series of banging followed by a very loud, “Crap!” I got up to peer into the room. Inside there was a mess. A great big mess. A woman who looked no more than thirty was mopping up what looked like a puddle of hot chocolate. Her hair was streaked with white flour, and in another corner of the kitchen I saw two assistants washing dishes, but ignoring her. Unable to help myself I grabbed a nearby rag and started to help.

“WOAH!” She jumped up when she saw me, “Aren’t you a little young to work here?” I laughed a little, “I don’t work here, I go here.” “WHAT?” She seemed to be very found of shouting. “Kids are here already?” “No.” I shrugged, standing up to wring out the now sopping rag, “I’m just early.” “Well what are you doing over here?” “You looked like you needed some help. Sorry!” I put down the rag and moved towards the door. “No no, you can help. I just didn’t think the rich kids that go here were ones to do stuff like that.” She pulled out a mop and began soaking up the mess. “Most of them aren’t. But we aren’t all spoiled little rich kids.” I said stepping aside to let her get most of it. “Then why come?” “Cause I like it here. And like I said, not all of them are.” After she mopped up most of the mess, I wiped down the floor. “There. All clean.” “Thanks.” The woman paused for a moment, “All right, now skedaddle! I have to make a whole new batch before the rest of ya start getting here.” “OK.” I walked to the door, and again she made me stop. “Hey kid! What’s your name?” I paused just inside the doorframe, “Jules. What’s yours?” “Stephanie.” “Nice to meet you Stephanie.”

“Yeah, go now!” I left, smiling despite her rudeness. Or maybe because of her rudeness. I’m not sure. The room was still empty when I got there, but I didn’t mind. I liked having a bit of time to myself. It came rarely, and thus was something to be immensely enjoyed. I retook the fireplace seat, sucking up a bit of warmth. Two more counselors I recognized from the summer came in and went upstairs. I was the only camper though. Fine by me! After a while the door to the stairs opened and a ton of people came out. All the counselors and several staff members. I got up and grabbed my coat to follow Scott and Iris out. “So?” I asked. Scott just looked at me. “So. What?” “Anything shiny and new going on?” I asked. “No. What put you in a good mood?” “What put you in a bad one?” He just scowled. “Don’t mind him.” Iris said smugly, “He just doesn’t like getting bossed around.” “I wasn’t bossed around!” “Director Christina is still here then?” I asked. “Yup.” Iris did grin now. And I wished I had been privy to the little gathering upstairs. If only to see what ever took place. “Honestly that woman...” Scott trailed off, not saying anything more. I suppressed the urge to giggle; instead I focused on tromping through the snow. It was packed tightly into the ground from so many people walking this pathway, but there were still a few patches of ice here and there. A single bus had already arrived by the time we reached the parking lot, and the counselors sprang into

action. Staff unloaded the bus while the counselors began to gather their charges. Several more buses came, and I sat on my bag, waiting for Zach to appear. And Elle of course. Summer and Kaylee were supposed to be coming too, but that was all I knew. A rumor had circled for a bit that Lucas was returning, but Scott assured me he was not. “Jules!” I saw Elle first, and ran forward to hug her, laughing already. “Elle!” “How are you girl?” She asked, stepping back to give me an once-over. “Good.” I replied. Not at all lying. “How did things go with, you know.” Elle glanced around. As if someone might be listening in to us. “Fine. There was a bit of an incident, but-” “Elle! Jules!” Kaylee and Summer appeared in matching pink coats. I laughed as I saw them together. Best friends and totally bubbly. Which is why everyone loved them. We were caught up in a huge girly hug, the four of us laughing together at nothing in particular. “Where’s Sally?” Kaylee asked looking at the group of counselors. “Oh, Sally isn’t our counselor this time.” I said, “Her son has the flu or something. We have Iris.” Summer blanched, “Iris. Boring Iris who does everything by the book?” I cringed a bit. Putting it out like that made her seem... “Yes, but don’t worry. We can find a way to break rules anyway.” Summer didn’t look convinced, but I looked over her shoulder. She turned around, looking at the crowd. “Oh, where’s Zach?”

“Not here yet.” I said, biting my bottom lip. “What you two didn’t come together? I thought you lived in the same city.” “Yeah, but I had someplace to go before this.” “Where?” “Just a thing.” I said, unable to think of a lie. “Summer, where did you get that coat?” Elle interceded for me, “And did they have it in blue?” I made a mental note to thank Elle later. But then I saw him coming off a greyhound bus. Looking slightly annoyed as usual. I ran forward, “Zach!” I yelled, and he turned a bit to see me. Like a little kid I waved, and a smile instantly appeared. A smile that, especially when it’s just for you does wonders to your self-esteem. He pushed his way towards me, and I decided to stay where I was. To watch him approach. He slowed as he came closer, pausing when he was a few feet in front of me. Some kids still pushed past, but a few recognized us from last year and stood back. “This is where we met.” He said, a smile dancing on his face. “Yup.” I said. Then I finally couldn’t stand it. I launched myself into his arms. As always he caught me readily. “Missed you.” I said, not letting go for a minute. Just letting myself remember him. Remember his smell and the feeling of a great big hug whenever I wanted one. “Missed you too.” I pulled back a bit. “How are things back home?”

“Oh the usual. What about you. How did your trip go?” Like Elle he didn’t say ‘So how did the big testifying against your kidnapper and rapist go?’ “Fine. Good? I don’t really know. It doesn’t feel over yet.” “Yeah.” “Come on.” I moved away from the subject, not wanting to sit on my darkness, “Let’s get your bag.” “Where’s yours?” He asked; face brightening at the change of subject. I knew he was nervous about his own testifying in February. “Oh crap.” I said, whipping around. But Elle, Summer, and Kaylee were still gathered around the same spot, chatting away and probably plotting. “I’ll meet you there in a minute.” Zach pushed me towards them, “I don’t want you in the line of fire.” I glanced back at the person unpiling the bags. Sure enough they were being launched back without any attention. OH! One girl just went down. “Good idea.” I said, nodding. I pushed my way back to the girls. “Where’s lover-boy?” Elle asked looking over my shoulder. “Zach is getting his bags.” I said. Elle knew I hated that nickname. “Where’s your lover boy? Oh wait, you dumped him.” I brought up Dimitri to her again. Elle just huffed. “Long distance relationships just don’t work. Dimitri was just.” Elle paused, “Nothing. He was nothing.” I groaned inwardly. Same argument. Except he was still writing her letters, and she was still saving all of them.

“Does that mean he’s for the taking?” Summer asked, looking to our left, “Because he looks great in that coat.” “What?” Elle whipped around, was. Wearing a wool coat that fit had every right to be interested. interested if I wasn’t with Zach. crushing on him. and sure enough there he him quite nicely. Summer I would almost be Or if Elle wasn’t still

“He said he didn’t think he was coming.” Elle’s voice was soft. Like she couldn’t decide if she liked this development or hated it. “Well obviously he’s here.” I said. “Hey.” Zach appeared carrying his bags. “Zach!” All three girls greeted him warmly, with only light teasing about still hanging with me. “All right! Come on!” The counselors started yelling, “Let’s go!” “Oh, come on.” I grabbed my bag from its place on the cold ground, “Time to go!”

Chapter, 5. The cabin was cold! “All right, everyone unpack, I’ll just turn the heat up a bit.” Iris said to us, unlocking the thermostat.

“A bit?” Complained Felecia, a new girl to the cabin. A spoiled celeb apparently from the way she was behaving, “Try cranking it up!” “Once we get a fire going, it won’t be so cold.” Iris said, “I’ll start on that, but you all unpack everything. Again Elle and I bunked together. Her taking the top, me taking the bottom. Summer and Kaylee took another bunk, and Felecia and Arewen taking the other bunk. Rachael apparently had moved cabins, and nobody was really sure where Sam was. We had all lost contact with her. This year all the beds were already made. This time with two thick blankets. I immediately wrapped myself in one, trying to defrost my toes. No matter how many layers of socks you put on, they always get cold! “OK, fire is going.” Iris said walking into the room. “Great!” The six of us lept up to get as close as we could to the little source of heat. Leaving Iris in the bedroom by herself to unpack her stuff. “OK, so tell me everything about this camp.” Felecia said, brushing back her long brown hair that was streaked with blonde. “Who’s dating who? What kind of scandals go on? And where can I find some fun?” I let Elle talk, “Well, I’ve never been here for the winter program. Actually has anyone been here for the winter program?” I shook me head, so did Summer and Kaylee. “Huh well, this year there’s supposed to be a big broomball tournament. And there’s skiing and snowshoeing, and all sorts of stuff like that.” “Cold stuff!” Kaylee said, smiling broadly, “Finally a break from 60 degree weather!” “Says the girl who lives in Florida!” I said, poking her to make her giggle.

“We’ll find out more at initiation.” Elle added, “Director will go over everything I’m sure.” “Director?” “Christina.” I put in, “She’s the sort-of principal of the camp.” “OK...” Felecia didn’t push the matter any further. “Who brought what?” I asked to the group. “I’ve got apples to apples!” Summer said pulling out a box. “I’ve got the candy stash. But it’s hiding till you know who goes to bed.” Kaylee said glancing at the door. “I have a mini-tree and lights.” I said. “Right, we’ll do that tonight.” Elle nodded. “Got to have the Christmas spirit!” “OK girls.” Iris came in from the room, “I thought we could just hang out till initiation time.” Hang out came from Iris’s mouth awkwardly. Like she had never before used the phrase. “Except we have two new girls here. Shouldn’t we show them around?” “And get the guys to come with!” Felecia said. This felt oddly familiar... “Oh. Right.” Iris said, looking determined. “We can do that. Of course. Everyone just suit up! It’s cold out.” Pretty much everyone jumped up to get their coats on and such, but I sat on the couch for a moment. Iris watched them, and I tossed a question at her, “Iris. Why are you here?” She gave me a slightly blank stare, “Because you are.” “Oh.” I quickly got up to avoid the awkward silence that would have otherwise come.

“Jules come on!” “Chill Elle!” I said shoving my half warm feet into boots and grabbing a pair of gloves. And then we were off. Iris actually trailed behind us mostly. Letting us explore old places and see how things changed. The guys had already left their cabin, so we kept an eye out for them as we walked down to the lake. Just like last year people were already moving around. New groups gathered together in packs. “Hey Iris! What are we doing to like represent?” I asked her, “I mean are we getting shirts again or what?” “Gloves, hats, and scarves. They’re coming in tomorrow.” Iris said. “Coming in?” “Yes. Along with the starting of all the packages I’m sure.” Iris rolled her eyes, sounding annoyed. “Packages?” “Christmas gifts.” “Oh.” “Yes, parents may not care whether they see their kids on Christmas, but they had better get their new toys on Christmas day.” Pent up aggression much? I exchanged a look with Elle, who was warding off Felecia from saying something. “Just ignore her.” She hissed to the brunette, who looked like she really wanted to give Iris a piece of her mind, “She doesn’t understand, just ignore it.” “Hey look!” Someone yelled, “It’s Jules!” “Oh God. Hide me.” I said to Summer.

“Where’s Zach?” I think that was Tosh from team 18. But I couldn’t really remember. There was a lot going on last summer. “He’s around.” I paused, “Somewhere.” “Oh.” Tosh looked a little disappointed. “And we have to go.” I said, pulling away our group. Arewen looked at me funny as we rushed away, “How did she know you?” “Oh Jules is famous here.” Elle said, “She and Zach were called the dynamic duo.” “Shut up.” I grumbled, not wanting to be reminded of the nickname. “Why?” “Because this camp is full of celebrity gossipers.” When Felecia started to open her mouth, “No offense Felecia.” “For a couple reasons actually, they were crowned king and queen.” Elle ticked the reasons of on her fingers, “Zach nearly drowned in a canoe accident. They were unstoppable at capture the flag. Jules was the only witness to a fatal stabbing-” “Somebody died here?” Arewen gasped. “Yes, and her ghost haunts the woods ever since!” Felecia rolled her eyes, and Arewen tried to copy her, but still looked scared, “Don’t worry. They caught the guy who killed her.” I assured her. “But not until he shot Zach.” Elle pointed out. “How is this place still open?” Felecia cried. “Money. Lots of it.” I said, “Security has been increased I’m sure.” “And who the heck is Zach?”

“Speak of the devil.” I laughed a bit. There the guys were, standing out on the dock which was completely frozen to the lake. “Hey Knurts!” Yelled Elle. Scott turned sharply, but slowed when he saw us. “Hey! It’s Elle!” One of the guys [name] greeted us loudly, “And the other half of the Dynamic duo!” Ugh, would the nickname never die? Elle started towards them, but slowed. Dimitri was out with them. I counted slowly, one two three... seven of them. Dimitri was on our team this year. Good, maybe that would put some sense into Elle. I really liked Dimitri. The guys stepped of the dock onto the frozen lake. Not that you could completely tell that it was a lake. The whole thing was covered in snow just like everything else. I liked the crunching noise beneath my feet. “Hey.” Zach greeted me, and without really thinking I took his gloved hand. “Ah.” Felecia looked between the two of us, “Zach then?” Zach looked confused, “Yeah.” “Zach this is Felecia. Fresh meat.” I said, just to watch her face in indignation, “And that’s Arewen.” “Arewen like-” “Yes. Her parents were fans apparently. But no elf jokes. I think she might be a bit sensitive to them.” I said. Summer had made one crack about pointy ears, but Arewen had just flinched. She was pretty quiet, a bit of an introvert actually. “All right. Back up the mountain!” Scott said waving us forward, “Initiation, we don’t want to be late.”

“Food!” Cried Fred, one of the new guys. He was a bit bulky, son of a football player apparently. So we all trudged back up to the mess hall. I saw Stephanie had managed to replace what she had spilled. The hot chocolate warmed me instantly. A shiver ran down my spine from the warmth. Absentmindedly Zach traces patterns with his finger on his neck. A sign he was distracted. “hey. What’s going on in that head of yours?” I asked him, bumping my shoulder into his. He just shook himself out of whatever it was. We were watching the other tables fill with people. Some I recognized, but just as I predicted the fireplace was filled to the max with people drying (of) hair and wet shirts. “This is going to get messy.” I said, looking at the floor which was already covered in wet mush. “People will clean it up.” Scott said, “Though not before somebody falls probably.” “Can you salt the inside?” I joked. “No...” Scott trailed off still looking at the mess. Everyone ate, the newbie’s learning about everyone, everyone learning about the newbie’s. Old relationships rekindling. Sort-of. Elle exchanged one terse hello with Dimitri, but otherwise was ignoring him. I got a few angry looks from various people who Zach and I had beaten last year in the last ropes course. Scary that had been. But fun. “Oh God.” Kaylee said, looking at a table behind us. “What?” Some started to turn, but Kaylee quickly stopped them “Don’t look!” “What?” I asked her.

“You’re not going to like this,” Kaylee said. “Hey Jules.” A creepy voice that I knew all too well was behind my shoulder. Lucas. I turned slowly, yup. Bleached hair and bleached teeth. Which were shining in a smirk. Lucas. “Lucas.” I returned tersely. I glanced as Zach, who wore a somewhat annoyed look. I remembered the last time Zach had seen Lucas, he had slammed Lucas facedown into this table. Arms twisted behind his back. Ah, sweet memories. “Thought I would say hello to the old team.” He said, hands clasped together. I wondered briefly if he had turned gay since I last saw him. “Hi.” Elle waved, “Bye.” And then she waved him like she would at a fly she was shooing away. “Elle, please tell me you aren’t still mad? I was cleared from that crime.” “Maybe from the crime of killing Victoria, but not from the one of being a flirtatious jerk.” Elle said, “Now shove off.” “Fine fine.” He raised his hands in a back off gesture, but the smirk stayed on. “But I’ll see you on the ice Elle.” He winked at her, and then Dimitri stood suddenly. “Leave now.” Dimitri may be skinny, but there was always something threatening about him. Enough for Lucas to leave. Though Scott’s obvious observation of the conversation might have been part of it too. “What does he mean by on the ice?” Elle asked. “It’s this year’s tournament. Broomball.”

At Elle’s blank expression Scott explained, “It’s a game played on the ice. Sort-of like Hockey without ice skates. And the ball is bigger.” “OK.” Elle still looked a bit confused, but then Christina made her entrance. Like last year she was trailed by two guys, who looked a lot like body guards. I still had no idea why exactly they followed her around, but it did make her seem a bit threatening. “Hello. I am Christina, director of Camp Freedom.” She announced to the entirely silent room, “Now I am sure you are all excited to get to all your little games, but I have a few rules for you.” The rules were the same, Be safe. Be Respectful. And no guys in girl’s cabins or girls in guys cabin. Again people giggled, and again Christina ignored it. “Also, this winter there will be a camp-wide Broomball tournament. Counselors you know when you have the ice reserved. Games begin tomorrow. You may lose one game, on your second you are out of the running. Unlike the summer there will only be 12 teams. Teams will not unite into six.” “Now, meals. They are here,” Christina gestured at the buffet tables, “Breakfast is from 7:30 to 9:00. Lunch from noon to one-thirty, and then dinner is from five-thirty to eight. We have an open table setting. You don’t have to be here exactly when the doors open, and you don’t have to leave right when they stop serving.” “Any other questions your counselors can answer. I will see you all later.” Christina strode out, her heels clicking. I wondered briefly how she walked in the snow with those on, but people started moving and I was distracted from the thought. “Just stay here.” Scott said, “We have things to discuss.” Discuss? What were we at a board meeting of some kind? Roughly half the room dissipated. Including Lucas’s group thank God.

“Names. Go.” Scott said, pointing to me first since I was sitting next to him. “Jules.” “Zach.” “Elle.” “Felecia.” “Arewen.” “Dimitri.” “Fred.” “Paul.” “Summer.” “Kaylee.” “Adam.” “Jared.” “Iris.” “And I am Scott. Or Knurts, whichever you prefer.” Almost all of the guys were new. While us girls had stuck together thanks to some plotting and me pulling a few strings. “Anyways, as Christine said, there will be a camp-wide competition for Broomball. I should warn you new people, team eleven has a bit of a reputation to uphold.” “Because we are epic!” Summer exclaimed. “Because we are epic.” Scott conceded, “But based on some reactions some of you have never played before?” Elle, Arewen, Fred, and Paul all raised their hands. Scott nodded, “So some practice will be needed before the first game tomorrow.”

“When can we get some ice time?” Elle asked, already down to business.” “Soonish.” Scott replied, “You’re going to want to put on snow pants and thick gloves. Which reminds me.” He reached under the table and pulled out a cardboard box. “Gloves, Scarves, and hats.” He said. Iris started pulling them out and handing them to us. “Just blue and gold?” I asked, “What happened to the purple?” “Somebody complained.” Iris shrugged, “So purple was out.” “And that somebody was...?” “None of your business.” Scott replied. “Lucas then.” “Jules.” He was irritated now. “Sorry!” I held up my hands, now gloved. Blue gloves, gold scarf, and the hats alternated. Inside was blue, and outside was gold. Or was it the other was around? Reversible, so it didn’t really matter. “Ugh, yellow does not suit me.” Felecia complained. “Freeze then.” I said sarcastically. “I have other scarves!” “Oh, well then we are all saved.” “Jules.” Zach gave me a look, and I realized I was laying the sarcasm on a bit thick. “Sorry.” I apologized briefly. “Well let’s go get suited up! I want to know this game backwards and forwards before tomorrow!”

Everyone started moving, and I slipped my hat on, blue side out. “What do ya think?” I asked Zach. He just grinned, “Adorable.” “Thank you.” I accepted the required answer. We tromped outside, back into the cold air. Girls threw around clothing, exchanging scarves, because some were slightly longer than others. According to them anyways. I put on a vest over my under armor, then threw a coat on over that. Plus my shiny snow pants that made a SHWSH sound every time my legs brushed against each other. I amused myself for a minute playing with the noise. Then it was back outside and down to the lake. The Broomball “courts” were just smoothed parts of the lake with two goals on either end, and no snow. There were no real boundaries aside from where the ice became snow again; leading us to guess everything was just sort-of keep playing till you score. There were three courts set up across the entire lake, all with bleachers for people to watch the players. “Ok,” Scott took the left court, and stood in the middle of it. “Rules are very simple. Two teams with these.” He held up a long stick that was pretty much a hockey stick just with an end that instead of curving just widened a few inches and then stopped. “They try and get this ball.” He gestured at a black ball roughly the size of half a soccer ball, “Into the net. Same thing as hockey, just no skates. OK, everyone grab a stick.” Fred snickered at the possible innuendo and Summer smacked him upside the head, “You wish. Now get in there!” Everyone slipped on the ice right away. You pretty much have to relearn how to walk. Sliding instead of flat out running.

“Each team can have one goalie.” Scott said, “The rest, get the ball into the goal!” We divided into two teams with Zach, Elle, Me, Felecia, Fred, and Paul. Plus Iris. Fred took up the goalie position, and I put myself on offense. Elle took the initial face-off, against Dimitri of all people. “Ready?” Scott held up the ball, “Go!” He dropped it, and Elle smacked the ball far up court. I slid towards it as fast as I could within my control. The game quickly off our coats. It’s a heat overloads, while freezes your skin. So time. Ramping up your became heated, and most of us threw funny competition. Your internal body the temperature around you steadily you are both hot and cold the entire adrenaline.

Everyone slid into each other, and smacked each other mostly unintentionally with their weapons. Eventually though we figured out how to pass the ball instead of trying to run after it. Fred turned out not to be the best goalie, so we switched him with Kaylee, who with the assistance of Summer didn’t let in anther goal. Two hours later we were hot, cold, sweaty, and laughing. I had a bruised shin from Paul accidently missing the ball and hitting me instead. Everyone had at least one bruised knuckle or leg. Our breath was white as it poured out in pants. “Time!” Scott said finally, “Tie, fourteen to fourteen.” “That was a good game!” Iris complimented everyone, “I think we’ll win tomorrow.” “Yeah, wait till we actually play other people before making judgments like that.” Elle said. She was still flustered from Dimitri.

I had accidently slid into her, my boots having no grip and I wasn’t physically able to stop myself, but Dimitri ignored the ball and instead grabbed Elle to prevent her from falling. Ah the drama. Though a small part of me did find a flustered Elle amusing. Disorienting too, but amusing none the less. “Hit the showers team!” We put the sticks back into the giant garbage can they had been in and went back up the hill to our cabins. On the way we planned what to do that night. “I think we should test the tubing hill. They’re open at night!” Summer said, “So are the skiing hills, but we can try those tomorrow.” “Sounds like a plan!” I agreed, “But won’t we freeze?” “Maybe a little. But that’s part of the fun!” Kaylee said, bouncing as she spoke. I just smiled. Right before we got to our cabin I spotted someone else I knew, “Lindsey!” She turned around and waved at me, “Jules, Elle!” Lindsey had actually been a bit more of Elle’s friend than mine, but she was best friends with Victoria, and the death of her had hurt. Plus most of the other girls on her team had been prissy, so when teams 11 and 5 combined, Lindsey had hung out with Elle and me a lot. “Team 5?” I asked. “Yup. Back with good old George. Heard you got Iris though.” I nodded my head, “Yeah.” “Riot isn’t she?” “Oh, yeah. A real party animal.” I said. “So who do you have?” Elle asked her.

“Mallory. She wasn’t here last summer.” Lindsey explained. “Oh.” “So, we’re gonna be playing against each other tomorrow.” Lindsey said, “Hope you guys are ready to go down!” “I hope you are!” Elle rose to the challenge, “We are more than ready to kick your butts.” Lindsey just laughed, “See you two later.” “Bye!” So Elle and I went back to the cabin to cool off.

Chapter 6. “Go fish.” I told Summer. We were all sitting at the couches playing go fish. “Who has the freaking twos?” She muttered under her breath, pulling a card from the pond.

“Hey Summer, got any twos?” Asked Felecia. Summer wrinkled her face, “You!” And Felecia laughed as Summer handed over the cards. “Thank you.” “Girls! Dinner is in ten.” Iris called from the bathroom. “Ok.” We replied, not looking up from the game. “Seriously girls, we have to get moving here soon.” “We’re almost done!” I said, there were only four cards left in the pond. “And I win!” I said, laying down the rest of my cards. “Cheater!” Elle cried, “I asked you for a seven, you said you didn’t have one!” “I didn’t. But I drew it the next hand,” I said. “Oh.” We all threw our cards back into the pond, and then before Iris could start yelling again slid on our boots. I threw another log onto the fire to keep it going as we went to eat, and then closed the screen. “Onto food!” We stepped outside, and already everything was going dark. The path to the mess was lit intermittently by large street lamps that made everything look slightly orange. “Iris, do we still have the bonfire?” I asked. “Not every night. The camp is already going through a lot of wood keeping everyone warm in their cabins.” “So much for going green.” I said sarcastically. “hmmm.” Iris said, meaning she didn’t really comment on it.

We met the rest of the guys already at the table, munching away. The mess was mostly full, with everyone trying to get away from the cold. Thankfully there wasn’t any wind, or things would be downright freezing. After dinner nearly everyone stayed inside for a while. It turned out the tubing hills weren’t open tonight, so we were left with nothing really to do. “We should start some kind-of game.” Elle said. “Like what?” “I don’t know. What can you play in the snow?” “All sorts of things. The problem is that it’s cold.” Kaylee put in. “So? Get used to it.” Elle snapped, “It’s not going to get any warmer.” “It actually is supposed to get colder.” Scott said, “Plus some snow sometime around Christmas.” “We’ve resorted to talking about the weather.” I said putting my head on my arms. Zach just chuckled beside me. “Oh, ha ha mister.” I said from the confines of the two inches between me and the table. “Lord, you need to be entertained 24/7?” Scott said. “Yes. Absolutely.” “Then I challenge you to a game of chess.” Scott said. “Chess?” I looked up, and sure enough he had a board set. “Exactly. Think you can beat me?” He challenged. “No.” I said, “I don’t know if I even remember how to play.” “Then you will relearn my very young apprentice.” He moved so that he was sitting across from me.

“Now, I’m white so I go first.” “Racist.” I muttered. Zach choked back a laugh. “Come on, I’ll help you.” Zach said. But I was right, Scott beat us. Three times. Wiped the board with us. By the fourth game, Elle, Iris, Paul, and Felecia were helping us. “No! Don’t move the queen there, see where his knight is?” “You could try, oh but that leaves your bishop open to his castle.” And we still lost. “All right,” The mess hall was empty now; nobody was left to see our epic defeat. “How do you do that?” “Practice.” Scott replied packing up the plastic set. “It can’t just be that.” I said. “I have a very logical mind.” He responded. Outside night had completely taken over. The sky was pitch black save for the stars. And there is a considerable amount of them. I stared at the sky for a while, going over the few constellations I knew. Orion, the Big Dipper, little dipper. That was the extent of my knowledge. “Pretty.” Zach complimented as he stood next to me. “Aren’t they?” I said, feeling a small feeling of wonder in my chest. It fluttered. “I wasn’t talking about the stars.” He responded, and I lightly poked him, but not rebuking his cheesy line.

I allowed myself to lean into him, letting his arms wrap around my waist and use him to carry some of my weight as I gazed at the stars. His warm breathe tickled my ear, but I didn’t mind. I just relaxed, taking in the moment and storing it for later. For a night when the nightmares were everywhere, I could think about this, and maybe sleep. The sky stretched out in front of us, and the snow ate up all sound, save for the distant remnants of far away conversations. After a while my toes were frozen, I shifted, and Zach let go of me. “Come on.” I took his gloved hand in my own, “Back to the people.” “Do we have to?” He half-whined. “Yes.” And despite the half a foot of height between us, I pulled him along. “Nite Jules.” We stopped outside my cabin, and he lightly brushed his lips against mine. They were cold. “Nite Zach.” I turned away from him and stepped into the warm cabin. The fuzzy feelings I stored away as I was run into by the girls, “Where were you?” “Oh leave her alone.” Elle said to Felecia, “She was stealing a bit of time with her boyfriend.” “So he is your boyfriend.” Felecia said, “I thought so. Shame.” “Shame?” I asked bewildered. “If you hadn’t taken him, I might have tried.” She shrugged. For a moment I felt threatened, but Felecia quickly put in, “Don’t worry! I would never take another girls guy. Unless the girl was a bitch. But if the girl was a bitch and the guy was with her, then he probably wouldn’t be worth taking.”

“So, I’m not a bitch, so you won’t take him?” I said slowly. “Pretty much yeah.” “Okay.” I pulled off my coat and gloves, but left the hat on. I liked it. “Ok, now we have the tree set up.” Elle pointed and I looked to see the two foot tall tree fully arranged, but bare. “I think it needs to be decorated.” I said. The poor thing looked kind of sad with no lights or ornaments. Then again I had been told not to bring any. “It will be, over the next few days. Except for these.” Elle pointed to a string of lights, multi colored. “But I wanted to wait for you before we put them on.” “Oh, sorry. Didn’t realize I was holding things up!” I exclaimed, but not really feeling bad for stealing my time. “Don’t worry about it.” Kaylee said, “Now let’s get these on ASAP!” She blended ASAP into one word. So the six of us somehow manage to each grab a section of the lights and twirl them around the plastic tree.

Chapter 7 The next morning Iris was already up, showered, dressed, and reading a book by the time I opened my eyes. When I saw her I actually smiled. No nightmares last night. Win for me.

At breakfast I saw Stephanie again, carrying out the French toast to one of the empty platters at the buffet table. I laughed when I realized her hair wasn’t just streaked with flour. She had highlights so blonde they looked white. “What’s so funny?” Zach asked after I choked into my orange juice. “Nothing.” I coughed, “It’s nothing.” “What no tea this time Jules?” Asked Summer. “Nope. Cherrie made the tea not me.” I responded. Summer instantly blushed. “Oh, sorry I forgot.” “Not your fault.” I shrugged, not really caring. “Who’s Cherries?” Asked Felecia instantly hounding in on the slightly sore subject. “Nobody.” I responded automatically. “She was the cook over the summer.” Elle explained, “She got fired then arrested. Or was it the other way around?” I shoved a bite of French toast into my mouth in an attempt to avoid the conversation. “Why was she fired?” Of course, she had to ask. “Nobody really knows why.” Elle couldn’t help glancing at me of course. But I refused to comment; instead I focused intently on eating. “OK.” Scott broke the conversation before into even more dangerous territory, “So, first afternoon at two. Tubing, skiing, ice skating, works, opens in half an hour, be back here for it?” it headed game is this all the lunch got

There was a loud chorus of “Got its” from us, and Scott nodded, “Okay. I will see most of you later then.”

I didn’t bother asking where he was going. I had a pretty good guess it had to do with getting a phone to be updated on the trial. I prayed silently that I would not have to return to testify again. “So, tubing?” Fred asked the table, “Who’s in?” Nearly everyone was, save for Arewen and Paul who were going to try skiing together. We still all walked together though. The ski hills were right by the tubing hills. “Good grief it’s happening already.” Elle whispered at the pair went to the ski hill. “What is?” I asked. “Coupling! It’s happening already.” Elle pointedly looked around. Sure enough, girls were flirting. Guys were drooling. “Hmm, maybe you should get back with somebody.” I nodded at Dimitri. Who was trying not to stare at Elle. Rather unsuccessfully I should add. “What? I- no.” Elle shook her head, “He’s probably still mad at me for breaking up with him.” “Elle you didn’t just break up with him, you dumped him like a used Kleenex.” “And you Jules, are not helping the situation.” She hissed at me. I ignored her, picking up my tube. “Okay, now what do I do with this?” “This way.” Directed Iris. We were directed to the top of the hill, and I counted everyone. “We have eleven people.” I said, “Everyone goes down together or...”

“Whatever.” Shrugged Dimitri, his inky hair was longer, I suddenly noticed. It stuck out from under his hat, nearly to his shoulders. “Line it up!” Elle suddenly yelled, “Two by two, one person by themselves at the end. Pair up.” There’s the Elle I know, taking charge, yelling at everyone to get moving. “Forwards, or?” “Forwards.” “I’m not sitting at the front,” I laughed, “That will kill your face.” “Put a scarf over it.” Elle said, and I shook my head, “You go first, then maybe I will.” “Fine.” She threw down her tube, “Everyone after me!” It takes altogether too long to get everyone in the right position when in a large tubing group. You all have to interlink your arms and legs so that when you fly down the hill, nobody ends up in the woods, or halfway across the lake in the opposite direction. The hill went straight down to the ice, there were a few track marks from the few groups that had gone before us, but nothing was perfectly run in yet. So we didn’t know where exactly we would end up. Two people worked the top; both had bright yellow “STAFF” coats on. “Ready?” They asked, once we were finally arranged according to Elle’s wants. With Dimitri on the far end by himself. “Yes!” Everyone cheered. “Ok.” With one big push, we were off, hurtling down the hill. Just as I suspected, snow and cold wind quickly burned our faces, and you had to make sure your butt didn’t hit the ground as you hurtled down.

But the rush of speed, and everyone’s enthusiasm spread. We all yelled and hollered down, laughing as everything whipped past us. It took a while for us to slow, and we actually lost Dimitri, Fred, and Kaylee, somebody letting go of one person and the three of them suddenly broke free. They actually stopped before we did. “Oh my gosh.” I said, stumbling out of my tube. “We are so doing that again!” I felt a little lightheaded from the speed, but flashed big thumbs up at the three who had been separated from us. “Ow,” Summer wiped at her face, she had been in front with Elle. They both had red cheeks flecked with ice. “Told ya.” I said. “Oh shut it.” “Backwards maybe next time?” I suggested. “Yeah.” She muttered, wiping moisture from her eyes as we picked up our tubes and started walking back. “Who let go of me?” Demanded Kaylee as soon as we reached them. “Um, I think that was Iris wasn’t it?” I thought hard, “Iris, weren’t you holding onto Kaylee?” “Yes, but I didn’t let go.” She denied. “Yes you did!” Kaylee screeched, “I started sliding and then because Dimitri was behind me, Fred made Jared let go of him.” “You must have kicked me.” “Oh, please.” Kaylee rolled her eyes, but dropped the topic when she remember Iris was a counselor. And thus could make things difficult.

We had reached the bottom of the hill now, but before we could start heading up I heard my name called. “Jules!” I turned to see Scott jogging towards me. “Hey! You are joining us?” I asked. But I should have known, he only called for me, nobody else. “No, but your Uncle has called for you.” He said, “We need to get up to the mess hall now.” “Oh, ok.” I handed my tube to Jared, trying to ignore the shaking in my hands. Zach looked torn, “Can I?” He stopped the question, not sure of Scott’s answer. “If you want to.” Scott allowed, “But we need to get up there quick.” Zach tossed his tube at Adam, “Hey man, take this.” “Yeah. Whatever.” Adam picked up the tube and took it back with him. Meanwhile, Zach and I started to move towards Scott, who had already turned back to the dock. If the dock was in the middle of the lake, then the tubing hills were on the left side, while the skiing was out on the right side. So we had to cross half the lake, and then going up to the mess hall. And of course we were in a hurry. Halfway from the lake to the mess hall I slid on a patch of ice, landing hard on my rear. “Ow.” I managed, and Zach helped pull me up. “Come on.” He said, keeping hold of my hand now, “Whatever it is must be important.” “Yeah, like Jonas raiding the camp.” I muttered, rubbing my sore tailbone.

“Yeah.” Zach laughed, “Though we’d be running away then if that happened wouldn’t we?” “Probably.” I jogged forward, keeping an eye for more ice patches. Finally we reached our destination. So I thought anyways. “This way.” Scott went around the mess hall, and I looked at Zach, panting. “What the hell is this important?” I asked. “You’ll see.” Scott replied, so, Zach and I followed him around the building. We took a back entrance, which led directly to a staircase. Upstairs. This wasn’t good. Upstairs was hot. Not only was the heat from downstairs all coming up here, but I quickly took off my coat from the internal heat of running. “What is it?” I asked. Scott just pointed to a TV. “Dude you get satellite here?” “Zach, shut up.” I said, because I saw a face I knew very very well on the television. “Witness was killed just as he left the courthouse. Here again is the shocking footage.” The television showed a shaky clip of a young man walking down steps to the courthouse. Striding was actually the word, he was cocky, having testified and then gotten out of the program. Free, just like he wanted. Dennis, AKA Andrea. And then there was a hole in his forehead, he stumbled forward, and the camera footage blurred as it’s holder started running from the silent gunshot. “Oh.”

I stood frozen. Dead. I had no reason to like Dennis/Andrea but just like that. He was dead. Stepped out and bang. His criminal life over. “You told him not to leave the program.” I said, and Scott muted the television. “I did.” “You knew this would happen.” “I don’t know that I knew. But yes.” “Wait so- what does this mean?” Zach asked, “I mean, do we do something or?” “No. Bump security up, but otherwise no. Jules wasn’t stupid like Andrea. He just strode out. He didn’t think Jonas would hold a grudge. Obviously he was wrong.” “Note to self. Trust Scott. He prevents you from getting killed.” I said. “Thank you Jules, but I’m not certain this is how I wanted to prove that you need to do as I say.” “Examples are the best way to teach.” “Not this kind of example.” “What other one is there?” I asked. “You mess up and we die.” Now I really turned to look at him, and I thought. I realized how difficult his job was, “Just like that. One mistake, one time for us not to listen to you and pop.” I popped the P, accentuating the word. “Dead.” Something in my verbal realization struck him. I saw it. “Yes.” He just said it. Didn’t bother denying it. “Great.” Zach said, “Glad we had this little chat.” “Knurts, I recall you telling me that these two being together was a pure coincidence.” Christina stepped forward from a corner.

“I did tell you that.” Scott confirmed, while Zach and I both whipped around shocked to see her. “And what do you say now?” She asked. “What do you want me to say?” He shrugged, not bothered by her slightly threatening tone. “Still alive. One testified when you swore she was a lost case.” I felt a little stung. I hadn’t- well actually. Maybe I was a bit of a lost case. But still, it wasn’t nice to be talked about like that. Come to think of it, why were Marshalls talking to each other about witnesses like that? Was that even legal? “I did. And you proved me wrong. Still.” Christina strode forward, her ever present heels clicking on the fake tile floor, “Your security is pretty lax.” “Oh let them be. You know teenagers; they can’t keep a secret for the life of them.” “Exactly.” “A single secret between one person and themselves. But, a secret shared between two individuals is ten times more likely to be kept.” “I didn’t come here to discuss the psychology of teenagers.” She snapped. I couldn’t help feeling that Zach and I had been partially forgotten in this conversation. “No, you came here to watch me.” “To watch-” Christina stopped, glancing at us, “You two can go.” “Right, um. Okay.” I quickly hurried out of the room, taking the stairs down, Zach followed me. We entered the mess hall, but thankfully nobody was there. The door banged shut behind us, and I cringed at the sound. “Well, Knurts is under pressure.” Zach commented.

“Yeah.” “Who is that?” Stephanie poked her head out of the kitchen, looking around wildly. “Um sorry. Is the mess closed?” I asked. I couldn’t remember anyone being told not to come in here. “well, no.” Stephanie said, “I just didn’t know anybody was out here. “Well we’ll get going.” I started towards the door, but I stopped. “Crap.” “What?” “I left my coat upstairs,” I practically kicked myself. “You want to go back up there?” Zach raised his eyebrows and instantly I shook my head. “God no! Why don’t we just wait around here for a bit? I have things to tell you anyways.” “Yeah, but what about.” Zach not so secretly nodded towards the kitchen, which Stephanie had already disappeared into. “We’ll talk quietly.” I said, and I pulled him to the fireplace. “So, how did the trial go?” I spoke lowly, even though there wasn’t anyone around, these things shouldn’t be talked about lightly. That was drilled into my head especially now that Dennis was gone. I told him that yes the questions were really invasive, but once you got through it, you felt ten times better. I didn’t have to worry about storing those details in my brain anymore. I could let them go. As much as they would let me go anyways.

“What about like, security and stuff? I mean did you go through the back and such. I know Scott took your phone, otherwise you would have called.” Zach asked, and I paused. “I um. I don’t know if I should tell you that.” I looked down at my hands. We didn’t usually keep things, especially these kinds of things from each other. “Why?” He asked bewildered. I spoke even more quietly, “I just think that if Scott wants you to know exact details of security, he will tell you.” Scott had blatantly refused to tell me where we were going, or even when sometimes. When he wanted me to know something he told me otherwise it stayed silent. I thought that that was part of what kept me safe, was simply me not knowing what exactly was going on. “What, are you saying that I might get myself shot if I know what door I’m going to go into?” Zach stood, clearly pissed, “I’m not stupid like Dennis, Jules.” “I know.” I stayed sitting, surprisingly passive in this argument. Because I honestly wanted to tell him about switching hotels constantly, not being able to go anywhere, how weird it was going through side doors and not seeing anyone. But I felt that if I told him what he would be doing, he might do something stupid. And get himself killed. “I know you wouldn’t intentionally do something, but who knows what you might do on accident.” I said, “So you think I’m just a big idiot who would go blabbing about what I’m going to be doing?” He half sneered at me, and I wanted to take it back. But that was what I thought. “No.” I replied, “But-” “Don’t but me Jules.” He shook his finger at me like he was my mother. “I told you everything. Everything.” He stressed the word, and I flinched at it. Because he had.

I could practically testify for him, I knew every detail of what happened. Zach and his sister were at home with his parents. Both we supposed to be sleeping, but instead they were sitting at the top of the stairs watching the television as their parents did. Somebody knocked on the door, and Zach quickly pulled Crystal away from the stairs just around the corner, he watched as his dad opened the door. “Hello, can I-” BANG! His dad was shot straight through the chest. Zach’s mom started screaming, which covered the noise of Zach moving Crystal into the crawlspace that you could only get to from the closet. He lifted her up into it, but couldn’t reach himself, so he told her to just be quiet and to stay up there. Zach stayed in the closet, with the door shut, but one of the three men found him. “Hey Joe! Lookie at what I got here!” He said, laughing at Zach’s terror. “Looks like mom and pap’s got themselves a kid.” The gangbanger spoke, “What do we do wit’ him?” “Lock him in a closet or somethin’” Joe said, not even bothering to really look at Zach. “What, we don’t just pop him?” The guy holding Zach protested. “No man. No kids. Just tie him up somewhere.” And Joe returned to Zach’s parent’s bedroom. But Joe had been wrong to just let Zach go. And Crystal. He called 911 from the phone he had lifted off the other guy and got them arrested.

Of course, the gang they belonged to threatened him, which landed him in Witness Protection. First he had been relocated to Alabama, but he’d gotten in a fight and was arrested and then relocated to Seattle. I knew everything. I even talked to Crystal, and got the story from her viewpoint heard what she had heard and Zach hadn’t. She had to testify too, but in a separate trial because she had been the one to hear her mother scream “No!” from above their heads. Details Details Details. A thousand of them crammed into my head. “I’m sorry.” I told Zach. “But I won’t.” “Fine Jules.” He walked away from me, storming outside, slamming the door behind him. I flinched at the noise. I’d never thought he would ever walk away from me. Not that we were over or anything. Were we? No, this was just a fight. Couples fight all the time. Right? “Boy troubles?” Stephanie was leaning in the doorway. “No.” I replied, tone completely flat. “That’s what I thought.” She replied. And a minute later she came out of the kitchen and put a cup and bowl in front of me. “Hot chocolate and strawberries.” I said slowly. “Girl food.” Stephanie said, and then she walked straight back into the kitchen. “Why do I always make friends with the cook?” I wondered to myself, but I still took the girl (refuges and tried to think of a way out of this fight.

Chapter 8. Everyone came back eventually to the mess for lunch. Scott came down from upstairs with my coat. He just threw it over my shoulders as he sat down next to Iris.

Zach appeared too pissed at me to talk to me, but Dimitri and Elle had started talking. Wonderful. No seriously, it is a good thing; I just wished my own boyfriend would even look at me. And I realized I had hurt his precious ego. God, men and their pride. “So how’s your uncle Jules?” Jared asked, and I pulled myself out of my musing about stupid guys, “What?” “Your uncle.” “Oh, right he’s um.” I paused, what was I supposed to say, “He’s fine.” I decided, “Just a little bit of an incident with some stairs.” “Well, that’s good.” Jared’s voice was gravelly. Like he had a cold perhaps. But it sounded like it was just his voice, not that he was sick. Zach didn’t comment on it, at all. Nothing to help support my lie. Not that anybody really wanted to see through it, people are happy with whatever you put in front of them when it has a happy ending. Everyone is ready to believe bad news was a joke, but good news they cling to, even when the lie is clear as glass. “Everyone going to be ready for the game?” Elle tried to rally us. “Yeah.” I tried to become enthusiastic about the game again, “We’ve got to beat Lindsey remember!” The six of us who had been on team 11 last year cheered. We needed something to rally against, slash behind. That afternoon we met on the right broomball court. We were the 1st game of the “season” so-to-speak, so most of the camp was there to cheer and watch. The twelve of us huddled up while Scott, Iris, George, and Helga discussed rulings together. They would all referee while the 24 of us tried to beat each other.

“Summer, you’ve got goal, Kaylee stay here on defense with her.” Elle commanded, “Zach and Jules you two are up fron-” “Actually Elle, I would like to stay back.” Zach said, and I tried to ignore how that hurt a bit. “Why? You and Jules are our dynamic duo, you go up front and intimidate half the players!” Elle left virtually no room for arguing, so Zach didn’t press it. “OK.” Elle finished with her divvying us up, “Ready?” “Ready!” “Ready!” Eleven other ready’s came and Elle grinned, “Let’s whoop em!” The ball went up, and Lindsey moved it forwards. But that was part of the plan, Elle didn’t even bother trying to get the ball, just started sliding forwards. Fred smacked his stick into the ball, sending it flying towards Zach. The game began. We played to ten, so was the thought anyways. An hour later the score was only six to five. With us in the lead. My right hand was throbbing from when Diana on the other team had hit it “accidentally” it was cold enough that it wasn’t swelling or anything, the air acting like ice, but it still hurt. Although, despite our argument, Zach and I quickly fell back into a rhythm. A fighting rhythm. Moving into position, blocking other players. This wasn’t technically a contact sport, but with the ice and the ferocity of the competition. People were constantly running into each other, intentional or not. More often intentional, but you could never really prove it. “Come on!” I yelled as I kept myself back from the defense, “Get it over here!”

Lindsey was keeping the ball away, moving around in circles practically, but steadily getting closer to the goal, but then WHAM! Fred rammed into her, and the both of them slid off the “court” and into the bleacher. “Hey!” Elle stalked forward, well stalked and slid at the same time, but she moved in a threatening manner. Fred picked himself off the ice, dusting off a fine layer of snow that had attached itself to him. Elle got right in his face, “What the Hell was that?” Some people in the bleachers looked confused, why was she yelling at her own teammate. “Elle calm down.” Scott tried to stop her, “It’s ok.” But then Lindsey stood up, bleeding from the crown of her head. Which had rammed into the bleachers thanks to Fred. “No, we don’t play like that!” Elle looked directly at Fred, “Bumping is one thing, you DO NOT shove a GIRL into the bleachers headfirst dumbass!” Spit flew from Elle’s mouth as she screamed at Fred. “It was an accident. Nothing personal-“ Big mistake. “Accident?!? Personal?!?” For a second I thought she was going to smack him, “Lindsey may be on the other team, but she is one of my girls, one of my close friends. So, this is personal, but is definitely not an accident.” “Elle, you need to calm down, now.” Scott stood in front of Elle, “Or I will kick you off the court myself.” “Come on Elle.” I pulled her away from Fred, “You need to cool off.” “Can we get a time out?” I asked, the four counselors looked at each other, “Someone needs to take Lindsey to the nurse.” I pointed out.

“Right, we’ll finish this in ten announced. The crowd in the bleachers really protest. “Just, stay where you motioning with his hand a sort-of sit

minutes.” Scott awed, but didn’t are.” He told them, motion.

“I’m going with Lindsey,” Elle tried to start walking towards Lindsey, but I grabbed her arm. “No, you are not. Helga can take Lindsey to the nurse, you and I are having a little chat.” I pulled Elle away from the game. “Nazi.” Elle spat at me as I dragged her away. If she really really wanted to she could have broken away from my grip. “Yeah well, you are being seriously overdramatic.” Finally we reached outside the lake, and I pulled her into the woods a bit to help block the obvious argument that was about to take place. I let go of Elle’s arm, and she jerked her arm away from me quickly, “What the hell is this?” She roared. “What the hell was that?” I yelled back, not really thinking about keeping a cool head, “You chewed Fred out over an accident!” “That was no accident.” “Yes, Elle it was. It was not his intention to ram her into the bleachers.” “But he did run into her on purpose!” “Elle,” I shook my head slightly, looking her in the eye, “You did that a couple of times.” “Yeah, but.” “But you did the same thing.” “I’m a girl! I’m allowed.” “Now you’re being a hypocrite.” I pointed out. “Please. Because you are never hypocritical Jules.”

“What do you mean?” “You’re always focused on you twenty four seven, it’s Jules central!” How did this become about me, “No, it’s not.” I protested. “Yes, it is. You think you’re all mysterious with your deep dark secrets. The truth is Jules, nobody cares!” “This isn’t about me.” I started, when had the two of us started screaming at each other? All I had wanted was to calm her down. “No, because I have done something wrong, and that is the only time you ever care! To point out the faults of someone else, because you’re ever good Jules.” And with that, Elle apparently became too disgusted with me to even talk to me anymore. She stalked off, following our tracks in the snow. For a moment I stood there in the woods. I heard the low rumble of the people talking out on the lake, and Elle’s angry words ringing in my ears. Was I that self centered? A breeze ran through, rustling the branches against each other. I counted to twenty slowly, then followed Elle back. Once I got back, Elle was already laughing at something with Kaylee and Summer. We still had a few more minutes to wait, so I isolated myself but just standing on the side of the bleachers, so that the crowd didn’t see me, but Scott knew where I was. Eventually Helga and Lindsey returned, Lindsey had her hat off and had four stitches. “I can’t play.” She shrugged, but I could tell she was mad about it. “I’m so sorry.” Fred stepped forward, “I seriously didn’t mean to shove you into the bleachers.”

“Don’t be man, I might have scored on you.” Lindsey took it good-naturedly. “I’ll take myself out of the game.” Fred offered, “Even out the players.” “That’s fair.” George and Scott agreed. “OK, let’s give the ball to team 5 then. Free shot?” Scott offered to them, George took it. Kaylee just barely stopped the ball, mainly by sitting on it, and threw it back into play. But I was out of rhythm. My other two teammates that were the main offense were both mad at me. I couldn’t look at Elle, and Zach couldn’t look at me, having remembered now why he was mad at me. So we kept losing the ball every time it came to me. I could only get so far by myself, and passing was impossible. Soon the score was 9 to seven. We had seven. I realized I was the problem here, and odds were that everyone else knew it too. So I purposely slid into the goal, making it look like I hit my shoulder. “Ow.” I complained, and it did hurt, but normally I would just keep playing, “Ow, Fred trade with me.” “What?” He was sitting on the bleachers next to Lindsey. “Trade. I can’t swing a stick right now.” I just sat next to him, “Go out there, take my place.” “Um.” When nobody went against the idea, he shrugged, “OK.” So, I pulled myself out of the game, and watched next to Lindsey. When the game was in full swing, with us scoring twice, 9 to 9 now, Lindsey said quietly, “off your game huh?”

I nodded, eyes on Zach who had just gotten the ball up court. She didn’t say anything else, and I didn’t offer up anymore information. “Come on!” We yelled, me shouting to my offense, and Lindsey shouting to her defense. Fred took a shot, but he was blocked by the goalie, just barely. “Let if fly Hiro!” Lindsey yelled, but as Hiro threw the ball forward, Jared stepped in the way, taking a hit to the gut, but he moved the ball back up the Elle. “Come on!” I cheered, Elle passed it to Zach, who slapped the ball forward, into the goal! “Yes!” I cheered, momentarily forgetting about my “hurt” shoulder. But Lindsey poked me, reminding me to lower my arms and rub at the sore spot. I watched as everyone cheered together and high fived Elle and Zach. A twinge of jealousy, and sadness at the fact that in order to win I had to take myself out of the game. “Congrats.” Lindsey said, and we shook hands, “But we can still come back.” “Yeah.” I laughed, “I look forward to it.” The bleachers emptied around me, people offered congratulations, and I got about five, “You better enjoy it while it lasts!” Which I suppose was supposed to insinuate that we would be losing to whoever it was that said that. But I didn’t join my team. Somehow it felt wrong to go out there when I had nothing to do with the win. I hadn’t helped, only hindered, so why should I celebrate with them? “Hey Jules.” Jared ran forward, “How’s the shoulder.” “Oh, I’ll be fine.” I said. “Good!” He seemed to have fulfilled his required asking of my welfare and returned to the rest of the team. I felt distant.

They laughed together and started walking away, and nobody noticed me sitting there. I of course could get up and join them, but I didn’t want to. And I wanted somebody to look over and see me. Elle was right. I am self-centered. My team just won, I should be celebrating with them, praising their moves and goals. Instead I was wallowing in self-pity. An endless circle of thought that is. So before they had gotten off the lake, I got up and jogged after them, not calling or drawing attention to myself as I rejoined the herd. I focused on listening to them, smiling, but not commenting on anything. I didn’t trust myself to speak right now, because a part of me wanted to curl into a ball and cry, and if I spoke that part would probably take over. At least until I was thoroughly distracted... whenever that would be. Everyone went back up and I followed the girls to our cabin. “Jules, you want me to look at your shoulder?” Asked Iris. “Oh, no. I’m fine.” I said, but in truth now that we weren’t outside in the cold air, I felt it throbbing. Must have run into that goal post harder than I intended. When I showered that night, I examined it in the mirror, purple. A bruise roughly the size of the post. But I put on my shirt, and of course nobody could tell. Except for when Lucas ‘accidentally’ bumped into me sending a lance of pain so sudden that I dropped my breakfast onto the floor. I gritted my teeth and picked up most of the mess while Lucas said, “Oh, Sorry.” In that annoyingly gay voice of his. Suddenly Elle was at my elbow, helping me pick up the dropped food and throw it away.

“Sorry for screaming at you.” She said. “Sorry for being so self-centered.” I replied, not even bothering to get anything to eat now. I wasn’t hungry. “Jules, you know that was just me being angry.” “Yeah, but there is some truth to it.” “Not really.” I shrugged not wanting to discuss it anymore. “By the way, we need to start duck taping you in your sleep.” Elle laughed, “You were babbling for like two hours last night.” “Really?” I tried to remember what I had dreamed about, “What about?” “Lots of weird stuff, something about a blue ribbon and then a box from the UPS?” Oh, apparently I had been dreaming about that. “No idea.” I lied. “Oh, one of those things.” She bit her bottom lip. Elle knows about me and Zach being in WitSec, but she doesn’t have any details about either of us. But tone of voice that I use to avoid talking about some things has sort-of tipped her off on what subjects I literally can not talk about. “So, how’s Dimitri?” I asked suggestively. “Oh would you stop pushing that?” But Elle was laughing as she poked me. We went skiing the next day. That was something Zach and I had been planning on doing for the first time together, but he had his head so far up his ass it would be physically impossible for him to ski. So I paired up with Elle, Felecia, Summer and Kaylee. We took a basic “class” together, though the instructor was disappointingly average in looks.

It wasn’t until the 22nd that Zach finally talked to me. We kept busy playing broomball, tubing, skiing, hiking through the snow. Etcetera. But then on Wednesday we decided to hike all the way around the lake. And of course halfway around is the pine grove. One of our favorite spots last summer. I stopped at the firepot where we had spent practically half the time. “Anyone got any matches?” “Nothing’s going to light over here Jules.” Summer said, “It’s all too wet, not ready.” “Yeah, I guess.” I still looked at the slight dip in the snow, knowing that was where so many conversations had taken place. Team 16 had been formed, I had spat out secrets as they raged through my head, heck that tree over there is where Zach and I first kissed. And here it was, under all this snow, nobody even wanted to try lighting a fire because they knew it wouldn’t light. I stared impulsively I nearly passed few places if the snow. at the spot a moment later, and then stepped off the path into the snow. The snow my knees, but I kept moving. Actually in a I stepped lightly enough I could keep on top

“Jules, what are you doing?” Laughed Kaylee. “I want to climb the tree.” I said, moving carefully. “But, it’s like, cold. And icy. You might fall!” “No I won’t.” I reached the base of the pine. “Wait for me!” I turned and Elle was maneuvering towards me. “Anyone else?” I asked, Kaylee, Summer, Dimitri, Zach and Jared all shook their heads. Zach clearly was thinking about something though, he barely even paid attention as Elle and I started moving up the tree.

I went first, being a lot more skilled and daring when it came to climbing things. Elle stopped halfway through, but I kept moving up. “How on earth are you balancing on that?” Elle yelled up to me at one point, where I had both feet on a branch that barely spanned an inch across. “Hold most of your weight up off the branch.” I explained, pulling myself upwards. “OK Jules.” Jared yelled, “You have mad skills, we get it, but maybe you should stop. I can’t even see you anymore, just tree.” “This is higher than last summer.” I admitted, pausing as a junction of three branches. I settled myself into them, sitting, sort-of. “Down then?” asked Summer. “No, I am quite comfortable.” I called down to her, grinning. “Yeah, while the rest of us freeze.” “Well come join us.” I said, leaning slightly forward, I could just barely see them through a break in the trees. “No thank you. I’m surprised you haven’t fallen yet.” “Well, there was that one slippery bit.” I looked back down at those two branches that were literally coated in ice. That was not going to be fun on the way back“WHOA!” Suddenly one of the branches I was sitting on snapped, and my sense of gravity informed me I was very high. I tried to steady myself, but the first branch I grabbed stabbed through my glove into my hand, and there I made my fatal mistake. I cried out in pain and pulled my hand into my chest. Branches smacked into me, and the pit of my stomach dropped even faster than I fell.

I only dropped grab a large enough shoulders wrenched, recovering from the

about fifteen feet, before I managed to branch that wasn’t slick. Both my my and I hung for several seconds, shock of falling.

I felt my heart racing, adrenaline coursing through my veins. The pain in my hand barely registering now. “Jules!” Everyone was yelling and glancing down, I saw all of them moving towards the base of the tree. Breathing hard, I shimmied up the branch and wrapped both legs around the tree trunk. “I’m fine.” I said, quietly at first, then louder for the people below me to hear, “I’m fine.” “Good God Jules! I told you not to go that high up.” I slowly slid down till I reached a good place to actually put my feet and hands. “Yeah, and now I have learned my lesson.” I grunted. Elle climbed a bit higher until she was where I was, “Hey, you okay?” “Yeah.” I shivered, “That just sort-of takes the breathe away from you.” “Yeah!” She nodded, “Takes it from us watching too. I was trying to figure out if I would have to grab you as you fell by.” I looked at my hands, shaking. Then turning them over I swore. The hand I had initially thrown out to save me had a bloody hole in it. Not like a see through hole, the wound was small, but fairly deep. And it was bleeding. “God Jules.” Elle gasped when she saw it. I pulled off my scarf and wrapped it around the hand. At the first layer, red soaked through the gold. “Think I can get a new scarf? And gloves?” I joked lightly. It didn’t hurt too bad right now, but once my adrenalin levels went down, this was going to hurt like hell.

“If not, we can just keep them, freak people out.” “Yeah,” I laughed, still shaking, “Let’s get down huh?” Elle went down first, and this time she was the one moving far faster than the other. I tried to move with three limbs, not wanting to put pressure on my injured hand. It took a considerable amount of time for me to reach the bottom, and by the time I did make it, everyone was overly concerned. “Are you sure you’re ok?” “That looks like it hurts!” “I think you need to see the nurse.” Zach didn’t say anything. Just sort-of stared at me, not looking angry, but certainly something close to that. “Nurse right.” I agreed, “Good idea. I will go straight there.” “We’ll go with you!” “No, finish your trek.” I said, “I want it known team 11 was the first to hike through the snow all the way around the lake. “But you.” “I’m a big girl. I can manage.” Everyone tried to figure out what they wanted as apposed to what I needed. So I decided for them, I started walking. Shortcutting down to the lake so I could cross it. “See you guys at dinner!” I called. And we separated, me walking alone and the six of them treading through the path. Problem was that while the path around the lake might be mostly clear, the path to the lake from here was not. So

I had to shove my way through the snow. I was pretty sure I remembered how to get to the lake from here. I thought anyway. What should have taken three minutes turned into ten. At first I just thought that I was moving slowly because of the snow. But then I had been shoving my way through the snow for fifteen minutes. “Great.” I said loudly. I would have to follow my tracks back to the beginning and try again, or just go all the way around. But now my hand was pulsing pain. I unwrapped the scarf, grimacing at the nasty sight my hand was. I stuck my hand in snow, letting the water that melted because of my body heat clean of some of the gunk. Also after a minute my hand was numb. I rewrapped my hand in the scarf and started following my tracks back. Then I ran into Zach. He seemed to be following my tracks to me. We both stopped and stared at each other. He looked guilty somehow, and I was embarrassed to have my loss of direction known. “I, um.” I swallowed, “I went the wrong way.” “Yeah, I figured that out.” “Why are you?” “Well, I didn’t want you to go alone. It just.” Zach trailed off, “Didn’t feel right.” “I’m fine.” “You say that a lot.” “Oh, I do?” Zach just nodded. His dark brown eyes on me. “Well, um. I am. Fine.” A tiny part inside me grunted without you.

“Sure you are Jules.” He became sarcastic, “You’re fine. That’s all you are. Fine. Nothing is wrong with Jules. She can handle everything on her own.” He was definitely still angry at me then. God, I hated this. I hated not talking to him, not getting him to help me with Dimitri, stealing moments away from everyone with him, sending cryptic messages to each other that only we understood. I run to dreams really missed getting hugs from him, and knowing I could him if my brain was suddenly overwhelmed again. The were coming back, Elle confirmed it. I just wasn’t remembering them in the morning.

“Yeah, I can. So you go back to them.” I waved my hand backwards, “I don’t need you.” Liar. “Damn it Jules.” Zach put a hand to his forehead, “What do you think I want here?” He dropped his hand. I paused, “What do you mean?” “Why do you think that I followed you?” I shrugged. “Conscience” “What, you think that I don’t miss talking to you? I mean, how the hell did we end up here?” “You were mad at me.” I dropped eye contact, unable to look at him as anger and heartbreak bled into my emotions. “And you stopped talking to me!” He stalked forward several steps so that I was forced to look at him. “We’ve fought before.” Zach’s voice soften now. “Yeah, but never about this.” Still I focused on the snow covered ground. Looking him in the face wasn’t working for me. “No,” He conceded, “But this is one of the biggest things we have in common Jules. We are going to argue about it.”

Finally I did look at him. His eyes desperately searched mine, trying to point out something to me. All I wanted was to stop fighting. “I’m sorry.” My voice cracked slightly. “I’m sorry.” I repeated, voice still unsteady as I tried to push back tears. God, why was I crying? “I’m sorry.” He reciprocated my response. A single tear broke free of my eye, and again I broke eye contact, ashamed of crying. Crunch Crunch. He put a hand on my cheek, and I closed my eyes, pushing against the contact just barely. “I’m still not telling you.” Zach sighed a little, “I know.” He kept his hand there for a moment more, and then I let go of my self control. I lunged forward into a hug he had prepared for me. I buried my head into his shoulder, like I loved too. “Agree to disagree on this point?” He offered. “Okay.” After a moment I pulled away from him a bit. “No.” He refused to let me out of his grip. “Just. Don’t.” I looked up at him, he had a look on his face. “I don’t-” Now his voice shook, “I don’t want to let go just yet.” I understood. The need to hold physically onto something. Too many people left us, too many things were now gone. “You still have me.” I recognized the look in his eyes, and rose on my toes to meet him halfway. His lips were cold, but not for long, our mouths meshed together for several seconds. Then we broke apart,

panting slightly from loss of oxygen. I leaned my forehead into his. “Never argue again?” “I don’t know if we can avoid that...” “Agree with everything I say then?” He smiled, eyes closed. “Sure.” I smiled too. “Ok, now let’s get me to the nurse please.” I looked at my hand, “Hand ouch pain.”

Chapter 9. Saturday would be Christmas! Everyone was starting to get excited. The mess hall was decorated with trees, lights, and snowmen. Then on Thursday the trucks started coming in. I barely even saw Scott aside from games and meals (even then he sometimes skipped), he seemed to be coordinating

security now and all packages had to be prescreened before they were allowed into the camp. While the parents may not mind us being away from them for Christmas, they will be damned if all that shopping they had done would go to waste with us being away. And by us I mean the celebs. All gifts were delivered to us and then immediately placed under the tree. We spent most of Thursday in the mess hall creating ornaments out of anything people had managed to scavenge over the week we had been at camp. “Jules.” I turned to look at Jared, “For you.” He held out a letter. I looked at it confused. “What is this?” I asked, taking the envelope from him. “Did you write me a love note Jared?” “He better not have.” Zach growled from down the table. Everyone laughed. I turned the envelope over, written in calligraphy was my name.

To Jules
“Who writes in Calligraphy?” Elle looked at the envelope. “Zach, this isn’t you is it?” I asked. “Me? Please, I’m not at all artistically inclined.” He was struggling even now to glue two pieces of string together. “Lucas?” Suggested Elle. “I don’t think so.” I weighed the letter in my hand, “can you imagine Lucas writing calligraphy?” “I can imagine him paying someone too.” Elle said dubiously.

Shrugging I slid my finger along the opening. Inside was a thick mass of paper. I pulled out the entire sheathe and unfolded the mass. “Dear Jessica.” Read the first line. I sucked in a breathe. “What is it?” Elle tried to scooch close to me to read it, but I whipped the papers high out of her sight. “None of your business.” My voice was small, tiny. Jules and Jessica finally linked... “What- oh.” Elle recognized the look, “Go.” She said. “Just, go.” I pulled the paper close to my chest and got out of there as fast as I could without actually running. Zach didn’t even need to be told to follow me. Outside I walked until I reached the cabins. While the bonfire pit remained unused until tomorrow night, the circles of benches remained. I sat on one, breathing fast. Then I started reading as Zach sat next to me.

Chapter 10 Dear Jessica, Please don’t flip out. I know the envelope says Jules, but that was to make sure I got this to the right person. I honestly can’t address you as Jules because that is just plain weird.

Although, calling you Jessica admittedly is weird too, so I shall just refrain from calling you anything else all together as much as I can. It’s me, Jules. When I say that I mean my name is Jules. Full name Julia, but nobody really called me that. It’s funny. You took my name when you joined Witness Protection, and I took yours. I’m sure you are flipping out by now. The only real way I can prove that this is me is the blue ribbon I had around my neck. I know you remember it. Who else would know that detail? I’m alive, and so are you. We weren’t told about each other in case Jonas caught one of us. I know you are wondering then how I know about you? Rumors flew around, then I saw you. I saw you come out of the courthouse on December 16th. I know you didn’t see me, because I was at the hotel across the street. I saw you come out with two other people both with guns at their hips. And I knew. I knew you were in the program too. I’m sorry to contact you in this way, but I had to find a way to talk to you. One of the workers at camp freedom is my brother, Septimus. He brought the letters into the camp for me. He said he would find a way to get them to you without your Marshall finding out. You can’t tell your Marshall about me! They know about their being more than one of us, and if they find out we are in contact, they’ll separate us, and fire my brother. I already testified, I take it you have too, why then should they keep us separate? Please Jessica, I only know you’re at Camp Freedom because you were last summer. So, in truth I don’t know I am only guessing. But please, give some kind of contact information to Septimus. If there are two of us, there might be more, Jules

P.S. I took your name when I jointed WitSec, funny huh? I stared at the letter. Reread it. Stared at it some more. Inhale. Exhale. “What is it?” Zach sat next to me, but didn’t look at the letter. He kept his eyes on me. I turned to him. “It’s Jules.” He looked confused, so I clarified, “The real Jules. The one that told me to run.” “What?” He made a motion to grab the letter, but restrained himself. “Here.” I offered it to him, and he started reading rapidly. “Wow.” “Yeah.” I ran a hand through my hair, pulling a little more than necessary. “We should tell Scott.” Zach decided, and he started to stand, but I grabbed his wrist. “Wait, the letter says not to.” “Yeah, but she doesn’t know Scott. He let the two of us know about each other.” “But we just sort-of found each other. She contacted me! This might get her in trouble.” “Contacting other witnesses? Yeah maybe, but I don’t know how I feel about this Jules.” “What do you mean?” “I mean out of the blue she just appears? You told me Jonas had a knife to her throat when you ran.” “And he ran after me, he might have just let her go! Kept her in the basement.” “Then why did they tell you everyone in the basement was dead? You saw pictures!”

“Tried to forget those.” I muttered, “But there weren’t any of Jules.” “I seem to recall you refusing to look at over half of them. Jules might have been in that half.” “But she talked about the blue ribbon!” I snatched the paper away from him and pointed at the sentence, “She had it around her neck, I never knew why.” “Because Jonas had an odd fetish for dark blue, we know that.” Zach pulled my hands into his, “Seriously Jules, we have to show this to Scott. We don’t know what we’re doing here.” “No.” I pulled my hands out of his, “No, I’m not going to ruin my chance to talk to her.” “Jules-” “NO!” I stood, now I towered over him, “No, and you are not going to tell Scott about this. I just, need to think.” I stalled. “Think. Fine then, think. But do not act!” “Yeah, OK.” I allowed. I folded the letter carefully and slid it into one of the intererior pocked in my coat. “What are you going to tell people it was?” “A note from you?” I asked. Zach ground his teeth together, “You want me to cover for you?” “It isn’t really covering, just-” I tried to think of a positive way of putting this. “Covering for you.” He finished. “Yeah, pretty much.” “Fine. But we aren’t letting this sit long Jules.”

“Just, wait till after Christmas? If Scott totally flips out about this he might pull us out.” “Fine. But before we leave.” “Okay.” Neither of us really wanted to argue, and I noted that I was getting my way again. His turn was definitely next. I wondered if I should argue about something silly, let him had his way just to even things out a bit. No, that was a silly tactic. “Come on, otherwise Elle might think we’re making out or something.” “Elle’s going to think that either way.” Zach laughed. “We really do need to get her busy with Dimitri.” “And by busy you mean?” “Knock that off!” I smacked him. “What?” He pretended to be innocent, but grinning all the while. “Thinking things you shouldn’t.” I started walking back down to them. “You know I’m a guy.” “Yeah,” I sighed, bumping into his shoulder, “I do.”

Chapter 10. Friday morning we were greeted by Christmas carols. Iris was playing them in the cabin. I looked at her curiously. “Christmas eve!” She smiled. Yes, Iris smiled. “Um, yeah.” I rubbed sleep out of my eyes.

“Delivery already came.” She pointed at the tree, which was now completely surrounded by packages. “Is that why you’re so...” I trailed off, unsure how to describe Iris’s suddenly festive mood. “No, it’s Christmas.” “Technically tomorrow is Christmas.” Felecia pointed out as she sat on the couch. “Still. It’s happy isn’t it?” Iris continue to smile, then she turned to the fireplace and rustled the pretty much dead coals. “We can light it later.” I said. “Probably.” Iris poked at it again, “Are you guys going to get ready? Lots to do today! We have a game at nine, then people are reading the Christmas Carol during the afternoon aloud, plus tonight there’s the bonfire.” “Busy day.” I said, “OK.” So Elle and I tossed a coin to decide who had to get Felecia up, I lost, so I was the one getting the evil glare for the next hour as all the girls got their stuff together and during breakfast until the coffee hit her bloodstream. I had to stop at the nurse before getting breakfast to have her check on my hand. She unwrapped the gauze I was keeping it wrapped in and closely examined the wound. It was scabbed over, and still hurt like crap, but I had gone three days without playing broomball. I was hoping to get an all clear today. The nurse had nasty yellow teeth, and brown hair pulled back somewhat severely, the bits that weren’t were falling wisps around her head. “How is the pain?” She asked, voice unnaturally high. “Fine.” Only half a lie. I did not actually notice it too much, except for when I tried to grab somewhat that

required me wrapping my entire hand around. That tended to hurt, but I hadn’t tried recently. “Can I play?” I asked hopefully. She glared at me with her watery eyes. “You really should not.” “So, that’s a yes?” “If your counselor approves.” She rewrapped my hand in fresh gauze and gave me two Tylenol to help with the pain. I swallowed them dry and then left quickly. “Diagnosis?” Asked Zach. “I can play,” Zach grinned before I finished, “But Scott has to approve me.” The smiled was quickly lost. “Yeah.” “He’s not going to say yes is he?” I shook my head, “Not likely.” “Did she say Scott had to approve you?” “She said my counselor had to approve me to play.” “Your counselor.” Zach mused, and I looked at him, knowing that tone. “What are you thinking Zach?” “Well, Iris could clear you couldn’t she?” I laughed, “Oh yes, good clean little Iris who always plays it safe is going to approve me playing injured.” “You never know!” He pulled open the door to the mess hall for me, and I stepped inside quickly, stamping my boots on the new mats. “She is in a good mood today. Or was this morning anyways.” I had already told Zach about the odd little Christmas carols earlier.

“See! Just try it. And if she says no, then try Scott.” “You were the child who asked mom and when she said no, went and asked Dad weren’t you?” “I have no idea where you got that idea from.” He sniffed, loading a plate full of eggs, toast, and cinnamon muffins. I just laughed at him. “News?” Asked Elle immediately after I sat down. “God, let a girl eat will you.” I said, putting a mouthful of sausage into my mouth. “Oh right.” Elle waited until I swallowed, “So, news?” “I have to get permission from one of the parents.” I said. “Huh?” “From Iris or Scott.” Zach interceded. “What he said.” I swallowed some tea, grimacing slightly. Forgot to put the sugar in. I may like tea, but I don’t like it without sweetener. “Is that likely?” “Dunno, hold on.” I leaned forward, “Hey Iris.” Iris looked at me from the other end of the table, “What?” “Can I play broomball today?” “What did the nurse say?” “Said I have to ask you.” “Does your hand hurt now?” “Nope.” I popped the P. “Sure then.”

“K, thanks.” I turned back to Elle, “Yeah I can play.” “Awesome, I had this idea.” And Elle started going over her game plan for the game. This was Elle’s strong point of everything. She always had a plan. About halfway though, when I finished my food, and just sucked down tea and orange juice as Elle talked, using her hands to speak, Lucas dropped by the table. “Why hello team Eleven!” It was all I could do not to tell Lucas to go shove it, but I tried to be good. “Lucas.” “Jules!” He acted like he hadn’t know I was sitting right in front of him. “Are you back in the game today?” “Just got the all clear.” I nodded. “Goody!” He clapped his hands together, and I officially decided he was gay. “I will see you on the ice then!” He turned and left quickly and I looked at Elle desperately, “We’re playing team three today?” “Yup.” Elle popped the P just like I had earlier, with the negative version of her word. “Great.” “Just think though, you get to make Lucas cry today.” “If we’re lucky.” “With my plans? If he doesn’t cry I will be forever shamed.” “If who doesn’t cry?” Scott sat down next to me. “Lucas, where have you been?” I asked as he shoved half a muffin into his mouth.

He swallowed, “Guard station.” “Why?” Hadn’t he already been there today? “We added canine units yesterday. There was a problem with one dog.” “What happened?” I asked. “Got run over by one of the trucks. We had to put him down.” Scott didn’t seem at all bothered by the situation of a dead dog. I wasn’t sure if that bothered me or not. “Awww.” The three girls who were paying attention, including me all awed in unison. “What was his names?” Arewen asked. “Mr. Jingles.” I nearly busted a gut laughing so hard. “The dog?” “Yeah.” “You are telling me, that a security dog was named Mr. Jingles?” I could not believe this. “Well it’s not like anyone is ever going to guess his name.” Scott shrugged. “No.” I wiped a tear away from my eye, “No they will not.”

CHAPTER 11 So, I showed up to the broomball game ready for anything. Elle put me in the middle of the court, “You’re out last resort, if things go south we’ll move you up, but otherwise just keep getting the ball to us.”

It meant I used my hand less, which was probably the reason Elle wanted me there. Unfortunately that meant I saw a lot of Lucas. He ranged all over the court, chasing the ball where ever it went with no strategy. The game moved quickly. But around seven to three, us with Seven, Lucas started to pull out some tricks. He and his team began accidentally hitting us with their sticks. One even tripped himself around Kaylee and then cried that she had tripped him, putting her out for five minutes. In those five minutes we let in two goals. Seven to five. Then the ball got to me, I had one second to send it sailing up to Elle who was in perfect scoring position. I smacked the ball and instantly I knew it would go where I wanted it. You always know from the second you hit something whether it’s a good or a bad hit. However, my left hand was halfway down the stick, I was using my fingers to keep pressure off my palm, and Lucas raced forward. Right after I hit the ball, Lucas swung. But I don’t think he was aiming for the ball. His broomball stick smashed into my injured hand, not only hurting the outside, but pressing my palm into my own stick. I yelled in pain and let go of my stick, it flew forward a few feet. My hand hurt so much that I just slid down into a sitting position, cradling my hand to my chest. “Oh my gosh are you ok?” Lucas cried, “I am soooo sorry.” His voice was not carrying that of an apologetic person though, he sounded like he felt he was triumphant. “Got to hell!” I screamed at him. Partially because my hand hurt, and partially because I just hated the guy. “Hey, it was an accident.” Lucas stressed the word accident, completely un-upset by my outburst.

“Accident!” Zach slid forward, “I saw that, she had already hit the ball. There was no reason for you to swing!” “No, I was aiming for the ball!” “It was halfway up the court!” Zach yelled. “Guys! Break it up!” Scott put himself between the two guys, “Lucas, you’re out of the game.” “But-” “I have eyes Lucas. Out of the game, keep arguing and I’ll see you don’t play again for the rest of the week!” Lucas threw down his stick, “Whatever.” And stalked over to the bleachers. Scott knelt down next to me, “You ok?” “Can’t play.” I said through clenched teeth. “Nurse?” He asked. “I think I just need to stick my hand in a snowdrift.” “That will only numb it for a little while. Here.” Scott pulled my hand away from my chest. Carefully he pulled off the glove, and I hissed through my teeth at the site. The scab had broken and the front of my hand was bleeding, while the back was already bruising. “Can you stretch your fingers?” Reluctantly I did so, expecting pain, but aside from minimal twinging it didn’t really react. “I don’t think anything is broken. Make a fist.” I did so, grinding my teeth when the skin pulled at the bruising. “No finger pain, just my palm and the back of my hand.” “He got good that’s for sure.”

“Tell me you’re gonna go kick his butt. Then tell me I can watch.” “Go stick your hand in some snow.” Scott handed the glove to me, “No more broomball though.” “Yes sir.” I moved off the court and walked a few feet before crouching down and sticking my seemingly burning hand into the cold snow. “OK.” I said to myself, the burning feeling quickly receded, and then after a bit my hand became numb. I just sat on the snow and watched the game again. We won quickly, everyone pissed about me having to leave the game again. This was a dangerous sport for me! However, instead of celebrating, Zach threw his stick onto the ground. Instantly I knew something was going to happen. I pulled my hand out of the snow and jogged forward. Zach stalked straight up to Lucas in the bleachers. He glared at him for several seconds, breathing deeply. Everybody watched, waiting for something to happen. Scott just looked at the two, looking somewhat amused. “You. Do. Not. Ever. Touch. Jules. AGAIN!” Each word from Zach’s mouth came out individually each with as much menace as I had ever seen, but at again he shouted directly into Lucas’s face. Now, you would think that with Lucas and Zach’s past history, namely Lucas getting his face shoved into a lunch table; That Lucas would back of, or beg for mercy. But being an idiot Lucas did neither of these things. “Technically I didn’t touch her, the stick did.” Zach turned to Fred, who was standing behind him still carrying his broomball stick. Yanked the thing out of his hands, whipped around to Lucas and swung. He stopped an inch from Lucas’s hand on the bench. But Lucas still yanked his hand away from the wood and screamed.

“Touch her again, and I will make contact next time. And trust me, any mark on her I will triple on you.” Zach gave the stick back to Fred and strode towards me. “What?” Lucas stood, appalled, “Aren’t you going to do something about this?!” He screamed to the counselors. George just shrugged, “Not my kid.” So Lucas turned to Scott. “What? He didn’t touch you.” Scott shrugged, “And should anything happen I think it would be an accident.” I was grinning now. Turning his own plots against him. Oh, how I loved my friends. “Come on.” Zach slung an arm around my shoulders. “My hero.” I smiled up at him. Zach just rolled his eyes. “No really, that was pretty bad-ass. And incredibly sexy.” I batted my eyelashes. “You think.” He looked down at me. “Uh, huh.” Then I pushed away from him, “So is your major B.O.! God boy take a shower! I know sweat is considered manly, but good grief!”

CHAPTER 12 After lunch I was forced to go back to the nurse, who officially banned me from broomball, skiing and snowboarding. Not that I had wanted to snowboard, although skiing had been fun with Elle on Tuesday. I wanted to go with Zach, but I guess we could go when I had use of my hand. Once we got inside, just like last time, the warm air acted like a catalyst and my hand began to swell.

Naomi, the nurse, did an X-ray on my hand, and confirmed two minor fractures. She gave me a brace and called my mom to confirm me taking a minor steroid to help with the pain and healing. “May cause headaches, blurred vision, and insomnia.” I read the warning label, “Great.” “You come straight to me for these.” Naomi took the bottle from my hand, “And for these.” She gave me a slightly stronger painkiller that I forgot the name off. Sheesh, the rich really belied in medication didn’t they? “Got it.” I popped the pills. “And I will make sure she gets them.” Scott grumbled from the chair. He’d come in with me this time, because otherwise I would have just refused. “Yeah, he’ll ride me on it too.” “As he should!” Naomi flicked her pen, “Now get out of my sight.” “Yes ma’am.” I said half sarcastically, earning me a slight look of annoyance from Scott. As we walked to the mess hall, I got the lecture, “You will go to the nurse before breakfast and dinner. You will stop climbing trees, playing any sort-of rough game...” Blah blah blah. A question occurred to me, “Scott are you sure I’m the only one?” “The only what? Girl with a half broken hand? Not in the world but-” “The only one to survive the basement.” I cut him off, apparently Scott was feeling talkative. He stopped walking, and I had to turn around to see his face. “Why?” “I’m curious.” “Why would you think that?” He questioned.

I had to think quickly, “I, it’s just, I heard rumors.” “From who?” “I- um.” “Iris told you her theory didn’t she?” What? Still I nodded, “Don’t listen to her, she has no proof! No real proof anyways. I told her that if there was another girl I would know. They would tell me if there was another witness.” “You think they would.” “I have friends. I would know.” He grumbled, but I picked up a trace of doubt. “You are the only one Jules.” “OK.” Scott started walking forward, and I trailed behind him. Thinking far too much. Back in the mess, Iris was reading aloud from The Christmas Carol beside the fire. Complete with voices. I felt like a little kid as I joined everyone who was sitting on the floor by her. We sat in a big circle on a rough woven rug, playing a game called I never. What happens is somebody stands in the middle and says something they have never done, and if you have done it you have to raise your hand. The last one to raise their hand switches with the person in the middle. It is considered a bonding game, but it’s also a competition to see who can get the most people to raise their hands. “I have never jumped out of a plane.” Four hands actually shot up. Scott disappeared again as we played, rumors had it something big was going on tonight, aside from the bonfire that is. The final packages were being shipped in, and placed in rooms. Some people had brought or snuck trees in. Others either didn’t think to or got caught.

Everything was building up to Christmas. More crashes from the kitchen came, snowmobiles appeared out of nowhere, nearly running you over half the time. Zach and I went ice skating one night. Sort-of unofficially by ourselves. We’d both gone before, but mostly we stumbled around clinging to each other for support and laughing. “You know you are beautiful right?” He asked after we finally made a complete circle with no falling, sliding, or nearly falling but having the other catch you. I blushed, “Thank you.” “I mean it.” He said earnestly. “Suck up.” “Well, I do like sucking face.” He pretended to admit, then I laughed and did grace him with a kiss. “Beautiful.” He whispered against my lips. Christmas Eve we had a bonfire after dinner. Just like last year, the fire blazed so hot you had to stand several feet back. “Yule log!” Christina joined us for the bonfire, and was standing close enough to the fire to throw wood in. A large log that was decorated unnecessarily when it is about to be burned was on the ground next to her. The Yule log was some sort of old tradition that nobody really remembered except for the odd and the rich. But it was pretty epic to watch two men heave the log onto the already blazing fire. The garland and ribbon that surrounded the log went up in flames, or curled upon themselves immediately. But the log first causes the fire to die down a bit. Then it seemed that the fire realized the log was fuel, and gradually it began to burn. “No!” I objected when Zach came towards me with a stick and marshmallow.

“It’s tradition!” “To eat yourselves sick?” “Pretty much.” “No thank you.” I turned up my nose. “Come on. It’s marshmallow goodness.” “No, it’s white fluff that is essentially sugar and you burn.” “And it’s yummy and delicious!” He skipped, yes skipped, to the fire and stuck his stick in. I pulled off my coat and put it onto the bench, which while it was no longer covered in snow, it was soaking wet from the melted water. I watched everyone around me. Most people were in groups or pairs, talking and eating. A few tried unsuccessfully to get everyone singing carols such as Jingle Bells and Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer. Lindsey found me and Elle sitting together, and the three of us chatted away, Lindsey shaking her fist at the fact that Lucas had beaten them this morning at Broomball putting her out of the tournament. “You can take my place.” I said waving my hand, “We can’t go a player short.” “Will they allow that?” “If they don’t I’ll just start suddenly wearing a ski mask and my hand will heal, then we’ll put you in the game as me.” “Deal.” Laughed Lindsey. “So, how was your summer?” “Good.” I mused, sipping my hot chocolate. “Did you and Zach get it on?”

I choked on my hot chocolate I laughed so hard, “We, no. Oh gosh.” I tossed my paper cup into the fire, “No.” “Why not?” “Because.” I answered. “Because what?” Felicity joined the conversation. “Jules here is telling us why she and Zach aren’t doing it.” “Oh, Jules doesn’t do that.” Elle tried pushing off the subject. “But why?” Felecia pushed. “Because I’m waiting till marriage.” “I didn’t know you were religious.” Felecia made a weird face. “I’m not!” “Well WHY then? Girls don’t hold it back just because.” “Well I do.” I stood up walking away from the conversation. “Don’t push that Felecia.” I heard Elle chiding. “Why? It’s an honest question...” I walked around the group, making a wide circle to watch everyone. Even all the way back to the cabins the snow was melting from the force of the fire. My boots squished instead of crunching. Nobody paid close attention to me, I pulled my hoodies hood )wee bit redundant) over my head, both for warmth, and so I could just wander about a bit. Three wide circles later, Zach found me, “What are you doing? It’s Christmas eve!” “I know, I just... need to think a bit.”

“about what?” “Things.” I was thinking about the letter, about what Felecia and Lindsey had said, about Scott disappearing all the time, about the real Jules being alive. Without even pausing to think about it, Zach looped an arm around my waist, putting up his own hood, “Well, we can walk and think together huh?” I pressed into him. The fire was dying down and my real coat was still on the bench. I could see my breathe in the moonlights. White ice smoke. We walked the circular path that went around the fire pit, and ran into a few people heading into their cabins for a warm fire to count down to midnight. I couldn’t find my coat anywhere, and eventually I just figured that Elle had taken it inside. But by now my face had gone numb and I didn’t notice the cold so much anymore. But eventually, we started walking even more slowly. I stopped us, just by simply stopping, on the far end of the circle. Furthest away from any cabins. “We should go inside.” “We should.” Zach turned to me, and I recognized the look in his eyes. “What is it?” I pressed my right undamaged hand to his cheek, “What are you thinking about?” “My turn in a month.” He looked up away from me, “I have to face them. My sister has to- she thinks I don’t know. But I do. I think my head did what yours did. Blocked it out. I would have heard mom scream-” His voice died then. Zach didn’t cry. He was just being stressed and over thinking. Like I did. “Come here.” I hugged him fiercely, “You’ll do great. So will Crystal.” “But what if something happens?”

“Nothing will happen.” I talked into his ear softly, “You have Scott, Iris, and you have me. Not that I’m much help, but you know if there’s ever anything.” He silenced me with his mouth. Fiercer and colder than ever before. Then I pulled away for a second, “You taste like marshmallow.” Zach grinned, “Told you, you would get some whether you liked it or not.” “Hey you two!” Zach and I instinctively lept apart. “Get in your cabins!” It was a worker who had been throwing snow on the fire since nobody was outside anymore. “Yes sir! Just have to take care of my girl.” Zach answered loudly. “Your girl is going to become my girl.” I froze instantly. Oh God. I knew that voice. I know that voice. There was no way it could be here. No way. None. He could not be here. “Actually, she already is if you think about it. I’ve had Jessica in a way you never can.” Zach stiffened, and carefully, inch by inch I forced myself to turn. Tall, with longish dark brown hair. Cold chocolate eyes. A voice that made me want to throw up. A knife in his hand. “Hello Jessica.” Jonas.

Chapter 13. I took several steps backwards, Zach moved in front of me. “Tsk tsk tsk.” Jonas tisked, waving his knife, “Where do you think you are going Jessica?” Breathe. Breathe. I commanded myself, think and breathe, what are you supposed to do? Run. Run. Run. That’s what every instinct in me screamed. Run, keep running. Don’t look back. But no, there’s something else I was supposed to do. Something Scott told me to do.

Scream. But I could barely breathe. Panic overtook me, adrenalin was being pushed into my veins so quickly I was shaking not from cold, but from it. “Run Jules.” Zach tried to make me move. “Jules? Ah, I heard rumors you took little Julie’s name. Rumors though, never can trust them.” “Jules run.” Zach commanded again, but I looked around. I knew Jonas. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.” Jonas took a few steps towards us. “Look around you- what was your name?” Zach quickly scanned the area around us. And I could just barely make them out. Men everywhere. Dozens of them. “I am prepared to start shooting.” Jonas stepped forward some more, closing the gap between us. I was torn, there were no options. Run and die. Stay and Die. Where was Scott?


CHAPTER 14 “What do I do?” I whispered to Zach desperately. “Run.” Zach didn’t remove his eyes from Jonas, he moved back slowly, thus pushing me back, we squished, pulling further and further out of the circle. “But, I can’t.” I felt tiny. Tiny Jessica ready to be squashed at any time. I felt like a child, and took his hand, “Can’t leave you.” I whined. “Cliché much?” He muttered. So not the time for jokes.

“Come on Jessica. Or Jules, which do you prefer?” Jonas slinked forward, closing the gap between us, despite Zach and I moving backwards. “Either way, you are mine.” Jonas’s eyes glinted in the moonlight. “No, she isn’t.” Out of nowhere, Scott appeared to our right, his gun trained on Jonas. “And look! It’s the Marshall and his gun. Tell me Marshall, look around you, how many men do you think I have with me?” “Judging from what I can see... Twenty? But no.” Scott moved forward, and I pulled Zach towards him, carefully. “No, you would need to take out the perimeter too. And hold it probably. So... forty?” “Ah, the Marshall underestimates me.” Jonas laughed. “Yeah well, if I kill you will that make them go away?” Scott mused, “Hmmm?” “No, they have orders to kill everyone here if I die. Think about that Marshall, Over two hundred people here. Some might make it out. But two thirds of the people here are children. Do you want that on your conscience?” “You could be bluffing.” Zach and I were behind Scott completely now. “I could.” Jonas nodded, waving the knife a bit as he spoke, “But then again.” His face turned dark, and he leaned forward, as if he was whispering a secret, “Think of the consequences if I am not.” He leaned back again, grinning. “Make your choice.” “What are my options?” I tried to understand what Scott was doing. Stalling? For what? I couldn’t see what to do. All I knew was that my heart was pounding, and I couldn’t figure out if it or my stomach was in my throat.

“You turn Jessica over to me, and we all leave you in peace.” “Don’t much like that choice, next?” “You shoot me, everyone in this camp dies.” “Not a fan of that one either, anything else?” Scott moved a half step backwards, slowly. We moved carefully, I held tightly to Zach’s hand. “Not really. Unless you have more pieces to play?” “Well, now that you bring it up.” Scott pulled out a cell phone. “A phone? We’re jamming all outgoing signals.” “I only need it to do one thing.” Scott held the END button and his phone shut down. “To turn off?” “Wait, just one second.” Scott tossed the phone back to Zach, “Zach, open the battery back will you?” Zach did so, and Jonas watched amused. “See that red button on the inside of the phone?” Scott kept his eyes and gun on Jonas. “Yeah.” “Push it.” Jonas made no move to stop us. Just watched, not quite looking amused anymore, but he didn’t appear to feel threatened. A loud siren suddenly began to blare. Scott grinned, “Emergency.” “So what?” Jonas threw the question out there like he had no worried, but a few began to appear in his voice anyway.

Lights turned on, lighting up the circle. As they did so I saw all the men, blinking at the sudden brightness. Fifteen that I could see, all armed to the teeth. “There are more of us than you think.” Scott fired, hitting Jonas’s left hand, forcing him to drop the knife. “RUN!” He shouted at the two of us. “But-“ While Zach followed the order immediately, I paused, “What about you?” “Jules, listen to me and run. Go find the flag!” Scott yelled. Chaos was erupting across the cabins. Some counselors were bursting out of their cabins with campers. A few were armed as Scott was, fellow Marshalls? Meanwhile two of Jonas’s men were running at us, and Jonas was on his knees. “Come to me Jules. You will come to me, I guarantee it.” Scott kicked Jonas in the face and then ordered me one last time, “RUN!” Zach pulled one more time, and we took off.

Chapter 15 I let go of Zach’s hand and focused on running. We were forced to keep to the trails, the snow was too deep to really go through, and that would leave obvious tracks. Down to the lake was the most obvious place to go, but Scott had told us what to do. I stopped hallway down to the lake. “What are you doing, we have to run!” Zach tried to take my hand, but I looked into the woods. “He said find the flag.” I stepped off the trail, “That means we go to the flag fields.”

“Jules!” Zach didn’t seem to know what to do, but if there was one thing I knew how to do, it was run. I stepped carefully, and the frozen snow held my weight. It was colder at night, making it easier to balance on top of the snow. “You might have superpowers, but I don’t.” Zach said from the trail, “I’m too heavy” “No you aren’t.” I turned to him and held out my hand. “Come on.” “They’re escaping!” Somebody called from up the path. A little ways away, but close. Closer than I wanted. “Come on!” I hissed. Zach put one foot into the snow. And sank. “I can’t Jules! They’ll see the tracks.” He pulled back, glancing up the trail, “I’m going to the pines.” I had a choice. Continue forward on my own. Follow Scott’s orders. Or go with Zach. Stay with him. His eyes made the choice for me. I stepped forward, took his hand, and we ran again. Straight down to the lake. “Come on! We’ll cross.” I said, starting to pull him. “No, if one of them comes, they’ll see us.” Distant shouts were still echoing. Both that of the enemy and cries of the captured. Occasionally gunshots that I tried to ignore. Tried not to count. Six so far. Six dead? Six injured? On whose side? “So what do we do?”

“Move along the edge. As close to the shore as possible without making tracks.” “OK.” I confirmed. We moved as quickly as we could, but I couldn’t help feeling like I stuck out like a sore thumb with my blue shirt. And Zach was wearing red. Neither of us would blend in. And while I was warm for now with the running, I didn’t have a coat. The night was only half over. If we had to hide, I would freeze. Literally. As we moved around the lake, I could still hear shouting. And gunshots. Ten. Elev- twelve. The lights on the ski slopes were lit. Which left half of the lake lit up like a Christmas tree, and the other half just barely negotiable in the dark. Clouds were starting to move in from the east. The moon was being blocked. Light was dimming. We had nearly reached the same place we had come out in just a few days ago after I hurt my hand, and Zach and I made up, when we saw people come running from the trail we followed down. “Get down!” Zach and I instantly got off the lake and put ourselves behind a tree, not caring about footprints so much as blocking ourselves from view. It was three campers, running for their lives. I recognized two girls and one guy from team nine. I couldn’t remember their names. “Stop!” A single man with a gun shouted at them, and they tried crossing the lake. “I said stop!” He shouted, and then fired. One of the girls went down with a scream, a bullet in her back.

“No!” The other girl knelt next to her friend, and the sound carried from her defiant screams all the way to Zach and I. Zach tightened the protective arms he had around me. “Come with me!” The man said loudly, pointing his gun at the two remaining. “Bastard you killed her!” The boy launched himself infuriated at him. Bang. Fourteen. He fell. The single girl remained. Even from this distance I could tell she was crying. “Come on. Or you get it like them.” She went with him back up the trail. “Oh God.” I turned, my back now to the tree. Tears went down my face. “Oh God.” Zach didn’t say anything. Probably couldn’t say anything. I wanted to cry. I wanted to run. A breathe shuddered through me as Zach stared unblinkingly at the two bodies. Out in the snow. We couldn’t do anything about it. There would be more bodies. More blood. “We have go move.” I said. But Zach had both arms blocking me against the tree. He was pressed tight against me, and I felt the tension in him. The anger. The questions. But I wasn’t as inexperienced with bodies. With people dying because of me. “Zach.” When I said his name, his eyes snapped to me.

“We have to keep moving.” “Where do we go?” He desperately searched my face for answered, “Hide in a tree?” “For now. Wait until the sun rises.” “Then what?” “I don’t know yet.” “Will you?” “We’ll figured something out.” I pushed against his restraining arms, and he dropped them. “Come on.” We had to move back onto the lake. Even though the two were a ways away from us, being on the same frozen body of water made one shudder. “We just leave them?” “We have to.” I had to lead him away. To our destination. A tree. Chapter 16 Of course we couldn’t choose one off the trail, because Zach still lacked the skill to walk on snow. He told me that I should just go myself and hide separately. But then I pointed out my lack of jacket. When he then of course tried to get me to take his and move farther in, but I refused. “I stay with you. Now come on.” I pulled myself into a tree, gratefully the branches didn’t have snow on them. I grimaced when my hand was forced to support my weight. The brace helped with my fractured, but it still hurt like hell.

We stopped about halfway up. Just enough of the branches obscured us, but not enough that we couldn’t get down quickly. I sat on a thick branch, hugging the truck with my left foot. The other I brought up to my chest, hugging it close to me. Zach insisted I take his coat, and after twenty minutes I did take it, then I huddled close to him. And we waited. It occurred to me that some might consider this a romantic opportunity. Two lovers trapped in the cold with nothing but body heat and one sleeping bag to keep them warm... Only Zach and I weren’t exactly lovers, and there was no sleeping bag, just one coat. And there were murdering thugs with guns running around. At first neither of us spoke, but I couldn’t take the silence. I whispered to him, “I think this is the tree I raced you down last summer.” “Is it?” He peered down, “You know, I think you are right.” “Of course I am right.” “Didn’t I beat you?” “Maybe.” “Ah, and then we shared our first kiss.” “Indeed.” I agreed. Now would be the hallmark time to of course make out, but I couldn’t get the images of the two dead out of the lake. And I was freezing. “So long ago.” Zach muttered, and we broke eye contact together. Silence came back before I felt Zach ask a question, “You never really...” He stopped, and I felt his reluctance to ask whatever it was.

“Never?” “I just- I mean. We are about to die here possibly, so I’m running through memories and I know,” Zach paused to think briefly, “I know Jonas kidnapped you, and I know he was a sex slave trader person, but did he?” Zach left the question in the air. And for a long time I just thought. I decided to be blunt, “Yes.” I expected a sharp intake of breathe, or to feel the muscles in his chest tighten, but instead he sort-of relaxed. “OK.” “OK?” I finally looked at his face, “No rage? Or shame that your girlfriend has-” I stopped, unable to make myself say it. “No.” He said simply, “Well, anger yes. Rage, that’s hiding right now. Sadness of course. But I think I knew. Kind of hard not to really.” “But, I never told you.” “You didn’t have too.” “Then why ask?” “Because.” Again Zach paused, “Because I wanted to have it confirmed from you. And because sometimes I think that you keeping things like that from me separates us at times.” He put a hand to my cheek, “Like when I put my left hand right at your waist when we kiss. You always pull away from me.” Zach demonstrated, putting a hand at that exact position at my waist, and instantly I jerked away from him. Not because I wanted to, but because my body coordinated that physical touch to Jonas. “Sorry.” I apologized, instantly moving back to him when he pulled his hand away. “Don’t be. Just. Tell me.”

“What, all the disgusting details?” “Especially the disgusting details. Tell me what not to do, and what is ok to do. I don’t like being afraid to touch you because it might remind you of him.” “You think we are going to get out of this?” I asked suddenly. “I don’t know. But I do want to know this.” Zach pulled me a little closer, “I need to know this.” My heart pounded. Talking. Was. Difficult. Especially about these things. To anyone. Details had been gone over with the attorneys, but that was it. Not Scott. Not mom. Nobody. How do I explain that he kept a hand on the left side of my waist. How he moved his hands in certain ways, or pressed down on me when I was sleeping till I could barely breathe. Then and ready did. Even pressure, I started to talk, carefully wording everything to stop whenever Zach wanted me to. But he never when I started crying as I described the the pain, the constant nightmares.

He only asked the occasional question, otherwise I was free to say what I wanted. By the time I finished, the sky was starting to lighten. We had seen or heard nothing for hours. “Now what?” Zach asked after the sun had risen and we had been huddled together in silence. “I don’t know.” “How do we know who won?” “We wait.” I offered. Sure enough eventually three men came down the path. Armed. And searching.

A radio was on their belt and we caught snippets of what was going on. “Got two more. How many does that leave?” “Nearly forty.” “All right. Move on.” And then they were gone. “40?” Zach whispered to me. “40 what?” “40 people alive?” I offered, “Uncaptured?” “That would be my guess. But where would they go?” Zach was frustrated, “And who are they?” “I don’t know.” Eventually we did have to get down. We had to relieve ourselves, and my stomach started to growl. “What do we do?” “Well, we can’t stay on the path.” “Duh.” “But maybe we can move through the snow.” “They’ll see our tracks.” “Do you have any better ideas?” I hissed. Then we heard talking. “Quick!” I shoved Zach down the opposite way, “Run!” The two of us started pelting down the pathway, away from the voices. “Move.” I panted. We rounded a corner, and for an instant I nearly panicked, there were two people in front of us.

Then I recognized Christina, and one of her body guards. “Get down!” Christina yelled, and instantly I pulled Zach down to the ground. We dropped to our stomachs, and the people behind us stopped. “Don’t shoot!” It was four campers. Nobody I recognized. “Six of you?” Christina hissed, haltering her gun. “Good lord you witnesses are good at running.” “We-” I turned to look at the four, who stared at us the same way, “You are too?” “No time for that. Put these on.” Christina handed my a pair of sleek skis. “What for?” “We’re going cross country skiing, what do you think they are for?” “But,” I looked at my hand, then at the poles that were attached, “I’ve never.” “You’ll learn fast, or you will die.” Chapter 17. It turned out there were cross country paths everywhere, you just had to know how to look for them. Christina lead the way, while the six of us struggled along behind her. My hand was seriously killing me now. I didn’t have the strength to propel myself, and I hadn’t slept last night. At all. We moved what I would have thought was deeper into the woods, but they mostly remained the same density. “Where are we going?” Asked one girl. “You will see.” Christina answered, which is the answer for ‘you are annoying me, so stop and shut up’

But just as I was reaching my point of falling over from exhaustion, Christina turned right. Immediately I saw the cabin, that I would have otherwise not have noticed. Whether that was because of the positioning of the cabin, or just my tiredness I have no idea. But we all slid up there, and the door opened. Out stepped Iris with a shotgun, she checked us, then lowered the weapon. “Six?” “All Witnesses.” Christina practically laughed in her white coat and snow pants, “Funny how good at surviving they are.” “They know how to run.” “We are right here.” I pointed out, “And extremely tired.” “Jules and Zach.” Iris said, “Fascinating.” “What?” “The cause of the invasion, and the cause’s boyfriend.” Never before had Iris been hostile towards me, or angry at all. “I-“ I stopped, “This isn’t my fault.” “No of course not.” Iris blinked, “It’s just your stalker and his army out there killing people.” “Enough [Iris’s last name]” Christina barked, “It isn’t her fault.” “No it isn’t her fault my partner was captured either!” Iris turned on her heel and walked into the cabin. “What?” Zach and I both said together. Then I let him speak, “Scott was captured?”

“Marshall Knurts, was protecting the people of this camp. He still is. From the inside. Speaking of which, get in. You all are going to catch your death.” Christina gestured inside, and we walked in. The inside was only about fifty degrees warm, but it felt like heaven. I was shivering, and fairly certain my face was wind burned at least. Thankfully nobody had any serious cases of frostbite. “Come here.” Zach threw a couple of blankets by the small space heater that was warming the entire single room cabin, and I curled next to him. “Still shivering?” He asked twenty minutes later. “No.” But my whole body was shaking, “Scared.” I admitted. “OK.” He didn’t rebuke me, or try to distill my fears. Zach knew I was scared, and he probably was too. Finally I fell asleep with him running his fingers through my hair, my head in his lap.

Chapter 18 After a while Zach must have fallen asleep too. But the next thing I knew was waking up having smacked Zach in the face apparently. “Ow.” He groaned, “Remind me to never piss you off.” “Hmm?” I sat up, slightly confused, “What?” “You were mumbling about Jonas, I tried to like you know soothe you like they do in movies and you slapped me.” “Oh, sorry.” I tried to remember my dreams, but I hadn’t really been asleep long enough. I looked out the windows, plenty of daylight still. “You hit him pretty hard.” A voice I recognized immediately came from behind me. I whipped around.

“Elle!” Instantly we were hugging. “Jules.” She said simply, and then of course we were both crying. I looked around us, trying to find anyone else I knew, “Nobody else?” There were maybe 20 other kids here, none of which I really recognized. “No.” Elle shook her head. “Nobody else made it.” I recognized the look in Elle’s eyes. I had it once. “What happened Elle?” “You don’t want to know.” She couldn’t look at me now. She was haunted too. “Whatever happened, you can tell me. I won’t freak out.” Elle remained silent. Thinking. I gave her time. “Good you’re awake.” Christina walked over to me, “Here, eat.” She handed both Zach and I granola bars, “You want to keep up your strength.” While Zach unwrapped his right away, I just set mine down, “What are we doing? What is the plan?” Christina looked at me sadly for a moment, “Phone lines are cut. And the few cells phones that are here are being blocked.” “So, no outward lines of communication? Won’t people notice when there is no communication?” “Not really. Very few calls are made from here. It will take several days for somebody to notice. In fact it is entirely possible nobody will notice until the new year.” “So, we hold out that long?” “Jonas has multiple hostages, children, and fifty men. It’s only a matter of time before he finds us.” “So what do we do?”

“Nobody knows Jules.” Christina laid it out for me, flat and true, “We can try to leave the camp, but there is a fence that runs all the way around. And we don’t know how many people Jonas has guarding the perimeter.” “Spy on him!” “Without leaving tracks?” “You have those skis.” I pointed out to her, “Use them.” “And who do you want to send out on that mission? What happens if that person gets captured? You of all people know what Jonas could do for information.” “Any plan we try is going to have risks! Stay here and like you said, we are gambling at how much time before Jonas finds this place. Or gets the location from... somebody.” I had little doubt about what was happening to Scott right now. Scott was my Marshall. He knew me. Therefore Jonas would do whatever he wanted with him. The door suddenly opened, and Christina pulled her gun out before she had even completely turned to the door. But it was just Iris. “Nothing. Nobody.” Iris stepped inside, shaking out her light brown hair. “Just snow. And more of it coming.” “Right. We need to set up a watch for tonight. We’ll figure out where to go from here.” “Tonight? What time is it?” “Nearly five.” Elle answered for me. “Really?” I looked out the window, and the sun was just starting to set. “I didn’t realize I had slept that long.” “You were up all night.” Elle pointed out. “So were you.”

“No, I fell asleep under the bleachers out at the old capture the flag fields.” “Oh. That’s where we were supposed to go, but.” I paused trying to figured out how to phrase Zach being to heavy. “I would have left tracks.” He put in for me, and I nodded. “Where’d you go then?” “Down to the lake, then around it, but like on it.” I stumbled trying to figure out how explain. “Anyways, we ended up in the pines. Up a tree.” Elle laughed a bit, “Of course you did.” “You were on the lake?” A girl who had been off to the side came forward, “Did you see it?” I didn’t have to ask to know what she was talking about, but I did anyways, “See what?” “Zoe and Chris. They were shot.” I flinched at the bluntness of her words, “Yeah, I did.” “But Kellie was fine?” “The third girl? Blue coat?” “Yeah!” “From what we saw.” Zach said, “She went with the guy.” Inside I thought that depends on how you define OK. “But she was still alive?” “Yeah. Can I ask why you want to know?” “She was my bunkmate.” “Oh.” “I’m Lauren by the way.”

“I’m Jules.” “Zach.” “Yeah,” She blushed slightly, “I know. I was here last summer.” Oh, I mouthed the word, not really needing to enunciate. “And this is Greg, Darren, Yasmine, Tony, Allison, Triana, Olaf, Rick, Weisenhower, Sarah, Freya, Tom, John, Rodney, Elizabeth, and Cally.” Lauren pointed out each person to us, a few looked up at their names, some were sleeping, and about half were listening to the conversation. It was a one room cabin after all. “So, you are one of us?” Lauren spoke to Zach and I now. I was confused before she clarified, “A Witness.” “Oh, um.” I exchanged a look with Zach. “Yeah.” “We are too.” “All of you?” I asked astonished. A room full of Witnesses? “Well, everyone cept for Elle and Rick.” Lauren shrugged. “You just, put it out there?” Zach was looking at all of them, examining each one. “Well, sort-of. We just found each other. I told them you were.” She gestured at me, “But they didn’t believe me. Mostly cause Zach, you act fairly normal.” “Um, thank you?” “Oh, it’s a compliment!” Lauren reassured him, blonde hair bouncing slightly in its short bob. “If you say so.” He muttered so low only I heard him.

Chapter 19 Night fell quickly. Two other Marshalls joined us, one had managed to get a radio. I was astonished to see George was one of them, the other was a counselors from team 2. Zeus. They were all armed with at least two guns it seemed, but there was very little food. The mess hall was where Jonas had set up his base of operations, though there was some food. Just not enough for all of us. Fortunately there was plenty of water. We just took cups outside, then put them near the space heater for a bit and voila! Fresh spring water. Or whatever. Nobody celebrated Christmas. Everyone was worried about friends, and themselves. Though a few did say “Merry freaking Christmas.” A couple of times.

That night I didn’t sleep of course. I listened in to the “war counsel” who decided to send George out on skis tomorrow. Then there was nothing to do but wait. And listen to coordinating where chatter. According professionals, not the radio. Mostly it was just them they were. The radios were kept free of to Christina this meant they were just friends or anything.

“Is that a good thing or a bad thing?” “Good because it means there is no loyalty to Jonas. Bad because they will be better at this.” “So this is seriously your fault?” Lauren asked me the next morning, just after George took off. “Jonas was the one you testified against?” “yeah.” I confirmed grimly, “Jonas is my personal Satan.” “We all think that.” Lauren skipped along, “It’s part of being a witness.” “Whatever you say.” I mimicked Zach as we went back inside. With no cards, or any other form of entertainment the only way to occupy yourself was to talk to people. We played endless games of Truth or Dare, most everyone choosing truth because that was all most of us cared about. The Truth. The night after Christmas I took Elle outside, “All right. Spit it out.” “What?” “What happened Elle?” Elle hadn’t spoken, she didn’t play any of the little games, she just stared out the window. Nothing from her. Not a peep. “I can’t- you don’t want to know.”

“Wrong. I want to know. And you is my area of expertise Elle. I know secrets, and I know they eat away at screaming at someone. So please tell

want to tell me. This you, and I know you until you end up me.”

Elle shook her long brown hair once, then sat in front of the door. “You sure?” I sat next to her, “Absolutely.” She took a deep breathe. Then another. Then anther. “I don’t know where to start.” “Start with when the siren went off.” “Right. We were in the cabin, waiting for you. At midnight everyone wanted to open the gifts their folks had sent them. Then all of a sudden there was the loud blaring. And like that Iris had a gun out. She started to scream at us to move, and I followed right away. She opened the door and told me to run to find the flag. At first I was like what? Then I realized she was like Scott. A Marshall right?” I nodded, and Elle continued, “So, I started to run, but then a guy caught me. He was dressed in black, and had a gun, he put it into my face and told me not to move. But then Dimitri came running and he tackled the guy, kicked his head and the guy was out cold. He helped me start running again. But then-” Elle stopped, remembering to breathe again. “Then we ran into another guy. And he.” Elle was crying, and while I could decipher the rest myself, I let her say it. Because she needed to. “He shot Dimitri. Right in the heart. But I kept running. I ran to the fields, and then Iris found me, brought me here, and now here we are.” The rest came out fast, one word after another, as Elle finished her tale. Then she cried. I put her head into my lap as she sobbed, “I dumped him, and wouldn’t give us a second

chance, but he went and protected me anyways. I’m a terrible terrible person Jules.” I didn’t rebuke her, didn’t try to tell her otherwise, because that would just make her feel worse. Instead I let her pour out all the anger and grief that had piled in her heart and head. Finally she ran out of tears and angry words. “I’ll miss him.” I told her. “Me too.” Elle’s voice was small, impossibly small for her. Sad and guilty. But nothing but time would help her. I knew most words that I told her would only make things worse.

Chapter 20 Monday morning came, and I woke up next to Zach on the floor. We hadn’t really started the night next to each other, but every morning I was snuggled into his side, and he had an arm around me. Whether is was just a proximity thing, or if plain and simple we were cold, I didn’t mind. Neither did he. I liked waking up to see him right by me. The physical contact reassured me he was here. And that I wouldn’t lose him. Not anytime soon anyways. But I realized everyone else was still sleeping. Why had I woken up? Usually I was the last one up. Jules. I jumped. The radio was speaking my name.

I’m sure Jules has a radio, but if she doesn’t whoever is helping her hear this. I have over one hundred people, and I can start killing them anytime I want. But Jules, there is one here that might mean something to you. Marshall Scott Knurts. Such a strong one Jules. You want him broken like you? Here, let me demonstrate something. For a second you could hear nothing but random bumping then a single scream was heard. A scream of pain. Shortly after I heard. Jules, don’t- But Jonas quickly cut Scott off. “Return to me café girl.” Then the radio was silent. The terms for me were laid out. And I was paralyzed. Unable to think, breathe, or do anything really. “You heard him?” Iris asked me. “Yes.” “Scott might die.” “I know.”

Chapter 20

Jonas repeated his message a couple of times during the rest of the day. “Don’t pay any attention to him.” Christina finally turned off the radio when she realized Jonas wasn’t even using the radio for any other purposes. But I did. I thought. People could be dying because of me. People had certainly already died because of me. So many had. I could stop all of this. I really could. But then I looked at Zach, or Elle, or any of the Witnesses, and I wanted to cling to them, to this forever. TO being normal. To being alive.

But food was running out. And my mind was constantly drawing up new images of Scott dead. One after another. Jonas would use the knife, that much I was certain of. Slice him, watching him bleed... Could I stop it? Jonas is a psycho. Complete and utter psycho, but he has a sort-of sense of honor. Then again he broke out of jail to come here. If he was caught again there was no doubt Jonas would go to jail forever. No doubt. But who would die before that happened? Already casualties were in double digits, and that was all we knew about. He could be killing people right now. He could be breaking girls. I was going insane. Zach noticed I was preoccupied, but he didn’t seem to put the two things together. Didn’t think about the fact that I would ever consider doing it. Consider going back. On my own. Willingly. I couldn’t believe I was considering it either. Monday night I didn’t sleep. Zach fell asleep next to me, but there was no comfort in him. I stood slowly and walked over to Christina and Iris. They were huddled together, discussing. Jonas was getting closer to the cabin. George wasn’t back yet. What if he was caught? What if Jonas found the cabin. What if, what if. There were too many what ifs. Too many variables we couldn’t consider. None of them leading to any good places. But nobody knew what to do. We all knew the situation, but there was no good way out. The fork in the road where it isn’t even a choice between bad and worse. They are both equally bad, the question is what happens when you go around the bend. Which one gets better, and which one only gets worse.

Then Christina and Iris made a fatal mistake. They turned on the radio, just to check, not realizing I was awake. “Jules, please.” “Jessica, please.” “Jules please.” “Jessica please.” It was the captured people. Jonas had looped the outgoing signal to them begging me to come. I heard Summer, and Arewen. And Jared. “Save them café girl.” Jonas hissed into the radio, “Come to me.” Christina looked over at me, and quickly turned the radio off. Iris looked up, and saw the shock on my face. But she didn’t say anything. “Go to sleep Jules.” “Is he killing people?” I asked, not remembering to keep my voice down. “That’s not-” “Is he killing people?!” I screamed, and almost everyone shot up in their makeshift beds. “Jules, calm down.” Christina stood, but her lack of answer told me. He was. I walked out of the cabin. Christina, Iris, and Zach followed me. I only waked forward a few paces before turning to them, “He’s killing people.” “Yes.” Even though I hadn’t phrased it as a question, Iris confirmed it. She didn’t hide the truth from me. Probably because she didn’t care about me. She wanted Scott back.

“And we are doing nothing.” “There is nothing we can do.” Christina tried to move forward, but I stepped farther into the snow. Zach looked confused. He was still clinging onto remnants of sleep. Then he put two and two together, “Jules, you can’t control him.” “But I can stop him!” “What makes you think he will stop?” Christina became angry, “What makes you think that just because you go to him he will stop?” “Because,” I paused, “Because I know Jonas. And how do you know he won’t?” “Because I know his profile. And I know bastards like him.” “Fine!” I screamed the word at her. One word. Then I couldn’t hold tears back anymore. They sunk down my cheeks. “Fine.” I repeated, “Fine.” Over and over again, as if I said it enough times it would be true. “Jules.” Zach moved forward, but I shoved him away. “Don’t touch me.” I spat. Then I stalked back into the cabin. Everyone stared at me as I sat down, away from everyone as much was possible in the single room. I radiated hostility, ready to scream at anyone who came near me. Luckily everyone seemed to see this and went back to bed. But I stayed awake. Softly beating my head into the wall. Bang. Yes. Bang. No. Bang. Stay. Bang. Leave. Bang. Zach. Bang. Scott.

Iris watched me deliberate. She stared me down, not caring that I knew she was watching. She waited for my decision, just as I did. Finally I stopped. Decision made. There was no intense revelation, I just knew. It was a slow movement of thought, like lava progressing down a mountainside until it finally found Pompeii. It was always headed there, but it took time to arrive. I thought for one more second, then I stood. My boots clunked into the wood floor, and I walked up to Iris, “Pen and paper.” She handed me a lined yellow office pad. And a blue pen, wordlessly. And she knew my decision. I took it and sat on a bench to carefully construct my letter.

Dear Zach,
Each word I chose carefully. Painstakingly. So that the sun was nearly ready to come up before I placed it on my pillow next to Zach. He was sleeping and I paused to look at him for a moment. Even in sleep Zach looked too serious. Worried. Was it my fault for the way he clenched the blanket in his hand? Or how his eyes were just a smidge tighter than necessary. I nearly stopped there. Took the letter shredded it and curled into him. Nearly. Instead I reached down and pulled his scarf off the floor. I contemplated putting it on him, but an idea occurred to me. I unwrapped my scarf from around my neck and carefully folded it. I placed it under the note. He would know it was mine. And I took his and inhaled. Yup, he only had it a week, but it smelled like him. I know all romance things talk about smells, but it’s true.

Every person has a slightly different smell. And when it is someone you care about, you recognize that smell anywhere. I honestly don’t know how to describe different smells, but everyone has one. I wrapped the scarf around my face, slipped on my vest and started towards the door. “Jules?” Elle, of course. Ever insomniatic Elle. Knowing my secrets in the night. I froze and turned. She looked up from the wall which she had been sleeping against. I turned away and walked towards the door, nodding at Iris, whose only parting wisdom to me was, “Do what you have to.” What I had to, or what she wished she could? Thankfully the door opened softly. No creaking or loud bangs from the wind. I stepped out, crunching snow under my boots. A few snowflakes slipped into the light. Light snowfall. The door opened behind me, and Elle stepped out in her coat and boots. Even with my back to her, I could hear her disagreement, “I have to go Elle.” “No you don’t. You can stay.” “Stay and know people are dying because of me. That people have died because of me?” “Because of Jonas. It isn’t your-” “Because I was here. That’s why Jonas is here. He gave me a choice earlier Elle. He said if I went with him nobody would die. Dimitri would be alive if I hadn’t ran.” “You had no way of knowing.” “But I did!” Tears started to pool in my eyes as I turned to Elle, “I knew, I know Jonas. He stays true to his word. He said people would die and they have. He says people will stop dying if I go to him. He’ll hold true to that word.” “How do you know?”

“I just do.” I began snapping my boots into a pair of skis. They would help insure I didn’t leave tracks leading to this cabin. Possibly the only safe places for miles. “But he will kill you!” The tears stopped running. Only a few made their way down my cheek before I managed to regain control. I did not bother wiping them away. They could stay there. “Maybe.” I was resigned to my fate, “But then I can say I have done everything.” “Not if you are dead!” “But I have to try Elle! I have to try, for Scott, For Jared, For Summer and Kaylee, for Lindsey, Arewen, and Felecia. Hell, even for Lucas is the jerk is still alive. “He doesn’t deserve it.” “Maybe not.” I practically laughed, “But the others do. And I’m not sure even Lucas deserves the kind of torture Jonas can give.” “Why then put yourself into it?” Elle was begging to understand. Trying desperately. “To prevent more death! To prevent more suffering. Maybe it is big of me to think that me death or suffering will stop it from happening to other, but I have to try Elle!” I took the poles from the wall of the cabin, ready to start, “I have to try.” I repeated softly. “No.” Elle was crying now, and she came to stand in front of me. “No I won’t let you.” She stood on the skis. “You can’t. I can’t lose you too!” I looked at her sadly, “Elle, I have made my choice, you can’t stop me.” Then Elle hugged me, sobbing, “I had to try too.” And I knew she understood. So I hugged her back, one last time to feel somebody close to me and enjoy it. One last time.

She pulled back, “Here, it’s cold. Take my coat.” I didn’t object as I took the parka and slipped it on. “And, be careful.” “Careful as I can be when dealing with a psycho.” I grimaced, “Tell Zach I’m sorry. And make sure he stays here.” “Bit hypocritical isn’t that?” “Maybe a little. But Jonas doesn’t want him.” Again I took the ski poles, “Bye Elle.” “Bye Jules.” “By the way, my name. It used to be Jessica.” “I know. But you are still Jules.”

Chapter 21. The trek across country took a long time. While I wasn’t nearly as cold as last time, I no longer had any kind of drugs in my system to help with the pain in my hand. I was not a good cross country skier, thus I had to use the poles a lot. Thus my hand wanted to personally cut itself off. The sun rose, and after two hours I started wondering if I was going the right way. In the dark it had been hard to follow any sort-of path and I was fairly certain I had gone off it for a while. Still I continued forward. I figured the further I got from the cabin the better. And one of Jonas’s men would find me sooner or later. So was the theory anyway.

After another hour and a half I stopped and sat down. I pulled off the hand brace and shoved my hand into the nearest pile of snow large enough. The pain melted away gradually. First hot, resisting the cold, then finally the hand went numb. “OK Jules. Where to go?” I asked myself. There was no way it had taken this long when we got here Friday night. Finally I just picked a direction, slipped the brace back on, and started moving again. “Come on, just a bit further.” I chanted to myself, “Bit further. Bit more.” Then I found the road. The one that led from the front gate to the parking lot. “OK. So I know where I am.” I decided, “And that means...” I took off the skis. Sliding them into the snow, then I started walking. One foot in front of the other down the center of the road. It took me ten minutes to reach the parking lot, and from there I was found. “Hey you! Stop where you are!” Two thugs were sitting in the back of a UPS truck, and they leaped up when they saw me, both had guns pointed at me. I held up my hands, “My name is Jessica. I am the one Jonas wants.” “Yeah, we’ll see about that.” The shorter of the two came forward, “Come on, we’ll take you to Jonas.” “That’s the general idea.” I rolled my eyes. Hiding behind sarcasm. “Watch it smart-mouth!” He poked me in the back with his gun. “All right! Where we going? Mess hall?”

“Yeah.” They were both behind me, so I started walking down the path, acting nonchalant as I could. After a minute I started whistling. “Stop that!” Snapped the thug. “Sorry. Long walk.” I responded. “Kind of bored.” We finally reached the mess hall, which had only about twenty guards around it. “What’cha got Leroy?” “Says she’s Jessica!” The short one announced, poking me again in the back. “Hey!” I pretended to be offended, “No need to be pushy!” I tried to disguise the shaking in my heart. Or how it was hammering. I hid behind Jules’ personality. “Yeah Leroy.” Another goon stalked forward, “No need to be PUSHY!” As he said so, he shoved me into a nearby snowdrift. I fell into the cold snow, and the guy followed me, “You want pushy? I’ll give you pushy.” He started to roam his hands down my body, and reacting instinctively I shoved him away. “Oh ho ho! Fighter aren’t you? Maybe you are Jessica. Let’s see. Boys, hold her down.” I fought, lord I did fight, but three of them held me down as the main guy pulled off first my coat, then my vest. At first I thought he was going to do the worse, but then he just pulled down the left shoulder on my shirt. Oh, the scar. From Jonas, I had a knife scar about six inches long down my left shoulder blade. He gave it to me to “teach me a lesson.” “OK, hands off boys. Jonas has instructions for this on. Not to be touched.” The guy pulled back, “No offense meant Jessica.” “Whatever.” I pulled my vest back into place, and the coat.

“Now, time to see your master.” “Sir, don’t we get?” Leroy started to address the leader. “Back to your post Leroy! Or I’ll have you shot.” Barked the man. Leroy and his partner scurried off immediately. I realized they wouldn’t react like that to an empty threat, and shuddered at the thought of this kind of man being Jonas’s right hand man. Though admittedly, his last one had been mysteriously murdered in his jail cell. From what I heard. Rumors though, that was all. Rumors Rumors Rumors.

Chapter 22 The Big Dog, AKA BD in my mind, took my upper arm and proceeded to pull me into the mess hall. “Lookie here!” He announced, and I tried to hide my shock. Everyone was here. In the mess at tables everyone in the camp was huddled together. Four days together with probably little or no sleep or food. Even though the kitchen was mere feet away. “I have found your salvation!” BD called to the mass of people, “Little Jessica.” He laughed evilly, “Maybe now some of you will stop dying.” The sheer hatred that rose in me made me want to spit on this guy. To rub my foot in his face. The disgusting bastard only cackled and pulled me forward.

Unsurprisingly he pulled me to the staircase leading upstairs. “Jonas!” He yelled opening the door. “I got a present for ya!” And there he was. Hand wrapped in pure white gauze, eyes now gleaming, and toying with a knife in his undamaged hand. There he was. “Why! It is Jessica! My little café girl. I told you you would come to me.” Jonas’s teeth gleamed. “Good job Dave. Why don’t you find the cook, Stephie I believe? Tell her to make something for those poor starving children down there. Now that the café girl is back, we may all eat.” “Sit.” Commanded, Dave? Such a boring name for one so cruel. I imagined his real name was something along the lines of Satan. Or demon. The entire like. I sat in a plastic chair in the center of the room. Much in the same way I had once when I was questioned about Victoria’s death back in the summer. Only I wasn’t immediately handcuffed. Yeah, that kind of changes thing. Did I mention the phsycokiller in the room as well? “Jules, Jessica, Jules Jessica.” Jonas juggled the names, “I don’t know which I like better. Perhaps we should try and combine them. Julia, or Jules. What do you think?” I stared at the wall. Picked a spot and stared. “Hmm.” Jonas didn’t seem to be too put off by my lack of response. “Well, who knows. I suppose I will just use both and we’ll see where things go from there correct?” “Where is Scott?” I continued to stare at the wall, but I noticed the lack of him more than anything else. He wasn’t here, and he hadn’t been in the mess hall. Was he dead? “Oh, the Marshall. We have him safely hidden.” “Where?”

“Well that’s the point of hiding him!” Jonas stage whispered ‘hiding him’. “What do you want?” “You. Nothing more, nothing less.” “You have me. Now what?” “Now, I would like to eat. I for one am starving.” Jonas stayed where he was. Unmoving from his little table. I could see him in my peripheral vision. “Ulrich? Can you get me a sandwich please? Oh, and how about some tea for our guest.” I heard shuffling behind me as Ulrich went downstairs to fetch Jonas what he wanted. I wondered how many people Jonas had around here? Fifty must have been a kind guess earlier. “Tell me Jules. What have you been up to while I have been imprisoned?” Chapter 23. When Ulrich came back, I had resolved myself to complete and utter silence. A lack of answer or reaction to anything. Jonas ate his sandwich, and drank the tea. He offered my some, but when I didn’t answer him in any way he just drank it himself. “Delicious! My compliments to dear Stephanie.” Jonas gave his plate to Ulrich, then he pulled a chair out of nowhere and put it a few feet in front of me. Jonas sat in the chair and for a while just watched me as I watched the wall. To distract myself I started to think about Zach and Elle. Zach will have read the letter already. I wonder if he buried his face in my scarf the way I had to his.

Dear Zach,

As you have already figured out, I have left. Jonas leaves me no choice. I cannot stay here and just wait for something to happen. Not when in the meantime people are dying. Please don’t be agree with me. I wanted to stay with you really. Forever. I had hoped to possibly marry you one day. But I realize now I will never be able to be with you if I didn’t do this. I would never forgive myself, and neither would you. I love you, Jules
I hoped he wouldn’t come after me. I hoped Elle restrained him. I hope Christina would handcuff him to the cabin if necessary. Hope hope hope. Such a silly thing. But it keeps us going when nothing else does. Eventually Jonas got bored of watching me, “Scott doesn’t really speak much. You were assigned a good Marshall. Well, good in the respect that he can hold in words. Though it is partially his fault I found you. You want to know how?” I did. And I didn’t. I didn’t want to hear how Scott screwed up, but I did want to know how Jonas found me. So he continued, “He let you come here again. He thought I only had Cherrie in the camp. As if I would be stupid enough to only have one contact in a place like this. He underestimated me. Just like you did Jules.”

Finished with his little explanation Jonas stood, “Take her to the Marshall.” By the time you could have said Freedom I was being taken downstairs. Then down more stairs into the basement of the mess hall. Jonas’s favorite place. A basement.

Chapter 24 The stairs to the basement creaked louder than I would have liked. They practically screamed water damage, and I nearly fell face first down then. “Come on café girl.” Dave laughed, “Don’t fall now.” He kicked the back of my knees sending me tumbling down the stairs. “Klutz.” He looked down at me from a few steps up, “Now get up.” Carefully I sat up onto my knees. The floor was frigid, the concrete sucking up cold from the outside and any body heat I had left in me. My hand brace had been taken off when they cuffed my hands together, so when I initially tried to push myself off the ground, pain lanced through my hand.

“Ah!” I cried, and fell back onto the ground. I would have cradled my hand to my chest, but it was currently stuck behind my back. “Oh, does the café girl have a boo boo?” Dave talked in baby talk, making his words soft. “Yeah, I broke my hand dirt-bag.” I spat, the pain making me overly irritated. “Well that’s just too bad.” Dave shifted away from the baby talk, “Now get up.” He had to lift me by the arm to get me to stand, but then we were walking down a concrete hallway. Lights were intermittent and just bare bulbs, giving the whole thing a very prison type feeling. “Your quarters madam.” Dave held open one of the doors and then pushed me in. “Do call if you need anything.” Then he slammed the door shut, cackling. I surveyed the room. Barren. And not really a room, probably once a closet, but Jonas had cleaned it out pretty thoroughly. He was smart this time though. I was alone. About an hour later I was sitting in the back corner when the door opened. Dave was back, but this time he was surveyed by his master and all business. “Come with me.” I slid up the wall, using it to push myself upwards and then carefully obeyed the order. Dave walked me down further into what I realized was a labyrinth of hallways and basements that must have spread out far beyond the limits of the mess hall. Then he came to another door, stopped and opened it. Jonas roughly took me by the arm and pulled me into the room. Jonas shoved me into a chair just a few feet in front of Scott. One of his men held me firmly as he undid my own handcuffs, only to refasten them so that I was attached to the chair. Then he nodded, and the man faded away into one of the dark corners of the room.

As he did so my view of Scott was unblocked. Even though the top part of his face was covered by the dirty rag, I could see the bruises. And the unmistakable bloodstains... This was the only observation I was able to make before my attention was turned to the man standing behind me. More specifically his tongue on my neck. The feeling made me shudder and I had to force myself not to gag audibly. That would only encourage him. The wet feeling stopped and he spoke softly, just loud enough to make sure Scott could barely hear him, “Jessica. My café girl.” “Or rather, my café bitch.” Jonas said, and as he spat out the last word he struck my face. My head snapped to the right, and I closed my eyes for a few moments as he started to calmly walk around me, speaking with slow deliberateness. “Why Jessica? I understand your running. Many try it.” I forced my eyes open now to look at Scott, “In fact I often enjoy the defiance, but you.” Jonas laughed softly, “You Jessica were the one that got away.” What started this? Why all of a sudden was Jonas being angry. Sure he had mood swings of a sort before, but I knew there was no way he would eat lunch with me one hour and bring me to what could only be a torture room the next. Maybe Elle was right. He is a psychopath. One who couldn’t be trusted to do anything. “What do you want?” My voice came out much stronger than I felt I was. “Me? I want many things Jessica.” Again he started to circle me as he talked deliberately and slowly, “Tell you what I do not want. I do not want to go to jail for the rest of my life.” He was blocking my view of Scott again, forcing me to look at him. He almost laughed, “But you two.” And he pointed one finger at me and the other at Scott, unblocking my view of him, “Seem determined to do it anyways!” By the time he

reached anyways his voice was angry again. I noticed something then. Scott had stopped watching Jonas. Now he was watching me, a silent message came across in his eyes, “I’m sorry.” I wanted nothing more than to stop the despair that I saw. Scott wasn’t shielding himself the way he normally did, and I realized that he wasn’t the super guardian I had thought he was. Just like me, he had his own demons, and just like me he was scared. A heartbeat later the mask slid back up. But I knew now what lay beneath the surface and everything was different. There was no safety. I had to wonder, Why am I not dead yet? “There is something else Jessica. I thought I made something clear to you the day you came to me. I made something immensely clear, that I make clear to all of my girls. You remember what that is Jessica?” To be honest there were a lot of things Jonas had made clear that first day. That I wasn’t safe. That I no longer belonged to my parents or to myself. To never say no. To never fight because it will only make things worse. And that nobody around me was safe. For once Jonas continued without me responding, “I thought I made it clear that you belong to me!” Now he was spitting and red in the face. Jules would have yelled back. Or spat in his eye. But he kept calling me Jessica. I stared at the floor, trying to figure out who I was in this fight. But Jonas decided for me, just like he always will. “Answer me Jessica!” And Jessica didn’t have any fight left in her. “You did.” I whispered. “So I thought.” Jonas’s face returned to its normal color. “So tell me.” He stood behind me and leaned in again. “Why did you find someone else?”

Zach. Again the dilemma. Jules knew Zach. Jessica didn’t. Jules would fight to protect Zach. Jessica would do anything to stop the pain. I went back and forth in my head for so long on how to respond I angered Jonas again. He grabbed my hair and pulled so hard that the chair went onto its hind legs. His face was so close that I was forced to breathe in the smell of him, “I’m sorry!” Jessica won again. Jonas let go and my gravity moved back to its original balance. Then he knelt in front of me. “Prove it.” I should have known what came next. Experience should have informed me. But I was still a small bit surprised when he made me prove it. However I was still disgusted. When he pressed his mouth onto mine I knew what he wanted. He wanted no resistance at least, and a full reaction at the most. Jessica remembered well what not to do. To just let him. It would be over soon. Even though he wanted me to move my lips against his I couldn’t. Then as he forced he tongue past my lips I realized something. I wouldn’t. Suddenly Jules took over and I bit him. He leapt back, clearly Jonas had not been expecting that. I spat out the taste of him. I had promised myself, “Never again.” I didn’t realize that I had said that out-loud for a moment. Jonas froze, eyes on the blood on his hand, “What did you say?” His eyes slid up to look at me. Yes, now is the time for an “oh shit.” Still I swallowed, looked him directly in the eye and said Jonas’s absolute least favorite word, “No.” “No? There is a word I have not heard from you in a very long time Jessica.” He walked forward and wiped his

hand on my shirt, lingering much longer than I would have liked. “Perhaps I should remind you what ‘no’ means.” Finally he pulled his hand away, only to place his foot on the chair, right between my legs. He pushed just enough that my sense of gravity shifted backwards, then just as it reached the point that would have sent me backwards, he shifted the foot slightly, keeping my entire weight on the back two legs of the chair. I knew what he wanted. Jonas wanted Jessica to respond, to cry out that she didn’t mean it, that she would do what he wanted. But I didn’t. I repeated my rebellion against Jonas, “No.” Your entire body and a heavy chair landing on your arms when they’re handcuffed behind you really hurts by the way. I rolled onto my left side, coughing. The wind had been knocked out of me a bit, and I knew I was going to be black and blue. “No.” The word escaped again. I made my choice. I embraced Jules. Never forget Jessica. But do not become her. I made my choices now. “Pull it up.” Jonas commanded, and Dave stepped out of the shadows to pull my chair back into a proper sitting position. Jonas examined me, standing closely to watch. I rolled my neck experimentally, just checking to make sure I hadn’t wrenched it too much. “Knife.” Jonas said to the room, and Dave appeared again, he handed Jonas was probably supposed to be a decorative dagger. The blade was thin and sharp, slightly curved. I didn’t recognize it, not that that meant much. First Jonas came towards me, then he turned to Scott. Jonas began twirling the knife along his fingers. He stalked towards Scott.

I tugged at my chains uselessly. There was nothing I could do. But I kept my mouth shut for a while. “United States Marshall Scott Knurts. Quite a title.” Jonas stalked around Scott’s chair. Constantly moving. “So in essence, he is your protector. Not too good of a protector, I have found you twice Jessica.” Whether Jonas was supposed to be torturing me right now, or Scott, I had no idea. “Though, he is strong. All I know is his name and job title. Four days and that’s all he gave. But I wonder, if you are here.” Jonas twiddled the knife. Then he set the knife, point first on Scott’s right shoulder, just balancing it, the knife didn’t even break skin. “I tried to find out where he sent you, I knew he told you to go somewhere. But where?” Jonas pushed lightly on the blade and Scott flinched. “Where Jules?” He teased, twirling the knife. The shirt had been ripped now, and the first layers of skin would be broken. Scott glared at me, and I knew what he wanted me to say, “No.” or “I don’t know.” Or something along the lines of tell him nothing. But Jonas needed to think I was cooperating. “The flag fields.” I said, “He told us to go to the capture the flag fields.” “I see.” Jonas stopped twirling the knife, and I felt my heartbeat lessen just a bit, but then he pushed the knife two inches into flesh. Scott emitted half a yelp before managing to stifle it. “Stop!” I screamed, leaning forward unintentionally. Jonas halted the knife’s progression, “You wouldn’t be lying to me would you Jessica? Because if you were.” Jonas slowly started to twist the knife to the right, “That would be bad.” “No! I’m not, he told us to go to the flag fields and to hide under the bleachers.” I borrowed the detail from Elle, who actually had gone.

“All right.” Jonas jerked the knife out, spattering on the floor. “I will be back then. Dave, you out too. Oh, and please remove the gag from Knurt’s mouth. I imagine he and Jessica might have a few things to talk about.” Dave strode out of the dark confines and took the knife from Jonas, using it to cut off the rag. He threw it onto the floor, and then calmly left the room. When he shut the door, the single light bulb above us flickered and for one terrifying moment I thought it would go out. But the light stayed on. Leaving me to see the damaged I had caused.

Chapter 25 Scott breathed deeply, sucking in breathe as if that might stop the pain. “Why did you tell him?” He asked, voice low. “I had to.” I was going to end up crying, “He had a knife in you.” “He’s had plenty of knives in me Jules.” Scott’s eyes darted up to mine, “You can not give in like that again. I don’t care what he does to me. Don’t give up everyone else.” I got defensive, “What would you have done?! If he had a knife two inches into my shoulder.” “That’s different.” “How?” “I wouldn’t give him anything useful.”

“And how do you know if my information is useful? I’m not stupid. There isn’t anyone there.” “Maybe not, but there could be tracks. Signs of where everyone went Jules! You don’t think! Give him a starting point and he will follow any kind of sign he can find. Jonas is not stupid!” Now Scott was shouting at me. So much so that I pulled back leaning into the chair now. Abruptly Scott stopped. He breathed heavily, whether it was from pain or from the yelling, I have no idea. But either way, the silence that stretched out was almost unbearable. “I don’t want you hurt.” I finally admitted. Scott looked at me. Really looked at me, blood starting to run down the left side of his face again from a previous cut. “Too late for that.” “But I can stop it now.” “No you can’t Jules. I know think nothing can happen to you, powerful. But you aren’t. Giving delay things a bit, but it won’t “It might.” “No. It won’t. It never has, and it never will.” Silence fell again. I tugged a bit at the chains, bruising my wrists. “Keep doing that and you’ll get some nasty scars.” “Yeah, then I’ll look how I am.” I said sarcastically, but I did stop chaffing them. “How many?” Scott asked. “A little over 30.” I responded, knowing the full question, “Elle, and Zach. And Iris.” Scott nodded weakly. “Knew Zach would. I’m surprised he let you come.” you are a teenager, so you and that you are all Jonas what he wanted might stop him.”

The little brightness that had come out of giving Scott good news was abruptly put out. “He didn’t know. I sort-of snuck out.” “I might have known.” “Yeah.” The concrete sucked up heat, and I began to shiver. The metal in my chair was getting cold again, my body heat apparently not enough to sustain it. “Listen Jules.” Scott gathered himself for something important. “Let him do what he wants to me. I don’t care, just don’t give him the others. Protect them, I will live.” “What if you don’t?” The question escaped before I could pull it back from my thoughts. “I can handle that.” “What if I can’t?” “Jules, you are surrounded by amazing people. Elle, Zach, your mom. You can make it without me.” I wanted to tell him no. He was essential in my life right now, but the door opened again. It was just Dave. He slid in, shutting the door quietly. Then he grinned at me. “Lookie here! The café girl and her Marshall.” “Lookie here, Jonas’s lackie!” I responded. “Tell me, Dave, do you beg too, or do you only play fetch?” “Watch it. I could kill you.” “You wouldn’t dare.” I gambled, “Jonas wants me alive in case you haven’t noticed. You know, I think he might like me more than you.” Scott almost looked amused by my banter, which encouraged me. The talking kept me from shaking and if it helped distract Scott, then I would keep it going all night.

“What are you? An object. A conquest. One that Jonas seems to pursue forever.” Dave spat, “I am his right hand man! Jonas trusts me.” “Really.” I paused, pretending to think about that, “Then tell me, what is Jonas’s favorite color?” That threw Dave off. Like I was a 6 year old asking a silly question to “get to know” people better. “What?” “What’s his favorite color? I mean, if you are his right hand man, you must know his favorite color. His fetishes’. Hair up or down? Blonde or brunette? Come on, don’t you know those juicy details. Isn’t that what guys talk to each other about?” Dave started to get angry, “Don’t talk to me like that! I have a knife.” “Yeah, well you may have a knife, but Jonas seems to be the one using it to cut off your balls.” Now Scott did laugh, he snickered actually. “You!” Dave moved on like he was going to hit me, but I started. “Ah ah ah! Touch me and I’ll make sure Jonas knows about it! You can bet your ass you will end up like Oscar. Or did Jonas tell you what happened to Oscar? His last right hand man? Very strange killing. Happened in prison. Nobody knows who did it.” I trailed off, letting Dave think whatever he wanted to think. “Oscar was a rat!” “And what do you think will happen if I tell Jonas I’ve seen you before?” I hinted, “Jonas doesn’t take chances Dave. So scurry along.” “You wouldn’t dare.” “I think you fail to see something Dave, I have nothing to lose!” “Your life.”

“You think that me walking in here meant I was clinging to that huh? Remember, I know Jonas. I know he might kill me.” “He will.” “We shall see.” I replied. Then I made a shooing motion with my head, “Now get.” Dave turned and opened the door, slamming it on his way out. Scott chucked, “Good job.” “Yeah well, Dave I can deal with. It’s Jonas that makes me terrified.” “Do what you just did to Dave. I’m sure he will let us out himself.”

Chapter 26 Jonas didn’t return to the cell for a while, but when he did was angry, “There was nothing there!” He spat. I tried to focus on Jules, letting her sarcasm carry me through, “Of course there was nothing there. What did you expect, ten people all gift-wrapped for you?” “Ten.” Jonas stopped, taking the tiny piece of bait I had laid out. “ten?” I pretended to suddenly shut up. As if I had messed up. “Ten.” Jonas repeated again, grinning, “Only ten.” “Only ten?” I said, “What, are there more?” I pretended to get hopeful. “A few. So they must be in two groups.” Jonas suddenly forgot I was there, pacing, “We have to spread everyone out to cover more ground.” He talked to himself, something else I knew about Jonas. He was one of those guys to tell you his entire evil scheme. If you could just get him talking.

“Dave. Relay those instructions. Tell the search teams to split. Half and half. Cover more ground. There will be less people to take down anyways.” Dave disappeared out of the door. Leaving Scott and I alone in the room. Jonas turned to me first, “You are being most helpful Jules. Certainly more helpful than Knurts was.” Jonas pretended to shoot what I supposed was a dirty look at Scott. “You always were my favorite.” Jonas leaned in front of me, taking a piece of hair and running it through my fingers, “Resisted the most, but you broke the most too. Once that spirit was gone... it was gone.” I jerked my head back away from Jonas and he let go of the hair. “Well, I thought it was gone anyways.” Jonas smiled. “So, do I get any kind of reward for being so helpful?” “That depends. What do you want?” “Freedom would be nice.” Jonas laughed, “You know the answer to that one.” I shrugged, “How about Scott’s freedom?” I offered, and this one I did put a bit of hope in. Jonas looked at Scott, who was just staring at Jonas. The death glare of Knurts. “No. One more try?” Jonas offered. “Bathroom would be nice.” I finally went with, “And Scott gets cleaned up.” Jonas thought it over, glancing over at Scott, “He is rather messy isn’t he? Fine. You will be escorted by Dave to the bathrooms, and I will have the nurse brought down to mop up the Marshall.”

But Dave wasn’t back yet. Giving Jonas a few minutes to do what he wanted. He looked over me hungrily, “Jessica, the café girl. Do you still taste like cinnamon?” Jonas again went behind me and sucked on my neck. I allowed it, restraining myself from screaming. “Mmm. No, not cinnamon anymore. I don’t know what you taste like Jessica, perhaps further exploration is needed.” “No.” I halted him, “I do not think so.” “But Jessica, I have to tied to a chair remember? I can do whatever I want.” Jonas leaned forward again, putting his mouth to my neck, and sliding a hand forward, just barely dancing across my skin, playing with the hem of my shirt. This time though, I used my head. Literally. I slammed my head into his, sending him recoiling backwards. At first I thought he would be angry. Furious, and I nearly showed my fear of what he would do, but then Jonas began to laugh, “Spirit Jessica. It does come back. Go on then.” He just wiped the blood away from his mouth. Dave appeared in the door, he gasped at Jonas’s blood, “Jonas! Are you all right? What did she do to you?” “Nothing Dave.” Jonas waved him off, looking appreciatively at the blood, “Spirited Jessica. It’s all right. Breaking her later will only be all the more fun. You know, I might let you join me.” What little confidence I had drained away. Being broken. Like a horse. Still, I took my smallish victory. Dave undid my handcuffs and had to escort me back upstairs to get to the bathrooms. I got a glance of everyone. They looked fed, and as far as I could tell nobody was gone. Kaylee and Jared had both waved at me before Dave made me look forward. Dave had to removed the handcuffs

“Five minutes.” Was all he said and he pushed me into the women’s bathroom. I hurried into a stall to take care of business. Once I came out, I ran my hands under water, running it first hot to warm my fingers, then cold to help the skin that had been rubbed raw. My damaged hand throbbed, I hadn’t actually noticed until now. Adrenalin took care of that pain most of the time recently. I looked at myself in the mirror. Hair everywhere, I didn’t even bother trying to fix that. Dark circles under my eyes, and what looked like a light red bruise on my neck from Jonas’s mouth. But I checked the back of my arms, and long bruises were already beginning to form. I took a long drink from the sink, not certain when I would next eat or drink, and then walked back out. Dave glared at me, “Everything taken care of your majesty?” I nodded, “Yup Davie! Thanks!” He just snarked and roughly took my arms to twist them behind my back and shackle them back together, “You can’t keep this up Jessica. Sooner or later Jonas will tire of your spirit. Then he will snap you like a twig.” “Whatever you say Davie.” I noted that the nickname bothered him, and thus decided to keep it, “Now aren’t we supposed to go back to the room?” Dave just grunted and moved me forward. I got one more glance at everyone, then it was back into the ground for me.

Scott had most of the blood moped from his face and arms, but no bandages were allowed. “Let the Marshall bleed.” Jonas said. The nurse glanced at me. “How is her hand?” She asked, voice shaking when she addressed Jonas, and not me. “Her hand?” Jonas looked confused, “What do you mean?” “It’s broken.” The nurse said, trying not to sound stern. “Not only did she stab it on a tree branch, but she then decided to piss of another student who broke three of the dorsal bones(ok, to sound smart, you need to pick from the wrist: radius or ulna, or the hand: metacarpals which is your palm area or phalanges which are your fingers) with a broomball stick.” “Somebody touched her? MY Jessica?” Jonas was suddenly angry, he advanced on the nurse, “WHO?” “I don’t know!” Cried the nurse shrinking back, “I just know she needs to keep it in the brace and we were giving her some steroids to help the healing process.”

“Who Jessica? Who?” Jonas was suddenly in my face. “I don’t know!” “Who? I will snap both his hands!” “It was a kid named Dimitri!” I exclaimed. And I had to be surprised by my own quick thinking. And also by the fact that I was protecting Lucas. “Dimitri, he’s got dark hair, gets in his eyes a lot. He was on my team, he was mad at me because my best friend dumped him last fall.” The web of lies I was creating would soon get hard to keep track of, but I had to protect anyone I could. Dimitri was already dead, Jonas couldn’t hurt him. “Dave!” Barked Jonas. “Find me this Dimitri, I will bring him to his knees.” I didn’t bother correcting Jonas, someone would tell Dave that Dimitri was dead. I was only striving to buy time. Dave left again. And for a while Jonas paced along the room. “I will kill him! Touching my Jessica.” I wasn’t sure to be scared or freaked out by Jonas’s thought that anyone else touching me was an offense punishable by death. What if someone opened their mouth about Zach? Dave returned ten minutes later, “Jonas, I’ve been informed Dimitri is already dead.” I pretended to be shocked, “Serves the jerk right!” exclaimed. “How?” Jonas asked.” “Somebody shot him sir. He was one of the runners.” “Coward!” Jonas insulted, “Of course he ran. But now I am denied the satisfaction of seeing someone pay for what he has done.”

“Sir, there is something else.” Dave glanced at me, and I instantly tensed. That was the look of an evil plan, “We’ve found another one.” “Another what?” “Another runner. He attacked one of the men, wanted to come blazing in here, looking for Jules.” Zach. No doubt about it. “Did you catch him?” “Of course.” “Bring him in here.”

CHAPTER 27 Instantly my heart was hammering. Zach could bring everything down with one wrong word. One movement towards me, and Jonas would slit his throat. I tried to think, but no brilliant lies came to mind. The heavy metal door was opened, and Dave came forward with Zach. He was sporting the beginnings of a black eye, and his hands were handcuffed behind him. “Jules!” He yelled, but I refused to answer him. My heart was in my throat, there was no way I could answer him. Jonas looked at me, and I instantly tore my eyes away from Zach. Couldn’t reveal how much he meant to me. Because now unlike what I had said to Dave before, I did have something to lose now. Scott could die for his cause. He was ready to do it, but Zach had family still. He had a life. He had demons to conquer and a family to someday create. I had even dared to dream once about sharing that family with him. But this could bring everything down.

“Find him a chair.” Jonas commanded, and a man brought in another metal chair and placed it between Scott and I, facing the door. Zach was slammed down into it, “Jules! Are you okay?” He begged for an answer. “Fine.” I said tersely, “Why did you follow me?” I couldn’t help the question. “Because I had to.” Zach’s voice was at half the loudness it had been. He seemed shocked by my lack of reaction. I was cold. Unfeeling. “What’s your name?” Jonas turned to Zach, looking at him curiously. “Any why do you look familiar?” “Zach. I’m-” “Nobody!” I interrupted suddenly. I knew Zach, and his stupid ego. He would tell Jonas everything, that he was my boyfriend and that he thought Jonas was the scum of the earth. Then he would be dead. “He’s just this team member on my team here.” But my own lies were half acted, and full of desperation. They might as well have spelled it out to Jonas. Zach means something. Zach is important. “Finish your sentence Zach.” Jonas turned to him, “What were you going to say before Jessica rudely interrupted you?” “I um.” Zach licked his lips nervously, not understanding the precarious stack of cards that we were playing with. “Hold on, you were the one with Jessica.” Jonas made the connection to Zach. Four days ago. “I remember now, you said she was your girl.” Game over. “Your girl.” Jonas looked between the two of us, and I let go of the cold façade. No point.

“I’m sorry Zach.” I said, letting some fear escape into my voice, “I had to.” “Elle explained.” Zach shrugged, “I don’t care.” “Your so stupid.” I rolled my eyes. He grinned stupidly, “That’s why you love me.” “You love him?” Jonas turned to me. Fire in his eyes, “Love him?” “Not really sure yet.” I turned my head to the side, “I think so.” Why were we goading him on? “Hey! Knurts, how are things?” Zach noticed Scott, “Ouch, looks like that hurts.” Scott didn’t seem to know what to make of our banter, but he went along with it, “A bit yeah. Unfortunately the local pharmacy is out of painkillers.” “Hey man, nothing you can do there.” “What the hell are you doing?!” Jonas shouted, looking between the three of us, and I actually laughed. I laughed at Jonas’s frustration. Why weren’t we cowering in fear of him? Why wasn’t I begging him, or Zach and Scott shouting obscenities? “Stop!” Jonas suddenly pulled a penknife out of his pocket and launched himself at me. The small blade pushed into my throat, “Stop!” He yelled at me, and the slight tinge of pain at my throat caused me to stop laughing at him. “You don’t understand Jonas. You never will!” I spat at him. Jonas suddenly leaned forward, so far into me that he was sitting on my lap. The chair groaned slightly under our combined weight. “What have you done with this one?” Jonas pointed the knife at Zach, “Has he taken you?”

I used sarcasm again, “If by take me you mean, have I slept with him?” I didn’t say that Zach slept with me, and the wording was right. I wasn’t a thing, an object to Zach like I was to Jonas. I had choices, we both did. Jonas’s eyes burned, the dark brown turning black, “What have you done?” “Nothing.” I shrugged, trying not to focus on the knife. “We haven’t done anything.” “Then you are still mine.” Jonas seemed slightly relived. “No.” I defied again, “I am nobody’s.” “She isn’t.” Scott said from his chair, “Jules is her own person. She isn’t yours, or Zach’s. Or mine.” And somehow Jonas’s power was gone. The three of us were all handcuffed to chairs, Scott half dead, and Zach and I only teenagers, but somehow we stripped Jonas of his power. Because Jonas’s power was fear. He realized that. Realized that he was losing all hold. Jonas might be the one with the knife, but we were the ones with the knowledge. With the right thinking. Slowly Jonas lifted himself off me. Looked at each of us, the small knife in his hand. “Let us go Jonas.” Scott said, “You came here for revenge on Jessica, but Jules is here. Turn yourself in.” And for one moment I thought maybe, just maybe, Jonas was considering it. He was naked before us, but then he snapped. “Never. If I can’t have Jessica, then I will have Jules. Jules, the brave little camper.” Jonas turned slowly to me, and I felt a flicker of fear.

“Don’t you touch her!” Zach yelled, tugging at his own bonds. “And how are you going to stop me?” Jonas turned to shout in Zach’s face. “I swear to God, I will kill you.” Zach glared at Jonas. “Stop Jonas!” Scott tried to enter the argument, “Leave them alone!” “I will not! You do not control me!” Jonas was screaming and waving the knife around now. Someone was going to get hurt. “You hurt either of them-” But then Jonas let loose, he hurled the knife directly at Scott. It thunked directly into Scott’s chest. All the way to the hilt, buried itself in flesh. “NO!” I screamed, and the look on Scott’s face would forever be burned in my mind. First he looked slightly surprised, then pained, then... relief. “Scott!” I screamed, but his shoulders slumped forward. Defeated. “Bastard!” Zach moved forward, pulling desperately at his restraints, “You killed him you miserable piece of crap!” Jonas was inhaling and exhaling dramatically. He looked at Scott for a while. Then he reached forward and tugged the knife out of Scott’s chest. It came up bloody, dark as the growing stain on Scott’s shirt. Dark crimson, the color of passion, color of death. Jonas examined the blade closely for a moment. Contemplated the drops that slid to the floor, and onto his wrist. I kept watching Scott though. Waiting for something. Nothing. No reaction. None.

He didn’t move, head hanging forward and arms lax. Just the spreading stain down his chest. No breathing, just nothing. Then Jonas began to laugh. I gaped at him, astounded. Jonas began to guffaw, one hand holding his side. “He’s dead! Just like that! Dead!” Still he laughed, and soon tears of laughter began to run down his face. “Dead, dead Marshall.” “Shut up!” Zach began to scream, but I could only stare. Between Jonas and Scott. Look at one, then the other. Make nothing of both. But Zach screamed, “Shut up!” “Ha ha ha! Careful.” Jonas suddenly stopped laughing, the tears down his face still remained when he turned to Zach. “Who knows what could happen. Maybe you are next wonder boy.” “You are.” Snarled Zach, “I swear I will-” “Will what?” Jonas stepped close to Zach, the bloody knife leading the way, “I have the knife. You are handcuffed to a chair. Who has the power in this situation?” Zach just resumed his glaring at Jonas. If only looks could kill. “What about you Jules?” Jonas turned to me, “Zach is screaming and threatening, you aren’t doing anything.” He cocked his head to the side, “What is going through your head now Jules? Who has the power now?” But I couldn’t do anything. Couldn’t react. Later I would be told I was in shock. My brain wasn’t computing what was going on. My eyes felt dead. No fire. I tried to focus on breathing. That was safe right? Breathing. It couldn’t possibly anger him. “Oh. Oh oh oh.” Jonas stepped back, touching the wet knife to his lips, as if he was pondering something, “I wonder, did that break you little camper?”

I didn’t make eye contact, just stared at Scott. “Move.” I said quietly. “Please move.” But he didn’t. He never would again. Jonas didn’t seem to like me being broken though, “Jules! Look at me!” He commanded, then when I didn’t respond he grabbed the back of my hair, pulling my face up to his. “Look at me!” I did unwillingly. Then I focused on the blood on his lip, trailing down his chin from where he had placed the knife on his face. Jonas took that as me staring at his lips though. And unthinkingly he took that as a welcome on my end. He pressed his mouth onto mine. Forcing my teeth apart, I was forced to taste him. Then taste Scott’s blood on Jonas. I wanted to throw up. Wanted to react. But nothing happened. After a moment Jonas pulled away. He looked confused. I hadn’t bitten him, or said anything, or really done anything. I could feel the blood on my lips. Taste it on my tongue. But I did not react. “Hmmm.” Jonas mused, wiping some of the blood off my bottom lip. “The witness broken by the marshals death. Interesting.” He stuck his finger to his mouth, sucking for a moment. Then he and his knife walked out. And I resumed my waiting. No movement. After the door shut, Zach looked at me, “Jules?”

I will not Bow
I didn’t even respond to Zach. He tried talking to me, saying it would be ok. I did not understand why he was trying to comfort me. Why should he? I wasn’t crying or anything. But I wasn’t talking either. And that bothered him more than anything. Even when my brain went crazy I managed to spit out words to him. But here, there was nothing. Emptiness. Sometime later Dave returned. He ignored Zach’s threats of “Don’t you dare touch her!” and walked up to me. “Is it true? The café girl is broken?” He examined me, but I didn’t move. Just stared at the wall. Scott’s body had been removed from the room, and Zach’s chair moved into his place. In front of me. “Shame.” He waved a hand in front of my face, “I was looking forward to seeing you broken. However, now that you are, Jonas has given me permission.” Dave reached out and stroked my face. “I can touch you now café girl. What do you think of that?” “Get away from her!”

“Shut up lover boy.” Dave snapped. “Never.” “Fredrik?” Dave called out. A man stepped out from the door, “Gag him please.” Fredrik all too happily slapped a strip of duck tape over Zach’s mouth. Leaving him only to tug at his restraints. “There now.” Dave said once Fredrik had left again, “We are alone. Well, aside from him. But I think there’s a certain poetry in having him watch.” For a moment my brain asked, “Watch what?” Then Dave began moving his hands towards my jeans. “I would have liked it if you fought back more, but I’ll take what I can get.” He unbuttoned the button of the jeans, pulled down the zipper. “Jonas won’t let anyone touch the girls here. Never mind that there are plenty of them.” Down went my pants. “He says that taking some of them might cause a riot. And he has this thing about killing more people than necessary.” Dave seemed to like to talk as he undid his own jeans. I heard rattling as Zach banged his chains against the metal chair. Dave glanced over at him and smiled. “Watch and learn lover boy.” But when Dave turned to me, I glanced the fear in Zach’s eyes. The anger. Somehow it transferred to me. And when Dave slid a hand between my legs, something registered. I did not want this to happen. I could fight. I lashed out with my right leg, bringing it up between Dave’s legs. And it didn’t matter how hard he was, that still hurt. Down he went. I stood and turned 180 degrees, bringing my chair down on either side of Dave.

“No.” I stated firmly, pinning his legs to his sides with the chair legs. “You little.” He hissed, struggling to move, but only succeeded in wobbling about like a fish. With my leg I kicked him in the head, knocking him out. “Mphh!” Zach made a noise through his duck taped mouth that sounded enthusiastic. “Oh yeah, real good. But we still have this problem.” I said, tugging at the restraining handcuffs. I resorted to using my bare feet to try and get to the keys to the handcuffs. Finally I found the small silver thing, and dropped it onto the floor. “OK, this is going to hurt.” I muttered, sliding my chair around a bit, then I turned around and made myself fall backwards. “Ow.” I grunted, not really liking the loud noise that made. Plus I was in my underwear. But my hands were able to reach the key and after a minute of awkward fumbling, I undid them. “Ah.” I rubbed my sore wrists, “Right.” I ran over to Zach and ripped off the tape. “Ow.” He grunted. “Sorry, hurts a lot either way though.” I said, running around him to undo his handcuffs, then down to untie his ankles. “That was, did you plan that?” Zach asked, rubbing his own wrists. “No.” I muttered, quickly getting my pants back on. “Nice legs.” Zach complimented, I resisted the urge to smack him. “How do we get out of here?” I asked, pocketing the keys.

“No idea.” “You know you were really stupid to come after me.” “Yeah well, you left.” Zach shrugged. “You were stupid to come.” “Had to try.” “And nearly get yourself killed!” “We aren’t out of this yet lover boy.” I said, looking at the door. “That reminds me.” Zach grabbed my wrist, gently enough not to really hurt the bruise wring, but with enough force to bring me to him. He hugged me desperately, and for a second I forgot what to do. Then instinct kicked in, and I put my arms around his neck, pushing us closer together. “I love you. You know that?” He whispered next to my ear. I nodded. Then gathering courage I responded. “Love you too.” “Good. Just thought we should you know, clear that up. In case we do die.” “Yeah.” I just barely laughed. After a few seconds more he pulled away, “I couldn’t.” He stopped, voice cracking, “I couldn’t watch him touch you like that. I couldn’t.” I kissed him, desperately wanting not to think about it, “I’m sorry.” I whispered into his mouth when he didn’t respond. “I can’t control it. Couldn’t control him. I thought I could, but-” And now Zach cut me off, “I know. Just, give me time.” “Stupid time. Not enough of it.” I grimaced, “What do you think? Can we make it out?”

“Can we make out? Well, we can do that but-” “Life and death here.” I reminded him. “Sorry. And honestly? No.” “Me neither. Too many people. With guns. And if we run, they’ll start killing people.” “So what do we do?” “Hide?” I suggested. “Where?” “I have no idea.” I muttered, pacing the small cell. BANG BANG BANG. “Dave you done in there yet? I want a go.” Zach instantly bolted for the door, standing next to it. I slid into a corner. “Dave?” Fredrik opened the door cautiously, worried he might be interrupting Dave’s fun with me. WHAP! Zach swing a fist into Fredrik’s face. Then I ran forward, kicking him in the head. Out he was. “Grab the gun.” I said, looking over at Dave, “And we should handcuff him. “Where too?” I looked around, “There!” I pointed at a pipe that ran along the edge of the room. “Hey look.” Zach held up a roll of duck tape, “We can gag them too.” It took some doing, moving both men over, handcuffing them and then slapping duck tape over their mouths too.

“What about their legs?” Asked Zach, eyeing the leftover duck tape. “Just leave them. Come on, we need to get out of this room at least.” Zach took the gun, keeping it as his side as he slowly opened the door. He peered out, “I don’t see anybody.” “Check some of the other doors. Maybe we can hide somewhere.” I suggested. Zach carefully moved down the hallway while I kept watch. The first door he opened lead to nowhere. The 2nd to a closet. On the 5th door down, Zach said, “Got something!” Still trying to watch over my shoulder, I closed the door and ran down to him, “What is it?” “Stairs, leading up.” He pointed. “Up where?” “I don’t know. Why don’t we find out?” Zach grinned mischievously. “And walk into Jonas or something?” “I don’t think so. I’m pretty sure this leads to the kitchen.” “Pretty sure?” “Guessing so. Or pretty close. The pantry maybe? When’s the last time you ate?” “Honestly I hadn’t really been focused on my stomach.” I mumbled. Then I heard footsteps, which made up my mind for me, “Get in!” I hissed, pushing him into the closet. I shut the door behind us, “No lock.” I muttered. Not that it would really matter.

“Come on!” Zach whispered, but I shushed him. “I want to listen.” I pressed my ear to the door, waiting. I couldn’t hear the footsteps through the solid metal, but I did hear the yell, “WHAT THE HELL?” Not Jonas, but I’m sure Jonas would come running. Once word got out that two of his prisoners had escaped... “OK, we can go now.” I muttered to Zach, and we started moving upstairs, but then a noise stopped us. Gunshots. Bang Bang Bang! Then I heard, “Police! Freeze!” Zach and I exchanged looks. “Police?” I mouthed. “Trap?” Zach mouthed back questioningly. “Drop the weapon!” Shouted the voice on the other side, presumably these police. “I said drop-” BANG! BANG! Two shots went off. Zach and I remained frozen on the stairs, uncertain of what was going on, and trying to listen desperately to figure out. The door rattled open, and Zach immediately jumped down several steps to stand in front of me. One of Jonas’s men looked at the two of us, but then he tried to push past Zach to get to the stairs. “You! Freeze!” A guy from the SWAT team appeared in the doorway. The goon desperately tried to shove Zach down the stairs as I held up my hands in the classic, “Don’t shoot me please!” manner. BANG!

One shot. I’ve heard about the term two birds with one stone, but what if the first bird was innocent and it was in the way of the 2nd bird that was the real target? And what if you added a third bird after the 2nd who got hit too? How many birds does that count as? Zach went down first, then the goon, then me. All three of us hit by the same bullet. The bullet grazed Zach’s upper arm, went through the goon’s heart, and into my lower stomach. I managed to grab the railing of the steps, making myself really only lie down onto them, while Zach fell to my right, and the goon just went face first into the cement. “We need a medic!” The swat guy called into his radio. First he checked the goon, pressing two fingers at the neck for a pulse. “Jules!” Zach was already moving up towards me. “Ow.” Was all I really managed to say. My brain was going fuzzy. “At least.” I frowned, “I think ow? This should hurt right?” The SWAT team member spoke into his radio, “I need a rush on that medic!” “People keep getting shot around me.” I muttered to the ceiling, “Never actually been shot before. I’ve been shot at plenty of times.” The ceiling was beginning to swim before my eyes. “Jules!” Zach’s face blocked my view of the swimmy ceiling, though his face was plenty blurry, “Jules, stay with me OK? Come on, don’t leave me too!” “Feeling kind of sleepy.” I slurred to him, barely able to focus my eyes, “Can’t really feel anything below my stomach.” “That’s cause there’s a bullet in there.” I was vaguely aware of Zach pressing on my stomach, but the

feeling barely even registered. Neither did his arm leaking red stuff. “Oh.” I managed. Then slowly my eyes began to slide downwards. “No! Come on Jules, stay awake.” “But I’m tired.” I moaned like a child, the last word barely making it out of my mouth. “I don’t care you need to- Jules. Come on Jules stay awake here!” Zach was trying to keep me from joining the darkness. But I fully embraced it, and slept. CHAPTER 28 I don’t think I should go to Camp Freedom anymore. I keep ending up in hospitals. I heard the tell tale beeping of my heart rate, but didn’t bother opening my eyes. Instead I thought. I let memories come back to me at their own pace. Slowly I remembered leaving the safe cabin, trekking to Jonas. Getting recaptured. Talking to Jonas. Zach got captured too. Dead Scott. Close bad experience. Escaping. Then, oh. The stairs. I got shot in the lower region. I must be on some sort of drug, b/c everything was hazy to say the least. No real emotion bled through, I looked at everything and just saw what happened. Eventually I got bored of the back of my eyelids, and blinked into the light. But oddly enough I wasn’t in a hospital. I was in a bedroom. Equipped with machines and such from a hospital, but a bedroom nonetheless. Lauren was sitting on a chair in the corner, looking out the window. I glanced out, night time. Definitely. Still, the noisy beeping machine was going, and when I began to examine my surroundings it seemed to know I was awake. It double beeped a couple of times and Lauren turned to me.

“Oh! You’re awake!” I nodded, my mouth was too dry for me to really speak. I tried to sit up a bit more, but my stomach twinged uncomfortably. I looked down, and in my lower abdomen was a lot of white gauze. Right. Bullet into my lower region. Wasn’t that supposed to hurt? Oh, fuzzy brain. Pain meds. Sure enough one of the IV’s into my arm was labeled, “morphine.” Yuck. The stuff always made me far too fuzzy for my liking. “I should go get Christina.” Lauren darted out of the room, leaving me to vaguely look around. Ten seconds later Lauren, Christina, and a nurse appeared. The nurse inspected me and my machines, lowering the morphine dose slightly to give me a clearer head. Christina just watched. Once the nurse left though, she began an assault. “That was very stupid of you Jules. Leaving like that. You might have gotten yourself killed!” “I got Scott killed, that’s enough for me.” I grumbled. And I realized I wasn’t just numb. I was sad. “Knurts’ death wasn’t.” Christina paused, “Was not your fault.” “You warned me.” “That you would get yourself killed.” “Instead I got him killed.” I looked at the wall, pulling at a scratchy sheet. “Almost Zach too.” “Enough of this Jules.” Christina snapped, “Lauren, out please.” Lauren scurried away, blonde hair bouncing. Christina shut the door behind her. For a moment she paused, a hand one the wood. Steadying herself.

Then she turned around, dark hair barely parting enough for me to see her eyes, “Jules, Jonas is still at large.” “What? I thought, but the police.” “Didn’t catch him. He got away, and Jules. There’s something else. I want you to prepare yourself.” How exactly is someone supposed to prepare themselves? “OK.” I said slowly, scared of what she was going to say. But Christina paused, no words coming out. I watched her face, it was sad. As if... “Where is Zach?” I began to panic, “What happened? Where is he?” “Jonas.” Christina said simply. “But, how?” I begged. “We aren’t really sure. We think he attacked the first SWAT team member who found you, but when the medics and reinforcements arrived, he grabbed Zach and ran.” “Why Zach? Why not me?” “I think because he couldn’t carry you, and you were bleeding profusely. It’s hardly surprising. If you had been moved by him you would be dead.” “So what’s going on? What’s happening? Do you have people looking for him?” “Of course Jules. But things aren’t that simple. We have thirty witnesses and only half a dozen safe-houses. All the Marshalls are pitching a fit over crossing the witnesses together like this. Not to mention Knurts isn’t here to look after you and pull for Zach.” “What about Iris?” “Iris isn’t your Marshall. She’s your former Marshall’s partner. And frankly, she doesn’t want anything to do with you.”

“She is mad because she blames me for what happened to Scott.” I realized. Christina nodded to confirm this thought. “Well, she has every right.” Christina wanted to protest, but then I launched another question, “So now what?” “Now we wait. Jonas has so many contacts, we don’t know if we are safe even here. But you aren’t exactly mobile.” Christina gestured at my injury. “Oh, and there’s one more piece of bad news. Something the Doctor’s told me to inform you of. The bullet sort-of bounced around in your body a bit. And, it tore up most of your reproductive system.” She let the words sink in, and gradually I framed my thoughts into words, “No children for me?” “Not necessarily. Just unlikely. I’m sorry Jules.” Christina patted my shoulder in what was supposed to be a comforting manner. Then she left the room, closing the door behind her to leave me alone with my thoughts. Dark and depressing as they were.

Chapter 29 After a bit Lauren snuck back in, “Chris gave you the news huh? Sorry girl.” I didn’t respond, just sank lower into the bed and stared at the ceiling. “Who’s the Knurts guy all the Marshall’s are talking about?” Lauren asked, “I mean, I know he’s dead but-” “He was my Marshall.” I spoke softly, still staring at the ceiling, “My Marshall and he died. Jonas got angry, and he just sort-of died.” “Oh. Sorry.” “Kind of a crappy day.” I muttered. “Yeah. They’ll find Zach though. Don’t you worry.” Lauren tried to be bright about it, but I didn’t care. “No they won’t. They don’t know Jonas. Odds are Zach is dead already.” “Come on, you don’t know that.” “No, I suppose not.” I allowed. Then I continued my staring at the ceiling. And gradually the morphine took back over and I fell asleep.

After a while I woke again. Lauren was sitting in the chair, reading a book. I groaned, “Will you ever leave?” She placed a bookmark in between her pages, “Christina said not to leave you alone.” “Why?” “Because you tend to run off.” I laughed. “What?” “she’s right.” I looked at the beeping machine. “Do me a favor?” “What?” “Water or something? I’m going to dye here of thirst.” “Got it.” Lauren pulled a cup with a plastic straw of a table just beyond my eyesight. “Thanks.” I mumbled. I had hoped she would leave the room for a bit so I could think. I sipped the lukewarm water, just enough to stop my throat which actually was dry. “So what happened?” Lauren asked once I finished. “What do you mean?” “You were held for a day. What happened?” She begged for information like I was dishing on a juicy piece of gossip. “I was nearly raped, saw my Marshall get killed, and got the tar kicked out of me. That about wrap it up for you?” I spat. “Geez. Sorry, I didn’t realize-“ “Of course you didn’t! That is the point. You’re nosy about other people’s traumas!”

Lauren looked terrified for a moment before running out of the room. “Good riddance.” I muttered, turning over to my side and falling back asleep.

Chapter 31 The next time I woke, Iris was sitting in the chair. Her gun was cocked and sitting in her lap. She was also glaring at me. I looked at her calmly, “It’s my fault. I accept it.” Iris barrel in calmly as holstered got up, and held out the gun. She pointed the my face, but I didn’t move. Just looked at her the gun shook. Finally Iris made a decision, she the gun.

“Jonas wants to know if you are alive.” “What for?” “Zach is still alive. He says if you are too, then he wants to trade. If not we never see Zach again.” Iris wiped away a single tear before continuing, “Christina wants to tell him you’re alive but use a double.” “Screw Christina.” I mumbled pushing myself up, “Jonas knows my body. He’ll see if it’s a trap from a mile away.” “That’s what I thought you would say. The deal is set to go down in an hour.” “Help me up.” I grunted, “Set the IV into a mobile hanger thing.”

Iris did as I said, switching things around so that I could get up. I gritted my teeth, “Don’t suppose there’s a wheelchair is there?” Iris shook her head. “No,” “OK.” I muttered, pulling the pulse ox off my finger. For a few seconds the machine let loose a long BEEEEPPPP before Iris shut it off. “Flat line.” I muttered, throwing my legs over the side, “OK, help me out here.” Iris knelt and put an arm around my middle, while I put one of mine around her shoulder. I had to lean on her as we made our way down stairs. Thankfully it was about midnight and most everyone was in bed. One girl whose name I couldn’t remember, saw us, but Iris told her to be quiet. The girl nodded, eyes on Iris in a way I recognized. Outside in the cold I asked, “One of yours?” “Kellie.” Iris said, careful not to slide as we walked over to a car. “Her father built bridges.” “Bridges?” I asked, then I paused, “Why are you telling me this?” Iris opened the car door and helped me in before answering. “Because I don’t really expect you to live.”

Chapter 32 HURRICANE Iris sped. I understood why Scott never let her drive before, I had to cling to the side door and try not to burst my stitches. Bits of snow spat out, but we barely even saw them as Iris made her way down an interstate. “Where are we going?” I asked curiously. “Jonas is meeting at a park that’s an hour away usually in driving distance.” As the car lurched past a stop sign I had to mumble, “Usually. So now it would be...?” “Forty minutes.” At least Iris kept her eyes on the road as she drove like a psycho person. Small consolations. We arrived at Iris said, forty two minutes later. She cut the headlights in the parking lot and I looked around, “Shouldn’t Christina be here?” “No, they are coming from that direction.” Iris pointed to the left. She rolled down the windows letting cold air in. “And Jonas?” “That direction.” Iris pointed to the right.

“Right in-between. Fantastic.” I said, trying not to think about my abdomen. The pain meds were really wearing off, and boy did I feel that hole now. “We just have to wait.” Iris muttered, eyes on the plain field in front of us. It was a soccer field well lit by overhead lights, which also illuminated falling snow. Silence fell. So did the temperature of the car. Iris seemed to realize this and pulled my coat out of the back seat, “Here.” I pulled it over my shoulder, but didn’t bother with the sleeves. Finally I saw movement to my left. Christina appeared alone for now. After about a minute Jonas came forward too. Then I understood the window thing. I could clearly hear Jonas as he spoke, “Where is she?” “She’s in the car. Where is he?” “Dead if you don’t show me Jules.” “And she’s going to be gone if you don’t show me Zach alive.” “What, you think I would lie?” “yes.” “You are smart then.” Jonas turned and motioned. Unfortunately from our spot we couldn’t see Zach, but the look on Christina’s face was enough. “Now how about you show me Jules so we can make a deal?” Jonas called. Christina looked behind her and made some sort of motion. I couldn’t see the other car either, but I could see Jonas. He seemed relieved. Then he turned and motioned for Zach to come forward.

Zach just barely came into my view, guarded by someone I didn’t recognize. “And Jules.” Jonas said pointedly. Christina turned and motioned. Jonas watched the other “me” greedily, even from this distance I could see it. She moved forward, just into our view. Even from this distance though I could tell the differences. I was taller, and a bit thinner. Plus I couldn’t walk that well. “Give us Zach.” “Give me Jules.” Jonas said, no longer looking at “me.” But instead looking at Christina, “I believe this is what some people call a standstill.” Jonas looked back at “me.” And then seemed to pause. I saw his body language change from vaguely relaxed, to tense. He whipped out a knife and a gun. Instantly Christina drew her gun, knowing that the game was up as they say, “Get back.” She said to “me.” “Where is Jules?” Jonas snarled, gun pointed at Zach, “Tell me, or I shoot him.” I put a hand on the car handle, “Wait just a minute.” Iris whispered. “If I wait, Zach will be killed!” I hissed, I started to pull on the handle, but Iris drew her gun and pointed it at me. “Wait.” She commanded. I realized as she pointed it at me that something else was going on here. “You’re the mole. Jonas has his talons in you.” I realized. Iris didn’t confirm or deny it. I looked out at the standstill, “You want him to die!” Iris laughed then, “What do you think is going to happen to him? If I let Jonas shoot him now, then at least he dies quickly. If on the other hand I inform Jonas of Zach being your little boyfriend. He will die slowly. It

would take weeks, maybe longer. Jonas can hold a grudge for an amazingly long time.” Why did Jonas have his claws in everyone? And how did Scott not know? Questions raged through my mind. Anger at Iris, anger at Jonas, frustration with my blindness to people around me. “Where is she?!?” Raged Jonas, and I made a decision. I was done. I pulled on the car door handle, Iris attempted to stop me with the threatening gun, but I stopped her by calling her bluff, “You won’t kill me. That gun has no silencer. Jonas will hear it. And he’ll know you killed me.” Before Iris could think of a way around that, I pushed open the car door and stumbled out. I made sure to slam the door, bringing both Jonas and Christina’s looks of surprise. I fell face first onto all fours at first, but then slowly stood back up, shivering slightly. My coat was in the car. “You want me Jonas.” I said stumbling forward, “Let Zach go.” I grimaced, putting a hand to my abdomen. Jonas just stared at me, “Why do you care?” “Because I do.” I moved forward a few steps, until Jonas, Christina and I formed a near perfect triangle with each of us a point. “Jules! How did you?” “Iris.” I said, nodding back towards the car, where she was still sitting, “Jonas’s infiltrator, person.” I frowned unsure what to call her, “Brought me. Still, I’m glad she did. Let Zach go.” I turned back to Jonas, not even daring to look Zach in the eye. “What’s going to prevent you from running?” Challenged Jonas. “God, just do it! I don’t care anymore!” I spat, “I’m not going to run because no matter where I go or what I do you follow me!”

Jonas grinned, “That’s the idea little camper.” Then Jonas turned to the goon with Zach. Zach was pushed forward several steps until he was standing just behind Jonas. “One question. What’s the plan here? Kill me? Turn me into your slave what? You know you’ll be hunted.” “Only to the ends of this country. I have friends in many places. It won’t be difficult.” Jonas said, shrugging. “Now you move forward Jules.” His eyes glinted greedily. I moved slowly, ignoring Christina’s protests. I stopped several feet in front of Jonas, still not daring to look at Zach. Iris had been right, if Jonas knew who Zach was, he wouldn’t die quickly. “Let him go.” I said one more time. Jonas shrugged, and started to let him move forward, but then a car door slammed to my left. Iris climbed out of the vehicle, gun pointed at me. “Don’t let him go.” “What?” I said, knowing instantly what was happening. “Jonas, don’t let him go.” Iris repeated, stopping where I had before to recreate the triangle. Christina directed her own weapon at Iris. “Why?” Jonas asked her, seeming more curious and amused than anything else. “Trust me, when I tell you who he is, you won’t want to let him go.” Iris was exacting her revenge on me here. Revenge for getting Scott killed. Why, I have no idea. Finally I looked up at Zach, his entire left eye swollen shut, and around his arm was a dirty bandage covering the bullet wound. He shivered in the cold even more than I did. I clenched a fist at the long scratch down the other arm. Jonas’s work, it was recognizable. The scratch would burn, but never scar. I’d seen plenty of them before. Jonas liked rubbing various substances in them. Damn that had hurt.

“I don’t care who he is.” Jonas shook his head. Obviously he didn’t much care for Iris. Probably cause she had never become his. Just an informant, Jonas didn’t care for them. “Trust me.” Iris sneered. “Iris, spit it out or let the transaction occur. I am a businessman, and there had better be a damn good reason.” “Make her kiss him.” Iris said, gesturing at me with her free hand, “You’ll see.” “Do what?” Jonas looked at her, then he put two and two together. “Lovebirds. My girl.” He muttered, “Jules, you found yourself a boyfriend didn’t you?” “No.” I denied immediately. Deny it as much as you can. That’s what Scott would have me do. “Kiss him.” Jonas encouraged. I shook my head like a four year old. “What does it mean to you Jules?” Jonas asked curiously, and I remembered the sick games he liked to play. Kiss me and I’ll feed you. Want some water? Lick here first. Twisted mind he had. “Do it.” Jonas held a knife to Zach’s throat, “Or I cut him. And mean it Jules.” “Will you let him go?” I asked. “Let him go and take me instead. Jonas nodded. I glanced back at Christina who was shaking her head. Any cooperation was bad. “Just come here.” Zach pushed the knife away from his throat and walked toward me. “I wonder if there will be tongue.” Jonas asked mildly. But Zach made me focus on him. “Jules, look at me.” I couldn’t. I was staring at Jonas, waiting for him to stab someone. To kill someone else, probably the person in front of me.

“Come here.” Zach put a hand on my face, tilting me head up, then he put another on my upper waist, pulling me a few inches closer. On pure instinct I put my hand on his shoulder. Zach leaned in, pressing his lips to mine. Not asking for anything, just giving Jonas what he wanted, but I began to act instinctively, damn hormones betraying me. The adrenaline in my system not helping the situation. I started to react, and give back, his tongue grazed against my lip, and then he whispered a word into my mouth, “Duck.” Then he suddenly pulled me down into the snow. Three gunshots erupted from above us. And for a few seconds silence fell again.

CHAPTER 33 PIECES I looked up, Christina was standing, gun pointed at Iris, Iris was on the ground. Presumable bleeding somehow, but I looked over at Jonas. He had a bullet in his brain less than two feet away from me. “Oh god.” I muttered, pushing myself away from him immediately. “Zach he’s dead.” I managed to sit up, and look at Zach, who had rolled onto his side, “Zach,” I looked at him curiously, “Zach?” “Damn it.” He swore, bringing a hand away from the left side of his chest. “No, no no no no no.” I said quickly. “Why do you get shot in the same place?” I cried, mimicking a situation we had been in 7 months ago. “That was a few inches higher, this is.” Zach, coughed, blood gathering at the corner of his mouth, “This is bad.” “You’ll be fine.” I started to cry attempting to cover the wound with my hands. “You’ll be fine. Just like last time. We’ll get you to the hospital and, and you’ll be fine.” “No.” Zach shook his head weakly, “I don’t think so. Not this time.”

“Don’t talk like that.” I said, becoming very cliché. “You will-” “Jules.” Zach looked at me with those eyes. They were sad, “No I am not. I feel it.” I bit my lip, trying to stop the flow of tears, I could barely see him through the swimming images. “Just, take care of Sarah for me ok?” He said, meaning his sister, “I’m sure when you’re relocated-” “Jonas is dead. No relocation. I can be Jessica again.” I said, unable to stop myself from interrupting his last words. “No, stay Jules. Stay Jules, and stay with my family. Please.” I nodded. A final request from him, the tears started flowing when I thought the words final. “Don’t go.” I cried. “Sorry.” He let out his last word with his final breath. The ever persistent light in his eyes dying. “No! Please!” I begged, “Please! Don’t leave me.” I sobbed, hands sliding off his chest. “Please, you can’t leave me to.” But even as I tried to reason with the dead, I knew he was gone. “Jules, he’s gone.” Christina stood over me, gun back in it’s place. I shook my head, snow melting into water and seeping into my jeans. The blood melting the snow too. I was a mess. Wet with melted snow and blood. My torso feeling like there was a hole in the bottom half, and like my entire upper chest was being pulled apart. Finally my body ran out of tears. Christina called in backup, which brought ambulances and police cars. I sat in place so long that the snow beneath me completely melted down to the ground. A paramedic brought me a few feet away from the hole in the snow to check my stitches and hook me back into a morphine drip.

I stared at Zach. Part of me still thinking he would get up. Part of me wanting to crawl in a hole and die too. The drugs didn’t help. Hours later when they first started to move Zach’s body I stood and started screaming for them to leave him. Just leave him. I couldn’t handle the way his muscles didn’t function. How limp and cold he was. “Jules, calm down.” Christina held me back, “Jules, you need to calm down, they can’t leave him there. Think! You don’t want him to stay there.” She must have directed the paramedic then to shoot me up with something because I felt a slight sting in my neck, and blackness took over.

CHAPTER 34 I woke in a real hospital. Sterile sheets, metal framed bed. The inescapable beeping machine monitoring my heart rate. The ceiling tiles were the same as ever. White cardboard tiles you see in a lot of schools too. I stared at them. Empty. I was safe. That’s what I wanted wasn’t it? Safe, no more Jonas. What a cost though. Dozens of people were dead because of me. Because of my refusals to cooperate. To stay where I was supposed to. A nurse checked on me briefly, but I didn’t talk to her. Refused to speak so that she eventually left and came back with Christina. “Jules, please answer the nurse’s questions.” I turned on my side away from the door and away from them, hugging my chest. “Oh well.” The nurse replied, “If she’s in pain then it’s her own fault for refusing meds.” And she walked out, shoes squeaking on the floor. Christina didn’t leave. She walked over to the side I was facing and stared me down a bit. I did not notice. I didn’t want to. Just stared past her at the wall. “You will be transported via helicopter to Seattle tomorrow. So will Zach’s body. We managed to keep you all out of the press. Rumors of gunshots, it will all be attributed to gangs.” She seemed to want to try and fill the emptiness in the room with talk, “Knurts will be given a hero’s funeral.

But Zach will have to be buried under his WitSec name. The lawyers are going to have a hell of a time without him in that case. That would be all the lawyers cared about. No body to witness for them. How would they win the case and make lots of money? I kept my disgust off my face. Finally Christina gave up and left. I was alone save for the occasion nurse, and the next morning the Doctor came in to give me a few warnings. I was then transported to the helicopter, and airlifted to Seattle hospital. It only took two minutes for me to be in my room before my mother came rushing in. “Jules! Oh my god.” She covered me in kisses, and hugged me as best she could around all the wires. “I can not believe what happened!” It took her a solid ten minutes to figure out I wasn’t speaking. “Jules? Don’t you have anything to say? We should sue the witness protection program!” I picked a spot on the green wall to stare at, paying minimal attention to my mother. “And all that trouble Scott has gotten you into! I’m not say he deserved what happened but-” “Don’t you say that.” I looked at my mother with not only my fire in my eyes, but Zach’s too. “Don’t you ever even think it!” I yelled. Then I realized what I was doing and instantly leaned back to stare at the wall again. My mother just looked at me with an astonished look on her face, “Jessica,” “Jules.” I said, still staring at the wall, “My name is Jules.” “Didn’t Christina tell you? We don’t have to stay in the program sweetie. We can go back home.” I turned and looked back at her, “This is home. Seattle, and Crystal, and the café that’s here is home mom.

I am not giving it up. I am Jules Glau and I will stay that way.” My mother didn’t seem to know what to make of that, she hesitated, “You want to stay in Seattle?” “Yes.” I answered solidly, no hesitation or deviation in my voice. “I have to help Sa- Crystal testify. I have to finish my school year. And I made a promise.” CHAPTER 35 The next day I was allowed out of the hospital. On January first. A new year. A new day. That afternoon I was sitting on the couch watching a mindless cartoon when the doorbell rang. My mother answered it quickly with her apron on, “Oh! Crystal.” I turned around, Crystal, her dark roots starting to show through her blonde hair was standing in our doorway clutching a box. “Hey, can I see Jules?” “Of course! Come in!” My mother swung the door wider and stepped out of the way, “I was just making tomorrow’s muffins. Care for a taste?” “Not today, but thank you Daisy.” Crystal said. My mom took her cue and left us quickly. Purposely turning the radio on to insure she wasn’t listening to us. I looked at Crystal from the safety of the couch, “I would get up.” I started, but Crystal quickly said. “Don’t! Aunt Helen told me about what happened. I um.” She looked down at the box, hair falling into her face, “I have these for you. I think Zach would have wanted.” She felt awkward, uncertain what to say before I motioned next to me for her to sit. She gratefully took the invitation, and held the box open on her lap, leaning it towards me. “It’s kind of silly, but we talked a couple of times. About what would happen if one of us you know. Died. And one time you came up. He told me about a few things he

wanted to have, and I actually put in a few more because I know they mean more to you than anyone.” I looked in the box, and carefully reached in. The first thing I pulled out was a picture of us at the Halloween dance. The only dance I had ever gone too. I smiled at his costume, Neo from the Matrix. Carefully I pulled out a few more items. Pausing the most when I came to a baseball cap. Freedom King. I rubbed my fingers along the rough fabric. It was worn. He loved making me wear mine so that we matched. I slid it onto my head, too big, but that was fine with me. “Thank you Crystal.” She just nodded. “You know, I’m here if you need me right?” Again she nodded. Tears began to pool in her eyes. “I miss him.” She cried, and I pulled her into a hug, “Me too.” After a bit we put in a movie, and I played with her hair absentmindedly as she held it in my lap. “Funeral is next week.” She said during the credits. “Scott’s is in two days. Zach’s two after that.” I could only nod. “Going to be a sucky week.” “What do we do?” She asked. I stared ahead as the screen went back to the main menu of the DVD, “We carry on.”

CHAPTER 36 Wednesday morning I put on a black skirt, white shirt, and black jacket. Mom helped me down the stairs and into a car that was there for us thanks to the Marshall service. The ceremony was entirely outdoors. The closed casket was covered in notes. A picture of Scott from the past year sitting on the gleaming wood. Most of the people I didn’t know. Several adults stepped forward and said they “worked with Scott” not really able to say in what capacity. There were also several, “I met him when I first came into town.” Code for “I am one of his witnesses.” Also most of them were wearing hats and sunglasses despite the cloudy day. And if I thought I was jumpy then these guys were all living on a trampoline. Finally I walked forward. “I em, met Scott when I first came into town. He became a friend, and I um.” I paused, not certain what to say, “He protected me. And he did good. I blame myself for what happened to him. But he would tell me to stop thinking the whole world revolved around me and my problems and go do something.” I smiled briefly, “But, I will miss him. Whether he liked it or not.” I stepped down then, dabbing at a few tears. Several people came up to me later, sharing the lost feeling of being without a Marshall, but nobody was really able to say that. Just that we would miss him.

I stopped when I saw a group of people. They hadn’t spoken earlier. Obviously a family, a husband and wife with two daughters. The wife looked familiar somehow though. Carefully I approached, “Um, hi.” “Hello.” One of the girls said, too young probably to understand what was going on. “I just, um.” I stumbled around, directing my question at the woman, “Do I know you? You look really familiar.” She looked at her husband for a moment before replying to me, “My name is Mary. I’m Scott’s sister.” “Oh.” I looked at her astonished, “I didn’t.” But then I paused, the eyes. She had the same eyes as Scott. “I’m sorry.” “You said earlier you blamed yourself. Why?” She asked, using the same power Scott’s eyes had on getting me to answer any question. “I was there. When he died. There was nothing.” I stumbled around the words again. “Nothing I could do.” “Was it quick?” She asked, then stopped, “I’m sorry you don’t have to answer that.” “Yes.” I lied. Well, half lied. If you don’t include the torture beforehand then yes it was quick. “Thank you.” She said, then the family turned away. I went back to my mother and Zach’s family. We all went out to dinner, nobody really talking. The waiter actually joked about a funeral not realizing that we had in fact just been to a funeral. We got our meal for free. Zach’s funeral was small. A few school friends, and the five of us. Christina showed up too, and so did Zach’s families’ new Marshall, Ryenn. We all cried. Crystal and I standing together the longest. I threw my “Freedom Queen” cap onto the casket before they began to shovel dirt on.

We ate at our café this time. Kept the shades down, the door said “closed” and we ate together in the empty café. At night I found myself replaying my favorite memories with Zach over and over in my head. The first time I saw him, running into him and instantly seeing the connection. It wasn’t “love at first sight” but there was “connection as first sight.” Or when we won the capture the flag games together. Hanging out in the pine trees. The summer spent in Seattle. Painting the café and working it together. Going to the dance. I imagined myself dancing in his arms for hours at night while trying to fall asleep. And just for a bit I would remember him and not feel lonely.

EPILOGUE When School got out I rejoiced like everyone else. No more classes. But I also rejoiced for a different reason. Crystal testified. She was amazingly brilliant, and they won the case. Mom’s business was back up with the help of myself and Crystal. And I was trying to decide which career to pursue for my life. Every other week I visited Zach and Scott. Told Zach about my week, and Scott about the case. Sometimes Crystal went with me, but for the most part she stayed behind. I found out over 20 people died at Camp Freedom, and the camp was closed forever. Too many casualties, they had lawsuits coming out the back window. Almost everyone who had been at the camp was forced to sign a confidentiality agreement with the government, which put an end to the suits, but the camp was still closed forever. I never found out what really happened with the real Jules. Whether the whole thing had been some sort of play by Jonas or if it was really Jules, I had no idea. My window of opportunity was gone. I never would know. Elle called in February. She wanted to stay in touch, but from a distance. A part of me hated her for that. But I understood. People kept dying around me. Zach and Scott’s death scared the preverbal pants off her. In short life went on. We continue forward, taking the long road.

There are far too many people for me to thank. Jay, for being awesome, supportive, and my dad even when I didn’t ask for it. All of the squirrels who love any crazy idea that I manage to come up with no matter the consequences. But especially Katie and Ava. My youth group in its entirety. You guys rock! Lindsey for letting me spoil her to death as I tried to work out possible scenarios. The real Scott Strunk, thank you for taking my clothspin at fall retreat. I can blame you for all the angry hate mail. Amelia and Chris for letting me vent now and again to them. I’m sure it saved dozens of characters shaped after my siblings and mother ;-) -KMP

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