I paused the tape player. I had to think. Think. I wished for a moment my parents were here, or even available, but I was just going to have to handle this myself. Might as well hear all of it, I thought, and started the tape playing again. Once more, Laura’s ethereal voice came out of the little box.
“I know that sounds extreme, and that it’s asking a lot. If I could think of another way, I would. Just remember, the fact that you’re even listening to this means that I couldn’t talk to you in person or on the phone. But I don’t have anything like the proof that the police would need to protect us. And in case this—in case things go even worse than I expect, I don’t want to leave more details on the tape. Ask Liv about our special secret. Thank you, Rachel. You’re more than a great babysitter. You’re a great friend.” I was about to shut the player off when she went on. “Please, please be careful. Not just of Liv, of yourself. This could be dangerous. I’m so sorry to ask you to do it. But,” and here her voice broke, “she’s my baby. What choice do I have?”
I listened for a minute longer, but there was nothing else.
In a few hours, Liv would wake up. Before then, I had things to take care of. First, I’d get her bear put back together. He was her favorite nighttime companion, and it didn’t seem like a good idea to leave him so mangled, regardless. Time to start being careful. Time to cover our tracks.
After 10 minutes searching the laundry room, I managed to come up with a needle and some brown thread. A half hour later, a whole teddy bear sat on the couch looking only slightly more bedraggled than he had a day ago, the product of the most sewing I’d done since ninth grade. Now what? It was about 5:30, and the sun was coming up. Dan hadn’t called since he’d dropped Liv off. In the past, that would have been unheard of. Either he or Laura would have checked in a few times a day. And as to doing what Laura asked, that wasn’t even in question. It was my job to keep Liv safe, and whatever was preventing Laura from being there, she clearly had Liv’s safety in mind and, although she was afraid, was at least acting like herself. I didn’t know who or what Dan was anymore.
Something told me that I needed to hurry, that the limited time I had to act was being eaten away. I made up my mind. We had to go. My parents wouldn’t be back for a week, so there was no point in leaving a note. I’d be back before then.
When I woke Liv a few minutes later, she started whining. I understood. I was tired too. But more and more, I felt the urgency of the moments pressing against me, a soundless clock tick-tocking away. I had to get her cooperation, and fast. “We have to go, Liv. Help me get your stuff together. C’mon, girly.”
“But whyyy?” she asked. “I’m tired. And I’m hungry.”
“Because,” I said, plotting how to best get her cooperation without scaring her, “We’re going on an adventure!” And then inspiration struck. “We’ll stop and get donuts for breakfast.”
That sealed the deal and stopped all whining. In 15 minutes, we were packed and ready to go. Liv’s stuff was mostly gathered already, of course. She just had to brush her teeth and hair while I threw a few changes of clothing and such into a bag. I brushed my own teeth, threw my hair back into a quick ponytail, and headed downstairs.
Dad’s Jeep was in the garage. We’d go in that, I decided. Better to have four-wheel drive and not need it than to need it and not have it, and I had no idea where we were going. I had Liv buckled in, her teddy bear safely on her lap and our bags in the back, when I realized I’d forgotten something. “Liv, I need to run in the house for a second. Be right back.”
I dashed in and picked up the tape player I’d dug out of the bear. It didn’t seem like a good idea to leave it laying out, and I might need it anyway. Oh, and money! Thankfully Mom kept cash stuffed in a coffee can for emergencies. This certainly qualified, I thought, and grabbed some bills. As I was stuffing them in my pocket, the phone rang.
It could be anyone. Anyone at all. I knew that. Still, my heart was pounding as I picked up the phone. “Hello?” Nothing. “Hello?” I said again.
“Go,” said a voice I barely recognized as Laura’s. “You have to go. Get out now.” Click.
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