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Authors: Melody Carlson

Payback (18 page)

BOOK: Payback
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“And now you do?” I nod. “Totally”

“Well, it would be great to have more insiders. And you’re the one God’s been sending the signals to. You never know if there could be another one coming. I’d like to have you around to help.”

“I want to be there.”

“And we’ll have plenty of people watching you, Samantha. We can keep you on the sidelines with us and away from anything dangerous. Trust me, I’ll have my eyes on you. Speaking of watching you, why don’t you rent a gown in a striking color?”

“Like what?”

Ebony thinks for a moment. “Perhaps magenta or electric blue. Something that will be easy to spot.”

“You got it.”

I am feeling totally jazzed as I drive away from the police station. I know my high spirits would seem weird to some people…like how can I be excited that a high school prom could be attacked by terrorists? What’s wrong with me? But I’m focusing on the fact that I believe not only will this crime be prevented but the perpetrators will be locked up by tomorrow night. I suppose I really am a crime solver at heart. Maybe it was genetic, passed on to me by Dad. Or just a gift from God. Whatever it is, I cannot wait to see this thing put to rest.

When I get home, I tell my mom a little about what’s going down tomorrow. At first she reacts like always, uptight and concerned and not really wanting to hear about it. But suddenly she changes.

“Tell me more, Samantha.”

“Really? Like details and everything?”

She nods. “Yes—everything.”

“And it won’t upset you?”

She just smiles. “After all I’ve been through and how your gift helped rescue me and how it also helped your brother, let’s just say that you—and God—have made me a believer.”

So I launch into the whole story. She listens intently, and although I can see some of it is unsettling to her, she seems fairly okay with it.

“And Ebony guarantees your safety?”

“Absolutely.”

“And you’ll be really careful?”

“Of course, Mom. Ebony has trained me in surveillance and that sort of thing. The first rule is to stay out of danger.”

“And God will be watching over you.”

“As always.”

She nods. “Well, then it sounds like it’s settled. And this time I’ll be praying for you too, Samantha. I feel so bad that until now you’ve been sort of on your own.”

I can’t even say how happy this makes me, so I just hug my mom. Thanks!” Then I realize I might be hurting her shoulder, but she says it’s much better.

“In fact, I’m going out tonight.”

Okay, now I feel disappointed. Is she going out to the bars with Paula again? Isn’t that how this whole mess with Steven (a.k.a. Greg Hampton) began? But I don’t say anything.

“I can tell by your face that you’re worried,” she says.

I shrug. “A little.”

She just grins. “Well, don’t worry. I’m going out with Ebony. She invited me to the singles group at her church.”

“Oh, Mom!” I clap my hands. That’s awesome!”

“I thought you’d like that.”

“And I’m going out with Conrad and Olivia and Alex tonight.”

“Good for you.”

So it is that I have an enjoyable evening being a normal girl, hanging with my friends, acting like I’m just like them. And really, I am. Only different. But then, we’re all different.

“Oh yeah,” Conrad says as we’re having pizza after the movie. “I can’t believe I forgot to tell you guys. My mom called from Seattle this afternoon. The first tests are in, and Katie is already responding to the new meds. The doctors are feeling really optimistic.”

“That’s fantastic,” I tell him.

“But we still want everyone to keep praying for her,” he reminds us.

“For sure,” says Olivia.

As we’re sitting there, being happy, normal teens and just living our lives, I think about the Fairmont students I observed yesterday Okay, I got a little fed up, and it’s obvious they have their problems, but even so, they deserve more times like this. And I’d like them to have more time in hope that they might arrive at a place of faith, a place like my friends and I enjoy on a daily basis. And I know I’ll be praying for them a lot during the next twenty-four hours.

Olivia, for the third time, accompanies me to the rental shop. By now the woman working there knows us by name. And she must think I’m the most popular girl in the greater Portland area.

“Ebony said something bright,” I instruct my fashion consultant Olivia as we dig through the racks. “She suggested magenta or electric blue.”

“Whoa, that is bright.”

I already told Olivia the details of yesterday’s investigation and my latest vision. As always, she promises to be my prayer partner tonight.

“How about this little number?” she suggests as she holds up what looks like a bad bridesmaid dress in a blue so bright it makes my teeth hurt.

“I don’t think I want to stick out quite that much,” I say.

After several tries we finally settle on a pinkish-purple dress, which the saleslady assures me is magenta. It’s really a fairly simple design and fits like a glove, but because the shiny fabric has some stretch in it, I think I should be able to maneuver pretty well.

“Does it look cheap though?” I ask Olivia, the expert.

She narrows her eyes critically. “Not cheap. I mean, it’s a little too flashy to be considered elegant. But it has a look that’s pretty sophisticated. If you put the right accessories with it — and I think I have something you can use—and if you’d let me pick out the shoes for this one, I think you might pass for a Fairmont chick.”

“I don’t have much money for shoes,” I point out. “Can’t I wear the ones I wore last time?”

“No,” she insists. “Even if we have to go to Shoes 4 Less, you have to have cool-looking shoes.”

When we finally have the outfit together, I have to agree with Olivia: it’s not half bad. Then just as we’re leaving the mall, my cell phone rings. I pull over to answer it, and Ebony asks me to stop by the station as soon as possible.

“Is something wrong?” asks Olivia as I close my phone.

“I don’t think so. Ebony said they’re having a meeting regarding tonight.”

“Getting their ducks in a row?”

“I guess.”

Even so, I feel a little nervous as I drop Olivia at Lava Java to wait for me and I head over to the precinct. I hope nothing’s gone wrong. I really hope they’re not having second thoughts about me being there tonight. I need to be there. They need me to be there. I’m ready to put up a fight if necessary. And it’s a comfort to know that my mom is backing me now. I intend to go!

“Have a seat,” says Ebony when I join a small group assembled in the conference room. Eric is there as well as some of the others who have been working the prom stakeouts.

“What’s up?”

“Well, we’ve had some good news,” Ebony says.

“What?”

“The terrorists have been caught.”

“Caught?” I blink in surprise. “When?”

“Yesterday morning.”

“Yesterday morning?” I try to wrap my head around this new piece of information.

“The FBI got a tip from a landlord, and it turned out he was right.”

“How many were there?”

“Four.”

I nod as I try to absorb this. “Wow…that’s great.”

“So everyone thinks there’s no need to go to the prom tonight.”

I nod again, but even as I do this, I feel uneasy.

“What do you think, Samantha?” asks Ebony.

“I’m not sure…”

“I think it’s great,” Eric says. “I, for one, am about ready to have a free Saturday night.” The others echo this sentiment.

“So,” says Ebony slowly, “you’re okay with this too, Samantha?”

Now it hits me. “Not really,” I admit.

“Why?”

“You say the terrorists were picked up yesterday morning, right?”

“Yes. The FBI broke in while they were still asleep.”

“But I had that last vision yesterday afternoon, hours after the terrorists were arrested.”

“Yes?”

“So why would I get another vision—a very specific vision—if there was no longer any danger?”

“I don’t know…” Ebony glances around the group. No one says anything, but I can feel their discomfort as they look away Like maybe they think I’m confused or possibly getting mixed signals, but they don’t want to admit it.

“Is it possible there could be more than four terrorists?”

“I suppose there’s always a chance…”

“But the FBI seized all their computers and things,” points out Eric. “And they seemed convinced that these four were the main threat in this area.”

“Apparently they recently relocated here from Los Angeles,” Ebony says. “All four at the same time.”

“That may be so,” I tell them. “But what if the FBI is wrong? What if there is even one more terrorist? One who is intent on killing high school kids?”

“Then we’d want to be there,” Ebony says.

Eric groans.

“Think about it,” I say to him. “Would you rather be there and be right…or not be there and be wrong?”

He shrugs. “Obviously I’d rather be there.”

“You feel certain about this, Samantha?”

I look around the group, and I know that no one here, maybe not even Ebony, wants to do another prom tonight. I also know I could be wrong. Sometimes my visions and dreams don’t come in what I’d consider a chronological order. But am I willing to chance it?

“Here’s how I feel,” I say to them with conviction. “I plan to go to the prom tonight. And trust me, it’s not like I enjoy these stupid functions. Ask Eric if you don’t believe me.” I glance his
way, and he nods to confirm. “But I am not comfortable just stepping away from this thing—not after the vision I had yesterday afternoon
after
the terrorists were safely under arrest. I cannot imagine why God would give me a vision so specific, so horribly sad, if it wasn’t still meant as a warning. So whether or not you guys go tonight, I plan to be there even if all I do is stand around the lobby and watch.”

“Well, I’m not going to let you do that alone,” Ebony says. And slowly, as if their arms are being twisted, the others agree.

“I doubt, however,” says Ebony, “that we can talk the FBI into being there now.”

“But you will tell them that we’re still going?”

“Absolutely,” Ebony says. “We will treat this event exactly the same as the others. Whether others want to join us will be up to them.”

Still, I feel totally deflated as I head over to Lava Java to meet Olivia. And once again I know that makes no sense. I should be thrilled that the terrorists have been caught. And I am thrilled. But I’m not convinced that the Fairmont students are out of harm’s way yet. Yesterday’s vision is not something I can simply shrug off.

“What’s up?” asks Olivia as I join her.

I quickly give her the lowdown on the arrests of the terrorists and then go up to the counter to order an iced mocha.

“So are you going tonight or not?” she asks when I come back.

“We’re going,” I say in a downhearted tone.

“But you don’t want to go?”

“I do and I don’t.” I slowly take a sip. “For sure, I don’t want to go to another stupid prom. But on the other hand, after that
last vision…the memorial…I don’t feel like I can skip it either.”

She nods. “Makes sense.”

I let out a big sigh. “I just don’t get it sometimes.

“What?”

“Why I get stuck with all this crud.”

She kind of laughs now. “What do you mean?”

I hold up my hands helplessly. “Think about it, Olivia. Not only crud with people I don’t even know but my family too. It’s almost like I’m a magnet for trouble.”

She really laughs hard now.

“What is so funny?” I demand.

“You.”

“Why?”

“Think about it yourself, Sam. God sends trouble your way because He knows you can handle it.”

“Handle it?”

“He knows you can do something about it.”

“Huh?”

“Because of the gift He’s given you. He entrusts you with big things, Sam. Because He knows you can handle them. Your gift helps people. It solves crimes, puts criminals behind bars. What is wrong with that?”

Now I sort of laugh. “I guess you have a point.”

“You’re just feeling discouraged because tonight’s prom isn’t all cut-and-dried like you thought it was before. But maybe there’s another reason for you to go tonight, Sam. Maybe God has a different plan. Remember what you said about those sleazy guys? Maybe you’ll say something that will make them think twice before doing something stupid.”

I smile at her. “Yeah, I suppose. Thanks for the encouragement.”

And I try to feel encouraged as I drive home, but I still feel like someone took the wind out of my sails. I’ll be extremely relieved when this night is over. Even if it turns out that I was all wrong.

Eighteen

W
ow,” says Mom when I come downstairs dressed for my big night. “Don’t you look hot.”

“Too hot?” I ask with concern.

She winks slyly. “Well, I just hope that young detective Eric doesn’t get any ideas.”

“He’s got a serious girlfriend.” I frown. “In fact, I’m sure he’s ticked at me right now for making him give up another night with her.”

“But this isn’t your fault,” she points out.

So I tell her about today’s meeting and how the terrorists have been caught. “Everyone was ready to throw in the towel…except me.”

“Why’s that?”

I remind her of my latest vision. “And that happened
after
the arrests. Why would I see something like that if everything was under control? Do you think God missed a news flash or something?”

Mom laughs. “Not really.”

“So I talked them into going tonight, and now I’m feeling kind of guilty…like what if I’m wrong? What if I’m wasting
everyone’s time again? This will be the third one, and we’re all pretty sick of it.”

Mom puts her hands on both sides of my face and looks intently into my eyes now. “Samantha, you need to take yourself more seriously You have a very special, God-given gift. And if God shows you something and you brush it off simply because it looks like it might not be right…well, you will be sorry.”

I blink in surprise. “Yeah. You’re right.”

“Of course I’m right. I’m your mother!” Then she removes her hands from my face and chuckles. “And because I’ve personally experienced the benefit of your God-given gift, I will never dismiss it again.”

BOOK: Payback
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