Chapter 2: Butterfly Wings

"Sam?"

The young woman in question looked up from her phone and over at her grandfather who was standing up in the back of the pickup truck with a stern expression on his aged face as he stared at the phone in her hand then at her. "What did I tell you? No tinkering on that phone on the job." He said sternly. Sam, rolling her eyes, moved to place the phone back in her pocket. However, once she saw her grandfather go back to sorting tools in the bed of his truck, she quickly pulled her phone back out to continue reading.

"Horrific animal attack in small town of Michigan!"

Sam grimaced as she read about the deaths of the unfortunate people involved. Although she loved animals, she hoped that whatever had killed these people had been put down immediately. She could only imagine what the victim's family and friends were be going through. God knew she could relate. She continued reading and stopped at the chilling sentence that followed after the name of the victims.

"Sole survivor of attack missing! Please contact your local police department if you see this person."

She then scrolled down and saw a picture of the individual; a happy young man, around her age, maybe. He had dark brown hair, greenish eyes, and a big, goofy grin he was sporting in the picture, surrounded by the victims of the animal attack. Sam sighed, turned her phone off, and shoved it back into her jeans pocket. She didn't even know why she read tragedies like these anymore because they just wound up making her upset, but old habits died hard.

"Alright, Sammy!" Sam perked up as her grandfather jumped down from the truck and beckoned her to get in "Looks like I need to head to town and get some parts for this damn tractor." Glaring at said tractor, Sam's grandfather gave a spiteful kick to its tires, cursing, "Damn piece of shit!"

Sam couldn't help the smile that graced her pretty features. Her grandfather was a grouchy old man who ran their family's farm along with her grandmother. She enjoyed working for him, mainly because he was one of the only person in her family that didn't treat her like a child, unlike her own parents, and swore like a sailor without a care.

Together, they drove into town and got the parts for the tractor. Her grandfather was a frequent customer there and they were in and out quickly. On the way back, they stopped by one of the farmer's market to buy a few feed bags for what few animals they had.

"Damn rusty old piece of mechanical shit! Nothing breaks down like a John-Fucking-Deer!" Her grandfather cursed under his breath as they exited the store. Sam laughed nervously at the string of curses flowing from her grandfather's mouth which had just stained the ears of an elderly woman who had just gotten out of her car. The woman gasped as they walked by. "Ma'am!" Sam's grandfather greeted with a tip of his hat, oblivious to the fact he might have offended her with his language. Or, maybe he did. It was always a mixed bag with her grandfather.

"Do you really have to curse so much?" Sam asked for the billionth time as she opened the bed of the truck and placed her bag inside.

Her grandfather snorted. "Can't help it! I was a sailor, Sammy! That means I get to curse like one! Speaking of which, did I ever tell you about the time I-"

Sam rolled her eyes. She had heard her grandfather's bombastic and obviously over-dramatized sea tales many a time, but unfortunately, she knew he'd been just a deckhand rather than the 'hero of the high seas' that he made himself out to be, thanks to her grandmother a long time ago. Just before her grandfather began to regale another one of his 'tales at sea', if only to annoy her, a deep voice sounded in her ear.

"You forgot some bags, sir."

Sam turned around and took measure of a young man standing by the truck with two large bags of horse feed were balanced on each shoulder. She'd never seen him around the farmer's market before. Must have been new. She'd been coming here since she was little and knew damn near everyone.

"Oh! Thank you." Her grandfather said with gratitude. The young man nodded once without a word.

He looked to be her age with greyish eyes with hints of green around his pupils. A hoody jacket covering his head but couldn't hide the long, brown bangs hanging just below his eyebrows. A dusting of stubble covered his jaw and chin from lack of shaving. There were bags under his eyes. He looked tired; weary, even, and his face was tucked into a frown. Then his tired gaze traveled onto her and their eyes met. Chills went up Sam's spine at the look in them. Eyes could always tell a story, and Sam always had been good at reading people. She'd seen eyes like his plenty a time, both in the mirror, and in Josh's sunken face. They were sad and lost. He stared at her for another brief second before he blinked and looked away. He grunted to himself and moved to the truck before dumping the bags into the bed.

"Can't say I've seen you before." Sam decided to ask, "You new?"

"Just passing through." He grunted with a shrug.

Sam 'hmphed' "Didn't know Thomas was hiring." She remarked offhandedly.

"Sam, let's go!" Called her grandfather.

Sam gave the stranger another once-over. There was something about him; something almost familiar. For some odd reason, Sam felt like she'd seen him somewhere before. Part of her wanted to ask him for more information, but he had already turned and walked inside the store.

Sam climbed inside the truck and her grandfather put it in drive and drove, leaving the store and the stranger behind. As they drove, Sam took out her phone and paused when she returned to the article she had just been reading. She blinked at the picture of the boy who was reported missing. Sam glanced over her shoulder back towards the store, but they rounded a bend and were obscured by trees. That guy looked like the one in the picture. Sam shook her head away. Calgary was a long ways away from Michigan, especially around these parts.

A message popped up on her screen.

It was from Chris.

Still no word from Josh. Any luck on your end?

Sam let out a sigh and typed back.

No. I'll try calling him back today.

I'm starting to really worry about him

Sam's eyes narrowed as annoyance shot through her. Oh, now you're worrying about him? Have the months of silence not been enough of a warning sign that something was up with Josh? Sam sighed. That wasn't fair. Chris was just as worried as she was about Josh. So, she just typed back a quick response and put her phone down.

Me too.

"That Josh?" Came the voice of her grandfather.

Sam blinked and focused on him, "No. That was Chris. He was uh...asking if I heard from Josh."

"Have you?"

Sam shook her head sadly and looked out the window at the trees passing them by. She said, "No, grandpa."

"Sammy, it's been almost a year"

Sam grimaced, "Grandpa, please-"

"I know, I know. I'm just saying that boy needs help."

"He has a therapist!" Sam argued.

"And is that therapist's name Samantha Giddings? No. That boy needs professional help, Sammy, not you or Chris. Friendship helps, but I don't think that's what Washington's boy need right now."

Sam let out a breath and leaned back in her seat, "I know." She murmured, "I just wish I knew how to help."

"I know, Sammy." Her grandfather's gnarled hand patted her on the shoulder, "I know."

XXXXX

James

Dogs were barking, voices were shouting, and lights stabbed through the darkness of the trees in search of him. James crashed through brush and bramble, panting as he pumped his arms and legs to propel himself deeper into the nighttime forest and away from Canadian Border Patrol.

He'd actually done it! He'd actually hopped the border to Canada! He didn't have any other choice, either; he'd abandoned his uncle's truck the moment he'd heard the first news report describing it. From there, he'd followed the road, hitchhiking whenever he could. He'd been desperate; he hadn't eaten in days and drank his last bottle of water, so the second night fell, James had made a run for it. The next thing he knew, there were dogs barking and people running after him. He even thought he'd heard the sound of an ATV or two. So, James had pocketed his necklace and poured on the speed.

He didn't know how long he'd been running from them now. All he did know is that he'd just run off the lip of an incline and was tumbling down to the rocky bottom. "Fuck!" He spat when he landed with a bone rattling thud. He slowly got to his feet, shaking and hurting from the fall. However, the would-be-bruises and scratches began to fade within seconds. He shook his head and glanced up behind him as the roar of an ATV engine echoed through the night air. He could hear the dogs in the distance as well, and they were closing in. He scanned the incline in front of him, his eyes cutting through the dark with ease as he mapped out the quickest way to scale the steep hill. James ran forward and dug his hands into hard dirt to haul himself upwards, scrabbling and grabbing at roots and divots in the earth. As he was climbing, a flashlight illuminated his back and someone cried out "Stop!" but James ignored it and went faster. When he pulled himself over the top onto solid ground, he got up and took off running without looking back.

"Keep going." His mind screamed at him "Keep going!"

A loud, echoing CRACK filled the air and James jerked and fell as his right leg went numb and gave out on him. Bewildered, he touched shaking fingers to his thigh that came back with a wet warmth coating his fingertips. That's when his pain receptors decided to flare to life and he bit back a cry as fiery cold pain stabbed through his leg.

He'd been shot!

Through the pain addled haze, James registered the sounds of his pursuers getting closer. Any second, they'd scale the hill and be upon him. After that…he didn't want to know. What he did know, was that if they caught him, there'd be questions he couldn't answer and he'd eventually be locked away somewhere. And when the moon came for him…

No.

James grabbed handfuls of the forest floor and began to drag himself forward despite the blistering agony in his limb.

Keep going.

The fire in his leg became dull and numb.

Keep going!

James punched a fist into the earth and fought to rise to his feet. Idly, he felt something small pop out of his leg. Warmth replaced the numbness and pain, damaged muscle and tissue knitted back together, his vision sharpened, strength returned, and James ran off into the night with a single, primal command flooding his body.

Survive!

He tore through the woods even faster than before; dodging trees, logs, and bramble. They were behind him now, but from judging from the sounds of it, only the ATVs were on his tail. James risked a glance over his shoulder and winced as his hypersensitive eyes met with two pairs of glaring headlights. He snarled and made a sudden right, leaping over a log and zigzagging in random directions. Eventually, he zigged when he should have zagged and sped straight through an overhanging branch. Momentarily blinded by the foliage, James lost his footing and stumbled into a small clearing in the trees.

Panting heavily, he scrambled to his feet, and was just about to take off again when movement in the brush drew his attention to the large, lumbering shape that had just crashed through the sticks and was coming towards him from the left. It took him a second to realize what it was, but when he did, his breath caught in his throat and icy fear slid down his spine.

It was a bear…

A fucking bear!

It was a grizzly by the looks of it, and quite the imposing specimen. It halted its loping gait upon noticing him and skidded to a stop a few yards away. For a second, they just stared at each other; James frozen to the spot, the bear tilting its head to regard him with a startled gaze. Then the scent of the animal hit James's nose; a musty, sour odor that made the Animal that was locked inside his skin rise up and roar in response. Raw, primal strength flooded his body, and he pulled on it. A second later, his eyes tingled and he blinked rapidly, knowing that when he'd open them they'd be orange. A bestial snarl bubbled up out of his throat and he bared his teeth at the bear in front of him. The bear tensed and gave a single sniff before it turned tail and tore past him into the woods…and straight into the path of the incoming ATVs. James booked it forwards straight ahead at full speed. Behind him, his sensitive ears picked up the screams of the ATV's breaks grinding on the forest floor along dogs baying and the cry of "Bear!"

Saved by a damn bear. What were the odds?

James continued to run. He ran and ran until he was sure he'd placed great distance between him and the border patrol. After stopping besides a tree to catch his breath, James couldn't help but marvel at the fact that he wasn't exhausted. No aching lungs desperate for breath, no lightheadedness or nausea, no feeling like his legs would give out under him. All he felt was a slight burn in his limbs and the strong beat of his heart. He must have sprinted over a mile through thick woods, and all he felt were the effects of a morning jog.

James's ears pricked up at a sound off in the distance; the faint roar of many vehicles on blacktop. He must be close to a road. Cautiously, he crept through the forest, following the sounds. Sure enough, when he parted a curtain of bushes he was greeted to the sight of headlights on an open strip of highway-

-"James, gimme a hand, will you?"

The raspy voice of his boss snapped James out of the trenches of his mind and back to the present. Making his way past the tall shelves lining the farmer's market, James slipped into the back and made his way over to the wiry, old man struggling with a heavy cardboard package sitting on a pallet. Without further instruction, James bent down and wrapped his fingers around base before hoisting it up with a grunt.

"That's it, James." The old man, his boss, puffed out as he directed the younger man, "Just…just set it down over there. I'll get to it later. Phew!" He huffed, wiping the sweat from his brow and leaned up against a metal beam "You know, James, I wish I was your age again." James grunted in response as he set the package down. There was a sigh followed by "Look, James, I got to level with you on something." James tried to hide the stiffening of his spine and the straightening of his shoulders as he turned to look at the older man behind him.

Thomas Warde was his boss and the one who got him employed here in the first place. The first time they met was at a gas station a few miles from where James found the highway. At first, he'd done nothing but walk and attempted to hitchhike with no success. He'd been pretty surprised that he hadn't been picked up by any authorities yet and counted the fact that he had to walk rather than run a blessing. Eventually he found the gas station and managed to hitch a ride all the way into Alberta, and eventually, to Calgary thanks to the kindness of Thomas, who was coming back after a visit with some relatives in the states. At first, he'd just asked for directions to the closest town so he could find some work, but after getting some information fished out of him, he wound up admitting he was practically homeless to his soon-to-be boss. Either out pity or the kindness of his heart, Thomas offered him a job in his store right there on the spot. James would have been a fool to turn it down.

Now, he worked from sun up to sundown, every day all week. James was just glad to have money he could spend on food that wasn't non-perishable, clean water, and more silver to keep the monster at bay during the full moon. He'd bought a backpack with him on his little 'trip' and had filled it with anything made of pure silver that he managed to pick up along the way. It was mostly jewelry; necklaces, earrings, and rings. James wound up stringing or gluing them all together along with some high-quality chains he'd found and wrapped himself up on the full moon.

The second time James changed, it had been in the outskirts of Minneapolis. He had ran into the woods when the moonlight began pulling at him and woke up naked in the middle of a pasture the next morning covered in blood next to the carcass of a half-eaten cow. The third time he changed was in South Dakota. He had been stranded there for a few weeks due to the fact he'd ditched Uncle Bert's truck somewhere in the woods. It was during that time he managed to buy most of his silver trinkets and chains and locked himself in the storm shelter of an abandoned house in the woods and stayed there until he managed to catch a bus out of state. The fourth and most recent change had been in a small rural town in Montana. He'd found an abandoned house out in the woods, tied himself up in chains and silver, and waited it out until morning.

A total of three months since he'd left home combined with weeks of walking, hitchhiking and buses…here he was.

Thomas let him stay in one of the spare rooms above the shop until he could get back on his feet, but unlike settling into a nice hotel like Thomas suggested, James bought more silver and searched for a place to make a temporary cage until he found something more permanent. However, from the way Thomas sounded, James was sure he was about to suffer a setback.

Seeing that James was paying attention, Thomas began, "Listen, James, have I been fair to you?" Fear and anxiety roiling in his gut, James nodded. Thomas sighed and continued, "When I first saw you, I wanted to help you out as best I can. I actually have a cousin who was homeless for a while. Look, what I'm getting at is that I don't know if I can keep you on like this." He shrugged, "You've got no papers, no ID, no proof that you're a working citizen. Everything's been under the table. Some of the other workers have been asking questions." He chuckled at James's scowl, "My thoughts exactly. Don't take this the wrong way, James, but the last thing I want is for someone to find out about this little thing we've got going on here. I don't know what you've got behind you, and I'm not dumb enough to think that your situation was always like this."

"You want me to leave?" James asked simply.

Thomas shook his head, "I'm not just going to kick you out. You can stay in that spare room for now, but you can't keep working here if you don't have the papers."

James frowned and stared at the ground with his mind racing.

"That being said," Thomas added on "I'm not about to throw you out in deep water completely. I know a place that's always hiring and pays all under the table, no proof of identification. It's hard work, but I don't think you'll have a problem with that."

The older man smiled sadly when James looked up at him, a desperate gleam in his eyes. "God, I hope you turn out alright, kid." Thomas thought, "I don't know what you're running from, but I hope you wind up okay."

"Where?" James asked.

"The local farm not too far from here. They're hiring some new stablehands. Old man Giddings and his granddaughter run it. You met them, actually; they stopped by today to pick up some parts."

James thought back to the older man who'd forgotten his feed and the pretty blonde beside him. They seemed decent people, even though he'd barely interacted with them. If there was work, what was the harm? It wasn't like he planned on staying here for long.

XXXXX

Sam

The next morning, Sam headed back up to the feed store. Her grandfather asked her to grab a couple sacks of food for the dogs. Upon entering the store, she was greeted by the musty smell of animal feed and a hearty hello from the man behind the counter.

"Hey there, Sam! Back again?"

"Hi, Thomas." Sam greeted, waving at the elderly man "Need more dog food. Give me, like, three bags?"

"Alrighty, then." Thomas turned and called over his shoulder to someone in the back, "James! Three bags of dog food for the lady!" Then, he turned back to her and asked her, "Say, Sam, you're still hiring, right?"

"Yeah. Why? Looking to come on as a stablehand?"

Thomas chuckled, "I'm too old to be hauling hay around, but my worker back there needs a job. He's a good kid but I got too many guys as is. He works hard and doesn't stop until a job's done. I'd hate to just throw him out without him having something in the meantime."

"Well, we're always looking for strong hands. I'll talk to him." Reaching into her purse, she pulled out the money and handed it to him while taking a pink receipt as proof of her purchase, "Keep the change." She said and walked past him with a smile.

"Thanks!" she heard him call after her.

Opening the back door, she marched into the feed lot.

The clacking of her boots against the concrete floor echoed as she looked around in search of her target. Upon spotting her mark, who was hauling sacks of feed from a wheelbarrow onto a shelf, she made a beeline for him without breaking her stride.

She strode right on up to him, and offering him the slip.

"Hi!" She greeted.

The young man looked down at her through his bangs. Unlike yesterday, he wasn't wearing a hoodie and more of his face was revealed. His hair was long and messy and came down to the nape of his neck. He could have stood for a shave and a haircut. He was also tall, maybe around six feet, and his grey, long-sleeve shirt seemed hardly adequate for the cold autumn weather. Sam wouldn't lie, he would have been decent looking if not for the haggard look about his face and the dark circles under his eyes, not to mention the stoic frown he wore in what Sam came to realize was his default expression. He looked down at the slip in her hand, took it from her, read it, and without a word he walked past her towards a large stack of dog food. Sam followed close behind him and watched him grab three whole sacks and haul them onto his shoulder. She was a little taken aback at the sight; those bags were heavy. He must have been pretty strong to balance them on one shoulder like that.

"So, we meet again." Sam engaged conversation.

He grunted in what Sam guessed was agreement and walked headed over towards the bay entrance and hoped over the ledge, walking out towards her parked truck.

Sam followed closely behind "Where you from?" She questioned, jumping down after him.

"Out of town."

"A drifter, eh? What's your name, stranger?"

He looked at her out of the corner of his eye, "James." he grunted as he dropped a bag of dog food into the bed of the truck.

"Well, James," She introduced herself "I'm Samantha Giddings. Please call me Sam. Thomas said you're looking for work."

James looked at her as he dropped in the second bag, "You hiring?"

"That depends. You ever work on a farm before?" She asked.

"No." James stated and dropped the last bag of feed in. He looked back up at her with an intense gaze, "But I'll do whatever you ask if you pay me."

Sam fought down a smile. There was a joke in there. There was definitely a joke in there and she must resist making it.

"Well, it's hard work." She said instead.

"I work hard." James said with a shrug.

"When'd you start working here?" She asked.

"Bout a month ago." James grunted.

"So, you're from out of town, huh? Can't say we get a lot of visitors around here. Where'd you come from?"

"I'm just passing through." James said simply, not entirely answering the question. Sam noticed it but ignored the evasiveness for now, and asked, "How long are you planning on staying here?"

"Maybe a month or two?"

"Got any hobbies?" she asked.

"No." Came the immediate response.

"Hm, sounds boring."

James snorted, "It is." He laughed to himself like what he said was some private joke. His eyes told a different story, though. They weren't laughing along with the rest of him. Sam was struck by a sudden impulse to ask him more. She wanted to know why this stranger was here, where he came from, who he was...

She blinked away the reaction and looked into his gray-green eyes, saying, "Well, come by the Giddings farm when you get the chance. Talk to George, he's my grandfather. I'm sure he'll hire you."

A sigh of relief exited James at that moment and he gave her a small smile that seemed transformed his whole face, and thanked her.

Sam smiled back, "You're welcome." She said

James' smile widened, and Sam noticed it looked much better on his face than a frown. "Is that all you need?" He asked, gesturing at the bags of feed in the back of her truck.

Sam shook her head. "Nope, that's it. Thanks, James. Hope to see you soon!"

James gave her another one of those smiles that had her smiling back, then he nodded and walked past her without another word. She watched him return to the inside of Thomas' store and disappear behind one of the mounds of feed before she got back into her truck.

Just before she started it, she froze.

"...No way." She muttered to herself. Sam pulled her phone out and pulled up the article from yesterday, scanning it until her eyes stopped on what she'd been looking for. It was the picture of the missing person in question, and underneath, in bold print, were the words: Missing; James Steele.

She looked back up at the entrance, picturing his face in her mind. Take away the haggardness, fill out his features a bit, give him a haircut, and that smile…

Sam blinked. "No way." She repeated.

XXXXX

Once she got back home, Sam unloaded the feed from the truck and was starting to resent how easy James made it look to carry three bags on just one shoulder. She could hardly carry one, let alone all at once! When everything had been unloaded and she had said goodnight to her grandfather, Sam trudged back into the house and gave each of her three ranch dogs, Bud, Lou, and Glue plenty of pets on the way inside. She headed upstairs, only stopping after hearing her grandmother call that dinner was ready.

"Okay, gran! I just gotta make a phone call" Sam called, resuming walking up the stairs.

"Ok, just don't take too long, it'll get cold!" She her grandmother called back as she entered her room.

She closed the door, sighing as she walked over to her bed and flopped down onto the sheets. Now, she didn't consider herself girly by any means. She wasn't a pink freak at the very least. Hannah certainly had been one. The walls of Sam's room were a deep, forest green that matched her bed sheets. The rest of her room consisted of fine hardwood furniture and a wooden bedframe.

Pulling out her cell phone, she went down her list of contacts. She thought about calling Josh first, but, she didn't want to bring up the fact of coming face to face with a potential missing person. That was asking for trouble. She also knew the call would go straight to voicemail. Another moment passed and she debated calling her, well, not friends. They all weren't exactly 'friends' anymore. Since the prank, no one had been the same. Even if she did call someone, she doubted they'd answer. Mike would be too busy looking at himself in the mirror to care, Matt wouldn't know what to do, Jessica was probably shopping, Emily would just ignore her call, and Ashley was...Ashley. Her relationship with the group was strained at best and nonexistent at worst. Since the night of the party, Sam had distanced herself from the group and rarely contacted any of them. She still harbored resentment towards the ones who were involved in the prank. Chris had been passed out along with Josh and hadn't been involved with the events of that night. He was the only one she still talked to, and that was because out of the seven of them, the two of them seemed to be the only ones who gave a damn about Josh's well-being. Sam knew that Chris was off work right now and he wasn't too self-absorbed to not listen, unlike some people. Plus, he, unlike her, was tech savvy. She needed him to do a little research. Clicking on his name, Sam brought her phone up to her ear and listened to it ring a few seconds before the line picked up.

"Sam?"

"Hey, Chris." Sam greeted.

"What's up? You hear from Josh?"

"Nope. Still in the dark." Sam said, popping the 'p' in nope. She heard Chris let out a disappointed sigh.

"Me neither. Anyway, what's up?"

Sam licked her suddenly dry lips, "Well, Chris, I need a favor." She said.

"A favor, she says! Look, if this is about that bank job, I already told you; I ain't about that life no more!"

Sam rolled her eyes and said, "Don't worry, this has nothing to do with your history of robbing banks, and even if I was going to rob one, I wouldn't invite you, Chris."

"...Rude."

"Seriously, though. I need you to look up someone."

"Look up? Like, Facebook stalk?"

"No, more like I think I just met a guy whose face belongs on the back of a milk carton and I want to be sure I'm not crazy."

Sam gave a brief explanation of what had transpired with her meeting of James with pauses to answer Chris' questions.

"Whoa...this is some serious stuff."

"That's why I'm calling you in the first place! I can't surf the web like you can."

"Well, you're not wrong." Sam heard him say along with the clacking of a keyboard, "But I just pulled your boy's info and it is not a happy story. There's a couple different posts about it...jeez, they got pictures. It's not pretty. Says here that it's was a bear attack. They're still looking for whatever killed his friends. It's pretty gruesome; they were slaughtered."

Sam grimaced at the description, "Yeah, I know. I read it, Chris."

"Did you read the part where it says that his uncle was found dead, too?"

Sam blinked, "Um, no?" No, she had not.

"Always have more than one source of info, Sammy. Bert Steele, age fifty-two was found torn apart in his home a month after the first attack. They say that whatever got him was the same thing that killed those other kids. His nephew, James Steele, age eighteen, has been missing for the last three months. Some says it's starting to look like a kidnapping. This was posted almost four months ago. Have you called the police?"

"I don't know. I met him again today and I offered him a job on the farm."

"...Are you going to call the police?"

Sam sighed "I don't know, Chris, I want to see if he matches the guy in the pictures."

There was a pause, and then Chris said, "Sam...why were you looking up this stuff in the first place? I mean, this isn't exactly national news?"

"Don't worry about it." Sam tried to wave him off, "I was just...browsing."

"You browse news articles about people getting eaten by animals? Wait...are you still looking for updates on their investigation?" He questioned. 'Their' investigation being the still open-case of the Washington twins.

"And you don't?" Sam said back, a fission of annoyance bubbling to the surface.

"Well, yeah, but not regularly, you know? I mean...they've been missing a long time-"

"Chris, please just drop it, okay?"

"Alright! I'm sorry...hey, look, do you want me to tell anybody about this? I mean, Ashley's uncle is a cop, and-"

"No."

"Don't worry, he's cool. I could call her right now and-"

"Chris, I don't want to talk to the others, okay? You know how I feel about them. In fact, just forget about it. This is all probably nothing and I'm just wasting your time." Sam proclaimed.

"Sam, you're not wasting my time. I...I miss them, too."

Sam sighed and began to pace around her room, coming to a stop in front of a picture on her bureau. It was a picture of herself and Hannah the day she got her tattoo. They were standing side by side outside the tattoo parlor, Beth had taken the picture and they were making overly-shocked faces while pointing to the black ink proudly displayed on Hannah's arm. God, she missed them; she missed them so much! Hannah had been the sister she'd never had and Beth had been one of her closest friends. Every day that they weren't found had chipped away at her little by little until the hope the twins would be found alive faded and left a hole inside of her soul. The sister's disappearance had hurt Sam as bad as it hurt Josh. She blamed herself just as much as Josh blamed himself for what happened, sometimes. It had taken months before she let herself be back on regular speaking terms with the others, and that was only in passing.

Sam sighed, suddenly feeling weary, "Look, Chris, I'm sorry I bothered you."

"Don't be."

She forced the smile into her voice, "It was nice talking to you, Chris, but I gotta go. You know how my schedule is."

"Waking up at the asscrack of dawn on a daily basis?"

"Uh-huh!"

"And you wonder why I never did volunteer work."

Sam smiled for real this time, "Thanks, Chris. I'll talk to you later. By the way, don't mention this to anybody, especially Ashley; you know how she blows things out of proportion."

"Yeah." Chris laughed.

"I mean it, Chris."

"My lips are sealed!"

They bid one another goodnight and Sam hung up the phone. She sat it down on her bed and mulled over the conversation she'd just had. Was she so desperate to help somebody that she'd actively go looking for trouble? Sam sighed wearily and trudged towards the door to go eat dinner, which was probably cold like her grandmother had warned.


not too much changed in this chapter except that Chris was the first one she called instead of Ashley, and James and Sam got along fairly well. Review!