#Chapter 53: It’s a Small World
I had only just woken up after a mostly sleepless night of wishing I could just explain everything to Nina without either scaring her or pushing her away, when I heard banging on my front door. Groaning, I dragged myself out of bed and opened the door to a surprise: Luke.
“She’s up to something,” he said, without so much as a greeting, and pushed his way past me into my living room.
“What? Nina?” I asked, still rubbing the sleep from my eyes as I watched the anxious skeleton pace back and forth across my apartment. It was times like this that I was glad to not have roommates.
“I don’t know exactly what she’s doing, but she’s definitely up to something that is very much notgood,” he said, a little too quickly for me to fully comprehend exactly what was going on in my tired mind.
“Wait… Luke, slow down. What’s happening?” I asked.
Luke stormed over to me and took me by both shoulders, shaking me back and forth.
“Nina is being lured into a trap!” he
There were a few moments of silence as we stared at each other, the reality of the situation slowly sinking in.
Finally, I understood what was going on; panic mode started to set in.
“Where is she? How do you know? Is she alone? Is she hurt? Tell me what’s happening, god dammit!” I shouted as I ran around my apartment like a
madman, throwing on yesterday’s dirty clothes as images of Nina being brutally murdered or kidnapped by a crazy person flashed through my mind.
“If you would give me a chance, I would tell you!” Luke shouted, his usual monotone voice now bellowing so loudly it shook the glass of water on my nightstand.
I stopped and took a deep breath. Luke was right; running around like a chicken with its head cut off wouldn’t solve anything.
“I saw a strange guy in a beat up pickup truck pull up to the diner last night while she was at work,” Luke said. “He sat down in a window booth. When she went over to him, she looked terrified; he gave her a piece of paper,
they talked, then he left. This morning, she drove to the gun shop outside of town — that’s right, a gun shop and walked out with a shotgun. The last I saw of her, she was
driving out of town with her
roommates with a car full of camping supplies.”
My heart raced as I pictured Nina with a shotgun… Why on earth would she need a dangerous weapon like that? And who was that man that Luke mentioned?
None of that mattered, though, because right now my sole purpose was to find Nina and protect her in any way I could.
“Do you know where she went?” I asked, grabbing a duffel bag from my closet and starting to fill it with necessities.
“I’m not sure exactly,” Luke replied, pulling a folded up piece of newspaper out of his hoodie pocket, “but I broke into her dorm after she left and I found this. The newspaper that the guy in the diner gave her. My best guess is that she’s trying to investigate… Because she probably thinks that we did this somehow.”
I furrowed my brow and snatched the newspaper away from Luke. My eyes widened as I read the article.
“Yeah,” Luke said, nodding, “It’s him. The guy who drugged her at the club. Someone must’ve found where I had him and they did him in. I’m not sure why, exactly, but my only guess is that that guy who showed up to the diner last night had something to do with it.”
“How do you know?” I asked. “Why would he have given her this if he was the one who did the killing?”
“When he went into the diner last night and I saw how terrified Nina looked, I got suspicious,” Luke replied. “So I looked through the windows of his truck. There was a business card on the dashboard. It had blood on it.”
“Fuck,” I exclaimed, stuffing the newspaper article in my pocket and continuing to pack. “How long ago did she leave?”
“Only about ten minutes ago,” Luke said. “If we go soon, we might be able to catch up with her and stop her before it’s too late.”
I quickly finished packing up my camping supplies, formulating a plan as I did so. I couldn’t just randomly show up in the woods and drag Nina home; for starters, I didn’t want to get shot, and secondly, I couldn’t have her friends getting suspicious. I had to figure out a way to make it seem like it was all just a coincidence.
I called Matt from the hockey team once I finished packing — he was the only one on the team who I knew would agree to a last-minute camping trip like this, plus he had a car — and told him to pack quickly and meet me at the quad. Just as I suspected, he agreed enthusiastically.
“Totally, man!” he said. “I can be out there in, like, ten minutes. Oh, and is it alright if I bring my roommate? He’s going through some stuff so he could use a camping trip… You’ll like him
“Sure, whatever,” I said, rolling my eyes, and hung up the phone.
Ten minutes later, I was standing on the quad when I saw Matt and his roommate walking toward me.
I almost audibly groaned when I
recognized his roommate immediately.
It was the guy that Nina had been
going on dates with.
“Enzo, this is my roommate James,” Matt said.
James smiled and stuck out his hand. ” Nice to meet you,” he said, a perfect picture of politeness.
I forced a smile and shook his hand back.
Even though I wanted to throttle this guy for stealing Nina away from me, I didn’t have the time right now to be dealing with this. It looked like I’d just have to grin and bear it for Nina’s sake.
We hopped in Matt’s car — I insisted on driving — and started to head toward Newburgh. I knew exactly where Luke had kept the asshole who drugged Nina; it was just a matter of figuring out where she decided to set up her camp, because it likely wasn’t far.
I took risks driving at breakneck speeds around the back roads, much to Matt’s dismay, and soon enough we were in Newburgh.
And, sure enough, Fio sensed her nearby.
“Park here,” Fio said. “I can smell her. She was just here; she’s not far.”
I did as Fio said and parked along the side of the road. We got out and grabbed our things — I tried my best to ignore Mr. Perfect, James, who came fully prepared with a fancy hiking backpack, hiking boots, expensive outdoorsy clothes, and all of the
camping supplies we could possibly need — and then we got on our way.
“Thanks for inviting me, by the way,’ James said as we walked, not realizing that Fio was guiding me to the perfect spot. “I really appreciate it.”
“No problem,” I lied through my teeth. “It’s a good weekend for it.”
“Sure is,” Matt said, inhaling the forest air. “What made you wanna go camping so last minute, Enzo?”
I shrugged, stepping over a fallen tree; Fio was telling me that Nina was very close now. “Just been a long week,” I replied. “Needed to get some fresh air.”
A few minutes later, we found a decent camping spot that was close enough to Nina’s campsite for my plan to go into action.
“I wanna scout around for a couple
minutes before we set up just to check for bear droppings,” I said. “You guys wait here, alright?”
Matt and James nodded and sat down on a log while I hiked off into the woods.
I knew that there were no bears around; even if there were, I knew I could handle it. Instead, I was headed straight for Nina’s campsite. I picked up some small logs along the way to make it look like I was out collecting firewood not that Nina would believe me anyway, but at least her friends would fall for it.
When I heard the girls talking and laughing nearby, my stress dissolved. I had made it in time before anything bad happened. Nina could be mad at me all she wanted, but I could explain everything later.
“Shh- Do you hear that?” Nina said, quieting her friends as I approached.
Not wanting to frighten them, I called Out: Hello? I stepped out into the clearing where the girls had set up camp and smiled.
“Oh, hey!” I said. “Fancy seeing you ladies here.”