Monday, 23 February 2009 - 3:19 pm


We’re only a few days from the next dot on our map. From Dillon’s home. We’ve been moving on foot because the roads on this side of the river are more clogged; we might be able to find a vehicle in a day or so, when things spread out a bit more.


The kid has been quiet since we got off the boat. He’s usually good about keeping an eye on Nugget, but she’s been unleashed from his attention and wilder than normal. She keeps running off and has to be called back. Thorpe asked what we were all thinking – why wasn’t she left with the others on the boat? I have no idea. I guess no-one thought of her, poor kid.

I didn’t know what to say to Dillon, but there was only so much of that glum face that I could take. I had to try. I caught up with him when we stopped for lunch today and shared a bottle of water with him.

“So, how are you doing?” I think my ‘casual’ was a bit strained; it was hard to hide that I was worried about him.

“Okay, I guess.” Oh, goodie, he was going to make this difficult. That was all right – I was ready for it.

“We’re not too far off now. Recognise anything yet?”

He looked down at the empty wrapper in his hand and started to smooth it out against his knee. “Yeah, some. My school is down that road.”

I looked in the direction he gestured, but I couldn’t see any signs of a school. It must have been some distance away.

“Really? Did you want to call in there first? Hand in some homework, maybe?”

That got a little smile from him, along with a roll of his eyes, of course. “Yeah, right.”

“Better just carry on, huh.” I looked at him for a moment and decided to try a more direct approach. “Are you scared?” I asked, more gently.

He shrugged. He’s been spending too much time with Thorpe; he’s learning how to avoid personal questions with sullen gestures. Or, worse, maybe he’s just becoming a teenager. He didn’t want to look at me and an awkward silence descended. It took me a moment to figure out what to say to him.

“I get it, you know. Being scared. What if they’re not there, like Sax’s daughter? How are we going to find them if that happens?”

I didn’t think he was going to respond for a moment. Finally, he said quietly, “What if they are there?” It wasn’t the question I was expecting; I hadn’t thought of that as something to worry about.

“What about that? It’d be good, right?”

Dillon scowled and scrunched his wrapper up. “Yeah.”

Whoops. Rein it back, Faith. I took a chance and reached over for his hand. “Hey. What is it?”

He looked at me, finally. Poor kid looked so torn up; he was more scared by all of this than I’d guessed. “You’re gonna leave if that happens, right? All of you, I mean. The group.”

“I– don’t know. I guess. It depends what your family wants to do.”

“And I won’t get a say. Dad won’t go anywhere unless he can be in charge, and it’s your group.” He meant me, specifically, and surprised me again. I don’t think of it like that. I don’t lay down the law for the group or anything. Do I?

“It’s not fair,” he said.

It was hard to know what to say to him. “Look, we’ll jump off that bridge when we get there, okay? Your folks might have a good setup where they are, maybe even their own group. Might be safe with them.”

“Safe enough with you.” He was getting belligerent and defensive in his unhappiness.

“Dillon, you are welcome to stay with us as long as you like. You know that, right?” He looked up at me, hopeful as a puppy. “I don’t want to leave you behind either, y’know. I’d really miss you if you went.” I slung an arm around him. “We’re not going to just offload you at the first opportunity. We’re a team, remember? Whatever we find when we get there, we’ll work it out together, okay?”

He nodded and leaned on me. We didn’t talk about the third option of what we might find. No-one wants to think about bodies.

We’ll deal with that, too, if it comes to it.