“Hey. Is she gone?”
“Almost.” Roger planted his feet in the squishy couch cushions and balanced his small frame against the window, one hand in the sheer curtains, breath frosting the glass. Taillights at the end of the driveway bumped as the dark Sudan entered the road, pulled right. Yellow blinker flashed off. Accelerated. Taillights flickered behind trees. Disappeared.
“Gone.” He looked back from the window. At this height, he was barely taller than Chris, who jerked his head toward the door.
“C’mon then.” Chris had duct tape in one hand and a bucket in the other. Roger trotted behind him to the porch door with the peeling paint. His eyes followed the pail in his brother’s hand.
“You sure this is a good idea?”
“Sure I’m sure.” Chris swung the door open and the bucket into Roger’s stomach. The smaller boy let out an oof. “But we’ve gotta be quick.”
Roger followed him through the door and into stuffy air. Something cold and hard smacked into Roger’s hand, and he knew from experience it was Chris handing him something. There was just enough light to see it was hammer. And a nail. Roger swallowed.
Chris swung the latch and pushed the door open, letting in cool twilight. The overgrown lawn was silvery, lit by a crescent moon. A whippoorwill called nearby. The two boys crossed the yard, followed by moonlight shadows.
Roger took a breath to speak. Chris was taking long strides. “Even if she doesn’t catch us-”
“She’s not,” Chris snorted, looking down. “Have you seen how fast the old lady moves?”
Roger tried to keep his breathing even. “A lot slower than Rusty.”
“Worrywort. That dog’s teeth are rot by now. Are you in or not?”
“Good. ‘Cause you said you were.”
They paused when they reached the overgrown swamp. Roger listened to his own breathing, thought about the edge in Chris’s voice. He’d heard that before. And he knew firsthand how creative his brother could be when it came to traitors.
Dew soaked into Roger’s sneakers, chilling his toes. He shivered. Barely, he saw Chris’s hand beckoning him forward—the hand with two fingers shorter than they were supposed to be. Roger dared hesitate only a moment before he clenched the hammer and stepped in.