The sun rose clothed in a dress of pinks, orange and blues, which she spun out across the sky. Rachel, Lauren, Sam, and Peter darted through the trees so no wayward early rises would see them. Joggers, trash men, and kids on their way to school provided a visual obstacle course. At least Peter had stopped whooping and hollering as he spun through the air, Lauren thought. She pressed her lips together keeping her own noise issues to a minimum.
“There’s my house,” Peter said.
The two-story Victorian home poked its gingerbread roof out through the trees and greeted the morning. Rachel tightened her grip on her Super Soaker. Last time they’d been this way Lauren got bit and now grew scales. Rachel wasn’t going to let that happen again. Granted, the sun was up. But last time she checked, bed monsters didn’t give anyone scale rashes, so she wasn’t going to count on the sun to keep the monsters at bay.
“Let’s get to your tree house so we can do some scouting,” Rachel directed.
“Follow me,” Peter said.
He dropped down below a large sycamore, dove through the thin branches of a pine, up, up, up around a pecan and cut his engines to land in his tree house. The other three followed.
“Show-off,” Sam grumbled picking himself up off the floor.
“I wasn’t showing off,” Peter whispered. “But, I’m guessing you don’t get much, what’s it called? Field time? It’s not like these jet packs are hard to handle.”
Ignoring the boys, Rachel and Lauren rushed to check their surroundings. Rachel hurried to the back and scanned the house for signs of awake life. All she found was two agents keeping watch on the family and putting together a story for how they slept for as long as they did.
Lauren scanned the backyard. Nothing. Both the family cat and dog slept on the porch, and even a squirrel, which lived in the pine, snored in his nest. Everything seemed quiet. Lauren caught Rachel’s eye and gave her a stiff nod.
“Area secure,” Rachel whispered crossing to Lauren’s side.
Together they approached the side of Peter’s tree house that looked over into the Buckner backyard.
The twin special agents gasped.
“Has it always looked like that?”
“Yeah, pretty much,” Peter said. “Rick is kinda strange.”
Rick’s tree house glared across the yards separated by a silvered privacy fence. Dark misshapen windows faced them. Barbed wire ran around the top of the tree house. Doll heads and Barbie heads were nailed around each window and door. Some melted army men clattered together as the wind blew through them—a macabre wind chime. A scrawny cat climbed up on the window sill clutching a mockingbird in its jaw. It stared at them over its kill.
Rachel shuddered. Lauren tightened her grip on her Super Soaker and Sam swallowed loudly.
“Did,” Sam said, stopped to swallow again, cleared his throat, and started over, “did you scan it yet?”
Lauren nodded to Rachel who pointed her tablet out at the tree. It lit up. Red and orange lights flashed across the surface.
“Not good,” Rachel said. “It looks like we’ve got a lot of underground activity.”
Lauren scribbled across her tablet writing with one finger while she kept her hold on her Super Soaker.
Let’s check it out, she wrote.
Sam turned white, Rachel nodded, and Peter grinned.
“Scanning for any infrared,” Rachel said. “And heat signatures in the tree house.”
They waited tensely, watching Rachel, watching the tree house.
“Nothing, let’s go.”
Lauren gunned her jet pack to life and rose in the air. The others followed. With a thumbs-up from all, they flew over the yards and right in the window of Rick’s tree house. The scrawny cat hissed and fled leaving his bird behind. Setting down on the floor of the tree house, something crunched under Lauren’s sneaker.
Rachel clicked on her flashlight and shone it around the room.
“Disgusting,” she said.
Small bones and parts of bugs littered the floor. Cobwebs—some occupied, some not—filled the corners and covered the one chair and ancient entertainment center pushed up against the wall. Tiny animal footprints smeared the dust on the floor.
Lauren’s brown eyes opened wide. She turned her Super Soaker on Peter.
“Whoa, watch where you point that thing,” he said holding up his hands.
“Lauren?” Rachel said.
Lauren waved her free hand around the room taking in all the signs. Dawning crossed Rachel’s face.
“You!” she hissed also raising her Super Soaker.
“What? What is going on?” Peter said.
“You led us here,” Rachel said. “No one’s been here in months and months.”
Sam snorted. He snorted again, his body convulsing.
“Sam?” Rachel said, her voice small and afraid.
Clutching his ribs, Sam laughed. He laughed and laughed.
“Look at you, the mighty Special Agents,” he gasped between giggles. “You were so full of your own selves you didn’t see what was really happening.”
Lauren pressed the red button and fired her Super Soaker at Sam.
He dodged the monster catching net easily. Yellow goo stiffened on the wall behind him.
“Sorry Lauren, you’ll have to do better than that.”
“It was you all this time,” Rachel said.
Sam puffed up his chest. “Of course. Sam Mortimer,” he spat out his name. “I hate that name. My name isn’t Sam Mortimer.”
Lauren arched an eyebrow at him.
“Oh, you want to know what my name is?” Sam said. Lighting up his jet pack, he leapt out one of the tree house windows. Lauren and Rachel jumped to follow but everything went dark. They slammed up against something blocking the windows.
“You want to know who I am?” Sam yelled from the outside. “I am the Son.”
Rachel gasped and Lauren filled the room with the sound of a muffled, haunted siren.
“I am the Son and this is my revenge.”