The mall was pretty busy. A lot of people were probably doing their back to school shopping. I didn’t recognize any of the people I saw as we walked from the parking lot into the air conditioned building, but I kept watching faces so if anyone I knew was there, I would be able to avoid them before they spotted me.
We went into one of the big department stores and headed for the men’s department. I didn’t know how much I was allowed to pick out, so I just stood there until Eloise started loading me up with jeans and pants and shirts. We spent about two hours there while I chose things I would actually wear and tried them on. I ended up with almost as many clothes as I’d had at home. I tried to argue with Eloise about spending so much, because I didn’t think she really had any reason to. I wasn’t her kid or anything. She just smiled and said, “Money isn’t a problem, Tobias. We want you to be comfortable.”
We took the clothing bags to the car so we wouldn’t have to carry them around, then went back into the mall to check out a shoe store for some new shoes for me. I’d been wearing a pair of sneakers someone had left at Jed’s, which weren’t exactly comfortable.
I spotted Larry near one of the restaurants and froze.
“What’s wrong?” Eloise had gone a few steps farther. She turned to look at me. “Tobias?”
I shook. I couldn’t breathe. I just shook my head and pointed.
Eloise hurried back to me. She didn’t look where I was pointing. I needed her to see him. “Over there,” I whispered.
Then she finally looked. Her eyes widened, then she closed them for a moment. When she opened them again, she said, “We need to go home. Jed wants us to leave now.” I must have looked confused, because she said, “Mates have a bond and can communicate through it. I told him Larry’s here. He’s sending the trackers to take care of it and wants us to leave.”
Right. We couldn’t do anything about Larry ourselves, even though he was leaning against the wall chatting with a guy who looked even younger than me. Maybe he was going to do the same thing to that kid. I knew better than to go after Larry myself. Seeing him scared me so much I could barely stand up, never mind walk. But I couldn’t let him hurt someone else.
After a couple seconds, I managed to make my voice work. “Security guard.”
“What?” Eloise looked confused.
“He’ll hurt him.”
Apparently she caught on. “Okay. Come here.”
She led me to a nearby bench and motioned for me to sit. I did, peering around her to keep an eye on Larry. If he started to walk out of the mall with the kid, I would have to do something.
“Stay here.” Eloise spoke quietly, the way Jed had when he’d calmed me down the first day I’d been with them. “There’s a security guard right over there. I’ll go tell him something that will persuade him to get Larry away from the boy. Stay right here, Tobias, and keep your head down.”
I nodded and looked at the floor, though I wanted to watch her talk to the security guard and see what the guard did in response. If I looked up, the security guard might see me and recognize me. Worse, Larry might.
After a minute or so, Eloise came back. “I told him you’re my grandson and you had a run-in with Larry last week and you’re concerned his intentions may not be good.” She took my hand and pulled me up from the bench. “He’s talking to Larry now and making sure the boy doesn’t leave with him. We need to get out of here before Larry sees you. We’ll go somewhere else for shoes.”
“I don’t care about shoes.” I wanted to cry. The only reason I didn’t was it would have shown even more weakness than I was already showing.
I trudged to the car behind Eloise, who kept glancing back to make sure I was there. She tried to talk to me on the ride home. I didn’t answer. I didn’t have anything to say. Part of me wanted to go back to the mall and kill Larry. Part of me was ashamed of how frightened I’d been. Neither part wanted to talk.
When we arrived home, Jed met us at the door. “The trackers are out looking. Larry had left the mall by the time they arrived.”
“They’d better find him.” I pushed past him to go inside. For a change, I didn’t want to be outside. I wanted to hide.
I went up to my room and looked out the window at the little bit of ocean I was able to see. It didn’t do as much to calm me down as it had. Larry was still around. Not only that — he was apparently looking for a new victim.
I didn’t know which pissed me off more, that he was still trying to hurt people or that he had apparently completely forgotten about me.