I took out my phone and dialed the number Shad recited. “It’s ringing.”
Before I completely finished the last word, a male voice answered. “Yes?”
“Westerly,” Shad said, raising his voice so the other guy would hear him.
“Hello, Kellan,” the guy said. “And Shad.”
“Um, hi,” I said. Obviously Shad had given some kind of code word. This group thing was more organized than I’d realized.
“Tell him,” Shad said.
“Who am I talking to?” I wasn’t sure if I was asking Shad or the guy on the phone.
“My name is Royce,” the guy said. “I’m a friend of Shad’s, as you probably guessed. You wouldn’t have called if everything was going smoothly, so why don’t you tell me what’s happened?”
“My name’s on the news.” My voice broke. Too much was going on, and I just plain didn’t know how to cope with it anymore. “Did you hear about the kids? The ones at the hotel?”
“Shad told me.” Royce sounded sympathetic. “It might have been better for you if you hadn’t intervened, but you did the right thing. You saved their lives, and now we’re working on yours. Okay?”
“Okay.” My life might be in danger. Hearing someone else talk about saving my life made the risk seem way more real.
“Where are you now?”
“You don’t know?” If he was part of the group Shad had mentioned, which seemed like a pretty sure thing, he should know everything.
“I can tell the future, not the present,” he said. “I can say you’ll be safe until you reach Boston, but you might encounter some bumps along the way. Let’s figure out how to minimize those. Where are you?”
“Hang on. There’s a sign coming up.” I didn’t even know which state we were in, let alone which city all the traffic around us was heading for. That was what I got for falling asleep. “Um, I think we’re just about at Des Moines.”
“About another hour or so, we’ll be there,” Shad said. “The sign says sixty miles.”
I hadn’t paid attention to the whole sign, just the city name. If I was going to help these guys help me, I probably ought to pay more attention. “Okay, so we’re about an hour outside Des Moines.”
“I can hear Shad.” Royce sounded amused. “Cell phones don’t exactly lend themselves to private conversations.”
“Neither does talking to someone with better-than-average hearing,” Shad said.
He didn’t sound amused. In fact, he sounded a little ticked off. Did he and Royce not get along?
“Kellan, does your phone accept text messages?” Royce asked.
“I don’t know.” I looked at Shad. If he was going to keep interrupting anyway, he might as well help me with this question.
“It should,” Shad said. “Even the prepaid ones do. It just uses more of the minutes than a phone call would. We can add more minutes to it.”
“Not a good idea,” Royce said. “They might be able to trace him that way. Kellan, your phone should have a speaker button. Put me on speaker, because I want to be sure Shad hears me correctly.”
I found the button and pressed it. Shad glared at the phone, his mouth in a thin line. His eyes narrowed when Royce spoke again. “Shad, are you listening?”
“I am.” Not only was he angry, his voice was starting to sound a little like it had when we’d encountered Ian.
“Calm down. I know I’m the last person you want to hear, but I’m catching calls today, and this is to help Kellan.”
Shad took in a breath and held it for a couple of seconds, then let it out very slowly. When he spoke again, his voice was almost normal. “Go ahead.”