Chapter 23, Part 1
Cassie had resorted to jumping jacks to try and corral the nervous energy running rampant. The signal had stopped hours ago. The base, which had been filled with hurried activity, now lay dormant as everyone waited for any new update.
Please let her be okay, she prayed. That signal had been their one chance to find Mariah and now it was gone. Fatigue forced her to stop activity and she lay down on the floor, staring up at the ceiling two stories above. Tears budded in her eyes, threatening to spill over. She hadn’t cried in a long time. She reached for her necklace, rubbing the bullet casings that formed the cross. You’ve looked after us this long. Please keep her safe.
Captain Santos had said that they were using the last location of the signal to start narrowing down the location of Amelli’s base. But they still had a large area to look over. And hours later, there was still nothing.
“Cassie?” Abby’s voice broke the silence of the gym. Cassie sat up to see Abby peering around the door.
“I just thought you might want to know that there’s a 58.2% possibility that the signal will reappear and roughly 62.456% chance that Captain Santos will be able to find the secret base they’re looking for. I couldn’t keep carrying the decimal though. I had to round,” Abby said.
“Hey, it’s all right.” Cassie held her arms out and Abby darted into their safety.
“Remember what Luke said? Captain Santos has some of the best men and equipment. They’ll be able to find Mariah,” she reassured Abby.
“I hope so.” Abby’s voice caught in a sob.
“Those numbers you said sounded okay.”
“Not really.” Abby barely lifted her head. “That’s the best numbers I could find in the different scenarios. The other ones were terrible.”
“Abby, it’s all right.” Cassie rocked her gently as she began to cry.
“Will she really come back?”
Cassie murmured something that she hoped sounded affirmative. She hated to lie to Abby, but she didn’t know what would happen. She wiped her rebellious eyes and nudged Abby so she could stand.
“I’m pretty hungry. We still have some ice cream?” she asked.
“No.” Abby sniffed the last of her tears away. “I think Caleb ate it.”
“How about cookies?”
“You want to make some?” Cassie asked.
“Will it make you feel better?”
Cassie was a bit taken aback. “Yeah, I think it might.” She smiled.
The kitchen was empty but for Declan, who had his feet propped up on the table beside a steaming mug of tea.
“Where’s everyone else?” Cassie asked.
“Luke and Caleb are out throwing a fake football. No idea where Sam and Josh are,” he replied. “What are you two doing?”
“Making cookies,” Abby said.
“Perfect, ‘cause that bottomless pit you call Caleb has eaten just about everything in here,” he said.
Cassie and Abby laughed. “Sounds about right,” Cassie said. She got a bowl down and handed it to Abby who placed it on the table. They laid out the rest of the ingredients for chocolate chip cookies and Declan obligingly moved his feet from their workspace.
While Abby was washing her hands, he leaned closer to Cassie.
“You two doing okay?” he asked.
“Yeah. Just wish we’d hear something,” she replied.
Abby came back in time to see him swipe some chocolate and she threatened him with the stirring spoon, drawing laughs from all three of them.
“Well you can’t bake in a quiet kitchen, that’s what my Ma always says.” Declan fished out a music player. “Hope you’re ready to hear some decent music.” He selected a song and an Irish rock anthem started up.
Cassie caught her head nodding to the beat and Abby did the same. It wasn’t long before Caleb and Luke came in for a water break and sat down at the table, complaining about the music at first but soon picking up the words on a rather enthusiastic chorus.
They soon started asking questions about Ireland and Declan entertained them with stories of his home. Cassie noticed the stories were only of hilarity and misadventure. Caleb and Luke joined in with some of their own and the kitchen was filled with laughter.
By the time it was all said and done, there was only enough cookie dough left for about a dozen cookies. Declan swiped one and finished the last of his tea. Cassie joined him by the sink as he rinsed the mug.
“Thanks,” she said, glancing back to where the others were still joking with Abby.
He shrugged. “Life sucks sometimes. You learn how to deal with it. Things will work out. Ma always said that if things weren’t perfect, it meant it wasn’t the end of the story yet.”
“Yeah, well, what happens if you get the crappy story?”
“Have some faith. My mother’s a smart woman. She usually knows what she’s talking about. I’ll never admit to saying that though.” He winked.
Cassie chuckled. She hid several of the cookies for Josh and Sam and placed the rest of the dishes in the sink.
Caleb gathered up some of the crumbs with his finger. “What’s for dinner?” he asked.
“Pancakes!” Luke suggested. Cassie shrugged her shoulders. She actually didn’t have a problem with that. There was some fist pumping all around. Cassie was about to stipulate that there had to be some fruits or vegetables to accompany dinner when the door flew open and Sam and Josh ran in.
“The signal’s back!”