When I got to Christo Rey, Ana called me. She sounded carefully calm, like she didn't want me to know how troubled she was. “Bella, I've lost James.” Her words sent a chill through me, and for a moment, I couldn't speak. She continued on, telling me the last things he said, and that he was tracking a teenage boy he'd seen while out for a run in the woods.
“I'll keep looking for him,” she promised me. “I just hope we can stop him in time. Trackers like him don't quit until they've hunted down their prey.”
“I know,” I breathed into the phone.
There was a long pause, and I thought Ana would hang up the phone, but then her voice came over the receiver again. “If the werewolves get to him first...” Her voice trailed off with a tremble, and I knew what she was thinking.
“We'll find him,” I assured her. “I'll see if anyone's seen him around here first, then I'll try to pick up his scent in the woods.” After we spoke a few more reassuring words to each other, I ended the call and drove to the center of town, which was somehow smaller than Forks. Angela had described this town as a bit “rough” compared to Forks, and that was apparent from the outside. The houses in this town may have been nice at one point, but they had aged horribly from neglect. The roads were a bumpy patchwork of asphalt that made my car shudder as its mature tires rolled over and around potholes and cracks. I drove into what must have been the center of town, only to find a majority of shuttered businesses along the main street. The only open businesses I saw were a gas station, a laundromat, and a very small grocery store.
I parked in the small lot of this cluster of businesses, planning to inquire if anyone had seen someone fitting James' description. I didn't expect anyone to have seen him, as he was hardly one to stroll through town.
However, I did find someone who'd seen him, or at least might have seen him. A tall, muscular black man with long dreadlocks was leaving the grocery store as I was walking up, and I stopped him and asked if he'd seen a pale man with short brown hair and dirty clothes. I stuck to that general description because I could always claim I was looking for a homeless relative or something if questions were asked.
The tall man eyed me warily, which put me on edge. Without making it obvious, I took in a breath, smelling his sharp, musky scent. There, mixed with the scent of cigarettes and leather, was something quite repellant about the way he smelled. Instinctually I wanted to run, and somewhere within me I knew I was speaking to a werewolf. “I've seen someone like that,” he said in a cold, gravely, and that made me stay in my place even though I wanted to run.
“Where?” I asked, focusing on the task at hand.
“I saw him on the beach,” the man answered. His dark eyes never left my face, and I felt like he was trying to analyze me as much as I was him. “It was about two hours ago.”
I nodded, knowing James could have moved half-way across the state in that time. “Thank you,” I said, starting to walk away. I felt the man's gaze burning into my back as I retreated. I chanced a glance over my shoulder after I had put some distance from him, and I watched him mount a motorcycle.
I called Ana, though I didn't get an answer. I left a brief message, relaying what I had learned. With that done, I got back in my car and headed out to the edge of town and into the forest. I parked my car on the side of the road near the entrance to a popular hiking trail. When I stepped out, I inhaled the air, trying to pick up the scent of James. I smelled nothing of him, however, so I dashed into the foliage and began my search.
I knew this would be a needle-in-a-haystack situation. It was obvious by James' appearance and scent that he spent a lot of time out of doors, far more than I ever had in recent decades. Even if he didn't know the area as well as I did, he was more adept at moving through the forest and keeping himself hidden. The only advantage I had was that Ana was also searching for him.
I raced through the forest, trying to find anything – a footprint, a broken branch, a piece of torn clothing. The longer time drew on, the more pessimistic I became about the situation. If James had targeted a youth, he more than likely had already taken his prize. I tried not to think about that as I searched, but the thought would not leave my mind.
The consequences of my failure to stop James were apparent. There would be a dead human, torn from the seams and drained of all blood. That was not a typical way for a human to die, and even if Ana and I could appear completely uninvolved in the death, we still would both feel too uncomfortable to stay here. I would have to leave Forks, my school, Edward.
“Bella.” When I heard my name called from above me, I jumped back a good ten feet, putting my back up against a tree trunk. I searched the canopy for the origin of the voice, finding the man I was looking for peering down at me from a high branch. Even from the distance, I could see his amused smirk. “Looking for me?” he asked.
I stood up straight, clearing my throat. “Yes I am,” I said, making my voice stern. “Ana told you that you are not allowed to hunt in our territory.”
“Oh, I'm going to hunt,” he said with a chuckle. “I can't stop now.”
I narrowed my eyes at him. “Who are you hunting?” I asked boldly. I didn't even know if he'd answer me.
“A male,” he said, tilting his head in the direction of Christo Rey. “A child, really. He runs hot and smells repulsively attractive.” His voice floated down to me thickly, surrounding me. There was a lilting note to how he spoke, like a delighted child speaking of his favorite candy.
“He’s probably a werewolf,” I said. “There’s a pack in that town. You’d be stupid to hunt him.”
He shrugged a lazy shoulder, then dropped down to the ground, landing on the balls of his dirty bare feet. I moved away from the tree as he approached me, careful not to corner myself in his presence. Though I was hardly a defenseless child, I knew that James was both stronger and more unpredictable than me. I stiffened as he closed in, pressing his thick body against mine. I met his eyes, darkened with hunger, and saw madness in them.
“What's his name?” I asked, my voice low.
“I don't know,” he said and grinned. “I don't care. I want you to tell me about him.”
“And what can I tell you?” I spat, stepping away from him. “I don't know any of the Christo Rey boys.”
“That's not true,” he said, stepping forward with me, keeping our distance short. “He's spoken your name. You know him.”
A cold feeling went down my spine. There was only one Christo Rey boy I had ever met. Of all the people who lived in this area, why did James have to choose Jacob as the target?
“I've only met him briefly,” I said, speaking slowly so as not to let my panicked feelings show in my voice. “I don't know anything about him.”
“Oh, Bella,” he breathed, sounding disappointed. Much to my relief, he backed away from me, turning away. I didn't think fast enough, and by the time I realized that I should have kept a hold of him, he had raced off into the woods, even beyond the reach of my view.
That evening at home, I traced the path James had created when he paced through the living room. I could hardly think straight as my mind listed off all of the implications of letting James get away as I had. For all I knew, Jacob was dead and drained.
Ana continued to search the area for James even after I had given up and gone home. I had managed to call her and tell her what had transpired between the wild vampire and I. Ana had given up her calm guise, and let the solemn note in her voice linger when she said, “Go home, Bella. I'll keep looking, but you go home.”
I felt like a failure and that Jacob's death was partially my responsibility. Even if Ana and I could weather the aftermath of the tragedy and continue our lives here in Forks, could I ever look Edward in the eye again? Could I withhold from him the truth of his best friend's death?
I paced, wringing my hands, pulling at my hair. I felt this would go on forever until Ana called me at last. I nearly jumped out of my skin at the sound of my phone's musical ringtone, and I nearly dropped it as I fumbled to answer the call. “What's going on?” I asked immediately.
“Bella, first thing, calm down,” Ana said firmly to me. I took in a deep breath, trying to get a grip on my nerves. “James told me you know the boy he's after.”
“That's right,” I said, not daring to speak Jacob's name aloud, in case James could hear me. The less he knew about Jacob, the better, I figured.
“Do you know where he lives?” she asked.
“In Christo Rey.”
“I mean, where his house is.”
“I have no idea.”
“Do you know someone who would?”
“Well, yes.” I paused for a moment. “Why do you need to know where he lives?”
Ana sighed, and I could tell she sounded very tired. “I've been trying to catch James, but he keeps eluding me. If I can't catch him before he gets too close to the target, then I may need to stake out this boy's home.”
“I'll come help you,” I said, heading towards the door already.
“No,” Ana said firmly. “I need you to find where he lives and text me the address. Then I want you to stay home.”
“But Ana-” I tried to argue, but she hung up on me. I ground my teeth in frustration, feeling a spark of pain in my jaw for a split second. There was no way I could just sit here and fiddle my thumbs while she did all the work! I resolved to head straight to Jacob's home the moment I had his address.
I went through the few contacts I had programmed into my phone until I found Edward's number. I hit the call button and waited as I heard the phone ring in my ear, still grinding my teeth. I checked the clock; it was barely eight o'clock, so he should still be up. He didn’t answer the first call, but I tried again. Finally, after five rings, he answered.
“Hey, Bella,” he said, his voice sounding a bit terse over the phone. “This is a bit of a bad time to call.”
“Edward,” I said over his voice, my words tumbling out clumsily, “this is an emergency. I need Jacob’s address.”
There was a pause that, in reality was no more than a second, but seemed to stretch on forever. “Why do you need Jacob's address?” he asked.
“Well, because,” I said, but then stopped, realizing I had not come up with any sort of cover story. The need for one hadn’t even crossed my mind, so I stuttered nonsense instead.
“Bella,” Edward said after a moment of this, his voice now louder. “What is going on?”
I stood there for a moment, tempted to just end the call and try to sniff Jacob out myself. I realized how foolish that was, however. “Edward, I...I can't tell you why I need it. I just do.” He was quiet again. I paced quicker, my feet moving about twice the speed of a human's. “Please, Edward.”
“Is Jacob in trouble?” he asked.
I bit my lip, trying to figure out how much to tell him. “Well, yes,” I said.
He let out a sigh that sounded somewhere between exasperation and frustration. “Bella, what on Earth is going on? Tell me!”
I suddenly halted in my tracks, realizing that Edward would not tell me the information I needed without a good and proper reason. I had told him his best friend was in danger, and there was no way I could explain that danger with lies. I didn’t have it in me to lie to him about this, and honestly I was not cunning enough to think of anything at all. Which meant I had only one option: the truth.
I had not expected to tell Edward the truth about myself, and certainly not in the manner. But every precious second that ticked away meant Jacob’s chances were shrinking.
“Okay, Edward,” I breathed. “I'll tell you. Everything. But please, tell me Jacob's address first. Then come over. I won't hide a thing.”