“So let’s get on with it,” Cassie said.
We sat in her mom’s car on Herrick Street on the north side of Grand Lake. Strictly speaking, it wasn’t in Grand Lake itself. The road ran north/south parallel to the shore. Homes lay on either side of it, some of them “cottages” in name, but larger than my parents’ house.
The piles of snow on either side of the road rose nearly to the height of Cassie’s mom’s car, leaving many of the mailboxes partially buried in snow. The plowed driveways were in the same state as the road — the ones that had been plowed looked like a good wind could fill them in a moment.
Small snowflakes blew across the road in a mist-like cloud.
Off to the left, I could see Lake Michigan past the dunes. Off to the right, the houses stood surrounded by evergreens and a mix of trees that had long since lost their leaves.
“How far do we have to go?”
“About a mile. When Daniel and I came through last night, he said that he could sense danger associated with the Executioner until he got around here. After that he couldn’t get a good reading.”
“So something’s interfering with his abilities. That’s bad.”
Cassie shrugged. “From what I read, the Executioner takes the obvious precautions. In Grand Lake, you’d better prepare to avoid Daniel or his dad.”
With a sinking feeling, I pulled the magazine order forms out of my backpack, wondering what the obvious precautions against me were.
Cassie opened the door and stepped out of the car. I did the same.
It felt miserably cold.
“So this is for band?” I asked.
“They want to buy new uniforms,” Cassie said. “Between volleyball and this kind of thing I’ve been to busy to do much. I figured we could kill two birds with one stone.”
“Great,” I said.
So that was the plan. We were going to tromp down the driveway of every house for the next mile or so, knock on the door and look for clues. If someone answered the door, we would be selling magazine subscriptions. If no one did, we’d look through the windows, hoping to notice any exotic weaponry or dead bodies they might have hidden inside.
Cassie and I planned to walk together, figuring that the buddy system had its place when searching for a professional killer.
In case we really got in trouble, Marcus and Travis waited in the family cottage. It had turned out to be within the area protected from Daniel’s abilities.
We’d placed everyone on alert and brought our homing devices just in case we needed the help.
We needn’t have bothered.
Almost half the driveways hadn’t been plowed since the snow started falling. We trudged down the first two like that, but by the third we’d agreed that the Executioner would probably plow his driveway — especially if the driveway were more than one hundred feet long.
Most likely the houses’ owners lived in Chicago’s suburbs and came up for the summer.
Over the next hour and a half we walked down the road, stopping only at the houses where we could see a hint of occupancy — footprints, plowed driveways, mail in the mailbox, lights, anything.
Near the end of the road, just a couple houses away from Haley’s family cottage, Cassie said, “This one. I bet it’s this one.”
“It’s all perfect, but it still doesn’t look like anyone lives here.”
She had a point.
We stood at the front door of a big, brown, brick house. It couldn’t have been more than two years old with a wide lot, a three stall garage, and a long, wide driveway.
The driveway had been plowed, probably by a service. The area in front of the front door had to have been shoveled straight down to the concrete immediately after it snowed.
I couldn’t see even a hint of frozen footprints. Houses that people actually use can’t avoid them.
“I’ll go up to the front door,” Cassie said. “You… stand behind me and be ready to blast him.”
I had the stealth suit on under my street clothes, sonic systems all warmed up. I could feel warmth under my forearms.
She knocked just under the Christmas wreath.
The door didn’t open.
“Let’s circle around and look through the windows. Did you bring the roachbots along?”
“You didn’t ask me to,” I said.
She gave me a look.
“Anyway, even though this weather definitely solves the overheating problem, they don’t do well with ice and when it comes to snow — ”
Cassie had already jumped over the short brick wall that jutted out from the house on the right side of the walk. “Got it,” she said, “they don’t work in snow. Good enough.”
I followed her and we worked our way around the house, stopping to look through windows.
Whoever lived there had money — big television, big stereo, big speakers, a hot tub, a room full of exercise equipment…
“It has to be him,” Cassie said. “Did you see all that equipment? He’s got better stuff than the high school.”
“Could be,” I said.
Somehow I’d gotten ahead of her. As we came around the back corner and started moving up the side to the driveway, a woman’s voice shouted, “Hey, what are you kids doing over there?”
I turned toward the voice.
The house between where we were and Haley’s family’s didn’t quite meet the same standard. White with chipped wooden siding and easily a century old, it sat on a small lot with a couple bare-limbed trees. A blue, pickup truck and a rusty, red Honda Civic sat in the driveway. I didn’t see a garage.
A red haired woman in a thick, green jacket shouted at us, “I said, what do you think you’re doing over there?”
“Checking if anyone’s home,” I said. “We’re selling magazines. Would you be interested in… um… ‘Good Housekeeping’?”