Further out from the city of Grand Lake, cottages and big houses dominated the coastline closest to Lake Michigan.
From the state park northward, aside from the houses, the landscape seemed to be all trees.
Sean and the truck disappeared into the bulge of a forested dune near Northshore Drive.
Even in the distance, I could hear a crashing noise.
No explosion though.
If the truck still had gas, I now had anecdotal evidence that all those films that showed cars exploding on impact were wrong.
In my ear Rachel said, “I hope that wasn’t Mom.”
The GPS showed the landscape in the helmet’s technical readouts.
We weren’t far off.
The helmet’s enhanced visuals showed a cloud of something in the distance. It wasn’t easy to see. Dust, maybe. As if Sean had crashed the car into something outside of the house–or maybe something inside, but it fell out, and onto the ground?
It didn’t seem likely, but you never knew.
We grew closer, and I saw the truck.
It lay upside down next to the cottage’s dirt driveway. The cab had been smashed nearly flat, and the passenger’s side door had been knocked in. The shape of the dent struck me as roughly human.
Dark, reddish liquid covered the grill, and dripped slowly onto the sand.
If it had hit Sean, I doubted that he’d survived. If he’d hit someone with it, he’d probably killed them.
Still, the blood’s color didn’t look quite right. It was too dark. I supposed that magnetic powers might have an effect on blood, but only when Sean was around, and I didn’t see him.
If Haley had been with us, she’d have been able to smell the difference.
I wished she were.
Then I landed.
Closer to the road seemed like the better idea than closer to the house. Trees would hide the landing from view, and the noise of the rockets might be confused with a car.
If I were lucky.
Anyway, the stealth suit’s rockets weren’t as powerful as the regular suits. With any luck, no one would hear them at all.
I landed behind a tree–one of many that hid the cottage from the view of the road.
I slowly moved my head around the tree to inspect the house.
It stood at the top of the dune, the stony, dirt driveway leading straight up to the back of the house.
I’d seen a lot of houses and cottages by the lake, but this wasn’t one of the more impressive ones. The wooden siding hadn’t been painted recently, if ever, and had bleached to the grey of driftwood.
Trees didn’t grow next to the house, and the only cover within twenty feet of the house were clumps of knee-high beach grass.
In short, no cover at all.
If Ray had assigned someone to watch for intruders, I’d have to find them before I crossed the final distance. Otherwise I might as well walk up the road, and knock on the door.
I pulled the roachbots’ controller off my belt, and began to activate them.
“What are you doing,” Rachel’s voice asked.
“I’m going to check out what’s going on. You know, without being noticed.”
“I can do that.”
“Then I’m just getting them into position before anything happens.”
Not that that surprised me.
I’d managed to get the roachbots landed on the house by the time Rachel got back.
“We’re screwed,” she said. “They knew I was there. They’ve got something that detects me when I’m intangible.”
“They know you’re here too. They told me that we need to walk up the path and come in from the beach side.”
“Why the beach side?”
“Don’t know, but Ray said we’d better use it if we want to see Mom alive again.”
That didn’t leave a lot of options.
She faded into visibility, and we walked up to the house, following a concrete footpath around to the front.
The house didn’t look any better close up than it had from the road. All the windows had been boarded up. The flecks of white paint that remained on the wood made it seem more abandoned than it had before I’d come close enough to notice.
The wooden porch sagged as I stepped on it, making me wonder if I’d fall through.
I looked down, hoping to avoid the really bad boards, and saw a trail of blood drops leading to the door. Following the drops backward, I saw that they came around the left side of the house. We’d walked up the other side.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Lake Michigan behind us.
Sitting a good fifty feet above the lake, whoever owned the house had a great view of the sandy beach and the water below.
Crazy, the things a person notices.
“Rocket,” Rachel said, and I turned back to the door. “Let’s not keep the psycho waiting.”
I managed a chuckle, and pulled the screen door open. Since the actual screens were torn, jagged-edged things that had been eaten away by wear, it barely counted as a screen door, or arguably even a door.
The wooden door behind it wobbled as I opened it, and stepped into the room, waiting for the helmet to adjust to the darkness.