“The gas stove and the gas water heaters work,” Nathan said. “And there’s plumbing.” He turned his back on them and busied himself taking mugs out of the cupboard in an exaggerated fashion. His heart hammered in his chest. Sweat prickled across his lip.
“And there’s tea, coffee, tins of tuna, and soup,” Steven said as he hurriedly opened more cupboards.
Bart frowned. “Well, at least we won’t go hungry.” He made for the living area, paused. “I found a path. It looks like it leads around to the other bay, but it was getting too dark to follow without a flashlight.”
“Do you think it might lead to the real lodge?” Steven asked.
Nathan blinked. It was like the doctor was reaching for straws by asking—as if hoping, still, that their pilot had just made some terrible screwup with the GPS coordinates.
Bart said, “We can check again in the morning to see if—”
“There is no real lodge.” Jackie appeared in the doorway that led from the great room into the kitchen.
They all turned to look at the solid woman with intense eyes.
“This is no mistake,” she said curtly. “This is a con, some sick game.”
“What do you mean?” Bart asked.
“Did you guys not see the plaque outside, next to the front door? This place is called Forest Shadow Lodge. As in Forest Shadow Wilderness Resort & Spa. Here, look at this.” She pulled a brochure from her pocket and smoothed it out on the kitchen island.
“I printed it off the website before I left home.” She jabbed a photo of the luxury lodge. “It’s fake. It’s photoshopped, because it’s using the same location. See this bay here? And the shape of this one here? This mountain? This is how the terrain looked from the air. It’s this spot, but someone has photoshopped the spa into the location. They’ve erased parts of the forest, added cabins and trails, plus interior shots from some other spa and lodges.” She met their gazes. “This whole thing was faked from the get-go. We were lured here. All of us. And now we’re trapped.”
A sinister cold seemed to enter the kitchen. A shutter banged upstairs, and wind whistled. Mist, cloying and wet, pressed up against the windows. It grew darker inside.
“Why?” Bart asked, still holding his wood.
“God knows.” Jackie dragged her hand over her hair. “But right now, we’re stuck. We’ve been baited and lured into some weird kind of wilderness prison.”
“We are not trapped.” Stella entered the kitchen. “We have a plane. And you guys have a pilot—me. We have fuel. We—”
“We have no bloody radio!” Jackie snapped, whirling round to face Stella, her eyes furious.
“What?” said Steven.
“That’s right,” Jackie said. “Go on, tell them, Stella.”
Stella’s gray eyes flashed, shooting daggers at Jackie.
“Go on. Tell them. The radio is broken. Sabotaged, wires cut.”
“But I heard you speaking to your dispatch on the radio,” Nathan said.
“But it wasn’t working, was it, Stella?” Jackie said. “Your dispatch couldn’t hear you, could they? No one even knows where we are, do they?”
Stella’s features went tight.
“So when were you going to tell us this, Stella?” Steven asked.
“I didn’t want to say right away. Fear, worry, is not a good thing when—”
“When what? Jesus. Who are you to decide what’s right and wrong for us to know?” Steven barked. “You’re just the pilot, not the boss of our lives, for Chrissakes.”
“There’s a chance I could fix it in the morning. If I can—if it’s an easy fix—you’d never have to have known about it.”
“So you thought you’d play God?” Steven snapped. “Because we would all panic.” He wagged jazz hands at the sides of his face.
“And you’re not panicking?” she said.
Silence swelled in the kitchen. It felt for a bizarre moment as though the house was listening. Alive. Hostile. Nathan felt hairs rise along his arms. He was sensitive to these things. He could feel trees in the forest watching and listening to him.
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