“What’s so good about it?”
Jessica turned to face her little sister, who was holding a piece of wheat bread in her hand.
“I didn’t actually say ‘good morning,’ Beth. Just ‘morning.’ So I don’t have to explain why it’s good.”
Beth stared up at Jessica through narrowed eyes, her little brain racing as she took a sip of orange juice. “I didn’t say you said it was good. I was just asking a simple question.”
“That is so lame. Dad, tell Beth that’s lame.”
“Girls,” Jessica’s father murmured in an abstractly threatening way, not bothering to look up from his newspaper.
“He can’t help you, Jess. He’s not actually hearing what we say,” Beth explained. “He only reacts to our tone of voice. Sort of like a dog.”
“I heard that,” Don Day said, giving Beth an actually threatening look. She hid behind her orange juice again.
Mom breezed in dressed for work, which was usual for Sunday mornings these days. Her new job at Aerospace Oklahoma was what had brought them all to Bixby.
“Morning, Mom. Want anything to eat?” Jessica turned to pop the bread into the toaster.
“Hey, guys. No thanks, Jess. We’re having breakfast at the meeting.”
“So when does your new job become an old job, Mom? And you get to stay home on the weekends?” Beth asked.
Jessica turned around and saw that her father was also waiting for an answer.
Her mother looked at the three of them and sighed. “I don’t know. Today’s my fault, though. I volunteered to be on this committee about the new runway.”
“Never volunteer,” Dad said, his eyes dropping back to his newspaper.
Jessica’s mother glanced at him in that new way that had evolved over the last few weeks, a cold look that probably had something to do with the fact that he didn’t have a job here yet. Waiting up late for the secret hour, Jessica had heard them arguing about him taking temporary noncomputer work to make some extra money and to get him out of the house.
Donald Day didn’t see the look, though. He never did.
“I saw a dust devil last night,” Jessica said, trying to break the tension.
“Last night?” Beth asked sweetly.
Jessica looked down, buttering her toast. “Night before last, I mean. On the way home from school. It was really big, like a hundred feet tall.”
“This is tornado country,” Dad said, his paper rustling as he looked up. “It’s because of the Coriolis force. I saw this thing on the Weather Channel—”
Beth groaned. “Not the Weather Channel again.”
Jessica stuffed toast into her mouth. Unemployment had caused her father to become addicted to some strange activities.
“What’s wrong with the Weather Channel?” he asked.
“Two words, Dad: weather… channel.”
He ignored her. “Anyway, the Coriolis force is caused by the earth rotating under us, leaving the air behind. It makes the wind blow harder in flat places like Oklahoma; there’s nothing to stop it.”
Jessica blinked. “Actually, that makes sense.” Maybe that was why wind didn’t blow in the secret hour: the earth had stopped spinning beneath Bixby.
Beth was staring at her, annoyed that Jessica was showing any interest. She just assumed her big sister was sucking up. “Yeah, Jess, like we never had any wind back in Chicago.”
The phone rang. Before Jessica could move an inch, Beth had spun around in her chair and reached up to answer it.
“Is that for me?” Mom looked at her watch and pulled a leather bag onto her shoulder, turning away from the fresh coffee she’d started.
“No, it’s for Jessica.” Beth held out the phone sweetly. “Someone called Hank?”
Jessica managed a thin smile. “Hank” was Jonathan’s code name when he called her house. Jessica was pretty sure Beth didn’t know this yet, but her little sister always acted like she knew something, just on principle.
“I’ll take it in the hall. Bye, Mom.”
Jessica didn’t say anything until she heard the reassuring click that meant Beth was off the line.
Jonathan’s voice was ragged, like he was coming down with a cold, but it was good to hear him. He told her what had happened the night before, about the man driving away right after the secret hour ended. Then the big news: he’d been taking pictures at the exact moment of midnight.
“So, he knows,” she said softly. “He has to.”
There was a pause. “I guess so.”
“Okay, I’ll go tell Rex about it today.” Jessica sighed. She could let her father believe that she was going to Rex’s to study, although it would probably count as her one event per week of ungroundedness. Of course, anything was better than being stuck in the house all day with Beth, who still seemed to have found no friends here yet and envied her older sister for the ones she had.
“I’ll go with you,” Jonathan said.
“Really?” she exclaimed, but her happiness faded quickly The fact that Jonathan was willing to put up with Rex Greene’s company just showed how serious the situation was.
Jessica Day had human enemies now.
“Believe me,” Jonathan said, “you don’t want to go to Rex’s alone.”
“You know where he lives?”
She didn’t. Now that she thought of it, Jessica had never been to any of the other midnighters’ houses, not even Jonathan’s. Between the lethal dangers of the secret hour and the inconvenience of being grounded, there hadn’t been time for just hanging out. Normal life was still on hold—frozen.
Jonathan gave her the address and they agreed to meet in an hour.
As Jessica put the phone down, she glanced down the hall at the front door window. The day looked bright and cold. She shivered, realizing that the man might be out there at this very moment. At least when darklings had been stalking her, she’d had twenty-four hours of safety every day. But now the daylight had been invaded.
She’d only felt secure here in Bixby for one week before everything had changed again. Now it was back to danger mode.
From the kitchen she heard her sister’s voice. “Face it, Dad. There’s no Coriolis force. Oklahoma just blows.”