The Hunted

The Hunted by Gloria Skurzynski Read Free Book Online

Book: The Hunted by Gloria Skurzynski Read Free Book Online
Authors: Gloria Skurzynski
“From now on, you kids make sure these doors are tightly closed. Hear?”
    Maybe it was just that Ashley happened to be standing in a shaft of sunlight that angled through heavy fronds of fir, but her cheeks looked pinker than usual.
    â€œGotcha, Mom,” Jack answered.
    She pulled it off, Ashley did. Their mother left with Ali, and their father—after being convinced that Ashley just needed to rest, and no, she didn’t want her dad to stay—finally left on his photo-shoot hike. But before they said good-bye, Jack and Ashley were bombarded with instructions:
    Steven: “You don’t make a move alone. If one of you goes somewhere, the other goes, too.”
    Olivia: “The food stays in the cooler inside the Jeep. If you want any cheese or fruit or orange juice, get it out of the cooler but make sure you shut it. Garbage gets locked inside the Jeep, too.”
    Steven: “I won’t be that far from here. Lake Winona is just across the road and a little way up—not more than a mile. If you want to come find me, I should be visible along the shoreline. Take the binoculars.”
    Olivia: “But unless there’s an emergency, do not leave the area of the campground, hear? You can play in the creek, or go fishing if you want to, or play cards on the picnic table—”
    Steven: “As soon as Ali and Mom leave, I’m going to lock the chain across the campground entrance so no other vehicle can turn in here.”
    Ashley had been staring solemnly at first one parent and then the other while the list of instructions went on and on—she looked like a spectator at a Ping-Pong match. Jack started to laugh.
    His father’s fingers dug hard into his shoulders. “Come here, young man!”
    Steven didn’t answer as he marched Jack toward the entrance of the campground and stopped him in front of a red-and-white sign with a picture of a grizzly on it.
    â€œDo you see that?”
    â€œYeah, I saw it before.”
    â€œWell, read it to me. Out loud.”
    Parents! With exaggerated patience, Jack read, “Bear Country. Bears Enter This Campground. Store All Food In Vehicle. All Wildlife Is Dangerous. Do Not Approach Or Feed.”
    â€œWell, remember it.” Steven gave Jack an only halfway playful cuff on the back of the head.
    At last Steven took off, his tripod and monopod sticking out of the straps on his backpack, making him look like an antenna-bristling, battery-operated toy. At the same time, with one final, worried frown, Olivia leaned forward from the front seat of the park vehicle to wave, as Ali started the motor. The two kids waved back, first at their mother, then at their father, smiling assurances at both parents as they went in opposite directions: Olivia south, Steven north.
    â€œI thought they’d never go,” Ashley breathed before the van had driven altogether out of sight. “Look, Mom’s still waving through the back window.”
    â€œYeah.” A moment later, Jack declared, “I can’t see either one of them now. The trees are hiding them. So!” He crossed his arms to confront Ashley. “I did my part of the deal. Now you have to let me in on your secret. What is it? Some helpless little animal in a nest?”
    Ashley giggled. “You could say that.”
    â€œThen let’s go see it. Only first, I want to get my camera out of the trailer.”
    Inside, the camping trailer was beginning to get stuffy. Jack unzipped all the clear plastic sheeting that covered the mesh screens on the windows, then lowered the metal panel on the upper half of the door. It was good to let in as much fresh air as possible; otherwise, by late afternoon, the trailer would be stifling. Shoving an extra roll of film into the pocket of his shorts, then hanging his camera around his neck by the strap, he opened the door and stepped outside.
    Ashley was gone.

    J ack stood

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