hit, it was a cop car.
He dove into the bushes but then, as soon as he landed there, was gripped by the worst feeling. He was lost. He’d become a terrible person. He could no longer remember right from wrong, tell good from bad. He’d always thought the cops were on his side and now they’d become the enemy, had always wanted to help his friends and now he was only trying to save himself.
He scrambled back out of the bushes and ran into the middle of the road, yelling and waving his arms. The cop car’s brakes squealed and it skidded all the way into the other lane to avoid him.
“Don’t arrest me!” he cried as both cops jumped onto the pavement, hands on their holsters. “I’m Darrell Jones and….”
“We know who you are,” the female cop said. “Everybody’s looking for you.”
“They are?” Darrell said.
“Your parents reported you were missing. Your mom and the parents of your friend, Miss Laurent….”
“Juliette,” he said. “You have to help me. She’s out in the woods.”
The cop frowned. “When did the two of you get separated?”
“The two people, in the cabin, they went after her….”
“Slow down,” the cop said. “What two people? What cabin?”
“We have to find her,” Darrell said, panic rising now that help was at hand. “They were bad people. They had a gun, and….”
Things moved very quickly after that, in ways that were so confusing. The cops got on their radio. More cop cars — more cops than Darrell thought existed in Ho Springs — showed up, sirens blaring. Then Juliette’s mother was there, and more people who seemed to be from her family. Darrell led them all back to the cabin. Helicopters appeared overhead. There were dogs, very scary dogs. No sign of the tattoo Nazis. No sign of Juliette. Bullhorns. Cops fanning into the woods. Darrell’s mother, suddenly appearing at his side, wrapping her arms around him, making him feel the way that all the police and chaos and fear did not that he might at any moment collapse.
A shout went up from the woods and Juliette’s family and everyone else went hurtling into the trees. Darrell tried to go to, but his mother held him back.
“You don’t need them,” she whispered to him. “Let’s just go.”
He couldn’t believe she’d said that. “I have to stay here,” he told her.
He didn’t want to hurt her and knew that what he wanted most in the world was to be back at home with her, safe and obedient. But not right now.
He kissed her on the cheek and walked into the woods. The sun was high and bright now, the spring forest fresh and nearly cheerful in the morning light.
A ring of people surrounded a tall pine tree All their necks were craned back as they gazed upward. Just as Darrell got close, they stepped back as if they were in a square dance and Juliette stepped out from the dense fir branches.
He couldn’t help it, he broke into a grin, and picked up his pace, wanting nothing more than to embrace her. She was safe, that’s all that mattered, and his stopping the cop car, telling them everything, had been the right thing to do. Her beautiful face lit up and he thought she’d spotted him.
But then, instead of saying his name or walking toward him, she stepped into the arms of the tall, dark-haired guy who’d been with her father.
“Oh, Hugo!” Darrell heard her say. “You’re my hero!”