Logan lives on the far edge of Lee County, off a sharp turn down a dirt road without street lamps and dotted with black-and-yellow wildlife crossing signs. Cougars, chickens and ducks, horses. After the third sign with a bobcat on it Jamie turns down a long dirt-and-gravel drive.
The porchlight is on - a single bare bulb screwed in over the front door. On the edge of its yellow glow a shadow pushes off a wooden rocker and steps into view. Logan is wearing tattered jeans and no shirt. His feet are bare and he’s got a cigarette tight between his teeth. He smiles around it when Jamie steps out of the car. A chorus of barks, both high and low, clamour on the other side of the door.
“You made it,” Logan says. Jamie walks into his open arms. She lets them wrap around her shoulders and squeeze. She rests her head against his shoulder for just a second, breaths in the scent of hay bales and cigarette smoke.
“Hey, brother,” she says.
“Hey,” Logan says. He guides her inside where dogs big and small jump up to lick her hands. Logan shoos them all away, but they just circle around one another to take another turn. This continues until they get to the kitchen table where Jamie drops into a chair. “Drink?” Logan offers, already halfway to the fridge. Jamie scrubs at her face and nods.
“Yeah,” she says, and when she opens her eyes just a second later a Pabst is already set in front of her. She pops the tab and takes a long sip. “Thanks for letting me crash.”
“Ain’t like you wouldn’t do the same for me,” Logan shrugs. He downs half his beer in one long gulp and sets the can down on the table. “I’m just glad you’re outta that fucker’s house.”
“Amen,” Jamie agrees.
“You still got the ring?” Logan asks.
“Gonna pawn it tomorrow,” Jamie says. “So I can get outta your hair sooner.”
“Ain’t in it,” Logan says. “But I can put some feelers out for you, if you want. For a place.”
“S’what family’s for.”
They lapse into a comfortable silence, broken only by the tick-tack, tick-tack of dog claws o the hardwood floors. Logan has four of them, and when they all line up they look like those old raising the bar cell phone commercials. Every now and then, the littlest one jumps up on someone’s leg to sniff at the table.
“So,” Logan begins, rising from the table to get himself a second beer. “I don’t got a guest room. But you take mine, and I’ll crash on the couch for however long you’re here.”
“I don’t wanna put you out,” Jamie says.
“You’re not,” Logan says.
“Fine,” Jamie concedes. “Thanks.”
Again, that easy silences washes like a gentle wave, and stretches on until-
Tap, tap, tap- knuckles on the front door. Jamie looks at Logan.
“You expecting someone else?” she asks.
“No,” Logan says, rising out of his seat. The dogs have already crowded the door, their barking less excited this time and, the longer they stand there, growing almost panicked. Soon enough the little one is whimpering and whining, turning circles around Logan’s ankles as if begging him to keep her safe. Curious, Jamie gets up, too, and stands where she can see the doorway as it opens.
“Little late for Girl Scout cookies,” he says at the same time Jamie says, “What the fuck?”
She races to the door, grabbing at her brother’s elbow if only to have something to steady herself. That same feeling of ice-cold dread runs all through her veins. It seems to seep through her very fingertips and catch under Logan’s skin because she feels him stiffen, too, and hears him swallow thickly. She wants to look at him, to tell him to shut the door, but she can’t turn away from the kid’s strange eyes.
Black. Nothing but black eating up iris and sclera, like their eyes are just huge pupils stuck in the sockets. They seem to stare both at and through Jamie at the same time. She holds her brother’s arm so hard her nails dig into his skin.
“Please,” the little girl says. “May we come inside?”
“We need to call our parents,” the boy says. He is still clutching Jamie’s ten dollars in his hand. She can see the green of the bill poking between the fingers of his clenched fist.
“We need help,” the little girl says. “Please, can you help us?”
“We need to call our parents,” the boy repeats. The little girl opens her mouth to speak, but Logan slams the door in her face. His breath is shaky. The dogs scramble around Logan and Jamie, each of them whining, each of their tails tucked nervously between their legs. After a few seconds-
Tap, tap, tap- the sound of knuckles of the door.
“Don’t open it,” Jamie says.
“I feel like-”
“Don’t,” Jamie says firmly. She yanks Logan away from the door and all the dogs follow them. The knocking picks up pace, rapping the same monotonous beat against the wood.
“Their eyes,” Logan says. “Did you see their eyes?”
“Please,” a muffled voice calls through the closed door.
“I saw,” Jamie says.
“May we use your telephone?” a second voice calls.
“Weird?” Jamie suggests.
“Scared,” Logan says. It’s the first time Jamie’s heard hims use the word since they were kid, and that makes the ice inside her freeze colder.
“Me, too,” Jamie says. The knocking continues, and even from his spot perched on the couch, one knee bouncing nervously up and down and Jamie’s hand still tight around his arm, Logan’s eyes are drawn toward the door.
“I feel like I just-“
“Don’t,” Jamie repeats. “I saw them back by Bonita, at a gas station. Tried to get them to go away by giving them some cash, but they just stared at me. It was dark, so I didn’t get a good look at their eyes.”
“They followed you all the way from Bonita?”
“I don’t know how. They didn’t even have a car.”
“Please,” the girl’s voice calls. The knocking continues, but it never grows frantic or loud. It sticks to the same steady rhythm, like a rock band drummer.
“May we use your telephone?” the boy’s voice follows.
“What do we do?” Logan asks.
Jamie considers this, then says, “Wait it out?”