Dilyn's words still tumbled around my mind, with no pause in sight. “Beware of Scotland.”
What was waiting for us? Would it be worse than what we had left back in the United States? Is this something we can defeat? Can we defeat it without losing anything?
I glanced at Dilyn, seated by the hotel window, staring out with a concerned expression. I had pressed her for more back on the airplane, but she knew nothing more. She had told me everything that Alex had uttered before his death.
Was she strong enough for whatever was waiting for us? Allie had told me about what had happened in the plane: the light spreading over us, healing our wounds. Indeed, Dilyn had become miraculously better, and the cuts and scrapes that I had on me had disappeared. But Dilyn still seemed rather tired. All of us were. And I'm pretty sure it wasn't just jet-lag. So much had happened to Dilyn and Allie and I in the past couple of days.
I turned to look at Allie. She was lying on the bed with her back to me. Ever since Tarra and Dustin had rescued us, she had hardly uttered a word to me, or anyone else. I sighed. I truly regretted her coming with us. I just didn't want anything to happen to her!This was so dangerous!
Why did she have to follow me? If she had minded her own business, she wouldn't be in this mess!
But that's not what a true friend does, a little voice told me. If a friend appears to be in danger, it's only natural that if they were really their friend, they would try to do something.
A wave of guilt swept over me. Other than Alex and Dilyn, Allie's really the only friend I have. I should be grateful for her coming to warn me, I mentally berated myself. If she hadn't, well, I might not be in Scotland right now.
I remembered her hurt face as she asked me why I had lied to her about my identity, and my response. “If I'd told you the truth, would you have believed me?”
You did the right thing, I told myself. She wouldn't have believed me or understood at all. It was better that I didn't tell her. But I knew that wasn't true. If anyone would have believed me, it would have been Allie. If I had told her, would things have turned out differently?
I didn't even know if she still considered me her friend or not. I'd hurt her pretty badly. All I knew, is that we needed to end this once and for all, and go back to our normal lives, if that was even possible anymore. I didn't even know if the Taylors were still alive or not. I gritted my teeth until it hurt.
This was going to end.
I lay on the bed, trying to rid myself of my exhaustion. I was so tired. Tired from being in the Lab. Tired from the excitement of our rescue. Tired from the long plane ride here to Scotland. Tired from all of the lies. Rhys's lies. How could I know who to trust anymore?
My leg still hurt from the snake bite. It did seem to be getting better, though. Tarra had given me some medicine to help dull the pain, and it was helping a lot.
Dustin and Tarra were seated at a table together near me. Tarra was staring into space, thoughtfully drinking a soda. Dustin was doing something on his laptop. I couldn't tell what it was. He was facing all of us, with his back to the wall. Suddenly, he closed the top of his laptop and stood up.
“I'll be down in the lobby,” he stated. “I need to make a phone call.” Tarra nodded, hardly looking up from her soda. As soon as the door shut behind Dustin, I swung my legs off of the bed and stood up, wincing at the pain in my leg.
“I'm, uh, gonna go get some fresh air. I'll be back in a little bit.” I hurried out of the room, not waiting for an answer. As I stepped out into the hall, I saw Dustin beginning to descend down into the stairwell. I waited a few seconds before following. But as I reached the top step, I hesitated.
Should I really be spying on him? But how do I know if I can trust any of these people? Yeah, Tarra is Rhys's sister, and Dustin is Tarra's partner, Dilyn is some friend of Rhys, and Rhys is, well...
It's absolutely necessary, I told myself. I need to check these people out.
My mind made up, I continued on down the stairs. At the bottom of the flight, I stopped and carefully peeked around the corner into the hotel lobby. Dustin was standing in the center of the room with his back to me. He was dialing a number on the cellphone in his hand. He held the phone up to his ear and then suddenly turned around. I slipped back behind the wall, my heart beating loudly. Had he seen me? I waited. But nothing happened. All was quiet. Then a voice abruptly broke the silence.
“MacNeil? Allen.” I sighed with relief. Dustin must not have seen me, and must now be talking to whoever he had called. Dustin continued talking, and I listened carefully from where I was, not daring to peek around the corner. “We're in Glasgow at the Babbity Bowster on Blackfriars Street. Everything has been going smoothly. I don't think any of them suspect anything yet.” He paused, listening to the other end. “Got it. Tonight at 7, the Cafe Crepe on High Street.” Dustin paused again. Then, “Yes, Sir. Goodbye.” As soon as I heard him end the conversation, I bolted back up the stairs as quietly as I could. As I neared the door of our hotel room, I slowed down and slipped as casually as possibly back inside the room. Everyone was just as I had left them.
As I lay back down on the bed, Rhys looked over quizzically from his seat on the couch. “Get enough fresh air?” he asked. “You weren't gone very long.”
“I got enough, thank you,” I replied coolly, before turning my back to him. Just then, Dustin re-entered the room and sat back down across from Tarra. I closed my eyes and pretended to be asleep. The conversation that I had overheard swirled around in my mind. Especially that one line.
“I don't think any of them suspect anything yet.”
What is it that we haven't begun to suspect yet? Can he be trusted? Who's side is he really on? Ours or the Lab's? And what about Tarra? Is she with him on whatever side Dustin's on?? My thoughts were interrupted by Tarra.
“Are any of you hungry?” she asked, standing up and tossing her empty soda can into the trashcan.
“A little,” Dilyn's soft voice replied. Rhys voiced his agreement as well. I still hadn't moved from my position or said anything.
“Allie?” Tarra questioned. “What about you? Are you hungry?'
I opened one eye. “I guess.”
“Alright,” Tarra replied, gathering up her purse and keys from the table. “I'm going to go see if I can find anything to eat. I'll be back in 45 minutes or so.”
“I'm going to head out as well,” Dustin said as he rose from his chair. I glanced at the clock. It read 15 minutes to 7pm. “I'll be back in about an hour,” he added.
I remained still on the bed until both Dustin and Tarra had left. Then I sat up and got off the bed. Dustin had a briefcase standing up against the wall. I went over and knelt down in front of it. As I began undoing the buckles, Rhys noticed and said, “Hey! What are you doing?” I turned to face him.
“How much do we know about this Dustin?” I asked.
“Not much, really.” Rhys replied.
“What we're in the middle of isn't some child's game, Rhys. This is reality, with real lives at stake. We can't afford to trust just anyone we come in contact with, without finding out something about them that gives us a good reason why we should trust them. How do we know that Dustin isn't a spy for someone back at the Lab? How do we know he's been telling us the truth about this castle in Scotland?” I was silent for a minute, then I decided to tell him about the conversation that I had just overheard. “Rhys, there's more to this Dustin than meets the eye. He's hiding something. Something that might be very important. I overheard a conversation he was having on his cellphone down in the lobby. At one point, he said something like, “I don't think they suspect anything yet.” A big red flag in my mind. Right now, he's meeting with somebody at a cafe on High Street. I don't know why. We need to get some more info on this guy before anything happens.”
Rhys was quiet for a minute, his head bowed. Dilyn just sat there, her gaze flickering from Rhys, to me, and back to Rhys again. Finally, she spoke.
“Allie's right. There's no sure way to tell if we can trust Dustin or not, since we know nothing about him. Or about Tarra, either.”
Rhys looked up. “But Tarra's my sister...”
Dilyn looked at him long and hard. Then, “Maybe. But she might not be telling the truth either.”
Rhys sighed. “Alright. Allie, you can look through his briefcase. Dilyn, we'll look on his laptop.”
“How will you get past all of the passwords?” I asked doubtfully.
Rhys grinned. “Dilyn and I have a little bit of experience with this type of stuff under our belts. Just leave it to us.”
I shrugged and turned back to the briefcase. As I rummaged through it's contents, I didn't find much. Just several personal items, and a bunch of papers which made no sense to me at all. “Nothing in here,” I notified Dilyn and Rhys as I closed the briefcase and refastened the buckles.
“Well, Dilyn was able to hack into his email. Want to come take a look at this?” Rhys motioned for me to come over. He pointed at the screen. “This email is registered to someone named Roy Allen.”
“Dustin's been lying to us about his name, then,” I said. “He identified himself on the phone with 'Allen'.”
“Looks like that's one strike,” Rhys admitted reluctantly. “What was the name of the guy who Roy was talking to on the phone?”
“Um...I think the name was MacNeil.”
“Dilyn, search for anything from someone named MacNeil,” he ordered.
“On it,” Dilyn replied as she typed the name in and clicked 'Search'.
Several messages appeared in the results. “There's a bunch of messages from a 'Randy MacNeil',” Dilyn announced. “He could be the one Roy was talking to. I don't see any other first name associated with 'MacNeil'. The most recent message has a subject line which reads: “Waiting for you”...”
Dilyn clicked to open the email and I began scanning its contents. The message was short and read:
“Good work on busting out the kids. I will be waiting in Settle, Scotland. Alert me when you arrive as to where you are. Grisham will meet you with more instructions. Thanks to you, my time for revenge is short in coming. MacNeil”
We all began looking at each other, each thinking the same thing.
Revenge? For what? And to whom? Us??
Dilyn closed out the message and opened another entitled: “Back in the Game”.
“Allen, Thank you for the alert about Rhys Stengl now being in Stevens' hands. We shall proceed as we had planned before he had escaped. Contact his older sister, Tarra, and give her the information necessary to help her brother and Dilyn escape. You should still have Tarra's information from the first attempt, before Rhys escaped on his own. Try to contact her and free Rhys and Dilyn within 24 hours. Make it quick. Bring Tarra, Rhys, and Dilyn to Scotland immediately. I want them all. And bring Rhys's friend that you mentioned: Allie. She might be useful. MacNeil”
Allie voiced the concern all of us were now facing. “This Roy isn't to be trusted. And neither is the guy he's working for, MacNeil. I really don't like the sound of these emails.”
Dilyn shook her head. “Neither do I.”
“It sounds as if Tarra knows nothing about this,” I said. “So we can trust her, right?”
“I still don't know, Rhys,” Allie replied quietly. “I don't think we can afford to trust anyone, at this point.”
We were all quiet. Then Dilyn started typing something into the Google Search engine.
“What are you looking up?” I asked, peering over her shoulder at the screen.
“I think we should try to get some more info on this MacNeil guy,” Dilyn replied. “See if we can find any clue as to what he might be after.”
The Google Search finished loading and we stared at the results. There, at the top of the page, was a link to an online article. The title read: “Searching for the Magman Descendents”. The snippet beneath the link read:
“Randy MacNeil has been searching for the last remaining Magmans for most of his life. “It's very important,” he said once in an interview. “There's a family matter that needs to be settled. A matter between the Ilvans and the Magmans.” Sounds like he's looking for the end of a long family squabble between two very old Scottish clans...”
We didn't need to read more, but just sat there in complete shock.
“He's an Ilvan?!” Allie exclaimed. “Sounds like a really friendly relative!”
“Beware of the highland where two clans fought',” Dilyn murmured. “'The winner lost, the loser won'. The Magmans won, and the Ilvans lost. But if things go as this MacNeil plans, the winner may lose...and the loser may win. This must be what Alex was talking about. He knew there was a third party was after us: the Ilvans.”
“You've got to be right,” I agreed. But something wasn't quite right...then it hit me. “But in our family book, it says that the Ilvans all died off! How could this guy be an Ilvan?!”
“The book could be wrong, Rhys,” Dilyn said. “Some could have been missed.”
“Dilyn, open up that article. Maybe there's something in there that would explain this,” I responded quickly.
When Dilyn opened the article, I scanned it quickly. The article had begun with the snippet that we had already read a few minutes before, and then went on to tell about the war that Tarra had already told us about. None of the details caught my attention. But then it moved onto a different part of the story.
“Hey, look at this. There's more to the story!”
“After the war, the king of the Magmans awarded a man, Peter, who had saved his life in battle and shown extreme bravery, with special powers (parts of which would be passed down to his descendents. But as the years went on, Peter lost control of his special powers and went insane. MacNeil guesses that is was the stress of bearing the sheer weight of the incredible power at his fingertips that he had to keep under control. Eventually, an irrational, burning desire to exterminate the Ilvans grew in him, and he set out to do so with a band of loyal followers, some of which were his own descendents. Even after Peter's death, the Ilvans have continued to be hunted down by the Magmans, for no reason other than that Peter, a man who they respected highly, had wanted to get rid of them. The Ilvans were thought to have all died off by the late 1800's, but then Randy MacNeil emerged from his hiding spot in Norther Scotland in March of 1968, as a young man. Five other Ilvans were with him. He has been searching ever since for the last remaining Magmans, hoping to settle things between their families and make peace.”
“Make peace??!!” Allie squawked, outraged. “From the emails, it sounds like he's out to crush the peace between your two families!”
“Well, he can't exactly tell the press he's out to kill us. He'd immediately be arrested,” I replied.
“So, he's out to get his revenge on us, because of something our ancestors did? But we didn't even know about them until, like, less than a week ago!” Dilyn exclaimed.
“Yeah, this guy seems kinda messed up,” I replied.
“So...what are we going to do?” Allie put in.
We all spun around. Tarra was standing in the doorway with a couple boxes of pizza in her arms.
“And what are you doing with Dustin's laptop?” she asked, the accusation thick in her voice.
“Actually, it's Roy's.” Allie stated. Tarra just looked genuinely confused.
“Um...” I started. “Tarra, you might want to sit down. There's a lot we need to tell you.”
A couple minutes later, we had laid all of our findings “out on the table” in front of Tarra, and she sat there astounded. The room was quiet for several minutes. Then Tarra stood up.
“The castle's ruins are located inside the Yorkshire Dales National Park, a couple miles east of Settle, which is where this MacNeil is. It'll be about a 3 and a half hour drive. We'll continue on by ourselves, and try to avoid MacNeil once we reach Settle. Let's leave now, before Dustin-I mean, Roy-gets back.”
“A little late for that.” Roy stood in the doorway, his gun cocked and pointed right at us.