Ray could tell they’d been discovered. The artificial odor gave it away: a woman, perfumed and/or deodorized, had penetrated their hideout.
“We’ll have to leave here,” he told his daughter, Laurel. “They’re onto us.”
“Daddy, slow down.” Twelve years old and enjoying the novelty of the feminine scent, Laurel patted her father on the shoulder, crouching beside him next to the coolers. “Remember when you said that last spring? And the summer before that? No one ever came.”
“Look at this.” He pointed to a perfect shoeprint in the cool dirt. “Tracks. Clear as day. Those other times—you’re right—I overreacted. But this evidence you can’t refute. The cops will be here soon; I guarantee it.” Removing a backpack from beneath a tarp, he assumed a military tone. “Get your clothes. Leave everything else. Don’t bother with the food.”
Two cloth bags of just-purchased groceries slumped by the tent’s flapping door, poor sentries.
“It’s late, Dad.” Laurel lay back on her sleeping bag. “All because some woman out running found our tent doesn’t mean we have to leave.”
The scalp beneath Ray’s thinning black hair reddened. “Babe. We’ve talked about this before. They’ll take you away from me—put you in a foster home with a bunch of crazies and won’t let us see each other.” He spoke quickly, his breaths shortening. “I couldn’t bear it.”
Laurel yawned. “I’m so tired. Can we talk about it in the morning, please? I need to sleep.” Laurel closed her eyes and pretended the smell was her mother’s, a woman she barely remembered. A woman who’d been taken away.
“All right. We’ll leave at first light.”