739 Wind Stone Road.
McKenna looked from the Chinese takeout menu her mother had scribbled Luke’s address on back to the site in front of her.
This can’t be 739 Wind Stone Road, McKenna thought to herself. There wasn’t even a house in sight. All that sat on this small city block was a greenhouse that had gone out of business a few weeks ago. Maple trees dominated the rest of the block, towering over the greenhouse. There were signs still plastered to the sides of the greenhouse reading, “Petunias half off,” “Get a tree dirt-cheap to plant on Arbor Day” and “There’s still time to plant a garden!”
This couldn’t be right. McKenna already felt uneasy about meeting this boy, who was apparently named Luke, at some random address. Now it wasn’t even a house. Maybe her mother had written it down wrong.
McKenna stood on the sidewalk across from the greenhouse, scrutinizing the area. Then she saw movement inside the greenhouse. No way, she thought. She breathed deeply. It’s probably just some stray cat living in there eating tomato remnants.
But after a squeak of the door, a dark head of hair popped out the front door, glanced from side to side and then spotted McKenna standing alone.
It was the brown-eyed boy. Luke. He gestured with one finger for her to come to him and then he hurriedly slipped back inside.
Her instincts screamed that this would probably be the stupidest choice she’d ever make, yet her feet still moved her slowly across the street to the no longer abandoned greenhouse.
As she reached the door and slowly pushed it open she heard it creak ominously. Even though it was bright outside with only a few friendly clouds dotting the sky, the maple trees shaded the greenhouse and it was dark within. McKenna’s eyes strained to get used to the dark and to find Luke among the remains of dead plants and old pots.
A sudden movement directly to her right startled her. McKenna jumped and suddenly felt a hand on her arm. Gasping and looking up, she somehow saw through the darkness into Luke’s brown eyes.
“It’s alright, McKenna. We have to be quiet in here though. We don’t know who might be listening.”
Luke dropped McKenna’s arm and turned to head deeper into the greenhouse, but McKenna suddenly grabbed his arm in return and whirled him around.
“No, Luke. Just…No.”
Luke stepped closer to her, confused by her outburst.
“I can’t keep doing this, you know,” McKenna said matter-of-factly. “Why did you find me and how do you know my name? And what do you want?” The words tumbled as she nervously tacked on even more questions. “Why are we sneaking around? Why are we here?” She let his arm go and gestured to the dark greenhouse. “Your little partner in crime isn’t here, is he? That older guy who lacks a sense of fashion telling him not to wear sandals with socks?”
Luke leaned in close to her, promptly terminating her slew of questions. McKenna suddenly lost any instincts informing her how to breathe.
“McKenna, it’s okay,” Luke assured her. “I know you’re confused, but I brought you here to give you answers. You just have to let me tell you in my own way. This is a long story that we have ahead of us.”
McKenna’s mind whirred. What could she possibly have to do with this whole mess? Why had they brought her into it? Luke leaned back away from her and McKenna took a deep breath.
“What do you mean that we have ahead of us? Aren’t you just going to tell me what happened in Paris and then run off to snatch other paper bags from ten-year-old girls?”
Luke sighed, clearly not anticipating the struggle from McKenna. He ran his fingers through his slightly too long dark hair and then began pacing, crunching dead leaves as he walked.
“McKenna, all those years ago in Paris, I was so young. But I knew so much.”
McKenna restrained herself from letting any unnecessary comments slip out. Finally, she was going to get her answers. Luke hopped onto an old shelf to sit and McKenna found a giant overturned pot which she sat atop after dragging nearer to the shelf.
“My sister, her name’s Jewel,” Luke began, kicking his legs against the bottom of the shelf. “She’s 5 years older than I am. Even though she’s a little bit older than I am, we always have gotten along pretty well. When I was twelve, she got this boyfriend, Matthias, who was a nice enough guy, but he was always randomly leaving and acting mysterious about it, so my parents always suspected he was involved in some shady type of business, probably drugs. They really cared about her, but they wanted her to be happy, so they never questioned him.”
Unsure of how this story about Luke’s sister was related to a simple paper bag left at a train station, McKenna continued to listen and found she was interested to hear about Luke’s life.
“Jewel told me she always wondered where Matthias went but he would always brush off her questions. I really just wanted my sister to be happy. Anyway, so being the stupid twelve-year-old kid I was, I followed him when he up and left one day. Because it was winter and Maine was especially freezing that January, I bundled up and figured Matthias wouldn’t recognize me trudging behind him. Matthias and I got on a bus which took us all the way out to the fishing district side of town. There were warehouses everywhere and I really was beginning to think that Matthias was headed for a drug deal. But then he turned toward the wharf by the boats docked up from their trips out to get lobster. I was having a hard time staying under cover because the area was deserted, so I had to stay really far behind him. Then Matthias—”
Luke suddenly stopped talking. Gravel crunched out in front of the greenhouse as footsteps came close. Quickly lunging forward and grabbing McKenna’s hand, Luke pulled McKenna through the greenhouse, hopping over bags of soil until they reached the back door. McKenna became instantly grateful she’d taken track and field for all those years and learned to perfect her hurdles. The two slithered through the door and back outside into the maple tree shade.
They tiptoed over gravel until they reached the sidewalk behind the greenhouse that led out to the sidewalk. Letting go of McKenna’s hand, Luke dashed across the street into the confines of a quiet neighborhood. After a moment of contemplation, McKenna followed him.
When she reached him, Luke glanced all around and behind them.
“I knew we were risking a lot by meeting like that. At least they didn’t see us. Alfonzo and I should have seen this coming.” Luke started muttering to himself now.
As McKenna was about to ask who exactly was stalking them, a white car suddenly whipped around the corner and halted right in front of them. McKenna simply stared with wide eyes while Luke pulled open the door. Then he turned to her.
“What now?” McKenna asked, finding her voice because of the fear at seeing him leave again. “You need to finish telling me your story.”
Luke gripped the door and McKenna glimpsed through the window and noted the older newspaper-holding, poor-sense-of-fashion guy, who apparently was named Alfonzo, in the driver’s seat.
“McKenna, we can’t finish this here,” Luke said with an apologetic look crossing his face. “I know you need your answers and I really need your help, but we have to do this another time.” He paused, craning his neck to look back again to make sure their followers hadn’t caught up. Then he looked straight into McKenna’s blue eyes and said, “But you can come with us.” He raised his eyebrows expectantly and opened the car door wider.
McKenna bit her lip, pondering her situation. Really, the thought was out of the question. She didn’t even know this boy. Let alone the creepy guy who was driving. McKenna and Luke both turned as voices shouted just around the corner.
Luke clambered inside the white car but kept the door open for her as a choice.
Then her mind flashed back to the taxi that sped out of her life but stayed in her mind forever. This car was about to do the same thing. But this time a hand stretched out toward her, inviting her to know the secrets.
All she knew was that Paris and that paper bag were bigger than she ever imagined. And that her mother would kill her when she found out about her day’s activities.
Nevertheless, she took Luke’s extended hand and slid inside, slamming the door and welcoming the sound of the car peeling away from the curb because this time she was in the midst of it all.