By the time Nate returned to the ridge, the agents had gone. He stayed low as he slipped down the cliff and crossed the road into the woods. The agents had left Hajji's car. But Nate hadn't seen them leave, so he couldn't be sure they weren't camouflaged and hiding in the wood. He didn't think so because there was no reason to keep watch, the car's movement could still be tracked through the GPS. But no way had they given up that easy. They probably had people at key points and lots more would probably be coming soon. It occurred to him that they might already have searched the house. Nate turned and headed for the farm.
He eyed the back porch wearily as he approach, wondering if an agent was inside. He entered through the kitchen and did a search from room to room. Coast clear.
It was one o'clock and his grandparents weren't back. He still hadn't tidied the kitchen the way he promised and went downstairs to get it done. At two-thirty, Nate started to worry. Suppose the agents had taken his grandparents while he was out and now held them for questioning because a terrorist's car had been found on their property? Could federal agents do that? Should he call his parents?
Nate went to the music room and dialed first his mom's cell and then his dad's, but got an out of area message for both. Now he knew why his mom wouldn't give up their landline. It was the only way to get a connection between her and her parents. He dialed their home phone, but got the answering machine. He didn't want to worry his parents and just left a message that he had called and that they should call back if they got a chance.
He slump in the chair by the phone and jumped when it rang.
"Oh, Nathan, there you are. Where have you been? We were worried."
"Hi, Grandma. I was worried about you too. Are you guys alright?"
"We're fine, dear. This errand is taking longer than we thought because of all the roadblocks they have up. We been pulling into gas stations and calling. Why haven't you answered the phone?"
"Sorry, I went for a walk."
"Well, it doesn't matter. We're on our way home, but with these security checks, it might take awhile."
"Okay, Grandma. Can I do anything?"
"Lock the doors, dear. I'm afraid they think one of those Taliban terrorist is somewhere in the area."
"Okay. I will."
"We'll see you soon, dear."
Nate decided the doors needed locking, but not because of Hajji. He didn't want the doors open to agents. He went to the foyer and locked the front door and headed for the back. He turned the deadbolt on the backdoor just as he spotted a shape moving in the tall hedges beyond the yard. Were agents really hiding in the bushes? Nate double checked the lock then pulled down the shade that topped the two-foot pane of the ranch door. He walked to the window behind the table and let down the shade there too. He headed for the dining room to close the drapes when someone rattled the doorknob. The rattling was followed by a...