Chapter One
Open Windows

It was nearly two fifteen when Morgan finally wandered into her last-hour class. She was twenty minutes late after helping stack chairs and stands in the band room—and chatting with their director—but no one seemed to notice any more, not even the teacher. Morgan plopped down in a seat by the door, three rows back, far away from the open windows on the other side of the room. Then she took out her notebook and started to draw.

She wasn't an artist, in any sense of the word. But it gave her something to do. Waves on the ocean. A grey-sailed ship. A willow tree by the shore. As they began to appear in loose, untrained strokes, the teacher, Ms. Whyte, rambled on about how to treat a snakebite.

Of course, no one in the class was there to learn how to treat a snakebite. The others were freshmen, with a few sophomores sprinkled in. They were there because their gym requirement was waived by a semester of first aid. But Morgan was a junior, (although, at five feet, she could have passed as a freshman) her gym requirement already waived by three years of cross-country. She was there to satisfy her own curiosity. Not about the contents of the course, but about the way it was taught. Experience being the best teacher, how could you teach students to handle an emergency, short of setting the school on fire or bringing in poisonous snakes?

Her curiosity, however, had lasted only about ten minutes. The simple answer was that it couldn't be done. So Ms. Whyte, apparently, had stopped trying. The class read from the book, did a few feeble attempts at hands-on activities, watched videos, and took multiple-choice tests. Tests that Morgan got A's on without even trying, without paying attention in a class that she was now consistently late for.

"Who can tell me how high you would elevate the snakebite?" Ms. Whyte asked cheerfully, oblivious to her own ineffectiveness. "How about you, Terese?"

"Six inches?" the girl beside Morgan offered.

"Unless the snake was poisonous," Morgan mumbled, her low voice and light southern accent enough to keep anyone but Terese from understanding her.

"What was that, Morgan?" Ms. Whyte asked. "Perhaps you'd care to share your insight with the rest of us."

Morgan brushed a few strands of her long, unkempt, dark hair away from her willow tree and adjusted her glasses. "I said, 'Unless the snake was poisonous,'" she answered, adding a few more waves to her ocean.

"And if it was?"

"Keep it below the heart."


"So the poison won't spread as quickly."

"And what if you didn't see the snake?"

"Better safe than sorry. Keep it below the heart. And the next time you feel a stabbing pain in your ankle, look down."

"Very good."

Morgan smiled faintly. Ms. Whyte's words were not a compliment. They were part of a ritual, one they had gone through ever since Morgan had begun arriving late. Ms. Whyte would try to stump her, and, failing miserably, would meekly acknowledge Morgan's right to arrive at the time of her own choosing.

Ms. Whyte turned her attention to the rest of the class. "Who can give me another example of a time when you wouldn't elevate an injury?" Silence. "Anyone?" More silence. "How about you, Morgan?"

Morgan added some limbs to her willow. Only she could tell the difference between the two inquiries. This question was asked not out of persistence but desperation. No one else had any idea, even though the chapter they'd supposedly just read had probably discussed the matter in detail. And Ms. Whyte knew Morgan would have an answer.

"When the person might also have an injury to the back or neck. Elevating the leg would put pressure on it. And it would be a little hard to elevate a stomach injury above the heart, unless you plan to have the victim stand on their head."

"Anything else?"

"Yeah, if they were hit by what might be a poisoned arrow."

There were a few sniggers from the freshman boys. Morgan expected Ms. Whyte to tell her how ridiculous the suggestion was. But, before she could, a girl by the window screamed. Morgan's gaze flew to the window in time to see an arrow fly through and strike Ms. Whyte in the chest.

The class erupted into a panic as their teacher crumpled to the floor. "Get down!" Morgan shouted as another arrow flew across the room and lodged itself in a cabinet. She leapt up and dodged a few frightened freshmen on her way to the windows. She slammed the two on top shut, then one on the bottom. As she was reaching for the last one, another arrow flew through it, passed through her right shoulder, and continued on across the room, finally clattering loudly to the floor. Morgan gasped in pain but slammed the window shut with her left hand. Then she turned to the class.

Most of the students had fled to the hall. Only Terese remained, staring in shock at Morgan's shoulder. Blood gushed from both sides of the wound as Morgan snatched a sweatshirt from a nearby chair. "Call 911!" she yelled to the students in the hall. "Terese, if you're going to freak, do it now. If not, I could sure use your help."

"I...I'm all right. I can help."

"Good. Get over here and tie this around my shoulder." She held out the sweater, and Terese ran to her side. "There you go. A little tighter. Good. Better tie a double knot. There. Perfect. Thanks."

It wasn't perfect. It wasn't even close. Blood seeped through, staining the young freshman's hands. But Morgan knew she couldn't worry about that, or about the pain that was beginning to cloud her thoughts. She stumbled over to where Ms. Whyte lay, unconscious. Morgan collapsed to the floor beside her teacher. Without thinking, she felt for a pulse. It was there. Ms. Whyte's chest was rising and falling. Breathing. She was alive.

Morgan leaned back against the wall. " you know where Ms. Whyte keeps the bandage strips—the ones we used last week?" The freshman nodded. "Good. Get them." She took three deep breaths. Had to focus. Couldn't lose consciousness. Not now. Not yet.

"Here they are." The frightened young teenager dumped the box of cut-up pillowcases in front of Morgan. "Should we try to take the arrow out?"

"No!" Morgan shouted, or, at least, as close to shouting as she could come with her energy quickly draining away. "No," she repeated, more calmly. "Don't move it. Where it is, it's blocking the flow of blood. If you take it out, she could bleed to death." Like me, Morgan thought, but said nothing. No time for that. And no reason to frighten her companion any further.

But Terese heard the unspoken words. Her eyes, wide and bright, rested once more on Morgan's shoulder. "What...what can I do?"

Morgan knew what she meant. She wanted to do something to help, to save her. But Morgan answered, "Take some of the strips and place them around the arrow. Gently. You don't want to jostle it. There. Like that. You're doing fine. A little more on this side. Good. Easy does it. Nice. You're doing great, Terese. Way to go. Almost done." She was rambling. But it helped. It kept her conscious. And Terese needed that. She was frightened. She needed...

"How's that?" Terese looked up at Morgan, silently begging for her approval.

"Perfect." And it was.

"Is there anything else?"

"You could tie a couple more of those around my shoulder," Morgan offered.

Terese nodded, grateful for something to do. But as she tied several of the pillowcase strips tightly around Morgan's shoulder, her voice wavered. "It's like a magic trick. You tie it, and...and a few seconds later, it's all red. And another. And another."

"Terese." Morgan took one of the freshman's blood-stained hands in her own. "Terese, listen to me. It'll be all right."

"So much blood...I never knew people had so much blood."

"Don't think about the blood. Think about something else." The room was starting to blur. Morgan adjusted her glasses. Pointless.

"Like what? I don't see anything else. It's all so red."

"Look at..." Morgan hesitated. There was nothing. What could she reach? What was certain to be there? "Look at this." She held out the cross on a chain around her neck. "You the praying type?"

Terese nodded frantically. She was starting to lose it. "Yeah. Yeah, I pray. I...I'm Baptist."

"Good. I'm Catholic. Here, take my hand." Terese gripped Morgan's hand tightly. Her hands were cold, trembling. "Lord," Morgan said quietly, struggling for words. "Keep us safe...all of us..."

"And let the ambulances get here soon," Terese added. "Amen."

"Amen," Morgan echoed weakly. "There.'s out of our hands, Terese. Let it go. There's nothing more you can do. Okay?"

"Okay." But she held on, anyway, tighter than ever.

Morgan squeezed her hand back with all the strength she could muster. "It's all right. You did fine. You did everything you could."

"Maybe. But's a good thing you came when you did. For class, that is. I don't know what I would have done if—"

"You would have done your best." Morgan's deep brown eyes met Terese's light blue ones.

The freshman looked away. She knew the truth. She would have run. Or, worse, stood there, helpless. "I'm still glad you came," she said softly.

"No," Morgan said quietly. She knew the deeper truth. "No, Terese. You don't understand. If I hadn't come, none of this—" She caught herself too late. She hadn't been thinking. For one moment, she'd let her guard down, and she had slipped. She had to cover it up. Force herself to think. Fortunately, lies came easily to her. "None of this would have happened. I mentioned poisoned arrows. I...Terese, what if I...?"

"No, it's not your fault. There's no way you could have known."

Yes. Yes, she had bought it. Morgan breathed a sigh of relief, which came out as a weak cough. "I...maybe you're right, but..."

"I know I'm right. You couldn't have known."

Morgan nodded. At that moment, medics rushed into the room. Four of them. No, five. Six. Two of them lifted her onto a stretcher and carried her out. Past students. Teachers. All talking at once. All panicked.

Into the cafeteria, where one voice rang above all the others, calling for quiet, for order, for calm. Morgan smiled. The voice was familiar. Coach Shepard. If anyone could calm them down, it would be him. The hundreds of frightened children in the cafeteria were in good hands.

Out the door. It was cloudy. Growing dark. Probably about to rain. Why had Ms. Whyte had the blasted windows open in the first place?

Then up. Up into the ambulance, with Ms. Whyte alongside. Four of the medics climbed in back with them. Three strangers. But old man. Long, grey hair. And deep brown eyes that mirrored Morgan's own.

What was he doing there? Morgan forced the thought from her mind. It didn't matter why, or how. All that mattered was that, somehow, he was there.

"It's all right," he said gently as another fellow started an IV line. "You're all right now."

Did he know? She had to be sure. But she had already slipped once. She couldn't risk...No, it was all right. He would cover for her. So she said it. Three words. "They can't know."

"All right." He shrugged at the other medics. "She's delirious. Lost a lot of blood. Rambling. Probably doesn't want us to let the Sheriff of Nottingham know that Robin Hood is around."

That got a few laughs. Good, Morgan thought as her friend's face began to grow dim. Good. He understood. But they didn't. Good. They didn't know. They couldn't know...