Cam nodded in agreement. 'Shit, indeed. Wasn't expecting that.'
'What the fuck do we do now?' Ange's voice was rising to that almost-hysterical tone that inevitably caused Cam to lose it. Jess thought it best to intervene before things got out of hand. But, of course, things were already out of hand.
'I guess we have to tell someone.'
'Are you fucking insane!' Cam exploded.
Much as the house had done, Jess reflected. She figured her intervention had failed, but persisted anyway. 'Look, we screwed up. We're in trouble. But it won't go away if we pretend it's not there. It'll still be there, getting worse. We should tell someone now.'
'I don't know, Ange. Maybe the cops. Maybe your folks--they're pretty cool, laid-back.'
'No way. Not my parents.'
'And not the fucking cops,' said Cam, as if drawing a conclusion from a reasonable argument that had never taken place. His face was bright red, punctured by thin slits where his eyes and mouth had been minutes before. A bright purple vein pulsed at his temple and the cords stood out on his neck as he clenched and unclenched his fists.
Jess looked at the smoke rising from the forest beyond the clearing. It was thick and dark, like the thoughts in her head; both the smoke and her thoughts seemed to be blown away by the gentle breeze. It was one of those surreal moments where she was sure she would wake up soon, but felt it necessary to take action anyway--just in case. The only problem was that she couldn't think of what to do.
Ange looked apologetic. 'Maybe we should just get out of here. You know, before someone finds us.'
'We never should've come here. Fuck!'
'Calm down, Cameron.' Jess continued thinking.
'We should've listened to Jo. Fuck!'
'Calm down, Cameron.' Jess found it very hard to think with Cam's continual nattering.
'Fuck it! It's all over! We're screwed! Let's get the fuck out of here!'
'Cameron, just shut the fuck up and let me think a minute!'
That seemed to work: a silence settled over the clearing. But it was an uncomfortable silence, awkward and uncertain, not like the peaceful silences they usually shared. Jess didn't find it much easier to think, and wished that Ange and Cam would talk again. Then it clicked.
'I have an idea.'
Ange's face lit up with delight at the prospect of yet another perfect solution by Jess. Cam was less enthusiastic, but Jess figured that was probably a simple case of grudge-bearing. He never liked being told to shut the fuck up.
'So, no one saw us coming out here, right?'
Cam and Ange nodded in unison.
'And our bikes are back at the main gate, but we always leave them there when we head bush, right?'
Ange cut Cam's sentence short with her elbow and a stern look. She knew what Cam was thinking: it was obvious that they were covered in soot. Jess must have noticed. 'Let her finish.'
'So, as far as anyone knows, we were just coming out here to... do what we do. And we were just doing that, when all of a sudden there was a godawful explosion and we saw smoke coming from the old Kitchener house. But we figured that a fire wouldn't start on its own, and we were worried someone was in there, so we smashed the lounge window in, just in case someone needed help to get out. And that's why we're sooty, and why there's a broken window and why our fingerprints are in the house. So now all we need to do is call the police and tell them our story. So that's all good.'
Jess sounded calm, but she was freaking out. It seemed like a plan, but she was sure she was missing something.
'But there's one more problem,' Cam added, sighing. 'Jo knows.'
Jess wondered briefly if Cam was psychic, but decided it was a pretty obvious point to bring up. So, what to do about Jo?
'Jo won't say anything,' Ange said confidently.
'You're right, she won't. We won't give her the chance.' Jess sounded cold, distant. Cam and Ange looked up sharply, one eager, one apprehensive.
'What do you mean?' Ange sounded rather less confident, now.
'I mean, we'll make sure she won't. Or can't.'
Cam leaned closer. 'What are you proposing?'
'I'm not sure yet. But, first things first--let's call the cops.' She pulled out her phone and was dismayed to find she was out of range. 'Damn, no signal. How's yours?'
Cam had three bars, so he made the call. He didn't give much detail, but Jess figured that was for the best. That's what criminals did on TV show... not that they were criminals. Nor were they on TV.
They sat down to wait. All of a sudden, Cam started laughing. The others soon joined in, not quite sure what had prompted their laughter, but unable to contain it. Jess was mildly worried that she might wet her pants, but she was grubby anyway. She lay down to chuckle it all out, and the others lay down too: Cam with his head on her abdomen and Ange with her head on Cam's legs.
And that was how Jo found them five minutes later.