Seconds Away Page 10

Spoon wiggled his eyebrows again. ’’The police weren\'t the ones who brought down Buddy Ray at the Plan B nightclub. We were.’’

’’And we were almost killed,’’ Ema said.

’’Fear not, fair maiden.’’ Spoon slid his chair closer to her. ’’I saved you once. I can do it again.’’

’’Don\'t make me punch you,’’ Ema said.

I said nothing.

Ema looked at me. ’’You\'re not seriously considering this, are you?’’

’’I don\'t know,’’ I said. ’’Suppose we can help.’’

’’You\'re kidding, right?’’

’’We may be in danger too,’’ I said. ’’We can\'t just stay on the sidelines. You said it yourself. We\'re all a part of this.’’

’’No, I said you and I are a part of this. And I was talking about that paramedic and the Butcher of Lodz and maybe Bat Lady. I wasn\'t talking about Rachel Caldwell.’’ Ema rose. ’’I gotta go to class.’’

’’What? Lunch isn\'t even over yet.’’

’’It is for me. I got things to do.’’

She started to walk away.

Spoon said, ’’What\'s up with her?’’

’’Got me.’’

’’Women.’’ Spoon nudged me with his elbow. ’’Am I right, Mickey?’’

’’As rain, Spoon.’’

’’Right as rain,’’ Spoon said. ’’While no one is sure, the expression probably derives from our days as an agrarian society. See, most agriculture relied on rain since other means of irrigation were not yet available rain was, well, right. Others though believe it\'s just a good alliterative, what with the two rs . . .’’

I was no longer listening because I was watching Ema. When she walked past the ’’luxury box’’ table, Troy Taylor, who was supposedly mourning his injured girlfriend, cupped his hands around his mouth and said, ’’Hey, Ema. Mooo!’’

Troy started laughing. So did a couple of his buddies.

Buck, also known as Mr. Follower, said, ’’Yeah, Ema. Moooooo!’’

Someone else at the table joined in as Troy accepted high fives.

I stood up, feeling the anger rise. I started to move toward Troy and Buck. My hands clenched into fists, readying to do battle. But when Ema turned and looked back at me, I pulled up. There was something in her eyes, some sort of defiance and sadness.

Our eyes locked. I saw something there, but I really couldn\'t say what exactly. It moved and confused me at the same time.

Ema mouthed the word Don\'t.

I stood there for another second, but now I knew. I had to sit back down.

Ema turned and walked away, ignoring the cruel cackling behind her. I thought about that look in her eyes, the hurt, and something told me that it had nothing to do with Troy or his immature name-calling.

’’Mickey?’’

’’Yes, Spoon.’’

’’Contrary to popular belief, cows do not have four stomachs. They have four digestive compartments.’’

’’Thanks for clearing that up for me,’’ I said.

Chapter 9

There was still ten minutes until lunch ended. I headed outside to shoot some baskets. The same two flyers were posted everywhere. The first the one most of the students were getting all excited about had a surprisingly se*y photograph of Angelica Wyatt on it:

AUDITIONS FOR EXTRAS

TWO DAYS ONLY!

MAYBE YOU\'LL MEET ANGELICA WYATT!

Be a Star Even for a Few Seconds!

Pass, I thought.

Plus all my attention all my focus was locked in laserlike on the second flyer:

BASKETBALL TRYOUTS MONDAY!

3PM

MEET in GYM 1

Juniors and Seniors ONLY will try out for Varsity

Freshmen and Sophomores will try out for JV

Funny. Despite what happened the past few days, I still cared about basketball. I guessed that I would start off trying out for JV, but at the risk of sounding immodest, I didn\'t plan on staying there very long.

I took a few shots by myself. I didn\'t want anyone at my new high school to see me play before tryouts. Don\'t ask me why. I traveled almost every afternoon to play pickup games in a tough section of Newark. That was where I\'d been honing my game.

As I mentioned before, my uncle Myron was a great player the leading scorer in this school\'s history, a first-team collegiate All-American, a first-round NBA draft pick by the Boston Celtics.

But according to my father, I was better.

We would see. That was the beauty of basketball. It wasn\'t about talk. It was about what happened on the court.

I was about to head back inside when I saw the now-familiar black car with the tinted windows pull up. I stopped and waited. That car. That car with the weird license plate. The car that had been following me since this all began. The car that held that mysterious bald guy. The car that had taken me yesterday to see Bat Lady.

It was back.

I waited for the bald guy with the freshly shaved head to get out. He didn\'t. The bell would ring in another minute or two. What did they want now?

I started toward the black car. When I got closer, the back door opened. I slid inside. The bald guy was there. The divider was up so once again I couldn\'t see who was driving.

’’Hello, Mickey,’’ Shaved Head said.

I had had enough of him and his sudden appearances. ’’Would you mind telling me your name?’’

’’How are you feeling?’’ he asked me.

’’Fantastic. Who are you?’’

’’We understand Rachel was shot.’’

I waited for him to say more. He didn\'t. I studied his face. He was younger than I\'d first thought. Thirty, thirty-five at the most. He had strong hands and sharp cheekbones, and he spoke with an accent I usually associated with snooty prep schools.

’’Wait a second,’’ I said. ’’Is Rachel getting shot related to you guys?’’

’’You guys?’’ he said.

’’The Abeona Shelter.’’

I had recently learned that my parents were not merely fun-loving nomads who traveled the world and did the occasional good deed. They ran covert operations to rescue children in danger as members of a clandestine organization called the Abeona Shelter.

Abeona was the Roman goddess who protected children. The organization\'s secret symbol was the Tisiphone Abeona a rather exotic butterfly with what looked like eyes on both wings.

I found the butterfly in that photograph of the hippies at Bat Lady\'s house. I found another in one of Ema\'s tattoos. And I found yet another at my father\'s gravesite.

Bat Lady seemed to be the leader. Shaved Head worked for the organization too. And now, it seemed, the Abeona Shelter had recruited my friends and me. Two days ago, we rescued a girl from a terrible fate. But it hadn\'t been easy.


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