Seconds Away Page 18

Myron stared straight ahead. A tear ran down his cheek. My eyes started to brim up too, but I\'d be damned if I would let any tears escape.

I didn\'t let up. ’’And if you had done any of that, Mom wouldn\'t be a shell of herself sitting in rehab today. She\'d be laughing that laugh. And Dad would be alive, and we\'d all be hanging out. Do you ever think of that, Myron? Do you ever look back and wonder, what if you had believed in them?’’

I felt suddenly spent and exhausted. I closed my eyes. My head dropped back on the neck rest.

A few moments later, Myron spoke in a soft, pained voice. ’’I do think about that. I think about it every day.’’

’’So why, Myron? Why didn\'t you help?’’

’’Maybe you can learn from my mistakes.’’

’’Learn what?’’

’’It\'s like I said before.’’ Myron pulled into the driveway, his face darkening. ’’There are always consequences to being a hero. Especially when you\'re sure you\'re doing the right thing.’’

Chapter 16

When we got home, Myron and I went our separate ways. I did homework with the television on, hoping to catch updates of the shooting at Rachel\'s house, but the cable news had no mentions of it.

I thought a lot about Rachel sitting in that hospital bed. I thought about Ema and the rumors Spoon had heard. I thought about my mother going through detox. I thought about my father dead and Bat Lady\'s cryptic words. I thought about Myron\'s warning about the dangers of being a hero.

I was going to go online and search for Rachel\'s name, but before I did, I flipped stations, figuring I\'d check the local news. Channel Five ran its ominous nightly warning: ’’It\'s ten P.M., do you know where your children are?’’ before flashing to the news.

The anchorman had black hair that looked like a plastic wig with wet paint and enough rouge on his cheeks to remind me of a visit to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus.

’’The president visits troops overseas. A shooting in Kasselton leaves a mother dead and a daughter hospitalized. And that soda you\'re drinking? It might be poisonous. We\'ll tell you all about the big soda scare and how to stay safe after this commercial break.’’

I looked down at my glass of water. I was glad it wasn\'t soda.

When the waxy anchorman came back, he talked about the president and then he got to the ’’soda scare’’ story, which told how one person claimed to have found a worm in a certain soda that he got in a fast-food restaurant in West Nyack and so the how-to-stay-safe warning seemed to be to check your soda if you bought it at a certain fast-food restaurant in West Nyack.

Finally: ’’A shooting in a ritzy neighborhood in Kasselton, New Jersey, last night left a mother dead and her daughter with a gunshot wound to the head.’’ The screen now showed Rachel\'s house. ’’The shooting of Nora Caldwell and her daughter, Rachel, took place in this lavish mansion. Police believe that it may have been a break-in gone wrong, but they also say it is too early in their investigation to speculate.’’

So they knew nothing, I thought.

There were many things that were bothering me about the investigation. For one thing, I had been at Rachel\'s house the day before the shooting. She told me that her parents were divorced, that she lived with her father, who was mostly absent (traveling around with Trophy Wife #3), and that her mother lived in Florida. How come she didn\'t mention that her mother was up visiting and presumably staying in her ex-husband\'s house?

Did that make sense?

Had Rachel just thought that it wasn\'t important to tell me her mom was visiting or was there something else there?

I didn\'t know. But something didn\'t sit right.

On top of that, what was up with Chief Taylor\'s weird hospital visit? I assumed that he must know Rachel via his son, Troy I was trying not to grit my teeth as I thought about this but what was up with him not wanting Rachel to talk to Homicide Investigator Dunleavy until she talked to him first? Was he afraid of what she\'d say or, more likely, was Chief Taylor just being a tool who wanted to know everything first?

I climbed into bed, thinking about the fact that both Rachel and I had lost a parent. It made you feel like you were always standing on shaky ground, like the earth could give way at any time and that you could fall and no one would be able to grab you.

I thought about Ema and the rumors. I wondered where she was right this very second, whether she was okay. I picked up my phone and texted her: Just wanted to say good night.

Two minutes later, Ema replied: u can be such a big girl sometimes.

I smiled and texted back: OK. Good night.

Ema: I got some info on your Nazi paramedic.

Me: What?

Ema: let\'s meet before school bell Monday. I can show u then.

Chapter 17

Ema was waiting in the back corner of the student parking lot when I arrived. These spaces were coveted, and I guess there was a time when students started throwing punches over them. Now the school wisely raised money by selling them. If you wanted a prime space for the school year, it cost a grand. What was most amazing to me was not only did the spots sell out in record time, but there was a waiting list.

I was carrying a gym bag with my basketball stuff in it. Today was the first day of tryouts. Despite all the other things that were going on in my life, I still had butterflies in my stomach over that.

I walked to school. So, I guessed, did Ema. I mean, I had never seen a parent drop her off. She usually just came out of the woods behind the field. As I approached, I couldn\'t help but notice that Ema looked somehow . . . different. I couldn\'t put my finger on it. She was still dressed in all black without a hint of color. The skin was still pallid, her lipstick choice today a slightly more venomous shade of red.

’’What?’’ Ema said.

I shrugged. ’’You look different.’’

Her eyes narrowed. ’’Different how?’’

I couldn\'t put my finger on it, but there was definitely something something maybe about the tattoo on her arm . . . Whatever. Now was not the time. ’’Doesn\'t matter. You said you learned something about the Butcher of Lodz?’’

Ema suddenly looked wary.

’’What?’’ I said.

’’You have to promise you won\'t ask about my sources.’’

I frowned. ’’You\'re kidding, right?’’

’’Yeah, right, because what joke could be funnier than that?’’ She bit down on her lower lip. ’’You have to promise me. You won\'t ask.’’

’’I don\'t get it.’’

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