Seconds Away Page 19

’’Just promise, okay?’’

’’I don\'t even understand what I\'m promising,’’ I said, ’’but okay, I won\'t ask about your sources or whatever.’’

Ema hesitated, studying my face to make sure that my promise was legit. Then she said, ’’I did some Photoshopping with your picture of the Butcher. If I sent someone a picture of a guy in a Nazi uniform and asked if he worked as a paramedic, they\'d think I was nuts.’’

I nodded. That made sense.

’’So I used Photoshop to change his clothes into something more current. I also sent one photograph that was in the original black and white, and one that I colorized.’’

’’Who did you send them to?’’

Ema gave me a hard look.

’’Oh, wait,’’ I said. ’’Is that the source you\'re talking about? The one I\'m not supposed to ask about?’’

’’Not really,’’ Ema said. Again she hesitated. All around us, cliques were gathering. They were chatting or laughing or, like us, having serious talks. I wondered how many of them were talking about old Nazis from World War II. I doubted many were.

I sent the pictures to the director of Emergency Medical Services for San Diego,’’ Ema said. ’’My source is the one who got me in touch with him. But that\'s not important.’’

’’Okay,’’ I said. ’’And what did the director tell you?’’

’’Hello, colleagues!’’

I turned. It was Spoon. Ema did not look pleased.

Spoon pushed the glasses up his nose. ’’Am I late?’’

’’We just got started,’’ I said.

We both turned back toward Ema. She looked even less pleased. ’’Wait.’’

’’What?’’

She pointed at Spoon. ’’What\'s he doing here?’’

’’He\'s part of this, Ema.’’

She looked at Spoon. Spoon wiggled his eyebrows and spread his arms.

’’Like what you see?’’ Spoon asked.

Ema frowned. ’’Are you really wearing a pocket protector?’’

’’What, you want the pen to ruin my shirt?’’

’’That shirt? Yes.’’

’’But green plaid is back.’’

’’Okay,’’ I said, stepping between them. ’’Can we get back to this?’’

Ema\'s eyes locked on to mine.

’’He\'s part of this,’’ I said again.

She dropped her gaze. ’’Fine, whatever, it\'s your Nazi.’’

’’Please continue,’’ Spoon said.

Ema ignored him. ’’Anyway, I sent the pictures to the EMS office in San Diego. They would have been the ones to respond to any car accident in that area. I also gave them the date of your accident.’’

’’One question,’’ Spoon began, rubbing his chin. ’’Who\'s your source?’’

Ema shot daggers at him with her eyes.

’’Spoon,’’ I said.

He looked at me. I shook my head for him to keep silent.

’’So the photographs were sent down to human resources. They checked through their files. They showed the photograph to every employee they could find. Then, just to make sure, they sent me a link to a website with headshots of every licensed paramedic who has worked for the county for the past three years.’’

She swallowed, but I knew what she was about to say next.

’’There is no record of him. No one recognizes him. According to the San Diego EMS office, this guy never worked for them.’’

Silence.

Then I said, ’’There are private ambulance companies, right? Maybe one of them . . .’’

’’It\'s possible,’’ Ema said, ’’but they wouldn\'t be called to an accident scene on an interstate. That\'s the county\'s jurisdiction.’’

I tried to sort through what she was telling me. . . . But what had I expected her to find? That a ninety-year-old Nazi who looked about thirty had been working for the San Diego Emergency Medical Services? Still, at the very least, the sandy-blond paramedic looked like the Butcher of Lodz. Someone should have been able to find the guy, right? If they showed the picture around or looked through their records, wouldn\'t someone have come back and said, ’’Hey, this guy looks like . . .’’ well, whatever his name was?

I looked toward Ema. ’’So it\'s a dead end?’’

She looked at me with those caring eyes of hers.

’’I mean, who was the sandy-blond guy with the green eyes I saw that day? Who took my dad from the scene?’’

Spoon stayed silent. Ema took a step toward me. She put her hand on my arm. ’’We just started investigating. This is just the first step.’’

Spoon nodded in agreement.

’’There has to be an accident report,’’ Spoon added. ’’The names of everyone involved would be on it. We should get a copy.’’

’’Good idea, Spoon,’’ Ema said.

He puffed out his chest. ’’I\'m not just eye candy, you know.’’

We. They kept saying we. It felt ridiculous we were just a bunch of dumb kids and yet it also felt ridiculously comforting to have these two on my side.

Ema turned back to me. ’’I\'ll get my source on it.’’

’’The source I shouldn\'t ask about?’’ I said.

’’Right.’’

The bell rang. Students started to stream into the school. We said our good-byes and headed inside. My first three periods went by slowly and uneventfully. No boredom compares to school boredom. You stare at that clock and try to use any kind of mind-meld trick just to make the hands move faster. They never do.

I had Mrs. Friedman for period four today, my final class before lunch. I may have mentioned this before, but Mrs. Friedman was my favorite teacher. She had been teaching a long time Uncle Myron was one of her former students but she had not lost an iota of enthusiasm. I loved that about her because that enthusiasm was contagious. Nothing seemed to bore her. No question was unworthy of an answer. No moment was unworthy of study.

Mrs. Friedman lived in a happy snow globe of AP History.

But today even Mrs. Friedman seemed a little off her game. The smile was there, but it was nowhere near its normal wattage. Of course, I knew why. So, I assumed, did the rest of the class. Mrs. Friedman\'s eyes kept finding their way back to that empty desk.

Rachel\'s desk.

Rachel had first introduced herself to me here. Yep, that\'s right. The hottest girl in the school had smiled at me and struck up a conversation with yours truly in this very classroom. I had been both dumbstruck and rather pleased with myself. I had only been a student here a few short weeks, and I, a lowly new kid and sophomore, had already drawn the attention of that girl.

I must have been super cool and incredibly charming, right?


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