Seconds Away Page 33

’’You okay?’’ Ema asked.

’’Fine, but I have really big news.’’

I told them about the fire at Bat Lady\'s house. They listened with their mouths agape. When I told them about the portraits in the corridor, Spoon spoke for the first time.

’’Obvious,’’ he said.

’’What?’’

’’Those pictures. It was a gallery of the children the Abeona Shelter has saved.’’

I told them about getting arrested, about Uncle Myron showing up, and how Angelica Wyatt was the one who saved me from a night in prison. Ema seemed annoyed by this.

’’Wait, how does your uncle know Angelica Wyatt?’’

’’She\'s smoking hot,’’ Spoon added.

We looked at him.

’’I\'m talking about Angelica Wyatt,’’ Spoon explained.

’’Yeah,’’ Ema said, ’’we got that.’’ She turned back to me. ’’So?’’

’’I don\'t know. Myron is her bodyguard or something.’’

’’I thought he was a sports agent.’’

’’He is. I don\'t get it either, but Angelica Wyatt knew my mom too.’’

’’What are you talking about?’’ There was a snap in Ema\'s voice now. ’’How would she have known your mother?’’

’’They were, like, celebrity friends when they were young. My mom was a big tennis star, Angelica was a young actress. I guess they hung out. What\'s the difference?’’

Ema just frowned.

’’I have a thought,’’ Spoon said.

Ema gave him a withering look. ’’I can hardly wait to hear this.’’

’’This sandy-blond guy. Let\'s call him the Butcher, okay?’’

’’What about him?’’

Spoon pushed up his glasses. ’’He tried to kill you. Doesn\'t it make sense that maybe he also tried to kill Rachel?’’

Silence.

’’And if that\'s the case, wouldn\'t it follow that maybe, just maybe, he\'s trying to kill us all?’’

More silence.

’’I hate to admit it,’’ Ema said, ’’but Spoon may have a point.’’

’’Thank you. I\'m not just eye candy for the ladies, you know.’’

’’We are going to have to be extra careful,’’ I said.

’’Has anyone heard from Rachel since we sneaked into the hospital?’’ Spoon asked.

So here we were. I could lie to them or I could betray Rachel\'s confidence. I aimed for something in between. ’’I have,’’ I said as, mercifully, the bell rang. ’’But for right now, I need to leave it at that.’’

’’What\'s that supposed to mean?’’ Ema asked.

’’Yeah,’’ Spoon added. ’’Aren\'t we in this together?’’

’’Just . . . trust me here.’’ I remembered my schedule visit Rachel, basketball tryouts. Hmm. They were both still looking at me, waiting for more. ’’How about this? Let\'s meet right after basketball tryouts. I should be able to tell you more then.’’

Chapter 28

When the final bell rang, I got my backpack and prepared for the walk to Rachel\'s house. I was just closing my locker when I heard Mrs. Friedman say, ’’Mr. Bolitar? A word, please.’’

Some kids nearby said, ’’Oooo, you\'re in trouble.’’

Mature, right?

After I moved into her classroom, Mrs. Friedman closed the door behind us. ’’I found something you might find interesting,’’ she said.

’’Oh?’’

’’I have a colleague who works at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. Have you ever been?’’

’’No, ma\'am.’’

Her face looked so sad. ’’You should. Everyone should. It is horrible and yet so necessary. You go into that museum one person, you come out another. At least, you do if you have a conscience. Anyway, I spoke to my colleague and I asked her about Hans Zeidner, the Butcher of Lodz.’’

I waited for her to say more. When she didn\'t, I said, ’’Thank you.’’

Mrs. Friedman pinned me down with her eyes. ’’Do you want to tell me why you\'re so interested in this subject?’’

I almost did. I thought about all that I knew, about Lizzy Sobek being the Bat Lady and living so close to where we now stood. I thought about the Butcher and my father and the fire. But in the end, I knew that I shouldn\'t and couldn\'t.

’’I can\'t,’’ I said. ’’Not yet anyway.’’

I figured that there would be a follow-up question, but there wasn\'t. Instead Mrs. Friedman opened her desk drawer and said, ’’Here.’’

There was a photograph in her hand. I took it from her. It was another old black-and-white picture of a man wearing a Waffen-SS uniform. The man in the photograph had dark hair and a thin mustache. His nose was pointy and mouselike. His eyes were two black marbles.

’’Thank you,’’ I said, looking up at her. ’’Who is this?’’

Mrs. Friedman made a face. ’’\'Who is this?\'’’

’’Yes. Who is the man in the photograph?’’

’’Who do you think?’’ Mrs. Friedman said. ’’It\'s Hans Zeidner. The Butcher of Lodz.’’

Chapter 29

Occam\'s Razor.

My father had often repeated that one to me. Occam\'s Razor states the following: ’’Other things being equal, a simpler explanation is better than a more complex one.’’ Put more succinctly, the simplest answer was usually the best one.

So why hadn\'t I even considered the simple possibility that Bat Lady\'s photograph was merely Photoshopped?

As I walked to Rachel\'s house, my mind traveled between rage at Bat Lady and rage at myself mostly at myself. How could I be so gullible? In this day and age when any idiot with a computer can alter an image, why had I jumped to the conclusion that a Nazi from World War II hadn\'t aged a day in nearly seventy years and now worked as a San Diego paramedic?

What kind of naïve dope am I?

The sandy-blond paramedic with the green eyes was not the Butcher of Lodz. He was not ninety years old. He was not the same man who had tortured and killed scores in 1940s Poland, including Lizzy Sobek\'s father. Ema had simply Photoshopped the guy\'s face onto a modern photograph to send out to San Diego, right? Why couldn\'t someone do the opposite take a picture of a guy in his thirties and superimpose it on an old black-and-white?

Someone the Bat Lady or Shaved Head, I guessed had fooled me with simple digital photography.

Why? And what could I do about it?

It would have to wait. Right now, I had to concentrate on Rachel. When I approached her house, I saw a police car pulling out. I ducked behind a tree. Chief Taylor was in the driver\'s seat. No one was with him. As he drove past, he looked distracted and . . . scared?


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