Seconds Away Page 4

’’Hey,’’ Myron said.

’’Hey.’’

’’Did you get something to eat?’’ he asked me.

I nodded and took a shot. Myron grabbed the rebound and threw the ball back to me. The basketball court meant a lot to both of us. We both got that. It was neutral territory, a no-fight zone, our own small land of truce. I took another shot and winced. Myron spotted it.

’’Tryouts are in two weeks, right?’’ he asked.

He was talking about the high school basketball team. My hope, I confess, was that I\'d break those old records of his.

I shook my head. ’’They were moved up.’’

’’So when are they?’’

’’Monday.’’

’’Whoa, soon. Are you excited?’’

I was, of course. Very. But I just shrugged and took another shot.

’’You\'re only a sophomore,’’ Myron said. ’’They don\'t take many sophomores on the varsity.’’

’’You started as a sophomore, didn\'t you?’’

’’Touché.’’ Myron threw me another pass and changed the subject. ’’Still sore from last night?’’ he asked.

’’Yes.’’

’’Anything more than that?’’

’’What do you mean?’’

’’I\'m wondering whether we should take you to a doctor.’’

I shook my head. ’’Just sore.’’

’’Do you want to talk about what happened?’’

I did not.

’’Seems to me you put yourself and others in danger,’’ Uncle Myron said.

I was debating on how to tap-dance around the truth. Myron knew some of it. The police knew some of it. But I couldn\'t tell them all of it. They\'d probably never believe it anyway. Heck, I didn\'t believe it.

’’There are always consequences to being a hero, Mickey,’’ Uncle Myron said in a soft voice. ’’Even when you\'re sure you\'re doing the right thing. I\'ve learned that the hard way.’’

We looked at each other. Myron was about to say something more when his cell phone buzzed. He looked at the caller ID, and something close to shock crossed his face.

’’Sorry,’’ he said to me, ’’but I need to take this.’’

He stepped away, deeper into the yard. He hunched over and started talking.

You put yourself and others in danger . . .

I could take the risks that would be on me but what about my friends? What about the ’’others’’? I stepped away in the opposite direction and took out my cell phone.

Four of us had gone into that evil nightclub to rescue Ashley: Ema and I, of course and then there had been Spoon and Rachel. Spoon, like Ema and me, was an outcast. Rachel was anything but.

I needed to check up on them.

I texted Spoon first and got the following auto-answer. Spoon: I cannot reply at this time. Due to recent events I am grounded until the age of 34.

And then, because he was Spoon, he added: Abraham Lincoln\'s mother died of milk poisoning at age 34.

I couldn\'t help but smile. Spoon had ’’borrowed’’ his father\'s custodial truck in order to help us. His parents were the most caring and overprotective in our little group, so I\'d figured that he\'d get in the most trouble. Luckily, Spoon was, if nothing else, resourceful. He\'d be okay.

I texted the fourth and final member of the gang Rachel Caldwell. How to describe Rachel . . . ? I will make it simple: Rachel was, for lack of a better phrase, the hottest girl in school. By definition, I guess, every school has one, and, yes, she was much more than super-attractive, so please don\'t label me a se*ist pig too quickly. The bravery and resourcefulness she\'d demonstrated in that horrible place was mind-boggling.

But still, if I am being totally honest here, her hotness was the first thing to pop into my and almost everyone in school\'s head.

How Rachel ended up joining forces with the looked-down-upon new kid (me), the self-defined goth-emo ’’fat girl’’ (Ema), and the janitor\'s nerdy kid (Spoon) was still something of a mystery.

I thought hard about what to text Rachel. I admit it I got nervous and doofy around her. My palms started to sweat. I know that I should have been mature and above it. Most of the time I am. Or maybe not. Anyway, after long consideration about what exactly I should text, I put my fingers to the keypad and went with this charming opener: U OK?

As you can see, I\'m very smooth with the ladies.

I waited for Rachel\'s response. None came. When Uncle Myron finished his phone call, he stumbled toward me in something of a daze.

Borrowing from my clever text to Rachel, I asked, ’’You okay?’’

’’Fine,’’ Myron said. ’’Who was that?’’

My uncle\'s voice was distant. ’’A close friend I haven\'t heard from in a while.’’

’’What did he want?’’

Myron just stared off.

’’Hello?’’ I said.

’’He needs a favor. A strange one.’’ Myron checked his watch. ’’I have to run out. I should be back in an hour.’’

Well, that was weird. My phone buzzed. I checked my caller ID, and when I saw Rachel\'s name, my pulse did a little two-step. I slid away from my uncle and opened Rachel\'s message. It read: Can\'t talk now. Can I call you later?

I immediately texted back Sure and then wondered whether that sounded too anxious or whether I should have waited, oh, eight seconds to make it look like I wasn\'t just standing around waiting for her text.

Pathetic, right?

Uncle Myron hurried off to his car. I headed into the kitchen and grabbed a snack. I pictured Rachel at home, texting me. I had only been to Rachel\'s house once. Yesterday. It was a big sprawling estate with a gate at the front of the driveway. It also looked empty and like a really lonely place to live.

The local newspaper, the West Esse* Tribune, was on the kitchen table. The front-page story for the third straight issue involved the big-time actress Angelica Wyatt\'s visit to our little town. Rumor had it that not only was Angelica Wyatt filming a movie here but that, per the headline:

LOCAL TEENS TO BE USED AS EXTRAS!

Everyone at Kasselton High was excited about this possibility. The boys in my school, many of whom still had that controversial poster of Angelica Wyatt in a wet bikini on their walls, were particularly thrilled.

I, on the other hand, had more important things to occupy my time.

I pushed the paper to the side and took out the photograph of the Butcher of Lodz. I put it on the table and stared hard at it. Then I closed my eyes, imprinting the picture in my mind like a sunspot. I made myself go back to that California highway, to the accident, to being trapped in the car, to seeing my dying father, to looking into those green eyes with the yellow rings as they snuffed out all hope.


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