Seconds Away Page 47

’’Ah,’’ Spoon said, ’’I knew something was wrong with that.’’

’’With what?’’

’’With Ashley\'s locker. See, there was a Sevier combination lock on it.’’

’’So?’’

’’So the school only issues Master Lock. If a new student had taken over Ashley\'s locker, that would be what they used. A Master Lock. The school would never permit a Sevier.’’

It just confirmed what I now realized when I looked at the photograph. Bat Lady or Shaved Head or someone high up in the Abeona Shelter had left it on the basement floor so the message would be loud and clear:

Help Rachel.

That was our current assignment. Forget the fire. Forget finding Bat Lady or Shaved Head. Our first assignment had been to save Ashley. Now we needed to save Rachel.

’’When the episode ends, it\'ll be my bedtime anyway,’’ Spoon said. ’’I\'ll get my warm cup of milk, climb into bed, turn out the lights, and then I\'ll climb out the window. What do you think?’’

’’Sounds good,’’ I said.

’’Maybe I\'ll stick a couple of pillows under the blanket so it looks like I\'m still in there. Do you think that\'s a good idea?’’

’’Your choice, Spoon.’’

’’Okay, the show is almost over. I\'ll meet you by that same door as last time.’’

Then another thought struck me. ’’Wait,’’ I said.

’’What?’’

Ema looked at me, confused. How could I explain this? Spoon was just a kid. Yeah, we all were, but he seemed younger. He was home innocently watching Glee with his father. I couldn\'t ask him to come down here and illegally break into the school again.

I was about to tell Spoon to forget it to stay in his nice cozy bed and drink his warm milk but then I remembered something else. Spoon was his own person, and he could make his own decisions. Hadn\'t he told me that he\'d even been arrested once? Maybe he wasn\'t such an innocent, and maybe I shouldn\'t act like I was his overprotective big brother.

Plus, last time Spoon broke the rules, he had saved Ema\'s life.

’’Something wrong, Mickey?’’ Spoon asked.

My grip on the phone tightened. I wasn\'t sure what to do. I didn\'t want to get him in any more trouble, but we needed him. ’’Nope, nothing. We\'ll see you soon.’’

I hung up. Ema and I huddled by the school\'s side door. There are few places more empty and lifeless than a school at night. It was after nine P.M. by the time Spoon joined us.

’’Put these on,’’ Spoon said. ’’To hide our faces.’’

He handed Ema and me masks. He kept one for himself. But these weren\'t, say, ski masks, like you might expect.

’’Are these . . . ?’’ I began.

’’Yup, Lion King masks,’’ Spoon said. ’’Ema, I gave you Mufasa. I was going to give you Pumbaa, but he\'s a warthog and, well, I figured you\'d kill me.’’

Frowning at the mask in her hand, Ema said, ’’You figured right.’’

’’So, Mickey, you\'ll be Pumbaa, and I\'ll be’’ he slipped on the mask ’’Timon. See? Timon and Pumbaa? Hakuna matata. Come on, put yours on. It will be practical yet fun.’’

I didn\'t move.

Spoon lifted his up and frowned. ’’There are surveillance cameras inside. If something goes wrong, we don\'t want anyone recognizing us.’’

I looked at Ema. She shrugged. He had a point.

Spoon slipped the mask back into place so that he was now a smiling meerkat. ’’Mickey, with your height you should also hunch over. In fact, we should all alter our gait. Ema, maybe instead of your usual angry strut, you could twirl or something.’’

’’Twirl?’’

’’Or something. So they can\'t identify you.’’

’’I\'m not twirling,’’ Ema said.

’’Or something.’’

’’I\'m not or something-ing either.’’

’’I think the masks will be enough,’’ I said.

Spoon shrugged. ’’Suit yourself.’’

We moved toward the school door. Spoon swiped his card key. I heard a click, and the door opened. I looked over at Ema for assurance, but instead of her face, I saw Mufasa\'s. Well, Mufasa looked pretty resolute, so I followed Spoon inside.

’’There\'s no audio recording in here,’’ Spoon said. He used his regular voice, no stage whisper or even ’’indoor’’ voice. The sound was loud in this still corridor, jarring and echoing. ’’There are cameras in every hallway. They are shot from above, but since we have masks on, this doesn\'t matter much.’’

He made a right turn. We followed.

’’That\'s Mrs. Nelson\'s classroom. Do you know what Dad told me? She keeps her old underwear and socks underneath her desk. And not the se*y kind. I mean, have you seen Mrs. Nelson? Shudder, right? But Dad says she has an amazing sock collection. All different colors and styles. Do you want to see her sock collection?’’

’’No,’’ I said.

’’It\'s okay. The classroom doors are never locked. Fire hazard or something. Oh, unless there\'s a lockdown. Do you know what that is? See, every classroom has a panic button under the teacher\'s desk. In case of a school shooting or some kind of emergency, it sets off an alarm and the school goes into lockdown. Cool, right?’’

Mercifully we arrived in front of Ashley\'s locker. Spoon examined the lock. ’’Yep, just as I suspected. A Sevier combination lock.’’ He shook his head. ’’Pitiful, really.’’

’’You have a key to open it?’’

Timon looked at me. It was so weird to look at your friend and see someone else\'s smiling face. ’’No, of course not. It isn\'t regulation.’’

’’So what should we do?’’ Ema asked.

Spoon took out a tire iron, slid it through the lock\'s loop, and turned it hard. The lock snapped open as if it were made of porcelain.

’’Voilà,’’ Spoon said.

That was when I heard a noise. I froze. ’’Did you hear that?’’ I whispered.

’’Hear what?’’ Spoon/Timon said.

I looked over at Ema/Mufasa. I stared at her mask as though I could read her face that way. ’’Ema?’’

’’Let\'s just hurry.’’

Spoon cleared away the leftover lock debris. When he was done, he stepped back and gestured for me to take over. I reached forward, grabbed the metallic latch, and lifted it up. I opened the locker and peered inside.

There was a gym bag.

I pulled it out and dropped it on the floor. The three of us surrounded it and peered down through our masks. I bent down, took hold of the zipper, and pulled it open. The sound echoed through the still hallways, sounding like a giant rip. For a moment, no one spoke. We just stared down.


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