Seconds Away Page 53

Silence.

’’You went to Abeona for help, didn\'t you?’’ I said.

’’Yes. But Bat Lady told me to leave it alone,’’ Rachel replied. ’’Like I could. Like I could just forget what my father had done to my mother locking her away in a loony bin for all those years. So I hid the gym bag in the locker. Just until I could convince them that this was important to me or, I don\'t know, to buy some time. But I messed up, Mickey. I messed up and those two men came after my mother.’’

’’No,’’ I said.

’’No what?’’

’’They didn\'t kill your mother.’’

’’What are you talking about? Chief Taylor is here. He says the case against them is open and shut.’’

Chief Taylor again.

’’What else did he say?’’

’’He told us they had the murder weapon. He said the ballistics test will show a match.’’

’’Will show?’’ I said.

’’Yes.’’

’’How does he know what a test will show?’’

’’Because it\'s obvious?’’

’’They didn\'t do it, Rachel. Spoon figured it out. Whoever killed your mother is still free.’’

’’That\'s impossible.’’

I started explaining all the things wrong with the official scenario. She listened in silence. When I was done, Rachel asked in a surprisingly calm voice, ’’Do you think my father shot us?’’

’’I don\'t know. I mean, it could have been an accident.’’

’’I don\'t see how. Someone shot at me from across the room, but my mother was shot with the gun pressed against her head. How could that be an accident?’’

’’Maybe,’’ I ventured slowly, remembering Ema\'s theory, ’’your mother was shot on purpose, but you were hit accidentally.’’

We fell into silence, but something was bothering me. Rachel was hit from across the room while her mother was shot in the head from very close. That made sense, of course. The shooter would have been right near Rachel\'s mom . . .

So why was something niggling at the back of my brain?

’’Mickey?’’

’’Yes?’’

’’I love my father.’’

’’I know.’’

’’He would never hurt me, but . . .’’

’’But what?’’

’’But he and Chief Taylor are good friends,’’ she said. ’’And they\'ve both been acting so suspiciously.’’

I gripped the phone a little tighter. Mr. Caldwell and Chief Taylor were friends and somehow Taylor ends up being the first cop on the scene. That was some coincidence.

I was liking this less and less.

’’I think we should talk to the police.’’

’’And tell them what?’’ Rachel said. ’’We\'re just kids. We don\'t have any proof at all. The first thing any cop will do is tell Chief Taylor.’’

She had a point. ’’I still think it\'s our best option.’’

’’No, it\'s not,’’ Rachel said, her voice coming alive. It was like a switch had been flicked. ’’Mickey?’’

’’Yes?’’

’’Are you up for getting in more trouble?’’ she asked. ’’Because I have an idea.’’

Chapter 43

When I got off the phone with Rachel, I called Ema and filled her in on the plan. I wanted to get an update on Spoon, but, one, I didn\'t know who to call, and, two, I didn\'t want to be distracted. Spoon had made it clear: There was nothing I could do for him. I had to concentrate on finding the truth.

I had eight hours before we enacted Rachel\'s idea serious downtime that I desperately needed. My body was torn between sleep and food, and as usual, food won. As I headed up to the kitchen, Uncle Myron was watching the news on TV.

’’Can I make you a sandwich or something?’’ he asked.

’’No, I got it.’’

I opened the fridge. Uncle Myron had recently purchased turkey, Swiss, lettuce, tomato, and submarine rolls. Awesome. I made the sandwich in maybe forty seconds. I grabbed an ice water and started heading back to the basement when something on the television made me freeze in midstep.

Myron saw it. ’’Mickey?’’

I ignored him, keeping my eyes on the screen. Myron fell quiet.

The anchorman with the too-green tie was using his best ’’gravely serious’’ voice: ’’A sad anniversary coming up. Tomorrow morning, there will be a memorial service for Dylan Shaykes, marking twenty-five years since little Dylan, then age nine, was kidnapped from his school playground and never seen again.’’

I looked at the picture on the screen. Oh no, I thought. It can\'t be . . .

’’The story of little Dylan made huge international headlines. His photograph was plastered on milk cartons. There were sightings everywhere from coast to coast and even in Europe. The police seriously questioned his father at the time, but William Shaykes was never arrested for the crime. Young Dylan\'s blood was found in a nearby patch of woods, but all these years later, a body has never been found. So the mystery remains.’’

The television screen continued to show the photograph of nine-year-old Dylan Shaykes. Little Dylan had curly hair and sad eyes. I had seen his picture this exact snapshot, as a matter of fact in the Bat Lady\'s upstairs hallway. There had been another picture of Dylan, taken sometime later, sometime after his disappearance, on the Bat Lady\'s nightstand.

On the screen, the female coanchor shook her head and said, ’’Sad story, Ken.’’

’’Sure is, Diane. And with no new clues after all these years, we will probably never know what happened to little Dylan Shaykes.’’

But he was wrong. Because now, looking at the photograph again, I knew.

Chapter 44

So much for sleep.

The sad-eyed, curly-haired boy haunted my dreams. Dylan Shaykes. He had been on milk cartons and news reports. I remembered thinking when I first saw that photograph in Bat Lady\'s hallway that his face was familiar. It may have been from seeing missing-children stories over the years. But I doubted it.

I checked out the news stories about what happened to us online. Maybe because we were all minors, there were very few. On our local news website, the Kasselton Patch, there was a video of a press conference with Chief Taylor announcing the arrests of Brian Tart and Emile Romero, two well-known drug dealers with prior convictions for assault and armed robbery, for the murder of Nora Caldwell and the shooting of her daughter. The chief made it clear that they now had ’’physical evidence that shows without a doubt’’ that Sunglasses and Scarface were guilty. The murder case, Chief Taylor emphasized, was officially closed.

I made a face. Chief Taylor seemed awfully anxious to put the matter to rest, didn\'t he?


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