Seconds Away Page 54

At six P.M., Rachel, Ema, and I met up on Coventry Road near the mall. I didn\'t think that any of us would be able to sneak out, nonetheless all, but it worked out. Angelica Wyatt was filming a major scene today, and putting it off even a day would have cost the studios half a million dollars. That got rid of Angelica and Uncle Myron. As for Rachel, once her father declared that she would not speak to the authorities, they pretty much left her alone.

I had a feeling that there wasn\'t much supervision at Rachel\'s house.

’’Okay,’’ Rachel said, ’’do we need to go over the plan again?’’

’’I don\'t think so,’’ Ema said. ’’We wait by the back door until you open it. Then we sneak in. Simple, right, Mickey?’’

They both looked at me. I was frowning. ’’I don\'t like it.’’

Rachel said, ’’Why not? It\'s perfect.’’

A funny look crossed Ema\'s face. She got it, and in this case, it wasn\'t a good thing. ’’Yeah, Mickey, what\'s the problem?’’

’’I don\'t want anyone else to get hurt,’’ I said.

That reasoning sounded hollow in my own ears and judging by the looks on both Rachel\'s and Ema\'s faces, it wasn\'t exactly ringing in theirs either.

Here was Rachel\'s plan: From her days dating Troy Taylor first ugh she had learned that Chief Taylor kept copies of all the important police files in his home. There weren\'t many. Kasselton isn\'t a town with a lot of mayhem at least, it wasn\'t until recently. But Rachel knew that he kept all his files in his home office off the kitchen. Troy the Dumbwad had explained to her early in their ’’relationship’’ second ugh that his dad\'s office was strictly off limits to everyone, including family members.

The plan? Simple. Rachel had already called Troy and asked if she could stop by his house. Troy was anxious for a ’’reconciliation’’ third ugh though Rachel stressed repeatedly that their relationship had really been ’’nothing much’’ and ’’very minor league.’’

’’If it was very minor league,’’ I had said when she revealed this, ’’how do you know the layout of his house so well?’’

Ema stomped on my foot at this point. I couldn\'t tell whether she wanted to shut me up or whether she was annoyed with me for caring. I think both.

Anyway, back to the plan. Rachel would go into the house to ’’talk things out’’ do I need to bother with the ughs anymore? with Troy. She would ask to use the bathroom, slip into the kitchen, and unlock the back door for us. Ema and I would sneak into Chief Taylor\'s office. From there, it\'d be up to us to rifle through his files and see what we could find about the Caldwell shooting while Rachel kept Troy ’’occupied.’’

Okay, one last ugh. ’’What do you mean by \'occupied\'?’’ I\'d asked, which earned me another foot stomp from Ema.

So what exactly were we going to look for in Chief Taylor\'s files? Beats me.

Ten minutes later we watched Rachel approach the front door. She rang the Taylors\' doorbell and then did that thing with her hair that some might call ’’fix,’’ but it always made my mouth go a little dry. Next to me I heard Ema sigh.

Troy opened the front door, leading with his chest, like a preening rooster. My hands, working on their own, formed two fists. Troy invited Rachel in and the door shut behind them.

’’Let\'s go,’’ Ema whispered.

We headed to the back via the house next door and then cut over into the Taylors\' yard. The truth was, I loved this idea. I loved the idea of getting into Chief Taylor\'s files and figuring out what he was up to because I knew, knew, that he was covering up something.

I just didn\'t like the idea of Rachel in there alone with Troy.

Ema and I ducked behind a bush by the back door. I knew that we were both thinking about Spoon, but we both also knew that we didn\'t need that distraction right now. There was nothing we could do for him, other than figuring out who\'d shot Rachel.

So that was what we would do.

I thought again about the twenty-fifth anniversary of Dylan Shaykes\'s disappearance. I didn\'t tell Ema about it because with everything else going on, it could wait. But the Abeona Shelter was growing murkier and murkier. First, there had been the touched-up photograph of the Butcher of Lodz. Now I had the photograph of that sad-eyed little boy to consider.

No time for that now, though. There was a sound coming from the back door a slide bolt sliding open.

’’You ready?’’ Ema said.

I nodded. We had agreed that we would not speak or even whisper once we were inside unless there was an emergency. Ema would stand by the office door and let me know if Troy started toward us or if anyone else came home. I would be the one to go through Chief Taylor\'s desk.

When my hand hit the doorknob, a new thought hit me: fingerprints. I should have worn gloves. There was not much I could do about that now, and besides, who was going to dust for fingerprints? We didn\'t plan to steal anything and if we got caught in the act somehow, no one would need to check for additional physical evidence.

I turned the knob and pushed the door. It opened with too loud a creak that made me stop. Then I heard Rachel make a horrid giggling noise.

’’Oh Troy!’’ Rachel exclaimed in a too loud, too sickeningly sweet voice. ’’That\'s sooo funny!’’

I made a face like I\'d just gotten a whiff of something that really reeked.

Rachel giggled some more. Not laughed. Giggled with a tee-hee. I confess that suddenly Rachel seemed less attractive. Then I remembered that this was just an act, an ingenious one to cover up my clumsy entrance, and she became mega-hot all over again.

Ema and I slipped inside and closed the door behind us. Rachel had already informed us that Chief Taylor\'s office was to the left after we entered. I tiptoed in that direction. Ema followed. The office door was wide-open, so I just stepped inside. Ema turned around and pressed her back against the kitchen wall. From there, she could see the back door, the office door, and the corridor leading to the den where Rachel was currently tee-heeing with Troy Taylor.

Chief Taylor\'s office was loaded up with trophies and plaques and citations, all involving law enforcement. Two of the trophies, featuring bronzed guns, were for marksmanship. Terrific. There were also tons of photographs of various teams Chief Taylor had coached in baseball, basketball, and football. On the far wall, there were certificates and citations from his own sporting days, including being named All State in football and . . .

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