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Authors: Jessie Rosen

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Sasha

 

Sasha tinkered with the earbud on
her phone as she sat on the morning bus to school. It wasn’t that the sound
wasn’t coming through loud and clear, she was just afraid that someone else
might hear.

She had debated traveling to Englewood since her plan around
Kit and Miller fully came together. It was a huge risk—even compared to
all the things she had done over the past few weeks—but it didn’t feel
right to hire someone for that portion of the task. If an outside contractor
were caught, they’d have no excuse for being in the places Sasha needed to go.
If someone found her, she could easily fabricate a story that made sense. This
was her problem, her responsibility.

Creating the photograph had been cake. She hacked into the
iPhoto program on Amanda’s laptop, which was conveniently already loaded onto
her server in the iCloud, downloaded a picture that worked, and taught herself
Photoshop in twenty-four hours so she could slip the image of Sarah into the
shot. It wasn’t perfect, but it did the trick.

The first reason for the journey to Englewood was to drop
two things off at Kit Jacob’s house. The first was the envelope for Kit’s
mailbox. Sasha wore a black T-shirt and a cap that she bought from Chicken
Holiday, the famous fried-chicken place in town, so it would look like she was
dropping off promotional flyers. The second task was not so easy. Planting a
recording device that could track the conversation inside Kit’s basement was
trickier.

The plan had never been to start using actual surveillance
equipment. Sasha was a hacker, not a spy, and those lines were never crossed
according to the code of her online group. Syke was known to kick people out
for confessing to using tapping devices or planted cameras. But this was
getting too serious for Sasha to wait for slow drips of information from
Charlie and his crew, and she had waited long enough. If she was going to
finish the project, then she needed to move
now
.

There was no way that Kit or anyone in her family would find
the tiny recorder. It was two millimeters across and only as thick as a sheet
of paper. After she put the card for Kit in the mailbox, Sasha pretended to
drop a bunch of the fake Chicken Holiday flyers in the wind. Then she rushed
around the Jacobs’ yard picking them all up. When she was sure no one was
looking, she made her way over to the where the ceiling of the basement stuck
out from the ground and stuck the microphone directly onto the storm window.
The guy she bought it from online promised that it was powerful enough to
record through the glass.

Sasha had debated the location over and over before making
her decision. Things could have unfolded in a million ways after Kit got the
picture from the mailbox, but Sasha had done her research. In dozens of
conversations between Charlie, Amanda, Kit and Miller, Kit’s basement was
referenced as “the bunker.” It was the place where they watched movies, played
games, and—Sasha hoped—shared their secrets. Kit would want
everyone to meet there, especially if she was too scared to leave her house.

That was phase one of Sasha’s research for this portion of
the plan. Phase two involved some very heavy law textbooks and hours of
reading.

Hacking fell under the invasion of privacy; Sasha was
already well aware of that fact. She had always been part of a group of hackers
that did what they did for sport, not to steal anything or harm anyone. If they
were ever found out, which was unlikely given how well they could hide inside
the web and instantly destroy their digital footprint, they wouldn’t
technically be responsible for any criminal activity besides stalking, which could
be tied to victimization.

But what Sasha was doing now was different. This was
invasion of privacy that was causing mental distress. Kit could sue if she ever
figured out who was behind the acts. The Jacobs could sue for trespassing if
they ever found the recording device. Even Charlie or Miller could get involved
by claiming that the acts harmed their physical or mental state. Sasha had stepped
outside the limits of hacking, and there was no way around that fact.

Right now, though, as she listened in on the conversation
between Charlie, Kit, and Miller through the app connected via her phone, she
didn’t care about what might happen if she was discovered. She had just
uncovered more truth about Sarah Castro-Tanner’s death than any detective.
Those four were physically with her on the night that she died, and that was
because of some evil plan that Amanda concocted.

The question that Sasha promised herself she would answer
before the day she died was still a mystery:
did Sarah Castro-Tanner commit
suicide
?

But the second most important question was answered:
who
knows whether or not she did?

Charlie Sanders, Amanda Hunter, Kit Jacobs, and Sean Miller.

Chapter 7

 

October
2

Laura

 

Laura didn’t like to admit it, but
until Charlie, she’d never been on a
real
date. One time in eighth grade,
she went mini golfing with Seth Cooper—a skinny redhead who lived on her
block—but they ran into some of his other friends from school and ended
up playing as a group. Then there was Andrew Raymond, her Camp Mackinaw crush
from the summer before freshman year. Andrew had been her first everything—first
real love, first confession, and first kiss. They spent all of their free time
walking around Lake Copake or sneaking into town to get black-and-white
milkshakes from Nagel’s Deli. Those little adventures felt like dates, but they
were wearing camp shirts and flip-flops, and they never even sat down to eat.
With Charlie it was officially, undeniably a date.

“So you’re really into sushi, right, Cali?”

Laura was so surprised to hear Charlie’s voice that she
almost slammed her own hand in her open locker. She didn’t know how he even
found her, but there he was, asking a pretty leading question with a suggestive
half smile on his face.

“Yeah,” Laura said, “I love it, but it’s hard to find here.”
She tried to tell herself to play it cool.
Maybe this isn’t an invite
,
she told herself.
Maybe he just wants a recommendation for a restaurant to
go to with his mom.

“Cool,” Charlie said. “A new place just opened up in
Franklin Lakes. Want to go and show me what’s good?” Well, that question
sounded very much like an invite to a date, but she wasn’t 100 percent sure.

“I can handle that,” Laura said. “Did you want to tell me
more things for the article? I think I have about enough, but—”

“No,” Charlie interrupted,” I just want to hang out. I like
talking to you, Cali. And—” Charlie stopped. Laura couldn’t tell if he’d
forgotten what to say, or decided not to say it.

“And…?” she asked.

“And it would be good for me to spend time with some new
people right now.”

“Gotcha. Well in that case, I’m your girl.” Laura did a mini-victory
dance in her head. “But are you going to embarrass me and eat your sushi with a
fork?”

 “Oh…” Charlie said, “I was going to ask if we could go
tonight, but now I need an extra week to learn how to use chopsticks.” There
was a legitimately embarrassed look on his face. It made Laura’s heart melt.

“I can teach you in five minutes,” she said, and Charlie’s
face lit up again.

“Excellent. Is seven o’clock okay? We have a game, but it’s
at Chauncer—just two towns over—so we’ll be back by six unless we
beat them by so much they call a mercy ending.”

“Oh
really.
Well, you’re definitely going to lose now
that you made that cocky statement!” Laura joked.

“Sushi dinner says I don’t,” Charlie fired back.

“Ugh…no deal,” Laura said with a smile. “I know I’m going to
lose.”

 It wasn’t until she finally grabbed her backpack and
closed her locker door that Laura noticed they were in plain view of two guys
from the soccer team
and
Ashley Flemming, who was practically a Charlie-Sanders
paparazzo. In other words, Amanda Hunter was going to find out about this date.
Charlie said hello to all three of them as they walked together down the hall
toward the parking lot. Apparently he didn’t care that they saw, which meant
the rumors about Amanda and Charlie were true.

As far as Laura could tell from the goings-on around
Englewood High, the former senior class king and queen were more than over;
they were at war. Laura had overheard a few details in a full-volume
conversation between Ashley and Katie Allen before English the week prior.

“I know she did something to him, and he’s
pissed
,” Ashley
said.

“You think it’s the same thing that broke them up freshman
year?” Katie asked.

“You mean sophomore year?” Ashley asked.

“No, I mean when Amanda spent the summer after ninth grade
doing that ‘Teen Tour’ around the country and Charlie acted like they weren’t
together.”

“Oh right,
that
. God, those two are messed up.”

“Yeah, and this time Kit and Miller are involved. Yesterday
at lunch, I heard Kit say that she didn’t want them to end up like Charlie and
Amanda, but that she’d thought about it and she just could not side with them.”

“‘Them’ who?” Katie asked.

“I’m thinking Charlie and Miller, but it could be Miller and
Amanda. I need to do some more digging.”

That conversation happened one week before the sushi-date
invite, which made the self-conscious side of Laura’s brain wonder if she was
being used as some sort of pawn in whatever battles were going on between the
foursome. It also made her wonder even more about the truth behind what Amanda
said at Jeff’s party weeks ago.
Charlie
didn’t sound like the damaged
one. Laura decided there was only one way to find out about it all, and an
out-of-town date with one Charlie Sanders was not such a bad way to do it.

Laura took a quick trip after school to Beacon’s Closet, her
favorite vintage store in the area. She wanted a little dress with a wide belt
and a flared skirt, just like the one Sabrina wears when she arrives back to
New York from Paris in
Sabrina
. It was definitely too much for dinner in
suburban New Jersey, but Laura didn’t care. She wanted to look and feel as
beautiful and confident as possible.

At 7:00 p.m. on the dot, Charlie’s car peeked around the
corner of the street and made its way to the front of Laura’s house, top down.
She had been watching from the living-room windows so that she could glide out
the door the minute he arrived. Laura watched for a second as Charlie adjusted
his favorite aviators in the rearview mirror. He looked a little nervous, too,
which made her feel so much better. Then she saw him reach into the backseat,
grab a cozy, white afghan and place it next to him on the passenger’s side,
right where she would soon sit.

Laura’s entire face crinkled into a ridiculously goofy
smile; he brought her a blanket in case the car was too cold. It was, without a
doubt, the sweetest thing a guy had done for her in her entire life. As far as
first dates went, Laura was pretty sure that she’d won the lottery and they
hadn’t even left the driveway.

 

* * *

 

Things got better and better.
Despite Charlie’s miserable chopstick skills, he was the perfect date: sweet,
thoughtful, adventurous, and funny. He opened every door for her, including the
car’s, kept the convertible at a reasonable speed so her hair wouldn’t get too
messed up, and ate live scallops even though he was clearly terrified. And then
they hung around the restaurant for at least an extra hour talking about how
weird high school can be, no matter what level your popularity. Laura decided
not to dig into any of the stuff with Amanda or Kit or Miller. They were having
too much fun, and she didn’t want to muddy the waters. As far as she could tell
by how cozy she and Charlie were getting, there would be plenty of time for all
that.

 

* * *

 

On the ride home from the sushi
restaurant, Laura and Charlie had a very serious Bruce Springsteen
impersonation contest. Charlie was obsessed with “The Boss”; Laura thought he
was totally overrated. Charlie’s version was an homage to the rocker’s soulful,
scraggly voice; Laura’s impression sounded like a bullfrog speaking a made-up
language. When they arrived back in Laura’s driveway, they were laughing so
hard that she couldn’t see—that’s how she missed seeing Charlie lean in
and place his hands around her face.

It was magic. He somehow managed to go from a laughing fit
to a deeply passionate kiss while Laura was still mid-giggle. It caught her so
off guard that she gasped, though in fairness that felt like the appropriate
response regardless. Charlie held her head gently in his hands and drew her
mouth tightly into his own. Then he masterfully wrapped his right arm around
her waist and shifted her body down low in the seat so they could make out
without anyone seeing into the car. Laura had no idea how much time had passed
by the time they finally came up for air. It was like Charlie’s hands already
knew every single trigger zone on her body. If they hadn’t been directly in
front of her house in a car with zero privacy, Laura would have told him to put
the top up on the convertible and not stop until morning.

“Wow,” was all Laura could say when their lips finally
parted.

“Good,” was Charlie’s response. “I’ve been wanting to do
that for awhile.”

And then he got out of the car, came around to open her
door, and with one more perfect kiss, said good-bye.

Laura and Charlie spent all five out of the next five days
together. On Sunday she brought him shopping at Beacon’s for vintage clothes
and they found a T-shirt from the 1994 World Cup in California. On Monday they
snuck in breakfast at Sweet Lew’s Diner in town before school. Tuesday was a
late night screening of
Nightmare on Elm Street
at The Vista Theater in
honor of Halloween. Wednesday they took advantage of the new off-campus lunch
policy and grabbed juice and salads at Clover. And Thursday was another fancy
dinner date, this time at Gusto—a tiny, candlelit Italian restaurant just
a few towns over.

But amazing as all that was, Laura noticed something about
Charlie that she didn’t quite appreciate: he acted like her boyfriend every
time they were alone, but like her friend when people at school were watching.
They hadn’t had “the talk” yet, so Laura was trying to give him the benefit of
the doubt. Maybe he thought she wanted to keep things under wraps until they
were officially together? Maybe he didn’t want to seem too into it because guys
never wear their hearts on their sleeves? But in her heart, Laura knew it had everything
to do with what certain people in his world thought, and that made her feel
like a fool. Her whole goal this school year had been to stick up for herself
and be the person she wanted to be—a person who didn’t let boys walk all
over her. Not even this boy.

BOOK: Dead Ringer
6.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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