Crescendo, p.25
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       Crescendo, p.25

         Part #2 of Hush, Hush series by Becca Fitzpatrick
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Page 25

  “Want to tell me what this is about?”

  “I think I was drugged. ”

  Silence.

  “You think the card was drugged?” Vee repeated doubtfully at last.

  “The paper was laced with perfume,” I explained impatiently.

  “Tell me who gave it to you. Tell me exactly how you got it. ”

  “On my way to the library to drop off the cupcakes, Rixon called to see where I was,” she recounted slowly. “We met up at the library, and Patch was riding shotgun in Rixon’s truck. Patch gave me the card and asked if I’d give it to you. I took the card, the cupcakes, and the Neon’s keys inside to you, then went back out to meet Rixon. ”

  “Nobody else touched the card?”

  “Nobody. ”

  “Less than a half hour after smelling the card, I collapsed on the library floor. I didn’t wake up for two hours. ” Vee didn’t answer right away, and I could practically hear her thinking everything through, trying to digest it. At last she said,

  “Are you sure it wasn’t fatigue? You were in the library a long time. I couldn’t work that long on homework without needing a nap. ”

  “When I woke up,” I pushed on, “someone was in the library with me. I think it was the same person who drugged me. They chased me through the library. I got out, but they followed me down Walnut. ”

  Another baffled pause. “As much as I don’t like Patch, I’ve got to tell you, I can’t see him drugging you. He’s a whack job, but he does have boundaries. ”

  “Then who?” My voice was a little shrill.

  “I don’t know. Where are you now?”

  “Slaughtervil e. ”

  “What? Get out of there before you get mugged! Come over.

  Stay the night here. We’ll work this out. We’ll figure out what happened. ” But the words felt like an empty consolation. Vee was just as perplexed as I was.

  I stayed hidden in the garage for what must have been another twenty minutes before I felt brave enough to go back on the streets. My nerves were frayed, my mind reeling. I opted against taking Walnut, thinking the SUV might be cruising up and down it right now, waiting to pick up my tail. Sticking to side streets, I ignored the speed limit and drove in a reckless hurry to Vee’s.

  I wasn’t far from her house when I noticed blue and red lights in the rearview mirror.

  Stopping the Neon at the side of the road, I planted my head against the steering wheel. I knew I’d been speeding, and I was frustrated at myself for doing it, but of all the nights to get pulled over.

  A moment later, knuckles rapped the window. I pushed the button to lower it.

  “Well, well,” Detective Basso said. “Long time no see. ” Any other cop , I thought. Any other.

  He flashed his ticket pad. “License and registration, you know the drill. ”

  Since I knew there was no talking my way around a ticket, not with Detective Basso, I didn’t see the point in putting on any pretense of contrition. “I didn’t know detective work included filling out speeding tickets. ”

  He gave a razorthin smile. “Where’s the fire?”

  “Can I just get my ticket and go home?”

  “Any alcohol in the car?”

  “Have a look around,” I said, spreading my hands.

  He opened the door for me. “Get out. ”

  “Why?”

  “Get out” —he pointed at the dashed line bisecting the road— “and walk the line. ”

  “You think I’m drunk?”

  “I think you’re crazy, but I’m checking your sobriety while I’ve got you here. ”

  I swung out and slammed the door shut behind me. “How far?”

  “Until I tell you to stop. ”

  I concentrated on planting my feet on the line, but every time I looked down, my vision slanted. I could still feel the effects of the drug pecking away at my coordination, and the harder I concentrated on keeping my feet on the line, the more I felt myself swaying off into the road. “Can’t you just give me the ticket, slap my wrist, and send me home?” My tone was insubordinate, but I’d gone cold on the inside. If I couldn’t walk the line, Detective Basso might throw me in jail. I was already shaken, and I didn’t think I could handle a night behind bars.

  What if the man from the library came after me again?

  “A lot of small-town cops would let you off the hook like that, sure. Some would even take a bribe. I’m not one of them. ”

  “Does it matter that I was drugged?”

  He laughed darkly. “Drugged. ”

  “My ex-boyfriend gave me a card laced with perfume earlier tonight. I opened the card, and the next thing I knew, I passed out. ”

  When Detective Basso didn’t interrupt me, I pressed forward. “I slept for more than two hours. When I woke up, the library was closed. I was locked in the media lab. Someone had tied the doorknob…. ” I trailed off, closing my mouth.

  He gestured for more. “Come on, now. Don’t leave me at that cliffhanger. ”

  I realized a moment too late that I’d just incriminated myself.

  I’d put myself at the library, tonight, in the media lab. First thing tomorrow, when the library opened, they were going to report the broken window to the police. And I had no doubt who Detective Basso would come looking for first.

  “You were in the media lab,” he prompted. “What happened next?”

  Too late to back out now. I’d have to finish and hope for the best. Maybe something I said would convince Detective Basso it wasn’t my fault—that everything I’d done was justified.

  “Someone had tied the door to the media lab shut. I threw a computer through the window to get out. ”

  He tipped his head back and laughed. “There’s a name for girls like you, Nora Grey. Crazy makers. You’re like the fly that nobody can shoo away. ” He walked back to his patrol car and stretched the radio out the open driver’s-side door. Radioing dispatch, he said, “I need someone to swing by the library and check out the media lab. Let me know what you find. ” He leaned back against his car, eyes flicking to his watch.

  “How many minutes do you think it’ll take for them to get back to me? I’ve got your confession, Nora. I could book you for trespassing and vandalism. ”

  “Trespassing would imply I wasn’t tied inside the library against my will. ” I sounded nervous.

  “If someone drugged you and trapped you in the lab, what are you doing here now, roaring down Hickory at fifty-five miles an hour?”

  “I wasn’t supposed to get away. I broke out of the room while he was coming up the elevator to get me. ”

  “He? You saw him? Let’s have a description. ”

  “I didn’t see him, but it was a guy. His footsteps were heavy when he came down the stairwel after me. Too heavy for a girl. ”

  “You’re stammering. Usually that means you’re lying. ”

  “I’m not lying. I was tied in the lab, and someone was coming up the elevator to get me. ”

  “Right. ”

  “Who else would have been in the building that late?” I snapped.

  “A janitor?” he offered easily.

  “He wasn’t dressed like a janitor. When I looked up in the stairwell, I saw dark pants and dark tennis shoes. ”

  “So when I take you to court, you’re going to tell the judge you’re an expert on janitorial apparel?”

  “The guy followed me out of the library, got into his car, and chased me. A janitor wouldn’t do that. ”

  The radio popped with static, and Detective Basso leaned inside for the receiver.

  “Finished walking through the library,” a man’s voice crackled through the radio. “Nothing. ”

  Detective Basso cut cool, suspicious eyes to me. “Nothing? You sure?”

  “I repeat: nothing. ”

  Nothing? Instead of relief, I felt panic. I’d smashed the lab window. I had. It was real. It wasn’t my imagination. It—wasn’t.

  Calm dow
n! I ordered myself. This had happened before. It wasn’t new. In the past, it was always a mind game. It was someone working behind the scenes, trying to manipulate my mind. Was it happening all over again? But … why? I needed to think this through. I shook my head, ridiculously wishing the gesture would shake out an answer.

  Detective Basso ripped the top sheet off his ticket pad and slapped it into my hand.

  My eyes brushed over the balance at the bottom. “Two hundred and twenty-nine dollars?!”

  “You were going thirty over and driving a car that doesn’t belong to you. Pay the fine, or I’ll see you in court. ”

  “I—I don’t have this kind of money. ”

  “Get a job. Maybe it’ll keep you out of trouble. ”

  “Please don’t do this,” I said, injecting all the pleading that I possessed into my voice.

  Detective Basso studied me. “Two months ago a kid with no ID, no family, and no traceable past wound up dead in the high school gym. ”

  “Jules’s death was ruled a suicide,” I said automatically, but sweat tingled the back of my neck. What did this have to do with my ticket?

  “The same night he disappeared, the high school counselor lit your house on fire, then did her own disappearing act.

  There’s a link between these two bizarre incidents. ” His dark brown eyes pinned me in place. “You. ”

  “What are you saying?”

  “Tell me what really happened that night, and I can make your ticket go away. ”

  “I don’t know what happened,” I lied, because there was no alternative. Telling the truth would leave me worse off than having to pay the ticket. I couldn’t tell Detective Basso about fall en angels and Nephilim. He’d never believe my story if I fall en angels and Nephilim. He’d never believe my story if I confessed that Dabria was an angel of death. Or that Jules was a descendant of a fall en angel.

  “Your call,” Detective Basso said, flicking his business card at me before folding himself inside his car. “If you change your mind, you know how to reach me. ”

  I glanced at the card as he roared off.

  DETECTIVE ECANUS BASSO. 207-555-3333.

  The ticket felt heavy in my hand. Heavy, and hot. How was I going to come up with two hundred dollars? I couldn’t borrow the money from my mom—she could barely afford groceries.

  Patch had the money, but I’d told him I could take care of myself.

  I’d told him to get out of my life. What did it say about me if I ran back to him the moment I hit trouble? It was admitting he’d been right all along.

  It was admitting I needed him.

  CHAPTER 12

  TUESDAY AFTER CLASS, I WAS ON MY WAY OUT OF the building to meet Vee, who’d skipped class to hang out with Rixon but promised to swing back by school at noon to chauffeur me home, when my cell phone chirped. I opened the text message just as Vee holl ered my name from the street.

  “Yo, babe! Over here!”

  I walked to where she was paral ell parked at the curb and folded my arms on the open window frame. “Well? Was it worth it?”

 
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