What Janie Saw, p.1Caroline B. Cooney
Also by Caroline B. Cooney
The Lost Songs
Three Black Swans
They Never Came Back
If the Witness Lied
Diamonds in the Shadow
A Friend at Midnight
Hit the Road
The Girl Who Invented Romance
Goddess of Yesterday
The Ransom of Mercy Carter
Tune In Anytime
What Child Is This?
Twenty Pageants Later
The Time Travelers, Volumes I and II
The Janie Books
The Face on the Milk Carton
Whatever Happened to Janie?
The Voice on the Radio
What Janie Found
The Time Travel Quartet
Both Sides of Time
Out of Time
Prisoner of Time
For All Time
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Text copyright © 2012 by Caroline B. Cooney
Cover photographs © 2012 by Mario Lopes/Shutterstock (hands and phone) and Daniel M. Nagy/Shutterstock (silhouette)
Cover design by Christian Fuenfhausen
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
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Other Books by This Author
Excerpt from Janie Face to Face
About the Author
Janie loved those two words. Since the milk carton, her life had been chaos. Yet here she was, safe inside senior year, the two final semesters every teenager daydreamed about. All bad things were behind her.
Yet as September moved into October, she felt that the other kids were growing more aware of her. She was being watched.
Janie was easy to spot: a mass of tangled red curls took up more than their fair share of hair space. But it wasn’t her hair they turned to look at. It was her kidnap self.
For a few weeks, Janie had been able to convince herself that everybody in this school was used to her.
But they weren’t.
It was bad enough to be stared at by kids she barely knew, but even her friends were watching her intensely, as if they were about to paint her portrait and needed detail.
Talk about paranoia, thought Janie Johnson. Your usual abnormal person thinks her enemies are after her. I think my friends are after me.
She made herself smile when people eyed her. She did not duck behind tall classmates or hunch down in a sea of shoulders.
She considered the possibility that she was going crazy. Crazy people thought everybody was looking exclusively at them. Sane people knew that everybody was way too busy.
Fifth period one October day, seniors were to attend a presentation about college applications. Only a year ago, Janie Johnson would have said that dorm life on some distant campus was not a possibility. She needed home and home needed her.
Now the word “college” was exhilarating and the word “home” wore her out.
Several hundred kids converged in the main hall. Janie moved slowly among them, trying to find Sarah-Charlotte, with whom she always sat.
Near the central auditorium doors stood the principal with a very well-dressed woman, presumably a guest speaker. The principal turned aside to deal with some wild behavior. Two girls whom Janie knew slightly murmured to the guest and nodded in Janie’s direction.
“Really?” said the guest. She stared openly at Janie.
It’s back again. I’m not ordinary after all. Senior year isn’t safe. There was some TV event I missed. Some ugly news I haven’t heard.
Janie wanted to run screaming out of the building, but she refused to let them see how shaken she was. She drifted past without making eye contact, walked down the corridor, threaded through the crowd and out a side door.
It was chilly. The sky was blue and cloudless. The wind was clean and sharp. She stood for a minute, hidden by jutting brick walls and shrubbery. She was panting slightly, the way she did when the world fell apart.
I’ll walk around the building, she told herself. Exercise will calm me down. I’ll slip into the auditorium from the other side.
Instead her feet took her over the grass toward the student parking lot. Wind tossed fallen leaves in swirly bright circles over the dark pavement. Janie never saw autumn leaves without thinking of Reeve, her half boyfriend, who had kissed her for the first time when they collapsed on a heap of fallen leaves they’d been raking.
Her car was facing the sun. When she opened the door, heat rushed out to meet her. She sank into the driver’s seat. Okay, she was going to be late for the assembly. So what? For Janie there was an upside to the creepy celebrity that surrounded being a kidnapping victim: she could get away with anything. She would give herself a ten-minute vacation from staring eyes.
Janie put the key in the ignition. She did not start the engine but powered up the radio. The joy of radio had been damaged when Reeve had betrayed her on the air, but time had eased the pain. She could listen without cringing. Radio had returned to itself: a wash of music that filled her mind.
She leaned back and checked messages on her cell phone.
Sarah-Charlotte had texted, of course. Where r u? she wanted to know. I’m on the right aisle, halfway down, she added, because Sarah-Charlotte always saved a seat for her best friend.
Reeve too had texted. He attended college in Boston, and communicated with Janie so often she felt as if she entered all his classrooms at his side, as if she too decided against doing laundry and gave most of her attention to the next meal. Miss you, he had written. Coming home for the weekend.
Reeve was perfect. At least, he had been perfect, until he revealed a large imperfection. He’d gotten a talk show slot at his college radio station and used Janie’s personal life as a soap opera story to narrate night after night to the city of Boston. When Janie found out, she didn’t kill him, mainly because there was no opportunity. Reeve had spent a year trying to make up for his actions, and she usually told him he was halfway there.
“I don’t want to be half a boyfriend,” he would tell her, his brown spaniel eyes pleading.
She would smile halfway. “Selling me out reduced us to half, Reeve, and here we stand. Half of what we were.”
Sarah-Charlotte said Janie needed to get over it. “Reeve adores you. He’s said he’s sorry a hundred times. He can’t sell you out on the air again even if he wants to, because the college can’t afford the station anymore and it folded. But the key point is, where will you ever find a boy as good as Reeve again?”
It was a problem. Boys as good as Reeve were rare.
On the other hand, boys as rotten as Reeve were rare. So for her senior year, Janie was traveling with a crowd. She had not attached herself to any bo
Nobody knew what that meant, and neither did Janie, but it hid the fact that her heart remained broken. Reeve had been with her every step of the milk carton nightmare. He had held her, comforted her, driven her anywhere she asked in his Jeep. And yet knowing her agony had not prevented him from capitalizing on it.
On the car radio, another song began.
Janie hadn’t been listening to the DJ’s announcements, but the band was recognizable from its intro.
Visionary Assassins were a classic case of a garage band going from two listeners to twenty million overnight. They were a particular hit with younger kids. Parents and talk show hosts expressed concern over whether Visionary Assassins were appropriate for innocent children.
Their opening measures were always a throbbing, headachy collection of percussion. Deep, angry beats like oncoming trucks.
And then Visionary Assassins’ intro was over. The melody and the words began.
Janie’s chest became a hideous messy whirl, as if her heart and lungs had been thrown into a blender.
No, she thought.
Two thousand miles away, the woman formerly known as Hannah entered a motel room. She had cleaned five of the sixteen rooms assigned to her. This one stank of grease and sausage. The occupants had left pizza boxes and crusts all over the place. As for the bathroom, it was disgusting. How could anybody create this much mess in one night? Of course no tip lay on a counter to make up for it.
Hot, buzzing rage seized the woman. Scrubbing bathrooms was not her destiny! It was that girl’s fault. That girl had butted in and destroyed everything, and no matter how many years passed, nothing got better.
The woman yanked on a new pair of disposable gloves. Everybody else in housekeeping wore gloves to protect their hands from rough cleaning fluids and filth. Hannah wore them so she wouldn’t leave fingerprints.
She turned on the radio for company and considered finishing off the cold pizza remains, ignoring the tooth marks of strangers. But she couldn’t risk the supervisor seeing her forage like a dog.
They had already had difficulties at the morning meeting. She used a different name wherever she went and had forgotten the name she was using at this job. “Evelyn,” the head housekeeper kept saying. Evelyn didn’t answer. Finally the housekeeper shoved herself in Hannah’s face. “Evelyn!”
I’m Evelyn, she remembered. “Not enough sleep,” she excused herself.
“You awake enough to do your job?” demanded the supervisor.
“Of course I am,” she snapped back. But now every room she cleaned would be checked. She could not lose this job. Jobs were hard to find, especially when you had to use a fake identity. Which was her fault! That girl’s fault!
The woman formerly known as Hannah gathered the trash. Stripped the bed. Pulled the vacuum into the room.
On the radio, a song began.
The words were a shock.
Hannah stared at the radio. She walked closer to it. She eyed the radio sideways. She knelt in front of it, as if the singers were inside the little box and if she squinted, she’d be able see them.
“Evelyn!” shouted the supervisor, stomping into the room. “The radio doesn’t matter! The schedule does!” She stalked over to flick the radio off.
Got to be a video, thought Hannah. There’s always a video.
And it will be a video of me.
Janie Johnson slapped the radio button off before any more of those words slapped her. She knew the words all too well. Of all bands, it had to be Visionary Assassins, the newest hit, who had picked up that song.
This explained why people were staring at her. They were listening to this. Downloading it. Watching the video.
Janie clung to the steering wheel. There’s always a video, she thought, queasy.
She smacked the radio button on again.
The song had originally appeared at the worst point of Janie’s nightmare: when the court ordered her to rejoin her birth family. When she was told that a country and western song had been written about her—suburban Connecticut Janie—Janie had thought it was such a hoot. She figured the song was actually about the kidnapper. Hannah was never caught. People loved stuff where the criminal never got caught.
Nothing rhymed with the kidnapper’s last name, Javensen, or the word “kidnapper.” They’ll find something to rhyme with “Hannah,” Janie had told herself. Savannah? Montana?
Now the hot little space of her car closed in on her. If only, she thought.
The minor country singer who had issued the first recording had vanished, along with his song. Visionary Assassins’ version was angry and harsh, with little trace of the original soft, sad ballad.
Janie Johnson, stolen that day,
Thrown into a car and driven away.
Janie Johnson, what price did you pay
When a kidnapper came and stole you away?
She dropped her iPhone in her lap and took her iPad out of her satchel. Senior year she had stopped carrying backpacks or book bags, plastic bags or department store totes. She had treated herself to a beautiful large leather handbag, meant for executives, with lots of compartments for cosmetics and electronic devices. The iPad was heavy and a nuisance, but ever since her father’s stroke, Janie had been handling the family banking and bills online. She checked the device often—probably too often—worrying about the responsibility.
In a moment she found it. “Janie Johnson”: the video.
She had to pay for it, which hardly seemed fair. It downloaded with terrible speed. Why couldn’t it get stuck out there in the limbo occupied by failed songs?
Janie turned the car key, the power stopped, and the radio was silenced.
The video on her iPad did not show the band. It opened with real-life footage of Janie herself, taken when she was coming and going from that courtroom. The hearings had been private, because Janie was a minor and because there was nothing criminal involved; it was really just an unusual and complex custody case. Could Janie go on living with the parents who had brought her up? The kidnap parents, as it were?
Until that day, Janie and her Johnson parents had not known that America was ferociously interested in Janie’s story. They were shaken by the horde of reporters and cameras and shouts.
The news cam that had filmed this had been very close to her.
In those days, she’d let her hair fly free, and a mass of auburn curls had encircled her head and been heavy on her shoulders. That day was windy and her hair whipped over her eyes. She had not known enough to wear sunglasses. Startled by the presence of paparazzi, she obeyed when they yelled, “Janie! Over here!”
She looked very young in this film. Confused and frightened. The camera zoomed in, focusing on Janie’s small hand inside her “kidnap father’s” big one. It looked as if Frank was dragging Janie, but in fact, Janie had been clinging tightly to her father. She had been thinking of the irony of her situation. A few months earlier, she had decided to find out the truth. How could her very own face be on a missing child picture? She wasn’t missing! She was right here! She had a loving family.
She didn’t want to change anything. She wanted the mother and father she had. But she had to know who that missing child was.
With Reeve’s help, Janie had located that family, the ones whose toddler, Jennie Spring, had been snatched from a mall in New Jersey. For weeks, only Janie and Reeve knew that that toddler had grown up as Janie Johnson. Herself.
Janie was horrified for the poor Spring family, who had been destroyed by the kidnapping. But she did not want the family she had grown up with to be destroyed as well. She loved her family!
So the windblown teenager in the news footage had been thinking a terrible thing: I didn’t have to look.
I could have pretended the face on the milk
I could have left it alone.
In the car, the video of Visionary Assassins pounded on.
Janie Johnson, gone so long,
Can’t remember right from wrong.
Forgot the ones who loved her,
Stayed with the ones who shoved her
Into another world.
In that courtroom, the judge had said, “You’re fourteen.”
How she had resented finding out her real age; she’d thought she was fifteen, which was on the cusp of adulthood, but fourteen was still a child.
“Tell me your hopes and fears,” said the judge.
So she told him, because you were supposed to tell the truth in court.
And then the judge, in his wisdom or his lack of it, decided that Janie’s hopes and fears were immaterial. The biological parents were to have her back and the “other” parents were to become history.
Getting along in a new family would be difficult under any circumstance. But when a judge has to order you to move in, your family is going to have an attitude. As the months turned into years, Janie could see that her birth family—her father; mother; sister, Jodie; brothers Stephen, Brian and Brendan—had been very generous of heart. They never referred to the court event. Both the Johnson and the Spring families made a huge and painful effort to share Janie.
It was Janie who did not know how to share. How did you chop off pieces of your life and family?
Visionary Assassins loved their lines. Over and over, they screamed,
Janie Johnson, gone so long,
Can’t remember right from wrong.
That isn’t true, thought Janie. My whole life has been about trying to tell right from wrong. I couldn’t throw my Johnson parents away. But you have to embrace your birth mother and father. I am always half wrong, because whatever I do right is wrong from the other direction.
What Janie Saw by Caroline B. Cooney / Young Adult / Mystery & Detective have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes