فصل 18کتاب: دو نفر میتوانند رازنگهدار باشند / فصل 18
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متن انگلیسی فصل
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 29
“You’re an important witness here, Malcolm. Take your time.”
Officer McNulty is still resting his forearms on the kitchen island. His sleeves are rolled up, and his watch reads 9:15. Brooke has been missing for almost ten hours. It’s not that much time, but it feels like forever when you start imagining all the things that could happen to a person while the rest of the world is sleeping.
I’m sitting on the stool beside him. There are only a couple of feet between us, which doesn’t feel like enough. Officer McNulty’s eyes are still on me, cold and flat. He said witness, not suspect, but that isn’t how he’s looking at me. “That’s it,” I say. “That’s everything I remember.” “So the Corcoran twins can corroborate your story right up until you dropped them off at their house?” Jesus. Corroborate your story. My stomach tightens. I should’ve brought Brooke home first. This line of questioning would look a lot different if I had. “Yeah,” I say.
What the hell must Ellery be thinking right now? Does she even know?
Who am I kidding? This is Echo Ridge. Officer McNulty has been at our house for more than an hour. Everyone knows.
“All right,” Officer McNulty says. “Let’s go back a little while, before last night. Did you notice anything unusual about Brooke in the past few weeks? Anything that concerned or surprised you?” I slide my eyes toward Katrin. She’s leaning against the counter, but stiffly, like she’s a mannequin somebody propped there. “I don’t really know Brooke,” I say. “I don’t see her much.” “She’s here a lot though, isn’t she?” Officer McNulty asks.
It feels like he’s after something, but I don’t know what. Officer McNulty’s eyes drop from my face to my knee, and I realize it’s jiggling nervously. I press a fist onto my leg to stop the movement. “Yeah, but not to hang out with me.” “She thought you were cute,” Katrin says abruptly.
What the hell? My throat closes, and I couldn’t answer even if I knew what to say.
Everyone turns toward Katrin. “She’s been saying that for a while,” she continues. Her voice is low, but every word is perfectly clear and precise. “Last weekend, when she was sleeping over, I woke up and she wasn’t in the room. I waited for, like, twenty minutes before I fell asleep again, but she didn’t come back. I thought maybe she was visiting you. Especially since she broke up with Kyle a couple of days later.” The words hit me like a punch to the gut as all the heads in the room swivel to me. Jesus Christ, why would Katrin say something like that? She has to know how it would make me look. Even more suspicious than I already do. “She wasn’t,” I manage to say.
“Malcolm doesn’t have a girlfriend,” my mother says quickly. In the space of a half hour she’s aged a year: her cheeks are hollow, her hair’s straggling out of its neat bun, and there’s a deep line etched between her brows. I know she’s been traveling down the same memory lane that I have. “He’s not like … he’s always spent more time with his friends than with girls.” He’s not like Declan. That’s what she was about to say.
Officer McNulty’s eyes bore into mine. “If there was anything going on with you and Brooke, Malcolm, now is the time to mention it. Doesn’t mean you’re in trouble.” His jaw twitches, betraying the lie. “Just another piece of this puzzle we’re trying to figure out.” “There wasn’t,” I say, meeting Katrin’s cool stare. She edges closer to Peter. He’s been silent all this time, arms folded, an expression of deep concern on his face. “The only time I ever see Brooke is when she’s with Katrin. Except …” A thought hits me, and I look at Officer McNulty again. He’s fully alert, leaning forward. “I did see her a few days ago. I was in the car with Mia,” I add hastily. “We saw Brooke downtown, talking with Vance Puckett.” Officer McNulty blinks. Frowns. Whatever he was expecting me to say, that wasn’t it. “Vance Puckett?” “Yeah. He was painting over the graffiti on Armstrong’s Auto Repair, and Brooke walked up to him. They were talking sort of … intensely. You asked about anything unusual, and that was, um, unusual.” Even as the words spill out of me, I know how they sound.
Like a guy with something to hide who’s trying to deflect attention.
“Interesting.” Officer McNulty nods. “Vance Puckett was in the drunk tank last night, and in fact”—he glances at his watch—“is most likely still there. Thank you for the information, though. We’ll be sure to follow up with him.” He sits back and crosses his arms. He’s wearing a dress shirt, and nicely pressed pants. I realize he was probably getting ready for church when all this happened. “Is there anything else you think would be good for us to know?” My phone sits heavy in my pocket. It hasn’t been buzzing, which means Mia probably isn’t even awake yet. The last text I have was the one Declan sent me last night before I entered the House of Horrors.
In town for a few hours. Don’t freak out.
Why was he here? Why was my brother here, again, when a girl goes missing?
If I showed that text to Officer McNulty now, everything would change. Katrin would stop looking daggers at me. Officer McNulty wouldn’t keep asking the same question a dozen different ways. His suspicion would shift away from me, and go back to where it’s been ever since Lacey died. To Declan.
I swallow hard and keep my phone where it is. “No. There’s nothing.”
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