فصل 21کتاب: دو نفر میتوانند رازنگهدار باشند / فصل 21
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متن انگلیسی فصل
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 30
“So,” Malcolm says, plugging tokens into one end of a foosball table. “That was interesting.” After leaving Declan’s apartment, we stopped at the first place we came to that we were pretty sure he and Daisy wouldn’t show up on a date. It happened to be a Chuck E. Cheese’s. I haven’t been to one in years, so I’ve forgotten what a sensory assault they are: flashing lights, beeping games, tinny music, and screaming children.
The guy letting people in at the door wasn’t sure about us at first. “You’re supposed to come with kids,” he said, glancing behind us at the empty hallway.
“We are kids,” Mia pointed out, holding out her hand for a stamp.
Turns out, Chuck E. Cheese’s is the perfect location for a clandestine debrief. Every adult in the place is too busy either chasing after or hiding from their children to pay us any attention. I feel weirdly calm after our trip to Pine Crest Estates, the dread that came over me at Mia’s house almost entirely gone. There’s something satisfying about unlocking another piece of the Echo Ridge puzzle, even if I’m not yet sure where it fits.
“So,” Mia echoes, gripping a handle on the other end of the foosball table. Ezra is next to her, and I’m beside Malcolm. A ball pops out of one side, and Mia spins one of the bars furiously, missing the ball completely. “Your brother and my sister. How long do you think that’s been going on?” Malcolm maneuvers one of his players carefully before smacking the ball, and would have scored if Ezra hadn’t blocked it. “Damned if I know. Since they both came back, maybe? But that still doesn’t explain what they’re doing here. Couldn’t they hook up in New Hampshire? Or Boston?” He passes the ball to one of his own men, then backward to me, and I rocket a shot across the field into the open goal. Malcolm gives me a surprised, disarmed grin that dissolves the tense set of his jaw. “Not bad.” I want to smile back, but I can’t. There’s something I’ve been thinking ever since we pulled away from Pine Crest Estates, and I keep weighing how—or whether—to bring it up.
“I don’t think they can hook up anywhere,” Mia says. “Can you imagine if one of the reporters who’ve been prowling around Echo Ridge got wind of this? Lacey Kilduff’s boyfriend and best friend, together five years later? While somebody’s making a mockery of her death by writing bullshit all around town and another girl’s just gone missing?” She shudders, managing to nick the ball with the edge of one of her men. “People would hate them.” “What if it’s not five years later?” The words pop out of me, and Malcolm goes still. The foosball rolls unchallenged down the length of the table and settles into a corner. “I mean,” I add, almost apologetically, “they might’ve been together for a while.” Mia shakes her head. “Daisy’s had other boyfriends. She almost got engaged to the guy she was dating at Princeton. And she went to the Bahamas with a guy in her office. My parents practically had a coronary over that.” “Okay, so not all five years,” I say. “But maybe … at some point in high school?” Malcolm’s jaw has gone tense again. He braces his forearms on the table and fastens his green eyes on me. Both are disconcerting at close range, if I’m being honest. “Like when?” Like while Declan was still dating Lacey. It’d be the classic deadly love triangle. I have to bite the inside of my cheeks to keep from saying it out loud What if Declan and Daisy fell in love years ago and wanted to be together, but Lacey wouldn’t let him go? Or threatened to do something to Daisy in retaliation? And it infuriated Declan so much that he lost control one night and killed her? Then Daisy broke things off with him, obviously, and tried to forget him, but couldn’t. I’m itching to expand on my theory, but one look at Malcolm’s frozen face tells me I shouldn’t. “I don’t know,” I hedge, dropping my eyes. “Just throwing out ideas.” It’s like I told Ezra in the library: You can’t spring a your-siblings-might-be-murderers theory onto people all at once.
Mia doesn’t notice the subtext of my back-and-forth with Malcolm. She’s too busy savagely jerking her rod of blue players without ever touching the ball. “It wouldn’t be an issue if Daisy would just talk to me. Or to anyone in our family.” “Maybe you need to pull a little-sister power play,” Ezra suggests.
He shrugs. “She tells you what’s going on, or you tell your parents what you just saw.” Mia goggles at him. “That’s straight-up evil.”
“But effective, I’ll bet,” Ezra says. He glances at Malcolm. “I’d suggest the same thing to you, but I just saw your brother, so.” “Oh yeah.” Malcolm grimaces. “He’d kill me. Not literally,” he adds hastily, with a sideways glance at me. “But also, he knows I’d never do it. Our father wouldn’t care, but our mom would lose it. Especially now.” Mia’s eyes gleam as she lines one of her men up for a shot. “I have no such concerns.” We play for a few minutes without speaking. My mind keeps racing along the Declan-Daisy theory that I didn’t say, testing it for holes. There are a few, admittedly. But it’s such a true-crime staple when girls go missing or are harmed: it’s always the boyfriend. Or a frustrated wannabe. Because when you’re seventeen, and beautiful, and you’re found murdered in a place known for hookups, what could it possibly be except a crime of passion?
So that leaves Declan. The only other person I’m even remotely suspicious of is the guy Lacey never noticed—Officer Ryan Rodriguez. I can’t forget his photo in the yearbook, or Sadie’s description of him breaking down at Lacey’s funeral. Still, Officer Rodriguez doesn’t fit like Declan does—he makes perfect sense, especially now that we know about him and Daisy.
I don’t believe for one second that they’re a new thing. The only question in my mind is whether Malcolm’s willing to admit it.
I steal a glance at Malcolm as he twists his handles, fully concentrating on the game. Brow furrowed, green eyes crinkling when he makes a good shot, lean arms flexing. He has absolutely no idea how attractive he is, and it’s kind of a problem. He’s so used to living in his brother’s shadow that he doesn’t believe he’s the kind of guy who could’ve snagged the attention of a girl like Brooke. Anybody else can see it from a mile away.
He looks up and meets my eyes. Busted. I feel myself go red as his mouth lifts in a half smile. Then he glances down again, pulling his phone from his pocket and unlocking the screen. His face changes in an instant. Mia sees it too and stops spinning her handles. “Any news?” she asks.
“A text from my mom. Nothing about Brooke,” Malcolm says, and we all relax. Because from the look on his face, it wouldn’t have been good. “Except there’s a search party tomorrow. During the day, so Echo Ridge students aren’t supposed to go. And there’s an article in the Boston Globe.” He sighs heavily. “My mom’s freaking out. She gets traumatized any time the news mentions Lacey.” “Can I see?” I ask. He hands the phone to me, and I read the section framed within the screen: The small town was already on edge after a series of vandalism incidents beginning in early September. Buildings and signs were defaced with messages written as though they were from Lacey Kilduff’s killer. The anonymous threats promised another attack on one of the girls elected to homecoming court—a short list that included Brooke Bennett. But those who’ve been following the story closely don’t see any real connection.
“Even if someone was unhinged enough to get away with murder and brag about it five years later, the MO’s are completely different,” says Vivian Cantrell, a senior at Echo Ridge High who has covered the story for her school paper. “Strangulation is a brutal crime of passion. The threats are public, and they require planning. I don’t think there’s any relation at all to what happened to Lacey, or what’s going on with Brooke.” I grip the phone more tightly. That’s almost exactly what I said two weeks ago at lunch. Viv basically stole my entire spiel and used it to replace her original point of view. Before this, she’d been telling everybody that Lacey’s death and the anonymous threats had to be related.
Why did Viv suddenly change her tune?
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