فصل 23کتاب: دو نفر میتوانند رازنگهدار باشند / فصل 23
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متن انگلیسی فصل
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 3
By Thursday, search parties for Brooke aren’t limited to school hours anymore. There’s one this afternoon, covering the woods behind the Nilssons’ house. Peter’s a volunteer captain, and when I get home from band practice he’s loading a cardboard box filled with flyers, bottled water, and flashlights into the back of his Range Rover.
“Hello, Malcolm.” He doesn’t look at me as I get out of Mom’s Volvo. Just brushes his palms together as though they’re dusty. I’m sure they aren’t. Peter’s car is as pristine as everything else the Nilssons own. “How was school?” “Same.” In other words: not good. “When are we leaving?”
Peter crosses his arms, displaying razor-sharp creases in the sleeves of his shirt. “We are leaving in ten minutes,” he says. The emphasis is clear, but when I don’t respond he adds, “I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to come, Malcolm.” My heart sinks. “Why?” It’s a pointless question. I know why. Officer McNulty has been back twice already to ask me follow-up questions.
Peter’s nostrils flare. “Emotions are running high right now. You’d be a distraction. I’m sorry. I know that’s hard to hear, but it’s the truth, and our first priority is finding Brooke.” My temper spikes. “I know. I want to help.”
“The best way you can help is to stay here,” Peter says, and my palms itch with an almost irresistible desire to punch the smug look off his face. I’m sure he’s genuinely concerned, and he might even be right. But he gets off on being the hero, too. Always has.
He claps a hand on my shoulder, quickly, like he’s killing a bug. “Why don’t you go inside and see if there’s any more water in the fridge? That would be helpful.” A vein above my eye starts to throb. “Sure,” I say, swallowing my anger because getting into a pissing match with Peter isn’t going to help Brooke.
When I get inside, I hear the staircase in the foyer creak. I’m hoping for my mother, but it’s Katrin with a heap of red fabric hanging over her arm, followed by Viv. Katrin freezes when she sees me, and Viv almost bumps into her. Both of their faces harden into the mask of dislike I’ve been seeing everywhere since Sunday.
I make an effort to act like I normally would. “What’s that?” I ask, gesturing toward Katrin’s arm.
“My homecoming dress,” she snaps.
I eye the dress with a feeling of mild dread. I’ve been trying to block out the fact that homecoming is Saturday. “It’s weird they’re still having that.” Katrin doesn’t reply, and I add, “What are you doing with your dress?” “Your mom’s going to have it pressed.” She gives me a wide berth as she makes her way into the kitchen, carefully draping the dress over the back of a chair. It’s nice, I guess, that my mom does stuff like that for Katrin. Peter says Katrin’s own mother hasn’t responded to any of his calls all week, other than to text something about bad cell reception in the South of France. There’s always some excuse.
When she’s finished arranging the dress, Katrin stares at me with glacial blue eyes. “I’d better not see you there.” Somehow, Katrin doesn’t make me angry like Peter does. Maybe because I know she’s barely eaten or slept since Brooke went missing. Her cheeks are hollow, her lips chapped, her hair in a messy ponytail. “Katrin, come on,” I say, my palms spread wide. The universal gesture of a guy who has nothing to hide. “Can we talk about this? What have I ever done to make you think I’d be capable of hurting Brooke?” She presses her lips together, nostrils flaring slightly. For a second she looks exactly like Peter. “You were involved with her and you didn’t tell anyone.” “Jesus.” I rake a hand through my hair, feeling a tug in my chest. “Why do you keep saying that? Because you lost track of her during a sleepover? She was probably in the bathroom.” Katrin and I were never friends, exactly, but I thought she knew me better than this.
“My room has a bathroom,” Katrin points out. “She wasn’t there.”
“So she went for a walk.”
“She’s afraid of the dark.”
I give up. She’s latched onto this for some reason, and there’s no talking her out of it. I guess whatever bond I thought we had was just in my head. Or something that amused her when she had nothing better to do. “Your dad’s getting ready to leave,” I say instead.
“I know. I need a phone charger. Wait here, Viv,” she instructs. She stalks down the hallway leading to the study, leaving Viv and me to eye one another warily. I half expect her to follow Katrin, but she’s a good minion. She stays put.
“Still writing that article?” I ask.
Viv flushes. “No. I’m much too upset about Brooke to even think about that.” Her eyes are dry, though. Have been all week. “Anyway, I already told the media what I think, so … as far as I’m concerned, it’s done.” “Good,” I say. I turn away from her and open the double doors of the refrigerator. There are two six-packs of bottled water on the middle shelf, and I tuck them under my arm before heading outside.
The back of Peter’s Range Rover is still open. I push aside a cardboard box and drop the water beside it. The flash of a familiar face catches my eye, and I pull out a flyer from the box. Brooke’s class picture is plastered next to the word MISSING, her hair tumbling loose around her shoulders and her smile bright. It startles me, because I can’t remember the last time I saw Brooke looking that happy. The rest of the flyer is a list of vital statistics: Name: Brooke Adrienne Bennett
Weight: 110 pounds
Last seen wearing: Olive blazer, white T-shirt, black jeans, leopard-print flats Somebody else must have told them that last part; I was no help when Officer McNulty asked me to describe Brooke’s clothes. She looked nice, I said.
“I think that’s everything.” Peter’s voice startles me, and I drop the flyer back into the box. He opens the driver’s side door and glances at his watch with a small frown. “Could you ask Katrin and Viv to come to the car, please?” “Okay.” My phone buzzes as I head back inside, and when I get into the kitchen I pull it out, to a series of texts from Mia.
You should come over.
This just popped up online and it’s already everywhere.
The last message links to a Burlington Free Press article titled “A Tragic Past—and a Common Thread.” My stomach drops as I start to read.
Echo Ridge is reeling.
This picturesque town, nestled near the Canadian border and boasting the highest per capita income in the county, experienced its first tragic loss in 1996 when high school senior Sarah Corcoran vanished while walking home from the library. Then, five years ago, homecoming queen Lacey Kilduff was found dead in the aptly named (and since renamed) Murderland Halloween park.
Now another beautiful and popular teenager, seventeen-year-old Brooke Bennett, is missing. Though Brooke and Lacey are close in age, there seems to be little connection between the two young women, except an odd coincidence: the high school senior who dropped Bennett off at home the night she disappeared is the younger brother of Lacey Kilduff’s former boyfriend, Declan Kelly.
Kelly, who was questioned repeatedly after Lacey Kilduff’s death but never arrested, moved out of state four years ago and has maintained a low profile since. So it came as a surprise to many in this close-knit community that Kelly relocated to the neighboring town of Solsbury shortly before Brooke Bennett’s disappearance.
Shit. Viv might not be writing any more articles, but someone else sure is. Suddenly, Peter looks like a genius. If I weren’t going to cause drama during the search for Brooke before, I sure as hell would now.
Katrin enters the kitchen gripping her phone. Her cheeks are bright red, and I brace myself for another tirade. She probably just read the same article. “Peter wants you guys outside,” I say, hoping to cut off whatever lecture she has planned.
She nods mechanically without speaking, looking first at Viv and then at me. Her face is weirdly immobile, like she’s wearing a Katrin mask. Her hands shake as she shoves her phone into her pocket.
“He’s not letting me come,” I add. “He says I’ll be a distraction.”
I’m testing her, waiting for the expected Well, you would be or Distraction doesn’t cover it, asshole. But all she says is, “Okay.” She swallows hard once, then twice. “Okay,” she repeats, like she’s trying to convince herself of something. She meets my eyes and looks down quickly, but not before I catch how huge her pupils are.
She doesn’t look mad anymore. She looks afraid.
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