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an SAT/ACT vocabulary novel

Chapter Ten

Part 2

Next I had planned to stop by Michael and Tek’s room. I knew it was a brazen move—the details of my visit would probably get back to Jon expeditiously, but I felt that I was running out of options. And Michael and Tek seemed like the type of guys who would know who was selling and who was buying around this place. They were obvious stoners, and if they smoked pot, they probably at least knew where to get other stuff. All I had to do was act like I was hard up for drugs and get them to counsel me about what to do.

As I walked down to the end of the third-floor hallway, a steady cadence grew louder and louder, the type of beat that forces you to match your steps to it. I wasn’t surprised to find that it was loudest when I was standing directly in front of Michael and Tek’s room. I could just imagine them inside, cavorting and dancing and ignoring their homework entirely.

I smiled, filled with sudden certitude that I was doing the right thing. These guys were such party animals, they’d probably give up the information—no deception needed—just so they’d have someone new to party with.

More confident than I’d felt in days, I knocked on the door.

“Entré!” Tek’s voice shouted.

Of course these guys left their door unlocked. I smiled and walked in. Unexpectedly, Michael and Tek were seated at desks on opposites sides of a capacious corner room, their heads buried in their books. The music was loud, but it seemed it was simply the soundtrack for studying.

The room itself, however, looked like it had seen plenty of carousing in its history. One wall was completely defaced. It had been used as the canvas for an iridescent mural of Jimi Hendrix. The painting had been signed in an indecipherable hand, making it impossible to discern the artist. But it was pretty darn good. Lining the opposite wall was a long shelf, packed with empty beer bottles of every brand imaginable, reverently lined up with their labels facing out. I had no idea how high school students got away with displaying such things, but it revived my spirits. These guys were definitely not down with sobriety. There was no doubt they’d know how to help me.

“Kimmy!” Michael exclaimed, looking up from his books. He stood and enveloped me in a bear hug. I felt more devious than ever, knowing I was about to pump them for information that might lead to the arrest of their best friend. But I couldn’t entertain any qualms I might have about this. There was a criminal on the loose and I had to find out who it was.

“Sweet! Kim in her munificence has graced our pad with her presence,” Tek said, as animated as ever. He reached for the mini-fridge next to his desk. “Can I offer you a beverage?”

“No, thanks,” I said, impressed by the cordial greeting. I decided to go for the guileless approach. “Actually, I wanted to ask you guys a question,” I said, crossing to the bed near the Jimi painting and taking a seat.

“Shoot,” Michael said. He lowered the volume on the music and regarded me with interest.

“Well, I was wondering if you guys might know . . . you know . . . where a person might be able to purchase some recreational . . . chemicals around here,” I raised my eyebrows and watched as Michael and Tek exchanged a sly look. It was clear that they knew who I could buy from. The question was, were they going to tell me?

Michael straightened up and an instant sense of foreboding pervaded the room.

“Why are you asking us?” he asked.

“I don’t know. You just seemed like the kind of guys who would be into . . . extracurricular activity,” I said.

“Yeah, well, we’re not,” Tek said innocently. He even added a laugh to try to convince me. Unfortunately for him, it was so fake it did nothing to extinguish my suspicion.

“Then what’s up with all the beer bottles?” I asked. I knew they knew something and I was going to show some forbearance. I had to get facts out of someone around here.

“Eh, that’s just beer,” Michael said, shrugging it off.

“Come on, you guys,” standing up and attempting to cajole it out of them. “I just need something to take the edge off. This school is tougher than I thought.”

Tek flushed and I could tell it was becoming difficult for him to stay silent, but he prevailed. Suddenly he seemed very preoccupied by a thread hanging off of his sock. Meanwhile, Michael turned around and flicked through the pages of his binder, pretending to peruse his copious notes. This was going nowhere fast.

I took a deep breath. “Okay, well, if you guys don’t know, then what about Jon? Would he know?”

The second the question was out of my mouth I regretted asking it. It was way too direct and nonleading. Tad would have whacked me upside the head if he had been there to witness it.

But Michael and Tek both laughed heartily. “You obviously don’t know Jon very well,” Michael said, abjuring the very thought.

“Yeah, he’s like the purest of the pure around here,” Tek added. “That kid won’t even take cough medicine.”

Once again I was presented with a conundrum. Was Jon an unalloyed innocent, or was he a guy who was delivering illicit packages to people he hated for cash? It was like the more I learned, the more confused I became.

“Okay, well, if you guys do happen to hear of anything, let me know,” I said, standing. “I could really use something to help me relax, you know?”

Once again, the two guys exchanged a look. “We’d love to help you out, you know. It’s just that . . . you’re new around here,” Tek said.

I narrowed my eyes. What did he mean by that? “I’m sure you’ve heard about the mondo expulsion that happened here a coupla weeks ago. We just . . . don’t know if we can trust you yet, that’s all,” Michael said. “Sorry.”

Wow. These people were a lot more paranoid—and had greater acumen—than I gave them credit for.

“Well, you can,” I said, lying to their faces. “Just let me know when you decide to believe me.”

Then I stormed out, trying to make them believe in my indignation. In fact, I was simply frustrated by the fact that I’d hit yet another wall. Even the obvious stoners wouldn’t help me out with this stuff? I thought they were supposed to be all giving and loving. So much for that stereotype.

When was I going to catch a break around here?

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