It took my mother a few seconds to recover from her shock, but when she did, she was adamant.
“Uh-uh. No way, no how,” she said. Quincy and Tad stepped out of her way as she rounded the desk. My mother is an imperious woman, to say the least. Tall and strong, she has a square jaw that’s even more pronounced when she’s at work because she always has her red hair pulled back in a bun. I’d obviously taken after my father more. Heredity could be weird that way. I hadn’t laid eyes on my dad in eleven years, but I saw him every time I looked in the mirror. Besides, I kept a photo album replete with family photos under my bed so I knew he was short, dark and pudgy like me.
Well, I’m not usually pudgy, but that “freshman fifteen” thing is no myth, let me tell you.
“Come on, Mom,” I said, crossing my arms over my chest and looking up at her, trying to convey resolution with my eyes. “I’m all over this. You know me. I’ll be walking out the front gates of that dump with your suspect in hand in less than a week.”
Audacious, I know, but I had to be. She was looking at me all dubious like I was some kind of feeble little girly-girl. So not the case. I don’t even own one article of pink clothing, let alone a bottle of nail polish. And even if I did decide to go out tomorrow and wipe out the Betsey Johnson section at Lord & Taylor, I could take care of myself, lace skirts and all.
“Kim, I don’t know what you overheard, but I’m not sending you in on this case and that’s final,” my mother said, her jaw clenching. “You’re not even on the force.”
“But you said yourself you could deputize somebody,” I said, throwing out a hand as she turned her back on me and went behind her desk again. I could feel the adrenaline mounting in my veins and I refused to be deterred. “I’m eighteen. I’m totally deputizable.”
Okay. Sometimes I make up words.
My mother sighed as if she was suddenly encumbered by the weight of the world. She did that around me a lot. Sometimes I think she would have rather had a more acquiescent daughter, but I knew she loved me. Deep down she appreciated my fervent spirit. I could tell by the way she looked at me whenever I kicked ass in a karate match or came home with another detention for talking back to my misogynistic high school history teacher, Mr. Conroy. She was proud of me. I just wore her out sometimes.
“Kim, this is not even an issue,” my mother told me, looking me in the eye. “I’m not sending my only daughter into a potentially dangerous situation.”
I scoffed. “How dangerous could it be? It’s Hereford. What are you afraid they’re going to do to me—make me wear Burberry?” Tad laughed, and my mother shot him a reproving look that could have melted steel. Quincy, meanwhile, cleared his throat and started to grow flushed and patchy around his cheeks and neck. I could tell there was something he wanted to say, and from the almost penitent way he was looking at my mother, I had a feeling he was going to agree with me.
“What is it, Quincy?” my mother demanded.
“Well, Chief,” he said, shifting from one foot to the other. “I think Kim would be perfect for the job.”
“Oh, you do, do you?” my mother asked, lacing her fingers together. Her face seemed to go flat and Quincy’s only reddened further.
“I’m with Quincy on this,” Tad put in. “Kim was a stellar recruit in last year’s summer program. She can handle those tarts over at Hereford.”
I smirked at his use of the word “tarts.” Tad was nothing if not politically incorrect and, well, crude. But everyone in Morrison had the same opinion of the kids who attended Hereford. It was a well-off town, but compared to the students at the private school, we were practically indigent. It wasn’t just about the money either. These kids were total snobs. All they ever did was come into town in their brand-spankin’ new BMWs and toss out insults to all us “townies” as they so originally called us. Either that or race their rides out on Route 23 and put each other in the hospital. They were nothing but a bunch of jerks.
“Come on, Chief,” Quincy said. “Give Kim a chance.”
I had to preen slightly. It was kind of cool how both Quincy and Tad had such confidence in me. If only my mother could jump on the bandwagon.
I grinned at my mother and received a blank stare in return. Apparently Tad and Quincy’s arguments hadn’t exactly been efficacious. Not that I was surprised. My mother’s hide was as hard as rock.
“Would you two gentlemen excuse us, please?” my mother asked, keeping her eyes on me.
“Sure, Chief,” Quincy said quickly, exhibiting a clear propensity for escape. He smiled at me as he walked by, and Tad gave me an encouraging wink. I steeled myself as the door closed behind me. My heart was still fluttering with excitement and I wasn’t about to give up this fight.
I wanted to take part in this case. I felt like I was meant to take part in this case.
“Kim, I don’t think you understand the seriousness of the situation,” my mother began. “I know you’re a very self-sufficient person, and I know you did well in the course last summer, but that does not mean you are prepared to take on a case like this on your own.”
“I won’t be on my own,” I told her. “You guys will help me, right? It’s not like you’re going to drop me off in the hallowed halls of Hereford and just leave me to my own devices.”
“Of course not. If I were to send you in we would be in constant contact,” my mother replied. “But Kim, going undercover is a very delicate skill. It takes finesse . . . it takes cunning . . . it takes imagination—“
“Like I don’t exemplify all those things,” I said, rolling my eyes.
“Mom, listen,” I said, curtailing whatever she had planned for her next harangue. I walked over and leaned my hands into her desk so I could look down on her. It wasn’t often I got to take the domineering stance with my mother. I knew I was being pertinacious, but I had to do what I had to do.
“If there’s a drug problem at Hereford, I want to help.” She blinked, and I could tell she was starting to understand exactly why I was so resolute about this. “I have to help,” I added, just to drive the point home.
“Kim . . . ,” my mother said in a tone that told me she was breaking.
“Please, Mom,” I said. “Just give me a chance. I swear I won’t let you down.”
My mother took a deep breath and let it out very slowly. “Fine,” she said finally. “But one thing goes wrong up there on that campus and you are outta there. No questions asked.”
“Yes!” I said, jumping up. A pack of butterflies went wild in my stomach. “Yes! Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
I ran around the desk and gave her a big hug, and my mother squeezed me back a tad reluctantly. I knew she was doing this against her will, but I’d show her. I was going to bring home the bad guys and clean up that school.
Whoa. Did I just say that?