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an SAT/ACT vocabulary novel

Chapter Two

Part 2

“Okay, these are your suspects,” Tad told me, laying three photographs on the table in front of me. It was the following morning, and I was sitting in the conference room at the police station, my back rigid. I had worn my most boring brown sweater and my cleanest jeans to engender an air of responsibility, but Tad’s business-like demeanor only served to make me feel like the inept rookie I was.

I’d woken up with slightly less confidence than I’d exhibited the day before. Maybe that rush of aplomb I’d had was just an extension of the roller-coaster emotions I’d been experiencing, but by the light of a new day the truth was clear.

I mean, yeah, I was a good actress. (Witness the lightheartedness at the funeral and the total dupe I’d pulled on my guidance counselor. The man is a dunce, but still.) So maybe I could make the population of Hereford believe I was just another rich student, but who knew if I was a good detective? What if I went in there and tanked? What if I let my mother down and embarrassed her? This was so important to her. What was the headmaster of Hereford going to think if the emissary from the local police department couldn’t even navigate the school or keep the suspects straight? (I don’t have the greatest attention span.)

I couldn’t do this. Who was I kidding?

I sipped at my Dunkin Donuts coffee and glanced at the closed door as Tad momentarily turned his back on me. What were the chances I could abscond with a jelly donut and make a clean getaway?

“Kim, have you even looked at the photos?” Tad demanded.

I glanced up at him with trepidation. For all the acclaim he’d heaped upon me the day before, he was back to being abrasive today. Talk about fickle. But if Tad was having his doubts, maybe my doubts were well-founded. Still, somehow I didn’t want to let him see me sweat.

“Sorry,” I told him, setting the coffee aside. I used my fingertips to slide the three photographs toward me. The first depicted a handsome guy with curly brown hair, broad shoulders and an open, genial smile. It was clearly his class picture because he was posed in an uncomfortable position in front of a featureless background. The piece of tape slapped on the bottom of the picture read “David Rand.”

“David has a record,” Tad began, sitting down across from me. “He’s from Brooklyn and he’s got two arrests under his belt. One for breaking and entering, although no charges were brought. The other for possession of marijuana.”

Possession of marijuana. Like that was such a shocker in this day and age. Not that I would ever say that to Tad, who would definitely go on a tirade enumerating the evils of drug use. I didn’t need to hear it because I was right there with him. My generation may have been all about the easy high, but I had never touched the stuff, nor anything harder. I kind of wished no one around me had.

I looked at the David’s sweet face again. He hardly seemed like a hardened criminal.

“Why were no charges brought on the first arrest?” I asked.

“Good question. See? Now you’re with me,” Tad said, checking a file. “It says here that it was the house of a family friend.” He scanned the page. “Oh, here it is—a quote from the lady of the house. ‘We know Davey didn’t mean any harm. This is just the kind of thing he does.’”

“Huh?” I said, my question mirroring Tad’s dumbfounded expression.

He flipped a page and read on. “This is from his statement. ‘They just got the new Protector 2000 alarm system and I wanted to see if I could get past it. I wasn’t going to take anything.’”

I let out a guffaw. “Interesting guy.” “No doubt,” Tad said. “And it gets even more interesting. Hereford just got a new firewall installed on their computer system and while the tech guy was in there setting it up he found out somebody’s been hacking all the school’s secure files for months. Guess who?”

“David Rand,” I said under my breath.

“Got it in one,” Tad replied with a wink. I shuddered. Someday I was really going to have to tell him how inappropriate that was.

We moved on to the next picture.

“That would be Marshall Cone,” Tad said with a sardonic smile. “Big Man On Campus.”

“In what way?” I asked.

“That kid is an All-Star football, basketball and baseball player,” Tad clarified. “And get this—he runs an intramural karate league.”

“Cool,” I said, looking down at the photo. Somehow, even though he was a fellow devotee of the martial arts, I took an instant dislike to Marshall. He had one of those haughty expressions I expected from kids at Hereford. His chin was slightly raised and his smile was almost a smirk. He was handsome, no doubt. Broad and athletic with dark skin and dark eyes, but I could practically hear him in my head going on and on about how great he was.

I’m so hot . . . I’m so cool . . . I’m so rich I could buy you and your family . . . .

“Now, Marshall’s a suspect because he’s at Hereford on full scholarship,” Tad said.

My line of thought was disrupted and I flushed with embarrassment. Okay, so he wasn’t rich. So much for jumping to conclusions. “Why does that make him a suspect?” I asked.

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