Jacob’s white truck pulled up to the curb. He grinned at me as I hopped onto the seat. His grin turned to pure laughter when he noticed my hair.
“What happened?” he laughed. I smiled back at him, mocking his loud chuckle.
“I tried to dye it. Too many people were looking at me as if they recognized me.” He rubbed my shoulder.
“I love it.” I glanced down at him, dressed in solid black from head to toe.
“What about you?” I laughed. “You’re dressed as if we are about to go pull off some major heist.” He turned his attention to the road as we peeled out of the parking lot, his smile still plastered on his face but with a little less intensity.
“For all we know, we may about to be.”
We parked on the road directly behind the Parker’s house in case we needed to make a fast getaway. The night air hung around us as we walked.
“How are we planning to get in?” I asked. Jacob held up a rock. My mouth gaped open.
“You’re just going to throw a rock in the window? What if they have an alarm?” He hushed me.
“I drove by this afternoon after I talked to you on the phone. There’s no alarm company sign in the front yard. They probably don’t have one.”
“Probably?” I scoffed. “You can’t base this off of chance!” I scoffed. “This is our freedom we are talking about, and the lives of Mr. Green’s other victims.” A puzzled look crossed Jacob’s face.
“I’m sorry, I just thought….”
“No, obviously you didn’t think,” I snapped.
“Ok, ok,” Jacob apologized. “We just need to find another way inside.” We reached Justice’s backyard. Crickets and cicadas buzzed in the air. The house was completely still, and there wasn’t a single light on the break through the darkness. Jacob turned on the flashlight on his phone and began to look around. He turned over rocks and sifted through potted plants.
“Help me look,” he panted. “Maybe they stashed an extra key back here.” I doubted it, but I helped him search. The dirt felt gritty underneath my fingernails. We searched the entire patio a few times over. Jacob wiped a line of sweat from his face that matched his shining eyes. His muscles stuck out from the back of his tight T-shirt. He looked over at me.
“I think we just need to break the window. There’s no keys here. No matter if we pry the door open or take off the window pane, the alarm will still sound. We are just going to have to take a chance. I mean, you broke into Tabitha’s house without even considering the fact that they might have an alarm, and it worked out just fine.”
“I got caught,” I laughed.
“Not because of an alarm though.” I sighed.
“Fine. Just do it.” Jacob picked up the heavy rock and reared it back, his muscles looking even more toned. I flinched as the glass shattered into the house. We both strained, trying to determine if we had tripped an alarm. Jacob leaned his head through the window, then nodded back at me.
“There’s no alarm going off. Come on.” I looked at him uneasily, but he had already heaved his entire body through the small space. The buzzing of the cicadas had grown even louder, and I shuddered, looking back at the night. All I wanted was to be away from the darkness. It reminded me too much of my visions. A sudden rush of fear forced me to crawl through the window to follow Jacob. The only source of light in the house was Jacob’s flashlight. Not even the streetlights shone through the front of the house.
“Jacob?” I whispered. I wasn’t sure why I was whispering. The light spun around to me.
“I’m here Tyler. Help me find a light.” I found my way to a wall and ran my fingers over it’s rough surface. My fingers felt the outline of an outlet.
“Found it.” I flipped the switch, and light flooded the room. We were standing in the living room. A Christmas tree sat in the corner, although it was nowhere near Christmastime. The tree had been stripped of all it’s decorations. A few couches sat around a large flat screen television. The screen was black against the now light room. The house remained eerily quiet. Jacob walked into the next room, and I walked right on his heels, suddenly afraid to be alone.
“Should we split up?” he asked, still facing straight ahead. His sudden urge for adventure surprised me.
“Are you sure that’s a good idea?” He didn’t seem to sense my hesitation.
“It’ll make it go faster. We don’t want to be here any longer than we need to be.”
“I know, but we don’t want to miss anything either.” He shrugged.
“Okay. Should we check out the office first?”
“Sounds good.” Two dark wooden doors stood before us. Jacob pushed on one of them, and it creaked open slowly. A large wooden desk sat on the soft white carpet. Jacob walked right in, and immediately started pulling out drawers. The desk held files upon files of important looking documents. We searched for what felt like over an hour, merely finding old tax returns and insurance papers. There was nothing there that was of any use to us. Noticing how defeated I was becoming, Jacob grabbed my hand.
“Let’s go check out her parents bedroom. There has to be something in there that can help us.” I nodded and forced a smile. He lead to me the end of the hallway and we peered inside the large bedroom. The white sheets sat neatly on the bed, and a few dressers surrounded the walls. We got right to work, tearing open drawers to examine their contents. A lot of the dressers were fairly empty, and I figured it was because the Parker’s had packed up a lot of their clothes and brought them to the hotel. We searched the room several times, spilling items out on the floor to sift through. A nightstand sat on each side of the bed. One night stand held many trinkets, such as key chains, pencils, and rubber bands. Most of it just seemed like pure garbage, and I assumed that it was Mr. Parker’s side of the bed. On the other side, I opened the drawer to find medical supplies galore. I recalled that Justice had once mentioned that her mom was a doctor, just like Jacob’s. I saw packages of bandages, bottles of pills, and a stethoscope. None of this seemed out of the ordinary for a doctor to have.
“Tyler, come here.” He stood in front of their closet, the door ajar. My curiosity got the better of me. I crawled up off of the floor and strode over to him. My eyes followed his gaze. In the corner of the closet sat an old safe. “We need to get that open. Whatever we are looking for, it’s probably inside that safe.” Jacob placed his hand on chin in thought, but my gears were already turning.
“Get me that stethoscope from the nightstand,” I ordered. He moved quickly, setting the cold metal down on my palm. I turned the dial several revolutions, starting the process that I had learned of in Mr. Thomas’ criminology class. I placed the stethoscope near the dial surface to amplify the sound. The buds of the stethoscope squeezed my ears. Rotating the dial counterclockwise, I listened for two small clicks near each other. The clicks were so silent that I doubted whether or not I had even heard them. I repeated this process several times until I was sure of myself. Jacob stood behind me, peering at me curiously. He looked as if he was itching to say something, but patiently watched me. I moved the dial directly 180 degrees across from the contact face, which I had determined through the two tiny clicks. The dial turned clockwise easily, and I strained to listen for a click each time I passed the original point. The clicks all sounded in the right position, indicating that I hadn’t made a mistake. I gave Jacob a reassuring smile. We would be into this safe in no time.
“Can you go get me some paper and a pen?” I asked him. He returned promptly with a pad of paper and I got a pencil from Mr. Parker’s nightstand. I set up two line graphs to aid me in interpreting my data. No one in my class had actually ever attempted to crack a safe, but I hoped that Mr. Thomas had taught us well. Resetting the dial, I rotated it counterclockwise , and repeated the same process, this time plotting each click on the line graph. Then I set the lock three numbers to the left of zero. This acted as my new x-axis. The stethoscope pressed hard against the cold metal safe. My ears strained to hear the new clicks. I plotted those on the line graph as well, and continued this process until I had completed the line graphs. I looked for where the y’s converged, and wrote those points down on the next sheet of paper.
“These numbers should be close enough to work.” I said. Jacob stared at me in awe.
“How in the world did you do that?” he asked. I shrugged. “I learned last year.” I pointed back the paper. “We just have to try the numbers on the x-axis in different orders. I’m not sure of the sequence though. It’s just going to be trial and error.”
“Still,” he gaped. “That was amazing Tyler.” I felt myself blush, and quickly turned away. He leaned down next to me, and got to work on the dial. After a few tries, the door cracked open. We exchanged glances. “Do you want to do the honors?” My hand shaking, I reached forward and tugged the door all the way open. I let out a loud gasp, pointing down to the item in the center of the box. It was a gun.
“Get on your phone and look up the death of Lacey Green. I need to know how she died.” He pounded away at the keyboard on his phone. The light of the screen bounced across his face. His eyes went wide, and I grabbed the phone out of his hand.
“She was shot,” he whispered, visibly shaken. My eyes skimmed over the short article. She had in fact been shot in the back three times. Jacob reached for the gun, but I pulled his hand away.
“What? We can take it to the police.”
“Oh yeah,” I mocked him. “That would really help my case. Let’s just bring the detectives a gun that was used in a murder. That’ll clear my name. No, Jacob. Don’t even touch it. We can tell the police about it after we prove Mr. Green is the killer.
“What if it’s not here by then?”
“That’s a chance we are just going to have to take. Besides, the police would arrest me on the spot even if they did believe the gun was linked to the murder of Lacey Green. We can’t continue our investigation if I’m locked in a jail cell.” He nodded silently, and I worried that my tone had hurt his feelings. “Let’s keep looking.” The next item that came into my sight shed led on the whole situation.
“What’s that?” Jacob asked. He grabbed a blanket hanging on the edge of the bed, using a corner to pick up the small piece of paper. He placed it carefully on the floor in front of us. He read it out loud, his voice shaking.
I fear that a man at your work has found out about us, a certain gentleman named Mr. Mullins. He knows you well, and therefore must know that our affair leaves you a cheating man on your wife. He seems to be concerned only for your family, and has threatened to tell my own husband back home if I do not return to Massachusetts for good. I care for Jeff deeply, and feel that I have no choice but to discontinue business with Parker Enterprises. I am terribly sorry, but maybe this is the way things are supposed to be. Even from Massachusetts, I will think about you constantly, and maybe one day far in the future we will meet again. My best condolences to you and your business.
I stared down at the old letter. There was no date on it, and the envelope it had come in was long gone. Jacob and I sat in shocked silence. Mr. Parker had been having an affair with Mr. Green’s wife! Mr. Mullins’ attempt to blackmail Lacey Green must have been what led to the sudden loss of his job. Tabitha or the rest of her family probably had had no clue what had really been going on. The entire Mullins and Parker family feud had really stemmed from the drama encircling Mr. Parker and the Green family. I thought of what the gun in the safe meant. Mr. Parker must have not been too happy with Lacey’s decision to end their secret relationship, and he lashed out. She was killed in Massachusetts, so Mr. Parker had to have flown up there himself. Somehow, Mr. Green had found out about the affair, and come to Scottsdale to get revenge for his wife’s death, assuming that her secret lover had murdered her in cold blood. This was why he was in our town, parading around as a teacher named Mr. Gray!
“If he killed Justice to get back at her dad,” Jacob thought aloud,” then why has he killed all of these other girls?” I frowned. This thought had me completely baffled. He had got what he wanted, so why had hadn’t he stopped after Justice?
“Go get a plastic bag from the kitchen. There’s no way we can leave all of this evidence here and risk it being gone when the police come looking for it.”
“But I thought you said they wouldn’t believe you.”
“If we overwhelm them with evidence, they have to believe that our story has at least some truth in it.” He nodded, and took off for the kitchen. I was left alone in the room with the gun, and I felt a shiver go down my spine. I took the corner of the blanket and picked up the deadly weapon. Even separated by the fabric, I could feel the cold hard steel against my flesh. I pointed the gun away from me, holding it as far away from my body as I possibly could. Jacob returned, holding a small plastic bag like the ones at Kroger. He started to laugh.
“Let me get this straight. We’re going to carry evidence to a murder and the murder weapon off of a crime scene in a plastic grocery bag.” Despite the seriousness, I joined his laughter. Tears were coming out of our eyes. Jacob dried his face and sighed. “How did we even get into this situation?”
“Just get over here and hold the bag open.” I laughed. The bag crinkled loudly as the gun dropped inside of it. Jacob cringed. I picked up the letter and dropped it into the bag on top of the gun. The air had suddenly turned serious. “Let’s get out of here.” Jacob shut off the closet light after closing the safe back again. Outside of the safe, the closet looked as if it was untouched. I hoped that Mr. Parker didn’t go looking for his gun anytime soon, although he would know something was up as soon as he came home and spotted the shattered window in the back. Jacob grabbed my hand and pulled me to my feet. We ran around the room, placing everything back where it was when we had first entered the room. Then we slipped back to the living room. Shattered glass lined the floor, and we had to be careful where we stepped. Jacob helped me slide through the small opening, and my feet hit the grass with a thud. He followed suit, and we took off running. His truck still sat right where we had parked it. We climbed inside and peeled away from the curb.
“What are you going to do with all that?” Jacob asked, pulling up to the side of the hotel. I pulled my key out of my waistband.
“I’ll just keep it in my hotel room. It’s not like we have another choice. You can’t really carry it into your house. After we prove Mr. Green guilty, we can tell the police where to find it.” Jacob nodded in agreement. “I was thinking that we could wait outside the coffee shop for Mr. Green tomorrow, and then follow him. That way we don’t actually have to go inside.”
“The police will recognize my truck.”
“Tell your mom that you need to use hers.”
“Okay. I’ll pick you up from her at the start of fourth period, then we can wait for him.” I frowned.
“Is your mom not getting suspicious of all the absent phone calls she’s receiving?” A devious smirk crossed his face.
“Don’t worry about that. I called the school as my mom and told them that we got a new number. Now, they call me.”
“You rebel,” I teased. He shooed me out the door.
“Go get some rest. We have a big day tomorrow.” I stepped down onto the ground and watched him drive away. The hotel lights reflected onto his white truck. Once he was out of my sight, I used my key to unlock the hotel door. The hallway was dead silent, and I was thankful that there wasn’t anyone milling about in the hallway. I had no clue what time it was, but I guessed that it was still the middle of the night. The click of the door interrupted the silence as I stepped into my room. The bag hung heavily at my side. There weren’t many places to hide the messy evidence in my neat room. I strode over to my nightstand, pulling it out from against the wall. I stashed the gun and letter against the wall, then pushed the nightstand back against it, obstructing the bag from the view of anyone who might walk into my room unannounced. I found myself climbing underneath the soft sheets, and my soft snores filled the room only moments later.
I stood in front of Mr. Green’s warehouse. A ghostly figure floated off in the distance. I squinted hard, trying to discern the identity of the rotting corpse. A blood curtling scream filled the air, and I jumped back. Goosebumps ran down my arms and legs. The figure waved her long hair in the wind, then turned to face me. Lacey Green raised her hand and pointed a long finger towards something behind me. I was too afraid to turn around. A cold wind tickled my neck, and I felt cold steel pressed against my back. My breath caught in my throat, and my entire body started to shake.
“Stop moving,” a harsh voice ordered. It was Mr. Green. I whirled around to face him, but he had disappeared. I put my hand on the base of my neck, and tried to shake the feeling of the gun pressed against my flesh. The air had gone completely silent, and I whirled back around to find that Lacey Green had vanished as well.
I gasped for air, trying to claw my way out of the dark. My hand struck something solid next to me. It was a lamp, and I quickly turned the knob near the light bulb. A dim light spread across the bed, not strong enough to illuminate the entire room. My hands shook violently as I guided myself to the light switch on the opposite wall. Light flooded the room, but I still didn’t feel safe. I stumbled back to the nightstand, reaching my fingers behind the wood. My fingers struck cold steel, indicating that the gun was still there. I focused on taking deep breaths as I crawled back into bed. I left the light on for the remainder of the night.
We sat in his mom’s SUV, waiting for any glimpse of Mr. Green. Cars of all different shapes and colors whizzed by, but I didn’t recognize any of them. Jacob looked at the clock on the wall impatiently.
“Shouldn’t he have been here by now?” he asked. I peered at the clock myself. School had been out for over two hours, but I refused to give in.
“Give it another hour. He has to show.”
He didn’t show. One hour passed, and then another one. There was no sign of Mr. Green or his car. Jacob put the car in drive and peeled out of the parking lot we had been waiting in across the street from the coffee shop.
“I’m sorry he didn’t show, Tyler. What do you want to do now?” I sighed.
“We’ll just have to try again tomorrow.” The car stopped at the red light. Jacob turned to face me.
“We can do this, okay? I believe in us.” Before I could respond, his eyes went wide. I followed his gaze, and turned to look behind me. It wasn’t a cop car, but even worse. An unmarked car sat beside us, holding two figures: Detective Howell and Detective Roberts. As if he could feel two pairs of eyes on him, Detective Roberts whirled around to face us. I tried to duck behind the door, but I had already seen the look of recognition flash across his face.
“Drive!” I yelled, sitting back up. Detective Howell was on his cell phone, no doubt barking orders to the entire police force. My fear seemed to make them even more determined to catch me. The car lurched as Jacob floored it. I smiled and waved as we pulled away, making a pathetic attempt to lighten the mood. The expressions on their faces didn’t waver, although I was sure that my happy demeanor must have surprised them. Their car stayed right on our heels. “Weave through the traffic,” I screamed. “We’ve got to lose them!”
“I’m trying!” Jacob yelled back. His breaths were short and panicked. The brakes slammed suddenly, and Jacob laid his hand on his horn. The cars in front of us didn’t budge. Fearfully, I looked behind me. Detective Howell, from the passenger seat, was emerging from the car. Detective Roberts stayed prepared to ride our tail if we made a run for it. “Hold on,” Jacob barked at me. I grabbed the handle attached to the ceiling. In one swift motion, he swung the wheel almost 180 degrees to the left. We veered off of the road and onto the sidewalk. Pedestrians threw themselves out of our way. My heart was racing as we bounced over the uneven sidewalk.
“Slow down!” I yelled. Despite all of the trouble we would be in if we were caught, there was no way I was willing to add manslaughter to my rap sheet just to stay free. “You don’t want to hit anybody!” He slowed, but people had pretty much cleared the sidewalk for us. Within a minute we were off the sidewalk and onto the next street. I glanced behind me and saw the detectives still sitting in the traffic. Detective Roberts threw his hands up in frustration. Then they disappeared from my view altogether. Jacob breathed a sigh of relief.
“We aren’t in the clear yet,” I reminded him. “The entire force is converging on the square at this exact moment.” As if on cue, a squad car appeared in the corner of my eye. I didn’t think that the officers had seen us yet. “Turn!” I yelled. We careened onto a side street. Sweat poured down the side of Jacob’s face.
“Did we lose them?” I glanced behind me.
“I think so.”
“Good.” he laughed. “I was starting to get worried.”
“Just stay on these back alleys as much as you can.” A few people gave us weird looks as we drove past them, but as long as they weren’t alerting the authorities, I didn’t really care. Each time we had to cross a main road to get into the next alleyway, I felt my heartbeat race. Jacob kept giving me reassuring looks, but even he knew that he couldn’t promise that we wouldn’t get caught. Only when I saw the outline of my hotel in the distance did I start to relax.
“Tomorrow, we try again.” I gaped at him.
“No way! They’ll catch us in like half a second!” Jacob looked at me.
“We have to find Mr. Green and follow him. It’s the only way.” I knew that he was right, but I still didn’t like it. “I can take my dad’s car tomorrow.” A realization dawned on me.
“Jacob, the cops know where you live and who you are. They are probably banging on your door this very second.” He paused, then pulled the car over to the shopping center across from my hotel. “No! Those store owners could recognize me too.”
“Relax, I’m going into the phone store. Stay here.” He was gone before I even got a chance to respond, and returned a few moments later with a small flip phone. “Use this to call me when you figure out where he went, and I’ll meet you there.” I laughed.
“And how exactly am I supposed to follow him? I don’t have a car.”
“You’ll take this one, and I’ll take the bus to my neighborhood, and walk the rest of the way.”
“That’s ridiculous. Besides, didn’t we already say that the police would recognize this car in a heartbeat? They’ll be on the lookout for it when you don’t bring it home.” His face turned grim.
“Do you have a better plan?”