The Lucky Winner

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Chapter 27

“Sophia!”

Zoe and I whisper-shouted as we stood in her backyard, looking up at her room on the second floor. Since it was very quiet, we wanted to be discreet in case she was asleep. Considering how she wasn’t answering our texts and calls, Zoe and I had to proceed cautiously. We wanted to see if we could spot her through the window before we started knocking on the front door.

There was no answer.

I noticed a ladder outside her window. For some weird reason, it reminded me of the ladder in Mom’s favorite old TV show, Dawson’s Creek. I’d never noticed it before because we rarely came around to the back of her house.

We texted her; Sweetie, talk to us! We’re in your backyard, looking up at your window.

A few minutes later, Sophia came to the window.

Come in, she texted.

Zoe and I went around to the front door where her mom greeted us. Her mom wasn’t usually home around this time, but her eyes told us she’d been staying there since the horrible news. She’d most likely found out about it at the police station the previous night.

We went upstairs and Sophia opened her bedroom door.

We group-hugged her. Longer than usual.

“We were so worried about you,” Zoe said as she breathed a sigh of relief.

“I know. I’m sorry…”

“Don’t be silly. Don’t apologize to us.” Zoe and I linked arms with hers.

We sat down on the bed and waited for Sophia to start talking.

“I was too upset to tell you guys about it…” she sighed with her eyes on the floor.

“I totally understand,” I held her hand, unsure of what to say or do.

I wasn’t even remotely close to understanding how she must have been feeling. Being raped by your ex? How psychotic was that?

“You can tell us when you want to talk. Or don’t tell us at all if you don’t want to.” I squeezed her hand, trying to convey my total support.

Sophia gazed up at me. Then she opened her mouth as if she intended to say something, but nothing came out. I could tell from her gaze that whatever she wanted to say, she really wanted to tell me but there was a reason why she couldn’t.

“He did deserve to die. I can’t believe he did that to you,” said Zoe as she took Sophia’s other hand.

“His dad thinks I had something to do with his murder,” Sophia mumbled with her eyes still fastened to the floor.

“What? You’re a suspect?” Her anger rising, Zoe got up from the bed. “Is he on freaking crack?”

“He seemed pretty determined to arrest me,” Sophia sighed quietly. “I don’t think he’ll give up.”

“But he’s not going to find anything on you. Because you didn’t kill him,” said Zoe as she paced around the room.

I reacted to the word, kill. It looked like Sophia did, too. Well, who wouldn’t have? Someone we knew got killed. And it wasn’t any prank.

“Or did Kyle?” said Zoe as she snapped a mischievous look at me.

That was the thing about Zoe. She could be steaming with anger, and the next moment cracking a joke.

“Nobody we know did!”

Both Zoe and I jumped out of our skin, appalled at Sophia’s sudden shout. It was apparently just a joke to my remark from the other day, but perhaps she was extra sensitive about that whole Jerry deal. She’d been taken down for questioning at the police station. And not to mention, she was raped by someone who was murdered shortly afterwards. Perhaps joking about any of it might have been a bit too much for her.

I supposed it was also nice that nobody seemed to suspect Kyle in the murder. No matter how suspicious he seemed to me, who really wanted their brother serving time in prison?

But speaking of Kyle… Unfortunately, things were getting too conspicuous. I couldn’t decid what to do or think about what I’d found last night. His mysterious disappearance and finding his handwritten note of my parents’ bank account login info. I didn’t know when he got back, but I saw him in the morning. I didn’t say anything. Yet. I hadn’t decided on my next move. Also, I needed to gather more pieces of evidence before telling anyone. You didn’t want to show your hand without a well-thought strategy in advance.

I wished I could ask Sophia and Zoe for their opinions.

In any event, I forced that thought aside for the moment. What I needed to do at that moment was purely comfort my best friend who was hurt.

“How about Zoe and I make you some punch?” I raised my eyebrows. A little too predictable, but there was no doubt it always put us in better moods—something we truly could have used at that moment. It seemed like a better choice than hearing Sophia go through the pain of describing how Jerry raped her.

“Good idea,” the corners of Sophia’s mouth lifted slightly.

I knew that would work!

I got up and caught a glimpse of something on her dresser. It was a watch. It didn’t look like her taste because it sure looked like a man’s.

What if it belonged to Jerry…?

Oh, my God.

I shook my head to banish such a pea-brained thought. It could have been her dad’s watch. This was what happened after watching too many crime shows. How could I doubt my best friend? Someone that I’d known my entire life? How could I suspect her of cold-blooded murder? Besides, she was a victim and victims weren’t criminals.

Well, okay, at times, victims did become criminals upon seeking revenge. But there was no way whatsoever Sophia would have been capable of shooting someone to death. She didn’t even know how to load a gun. And there was nothing suspicious about her. Unlike Kyle. Well, except for her oddly pleasant mood following Jerry’s death.

Until now.

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