Carmel stands up to get a better view. “Is that—?”
“It’s her,” Thomas blurts excitedly. “There aren’t that many other articles. The police were dumbfounded. They hardly even questioned anybody.” He’s got a different newspaper in his hands; he’s riffling through it. “The last one is just her obituary: Anna Korlov, beloved daughter of Malvina, was laid to rest Thursday in Kivikoski Cemetery.”
“I thought you were researching a paper, Thomas,” Carmel comments, and Thomas starts to sputter and explain. I don’t care a lick about what they’re saying. I’m staring at her picture, a picture of a living girl, with pale skin and long, dark hair. She’s not quite daring to smile, but her eyes are bright, and curious, and excited.
“It’s a shame,” Carmel sighs. “She was so pretty.” She reaches down to touch Anna’s face, and I brush her fingers away. Something’s happening to me, and I don’t know what it is. This girl I’m looking at is a monster, a murderer. This girl for some reason spared my life. I carefully trace along her hair, which is held up with a ribbon. There’s a warm feeling in my chest but my head is ice-cold. I think I might pass out.
“Hey, man,” Thomas says, and shakes my shoulder a little. “What’s wrong?”
“Uh,” I sort of gurgle, not knowing what to say to him, or myself. I look away to buy time, and see something that makes my jaw clench. There are two police officers standing at the library desk.
Saying anything to Carmel and Thomas would be stupid. They’d instinctively look over their shoulders and that would be suspicious as hell. So I just wait, discreetly tearing Anna’s obituary out of the brittle newspaper. I ignore Carmel’s furious hiss of “You can’t do that!” and put it into my pocket. Then I discreetly cover the newspaper up with books and schoolbags and point down to a picture of a cuttlefish.
“Any idea where that fits in?” I ask. They’re both looking at me like I’ve come unglued. Which is fine because the librarian has turned and pointed at us. The cops are starting to make their way back to our table, just like I knew they would.
“What are you talking about?” Carmel asks.
“I’m talking about the cuttlefish,” I say mildly. “And I’m telling you to look surprised, but not too surprised.”
Before she can ask, the tramping noise of two men laden down with cuffs, flashlights, and sidearms is loud enough to warrant turning around. I can’t see her face, but I hope she doesn’t look as mortifyingly guilty as Thomas does. I lean into him and he swallows and pulls himself together.
“Hi, kids,” the first cop says with a smile. He’s a stout, friendly looking guy who’s about three inches shorter than me and Carmel. He handles this by staring Thomas directly in the eyes. “Doing some studying?”
“Y-yeah,” Thomas stutters. “Is there something wrong, Officer?”
The other cop is poking around our table, looking at our open textbooks. He’s taller than his partner, and leaner, with a hawk’s nose full of pores and a small chin. He’s bug ugly, but I hope not mean.
“I’m Officer Roebuck,” the friendly one says. “This is Officer Davis. Mind if we ask you kids some questions?”
A group shrug passes amongst us.
“You all know a boy by the name of Mike Andover?”
“Yes,” Carmel says.
“Yes,” Thomas agrees.
“A little,” I say. “I just met him a few days ago.” Damn this is unpleasant. Sweat is breaking out on my forehead and I can’t do anything about it. I’ve never had to do this before. I’ve never gotten anyone killed.
“Did you know that he’s disappeared?” Roebuck watches us each carefully. Thomas just nods; so do I.
“Have you found him yet?” Carmel asks. “Is he all right?”
“No, we haven’t found him. But according to eyewitnesses, you two were among the last people seen with him. Care to tell us what happened?”
“Mike didn’t want to stay at the party,” Carmel says easily. “We left to go hang somewhere else, we didn’t exactly know where. Will Rosenberg was driving. We were out on back roads off of Dawson. Pretty soon Will pulled over and Mike got out.”
“He just got out?”
“He was upset about me hanging with Carmel,” I interrupt. “Will and Chase were trying to make nice, calm him down, but he wouldn’t go for it. He said he was going to walk home. That he wanted to be by himself.”