Seconds Away Page 11

“It seems apparent,” Shaved Head said, “that you’ve become very fond of Rachel Caldwell.”


“So how fond?”

“What are you talking about?”

“Has she given you anything?”

I made a face. “Like what?”

“A gift. A package. Anything.”

“No. Why would she do that?”

Shaved Head said nothing.

“What’s going on here?” I asked. “Why was Rachel shot?”

“I don’t know.”

“I don’t believe you,” I said.

“Believe what you will. These are the risks we all take.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You take risks. She warned you about that.” She. He meant the Bat Lady. “But you can walk at any time.”

“I don’t understand. Why were we chosen to join you?”

He shrugged and looked out the window past me. “Why are any of us chosen?”

“That’s deep, really, but you’re avoiding the question. Spoon, Ema, Rachel, me—why us?”

“Why you?” He continued to look out the window. His jaw clenched and for a moment, he looked totally lost. Then he added something that surprised me: “Why me?”

The bell rang. He opened the door.

“Hurry back to class,” he said. “You don’t want to be late. And, Mickey?”


“Whatever you do, don’t talk to your uncle about us.”

Chapter 10

Giggles from random classmates accompanied Spoon as he approached my locker at the end of the school day.

I just stared at him for a moment. Then I said, “What are you wearing?”

Spoon frowned. “What does it look like?”

“It looks like surgical scrubs.”

“Exactly,” Spoon said. He smiled widely. “It’s the perfect disguise to get us into the hospital. I can pretend to be a doctor, see?”

I’m tall—six-four—and I weigh about two hundred pounds. Spoon was small in pretty much every way. He was the kind of thin that looked too fragile, like a strong wind might snap a bone. His glasses were never quite on straight and looked too big for his face.

I can easily pass for older than sixteen. Spoon could still buy movie tickets as a “child under twelve” without making the cashier bat an eye.

“So are we going to see Rachel?” Spoon asked.

“Yes,” I said.

He grinned. “You can call me Dr. Spoon. You know, to keep us in character.” He glanced left and then right. “Where’s Ema?”

I’d been wondering the same thing. I scanned the corridor in search of her. Nope. I had sent her a text to meet up here so we could all take the bus together, but she hadn’t replied.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“So it’s just you and me?”

“I guess. Wait, I thought you were grounded.”

“Yes, but today I have a meeting of the MILF club.”

I stopped. “Uh, excuse me?”

“Musicals I Love Foundation. I don’t like to brag, but I’m founder and president of the club.”

Oh boy. “You might want to change the name.”


“Forget it.”

He rubbed his chin. “I guess I can raise it at the next meeting.”

“How many other members are there?” I asked.

Spoon looked confused. “There’s supposed to be other members?”

I closed my locker.

“You want to join?” Spoon asked. “You can run for vice president. I love musicals, don’t you? Next week, Dad’s taking the whole club to see the new Frank Wildhorn musical. Do you know who he is? Jekyll and Hyde? The Scarlet Pimpernel? I love the song ‘This Is the Moment,’ don’t you?”

He actually started singing it.

“Yeah,” I said, so he’d stop. “I love it.”

I quickly sent Ema another text—PLEASE COME WITH US.

No response.

I took another look down the corridor and sighed. “I guess it’s just you and me.”

“Shrek and Donkey!” Spoon shouted.

“Uh, yeah.”

“Better yet”—Spoon snapped his fingers—“Don Quixote and Sancho Panza! Do you know who they are? Forget the book, I’m talking about the musical. Man of La Mancha? You’re the brave Don Quixote and I’m his squire sidekick, Sancho. By the way, the play won the Tony for Best Musical in 1966, but you probably knew that, right?”

I didn’t know about the Tony Award in 1966—who did?—but weirdly enough, I did know the musical and the story. For once, a Spoon analogy made perfect sense: Don Quixote had been delusional and, well, insane.

I took one more look down the hall for Ema. Nothing.

“Come on,” I said.

Dr. Spoon and I walked toward the bus stop at Northfield Avenue. When we made the turn, I almost cried out in relief. There, waiting at the stop with an impatient frown, was Ema.

I ran up to her and gave her a hug. “Ema!” She seemed surprised by the hug. Then again, so was I.

“You came!” I said.

“Of course I came. If you two do this yourself, you’ll just mess it up.”

Spoon came over and became the third guy in the hug. When we all let go, Ema looked at Spoon’s outfit, then looked at me. I just shrugged.

Spoon spread his arms. “You like it? Sexy, right? Like that TV character.”

“Dr. McNightmare,” Ema said.

While we rode the bus, I filled Ema and Spoon in on my meeting with Shaved Head in the black car. They listened in silence. When we got to Saint Barnabas Medical Center, we tried the direct route: just walk in. That, not surprisingly, did not work. There was a front desk that demanded both a picture ID and a reason for being there, several security guards, and even a metal detector.

Ema frowned. “Who wants to sneak into a hospital anyway?”

“People steal medical supplies,” Spoon said. “They try to steal computers or medications or records—”

“I was asking a rhetorical question, Spoon.”


She looked at him again. “Wait, is that a stethoscope around your neck?”

“Why, yes,” Spoon said, rather pleased with himself. “Part of my disguise.”

“Where did you get . . . ?” Ema looked over at me. I just shook my head as if to say, It’s not worth it. She stopped.

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