Seconds Away Page 46

“You didn’t tell me what happened with Detective Waters.”

Ema was trying to distract me, but that was okay. “He got pretty annoyed with me.”

“Annoyed how?”

“Annoyed like he wants me to stay away from it all.”

“Annoyed like we got it right about Rachel’s father?” Ema asked.



“Remember I told you about those two hoodlums talking to Mr. Caldwell right after I left?”

“What about them?”

“Detective Waters had a picture of the guy with the scar. He said he was dangerous.”

“So they have to be drug dealers.”

“Or at least bad guys.”

“And you saw Rachel’s dad being all friendly with them.”

“Yes,” I said.

“So then we still believe that Rachel found something incriminating about her dad—some kind of package that backed what her mom had said about him?”

“Yes,” I said, back on the floor, moving debris. I tried to make sense of it. What had Rachel done with the package? Had her father gone ballistic when he found it missing?

Had Scarface?

Ema stopped digging. “Mickey?”

I shook away the thoughts and looked toward her voice. The debris was gone now. I could see steps leading down into the basement. I bent low, took out my flashlight, shined it down into the hole.

Nothing much to see.

“I’m going down,” I said, “alone.”

“It’s cute when you get all macho bossy on me,” Ema said, “but no. I’m going too.”

“The floor up here may be weak. It could collapse.”

Ema looked as though someone—me, I guess—had punched her in the stomach. “You think I’m going to break the floor?”

“What? No. Listen, I need you to be my lookout.”

She wasn’t appeased. “Excuse me?”

“Someone might come. Be my lookout.” I grabbed her shoulders and made her look up at me. “Please. Just this once. For me?”

“Just this once what?”

“Don’t be a pain in the butt. I don’t want you to get hurt. That’s all.”

The tears in her eyes broke my heart, but she nodded through them. “All right, go. I’ll be your”—she wiped her eyes and wiggled her fingers at me—“lookout.”

I didn’t wait for her to change her mind. I quickly started down the steps into the black hole. Now that I was pretty much out of view, I turned on the flashlight. I descended slowly.

“What do you see?” Ema called down in a whisper.

“Give me a second.”

The basement was, as you might expect, dingy and dusty and, well, old. There were rusted pipes and broken glass and old cardboard boxes filled with who knew what. There were spiderwebs in the corner and mud on the floor. The mud could have been wet soot from the fire, but I suspected the origin was somewhat older. Okay, the garage would be behind me and to the left, ergo, that was probably where the door to that tunnel would be.

Found it.


“I found the door to the tunnel.”

“Wait for me.”

“No. Hold up.”

The door was made of some kind of reinforced steel. I remembered that from my previous visit with Shaved Head. There were other doors and corridors too, but he wouldn’t let me go down them. I grabbed the door handle. Locked. I grabbed it again and shook.

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“It’s locked,” I said.

“So now what?” Ema asked. “Oh, enough. I’m coming down too.”

Ema started down the stairs. I swung my flashlight in her direction—and that was when I saw it. I stopped, retraced the beam back to the spot on the floor, and stared. Ema came up behind me.

“What is it?”

I said nothing.

“Wait,” Ema said. “Is that a picture of Ashley?”

I nodded. Ashley. The girl we—Rachel, Spoon, Ema, and I—had risked our lives to rescue.

“That’s the portrait you saw upstairs?” Ema asked.

I nodded numbly.

“So somehow her picture survived the fire.”

“No,” I said.

“What do you mean, no? You said you saw it upstairs with, like, thousands of others, right?”


“So now it’s down here—somehow it survived the fire,” Ema said.


“Why do you keep saying that?”

“There were thousands of pictures up there. Yet only one managed to float down to the basement, make it all the way through the debris, and end up on the floor right in front of the door to the tunnel?”

Now Ema looked skeptical.

“Forget the odds of any photograph making that voyage,” I said. “What are the odds that the one that does happens to be the girl we rescued?”

Ema swallowed and said, “You have a better explanation?”

“Sure,” I said.


I felt a chill even as I thought it. “Someone left it for us.”

“Why would someone do that?”

I picked up the photograph of Ashley. I turned it over. On the back, there was a butterfly with two animal eyes on the wings. The Abeona butterfly. It looked like the other butterflies I had seen—and yet the coloring was just slightly different.

The eyes were purple. Like the one on Rachel’s hospital door.

It hit me like a surprise wave on the beach. “Oh my God,” I said.


“I think I know where Rachel hid the package.”

Chapter 37

Here was how Spoon answered the phone: “Spoon Central.”

“What are you up to?” I asked.

“Dad and I are watching the season-three Glee season finale. For the fourth time. Have you seen it?”


“It’s very moving.”

“I’m sure.”

“Don’t worry. I have it on DVD. You can borrow it. Did you know that Lea Michele was the original Wendla in Spring Awakening?”

“Yeah, that’s great. Listen, Spoon, can you get out?”

“Get out? You mean, like, out of this house?”


“And do you mean, like, now?”

I sighed. Ema stood next to me. We were back on the street, heading toward Kasselton High. “Yes, I mean now.”

“I’m still grounded, remember? Why, what’s up?”

“I need to get into Ashley’s locker,” I said.

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