Made you up, p.14

Made You Up, page 14

 

Made You Up
 


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  I had never imagined big, bulky Art being scared of anything. I didn’t know what I’d expected, but it wasn’t this. So Miles wasn’t rich. I’d still expected something a little nicer.

  “What does his dad do?”

  Art shrugged. “I think he’s some kind of security guard downtown. There’s only the two of them, so I don’t think they’re hard up for cash. But no one takes care of the place.”

  Movement on the second floor distracted me. The window on the far left slid open. A dark figure crept through the narrow opening like a cat and reached back in for a coat and a pair of shoes. He put the coat on but carried the shoes, then hurried to the side of the porch roof, lowered himself down the drainpipe like a ghost, and dropped silently on the balls of his feet, right on top of the doghouse.

  Ohio gave a snort, but he didn’t wake up.

  The figure climbed off the doghouse, padded across the yard, hopped the fence, and ran around to the back of the van. I forced myself to start breathing again.

  Miles climbed in through the back, shaking slush out of his hair and socks. He shoved his feet into his shoes. Art pulled away from the house.

  “Damn dog.” Miles flopped over, resting his head back. It was still weird seeing him this way. Jeans and an old baseball shirt under his bomber jacket. Boots that looked like chew toys. He raked his hair back, cracked an eye open, and caught me staring.

  “I live in Shitsville, I know.” He looked at Art. “Did you get the stuff?”

  “Behind me.”

  Miles grabbed the black duffel bag stashed behind the driver’s seat and dumped the contents on the floor, where they rolled around.

  A container of IcyHot, a bag of little black specks, five or six heavy-duty bungee cords, a screwdriver, a socket wrench, and a small sledgehammer.

  “What’d you bring this for?” Miles asked, picking up the sledgehammer.

  Art shrugged. “Thought it’d be fun. In case we need to smash anything.”

  I snorted. Art’s hands were like two sledgehammers on their own.

  “Don’t smash anything too expensive. I told Alex we weren’t committing any felonies.”

  “Uh, Boss? What do you call breaking and entering?”

  “A felony,” said Miles. “But it’s not breaking and entering if you’ve got a key.” He pulled a single key out of his pocket and held it up.

  “Where the hell’d you get a key?”

  “I’ve got someone on the inside. Turn here. He’s the third house on the left.”

  We were back in Downing Heights, winding our way up the road toward the super-fancy houses. We stopped in front of one that looked like it could have been Bill Gates’s second home. The front walk led up to a three-door garage and a huge porch with a stained-glass double door.

  Miles shoved everything but the screwdriver, wrench, and sledgehammer into the duffel bag. “Art, you’ve got the car. Alex, you’re coming with me.” He checked his watch. “Hopefully no one wakes up. Let’s go.”

  We got out of the van and jogged toward the house. Miles stopped beside the front door, flipped open the security keypad, and typed in a code. He turned to the door and unlocked it with the key. The doors swung open.

  We stepped inside an entryway. Miles closed the door behind us and checked the other keypad inside the door, then motioned to another nearby door that must’ve led to the garage. Art headed through it with the screwdriver, wrench, and sledgehammer clutched in one hand.

  This house belonged in Hollywood, not central Indiana. A huge staircase occupied the middle of the foyer (a foyer, they had a freaking foyer), splitting off in two directions upstairs. To the right of the foyer was a living room where the light from a TV flickered across the far wall. I hit Miles on the arm, pointing at the light. He shook his head and watched the doorway, and a second later a black-haired girl in paisley pajamas stepped into the foyer. She rubbed her eyes with one hand, staring straight at us.

  “Hey, Angela,” said Miles, calm as could be. The girl yawned and waved.

  “Hi, Miles. He’s fast asleep. I crushed those pills up in his dinner like you said.”

  “Awesome, thanks.” Miles pulled out his wallet and handed Angela a twenty-dollar bill.

  “Good work. He’s still in the same room, right?”

  “Fourth on the right,” said Angela. “Mom and Dad are on the left, so you shouldn’t have to worry about them.”

  “Thanks. Let’s go.”

  The two of us set off up the stairs. At the top, we turned to the right and crept down a long hallway. It was all so disturbingly normal—besides the sheer amount of money that must have gone into it—that for a moment I thought the whole place might be a hallucination.

  Miles stopped at the fourth door on the left, touched the handle hesitantly a few times as if he thought it’d be scalding hot, and then pushed the door open.

  Whoever owned the room was incredibly disorganized. Clothes lay all over the floor. Papers and diagrams and maps of different places littered a desk against one wall. Models of cars and superheroes and mechanical animals covered the top of the dresser. Science posters were taped to every wall, including one of the periodic table that glowed in the dark.

  The sleeper rolled over.

  “Here.” Miles unzipped the backpack and pulled out the container of IcyHot. “Go to the dresser. Should be one of the top drawers—smear this in the crotch of every pair of underwear you find.”

  “I—what?” I took the container. “That’s disgusting.”

  “I’m paying you fifty dollars for this,” Miles hissed, turning toward the bed.

  I went to the dresser and yanked open the top drawer on the left. Empty. Crisp white underwear and boxers filled the one on the right.

  Well . . . at least they were clean.

  I picked up the first pair of underwear and uncapped the IcyHot. As I worked, I watched Miles out of the corner of my eye as he yanked the bedcovers back and harnessed the sleeper to the bed with the bungee cords, from his shoulders to his ankles. Then Miles upended the bag of black specks—fleas?—over the sleeper’s head.

  “Okay, I’m done,” I whispered. I slid the drawer shut again.

  “Now pick up every pair of underwear you can find on the floor and shove them under the dresser.” Miles began setting the alarm clock on the bedside table.

  With my index finger and thumb, I played a sort of crane game and picked up pairs of underwear, touching them as little as possible. I made a pile next to the dresser and shoved it under with my foot.

  “The sleeping pills should wear off before the alarm goes,” said Miles. I handed him back the IcyHot. “All we have to do is get out of here.”

  I crept over to the bed to get a better look at our poor, unsuspecting victim.

  I froze.

  “Oh my God, Miles.”

  “What?”

  “It’s Tucker!”

  He looked so innocent in his Einstein T-shirt and pajama pants covered in atoms—and I’d put IcyHot in his underwear—

  “Calm down!” Miles grabbed my wrist and pulled me out of the room. We hurried down the stairs and back into the foyer, where Angela waved to us from the living room. Then we were out on the porch. Miles locked the door and reset the security system, and we ran to the van. Art waited in the front.

  “You dick!” I said once the doors were closed and Art stepped on the gas. I punched Miles’s arm with all the anger welling up in me. “You didn’t tell me it was Tucker!”

  “Would you have done it if I had?” Miles asked.

  “Of course not!”

  “Yeah, but you’re fine doing it if it’s anyone else.” Miles shoved his glasses up to rub his eyes. “Bit hypocritical, if you ask me.”

  “I didn’t ask you.” I crossed my arms and glared out the window. Awful guilt roiled in my stomach. “You should have told me.”

  “Why? Because you feel bad for him? Because he follows you around like a dog? He’s never going to know you helped. He’s going
to be flustered and uncomfortable, and you’ll be fifty dollars richer.”

  Another flood of anger shot through my limbs. “It doesn’t matter—it’s the principle of the thing!”

  “No it’s not, not when you suddenly decide it’s bad because it’s Beaumont!”

  We glared at each other for a minute, until Art coughed. My arms tightened.

  “You’re an asshole,” I said, looking away.

  “Takes one to know one,” Miles muttered back.

  UNCORRECTED E-PROOF—NOT FOR SALE

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  ..................................................................

  Chapter Twenty-six

  The next morning, Miles actually showed up at my house. But I let seven o’clock come and go and asked Dad to drive me to school. He’d noticed something was wrong when I’d done a nosedive into my cereal without even checking it for trackers first. When he asked, I said that I hadn’t been able to sleep.

  Still, as soon as we hit the school parking lot, I was wide-awake.

  He dropped me off at the main entrance. I did a perimeter check, took note of the men—real or not real?—standing on the roof, and shouldered my backpack. I got the overwhelming feeling that people were staring at my hair. When I looked around, no one was even paying attention to me.

  Miles was at the lockers, standing in front of his open door, stuffing books in. When I opened my locker, a crisp fifty-dollar bill fluttered to my feet. I scooped it up and shoved it at Miles.

  “I don’t want it.”

  He quirked an eyebrow. “Well, that’s too bad, because it’s yours.”

  “I’m not taking it.” I threw the bill on top of his books.

  “It’s fifty dollars. Surely you could use that for something.”

  “Oh, I bet I could. Thing is, I won’t.”

  “Why, because of a misplaced sense of morality?” Miles spat. “Trust me, Beaumont doesn’t deserve your guilt.”

  “Who are you to decide that?” I tried very hard not to punch him in the face or kick him in the crotch. “You don’t like him because he’s a better person than you are. He doesn’t resort to stealing and sabotage just to get other people to listen to him.”

  Miles looked like he was keeping himself from saying something nasty, but he shook his head and tucked the fifty into his back pocket.

  As I walked to class, all I could think about was why I had ever wanted to kiss him. But then I heard the unearthly shrieks coming from Mr. Gunthrie’s room. A large group of students had formed outside the door. I shoved my way through and jumped to the side in case of projectiles.

  Celia was back, her fingers tangled in Stacey Burns’s ponytail, screaming at the top of her lungs. Her hair, once blond, was now grass green. Britney Carver stood on Stacey’s other side, trying to pry Celia’s fingers away. Celia swung forward and planted her fist in Stacey’s face with a crunch.

  Claude Gunthrie tossed a few freshmen out of the doorway and sprinted into the room, grabbing Celia around the waist and lifting her off her feet.

  “GET OFF ME! YOU FUCKERS DID THIS! I’M GOING TO KILL YOU!”

  “We didn’t do it!” Stacey yelled back, blood dripping from her lip. “Let me go!”

  “Someone grab her arms!” Claude grunted under Celia’s weight. “She’s gonna—AUGH—”

  Celia elbowed him in the face.

  “WHAT?” Theo shot up and lunged for the arm Celia had hit Claude with, looking prepared to rip it off.

  “WHAT’S GOING ON? BREAK IT UP, ALL OF YOU!”

  As if he had the hands of God, Mr. Gunthrie thundered into the room, took Celia’s collar in one hand and Stacey’s in the other, and lifted them off their feet. They both looked so thoroughly shocked when he put them back down, they fell quiet and let each other go.

  “CLAUDE, TAKE BURNS TO THE NURSE. HENDRICKS, YOU’RE COMING WITH ME.” Mr. Gunthrie paused a moment, sizing Celia up, and then said, “WHY DID YOU DYE YOUR HAIR GREEN?”

  Celia began screaming again and Mr. Gunthrie had to lock his arms around her to drag her out of the room. Stacey, clutching her jaw, marched out without Claude. Claude, sporting a bloody nose, followed. Theo managed to slip out of the room with him.

  I sank into a seat. Had Stacey and Britney really dyed Celia’s hair green, or was it another one of Celia’s stunts to draw attention to herself?

  The whispers got louder. Miles walked in, looking a little put off by the half-empty room and everyone in the wrong seats. He sat down without acknowledging me.

  Cliff and Ria were back at Ria’s desk, snickering and glancing at the door every few seconds. Then Ria’s face went so red and Cliff began laughing so hard that I turned and looked, too.

  Tucker hobbled into the room, bowlegged. Deep bags ringed his eyes and both hands scrubbed at his uncombed black hair. His tie hung loose around his collar and his shirt was untucked. He gingerly lowered himself into his seat, wincing as he settled, and began scratching himself all over.

  I slid out of my seat and hurried across the room. “Are you okay?”

  Are you okay? is probably one of the top five stupidest questions ever. Ninety-nine percent of the time, it’s easier to use a tiny bit of common sense. However, in the current situation I could think of nothing better to say, because “I am so sorry for putting IcyHot in your underwear” is not the first thing you want to tell a person who does not, in fact, know that you were the one who put IcyHot in his underwear.

  Tucker folded his hands in his lap as if he’d finally realized he looked like a rabid monkey. “No,” he said. “I woke up this morning and felt like I was on an acid trip. I’m itching all over and I don’t know why.” He leaned closer, shifting around uncomfortably in his seat. “And it feels like someone set my underwear on fire.”

  I pressed my fist to my forehead, my stomach twisting itself into knots.

  “I know what happened,” he began. I stared at him in horror, but he kept going. “Not the specifics, but I know what happened and why. And I know it was Richter. I know it was him, because he’s the only person who could get in and out of my house in the middle of the night without tripping the alarm. At least, he’s the only person who would do it for the sole purpose of screwing with me.”

  Tucker shot a glare over my shoulder at Miles. “Look at him; he’s not even subtle about it. He’s staring right at us now.”

  I didn’t look. “It can’t be that bad, right? What happened?”

  He shook his head. “I don’t know. My alarm went off an hour late, and everything’s been going wrong since. I got halfway to school and my car broke down.” Tucker paused for a moment to absentmindedly scratch his chest. “There was more than one person helping him, I think—Richter never did understand cars—probably someone in that club . . .”

  Tucker stopped again.

  “You didn’t . . . you didn’t help him, did you?”

  Maybe it took me a second too long to answer. Maybe I looked in the wrong direction, or pulled a little too hard on my hair. But understanding washed over Tucker’s face before I could start blurting out denials. He turned his whole body away from me.

  Why had I hesitated? Why hadn’t I done what I’d planned to do and told him everything?

  UNCORRECTED E-PROOF—NOT FOR SALE

  HarperCollins Publishers

  ..................................................................

  Chapter Twenty-seven

  By lunch, the story of what happened in Mr. Gunthrie’s class had spread to the entire school. Claude’s nose was swollen and bruised, and he winced every time he tried to talk. Stacey hadn’t returned from the nurse, but Britney walked around complaining about Celia’s bitchiness to anyone who would listen. I was ninety 90 percent sure Celia herself had gotten suspended. Again.

  I didn’t see Tucker for the rest of the day, and it made me hate myself. I mean, forget that there wouldn’t be another library trip to look up anything about McCoy, or any more conspiring at Finnega
n’s. I should’ve asked Miles whose house it was. And I knew Miles had been at least a little right when he’d called me a hypocrite for saying it was wrong just because it was Tucker. It should’ve been wrong no matter who it was. But I’d done it anyway.

  By seventh period chemistry, the last thing I wanted to do was stand at a lab table for fifty minutes with Miles. I’d avoided talking to him all day, but the lab forced me to relay data about chemical reactions with certain types of metals so he could write it down. I don’t know why he didn’t just do it himself—the samples were easy enough to examine—but after every reaction he stood there looking at me, waiting for the result.

  Apparently, this made him think I’d forgiven him. After class he followed me all the way to the lockers and then to the gym, quiet, until we saw Celia being led from the main office by her father and the school security guard.

  “Celia was never like this before,” Miles said. “She liked to bother me, but she never did anything to other people. I think something strange is going on, but I don’t know what.”

  I turned and looked at the glass display case outside the gym, as if I couldn’t care less about him or Celia. “You seem to be under the impression that I’m talking to you.”

  “You were in chemistry,” said Miles.

  “So we could do our lab.”

  I heard his molars grinding together. “Fine. I’m sorry.” He said the word through gritted teeth. “Are you happy now?”

  “Sorry for what?” I looked at Scarlet’s picture again. The thing was entirely scribbled over in red now. I wished I had Finnegan’s Magic 8 Ball.

  Miles rolled his eyes. “For . . . I don’t know, for not telling you it was Beaumont?”

  “And?”

  “And for making you put IcyHot in his underwear.”

  “It was cruel.”

  “So that makes you think it was my idea? I don’t come up with this stuff; I just do it for people.”

  At the look I gave him next, his hands shot up in surrender. “Sorry, sorry, really—all right, if you’re not going to talk to me, will you at least listen?”

  “Depends on what you have to say.”

 
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