I'm taking another sip of water, and Charlie asks me again, "What did you see?"
"A body," I blurt out.
"No, I made it up!"
"Alden, this is not a game!"
"Do I sound
like I'm playing a game?" Charlie says nothing.
"It was Amy. Lying on the ground. At Greg's feet." I take a breath. "I think she was dead."
Charlie stands up from the couch. "Why do you think she was dead?"
"She wasn't moving. Or breathing."
"How can you be sure? You said it was a distance. Maybe you just couldn't tell."
"Greg was holding his backpack. It looked heavy, like it was filled with a ton of books. He must have hit her with it. Swung it like a sledgehammer. I think there was...blood...on it."
I stare at her. "There was blood."
Charlie stares back at me, then walks a couple of steps. She turns back to me. "She might have been dead," she says. "Or she could have been unconscious. Or even awake. You don't know. You didn't check her."
"How could I check her? Greg was right there."
"Did you call the police?"
"No, I...I just ran."
"Did he see you?"
"I don't think so."
"You don't think
"I'm not sure, okay? I was too busy running. I..." I look down, ashamed. "I panicked, okay? I'm sorry. Maybe he saw me. I don't know."
Charlie stares at me, thinking. When she's quiet like this, I know it's best to stay silent. Charlise Walker—everybody calls her Charlie—can be intimidating, with her buzz cut, muscular arms, and eyebrow piercings, a small stud on each one. She had to prove to her dad she could get a C in math for one grading period before he let her do it.
Charlie is stronger than 90 percent of the students at Milton High, not to mention taller. We are a pair of opposites, dark and light, strong and scrawny, though at five feet nine I still have hope I might one day catch up to her six feet. I don't know what drew us together, I just know she's always been there, both while growing up and after my parents were killed last summer.
The way she's looking at me reminds me of her father. Matt Walker is a solid guy, firm but fair. After my parents died, he and his wife took me in until my uncle came forward. Charlie's dad takes being a cop very seriously, so she's never told him about my predilection for following people. He wouldn't like it, nor would he be pleased to learn his daughter has kept it from him. But she keeps my secret, just like I'd keep hers—if she ever had any.
I look down at my hands. After another minute, Charlie crosses to the couch and puts her hand on my shoulder. "You were right to run," she says. "If Greg really hurt her or...worse, who knows what he might have done to you.
This excerpt ends on page 14 of the paperback edition.