It's Thursday, and I haven't followed anybody all week. That's a long time for me. But with the school day over, the urge is strong as everyone leaves and heads home. I'm keeping my antennae up, just in case somebody catches my attention.
But I promised Charlie I wouldn't. Told her I'd go the whole week without doing it. Nobody stands out, anyway. I'll go home; my uncle won't be back from work for a few hours. I could get started on homework. I have a report due in a week that I keep putting off.
The gym door opens, and out storms Greg Matthes looking pissed. Really pissed. Which is news in and of itself. Look up perfect in the dictionary, and you'll find Greg's face grinning back at you. Seventeen, a senior, and a year ahead of me, popular, multiple-sport athlete Greg Matthes has a smile for everybody; it doesn't matter if you're a friend, teammate, acquaintance, or someone he just passes in the hall.
The reason Greg is angry could be big. Really big. If I'm going to be a detective or private investigator someday, I need to keep my skills sharp. I need to keep practicing. I shouldn't let this opportunity slip by.
Greg doesn't see me as he hoists his backpack—adorned in the school colors of orange and black, and covered with patches announcing every school sport he plays and every year he's played them—onto his back and strides purposefully away from the school. Shouldn't he have baseball practice now? An unzipped tan jacket covers the shirt baseball players usually wear for practice. Maybe he got thrown off the team. That would be big! My notebook is in my backpack, and I pull it out just in case I need to take notes.
In my head, Charlie's voice scolds me—You promised, Alden—and I hesitate. Another voice assures me—She'll understand. After allowing him a little distance, I start to tail him. I need to keep the right distance: not too close that he can sense me behind him, but not so far I could lose him. Fortunately, he never looks back. We go on that way for a while, and I have to work to keep up with him. But I'm skinny and wiry, and I walk a lot, so it's not a problem.
All of a sudden, he stops to pull out his phone. It must have rung, and I just didn't hear it. If I was closer, I'd need to slow down and walk nonchalantly past him so as not to look suspicious. Then I could pick him up again later. But I'm far enough back that I'm not going to pass him. Instead, I open my notebook to make it look like I'm studying it and turn down a side street Greg has already passed. I keep going until I reach trees, my head and my eyes up.
He's half turned toward me, but isn't looking my way. He listens, then barks a few words into his cell I'm too far away to make out. He listens again, barks again, then angrily stuffs his cell back into his pocket. I pull back, but he turns away. Could the call have something to do with why he's angry? Maybe the call came from his girlfriend. She would normally be watching Greg at practice. I guess not this time. A rift between Greg Matthes and Amy Sloan would be bigger than Greg getting kicked off the baseball team.
If Greg's photo is next to perfect, Amy Sloan's would accompany sweet or innocent. Also a year ahead of me, she's one of the prettiest girls in school. I've found myself staring at her more than once. And while she's not a Jesus freak who goes out of her way to convert everyone she talks to, she makes it pretty clear the silver cross she wears around her neck is more than just jewelry. If Greg hopes for anything more than a kiss from her, he's going to have to wait until after marriage, I'm sure....