See here for explanation of what the heck this is, and previous entry.

4

THERE’S A VIDEO

 

The morning after Anton IM’d me, twitter and facebook were blowing up with the rumor that Casey’s phone hadn’t been found, either. Would a suicidal person really chuck her own phone in a lake beforehand, or something? I was watching the latest inane speculation on my phone in my fourth-period history class, acting like this whole Casey situation entitled me to check my phone even more regularly than usual. While I was at it, I texted various friends to see if they thought I should meet this weirdo Anton.

“Hes a street-cred eliminator” said Hayley.

“hes cute and you can be his shoulder to cry on now” said Leslie.

“Whatevs is clevs” said Veronica.

I can’t be the only person in America to have looked at my friends and think: is that all there is? Okay, fine, maybe I was a shallow twit. But it’s also distinctly possible that there are non-shallow people with nothing but superficial friends. I mean, what if I ever really needed help, I thought, where would these biotches be? Or did my choice of friends say something about me? I didn’t really want to think about that.

The school’s website was now officially in mourning for Casey Campbell. It said something like “Our thoughts and prayers are now with the Campbell family.” When exactly did that become the de rigueur thing to say after someone dies? I understand if you say you’re thinking about someone, but if your thoughts are with them, that’s more like you’re communicating with them mentally. I wish my thoughts were with Miley like that.

Kirksville High is mostly four massive buildings that all look like each other, surrounding a huge courtyard. On a map, it looks like a square with another square (about half the size) in the middle. Hallways connect the buildings to each other. As I already said, the front has a nice walkway and entrance, while the back has an exit that leads out to the other parts: the gym, the cafeteria, and the football field. Only losers ate at that terrible cafeteria. I didn’t even like standing near the entrance. At noon, I stood about thirty feet away where I could see if Anton was standing at the cafeteria entrance. Of course he wasn’t. Ass.

I pulled my phone to my ear and pretended I was listening to voice mails, so I wouldn’t look like the leader of the lady losers. Just in time too, because who should stroll past me but none other than the aforementioned Jessica Chabot, her stupid boobs clearing a path amongst other kids like they were parting the Red Sea. She was wearing a tight blue-and-white striped T-shirt and a jeans skirt. Every school must have a Jessica Chabot; it can’t just be us. She looked like a blonde Katy Perry, and I don’t even think Katy Perry is all that, but the point is that Jessica was like, the almighty Queen of the school. Literally she had recently been voted Queen of the senior prom. Kamran was king.

Now, before you think I was all jealous, Jessica and Kamran weren’t dating. Supposedly. Besides, they and Scott Fassbinder were like, indisputably the leading cyber-bullies of my sister. So Jessica isn’t exactly Prudie Pureheart. Having said that, I read all the things they wrote on my sister’s facebook and blog, and as I said I didn’t see any cause for major violence.

Anyway the last thing I needed was for Jessica to be aware of my existence before I even kissed Kamran. As she passed, she kinda gave me this smug look, but then, her face is like, plastered in that position. Maybe that’s cause there’s no point in moving her face when half the school – the male half – is staring at those D-cups that she packs into her B-cup bras.

After she passed, I checked the cafeteria door again. Nada. I decided Anton was a douchebag and I would now be out of there. As I turned the other way, I almost crashed right into Anton.

“Where you headed, sailor?” he said.

“Tyler,” I corrected.

“It’s an expression.” Some short black girl who I’d never seen was standing next to him. He was wearing jeans and a flannel shirt that looked kind of…good.

“You’re not wearing one of your sandwich-board shirts.”

“I only do that in gym.” Oh. Maybe he wasn’t an unredeemable freak. On the other hand, why were we here?

I asked, “Could you have chosen a lamer place to meet? Jessica Chabot almost saw me with you.”

“So what?”

I crossed my arms. “Just give me your conspiracy theory so I can get out of here. And I dare you to, like, give me one I haven’t heard.”

“Maybe she’s right about Jessica Chabot,” the black girl said. “I mean, maybe we should go somewhere else.”

“Who is you?” I said, and immediately realized it sounded racist. Oh well.

“This is LaQuisha,” said Anton, pronouncing it LahQueesha. “She’s our hacker.”

A black girl named LaQuisha who got into…hacking? She shook my hand and said, “I’m an original. See, I can hack servers and read minds.” She smiled. Uh, okay, whatever.

Anton said, “I don’t have a conspiracy theory. I have Casey’s real blog.”

“That’s it?” I had skimmed one of her blogs already, and I hardly felt like looking at another.

LaQuisha looked like I just said I don’t care that her Mom died. Anton was over it, though. He answered, “That’s all.”

“You hauled me over to the lamest part of the school, the cafeteria, just to tell me that you have your dead girlfriend’s blog?”

“You’re mentioned in it. Several times. She makes it clear that she wants your help.” He used present-tense for Casey. My mom would be so proud.

“What was or is she accusing me of?”

“Nothing at all. She’s just asking for your help.”

This is what I didn’t want: for Casey to even be talking about me. But no reason for them to see my little twinge of fear when they could see my derision instead. “Really? You’re kidding me, right? This is what you were stalking me about?”

“LaQuisha helped me back up her real blog so that it will survive even if their hacker comes at it. Next step is to un-password-protect it so the whole school can see it.” He held up his phone, like it was ready for me to read. “But I want to give you the chance to read it first, in case you don’t like your name in certain parts, those could be slightly changed.”

My Mom would love to road-trip to Area 51 with these two. Me, not so much. “I’m hungry. I’m going. You guys have a nice day.”

As I walked away, LaQuisha said, “But her blog also has…”

I said over my shoulder, “I don’t care about her stupid blog, and neither will anyone else.”

It turned out I might have over-stated. Before lunch was even over, I started getting texts asking me if I’d looked at Casey’s real blog yet. Then the hashtag #caseycampbellsrealblog began on twitter. I decided to ignore my phone for once and focus on my afternoon classes. I was tempted to cut gym cause I didn’t want to even look at Anton. But then the terrorists would have won, cause I would have missed my hard-earned daily eyeful of Kamran.

Right off the bat, Ms. Rodriguez called us all onto the bleachers for the second day in a row. I thought, good, maybe she’s going to make Anton apologize for his previous day’s behavior. Today his shirt said “MURDER MOST FOUL.”

Ms. Rodriguez began, “All right, settle down. I’m sure you’ve all had a chance to read Casey Campbell’s real blog by now.” What the frak? How quick do these things go viral? “I imagine this brings up a lot of emotions, and I want you to be able to use this as a safe space for communication.” Oh my google. How much longer were our teachers gonna sound like Dr. Phil on valium?

The goth girl, once again resplendent in all the colors of a black-and-white movie, said, “Well Anton, I think we owe you an apology. It looks like Casey really was murdered.”

Murmurs of dissent rippled through the crowd. Someone said, “We don’t know that.”

A jock next to Kamran, a black dude named DeShawn, said, “How do we know this new blog ain’t fake?”

Everyone looked at Anton. He said, “How did you know the other one was real?”

DeShawn answered, “Yeah, exactly. How do we know what to believe?”

Anton said, “Why don’t you ask your friend right there, Kamran?”

After a tense couple of seconds, DeShawn said, “We know that Casey was practically crazy…” A few kids blurted disapproval noises. “…for attention. I mean, who else chooses to splat themselves in front of the school?”

Some kid said, “You don’t know she chose that,” and various kids made noises of agreement and disagreement.

Kamran looked at me with those eyes that could melt butter. He said, “What do you think, Riley?”

My heart was moving like one of those machines that crush cars. I tried to look unconcerned as I said, “What do you mean?”

“I mean,” he said, “Casey seemed to think that you had a lot of the answers. Care to share?”

What answers? I had no idea what he meant.

The goth girl said, “Come on, Riley. Where’s the evidence?”

She was only a few feet away from me. I said quietly and tersely, “Evidence of what?”

“Of your sister’s murder!”

I reflexively slapped her across the face so hard I almost knocked the black off of her lips. The whole class went oooooooo as Ms. Rodriguez said, “Riley!”

I stood up and started walking to the door. “Excuse me, Ms. R, I’m not feeling well.”

“You are not excused, Riley,” said Ms. Rodriguez.

I stopped. “I didn’t ask for this!” I said a little louder than I meant to.

“You apologize to Sarah,” Ms. Rodriguez said. Elvira Mistress of the Dark was named Sarah?

“I don’t want an apology,” the Corpse Bride said and looked at me. “I just want a reply. Casey’s only asking for your help. You’re going to ignore her last wishes?”

I said, “Shut up. Like DeShawn said, we don’t know what she wrote and what she didn’t.”

Sarah said, “You think somebody faked her video?”

WHAT. “There’s a video?” I didn’t mean to say out loud. The whole class looked and sounded like they couldn’t believe me, dammit. Anton held his phone out all casual, like a prince offering candy or something.

I tried to give Anton my most withering look. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“We tried, but you ran off.” I snatched the phone out of his open hand. The clip was ready for me to just press play, but I didn’t exactly want to do that in front of thirty kids staring at me.

I looked at Ms. Rodriguez. “Can I go into the bathroom and watch this?”

Ms. Rodriguez said, “Yes, and I’ll go with you.” She cleared her throat. “Everyone, free play on the equipment until I return.”

Ms. Rodriguez and I went into the girls’ locker room. Was there any way I could drop Anton’s phone in the nearest toilet and make it look like an accident?

My phone made the robin-chirp noise again. As I told you already, I’m not allowed to ignore texts from Mom. I pulled out my phone and it said “saw video on casey’s real blog. will b there to pick u up in 30.” Great, she couldn’t have texted me five minutes before and spared me the embarrassment in front of Kamran and my entire gym class?

Ms. Rodriguez said, “Are you ready?” I put Anton’s phone where we both could see it and pressed play. My first thought, looking down at the time-bar, was thank God this thing is only a minute long.

Casey looked into her webcam and said, “Let’s cut to the chase. Miley Tyler was murdered two years ago. I have all the evidence but…I only just got the last piece today. But the problem is that I think her killers know about me. I hope I’m wrong but I think they know.” I don’t care how cynical you are, it’s creepy to watch the final words of someone who just died. She continued, “I have to go to the school tonight and change the yearbook before it’s too late. But they might be there, and considering what they did to Miley…well…if I don’t make it, and you’re watching this, you have to get it to Riley Tyler. Riley, you’re going to be the only one that can put it together. Things you and Miley shared that she shared with me…that’s how you’ll have to piece together the truth. I can’t say more now, I can’t go to the police, you’ll know why eventually. God, I hope these aren’t my final words. If so, Mom, Dad, and Anton, I love you. I hope you understand that I loved Miley too and that I had to do this for her. She would have done it for me. I…wouldn’t want to live in a world where friends don’t do this for each other. Goodbye.” Her face in its final freeze-frame had these sort of knowing eyes. Creepy.

Ms. Rodriguez was staring at me. “Are you all right? How do you feel?”

“I feel…sick. This time…I mean it.” I handed her Anton’s phone and ran to the nearest toilet and puked.

 

5

NANCY DRAWN-IN

 

Mom invited Father O’Brien over for dinner. Now, in a lot of stories like mine, my “character” gets the gay best friend to be her Jiminy Cricket or whatever. Which would be frakkin’ awesome, if I knew any gay kids. If Kirksville High had any Kurt Hummels like on Glee, I would jump on that like a YMCA trampoline. Stupid school, everyone is too scared to come out. Miley would have said that’s because the cyber-bullies create a “climate of fear.” But then, she also believed in manmade climate change.

Instead of a gay teen friend, I have Father O’Brien, who looks kinda like that dorky redhead reverend that tried to help Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino. Father O’Brien is our local priest, and he’s out of the closet. I know, crazy, right? I don’t know if the Pope has cut him off from his Holy twitter feed or whatever. But Father O’Brien came out to gain the community’s trust. Funny story. I guess he set up an online parish in 2000 or so, and it became way popular or something. Like, half the housewives in Kirksville were posting back then; he was actually converting people to Catholicism because none of the other local churches had anything online. Then in early 2001, there were, like, all these national scandals with priests molesting kids. Things got heated, and my mom, who loves Father O’Brien, defended him online and offline. To be honest, she got so defensive that people, including my Dad, accused Mom of improper relations with him. Dad left us around that time.

To make a long story short – I know, too late – Father O’Brien came out of the closet, saying he owed his parishioners the truth about himself and his relationship with God. He said that he’d been a lifelong celibate, and never touched anyone, but that his impure thoughts about men put him in the worst category of sinners. Now, you might have thought that the whole community would have, like, run screaming. But Father O’Brien had two advantages. One: everyone (except my Dad) loved him. He had held the hand of every Kirksvillian ever in the hospital, he had overseen births, he had cut red tape with health companies…he was, like, everyone’s favorite person besides being everyone’s favorite parson. Two: he got lucky because he came out, like, in his weekly sermon two days before September 11. Who knows how many people would have showed up the next weekend, normally. But the Sunday after the towers fell, he obviously had a packed house. I was three and it’s one of my earliest memories. He gave this sermon that was like, fire-breathing, and also full of all this unexpected love. He made me believe in God; I still do to this day. Father O’Brien was incredible and he was gay. People dealt with it. So this is my point about the internet: sometimes, when you let people sort things out online, the cream rises to the top.

Father O’Brien arrived at our house promptly at 6:00 and gave me his warmest hug. “How’s my Riley-smiley?”

“Not so great.”

“Can we talk about it?”

“Do we have to?”

“Yes,” my mother said, entering, “We have to.”

We all went to the family room and plopped down. Father O’Brien rubbed his forehead. “So, where are we?” He already knew everything through today. As Mom liked to put it, there was “no daylight” between the two of them.

“The police left here about an hour ago,” Mom said. “They weren’t here long. They just wanted to know if we had any new information.”

“And we don’t?” Father O’Brien asked.

“We’ve spent the afternoon reading Casey’s real blog. I’ve asked Riley to report any red flags, but she says nothing looks particularly familiar.”

Father O’Brien said, “Any evidence of Casey being cyber-bullied?”

“Her blog has never had comments enabled, as far as we can tell,” said Mom. “There’s some hurtful language on facebook and twitter but…Anton says that most of that is fake and was put there after her murder.”

Father O’Brien touched his chin thoughtfully. “Could that suggest that Casey may have been killed by someone unconnected to Miley, but that person wanted to make it look like it was the same cyber-bullies?”

Mom said, “That’s just about the only information we had for the police.” Father O’Brien looked at me as though I was supposed to say something.

“Father, I never knew Casey. I mean, she came over to see Miley but I never hung out with her at all. I had my own friends.”

“Fair enough.”

Mom said, “Which means we have to look at things that Miley and Riley shared, things that Miley may have told Casey.”

“Which could be anything,” I said.

Father O’Brien tapped his lower lip lightly. “Did you two ever have a secret language or anything? Like Pig Latin?”

“Pig Latin’s not exactly a secret,” I answered.

Riley,” Mom said in a tone that I was getting extremely sick of.

I said, “No, we didn’t have a secret language. We had…in-jokes, maybe.”

“Like what?”

“Nothing. Everything. I don’t know. We said that the one homeless guy outside our bank looks like Gandalf. We said that the floor wax Mom uses smells like McDonald’s cookies. We changed ‘Missouri’ to ‘misery’ and vice-versa. We fought over who had better teeth.” I sighed. “Do you see the problem, Father? I mean, I don’t want to be a killjoy, but it really could be anything.”

The house phone rang, like it had been doing all frakkin’ day. I don’t answer landlines; that’s for the older generation, you know? Mom pulled the cordless out of her lap and pressed the button. “Hello?…Oh that’s great, thank you. Thank you. We’ll be right there. Thank you again.” She hung up.

“By we,” I said, “I hope you don’t mean me.”

“That’s exactly who I mean, young lady. That was the Campbells, finally calling me back. They have very generously given permission for Riley to come over and look around Casey’s room.”

“Mom, I don’t want to look in a dead girl’s…”

“I am so sick of hearing what you don’t want!” Mom suddenly freaked. “This is not about what you want or don’t want! This is about your sister, for God’s sake!”

I ran away to my room and slammed the door. I threw myself on my bed and started to cry. Frakkin-frakkin-FRAK, I said to myself, it’s not fair. It’s especially not fair that I’m crying. Whoever did these horrible things does not deserve my tears. They don’t deserve me even thinking about them! I don’t deserve this whole situation. I’m just trying to get through high school with a frakkin’ modicum of normalcy and dignity, and just because my sister had to antagonize some popular kids…

“Riley-smiley?” Father O’Brien was knocking on the door. “Can I come in?”

I opened the door and hugged him tightly in the doorway. “Father, I don’t want to go. Don’t make me go.”

“Riley, as long as I have known you Tylers, you do not get sad, and you do not get mad. What do you get?”

“Even?” I sniffled.

“That’s right. And I am going to help you, and we are gonna get even. With the Lord’s help, I am gonna get even with anyone who has hurt Miley. And when that’s done, with the Lord’s help, I am gonna get even with anyone who has hurt you. I know you’re suffering over this in ways that you think no one sees. But the Lord sees them. And I see them. And I’m not going to rest until that’s fixed.” I loved Father O’Brien. I hugged him again. “But to do that, right now, I need you to come with your mother and me to the Campbells.”

So we went to the Campbells. Mr. and Mrs. Campbell sent me upstairs to let me be in Casey’s room by myself. The problem was that I didn’t see anything that looked particularly familiar. There was one framed photo of her and Miley. Big deal. Casey took about a million photos. And she even printed copies; she had files and files of them. Thumbing through, I thought it was too much to hope that any of the people in them would be circled with a red marker that said “REAL KILLER.”

I heard a “weeeeeeeee” from downstairs. I jumped, and then realized it was just a stupid tea kettle whistling. They made tea? Frak, we wouldn’t be out of here for at least fifteen more minutes. Give my mom a quarter of an hour, she can dump more drama on you than The Complete Works Of William Shakespeare.

I heard the doorbell ring. Within a minute, Mrs. Campbell yelled, “Riley? Two of your friends are here.” Two of my friends? I opened Casey’s door thinking there’s no frakkin’ way, when who should I see coming up the stairs but Anton and LaQuisha. Oh, super. Peachy, even.

I walked back into Casey’s room; they followed and closed the door behind them.

“Find any clues, Nancy Drew?” LaQuisha asked me.

“You’re Nancy Drew,” I told her. “I’m Nancy Drawn-in against my will.”

“I’ll take that as a no,” said LaQuisha.

All of us looked like massive dorks now, just pacing around her room, looking at her dozens of mounted photos. But I didn’t want to have to make ten minutes of small talk with Casey’s parents either. I sighed and asked, “Are there more videos on her laptop?”

“Nothing helpful,” said Anton.

I said, “Why do you think she didn’t just say the stupid names of the stupid suspects on the blog or on the video?”

Anton answered, “We’ve been ‘stupid’ discussing that. One possibility is that she may not have been entirely sure. You know she was sued a year ago for defamation of character?”

I didn’t reply to him, but I knew. About six months after Miley went missing, a judge exonerated Kamran and Scott. His ruling read that though the parties had an “altercation” in the last place she was seen alive, that did not make anyone guilty of anything. This wasn’t enough for Casey, who, with my Mom’s blessing, waged a campaign on ihatebullies.com to prove Kamran and Scott’s culpability. Scott’s dad, who has beaucoup bucks, literally hired the same anti-slander lawyer that Arnold Schwarzenegger used when he ran for governor and people accused him of infidelity. The site was shut down for a month and Casey and my Mom were given, like, suspended sentences. The bottom line of this is that Casey well knew that if she was gonna make any sort of case against Scott, it had to be as airtight as a space shuttle, cause if it wasn’t, as a non-minor (she turned 18 in February), she would be facing potential years in prison.

Anton continued, “But I think the main reason was that Casey was worried that they might move the evidence.”

“Move it?”

“Look Riley, if the bad guys knew that Casey knew where your sister is…buried, they might have moved the body if they had enough notice.”

I said, “Were you dropped on your head as a baby or something? Don’t they have that notice now?”

LaQuisha answered, “That’s why we had to work carefully with Casey’s parents. That’s why Anton was clever enough to tell the right school gossips and make sure everyone knew about Casey’s real blog the moment that we un-password-protected it.” Oh yes, everyone’s so clever.

I asked, “Don’t smart criminals incinerate a body, or dump acid on it like on Breaking Bad?”

“Yeah, smart ones,” Anton smiled.

I said, “What about the police?”

LaQuisha said, “Supposedly they’re working double-shifts on this ever since Casey’s death. That was the other reason for our timing…to get the school’s attention before they forget all about Casey tomorrow.”

“What happens tomorrow?”

Anton said, “The yearbook comes out. After that, I think Casey’s killers will be running scared.”

“Did Casey tell you that the yearbook would have pages that, uh, name and shame?”

“Not exactly. But I’m hopeful.”

“Hey, LaQuisha, if you’re such a great hacker, why can’t we see a copy of it right now?”

“Because they never emailed it. Me and Anton talked to Mr. Studie today. The file was too big to email, so they had to actually courier the hard drive to the printer. I can’t hack something that’s not online or in front of me.”

“When was it couriered?” I asked.

“Monday night, or early Tuesday morning,” said Anton.

“The night that Casey…was it before or after she died?”

“We’re not sure.”

“So you don’t know if she changed it…after she made that video?”

“Right, we don’t know. Yet.”

“How will we know? One of the other editors?”

LaQuisha said, “Maybe, maybe not. They said Casey basically had it to herself for the last week or so. They probably wouldn’t know what she changed. Mr. Studie said the same thing.”

“Hey, Riley,” said Anton.

“Yesssss?”

“Did I just hear you say, ‘we’? Like you’re on board now?”

I narrowed my eyes like a window shade closing. “It’s an expression.”

 

6

THE YEARBOOK

 

I told you I’m Latina, but Mom says that’s only for my college applications. Most people can’t tell. Mom’s real name is Maria Jimenez; after she married white-bread Dad she became Marie Tyler. Mom was born in Texas but has no amor for her Mexican-born parents or even Mexico. To give you an example, Miley once asked Mom for help on this project about Mexico. Miley had compiled all this stuff about Mayans and Aztecs and at some point asked Mom, “Did you know that Mexicans were one of only two civilizations to independently invent language?” The language of Mom’s angry response to Miley is something I won’t repeat here.

Except for being devoutly Catholic, Mom has, like, the opposite of Latin pride. When Miley went missing, she paid some person to photo-shop Miley’s yearbook photo to add yellow to her highlights. I’m like, Mom, how the frak are people gonna identify Miley if they’re looking for a blonde girl? She’s like, blacks and Latinas go missing every day, but they’re still talking about Elizabeth Smart from Utah and that Natalee Holloway who went missing in Aruba. And sure enough Miley’s disappearance was the lead news story for, okay, fine, a week. In other news, because of all the Miley stuff going on, I didn’t get to have a quinceañera. So don’t tell me I’m taking advantage of being both white and Latina.

Let me tell you, there’s no affirmative action on the day the yearbook comes out. Everyone has to wait in this humungous line while these stupid yearbook staffers sit at the front and check your name against a “paid” list before they can hand you the dumb thing. Seniors get their own express line, which is so lame. At Kirksville High, the yearbook is half about seniors, but it also has these splashy profiles of all the sports teams and clubs and even small pictures of underclassmen. Thus, everyone buys one. The day after I went to the Campbells, at lunch, I marched to the back of the line with my girlfriends Hayley, Veronica, Leslie, and Susie. They had about five hundred questions about Casey and my sister.

“Guys, seriously,” I eventually told my girlfriends, “The police are doing all they can.”

Hayley said, “Maybe Casey found out the truth behind why Miley was, like, silenced.”

I’m like, “What truth?”

“Well, maybe it’s some major corruption thing.” Our town’s only famous corruption concerned the stupid police force. After some years-long investigation, a judge ruled that some of them took bribes over the last few years. Who cared, I thought. But Jessica Chabot’s father was a cop. So when my mom found out that she was bullying Miley she thought she saw a connection. Of course there wasn’t one. The only significance was that Jessica never had to worry about dickheads posting slime on her facebook page. Just one more reason she walked on water around the school. I wondered if she ever had to wait in lines like this one.

“Riley Tyler?” I heard Mr. Studie’s voice and turned and there he was.

“Mr. Studie?” I said.

“You don’t have to wait in this line. Come with me.”

“Uh, my friends are with me, can they…?”

“No, just you.”

I gave a Queen’s wave to Hayley, Susie, Leslie, and Veronica. “Sorry ladies!”

Okay, maybe I got special treatment every so often. I may as well admit to you now that after Casey’s video went viral, half of my teachers told me I didn’t have to take finals. I suppose I could thank Anton for that – but I wouldn’t. Mr. Studie took me right to the front and didn’t even ask his yearbook staffer to check my name. He pulled a yearbook right off of their pile and whispered in my ear: “Now go to work.”

I said, “Oooh, that’s not appropriate, Mr. Studie!” in a really loud voice. I give Mr. Studie credit, he didn’t even slightly blush. He just gave me his patented blank look as I walked away.

It was a beautiful June day, so I walked out to the courtyard, sat down on a little wall, and opened up the yearbook. Every year the montages and collages look a little different, reflecting the style of the senior editor. Five seconds after opening the book I could see that Casey had done a great job.

I flipped right to Kamran’s senior formal picture. He looked so hot. Even if he did cyber-bully my sister, I couldn’t believe that he’d pushed Casey Campbell off a building. I like bad boys, but not that bad.

I did a double-take and realized that the real Kamran was sitting on some stairs maybe fifty feet away from me. Of course he was in the part of the courtyard that signified, like, the most popular kids in school. I was thinking I would love to sit there when I come back as a junior. Kamran was there with some boys and girls including Jessica Chabot and they did all have yearbooks. Kamran didn’t even look at me, cause they were looking through the yearbooks so carefully. That’s not inherently suspicious. Everyone checks out the yearbook a little before handing it to people to sign.

They sure didn’t look worried about any accusations. Jessica Chabot was reclining on the stairs, almost horizontal, and wearing her usual tight shirt and a mini-skirt. That is what guys want, I told myself. I could be that but I’d need to dye my hair blonde, grow two inches – okay, fine, four inches – and get a boob job. My mom told me I couldn’t have one cause she was saving the money for Miley’s kidnappers. Now that was a good reason for me to find Miley.

Suddenly Kamran looked at me and smiled. I couldn’t tell if it was a “Hi there” smile or a “Are you checking out Jessica?” smile. Uh, Kamran, I wanted to shout across the courtyard, I’m not gay. I mean, unless you want me to be. I mean, hey, I’d be in any threesome you were part of.

Listen to how I talk, when the truth is that I’ve barely kissed boys. Ever since Miley…to be honest, it’s like I’m in Guantanamo. Life is so unfair. And just to prove it, the one girl who was trying to fix that situation took a header off the school façade. Anyhoo, I smiled back at Kamran with what I hoped looked like blasé nonchalance. His lovely aquiline nose went back into the yearbook.

I looked for and found Casey’s senior formal. With a little effort, she was actually pretty. How sad that she didn’t live to see her own little book here. That girl LaQuisha happened to be pictured near her – turned out her name was Carter and she was also a senior. Don’t even ask me why I checked for Anton’s formal, but I did. Was his last name not Forster? With a little more flipping I found out he was a junior. It made sense now, that one of my sister’s friends could only date an immature boy.

That reminded me to look for a tribute to Miley. Sure enough I found it on page 24, a full page. Wow. There was probably the nicest picture of her ever taken in the middle, and then all around her were about twelve other passport-sized photos of her in various moods. What was impressive was that Casey hadn’t just cut-and-pasted like a normal photo collage, but instead you couldn’t even see borders between the pictures, just a little fuzziness. On the bottom it read “Miley Tyler, 1996-2012.” I’m sure some people, like my Mom, would have been all hot and bothered that it basically declared her dead. I thought it was tasteful and respectful and wonderful all at once.

I guess it was too much to hope that she would have put a few more words at the bottom: “Killed by so-and-so.” If Casey knew, then why the frak didn’t she make it clear? Anton’s explanations were so stupid. Now I flipped through every page with a vengeance. I wanted to see like a tabloid headline: “GUILTY!” Not only was there nothing like that, there wasn’t anything about Miley at all other than that tribute page. Only then did I think: yeah, Mr. Studie would have seen it during the morning and probably wouldn’t have told me to “go to work” if it was gonna be that easy.

Frak.

In the distance, I saw Anton holding a yearbook. Anton saw me and began walking toward me.

I stood up. “What are you doing?”

“Did you find anything?”

I started walking, and he walked alongside. I said, “Don’t talk to me here, where everyone can see!”

“Riley, do you know how ridiculous you are?”

What combination of words would get him away from me the fastest? “I couldn’t find anything but I need more time. I’ll see you in gym.”

“Fine.” He broke away. Whew! Almost lost a month’s worth of coolness points, there.

In gym, we had to do thirty minutes of different reps to earn free time. Got ’er done. By this point in the day, people were already passing around yearbooks to sign. DeShawn asked to sign mine and I then asked to sign his. I thought: how do I make a joke about him hooking me up with Kamran without looking desperate? As I chewed on my pen, Anton walked up. His shirt said, “DON’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU THINK.” Duh, whatever.

“Is that your yearbook?” he asked me.

“If you must know, no.”

“Where is it, then?”

“You’re gonna have to get in line.”

“Riley, this isn’t funny. Where is it?”

“Welllll…I don’t have it, but I can tell you about something extremely interesting that I found in there…about Miley.”

Anton sat next to me on the bleachers and put his ear right next to my face, as if we had just agreed that I would whisper in it. Which we most certainly had not. Was he looking at my knee? I put my mouth near his ear and shouted “NOTHING!”

Anton furrowed his brow and grabbed DeShawn’s yearbook out of my lap. He walked it over to DeShawn, exchanged it, and handed me mine back.

“Who said I was done with his?” I asked as impolitely as possible.

He sat down just as uninvitedly as before. “I don’t want anyone marking up your yearbook yet. Since Casey didn’t make it easy, we have to rely on clues, like signposts that only you or your sister would know.”

He bugged like a pond full of mosquitoes. “What is your deal, Anton? You can’t bring Casey back.”

“What is your deal, Riley? You still have a chance of finding your sister alive, and you treat this like it’s a joke.” He actually put his hand on my arm, like we were friends or something.

I recoiled from his hand. “Uh, excuse me, no feel-coping.”

“I…that’s interesting. I asked why you make jokes about Miley, and you say ‘Excuse me, no. Feel. Coping.’”

“That’s not what I said.” Dammit, it was what I said.

“Obviously that means that you feel for your sister, but the jokes are a coping mechanism.”

“I said copping!…You knew I meant copping!” Ohhhh, I hated him having anything on me.

He said, “You ever heard of a Freudian slip?”

“Motherfrakker, that wasn’t a Freudian slip!

“Mother…what did you say?”

“Just get away from me!”

“Fine.” He stood up. “We’ll have enough time together in Mr. Studie’s classroom this afternoon.”

WHAT. “I don’t know where you’re getting your information. I’m not being punished for anything.”

“Mr. Studie is generously letting us use the yearbook facilities in the back of his classroom. We’re searching through everything that Casey did.” He was walking away as he spoke, which I understood, in my upside-down world, as a bad sign…of his confidence.

“I never said I’d do anything like that,” I said evenly.

“That’s not what I heard,” he said over his shoulder. “From my newest facebook friend.”

“Who is that?”

“Your mama.”

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