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New Releases: 2/27/18

Happy New Release Day! Here’s what went on sale today.

To Catch a Killer by Sheryl Scarborough

Poster Placeholder of - 85 Erin Blake has one of those names. A name that, like Natalee Holloway or Elizabeth Smart, is inextricably linked to a grisly crime. As a toddler, Erin survived for three days alongside the corpse of her murdered mother, and the case—which remains unsolved—fascinated a nation. Her father’s identity unknown, Erin was taken in by her mother’s best friend and has become a relatively normal teen in spite of the looming questions about her past.

Image Placeholder of - 29To Right the Wrongs by Sheryl Scarborough

Barely three weeks after catching the killer of Erin’s mother and their biology teacher, Erin and her crew are back, up to their elbows in forensics projects. But this time it’s with the full approval of their parents.

With Uncle Victor at the helm, Erin and her best friends, Spam and Lysa, are prepping a new classroom for CSI summer camp, where they will serve as camp counselors. Meanwhile, Erin’s super-hot new boyfriend, Journey, is graduating, just in time for him to take a position as Victor’s intern in the new CSI lab on campus. Journey and Victor are going to take another look at the evidence in the murder trial that sent Journey’s father to prison. The girls are under strict orders not to meddle with the murder case, but that’s easier said than done…

NEW FROM TOR.COM

Starfire: Memory’s Blade by Spencer Ellsworth

Place holder  of - 76 At the heart of the Dark Zone, a duel for the universe rages.

In an ancient Jorian temple, Jaqi faces John Starfire, the new ruler of the Empire. He has set all the worlds aflame in his quest to destroy humankind. Jaqi has sworn to stop him. Problem is, Jaqi isn’t much of a fighter.

Meanwhile, the sun-eating cosmic spiders, the Shir, have moved out of the Dark Zone and are consuming the galaxy. Araskar knows that he must hold them back, but to do that, he has to give himself over to the Resistance, under the command of John Starfire’s wife. And she wants him dead more than she wants the stars to live.

If Jaqi and Araskar can fight their way out, they can use a secret at the heart of the Dark Zone to free the galaxy, and end John Starfire’s new tyranny. They lose, and every star in the sky will go dark.

NEW IN PAPERBACK

Arcanum Unbounded: The Cosmere Collection by Brandon Sanderson

The Branch and the Scaffold and Billy Gashade by Loren D. Estleman

Margaret Truman’s Allied in Danger by Margaret Truman and Donald Bain

The Seventh Sun by Kent Lester

Tower Down by David Hagberg

NEW IN MANGA

The Ancient Magus’ Bride Vol. 8 Story and art by Kore Yamazaki

Don’t Meddle With My Daughter Vol. 3 Story and art by Nozomu Tamaki

Freezing Vol. 19-20 Story by Dall-Young Lim; Art by Kwang-Hyun Kim

Unmagical Girl Vol. 2 Story by Ryuichi Yokoyama; Art by Manmaru Kamitsuki

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On the Road: Tor/Forge Author Events in June

Tor/Forge authors are on the road in June! See who is coming to a city near you this month.

Cora Carmack, Roar

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Saturday, June 24
Book People
Austin, TX
6:00 PM

Cory Doctorow, Walkaway

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Sunday, June 11
Chicago Tribune Printers Row Lit Fest
Jones College Prep
Chicago, IL
11:30 AM
 Cory Doctorow in conversation with Mary Robinette Kowal

A.J. Hartley, Firebrand

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Wednesday, June 7
Park Road Books
Charlotte, NC
7:00 PM

Thursday, June 8
Malaprops
Asheville, NC
7:00 PM

Michael Johnston, Soleri

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Tuesday, June 13
Borderlands Books
San Francisco, CA
6:00

Wednesday, June 14
Barnes & Noble
Los Angeles, CA
7:00

Sunday, June 18
Mysterious Galaxy
San Diego, CA
2:00 PM
In conversation with Melissa de la Cruz.

Sheryl Scarborough, To Catch a Killer

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Friday, June 16
University Bookstore
Seattle, WA
7:00 PM
Also with Kelly Garrett.

Dan Wells, Nothing Left to Lose

Friday, June 9
University Bookstore
Seattle, WA
7:00 PM

Sunday, June 11
Borderlands Café
San Francisco, CA
5:00 PM

Tuesday, June 20
The King’s English Bookshop
Salt Lake City, UT
7:00 PM

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On the Road: Tor/Forge Author Events in March

Tor/Forge authors are on the road in March! See who is coming to a city near you this month.

Steven Brust & Skyler White, The Skill of Our Hands

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Saturday, March 18
Uncle Hugo’s
Minneapolis, MN
3:00 PM

Sunday, March 19
Borderlands Café
San Francisco, CA
3:00 PM

Friday, March 31
Book People
Austin, TX
7:00 PM
With Skyler White only.

Susan Dennard, Windwitch

Wednesday, March 1
Barnes & Noble
Bensalem, PA
6:00 PM

Thursday, March 2
One More Page
Arlington, VA
7:00 PM
Also with Jodi Meadows.

Randy Henderson, Smells Like Finn Spirit

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Wednesday, March 8
University Bookstore
Seattle, WA
7:00 PM

Thursday, March 9
LoveCraft Brewing Company
Bremerton, WA
6:00 PM
Books provided by Liberty Bay Books.

Saturday, March 18
Village Books
Bellingham, WA
7:00 PM

P.J. Hoover, Tut: My Epic Battle to Save the World

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Saturday, March 4
Book People
Austin, TX
3:00 PM

Caitlin R. Kiernan, Agents of Dreamland

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Thursday, March 9
Savoy Bookshop and Café
Westerly, RI
6:00 PM
In conversation with C.S.E. Cooney.

Monday, March 20
Porter Square Books
Cambridge, MA
7:00 PM
Also with Max Gladstone.

Thursday, March 23
Pandemonium Books and Games
Cambridge, MA
7:00 PM

Ellen Klages, Passing Strange

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Monday, March 13
Dog Eared Books
San Francisco, CA
7:00 PM
Also with M. Christian and Vylar Kaftan.

Erika Lewis, Game of Shadows

Monday, March 6
Vroman’s Bookstore
Pasadena, CA
6:30 PM

Wednesday, March 8
Mysterious Galaxy
San Diego, CA
7:30 PM
Also with R.A. Salvatore and Sheryl Scarborough.

Friday, March 10
Poisoned Pen
Scottsdale, AZ
7:00 PM
Also with Aprilynne Pike.

Saturday, March 18
Borderlands Books
San Francisco, CA
1:00 PM
Also with Veronica Rossi.

Thursday, March 23
Powell’s Books
Beaverton, OR
7:00 PM

Erin Lyon, I Love You Subject to the Following Terms and Conditions

Saturday, March 4
Hyatt Regency Sacramento
Sacramento, CA
5:00 PM
Authors on the Move Dinner – hosted by the Sacramento Public Library.

Ada Palmer, Seven Surrenders

Tuesday, March 7
57th Street Books
Chicago, IL
6:00 PM
Also with David M. Perry.

John Scalzi, The Collapsing Empire

Tuesday, March 21
Joseph-Beth Booksellers
Lexington, KY
7:00 PM

Thursday, March 23
Flyleaf Books
Chapel Hill, NC
7:00 PM

Friday, March 24
Fountain Bookstore
Richmond, VA
6:30 PM

Saturday, March 25
Parnassus Books
Nashville, TN
2:00 PM

Sunday, March 26
Book People
Austin, TX
3:00 PM

Monday, March 27
Brazos Bookstore
Houston, TX
7:00 PM

Tuesday, March 28
Half Price Books
Dallas, TX
7:00 PM

Wednesday, March 29
Volumes Bookcafé
Chicago, IL
7:00 PM

Sheryl Scarborough, To Catch a Killer

Wednesday, March 8
Mysterious Galaxy
San Diego, CA
7:30 PM
Also with R.A. Salvatore and Erika Lewis.

V.E. Schwab, A Conjuring of Light

Wednesday, March 1
Book People
Austin, TX
7:00 PM

Thursday, March 2
Blue Willow Bookshop
Houston, TX
7:00 PM

Friday, March 3
Flatiron Writer’s Room
Asheville, NC
6:00 PM
Books provided by Malaprops.

Saturday, March 4
Joseph-Beth Booksellers
Crestview Hills, KY
7:00 PM

Thursday, March 9
Changing Hands Bookstore
Phoenix, AZ
7:00 PM

Burt Solomon, The Murder of Willie Lincoln

Saturday, March 4
Barnes & Noble
Bethesda, MD
2:00 PM

Sunday, March 5
One More Page
Arlington, VA
2:00 PM

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New Releases: 2/7/17

Here’s what went on sale today!

An Irish Country Cookbook by Patrick Taylor

Placeholder of  -5Told from the perspective of beloved housekeeper Kinky Kincaid, one of the cherished starring characters in Taylor’s An Irish Country series, An Irish Country Cookbook explores Ireland’s rich culture through its delicious dishes and stories of its charming people. These authentic tried-and-true family recipes have been passed down from generation to generation, and are the original comfort food for millions.

Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly

Place holder  of - 99From author Lara Elena Donnelly, a debut spy thriller as a gay double-agent schemes to protect his smuggler lover during the rise of a fascist government coup. Covert agent Cyril DePaul thinks he’s good at keeping secrets, especially from Aristide Makricosta. They suit each other: Aristide turns a blind eye to Cyril’s clandestine affairs, and Cyril keeps his lover’s moonlighting job as a smuggler under wraps.

Trust no one with anything – especially in Amberlough City.

The People’s Police by Norman Spinrad

Poster Placeholder of - 30Norman Spinrad, a National Book Award finalist for his short fiction collection The Star-Spangled Future, has now written The People’s Police, a sharp commentary on politics with a contemporary, speculative twist. Martin Luther Martin is a hard-working New Orleans cop, who has come up from the gangland of Alligator Swamp through hard work. When he has to serve his own eviction notice, he decides he’s had enough and agrees to spearhead a police strike.

To Catch a Killer by Sheryl Scarborough

Image Place holder  of - 52Erin Blake has one of those names. A name that, like Natalee Holloway or Elizabeth Smart, is inextricably linked to a grisly crime. As a toddler, Erin survived for three days alongside the corpse of her murdered mother, and the case—which remains unsolved—fascinated a nation. Her father’s identity unknown, Erin was taken in by her mother’s best friend and has become a relatively normal teen in spite of the looming questions about her past.

NEW FROM TOR.COM

Idle Ingredients by Matt Wallace

Image Placeholder of - 79Catering for a charismatic motivational speaker, the staff of the Sin du Jour catering agency find themselves incapacitated by a force from within their ranks. A smile and a promise is all it took. And for some reason, only the men are affected. It’s going to take cunning, guile and a significant amount of violence to resolve. Another day of cupcakes and evil with your favorite demonic caterers.

NOW IN PAPERBACK:

Assassin’s Silence by Ward Larsen

Cape Hell and the Book of Murdock by Loren D. Estelman

The Execution Channel by Ken MacLeod

The Pilgrims by Will Elliott

NEW E-BOOK BUNDLE:

The Imager Portfolio: Volume I by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

NEW IN MANGA:

My Pathetic Vampire Life Vol. 2 Story and art by Rose Ishikawa

Please Tell Me! Galko-chan Vol. 2 Story and art by Kenya Suzuki

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Interview with Sheryl Scarborough, Author of To Catch a Killer

Poster Placeholder of - 44“Erin Blake” is a name that conjures up lurid stories of a brutal crime: a toddler left for three days next to the body of her murdered mother. Now a teenager, Erin seeks to solve the mystery of her mother’s murder in Sheryl Scarborough’s thrilling debut. We caught up with the author to talk about forensics, writing challenges, and the inspiration behind To Catch A KillerGet a preview of the first chapter here!

Will you tell us a little about To Catch a Killer and what inspired you to write it?

In To Catch a Killer, my character, Erin, is driven to find the answers to three questions. 1. Who killed her mother. 2. The identity of her father. 3. She wants to know that it wasn’t her father who killed her mother and left her baby self alone in the house.

Only a DNA test and/or DNA database can provide these answers.

As to the inspiration for this story, there’s a simple answer and a more complex one. Here’s the complex answer:

While the forensic activity in the book is Erin’s special quirk, the quieter, background search for her identity is the driving force of her story and it pretty much came from my subconscious. I didn’t realize until I was well into this story—and mid-way through my MFA program—how much of myself was irrevocably woven into this tapestry of words.

My parents divorced when I was an infant and I didn’t meet (or have any contact) with my father, or his family, until I was 17. I knew his name and there were a few photos, but nothing else. Not having a father was a staple of my childhood.

Now, here’s the creepy part. Before transitioning to publishing, I wrote hundreds of episodes for children’s television. I also wrote some screenplays, which were never produced. I have gone back over my favorite episodes and every single one deals with identity and family. Something I never realized until it came to this book. Not all of Erin’s questions will be answered in book one. But if you’re looking for a clue–and hey, you’re a mystery lover so why wouldn’t you be—in my opinion, it’s not DNA that makes you a family, all you need is fierce, fierce love.

What did you enjoy most about writing it, and what was most challenging?

I loved writing Erin and her friends Spam and Lysa. The three girl setup is a bit of a trope, but it’s so much fun to create a team and then use their strengths, weaknesses and flaws to craft your story. I get to be each one of these characters for a time and I truly love getting into each of their characters.

The most challenging part of writing this book was the verisimilitude—keeping it real, so to speak. The fact that I’ve written for children (young adults) for such a long time allows me to believe that kids, like evolution, will always find a way to get what they want. Still, as an author you don’t want readers to constantly be questioning would kids really do this? It’s a tough line to walk and hopefully, I did it successfully.

What’s the most bizarre thing you learned while researching To Catch a Killer?

Well, if you’ve watched any episodes of Bones or even the CSI series, you know that forensic factoids are definitely stranger than fiction. You just can’t make some of this stuff up. What I do love to find, however, is how girly things play in this world. For example, there was a news story that a dab of glitter nail polish is a better protective device against computer tampering than security products especially designed for this purpose.

Here’s a link to a video describing how it works and why.

But I just love that it’s glitter nail polish. My main character began her foray into forensics by using a blush brush, eye shadow and teeth whitening strips as her first fingerprint kit. So yeah, glitter nail polish as a security device is really my jam.

Where do you like to write?

I almost exclusively write at my desk in my luxurious, basement office, which inexplicably contains my husband’s pool table and two televisions which are never turned on during writing hours. I have two cats, but only one comes to work with me every morning. It’s his job. And if I’m late or slack off, he’s expresses his extreme displeasure.

What’s your favorite word?

I overuse the word actually. Then, before I send my manuscript to my editor I search and destroy as many as I actually can.

Which books are currently in your to-read pile?

I’ve been gathering and reading ARCs. I just finished Aftercare Instructions by Bonnie Pipkin. Next up is Maud by Melanie J. Fishbane. Also on the stack is Ibi Zobol’s American Street, and The Education of Margot Sanchez by Lillam Rivera. Plus something to satisfy my mystery thriller cravings, A Psalm for Lost Girls by Katie Bayerl.

What’s the first book you remember reading?

The first book that got me hooked was The Island Stallion series by Walter Farley. My fourth grade teacher would read a chapter to us when we came in from recess and I couldn’t wait for the next day installments so I convinced my grandmother to buy me the books and I would read ahead. Then I would enjoy being the little know-it-all at school the next day. That series might have fed some obnoxious behavior, but it made me a reader and ultimately a writer.

Who are your literary heroes?

Oh…this could be a long answer as I have so many and I’d probably leave someone out. The first two names that came to mind were Tim Wynne-Jones and Rita Williams-Garcia, both authors I worked with at Vermont College of Fine Arts. But there are more…so so so many more.

What’s your favorite method of procrastination?

Surfing the net. It often starts out as a quick research mission and then…hours later…after I’ve link-hopped and read all the things I sheepishly remember I had a deadline or at least daily writing goals I wanted to achieve.

Do you have any writing rituals?

Just one; sit down at desk, place fingers on keyboard, do not get up.

Order Your Copy

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Don’t forget to follow Sheryl Scarborough on Twitter (@scarbo_author) or visit her website.

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Sneak Peek: To Catch a Killer by Sheryl Scarborough

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To Catch a Killer by Sheryl Scarborough

In To Catch a Killer, a contemporary mystery by debut author Sheryl Scarborough, a teenage girl uses forensic science to solve the cold-case murder of her mother.

Erin Blake has one of those names. A name that, like Natalee Holloway or Elizabeth Smart, is inextricably linked to a grisly crime. As a toddler, Erin survived for three days alongside the corpse of her murdered mother, and the case—which remains unsolved—fascinated a nation. Her father’s identity unknown, Erin was taken in by her mother’s best friend and has become a relatively normal teen in spite of the looming questions about her past.

Fourteen years later, Erin is once again at the center of a brutal homicide when she finds the body of her biology teacher. When questioned by the police, Erin tells almost the whole truth, but never voices her suspicions that her mother’s killer has struck again in order to protect the casework she’s secretly doing on her own.

Inspired by her uncle, an FBI agent, Erin has ramped up her forensic hobby into a full-blown cold-case investigation. This new murder makes her certain she’s close to the truth, but when all the evidence starts to point the authorities straight to Erin, she turns to her longtime crush (and fellow suspect) Journey Michaels to help her crack the case before it’s too late.

To Catch a Killer will become available February 7th. Please enjoy this excerpt.

1

High school is supposed to be fun.

MISS P

 

I soothe my forehead against the icy car window and breathe out a path of fog. If I squint one eye, the neon splashed across the rain-slicked street forms a wide, cruel mouth.

It’s after 2:00 a.m. and we’re just now pulling up to the police station.

They took me to the hospital, even though I swore that not a single drop of the blood all over me was mine.

A hospital would be lost trying to treat my wounds.

The trip wasn’t a complete waste, though. They let me clean up and swap my bloody sweats for scrubs. Now come the questions, hard and fast. They’ll expect me to have answers. But all I have are more questions.

Beginning with, who killed Miss P?

As soon as the car stops, I grab for the handle but swipe an oddly smooth panel instead. It’s like trying to locate a missing limb. You know it should be there, but …

The young officer bends low, checking me out through the window. He opens the door and offers his hand. “Let me help you.” His voice is low and horror-movie shaky.

I wish he could help me. I really wish he could.

Lurching out of the backseat, I bend over the gutter and gulp the cool morning mist until my stomach calms.

The older cop takes his time groaning his way out of the driver’s seat. “Looks like rain again.” He scowls at the sky as if his grumpy attitude could make it stop.

Dude, Iron Rain, Oregon is like ninety miles from Portland. It rains here constantly. Deal with it.

At least by now I’m completely cried out. All that’s left are some sniffs and huffs and they seem to control me more than I control them. My escorts are so relaxed we could be dropping in for a late-night donut and cup of coffee. From the way the old one hikes his belt up over his belly, I’m sure he’d prefer that to dealing with me and my dead teacher.

Same here, buddy. And she’s not just some corpse to me, either. But I doubt he cares. With a sweep of his arm he waves me in the door. A desk sergeant leans heavily on the high counter and quietly tracks us with his eyes as we pass him and enter through a plain, unmarked door.

These guys probably don’t realize that I practically grew up in this building. Once Rachel gets here, they’ll connect the dots. Still, it’s a shock to see the squad room so alive.

Two or three officers are clustered around every desk with telephones and cell phones pressed to their ears. Tears spring to my eyes when I spot my principal, Mr. Roberts, helping out by delivering steaming cups of coffee.

I hope he knows I tried to help her. I really did. But there was nothing I could do.

Once Mr. Roberts sees me, everyone turns to stare. Their gaze is awkward, like a face full of acupuncture needles. Not painful exactly, but not entirely comfortable, either. He threads his way over to me through the maze of desks.

“Oh, Erin. Are you okay?”

My voice sticks in my throat. “Miss P,” I croak and press my hands over my mouth, fighting to keep back another round of tears.

“I heard … over the police scanner,” he says. “Is she—?”

Unable to speak, I nod.

He steps forward as though maybe he wants to hug me, but he doesn’t.

“Excuse us.” The older officer guides me around Mr. Roberts, pointing toward a hallway at the end of the room. I hesitate for a second because I really wish Mr. Roberts could come with us. He’s been in my life for so many years I hardly remember a time without him. I’m sure he would come, too. He’s always been helpful like that. But neither of us knows what to say, so I good-bye to my only friend in this whole mess and move off toward the hallway. The officer leads me to the door of an interrogation room. “For privacy,” he says.

The room is small—one table and four chairs. I turn away from the mirror. Everyone knows there’s a secret room on the other side of that glass. Why do they even try to hide it?

The young officer pulls out my chair and offers water or soda. I shake my head. He slips out quietly.

Old Guy transfers his hat to the table and runs his hand over his threadlike hair before dropping into the seat across from me. He flips open a notebook. “Just so you know, they put in a call to your mother and she’s on her way.” He keeps his eyes down on his notes instead of up on me.

“You mean guardian.” This is not meant to disrespect Rachel; it’s just a habit. “She’s not my mother,” I add.

“Yeah. Whatever number you gave us, that’s who we called.” He pats and digs around in his various pockets for a pen. “If it’s okay, I’m going to get started here. Understand that you’re not in any trouble. I just want to take your statement while it’s fresh in your mind. Can I get your full name for the report?”

I stiffen. This is the moment when things always change. My eyes drop to his badge: Baldwin. His name isn’t familiar, but he’s definitely old enough.

“Um. I’m Erin Blake.” I let it hang there. The silence is for emphasis.

Shock dawns on Baldwin’s face. His eyes rise slowly and he looks at my face for the first time. “The Erin Blake?”

I stare at the table. This reaction is not something you get used to. Or at least I never have.

“So that means—” He snaps his fingers. “What was her name? Oh—Sarah. Sarah Blake was your mother?” I think I detect a tinge of awe in his voice, even though that would be highly inappropriate.

I nod.

“Wow.” His chair whines as he leans forward, resting his cheek on a meaty hand. “We all remember that one.” His tone is reverent but his eyes darken, as if the pain of recalling the details of my mother’s murder is almost too great. I know this look, too. The next question is never asked out loud but I do him the favor of answering it anyway.

“I don’t know why he didn’t kill me, too.”

“And they never caught him, right?”

I shake my head. But I will … someday.

“What about your father, where’s he?”

I offer a shrug.

Baldwin’s head twitches. More shock. “He just took off?”

I shrug again. It’s all I’ve got. “Mom never told anyone who he is. I guess she was independent like that.”

“Wow. That’s got to be tough.”

“It is, kinda. My life’s like this huge blank.” I lay my palms flat on the table, framing a dark expanse of space between them.

His eyes—light chocolate, flecked with moss—study me quietly and without pity. “Tabula rasa, sweetheart.”

“What?”

“You were an innocent baby when all that went down. A blank slate. You don’t have to let any of it affect you.”

I push my lower lip up into my upper one. It’s the closest I can get to a smile. Adults always say this, as if it’s true.

He shakes his head. “And now this. So, this Laura Peters was your science teacher?”

“Biology.”

He frowns. “You don’t have any reason to believe your mother’s … uh, death could have anything to do with this, do you?” I notice the way he sits, shoulders hunched over the table and legs tucked back under his chair. He forms the perfect human question mark.

A dizzy thrum rises in my ears. He just labeled the giant ball of worry I’ve been avoiding since the moment I knew there was another murder. I grip the edge of the table. “I don’t know how they could be connected, but I guess there’s always a chance.”

He looks up toward the ceiling while thinking this through. “Yeah, I don’t think they’re connected, not after all this time.”

I desperately need him to be right about that.

His gaze drops to the dark rings of blood so caked into my cuticles that even a thorough scrub at the hospital couldn’t remove them. What can you tell me about Miss Peters? Was she a good teacher? Did you like her?”

I slide my hands off the table and tuck them under my legs. Miss Peters always said I reminded her of herself when she was younger, and it felt so important to finally be like someone. Especially her. I picture her darting from lab table to lab table like one of those birds on the beach, pecking at our projects. “She was the best,” I say, my voice a ragged whisper.

“And your relationship was…?”

“Normal.”

“When was the last time you saw her?”

“You mean…?”

“Alive. When did you last see her alive?”

“Today, last period. Well, maybe I should say yesterday.”

“So, Thursday at…?”

“Two-ten to three-oh-five.”

“Do you remember the last conversation you had?” he asks.

I actually can’t stop thinking about it. Just before the final bell, she had moved close to my lab table. Her glasses were on top of her head, tangled in a mass of blond curls held in place by chewed pencils. She’d tipped her head close to my ear. “Listen, Cookie, this isn’t the only way, you know.”

But it was. She’s the one who showed me how it worked. “It’s my best shot. You said so yourself,” I argued. “Besides, what have we got to lose?”

A savage cramp twists my stomach. It was such an easy thing to say at the time.

She’d handed me an orange from her pocket, clicked her fingernails on the Formica, and pointed at me. “Be careful.”

I looked back once before heading out the door. Her smile had urged me on. There was no way I could fail.

I realize Baldwin’s waiting for my answer but a lump the size of a walnut has swelled in my throat and it’s a few seconds before I can talk again. “Um.” My voice cracks. “She basically just said to be careful.” I don’t care if telling him that makes him suspicious. It’s what she said. I wasn’t. And now she’s dead.

“Careful of what?” Baldwin’s eyes narrow as he scribbles notes. “Was she worried about something?”

I shake my head. “It was just her way of saying good-bye. Like, bye, be careful.”

We’d made a deal. She would run the test if I promised two things. One: I wouldn’t do anything illegal. And two: I’d go to the prom. The legal thing was easy. If someone throws something in the trash, it’s not illegal to pick it up. And as for the second, she knew I wasn’t the prom type, but she pushed it because I couldn’t say no. “High school’s supposed to be fun,” she said.

“You said you were passing her house and saw the door open. Why so late at night?”

“I left some things in her mailbox … for a science project.”

His head snaps up. “What kinds of things?”

“Some trash with DNA on it. It was like an extra credit thing.” I make sure to add the part about extra credit because if he checks, he won’t find any other students with the same assignment. And he is going to check.

He squints. “DNA, like from a person?”

I bob my head slowly. I want to be honest but I worry where this will take me.

“Are you in one of those forensic classes?”

“Sort of.”

He frowns. “Did this DNA belong to anyone in particular?”

I shrug. “No. It was just kind of random.”

My first lie.

There was nothing random about the cigarette butts, coffee cup, and bloody towel I left in Miss P’s mailbox. But I can’t tell him that, and there’s no way he’ll find out now. It was only supposed to be three quick stops for bits of trash from three specific men.

“Are you saying your biology teacher specifically told you to leave an assignment in her mailbox in the middle of the night?”

“She was specific about where but she didn’t give an exact time.”

“Hang on. I want to call over there and make sure they get those things from the mailbox.” Baldwin rises from his chair and disappears out the door.

Dead. The word hammers in my head. Along with Who did this? And Why?

I can’t think of anyone who didn’t love Miss P. I rest my elbows on the table, and stare quietly at my reflection in the secret mirror.

Copyright © 2017 by Sheryl Scarborough

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