After lunch my mother finally lets me go up to my room. It was agony trying to eat at a normal pace while I could feel the book pressing against my skin beneath my jacket. I close the door and pull the book from my jeans, holding it with both hands as I cross the room to my bed.
I wonder what it could hold. Maybe government secrets? Details about a drug smuggling operation? Incriminating photos?
My heart races as I crack open the cover. The first page is blank. I flip to the next page. Same thing. In frustration I thumb through the entire book. Every single page is blank. What the hell? I hold the book upside down and shake it. Something flutters out and lands on my covers. Picking it up, I realize it’s a photo of Dal Torres holding up a middle finger to the camera. I turn the photo over and there’s a message scrawled in sloppy writing that reads: “To the idiot who thinks it’s easy to steal from Dal Torres, think again.”
“Why do you have the book?”
I look up startled to find Lionel standing in my doorway. “What are you doing here?” I sputter.
“I came to check on you, I felt bad about what you saw last night,” he says, striding into the room, “But that’s beside the point. Why do you have the book?”
“I found it when we were searching for it. I wanted to know what the big secret was. Surprise, it’s a whole lot of nothing.” I hold up the photo and Lionel snatches it from my hand.
He studies the picture, then flips it over, reading the message. His faces blanches and he tosses the photo down and picks the book up off the bed, flipping through the pages.
“I don’t understand,” Lionel whispers.
“What’s not to understand? You thought you were smart, but Torres was smarter.”
Lionel closes the book, staring down at me. “But if this was just a fake, why did Torres act so upset when he saw us in his room? Why wouldn’t he just let us get away, why start a fight when he saw I had a knife? It doesn’t make any sense.”
I draw my knees up. “I don’t know.”
Lionel sits down beside me, his eyes far away as he contemplates. “Is it possible Ashley was involved…?”
“You keep mentioning Ashley. Why would he want to screw you over? Aren’t you friends?”
“I thought so.” Lionel leans back, resting on his elbows. “If I tell you about Ashley and Dal Torres, will you promise not to freak out? I mean, you’re already involved, more than you should be.”
“You’re regretting bringing me along in the first place, aren’t you?” I guess.
Lionel grimaces. “A little. Why did you agree to come along? I mean, you don’t really seem like the kind of girl who enjoys breaking and entering.”
I laugh. “I’m not. I just needed to do something exciting.”
“Yeah. You thought it would be some elaborate explanation?” I smile, gathering my hair over one shoulder and finger combing the knots out. “Plus my friend needed some help. Anyway, before we get any more sidetracked, you were going to tell me about Ashley and Torres. Spill.”
Lionel casts me a dubious look before staring up at the ceiling. “You are one strange girl, Cass. Okay, where do I start?”
“Cassidy?” my mother asks, popping her head inside my room. “I was wondering if Lionel would like some to eat. There’s still some leftover souvlaki from lunch.”
Lionel perps up, his eyes smiling of their own accord. “I’d love some. I’m starving.”
I give Lionel a dark look. He’s clearly thankful for the interruption. He really doesn’t want to tell me what’s in that book. But I’ll find out one way or another. I smile at my mother. “That’d be great. Thanks, Mom.”
We get up and follow my mother downstairs. I whisper to Lionel on the stairs. “We aren’t done talking about the book.”
Lionel offers me a small grimace and averts his eyes.