16

“I would literally die,” Bryce said.

Madison rolled her eyes at him across the cafeteria table. “Don’t be so dramatic.”

“No, seriously. One, I cannot imagine living without my phone for more than an hour. It would be social suicide. And B, if I lost my phone, my parents would kill me. So yes, I would literally die. Twice.”

“Girl… same,” Madison replied.

“You have no idea where it is?” he asked.

“Oh, I know exactly where it is. It’s in the middle of a ten million square foot warehouse, under a shelf loaded with a metric ton of peanut butter.”

“I can’t believe you went in there. That was fucking crazy. How big is the place really?”

“Way bigger than a football field. More like ten or twenty football fields. I’m not really sure. It’s so full of shelves and stuff that I couldn’t see all of it at once.”

“We can probably find it on Google maps and measure it somehow,” Bryce suggested.

“That’s a good idea. Maybe when I get home and can use my computer.”

“So there was peanut butter?” he asked.

“Yeah. All the groceries like you’d find in a Costco or something. But that was only a part of it. There were these giant refrigerators that I’m guessing had medicine. And there were other medical supplies, like I saw a big box labeled gauze pads.”

“I still think they’re doomsday preppers,” Bryce said. “Like they are convinced the zombie apocalypse is coming, and they are stockpiling stuff.”

“Stockpiling for whom, though? I mean, there were just a few of them at the IHOP. They’ll be long dead before they’d use that stuff up,” Madison observed.

“Their families?”

“Mr. Black has no family, remember? His wife is dead, and he had no kids. Plus, who is paying for all this? And why all the guns?”

“So many questions,” Bryce said. “So tell me about the guy who helped you escape.”

Madison shrugged. “I don’t know. I definitely recognized him, but I don’t know from where. And there was so much happening, I can’t even picture his face in my head now. He was taller than me, and when I ran into him it was like running into a wall. He had a gun in his hand.”

“Maybe he works at the school? Like an assistant coach or a custodian or something? The kind of person you see now and then, but they don’t really register?” Bryce suggested.

“I like that theory. That would make sense. I’ll keep an eye out around school. I think he knew me, too. He looked really surprised when he saw my face.”

“So what now?” Bryce asked.

“Now I talk to Portnoy about the story,” she replied.

“But you don’t know the answers yet. How can you write the story when it’s all a mystery?”

“I can’t. But I have an outline of what I know so far, and I came up with a great lead paragraph. Of course, that’s on my phone, which I’ll never see again.”

“All of it is on your phone?”

“No, just that lead paragraph I came up with. I dictated it into a note. But I have the outline in my notebook. I need to talk to Mr. P. about all this. I feel like it’s time I bring an actual adult into this conversation, and I trust him.”

“What about your license and debit card?” Bryce asked. “Don’t you keep those in your phone case?”

“Yeah. I guess I will just not use money and make sure I don’t get pulled over. I’m gonna need my mom’s help replacing that stuff, and I still haven’t figured out what to tell her. Right now she thinks the phone is getting fixed.”

“I’m so sorry, Mads. I wish there was something I could do to help. Maybe I could go to that warehouse and sweet talk my way in and find your phone for you.”

Madison reached across the table and put her hand on Bryce’s forearm. “You are so sweet. But no, that’s crazy. I need to accept that stuff is gone. There’s no way I’m getting it back. I’ll wait until the battery is dead so she can’t locate it, and then I’ll tell my mom I lost it. She’ll probably ground me or something. But it’s not like I do anything but work and school anyway.”

“At least wait until after the party,” Bryce said.

“What party?”

“You know… the Halloween party at Fletcher’s. Have you thought about your costume?”

“Ugh,” Madison said. “No. Do I have to go?”

“Yes you have to go. Jefferson and I are going to do some awful couple’s costume. We can’t decide what. But I’m sure it’s going to be amazing, because I am amazing.”

“You really are,” Madison agreed.

“Truly. Hashtag blessed,” Bryce said. “You can be a slutty… I don’t know. But something slutty. It’s your civic duty. Slutty school teacher, slutty police officer, slutty nun.”

“Slutty nun? Gross!” Madison objected.

“Totally. Oh! I know—slutty Pope. Like a tall hat and spandex.”

“Very classy.”

“Well it’s next week, so decide on something,” Bryce said. “And don’t get grounded until after. You can tell your mom you lost your phone and stuff at the party.”

“That’s actually brilliant,” Madison said. “Not the slutty Pope thing. That’s gross. But losing my phone at the party. That’s very plausible.”

The buzzer sounded, and Madison and Bryce got up from their table and headed to their afternoon classes.

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