20

“So are you really just gonna set it aside?” Bryce asked. They were lying on the floor of Madison’s bedroom, working on homework.

“I don’t know. I can’t stop thinking about it. I mean, Mr. P. said he has another story he wants me to work on. Maybe with that distraction, I’ll be able to get some space from it.”

“If you were going to work on it, what would you do next?” he asked.

Madison shook her head. “That’s the thing. I think the next step would be to interview someone about it. But Mr. P. recommended that I not talk to Mr. Black until the story is pretty much done.”

“What about the guy from the mall? He must know something,” Bryce suggested.

“Yeah, I thought of that. But I don’t know who he is. I have no way to contact him.”

“You could break in again—oh! You could just hang out near the gate and wait for his shift to end!”

“I thought of that, too. I think it would work, but then what? Chase him down and corner him? I mean, he was nice to return my phone, but he had a gun. He seems more dangerous than Mr. Black.”

Bryce nodded. “I wonder how he knew where you work.”

“I have no idea,” Madison said. “My phone was locked. It’s super creepy. Maybe he works in the mall somewhere! Maybe that’s where I’ve seen him before! That would explain how he knew where I worked. I wish you had seen him that day.”

“Me too. I mean, I guess I saw him. But I didn’t know which person in the crowd you were pointing at.”

“Maybe he’s on the mall security tapes. Do you know anyone who works in security? One of the mall cops?” Madison asked.

“No. But didn’t you just say you thought he was dangerous?”

“Yeah. You’re right. I need to drop this. I can work on that other story, whatever it is. Maybe something will happen, or I’ll get another idea in the mean time.”

“So,” Bryce intoned, “what about the party? Have you decided what you are going as?”

“No, have you?” she asked.

“Jefferson suggested we could go as heterosexuals.”

“Well that’s kind of meta. What would that look like exactly?”

Bryce grimaced. “You don’t want to know. I don’t think it’s a very good idea.”

“Halloween is dumb. I liked getting dressed up and trick-or-treating when I was a kid. But now it feels like some kind of obligation. I think it’s worse with social media. The girls all use it as an excuse to post thirst traps looking like actual prostitutes.”

“Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” Bryce said.

“Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” Madison repeated. “Maybe I’ll go the opposite way. Go as a nun. Like an actual nun, not a slutty nun.”

“You could carry a yardstick and smack people on the knuckles.”

“Is that an actual thing?” Madison asked.

“Beats me. I never went to Catholic school. It’s certainly a trope, though. Like in the Blues Brothers movie.”

“The Penguin!” Madison shouted.

“I loved that film. Oh! Idea! You go as the Penguin, and Jefferson and I can be Jake and Elwood.”

“Knuckle tats! E L W O… O D on the other hand!”

“And fedoras and horn rim glasses! I do look good in black.”

“Do we have time to put that together?” she asked.

“Definitely.” Bryce tapped on his phone. “Yeah, there’s ready-to-go costumes. Next day shipping. Ima text Jefferson right now and see if he’s into it.”

“Will anyone even know that movie?”

“Definitely not!” Bryce said. “That’s half the fun of it. I love being obscure.”

“Can you learn to play the harmonica by Friday?” she asked.

“I’m Jake, dummy. Elwood plays the harmonica.”

“Oh, right. Can you learn to do a cartwheel?”

“And backflips. I think I might need a stunt double,” he said.

“Maybe this party is going to be fun after all. I hope Jefferson is down for it.”

“I’m sure he will be,” Bryce said, looking at his phone. “Yeah. He’s in. You need to find a nun costume.”

Madison moved to her desk and woke up her computer. “On it.”

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