59

“Go for Bryce!”

“Oh my God, Bryce, would you stop answering the phone that way?” Madison pleaded.

“Hmm. Lemme think about it… Okay, I thought about it. No.”

“You are such a brat,” she said.

“I know you are, but what am I?” he replied.

Madison laughed. “I talked to Mr. Black.”

“Oh! That was tonight, wasn’t it? I’m sorry. I forgot to watch you get kidnapped,” he said.

“Good to know you have my back.”

“So what’s his story this time?” Bryce asked.

“He says that a bunch of super rich guys are afraid the world is going to end in a big environmental fiasco, and so they’re loading up warehouses with stuff to help the survivors.”

“Huh. Well that actually makes sense,” Bryce said. “Do you think he’s telling the truth this time?”

“No,” Madison said flatly. “I mean, maybe it’s part of the story, but it cannot possibly be the whole story.”

“How do you figure?”

“Are you in your kitchen?” she asked.

“Always,” he replied.

“Figured. Go get a jar of peanut butter.” She waited.

“Okay. Got it.”

“What’s the expiration date?” she asked.

“Next fall,” he said.

“See the problem?” she asked.

“Not really,” he said. “I will absolutely have eaten all this peanut butter by then. Hell, I might even finish it right now, since I have it in my hand.”

Madison laughed. “Oh Bryce. Simple boy. Think.” She could picture his thinking face as she listened to silence on the other end of the line. “Think about the warehouse. What’s on the shelves?”

“Oh! The warehouse! The peanut butter there is going to expire! Did I get it right?”

“You did,” she said. “If they are worried about an environmental disaster that’s going to happen eventually, why would they be loading up a warehouse with a bunch of stuff like peanut butter and insulin that only lasts a year?”

“Because they’re super rich, and they just plan on getting some more?” he suggested.

“Maybe. But I think the more likely reason is that they know something’s coming, and they are keeping it secret.”

“That’s a terrifying thought,” Bryce said. “Do you think that’s really true?”

“It would explain a lot,” she said. “Like why they have guns and money. Like why people at the top of government are helping them. Right?”

“Oh my God,” Bryce said. “We’re all going to die. Well, I guess not all of us, because then who would eat the peanut butter?”

Madison smiled. Even in the face of an apocalypse, Bryce was making jokes. “There’s more,” she said.

“More?”

“I stole Mr. Black’s notebook,” she said. “I thought about just swapping them, but I didn’t want him looking through mine. So I just lifted his entirely.”

“You did not!” Bryce said.

“I did. His and mine look the same, so I just picked it up. I actually handed it to him when I put on my boots, and then he handed it back to me. So I guess I didn’t really steal it. He gave it to me. He just didn’t know he gave it to me.”

“Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God! I can’t believe it. You sneaky little thief! So, what’s in there? Does it say what the big event is going to be? How am I gonna die, Madison? I need to know!”

“I’ll send you a picture,” she said. Madison put her phone on speaker and snapped a picture of one of the pages. She texted it to Bryce.

“It’s just a bunch of doodles,” he said.

“Yup. All that time I thought he was taking detailed notes, he was just doodling. They’re pretty good though.”

“They really are,” Bryce agreed. “He’s a good doodler.”

“All the pages are just like that. I don’t think he’ll even notice the notebook is missing.”

“Well damn,” Bryce said.

“But there is one thing I noticed. I’m not sure if it’s important. I’ll show you.”

Madison found the page and snapped another picture.

“Star Wars?” he asked.

“Weird, right? I didn’t see it at first, because it’s all filled with stuff. But if you look carefully, it’s not just the logo from the movie. There’s spaceships and R2D2 and stuff. See?”

“Lemme zoom. Hold on,” he said. “Oh! Yeah, I see it. Maybe he watched Star Wars before one of the IHOP meetings and he had it on the brain.”

“Maybe,” Madison said. “Or maybe there’s more to it than that.”

“You’re grasping, girlfriend,” Bryce said. “It’s just a doodle.”

“Probably,” she agreed.

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