Meg Cabot - The Mediator - 1 - Shadowland Shadowland (The Mediator, Book 1) Meg Cabot - The Princess Diaries 02 - Princess In The Spotlight. HARPERCOLLINSPUBLISHERS CONTENTS Title page Dedication Acknowledgments Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter Author: Meg Cabot. MEG CABOT remembrance. A MEDIATOR NOVEL. WILLIAM MORROW. An Imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers.
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Meg Cabot. Fog. .. we mediators - for lack of a better term - were, and where we' d come from, and just what, I mean, was that all mediators were capable of?. Jenny Carroll aka Meg Cabot. CHAPTER 1 "You see, as mediators, Susannah, it is our duty to help lost souls get to where they are supposed to be going. Jenny Carroll aka Meg Cabot Hebrew word meaning "intent listener," which, as a fellow mediator, you of The role of a mediator is supposed to be a.
If you own the copyright to this book and it is wrongfully on our website, we offer a simple DMCA procedure to remove your content from our site. Start by pressing the button below! It had been a typical Saturday morning in Brooklyn. Nothing out of the ordinary.
Nothing to make me suspect it was the day my life was going to change forever. Nothing at all. It was getting up early for school that I resented. My dad had to tickle my feet on weekdays to get me out of bed.
Not on Saturdays, though. I think my dad felt the same. About Saturdays, I mean. He was always the first one out of bed in our apartment, but he got up extra early on Saturdays, and instead of oatmeal with brown sugar, which he made me for breakfast on weekdays, he made French toast.
I knew what he looked like. A big tall guy with a lot of thick dark hair that had gone white in some places. Of course I would have. I would have gone to the park with him.
How could I have known? How could I?
Gutierrez had said it would be, beneath the drooping branches of the overgrown hibiscus in her backyard. I shut off the flashlight. Even though there was supposed to have been a full moon that night, by midnight a thick layer of clouds had blown in from the sea, and a dank mist had reduced visibility to nil. I just needed to dig. I sunk my fingers into the wet soft earth and pried the stone from its resting spot.
Soon I was feeling beneath it for the tin box Mrs. Gutierrez had assured me would be there. There was nothing beneath my fingers except damp soil. I froze. I was trespassing, after all; the last thing I needed was to be dragged home by the Carmel, California, cops. Then, with my pulse beating frantically as I tried to figure out how on earth I was going to explain my way out of this one, I recognized the lean shadow—darker than all the others— standing a few feet away.
My heart continued to pound in my ears, but now for an entirely different reason. But I was determined not to let him know that. He threw back his head and laughed. He never even knew it was there. I could hear it in his voice.
Gutierrez knows. He had no reason to lie. And obviously, Mrs. Gutierrez had come to him as well as me, anxious for any help she could get. How else could he have known about the money? Poor Mrs. She had definitely put her trust the wrong mediator. Oh, no. But like a fool, I stood there in the middle of her backyard and called her name just in case, as loudly as I dared.
Are you there? I knew, of course, that he could make the undead disappear. I should have known better. A cold wind kicked up from the sea as I turned to face him. It tossed some of my long dark hair around my face until the strands finally ended up sticking to my lip gloss.
But I had more important things to worry about. Maybe if I reason with him, I thought. Maybe if I explain. Two thousand dollars is nothing to you, but to Mrs. It was hard enough just to breathe. All I could think about was Mrs. How could someone who smelled so good—the sharp clean scent of his cologne filled my senses—or from whom such warmth radiated—especially welcome, given the chill in the air and the relative thinness of my windbreaker—be so.
Well, evil? I could feel his deep voice reverberating through him as he spoke, he was holding me that close. A grand for each of us. You can do whatever you want with your half. Mail it back to the Gutierrezes, for all I care. The moon appeared momentarily from behind the blanket of clouds overhead, just long enough for me to see that his lips were twisted into a lopsided grin. Was he serious? The moon had disappeared again, but I could tell from his voice that he was amused.
You and Father Dom. I thought you were taking French, not Spanish. Before I could think of a lie, however, he figured it out on his own. Stupid of me. See you around, Simon. Just like that, he turned to go.
I knew what I had to do, of course. But what choice did I have? I told myself I had a pretty good chance at succeeding, too.
Paul had the box tucked into the inside pocket of his jacket. All I had to do was distract him somehow—a good blow to the solar plexus would probably do the job—then grab the box and chuck it through the closest window.
I called his name. He turned. The moon chose that moment to slip out from behind the thick veil of clouds overhead, and I could see by its pale light that Paul wore an absurdly hopeful expression. The hopefulness increased as I slowly crossed the grass between us. Found my weakness. Successfully lured me to the dark side. And all for the low, low price of a thousand bucks. The hopeful look left his face, though, the second he noticed my fist.
I even thought that, just for a moment, I caught a look of hurt in his blue eyes, pale as the moonlight around us. Then the moon moved back behind the clouds, and we were once again plunged into darkness. The next thing I knew, Paul, moving more quickly than I would have thought possible, had seized my wrists in a grip that hurt and kicked my feet out from under me. A second later, I was pinned to the wet grass by the weight of his body and his face just inches from mine.
Still, I tried to hide my fear from him. You really hurt my feelings, you know that, Suze? His voice, hissing down at me, was deadly serious. Weakness only seems to trigger cruelty, not compassion, from people like Paul. He leaned down and kissed me lightly on my frozen lips. It took me a minute to realize I was free. Cool air rushed in to all the places where his body had been touching mine.
Still, I had enough strength left to call out, "Paul! The backyard lit up bright as an airport runway. I heard a window open and someone shout, "Hey, you! What are you doing there?
I hopped into it and started my long journey home, cursing a certain fellow mediator—and the grass stains on my new jeans—the whole way. I had no idea that night how bad things were going to get between Paul and me. But I was about to find out.
Still, the blow, when it came, seemed to strike like a bolt out of the clear blue. In Big Sur? Like, how you can be saying one thing and thinking something entirely different? Not even close. My first thought was more along the lines ofWhat? Kelly Prescott? I mean, considering that Paul himself was sitting just a few study carrels away, futzing with the sound on his tape player.
It was bad enough that he noticed I was even looking in his direction, let alone talking about him. He raised his eyebrows all questioningly, as if to say, "May I be of service? She flipped her honey-blonde hair back so she could slip on her headphones. To eat before the dance, I mean. She knew perfectly well.
But she was going to make me say it. Kelly looked over the partition between us, her pretty face twisted with sympathy. Fake sympathy, of course. Or anyone, except herself. Nobody asked you? Except, possibly, her not being taken by anyone at all. I turned on my tape player. Dominique immediately began to complain to Michel about herdormitoire.
What had just happened, I mean. Wait a minute. Wasthat what was going on? Paul was finally getting tired of hanging around with a girl he had to blackmail into spending time with him? Well, good.
I mean, if Kelly wanted him, she could have him. Because it had felt good—his weight, his warmth—despite my fear. Really good. Right sensation. But the right guy?
And warmth? The warmth thing, I mean. Still, this asking-Kelly-to-the-dance-and-not-me thing. Except that now I had a sinking feeling that Paul had just lobbed a ball into my court that I was never going to be able to hit back.
What was that all about? The words floated before my eyes, scrawled on a piece of paper torn from a notebook, and were waved at me from over the top of the wooden partition separating my carrel from the one in front of it. I pulled the piece of paper from the fingers clutching it and wrote,Paul asked Kelly to the Winter Formal , then slid the page over the partition. A few seconds later, the paper fluttered back down in front of me. I thought he was going to ask you!!! I guess not, I scribbled in response.
I mean, what about Jesse? But that was just it. Whatabout Jesse? Whatever that meant. Not just someone else, either, but Kelly Prescott, the prettiest, most popular girl in school. Yes, she knew about Jesse. But Paul? And I wanted to keep it that way. Whatever, I scrawled. How about you? Adam ask you yet? I felt, rather than saw, that a certain gaze was very much on me. I would not, however, give him the satisfaction of glancing his way.
Car crash? He, um, choked. Really, Susannah," Father Dom chided me. Poetic justice! Instead, I said, "Too bad. So how long will you be gone? This weekend the annual antique auction would be taking place.
Donations had been flooding in all week and were being stashed for safekeeping in the rectory basement. The number is—" "I know the number, Father D," I reminded him. Oh, and if you would, make sure that Spike has enough food—" "Nuh-uh," I said, backing away. It was the first time in a long time that my wrists and hands were free of angry red scratches, and I wanted to keep it that way. Anything else? All taken care of. Still, temperatures in the seventies or not, I shivered.
No, it was a cold that came from inside that was causing the goose bumps on my upper arms. Because, beautiful as the Mission gardens were, there was no denying that beneath those glorious petals lurked something dark and.
It was true. At least, so far as I knew. It was hard to meet his gaze sometimes, it was so penetrating, so. His gaze on my face was unwavering. The book Paul had pulled out for our latest "mediator lesson" was so old, the pages had a tendency to crumble beneath my fingers as I turned them.
The Book of the Dead was what it was called. It smelled as if a mouse or some other small creature had gotten slammed between the pages some time in the notso-distant past, left to slowly decompose there. Granted, it was only once a week, but that was more than enough, believe me. If anything, the place was as creepy as ever. Slater—or Dr. Slaski, as the good doctor himself had confided to me he was really named—like the plague. Despite my less-than-inspired performance, however, Paul released my hand and leaned back once more, looking extremely pleased with himself.
The half smile Paul had been wearing vanished. His face was as expressionless as the wall behind him. I had no idea what he was talking about. And when I do. I just stared at him, genuinely taken aback. I had no idea where this was coming from. What was going on? Is this. Instead, I waited, my heart in my throat, for him to reply.
And letting me off the hook for the Winter Formal. And now this. I like that. I might even use it myself someday. Strange, but true.
I never thought of myself as the captain-of-thetennis-team type. I want to go to the Winter Formal. It landed with a clatter in the stainless-steel sink. Or maybe he did, since his lips relaxed into a smile—the same smile that had made half the girls in school fall madly in love with him.
Slaski—or Slater, as Paul referred to him—never said hello. At least, not when anybody but me was around. His head was slumped down onto his chest, as if he were asleep. He was no more asleep than I was. Inside that battered and frail-looking exterior was a mind crackling with intelligence and vitality.
Mealtime is family time at my house. I was more than ready to go. Our ride should have been a lot more enjoyable than it was.
The sun was setting, seeming to set the sky ablaze, and you could hear waves breaking rhythmically against the rocks below. But you could have cut the tension inside that car with a knife, nonetheless. Seeing as how it had been built at the turn of the century—the nineteenth, not the twentieth—it needed a lot of refurbishing. I was about to get out of the car without a word when Paul reached over and put a hand on my arm. What would you say to a truce? Was he kidding? And now he wanted to kiss and make up?
Well, basically. Besides, what could I do to your boy Jesse? Not now, anyway. Can you blame me for wanting to take someone who. Maybe it was the way he blinked those baby blues. I, er, need it. The rich smell of burning wood filled the crisp evening air, tinged with the scent of something else. It was tandoori chicken night. How could I have forgotten?
Behind me, I heard Paul throw the car into reverse and drive away. I headed up the stairs to the front door, stepping into the squares of light thrown onto the porch from the living room windows. Because home meant something else to me now, and had for quite a while. I looked around, worried someone might have heard.
He appeared almost at once, not at the window, but by my side. They never have to worry about the stairs. Or walls. There were dark pools in the place where his eyes should have been, and the scar in his eyebrow—a dog bite wound from childhood—showed starkly white. Still, even with the tricks the moon was playing, he was the best-looking thing I had ever seen. I heard you calling. Called him. But whatever. As usual, they were darkly liquid and full of intelligence.
It was chilly enough that when I spoke, I could see my breath fog up in front of me. Because, of course, he has no breath. Now hedefinitely looked amused. At least, not exactly. Well, notonly because I was cold. I closed my eyes, melting in his embrace as I always did, reveling in the feel of his strong arms around me, his hard chest beneath my cheek.
I always seem to have that problem. Unlike some people. I did balk a little when I saw where he had led me, though. And itwould be a lot warmer. He seized both my hands as I tried to slip them around his neck, and placed them firmly in my lap. I sighed and stared out the windshield. Big Sur, maybe. The Winter Formal, definitely. But the rectory parking lot at the Junipero Serra Mission? Not so much. When he saw my expression, however, he pulled his hand back. Him ," he said in an entirely different voice.
Jesse would not have been particularly enthused had he known of the lessons. There was no love lost between Jesse and Paul, whose relationship had been rocky from the start. Of course, their mutual disdain for each other might also have had something to do with me. Back before Jesse had come into my life, I used to sit around and fantasize about how great it would be to have two guys fighting over me.
In fact, it was completely wrong. To you. Remember Mrs. Also the thing Paul had said earlier in the day, about how his plans for Jesse were more humane than my own plans for himself.
He was going to. I think he said he was going to keep you from having died in the first place. I seriously think he might be up to something. Or at least his continued presence in this dimension. The only thing that seems as if it might put the fire out is pressing myself closer to him. I felt his hand move along the waistband of my jeans as we kissed.
Our tongues entwined, and I knew it was only a matter of time until that hand slipped beneath my sweater and up toward my bra. Then, my eyes closed, I did a little exploration of my own, running my palms along the hard wall of muscles I could feel through the cotton of his shirt. It occurred to me that we would be able to do this—kiss like this, I mean—a lot more often and more conveniently if Jesse would get over the absurd idea that he has to stay with Father Dominic, now that we are, for want of a better word, an item.
Of the female variety. I mean, who knows if maybe he really has come up with some new way to. And now, with Father Dom gone for who knows how long, I.
I knew that any second he was going to disappear. But there was still something else I needed to know. He had begun to dematerialize, but now he looked solid again.
And truthfully? I probably was. Why do you ask? For school? He took the bag from me. And then he was gone. Walden held up a stack of Scantron sheets and said, "Number-two pencils only, please.
Walden, this is an outrage. And, apparently, aptitude testing. Walden, our homeroom teacher and class advisor, began passing out the Scantron sheets. Just answer the questions. Walden slapped a pile of answer sheets onto my desk for me to pass down my row. And no talking. Walden demanded, "do you people not understand?
Until Mr. Now, shut up, all of you, and get to work. Miserably, I filled in the little bubbles. My fate is already laid out for me. And any other career I choose is just going to get in the way of my true calling, which is, of course, helping the undead to their final destinations. I glanced over at Paul. He was bent over his Scantron sheet, filling in the answer bubbles with a little smile on his face.
I wondered what he was putting down as fields of interest. Or felony theft. Why, I wondered, was he even bothering? We were always going to be mediators first, whatever other careers we might choose.
Look at Father Dominic. Oh sure, he had managed to keep his mediator status a secret. He really believes that his ability to see and speak to the dead is gift from God.
The little blank bubbles in front of me grew decidedly blurry as my eyes filled up with tears. Oh, great. Now I was crying. But how could I help it? Here I was, my future laid out in front of me. Well, you know, pseudo-career, since we all know what myreal career was going to be. But what about Jesse? What future didhe have? I reached up and dabbed at my eyes with the sleeve of my Miu Miu shirt. Jesse, I mean. Because I already knew all of that. Things were tough, I guess, even way back in the s.
It was different then, Susannah. I was different. I did think. It made perfect sense—at least to me. Just because of your dad?
I could barely be spared from the ranch for a few days, let alone the years medical school would have taken.
But I would have liked that, I think. Medical school. It would be more exciting to work in the sciences now, I think. But rather than clinging stubbornly to the past, as some would have, Jesse had followed along excitedly, reading whatever he could get his hands on, from paperback novels to encyclopedias.
He said he had a lot to catch up on. My stepdad, on the other hand, is more the cookbook type. But you get my drift. To Jesse, stuff that seems dry and uninteresting to me is vitally exciting. Sighing, I looked down at the hundreds of career options in front of me. And here I was, with every advantage in the world, and all I could think that I wanted to be when I grew up was.
Well, with Jesse. It was a constant source of wonder and interest to me. Only unlike Jesse, I actually had a chance todo something with my interest. Walden announced, startling me again. Ten more minutes. I looked down at my answer sheet, which was half empty. At the same time, I noticed CeeCee shooting me an anxious look from her desk beside mine. And how do you suppose he does that?
Your whole body goes. I was losing him. But how can you explain to a priest that a guy is trying to off your boyfriend so he can get into your pants? Was it my imagination or was there a slight chuckle in his voice. Not for that, anyway. My protests, even to my own ears, were starting to grow faint. Paul doing something that could actually be construed as moral, I mean.
Because Father Dominic was right. Was it my imagination or did he sound distracted? Because he was never meant to die in the first place. Unbidden, my mind flashed back to that poster my ninth grade English teacher had hung up in her classroom, of two seagulls flying over a beach.
A poster I always seemed to remember at the most inconvenient moments. The imaginary noose around my neck tightened to a choking point. He sounded angry. A second later, Dr. I had no more to say to him than I did to Father Dom. There was only one person, I realized, who could stop Paul from doing what I now knew he was going to do. And that person was me. A plan. I was almost sure of it.
Jesse had been murdered and his body never found—until recently, that is. But those were on display at the Carmel Historical Society museum.
Or rather, to save him. Jesse was safe. Which meant thatI was safe. The relief I felt was short-lived, however. Oh, not my relief about Jesse. That remained. It was as I was attempting to sneak back into school that my newly restored equilibrium was shaken again.
And why not? I was really losing my touch. No one would consider Sister Ernestine an exemplary educator. I got off lightly, I suppose. All in all, I suppose it could have been worse.
Or so I thought. Before I ran into Paul Slater. He stepped out from the shadows just as I was hurrying by. I flattened a hand to my chest, as if doing so would cause my heart, which had practically jumped through my ribs at the sight of him, to beat normally again. But what would have been the point? So I stuck out my chin and, ignoring my stuttering pulse, plunged. You talked abouttime travel?
With Grandpa Gork? Slaski," I corrected him. But I thinkyou might be," I went on—recklessly, I knew, but no longer caring. Not now that I knew what he was after. And maybe I was. That Paul and me? Yeah, that wasnever going to happen. A gork. I mean, your own father changed his name, he was so ashamed of him. And you should stay away from me. That about sum it up? He even smiled a little, though it was with just half his mouth. But I knew it was all just a put-on. Not if he really intends to do what I suspect.
But he was doing his best to prove me wrong. After that whole thing with Mrs. Gutierrez, you got me thinking. All I could do was stand there and stammer. I had never in my life met anyone as manipulative as he was. Or the next? I tasted something awful rising in my throat. At least a little. Enough, anyway—" His voice trailed off suggestively. Because the truth is, I kind of like my body. I wasthat stunned. Because it finally made sense, now. That accusation Paul had hurled at me the other day in his kitchen.
Because he was planning on saving Jesse, whereas I, apparently, am planning on killing Paul. It proves that, whatever you say, you do like me, a little. Or at least that you like making out with me. All I cared about was proving to him how very, very wrong he was. How could you even—what could have given you the idea that I—" "Oh, come on, Suze," Paul said.
Not like this," he added, gently stroking my arm with his thumb. Until I wrenched my arm away, that is, and fell back a step. At least, not right away—" I felt my cheeks flame. I was so embarrassed. Especially considering that Jesse? Yeah, this was his new stomping ground. He was undoubtedly around somewhere nearby. But not that. So why not just give my soul a yank and let the all-perfect Jesse have a second chance at life? But now—perhaps because he was goading me into it—a part of me actually seemed to perk up and goWhy not?
He would definitely think it was wrong to rob Paul of the life that was rightfully his, just so he could have a chance to live again. His body would still be alive. And his soul would be. For my sins? You know, the endorphins rushing in. Because I really had, in a way, just had a major workout. This one just happened to be an emotional one. The soul transference thing, I mean. And, for another, I was never going to steal your body and give it to Jesse, Paul.
But, you know, you can keep on flattering yourself that I was, if it makes you happy. At least not then. Because when I attempted to stroll by him after that last remark—even giving my hair a toss to show my disdain for him—something inside him seemed to snap. Next thing I knew, his hand had shot out and caught my arm in a grip that hurt.
But I thought it better to let that slide. You can let him go. Because of course, only he and I could see the ghost who had hold of him. I shook my head. Jesse held on to Paul for a second or two longer—just, I think, to prove he could—then he let go, so suddenly that Paul lost his balance and fell to his hands and knees, onto the stone slabs that made up the floor of the breezeway. He folded his arms across his chest and looked at Paul dispassionately as he climbed to his feet and brushed himself off.
Paul, to my fury, burst out into scornful laughing. That seemed to cause some of his laughter to dry up, without Jesse even having to say a word. Then Jesse turned his penetrating gaze on me. But he changed his mind. Suddenly, it was getting very difficult to breathe. Jesse, what if I told you that in addition to all the many other wonderful things that we mediators can do, it turned out we can also travel through time?
And that I had generously offered to travel back to your time—the night you died, I mean—and save your life. What would you say to that? Not even for a second. Think about it, Jesse. I can go back through time and warn you. My heart swelled with affection for the man leaning against the stone pillar beside me. Jesse would never choose life over me. He loves me too much. Or so I thought, before Paul started his patter once again. None of this wandering around in a sort of half-life for a hundred and fifty years, watching the people you love grow older and die, one by one.
No way. To a ripe old age, if I can, you know, get rid of that Diego guy who killed you. I mean, how can you say no to an offer like that? I thought, flushing with joy. Paul blinked. What are you going to do, hang around here for the rest of eternity? Are you going to watchher get old"—he thrust a finger at me—"and eventually turn to dust like you did with your family? You want to go through all that again?
Not by a long shot. Two things happened at once then. The first was that classroom doors suddenly flew open all around us and students began streaming out into the breezeway as they changed classes for the next period. All I want is you. I could tell it was too late.
Some of what Paul had said was already starting to sink in. I knew, of course, what they were seeing. Me with hands raised, clutching nothing but air, and speaking to one of the pillars in the breezeway. Now Ireally looked like I was going around the bend. I dropped my hands and turned to face Paul, who still stood there looking angry and defensive and pleased with himself at the same time.
The woman slipped me a dollar, and I handed her the lemon bars. She passed one to Tyler, who inspected it, bit into it. Beside me, Shannon, my fellow bake sale attendant, looked appalled. She just said she was raising him without it. Poor kid. It was weird to hear someone call David "Dave. It was so the story of my life to be stuck running a school bake sale while the rest of the world was enjoying such a perfect Saturday.
The sky overhead was so blue and cloudless, it was almost painful to look at. The temperature was hovering at an extremely comfortable seventy degrees. A beautiful day for the beach or cappuccino at an outdoor cafe, or even just a walk.
And where was I? She likes to talk. A lot. And, you know. So cool. Yeah, right. But not, you know, hordes of eager antique collectors. Occasionally, some of them stopped by our booth and shelled out a buck for a Rice Krispies treat or whatever. But mostly they had their eyes on the prize. The bidding got started late because the monsignor was supposed to have been acting as auctioneer. Because he was still in a coma up in San Francisco, there appeared to have been some frantic phone calls on the part of Sister Ernestine, as she looked for someone worthy to fill in.
I saw Andy climb the dais, waving modestly and looking abashed at all the applause he was getting. Not sure if there could possibly be anything more embarrassing than this, I started to slink down in my chair. Oh but wait, therewas something more embarrassing than my stepfather calling the school antique auction. There was also the fact that most of the applause he was getting was coming from a woman in the front row. My mother. He was gesturing to an ugly orange plastic chair and declaring it "authentic Eames" and asking if anyone would be willing to bid a hundred dollars for it.
A hundred dollars? And nobody even complained about what a rip-off it was. Clearly Sister Ernestine had impressed upon this audience just how badly the school needed its basketball court repaved, because people were just throwing their money away on the most worthless pieces of garbage ever. Walden both bidding against each other for an extremely hideous lamp. Aunt Pru finally won it —for bucks—then walked over to Mr. Walden, apparently to gloat.
Except that a few minutes later, I saw them having lemonade together and overheard them laughing about sharing custody of the lamp, like it was a kid in a divorce settlement. What was I going to do, be all "Oh, yeah, by the way, Paul wants to travel through time and make it so you never died. But I plan on stopping him. Paul going back through time, I mean. The thing to anchor him to the night Jesse died.
When he held it up now, I saw it winking in the afternoon sunlight. Someone had washed and polished it. About as long, actually, as my boyfriend had been dead. Look at the detail in the ornate D carved into it. Dave, I mean. The sun was beating down on us kind of hard, and it was difficult to think about anything except how much I wished I were at the beach.
She had a crush on a guy. All she wanted to know was whether or not she was wasting her time. As the sister of the object of her affections, however, all I could think was. Also, that David isway too young to have a girlfriend. The Diegos—or at least, the ghost of the one member of the family I had had the misfortune to meet—had all been thieves and murderers. Okay, we have a hundred. How about a hundred and twentyfive?
Does anybody bid a hundred and twenty-five? David, a girlfriend? The youngest of my stepbrothers, I could no more picture David with a girlfriend than I could picture him behind the wheel of a car or even playing soccer. It made sense that someday David would be sixteen and do all the same things that his older brothers Jake and Brad and I were doing.
You know, drive. Take trig. Make out with members of the opposite sex. I have seven hundred dollars. Does anyone—Okay, seven fifty. Do I hear eight? I mean, if he liked anyone better than anybody else.
That I know of. There was an astonished hum through the crowd. Eleven hundred dollars was the most any item on the block had brought in so far. I craned my neck to see what kind of fool had that much money to burn on a piece of junk, and was a little startled to see that Andy was still holding up the belt buckle Jake had found in the attic.
What a loser , I thought. I mean, I had known Paul was a weirdo for a long time. But to throw away his hard-earned money—well, not so hard-earned, actually, because I was pretty sure he was paying for the belt buckle with funds stolen from the Gutierrezes—on a piece of junk like that.
Well, that was just insane. Why would Paul Slater spend 1, bucks on a banged-up old belt buckle. I guess it must have shown on my face, since Shannon suddenly sucked in her breath and went, "Are you all right? But before I could get anywhere close to him, someone grabbed me by the arm. My heart was beating so fast on account of the whole Paul-trying-to-keep-my-boyfriend-fromdying thing, that I almost jumped a mile in the air, I was so startled.
But it turned out it was only my mother. In, like, a nice way, I guess. But still gross.
Because Paul found me. I was too late. The transaction had been completed. In his hand was the belt buckle. Could they tell? Could they tell my heart was hammering a mile a minute and that my mouth was as dry as sand? He was watching us —my mom, Sister Ernestine, and me—with a slightly sardonic smile, as if everything we were saying was amusing him very much. And then I dragged Paul away from the dais and folding chairs, and over behind one of the display tables holding the rest of the stuff that was to be auctioned.
I just thought it was pretty.
I know why you bought that thing. Or can I go now? For the first time in several minutes, I was able to take a deep breath. See you, Suze. She had wanted to marry Diego, a slave-runner and mercenary, rather than the man her father had picked out tor her to marry, her cousin ew Jesse. But Jesse never made it to the wedding. Killed by Felix Diego, though no one at the time knew that. His body was never found.
Now Paul was going to stop Diego from killing Jesse. All we have to do is remove their souls from their bodies, escort them to that spiritual way station where their fate—whatever it was, heaven, hell, next life—was decided, and boom: Oh sure, Diego deserved to die. He was the scum of the earth. I needed backup. Fortunately, I knew just where to find it. But I had a pretty good idea who might know. The sun was just starting to set as I pulled out onto Scenic Drive, painting the western sky a deep burnt orange, and turning the sea the color of flames.
But I knew that behind the glowing glass, families were just sitting down to dinner. I was going to be in big trouble for what I was doing. There was a life at stake here. And okay, so the life belonged to a heinous killer who deserved to die. That was beside the point. Paul had to be stopped. And I knew of only one person he might possibly listen to. A cool, crisp breeze was blowing in from the sea. Inhaling it, you almost felt like all was right with the world.
So wrong. The water in Carmel Bay can be treacherous, with dangerous riptides that had swept hundreds of hapless vacationers to their deaths. It was fitting that Paul would live just yards away from something so deadly. Paul answered the door himself.
You could tell he was expecting some kind of food delivery, and not me, because he had his wallet out. He slipped his wallet back into the pocket of his perfectly pressed chinos and said with a slow smile, "Suze. To what do I owe the pleasure? Hot sprinkles. What areyou doing here? But only to Suze. I mean, he had to have known why I was there. He had to have known I only wanted to talk to Dr. Slaski so I could see if he knew of some way I could stop his grandson from playing with the past.
But instead of looking angry about it or even mildly annoyed, Paul opened the door wider and said, "Be my guest. I could see why when I stepped into the living room. I am, after all, taken. Still, the whole thing smacked of overkill. I hurried past the living room and down the long hallway that led to Dr. I could hear the Game Show Network blaring away. The dulcet tones of Bob Barker. Smack, smack. When I got to Dr. When no one called for me to come in, I went ahead and pushed the partly open door.
Slaski himself, propped up in his hospital bed, appeared to be dozing as well. I hated to wake him, of course, but what choice did I have? Was I wrong in thinking that he might want to know that his own grandson was thinking of tampering with the course of history, something he himself had warned me was perilous in the extreme? Are you awake? Suze Simon. I have something really important I need to ask you. Slaski opened one eye and looked at me.
Slaski looked toward the ceiling. To keep my boyfriend from dying. Slaski licked his cracked lips. My boyfriend is a ghost. Slaski closed his eyes. Tell him something,anything. Slaski, his eyes still closed, shook his head slowly from side to side.
Never could. Never will. Slaski," I cried. If he saves Jesse. Slaski had opened his eyes and was gazing at me. Slaski wanted to know. You really think your life will be over if a boy you have a crush on—not even a boy, aghost! Paul knows that. Slaski looked interested in that. I took a deep breath. Him and me. Slaski said with a phlegmy cough. Romantic, too. Almost gives me faith in him.
Slaski glared at me. Or the boyfriend, anyway. You think this Jessup—" "Jesse. Hanging around tor all eternity, watching you live your life, while he hovers in the background, never aging, never feeling an ocean breeze on his face, never again tasting blueberry pie.
Is that the kind of life you wish for him? And neither would he! Paul said something about soul transference—" "Ah," Dr. His voice was beginning to sound fainter and fainter. He would. But not you. But Dr. Slaski only shook his head again. No need to get huffy about it. His gaze on me was steady. Slaski asked finally. Slaski said and broke down into a coughing fit from which it seemed to take him ages to recover.
Finally, lying back on his hospital bed, the horrible, body-wracking spasms finished, he wheezed, "When you go back. Through time, you mean? He just looked up at the ceiling.
Go back through time? Is that what you meant? Slaski never finished that sentence. Because midway through it, his jaw went slack, his eyes closed, and he fell sound asleep. I reached out to touch his hand, hoping that might wake him.
Slaski, wake up! He was up and out of his chair at once, crying, "What? What is it?
I just stood there, not understanding. I mean, he was coughing a lot, but. And then all of a sudden—" The attendant had to say it twice. Get an ambulance! I picked it up and dialed. When the operator came on, I told her that we needed an ambulance and gave her the address. Meanwhile, behind me, the attendant had placed an oxygen mask over Dr.