Can u pick up milk on ur way home?
It’s not the kind of text that would make most people climb out of a bathroom window. It comes across as pretty harmless, right? But it’s not, trust me. And I’m not most people.
I’m Kari Andrews, and I’m a junior here at the ivy-covered, lushly landscaped, Kennedy Preparatory School in Washington, DC. Yeah, I’ve definitely looked more dignified than I do right now as I dangle half out of the ladies’ room window. I’m scrambling for a handhold between the climbing ivy and the old red brick and mortar that surrounds the window so I can pull myself up and out, then drop the four and a half feet to the grass below.
I hit the ground running.
I’m not playing hooky—this is a Code Black emergency.
Twenty minutes ago
I’m sitting in art class, spinning the sterling silver charm that I got in the mail yesterday from my parents. They travel a lot, so they send little gifts to my brother Charlie and me, just to let us know that they’re thinking about us.
I’m trying to get excited about painting a still life in the style of an old Dutch master. Van Eyck or Holbein or Rembrandt—one of those sixteenth-century men in tights with a long droopy nose and a silly hat sporting a peacock feather.
The still life involves a green velvet drape under a porcelain bowl of fruit. Next to the bowl sits a creepy antique doll with blond corkscrew curls. I block out some shapes on my paper with pencil and then mix the green paint for the drape, but I am unsure exactly where to start with the composition. Drapery’s tough, and I’m not much of an artist.
I’m spinning my charm, which is Romania’s Bran Castle, on the long paint-and-clay-spattered table. Dracula’s legendary home hits an old blob of dried paste, then jumps and skitters right into my little lake of green. Go figure—I should have taken the time to attach it to my bracelet with the others.
My best friend Larita, who has the same art period, sees, snorts, and tries not to laugh. I just fish the charm out of the puddle of green and clean it off with a paper towel, then I stick it in my pocket and go back to staring at the still life. The doll has big brown eyes and wears a disdainful expression on her sculpted plastic lips that reminds me exactly of the way Lacey Carson looks when she bothers to notice me.
I pull out my cell phone to text Rita about the resemblance of the doll to Lacey, but I never get the chance. The “get milk” message from my dad pops up, and I know I have to clear out fast. In our family that milk message doesn’t mean what you think it means. It’s code for a true emergency.
I get up from my stool and head for the door. Mr. Aldrich barely glances at me, he’s so laid-back. Good thing this text came right now and not during algebra, because it would’ve been a lot harder to get away from Colonel Davenport. (We call him Colon D because he’s so anal—but that’s another topic.)
I slide out the door and into Kennedy Prep’s blue-tiled hallway. Because Kale, my other best friend, is due to pick me up for a martial arts class after school, I quickly text him not to come and not to worry if I’m out of contact for a while.
Then I run to Rita’s locker. The first rule in case of an emergency like this one is to ditch my phone, with its handy GPS chip. Rita will know how to get in touch with me when she finds it.
I’m happy that my hands don’t shake at all as I turn the dial left to 17, right to 43, and then left again to 26. I slide the phone under Rita’s left gym shoe, at the bottom of the locker, and swipe a handful of her Peanut M&M’s. After all, a girl needs protein when she’s on the run.
I pop a few into my mouth, then crunch down. So my teeth are nice and brown and gooey when two pairs of feet appear on the other side of the locker door, one in highly polished Italian loafers and the other in scuffed boat shoes. I know those feet.
I look up and meet the amused gazes of Evan Kincaid, International Jerk of Mystery, and Luke Carson, American Hottie—and twin brother of Doll-Face Lacey.
Luke, who’s Abercrombie and Fitch all the way, is the best-looking guy in all of Kennedy Prep, and he’s got an easygoing personality that made him a shoo-in for junior class president.
Luke’s got muscular runner’s legs to die for—not that I can see them right now under his khakis. His broad chest and buff arms hold my attention just fine, thanks. He’s blond like Lacey and tan from all the time he spends outdoors on the track team. He has the same big brown eyes as his sister, but his are warm and intelligent as opposed to vacuous and ringed by mascara.
But it’s Luke’s smile that makes him irresistible. He gets these dimples at the corners of his mouth that should be illegal, and he has a way of making a girl feel that she’s the only person in the world who matters to him. I’m not sure how he does it—or if he’s even aware of it—but I am a slave to those dimples.
“And what have we here? An assassin or a thief?” The question distracts me. It’s delivered in a lazy, British public school drawl, the voice deeper than it has a right to be—and at the same time silky.
Evan Kincaid appeared out of nowhere this fall. Supposedly he’s from London, and there’s a rumor that his parents work for the British Embassy, but Rita says that’s not true. He’s taller than Luke, about six feet, and a little broader.
Too broad, if you ask me. He probably oils up and pumps iron in a gym full of mirrors. He’s got smoky-gray eyes that sometimes go blue, like right now. His light brown hair always looks windswept but perfect, and even though we have to wear uniforms at Kennedy Prep, his shirts are tailored, not store-bought like everyone else’s. He gets a ten out of ten for style from Fashionista Rita.
Evan may look as if he stepped out of GQ, but it’s Luke who does funny things to me. I get discombobulated around him and my knees turn to rubber. I also do dumb things—like forget I have M&M’s in my mouth as I greet him with a big smile.
“Hi, Luke.” I clap my hand over my mouth, mortified.
Evan guffaws. “Seen a dentist lately, love?”
Even Luke, who’s a really nice guy, struggles to keep a straight face.
I can’t speak for the horror of the situation. So naturally, Evan does for me.
“She’s definitely an assassin,” he says to Luke. “Because if looks could kill, I’d be in rigor mortis by now.”
“Nope.” Luke allows himself a smile. His eyes run slowly down my body as if by instinct, but then he averts them, instead of ogling. Not that I have much to ogle. “She’s a thief. Because this isn’t her locker—it’s Rita’s. And those are probably Rita’s M&M’s. Am I right?”
My face has already flash fried. Now my neck does too—and the rest of me—under Luke’s gaze. I want to tell Evan that I want to kill him, all right. But slowly. Taking hours to do it. So rigor mortis? It’s a long way off.
But I can’t say that in front of Luke. I swallow the M&M’s. Struggle for some dignity. And find my voice. “I was starving, and Rita said I could have some. What are you guys doing out of class?”
“Doc’s appointment,” Luke says easily.
I flick a disinterested glance toward Evan, along with a raised eyebrow.
“Just bored.” He yawned. “Colon D’s class. No need to solve for X. It’s on the stick that’s up his—”
“How did you get past him?” Against my will, I’m impressed.
“Got my ways and means, love.”
“I’m not your love.” No mystery why I feel the need to assert this in front of Luke.
Evan flashes too-white teeth at me. “Pity, that.”
I roll my eyes. Mature, no—but it relieves my feelings somewhat.
“So,” Evan inquires, “ditching school yourself, are you?”
I shoot a glance at Luke, who’s kind of a Boy Scout. “No, of course not.” I really need to get out of Dodge, but I can’t risk Evan trying to accompany me. How to handle this?
How would my mom handle it? Chic, petite, elegant . . . never a dark hair out of place, she can make any man squirm at a glance—and this includes my dad. I hear her voice in my head, dishing out one of her many pieces of invaluable advice. Men will rarely follow a woman into the bathroom, darling.
“I’m not playing hooky . . . just going to the ladies’ room.”
Luke looks at his watch, then shifts his weight from one foot to the other. “Well. I’ve got to run—don’t want to be late. See you.”
“ ’Kay,” I squeak, still doing my best to scrape chocolate and nut particles off my teeth with my tongue.
Evan seems to know exactly what I’m doing. And because he’s watching, I can’t even check out Luke’s truly fine rear end as he walks away. I slam Rita’s locker door and scuttle like a cockroach, not a lady, in the other direction.
“Always delightful to see you,” Evan calls after me.
I ignore him and refuse to let him bother me.
Adrenaline beats in a tiny, staccato pulse under my jaw. Are my parents okay?
Of course they’re fine. They’ve been in and out of tough situations in the past. This alarm won’t be any different—it probably just means that we’ll have to go through the hassle of revamping all our security.
I push open the door of the girls’ bathroom and wrinkle my nose at the weird, fake cherry smell of the disinfectant in there. A quick glance in the mirror reveals that my hair is still long, dark, and kind of messy; my face is your average face with two brown eyes, a nose, and a mouth. Aunt Sophie is always hassling me to wear some makeup—but the stuff mystifies me. On the few occasions that I’ve experimented with it, I have ended up making myself look like either a clown or a hooker.
Too bad there’s not a whole lot to do in a girls’ bathroom if you’re not big on primping. I don’t even need to pee. A speck of green paint under my thumbnail gives me an excuse to wash my hands, but that doesn’t take up much time.
I check my watch: Two minutes have gone by. I decide to open the door a crack and see if Evan is still loitering in the hallway.
Unfortunately, he is, for some unknown and completely annoying reason. Go away! I mouth.
Oblivious, he continues to text something on his phone.
I check my watch again. How to get out of here? I need to go meet my little brother Charlie, stat.
Charlie, who is only seven, is already a fifth grader at James Madison Academy, because he’s basically a genius and has skipped three grades. I worry sometimes that he’s too smart. It would do him good to get out and play with other kids more—but he’s shy, and they tend to think that he’s a little odd. How many seven-year-olds are fluent in four languages? Can quote Nietzsche and Schopenhauer? And write computer code in Java, C++ and PHP?
Yeah, he’s a walking brain.
Evan shows no sign of moving anytime soon, so I start looking for a way around him—and hone in on the small, frosted-glass windows over the two sinks in the girls’ bathroom.
One of them is sealed shut, but I manage to get the other one open. I vault up onto the sink and wriggle my head and shoulders through the tight rectangle. Sometimes being small for my age is a curse, but right now it’s a beautiful thing. And unlike Lacey, I have no long pink nails to break as I scrabble for gaps in the mortar. I get my right arm all the way out and cling to the window frame like a monkey with my left one. I find a good handhold among the bricks and shimmy out to my knees, my butt in the air and my plaid uniform skirt flapping. Anyone standing around outside would get a great visual of my blue polka-dotted panties, but no one’s there, thank God.
The cold metal of the window casing presses against my bare thighs and makes me shiver. Immodestly I work one leg free of the window until I’m straddling it. The chilly, early October air wafts over my skin as I dangle by one leg from that freakin’ window, using my other foot to brace against the bricks outside. I stick my arm back through and grab my backpack off the sink, then drop it into a pile of leaves below me. I scrape my second knee through the frame, hang from the pediment like an orangutan for a moment, and then drop to the grass. I run from the grounds toward the road that will take me southeast to Wisconsin Avenue and the Metro stop there.
Hang on, Charlie. I’m coming for you.
Two Lies and a Spy
When sixteen-year-old Kari’s dad sends her an unexpected text, she and her brother immediately go into hiding. Because when your parents are superspies and your dad declares a Code Black, it can only mean something bad. Very bad.
Kari soon discovers that her parents have been disavowed and declared traitors, and she’s determined to clear their names. Breaking into the Agency seems like a reasonable plan, especially with the help of a team that includes her longtime crush, Luke, as well as her two best friends—an expert hacker with attitude and a master martial artist—and Luke’s popular, vindictive twin sister. Oh, and a new guy, who’s as cute as he is complicated…
- Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers |
- 256 pages |
- ISBN 9781442481725 |
- September 2013 |
- Grades 9 and up |
- Lexile ® HL720L