She could hear the scamper of footsteps coming after her, and then moving away again. Isobel stood up on the bike and drove the pedals harder as the clap of a car door echoed through the neighborhood.

Reaching the end of St. Francis Court, Isobel swung the bike onto the connecting street. The thin, cold wind whistled high in her ears as she headed pell-mell for the main road. Behind her, she could hear the approach of the Lexus and stole one quick glance back. Varen’s stepmom leaned out of the driver’s-side window. She honked the horn as she drove and shouted for Isobel to “please stop.”

The note of desperate pleading in the woman’s voice grabbed Isobel’s heart hard, and for an instant, her feet stopped pedaling. She coasted, her hands poised to clamp down on the handle brakes. The Lexus was right behind her now. She could hear its quiet purr growing louder.

“I’m just trying to find him!” the woman called. “If you know something, then please—”

Her words caused Isobel’s fear to spike again. Her arms acted for her and she cut the handlebars sharply to her right, swerving down an alleyway lined with city trash cans and carriage house garages.

Behind her, the tires of the Lexus squealed as it missed the turn. Isobel swerved again—this time up a short incline and into the parking lot of an old stone church.

She zoomed past and, making a quick scan for traffic, raced across the connecting street, her tires bumping on the curb as she maneuvered the bike onto the sidewalk.

She rounded the corner. Then, just before she shot beyond a row of tall brick buildings, the Lexus appeared, turning onto the street she’d just left, and Isobel knew she’d been spotted. She also knew she was out of room to run.

Isobel jerked the bike to the left and rattled into a dead-end gravel lot behind a coffee shop. Squeezing the brakes, she slid to a halt, her tires kicking up a cloud of white dust. She hopped off the bike and, giving it a push, let it roll behind an enormous Dumpster, where it crashed against the wall and clattered to the ground.

Isobel hesitated only a heartbeat before lifting up the Dumpster’s flimsy lid, hoisting herself over the lip of the metal bin, and dropping inside.

She landed with a whoosh, her fall broken by a cushion of foul-smelling trash bags.


The flap banged closed behind her, plunging her into darkness.

The stench of spoiled milk and rotten food filled her nostrils, making her gag. She coughed and clamped a hand over her nose and mouth. She grew still and waited, listening even though her ears could pick up only the sound of her own ragged breathing and the shift of plastic bags and compacting trash. She hoped those noises were a result of her own body weight and not the scampering of rats.

Closing her eyes, she held her breath and waited.

When she finally popped her head out of the Dumpster, she sucked in gasps of oxygen, hoping Varen’s stepmother had moved on from the area.

After climbing out of the Dumpster, she retrieved the bike and began to pedal homeward, as fast as her legs could carry her, praying the whole way that her mother had not yet opened the door to her bedroom.

HIDING DANNY’S BIKE IN THE backyard bushes, Isobel hurried up the lattice on the side of her house. She made her way across the slanted roof ledge, her legs weak from having pedaled so hard and so far. She slid her window open and climbed back in the way she’d left.

The alarm clock sitting on top of her cubbyhole headboard had already gone off, blasting a continuous and shrill tone, the numbers blinking 6:33.

“—sobel!” her mother’s voice boomed from somewhere downstairs.

Isobel slammed her window shut and turned her head to look toward the door when she heard footsteps on the stairs.

Shedding her coat, she scrambled into her bed, tossing the covers over her head. She heard her doorknob wiggle and yanked off the black ski cap, stuffing it under her pillow the instant before her door swung open.

“Izzy!” her mother called into the room. “Glad to finally see you getting some sleep, but can we please shut this thing off?”

Isobel peeked over her comforter. She did her best to slow her breathing, careful to keep her body concealed so her mother wouldn’t see that she was fully dressed.

Stopping at her bedside, her mother reached over Isobel’s head to hit the alarm’s snooze button.

“There,” she said with a sigh, and ran a hand through her hair, which had been combed and curled. In place of her usual nightgown and slippers, her mother wore a wool skirt and her moss-green cashmere sweater. “C’mon,” she said, giving Isobel’s leg a double tap. “Let’s go. Danny’s got a teacher conference this morning, so I’m giving you both a ride to school. Up and at ’em. We need to leave early.”

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