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Takedown THE DEAL
I slipped back into the alley and whispered into my cell, “It’s on. Pup’s approaching the car.”

Seconds ticked by. I watched Pup slide into his shiny black Mazda. Bass thumped inside. If the cops didn’t pounce soon, they’d lose him. That better not happen. I’d spent weeks tracking his movements in preparation for this. His car was definitely full of Diamond Dust and who knows what else.

Sirens wailed, and three cop cars streaked in from all sides. Pup slammed on the gas, ramming one of them. He flung open his door and started to run, but they were on him in seconds.

Pup put up an impressive fight, but it only got him zapped by a Taser. Finally they cuffed him and shoved him into the back of a cruiser. Off he went.

I smiled. Seeing Pup get arrested was a pleasure. He was a key player in Diamond Tony Walker’s operation. Cruel and unusual was his thing. That’s how he got his name—short for Sick Puppy.

Pulling my hood forward, I walked out of the alley and crossed the street, avoiding the security cameras around the all-night deli. Everybody knew those cameras didn’t miss a thing. If Diamond Tony suspected a snitch, he’d get the tapes. He could have anything he wanted in this neighborhood.

I wasn’t going to get sloppy. A sloppy informant is a dead informant.

Home was four blocks away. It was late and freezing cold, so everybody was staying inside. Even the drug fiends had found warm places to huddle.

When I got to my building, I saw two homeless guys slumped in between the front doors. They were probably too high to notice me, but I couldn’t risk it.

I circled around back and scaled the fire escape. It was loose in several places and clanked against the building as I went up three floors. Climbing into my bedroom, I kicked off my shoes, threw my jacket over a chair, and stretched out on the bed. I rubbed my hands together to warm them up. My heart was beating fast, the way it always did when I was creeping. Creeping and peeping, the kind of thing that could get me killed any day of the week.

I was four months out of juvie and a lot deeper into the game than before I went in. But I had to work for Diamond Tony if I was going to bring him down. I had a mission—and nothing was going to get in my way.

Pup’s arrest tonight was just the beginning.

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The Education of Hailey Kendrick


There was a matter of life and death to deal with, and instead we were wasting our time discussing Mandy Gallaway’s crotch. I kept a neutral smile plastered on my face, but my foot bobbed up and down impatiently. More people have seen Mandy Gallaway’s naked crotch than saw last year’s Super Bowl. The girl’s incapable of getting out of a car without flashing the sixty zillion paparazzi that follow her around. The concept of knees together and underwear on isn’t that complicated, which leaves me to believe she likes the sensation of flashbulbs lighting up where the sun isn’t supposed to shine.

Given that her crotch had been photographed more than most supermodels, I failed to see why one online leaked picture of her standing in her gym shorts and a sports bra was causing this much drama. The situation certainly didn’t call for the public flogging and stoning the student body was advocating. All the crowd was missing were some pitchforks and torches, and we could have stormed the town. On the upside, at least people had shown up for our student government meeting, for a change.

The Evesham student body usually had more important things to care about, like planning their next vacation to a private island near the Bahamas, or deciding between another Coach or Louis Vuitton bag. Most of the time the only people who came to our meetings were those of us on the board.

It wasn’t clear what had really happened, but the theory was that a female security guard had snapped the photo of the half-dressed Mandy in the locker room and had sold it to the tabloids. A few people had seen a guard doing her rounds of the gym, and she’d had her cell phone out. Given who attends Evesham, paparazzi is a common problem, but before this incident they’d tended to hang outside the school gates. No one had ever had a picture leaked from inside. This was officially big news on campus.

“We should send her to prison for violating Mandy’s privacy,” Garrett said. His dad is a U.S. Senator; you would think he would have a better idea of how the system works.

“We’re a student government association,” I pointed out. “We don’t actually have the power to sentence anyone to jail time.” I straightened the nameplate on the desk in front of me: HAILEY KENDRICK—VICE PRESIDENT. I managed to avoid pointing out that we barely had the authority to hold a bake sale.

“Whatever. I want her fired,” Mandy said. “Like, today.” She crossed her arms and stuck her chin up into the air.

“We can’t have her fired, either. The school employees all belong to a union. The whole thing is outside of the student government domain. It’s up to the administration.” I considered pulling the copy of the employee union agreement out of my file, but I was pretty sure no one was interested in the details of due process. It wasn’t exactly a big pro-union crowd. I didn’t know why we bothered to have this issue on the agenda at all, except for the fact that everyone wanted to talk about it.

“Really?” Mandy raised one perfectly plucked eyebrow. “If the administration isn’t interested in what students think, maybe I should have my parents give them a call.”

Mandy’s parents had more money than most countries. I was pretty sure they could buy up some small ones—Luxembourg or the Philippines, for example—without even breaking the monthly budget. Her great-grandparents had owned several oil and gas companies and hung out with people like the Vanderbilts. If her parents called the school administration and said jump, people there would start leaping around before even bothering to ask how high.

I looked at the clock. We were going to run out of time. In addition to tackling the safety issue I had hoped to discuss, the council meeting was supposed to be focused on choosing between the two possible themes for our spring formal dance. Any talk of Southern Nights or Old Hollywood had gone out the door when the news about the picture had spread across campus. It was standing room only in the classroom we used for our meetings. No one wanted to miss any hot dirt.

“It totally grosses me out that that dyke took my picture.” Mandy made a face like she had just bitten into month-old cottage cheese.

“Careful,” Joel said. As the president of the student council, he was always sure to enforce the “respect and dignity” clause in the student handbook. “Her sexual orientation isn’t an issue here.”

“God, it’s not a gay thing. I have tons of family friends who are gay,” Mandy said. “‘Dyke’ is just a description.”

It was classic Mandy to make a distinction between okay gay people (those who design houses or clothing, work in Hollywood, or write for the New Yorker) and not okay gay people (women who wear flannel shirts from Walmart.) The real issue wasn’t the fact that the security guard might be gay, it was that she had a cheap haircut and unshaven legs, and had made a few thousand dollars selling an unflattering photo of Mandy. Even the haircut, flannel, and legs might have been forgiven if the photo hadn’t made Mandy’s thighs look a bit chunky.

Joel clapped his hands together to get everyone’s attention. “Hailey is right. This issue doesn’t fall under student government business.” The crowd in the room started to grumble and protest, and Joel held up one hand. “That doesn’t mean we can’t make it our business.”

A cheer went up from the group. Joel was a natural politician. I was certain he would be president of the United States someday. He had written to every living former president and asked them for advice on leadership. He kept the letters he got back in a binder in his room. President Clinton had sent him at least four. Not many people can list a president of the United States as a pen pal.

Joel stood so the people at the back could see him. “Privacy and the ability of everyone to feel safe here at Evesham is critical, and is a value this government is willing to fight to uphold. This isn’t just a boarding school; it’s our home away from home. We go to school here. We live here. We need to feel safe here. I motion that the council write a formal letter to the school administration indicating our concerns and demanding that action be taken. All in favor?”

There was a chorus of cheers and whoops from the crowd. Joel looked at me, and I could see the corner of his mouth twitching as he fought off a smile. He knew we could write all the letters we wanted and the school administration would still do whatever they wanted. However, he’d convinced everyone that he was practically Superman standing up for truth, justice, and the American way. Saving the rich and privileged from unflattering photos. I rolled my eyes at him and pressed my mouth together to avoid smiling. If I gave him any encouragement, there was no telling what he would come up with next.

“We have to have someone second the motion and put it to a vote,” I said.

“Why? Is there some rule?” Garret said. I wanted to smack the smirk right off his face. As a matter of fact, there was a rule. If he wanted the Save the Crotch letter, then there was going to be an official vote. I stared at him with a smile on my face and said nothing.

“I’ll second the motion,” a sophomore girl sitting on the floor said. Joel gave her one of his thousand-watt smiles. Her face flushed bright red, and she let out a high-pitched giggle.

“Great. Now we just need to get a count of all those in favor,” Joel said, and called for a show of hands.

I heard a sound behind me, and I turned to see my boyfriend, Tristan, leaning in the doorway. I held up a finger to let him know it would only be a couple of minutes more. Not surprisingly, no one was opposed to the Save the Crotch letter, and it passed.

“We still need to decide on the theme for the dance,” I said before Joel had a chance to dismiss the meeting.

“What theme do you want?” Tristan called from the doorway.

“I don’t want to influence the vote,” I said.

“I’m thinking you’d go for the Hollywood glamour option,” Tristan said, cocking his head to the side as if he were picking up my brain waves.

“So, are you guessing or making a motion?” Joel asked.

Tristan flipped Joel off, and they both laughed. They’d been roommates since freshman year. As upperclassmen they’d qualified to each get their own room, but they still preferred to share. Tristan found it difficult to trust many people, and he always swore that Joel was more than his friend, that they were brothers. You could tell by looking at them they might be brothers of choice, but they weren’t remotely related. Joel was tall and lanky. He always had to be in motion. I didn’t have a single photo of Joel where his image wasn’t partially blurred. Tristan was the opposite. He seemed unmovable. He was tall too, but broad. One of the first things that had attracted me to him was how solid he appeared. Tristan looked like he could stand straight during a hurricane.

“It’s a motion, Mr. President,” Tristan said with a slight bow.

“Anyone care to second?” Joel called out, and the room filled with hands raised to support Tristan. Joel was the politician, but Tristan was the charmer. It was almost unfair to have that much male charisma in one dorm room. “Great. Now a quick vote. All in favor?” The sea of hands raised again. “Anyone opposed?” He looked around the room, but no one was interested in going against Tristan. Joel looked over at me. “Looks like we have a dance theme. With our business finished, I call this meeting officially to an end.”

Tristan stood next to me while everyone else streamed out of the room. Mandy paused long enough to lean into Joel, pressing her breasts against his chest (there was a running bet that they were fake, which is likely, because no one has breasts that size and that perky, unless they’re filled with a space-age material) and thanking him for standing up for her. Her voice was slightly breathless, as if she were nearly overcome with gratitude. She was acting like he had carried her down twenty-two flights of stairs in a burning building. Both Joel and Tristan turned to watch her stroll out, her hips going back and forth like she was walking across the deck of a listing ship.

“Careful. Your eyes might fall out,” I said.

Tristan looked away, then pulled me close to nuzzle my ear. “The girl can’t hold a candle to you. She’s all flash and glitter. It would be like dating a disco ball.” He looked up at Joel. “You should ask her to the dance. She looks pretty grateful.”

“Oh, so I can have the disco ball. Thanks, man. Your kindness knows no bounds.”

“You need something a little flashy to keep your attention. You get distracted pretty easy. It’s a good thing we’re seniors, because you’re running out of girls to date.”

Joel punched Tristan in the arm, and they jostled around laughing.

“You can do better than Mandy,” I said to Joel while I stuffed papers into my bag.

“I keep trying to convince you to run away with me, but you won’t leave this ape,” Joel said, ducking a headlock from Tristan. Joel darted across the room, hooting like a monkey. Very fourth grade.

“I’m glad we got the dance settled. I was afraid we weren’t going to get to it, ” I said.

“We can put the idea of securing the vending machines on next month’s agenda,” Joel said, raising his hand like he was taking a vow.

Tristan raised an eyebrow at Joel. “Vending machine safety?”

I rolled my eyes at both of them. I was used to being teased about my safety obsession. People could laugh all they wanted. The one thing I knew for sure was that the world was a dangerous and unpredictable place. Smart people do everything they can to eliminate risk. Did you know that more people are killed every year in falling vending machine accidents than in shark attacks? Our school had an entire wall of unsecured vending machines in the lobby of the gym. If someone were crushed to death trying to get a frosty can of Diet Coke, it wouldn’t be my fault. I’d tried to raise the issue.

“Today’s agenda sort of got hijacked. Nothing riles people up like a good scandal and a sense of righteous justice,” Joel said.

“Do you think they’ll fire the security guard?” I asked.

“They shouldn’t. There isn’t any real proof, and if she doesn’t have any other disciplinary notes in her employment file, I’m willing to bet the union rules say they can’t.”

“They should.” Tristan’s voice turned serious. I wasn’t surprised. Having parents with four Oscars between them meant you could have Steven Spielberg as your godfather, but never a moment of privacy. His ninth birthday had been ruined when a photographer had fallen out of a tree onto the pool deck while trying to get a picture of his parents. “You aren’t taking her side, are you?” Tristan asked Joel.

“I’m not taking anyone’s side. Just saying she doesn’t deserve to be burned at the stake until we know what really happened.” He looked over at Tristan. “You don’t have to worry, dude. No one wants a picture of your ugly half-dressed ass.”

“Except you,” Tristan shot back. “I’ve seen how you look at me.”

I rolled my eyes. “I’ll let you guys have some special alone time. I’m supposed to meet up with Kelsie to work on our history project.”

“Hang out with us. We’re going to the café to get some ice cream. What sounds like more fun, ice cream or the Revolutionary War?” Tristan held on to my hand. He rubbed his thumb against the inside of my palm, a move that always gave me
shivers. “Even George Washington would pick mint chocolate chip, and he had freedom on the line.”

“George didn’t have to worry about college applications,” I pointed out, pulling my hand away before how he made me feel distracted me from homework. I was dedicated to getting good grades, but time with Tristan was never a bad thing. I kissed his cheek.

“Fine. Abandon us,” Joel said, grabbing his stuff from the table. “I’m used to you snubbing me, but I’m not sure how he’s going to handle it.”

“I’m sure he can soldier on without me for a few hours.”

“Despite the fact that you’re breaking my heart, I still have amazing news for you,” Tristan said.


“I don’t know if I’m going to tell you,” he said, turning away. “I may be too devastated to talk now.”

I smacked him across the shoulder. “Tell me.”

“It’s going to cost you a kiss,” Tristan said.

I quickly kissed him.

“It’s a way better secret than that,” he said, leaning back against the table and crossing his arms.

I leaned in and he pulled me closer. He wound his hands into my hair and kissed me deeply, causing my heart to speed up.

“Still standing here,” Joel said, interrupting us. “In fact, I’m feeling a little pervy just watching.”

Tristan laughed. “Watch and learn, Grasshopper.” He turned to me. “I called my mom and told her the theme to the dance is going to be Old Hollywood. She says if you want, you can borrow one of her vintage dresses. She has a gown that used to belong to Bette Davis back in the forties. My mom wore it to some awards show.”

“Seriously?” I squeaked, bouncing up on my tiptoes. I hadn’t even seen the dress, but I knew I wanted it. “I could kiss your mom.”

“You can kiss me and I’ll pass it along,” Tristan promised. I planted a big smack on his lips.

“How did you know people would vote for Old Hollywood as the theme?” I asked.

“He also had his mom pick up Vivien Leigh’s costume from Gone with the Wind in case everyone went with the Southern idea instead,” Joel said. “It comes complete with a small black girl who follows you around to wave you with a fan.”

Tristan gave Joel another shove, before smiling at me. “I knew you wanted Old Hollywood, which meant that’s what I wanted.”

“Ah, popularity. What you two want, the whole world wants. But what about me? I’m left still wanting ice cream,” Joel said.

We headed out together. The guys offered to walk me back to my dorm in case any rogue security guards tried to get a photo of me, but I declined. I couldn’t wait to tell my best friend, Kelsie, about the Bette Davis dress. She was going to freak out. She wants to be an actress and loves anything vintage Hollywood.

Joel was right, popularity has its advantages.

© 2011 Eileen Cook

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