Two Can Keep a Secret(5)

My eyes prick as Nana calls up the stairs. “Ellery? Ezra? Officer Rodriguez is here.”

Ezra’s already in the hall when I leave my room, and we head downstairs to Nana’s kitchen. A dark-haired man in a blue uniform, his back to us, takes the cup of coffee Nana holds toward him. She looks like she just stepped out of an L. L. Bean catalog in khakis, clogs and a boxy oxford shirt with horizontal stripes.

“Maybe the town will finally do something about that overpass,” Nana says, then catches my eye over the officer’s shoulder. “There you are. Ryan, this is my granddaughter and. grandson. Ellery and Ezra, meet Officer Ryan Rodriguez. He lives down the street and came by to ask us few questions about last night.”

The officer turns with a half smile that freezes as the coffee mug slips out of his hand and goes crashing to the floor. None of us react for a second, and then everybody leaps into action at once, grabbing at paper towels and picking thick pieces of ceramic mug off Nana’s black-and-white tiled floor.

“I’m so sorry,” Officer Rodriguez keeps repeating. He can’t be more than five years older than me and Ezra, and he looks as though even he’s not sure whether he’s an actual adult yet. “I have no idea how that happened. I’ll replace the mug.”

“Oh, for goodness’ sake,” Nana says crisply. “Those cost two dollars at Dalton’s. Sit down and I’ll get you another one. You too, Ellery and Ezra. There’s juice on the table if you want some.”

We all settle around the kitchen table, which is neatly set with three place mats, silverware, and glasses. Officer Rodriguez pulls a notepad from his front pocket and flips through it with a knitted brow. He has one of those hangdog faces that looks worried even now, when he’s not breaking my grandmother’s stuff. “Thanks for making time this morning. I just came from the Kilduffs’ house, and Melanie filled me in on what happened at the Fulkerson Street overpass last night. Which, I’m sorry to say, looks like it was a hit-and-run.” Nana hands him another cup of coffee before sitting down next to Ezra, and Officer Rodriguez takes a careful sip. “Thank you, Mrs. Corcoran. So, it would be helpful if all of you could tell me everything you observed, even if it doesn’t seem important.”

I straighten in my chair, and Ezra rolls his eyes. He knows exactly what’s going through my head. Even though last night was awful, I can’t not feel a slight thrill at being part of an actual police investigation. I’ve been waiting for this moment half my life.

Unfortunately I’m no help, because I hardly remember anything except Melanie trying to help Mr. Bowman. Ezra’s not much better. Nana is the only one who noticed little details, like the fact that there was an umbrella and a Tupperware container scattered on the street next to Mr. Bowman. And as far as investigating officers go, Ryan Rodriguez is disappointing. He keeps repeating the same questions, almost knocks over his fresh cup of coffee, and stumbles constantly over Melanie’s name. By the time he thanks us and Nana walks him to the front door, I’m convinced he needs a few more years of training before they let him out on his own again.

“That was kind of disorganized,” I say when Nana returns to the kitchen. “Do people take him seriously as a police officer around here?”

She takes a pan out from a cabinet next to the stove and places it on a front burner. “Ryan is perfectly capable,” she says matter-of-factly, crossing to the refrigerator and pulling out the butter dish. She sets it on the counter and slices off a huge chunk, dropping it into the pan. “He may be a little out of sorts. His father died a few months ago. Cancer. They were very close. And his mother passed the year before, so it’s been one thing after another for that family. Ryan is the youngest and the only one still at home. I imagine it’s been lonely.”

“He lived with his parents?” Ezra asks. “How old is he?” My brother is kind of judgy about adults who still live at home. He’ll be one of those people, like Sadie, who moves out as soon as the ink is dry on his diploma. He has a ten-year plan that involves taking a grunt job at a radio station while deejaying on the side, until he has enough experience to host his own show. I try not to panic whenever I imagine him leaving me behind to do … who even knows what.

“Twenty-two, I think? Or twenty-three,” Nana says. “All the Rodriguez kids lived at home during college. Ryan stayed once his father got sick.” Ezra hunches his shoulders guiltily as my ears prick up.

“Twenty-three?” I repeat. “Was he in Lacey Kilduff’s class?”

“I believe so,” Nana says as she cracks an egg into the now-sizzling pan.

I hesitate. I barely know my grandmother. We’ve never talked about my missing aunt on our awkward, infrequent Skype calls, and I have no idea if Lacey’s death is extra-painful for her because of what happened to Sarah. I should probably keep my mouth shut, but …

“Were they friends?” I blurt out. Ezra’s face settles into a here we go expression.

“I couldn’t say. They knew one another, certainly. Ryan grew up in the neighborhood and they both worked at … Fright Farm.” Her hesitation before the new name is so slight that I almost miss it. “Most kids in town did. Still do.”

“When does it open?” Ezra asks. He glances at me like he’s doing me a favor, but he didn’t have to bother. I looked up the schedule as soon as I learned we were moving to Echo Ridge.

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