Echo Ridge is small-town America. The town is picture-perfect, but it’s hiding secrets. Ellery knows all about secrets. Her mother has them; her grandmother does too. And the longer she’s in Echo Ridge, the clearer it becomes that everyone there is hiding something. The thing is, secrets are dangerous—and most people aren’t good at keeping them. Which is why in Echo Ridge, it’s safest to keep your secrets to yourself.
Start reading Two Can Keep a Secret now. . . .
FRIDAY, AUGUST 30
If I believed in omens, this would be a bad one.
There’s only one suitcase left on the baggage carousel. It’s bright pink, covered with Hello Kitty stickers, and definitely not mine.
My brother, Ezra, watches it pass us for the fourth time, leaning on the handle of his own oversized suitcase. The crowd around the carousel is nearly gone, except for a couple arguing about who was supposed to keep track of their rental car reservation. “Maybe you should take it,” Ezra suggests. “Seems like whoever owns it wasn’t on our flight, and I bet they have an interesting wardrobe. A lot of polka dots, probably. And glitter.” His phone chimes, and he pulls it out of his pocket. “Nana’s outside.”
“I can’t believe this,” I mutter, kicking the toe of my sneaker against the carousel’s metal side. “My entire life was in that suitcase.”
It’s a slight exaggeration. My actual entire life was in La Puente, California, until about eight hours ago. Other than a few boxes shipped to Vermont last week, the suitcase contains what’s left.
“I guess we should report it.” Ezra scans the baggage claim area, running a hand over his close-cropped hair. He used to have thick dark curls like mine, hanging in his eyes, and I still can’t get used to the cut he got over the summer. He tilts his suitcase and pivots toward the information desk. “Over here, probably.”
The skinny guy behind the desk looks like he could still be in high school, with a rash of red pimples dotting his cheeks and jawline. A gold name tag pinned crookedly to his blue vest reads “Andy.” Andy’s thin lips twist when I tell him about my suitcase, and he cranes his neck toward the Hello Kitty bag still making carousel laps. “Flight 5624 from Los Angeles? With a layover in Charlotte?” I nod. “You sure that’s not yours?”
“Bummer. It’ll turn up, though. You just gotta fill this out.” He yanks open a drawer and pulls out a form, sliding it toward me. “There’s a pen around here somewhere,” he mutters, pawing half-heartedly through a stack of papers.
“I have one.” I unzip the front of my backpack, pulling out a book that I place on the counter while I feel around for a pen. Ezra raises his brows when he sees the battered hardcover.
“Really, Ellery?” he asks. “You brought In Cold Blood on the plane? Why didn’t you just ship it with the rest of your books?”
“It’s valuable,” I say defensively.
Ezra rolls his eyes. “You know that’s not Truman Capote’s actual signature. Sadie got fleeced.”
“Whatever. It’s the thought that counts,” I mutter. Our mother bought me the “signed” first edition off eBay after she landed a role as Dead Body #2 on Law & Order four years ago. She gave Ezra a Sex Pistols album cover with a Sid Vicious autograph that was probably just as forged. We should’ve gotten a car with reliable brakes instead, but Sadie’s never been great at long-term planning. “Anyway, you know what they say. When in Murderland . . .” I finally extract a pen and start scratching my name across the form.
“You headed for Echo Ridge, then?” Andy asks. I pause on the second c of my last name and he adds, “They don’t call it that anymore, you know. And you’re early. It doesn’t open for another week.”
“I know. I didn’t mean the theme park. I meant the . . .” I trail off before saying town and shove In Cold Blood into my bag. “Never mind,” I say, returning my attention to the form. “How long does it usually take to get your stuff back?”
“Shouldn’t be more than a day.” Andy’s eyes drift between Ezra and me. “You guys look a lot alike. You twins?”
I nod and keep writing. Ezra, ever polite, answers, “We are.”
“I was supposed to be a twin,” Andy says. “The other one got absorbed in the womb, though.” Ezra lets out a surprised little snort, and I bite back a laugh. This happens to my brother all the time; people overshare the strangest things with him. We might have almost the same face, but his is the one everyone trusts. “I always thought it would’ve been cool to have a twin. You could pretend to be one another and mess with people.” I look up, and Andy is squinting at us again. “Well. I guess you guys can’t do that. You aren’t the right kind of twins.”
“Definitely not,” Ezra says with a fixed smile.
I write faster and hand the completed form to Andy, who tears off the top sheets and gives me the yellow carbon. “So somebody will get in touch, right?” I ask.
“Yep,” Andy says. “You don’t hear from them tomorrow, call the number at the bottom. Have fun in Echo Ridge.”
Ezra exhales loudly as we head for the revolving door, and I grin at him over my shoulder. “You make the nicest friends.”
He shudders. “Now I can’t stop thinking about it. Absorbed. How does that even happen? Did he . . . No. I’m not going to speculate. I don’t want to know. What a weird thing to grow up with, though, huh? Knowing how easily you could’ve been the wrong twin.”
We push through the door into a blast of stifling, exhaust- filled air that takes me by surprise. Even on the last day of August, I’d expected Vermont to be a lot cooler than California. I pull my hair off my neck while Ezra scrolls through his phone. “Nana says she’s circling because she didn’t want to park in a lot,” he reports.
I raise my brows at him. “Nana’s texting and driving?” “Apparently.”
I haven’t seen my grandmother since she visited us in California ten years ago, but from what I can remember, that seems out of character.
We wait a few minutes, wilting in the heat, until a forest-green Subaru station wagon pulls up beside us. The passenger-side window rolls down, and Nana sticks her head out. She doesn’t look much different than she does over Skype, although her thick gray bangs appear freshly cut. “Go on, get in,” she calls, side-eyeing the traffic cop a few feet from us. “They won’t let you idle for more than a minute.” She pulls her head back in as Ezra wheels his solitary suitcase toward the trunk.
When we slide into the backseat Nana turns to face us, and so does a younger woman behind the steering wheel. “Ellery, Ezra, this is Melanie Kilduff. Her family lives down the street from us. I have terrible night vision, so Melanie was kind enough to drive. She used to babysit your mother when she was young. You’ve probably heard the name.”
Ezra and I exchange wide-eyed glances. Yes. Yes, we have.
Sadie left Echo Ridge when she was eighteen, and she’s only been back twice. The first time was the year before we were born, when our grandfather died from a heart attack. And the second time was five years ago, for Melanie’s teenage daughter’s funeral.
Ezra and I watched the Dateline special—“Mystery at Murderland”—at home while our neighbor stayed with us. I was transfixed by the story of Lacey Kilduff, the beautiful blond homecoming queen from my mother’s hometown, found strangled in a Halloween theme park. Airport Andy was right; the park’s owner changed its name from Murderland to Fright Farm a few months later. I’m not sure the case would have gotten as much national attention if the park hadn’t had such an on-the-nose name.
Or if Lacey hadn’t been the second pretty teenager from Echo Ridge—and from the same exact street, even—to make tragic headlines.
Sadie wouldn’t answer any of our questions when she got back from Lacey’s funeral. “I just want to forget about it,” she said whenever we asked. Which is what she’s been saying about Echo Ridge our entire lives.
Ironic, I guess, that we ended up here anyway.
“Nice to meet you,” Ezra says to Melanie, while I somehow manage to choke on my own saliva. He pounds me on the back, harder than necessary.
Melanie is pretty in a faded sort of way, with pale blond hair pulled into a French braid, light blue eyes, and a sprinkling of freckles. She flashes a disarming, gap-toothed smile. “You as well. Sorry we’re late, but we hit a surprising amount of traffic. How was your flight?”
Before Ezra can answer, a loud rap sounds on the roof of the Subaru, making Nana jump. “You need to keep moving,” the traffic cop calls.
“Burlington is the rudest city,” Nana huffs. She presses a button on the door to close her window as Melanie eases the car behind a taxi.
I fumble with my seat belt as I stare at the back of Melanie’s head. I wasn’t expecting to meet her like this. I figured I would eventually, since she and Nana are neighbors, but I thought it would be more of a wave while taking out the trash, not an hour-long drive as soon as I landed in Vermont.
“I was so sorry to hear about your mother,” Melanie says as she exits the airport and pulls onto a narrow highway dotted with green signs. It’s almost ten o’clock at night, and a small cluster of buildings in front of us glows with lit windows. “But I’m glad she’s getting the help she needs. Sadie is such a strong woman. I’m sure you’ll be back with her soon, but I hope you enjoy your time in Echo Ridge. It’s a lovely little town. I know Nora is looking forward to showing you around.”
There. That’s how you navigate an awkward conversation. No need to lead with Sorry your mom drove her car into a jewelry store while she was high on opioids and had to go to rehab for four months. Just acknowledge the elephant in the room, sidestep, and segue into smoother conversational waters.
Welcome to Echo Ridge.
I fall asleep shortly after we hit the highway and don’t stir until a loud noise jolts me awake. It sounds as though the car is being pelted from every direction with dozens of rocks. I turn toward Ezra, disoriented, but he looks equally confused. Nana twists in her seat, shouting to be heard over the roar. “Hail. Not uncommon this time of year. Although these are rather large.”
“I’m going to pull over and let this pass,” Melanie calls. She eases the car to the side of the road and shifts into park. The hail is hitting harder than ever, and I can’t help but think that she’s going to have hundreds of tiny dents in her car by the time it stops. One particularly large hailstone smacks right into the middle of the windshield, startling us all.
“How is it hailing?” I ask. “It was hot in Burlington.”
“Hail forms in the cloud layer,” Nana explains, gesturing toward the sky. “Temperatures are freezing there. The stones will melt quickly on the ground, though.”
Her voice isn’t warm, exactly—I’m not sure warmth is possible for her—but it’s more animated than it’s been all night. Nana used to be a teacher, and she’s obviously a lot more comfortable in that role than that of Custodial Grandparent. Not that I blame her. She’s stuck with us during Sadie’s sixteen weeks of court-ordered rehab, and vice versa. The judge insisted we live with family, which severely limited our options. Our father was a one-night stand—a stuntman, or so he claimed during the whopping two hours he and Sadie spent together after meeting at an LA club. We don’t have aunts, uncles, or cousins. Not a single person, except for Nana, to take us in.
We sit in silence for a few minutes, watching hailstones bounce off the car hood, until the frequency tapers and finally stops altogether. Melanie pulls back onto the road, and I glance at the clock on the dashboard. It’s nearly eleven; I slept for almost an hour. I nudge Ezra and ask, “We must almost be there, right?”
“Almost,” Ezra says. He lowers his voice. “Place is hopping on a Friday night. We haven’t passed a building for miles.”
It’s pitch black outside, and even after rubbing my eyes a few times I can’t see much out the window except the shadowy blur of trees. I try, though, because I want to see the place Sadie couldn’t wait to leave. “It’s like living in a postcard,” she used to say. “Pretty, shiny, and closed in. Everyone who lives in Echo Ridge acts like you’ll vanish if you venture outside the border.”
The car goes over a bump, and my seat belt digs into my neck as the impact jolts me to one side. Ezra yawns so hard that his jaw cracks. I’m sure that once I crashed he felt obligated to stay awake and make conversation, even though neither of us has slept properly for days.
“We’re less than a mile from home.” Nana’s voice from the front seat startles us both. “We just passed the ‘Welcome to Echo Ridge’ sign, although it’s so poorly lit that I don’t suppose you even noticed.”
She’s right. I didn’t, though I’d made a mental note to look for it. The sign was one of the few things Sadie ever talked about related to Echo Ridge, usually after a few glasses of wine. “ ‘Population 4,935.’ Never changed the entire eighteen years I lived there,” she’d say with a smirk. “Apparently if you’re going to bring someone in, you have to take someone out first.”
“Here comes the overpass, Melanie.” Nana’s voice has a warning edge.
“I know,” Melanie says. The road curves sharply as we pass beneath an arch of gray stone, and Melanie slows to a crawl. There are no streetlights along this stretch, and Melanie switches on the high beams.
“Nana is the worst backseat driver ever,” Ezra whispers. “Really?” I whisper back. “But Melanie’s so careful.” “Unless we’re at a red light, we’re going too fast.”
I snicker, just as my grandmother hollers, “Stop!” in such a commanding voice that both Ezra and I jump. For a split second, I think she has supersonic hearing and is annoyed at our snarking. Then Melanie slams on the brakes, stopping the car so abruptly that I’m pitched forward against my seat belt.
“What the—?” Ezra and I both ask at the same time, but Melanie and Nana have already unbuckled and scrambled out of the car. We exchange confused glances and follow suit. The ground is covered with puddles of half-melted hail, and I pick my way around them toward my grandmother. Nana is standing in front of Melanie’s car, her gaze fixed on the patch of road bathed in bright headlights.
And on the still figure lying right in the middle of it. Covered in blood, with his neck bent at a horribly wrong angle and his eyes wide open, staring at nothing.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 31
The sun wakes me up, burning through blinds that clearly weren’t purchased for their room-darkening properties. But I stay immobile under the covers—a thin crocheted bedspread and petal-soft sheets—until a low knock sounds on the door.
“Yeah?” I sit up, futilely trying to push hair out of my eyes, as Ezra enters. The silver-plated clock on the nightstand reads 9:50, but since I’m still on West Coast time I don’t feel as though I’ve slept nearly enough.
“Hey,” Ezra says. “Nana said to wake you up. A police officer is on his way over. He wants to talk to us about last night.”
Last night. We stayed with the man in the road, crouching next to him between dark pools of blood, until an ambulance came. I couldn’t bring myself to look at his face at first, but once I did I couldn’t look away. He was so young. No older than thirty, dressed in athletic clothes and sneakers. Melanie, who’s a nurse, performed CPR until the EMTs arrived, but more like she was praying for a miracle than because she thought it would do any good. She told us when we got back into Nana’s car that he was dead before we arrived.
“Jason Bowman,” she’d said in a shaking voice. “He’s—he was—one of the science teachers at Echo Ridge High. Helped out with marching band, too. Really popular with the kids. You would have . . . you should have . . . met him next week.”
Ezra, who’s fully dressed, hair damp from a recent shower, tosses a small plastic pack onto the bed, bringing me back to the present. “Also, she said to give you these.”
The unopened package has the Hanes logo on the front, along with a picture of a smiling blond woman wearing sports bra and underpants that come halfway up her waist. “Oh no.”
“Oh yes. Those are literally granny panties. Nana says she bought a couple sizes too small by mistake and forgot to return them. Now they’re yours.”
“Fantastic,” I mutter, swinging my legs out of bed. I’m wearing the T-shirt I had layered under my sweater yesterday, plus a rolled-up pair of Ezra’s sweatpants. When I learned I’d be moving to Echo Ridge, I went through my entire closet and ruthlessly donated anything I hadn’t worn in the past few months. I pared my wardrobe down so much that everything, except for a few coats and shoes that I shipped last week, fit into a single suitcase. At the time, it felt like I was bringing order and control to at least one small part of my life.
Now, of course, all it means is that I have nothing to wear. I pick my phone up from the nightstand, checking for a luggage-related text or voice mail. But there’s nothing. “Why are you up so early?” I ask Ezra.
He shrugs. “It’s not that early. I’ve been walking around the neighborhood. It’s pretty. Very leafy. I posted a couple of Insta stories. And made a playlist.”
I fold my arms. “Not another Michael playlist.”
“No,” Ezra says defensively. “It’s a musical tribute to the Northeast. You’d be surprised how many songs have a New England state in the title.”
“Mm-hmm.” Ezra’s boyfriend, Michael, broke up with him preemptively the week before we left because, he said, “long- distance relationships don’t ever work.” Ezra tries to act like he doesn’t care, but he’s created some seriously emo playlists since it happened.
“Don’t judge.” Ezra’s eyes drift toward the bookcase, where In Cold Blood is lined up neatly next to my Ann Rule collection, Fatal Vision, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and the rest of my true-crime books. They’re the only things I unpacked last night from the boxes stacked in one corner of the room. “We all have our coping mechanisms.”
He retreats to his room, and I gaze around the unfamiliar space I’ll be living in for the next four months. When we arrived last night, Nana told me that I’d be sleeping in Sadie’s old room. I was both eager and nervous opening the door, wondering what echoes of my mother I’d find inside. But I walked into a standard guest bedroom without a scrap of personality. The furniture is dark wood, the walls a pale eggshell. There’s not much in the way of decor except for lacy curtains, a plaid area rug, and a framed print of a lighthouse. Everything smells faintly of lemon Pledge and cedar. When I try to imagine Sadie here—fixing her hair in the cloudy mirror over the dresser or doing her home- work at the old-fashioned desk—the images won’t come.
Ezra’s room is the same. There’s no hint that a teenage girl ever lived in either of them.
I drop to the floor beside my moving boxes and root around in the nearest one until I come across plastic-wrapped picture frames. The first one I unwrap is a photo of Ezra and me standing on Santa Monica Pier last year, a perfect sunset behind us. The setting is gorgeous, but it’s not a flattering picture of me. I wasn’t ready for the shot, and my tense expression doesn’t match Ezra’s wide grin. I kept it, though, because it reminded me of another photo.
That’s the second one I pull out—grainy and much older, of two identical teenage girls with long, curly hair like mine, dressed in ’90s grungewear. One of them is smiling brightly, the other looks annoyed. My mother and her twin sister, Sarah. They were seventeen then, seniors at Echo Ridge High like Ezra and I are about to be. A few weeks after the photo was taken, Sarah disappeared.
It’s been twenty-three years and no one knows what happened to her. Or maybe it’d be more accurate to say that if any- body does know, they’re not telling.
I place the photos side by side on top of the bookcase, and think about Ezra’s words in the airport last night, after Andy overshared his origin story. What a weird thing to grow up with, though, huh? Knowing how easily you could’ve been the wrong twin. Sadie never liked talking about Sarah, no matter how hungry
I was for information. There weren’t any pictures of her around our apartment; I had to steal this one off the Internet. My true- crime kick started in earnest with Lacey’s death, but ever since I was old enough to understand what happened to Sarah, I was obsessed with her disappearance. It was the worst thing I could imagine, to have your twin go missing and never come back.
Sadie’s smile in the photo is as blinding as Ezra’s. She was a star back then—the popular homecoming queen, just like Lacey. And she’s been trying to be a star ever since. I don’t know if Sa-die would have done better than a handful of walk-on roles if she’d had her twin cheering her on. I do know there’s no possible way she can feel complete. When you come into the world with another person, they’re as much a part of you as your heartbeat.
There are lots of reasons my mother got addicted to painkillers—a strained shoulder, a bad breakup, another lost role, moving to our crappiest apartment yet on her fortieth birthday—but I can’t help but think it all started with the loss of that serious-faced girl in the photo.
The doorbell rings, and I almost drop the picture. I completely forgot I was supposed to be getting ready to meet a police officer. I glance at the mirror over the dresser, wincing at my reflection. My hair looks like a wig, and all my anti-frizz products are in my missing suitcase. I pull my curls into a ponytail, then twist and turn the thick strands until I can knot the ends together into a low bun without needing an elastic. It’s one of the first hair tricks Sadie ever taught me. When I was little we’d stand at the double sink in our bathroom, me watching her in the mirror so I could copy the quick, deft motion of her hands.
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 over-pass,” 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 a 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, kids. 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-
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.
“Next weekend. Right before you two start school,” Nana says. Echo Ridge has the latest start date of any school we’ve ever attended, which is one point in its favor. At La Puente, we’d already been in school two weeks by Labor Day. Nana gestures with her spatula toward the kitchen window over the sink, which looks out into the woods behind her house. “You’ll hear it once it does. It’s a ten-minute walk through the woods.”
“It is?” Ezra looks baffled. I am too, but mostly by his utter lack of research. “So the Kilduffs still live right behind the place where their daughter . . . where somebody, um . . .” He trails off as Nana turns toward us with two plates, each holding an enormous fluffy omelet, and deposits them in front of us. Ezra and I exchange surprised glances. I can’t remember the last time either of us had anything for breakfast other than coffee. But my mouth waters at the savory scent, and my stomach rumbles. I haven’t eaten anything since the three Kind bars I had for dinner on last night’s flight.
“Well.” Nana sits down between us and pours herself a glass of orange juice from the ceramic pitcher on the table. Pitcher. Not a carton. I spend a few seconds trying to figure out why you’d bother emptying a carton into a pitcher before taking a sip of mine and realizing it’s freshly squeezed. How are she and Sadie even related? “It’s their home. The two younger girls have lots of friends in the neighborhood.”
“How old are they?” I ask. Melanie wasn’t just Sadie’s favorite babysitter; she was almost a mentor to her in high school— and pretty much the only person from Echo Ridge my mother ever talked about. But I still know hardly anything about her except that her daughter was murdered.
“Caroline is twelve and Julia is six,” Nana says. “There’s quite a gap between the two of them, and between Lacey and Caroline. Melanie’s always had trouble conceiving. But there’s a silver lining, I suppose. The girls were so young when Lacey died, looking after them might be the only thing that kept Melanie and Dan going during such a terrible time.”
Ezra cuts into the corner of his omelet and releases a small cloud of steam. “The police never had any suspects in Lacey’s murder, huh?” he asks.
“No,” Nana says at the same time as I say, “The boyfriend.” Nana takes a long sip of juice. “Plenty of people thought that. Think that,” she says. “But Declan Kelly wasn’t an official
suspect. Questioned, yes. Multiple times. But never held.” “Does he still live in Echo Ridge?” I ask.
She shakes her head. “He left town right after graduation. Best for all involved, I’m sure. The situation took an enormous toll on his family. Declan’s father moved away shortly after he did. I thought the mother and brother would be next, but . . . things worked out differently for them.”
I pause with my fork in midair. “Brother?” I hadn’t known Lacey’s boyfriend had a brother; the news never reported much about his family.
“Declan has a younger brother, Malcolm. Around your age,” Nana says. “I don’t know him well, but he seems a quieter sort. Doesn’t strut around town as if he owns it, at any rate, the way his brother did.”
I watch her take a careful bite of omelet, wishing I could read her better so I’d know whether Lacey and Sarah are as intertwined in her mind as they are in mine. It’s been so long since Sarah disappeared; almost a quarter century with no answers. Lacey’s parents lack a different kind of closure—they know what, when, and how, but not who or why. “Do you think Declan Kelly is guilty?” I ask.
Nana’s brow wrinkles, as though she suddenly finds the entire conversation distasteful. “I didn’t say that. There was never any hard evidence against him.”
I reach for the saltshaker without responding. That might be true, but if years of reading true-crime books and watching Dateline have taught me anything, it’s this: it’s always the boyfriend.
Extract copyright © 2019 by Karen M. McManus LLC
Published by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.