In the end, Gemma had begun to cry. Brian had apologized then, but Gemma just went up to her room. She spent the whole night up there. Harper had tried to talk to her a couple of times, but Gemma just sent her away.
Harper had hoped to talk to her this morning, but Gemma had already left for swim practice by the time she got up. On the upside, Brian had remembered to take his lunch to work with him.
Although that was starting to seem like less of a positive now that Harper was sitting at the front desk of the library without much to do. She absently leafed through Judy Blume’s Forever.
She’d read it before, but that was a couple years ago, so she wanted to refresh herself with the text. It was part of their summer reading program for middle schoolers, and on Mondays Harper met with the ten or so kids in the book club to talk about their weekly reading.
“Did you know that the principal of the high school has had Oprah Winfrey’s biography out for the past six weeks?” Marcy asked, clicking on the computer next to Harper.
“Nope, I didn’t know that,” Harper replied.
Since it was slow, Marcy was going through the computer to search for people who had overdue books, then calling to remind them. Marcy had actually volunteered to do it. Even though she hated interacting with people, she loved calling to tell them that they’d done something wrong.
“That seems weird, doesn’t it?” Marcy peered at Harper from behind a pair of black horn-rimmed glasses. Not that she needed corrective lenses—she just thought they made her look academic, so she wore them sometimes.
“I don’t know. I heard it’s a really good book.”
“It’s like I always say—you can tell a lot about a person by the books they check out.”
“You just like to snoop on people,” Harper corrected her.
“You say that like it’s a bad thing. It’s always good to know what your neighbors are up to. Just ask Poland about that after World War Two.”
“There’s never a good reason to invade somebody’s—”
“Whoa, Harper, isn’t that the kid you know?” Marcy interrupted her and pointed to the computer screen.
“Lots of people I know check out books,” Harper said without looking up from the Judy Blume book. “It’s not all that surprising.”
“No, no, I got bored with that so I was just checking out the Capri Daily Herald’s Web site to leave angry, anonymous comments on the op-ed piece. But I found this instead.” Marcy turned the screen so it faced Harper more.
Harper looked up to see the headline “Local Boy Missing.” Below it was a picture of Luke Benfield that Harper recognized as his senior picture from her yearbook. He’d tried to slick back his red curls, but they still stuck out at the sides.
“He’s missing?” Harper asked and scooted her chair closer to Marcy’s.
In smaller letters the subhead read “Fourth Boy Missing in Two Months.” The article went on to give a few basic facts about Luke—that he was an honor-roll student and Stanford-bound in the fall.
The rest of the story told what little they knew about what had happened. Luke had gone to the picnic on Monday, then went home for supper. He seemed normal, and he left after he ate, telling his parents he was meeting a friend, and he’d never returned.
His parents were at a loss as to where he might be. The police had just started their investigation, but they didn’t seem to know any more than they did about the other missing boys. Since Luke was eighteen, the police would have ordinarily waited longer to start searching, but with the recent rash of disappearances, the cops were taking this latest one seriously.
The reporter drew parallels between Luke’s disappearance and those of the other three boys. They were all teenagers. They had all left to meet some friends. None of them ever came home.
The article went on to mention two teenage girls who had gone missing from nearby coastal towns. All the boys were from Capri, but the girls were from two different towns more than a half hour away.
“Do you think they’re going to question us?” Marcy asked.
“Why? We didn’t have anything to do with that.”
“Because we saw him that day.” Marcy pointed to the computer screen, as if to elaborate. “He went missing the night of the picnic.”
Harper thought it over. “I don’t know. Maybe they will, but the paper said the police just started the investigation. They’ll probably talk to Alex, but I don’t know if they’re going to talk to every person who went to the picnic.”
“That’s freaky, right?” Marcy asked. “We just saw him, and now he’s dead.”
“He’s not dead. He’s missing,” Harper corrected her. “He might still be alive.”
“I doubt it. They’re saying it’s a serial killer.”
“They who?” Harper asked, leaning back in her chair. “The Herald didn’t say anything about it.”
“I know.” Marcy shrugged. “‘They’ everybody. The people in town.”
“Well, the people in town don’t know everything.” Harper scooted her chair back to her spot at the desk, away from Marcy and the horrible news story about Luke. “I’m sure he’ll turn up all right.”
Marcy scoffed. “I highly doubt that. Nobody’s found any of these boys. I’m telling you there’s some serial killer on the loose picking off—”
“Marcy!” Harper snapped, cutting off her train of thought. “Luke is Alex’s friend. He has parents and a life. Let’s hope for their sake that he’s okay. And we’ll leave it at that.”
“Okay.” Marcy turned the computer screen back toward herself and inched her chair away from Harper. “I didn’t know it was such a touchy subject.”
“It’s not touchy.” Harper let out a deep breath and softened her tone. “I just think we should be respectful in times of tragedy.”
“Sorry.” Marcy was quiet for a moment. “I should probably get back to looking up fines anyway. I have lots of phone calls to make.”
Harper tried to go back to reading the book, but she hadn’t really been that into it anyway. Her mind wandered back to Luke and his senior picture that tried too hard. She’d never felt anything for Luke, not anything more than friendship, but he was nice. They’d shared a few awkward, strained moments together, and they’d even kissed once. Now he might never come home.