Chapter 1

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It's been ten weeks since we last saw Alisha Keagan

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It's been ten weeks since we last saw Alisha Keagan. It's not like she hadn't disappeared before because she had, but this was different. I mean, before, it was just a day or two after she'd been strung out on meth or pot. I hadn't let my mind drift to the possibility that she was gone for good this time. Wherever she went, she left this town with a bad reputation. And I do mean bad. But even that wasn't like Alisha. Alisha couldn't leave--not--without getting even, especially with her father. I'd traced back through the past few weeks for any clues as to why she would have left for this long. When nothing comes to mind, my eyes went cold. Alisha had a perfect life, but she just had to let drugs fuck it up. Alisha's mother may as well have been on an old-fashioned sitcom where the wife stays home tending to the children, and the father works his ass off with little time to himself. The only time I saw her old man have some alone time is when he'd mow the lawn on Saturday mornings. The son-of-a-bitch woke me up at 7 AM on the dot every Saturday. But a goddamn lawnmower isn't what took Alisha away. It's not what made her stay away for ten fucking weeks. 

The ground beneath shifts, and my head feels like crushed rocks

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The ground beneath shifts, and my head feels like crushed rocks. I burst through the bathroom door to hover over the toilet. I swallowed a large bubble and coffee and warm stomach fluid hit the water like a wet blanket slapping the floor. I'm worrying myself silly. I'm worrying myself to death. Maybe. Maybe, she's dead! Maybe Alisha is fucking dead! My eyes watered, and I slide down the bathroom wall to a sitting position.  Alisha was nothing to mess with, though. So, she couldn't be fucking dead. I shrugged that thought out of my head like Jay Z dusting off his shoulder. 

Now, instead of mowing on the weekends, her father sits in his car, smoking a cigarette that whips through my window. 

I've even heard him sniffle back a few tears

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I've even heard him sniffle back a few tears. What? Don't look at me like that. It's not like you're not a nosey neighbor, too. Whatever happened to Alisha couldn't be good. Had her father molested her? I thought. Did secrets linger behind her picture-perfect home? Not even that sounded like Alisha's family, though. Alisha's mother was submissive but not timid. And I'd heard her put Alisha's father in his place plenty of times. 

Ring. Ring. I held the phone to my ear. "Hello?" I said. 

"It's me," a voice said

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"It's me," a voice said. "I'm in trouble."

"Yeah, no shit, moron," I said. "Look, where are you. I'm coming to get you."

"You still live with your mom?" Alisha said.  

"We just graduated last year. I'm weighing my options," I said, convincing not even myself. "Besides, my parents are out of town."

"Good. Write this message down."

With my free hand, I shifted coffee cups and pens, looking for a sheet of paper. "Okay. I'm ready."

"I'm at 45th Avenue across from the new Starbucks."

"Why have you been away so long?" I wondered why she was calling me. I mean, we weren't the best of friends in high school. But that didn't matter right now. What mattered is that we get Alisha home, or in my bed. 

"I'll explain everything when I see you." 

"Should I call the police?" I said before I realized that Alisha would slit my throat if I were stupid enough to get the cops involved. After all, she was still on probation for possession of pot. 

The phone disconnected.



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