Chapter 4

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An online search for the dead girl turned up some fruitful leads. The local paper had her information, Adele Martin and age 15, yet the story of how she ended up on Rampert Street was still a mystery. She lived in Iberville, a town near the French Quarter, and was reported missing along with her mother by her father. The police were still searching for the mother. Miles clicked off the news website and wondered whether Adele's mother had killed her and gone on the run. This would explain the body being found in her neighborhood so no one could easily trace her to Iberville. It'd also explain the disappearance of her mother. But it didn't even begin to explain how the mother would have drained the blood from the body.

Miles could hear the muffled voices of her father and mother in the room next door. She didn't want to overhear anything they were doing in the bedroom but she still plucked her earbuds from her ears. She normally slept with music on beside her bed when her father stayed the night. But tonight, she wasn't feeling up to hearing them or music, it was distracting her from Adele.

Knowing she wouldn't get any sleep, she picked up her laptop and cell, checked Jelly's room to find him sprawled across his bed, before easing out the front door and down the walkway toward Sydney's house. His house was identical to hers but painted a deep orange with potted plants on each side of the door. She used the brass knocker and waited.

Margie answered with a furrowed brow and looked around her down the street suspiciously, "Is everything alright, Miles?"  

Miles nodded and Margie clutched her oversized nightdress over her rotund middle and stood to the side.

"Sydney doesn't normally have friends over," She started worriedly and paused. She thought better of it, "but I'm sure he'll be happy to see you."

Sydney's room was in the exact location of hers, except his had a stencil of his name in baby blue on the door. Miles wondered how long that'd been there because he was far too old to still need an announcement to his space when he only lived with his mother. She knocked once, then waited. Nothing but silence answered. She knocked twice more, then the door opened a crack. Sydney peered out and when he recognized Miles, he shut it quickly with a loud slam.

"Uh, Sydney?" Miles said to the closed door.

"What are you doing here?" She heard his winded voice as he bumped around in the room.

"Nevermind. I should've called first but I didn't have your number. I'll just check on you tomorrow." She turned on her heel but stopped when the door pulled open.

Sydney was dressed in space pajama pants and a black tank top. She swallowed hard and felt her cheeks redden at the sight of his bare, muscular arms.

"Sorry. I wasn't expecting you so I needed to clean up a bit."

He ushered her into his dark and weirdly grown-up space. She smelled the scent of orange potpourri masking the smell of feet and plopped down on a cushioned dome chair near his nightstand. She didn't know why she expected Sydney to be neater than her, an assumption based on his disorder was the likely reason but she didn't want to think about that when he had so many interesting things in his room. He surprised her with telescopes and clothing stuffed under the bed. She saw books on conspiracy theories and investigative cases on his bookshelf as well as Harry Potter and Stephen King. He has layers, she thought to herself, looking at the contents on his nightstand (two sticks of gum loose from the pack, a charging cellphone and a photo of him and his mom. She eyed his bed with its dark red covers and sheets folded back as if he'd launched himself out of bed when he heard the knock.

"Did you do your investigative work?" Miles said, not making eye contact with him and enjoying the ambiance of his space.

"A little bit. The yellow house is under the name Thomas Bottoms. He's owned it for 15 years and before that, it was owned by a Lawrence and Valva Dubois. There's an address for them written in my notepad. No other info about the house. Nothing shady seems to have happened there ever and Thomas Bottoms doesn't have any record of disturbances or anything online." He shrugged and sat on the edge of his bed.

"Well, I found out the girl is Adele Martin from Iberville. But get this, her mother is missing."

Sydney squinted, "So, you're thinking there's something with the mom?"

"Wouldn't be the first time a parent took out a child." Miles grabbed a stick of gum and folded it into her mouth.

"Well, let's see what we can find in Iberville about Adele and talk to Mr. Bottoms."

Miles didn't like that idea. She couldn't risk Mr. Bottoms remembering her and turning her in.

"How about you check with Mr. Bottoms and see where that leads you and I'll go to Iberville and see what I can find?" Miles offered.

"I don't like the idea of splitting up and we definitely have to be careful since there is a murderer out there." His eyes grew worried and fell to the carpet.

"Look, we're not looking for the murderer. We're just trying to see why Adele was in our town. If we find out anything, we'll take it to the police. Otherwise, we're basically concerned citizens looking out for the other teens in our neighborhood."

Sydney shook his head, "I don't know, Miles."

"Come on. I see your books. You dig this kind of stuff." She leaned her head towards her knees to catch his eyes.

"Well, I do want to work for the CIA one day." He muttered under his breath.

"What better way to start than by working a case in our neighborhood?" Miles was building enthusiasm in her voice. She could see he was going to help her. Adele was on her mind everyday since she found her and Miles knew in her heart, she couldn't let her remain another unsolved murder.

"Alright. I'll find out more about Mr. Bottoms and the house but then that's it, ok?" Sydney put his hand out for a shake. Miles stalled a second before reaching her hand towards his, only to have him snatch it away, "too slow". He smiled mischievously.

"I can't believe I fell for that." Miles picked up a sock on the floor and flung it towards his face. He ducked onto the bed with laughter. Miles found herself laughing too. She hadn't realized how long it had been since she'd actually laughed.

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