Chapter Two: Prank Squad

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Freddie's mom had never been one to fuss. Now, though, it was all she seemed able do. Ever since Sheriff Bowman had called and told her to pick up Freddie from the Colonial Village the evening before, Mom had been nonstop fuss-fuss-fuss.

Freddie wanted to murder her.

Especially because Freddie hadn't even seen the body (which apparently belonged to a middle-aged man). All she'd seen were a pair of dangling Nikes, blue with orange accents. Mud on the tread.

And while yes, the image of those shoes was definitely imprinted on Freddie's brain for all eternity, cups of tea and Snickers bars were not going to make it go away. Nor was tucking Freddie into bed, stroking her hair every ten seconds, or surprising her with a "real breakfast" of bacon and eggs.

By the time Freddie was supposed to meet Divya to walk to school the next morning, she was desperate to get away. She didn't even care that it was raining, so her usual Friday outfit of cute tights, a festive fall skirt, and beloved plaid scarf were proving impractical as soon as she stepped outside. Nor did she care that, in her race to leave the house, she'd forgotten to trade her glasses for contacts.

Why, she didn't care that she couldn't roll her bike and fit under Divya's umbrella either. She was free, and it tasted so good. Not even drizzle-frizzed hair or 8th grade glasses could ruin that.

Divya, it would seem, felt the same. She and Freddie had just stepped off Freddie's leaf-strewn lawn onto the street when Divya tipped back her umbrella and said, "My mom wants me to see a counselor."

"Mine too." Freddie's nostrils flared, and she pushed the bike faster. "Parents don't know anything."

"Old people don't know anything." Divya stomped her feet. "I mean, I didn't even see the body!"

"And I only saw his shoes!"

"So we definitely aren't traumatized." Divya flipped her braid over her shoulder.

"Definitely not." Freddie mimicked the movement with her rapidly expanding curls. "It takes more than a little murder to scare the likes of us."

"Murder?" Divya skidded to a halt. "What are you talking about? It was a suicide."

Freddie squeezed the brakes so her bike wouldn't keep rolling (inclines and gravity and and all that). Then she angled back to her best friend. "No way that was a suicide, Div."

"Uh, it was the suicide tree, Freddie. And Sheriff Bowman herself said it was a suicide."

"But it wasn't the suicide tree." Freddie rolled the bike backward, then ducked slightly under Divya's umbrella. At least far enough to protect her hair. "Plus, the body was hanging twenty feet off the ground."

"So? Maybe the man wanted a climb before he died."

"A climb on what ladder? And on what branches? There wasn't a single thing he could've used to get up there."

"So what are you saying then?" Divya launched back into a march. Rain sprayed Freddie once more. "Are you saying you know better than Sheriff Bowman?"

"Maybe?" Freddie pushed her bike after.

"And let me guess," Divya went on, "you think your gut knows better. Well, Frederica Gellar, if Sheriff Bowman thought it was a suicide, then why can't you listen to her? She's the expert here. Not you or your gut."

"I never said I was an expert." Freddie veered her bike into a puddle. It splashed satisfactorily. "But you didn't hear the screams on Wednesday night."

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