Chapter Seventeen: Best Friends and Tombstones

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Freddie did not go back to school.

Oh, she walked in so Bowman would see her appearing to follow the rules, but as soon as Freddie was inside, she ducked into a bathroom. She counted off a full five minutes before slinking back into the main entrance and outside once more.

She didn't make it more than ten feet into the frosty fall air, though, when a voice called, "Wait!"

Divya.

Freddie skidded around—just in time to be enveloped by Divya's puffer jacket arms. "You must hate me—"

"I would never hate you."

"—but I had to be honest with Bowman, Freddie, and I didn't see the bottle." Divya was squeezing Freddie so tightly, Freddie couldn't suck in air.

But she also loved the ferocity of this Threadsister hug, so oxygen could be damned.

"I told her that I believed you though," Divya continued, voice muffled by hair and sleeves. "I told her you would never lie about something like this."

"I'm sure you did, Divya." Freddie wriggled free (albeit reluctantly) from Divya's arms and smiled tiredly at her best friend. "I appreciate the apology all the same."

For several long seconds, Divya eyed Freddie, a frown cinching across her brow. Until at last: "So what do you think happened?" Her words puffed out in foggy gasps. "I did see you take pictures of something."

"Yeah, and that something was a water bottle." Freddie's lips puckered sideways, gauging how much to tell Divya about the Executioners and missing articles and possible serial killers on the loose. Everything was still so nebulous in her brain. Just half formed hunches and clues out of context.

"All I can figure," she said eventually, "is that someone switched out the film. I don't know how they did it, but it's the only explanation I can come up with."

"You know why they did it, though." Divya's eyebrows notched up. "I can tell by the way just said that. You think it was..."

"Murder," Freddie finished. "Yeah. Someone is trying to cover their tracks."

"And I assume you told that to Bowman, right?"

"Of course." Freddie rolled her eyes. "And then she accused me of making it all up."

Divya winced. "Crap."

"Yeah, crap."

"Okay, then here's what will do." Divya looped her arm in Freddie's and twirled them away from the entrance. "We'll stop by your house on the way and grab a coat for you and proper footwear for me." Divya frowned down at her clogs as she tried to walk forward.

But Freddie yanked her back to a stop. "On the way where?"

"Where do you think?" Divya pulled again. "You're going to search for that bottle, aren't you?"

"Uh."

"Don't even try to 'uh' me, Frederica Gellar." Divya grinned sideways. "I can see it in your eyes, and as your best friend, it is my sworn duty to aid you. No one should go into those spooky woods alone."

"But you have school!" Again, Freddie dug in her heels. "You can't wreck your perfect attendance!"

"Oh, I already took care of that." Divya winked brazenly. "The power of cell phones, my Honey Graham Crackers! All it took was a call from the bathroom, and"—she switched to a voice that sounded very much like her mother's—"Divya's excused for a dentist appointment for the remainder of the day. We can't ignore cavities for too long!"

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