"Well, ladies," he said, wedging himself into a place at the bar between me and Morgan on one side and Tuck Schroep, my second-grade teacher's husband, on the other. "What'll it be?"
I was already barely able to keep my balance, but I let him order me a whiskey.
It was while I was doing the shot that I saw Shawn at the back of the bar. He was nodding drunkenly at one of his friends from the mill.
For just a moment I worried he'd see me shoulder-to-shoulder with this extremely attractive stranger, the only guy in the bar in skinny jeans, and get upset.
But in exactly the next moment, I hoped he'd see me. I thought again about his complete inability to help Ian with the body in the locker room, and the way he'd laughed at me with Jason. Screw him.
"Nate!" I yelled at the bar tender, pounding my hand and drawing as much attention to myself as possible. "Three more Maker's!"
I had no idea if this worked because I lost sight of Shawn while a surge of a dozen people spilled in from the cancelled concert. I'm sure the bar was well past its legal capacity. I could hardly breathe.
By the time our next round arrived, Tuck Schroep was talking at Bryce and Morgan from beneath his hairy white mustache.
". . . Clean off!" he was saying, making a chopping motion with his hand. "That's right. I'm telling you. Somebody'd cut his thingy clean off!"
I realized he was talking about the body.
I knew the news of a mutilated corpse in the girls' locker room was going to spread like prairie fire, but not this fast. Mrs. Whipple must have told anyone within earshot after the football game.
And now everyone was on edge. I could tell. People weren't just drinking because it was fair time. People were nervous, afraid. Things like this didn't ever happen in Muldoon. I'd never even seen Tuck Schroep drunk before, not ever, come to think of it.
"What's he talking about!" Bryce laughed. He couldn't seem to figure out if Tuck was crazy or not.
"I don't know," I lied. I was desperate to come up with a way to change the subject. Before I could think of how, though, Tuck broke in again.
"Fella was trying to get it on with one of the girls, I guess!" he declared. "One of the cheerleaders. I don't know which one of them cut it off, but one of 'em did. Well, good for them, I say."
Someone put a hand on my shoulder. At first I thought it was someone trying to pay Nate, but whoever it was kept his hand there and pulled a little, gently turning me around.
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