Chapter 15

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Kayla made me wait until we were both in the car with the doors shut before I said anything more. We both scanned the parking lot, making sure neither Blake nor Ethan had followed me out of the school. Satisfied that the coast was clear, I launched into the details of my unintended spy mission as Kayla started up the car.

"First of all, you'd be very proud of me, Kayla. I totally lied to Ethan's face—for the sake of our mission. And I didn't blush or mix up my words or crawl into the fetal position. And I don't even feel bad about it. Do you want to know why?"

"I am very proud of you, my little protégé. And yes, I want to know. Spill!"

"Because I lied in order to find out whether he knew Dakota and Blake and he had the nerve to lie right back! He denied knowing them on principal because they'd make the weakest links in a zombie survival squad."

"Can't really argue with him there. The Royals do love their modern comforts. Is it mean that I'd love to see Dakota turned into a zombie? Or better yet, a vampire. No more tanning beds for her."

"Right, so the thing is, if you can turn your attention back to Ethan, is that Ethan claims not to know them, but as I said, he's a lying liar who lies because as I was on my way out of school, I heard him talking to Blake... and he definitely knows him."

"No way! Those two's social circles are about as far apart as you can get."

"Maybe so, but they intersected at some point, and it sounds like when they did, things got weird." I went on to recount the exchange I'd overheard.

Kayla's expression remained unreadable behind her oversized sunglasses, but the tone of her voice was clear. "So, Blake was somewhere with Ethan, and it sounds like Blake wishes he hadn't been. And now Ethan is at school and Blake feels threatened by his presence. But why? And where were they? And what does any of this have to do with our case?"

"Anything out of the ordinary when it comes to Blake has to do with our case, Kayla."

"I agree, but I mean... what's the significance to our case. Does this have something directly to do with Jack? These are the questions we need answered. Along with, where the hell were they when they were together and why is it a big deal?"

"I don't know where they were together, but I suppose the big deal, at least for Blake, would be his Popular empire crashing down around him if people thought he was friendly with Mr. Apocalypse."

"That's a strong likelihood." We pulled up in front of my house.

"So," I said, "should we start researching dance schools first, or pursue the lead with Ethan?"

"We need to tackle both, but right now, I can't do either. I've got work, remember?"

"Oh, right." Mazzeria. In my newfound all-things-Jack obsession, I'd forgotten that my parent's grand opening was tomorrow night. Kayla had a busy couple of days ahead of her, and I wouldn't be seeing much of my parents either. "Okay, well, I can get a jump start on the dance school stuff on my own." I opened the door and climbed out.

"Just text me with anything you discover. See you at the opening?"

I flashed her a beaming smile. "Of course! There's nowhere I'd rather be but anywhere else!"

"Be nice. Your parents worked hard for this. So have I. We will cry onto your artisan pizza if it doesn't go well."

I sighed and breathed in the scent of blackberries, a seemingly constant presence in our yard. Tart, sweet, calming. "I'll be on my best behavior and will celebrate the absence of cherub statues. See you tomorrow!" I waved as she drove away.

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