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Since they only let you get one order, I always find someone to go along who doesn't love them like I do so I can get one extra. Today my tamale pimp is Bethanie—we're numbers six and seven in line—and she's calling me some choice words for making her wait for a free tamale when she can afford to buy the whole bodega. I'm trying to explain to her that there's no sport in being rich (not that I would know) when a guy walks in from a Ralph Lauren ad and becomes number eight in line.
I don't know how a person could look so out of place and seem completely at ease at the same time, but this guy is pulling it off. He's also checking out Bethanie so hard that even though he's a complete stranger, he makes me feel like I'm the one who crashed the party.
"Did you lose something over here or what?" I ask the dude since Bethanie doesn't seem to mind him staring at us like we're on the menu with the tamales.
"Chanti, that's so rude," Bethanie tells me, never taking her eyes off Preppie. "Pay her no mind. She simply gets out of sorts when she's hungry."
First off, it's none of this complete stranger's business how I get when I'm hungry. It doesn't matter that he looks like a model, I pretty much don't trust anyone with my business. You never know how they might use it against you, even something as minor as your eating pattern. No, I'm not paranoid—I'm speaking truth. Second, why is she talking like that? Pay her no mind. She simply gets out of sorts. Bethanie's still working on her old money, rich girl impersonation, so maybe she thinks the girls Preppie hangs around talk that way.
"What's so good in here that people are willing to wait for it?" he asks Bethanie. He pretty much ignores me, so I almost laugh when his line goes right over her head.
"Supposedly the tamales are," she says, "but I've never had them."
I'm no pro at the flirty thing, but I'm sure he wasn't expecting her answer to be tamales. I move forward in the line, ignore their small talk and study the five-item menu as though I don't know what to order. Now there are only two people in front of me. Some Tejano music and the smell of cooking food drifts into the store from somewhere behind the clerk. I imagine somebody's grandmother back there wrapping corn husks around masa harina and pork. Yum.
I check out Preppie Dude like I'm not really looking at him but concentrating on the canned peaches on the shelf behind him. Cute. Not so cute he couldn't at least say hello to me before he starts fiening for my friend. He's still the last person in line even though tamale happy hour starts at four o'clock and the line is usually out the door until five. Weird, because it's only four thirty. I'm about to mention how weird that is to Bethanie, but she's finally figured out Preppie is flirting with her and has apparently forgotten me, too.
Now there's just one person ahead, Ada Crawford, who lives across the street from me and who I'm pretty sure is a prostitute even though I don't have any proof. If we lived in a different neighborhood, I might say she was a call girl since her clients come to her. But we live in Denver Heights, so she doesn't get a fancy title. Luckily, she hasn't noticed me behind her because I'm not supposed to be here and I wouldn't want her to tell my mother she saw me. Not that Ada ever has much to say to my mom.
Still no one else has come in. Even more strange is the fact there's only one person working the counter on busy Freebie Friday, a man I've never seen before and I'm a regular. Along with the new clerk, maybe they've also changed the cut-off time to four thirty. I suppose the owners would go broke if all people did was come in for the Freebie and not buy anything else. Or worse, get a friend to pimp an extra Freebie. I place my order—feeling slightly guilty—when I hear the bells over the door jangling a new arrival just as Ada walks away with her order. I look back to see a man holding the door open for Ada. He stays by the door once she's gone, and just stands there looking at the three of us still in line. He's jumpy. Nervous. He looks around the bodega but doesn't join the line and doesn't walk down the aisles of overpriced food. His left hand is in the pocket of his jacket.
My gut tells me to get out of the store. Now.
Just as I grab Bethanie's arm, the man brings his hand out of his jacket. It's too late.
"All right, everybody stay cool. Don't start none, won't be none. Just give me what's in the drawer," he says to the clerk, pointing the gun at him.
I'm hoping the clerk won't try to jump bad and pull out whatever he has under the counter. Every owner of a little mom-and-pop in my neighborhood has something under the counter. Or maybe it's in the back with the tamale-making grandmother. But no one comes from the back and the clerk isn't the owner. From what I can tell, it's his first day and he apparently doesn't care about the money or the shop, because he opens the cash drawer immediately. Bethanie pretends she's from money, but I know she's a lot more like me than she lets on. She knows what to do in a situation like this. Stay quiet and let it play out. We steal a quick glance at one another and I know I'm right. Either she's been through it before, or always expected it to happen one day.
I'm trying to stay calm by thinking ahead to when it will be over. Ninety seconds from now, this will just be a story for us to tell. The perp will be in his car taking the exit onto I-70. Hopefully I will not have puked all over myself by then. Or worse.
But then the cute guy speaks.
"Look man, just calm down."
What the hell? Just shut up, I want to scream. The clerk has already put the money into a paper bag and he's handing it over right now. This will all be over in thirty seconds if Preppie will just shut up.
The perp turns the gun in our direction. I lock eyes with him even though I know it's not the smartest thing to do. He realizes I can identify him; I can see him thinking about it, wondering what to do next. Suddenly, the smell of tamales sucker punches me and my stomach lurches. The wannabe-hero turns his back to the perp and shields Bethanie, pushing her to the ground and sending the contents of her bag all over the bodega floor. That move is like a cue for the perp. He breaks our gaze, grabs the paper bag from the clerk, and takes off.
I was right—it's over in just about ninety seconds. None of us wants to stick around to give the cops a statement. Preppie, who might have gotten us all killed, helps Bethanie grab the stuff that fell out of her bag while I scan the store for cameras. There aren't any that I can tell. As the three of us leave the store, the clerk is picking up the phone to call either the owner or the police, depending on how good the owner is about obeying employment laws and paying his taxes. I manage not to puke until I reach the parking lot.
"Clean yourself up and let's get out of here," Bethanie says, handing me a fast-food napkin from her purse to wipe my mouth. It smells like a fish sandwich and perfume, which doesn't do a thing for my upset stomach.
"But we're witnesses," I say, though I have no intention of sticking around, either. But saying it makes me feel like I at least considered doing the right thing.
"Exactly. Get in the car and open your window. I don't want my car smelling like sick."
I do what she says and tell myself I have to leave because Bethanie is my ride, even though I'm only two blocks from home. She hustled me out of the store and to her car because she's hiding something and has been since I met her a little over a month ago. So far, I've figured out that she lied her way into Langdon Preparatory School, pretending to be poor so she could get in on a scholarship because the only remaining slots were for the underprivileged. Like me. Unlike Bethanie, I never wanted to be there. Lana—that's my mother—forced me to because she was worried that I'd get into trouble in my neighborhood school.
That's the real reason I don't stay around to talk to the cops. The minute I tell her I can identify that perp, Lana will take me down to the police department to pick him out of a lineup. That would be a problem because one, I am a total wuss and don't want some pissed-off bad guy after me for retaliation. And two, Lana will put me on lockdown immediately following the lineup, just when I'm beginning to have a life.
This is one of the many drawbacks to having a cop for a mother. She sees nothing but bad all day so she figures her number-one job is to shield me from it. That's a tough gig in our neighborhood, so she made me go way across town to this rich prep school, which turned out to have more bad guys than there are on my street. She made me quit working at the Tastee Treets because a couple of crackheads held it up one night during my shift. If she finds out about the robbery at the bodega, she'll make me identify the perp because she takes being a cop seriously, then she'll put me into her own version of a witness protection program because she takes being a mother seriously.
And I can't have that because, as I said, I am finally beginning to have a social life. It's sad to admit, but I am a high school junior who had never been kissed—I mean really kissed where you feel it in every part of you and you wonder how you were able to survive without it, as though oxygen and water and food will never be enough to sustain you ever again because of that kiss—until just two weeks ago. To my credit, I'm a year younger than the average junior, so the fact that I'm a late bloomer isn't all that weird. Now that I'm finally blooming, there is no way anyone can stop me from having that kind of kiss again.
Bethanie definitely won't tell anyone what happened today. That's a fact. She's been through something worse than what just went down. I know this not just because she didn't lose her lunch in the parking lot like I did, but because of something she said to me when I figured out she was really rich and she thought I might expose her: You don't know nothing about me or where I come from. I can tell you now—I'm never going back. She's running from something bad, and anytime someone's running, it's either from the cops or from someone who is being chased by the cops, which is probably worse.
I'm not sure why Preppie was in such a hurry to get out of here—maybe he doesn't want his friends to know he was slumming in Denver Heights—but he was gone by the time Bethanie and I got into her car.
I just hope the bodega didn't have a surveillance camera I missed when I made a quick scan of the store, that the clerk doesn't recognize me from the neighborhood (not a stretch since I've never seen him before), and that there were no witnesses who saw me go in or out. Then it would be as though I was never there. That's why I get into Bethanie's car even though I know it's wrong to run. I guess the owner minds all the laws because we can hear the sirens approaching as we drive away.
"Who was that driving a seven series BMW?" Lana is suspicious because the people on Aurora Avenue driving that kind of car are usually the people she's trying to arrest.
"A girl from school gave me a ride home."
I'm trying my best to stay cool because Lana has a special gift for reading people, especially liars, which is what makes her such a good cop. You mix that skill with the fact she knows me better than anyone and I'm basically an open book to her. Lucky for me, I'm an exceptional liar when I need to be, and sometimes I can even fool Lana.
"Her parents are brave letting a kid borrow a car nice as that."
"That's her car."
"Get outta here. A girl your age is driving a car that must cost as much as two of mine?"
"More like four of yours—when the guy you bought it from bought it new. That's the kind of school you forced on me—a place where kids drive cars that cost more than my mother makes in a year."
I've been at Langdon nearly two months and still haven't gotten used to needing ten minutes to get from one class to another because the ivy-covered campus is bigger than two city blocks and my classes are in three different buildings. After my old high school, it's taking more than a minute to get used to kids rolling up in Lexus SUVs instead of getting off the city bus (that would be me) and walking half a mile before even reaching Langdon Prep's quarter-mile-long driveway. I'm used to people making weekend plans that include going to the movies or hanging at the mall. At Langdon, people talk about skiing in Aspen or flying to their winter home in the Virgin Islands. Lana and I have to make do with the same house all four seasons, and before Lana made detective and we lived on a beat cop's salary, there were some first-of-the-months we weren't sure we'd have even that. Yeah, I pretty much hate Langdon Prep.
"Hey, I gave you the chance to leave the school," Lana says, still looking out the window though Bethanie must have pulled away by now. "You wanted to stay."
She's right. I guess I can't keep playing the martyr thing. I stayed because of a boy. I know, totally cliché—but you haven't seen the boy. Marco is yum, and completely worth all the other stuff I hate about that school.
Lana finally turns away from the window and says, "Well, I'd rather see you roll up with an overindulged Langdon student than that ex-con down the street."
"I thought you were going to give MJ a break since she helped you solve a case. Oh yeah, and saved my life."
"I'm grateful to her for all the above, but I'd prefer you being friends with that preacher's daughter, or Tasha. What happened between you two, anyway? I hardly see her anymore."
MJ is what happened. When she and I started hanging out, I kinda neglected my friendship with Tasha, my BFF since third grade. As for the preacher's daughter—Michelle—we aren't really friends. Or even sort of. We tolerate each other because Tasha's friendship is the only thing we have in common. I'm guessing Michelle has even less love for me now, given my involvement in her sorry boyfriend's recent arrest. She ought to be grateful, but I doubt that's how she sees it.
Last semester I was arrested for running a home burglary ring, then the guy who was the real ringleader almost killed me and would have if MJ hadn't busted him to Lana. It hasn't been a month and Lana has already forgotten what she said when all that went down, which was how I could do worse for a friend. While it wasn't a glowing endorsement of MJ, it was better than what she's saying now. I'm about to ask why she'd think a rich friend would be better than one who would risk her own life to save me—like MJ did—when she looks at me funny.
"What's wrong with you, Chanti?"
"Nothing." Oh snap, here it comes. Supercop zeroing in on the target.
"Don't lie to me, girl."
"I don't know what you're talking about."
Excerpted from Creeping with the Enemy by KIMBERLY REID Copyright © 2012 by Kimberly Reid. Excerpted by permission of DAFINA KTEEN BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted June 12, 2012
This is one of my favorite books. Even though I figured some of it out before I even got far, it still was good. Cant wait until the next book comes out!
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Posted May 25, 2013
Posted March 21, 2013
This book is really a 3, I just wanted my review to been seen. Anyways, I didn't think this book was as good as the first book. In this book, the author makes it seem like chanti is a real dective, saying stuff like " I have a hunch" and " My clues tell me". I thought she was your average white-girl rachet, not a wannabe dective.Only a select few will understand what i'm trying to express. And what about Marco!!!!!!!!! I absolutely hate how things went with them. But there is tons of intresting things that happen in the midist of the boring stuff. No spoilers, but bethinie is not who she says she is, and her dad is a bad guy. And as for Cole, i'm so confused as to what and who he is.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 19, 2013
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