Wanted!by Caroline B. Cooney
Alice is accused of murdering her father. She must prove her own innocence and find out who killed her father and her brother before she, too, falls victim.
- Perfection Learning Corporation
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 4.25(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.75(d)
- Age Range:
- 12 - 17 Years
Read an Excerpt
By Caroline B. Cooney
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1997 Caroline B. Cooney
All rights reserved.
"IT'S DADDY, ALICE."
"Hi, Dad." Alice was a little surprised to hear his voice. He was at work in the city and rarely phoned during the day. Her eyes drifted over the Caller ID display. That was odd. It was a local number. She didn't recognize it.
"Are you home alone, Alice?"
"Yes." Of course she was home alone. She had just started spending time living with her father; she didn't know anybody on the west side of the city.
"I need you, Alice."
She was struck by his voice. It was sharp and hot.
"Get the computer disk labeled TWIN out of my top left drawer. There's a backup in the fireproof box in my closet. Get them both. Fast. Now. Then take my car and drive to—to—the place where you love to get milk shakes. I'll meet you there."
Alice was doing her nails. She stared at the three wet, finished nails and the two dry, unpainted ones on her right hand. "Dad," she said, "I don't have a license."
"It doesn't matter. Get the disks! Take the car and go! Now!"
She could hardly recognize his voice. She could not imagine what he meant when he said it didn't matter that she had no driver's license. She was putting together an argument, or at least a question, but he hung up. Even the hanging up was weird. There was a sort of violence to it, with extra breathing, as if other people were involved.
The condo was very silent.
Usually she had the radio on, but somehow in the excitement of doing her nails, she had forgotten it. Alice was a nail-biter. With great effort and self-control, she'd grown enough nail to have fake nails glued on. She wasn't used to fingernails at all, let alone long elegant nails. They kept hitting things and getting snagged on things and looking like somebody else's hand entirely. This was her first time applying polish by herself. She was right-handed and doing her left hand was fun. But it was difficult to get the polish neatly on her right hand.
Her hand felt silly, half polished, slightly smeared, hanging uselessly in the air.
Kind of like Dad's phone call.
He and Mom did share one thing: They were bears on driving technique. She had never driven without one of them. They sat on the passenger side shouting instructions, because she was always doing too much or too little of something, going too slow, getting too close, not going fast enough.
It did not look as if Alice were going to have a flair for driving.
And now her father said it didn't matter—take the car—drive away without a license.
Her father had two cars: the big Blazer, loaded with every car toy, which he drove into the city so he would be comfortable and air-conditioned and his CDs would play in a stack and he could use his car phone during the commute.
His other car was a bright red classic Corvette, the one he had dreamed of when he was a teenager.
She could not believe he was letting her touch it.
His own friends were not allowed to touch it.
Weekends, her father not only washed the car by hand, lovingly, but he dusted the interior and used Q-Tips to get the edges. It was one of the reasons for the divorce: Mom said he loved the car more than he loved her.
The whole phone call was weird.
She went to her father's office. It was the size of a closet: built-in desktop with home computer, fax, phone, and so forth. The condo was not large and everything was built-in. Alice loved it, the neatness and sharp angles of everything. Such a contrast to her mother's house, with its stuffed animals and heart stencils and lace. Alice's mother even had a mouse pad with cross-stitch patterns printed on it. It was fun to go back and forth: to live in plain gray and white at one place, and then in a riot of colors and textures in the other. Even her parents were like that: the plain father, the textured mother.
She could not put this phone call into the pattern.
The disk, TWIN, was in the little plastic storage box in the drawer where Dad had said it would be. Its repeat was in the fireproof safe behind her father's shoes. She was embarrassed to be rooting around in her father's things. His neatly polished shoes and the hanging cuffs of his suit pants seemed too private to be near.
She held the disks awkwardly. She should carry them in something. But what?
The condo was on one floor. She went into the kitchen, an incredibly neat little space, with more built-ins than you could believe, but very little counter. This was okay, because Dad didn't cook. He heated things, like pork chops, and he microwaved things, like baked potatoes, but he didn't combine ingredients and stir.
She found a Ziploc sandwich bag and dropped the disks in.
She was wearing blue jeans with the knees torn out. This was done in part because both parents hated these jeans. We earn plenty of money! they would snap. Could you please dress like a person with a home instead of a person who scouts out doorways in which to sleep?
These were not clothes in which to drive a Corvette.
Alice took the disks to her room.
Her room was also small, the bed pressed up against a wall, which made it difficult to tuck in the sheets. It had just started to be okay with Mom for Alice to stay with Dad sometimes. It had just started for Mom and Dad to speak civilly to each other and not be gritting their teeth to do it. Just this month, Mom was willing to concede that Dad could have slightly different rules and standards.
Not very different. Different by a molecule.
It was hard to imagine Mom agreeing that Alice, who didn't have a license yet, could hop into the Corvette and drive across town in the midst of noontime traffic.
What had that little pause been? As if Dad had to monitor his speech? He hadn't named her destination. Said: the place where you like to get milk shakes.
It was out of town and up the river, a shack of a place, but they used local milk and cream and ice cream and made the richest, most wonderful milk shakes. Alice and Dad loved that little excursion. Salmon River Road was very curvy, and in the Vette, Alice would hang onto her seat belt and giggle like a three-year-old as Dad whiplashed the car. "You aren't allowed to drive like this," he would tell her. Alice would laugh. "Just you wait. I'm going to be a seriously dangerous driver in another week or two."
Alice didn't know how to think in miles yet. She wasn't sure how far it was to Salmon River. She wasn't sure how much time it took to get there, either. You didn't think about that when you were the passenger.
What she did think was, if she dented the Corvette Dad would kill her.
Driving the Corvette was scary. It was so long and low that your whole view of the road was different, and it had so much power. If she hit mailboxes just trying to get out of the condominium complex, she would die of embarrassment right there.
Mom's car, the one Alice usually practiced on, was a dull old Nissan Sentra: a cheap-o car for driving into the city because who cared if the radio got ripped out? One more dent would not be noticeable among all the dings and scars of city parking.
But the Vette?
One ding on the Corvette, and Alice would be the one with the scar.
She yanked off her jeans and let them lie on the floor, ripped off her T-shirt, which fell half on top of the jeans, kicked off her old sneakers, which banged into the wall and fell back onto the carpet. It was a beautiful spring day out. Alice chose a rather long, thin, cotton dress with short sleeves and a scoop neck and lots of fabric in the skirt. It was a romantic dress with tiny flowers and a pretend sash.
It wasn't a Corvette driver's outfit either. For a Corvette, Alice thought, she should have suede, and a low flat hat, a scarf, and funky earrings.
Alice considered herself in the mirror. If she kept her right hand hidden, she'd be very attractive. Alice could never decide how old she looked. Sometimes she still looked (and felt) twelve, and other times Alice was sure she could go into a bar and not get carded.
The half-polished hand felt silly. And it was her right hand, the one she used, the one she needed. Back in the kitchen, Alice got another Ziploc bag and put in nail polish and polish remover and some cotton balls so when she parked at the ice cream shack, she could finish her nails.
She reached up for the car keys which were neatly hanging on a little brass hook above the tiny bare counter.
I don't think I should do this, thought Alice. It doesn't sound like Dad. Maybe it wasn't Dad. Maybe it was somebody playing a joke. What phone number was that, anyhow? I didn't recognize it. A local number, though.
Alice half thought of calling her mother for advice. But what if Mom said (and she would) "Absolutely not. I'm calling your father right this minute to demand what he is thinking! You will never stay with that man again!"
Well, that was out. Alice loved seeing more of Dad again. She had missed him terribly during the fight stages of the divorce.
Alice considered money.
She went in stages on purses. Sometimes she rejected them entirely and shoved what she needed in pockets. Sometimes she carried the whole world in an enormous tote: homework, Kleenex, pencils, calculator, books, assorted hairbrushes and lotions. Now she was copying Savoy, an annoying girl who for some reason Alice wanted to be just like. Savoy carried her laptop around. So for the last week, Alice had carried her laptop. The thing with laptops was, you never needed them after all, and they weighed a ton, and then their batteries ran down.
So Alice was in a purseless state.
In her room she studied the purse selection. Low. Most of her purses were at Mom's house. What kind of purse did you use for a half-fingernailed, illegal excursion in a Corvette?
Her only option was a white leather fanny pack, but she could extend the strap and use it as a shoulder bag instead.
Alice had four dollars, some change, a credit card, a PIN number, and a phone charge number. She had never successfully memorized any of these and had to carry the plastic with her.
A condo like this had two exits. There was no back door, because the back wall was shared by another unit. There was a front door in the living room and a garage door off the kitchen. She opened the garage door and there sat the Corvette, gleaming in the dark.
"Daddy," said Alice out loud, "what is going on? Why do you want me to do this? I don't want to do this. What if I wreck the Corvette? You'll kill me, and that'll wreck all my plans."
It did not steady her to hear her own voice.
In fact, she lost her breath and her heart pounded too much. Her hands got flimsy and weak, and her chin quivered.
I'll call him back, she thought. The number's still on the Caller ID display. I'll say—Dad, what is this? Some kind of test?
She stood motionless in the kitchen, and the front door of the condo opened.
Alice sagged with relief.
Dad had come home. Whatever momentary lapse of intelligence he had suffered, her father had realized that, no, Alice could not drive the Corvette, and he would have to drive.
Alice opened her mouth to yell at him, or at least to him, and a strange voice said, "Okay, so where are these disks?"
A man's voice. Strained. Panting for air between syllables.
The door slammed and the inside bolt was shot.
Alice's heart lost its sanity and began whacking around in her chest. The little bit of air she had vanished, and suddenly it took huge scooping noisy muscular effort to fill her lungs.
Who had just come into the condo?
She could hardly hear a thing.
Was she deaf with fear, or did the thick pale carpet muffle the man's steps? Was he standing there, inside the door he'd just locked? Or was he coming toward her? He'd hear her breathe. Or she would scream in fear, and he'd hear that.
"You're a freak for neatness, buddy," said the intruder. He was panting, as if he had run to get here. "It drives everybody crazy. So those disks should be easy to find."
Were there two of them? Who was he talking to?
From near the door came a grunt. Isolated. It did not sound human. There was a strange solid sound. Heavy. Like a couch being tipped over.
What was happening?
Alice forced herself to move silently and carefully down the two cement steps into the garage. She couldn't close the kitchen door. Like the front door, it had a very solid latch that practically clanged when you closed it.
She couldn't drive away. The automatic garage door was noisy. The Corvette was very noisy. Along the top rim of the garage door was a row of tiny windows. Alice looked out.
Whoever was in the house had backed his car into the driveway, tight against the garage door. Blocking her exit.
She saw a plain dark blue minivan, very suburban. Alice's view was restricted to its roof and rear window. Dad knew his cars by year and make, by reputation and repair record, and liked to call out identifications and give his low opinions of all other cars on the road.
The van was angled in such a way that it hid the front door—and whoever came and went—from the neighbors' eyes. Not that there were neighbors looking. Single people lived here, or working couples, and on a Wednesday at noon, nobody was home. If they were home, they weren't looking out the window, because there was nothing to see except the other side of the condo.
"Well, well," said the voice. It smirked. "Caller ID."
She could actually hear the tiny click of erasure on the Caller ID. Then she heard drawers being opened, the distinctive ball bearing sound of really good hardware. Dad's desk.
"Okay, so where are the disks?" The same voice, but angry now. High-pitched and distorted with nerves. She almost recognized it.
He won't find the disks, thought Alice. I have them. So what will he do now? And how did he get in? He must have a key; they didn't break in. The only key he could have is Dad's. How did he get Dad's key?
I'm locked in with him, Alice thought.
Footsteps. They didn't sound like two people. She was sure there was only one intruder. But—was the man talking to himself? Or to somebody else? The neatness freak had to be Dad himself. But if Dad were here, this wouldn't be happening. The man couldn't be talking to Dad.
"Clothes on the floor," said the voice. "The kid." The voice went very soft, and very threatening. The harsh whisper carried in the stillness of the condo. "You still here, kid?"
Alice turned to stone. The heart that had beat too loudly stopped beating altogether. The lungs that had sucked in air like a vacuum cleaner shut down.
What was going on?
What should she do?
There was no place to hide in the garage. The voice was correct; Dad was very neat. There was a place for everything and everything was always in its place. It was another reason for the divorce; her parents hated the way the other one kept house.
Alice had spent a great deal of time informing them that this was very shallow: A man could not leave his marriage because his wife lined the tub with twenty-seven shampoo choices, and a woman could not leave her marriage because the man said if she bought one more stuffed bunny, he was going to have a bonfire.
It turned out that Alice was wrong and people could leave their marriage over that.
If it had been Mom's garage, the football team could have hidden among the junk. Here at Dad's, Alice didn't think you could hide a jelly bean. And there was no regular door out of the garage—only the noisy automatic garage door. She could get in the Corvette, but he would see her.
Alice looked at her lovely dress and wished she had not changed her clothes. She tightened the dress around her and rolled beneath the Corvette. Inched, actually. There was not room to roll.
The Corvette was very low to the ground. But her father was too neat to permit a car to drip oil, so the cement was clean. The Corvette was very long, so lengthwise there was plenty of room.
He'd seen her clothing on the floor, but all teenagers threw their clothes on the floor all the time. It didn't mean it had happened five minutes ago.
She tugged at the skirt to make sure no flowery fabric showed. Would he come with flashlights—kneel down—tuck his neck around and look under the Corvette?
Who knew what people who broke into houses to steal disks would do?
She closed her fingers tightly around the fanny pack that held the nail polish and the two TWIN disks. What was on those disks?
It must be very important to somebody.
Certainly very important to her father.
What did TWIN stand for? There were no twins in the family. Was it a company name? A client's logo?
Excerpted from Wanted! by Caroline B. Cooney. Copyright © 1997 Caroline B. Cooney. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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.
Meet the Author
CAROLINE B. COONEY has written more than 75 novels for young adults. Her books have sold more than fifteen million copies and have been printed in many languages. She lived in Connecticut for many years, but has recently moved to South Carolina. Please visit her online at www.carolinebcooneybooks.com.
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