Publication: January 30, 2018 by Page Street Kids
Living in her sister's shadow has never been more dangerous.
Five months ago, Clara Seibert’s twin sister was murdered. Struggling under the weight of newfound and unwanted attention, the only thing that makes Clara feel normal is ghostwriting an advice column for her school’s newspaper—until she starts receiving threatening emails in her staff inbox.
“It should have been you...but soon."
Convinced that her email stalker blames her for her sister’s death and is out for revenge, Clara undertakes her own investigation to clear her name and avoid a similar fate. Can she solve the murder before it’s too late?
CHAPTER 3 EXCERPT
The next day after school was more of the same. Apparently Detective Martino had been busy last night after I’d stomped out of his office. No sooner had I headed to my spot in the back newspaper office than Mr. B. summoned me to his adjoining classroom. “Sit down, Clara.” I sat. “Detective Martino called me last night and filled me in about this e-mail. Obviously, I’m very concerned about you and your safety. But frankly,” he said, lowering his chin and staring at me over his wire-rimmed glasses, “I’m also very disappointed that you didn’t report this to me immediately. I thought we had an understanding, that you knew I was in your corner.” “I do know. I’m so sorry! I was scared you’d take me off the column, maybe even the staff. The column is so important to me. It’s keeping me sane.” “Sanity is great, but not if it puts you in harm’s way.” “But, this jerk can come after me whether or not I’m writing the column. And maybe we’ll be able to ID the jerk from his—or her—messages.” Mr. B. slumped forward, putting his right elbow on the desk and resting his chin on the back of his hand. The bald patches on his head shone beneath the classroom’s fluorescent lights. He looked like the middle-aged version of that statue of The Thinker. He didn’t say a word, so I plunged ahead. “I promise I’ll show you any more messages that come in. And I’m supposed to let Detective Martino and my parents know as well. Dad read me the riot act last night when I got home from the station.” “Well, he should have.” “True.” Mr. B. straightened slightly and jabbed his finger in my direction. “I need to inform the principal about this. For the time being, Since You Asked will remain yours. But if you ever pull something like this again and don’t let me know what’s going on, you’re out. Understood?” “Yes. Thank you, Mr. B.” I wanted to hug him, but that kind of stuff embarrassed him—and worried him. Last year, a student on the debate team accused another teacher of sexual harassment because he gave her a hug after she won regionals. Personally, I thought that was taking political correctness a little too far. He glanced at the huge clock above the doorway to his classroom. “Staff meeting in fifteen minutes.” I headed for the drinking fountain and nearly crashed into CJ, who stood rooted in the middle of the hallway, staring at something at the far end. I turned to look. Sure enough, there was Tony, hand leaning against a locker while he whispered into the ear of a tall blonde with boobs that were so big I wondered if they could possibly be real. Whatever Tony was whispering was apparently hilarious, because Blonde Girl tittered away. “How am I supposed to compete with that?” CJ muttered. “Oh come on. You are fabulous inside and out. It’s Tony’s loss if he can’t see that. Besides, from what I hear, he’s a three-time wonder. Ever since Sheri, it’s three dates and he moves on to the next girl with legs up to her neck. How shallow can you get?” CJ stiffened and I mentally kicked myself. I should have known by now that she couldn’t stand any criticism of Tony. “I hate it when you say stuff like that,” she said. “He’s the farthest thing from shallow. I wish you could have seen him last summer with those kids in Honduras on our mission trip. He made every one of them feel special, important. Those little guys hung all over him. He was like a rock star.” Now that I could imagine Tony eating up. As far as I could tell, he loved being the center of attention. But no way was I going there with CJ. Besides, what did I know? I was hardly part of Tony’s inner circle. “You’re right,” I said. “You know him a lot better than I do. But… it’s just… Don’t you think sometimes he comes across as a tiny bit arrogant?” “Trust me. It’s a cover. Underneath it all, he’s really insecure. His dad’s a hard ass. Nothing Tony does is ever good enough.” “That sucks,” I said, feeling more sympathetic towards him. “Okay, you’ve convinced me.” I gazed at her with newfound respect. “You should be the one writing Since You Asked, not me. You’re amazing.” She squeezed my arm. “Not on your life. The column’s perfect for you. To be honest, I wouldn’t want the responsibility.” We crammed ourselves around the big work table in the back of Mr. Bradford’s classroom. Mr. B. sat at one end, and Tony at the other. I was between Donny Masden, our roving investigative reporter whose recent piece on widespread cheating had set off a major firestorm, and Kristen Svien, who covered music and the arts. I was surprised Kristen had plopped down next to me, although as usual, she was icy towards me and avoided any eye contact. She’d been Moura’s friend and devoted fan. When I’d finally asked her point blank if she thought I had something to do with my sister’s murder, she mumbled, “Of course not,” but then backed away—as though getting too close might put her at risk for one of my homicidal rages. It hurt, even though I should have been used to it. When I first got back to school, so many kids avoided me it was like parting the Red Sea when I walked down the hall. Anyhow, CJ sat across from us, along with Wolfman and Rita D’Angelou. Rita, who loved to laugh and was the only person I knew who could sit on her hair because she’d never cut it, covered women’s sports. When she got overloaded, I helped her out. That’s how I’d met Jenny back in ninth grade. Already beating veterans on the tennis team as a freshman, she was a natural for our spotlight feature on students who were “making news or noise.” I also frequently assisted CJ, who reported on school clubs. We had a lot of clubs—bikers, hikers, future teachers, chess whizzes, astronomers, and the one I was super involved with, the Psychology Club. “All right gang, before we get into brainstorming about the next issue, I have something I want to talk to you about,” said Mr. Bradford. “This is confidential, and I want to remind all of you that what is said in here, stays in here. Understood?” “Absolutely, sir,” Tony said, nodding his head vigorously. Tony was so smooth and slick, especially around adults, that I always felt a little greasy around him. The rest of us nodded too. “Okay then. What do we tell people about who writes Since You Asked?” “We say it’s confidential—that it could be one of us, or all of us, and that we’re honor-bound not to reveal who writes it,” said CJ. “Right. Why’s that?” said Mr. B. Wolfman cleared his throat. “Because someone might get pissed off at the advice we give and decide to engage in a little payback.” “True. And why else, given what you know about who currently works on the column?” I shifted in my seat and looked down. Oh God. No one said anything for a minute. Finally, Donny spoke up. “Because of what happened to Clara’s sister. People who don’t know Clara might believe the rumors and say she shouldn’t be giving other people advice.” I winced, even as Donny put his hand on my shoulder and gave it a comforting squeeze. “Someone could also write in to accuse Clara, or bully her,” added Rita. “Exactly,” said Mr. B. “And yesterday, Clara received an anonymous threatening e-mail.” All eyes turned toward me as everyone said how sorry they were and bombarded me with questions. “What did it say?” “What did the address look like?” And on and on. Fortunately, Mr. B. cut the questions off before I had to pull myself together to answer. “We don’t need to get into that. But whoever this was seems to know Clara is the column’s writer...But how? I want all of you to think back over your conversations…Is there anything that could have slipped out that gave her away? Not intentionally, of course. You’re not going to be punished. No one’s going to be mad at you. We just need to know, so we can figure out who might be behind this.” Mr. B. then went around calling on staffers, one-by-one. Everyone said they’d been really careful and couldn’t remember ever spilling the beans, even unintentionally. Kristen’s voice seemed a little higher than usual when she denied having said anything about me being the column’s writer, and she leaned as far away from me as she could. Rita, on the other hand, reached her hand across the table toward mine. “I would never do anything to hurt you, especially after all you’ve been through.” Donny and Wolfman chimed in with their own words of support. They felt like balm on an open wound. Then Tony turned to me and said, “This must be awful for you. We’d totally understand if you wanted to take a leave of absence from the paper until this gets cleared up. Even though, of course, we’d hate to lose you. Right, everyone?” “Thank you, but no,” I said before anyone else could respond. “I think that’s just what this jerk wants, to intimidate me and mess up my life. And I’m not going to let that happen—or let you guys down.” “Well, then. If it’s okay with you, Mr. Bradford, let’s move on to talking about the next issue.” Excerpted from IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN YOU © Copyright 2018 by Lynn Slaughter. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.
Lynn Slaughter has a passion for dance and music—from Frank Sinatra to Chopin—and her first book, While I Danced, was a finalist in the 2015 EPIC competition in the Young Readers category. After a long career as a professional dancer, she earned her MFA in writing popular fiction from Seton Hill University. She and her husband live in Louisville, Kentucky. You can visit her at www.lynnslaughter.com and follow her on Twitter @lslaughter2.