Two Can Keep a Secret(11)

“No. How would I?” Sadie asks, a little too quickly. When she catches my dubious squint, she adds. “Well. It’s just … now, don’t go making too much of this, Ellery, because I know the way you think. But he fell apart at Lacey’s funeral. Way more than her boyfriend did. It caught my attention, so I remembered it. That’s all.”

“Fell apart how?”

Sadie heaves a theatrical sigh. “I knew you’d ask that.”

“You brought it up!”

“Oh, just … you know. He cried a lot. Almost collapsed. His friends had to carry him out of the church. And I said to Melanie, ‘Wow, they must have been really close.’ But she said they barely knew one another.” Sadie lifts a shoulder in a half shrug. “He probably had a crush, that’s all. Lacey was a beauty. What’s that?” She glances off to one side, and I hear the murmur of another voice. “Oh, okay. Sorry, El, but I have to go. Tell Ezra I’ll call him soon, okay? I love you, and …” She pauses, something like regret crossing her face for the first time. “And … I’m glad you’re meeting people.”

No apology. Saying she’s sorry would mean acknowledging that something’s wrong, and even when she’s calling me cross-country from rehab on a contraband phone, Sadie can’t do it. I don’t answer, and she adds, “I hope you’re doing something fun for your Saturday afternoon!”

I’m not sure if fun is the right word, but it’s something I’ve been planning since I learned I was going to Echo Ridge. “Fright Farm opens for the season today, and I’m going.”

Sadie shakes her head with exasperated fondness. “Of course you are,” she says, and blows me a kiss before she disconnects.

Hours later, Ezra and I are walking through the woods behind Nana’s house toward Fright Farm, leaves crunching beneath our feet. I’m wearing some of my new Dalton’s clothes, which Ezra has been snickering at since we left the house.

“I mean,” he says as we step over a fallen branch, “what would you even call those? Leisure pants?”

“Shut up,” I grumble. The pants, which are some kind of synthetic stretchy material, were the most inoffensive piece of clothing I could find. At least they’re black, and sort of fitted. My gray-and-white checked T-shirt is short and boxy, and has such a high neck that it’s almost choking me. I’m pretty sure I’ve never looked worse. “First Sadie with the hair, now you with the clothes.”

Ezra’s smile is bright and hopeful. “She looked good, though?” he asks. He and Sadie are so similar sometimes, so blissfully optimistic, that it’s impossible to say what you really think around them. When I used to try, Sadie would sigh and say, Don’t be such an Eeyore, Ellery. Once—only once—she’d added under her breath, You’re just like Sarah. Then pretended not to hear me when I asked her to repeat what she’d said.

“She looked great,” I tell Ezra.

We hear noise from the park before we see it. Once we emerge from the woods it’s impossible to miss: the entrance looms across the road in the shape of a huge, monstrous head with glowing green eyes and a mouth, wide open in a scream, that serves as the door. It looks exactly like it did in pictures from the news coverage about Lacey’s murder, except for the arched sign that reads fright farm in spiky red letters.

Ezra shades his eyes against the sun. “I’m just gonna say it: Fright Farm is a crap name. Murderland was better.”

“Agreed,” I say.

There’s a road running between the woods and the Fright Farm entrance, and we wait for a few cars to pass before crossing it. A tall, black spire fence circles the park, enclosing clusters of tents and rides. Fright Farm opened less than an hour ago, but it’s already packed. Screams fill the air as a salt-and-pepper-shaker ride flips back and forth. When we get closer to the entrance, I see that the face is covered with mottled and red-specked grayish paint so it looks like a decaying corpse. There’s a row of four booths directly inside, with one cashier to a booth, and at least two dozen people waiting. Ezra and I get in line, but I break away after a few minutes to check out the information board and grab a bunch of papers stacked up beneath it.

“Maps,” I tell Ezra. I hand him one, plus another sheet of paper. “And job applications.”

His brow furrows. “You want to work here?”

“We’re broke, remember? And where else would we work? I don’t think there’s anyplace in walking distance.” Neither of us have our driver’s license, and I can tell already Nana’s not the chauffeuring type.

Ezra shrugs. “All right. Hand it over.”

I fish a couple of pens out of my messenger bag, and we almost complete the applications before it’s our turn to buy tickets. I fold Ezra’s and mine together and stuff them both in the front pocket of my bag as we leave the booths. “We can drop them off before we go home.”

“Where should we go first?” Ezra asks.

I unfold my map and study it. “It looks like we’re in the kids’ section right now,” I report. “Dark Matters is to the left. That’s an evil science laboratory. Bloody Big Top to the right. Probably self-explanatory. And the House of Horrors is straight ahead. That doesn’t open till seven, though.”

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