Two Can Keep a Secret(2)

We push through the door into a blast of exhaust-filled, stifling air that takes me by surprise. Even on the last day of August, I’d expected Vermont to be a lot cooler than California. I pull my hair off my neck, while Ezra scrolls through his phone. “Nana says she’s circling because she didn’t want to park in a lot,” he reports.

I raise my brows at him. “Nana’s texting and driving?”


I haven’t seen my grandmother since she visited us in California ten years ago, but from what I can remember that seems out of character.

We wait a few minutes, wilting in the heat, until a forest-green Subaru station wagon pulls up beside us. The passenger-side window rolls down, and Nana sticks her head out. She doesn’t look much different than she does over Skype, although her thick gray bangs appear freshly cut. “Go on, get in,” she calls, side-eyeing the traffic cop a few feet from us. “They won’t let you idle for more than a minute.” She pulls her head back in as Ezra wheels his solitary suitcase toward the trunk.

When we slide into the backseat Nana turns to face us, and so does a younger woman behind the steering wheel. “Ellery, Ezra, this is Melanie Kilduff. Her family lives down the street from us. I have terrible night vision, so Melanie was kind enough to drive. She used to babysit your mother when she was young. You’ve probably heard the name.”

Ezra and I exchange wide-eyed glances. Yes. Yes, we have.

Sadie left Echo Ridge when she was eighteen, and she’s only been back twice. The first time was the year before we were born, when our grandfather died from a heart attack. And the second time was five years ago, for Melanie’s teenage daughter’s funeral.

Ezra and I watched the Dateline special—“Mystery at Murderland”—at home while our neighbor stayed with us. I was transfixed by the story of Lacey Kilduff, the beautiful blond homecoming queen from my mother’s hometown, found strangled in a Halloween theme park. Airport Andy was right; the park’s owner changed its name from Murderland to Fright Farm a few months later. I’m not sure the case would have gotten as much national attention if the park hadn’t had such an on-the-nose name.

Or if Lacey hadn’t been the second pretty seventeen-year-old to go missing not only from the same small town but also the same street.

Sadie wouldn’t answer any of our questions when she got back from Lacey’s funeral. “I just want to forget about it,” she said whenever we asked. Which is what she’s been saying about Echo Ridge our entire lives.

Ironic, I guess, that we ended up here anyway.

“Nice to meet you,” Ezra says to Melanie, while I somehow manage to choke on my own saliva. He pounds me on the back, harder than necessary.

Melanie is pretty in a faded sort of way, with pale blond hair pulled into a French braid, light blue eyes, and a sprinkling of freckles. She flashes a disarming, gap-toothed smile. “You as well. Sorry we’re late, but we hit a surprising amount of traffic. How was your flight?”

Before Ezra can answer, a loud rap sounds on the roof of the Subaru, making Nana jump. “You need to keep moving,” the traffic cop calls.

“Burlington is the rudest city,” Nana huffs. She presses a button on the door to close her window as Melanie eases the car behind a taxi.

I fumble with my seat belt as I stare at the back of Melanie’s head. I wasn’t expecting to meet her like this. I figured I would eventually, since she and Nana are neighbors, but I thought it would be more of a wave while taking out the trash, not an hour-long drive as soon as I landed in Vermont.

“I was so sorry to hear about your mother,” Melanie says as she exits the airport and pulls onto a narrow highway dotted with green signs. It’s almost ten o’clock at night, and a small cluster of buildings in front of us glows with lit windows. “But I’m glad she’s getting the help she needs. Sadie is such a strong woman. I’m sure you’ll be back with her soon, but I hope you enjoy your time in Echo Ridge. It’s a lovely little town. I know Nora is looking forward to showing you around.”

There. That’s how you navigate an awkward conversation. No need to lead with Sorry your mom drove her car into a jewelry store while she was high on opioids and had to go to rehab for four months. Just acknowledge the elephant in the room, sidestep, and segue into smoother conversational waters.

Welcome to Echo Ridge.

I fall asleep shortly after we hit the highway, and don’t stir until a loud noise jolts me awake. It sounds as though the car is being pelted from every direction with dozens of rocks. I turn toward Ezra, disoriented, but he looks equally confused. Nana twists in her seat, shouting to be heard over the roar. “Hail. Not uncommon this time of year. Although these are rather large.”

“I’m going to pull over and let this pass,” Melanie calls. She eases the car to the side of the road and shifts into park. The hail is hitting harder than ever, and I can’t help but think that she’s going to have hundreds of tiny dents in her car by the time it stops. One particularly large hailstone smacks right into the middle of the windshield, startling us all.

“How is it hailing?” I ask. “It was hot in Burlington.”

“Hail forms in the cloud layer,” Nana explains, gesturing toward the sky. “Temperatures are freezing there. The stones will melt quickly on the ground, though.”

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