"Will you call that meeting?" Jan presses. "Because this
problem's not going to go away."
"I will. Now I'm going to see Jenny Townsend. Theresa, will
you lock up when everyone's gone?"
The secretary nods, glad for being given something to do.
While the remainder of the board members continue to express
disbelief, my cell phone rings. The caller ID shows my home as
the origin of the call, which makes me unsure whether to answer.
My daughter, Annie, is quite capable of pestering me to death
with the phone when the mood strikes her. But with Kate's death
fresh in my mind, I step into the secretary's office and answer.
"No," says an older female voice. "It's Mia."
Mia Burke is my daughter's babysitter, a classmate of Kate
"I'm sorry to interrupt the board meeting, but I'm kind of
"It's all right, Mia. What's the matter?"
"I'm not sure. But three people have called and told me
something happened to Kate Townsend. They're saying she
I hesitate before confirming the rumor, but if the truth
hasn't already spread across town, it will in a matter of
minutes. Our secretary learning the truth from an ER nurse was
part of the first wave of rumor, one of many that will sweep
across town tonight, turning back upon themselves and swelling
until the facts are lost in a tide of hyperbole. "You heard
right, Mia. Kate was found dead in St. Catherine's Creek."
"I know it's upsetting, and I'm sure you want to be with your
friends right now, but I need you to stay with Annie until I get
there. I'll be home in ten minutes."
"Oh, I'd never leave Annie alone. I mean, I don't even know
what I should do. If Kate's dead, I can't really help her. And
everyone is going to be acting so retarded about it. Take
whatever time you need. I'd rather stay here with Annie than
drive right now."
I silently thank Jan Chancellor for recommending one of the
few levelheaded girls in the school to me as a babysitter.
"Thanks, Mia. How's Annie doing?"
"She fell asleep watching a documentary about bird migration
on the Discovery Channel."
"Hey," Mia says in an awkward voice. "Thanks for telling me
the truth about Kate."
"Thanks for not flipping out and leaving the house. I'll see
you in a few minutes, okay?"
I hang up and look through the door at the boardroom. Drew
Elliott is talking on his cell phone at the table, but the rest
of the board members are filing out the main door. As I watch
them go, an image from our promotional TV commercial featuring
Kate rises into my mind. She's walking onto the tennis court in
classic whites, and her cool blue eyes burn right through the
camera. She's tall, probably five-ten, with Nordic blond hair
that hangs halfway to her waist. More striking than beautiful,
Kate looked like a college student rather than a high school
kid, and that's why we chose her for the promo spot. She was the
perfect recruiting symbol for a college-prep school.
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