Rhyme and The Runaway Twins: An Excerpt
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The next day at the library, Rhyme was tasked with organizing Attaway High report cards from 1960–1963. Everybody had such formal names back then, Rhyme noticed, like Melvin and Lawrence and Gertrude. She wondered what they’d think of Kayla and Flash. At least one thing hadn’t changed: bad grades. One girl, Alice Hargrove, had a C-minus average in the spring of 1962—good luck to her on the Test Test!
“Makes you look like a Rhodes Scholar,” said a voice over Rhyme’s shoulder. Matilda. Sometimes it was like she could read Rhyme’s mind. “Why are you reading report cards?” Matilda said.
Was she making small talk?
“Maybe Ms. Sharpe is a hoarder,” Rhyme ventured, with a small grin.
“I wasn’t trying to bad-mouth Ms. Sharpe,” Matilda said curtly. “She had asked me to catalog those yesterday, and it looks like you’re interfering again.”
Rhyme’s ears grew hot. “She asked me to put these in order. Not you,” said Rhyme, all of a sudden filled with anger. “So why don’t you mind your own business?”
“Because this is my business,” Matilda snarled. “Unlike you, this is a summer job for me. I’m not some spoiled little girl whose parents pay for everything.” Matilda’s icy glare moved to Rhyme’s purse, where three twenty-dollar bills stuck out like ducks’ tails.
“If you’re so obsessed with organization, have it your way!” Rhyme pushed the pile at Matilda, upsetting the neat stacks.
Rhyme stormed off to the library’s entryway, to tell Ms. Sharpe that she refused to work next to Matilda. What was her problem? It wasn’t Rhyme’s fault that Matilda needed to earn money! As she rounded the hallway, Rhyme balled up her fists and bit her lower lip—she simply could not work under these conditions! But as she turned the corner, she saw that Ms. Sharpe was not alone.
“I’m sorry,” the librarian was saying, “but you absolutely cannot access historical records without a library card.”
“What’s wrong with a driver’s license?” said an older-looking girl, with olive skin and the greenest eyes Rhyme had ever seen. The girl leaned toward Ms. Sharpe with one hand on the desk, making her seem commanding—threatening, even. Rhyme was intimidated, and hung back, hidden by a graphic novel display.
“Unfortunately,” said Ms. Sharpe, “you can’t get a library card without an Attaway address. And yours is from Virginia.” She handed back the license.
“Well, isn’t that perfect,” the girl huffed, turning to her com- panion. Rhyme guessed he was probably her boyfriend. She couldn’t see his face, but he was tall, with skinny blue jeans and a backwards cap sporting a logo for some sort of Wildlife Fund. He looked to be about the girl’s age, but his deeply tanned arms were covered in tattoos. Rhyme had never known anyone her age with a tattoo, let alone someone with two arms full of them. These two were defi- nitely not from around here.
“Hold on a second, Meg,” said the boy. “Is there anything we can do?” His voice was sweeter, more cajoling than the girl’s. “We’ve only just gotten into town, and it would mean a lot to us.”
“What brings you to Attaway?” Ms. Sharpe asked sternly. “Visiting our cousin,” said the girl—Meg—a little too quickly, like she was covering up something. “We’re just here for a week or two,” she added. Our cousin, Rhyme noted. So they were related.
“Then perhaps you could use your cousin’s card?” Ms. Sharpe said, neatening up a row of bookmarks on the counter. “And just who is your cousin?” But Meg was already pulling her bag onto her shoulder and turning away.
“Thanks for all your help,” she said, with an edge of sarcasm. The boy hung back. “Seriously, we appreciate the time.”
When he turned to leave, Rhyme caught a glimpse of his face.
High cheekbones, full lips. He was remarkably attractive, Rhyme thought, blushing. But more significantly, the boy looked exactly like Meg. They weren’t just brother and sister, Rhyme realized. They were twins.
As they left, Rhyme slipped out from behind the display, intrigued by the mysterious new transplants. Wouldn’t it be nice, she thought, to have a confidante my own age? Rhyme drew closer to the broad, dusty window to get a better look. Meg, she saw, was pulling out a large map (hadn’t they heard of the Internet?) and jabbing at it with her pointer finger. Rhyme cracked the window slightly, curious where the cryptic pair were headed.
“That’s it, Conrad. I’m telling you,” Meg said, “we don’t need property records.”
The boy shook his head. “But that doesn’t match the letter.” “Just trust me,” she said, groaning in frustration. “Come on, let’s go.”
The twins continued to the parking lot, to the same car that had been idling outside Mrs. Simpson’s. Of course it was theirs. The red station wagon from North Carolina. Conrad looked up to see Rhyme at the window. They locked eyes. Or at least she thought they did. Then he jumped in, and the mysterious twins zoomed off. Before she could process this all, Ms. Sharpe called out: “Rhyme!
It’s that time again! Trigonometry time!” As her tutor approached, Rhyme’s phone buzzed in her pocket. A new message. But just as she was going to reach for it, Ms. Sharpe stopped her.
“You’ll have plenty of time to play with your phone later,” said Ms. Sharpe, pressing a workbook and protractor into Rhyme’s reluctant hands. “For the next hour, all you have to worry about are Pythagorean identities.”