When Andrew Lauthner, a lunch-table regular and longtime Chelsea admirer, joined them, Grady thankfully turned his attention to the other boy. Since they started talking about cars, a subject about which Violet knew absolutely nothing, she didn’t feel too bad about ignoring their conversation…and the two of them.
Chelsea flashed Violet another meaningful look, telling her that she wasn’t buying the Jay’s-got-work-to-do story. And Violet played dumb, pretending she hadn’t noticed Chelsea’s perceptive looks.
When the bell finally rang, Violet was glad that Grady was still too involved in his conversation with Andrew to walk her to her next class. Unfortunately Chelsea’s curiosity hadn’t diminished throughout the meal, and she jumped up to follow Violet out of the cafeteria.
They walked for almost a full sixty seconds before Chelsea actually said anything, even though Violet knew, without a doubt, that it was coming.
“I like new-Jay,” Chelsea finally announced, as though she was making a simple observation rather than trying to pry information out of her friend.
“Shut up.” Violet groaned, unable to completely hide her smile at Chelsea’s absurd comment. Still, she didn’t feel inclined to share her problems with Chelsea.
“Don’t get me wrong, Vi. I still like old-Jay better; I’m just saying that new-Jay’s not so bad. Plus, at least he had the balls to ask you to the dance. That’s something that old-Jay couldn’t seem to manage.”
“He’s not new-Jay,” Violet insisted, stopping at her locker to grab her notebook. “Jay’s just pissed off at me right now. He’ll get over it. Besides, I already told you that we’re just friends.”
“Which one? New-Jay or old-Jay?”
Violet rolled her eyes as she slammed the metal door shut. “Both.” She turned on her heel and left Chelsea standing alone by the row of lockers. And then she called back over her shoulder. “Besides…there is no new-Jay.”
It took Violet only a moment to register the fact that Jay was standing right there in the hallway, just a few feet away from her and within earshot of her entire conversation with Chelsea, although she couldn’t be sure how long he’d been standing there. Still, she was mortified that he’d caught her talking about him at all.
She ignored the blazing look he flashed in her direction as she hurried past him, escaping to her next class…and trying to ignore the fact that he would be sitting right next to her.
The next two days went by with Jay giving her the silent treatment and Grady paying her extra attention. It was like some bizarre alternate universe, where up meant down and yes meant no.
Violet didn’t mind Jay avoiding her, because, for the time being, it gave her time to work on the new plan she’d come up with, one that she knew he would never help her with. But the extra attention from Grady was another story altogether. He was starting to get on her nerves, following her around like some hyperactive puppy that was always underfoot. And it always seemed that he was one step ahead of her…reaching her classrooms before she could slip past him and disappear into the crowded hallways, waiting for her at her usual table in the cafeteria, and even meeting her at her car after school so he could have just a few more minutes with her.
It was starting to become obvious that Grady wasn’t completely interested in being just another one of Violet’s friends. She was sure now that he wanted more, and she blamed Jay’s absence for Grady’s increased bravado in searching her out during school hours. She was afraid that if Jay didn’t start talking to her again soon, Grady might decide that the school day wasn’t enough and start making after-school visits to her house. As it was, he’d started calling her all the time. She wasn’t sure how many messages her voice mail could hold.
Recently, the very thought of going to the dance with Grady made Violet’s skin itch, as if she might be breaking out in hives—or more likely a bad case of second thoughts.
In an effort to ignore Grady’s enthusiastic interest, Violet turned her own attention to the details of her new plan. The idea had first occurred to her during the unusually quiet ride home from the mall with Jay. She knew for certain that just wandering through public places in search of echoes was a mistake. There were too many variables involved, too many people who had killed without malice, either by occupation or by sport. She realized then that she was going to have to narrow her search somehow.
She already knew she would recognize the imprint left behind by the girl at the lake. She had seen it for herself, and she knew that whoever he was, he would be carrying that radiantly oil-like film around him, the same way the girl in the water had. But that was a visual echo, which meant it would be useful only if Violet found herself face-to-face with the killer. It would be nearly impossible to track from any distance.
She needed more information. And there was only one way to get it.
She was going to have to figure out just what echo the other girl, Brooke Johnson, had left behind. And, in turn, had left on the killer.
For someone like Violet, someone who could sense the energy remnants of murder, a graveyard was a difficult place to go. So far, at least as far as she knew anyway, burying a body seemed to bring a sense of peace, releasing its echo into something less…intense. But her experience was limited, experimental at best, and she’d always been afraid that maybe her theories were wrong.
So Violet generally tried to avoid places where the chances of encountering echoes would be the greatest—graveyards, hospitals with morgues, funeral homes—on the off chance that she might sense something there that was more than she could bear. Her parents had shielded her from that possibility, even going so far as to leave her at home when they went to her grandmother’s burial. And that had been just three years ago.