Read Private 12 - Vanished Online

Authors: Kate Brian

Private 12 - Vanished (4 page)

BOOK: Private 12 - Vanished
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“It’s not
that
bad,” Astrid muttered, sitting back in her chair, her cheeks pink. Clearly it was her idea.

“Yeah. It is,” Ivy said bluntly. “You guys give me a couple of days and I promise I’ll come up with something way better.
Something we can pull on her later when she least expects it,” she said, giving me a steady look.

Thank you,
I said with my eyes.

She gave me a small smile in return. She was doing this for me, not for Noelle. But either way, I didn’t care.

“Agreed?” I asked the crowd, my voice a croak.

“Agreed!” Amberly chirped, jumping to her feet.

The girls all looked at one another. “Agreed,” they said reluctantly.

Relief flooded my veins. I had never loved Ivy more.

“Wow. So, you’ve done this before,” Josh joked as he stuck his head through the basement window of Hull Hall. I had just shimmied through the narrow space and dropped to the floor without hesitation, landing easily and soundlessly on my feet.

“Kind of,” I replied.

I’d done it last fall when Noelle, Ariana Osgood, Kiran Hayes, and Taylor Bell had dared me to as a way to prove myself to Billings. I’d done it again with Dash McCafferty when we’d been trying to figure out who’d killed Thomas Pearson. And I’d done it a few times last month with my friends, when we’d held the first secret meetings leading up to the initiation of the Billings Literary Society.

If the whole Ivy League thing didn’t work out, I was going to have to consider a career as a cat burglar.

Josh turned around and slid through the window feetfirst, his long legs dangling for a moment before he got up the guts to drop down. When he hit the cement floor, his knees buckled and he fell into me. I caught him awkwardly with my arms around his back and his face pressed into my shoulder.

“Well. That was emasculating,” he joked, his green eyes shining as he straightened up.

I smiled, giving him a placating pat on the shoulder. “No worries,” I whispered. “I still love you.” We both blushed. We didn’t throw the word “love” around lightly or too often. “Come on. Let’s get this over with.”

Together we crept over to the door. Josh held up a hand—
taking the lead in an attempt to regain his manliness, I guessed—and opened it himself, wincing when it let out a loud creak. He peered into the hall then motioned for me to follow him. I smiled and shook my head at the huge streak of white paint across the back of his right pant leg. I’d told him to dress in all black, but I could never trust my artist boyfriend to wear any piece of clothing that wasn’t marred by paint.

If someone was, in fact, always watching me, they could have spotted both of us by a country mile with that streak glowing in the dark. A chill shot straight through me and the smile dropped from my lips. At least now we were safely inside, away from prying eyes.

The back stone stairwell was even colder than the air outside, and we quickly raced up the steps, taking them two at a time. Once in the main hall, we stayed close to the wall until we got to the bottom of the wide oak staircase. Josh looked both ways and nodded. We flew up to the second floor, sprinting noisily down the hall to the headmaster’s office at the very end.

“Hang on,” Josh whispered, placing his hand on the old brass doorknob. He rested his ear against the thick wooden door and listened.

“No one’s in there,” I said. “It’s after midnight.”

“I don’t know about you, but Double H has always struck me as a workaholic,” Josh said. Double H was the nickname we had for Headmaster Hathaway, Sawyer and Graham’s dad, who had taken over as the head of the school at the beginning of the
semester. When Josh, Graham, and Sawyer had been at St. James Academy together, Mr. Hathaway had been the headmaster there, too, so Josh had more experience with the man than I did. And he had a point. The man had “work is my life” written all over him.

Slowly, carefully, Josh opened the door and looked inside. The outer office was dark, so we slipped in and closed the door behind us. Luckily, the entryway to the headmaster’s office, which was directly across the room, was open too. Moonlight shone in through the tall, wide windows.

“All clear,” Josh said.

“You’ve seen too many cop movies.” I elbowed him with a smirk, trying to cover up my nerves. Yanking out the chair behind the secretary’s desk, I booted up her computer and waited for the Easton Academy home page to load.

“How are you going to get in?” Josh asked, leaning one hand on the desk.

“I still have Lance Reagan’s secret code,” I told him.

“Lance Reagan’s what now?” he asked.

I glanced at him over my shoulder. “I thought all the Ketlar boys had it.”

Josh’s brow knit. “I’ve never even heard of it,” he said, pouting.

“Oh,” I said, blushing. “Sorry.”

“Can it get you into any computer on campus?” Josh asked.

“Yep.” I nodded.

“How did
you
get it?” Josh asked, standing up straight and crossing his arms over his chest.

My face burned and I turned my attention to the computer. Josh would not like hearing about me and Dash sneaking in here alone, nor about the fact that Dash had shared this boys-only secret with me and not him. Especially considering Josh and I had broken up just a few months afterward when he’d caught me and Dash kissing at the Legacy. We’d been drugged at the time, but still. It wasn’t a favorite memory for either of us.

“I’m just that connected,” I said casually, my fingers flying over the keyboard. I hit enter and the computer beeped ominously.

INVALID PASSWORD. PLEASE RE-ENTER YOUR PASSWORD NOW.

My heart sunk to my toes. “Crap. They must have figured it out and blocked it.”

“Let’s try Hathaway’s computer,” Josh suggested, moving toward the other office.

“Why? What makes you think you can get into his?”

Josh settled in behind the wide desk while I stood tentatively in the doorway. “He’s a dad. Dads always use their kids’ birthdays as passwords.”

Huh. I wondered if my dad did that. And if so, did he use mine or my brother, Scott’s?

“And what? You know Sawyer and Graham’s birthdays?” I asked. A few embers glowed in the big, stone fireplace on the far side of the room, and I got a chill as I remembered being interrogated by Headmaster Cromwell in front of that fireplace earlier this school year, on the night Cheyenne Martin was killed.

“No. But I know Jen’s,” Josh said.

My heart twisted. Jen Hathaway had been Josh’s girlfriend at St. James.

Josh hit enter. There was another ugly beep.

“Damn,” he said. “Didn’t work.”

“Maybe he’s got the boys’ birthdays on his paper calendar.” I nudged the rolling chair he sat in with my hip so I could flip through the blotter-style calendar atop the headmaster’s desk. There were all kinds of appointments listed—meetings with the board every Monday, a founder’s luncheon in March, a budget meeting every month—but no birthdays.

“Nothing personal anywhere,” I groused.

“Told you he’s a workaholic,” Josh said.

Downstairs, a door slammed. We both gasped and my hand flew to my mouth.

“What else could it be?” Josh whispered urgently, his fingers poised over the keyboard.

Suddenly an idea popped into my mind. An idea that was way too morbid to work, but it was all I had. “What about the day Jen died?” I whispered.

Josh looked at me in almost an accusatory way. Like he was ashamed that my brain could even go there.

“Do you know when it was?” I said, ignoring his look. “Sometime last summer. …”

“I know,” he said quietly.

“Just try it,” I hissed.

He did. His fingers hovered for a second above the enter key,
but when he finally hit it, the welcome screen came to life.

“It worked. I can’t believe it worked,” he said. “Hathaway’s even more twisted than you are.”

There was another slam. Closer this time. Josh and I froze. Then came the distinct sound of whistling, and the squeak of unoiled wheels moving closer and closer and closer. For a split second there was silence. And then the door to the outer office opened.

“Shit,” Josh whispered.

He hit the floor and jammed himself in under the desk. I couldn’t move. Terror took hold as the whistling echoed eerily off the high ceilings in the outer office.

“Reed!” Josh whispered, groping for my hand. He yanked on my fingers and I dove down, my knees slamming into the hardwood floor. I whimpered in pain as I curled into a ball and crammed in next to him.

Janitor
, Josh mouthed as we heard the sound of a garbage can being slammed against another while it was being emptied.

The whistling grew louder. The janitor was coming in. His feet shuffled along the floor and he let out a groan as he lifted the headmaster’s garbage can. He walked out into the secretary’s office with it, knocked it against the larger can, then came back and replaced it. Throughout this entire enterprise, I didn’t breathe once. Josh’s hand clutched mine so hard I thought he was going to dislocate my fingers. Then the outer office door closed, the wheels squeaked again, and the whistling faded away.

“Oh. My. God,” I whispered.

Josh nodded, his face millimeters from mine. “Let’s get this info already and get the hell out of here.”

We crawled out and I stood up, taking a deep breath. Quickly, I brought up the student information folder and found Noelle’s file. In it was the contact information for her parents, as well as all three of her living grandparents. Noelle’s grandmother, Lenora Lange, was listed as an alumna of Easton, and also of Billings House. I scrolled to her address and phone number and my heart completely stopped.

“Sonofa—” Josh exhaled over my shoulder.

Grandmother Lange lived in Paris, France.

I stared at the bank balance on my computer on Friday morning, wondering if what was left of my Billings Fund money would be enough to cover a round-trip ticket to Paris, which was, of course, the least of my worries. If I was going to do this, I was going to have to get off campus, which required an excuse and a pass. And even if I did manage to get that, I was going to have to find a way to get to the airport, and a way to get to Mrs. Lange after that. Not to mention I had to figure out how the hell I was going to explain to the old woman—whom I’d never met—that I’d just flown across the Atlantic to get an excuse note for Noelle, when I could have simply gone to her parents in New York, and when I had no idea where Noelle herself was.

My head dropped and my forehead pressed into the keyboard as I moaned in desperation. If only I knew someone in France, preferably someone who knew Noelle and her family. Where was Kiran Hayes these days? Didn’t models spend, like, 75 percent of their time in Paris? I lifted my head again, a twitter of hope inside my heart. But then, if I called Kiran, I’d have to explain. And she would completely freak out if she knew Noelle was missing. Besides, I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone. What I really needed was someone who would just do this for me, no questions asked.

Someone European.

I laughed mournfully at my own silly turn of thoughts. Like I, Reed Brennan from Croton, Pennsylvania, was supertight with anyone, anywhere in Europe. And then it hit me like an arrow to the chest.

Upton Giles.

My very fingertips tingled and I bit my bottom lip in excitement. I could call Upton. Upton would do anything for me. He’d both said and proven so more than once. He may not have been in France, but he was in England, which was a hell of a lot closer to Paris than Easton, Connecticut.

I glanced at the clock. It was 7:15 a.m. here, which meant it was 12:15 p.m. there. Could I possibly be lucky enough to find him in his dorm room? It was worth a shot.

I quickly opened up Skype and dialed Upton’s number. It rang a few times while I looked at the hold screen and then, all of a sudden, he was there. Smiling, shirtless, Upton Giles leaned over his desk as he hit the keyboard to answer my call.

“Reed! What a fantastic surprise!”

I got an extreme close-up of his bare chest as he sat down at his desk, and then his gorgeous face was in full view again. Already, I was blushing. I may have been completely committed to Josh now, but that didn’t mean I was immune to Upton’s world-renowned hotness.

BOOK: Private 12 - Vanished
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