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Authors: Tom Dolby

Secret Society

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Tom Dolby
Secret Society

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“Nothing is easier than self-deceit.
For what each man wishes, that he also believes to be true.”


“The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled
was convincing the world he didn't exist.”

—Christopher McQuarrie,
The Usual Suspects




Even the most seasoned walkers through Manhattan's Central Park often…


Part I


Chapter One

Invitations, Phoebe Dowling realized, often come from the most unexpected…

Chapter Two

The skirt was to die for.

Chapter Three

Nick had shown up at The Freezer half an hour…

Chapter Four

Lauren had arrived fashionably late to the party. She saw…

Chapter Five

Phoebe followed as Lauren deftly guided her across the club…

Chapter Six

The drink, Nick had found out, was called Amnesia. From…

Chapter Seven

Phoebe was frantic as the fifteen of them—Lauren, Nick, and…

Chapter Eight

That afternoon, Phoebe sat with Nick over Cokes—regular for him,…

Chapter Nine

Nick woke at eleven from a dreamless sleep, his phone…

Chapter Ten

Phoebe walked the several short blocks to the specified address…

Chapter Eleven

Anastasia took a sip of her martini, leaving a dark-red…

Chapter Twelve

Patch had woken at nine that evening, having passed out…

Chapter Thirteen

The next morning, after waking up at a normal hour,…

Chapter Fourteen

On Sunday afternoon, Lauren and Phoebe met up at Giroux…

Chapter Fifteen

The next day at school, everything with the Society was…


Part II

The Folly

Chapter Sixteen

It all started with the ankh.

Chapter Seventeen

Lauren walked home that evening, exhilarated after the first day…

Chapter Eighteen

On Saturday afternoon, Phoebe and Lauren were sitting together at…

Chapter Nineteen

On Monday at school, Patch heard his name and turned…

Chapter Twenty

Over the past few days, Lauren had searched for inspiration…

Chapter Twenty-One

A week later, Phoebe and Lauren were getting blowouts together…

Chapter Twenty-Two

When Lauren arrived at Phoebe's house that evening and met…

Chapter Twenty-Three

Lauren had to admit that she may have gone a…

Chapter Twenty-Four

The next day, the images arrived in Phoebe's inbox: They…

Chapter Twenty-Five

The night of her gallery opening, Phoebe stepped out of…

Chapter Twenty-Six

The trouble started at Chadwick when a senior pulled out…

Chapter Twenty-Seven

A few days later, during the week leading up to…

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Late that night, unable to sleep, Phoebe knocked on her…

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Nick drove his Jeep out to the beach house late…

Chapter Thirty

The night before Thanksgiving, Patch was working late in the…


Part III

Cleopatra's Needle

Chapter Thirty-One

The news reached everyone on Thanksgiving Day.

Chapter Thirty-Two

By Friday, word had gotten around the Chadwick community that…

Chapter Thirty-Three

Phoebe arrived midday on Friday at the Southampton house in…

Chapter Thirty-Four

On Friday afternoon, Patch and Genie took the train up…

Chapter Thirty-Five

After lunch, Lauren met up with Alejandro in the back…

Chapter Thirty-Six

On Monday morning, Patch's producer called him in for a…

Chapter Thirty-Seven

Exam week flew by, as most Chadwick students were consumed…

Chapter Thirty-Eight

Phoebe was woken the next morning by her mother knocking…

Chapter Thirty-Nine

Patch couldn't stop thinking about Genie's comments regarding the Bells…

Chapter Forty

The next day, Phoebe waited for Lauren and Nick outside…

Chapter Forty-One

For Nick, the Christmas season passed in a haze. He…

Chapter Forty-Two

The day after Christmas, Nick returned to the city. He…


Part IV

The Power of Fourteen

Chapter Forty-Three

The ride in the semi took eight hours, including a…

Chapter Forty-Four

The morning that they were to leave Manhattan, Lauren packed…

Chapter Forty-Five

Patch could barely believe that he had been able to…

Chapter Forty-Six

Patch had done his best to stay away from anyone…

Chapter Forty-Seven

Patch hadn't shared many details with Nick and Phoebe, but…

Chapter Forty-Eight

The next morning after breakfast, Phoebe sat with Nick in…

Chapter Forty-Nine

Lauren had felt distant from Phoebe and Nick since the…

Chapter Fifty

Nick looked at his father in amazement. “What the hell…

Chapter Fifty-One

Lauren was waiting in her bunk, unsuccessfully trying to take…

Chapter Fifty-Two

His eye was still purple and swollen. With his shaved…


ven the most seasoned walkers through Manhattan's Central Park often miss Cleopatra's Needle. The seven-story Egyptian obelisk dates back to the fifteenth century
. and stands less than a hundred yards from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

One Thanksgiving morning, it was hard to ignore. At the base of the granite obelisk was the body of a young man, lying among dead leaves and candy bar wrappers. The figure was naked but for a pair of white cotton briefs. It was discovered by a jogger at six-thirty A.M., and by eight, no fewer than fifty onlookers had gathered. Police officers cordoned off the area, reporters with camera crews commented on the scene, and holiday tourists gawked at the spectacle.

Detectives noted the details: white male, mid- to late teens, brown hair, blue eyes.

The only identifying mark: a dime-sized tattoo of an ankh, the Egyptian symbol for life, at the back of his neck.


nvitations, Phoebe Dowling realized, often come from the most unexpected places.

The last thing she thought would happen on the third day of her junior year at the Chadwick School was that an adorable, shaggy-haired guy would hand her a flyer for a party: N
, M
. Phoebe had read about DJ Apocalypse in
Vanity Fair
, how he spun for celebs and press-hungry socialites, but she never thought she'd get to go to one of his parties. And the boy who handed her the invite? Someone had told her once that if she and her mom ever moved to Manhattan, the guys really were better looking, but she hadn't believed it. Until now.

“Thanks,” she croaked, as she felt her long, reddish-brown
hair slide awkwardly over her lightly freckled forehead. She rushed to push it back behind her ear, catching it on her upper ear piercing.

“No problem,” he said, rushing down the hall, his worn loafers squeaking as he dodged book bags and elbows while handing out three more glossy invites in the time it had taken her to recover. She looked at his retreating figure, at the classic, threadbare blazer askew on his broad frame.

The Chadwick School, that brick-and-stone fortress located on the northeast edge of the Upper East Side, hadn't exactly turned out to be what she had expected upon arriving in Manhattan from Los Angeles. Phoebe's old school, St. Catherine's, was known for its privileged student body, just as Chadwick was. St. Catherine's had been populated by the bratty offspring of film stars and studio execs, as well as the odd artsy student, which Phoebe herself had been. But there was something different about the students at Chadwick. They all had it so
. It was as if they had been shopping at Bergdorf's since they were three, as if they had had credit cards in their own names and cell phones forever, as if they didn't know what it was like to feel their freedom or finances limited in any way. Phoebe sighed as she packed her book bag. She could play the game if she had to; her mother said that if she hated it there, she could transfer next year. But for now, she had to stick it out.

Classes were done for the day, and students streamed down
the hall in every direction, a rush of khakis and plaid skirts and papers and notebooks. The school's interiors were like a Merchant Ivory film: wood paneling in the hallways, inlaid mosaics in the entryway. True, some of Chadwick had been modernized—the student podcast station, the music practice rooms—but most of it wasn't brand-new, the way everything seemed to be in California. The place had history: Phoebe could feel it as she ran her finger along the student graffiti carved into the oak Harkness tables, those large oval-shaped classroom tables that had been invented at a New England boarding school. She could sense it as she noticed the worn spots on the marble stairs that students had been climbing for nearly two hundred years.

That afternoon, she was planning on hopping on the 6 train, transferring at Grand Central, going over to the West Side, and visiting her mom at the gallery where her work was repped. She noticed the boys getting in cabs, and some of the girls even jumping into hired cars, giggling all the way. She had a creeping sensation that everyone else was having more fun than she was, was experiencing more of this grand, glittering city. Phoebe wanted to experience every version of New York: the gritty one, the glamorous one. Who held the key? That was what she needed to know. Who would make her Manhattan the one she had seen in the movies? She suspected that it was boys like the one who had handed her the invitation, boys like Nick Bell, who knew such things, who
were to the manner born. Even if the manor was a penthouse apartment on Fifth Avenue.


Nick clutched his iPhone in his sweaty palm as he listened to the voice on the other end: “There's a problem with the liquor.”

Even though he was jogging around the Central Park Reservoir, his sneakers pounding against the ground, he still felt his body seize up, a shiver running to his stomach. Had Amir, one of the owners of the club where he was throwing his bash that night, finally realized that the majority of his guests would be underage?

“Yeah, what?” Nick said, attempting to sound like he was in control.

“The vodka sponsor's delivery hasn't arrived yet,” Amir said.

Nick felt himself relax. “We still have a few hours, don't we? Besides, is one missing brand really that big a deal? Just switch it out with something cheaper.”

“I don't know, Nick—you know how this crowd gets if they don't get their top-shelf stuff during open bar.”

“It'll be fine,” Nick said, as he slowed down his jog to a trot. “You could put Popov in a Ketel One bottle and no one would know the difference.”

“I guess you know them better than I do.”

“Amir, trust me, it's the least of our worries.” He cringed,
hoping Amir wouldn't ask him what he meant.

He clicked off the call and went back to the Digitalism track he was listening to—not exactly the most relaxing music, but it would get him psyched for the evening. Once the party started, he had six hours of DJ Apocalypse's electronica to look forward to—that is, if he could confirm that the elusive turntablist was still coming. The guy hadn't returned Nick's last three messages.

Soaked from his run in the early September heat, he arrived home to his family's Fifth Avenue apartment and took the elevator up to the top floor. As he traipsed through the foyer of the penthouse and up the staircase to the second level, he waved away Gertie, their rotund cook, when she asked if he wanted a snack. He could hear low voices coming from behind the living room's paneled pocket doors—it sounded like his mother and his father and a male voice he didn't recognize. He paused for a moment, although he couldn't make anything out. It was unusual for his father to be home this early.

Nick thought ahead to the party as he cooled off in his bedroom, peeling off his sweaty socks and kicking his rank-smelling sneakers into a corner. He was trying not to stress, but all his usual worries came back to him: Had he invited enough people? Had he invited too many? Would the right ones show up? As of that afternoon, he was almost out of flyers—a good or a bad thing, depending on how you looked at it. He looked down at his phone. There was a text from his
best friend, Patch, who had been in charge of setting up the door list for the party:

600. C

Nick texted him back that it was cool. The club held only about four hundred people, so six hundred names would be more than enough to pack the place while still allowing for no-shows. Although he had organized only a few club nights in the past, all out in the Hamptons, he was starting to feel like he was getting good at it. He grinned to himself, awash in excitement and adrenaline. Everything from the summer was coming to fruition.

It had all started when his parents had, almost shockingly, given him nearly free rein at the beach over summer break, and he had been doing what he liked to think of as “partying with a purpose.” Club owners at the Purple Elephant in Southampton and the Chocolate Lounge outside East Hampton had said that when they decamped back to the city in the fall, they would give him his own night there—that is, if he could promise to attract the kind of crowd they knew he could bring in: young, good looking, with disposable income for bottle service and an appetite for VIP treatment. Nick knew it was a little shady to give such power to a high school junior, but that was the thing: The club owners—Amir and his partner, Costa—didn't know that he was still in high school.
As they were foreigners (one was from Israel, Nick thought, and the other from—Brazil, was it?), they weren't too familiar with the local private school scene, so when he said that he was a student at Chadwick, they had assumed he was already in college. He made a point of not shaving whenever he was going to be in their proximity, and given his recent growth spurt to a full six feet, two inches, they had no idea that he was only sixteen years old. They had seen him hanging out with the girls and guys he had grown up with; the guys were all relatively attractive (and if they did have acne or awkward haircuts, their parents whisked them off to a dermatologist or overpriced salon to get the problem fixed), and the girls-most of all, the girls—dressed older, acted older. With their expensive highlights and Marc Jacobs handbags and Christian Louboutin heels and casually smoked Nat Shermans, there was no way an onlooker could ever tell that his friends were only sixteen, seventeen, sometimes even as young as fifteen years old, never mind what it said on their fake IDs.

Nick had become a social butterfly, but the thing was—although he didn't dare tell anyone—he didn't really like most of the kids he was spending time with. The city was full of so many different kinds of people, and his parents had protected him, sheltered him from them all. It was starting to drive him crazy, drive him out of his skull. Some of his friends drowned it all out by being stoned 24–7, living in a cloud of cannabis, but that bored Nick. Sometimes, he wanted nothing more than to
go back to the days when everything had been simple, when a weekend meant hanging out at the Southampton house on the glassed-in sunporch, renting bad Bruce Willis movies and eating too much pizza.

He put it out of his head as he stepped from the shower and wrapped a towel around his waist. His party was at The Freezer, Amir and Costa's cash cow of a nightclub down in the Meatpacking District, which was admittedly past its prime. It was a good entry, though, to the New York promoting scene for Nick. The bad news was that DJ Apocalypse, supposedly fresh off a flight from Paris where he had headlined at a party for Veuve Clicquot—and rumored to have fallen off the wagon since his stint in rehab for meth addiction—was still nowhere to be found.

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