Read Two Can Keep a Secret Online
Authors: Karen M. McManus
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Text copyright © 2019 by Karen M. McManus
Front cover photographs © 2019 by Johner Images/Getty Images and Jamie Grill/Getty Images
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.
Delacorte Press is a registered trademark and the colophon is a trademark of Penguin Random House LLC.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: McManus, Karen M., author.
Title: Two can keep a secret / Karen McManus.
Description: First edition. | New York : Delacorte Press,  | Summary: While true-crime afficionado Ellery and her twin brother are staying with their grandmother in a Vermont community known for murder, a new friend goes missing and Ellery may be next.
Identifiers: LCCN 2018022931 (print) | LCCN 2018029202 (ebook) | ISBN 978-1-5247-1474-1 (el) | ISBN 978-1-5247-1472-7 (hc) | ISBN 978-1-5247-1473-4 (glb) | ISBN 978-1-9848-5190-1 (intl. tr. pbk.)
Subjects: | CYAC: Murder—Fiction. | Missing persons—Fiction. | Community life—Vermont—Fiction. | Brothers and sisters—Fiction. | Twins—Fiction. | Moving, Household—Fiction. | Grandmothers—Fiction. | Mystery and detective stories.
Classification: LCC PZ7.1.M4637 (ebook) | LCC PZ7.1.M4637 Two 2019 (print) | DDC [Fic]—dc23
Ebook ISBN 9781524714741
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For Gabriela, Carolina, and Erik
Friday, August 30
If I believed in omens, this would be a bad one.
There’s only one suitcase left on the baggage carousel. It’s bright pink, covered with Hello Kitty stickers, and definitely not mine.
My brother, Ezra, watches it pass us for the fourth time, leaning on the handle of his own oversized suitcase. The crowd around the carousel is nearly gone, except for a couple arguing about who was supposed to keep track of their rental car reservation. “Maybe you should take it,” Ezra suggests. “Seems like whoever owns it wasn’t on our flight, and I bet they have an interesting wardrobe. A lot of polka dots, probably. And glitter.” His phone chimes, and he pulls it out of his pocket. “Nana’s outside.”
“I can’t believe this,” I mutter, kicking the toe of my sneaker against the carousel’s metal side. “My entire life was in that suitcase.”
It’s a slight exaggeration. My
entire life was in La Puente, California, until about eight hours ago. Other than a few boxes shipped to Vermont last week, the suitcase contains what’s left.
“I guess we should report it.” Ezra scans the baggage claim area, running a hand over his close-cropped hair. He used to have thick dark curls like mine, hanging in his eyes, and I still can’t get used to the cut he got over the summer. He tilts his suitcase and pivots toward the information desk. “Over here, probably.”
The skinny guy behind the desk looks like he could still be in high school, with a rash of red pimples dotting his cheeks and jawline. A gold name tag pinned crookedly to his blue vest reads “Andy.” Andy’s thin lips twist when I tell him about my suitcase, and he cranes his neck toward the Hello Kitty bag still making carousel laps. “Flight 5624 from Los Angeles? With a layover in Charlotte?” I nod. “You sure that’s not yours?”
“Bummer. It’ll turn up, though. You just gotta fill this out.” He yanks open a drawer and pulls out a form, sliding it toward me. “There’s a pen around here somewhere,” he mutters, pawing half-heartedly through a stack of papers.
“I have one.” I unzip the front of my backpack, pulling out a book that I place on the counter while I feel around for a pen. Ezra raises his brows when he sees the battered hardcover.
“Really, Ellery?” he asks. “You brought
In Cold Blood
on the plane? Why didn’t you just ship it with the rest of your books?”
“It’s valuable,” I say defensively.
Ezra rolls his eyes. “You
that’s not Truman Capote’s actual signature. Sadie got fleeced.”
“Whatever. It’s the thought that counts,” I mutter. Our mother bought me the “signed” first edition off eBay after she’d landed a role as Dead Body #2 on
Law & Order
four years ago. She gave Ezra a Sex Pistols album cover with a Sid Vicious autograph that was probably just as forged. We should’ve gotten a car with reliable brakes instead, but Sadie’s never been great at long-term planning. “Anyway, you know what they say. When in Murderland …” I finally extract a pen and start scratching my name across the form.
“You headed for Echo Ridge, then?” Andy asks. I pause on the second
of my last name and he adds, “They don’t call it that anymore, you know. And you’re early. It doesn’t open for another week.”
“I know. I didn’t mean the theme park. I meant the …” I trail off before saying
In Cold Blood
into my bag. “Never mind,” I say, returning my attention to the form. “How long does it usually take to get your stuff back?”
“Shouldn’t be more than a day.” Andy’s eyes drift between Ezra and me. “You guys look a lot alike. You twins?”
I nod and keep writing. Ezra, ever polite, answers, “We are.”
“I was supposed to be a twin,” Andy says. “The other one got absorbed in the womb, though.” Ezra lets out a surprised little snort, and I bite back a laugh. This happens to my brother all the time; people overshare the strangest things with him. We might have almost the same face, but his is the one everyone trusts. “I always thought it would’ve been cool to have a twin. You could pretend to be one another and mess with people.” I look up, and Andy is squinting at us again. “Well. I guess you guys can’t do that. You aren’t the right kind of twins.”
“Definitely not,” Ezra says with a fixed smile.
I write faster and hand the completed form to Andy, who tears off the top sheets and gives me the yellow carbon. “So somebody will get in touch, right?” I ask.
“Yep,” Andy says. “You don’t hear from them tomorrow, call the number at the bottom. Have fun in Echo Ridge.”
Ezra exhales loudly as we head for the revolving door, and I grin at him over my shoulder. “You make the nicest friends.”
He shudders. “Now I can’t stop thinking about it.
How does that even happen? Did he … no. I’m not going to speculate. I don’t want to know. What a weird thing to grow up with, though, huh? Knowing how easily you could’ve been the wrong twin.”
We push through the door into a blast of exhaust-filled, stifling air that takes me by surprise. Even on the last day of August, I’d expected Vermont to be a lot cooler than California. I pull my hair off my neck, while Ezra scrolls through his phone. “Nana says she’s circling because she didn’t want to park in a lot,” he reports.
I raise my brows at him. “Nana’s texting and driving?”
I haven’t seen my grandmother since she visited us in California ten years ago, but from what I can remember that seems out of character.
We wait a few minutes, wilting in the heat, until a forest-green Subaru station wagon pulls up beside us. The passenger-side window rolls down, and Nana sticks her head out. She doesn’t look much different than she does over Skype, although her thick gray bangs appear freshly cut. “Go on, get in,” she calls, side-eyeing the traffic cop a few feet from us. “They won’t let you idle for more than a minute.” She pulls her head back in as Ezra wheels his solitary suitcase toward the trunk.
When we slide into the backseat Nana turns to face us, and so does a younger woman behind the steering wheel. “Ellery, Ezra, this is Melanie Kilduff. Her family lives down the street from us. I have terrible night vision, so Melanie was kind enough to drive. She used to babysit your mother when she was young. You’ve probably heard the name.”
Ezra and I exchange wide-eyed glances.
Yes, we have.
Sadie left Echo Ridge when she was eighteen, and she’s only been back twice. The first time was the year before we were born, when our grandfather died from a heart attack. And the second time was five years ago, for Melanie’s teenage daughter’s funeral.
Ezra and I watched the
special—“Mystery at Murderland”—at home while our neighbor stayed with us. I was transfixed by the story of Lacey Kilduff, the beautiful blond homecoming queen from my mother’s hometown, found strangled in a Halloween theme park. Airport Andy was right; the park’s owner changed its name from Murderland to Fright Farm a few months later. I’m not sure the case would have gotten as much national attention if the park hadn’t had such an on-the-nose name.
Or if Lacey hadn’t been the second pretty seventeen-year-old to go missing not only from the same small town but also the same street.
Sadie wouldn’t answer any of our questions when she got back from Lacey’s funeral. “I just want to forget about it,” she said whenever we asked. Which is what she’s been saying about Echo Ridge our entire lives.
Ironic, I guess, that we ended up here anyway.
“Nice to meet you,” Ezra says to Melanie, while I somehow manage to choke on my own saliva. He pounds me on the back, harder than necessary.
Melanie is pretty in a faded sort of way, with pale blond hair pulled into a French braid, light blue eyes, and a sprinkling of freckles. She flashes a disarming, gap-toothed smile. “You as well. Sorry we’re late, but we hit a surprising amount of traffic. How was your flight?”
Before Ezra can answer, a loud rap sounds on the roof of the Subaru, making Nana jump. “You need to keep moving,” the traffic cop calls.
“Burlington is the
city,” Nana huffs. She presses a button on the door to close her window as Melanie eases the car behind a taxi.
I fumble with my seat belt as I stare at the back of Melanie’s head. I wasn’t expecting to meet her like this. I figured I would eventually, since she and Nana are neighbors, but I thought it would be more of a wave while taking out the trash, not an hour-long drive as soon as I landed in Vermont.
“I was so sorry to hear about your mother,” Melanie says as she exits the airport and pulls onto a narrow highway dotted with green signs. It’s almost ten o’clock at night, and a small cluster of buildings in front of us glows with lit windows. “But I’m glad she’s getting the help she needs. Sadie is such a strong woman. I’m sure you’ll be back with her soon, but I hope you enjoy your time in Echo Ridge. It’s a lovely little town. I know Nora is looking forward to showing you around.”
how you navigate an awkward conversation. No need to lead with
Sorry your mom drove her car into a jewelry store while she was high on opioids and had to go to rehab for four months.
Just acknowledge the elephant in the room, sidestep, and segue into smoother conversational waters.
Welcome to Echo Ridge.
I fall asleep shortly after we hit the highway, and don’t stir until a loud noise jolts me awake. It sounds as though the car is being pelted from every direction with dozens of rocks. I turn toward Ezra, disoriented, but he looks equally confused. Nana twists in her seat, shouting to be heard over the roar. “Hail. Not uncommon this time of year. Although these are rather large.”
“I’m going to pull over and let this pass,” Melanie calls. She eases the car to the side of the road and shifts into park. The hail is hitting harder than ever, and I can’t help but think that she’s going to have hundreds of tiny dents in her car by the time it stops. One particularly large hailstone smacks right into the middle of the windshield, startling us all.
“How is it
?” I ask. “It was hot in Burlington.”
“Hail forms in the cloud layer,” Nana explains, gesturing toward the sky. “Temperatures are freezing there. The stones will melt quickly on the ground, though.”
Her voice isn’t warm, exactly—I’m not sure warmth is possible for her—but it’s more animated than it’s been all night. Nana used to be a teacher, and she’s obviously a lot more comfortable in that role than that of Custodial Grandparent. Not that I blame her. She’s stuck with us during Sadie’s sixteen weeks of court-ordered rehab, and vice versa. The judge insisted we live with family, which severely limited our options. Our father was a one-night stand—a stuntman, or so he claimed during the whopping two hours he and Sadie spent together after meeting at an LA club. We don’t have aunts, uncles, or cousins. Not a single person, except for Nana, to take us in.
We sit in silence for a few minutes, watching hailstones bounce off the car hood, until the frequency tapers and finally stops altogether. Melanie pulls back onto the road, and I glance at the clock on the dashboard. It’s nearly eleven; I slept for almost an hour. I nudge Ezra and ask, “We must almost be there, right?”
“Almost,” Ezra says. He lowers his voice. “Place is hopping on a Friday night. We haven’t passed a building for miles.”
It’s pitch black outside, and even after rubbing my eyes a few times I can’t see much out the window except the shadowy blur of trees. I try, though, because I want to see the place Sadie couldn’t wait to leave. “It’s like living in a postcard,” she used to say. “Pretty, shiny, and closed in. Everyone who lives in Echo Ridge acts like you’ll vanish if you venture outside the border.”
The car goes over a bump, and my seat belt digs into my neck as the impact jolts me to one side. Ezra yawns so hard that his jaw cracks. I’m sure that once I crashed he felt obligated to stay awake and make conversation, even though neither of us has slept properly for days.
“We’re less than a mile from home.” Nana’s voice from the front seat startles us both. “We just passed the ‘Welcome to Echo Ridge’ sign, although it’s so poorly lit that I don’t suppose you even noticed.”
She’s right. I didn’t, though I’d made a mental note to look for it. The sign was one of the few things Sadie ever talked about related to Echo Ridge, usually after a few glasses of wine. “ ‘Population 4,935.’ Never changed the entire eighteen years I lived there,” she’d say with a smirk. “Apparently if you’re going to bring someone in, you have to take someone out first.”
“Here comes the overpass, Melanie.” Nana’s voice has a warning edge.
“I know,” Melanie says. The road curves sharply as we pass beneath an arch of gray stone, and Melanie slows to a crawl. There are no streetlights along this stretch, and Melanie switches on the high beams.
“Nana is the worst backseat driver ever,” Ezra whispers.
“Really?” I whisper back. “But Melanie’s so careful.”
“Unless we’re at a red light, we’re going too fast.”