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The ground floor was empty.

"This sucks," I said.

We’d squeezed our way in through the wooden doors, which the bald guy hadn't bothered to chain together very tightly. There was no point. Every last box was gone.

I checked Mandy's phone for the time. It was coming up on two o'clock, only two and a half hours since we'd been here.

Jen surveyed the empty cavern of the building, her eyes scanning the floor inch by inch, finding nothing but spotless concrete.

"We should have come back earlier," Jen said quietly. "The shoes were right here."

"Did you forget the running-for-our-lives thing?"

"Overrated." Jen sighed. "There must be something we missed before."

She wandered off again, leaving me in the shaft of light by the doors, where I silently listed the reasons amateurs didn't solve crimes in the real world. Professional detectives would have sealed off the building with yellow tape from the start, dusting for fingerprints, searching for records of ownership and work permits. Actual police would have arrested the big guy in black and intimidated him into talking. Real cops wouldn't have run to the nearest coffee shop and then their friend's house to make expert use of wax paper. (Okay, maybe a coffee shop would have come into play, but they would have sent the rookie for doughnuts, leaving plenty of manpower for stretching out the yellow tape.) Non-amateurs might have the first clue how to take the license number of a rental truck and turn it into an address. I sure didn't.

And most importantly, a genuine crime solver wouldn't be terrified by the idea that the bad guys had his cell phone and were trying to find him. Real police were machines for turning coffee into solved crimes. I was a machine for turning coffee into jangled nerves.

"Hunter?" Jen's voice came out of the gloom, jangling my nerves.

"What?"

"Looks like someone left you a message."

She emerged, squinting and holding an envelope. A gray square of duct tape curled from it, the envelope glowing white in the gloom, carrying the letters H-U-N-T-E-R in red marker.

Her green eyes were wide, pupils huge in the dim light. "This was taped to the wall back there. Right where the shoes were."

I swallowed, holding out my hand. I'd seen Mandy scrawling notes during focus groups, her handwriting slanted, impatient, and unreadable. But my name stretched across the envelope in controlled and implacable letters.

"Aren't you going to open it?"

I took a slow breath and tore gingerly at the paper, not sure what I was nervous about. A letter bomb? Contact poison? The ace of spades?

It was two tickets.

I stared at them dumbly until Jen pulled one from my hand and read aloud.

'"You are invited to the launch party of Hoi Aristoi, the magazine for those with discriminating incomes. Huh. It's tonight."

I cleared my throat. "That isn't Mandy's handwriting."

"Didn't think so."

"They know my name."

"Of course they do. They called a friend of yours, who saw the ID and answered, 'Hi, Hunter. And the next number they call, they say, 'Hey, I'm a friend of Hunter's, and maybe ask for your home number, and so on."

I nodded. Piece by piece, my identity would be sucked out of the phone. Those Finns had done such a terribly good design job, making it the center of my life, filled with my friends' names and numbers, my favorite MP3s, pictures of my sock drawer.

I handed the tickets back. "So what are these about?"

"Search me. Have you ever heard of Hoi Aristoi?"

A vague memory of prelaunch buzz trickled into my mind. "I think it's the latest magazine for trendies with too much money. A waste of trees. I think that Hillary Winston-hyphen-Smith did PR for them."

Jen plucked one from my hand, turned it over, and nodded.

"I guess they're exactly what they say they are."

"Which is?"

"An invitation. And I suppose we should go."


Chapter 11 | So Yesterday | Chapter 12



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