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Home > We Know It Was You (Strange Truth #1)(7)

We Know It Was You (Strange Truth #1)(7)
Author: Maggie Thrash

How is Benny so fast? Virginia wondered as she strained to keep up with him. He wasn’t on any sports teams. She knew he took some weird karate class that was about trying to punch people with your mind or something. Maybe he had some supernatural mind-body connection that allowed his body to siphon power from his brain in times of physical need. Or maybe he secretly worked out. He could be ripped under those voluminous turtlenecks, and no one would ever know.

She reached the edge of the woods, leaping over a line of yellow police tape. She almost smacked right into Benny.

“Where is he?” she panted.

Benny didn’t say anything, just pointed.

Gottfried stood hunched at the edge of the bridge, his hands on his knees. He was vomiting his guts out. The brackish spew splattered across the ground and the edge of the bridge. Virginia recognized the congealed chunks of cafeteria oatmeal, which had already resembled vomit in the first place.

“Oh my God,” she said, covering her eyes. “Gross.”

“Uh, you okay?” Benny shouted to him. Gottfried stumbled and coughed quietly. Then he wretched again. Leaves formed unflattering shadows on his face.

“I don’t think he heard you,” Virginia said.

“Hey, what’s goin’ on here?” A cop was climbing up the steep riverbank toward them. But he was balancing a clipboard and a tray of coffees and almost immediately started to slide back down the mud. One of the coffees tipped over and sloshed on his shirt. “God daymit,” he hissed.

“Gottfried, come on,” Virginia called out. Gottfried was staring vacantly, wiping his mouth. He looked baffled and ill. Virginia strode toward the bridge and gently took his arm.

“You kids git outta here!” the cop shouted. “You blind? That’s po-lice tape!”

“He’s from Germany!” Virginia shouted, dragging Gottfried away from the bridge. “Police tape is red there! He was confused!”

Benny was already far ahead of them. Virginia led Gottfried through the trees back toward the field. It felt like leading a cloddish horse. He kept stumbling and slowing her down.

“Geez, Gottfried, what the hell were you doing over there?” Virginia demanded as soon as she’d dragged him into the end zone.

“Give him a second to breathe,” Benny hissed at her.

They could hear the policeman still shouting, but he was far-off now. Apparently he’d decided it wasn’t worth the effort to scale the muddy bank and go after them. Soon even the shouts stopped. Lazy fools, Benny thought. If some random kids trampled over his crime scene, he wouldn’t just let them run away.

Gottfried was squinting up at the sky. He shook his head a little and blinked. Some of the color was returning to his face. Benny studied him. Gottfried was kind of a spacey, weird guy. No one really knew what his deal was. He’d appeared in the ninth grade as part of a one-semester exchange program. But then when everyone came back from Christmas, Gottfried was back too, with a room in the Boarders. And then he was back the next semester, and the next semester. He’d been at Winship for almost two and a half years now. Evidently he was very attached to the place, but Benny couldn’t imagine why. He wasn’t particularly popular. People thought he was funny and goofy, but more in a laughing-at-you way. He was known for saying strange things—like once Benny had heard him tell a teacher he needed an extension because he thought he’d done his homework, but actually it had been a vivid dream. People assumed his English was bad, attributing his weirdness to foreignness, even conflating the two. But Gottfried’s English was fine, Benny knew. He was just a weird person.

“Are you really drunk or something?” Virginia asked tactlessly.

“Hm . . . eh . . . ,” Gottfried mumbled.

Benny’s phone buzzed. “Ugh,” he said, checking it. “I have to go. My grandma’s picking me up for temple. Um . . .” He looked from Virginia to Gottfried, and back to Virginia. Was it wise to leave her alone with him? It wasn’t her safety that concerned him—Gottfried was harmless, and Virginia could take care of herself anyway. It was the fear that she’d screw up his investigation somehow. Tell Gottfried the wrong thing, ask him the wrong question.

“So . . . I guess . . . ,” he said stupidly.

“I’ll take him back to the Boarders,” Virginia said.

“Sure, just don’t, you know . . . ,” Benny said, eyeing Gottfried. He didn’t seem to be paying attention, but Benny couldn’t risk being explicit.

“Don’t what?” Virginia asked obtusely.

Benny fidgeted with his phone. “I dunno. Whatever. I’ll call you later. Bye.” Then he turned abruptly and sprinted from the field.

The Boarders, 10:15 a.m.

“Would you feel better if you took a shower?” Virginia asked, eyeing a tiny fleck of vomit on Gottfried’s shirt.

Gottfried shook his head, which didn’t surprise her. People avoided showering in the Boarders on the weekends, because for some reason the hot water tended to run out. It was a running joke that the boarders always smelled on Mondays—an affectionate joke, for the most part, but one that nevertheless emphasized their general apartness.

“Well . . . do you want some tea or something?” Virginia offered. She started opening and closing cabinet doors, looking for the herbal tea Mrs. Morehouse kept stocked in the common-room kitchen. Mrs. Morehouse was the Boarders’ house mom. She was supposed to live with them and supervise their every move. However, in her ancientness, she seemed to grow disinterested in her duties, making up for long stretches of absence with fierce disciplinary tirades whenever she randomly appeared. The tea she liked was always fruity flavors paired with an abstract quality, like “passion fruit persuasion” or “peppermint spice tranquility.” Zaire Bollo, the British girl—or part British, who really knew—read the ingredients list out loud once and declared that it contained no actual tea, just artificial flavors. Zaire was always complaining about the food in America, which Virginia thought was snobbish. Gottfried was from Europe too, but he never complained.

“No sank you,” Gottfried said. His accent was faint, but you could always hear it when he made the “th” sound, which came out like a hiss, instead of soft and velvety like it was supposed to.

Virginia flopped onto the sofa next to him. It felt weird to be hanging out together. She wasn’t sure if she should leave. People always assumed that since there were so few of them, the boarders were all best friends and had orgies every night—cooped up with all those empty rooms. But actually they tended to feel kind of awkward around one another. The building was just too spacious and too quiet. There was a “Boarders Bash” in the common room once a semester, but it was always dysfunctional—everyone showed up at different times and missed the others, or else they just refused to relax and ended up pretending to go to the bathroom and never coming back.

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