“Oh, come on,” Ronan said. For starters, it was Henrietta. And for finishers, it was Henrietta. No one got burgled, and if they did, they didn’t get beaten up. And if anyone was going to get beaten up, it wouldn’t be the Lynch brothers. There was very little worse than Ronan in Henrietta, and what worse there was was too busy racing around in a little white Mitsubishi to burgle the remaining Lynches. “What did they steal?”

“My computer. And a little money.”


“And your face.”

Declan just inhaled in response, slow and careful. Noah slid into the pew, sitting at the very end, and Ronan slid in beside him. As he lowered the kneeler, he smelled the sharp, antiseptic smell of hospital on his brother. For a moment, disoriented, he had to hold in his breath. He knelt and put his head down on his arms. The image behind his eyes was the bloody tire iron beside his father’s head. I didn’t come out soon enough, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Why of all the things I can do can I not change — While whispered conversations ebbed and flowed around them, he focused on the image of his older brother’s face and tried unsuccessfully to imagine the person that could beat Declan up. The only person who had ever succeeded in beating up a Lynch brother had been another Lynch brother.

After he had exhausted this line of thought, Ronan gave in to the brief privilege of hating himself, as he always did in church. There was something satisfying about acknowledging this hatred, something relieving about this little present he allowed himself each Sunday.

After a minute, the kneeler buckled as Matthew joined them. Even without the buck of the kneeler, Ronan would have known his presence by the heavy dose of cologne Matthew always seemed to think church required.

“Hey, pal,” Matthew whispered. He was the only person who could get away with calling Ronan pal. Matthew Lynch was a bear of a boy, square and solid and earnest. His head was covered with soft, golden curls completely unlike any of his other family members. And in his case, the perfect Lynch teeth were framed by an easy, dimpled smile. He had two brands of smile: the one that was preceded by a shy dip of his chin, a dimple, and then BAM, smile. And the one that teased for a moment before BAM, an infectious laugh. Females of all ages called him adorable. Males of all ages called him buddy. Matthew failed at many more things than either of his older brothers, but unlike Declan or Ronan, he always tried his hardest.

Ronan had dreamt one thousand nightmares about something happening to him.

Matthew had unconsciously left enough room for Noah, but didn’t offer a greeting. Ronan had once asked Noah if he chose to be invisible, and Noah, hurt, had replied enigmatically, “Rub it in, why don’t you!”

“Did you see Declan’s face?” Matthew whispered to Ronan. The organ played dolorously.

Declan kept his voice just low enough to be church-level. “I’m right here.”

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“Burglar,” Ronan said. Really, it was like the truth was a disease Declan thought might kill him.

“Sometimes, when I call you,” Declan muttered, still in the strange, low voice that came from him trying not to move his mouth while he spoke, “I actually need for you to pick up.”

“Are we having a conversation?” Ronan asked. “Is that what’s happening right now?” Noah smirked. He didn’t look very pious.

“By the way, Joseph Kavinsky isn’t someone I want you being around,” Declan added. “Don’t snort. I’m serious.”

Ronan merely invested a look with as much contempt as he could muster. A lady reached over the top of Noah to pat Matthew’s head fondly before continuing down the aisle. She didn’t seem to care that he was fifteen, which was all right, because he didn’t, either. Both Ronan and Declan observed this interaction with the pleased expressions of parents watching their prodigy at work.

Declan repeated, “Like, actually dangerous.”

Sometimes, Declan seemed to think that being a year older gave him special knowledge of the seedier side of Henrietta. What he meant was, did Ronan know that Kavinsky was a cokehead.

In his ear, Noah whispered, “Is crack the same thing as speed?”

Ronan didn’t answer. He didn’t think it was a very churchappropriate conversation.

“I know you think you’re a punk,” Declan said. “But you aren’t nearly as bad ass as you think you are.”

“Oh, go to hell,” Ronan snapped, just as the altar boys broached the rear doors.

“Guys,” Matthew pleaded. “Be holy.”

Both Declan and Ronan fell silent. They were silent all through the opening hymn, which Matthew sang cheerily along to, and the readings, which Matthew smiled pleasantly through, and the homily, which Matthew slept gently through. They were silent through communion, as Noah remained in the pew and Declan limped up the aisle and accepted the host and Ronan closed his eyes to be blessed — please God what am I tell me what I am —and Matthew shook his head at the wine. And finally silent through the last hymn as the priest and the altar boys trailed back out of the church.

They found Declan’s girlfriend, Ashley, waiting on the sidewalk just outside the main doors. She was dressed in whatever had just been on the front page of People or Cosmopolitan and her hair was dyed whatever shade of blond matched it. She had three tiny gold earrings in each earlobe. She seemed oblivious to Declan’s cheating, and Ronan hated her. To be fair, she also hated Ronan.

Ronan snarled a smile at her. “Afraid you’ll catch fire if you come in?”

“I refuse to participate in a ceremony that doesn’t, like, allow equal spiritual privileges to women,” she said. She didn’t meet Ronan’s eyes when she said it, though, and she didn’t look at Noah at all, though he’d snickered vaguely.

“Do you two buy your politics out of the same catalog?” asked Ronan.

“Ronan —” Declan started.

Ronan flipped out his car keys. “I was just leaving.” He allowed Matthew to perform a brotherly handshake that they had invented four years previously, and then he advised Declan, “Stay away from burglars.”

It was not as easy as one might expect for Ronan Lynch to street race. Most people obeyed the speed limit. For all the press road rage received, the majority of drivers were either too safety conscious, too shy, too principled, or too oblivious to provoke. Even those who might have considered a few minutes of traffic-light drag-racing were generally aware that their vehicles were not suited to the task. Races were not to be found just lying on the street. They had to be cultivated.

So this was how Ronan Lynch found trouble.

A brightly colored car, for a start. Ronan had spent hours of his life as the only black car in a short, straightforward game of candy-coated vehicles. He looked for hatchbacks, coupes. Almost never a convertible. No one wanted to mess up their hair. This was a street racer’s wish list: aftermarket parts on any sort of car, yawning exhaust pipes, asphalt-scraping ground-effects, cavernous hood scoops, smoked headlights, mismatched flames painted on fenders. Any car that came with a wing. The more it looked like a handle to lift the car, the better. The silhouette of a shaved head or a hat jerked sideways was promising sign, as was an arm hanging over the door. A deeply tanned hand braced on the mirror was better. Thumping bass was a call to battle. So were vanity plates, so long as they didn’t say things like HOTGURL or LVBUNY. Bumper stickers were a turnoff, unless they were college radio. Oh, and horsepower didn’t count for anything. Half the time, the best sports cars were piloted by middle-aged bankers fearful of what might lie beneath their hood. Ronan used to avoid cars with multiple passengers, too, figuring that a solo driver was more likely to burn rubber at a light. But now he knew that the right sort of passengers would egg on an ordinarily tame driver. There was nothing Ronan liked better than a skinny tanned kid half-hanging out of a noisy, mostly dead red Honda full of his friends.

And this was how it started: Nose up to the light. Meet the driver’s eyes. Shut off the air-co to give the car a few extra horsepower. Rev the engine. Smile like danger.

This was how Ronan found trouble, except for when the trouble was Kavinsky. Because then it found him.

After church, Ronan and Noah headed in the general direction of the hellish affluent subdivision where Kavinsky lived with his mother. Ronan had half a thought that he might put the dream pair of sunglasses in Kavinksy’s mailbox, or tuck them in the windshield wipers of the Mitsubishi. The BMW’s air-conditioning was on full blast beneath the furious midday glare. Cicadas shrilled at one another. There were no shadows anywhere.

“Company,” said Noah.

Kavinsky rolled up beside the BMW at an intersection. Above them, the traffic light turned green, but the street behind them was empty and neither car moved. Ronan’s palms were suddenly sweaty. Kavinsky rolled down his window. Ronan followed suit.

“Fag,” Kavinsky said, stepping on his gas pedal. The Mitsubishi wailed and shuddered a bit. It was a glorious and hideous piece of work.

“Russian,” Ronan replied. He stepped on his gas pedal, too. The BMW growled, a little lower.

“Hey now, let’s not make this ugly.”

Opening the center console, Ronan pulled out the sunglasses he’d dreamt the night before. He tossed them through his open window onto Kavinsky’s passenger seat.

The light turned yellow, and then red. Kavinsky picked up the glasses and studied them. He knocked his own sunglasses halfway down his nose and studied them some more. Ronan was gratified to note how closely the new pair resembled them. The only thing he’d gotten wrong was that he’d made the tint a bit darker. Surely Kavinsky, master forger, should appreciate them.

Finally, Kavinsky slid his gaze over to Ronan. His smile was sly. Pleased that Ronan recognized the game. “Well done, Lynch. Where’d you find them?”

Ronan smiled thinly. He turned off the air-conditioning.

“That’s how it’s gonna be? Hard to get?”

The opposing light turned yellow.

“Yes,” said Ronan.

The traffic light above them turned green. Without any particular prelude, both cars exploded off the mark. For two seconds, the Mitsubishi snarled ahead, but then Kavinsky screwed the shift from third to fourth.

Ronan did not.

He blew by.

Just as Ronan tore around a corner, Kavinsky honked his horn twice and made a rude gesture. Then Ronan was out of sight and speeding on his way back to Monmouth Manufacturing.

In the rearview mirror, he allowed himself the slightest of smiles.

This was what it felt like to be happy.


Blue very much liked having the boys over to her house.

Their presence at the house was agreeable for several different reasons. The absolute simplest one was that Blue sometimes got tired of being 100 percent of the non-psychic population of 300 Fox Way — more and more often, these days — and that percentage improved dramatically when the boys were over. The second reason was that Blue saw all the boys, particularly Richard Campbell Gansey III, in a very different light when they were there. Rather than the glossy, self-assured boy he’d been when she’d first met him, 300 Fox Way Gansey was a self-deprecating onlooker, at once eager and unsuited for all of the intuitive arts. He was a privileged tourist in a primitive country: flatteringly curious, unknowingly insulting, quite certainly unable to survive if left to his own devices.

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