Ms. Marin shifted her weight in the doorway. “Why is he bothering you on a weekend?” she asked suspiciously. “Is this something about the campaign?” She said campaign with an eye-roll. Hanna doubted her mom would be a Tom Marin supporter on voting day. Whenever there was a mention of him in the paper, she sniffed disapprovingly and quickly turned the page, saying that he’d better not participate in government the same detached way he participated in their marriage.
“I don’t know,” Hanna mumbled. She rose from her bed, patted Dot’s tiny, diamond-shaped head, and stared at her reflection in the mirror. Her skin looked pale and puffy. Her lips were cracked at the corners. Her hair was wild and knotted around her face. Perhaps her dad was summoning her to his office because of his campaign. Maybe they were doing an impromptu brainstorming session. Would they do something like that on a Saturday morning?
She threw on a pair of Citizens jeans and a Juicy hoodie and drove to her father’s office building. Some of the campaign posters from last night’s party still littered the atrium. The air reeked of catered food and men’s cologne. The elevator dinged loudly in the empty space. When the doors slid open on the third floor, Hanna was surprised to see that her father’s office was lit up like it was a regular workday. Her dad sat on the black leather couch, a mug of coffee in his hands. Hanna pushed through the double doors nervously, trying to keep her knees from knocking together.
Her father looked up when she came in. “Hey, Hanna.” He didn’t stand. He didn’t rush over to hug her. He just sat there, staring.
“Uh, what brings you here so early?” Hanna tried to sound light and joking. “Did another focus group say they loved me?”
Mr. Marin didn’t crack a smile. He took a long sip of coffee, then sighed. “There’s money missing from my campaign petty cash fund. Someone stole it from my office during the party last night. Ten thousand dollars. I counted it myself.”
A gasp slipped out of Hanna’s mouth before she could control herself. He kept that good a count of the petty cash?
“I know, I know, it’s terrible.” Mr. Marin shook his head. “But you have to be honest with me, Hanna. Do you know anything about this?”
“No!” Hanna heard herself say. “Of course not!”
Mr. Marin set his coffee on the table next to the couch. “Someone saw you go into the stairwell at the benefit last night. Did you come up here?”
Hanna blinked. “W-who told you that?” Kate? A?
Her father looked away, staring out the window. The tracks that creepy car had made in the snow last night were still there. “It doesn’t matter. Is it true?”
“I-I did come up here,” Hanna said, thinking on her feet. “But that was because I saw someone else come up here first. He was acting shady. I wanted to make sure nothing was wrong.”
Mr. Marin leaned toward her like he was watching the cliffhanger scene of a thriller movie. “Who did you see?”
A lump formed in Hanna’s throat. This was where her whole plan either came together or crashed and burned. “Jeremiah,” she whispered.
Her father sat back. Hanna licked her lips and continued, hoping he couldn’t hear her heart banging in her chest. “I followed him up here. He didn’t see me when he came out. Then I went in after him and looked around. But, Dad, I never imagined he’d actually steal from you.”
“Why didn’t you tell me this last night?”
“Because . . .” Hanna stared at her lap. “I’m sorry. I should have.”
She covered her face with her hands. “I’m so, so sorry. I would never take anything from you, Dad. I’ve been so happy that I’ve been able to help you . . . that we’ve bonded. Why would I jeopardize that?”
Tears filled Hanna’s eyes. It wasn’t just an acting job to garner his sympathy—it was, in so many ways, the truth. In so many ways, she wished she could have just told him about Patrick and that it was an honest mistake—then they could’ve gone to the police and settled this the right way. But she couldn’t bear to think of the disappointment on her dad’s face if she told him about the photos—especially not now that she was in his good graces. It would undo everything.
Mr. Marin sighed. When Hanna dared to look, she saw a sad, conflicted expression on his face. “I’m happy we’ve bonded, too, Hanna,” he said quietly. “We haven’t done much of that lately.”
Then he rose and paced around the room. “Thank you for telling me. I appreciate your honesty. Full disclosure, I found something of Jeremiah’s by the safe—something potentially incriminating. He denies everything, of course, but he’s no longer part of the team. This is a serious crime.”
“Are you going to call the police?” Hanna asked, terrified. She’d figured her dad would just fire Jeremiah and that would be that. Did they really have to get the cops involved? What if they could trace that money to Patrick?
Mr. Marin patted Hanna’s shoulder. “Leave that to me, Hanna. But you did the right thing. So thank you.”
Then his phone rang, and he told Hanna he’d see her later and darted into his office to take the call. There was nothing more for Hanna to do except leave. The elevator dinged once more, and she stepped inside and slumped against the wall.
As if on cue, her phone buzzed. Hanna pulled it out and checked the screen. She had a new text . . . and she had a horrible feeling she knew just who it was from.
The past is never far, Hannakins . . . and sometimes it’s
even closer than you think. –A
“Huh?” Hanna whispered, staring at the screen. Then, just as the elevator began to descend, there was a horrible screeching sound and the car bounced to a stop. She froze. There was no longer that telltale whir of the motor running and the cables moving. The elevator was as silent as a tomb.
Hanna pressed the DOOR OPEN button over and over. Nothing. The LOBBY button. Zip. She pressed every button on the keypad, including the one with the fireman’s hat on it. “Hello?” she shouted, hoping that her father might hear her through the shaft. “Help! I’m stuck!”
The lights snapped off.
Hanna shrieked. Only a small stripe of light at the top of the car was visible. “Hey!” she screamed, pounding on the door panels. “Someone! Please!”
But it was the weekend; no one was in the building. Hanna pulled out her phone again and called her father’s office number. The cell phone tried to dial out, but because she was in an elevator, the call couldn’t connect. She tried her mother’s cell, then Spencer’s, then Aria’s. She dialed 9-1-1. Nothing. Call lost.
Beads of sweat stood out on Hanna’s forehead. What if the elevator was stuck for days? What if the building caught fire and she was trapped in here? It was just like being locked in that bedroom in the Poconos when Ali had set fire to the house. Or being caught in the headlights of Mona’s car as Mona-as-A gunned forward and hit her. “Help me!” she screamed. “Help!”
And then, horrifyingly, she heard the voice.
I bet you weren’t always pretty, were you?
“No!” Hanna screeched, willing it out of her brain. She couldn’t think about it right now. She couldn’t let the memory in.
But Tabitha’s voice just got louder. I feel like I’ve known you girls forever!
All at once, Hanna could no longer resist. The memories of Jamaica slipped in sideways, longways, folded up and pressed flat. The voices of her friends swarmed in her ears, and suddenly she could clearly see the hotel room at The Cliffs.
“Do you think we should go see what she wants?” Aria held up the note Tabitha had pushed under the door.
“Are you crazy?” Emily stared at her. “That’s a death sentence! Ali’s setting us up!”
“Em, it’s not Ali.” Aria groaned.
Everyone else shifted awkwardly. “Actually, it really seems like Ali,” Spencer whispered. “We all think so, Aria. You’re the only one who doesn’t.”
Hanna looked at the note again. “Maybe Aria’s right, though. If we don’t go upstairs now, she’ll find us another way. She’ll get us alone. At least, this way, we’ll all be together.”
And so they went. Tabitha was waiting for them on the crow’s nest, which was a smaller, higher platform atop the roof deck restaurant that was perfect for tanning and stargazing. She sat on one of the chaises, sipping a piña colada. No one else was up there. Tons of potted palms swayed around the space, making the little balcony seem private and way too secluded.
When she saw them, she leapt to her feet, smiling broadly. “Hey, guys! I guess you got my note!”
The smile on her face had been twisted, diabolical. Hanna’s gaze drifted to the bracelet on her wrist—just like Emily said, it was an exact match to the one Ali had made for them after the Jenna Thing. It was frayed at the edges, just like Ali’s was. And it was that perfect, lake blue they’d all thought was so pretty.
It was Ali. It had to be. All traces of Tabitha were gone, and Hanna could see Ali so clearly it hurt.
Spencer wrapped her hands around the top of an empty chaise longue almost like she was going to use it as a shield. “Why did you want us to come up here?”
“Because I was going to show you something,” she said innocently.
Spencer’s eyes narrowed like she didn’t believe the girl for a minute. “Who are you?”
The girl put her hands on her hips and tilted back and forth teasingly. “Are you drunk, Spencer? My name is Tabitha. I told you that.”
“Your name isn’t Tabitha,” Emily said in a small, terrified voice. “You know things about us. Things no one else could know.”
“Maybe I’m psychic,” the girl said, shrugging. “And, okay, there’s something about all of you I can’t quite put my finger on. I feel like I’ve known you girls forever—but that’s impossible, isn’t it?” Her eyes sparkled mischievously. Hanna’s stomach swooped.
Then the girl fixed her gaze on Hanna, who was still standing by the stairs. “You can come closer, Hanna.” She beckoned, curling her finger. “I won’t bite. I just want to show you the incredible view. It’s amazing from up here.”
Hanna clamped her mouth shut, feeling immobile. Then, the girl took a lurching step toward her, seemingly crossing the crow’s nest in one step. Her drink sloshed in her glass. Her wide eyes didn’t blink. In seconds, she had pinned Hanna to the low wall that surrounded the deck. Up close, she smelled like vanilla soap and rum. When she gazed into Hanna’s eyes, she let out another lilting, familiar giggle. Hanna’s heart banged. She thought of the times she’d heard Ali’s giggle even after Ali had supposedly perished in the Poconos fire. The mornings she’d woken in a cold sweat, sure Ali was after them. Now, it was coming true.
“What do you want from us?” Hanna cried, shielding her face with her hands. “Haven’t you taken enough?”