MORE ABOUT THIS BOOK
When the shooting begins, among the dozens of people near Fairgate Mall’s food court are six teenagers: Miranda Nash, Cole Bond, Javier Ramirez, Parker Gray, Amina Abdi, and Grace Busby.
The only thing they have in common is that they all want to live. But not all of them will survive.
ONE HUNDRED MILES
One hundred miles from Portland’s Fairview Mall, a tractor-trailer is traveling west on Interstate 84. The eighteen-wheeler is plain, white, and unmarked. Anonymous.
It’s safer that way. Safer for the three armed guards sitting on the truck’s bench seat. Safer for the trailer’s contents, which are rows of black buckets, filled with metal bars. Each metal bar is about the size of an ice-cube tray.
Some of the buckets hold silver bars. And some hold gold.
A single bucket of gold weighs eighty-six pounds and is worth $1.6 million.
Karl McKinley has been thinking about those buckets for years.
Once a month, this tractor-trailer makes the trip from Martin’s Metals in Boise, Idaho, to a processing plant in Vancouver, Washington. The plant serves jewelry makers from Portland to Seattle.
A few days before it left, Karl paid a worker at Martin’s Metals to add a couple of extra features to the eighteen-wheeler. Features the guards know nothing about.
The first is a GPS tracker stuck to the underside of the chassis with a magnet. The tracker means that Karl can follow the tractor-trailer virtually, without arousing the suspicion of the guards.
The second addition has been placed under the dash, in the footwell. It’s a device normally used to deter burglars in million-dollar homes. When triggered by remote control, it will fill the truck’s cab with pepper spray.
SO MANY AND SO FAST
“There!” The Clinique saleswoman smiles at Miranda Nash as she turns the mirror toward her. “Those colors really make your eyes pop. It’s a perfect look for holiday parties.”
Miranda’s eyelids are covered with silver shadow, thickly edged with forest-green liner. She looks like an alien. A beautiful, big-eyed alien, but still.
“You don’t think it’s too much?” Ignoring the pulsing pain in her temples, Miranda tilts her head. In the mirror, the pale girl with the dark hair and eyes does the same.
“It’s a statement look, but it suits you.”
The saleswoman reminds Miranda of her mom. Older, but still pretty, and holding on to her prettiness with both hands, fingernails dug in. The saleswoman had sized her up when she approached the counter. Miranda watched the other woman’s eyes go from Miranda’s expensive shoes to the logo on her designer purse. She’s probably hoping to sell her the primer, shadow, liner, and mascara, and some skin-care products.
“Can I see that foundation?” Miranda has been watching where everything came from, and she picks the item that is located farthest away. The one that will make the saleswoman turn her back.
The drawer next to Miranda’s knee holds slender boxes of mascara. As soon as the saleswoman turns away, she leans down and opens it, ignoring how the action makes her head ache even more. She reaches in, grabs a half-dozen tubes, and slips them into the Ace bandage around her waist. It’s covered by her oversize red sweater, the one designed to slide off one shoulder. The whole thing takes five seconds.
Miranda’s made a mental map of where most of the security cameras are in this mall. The nearest one sees only her back. She’s been careful not to turn her face toward it. With luck, they won’t even notice that anything has been stolen until they take inventory. She knows not to leave empty packages behind. Better to take the whole thing and leave them wondering, than leave an empty box and no doubt.
To throw the saleswoman off the scent, Miranda spends an extra five minutes pretending to weigh the pros and cons of the various products. “I’m going to have to think about it,” she finally tells the saleswoman. “I want to see how it looks by the end of the night.”
A flash of irritation is quickly masked by a professional smile that doesn’t quite reach the saleswoman’s eyes. “Of course.”
She’s probably thinking that Miranda just wanted a free makeover so she could attend some party. And that if she even comes back to buy anything, all the products will be credited to some other salesclerk. That she has just wasted a half hour.
Guilt pinches Miranda. But she has to do this. She has to.
Because she’s sick and getting sicker.
And it’s still an hour until she is supposed to meet Matthew. How can she take the edge off? Maybe coffee will help. Down the mall’s main hall is a Perk Me Up.
“I’ll have a sixteen-ounce latte,” she says to the barista. “With two extra shots.”
The woman makes a face. “That’s a total of four shots.”
She should try living in Miranda’s head. Someone’s in there with a hammer. “Yeah, I know. But that’s what I want.”
As the woman fires up the espresso machine, which is decorated with tinsel and fake holly, Miranda leans against a pillar. Fifty feet away, she recognizes Parker’s bright blond curls. Her stomach does a twist. After what happened a few weeks ago, she doesn’t want to have to talk to him. To see the look in his eyes. Luckily, he has his back to her. He’s with a couple of other guys from the wrestling team. They’re getting up from a table, making no attempt to clean the mess of half-eaten food they’re leaving behind.
Theatrically, Parker raises a napkin over his head, gives it a little shake, and then lets it fall to the floor. His audience is not only his buddies but a brown-skinned guy in a green apron. Parker’s friends laugh. The busboy just looks down at the floor and grips his cart. Miranda sees his jaw clench. In case Parker turns around, she moves to the other side of the pillar and leans against it, ignoring how the Ace bandage digs into her waist.
The move puts her closer to the bell ringer from Salvation Army, who is standing next to a red kettle bearing a slogan that reads like a bumper sticker: TOGETHER, WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE. The old woman would certainly make a difference if she would just stop her incessant ding, ding, dinging. The noise pings around inside Miranda’s aching head.
At a table about twenty feet away, a mother and daughter are both eating apples. It’s weird to see such healthy food when everyone around them is consuming stuff that’s deep fried, covered with melted cheese, or both.
The two look like twins separated by twenty-five years: both with dark eyes and long brown hair parted in the middle. The girl’s hair is held back with a white headband, while her mother’s hangs loose. They’re even dressed alike, in jeans and button-down shirts. Miranda squints. The girl’s right hip has a long pale logo below the waistband as well as an embroidered white tab on the back pocket. Even though she’s too far away to read the logo, Miranda knows what it says: Stella McCartney. If you’re going to pay five hundred dollars for a pair of jeans, you want to make sure everyone knows it.
They lean toward each other, both of them smiling, trading words back and forth, gesturing with their long-fingered hands. What would it be like to be that close to your mom, Miranda wonders. And would she like it?
Since they’re dressed so similarly, she wonders if they wear each other’s clothes, and if so, how the girl feels about that. At home, Miranda has learned to hide anything she really likes, which annoys her mom. Not that you can tell by her expression. She’s had so much Botox that her face can’t get angry anymore. She can barely raise her eyebrows. Her happiest moments are when a stranger asks if she’s Miranda’s sister.
The rich girl’s mom is lifting her apple for another bite when a bright-red splotch about the size of a fist appears on her chest.
Miranda blinks. The red spot is growing, like a magic trick she doesn’t understand. Then she registers the sounds, nearly lost in the white noise of Christmas music and a hundred conversations.
POP, POP, POP.
A man in a blue plaid shirt two tables over clutches his arm. A skinny old woman falls, her walker and her Jamba Juice cup flying out in front of her.
The sounds are gunshots. So many and so fast, she can’t count them.
Miranda looks back at the girl’s mom. She’s tilting. Her eyes are wide and blood is bubbling between her lips. And Miranda realizes that’s what’s on the woman’s chest.
Copyright © 2018 by April Henry