Chapter no 15

The Summer of Broken Rules

Most people drove over to Moor House, but Wit and I grabbed an umbrella, and I led him down the forest footpath I’d taken to assassinate his father. We were both armed with our guns—Wit so he could carry out his latest plan and me to keep up appearances. No one could know about my newest strategy. Because it is a strategy, I kept telling myself. Without an assassin on his tail, Wit can eliminate as many players as he wants, narrow down the pool of players.

Then, eventually, I could kill him. Not now, but eventually.

He was nervous, though—more nervous than I’d ever seen him, more nervous than me. Fidgeting and swiveling his head every few seconds. “Hey, relax,” I told him. “Basically no one knows about this trail.”


“Claire,” I said. “And the dogs, probably—but other than that, only Claire.”

A single nod.

My stomach knotted. Maybe I should tell him, I thought. Maybe I should tell him it’s me, and then we can make some kind of deal. An addendum to our pact, some kind of deal where we work together so it’s the two of us in the final showdown.

But it was too late. He had asked me directly if he was my next target, and I’d directly said no. I couldn’t take that lie back.

“It’s going to be fine, Wit,” I said, swallowing hard. His name sounded not quite right coming out of my mouth. “You are cool, calm, collected, and clever. Don’t let the paranoia get to you. Do not let it get to you. All right?” “All right,” he said and let out a long breath. His face was scorched with

sunburn, but somehow it still looked as pale as the gray rainy day.

“We’re going to go in there,” I said in my best Rally the troops! voice, “and do what needs to be done. I’m going to avoid Ian like the best of them, and your target won’t even know what hit him.”

“Games and gumbo, too,” Wit added. “Don’t forget.”

“Right.” I smiled. “So let’s not keep everyone waiting.”

“We can for one more sec,” he said and hooked an arm around my waist before leaning in to kiss me. It was a light flutter of a kiss, but suddenly I wanted more, climbing up his strong, wiry frame until he held me and I had my arms around his neck. Now we were truly, deeply kissing. I had no idea where the umbrella had gone; neither of us was holding it anymore.

I kissed him one last time, and then Wit set me down and we continued down the pathway, both dripping by the time it spit us out in Moor House’s side yard. There were several people around the corner with their water guns, staking out the front lawn for new arrivals. Uncle Brad and Nicole Dupré were among them. I didn’t see Ian.

“Okay, this leads to the downstairs bathroom,” I told Wit as I pushed up one of the first-floor windows. “Ready?”

He nodded and gave me a boost inside, then hoisted himself up after me. There were several toothbrushes on the side of the sink and towels hanging on the back of the closed door—Wit and I used them to dry off a little. We stowed our water guns in the shower, the chevron-patterned curtain making a snaking noise when I pulled it shut.

A hundred voices swirled once we slipped into the hallway, whose walls were whipped-butter yellow and decorated not only with Fox family photographs but also beautiful watercolor landscapes. “No way,” Wit

whispered, seeing the initials BGF in the corner of one painting. “Uncle

Brad did these?”

I nodded. “He has many talents.”

And so did Jeannie Dupré, the smell of gumbo embracing us once we made it into the kitchen. Right away, I detected onions, peppers, and sausage. Pots and pans covered the stove, and my mom had thrown herself into helping, chopping up vegetables on the counter. I smiled—she loved to cook, but we had ordered a lot of takeout after Claire died. Now, though, it was like she’d gotten her groove back. I remembered almost falling to the floor several months ago when I’d come home from Ben’s house to find her in the kitchen making my favorite fried chicken for dinner.

Wit noticed me watching her. “That’s called the trinity,” he said. “Onions, bell peppers, and celery—the essentials.”

“Oh, Wit!” His stepmother spotted us. “Thank goodness! I already have a few pots ready, but more people are coming, so I’ve just sent Michael and Oscar out to make more groceries…”

“Buy groceries,” he translated for me.

“Will you and Miss Meredith smother those once Liz is finished prepping them?”

“Miss Meredith?” I gave Wit an amused half smile as my mom confirmed the trinity was ready to go.

Wit rubbed the back of his neck. “Yeah,” he said. “It’s what my dad and Jeannie call you.” He held up his hands like he was in trouble. “Not my idea.”

I fully smiled and shook my head, remembering Oscar Witry telling Miss Meredith good luck after I’d assassinated him. “What does ‘smother’ mean?”

“It means we’re gonna cook this stuff in more onions.” He accepted the cutting board from my mom. “On high heat, for a long time.”

Sarah was already at the stove, stirring a beige-colored substance in a saucepan. “Jeannie!” she called when the beige began rapidly turning brown. “The roux! It’s—”

“—ruined,” Wit said, then cocked his head. “Not for the first time, I’m guessing?”

She huffed. “It’s only flour and oil,” she said, pushing her glasses up her nose. “You think it’d be so simple.” A groan. “This is my third try.”

After Wit and I did some successful smothering, we served ourselves gumbo from a ready and waiting pot and searched for games to play. We’d decided on our walk here that we wouldn’t play the same one. Distance, we’d agreed. Wit wanted to pull off a move today, and it was best if I wasn’t anywhere near him if and when it happened.

While he wandered off to play Scrabble with Wink, Honey, and a few Duprés, I found Pravika, Eli, Jake, and Luli setting up Monopoly on the screened-in porch. As banker, Eli was counting out the money while Luli organized the property deeds.

Luli, I thought. Good.

I needed to talk to her—really talk to her. Yes, I’d apologized on Monday for ignoring her texts and stuff, but after hiking with Wit this morning and telling him about my friend troubles, I felt like she deserved something deeper. An explanation, to make sure the door between us could be fully reopened and stay open for a long time. I remembered when she, Claire, and I were little girls—the way we raced around The Farm together with our never-ending giggles. One of my favorite memories was the night we’d pranked Jake and Eli, drawing all over their faces with lipstick while they slept. I felt a twinge now at the thought of forever losing that closeness. I’d lost Claire; I couldn’t lose anyone else.

“Hey, Mer,” Pravika said now. “Thimble, boot, or top hat?”

“Thimble, please,” I replied and took the empty chair next to Jake.

“Your taste buds aren’t even ready,” he warned as I raised a spoonful of gumbo to my mouth and blew on it. “Not. Even. Ready.”

“Oh, wow.” I actually moaned after my first bite, sweet and spicy all at once. The onions, peppers, celery, sausage, shrimp—a burst of fire in my mouth. Somehow I could taste the passion that had gone into cooking it. “This is…”

“Luli’s had three bowls,” Eli said, and I noticed all of theirs were empty. I scooped up more from mine. Perhaps I would have three bowls myself.

From my other side, Luli playfully scowled. “Can we start now?”

“I have to talk to you later,” I whispered as Eli started dealing the money. “After the game?”

Her eyes sparked, probably thinking I meant Assassin—that I had some counterintelligence to share. Pinpricks needled the back of my neck. “Okay,” she whispered back. “Can’t wait.”

* * *

Unfortunately, Monopoly was way less exciting than the gumbo. It played out as it usually did between the five of us: Jake quietly bought up all the cheap properties and built hotels, Luli landed on free parking a hundred times, and I found myself in jail over and over, all while Eli and Pravika kept proposing ridiculous property trades. Eventually, we abandoned the game altogether. “What do you guys think?” Eli asked. “Should I go to the yacht club and just introduce myself?”

“Not today,” Luli said and gestured outside to the current break in the rain. “I’d bet all my Monopoly money that sailing was canceled.”

Eli rolled his eyes. He’d been bummed about my Edgartown Books recon, the bookseller making lunch date plans. “There’s always your sailing instructor,” I had said to cheer him up. “You called him the man of your dreams, remember?”

“Yes,” he’d responded. “Because he is…”

“Do it,” I said now. “So we can finally find out this guy’s name.”

“Yeah, and who knows?” Pravika said. “Maybe it’ll be love at first sight and he’ll come to the wedding—”

I shot her a look. Abort, Pravika. Abort.

“Hey,” Luli said, back from the bathroom. “Where’d Jake go?”

“Mer’s place,” Eli replied, gazing wistfully through the screen at Job’s Neck Pond in the distance, which was of course distastefully obscured by the Nylon Condo Complex. Hopefully everyone’s stuff wasn’t ruined from the rain. “To get the old chessboard.”

None of us were very good chess players, but we had decided to give it yet another chance. I knew I should’ve gone to the Annex to get the board myself, but Jake had jumped up and volunteered first.


“He’s been gone a pretty long time, hasn’t he?” Luli commented. I suspected Wit’s water gun was no longer in the shower. It wasn’t a coincidence that he’d joined the Scrabble game, which was being played in the living room…the room everyone passed through when entering and exiting the house.

Eli shrugged. “Maybe he needed to stop and take a dump.” Luli and Pravika groaned. “Eli…”

“What?” He patted his stomach. “This gumbo’s strong stuff—” Shouts from the other room cut him off:

“Oh my god!”

“Look outside!”

“He’s out of his mind!”

Our foursome flung ourselves from our chairs and hurried into the living room, where family members and wedding guests were pressed up against the windows. “Meredith!” My dad waved me over, and I squeezed in to see the driveway, where all the cars were parked. Wit was among them, popped up through the Raptor’s sunroof. He had Claire’s monster gun strapped to

his back, but right now, he was in the middle of launching a rainbow of water balloons at his target.

“Did you give him the truck keys?” I asked my dad.

“I might’ve left them in the wheel well,” he said lightly. “Did you buy him the balloons?”

“Touché,” I muttered, because @sowitty17 had requested them when I’d gone to the store yesterday afternoon…and now he was pelting poor Jake with water balloon after water balloon.

I tried not to smile, but it was perfect, right down to the sunroof—an homage to how we’d first met. Plenty of people were laughing, but they had no idea that the takedown was an inside joke, something secret and special between Wit and me. I liked it that way, liked that certain things were only for us.

The group had a field day when Jake, dripping wet with bits of colorful rubber clinging to his clothes, came inside once he’d relinquished his target to Wit. “Towel, please?” he said. “Can somebody grab me a towel?”

“Coming right up!” I said, since it was the least I could do.

Then I felt Luli’s hand on my arm. “I’ll help you,” she said in a pleasant voice, but the expression on her face was pure fury. Dark narrowed eyes, scrunched nose, pursed lips—even a vein bulging in her neck. I knew she would be angry, but this angry? She pointed above us to the second floor. “The fluffiest ones are up there.”

“Cool.” I tried to smile. Earlier, I’d wanted to talk to her, but not like this. Not when it looked like she wanted to actually avenge her brother’s death. “Let’s go.”

Her face did not soften. “Yes, let’s.”

My lungs expanded, but they did not contract when I followed her upstairs.

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