Chapter no 67

The Teacher


WHEN MY MOTHER calls me downstairs, there’s a slight tremor in her voice.

I have spent most of the afternoon lying in my bed, staring at the ceiling, too paralyzed to take a stab at any of my homework for the weekend. At some point, I heard my mother emerge from the bedroom and go downstairs, but I kept my own door closed. I can’t face her.

I climb down the stairs, vaguely aware of the fact that my T-shirt has a stain over the breast pocket, and my hair feels like a rat’s nest. I freeze midway down the stairwell at the sight of the unfamiliar woman in a trench coat standing in the middle of our living room.

“Addie,” my mother says. “This is Detective Sprague. She’d like to ask you a few questions.”

I knew that I would eventually get questioned by the police, given I was with Mrs. Bennett in the principal’s office only yesterday, but I didn’t expect it quite so soon. I don’t even know how they figured out she was gone so quickly. Since it’s the weekend, the only person who could possibly have reported her missing is…


“Hello, Addie,” the detective says as I slowly walk the rest of the way down the stairs. She is small, but the features of her face look like they’re carved from stone, and her hair is pulled back into a super tight bun behind her head. Even though she’s tiny, she’s frightening. “I need to talk to you for a few minutes, if that’s okay with you.”

“And I’ll be here the whole time,” my mother adds.

I look between the two of them. I don’t see any possible way to say no, so I nod.

“So, Addie…” Detective Sprague’s dark eyes study my face. She is the type of woman who looks like she could see through my lies even better than my fourth grade teacher used to be able to. “The reason I’m here is that your math teacher, Eve Bennett, disappeared sometime between last night and this morning.”

My throat feels like the Sahara desert, which we incidentally learned about last month. “Oh. What happened to her?”

“Well, we don’t know,” the detective says patiently. “But while doing some research into her disappearance, we discovered that you have had a few run-ins with Mrs. Bennett.”

I can feel my mother staring at me, unaware of this turn of events. I’m not entirely sure what to say, especially in front of my mother.

Deny everything.

“Um,” I say, “like, I was having some trouble in the class, so it wasn’t great, but we weren’t enemies or anything.”

Sprague’s lips twitch ever so slightly. “No, I wasn’t suggesting that you’re enemies. But she did tell the principal that she caught you snooping around outside her house two nights ago.”

Deny everything. “That’s not true. I wasn’t snooping on her. I was home the whole night.”

“That’s right, Detective,” my mom says. “I was with her on Thursday night. She didn’t go out.”

“So she wasn’t out of your sight the entire night?”

My mother hesitates. “Well, she’s sixteen. I don’t feel that I need to babysit her all the time. At some point, she was up in her room…”

“So it’s possible she could have gone out?”

My mother glances at me, then back at the detective. “I suppose it’s

possible, yes.”

“Also…” Sprague reaches into her trench coat pocket and pulls out a folded piece of notebook paper. She hands it over to me. “Did you write this to Mrs. Bennett?”

Mom leans over my shoulder to read the paper she gave me. My knees wobble as I read the angry scribbles. No. Oh no.

It can’t be.

I’d like to gouge out your eyes, then fill the sockets with hot coals. I’d like to stab you right in the throat with my pen…

My mother claps a hand over her mouth. “Addie!” “Did you write this?” the detective presses me.

There’s no point in lying. My mother knows my handwriting, so she knows that I wrote this. “Yes,” I admit. “But it wasn’t… I mean, I wrote it, but I didn’t write it to Mrs. Bennett.”

Sprague’s eyebrows shoot up. “Who did you write it to?”

“I didn’t write it to anyone,” I say. “It was…it was an assignment for English class.”

I think back to writing this letter, when I was so mad at Kenzie for stealing my clothes from my gym locker. And then Nathaniel gave me the assignment to write a letter to her, expressing my anger. I didn’t mean any of it. I was just being…dramatic. I was trying to impress him.

“An assignment?” Mom says in disbelief. Detective Sprague does not say the same, but I can see on her face that she’s thinking it.

“Yeah, like…” I scratch at the back of my elbow. “I was supposed to write a letter to somebody I was angry at. But I never gave it to anyone. It wasn’t a real letter.”

“An assignment.” Sprague frowns. “So then…other kids got the same assignment? If I ask them, will they remember it?”

“No, it was just me.”

The detective gives me a funny look, but she doesn’t question me further on that. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

“So I need to ask you, Addie,” Detective Sprague says, “where were you last night?”

“Home,” I say quickly.

She looks at my mother. “And were you here as well?”

My mother’s cheeks turned pink. “I’m a nurse, and I had an overnight shift last night.”

That crease between my mother’s eyebrows that she always gets when she’s worried about me has turned into a crevice. She’s looked at me like that a lot in the last year.

“So…” Sprague is addressing my mother now. “Did you drive your car to work?”

She frowns in confusion. “Yes.” “And do you have another vehicle?”

“We have…” Mom glances at the door leading to the garage. “My late husband’s car is in the garage. But nobody uses that car.”

She claims she’s been saving my father’s car for me, although really, she just doesn’t want to get rid of any of his stuff. I bet she wishes she had gotten rid of it now.

“So you had access to a car last night?” Sprague asks me.

Before I can answer, my mother breaks in with, “But she doesn’t have a driver’s license. She only has a learner’s permit.”

The detective arches an eyebrow. She knows better than anyone that a lack of a driver’s license isn’t going to keep a teenager from getting behind the wheel. “But the car was in the garage?”

“Yes,” Mom says in a small voice.

I don’t know why the detective was asking that though. Why would she care if I have access to a car or not? I didn’t use my father’s car last night. The only reason I would have needed a car last night is if…

If I were working alone.

A horrible, dizzying sensation is coming over me. Detective Sprague acted like she just found that letter, but I’m pretty sure the only way she could have gotten it is if Nathaniel gave it to her. And since the school is closed today, he must have been the one who told her that I was spotted lurking around by their house.

And he abandoned me in the woods.

Is Nathaniel setting me up to take the fall for his wife’s murder? Everything the detective is saying seems to point to that, but I know Nathaniel, and he would never do that. Everything he did last night was to protect me—to keep me from going to prison.

Except I can’t stop thinking about those angry red marks around Mrs.

Bennett’s throat.

“Addie,” Detective Sprague says in a surprisingly gentle voice. “Do you have any idea what happened to Mrs. Bennett last night?”

Both Sprague and my mother are staring at me. I shake my head mutely.

Sprague lets out a long sigh. “All right, Addie. That’s all for now. But we might want you to come down to the station later. We’re going to have more questions.”

“Addie would never hurt anyone,” Mom speaks up. “She’s not like that.”

The detective smiles curtly, but she doesn’t say anything. She knows as well as I do that it’s not the truth.

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