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Authors: Vicki Grant

Tags: #JUV000000, #Mystery

Res Judicata (7 page)

BOOK: Res Judicata
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I didn't know what to say. I didn't want to accuse him of anything. I didn't want to make things any more awkward between us than they already were.

I finally just went, “It's the next left. There's the old auto body shop at the corner. You know.
Auto Body. You used to walk by it every day on your way back from court...”

“Oh, right. Sure. Of course! Don't know what I was thinking. Thanks,” he said. He nodded and took a couple of steps away. I thought he was leaving—maybe he did too—but then he turned around and put his hand on my shoulder.

He looked terrible. He had big black circles under his eyes. He hadn't shaved in days. Even the little Velcro pad of hair he had on his head managed to look messy. All he needed was plaid pajamas and fidgety cartoon lines squiggling around his head and he'd look exactly like the “before” picture in a sleeping pill commercial. It made me think this breakup had been as hard on him as it was on us.

He said, “You taking care of yourself, Sport? Your mom okay?”

Here was my big opportunity to make my case, but I didn't know what to do with it. Should I tell him things had completely fallen apart? That I hadn't had a vegetable in weeks? That there was mold growing in the laundry hamper?

That Andy was really, really sad?

Should I tell him to call? Drop over some time? Would that just make it worse? Should I beg him to come back and fix this mess?

Or should I just butt out?

It's not like I knew what was going to work. It's not like I had any magic formula to deal with Andy either. Who did? The only thing I could think of that might work on her were tranquilizer darts, but I doubted they were legal.

Part of me just wanted to grab Biff and drag him back to the apartment and go, “Okay, you guys. Would you just start acting like grown-ups? Can we all just go back to living like normal human beings? Is that too much to ask?”

Instead I went, “Yeah. Sure. We're doing okay.”

He nodded. “Good. Glad to hear it. See you soon, Sport.”

That's what he said. I really, really hoped he meant it.

chapter 12

To linger or hang around in a public place or business where
one has no particular or legal purpose. In some jurisdictions,
there are statutes against loitering by which the police can
arrest someone who refuses to “move along.”

I could have sworn I saw Biff the next night too.

I'd talked Kendall into going to the library with me. Because of all the crap going on at home, I was seriously behind at school. Ms. Cavanaugh had assigned a new video project a couple of weeks ago. I hadn't even started it. I needed to come up with an idea for it—like, right away—or I was pooched.

We'd just left the apartment. We were about half a block away when I realized I'd forgotten to bring a book I was supposed to return. I conked myself in the head and swung back around to get it.

I saw something. It was just out of the corner of my eye, but I saw it. A flash, a flicker, someone darting back into the dark. I tried to see who it was. I did this sort of Egyptian dance thing with my neck to get a better look down the street, but I was too late. Biff—if it was Biff—was gone. I might have smelled his cologne again or I might have just imagined it.

It sort of freaked me out. I went, “Did you see that?”

Kendall went, “What?”

I went, “That! Someone just, like, ducked down the street!”

I dragged him over to the side of our building and pointed.

At nothing.

There was no one there, nothing moving, no sound except us breathing. It was like a photograph of an empty street or something. Kendall raised his eyebrows and looked at me. “Okay. Is this a joke?”

“No, I saw something! Really!” I was going to say I saw Biff, but I couldn't be sure it was Biff, and even if it was, I don't know, I didn't want to talk to Kendall about that stuff. I didn't want to, like, betray Biff if it wasn't him, and I didn't want to—this sounds stupid—make it seem like I was all broken up or anything just because Biff wasn't around anymore. It's not as if he was my dad. He was just some guy.

Just some guy who actually made my mother happy. Just some guy who almost made us look normal.

Kendall must have noticed something going on behind my face. I could tell he was trying to, I don't know, reassure me. He didn't bug me about it or anything. He just said, “Coulda been a cat.”

I went, “Yeah, I guess,” and let it drop. It was kind of a relief. I didn't want to get sucked back into that Andy and Biff thing right then. I didn't want to wonder if I should run after him or act like nothing happened. I didn't want to wonder what Biff was doing hanging around our place again. And I didn't want to wonder why he'd pretended he wasn't. There were going to be at least one or two answers to those questions that I didn't like.

Personally, I'd rather just do my homework. At least when your answers suck there, the worst that can happen is a bad mark.

I went home, got the book and we headed back to the library.

The place was practically empty. We got on a computer right away. That was good. There's nothing like the Internet to crowd everything else out of your brain. Biff totally disappeared.

Kendall and I began to just sort of randomly Google stuff. I was looking for inspiration. I needed to find something good to do my project on.

It started off serious. We looked up stuff like “the fishing industry,” “mini basketball” and “the Lebanese community in Halifax,” but then it just got stupid. We went from “people who look like their dogs” to “people who look like their ferrets” to “fudge sculptures.” I don't know where that came from or why fudge sculptures seemed so funny to us, but it did. We were practically peeing ourselves laughing when the librarian went “Shhhhhh!” and did the big “Boys, you know the rules” thing.

I looked up to say sorry. That's when I saw Shannondoah Boswick-Sanderson.

chapter 13

The taking or keeping of a person in custody by legal
authority, especially in response to a criminal charge.

She was standing right beside the librarian, but it took me a second to realize who she was. I mean, who'd have thought Shannondoah Sanderson would still be in Halifax? The trial was over ages ago. Why would she bother sticking around a place like this when she could be home in Los Angeles with her money and all that sun?

She looked good but not as good as she had on
. She still looked sort of like a Barbie doll—really tall and slim and blond and everything—but now it was sort of Barbie on a bad day. The New Common Cold Barbie or something. She looked really pale and worn out, like she was just dragging herself around. The only reason I recognized her at all was that long yellow hair of hers. It almost didn't look real. (I don't think you can even buy hair like that in Halifax.)

As soon as I realized who she was, I dove under the computer desk as if someone had thrown a bomb at me. Kendall was like, “What are you doing? What's with you?”

I went “shut up!” with my eyes and wheeled his chair in front of me so I was completely hidden.

Kendall made this quiet sigh and looked straight ahead. The way he was acting, you'd swear I was always pulling stuff like this. He mumbled down his sleeve at me. “I don't get you. We were only laughing. You think the librarian's going to arrest you or something?”

I whispered, “No, it's not that! Look. Look who he's talking to!”

Kendall turned his head around and looked. I dug my nails into his leg.

I went, “Not now! What's the matter with you! She'll see.”

Kendall squeezed his foot down on my thigh until I let go.

“Okay. Who is it?” he said without moving his lips.

“Ernest Sanderson's widow!”

He scrolled down the screen. He talked in a flat, low voice as if he was just trying to figure something out. “The dead rich guy, you mean?”


“So? Why are you hiding then?”

I hissed up at him, “I don't want her to recognize me!”

“Why would she recognize you?” Kendall's not usually that dense. It was annoying me. I would have bitten his ankle only I'd seen what his shoes could do.

I went, “Andy was Chuck's lawyer!” before I realized that, duh, of course Shannondoah wouldn't recognize me. I never went to the courthouse.

I'd gotten all worked up about nothing. I almost laughed. I pushed Kendall away and climbed out from under the computer desk. What a dork. I mean, even if Shannondoah had recognized me, big deal. So she doesn't like my mother.
What was she going to do—attack me? My guess was she'd be too worried about breaking her nails to do something like that.

She was talking to the librarian. “No kidding! Wow. Sea lice aren't fish? I always thought they were fish. No wonder I couldn't find anything about them in that big old fish book!”

I rolled my eyes and whispered, “Can you believe her? She doesn't even know what a sea louse is!”

Kendall went, “Do you?”

I waggled my neck around. “No, but that's beside the point.
wasn't married to a sea louse expert. I mean, she sat all through that trial! You'd think she'd at least know what her husband was working on when he died.”

I love scoring points (I'm Andy's son after all), but that's not why I suddenly went, “Yes!” It just hit me. Forget about doing a video on the fudge sculpture craze taking over the nation! I should do my project on the life—and, even better, death—of Ernest Sanderson.

I don't know why I hadn't thought of it before. It was going to be so easy. I had the inside scoop on the trial. I could fluff it up with a big long interview of Andy and Chuck talking about the case. It would be done in no time.

Kendall argued that fudge sculptures were probably more my style, but he agreed that it made sense. The Ernest Sanderson idea would win me way more points with the teacher.

I was starting to get kind of excited about this. I couldn't help thinking it was going to be good. This story had everything—money, fame, manslaughter, not to mention, of course, Miss Gingivitis
. You couldn't make this stuff up.

I waited until Shannondoah left—I didn't want her knowing what I was up to—then I Googled Ernest Sanderson.
There was tons of stuff on the trial I could use. Now all I needed was some footage of the guy while he was alive.

We scrolled down the screen and found a
documentary someone did a few years back called
Gleamoccino: The Story Behind the Smile
. I clicked it open.

Boy. Was Ernest Sanderson ever old. You hear about him getting all those speeding tickets on Spring Garden Road, and you see Shannondoah, and you figure he had to be sort of halfway young anyway.


The guy was ancient. His hair was black and his teeth—of course—were fry-your-eyeballs-out white, but he wasn't fooling anybody. He must have been at least sixty when the video was made.

The interviewer talked to him about all the cars he owned and the charities he supported and his “lovely young wife.” Then they got on to the whole Gleamoccino thing. I'd seen people walking around with those white and silver coffee cups for a long time, but I'd never heard how the stuff got invented.

The show did a fast cut to this huge blowup photo of a sea louse. It looked so big and ugly and hairy we both sort of screamed. The librarian gave us his “This is your last chance” look. The announcer had one of those home-baked-goodness type voices. The way he was talking about “the tiny crustacean,” you couldn't help but feel like running out and adopting one—or at least putting some money away for its college education.

After that, the show moved on to old footage of Sanderson working in a lab. It was just some university promotional video about Sanderson, this guy named Dr. Michael Reith and
“their fascinating work on sea louse mating rituals.” (What is it about adults? Is there some hormone or enzyme or brain rot that kicks in at some point and makes people actually start thinking things like sea lice are “fascinating”? Are scientists looking for a cure? Will it come in time for me?)

The university footage was so bad it was hilarious. It must have been done about twenty years ago, before Dr. Sanderson had his Hollywood makeover and everything. His hair was still gray and so were his teeth. Everyone in the lab looked like they were ready to go out on Halloween. They all wore pants that came up to their armpits, and glasses with lenses roughly the size of Big Macs. You'd swear they were all auditioning for the next big Pixar cartoon or something.

The thing that cracked me up, though, was this tall skinny guy with a bad disco mustache who somehow managed to weasel his way into every shot. It wasn't like the kids on
who jump around, waving and laughing, behind the reporter when the school gets firebombed or anything. This guy was acting like he just happened to be there. The cameraman was obviously trying to avoid him, but Disco ‘Stache kept edging his way back into the shot, adjusting his glasses, trying to look all Mr. Nobel-Prize-Winning Scientist and everything. You just had to laugh. The guy obviously didn't get enough attention as a child.

The rest of the show wasn't as funny, but it was pretty interesting.

According to the video, Gleamoccino started as some stupid little accident. Dr. Sanderson and the Reith guy were in the lab one day, doing their usual sea louse stuff (whatever that was). Ernie was rushing around with a pile of bugs on a tray and didn't realize he'd accidentally dropped a few of his
“specimens” in Dr. Reith's coffee. (Suddenly Chuck's pumpkin boogers didn't sound all that bad to me.)

Dr. Reith noticed a sort of weird taste but didn't think anything of it until he got to the bottom of the cup and saw all these wiggly things flopping around and no doubt going, “Help me! Help me!”

BOOK: Res Judicata
7.7Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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