Authors: Kate Ellison
This story takes place in Cleveland, but its neighborhoods, landmarks, and characters are entirely of the author’s own invention.
First published by Egmont USA, 2012
443 Park Avenue South, Suite 806
New York, NY 10016
Copyright © Paper Lantern Lit, 2012
All rights reserved
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
The butterfly clues / Kate Ellison.
Summary: Having experienced compulsive behavior all her life, Lo′s symptoms are getting her into trouble when she witnesses a murder while wandering dangerous quarters of Cleveland, Ohio, collecting things that do not belong to her, obsessing about her brother′s death. ISBN 978-1-60684-263-8 (hardcover) — ISBN 978-1-60684-268-3 (ebook) [1. Obsessive-compulsive disorder—Fiction. 2. Emotional problems—Fiction. 3. Death—Fiction. 4. Murder—Fiction. 5. Cleveland (Ohio)—Fiction. 6. Mystery and detective stories.] I. Title.
Printed in the United States of America
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher and copyright owner.
For Pauly: an apology — for all those years I messed up your baseball hats.
I spot her out of the corner of my eye and freeze. It always happens like this.
My body goes tingly.
Blood thrums in my ears: a low buzz like a faraway swarm of insects, and every cell in my body screams:
save her save her save her.
There’s nothing I can do but obey.
She is perched on top of a tacky altar on the porch of an old house: a marble angel nestled among an otherwise decaying tangle of plastic creatures. Three smooth-shelled blue birds, three squirrels, three raccoons.
Nine altogether—a perfect number.
The cold air feels thick and heavy, like the Pendleton blankets Dad used to bring back from business trips. It smells like them, too—a good wool smell.
I peer through the window, checking for signs of life inside the house. It looks clear from where I stand. Just my own face reflected in the dusty glass—huge gray-green eyes, flat dark hair— distorted by the warped windowpane, unfamiliar.
I look around and, seeing no one, reach for the angel. The seconds between the reaching and the holding are fast and warm; they vibrate like tiny earthquakes. The whole world falls away, goes quiet, as I move closer, and closer, and closer. Inches. Centimeters. Millimeters. The moment we finally touch is slow, holy, thunderous, the single moment when everything makes sense. The angel safely in my possession, I sprint away toward the part of the sky where the sun has already begun to set, straight into the deep blue, the new weight in my vest pocket jostling with each step.
She’s mine now. And I’m hers. And we are each other’s.
A few houses up the block, I see something change through the panes of a darkened window: a half-stained curtain, settling like it’s just been lifted and then quickly dropped.
I clutch at the figurine in my jacket. Has someone seen me?
Now I hear footsteps down the block, and something
different—like the air behind my back is vibrating. Someone is close to me, watching. I can tell.
I turn to confront the footsteps, hands curled into fists, but it’s nothing. No one’s there. I can hear the angel’s thoughts inside my pocket.
You’re safe, Lo.
But this street—the whole neighborhood—is giving me the creeps. The strange, knotty feeling is spreading into my fingers. I’m not even sure exactly where I am. After school, I’ve been picking bus lines at random, finding new places to explore.
Mostly I go to other parts of the suburbs, find the high school or the baseball hat store at the mall or a restaurant my brother might have liked. Usually, I end up at some divey pizza place: gaunt, stringy-haired teenagers hanging out of every booth. I order a Coke, maybe, and then I just sit there, listening, waiting for them to mention his name: Oren.
They never have. Not yet.
Lately, though, I’ve been going farther. I’ve been finding the city bus lines, getting off at the third stop in, or the ninth, or the twelfth, because these are the numbers that mean I will be safe. These are the numbers that make things right. These are the numbers that will lead me closer to him, to where he’s been, to where parts of him might still exist, somehow.