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Island County Fairgrounds
The third fire happened at Island County Fairgrounds in August, and it was the first one to get serious attention. The other two weren’t big enough. One was set in a trash container outside the convenience store at a forested place called Bailey’s Corner, which was more or less in the middle of nowhere, so no one thought much about it. Some dumb practical joke with a sparkler after the Fourth of July, right? Then, when the second flamed up along the main highway, right at the edge of a struggling little farmers’ market, pretty much everyone decided that that one took off because an idiot had thrown a lit cigarette from his car window right in the middle of the driest season of the year.
But the third fire was different. Not only because it happened at the fairgrounds, which were just yards away from the middle school and less than a quarter mile from the village of Langley, but also because the flames began during the county fair when hundreds of people were milling around a midway.
A girl called Becca King was among them, along with her boyfriend and her best girl friend: Derric Mathieson and Jenn McDaniels. The three were a study in contrasts, with Becca light-haired, trim from months of bicycle riding, and wearing heavy-rimmed glasses and enough makeup to suggest she was auditioning for membership in the reincarnation of the rock band Kiss; Derric tall, well-built, shaven-headed, African, and gorgeous; and Jenn all sinew and attitude, hair cut like a boy’s and tan from a summer of intense soccer practice. These three were sitting in the bleachers set back from an outdoor stage upon which a group called the Time Benders was about to begin performing.
It was Saturday night, the night that drew the most people to the fairgrounds because it was also the night when the entertainment was, as Jenn put it, “marginally less suicide-inducing than the other days.” Those other days the entertainment consisted of tap dancers, yodelers, magicians, fiddlers, and a one-man band. On Saturday night an Elvis impersonator and the Time Benders comprised what went for the highlight of the fair.
For Becca King, with a lifetime spent in San Diego and just short of one year in the Puget Sound area, the fair was like everything else she’d discovered on Whidbey Island: something in miniature. The barn-red buildings were standard stuff, but their size was minuscule compared to the vast buildings she was used to at the Del Mar racetrack where the San Diego County Fair took place. This held true for the stables for horses, sheep, cattle, alpacas, and goats. It was doubly true for the performance ring where the dogs were shown and the horses were ridden. The food, however, was the same as it was at county fairs everywhere, and as the Time Benders readied themselves to take the stage after Elvis’s final bow during which he nearly lost his wig, Becca and Derric and Jenn were chowing down on funnel cake and kettle corn.
The crowd, who turned up to watch the Time Benders every single year, was gearing up its excitement level for the performance. It didn’t matter that the act would be the same as last August and the August before that and the one before that. The Time Benders were a real crowd pleaser in a place where the nearest mall was a ferry ride away and first-run movies were virtually unheard of. So a singing group who performed rock ’n’ roll through the ages by altering their wigs and their costumes and re-enacting the greatest hits of the 1950s onwards was akin to a mystical appearance by Kurt Cobain, especially if you had any imagination.
Jenn was grousing. Watching the Time Benders was bad enough, she was saying. Watching the Time Benders at the same time as being a third wheel on “the Derric-and-Becca looove bike” was even worse.
Becca smiled and ignored her. Jenn loved to grouse. She said, “So who are these guys, anyway?” in reference to the Time Benders as she dipped into the kettle corn and leaned comfortably against Derric’s arm.
“God. Who d’you think?” was Jenn’s unhelpful reply. “Y’know how other county fairs have shows where has-been performers give their last gasp before they finally hang it up and retire? Well, what we got is unknown performers re-enacting the performances of has-been performers. Welcome to Whidbey. And would you stop feeling her up, Derric?” she said to their companion.
“Holding her hand isn’t feeling her up,” was the boy’s easy reply. “Now if you want to see some serious feeling up . . . ?” He leered at Becca. She laughed and gave him a playful shove.
“I hate this, you know,” Jenn told her friend. She was returning to the previous third-wheel-on-the-looove-bike topic. “I shoulda stayed home.”
“Lots of things come in threes,” Becca said.
“Well . . . Tricycle wheels.”
“Triplets,” Derric said.
“Those three-wheel baby buggies for joggers who need to take their kids with them,” Becca added.
“Birds have three toes,” Derric pointed out. Then, “Don’t they?” he said to Becca.
“Great.” Jenn reached for more funnel cake and jammed it into her mouth. “I’m a bird toe. Lemme send that out on Twitter.”
Which would, of course, be the last thing Jenn McDaniels could have done, since among them Derric was the only one who possessed anything remotely close to technological. Jenn had neither computer nor iPhone nor iPad nor laptop, because her family was too poor for anything more than a third-hand color television the size of a Jeep, practically given away by the thrift store in town. As for Becca . . . Well, there were a lot of reasons why Becca remained at a distance from technology and all of them had to do with keeping a profile so low that it was invisible.
The Time Benders came forth at this point, climbing onto the stage past amplifiers that looked like bank vaults. Their wigs, pegged pants, white socks, and poodle skirts indicated that—just like last year—they’d be starting with the fifties. The Time Benders never worked in reverse.
The crowd cheered as the show began, lit by the rest of the midway with its games of chance and its creaking thrill rides. The best of the fifties blasted forth at maximum volume. Over the noise, Jenn shouted at Becca, “Hey, you probably won’t need that thing.”
That thing was a hearing device that looked like an iPod in possession of a single ear bud. It was called an AUD box and, despite what Jenn thought, Becca didn’t use it to help with her hearing. At least not in the way Jenn thought she used it. Jenn and everyone else believed that the AUD box helped Becca understand what was being said to her by blocking out nearby noises that her brain wouldn’t automatically block: like the noise from other tables that you might hear in a restaurant but normally be able to ignore when someone was talking to you. That was what Becca let people believe about the AUD box because it did, actually, block out some noise. Only, the noise it blocked was the noise inside the heads of the people who surrounded her. Without the AUD box she was bombarded by everyone’s thoughts, and while hearing people’s thoughts could have its benefits, most of the time Becca couldn’t tell who was thinking what. So since childhood, the AUD box was what she wore to deal with her “auditory processing problem,” as her mom had taught her to call it. Thankfully, no one questioned why the AUD box’s loud static helped her in understanding who was speaking. More important, no one knew that without it, she was one step away from reading their minds.
Becca said, “Yeah, I’ll turn it down,” and she pretended to do so. Up on the stage, the Time Benders were rocking and rolling through “Rock Around the Clock” while on either side of the stage, some of the older audience members had begun to dance in keeping with the music’s era.
That was when the first gust of smoke belched across the heads of the crowd. At first, it seemed logical that the smoke would be coming from the line of food booths, all doing brisk sales of everything from buffalo burgers to curly fries. Because of this, the Time Benders audience didn’t take much note. But when there was a pause in the music and the Time Benders were getting ready for the sixties with a change of costumes and wigs, the sirens hooting from the road just beyond the fairgrounds’ perimeter indicated something serious was going on.
The smell of smoke got heavier. People started to move. A murmur became a cry and then a shout. Just at the moment that panic was about to set in, the regular MC for the show took the stage and announced that “a small fire” had broken out on the far side of the fairgrounds, but there was nothing to worry about as the fire department was there and “as far as we know, all animals are safe.”
The last part was a serious mistake. “All animals” meant everything from ducks to the 4-H steer lovingly brought up by hand and worth a significant amount of money to the child who would sell it at the end of the fair. In between ducks and steers were fancy chickens, fiber-producing alpacas, award-winning cats, sheep worth their weight in wool, and an entire stable filled with horses. Among the audience for the Time Benders were the owners of these animals, and they began pushing their way in the direction of the buildings in which all the animals were housed.
In short order, a melee ensued. Derric grabbed Becca and Becca grabbed Jenn, and they clung to each other as the crowd surged out of the midway and past the barn where the crafts were displayed. They burst out behind it into an open area that looked onto the show ring and to the buildings beyond.
At the far side of the show ring, the stables were safe. The fire, everyone saw at once, was opposite them on the side of the show ring that was nearer the road into town. But this was where the dogs, cats, chickens, ducks, and rabbits had been snoozing in three ramshackle sheds that flaked old white paint onto very dry hay. The farthest of these sheds was up in flames. Fire licked up the walls and engulfed the roof.
The fact that the fire department was directly across the street from the fairgrounds had the effect of getting manpower to the flames in fairly short order. But the building was old, the weather had been bone dry for nine weeks—almost unheard of in the Pacific Northwest—and there were hay bales along the north side of the structure. So the best efforts of the fire department were directed toward keeping the fire away from the other buildings while letting the one that was burning burn to the ground.
This wasn’t a popular move. There were chickens and rabbits inside. There were dozens of 4-Hers who wanted to save those animals, and the news that someone had apparently released them at some time during the fire only made the onlookers crazed to get to them before they all got trampled. Soon enough there were too many fire chiefs and too few onlookers and enough chaos to make Derric, Jenn, and Becca head for the safety of the stables some distance away.
“Someone’s going to get hurt,” Becca said.
“It ain’t going to be one of us,” Derric told her. “Come on, over here.” He took her hand and Jenn’s, and together they made their way beyond the stables to where a woods grew up the side of a hill to a neighborhood tucked back into the trees. From this spot they could watch the action and listen to the chaos, and while they did this, Becca removed the ear bud from her ear and wiped her hot face.
As always, she heard the thoughts of her companions, Jenn’s profane as usual, Derric’s mild. But among Jenn’s colorful cursing and Derric’s wondering about the safety of the little kids whose parents were trying to keep them away from the fire, Becca heard quite clearly, Come on, come on . . . get it why don’t you? as if it was spoken right next to her.
She swung around, but it was dark on all sides, with the great fir trees looming above them and the cedars leaning heavy branches down toward the ground. At her movement, Derric looked at her and said, “What?” and then shifted his gaze into the trees as well.
“Is someone there?” Jenn asked them both.
“Becca?” Derric said.
Out of here before those kids . . . was enough to give Becca the answer to those questions.
Hayley Cartwright looked around for her sister Brooke, who’d claimed that she was leaving the family’s booth at Bayview Farmers’ Market just long enough to do her business in the rest room. Total lie. She’d been gone thirty minutes, leaving Hayley and her mom to run the booth all by themselves when it was, minimally, a three-person job. Brooke did the bagging and the weighing of veggies, Hayley wrapped the flowers and boxed the jewelry, and their mom took the money and made change. But with Brooke gone, Hayley was left dancing from one side of the booth to the other and trying to keep her eye on everything but especially upon the jewelry, which was fashioned from sea glass, difficult to make, and her main source of personal income.
Not that people actually shoplifted from the Cartwrights, at least not people who knew them. Taking even a dime from the Cartwrights was close to the same as emptying the family’s pitiful bank account, and everyone on the south end of Whidbey Island who knew the family also knew that. So most of the time people lined up patiently to pay for the flowers and veggies that the Cartwrights grew at Smugglers Cove Farm and Flowers. They chatted to each other in the warm early September sun, petted the myriad dogs who accompanied the market-goers among the colorful stalls, and listened to the music weekly supplied by one or another of the local marimba bands.
This day, though, a girl unknown to Hayley had been pawing through her necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and hair pieces for at least ten minutes. She’d also been trying them on. She was very pretty, with a swimmer’s broad shoulders and shapely arms and legs that were on full display beneath her tank top and shorts. She wore her hair in an odd Cleopatra style—if Cleopatra had been extremely blonde—and her bangs dipped almost into her eyes, which were so cornflower blue that only colored contact lenses could have achieved the hue.
She saw Hayley watching her as she was putting a third necklace around her ivory-skinned throat. She’d already donned four of the bracelets, and she was reaching for one of the more complicated pairs of earrings quite as if there was nothing strange about decking herself out like a jewelry tree.
Seeing Hayley observing her, she said, “I c’n never decide a single thing when I’m by myself. It’s absolute murder if I’m trying on clothes. My grandam is here somewhere”—here she looked around the crowded market distractedly—“and I guess I could ask her, but she’s got the most wretched taste, which you’d more or less have to expect from someone who carves up trees for a living. Not that there’s anything wrong with carving up trees, mind you. I’m Isis Martin, by the way. Egyptian. I mean the name is, not me. Isis was the goddess of something. I can never remember what...Revue de presse :
Praise for The Edge of the Shadows:
“On Whidbey Island, everyone has got a secret, and those secrets intertwine in fascinating and intricate ways. . . those who are already hooked on George’s clear expository style and elegant construction will find much to enjoy.” —Booklist
"Readers eager to revisit the residents of Whidbey Island will find much to love here. . . Enjoyable." —School Library Journal
Praise for The Edge of the Water:
"A ripping good thriller." —School Library Journal
“One need not have read the first book to be engrossed. . . a riveting story. . . readers will be eager for the next installment.” —VOYA
“Readers will remember Whidbey for decades to come. George has scored an ‘A+’ again. . . waiting for book number three is going to take an incredible amount of patience. Bravo!” —Suspense Magazine
Praise for The Edge of Nowhere:
“George has created an interesting set of characters and plot twists that teenagers who like adventure and mysteries will enjoy." —School Library Journal
“...strong appeal to fans of Beth Kephart and Nancy Werlin.” —BCCB
"In her first foray into YA fiction, Ms George (a beloved adult suspense novelist) has hit the nail on the proverbial head with this action-packed, mysterious, and somewhat 'creepy' novel . . . the writing is superb from Ms. George, as always but . . . it's the combination of great characters and relationships that truly have this novel raising the bar when it comes to today's YA fiction." —Suspense Magazine
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Description du livre Viking, U.S.A., 2015. Soft Cover. Etat : New. Binding and pages of book square, clean and tight. No creasing on spine. Covers are in as new condition. Advance Reader Copy/Review Edition; Advance Reading Copy/Proof Cop. N° de réf. du vendeur 1071
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