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Chapter 5

"HELLO?" I POUNDED ON THE WOOD. "MANDY!"

We waited. No response.

I redialed once more to make sure.

"Take a chance on me…" dribbled out from behind the spray paint and advertising covering the plywood barrier.

"Okay," Jen said. "Mandy's phone is in there."

Neither of us asked the obvious question: So where was Mandy? Somewhere else altogether? Inside but unconscious? Something worse than unconscious?

Jen found a spot where two pieces of the plywood were chained together like double doors and pulled them apart as far as the fat padlock allowed. Shielding her eyes, she peered through the narrow gap.

"One more time, maestro."

I pressed send, and the little tune repeated. The refrain was starting to drive me crazy, even more than it usually did.

"There's a phone flashing in there," Jen said. "But that's all I can see."

We backed into the street, getting a better look at the derelict building. The upper-floor windows were bricked up with cinder blocks, dead gray eyes staring down at us. A coil of razor wire topped the plywood barrier around the ground floor, the fluttering remains of plastic bags collected on its spikes. An arm's length of unspooled cassette tape was caught on the wire, the light wind making it undulate and flicker in the sun.

The building must have been abandoned for months. Maybe years. I mean, cassette tape?

"No way in," I said, but found that I wasn't talking to anyone.

Jen was next door, already up the front-stoop stairs and stabbing buzzer buttons at random. The intercom popped, and a garbled voice queried her.

"Delivery," she said loudly and clearly.

The door buzzed. She opened it, stuck her foot in, and waved at me impatiently to follow.

I swallowed. This was what I got for hanging out with an Innovator.

But as I may have mentioned or implied, I'm a Trendsetter. Our purpose in life is to be second in line, to follow. I bounded up the steps and grabbed the outer door just as the buzz came again and she pushed her way inside.


* * * | So Yesterday | * * *



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