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Chapter 14

I OPENED THE DOOR TO MY PARENTS' APARTMENT NERVOUSLY.

How was I nervous? Let me count the ways. There was the two thousand dollars' worth of clothing on the hangers in my handone false move and I wouldn't be getting a refund. There was the mysterious anti-client pursuing me, who might already have this address. And there was my head, which was an entirely new color. Every reflective surface between Jen's apartment and mine had brought me up short. The peroxide stranger stared back at me all the way home, as perplexed as I was by the situation.

"Hello?" I called.

And of course there were my parents, who were going to freak when they saw my hair cropped and dyed. Not that they'd mindthey might even like itbut they were going to ask a lot of questions. And when they found out that Jen-the-new-girl had done it

I shuddered.

"Hello?"

No answer. No sounds except passing sirens, water running through the pipes, and the ambient buzz of the neighbors' air-conditioning. I closed the door, deciding I was probably safe. My parents' apartment building is more than a century old. Made of stone, it's cool even in summer and always feels secure.

Besides, there's a reason why slasher movies are always set in suburbia or out in the country. New York City dwellings have hardwood doors with metal jackets and dead-bolt locks and bars on the window. You pretty much notice if someone has broken in. Checking under the bed is not required.

I checked the time. It was two hours before I was supposed to arrive at the party. Jen was showing up earlier, separately, to help maintain our anonymity. She hadn't even told me what her disguise was going to be. I had a feeling she didn't know yet.

I hung the clothes in my room, then went to the bathroom and took another long look at myself, watching in amazement as the peroxide stranger mirrored every movement.

As I said, most Logo Exiles cut their own hair, but that's not a skill that always translates to cutting someone else's. Jen had done a good job on me, though. The cut was short and severe, and the acid had left my hair almost white. My still-black eyebrows stood out in lone contrast against my skin, exaggerating every expression. I looked a little like a gangster in a too-hip French movie, but definitely a self-assured one. Maybe Jen was right, and I had been hiding behind my bangs.

Strange. With my entire face at long last showing, I was in disguise, marveling at the sense of dislocation as I played mirror mime with the peroxide stranger. If I didn't recognize me, why should anyone else?

One shower later, I got dressed.

In the interest of actually getting my two-thousand-dollar refund, I decided to leave the tags on the clothes. This was to prove a painful mistake, but at first I hardly noticed the tiny plastic twigs. Everything fit perfectly, with the sumptuous well madeness of expensive clothing. The black pants were classically pleated, the gleaming white tuxedo shirt battened down with onyx cuff links. Argyle-patterned suspenders defined my shoulders. It all slid on so easily, each garment transforming me a little more into the non-Hunter, increasing my confidence that I would be unrecognizable tonight. Not to mention my confidence that I looked pretty damn good.

Until I reached the confidence-shattering bow tie. Which, of course, I didn't have the first idea how to tie.

The bulbous little flap of black and shiny cloth drooped lifelessly around my neck, offering no clues as to how it might work. I was long on historical knowledge about neckwear but very short on the practical. Bow ties just weren't a part of my world of baggy pants and T-shirts, skater labels and the latest cross-trainer. When it came to bow ties, I was still from Minnesota.

Looking at the clock, I discovered that I had thirty minutes to reverse-engineer five hundred years of necktie technology. Not for the first time, I cursed the Little Ice Age,,,,,,,,


Chapter 13 | So Yesterday | * * *



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