My Soul to Steal Page 31

“Thanks.” I leaned back, and the next bleacher poked into my spine. Tod had just confirmed one aspect of the rumors spreading like brushfire throughout the school.

“Who is he?”

“The vice principal.” Found dead in his closed, locked office that morning, according to the rumors. Chelsea Simms had been running copies in the office before first period—the school newspaper’s copier was out of toner—when Principal Goody unlocked her V.P.’s door to borrow a file, grumbling about Wells being late for possibly the first time ever. Until she found him, slumped over his desk like he’d fallen asleep, still wearing yesterday’s clothes. Only they couldn’t wake him up, and he was already cold.

But that’s all Chelsea knew, because they’d kicked her out of the office while the secretary dialed 9-1-1.

“You think you can get a look at the list?” I asked, meaning the death list, which told reapers exactly when and to whom reapings were scheduled to occur in any given zone.

“Don’t have to.” Tod grinned. “I know the guy who works this sector and I already asked. Nothing’s scheduled for Eastlake High this week.”

Nothing? He’d just blown Nash’s coincidence theory out of the water. We’d had three deaths in two days, and not one of them was scheduled….

Sometimes I really hate being right.

“Wait, how do you just happen to know the guy who reaps at the high school?” I asked, trying not to be incredibly creeped out that such a position even existed. “I don’t happen to know him. I made it my business to know him, after what happened with Marg back in September.”

Marg was the rogue reaper who’d killed four innocent girls and stolen their souls, which was part of my not-so-gentle introduction to the Netherworld and to the supernatural elements of my own world.

“I don’t suppose you have any details about Wells?” I asked, as Tod leaned back next to me, staring across the gym at a bunch of freshmen grumbling their way through calisthenics. Thank goodness I’d already had my required year of P.E.

Tod shrugged. “They took him straight to the morgue, but I got a look at him before they put him on ice.”

“Ew.” Suddenly I had an image of Mr. Wells, wedged into a giant drink cooler alongside assorted cans of beer and soda, waiting to be consumed at some stupid party.

There hadn’t been any parties since Doug Fuller died and Scott Carter got run down by the crazy train. Most of the student body was still in social shock, struggling to deal with conflicting impulses to truly mourn two of our own, and to replace them. Because without someone at the top of the high school social ladder, the rest of the rungs might collapse, and life as we knew it would fall into chaos.

But waiting for the cream to float to the top of the social milkbucket—a rather organic process—took patience, and while a couple of front-runners had emerged—and some splinter faction might yet turn to Nash, once they’d figured out how to approach the last standing member of the former social power trifecta—no clear victor had been declared.

“It’s really more like a big refrigerator with a bunch of meat drawers,” Tod said, oblivious to the turn my thoughts had taken.

“Thanks. That’s a much better visual.”

Tod laughed, and I had to remind myself that death didn’t affect him the way it affected…anyone else. Anyone living, anyway. He killed people for a living—as ironic as that sounded—and had outgrown the most common reactions to death: fear, sadness, and respect.

“So…notice anything weird about…the body?”

Tod shook his head, blond curls bouncing. “I got a pretty good look at him while they were filling out paperwork, and I didn’t see anything noteworthy. No obvious injuries, no blood or bruises. And his eyes were already closed. He looked like he was sleeping.”

Yeah. That’s what I was afraid of.

I pulled one leg onto the bleacher with me, bent at the knee, and twisted to face Tod, hoping no one was watching me, because now I’d look like I was talking to myself. “I have to ask you something and I don’t want you to freak out. Or say anything to Nash.”

Tod’s pale brows shot up, showcasing his curiosity while his blue eyes flashed in eagerness. “I’m not exactly known for either of those impulses.”

Which was exactly what I was counting on. “What happens when a mara takes too much? Like, really gluts herself on someone’s dream. Worst-case scenario.” I’d already asked Nash, but his answer was biased by an intense need to protect Sabine, and was thus potentially unreliable.

Tod just stared at me for a minute, then slowly shook his head. “I know what you’re getting at, but she didn’t do this.”

“That’s not what I asked. Worst-case scenario. Could she kill someone?”

The reaper looked like he didn’t want to answer, so I just waited, silently demanding a response. “Yeah, but…”

“And would it look like he’d died in his sleep?”

“Kaylee, I’m telling you, Sabine didn’t do this. She and I may not have been best friends, but she’s not a murderer.”

“She’s a thief and a vandal. And an assaulter. Or whatever.” Based on her skills with a lunch tray. “It’s just a hop, skip, and a jump from there to criminal overindulgence.”

“That’s not a hop, skip, or a jump,” Tod insisted. “It’s more like a vault over the Grand Canyon.”

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