Tuesday, April 3, 2012
An excerpt of April Henry's new book: THE NIGHT SHE DISAPPEARED
April Henry's new book, THE NIGHT SHE DISAPPEARED, just came out last month from Henry Holt/Macmillan. For Grades 7 up, this book is already receiving lots of attention. Here's what some of the reviewers have to say:
VOYA: “The reader must wait with baited breath to see when and if the characters will uncover the truth as the suspense builds to a fever pitch near the end of the book.”
Publishers Weekly: "It's a riveting story...Each chapter is a surprise, and the tension builds steadily until the inevitable climactic face off."
School Library Journal: "Fans of intense page-turners and those who liked Michele Jaffe’s Rosebush (Penguin, 2010) or Lucy Christopher’s Stolen (Scholastic, 2010) will love this one."
If you’re not hooked yet, here is an excerpt from THE NIGHT SHE DISAPPEARED:
THE DAY IT HAPPENED
It was me who took the order. It could have been anyone. I don’t know why I feel guilty. But it was me.
“Pete’s Pizza. This is Drew,” I said, and winked at Kayla. She blew the black bangs out of her blue eyes and smiled. Even in that stupid white baseball cap Pete makes us wear, she looked hot. I wondered if she knew that. Probably. Then Kayla picked up a handful of pepperoni. She weighed it on the small silver scale and started laying the circles out on the pizza skin. She had already put down the sauce and cheese.
“Yeah,” a man said. “I’d like to order some pizzas to be delivered.” There was nothing special about his voice. The cops have asked me over and over. Did he have an accent? Did he sound drunk? Calm? Angry? Was he old? Young? Did he sound like a smoker? Did I recognize his voice?
For each question, I have the same answer. I don’t know.
I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know. I haven’t been able to tell them anything useful.
Each time I say that, they sigh or shake their heads and then ask me another question. Like if they ask it enough times in enough ways, I’ll remember something important.
But I never do.
I pulled an order form toward me and grabbed a pen. “Okay. What kind do you want?”
“Three larges. Hey, is the girl in the Mini Cooper making deliveries tonight?”
He meant Gabie. Kayla had traded with Gabie so Kayla could get Friday off. Kayla and I were the only two on. Miguel had clocked out at seven thirty, after the dinner rush was over.
Kayla was on delivery because I don’t have a car. She had only gone out once that night. It was a Wednesday, so it was slow. And it was already eight. We close at ten.
Pete’s Pizza is in a little strip mall. On one side is a florist and a Starbucks and a Blockbuster. On the other is a Baskin- Robbins and a Subway. Kayla used to work at the Subway. But Pete pays fifty cents more an hour, plus extra for deliveries. And then there’s tips. Kayla always got a lot of them. She always said she liked to make deliveries.
Says. She always says she likes. I shouldn’t use the past tense.
I thought the guy must have flirted with Gabie the last time she delivered a pizza to him. Jealousy pinched
me. It wasn’t like I was dating Gabie. We just worked together. I wasn’t dating anyone. But this guy, this guy felt confident enough to flirt with the pizza delivery girl. He could probably stand behind a cute girl in a movie line and when he got to the window he’d be buying tickets for them both.
I didn’t answer him directly when he asked about Gabie. Instead I just said, “One of our staff members will deliver your order in forty-five minutes.”
The fact that he asked about Gabie is the only thing I’ve been able to tell the cops, but it doesn’t help. Gabie hasn’t been able to tell them anything either.
“So what kind do you want?” I asked.
“Three Meat Monsters.”
Meat Monsters are gross. They have sausage, pepperoni, ground beef, and linguica. After you eat a slice, your lips feel slick. And if you look in the mirror later, you’ll find an orange ring around your mouth. Even if you use a napkin.
He told me his name was John Robertson. He gave me his phone number and his address. I told him it would cost $35.97 and hung up the phone.
“Order in!” I joked, like it was a busy night. Then I grabbed three pizza skins from the cooler. Kayla and I got to work. We stood hip to hip, not working fast, but not slow, either. Just a steady, comfortable rhythm. We’ve worked together enough that we didn’t have to say much about who was going to do what. At one point we both reached for the Alpo — otherwise known as sausage — and our hands touched. We looked at each other and kind of smiled. Then I pulled my hand back and let her go first.
I think about that a lot now.
Was I the last friendly, normal person to touch her?
TRANSCRIPT OF 911 CALL
911 Operator: 911. Police, fire, or medical?
Drew Lyle: Um, police.
911 Operator: What seems to be the problem?
Drew Lyle: I, uh, I work at Pete’s Pizza. And my coworker went to deliver some pizzas, and she hasn’t come back, and she doesn’t answer her cell.
911 Operator: What time did she leave?
Drew Lyle: Around 8:45.
911 Operator: This evening?
Drew Lyle: Yeah. Only, she hasn’t come back. She should have been back here at least an hour ago.
911 Operator: Okay, sir, we’re dispatching an officer to your location.
THE SECOND DAY
Before school starts Thursday, Drew comes up to my locker, which is weird. We both go to Wilson. We get along okay at work, but we're not really friends at school.
“Gabie,” he says, and then for a minute he doesn’t say anything else. He looks terrible. His eyes are like two bruises, and his sun-streaked hair is even messier than usual. I wonder if he’s been out partying and never went to bed. Finally, he says, “Did you hear about what happened to Kayla last night?”
It sounds bad. “No. What?” Kayla asked to switch nights with me. Maybe she cut herself slicing Canadian
bacon on the Hobart. Pete’s always after us to cut the meat thinner so we can weigh it out to the microgram. Three ounces on a small, no more, no less. Pete doesn’t cheat anyone, but he doesn’t give anything away, either. And when you use the Hobart, you have more control if you don’t use the metal pusher part. The part that protects your fingers.
“Kayla went to deliver a pizza, and she never came back.” He bites his lip and looks up at the ceiling. His gray eyes fill with tears. It surprises me so much that for a minute I don’t take in what he said. Drew Lyle. Crying. I didn’t think he really cared about anything.
And then it sinks in. Kayla didn’t come back? Pressure fills my chest, making it hard to breathe. “What did you do?”
“After close, I kept waiting for her. You know, Kayla doesn’t even have a key, and her backpack was in the break room. I called her cell a bunch, but no one answered.”
I imagine Kayla running a red light or a drunk driver plowing into her. “So she was in an accident?”
Drew shakes his head. “No. I mean, I don’t know. Right now, nobody knows. She never came back. She just disappeared.”
Could Kayla have run away? For about one second, I consider the idea. But Kayla has a lot going for her, probably more than most people. This fall, she’ll be heading to Oregon State on a softball scholarship. Even before she broke up with her boyfriend, Brock, lots of guys would come in and buy a slice just so they could talk to her. So I figure it’s not like she’s lonely. She didn’t tell me why she wanted Friday night off, but I thought maybe there was a new boyfriend.
Besides, if you were going to run away from your life, wouldn’t you just call in sick to work and then drive off into the sunset? Why go through all the trouble of pretending to make a pizza delivery?
So what happened to her? Then I remember a news story from a few years back. “Maybe she swerved or something and rolled the car down a steep hill like that one girl did up in Washington a couple of years ago,” I tell Drew. “You know, like maybe Kayla’s in a ditch, but no one can see her car from the road.”
Drew blinks, and a single tear runs down his face. This can’t be real. I can’t be watching Drew Lyle cry. By now, it’s like we’re in a little bubble. I no longer see the kids hurrying past us or spinning their locker combinations and reaching in to yank out their books. I only have eyes for Drew, his long nose that bends to the right at the tip, his teeth that press into his lower lip, and his silver eyes welling up with tears.
“The police don’t think so. The phone number the guy called from, it turned out, was really a pay phone miles from where he said he wanted the pizzas delivered.” Drew makes a sound like a laugh. “He must have found the last pay phone in Portland. And the address he gave me — there’s a real street called that, but the houses are like a mile apart, and none of them have that number.” He takes a deep, shuddering breath. “The police think Kayla might have been kidnapped. Or worse.”
Does he mean, like, dead? I try to picture it, but something inside me just says no way. Kayla’s always goofing around, laughing, dancing, bumping hips with whoever’s working next to her, taking up more space in the kitchen area than I ever will. Her last name’s Cutler, but she looks like it should be O’Shaugnnessy — black hair, huge blue eyes, skin as pale as milk. She’s pretty, so pretty she could be a model. Everybody always says so.
Maybe that’s why they took her. I’m suddenly glad for my dirty blond hair and my face that still breaks out even though I’m seventeen.
“So have they asked for a ransom?” I ask.
Drew shakes his head again. “No. Pete stayed there all night in case they called. But nobody did. And the kidnapper hasn’t contacted her parents either.” While I’m still taking all this in, he touches my shoulder. “There’s something else I wanted to talk to you about before the police did.”
“What?” I wonder if he wants me to lie for him. Not tell about him and Kayla smoking weed in the cooler that one time.
“They asked for you first,” Drew says, interrupting my thoughts. “The guy who called asked if the girl in the Mini Cooper was delivering.”