Dave stared back intently at Melissa. He didn’t reply.
As she waited for him to say something, she studied his eyes. His eyes, she knew, would reveal the answer more truthfully than his words.
What did she see in them?
Guilt? Anger? Fear?
“I didn’t kill Josie,” Dave said finally in a flat, exasperated tone. “How can you ask me a question like that?”
“I had to ask,” Melissa told him, still searching for the answer in his dark, narrowed eyes.
“Listen, I hated her enough to send the threatening cards,” Dave said, leaning over the table and lowering DANGEROUS PLANS his voice. “But I didn’t hate her enough to kill her.”
Are you lying? Melissa wondered, studying him. No. No, you’re telling the truth—aren’t you?
She wanted so desperately for him to be telling the truth.
“I—I got the idea last winter,” Dave started to explain. “When Josie’s dad suddenly called and said I couldn’t work in his store over Christmas vacation. I knew Josie was behind it. My Christmas was ruined. I was so angry. I wanted to pay her back. I got the idea to send her DANGEROUS PLANS a Christmas card with some kind of warning on it.”
Melissa shook her head. “I don’t believe this. You were going out with me, but you were still hung up on Josie.” She struggled to keep her jealous feelings down. Josie was dead, even though she couldn’t believe it.
“No, no way,” Dave insisted. “Don’t say I was hung up on Josie. I hated her. Really.”
“So you sent a threatening Christmas card?”
“No. I—I didn’t get it together to send the Christmas card. I got busy and forgot about it. Then DANGEROUS PLANS when Josie didn’t get off my case, I—I don’t know. I guess I just lost it. I sent her two threatening valentines. Then, after the cheating thing happened in math class, I sent more. And now Josie’s dead, and my writing is all over the cards, and the police are going to think . . .” His voice trailed off.
Melissa stared down at the food on the table, probably cold by now. Her mind whirred without focusing. She wanted to yell and scream at Dave and tell him how stupid he’d been. But she also wanted to say DANGEROUS PLANS something helpful, something encouraging.
He was terrified. He needed her help.
But what could she do?
“I just wanted to scare her a little. That’s all,” Dave said, tapping the fork rapidly against the side of his plate. “It was just a dumb joke.”
“Where did you go after you left my house last night?” Melissa asked. “Did you go straight home? Were your parents up? Did they see you?”
Dave shook his head, frowning. “I left your house a little after ten, right? Then I just cruised around for a couple of hours. I guess I was DANGEROUS PLANS feeling restless. I don’t know. I just drove around. I didn’t get home till nearly one. My parents were asleep.”
“So you have no alibi?” Melissa asked, swallowing hard, her throat dry and tight.
“You’re starting to sound like some kind of cop show on TV,” Dave snapped.
“I’m just trying to help!” Melissa cried.
Dave poked the omelet with his fork. Some cheese oozed out. He kept tapping the plate, avoiding her stare.
Raising her eyes to the front of the small coffee shop, Melissa saw two kids she knew from school enter. She DANGEROUS PLANS watched them, hoping they wouldn’t take a nearby booth. She breathed a sigh of relief when they took the booth closest to the front window, out of hearing range.
“Hey, what makes you think Josie kept those valentines?” Melissa asked, brightening a bit.
“Huh?” Dave dropped the fork to the table.
“Yeah,” Melissa said with growing enthusiasm for the idea. “I bet she threw them out. Why would she keep them? I don’t think I’d keep them if I got them.”
Dave thought about it for a moment. “I’ll bet she showed them to Erica,” he DANGEROUS PLANS said glumly. He put his elbows on the table and cradled his head in his hands. “I’ll bet Erica saw them all. She’ll tell the police.”
“Maybe Erica’s already shown them to the police,” he muttered. “Maybe the police are already looking for me.”
“Erica hasn’t talked to the police,” Melissa told him. “Erica is in shock or something. I told you my mom called over there this morning. Their doctor answered—he said that Erica and Mrs. McClain both had to have medication. You know, to help them sleep. I guess DANGEROUS PLANS Erica fainted. Then, when they revived her, she went totally ballistic.”
“Then maybe I have a chance,” Dave said, picking up his head, his expression thoughtful.
“What do you mean?” Melissa asked. “A chance?”
He didn’t answer. She could see that he was thinking hard, concentrating.
“What are you thinking?” she demanded impatiently.
“Maybe I can get the cards back,” Dave told her.
“I’ll sneak into the McClains’ house and get them.”
Melissa stared at him, frowning in disbelief. “Are you crazy? How are you going to get in? What are you going to tell DANGEROUS PLANS them when they see you pawing through Josie’s things? I really don’t think—”
“No, no. Wait a minute,” Dave said, putting a hand over Melissa’s. “I’m not going to do it while they’re home.”
“But I just told you,” Melissa insisted. “Erica and her mother are both—”
“The funeral will be tomorrow, right?” Dave interrupted, his dark eyes glowing with excitement.
“Yeah, I guess.”
“Well, they’ll all be at the funeral,” Dave explained. “The house will be empty. I’ll sneak into the house, grab the valentines, and get out.”
Melissa DANGEROUS PLANS locked her eyes on his. “Do you really think you can?”
“Sure,” Dave assured her. “What could go wrong?”