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Guy Langman can't be bothered with much. But when his friend Anoop wants Guy to join the forensics club with him in the (possibly misguided) hopes of impressing some girls, Guy thinks why not. They certainly aren't expecting to find a real dead body on the simulated crime scene they're assigned to collect evidence from. But after some girlish, undignified screaming, the two realize it is indeed a body. Which means they have stumbled across a real, dead murder victim. Meanwhile, Guy has been looking into the past of his father-a larger-than-life character who recently passed away. He was much older than Guy's mom, and had a whole past Guy never even knew about. Could his father's past and the dead body be linked? Does Guy want to know? He's going to need all his newfound forensics skills to find out . . . From the Hardcover edition.
January. Eight Months Later. Forensics Squad, Day One
“Welcome to Forensics Squad!” The handwriting on the board is so chipper that it makes me snort. Who is that happy about forensics? Mr. Zant, apparently.
It is 2:45, fifteen minutes after the last bell. School is over, but Mr. Z’s classroom is packed to the gills. That’s a joke. Get it? Because Mr. Z’s favorite subject is marine biology? But wait, I didn’t already explain that, so there’s no way you could have gotten the joke. Even then, it is quite possibly not funny. Never mind.
“Wow,” Mr. Zant is saying, circling the room, handing out a form we all sign but don’t read. He’s very young, and he almost looks like a kid. “It is really cool to see so many of you,” he says.
He has to mean that it’s really cool to see so many good-looking girls show up for his club meeting. The hot girls are the main reason I joined up. Okay, I like the forensics shows on TV. And yeah, maybe I have sort of been one of those death-obsessed teenagers you hear about sometimes. Wearing a turtleneck, hanging out in cafes, reading books by Camus, stuff like that. (Not really. I hate turtlenecks.) But really, since Dad died last spring, I guess the idea of learning about how people die appeals to me. The difference between breathing and not breathing seems so thin . . .
Normally I don’t love extracurricular anythings, and I didn’t really want to join this club. But then Anoop told me that Mr. Z was hosting a weekly club starting after winter break that includes Laura Shaw, Aiden Altieri, Scarlett Reese, and Raquel Flores, and somehow I found myself penciling in my name on the Forensics Club sign-up sheet. The last lass mentioned, the lovely Raquel, is of particular interest to me . . .
What can I say about Raquel Flores? Eyes like an angel, heart like an angel, and legs like an angel . . . Wait, do angels have nice legs? Do angels even have legs? I know they have wings, so they probably don’t need legs. Forget it. I don’t think Jews believe in angels, anyway. Just know this: There might be other girls who are a bit more popular, but there are none more beautiful or more mysterious than Raquel Flores. If she’s not the sole reason I’m a member of Forensics Squad, her name on that list is certainly the factor that put me over the top. I’m crushing on her hard. I was interested in the topic, yeah, but still, it takes a lot to get me to sign up for anything. I’m not normally exactly what you’d call a “joiner.”
Mr. Z continues. “It’s just awesome that you are all into forensics. I should warn you, though,” he says. “It’s not at all like you see on TV. It’s actually a lot of hard work, nitty-gritty science. We are going to learn the basics of crime scene investigation through a combination of lecture and lab, ending the semester with a simulated scene in the field. I will plant the evidence. You will solve the crime.”
“Dude,” I whisper to Anoop. “There are four ensics? What’s an ensic, anyway? It sounds like something from health class.”
“You’re thinking of ‘cervix,’” Anoop says, tapping his temple. “And there is but the glorious one.”
“Your mother has four ensics,” I say.
“Shut up your face about my mother,” he hisses. “Or I’ll kill you.” He says “kill” like “keel” and motions with his finger like he’s slitting a throat.
“And then I can figure out exactly how you did it!” I yell. When I think I’m funny, I have a problem with volume control. I slap the table. “Because I know all four ensics!”
The adorable Raquel Flores turns her head in my direction and narrows her dark eyes into a nasty squint. The look on her face lets me know that she is less amused and more confused. Story of my life. My mind goes to a piece of advice my dad gave me once. “Go where the pretty is,” he always said. Worked for him. I’ve seen the pictures. He had some amazingly hot girlfriends before Mom. I cherish all of his advice. Live my life by it.
“What’s all the commotion back there, Guy?” Mr. Zant says. Huh. I haven’t been in any of his classes. We didn’t take roll or anything. How does he know my name?
I wrinkle up my eyebrows and turn my head at a highly confused angle.
“What?” I say. “You must be some sort of genius detective.” Smooth.
“Tell me your name, Guy,” he repeats. Mr. Zant is one of those teachers who always try to be cool and hip and think of themselves as more of a friend than an enforcer, but I can tell he’s getting sort of pissed at me.
“But you already know,” I say.
“Dude,” Anoop says to me in a low voice. “I don’t think he really guessed your name.” Anoop is good at figuring out social situations, unlike me. “Zant is probably one of those dudes who just call everybody ‘guy.’ He doesn’t realize that your name is actually ‘Guy.’”
“What are you whispering about, you guys?” Mr. Zant says, this time to Anoop.
“No,” Anoop says, pointing both thumbs at himself. “Just one Guy. I’m Anoop Chattopadhyay. But you can call me the Bengal Tiger. Everybody does.” Then he points to me with a double handgun gesture. “This goofy-looking Jew is Guy Langman.”
Thanks, Anoop. He could have described me a million different ways. Noted my lovely curls, my naturally svelte build, my nose-of-much-character, my glowing smile. But no: it’s “goofy-looking Jew.” Could be worse, I guess. I smile weakly at Raquel.
Mr. Zant scratches his goatee and cocks his head.
I’ve never heard anyone, including Anoop, refer to him as “the Bengal Tiger.” He’s an Indian guy with hipster glasses and a valiantly-trying-to-be-a-mustache mustache. He dresses like a living Lands’ End catalog. The Bengal Tiger? The whole room has turned tense, silent, and, if I’m not mistaken, a little angry. I stare everyone down and drum a quick rhythm on the table with my fingers.
“Don’t get your ensics in a bunch,” I say. “I’m here all week.”