Authors: Caroline Crane
Tags: #murder, #gang, #borneo, #undercover, #innocent, #relationship problems, #infiltrate, #gang members, #teen detective, #teen spy, #love of her life, #accused of murder, #cover blown, #cree penny, #gang threats, #liam penny, #teen investigator
Fire and Ice
A Young Adult Imprint of Melange
White Bear Lake, MN 55110
Under Cover, Copyright 2014 Caroline
Names, characters, and incidents
depicted in this book are products of the author’s imagination or
are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales,
organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental
and beyond the intent of the author or the publisher. No part of
this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any
means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording,
or by any information storage and retrieval system, without
permission in writing from the publisher.
Published in the United States of
Cover Design by Lynsee
by Caroline Crane
A senseless murder. A teenager accused—the
body found in his car.
It all happened in Hudson Hills, the town
next to Cree Penny’s home of Southbridge. To her it seems remote,
until her father comes from his home in Borneo, halfway around the
world, to help. The youth who is accused might be a relative. His
name is Liam Penny.
Liam insists he’s innocent. Of course. They
all do. Cree wants nothing to do with any of it. Her mind is on Ben
Canfield, the love of her life, who seems to be drifting away. Then
she overhears a gang threatening Liam. He might really be
Everyone advises her to leave it alone. But
Cree is determined to learn the truth, to exonerate the innocent
and punish the guilty. To do that, she goes undercover. The gang
members have never seen her, don’t know anything about her. She can
infiltrate them, and does—until someone blows her cover.
As usual, I saved a place for Maddie. She
would have done the same for me if she got to the cafeteria before
I did, but it never happened. Along the way, there were too many
people she had to talk to. You’d have thought she was running for
I sat there, not starting on my tomato soup
and cheese crackers, and watched a kid named Robert try to find a
place to sit.
He was in special ed, I knew that much. He
was long, lanky, and awkward, and he lisped. One time, when bullies
were calling him names, like Dummy, he corrected them. “No, ith
Robert.” With his lisp it came out “Thobert,” and that name
He had his lunch in a bag and aimed for a
spot at the table in front of me. Big mistake. The bullies were
near there. When they saw him coming, they tipped up the empty
chair as if the place was reserved. While Robert tried to figure
out what to do, they grabbed for his lunch bag.
He held on tight. I jumped up, shouting,
“Stop it, you guys!”
Maddie suddenly appeared, slammed down her
tray and screamed “Psychopaths!” She delivered a karate chop to the
ringleader’s arm. He let go of the bag so fast that Robert
The bully shouted, “Bitch!” and lunged at
Maddie. She kicked him on the shin. I added a kick of my own. My
legs were strong from years of ballet.
He pulled up his pants to see if we’d done
any damage. “Bitches,” he muttered. His buddies, who had been
cheering him on, dispersed and pretended they had nothing to do
Not seeing any damage, he snarled at Maddie,
“You’re stoopid, standing up for a retard. You’re as stoopid as he
“And you,” said Maddie, “are a psychopath.
You think you’re so big, picking on a handicapped kid.”
She turned away—actually turned her back on
the creep, which could have been dangerous—and we both took our
places at the table. The Revenger girls had won again.
Revengers is what Maddie and I called
ourselves one time when we both set out to right some wrongs. I’ll
explain that later. I’m Lucretia Penny, Cree for short. I was on
the brink of seventeen and lived in Southbridge, New York, a suburb
about thirty miles north of New York City.
I’d been in the Southbridge school system all
my life. Maddie, short for Madelyn Canfield, only transferred to
the high school a few months ago. That’s when I got to know her.
And got to know her brother Ben, who was a year older and had
Asperger’s syndrome. It’s a high-functioning form of autism, which
made him a little bit weird. But he was gorgeous and brilliant and
the love of my life. You can’t write off a person just because
they’re unusual. You might be missing something. I certainly would
have. As for him, he was getting ready to graduate and go off to
MIT, leaving me all alone at Southbridge High.
Maddie and I were a study in contrasts. I had
long red hair and always thought of myself as dumpy. My grandma
insisted it was an hourglass figure, slender at the waist, curvy
above and below. She used to say I was just right for a 1890s
Maddie, on the other hand, was as slim as
bamboo and always looked sharp. She had shiny brown hair in a
flawless pageboy, and she wore things like blazers to school.
Nobody else at Southbridge even owned a blazer.
She carried a newspaper on her tray along
with a tuna sandwich and cranberry juice. I asked, “Is that today’s
Could I see it?”
“Good luck.” She handed it over.
Maddie knew I was unemployed, with a long,
idle summer coming up. I turned to the back where the want ads
were, a mere half column of them. And no likely prospects for me.
As I folded the paper to give it back, a headline caught my
Teen Questioned in Death of
In Hudson Hills, the town
just south of us?
High school kids?
This I had to read. I
didn’t know anybody in Hudson Hills, but it felt very close, being
right next door. According to the article, a man named Albert B.
Franzen of Loomis Avenue was walking his dog in River Edge Park in
the very early morning when he made a “shocking discovery.” Facing
the river in an otherwise deserted parking lot, was a car that had
evidently been there overnight. Franzen thought he recognized it as
one that belonged to a friend of his son, Albert, Jr. Through
condensation on the window, Franzen saw there was someone inside,
lying across the center console.
The article continued:
Police were on the scene immediately.
Franzen identified the body as that of John Kinsser, 17, also of
Loomis Avenue. According to the medical examiner, he had evidently
been strangled with some kind of wire, possibly a coat hanger.
I asked, “Did you see this?”
“I haven’t looked at it yet.” Maddie took the
paper and quickly skimmed the article. She muttered,
Maddie had it in for psychopaths. It was a
term she preferred over sociopath, which means the same thing. As
she put it, “Psychopath sounds so delightfully psycho. I love it.”
She used to know one. Her own ex-boyfriend, to be exact.
“Anybody’d who do something like that,” she
said, “is a psychopath. No regard for human life, or human
feelings, or any kind of life or feelings. Like those creeps just
now with Robert. Kids like that used to pick on Ben, till he got
big enough to deal with them.”
Ben, her brother, was six feet tall, and
built. He did a lot of hiking, which kept him in shape. He also had
more brains than all those idiots put together.
Speaking of, I looked up to see Ben coming
toward us. He didn’t often eat with Maddie and me, but there he
was. We were halfway through lunchtime and he didn’t have a tray or
a bag. He carried a wrapped burrito, which he couldn’t have gotten
in the school cafeteria.
The chair across from me was newly empty. I
pushed it out with my foot. As he sat down, Maddie asked, “Where
have you been?”
“Meeting,” he said, and unwrapped the
“A meeting? In the middle of the day?”
“Advisor.” He took a bite of his burrito.
“Is everything okay?”
“Why shouldn’t it be?”
“You make it sound like an emergency.”
it,” he said. “That’s
your interpretation. I couldn’t do it any other time, is why.”
Ben was gorgeous. He had eyes like Hershey
kisses, dark wavy hair that curled adorably at the back of his
neck, a proud straight nose like a classical statue, and a strong
jawline with a dimple in his chin. He’d started out life as a
foundling before the Canfields adopted him. Nobody knew his ethnic
origin but I figured it had to be somewhere around the
The reason he couldn’t do it any other time
was that he had an after-school job, even with final exams coming
up. The job was afternoons and weekends and it would be good for
the whole summer. Furthermore, it was an ice cream parlor, which
seemed to me like heaven.
“You know?” I said brightly. “Summer’s
coming. I mean, it’s here.”
“No kidding,” Ben replied, and snagged a sip
of my lemonade.
“Frosty Dan’s going to be busy. Won’t they
need extra help?”
“Not at the moment that I know of.”
“Can you ask?”
“I thought you had that babysitting gig.”
“I lost that months ago.” Which showed how
closely Ben kept track of me.
“You never noticed I wasn’t working?”
He looked sheepish. If he did notice, he
hadn’t given it any thought. I had to remind him, “She was so
freaked when her baby got kidnapped, she had her mother come and
live with them. So there went my job.”
“That’s what your mother did, isn’t it?”
“Sort of. But I wasn’t kidnapped. I told you
what happened. My dad took one look at me and flew off around the
world, so Mom had to get a job and a babysitter. My grandma raised
me more than Mom did.”
“Your grandma’s a hoot,” said Maddie.
“Sometimes. Other times, not so much.” I told
Ben, “She’s madly in love with you. She thinks you’re
He hadn’t been listening. “Who does?”
“My grandma. Don’t tell me you never noticed
He shook his head. He might have been wary of
females, even sixty-nine-year-olds. The whole reason I met him was
because of a girl. All their lives, he and Maddie had gone to a
private school near their home. Their parents thought, with Ben’s
Asperger’s, a smaller place would be easier on him than the big,
noisy public school.
Aspies often have a problem with social
connections. For some reason, their neurological set-up makes it
hard for them to understand how those things work. In his junior
year, Ben got to be friends with a girl who shared a lot of his
interests. He must have thought he’d found his soul mate. After a
while he got up the nerve to ask her out, something he’d never done
before with any girl. When she refused and started avoiding him, he
thought he must have done something horribly wrong. He kept trying
to find out what it was and apologize. She, the neurotic bitch,
accused him of stalking and got him in real trouble.
Ben? Stalking? He might have come on a bit
strong, but he thought they were friends and never dreamed she’d
see him as a danger. It’s tough being an Aspie, with people
thinking the worst of you. They always seem to.