This is the current roster of the senior Ten, in no particular order, along with their primary role in the organization:
Emelia Laird—hot girl you can bring home to Mom
Tegan Brooks—girl goon, gatekeeper
Hannah Rexall—dancer, humblebrag virtuoso
Rachel Rose—hot girl you don't bring home to Mom
Jack Vandenberg—he who provides alcohol, enforcer
Adam Westlake—spokesperson, man about town
Mick Devlin—dandy, editor in chief
Jonah Wagman—jock, nice guy
Gabriel Smythe—court jester, suck-up, moron
Me—she who does not belong in this picture
None of the Ten mentioned Witt's father. It was unlike them not to run a background check on fresh meat. As soon as Dean Stinson dropped her name, I did my research. I decided to keep that information to myself. But I had to chime in to the chatter to reinforce my shaky position in this ridiculous club.
Gemma: I want to be her when I grow up.
Ms. Witt didn't say anything until Gabe returned to class. His shoes were muddy and there was a stripe of dirt on his shirt.
"It's done," Gabe said. "He's interred behind the greenhouse. I gave him a eulogy and all. Would you like to hear it?"
Gabe glanced over his shoulder at the class, waiting for a few laughs or any nonverbal sign of encouragement.
"No," Witt said. "We weren't close."
"Well, he's in a better place now," Gabe said, still trying to dig out of the ditch of submission in which he'd found himself.
"Take a seat, Cornelius," Witt said. "I think we'll start class."
Witt wrote her name on the board.
"This is apparently advanced creative writing. I am Alex Witt. Address me however it is done here. Alex or Ms. Witt. Whatever. I just found out this morning that I'm teaching this seminar, so don't expect a thoughtful syllabus at this point."
Carl Bloom's hand shot up, angled forward, like a Hitler salute. I've always meant to caution him about it. Never got around to it last year. Maybe this year. Carl has the unfortunate distinction of walking and talking like a nerd and yet struggling in every one of his classes.
"Ms. Witt," he shouted. "Why isn't Mr. Ford teaching creative writing anymore?"
Witt glanced up at Carl and then jotted something down in her notebook.
"That's a great question. You should ask him. Over and over again," she said.
As Witt scribbled some more, paying no attention to us, half-assed whispers circulated the latest information on Ford. Mel Eastman, who always knows the most while seeming to gossip the least, informed us all that Ford had taken over Ms. Whitehall's core curriculum.
"What happened to Ms. Whitehall?" Ephraim Wiener asked Mel. "Did she die?"
"Not unless you killed her," Mel muttered below his earshot.
I think Ephraim Wiener would have preferred that. Then he could finally stop pining for Whitehall. Boys are like that. They'd rather you die than reject them.
Mick Devlin stood up from his seat in the back row and ambled up the aisle with that lame half-gangster lean/limp he'd adopted late last year. When Devlin reached Witt's desk, he extended his hand like one of those stock Wall Streetmovie douchebags and formally introduced himself.
"Mick Devlin, Madame Witt. At your service."
"Mick Devlin?" she said. "I'm going to remember that."
Most people call him Devlin. Some girls call him "the devil," and some mean it in that captivating bad-boy way. I don't. Devlin's eyes landed on Witt with generic lust, but his half smile, so boyish and goofy, balanced him out. Tegan once pointed out that the top and bottom of Mick Devlin's face should have belonged to two different individuals. She demonstrated with his school photo and a pair of scissors, cutting his face in half just above the nostrils.
"See," she said. "They don't belong together."
This excerpt ends on page 16 of the hardcover edition.
Monday, March 9, we begin the book A SMALL TOWN: A NOVEL OF CRIME by Thomas Perry.