When I can’t look at the photos any longer, I go back to the couch and sift through Metias’s journals again. If my brother had any other enemies, surely there’d be a clue somewhere in his writing. But he was no fool, either. He never would’ve written down anything that could be used as evidence. I read through pages and pages of his old entries, all of them about irrelevant, mundane things. Sometimes he talks about us. These I have more trouble reading.
One entry talks about the night of his induction ceremony into Commander Jameson’s squad, when I’d fallen ill. Another is about the celebration we had together when I scored a 1500 on my Trial. We placed an order for ice cream and two whole chickens, and at one point in the evening, I even experimented with making a chicken and ice cream sandwich, which maybe wasn’t the best idea I’ve ever had. I can still hear us laughing, still smell the warm aromas of baked chicken and fresh bread.
I press my fists against my closed eyes and take a deep breath. “What am I doing?” I whisper to Ollie, who tilts his head at me from where he’s lying on the couch. “I’m befriending a criminal, and pushing away people I’ve known my entire life.”
Ollie looks back at me with that universal dog wisdom, then promptly goes back to sleep. I stare at him for a while. Not long ago, Metias would’ve dozed there with his arm draped around Ollie’s back. I wonder if Ollie’s imagining that now.
It takes me a moment to realize something. I open my eyes, then look back at the last page I’d read in Metias’s journal. I think I saw something . . . there. I narrow my eyes at the bottom of the page.
A misspelled word. I frown. “That’s odd,” I say out loud. The word is refrigerator, spelled with an extra d. Refridgerator. Never in my life have I known Metias to misspell anything. I study it for a second longer, shake my head, and decide to move on. I make a mental note of the page.
Ten minutes later, I find another one. This time the word is elevation, but Metias spells it elevatien.
Two misspelled words. My brother would never have done this by accident. I look around, as if there might be a surveillance camera in the room. Then I lean toward the coffee table and start sifting through all the pages of Metias’s journals. I store the misspelled words in my head. No reason to write them down for someone else to find.
I find a third word: bourgeoisie, spelled bowrgeoisie. Then a fourth one: emanating, spelled emamating.
My heart starts to pound.
By the time I finish going through all twelve of Metias’s journals, I’ve uncovered twenty-four misspelled words. All of them come from the journals written in the last few months.
I lean back on the couch, then close my eyes so I can picture the words in my mind. That many misspelled words from Metias can be nothing other than a message to me—the one person who was most likely to go through his writing. A secret code. This must be why he’d pulled all the boxes out of the closet that fateful afternoon . . . this might be the important thing he’d wanted to talk about. I shift the words around, trying to form a sentence that makes sense, and when that fails, I move the letters around to see if each one might be an anagram for something else.
I rub my temples. Then I try something else—what if Metias wanted me to put together the individual letters that are either missing from each word or in the word when they aren’t supposed to be there? I quietly make a list of these letters in my head, starting with the d in refridgerator.
D L W G W U N O W M J W U T C E E L O F O O M B
I frown. It makes no sense. I scramble the letters over and over again in my head, trying to come up with various combinations of words. When I was little, Metias played word games with me—he’d throw a bunch of letter blocks onto the table and ask me what words I could form with them. Now I try playing this game again.
I play it for a while before I stumble across a combination that makes me open my eyes.
JUNE BUG. Metias’s nickname for me. I swallow hard and try to stay calm. Slowly, I line up the leftover letters and try to form words with them. Combinations fly through my mind until one of them makes me pause.
FOLLOW ME JUNE BUG.
The only letters left after that are three W’s, then CTOOMD. Which left one logical option.
WWW FOLLOW ME JUNE BUG DOT COM
A website. I run the letters through my mind several more times, to make sure my assumption is correct. Then I glance at my computer.
First I type in Metias’s hack that allows me to access the Internet. I put up the defenses and shells that my brother taught me—there are eyes everywhere online. Then I disable my browser’s history, and type in the URL with trembling fingers.
A white page pops up. Only one line of text appears at the top.
Let me take your hand, and I will give you mine.
I know exactly what Metias wants me to do. Without hesitating, I reach a hand out and press it flat against my monitor.
At first, nothing happens. Then I hear a click, see a faint light scan across my skin, and the white page disappears. In its place appears what looks like a blog. My breath catches in my throat. There are six brief entries here. I lean forward in my chair and start reading.
What I see makes me dizzy with horror.
This is for June’s eyes only. June, you can easily delete all traces of this blog at any time by pressing your right palm against the screen and typing: Ctrl+Shift+S+F. I have no other place to write this, so I’ll write it here. For you.
Yesterday was your fifteenth birthday. I wish you were older, though, because I can’t quite bring myself to tell a fifteen-year-old girl what I found—especially when you should be celebrating.