Page 21 of One Perfect Lie

“Okay Raz, time’s up. Thank you.” Chris gestured to Jordan. “Jordan, state your case.”

Jordan faced the class, surprisingly poised. “I wrote that the Fourth Amendment was the most important. It says that citizens should be safe in their houses, and that the government is not allowed to have unreasonable searches and seizures.”

“Good definition!” the boy in the back said pointedly, and the class chuckled.

Jordan paused. “Most of the Amendments are about making sure you’re able to do something, like the right to speak freely or to practice whatever religion you want, but the Fourth Amendment says you don’t have to do anything.”

“It’s the chillest Amendment!” another boy called out, and everybody laughed.

Jordan smiled shyly. “In a way, it is. It says you have the right to be free and happy in your own home. The right to be left alone. Justice Brandeis of the Supreme Court said that, and that’s what makes the Fourth Amendment the most important. Thank you.”

The class erupted into applause, which Chris silenced by motioning to them. “Okay, class, now that you have heard both arguments, it’s time to vote. Clap if you think Raz is the winner of the debate.”

Only two students clapped, and the others giggled. Raz sagged, embarrassed.

Chris gestured to Jordan. “Now clap if you think Jordan won the debate.”

Everybody else clapped, and Jordan stood taller. Raz looked away.

Chris made his decision. He was going with Jordan. The boy had risen to the occasion, overcoming his natural reserve to defend himself and his position, performing under pressure and thinking on his feet. The classroom exercise paled in comparison to what lay ahead, and Chris couldn’t rely on a boy who might fall apart when things got tough.

And lethal.

Chapter Fifteen

Chris chewed his sandwich, eating at his desk. He’d brought lunch from home to avoid the other teachers. He didn’t need an instant replay of yesterday and he could choke credibly only so many times. He had his laptop open as if he were working in his classroom, but he sat scanning his files on Jordan, confirming the correctness of his choice.

“Chris, you’re working through lunch?” someone called out, and Chris looked up to see Abe, Rick, and Courtney standing in the threshold, holding trays of cafeteria food. Abe looked stylish, Rick looked organic, and Courtney looked tempting, but they were the last thing Chris needed right now.

“Guys, I have to look over a lesson plan.” Chris hit a key so that the local newspaper, the Central Valley Patch, would come on the screen.

“Listen to you—‘lesson plan’! I like when you talk dirty.” Abe pulled up three desks around Chris’s desk. “I came to talk about Cody with my new best friend!”

“Ha!” Chris hid his dismay. He had gone online last night and learned as much as possible about Cody, Northwest College, and the Bighorn basin, but he didn’t know how long he could keep this up.

Rick hesitated. “We don’t mean to bother you, Chris.”

Courtney shot Abe a sideways glance. “Abe, I told you this was a bad idea. Chris has to work.”

“Oh, sit down, everybody.” Abe set down the tray with sodas, a slice of pizza on a styrofoam plate, and a garden salad. “Chris, don’t be such a goody-goody. We’re the mean girls of Central Valley. On Wednesdays we wear pink.”

“We’re not the mean girls, they are.” Courtney sat down. “They hate us because they ain’t us.”

Rick smiled in his goofy way, as he took a seat. “We won’t stay long, Chris. We didn’t want you to feel left out.”

Courtney’s phone started ringing in her purse, and she slipped it out and looked at the screen. “I swear, Doug has radar for when I get a minute to breathe.”

Abe smiled. “Courtney, he knows your schedule. B Lunch is 11:15 to 11:45.”

“Excuse me.” Courtney rose with the phone, answering the call on the way out of the classroom.

“‘Hi Courtney, this is Lug,’” Abe said, mimicking a caveman voice. “He’s one big beefsteak patty, but she loves the guy, what can I say? And she’s loyal. She’s stuck with me through thick and thin. I was so sick a few years ago, and she was there, every step of the way.”

“What was the matter, Abe?” Chris asked, to keep him talking about anything but Wyoming.

Rick fell suddenly silent, eating his pizza, which turned the beard hairs around his mouth reddish.

“I had anorexia. I was manorexic!” Abe fluttered his eyes behind his hip glasses. “My whole life, off and on, I just couldn’t beat it. For me it was about depression, anyway, blah blah, that’s my tale of woe.” He leaned forward. “So Chris, we’re sons of Wyoming! Tell me you had your first kiss at the reservoir, too.”

“I swear, I didn’t.” Chris had determined that the body of water in Abe’s photo was a reservoir. “I had my first kiss at fourteen in the hayloft at my granny’s farm.”

“Well, quite the junior achiever! Where was the farm?”

“Little town on the west side of the state, Evanston.”

“You ever get up to Jackson? Can you believe the changes in Jackson?”

“Tell me about it,” Chris said offhand. No, really, tell me about it.

“The place is so chichi now! The celebrities, ski-in developments, and the shopping. It even has its own Hermès! Courtney taught me how to pronounce it so I sound cool.”

“And you do,” Chris said, tense. Sooner or later, Abe would figure him out, and he couldn’t deny it was a problem.

“I took Jamie there on vacation and he said the only way he’d go back to Wyoming is if we went to Jackson. But I told him, Jackson is not Wyoming.”

“Damn straight.”

Rick finished his pizza. “Sachi and I were just talking about that trip last night. She loved it.”

“Right?” Abe flashed Rick a happy smile, then returned his attention to Chris. “Where did your dad go to high school, Chris?”

Chris had an answer, as of last night. “Sheridan.”

“Whoa, small.”

“Right. I didn’t get that far out.”

“Nobody does, except cattle.” Chris had hoped as much, which was why he’d picked it online. He was trying to contain the damage.