Down to the Liar
Author:Mary Elizabeth Summer

“Is it the nature of the crime? Sometimes that can affect even the most hardened agent.”

“A: I’m not an agent. B: While I think the slimeball responsible for those posts deserves to be slow-roasted over a bed of burning napalm, it’s not the worst thing I’ve ever seen. I mean, words can kill faster than bullets—nobody knows that better than a grifter. But the crime isn’t what’s bothering me. It’s something else. Something I missed.”

“Would it help to go over the facts?”

“I don’t know. Not yet.”

“Well, I’m here when you’re ready.”

My inner grifter winces at the deeper meaning. I don’t want his fatherlike support. I never asked for it, and I don’t deserve it. I want to say that he can take his offer to talk and shove it, but I remember my heart-to-heart with Dani last night, and my anger ebbs to a low simmer.

I know it’s not Mike’s fault I’m so messed up. And honestly, it’s not Murphy’s fault, either. I should probably apologize. To all of them, really. But instead of saying anything, I stare out the window, watching in silence as we exit onto the freeway.

“What are we looking for?” Dani asks. It’s a few minutes shy of eight-thirty, and she’s just boosted me up over the wall surrounding Carter’s house and dropped down next to me on the other side.

“I don’t know.” I can barely see her outline in the darkness. “Anything related to Skyla or the Facebook accounts, I guess. A tell-all diary wouldn’t hurt.”

She nods, tersely, which is exactly what I need right now. Silent obedience. I’m still wrestling with my anger issues, and the less anyone talks around me right now, the better.

“I’ll distract Carter as long as I can,” I continue. “You sneak in and get the goods.”

“I do not read as well as you do.”

“Maybe not, but you don’t have a legitimate reason for ringing the doorbell, either.”

“Which one is his room?”

“No idea. Good luck.”

I peel off from Dani, who dutifully circles the house in search of Carter’s room. I walk boldly up to the front door and push the intercom button. I technically should have buzzed from the front gate and been let in properly, but I wanted to get the lay of the land with Dani before forging ahead with the plan.

“Julep?” Carter says from the intercom. “How did you get in here?”

“I jumped the fence. Look, Carter, I’ve got a bone to pick with you.”

I hear a staticky sigh. “All right. Give me a second.”

Dead bolts, chains, and locks click open one after the other. Seriously, you’d think this guy lived in Compton or something. My dad’s and my apartment in the west-side slums didn’t have nearly as many locks.

“What’s up with the crazy security?” I ask, mostly because I’m stalling. I don’t really care why his parents are paranoid.

“Mom’s a federal judge. And a single parent.”

“I suppose that makes sense. Can I come in?”

He pulls the door back just wide enough to admit me and shuts it directly after. If he tries to lock anything, I’ll kick his geeky butt. But he doesn’t.

“I know why you’re here,” he says.

“Murphy called you?” I’m going to kill that nerd.

“No, but I knew it was only a matter of time before you figured it out.”

Oh. Well, Murphy can live on another day, I guess.

“Why didn’t you come clean about crushing on Skyla at the beginning?”

He ducks his greasy head. “Because it’s embarrassing. And I know I’m not the one doing it, so I thought I didn’t need to tell you. I realize how stupid that sounds, especially since I was sure you’d find out on your own anyway.”

“You realize that you’re now my number-one draft pick for cyberjerk, right? Had you told me on your own, you might have been just a possibility. Now you’re the probability.”

“Well, I’m not the one harassing Skyla. And if you don’t believe me, then the person who is harassing her will keep going. I don’t want that for her.”

My gut says he’s telling the truth, but then, my gut has been wrong before. Like Mike, for example—my gut was all kinds of wrong about him. Guts are notoriously unreliable, and every good con artist takes his gut feeling with a grain of salt. But a grifter is, by nature, a gut-follower, and after all, there is no such thing as a safe bet.

“Murphy’s already scanned every device I own,” he continues. “What else can I do to prove it to you?”

I pull out my phone and swipe through a few screens to bring up my case notes. “You can alibi out.”


“Prove to me that you were nowhere near an electronic device at eight-thirteen last Tuesday night, or seven-thirty-four the Saturday night before that, or—”

As I watch, I get Facebook notifications that the abusive accounts are posting more vitriol against Skyla.

“What the—?”

Carter crosses his arms. “Even if I could prove I was swimming the English Channel Tuesday night, I could have easily scheduled those posts ahead of time.”

I give him a sour look. “So much for alibi-ing out.”

“Look, I don’t mind being a suspect.”

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