Thief of Lies - Brenda Drake

Chapter One

Only God and the vendors at Haymarket wake early on Saturday mornings. The bloated clouds spattered rain against my faded red umbrella. I strangled the wobbly handle and dodged shoppers along the tiny makeshift aisle of Boston’s famous outdoor produce market. The site, just off the North End, was totally packed and stinky. The fruits and vegetables for sale were rejects from nearby supermarkets—basically, they were cheap and somewhat edible. The briny decay of flesh wafted in the air around the fishmongers.

Gah! I cupped my hand over my nose, rushing past their stands.

My sandals slapped puddles on the sidewalk. Rain slobbered on my legs, making them slick and cold, sending shivers across my skin. I skittered around a group of slow-moving tourists, cursing Afton for insisting I get up early and wear a skirt today.

Finally breaking through the crowd, I charged up the street to the Haymarket entrance to the T.

Under a black umbrella across the street, a beautiful girl with cocoa skin and dark curls huddled next to a guy with equally dark hair and an olive complexion—my two best friends. Nick held the handle while Afton leaned against him to avoid getting wet. Nick’s full-face smile told me he enjoyed sharing an umbrella with her.

“Hey, Gia!” Afton yelled over the swooshing of tires across the wet pavement and the insistent honking of aggravated motorists.

I waited for the traffic to clear, missing several opportunities to cross the street. I swallowed hard and took a step down. You can do this, Gia. No one is going to run you over. Intentionally. A car turned onto the street, and I quickly hopped back onto the curb. I’d never gotten over my old fears. When the street cleared enough for an elderly person to cross in a walker, I wiped my clammy palms on my skirt and sprinted to the center of the street.

“You have to get over your phobia,” Nick called to me. “You live in Boston! Traffic is everywhere!”

“It’s okay!” Afton elbowed Nick. “Take your time!”

I took a deep breath and raced across to them.

“Nice. I’m impressed. You actually wore a skirt instead of jeans,” Nick said, inspecting my bare legs.

My face warmed. “Wait. Did you just give me a compliment?”

“Well, except…” He hesitated. “You walk like a boy.”

“Never mind him. With legs like that, it doesn’t matter how you walk. Come on.” Afton hooked her arm around mine. “I can’t wait for you to see the Athenæum. It’s so amazing. You’re going to love it.”

I groaned and let her drag me down the steps after Nick. “I’d probably love it just as much later in the day.”

As we approached the platform, the train squealed to a stop. We squeezed into its belly with the other passengers and then grasped the nearest bars as the car jolted down the rails. Several minutes later, the train coasted into the Park Street Station. We followed the flow of people up the stairs and to the Boston Common, stopping in Afton’s favorite café for lattes and scones. Lost in gossip and our plans for the summer, nearly two hours went by before we headed for the library.

When we reached Beacon Street, excitement—or maybe the two cups of coffee I had downed before leaving the café—hit me. We weren’t going to just any library. We were going to the Boston Athenæum, an exclusive library with a pricey annual fee. Afton’s father got her a membership at the start of summer. It’s a good thing her membership allows tagalongs, since my pop would never splurge like that, not when the public library is free. Which I didn’t get, because it wasn’t that expensive and would totally be worth it.

“We’re here,” Afton said. “Ten and a half Beacon Street. Isn’t it beautiful? The facade is Neoclassical.”

I glanced up at the building. The library walls, which were more than two hundred years old, held tons of history. Nathaniel Hawthorne swore he saw a ghost here once, which I think he probably made up, since he was such a skilled storyteller. “Yeah, it is. Didn’t you sketch this building?”

“I did.” She bumped me with her shoulder. “I didn’t think you actually paid attention to my drawings.”

“Well, I do.”

Nick pushed open the crimson door to the private realm of the Athenæum, and I chased Afton and Nick up the white marble steps and into the vestibule. Afton showed her membership card at the reception desk. I removed my notebook and pencil from my messenger bag before we dropped it,