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  • Susan Russo Anderson

The Runner Creep

Missing Brandy is the second novel in the Fina Fitzgibbons Brooklyn mystery series. Like all the other books, it’s a standalone.

In this scene, Brandy and her friend are walking to school.

“You’re late.” Heather slid into her jacket.

“So what if we’re a little late. I’ve got this humungous History test. Didn’t study last night.” Brandy slammed her fists into her hoodie, the lime one her mom bought for her last week. “My mom’s going to kill me if I flunk.”

“You always say that. Then you ace them. Mom says you complain a lot ’cause you miss your dad.”

What did Heather’s mom know, anyway. She was nice and all, for a grown-up. They always have trouble knowing what’s what.

Brandy’s stomach was doing its churning again. If he were here, her dad would be smiling at her right now and her stomach would go all quiet. She could feel his hand in hers, but when she tried to picture him, she just couldn’t do it. His bow tie, maybe, but the rest was a blur. What he’d seen in her mom, she couldn’t understand. Brandy didn’t think they’d spent too much time together, but that was a long time ago when he was still here, and now Brandy couldn’t even remember his face, let alone him talking to her mom. But who’d want to talk to her anyway? God.

They turned onto Joralemon, and Brandy slowed, avoiding the inevitable. She could see a bunch of kids crowding the door in front of school.

“There’s the runner,” Heather said as they stopped for the stupid crossing guard. Heather pointed to the seedy-looking creep they’d seen running up and down Court Street. He ran all the time—in the rain, in the snow, even. And Brandy had seen him on the Promenade, too. Sometimes he wore different outfits. All dopey looking. The boys laughed at him, especially Patrick Sweeney, but he’d laugh at anything. What Julia saw in Patrick was beyond her. Gloria too. Johnny Fulcrum was way better than Patrick any day, zits and all.

Brandy squeezed a new one on her chin and could hear her mother telling her to stop. “Don’t touch it, for Christ’s sake. What would your father say if he could see you now?” That was just it—he couldn’t see her now, and he’d never see her again. Sylvia said the runner made her throat all scratchy, and Frankie—she’s a girl with a boy’s name—thinks he’s weird, but not worth wasting time on talking about it and getting all scared. Heather said it was because his eyes are too close together; that’s what creeped her out. He stared at her once, Heather told them. “That’s what makes people look weird,” that’s what her mom said. Heather’s mom makes sense sometimes. “Look up and down the street long enough and you’re bound to see a spook or two.” Gloria said her mom told the police about him, but they made like he was harmless, like he was just another runner. Basically they said they’d keep their eyes on him, but she never saw them watching the creep, so Brandy doubted they ever did anything.

And she’d never tell her mom about him. God, what a mistake that would be.

Photo: cover, Missing Brandy. Design, Avalon Graphics

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