The Fake
Original Version of Chapter 8!
I thought I’d share with you our thought processes for making the changes we did in this chapter, so you can see how our editing process works as well as seeing how the chapter started out. It might make more sense to read the chapter first and then read this part, so feel free to do that and come back.
Our biggest changes for this chapter have to do with swapping Dominic and Angel for Mr. Gallo. After I wrote this chapter, I shared it with Natalie, who made any suggestions she had about the story, the characters, or anything else she liked or disliked, and I made those changes. We also shared this with some trusted early readers, and they suggested that Dominic and Angel didn’t work so well for this story.
It didn’t make sense for a pair of outside criminal types to just stumble across a smart boy in a private school. They also, weirdly enough, didn’t provide quite enough menace—their threats sounded more dramatic, but they weren’t as threatening as a teacher in Grayson’s own world, who could expose the things Grayson did to the people he cared about. It made more sense that Mr. Gallo, with his loose views on computer security, would find out about Grayson’s talents than some stranger would.
At first, I was really sad to see Dominic, Angel, and her excellent car go, but as soon as I started writing Mr. Gallo, I knew he was a much better choice.
Other things that changed included Sydney’s hair being straight instead of curly. That one wasn’t actually a conscious change—turns out I really just forgot it was supposed to be curly! I also cut the length of the chapter, which we did with a lot of chapters, to make it better fit the Storybird format.
One fun fact about the chapter has to do with the coffee Grayson orders—a flat white. That’s pretty common in New Zealand, so seemed like a good choice to me. But one of our first readers lives in New York and assured me it was definitely not a New York thing! That’s another reason why research, and having other people critique your work is a huge bonus!
So here’s the former chapter eight!
First impressions were often all it took to turn a person off me. The fact that it took until our second conversation to offend little Miss Idaho was something of a triumph. There would not be a third conversation, judging by her expression as she ran off, and a surprising disappointment built inside me at the idea. There was something fascinating about someone with her unique combination of fury and remedial math skills.
I glanced down at my watch. I would have to follow her lead and leave now if I wanted to meet Angel in time. Hands in pockets, I walked straight out of Callas Prep and down the front steps. Outside, there was no sign yet of the shiny black Cobra, so I sat cross-legged on the low, brick wall outside the school. I pulled my laptop out of my pack, laid it across my legs, logged on to the school wifi, and typed in the first command.
The school had a pretty decent online security system set up, however, Mr. Basingstoke, the principal, did not. And his laptop had access to everything. Using his IP address, I slipped into his computer through a backdoor he still left open, flipped the locks and helped myself. I had no intention of harming anything. The thrill for me came from finding my way in, not from doing anything once I got there. This time, however, I did need to make some quick adjustments.
Once I accessed the school records, I found my file, including my contact details and scrolled down to my parents’ email addresses. I quickly changed them both to fake addresses I created through gmail and voila, Mom would be getting a whole lot less contact from Callas Prep in the future—whether or not I returned my homework assignments. I switched the phone numbers to my spare, untraceable cell’s number, and logged out.
When I looked up, I was not alone.
Lit up from behind, Sydney could almost have passed for Angel—same dark, sleek hair, same long, lean . . . everything. Same self-obsessed nature too, although Angel was a whole lot more honest about it.
“You’re ditching? Really?” she asked, arms folded over her chest and hip jutted out to the side.
I clicked the laptop closed and slipped it into my backpack. “And hello to you, too, Syd. I have an appointment. What is your excuse?”
“Syd-ney,” she said, hip jutting a bit further. If she got any more indignant, she might topple over. “I have an appointment too. Only mine is real. Some of us take school seriously.”
“Who? You don’t mean . . . you? Nah.”
Even with the sun flaring around her head like a halo, I could make out the narrowing of her eyes and the scarlet heat in her cheeks. “Jerk.”
I shrugged. “Sometimes.”
Sydney spun around and stalked off, her boots’ wooden heels clunking on the sidewalk. She took my existence as a personal insult, even though she was the one who called us quits. The familiar pang I felt whenever we spoke had gotten easier, but I was still pleased when the tinny snort of the Cobra’s horn sounded. I dropped off the wall and climbed into the car.
“Did you have a nice day at school?” Angel asked with perfect sarcasm.
“It was . . . interesting.”
She revved the Cobra’s engine until it begged for mercy and then powered it out into an impossibly small gap in the constant traffic. As we pulled away with more noise than speed, I saw Sydney staring open-mouthed.
I could not decide whether or not that pleased me.
Dominic believed in keeping things classy, so it did not surprise me when Angel pulled the Cobra into the parking lot outside a McDonalds. She waited for me to get out and locked the car behind us.
“We thought you might be hungry,” Angel purred at me. “Growing boy, and all.”
That was probably meant as an insult, but almost anything felt like a compliment when it came from Angel.
“Is he paying?”
She laughed, a husky, smokey sound. “Always.”
We took our place in line at the counter behind a little kid who dressed even worse than little Miss Idaho—shorts and t-shirt, despite the cold bite in the wind outside. He needed more fat on his scrawny bones but he only ordered a small bag of fries. In the world of Callas Prep, skinniness was a sign of a big bank account—one that could afford a personal trainer, chef and/or liposuction. In this kid’s case, it meant the exact opposite.
Angel turned to scan the dining area for Dominic, and while her back was turned, I slipped this morning’s three hundred dollars from my pocket and into the little kid’s hand. I bent forward and whispered in his ear. “That’s for you. Not your parents. Okay?”
The little kid looked at the wad of bills suspiciously. “What do you want for it?”
I grinned. “For you not to tell anyone you have it. Get it in your pocket out of sight.”
He kept the money and ran before the server handed him his fries. I probably would too, if I were him. Gift horses often turned round and bit you in this city.
If Angel saw what I had done, she kept it to herself. She leaned onto the counter toward the server to make our order, which included enough to feed an entire family. “What do you want?” she asked.
“Just coffee. Flat white.”
She shrugged and made the order.
Dominic looked like anyone, that always surprised me. He could be the guy you sat beside at a ball game or the one who handed over your takeaway. Today he wore a rumpled sweatshirt, jeans, and a big smile.
“Grayson, my friend! Take a seat.”
Before he said anything else, he filled his mouth with burger, pushing in the excess bits with his fingertips and chewing behind stretched lips. I sipped my coffee and Angel ate like I wished the women in my family would.
When they finished, Dominic wiped his mouth on a paper napkin and sat back with a satisfied grin on his face. “For once, I think we can be grateful your parents sent you to that school.”
Personally, I was always grateful for that. The celebri-brats that crowded the school halls might have stretched the definition of “best and brightest” but I had seen enough of public schools to prefer what I had. “Why?” I asked.
“Because you are about to become very useful.”
He had my attention now. So far, Dominic paid me for the things I’m best at—watching and remembering. A memory like mine, one that worked in snapshots that took in every detail and never forgot any of it, could be very handy. “I am?”
Dominic leaned toward me, eyes bright. “What do you know about art?”
“Other than what I’ve learned working for you,” I said. “Everything.” It was not a boast, it was simple fact. Art. Art history. Artists—contemporary and old masters—I knew them all. Every artistic term from chiaroscuro to vanishing point. Everything, that was, except what to do with a paintbrush.
“Angel, get this man another coffee, will you?” I had barely touched the one I had, but apparently what he had to say next was for my ears only. “You know of George Foster then?”
I had to smile at that. “You don’t need to know art to have heard of him.”
While Dominic left a dramatic pause in the conversation, my brain arranged the day’s new information and events together like puzzle pieces. Before he could speak again, the connections had made themselves.
Now it was my turn to look pleased with myself. “The girl who started at my school today is George Foster’s daughter. Correct?”
I had no idea what exactly it was that Dominic did, but I knew he did it in the art world. If he had a new interest in my school to do with George Foster, then putting the rest together was pure logic.
His eyebrows shot up. It was not the first time I surprised him, but I think it was my favorite. “You are. Now, if it wouldn’t be too much to ask, please use those smarts of yours to scope out Foster’s house and get some early pictures of new work.”

Keep Reading

Chapter 44

Chapter Ten, first attempt

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