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8:30 A.M.

I was sitting on the balcony of the hotel, staring out at the city. I felt numb. Howie was laying on the bed in the room in the dark with a damp cloth over his eyes. Nick's enrgies were being channeled elsewise; he was pacing, muttering angrily under his breath about the Phony Bitch Investigator, which he was certain "F.B.I." stood for at this moment. I wasn't about to tell him that phony wasn't spelled with an F.

"Me," he snapped, "A suspect...That's bullshit."

"You act guilty when you're nervous," I said in a monotone, "You always have, that's why it's so easy to pin stuff on you."

Nick shook his head, "This is way more serious than trying to convince Kevin I was the one that spilled tomato sauce in the fridge and didn't clean up," he said, "This is more serious than telling Kevin I was the one who broke the window in that hotel room..."

"That was Howie, actually," I mumbled, "With the ironing board."

Nick stopped pacing and stared at me.

"I did the tomato sauce thing," I clarified, "But Howie was the broken window person."

Nick raised an eyebrow. "Howie? Really?" he thought about it, then turned away and started pacing once again. "The point of the matter is it's not okay that I'm a suspect in AJ's muuu--" he couldn't get the word murder out, so he stopped trying after he muuu-muuuu'd a few times.

If I wasn't so numb, I might've laughed and pointed out that he sounded like a cow.

"It's bullshit," Nick repeated.

I sighed.

"Fucking Bullshit Investigation," he added, pacing even more vigorously than ever before.

"I can't believe he's dead," I whispered.

It'd been only a few hours, but it already felt like years since I'd seen AJ's face. My mind was hazy about what he looked like, about the finer points of his features. I gnawed on my lip. I could almost hear him in my head, saying some stupid thing about Nick's ranting, betting me fifty bucks that he came up with more acronymns for FBI within the hour.

AJ liked to bet fifty bucks on almost anything.

Nick cussed and spit over the side of the balcony.

"Will you please calm down?" I asked him.

He looked at me. "Calm down?" he asked, "Brian, AJ's dead! How the fuck am I supposed to calm down?"

I looked away.

I wasn't really sure because honestly my heart was pumping blood as venomous as Nick's words were, I just had never been raised to speak it. I didn't have words to wrap around my emotions to shoot out like rocket. Nick had always been good at personifying his emotion, at putting words and actions around it. I'd never been good at it. But Nick... he always seem to come up with something to say, something to do, that would make everything better. But really, what was Nick gonna do now? There wasn't anything that could bring AJ back from the dead.



It came to me at noon. Brian and I were sitting in an oxygen bar (yes, an oxygen bar) in the middle of Stockholm. It was as if all the extra air grabbed all the jagged pieces of my thoughts and put them together in a nice, easy-to-assemble puzzle.

"That's it!" I said loudly. Several people looked my way. Bri's eyes flew open.

"What's it?" he whispered. I gave an apologetic wave to the people glaring at me and pressed my spine against the back of my chair.

"I know what we can do," I whispered back.

"Of course you do. You heard her. We, well at least you don't leave town."

"That's not what I mean. I don't trust them."

"Nick, they're the professionals. They're going to analyze all that," Bri paused, swallowing painfully, "evidence and see if they can get DNA to find out who did this."

"And how long's that going to take? Weeks? Months? Years? I'm sorry Bri, but I'm not going to stay around here sitting on my ass. You saw how that Lennon chick looked at me. She hates me. Why would she help anyone associated with me? We've got to do this."

"We? Do you have a mouse in your pocket?"

"Bri, I can't do this alone. I'll screw this up."

"Screw what up?"

I bit my lip. "I have to show you something."

He didn't answer. I sat up, reached into my jacket, and pulled out an IPod. Bri's face didn't change.


I held it closer to him. "This is AJ's IPod. He never goes anywhere without it."

Bri winced. "Nick, I don't...I don't think he had a choice."

I shook my head. "No, I think there's a clue."

"A clue? Nick we're not the Hardy Boys!"


"Never mind."

I turned on the device, typed in AJ's password (9009 - otherwise known as 'boob' on a calculator turned upside down) and pressed the Music button. "Look."

Blue eyes turned and studied the screen. "I don't get it."

"It's Bow Chicka Wow Wow."


"It's on repeat."


"Remember? I played this song so much that J said he wanted it to burn in the fiery depths of hell? Why would it be on repeat?"

Bri blinked. "Because AJ's all bark and no bite and was probably enjoying every second of your torture?"

I shook my head. "No, I don't think so. Look at the cover art. Where's Mike Posner sitting?"


"Humor me!"

He leaned in closer. "A plane?"

"Exactly." I smiled proudly.

"I don't get it. And even if I did get it, where do you think he went Sherlock?"

I looked back down at the screen.

"I don't really get it either."

"And I don't have a clue where he'd go unwillingly. But willingly..."

"I might have a hunch." "Well, that's great, but you can't leave town."

Bri was giving me one of the looks he gave Baylee when he caught the kid rolling around on his scooter without the giant blinged-out Wylee helmet that Leighanne made him wear. It was half irritation, half pity.

"Nick, there's nothing we can do. You certainly can't get on a plane."

A knot rose in my throat. The image of Mike Posner swam in front of me. This was AJ. One night, right when we had first started in the group, we had become blood brothers in a shitty hotel room. We were the two youngest. I had a duty. Why did Brian not see this?

"I can leave," I said stubbornly.

"I just have to make a few...alterations."