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* Julian Roman, age sixteen, is an escapee from the Fairmount County Juvenile Detention Facility.
* His parents, Michael Roman and Jennifer Roman, are dead.
* Julian is wanted for murder.
* Why is Julian Roman on the run?
* Just how dangerous is he?
* And who did kill Michael and Jennifer Roman, if not Julian?
Sixteen-year-old Day Connor views life through the lens of her camera, where perspective is everything. But photographs never tell the whole story. After Day crosses paths with Julian, the world she pictures and the truths she believes-neatly captured in black and white-begin to blur.
Julian is not the “armed and dangerous” escapee the police are searching for, but his alibis don’t quite add up, either. There is more to his story. This time, Day is determined to see the entire picture . . . whatever it reveals. Did he? Or didn’t he?
Day digs deeper into the case while Julian remains on the run. But the longer her list of facts becomes, the longer the list of questions becomes, too. It’s also getting harder to deny the chemistry she feels for him. Isit real? Or is she being manipulated?
Day is close to finding the crack in the case. She just needs time to focus before the shutter snaps shut.
Laurie Faria Stolarz is a master of suspense and romance. Shutter will keep readers guessing until the very end.
Copyright © 2016 by Laurie Faria Stolarz
Cover design by Phil Caminiti
Cover photograph by Micael Nussbaumer/Shutterstock
All rights reserved. Published by Hyperion, an imprint of Disney Book Group. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. For information address Hyperion, 125 West End Avenue, New York, New York 10023.
Design by Phil Caminiti
For Ed, Ryan, Shawn, and Mom,
with love and gratitude
I notice him right away, from the moment he steps into the store: tan skin, broad shoulders, and standing at least six feet tall. But it’s not just his looks that catch my attention; it’s the way he walks, sort of hunched forward, with his eyes focused downward, like maybe he has some secret. He’s hiding his face as well. It’s partially shrouded by the hood of his sweatshirt. The sides of fabric fold inward, over his cheeks.
The guy—probably around my age, seventeen or eighteen at most—makes furtive glances around the store from behind dark waves of hair that have fallen in front of his eyes.
I look toward the store owner to see if he notices him. He does, and reaches for something beneath the counter. A phone? A baseball bat? Mace? Should I grab Jeannie and bolt?
Instead I take my cell phone out of my pocket, kick it into camera mode, and zoom in, over the shelves, as the guy looks at a display.
I take a snapshot of his profile, but the angle’s bad. He won’t look up.
“Can I help you?” the store owner asks him.
He doesn’t speak, just shakes his head and moves to my aisle. Wearing dark gray pants that get caught beneath the bottom of his shoes, and a tattered zip-up sweatshirt, he’s standing only a few feet away now, looking for something specific.
“Are you ready?” Jeannie asks me, moving toward the register with her predictable box of Bugles.
“Just another minute,” I tell her.
I’ve come here on a mission, with a hard-core craving for taffy. The packages of Saltwater Twists are on the shelf above where he’s looking. But he’s obviously on a mission too, comparing tuna cans like they’re diamonds. I mean, does it really make that much difference if the tuna’s packed in water versus oil? Or if it’s albacore rather than chunk-light or yellowfin?
I wish I could freeze the moment—press PAUSE, take another snapshot—but I pocket my phone instead and take a few steps closer. “Excuse me,” I say, just inches from him now.
He peeks at me—light brown eyes, a startled expression, a glance toward the mole by my mouth.
I step on the bottom shelf and then reach upward, standing on tiptoes. The box of peanut-butter-flavored taffy is inches from my fingertips. I stretch a little farther, finally able to grab it. But then I lose my footing. My heel drops, and I stumble back.
Off the shelf.
The box of taffy flies from my grip.
The guy stops me from falling by catching me in a backbend of sorts—like one of those ballroom dips they do on dance shows—with his hands around my waist.
I gaze up into his face, noticing a cut on his cheek—a horizontal slash that sits right below his eye. His breath smokes against my forehead. He smells like gasoline and something else. Salad dressing? Garlic oil?
I stand up straight, regaining my footing. “Nothing comes between me and my sugar fix,” I say, in an effort to be funny. But it isn’t funny and he doesn’t laugh—not even a snicker.
The doorbells chime. “What’s taking Day?” Tori asks, poking back inside, shouting to Jeannie.
The guy moves to retrieve my box of taffy.
“Thank you,” I say, taking the box, telling myself to turn away. But something inside me can’t.
Because I just have to know: Who is this guy? And what is he hiding from?
“Day?” Jeannie calls out to me.
“Just another second,” I holler back. At this point, he must know that I’m stalling because of him. I have my taffy. There’s no other reason to linger. “Are you okay?” I ask him, half-stunned to hear the question in the air, out of my mouth.
He hesitates a moment before turning away and exiting the store.
It’s time that I leave too. Armed with my box of peanut-butter-flavored math motivation, I pay at the counter and head outside.
Tori and Jeannie are already waiting for me. “Finally,” Tori says.
I join them on the bench, placing my hand to my cheek, able to feel the lingering heat.
“Is everything okay?” Jeannie asks.
“Nothing is okay until we figure this out.” Tori shoves her phone in my face before I can even get a grip. “What do you think it means?” she asks. “I mean, ‘maybe I’ll see you around later…’”
It takes me a beat to figure out that she’s referring to a text from Jarrod Koutsalakis, junior class animé artist and her crush-of-the-week.
“Call me crazy,” Jeannie says, “but I think it means that maybe he’ll see you around later. Of course, I’m only getting a B in English right now, so my interpretive skills might be lacking.”
“Are you kidding?” Tori asks. “This message is reeking of subtext.”
“More like it’s reeking of dullness,” Jeannie says. “I mean, come up with something original already.”
“You’re missing the point.” Tori rolls her eyes. “I mean, like, why would he see me around? Like, where? Because it’s not as if I’ll be out on the town someplace special. The highlight of my night includes a pint of Häagen-Dazs and a TV clicker.”
“Maybe he’s hoping that you will be out on the town somewhere,” I offer. “Like, at the library or something.”
“Does Jarrod Koutsalakis even know where the library is?” Jeannie asks. “My vote: he’s giving you false hope. I mean, the boy is rumored to be seeing Becky Burkus.”
“Okay, but Becky Burkus is a total space cadet,” Tori snaps, “straight from the Planet Bimbo.”
“Right, and you’re not,” Jeannie says, poking a Bugle into her mouth. “So maybe Jarrod just needs to figure out what he really wants.”
Tori drags a strand of her dark pink hair up to her mouth for a nervous nibble. “So where do you think Jarrod likes to hang out? Should I go to the mall tonight? Or maybe to Yoyo’s for frozen yogurt…A lot of people like to hang out there….”
I take a deep breath, knowing I’ll need at least a few—or twenty—pieces of taffy if I’m going to endure more Jarrod talk. I start to open the package, and that’s when I spot him again.
The guy from inside the store.
He’s at the opposite side of the parking lot, walking away, down the street.
“Um, hello, is anybody there?” Tori sings, fanning her fingers in front of my eyes.
“I have to go,” I tell them.
“Wait, what about Yoyo’s?” Tori whines. “Should I go? And, if so, what should I wear? And is it hotter to get the brownie-batter yogurt or the pineapple?”
“Whatever you do, don’t get the rainbow sprinkles,” Jeannie teases. “He’ll think you’re a ho, for sure.”
I get up from the bench.
“No, seriously, what’s the rush?” Jeannie asks.
“There’s a photo I want to get.”
“For real?” Tori sighs. “You’re bailing on my crisis for a photo? As if the kagillion you have on your hard drive aren’t enough…”
I blow Tori a kiss. “I’ll call you later. We can discuss the Yoyo crisis then.” I turn away and pull my camera out of my bag, my eyes locked on the guy.
I follow him for four blocks, keeping a good distance between us. He ends up at the train depot. I take out my phone, pretending to be monopolized by a text, and duck behind a metal post.
I watch him from there. My camera strapped around my neck, I adjust the lens to get a close-up view, able to see a flash of facial scruff on his chin. He moves to the end of the platform where there’s a coffee vendor and some newspaper stands. He squats down to read the headlines.
I squat down too and take the shot, cringing at the click of the shutter. Meanwhile, he reaches into the pocket of his pants and feeds the machine a handful of coins.
I take a few more photos.
The noise makes my heart pound, but still he doesn’t seem to hear me. He takes a newspaper from the machine and flips it open to the middle to read.
I’m itching to see his hands up close; I wonder what kind of story they’d tell. There’s a recycling bin just a few yards away, but if I ran to it, I’d be in complete open view.
The guy crumples the newspaper into a tight ball, kicks the side of the newspaper machine, and throws the ball into the trash, clearly enraged.
A moment later, my cell phone rings: “The Chicken Dance” song. The doors inside my heart slam shut.
I duck back, behind the post, grab my phone, and turn it off.
Hadn’t I turned my ringer off? Did it click back on when I pocketed my phone before?
I venture to peek out again. He’s standing now, by the trash can. It doesn’t seem he heard my phone either. Or if he did, maybe he simply thinks there’s someone waiting for a train, minding his or her own business.
I readjust my lens once more, looking to get an even sharper view. His eyes are fixed on a bag that’s sitting at the top of the garbage heap.
He grabs the bag, opens it up, and pulls out what’s inside. He turns the thing over in his hand—a half-eaten bagel—as if trying to assess its worth. And then he takes a bite. His eyes press shut. He chews slowly, relishing every bit.
I assume he must be on the run, hiding from someone maybe. His hands are in full view at his mouth; there appears to be something on one of his wrists. I edge out a little farther to take the shot.
My shutter clicks.
His head snaps up.
His eyes meet mine and he stops chewing.
I tuck myself behind the post again. My chest heaves in and out. Blood stirs inside my veins.
But I don’t look back. I get up and scurry away, mixing in with other kids on the street, desperate to lose myself in the crowd.
Tuesday, October 13
I slipped inside the convenience store, hell-bent on getting food, except there was someone in the aisle that I needed to go down: a girl, around my age. I told myself to be quick. I wouldn’t make eye contact. The entire transaction would take twenty seconds, tops.
But then the girl came closer. I could see her inching toward me, could feel her eyeing the side of my face. Was it possible that she knew me? Or did she recognize me from the news?
I gave her some space, assuming that’s what she wanted. Meanwhile, intuition told me to leave. But curiosity caused me to look.
I never should’ve looked.
“Excuse me,” she said, reaching for something on the top shelf. She even climbed up on the shelf.
I started to turn away, but then she slipped and I caught her—like a reflex, without even thinking. My hands found the small of her back. My shoulder met her arm. For at least three seconds, her entire weight was supported in my grip.
I haven’t touched a girl like that in a long, long time.
Her hair spilled out from the hood of her jacket. She smelled so good—the floral scent of her shampoo tangled with the cinnamon on her breath. She gazed up at me with the palest blue eyes I’ve ever seen.
I went to pick up the box she’d grabbed. When I gave it back, she said something else—something about sugar. I wasn’t really paying attention to her words—too focused on her smile and the giggle in her voice; both of which threw me, because she didn’t look scared.
She asked me if I was okay, but I bolted for the door, hating myself for crossing the line. My dad was right. I can be so incredibly stupid at times.
It’s the following day, and I’m in my room, sorting through images, including some of the snapshots I took at the train depot. I’ve been thinking about that guy nonstop, wondering if he dropped out of school or ran away from home. Where does he spend his nights?
None of my pictures show much of his face, but I do have a nice shot of his hand. I’ve enlarged it on my computer screen and played with the colors, able to tell there’s a tattoo there, on the underside of his wrist, but I have no idea what it’s of.
On my way home from school today, I stopped inside that same convenience store and roamed the aisles, taking my time in choosing, half hoping he might show up. At one point, I could’ve sworn he was there—could feel someone’s eyes watching me from across the parking lot. But when I stopped to look around, I saw that I was alone.
“Day?” my mother calls me.
I get up from my desk and head down the stairs. Mom is standing at the bottom, with her jaw locked in tense mode.
“Is something wrong?” I ask her.
She leads me into the living room, where two officers—a man and a woman—stand by the window, staring in my direction.
“I’m Officer Nolan,” the woman says, “and this is Detective Mueller.” She nods to the man; he reminds me a little of Mr. Burns from The Simpsons, with his bulging eyes and shiny bald head.
Mom places her hand on my back. “The officers are looking for someone, and they were hoping that you could help.”
“Me?” I feel my face furrow.
“We’re searching for a sixteen-year-old male,” Officer Nolan says. “He’s about six feet tall, with dark hair, olive skin, a medium build—”
The answer clicks.
My skin starts to itch.
“The suspect escaped from a juvenile detention facility several towns away,” Detective Mueller explains. “Someone said they might’ve seen him in this area.”
“He was in the detention center for what?” Mom asks.
Officer Nolan pulls a photo from her pocket and hands it to me. “His name is Julian Roman,” she says. “He’s wanted for murder.”
Wait, what? My head spins. My heart tightens.
It’s him. The guy from the convenience store—the one from the train depot.
“Does he look at all familiar?” the detective asks.
“I think I remember this case,” Mom says. “It happened in Decker, this past spring. Isn’t that right?”
My body trembles. Heat rises up, encircling my neck. “I saw him.” I nod. “At the food mart.”
“When did you see him?” Mom nabs the photo from my hand. “And why didn’t you say anything?”
“I don’t…I mean, I didn’t…” I shake my head. The words aren’t coming quickly enough. The air in the room doesn’t seem ample enough.
“Wait, what’s going on?” Mom moves to stand between the officers and me: my very own personal body shield. “How did you know to come here?” she asks them. “And why does this concern my daughter?”
The officers exchange a look. “We actually caught your daughter on the surveillance video from the food mart,” Mueller says. “The owner of the store made a call to the authorities after the suspect left. It appeared that your daughter and the suspect might’ve had an exchange yesterday. Anything you want to tell us about?” He focuses on me hard.
“He seemed nice,” I say, my voice cracking over the words. “He got my candy and caught me when I slipped. But I could tell something wasn’t right. I thought that maybe he was hiding from someone, so I asked him if he was okay.”
“And what did he say?” Mom asks.
“Nothing.” I shake my head. “He left the store without an answer.”
“And did you see which way he went?” Officer Nolan asks.
“I did,” I say, proceeding to tell them how I had followed the boy to the train depot to take pictures for my project.
“You’re kidding, right?” Mom shoots eye daggers at me. She’s fully aware of my photography obsession, but said obsession probably doesn’t excuse the fact that I shouldn’t be stalking strangers (particularly ones that appear so suspect).
“We need to see those photos,” Mueller says.
I look back at my mother, gauging her reaction. She gives me a slight nod, and I lead them upstairs to my room. The photo of the guy’s hand is still enlarged on my screen.
“I like to take pictures,” I try to explain. “To show different perspectives of the same subject…It’s sort of hard to explain.”
But it doesn’t seem like they’re interested anyway. They’re going through my photos, discussing Julian’s clothes, his weight loss, and the fact that he was taking a big risk by being out in broad daylight.
“He probably thought he could mix in with the high school foot traffic,” the detective says.
“Do you think he’s still in this area?” Mom asks.
Officer Nolan looks up from my laptop. Her hair is the color of cranberries. “My guess is no. Most escapees don’t tend to stay in one place for very long. They may lay low for a few days, for fear of getting caught on the run, but after that they tend to flee.”
“Okay, but when did this boy escape?” Mom asks.
“Eight days ago,” Officer Nolan says.
“That seems like a long time to lay low, wouldn’t you say?” Mom folds her arms, back to shooting eye daggers (thankfully not at me this time).
“Well, technically he isn’t laying low. The detention center he escaped from is two hours away from here by car.”
“Could he be staying with a friend?”
The officer fakes a smile. “Anything’s possible.”
“And you have how many professionals working on this?”
Before the officer can answer, Mom’s cell phone rings. She checks the screen and then silences the tone. “Okay, so are we done?” she asks.
“Just about,” the officer says.
Mom’s phone vibrates again. “Excuse me a moment.” She ducks into her bedroom to take the call, desperate to free an American student from a Syrian prison. No joke; my mom is a real-life superhero as founder of Project W, an international nonprofit organization that fights for the rights of women. My dad’s not too shabby either as president of the SHINE network, a place that gives second (or third or fourth) chances to those who need one.
I assist the officers by e-mailing my photos to their accounts. They leave shortly after, making me promise to contact them should I see the guy again.
Finally Mom emerges from her room. “What happened?”
I start to tell her about e-mailing the photos, but her phone vibrates yet again. She checks the screen. “I have to take this. Would you mind taking Gigi for a walk?”
Yes, I would. “No, I wouldn’t.” Still, I grab our neighbor’s keys—as well as a bottle of pepper spray (courtesy of Dad)—and head out the back.
The leaves crunch beneath my steps as I head down the bike path. Gigi is our neighbor’s bulldog. Her owner works as a nurse and often does double shifts, relying on us to make sure that Gigi gets exercise (and bathroom breaks).
It’s chilly out, mid-October, and the ground is barely visible with all the fallen leaves. Normally Dad takes care of the yard, but since he and Mom have separated, I’m left to pick up the slack, quite literally.
It’s nearing dusk. The smell of a nearby barbecue makes my stomach growl. I continue forward, thinking about the officers’ visit, reminding myself that there’s still plenty of daylight left, that the guy has probably fled the area, and that there’s pepper spray in my pocket.
The wind rakes through the tree limbs, rustling the leaves. Birds twitter. Twigs snap. I tell myself that these sounds are normal and this sudden flutter of anxiety is purely psychosomatic—the result of the officers’ probing.
But then I come to a sudden stop, able to hear branches breaking. It’s two full breaths before I continue forward again. The roof of Rita’s house peeks out over a cherry tree. I go to unlatch her gate, noticing something moving in the distance.
A tree shakes.
Its branches flutter.
There’s another snapping sound.
Gigi’s barking inside the house.
I pull the gate open. At the same moment I see someone—dark clothes, hunched posture, hooded sweatshirt—about ten yards away.
I tell myself it isn’t him. I mean, it can’t possibly be him.
My pulse racing, I scoot inside the gate, behind a tree, and pull the pepper spray from my pocket.
But it tumbles from my grip. And drops to the ground.
I look up again, my heart pounding, my head spinning, unsure if he’s seen me. He’s turned away now, his back toward me, headed for the center of town.
I race home—back down the path, across the yard, up the steps, and into the house—locking the door behind me: two bolts, plus the chain.
Mom’s holed up in her office, still talking on the phone.
“Mom?” I knock, pushing the door open. It hits the wall with a thwack.
“Yes,” she says into the phone, blocking her free ear with a finger.
“This is really important,” I persist.
“Could you hold on a moment, Genevieve?” Mom places her palm over the speaking part of the receiver and finally looks up. “What is it?”
“I really need to talk to you.”
“And I really need to free an innocent girl from prison. Can it wait a couple of minutes?”
She holds up her index finger, indicating another minute. “What’s that, Genevieve?” She blows me a kiss. “I’ll be off in just a bit.”
I remain in the doorway for several seconds, listening to her ask questions about the accused girl’s whereabouts at the time of her supposed crime.
Finally, I go up to my room, grab my laptop, and open it on my bed. A quick Google search with the words “Julian Roman,” “Decker, MA,” “Fairmont County,” and “Roman murder” and several news stories pop up.
JUVENILE SUSPECT MISSING FROM DETENTION CENTER
WEBER, MA—A male, 16, was reported missing from the Fairmount County Juvenile Detention Facility. The suspect, Julian Roman of Decker, had last been seen in the center’s courtyard at approximately 4 p.m. on Tuesday, October 6th. An officer at the center reported Roman missing at 6:45 p.m. when he failed to show up for dinner. Roman, described by officers as quiet, keeping to himself and often writing in his journal, had been awaiting trial for the alleged murder of his father. Roman is reported to have dark hair, brown eyes, an athletic build, and to be six feet tall. He has a tattoo of a pickax on his wrist, and was last seen wearing an orange suit from the detention center. Anyone fitting his description should immediately be reported to the Weber Police Department.
BODIES FOUND—FOUL PLAY SUSPECTED
DECKER, MA—The body of a forty-five-year-old man, Michael Roman, was discovered at the family home in Decker Village Park at approximately 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 4th. Police were called to the scene. Investigators say the victim suffered head injuries.
- On Sale
- Oct 18, 2016
- Page Count
- 352 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers