Miranda searched for the card, but it wasn’t in any of Alice’s usual places. She counted down from ten and huffed out a breath. She’d look again later.
At least with Alice gone, she had maybe a half hour or so for her new hobby.
She dug out the spyglass from under her bed and ran downstairs and out into the front yard.
Dad had said having hobbies was healthy. “Normalizing.”
Once she was on the front lawn, she looked back at the house. At least that was perfect. She’d always wanted to live in a two-story house. She loved having her own bedroom. It didn’t hurt that their house was on the corner. She had an easy view of three other houses from her favorite hiding place.
After checking for prying neighbors, she climbed into the juniper bushes in front of their yard. Dad had never trimmed them, so they grew high and wide to block out everyone else on Huntington Street. Genus juniperus were scratchy and smelled like disinfectant, but were also thick so no one could observe her while she sat inside, nearly perfectly in their center. She’d measured.
Most importantly, Dad or Alice wouldn’t see her if they came home unexpectedly.
Dad was paranoid about a lot of things. He was constantly drilling into Miranda’s head: she had to be careful and observant, she had to be clearheaded and ready. The only bonus of being on the run her whole life was she was prepared for anything.
She let out another breath as she unpacked her spyglass. It was nice to relax for a few minutes.
Dad wanted her to practice “being normal,” whatever that meant. What was normal about studying subjects way above other kids her age? Not that she minded learning, she loved it, but he also wanted her to try to fit in as much as possible. He had all these rules about how she should act in school. This meant no weird friends, no acting weird.
No thinking weird. He actually said that.
The Bauteils’ tiny house came in and out of focus in the crappy thrift-store spyglass. Miranda had to keep adjusting it.
Cindy’s was the only single level house on the whole street, and it was about half the width of the house next door. That in and of itself was kind of weird. She made a note in her notebook.
A shape moved in Cindy’s room. Miranda refocused.
Cindy came into view and shut the door behind her. She was a little shorter than Miranda. Blonde. In the same grade, so probably roughly her age.
Her room had no posters. The walls had small, framed pictures, but the spyglass wasn’t powerful enough to see what was in them.
At least the room wasn’t pink like most of Cindy’s dresses.
She grabbed something from her dresser and plopped onto the bed. Coming down so hard, she bounced a little.
Miranda wrote, “Cindy Bauteil” in her investigator book. Bauteil sounded French, but it was actually German. It meant “part,” which seemed like a weird last name. She made another note and wrote CONFIRMED next to Cindy’s name. She’d seen it written in the school office when she’d gone in one time to offer tutoring.
Under Cindy’s name she wrote:
- Tom Bauteil
- Bill Bauteil
- John Bauteil
She still had to figure out the last two dad’s first names. She’d done a quick google check, but couldn’t find any references to the Bauteils. Maybe she could look for paperwork at the library and city hall. She could also go through their trash.
Oh, right, dads. Plural. Cindy had five dads.