You Owe Me a Murder(6)

“Nice,” I said, but she’d already moved on to the next display.

She stared up at the tower of Grey Goose vodka. “Want some for the flight?”

I crossed my arms over my chest. “I don’t think even you can talk this place into selling us booze.”

Nicki winked and I noticed she was wearing a hint of a shimmery eye shadow. “Who says they’re going to sell it?”

My heart picked up speed. I glanced over my shoulder to make sure we were alone. “You’re going to steal it?” I asked, lowering my voice. My heart rabbited into overdrive.

“No, we’re going to steal it,” she said, her light brown eyes sparkling. “No one ever suspects the nicely dressed girl with a British accent. They think I’m too posh to sink to thievery.”

A swarm of spastic butterflies tried to take flight inside my lungs. I was pretty sure I didn’t look too posh to be arrested. “I don’t know . . .”

“Up to you.”

The chatter from the two clerks at the front of the store as they debated the merits of Ryan Reynolds seemed unnaturally loud to my ears. I bit the inside of my cheek. “What happens if we get caught?”

Nicki’s lips curled up, Grinch-like. “Bad things. That’s why we’ll do it so we don’t get caught.” Her head tilted slightly toward the bottles of booze. “They haven’t put on the plastic antitheft devices yet, and I don’t see any cameras.”

She was right. Every other bottle in the store had a black plastic disk attached around the neck, but the display of Grey Goose was naked. I could almost hear the angel and devil perched on my shoulders. One advising me to do the right thing and go on to the next store and buy a pack of Trident like a good girl, and the other telling me that it wouldn’t kill me to take a risk now and then. Where had playing it safe gotten me? I wanted to be someone else, anyone else. Maybe if I wanted to change the course of my life I needed to change the things I did. Be someone who did daring things, like Nicki.

“What do we do?” I whispered.

Nicki poked my leather tote bag. “When it’s time, grab the closest bottle and drop it in.”

“How will I know it’s time?”

She tapped me on the nose. “You’ll know because you’re smart.” She turned back to the perfume display and grabbed a small bottle. “I’m going to check the price—?my mom loves this stuff.” She’d taken only a few steps when her foot hooked into the handles of a brightly colored canvas bag stamped with a maple leaf and the words CANADA FOREVER, sitting on the floor among other similar bags.

I opened my mouth to warn her, but she’d already jerked forward with a loud oomph. Her arms flew up as she fell and the bottle of perfume collided with the ground with a brittle smash. A cloud of a citrus and musk scent filled the air. The clerks flew to her side.

I was about to do the same when I realized this was it. My hand jerked out as if it were under the authority of another force and yanked a bottle of vodka off the display, plopping it into my tote. I jammed my elbow over the top of the bag to pinch it shut and hustled to where Nicki was now standing between the two clerks. My heart beat out of control.

“Are you okay?” I asked, surprised that my voice didn’t crack with the electric tension filling every inch of my body, zapping down my nerves, lighting me up from the inside.

“I’m okay. I think.” Nicki looked down at the broken glass on the floor and her eyes widened. “Oh, I’m so sorry.”

“You’ll have to pay for the perfume.” The tall clerk pointed to a YOU BREAK IT, YOU BUY IT sign by the entrance.

Nicki drew herself even straighter. “But I wasn’t being careless. I tripped on your bags, which were all over the floor.”

The mouth on the tall clerk pressed into a tight line, like a slash across her face. “If you don’t pay for it, we have to call a manager.”

Panic flashed like a bright white light. I had to do something. I kicked the canvas bags now strewn across the floor. “You should call a supervisor. Maybe if you hadn’t been so busy talking, and instead had straightened up this mess, it wouldn’t have happened at all. You know, if she’s hurt, you’re liable. My dad’s a lawyer—?he deals with this stuff all the time.” As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I wanted to swallow them back down. I hoped I was right. My dad was a dentist. Any legal knowledge I had was from watching The People’s Court when I stayed home sick from school. What had I done?

Nicki’s lip twitched. “Now that I think about it, my back is quite sore. I hit the floor pretty hard.” She rubbed the base of her spine.

The tall clerk looked ready to clobber Nicki, but the shorter woman with her hair tied up in a mountain of tiny braids put her hand lightly on the arm of the other. “We’re certainly sorry you fell.”

Nicki met her gaze. “And I’m sorry that the bottle broke.”

The short clerk smiled, her white teeth as bright as the wall tiles. “Well then, why don’t we just decide that no harm’s been done?” The tension that had been coiling inside me released.

“Are you sure?” Nicki asked. Her eyes were so wide, she looked like an anime character. When the clerk nodded, Nicki reached for me. “We should get back; our flight will be leaving soon.”

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