by Natasha Deen
Two years ago, Josie Smith’s life went up in smoke. Literally. Everyone and everything she ever loved burned in a fire—one set by a crooked cop. To survive, Josie’s been living under the radar as a homeless kid while trying to find a way to knock the cop down a few notches and put her on the other side of the prison bars. But time’s running out. A pimp’s got his eye on Josie, and if she doesn’t get off the streets soon, she’ll be the one brought down. Her salvation and the key to the cop’s undoing seem to lie with a car thief and a rich kid. Trust and teamwork don’t come easily to Josie—in fact, they don’t come at all—but if she can’t find a way to make the team work and find justice for her family, she will get burned all over again.
It would be so easy to kill her.
So simple to pass by her on the streets, take her breath with the same ease I’d take her wallet. I’ve been on the streets for two years and I’ve learned how to pick pockets and steal apples, which alleys are safe to sleep in and which ones to stay away from.
And I know how to use a knife.
How easy it would be bump into her. Instead of slipping my fingers into her purse, I’d slide my blade between her ribs, and I would whisper, “This is for Emily and Danny and Emma.”
And she would look at me, startled, shocked.
And I would smile and walk away, leave her bleeding on the streets and the red stain of her life dripping from the smooth edge of my knife.
But I can’t.
Death would be too easy for her. A cop murdered on the streets. She’d get a hero’s burial and people would cry. The department would decorate her and the Police Chief would make speeches about her “sacrifice and loyalty to the people she served.” Newscasters with their helmet hair would use their The World is Ending voices and talk about the need for better policing. People would rally for tougher laws. Cops would roust the homeless.
I live with these people.
They’ve been rousted enough.
I won’t bring pain and torment to their already tortured lives.
Besides, if she died on the street, no one would know the truth of her.
The lies of her.
I will not kill her.
She will not die.
Not by my hand.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Natasha Deen is the author of over a dozen books and divides her time between writing, presenting at schools, and speaking at conferences. Her previous novels include the CCBC Best Pick for Kids and Teens and 2015 Sunburst Award nominated Guardian, and the True Grime series. In her spare time she cuddles on the couch with her furry and non-furry family, and thinks the best way to beat writer’s block is with tea and cookies. Visit her at http://www.natashadeen.com.