Excerpt from

Summer Girl

Mary Shelburne, in danger of losing her unborn baby and needing help with her two other children during a summer at the beach, has just interviewed 14-year-old Cinni for the job. Though young and rather drab-looking, Cinni came across as mature, responsible, knowledgeable, and cultured. Mary has decided to look no further.

Mrs. Shelburne waited with Cinni until the elevator came. Cinni would have preferred to wait alone, but she grinned amiably and waved goodbye as the elevator bore her away.

As soon as she was out of sight, she hugged and congratulated herself on getting the job. Fifty dollars a week plus room and board. Not bad. And the woman hadn't said anything about working papers or Social Security.

She walked out through the lobby, gliding over black and white tiles, past a wall of Pompeian red with inset mirrors in big gold frames. Pretty nice, for an old building. And it had a doorman, too. She wouldn't have minded a setup like that.

The doorman ushered her out into a windy April evening. For a moment she stood looking over at Riverside Park, at the playground where Mrs. Shelburne took her children. Then she started up the hill toward Broadway.

She smiled, thinking of Mrs. Shelburne's reaction to her story about the dumbwaiter. She hadn't told the half of it. It was through that dumbwaiter shaft that she and her friend Marilla used to climb up to old Mrs. Binney's apartment, holding onto water pipes and gaining a shaky foothold on the rough bricks and crannies in the wall.

Mrs. Binney had been taken to the hospital following a stroke, so the apartment was empty for a while. The two girls went up to explore and found the place full of treasures, curios and pieces of jewelry, squirreled away in trunks and cartons. They were things Mrs. Binney was not likely to miss right away if she were suddenly to get well and come home.

For two weeks they made those excursions, whenever they could do so undetected, until the day Marilla fell.

Well, not exactly fell.

It was her own fault, actually. It never would have happened, if she had only given Cinni that filigreed necklace with the clear blue beads and the diamond teardrops. They had both found it at the same time, but Marilla got her hands on it first.

"It's mine," Cinni had told her. "You'd better let me have it." She could hardly have made it plainer. There should not have been any problem.

But Marilla had to be stubborn. . . .

After she fell, the management discontinued its dumbwaiter service and plastered over the doors, so nobody else could get inside. But Cinni was safe, and her secret was safe. She had gotten Marilla's plastic bag of loot away from her, and she hid it in her bedroom before telling anyone Marilla had fallen. People had heard the scream, but they didn't know what it was. Nobody thought to look in the dumbwaiter shaft.

Stupid, stupid people. Cinni smiled again and watched her white shoes padding along the sidewalk.

It wasn't that she was so smart. It was just that other people were so stupid.

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