Dead Air #1 by Michelle SchustermanDead Air #1 by Michelle Schusterman

Dead Air #1

byMichelle SchustermanIllustratorStephanie Olesh

Paperback | September 6, 2016

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about

Kat didn’t believe in ghosts—until she became a teenage ghostbuster. . .

When Kat Sinclair’s dad tells her his new job hosting the ghost-hunting TV show Passport to Paranormal means they’ll be living on the road and visiting the world’s most haunted places, Kat packs her bags without a second thought. But her new life as a ghostbuster isn’t as cool as Kat expected. The cast and crew don’t always get along, the producer’s annoying nephew has unexpectedly shown up, and Kat thinks the show—and her dad—might be cursed. Kat decides to start writing a blog with “a behind the scenes look at the creepiest show on TV.” But she soon discovers that going behind the scenes may just reveal more than she really wants to know.


From the Hardcover edition.
Michelle Schusterman is a former expat and travel writer who has blogged her way through ancient graveyards in Scotland, fortresses in Korea, and desertedbeaches in Brazil. Michelle is the author of the I Heart Band series and currently lives in New York City.From the Hardcover edition.
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Title:Dead Air #1Format:PaperbackDimensions:248 pages, 8.63 × 5.13 × 0.63 inPublished:September 6, 2016Publisher:Penguin Young Readers GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0515157155

ISBN - 13:9780515157154

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CHAPTER ONEFrom: trishhhhbequiet@mymail.netTo: acciopancakes@mymail.netSubject: DON’T LEAVE ME!!!kat,are you packed yet? fyi, i’m working on a plan to keep you in Chelsea. so far, it involves setting a box of frogs loose in the airport to create a diversion while i steal your luggage. mark says my plan lacks finesse. it’s a work in progress.My first real memory was hearing my grandma scream bloody murder while being attacked by zombie hamsters. That scream won her Best Actress at the Dark Cheese B-Movie Awards in 1979. It was also her standard reaction for birthday presents, hide-and-seek, touchdowns, and any other scream-worthy occasion.So when I heard her award-winning shriek come from downstairs while I was duct-taping a box of books, I didn’t even flinch. Picking up a Sharpie, I scrawled Mysteries & Harry Potter on the side, then tossed the marker down and left my room.“Was it that diaper commercial again?” I asked when I entered the living room. “With the creepy dancing babies?”“Hang on, KitKat.” Grandma’s eyes were glued to the television. “This is the Glasgow episode, that old inn with the haunted garden. The grate scene is coming up.”I glanced at the screen and rolled my eyes. “Again? You’ve probably seen this a—”But Grandma flapped a perfectly manicured hand at me, so I zipped it and sat on the armrest of her chair.Passport to Paranormal claimed to be “the most haunted show on television.” Translation: “The most low-budget ghost-hunting show ever, which blames equipment malfunctions on paranormal activity.” During the pilot episode last year, the show had blacked out for almost two minutes near the end. The network, Fright TV, couldn’t explain the dead air. So naturally, the crew claimed ghosts were responsible.Ratings weren’t off the charts, but Passport to Paranormal’s small group of fans were pretty intense. They had a website and forums with heated debates over each episode, plus lots of gossip about the cast of P2P. They sold merchandise, too. Grandma was currently wearing a P2P baseball cap that said I BELIEVE.You never saw anything legitimately supernatural, but the show was still pretty entertaining. Besides, ghosts had nothing to do with why most fans—like Grandma— were so obsessed.On the screen, a guy with a flashlight edged around a stone wall. He was pretty good-looking, I had to admit . . . I mean, if too-long-to-be-real eyelashes and cheekbones sharper than a knife are your idea of good-looking.“I heard something,” a female voice behind the camera whispered—Jess Capote, I knew right away. I’d never met her in person, but she and my dad went to college together. They’d both worked on the university’s morning news show. “Right down there. Sam?”Sam Sumners closed his eyes. “I feel his presence.”I snorted. Grandma swatted my arm.“I think it’s coming from the grate,” whispered Jess, and Sam bent over to examine it. The camera zoomed in on the grate—and paused, just for a second, on Sam’s butt.Grandma sighed happily. “There it is.”“Grandma!”“What?” She finally tore her eyes off the screen to hit pause on the remote. “That’s some serious eye candy.”I groaned. “Oh my God.”“Oh my God is right,” Grandma agreed, her gaze straying back to the screen.“I don’t get why everyone freaks out over him,” I said, wrinkling my nose. “He looks like a Ken doll. Plastic.”Grandma pressed her hand to her heart. “You will not speak ill of Sam Sumners in my presence. And twenty bucks says you change your mind when you meet him in person.”“Doubt it.” But a flash of nerves hit me anyway. Not about meeting Sam, the show’s psychic medium and resident pretty boy. About being a part of Passport to Paranormal in general. After losing their third and most recent host, they would resume filming the second season at the end of this week with the newest host: Jack Sinclair, former anchor for Rise and Shine, Ohio! He was also my dad.In less than two days, Dad and I would be somewhere in the Netherlands. Instead of sleeping in my horror movie–postered bedroom, I’d be living in hotel rooms and buses. Instead of coasting through eighth grade on a steady stream of Bs at Riverview Middle School, I’d be homeschooled (or, I guess, roadschooled). Instead of hanging out with my best friends, Trish and Mark, I’d be spending most of the next year with a bunch of people who chased ghosts for a living.Dad had given me the option to stay in Ohio with Mom. Which, to be honest, wasn’t an option at all. Because of the Thing.“How’s the packing coming?” asked Grandma. I realized too late that she’d been squinting at me from under her baseball cap with her I-can-read-your-mind expression.“I’m pretty much done,” I replied. “Dad’s got to weigh the bags, though—they can’t be over fifty pounds.”Grandma leaned over and pulled something out from behind her armchair. “Well, I hope you have room for a little going-away present.”She held out a stuffed, wrinkled gift bag with snowmen all over it, and I laughed. We’d been recycling that bag for all gift-giving occasions since the Christmas when I was nine. It looked really festive until you realized the snowmen were zombies and the snow was spattered with blood.My smile faded when I peered inside and spotted the DVD. “Invasion of the Flesh-Eating Rodents? You know I’ve got this already!”“It’s the latest special edition!” Grandma said defensively. “Not officially released yet. And there’s three minutes of never-before-seen footage. A guinea pig attacks me in the shower.”Flesh-Eating Rodents was “Scream Queen” Edie Mills’s (aka: Grandma’s) seventeenth and final movie. At age six, I watched her play a butt-kicking veterinarian who saved the day when a rabies vaccine went horrifically wrong. I kept examining her fingers while the credits rolled, marveling that I couldn’t see all the chunks the hamsters had gnawed off.She’d shown me her movies in reverse order over the next few years—as I got older, film-star Grandma got younger. My least favorite was Vampires of New Jersey (her hair looked freaking ridiculous). The best one was Cannibal Clown Circus (she played a trapeze artist whose safety net was gnawed to pieces by zombies halfway through her act). I saw her first movie, Mutant Cheerleaders Attack, on Thanksgiving when I was eight. Watching your teenage grandmother in a cheerleading uniform with oozing scabs all over her legs is best done after eating your cranberry-sauced turkey, not before.“Anyway, that’s not so much a gift for you,” Grandma admitted, tapping the DVD. “I thought you might want to show it to Sam.”I tried to glare at her and failed. “Grandma. No.”“You never know, he might like what he sees.” She winked coyly, smoothing back her silver-streaked hair, and I laughed. “Now look back in that bag. I think you missed something.”Eagerly, I reached in the bag again and pulled out something wrapped in tissue paper. I tore it off, and the smile froze on my face.It was a camera. Specifically, it was the Elapse E-250 with a pancake lens, silver with a cool purple strap, the smallest and most compact digital SLR camera ever—and the exact one I’d spent most of seventh grade begging for. But that was last year, when I was still tagging along with Mom to every wedding or party she shot, drooling over all her cool professional camera equipment.Then she moved to Cincinnati, and I stopped caring about photography.Still . . . My hands gripped the Elapse, finger tapping the shutter button. Without really meaning to, I flipped it on and held it up to my eye. Grandma’s beaming face filled the viewfinder, and I lowered the camera hastily.“This is way too expensive,” I blurted out. “I mean, thank you, but I know it’s—I mean, I don’t . . .”Grandma waved a hand dismissively. “Don’t start with all that. Consider this a going-away-birthday-Christmas present, all right?”I swallowed hard. “Yes, but . . .”But I’m not into this anymore. I don’t want to be a photographer. That’s what I kept trying to say, but I couldn’t.“Listen to me,” Grandma said, and once again, I was pretty sure she’d read my thoughts. “You’re about to go traveling the world. Not only that, you’re going to hunt ghosts. You and your father keep calling this your big adventure, and I demand pictures.”“I could send you postcards,” I said, flipping the mode dial with my thumb.Grandma rolled her eyes. “What is this, the fifties? I’m not waiting by the mailbox. E-mail me. Hit me up with a text.” “Grandma,” I groaned. “Stop talking like that.”“Of course, you won’t be able to text from out of the country,” she went on, as if I hadn’t spoken. “Still, you can put them on Facebook. Or . . .” Grandma’s eyes widened, and she clapped her hands. “I’ve got it.”I held the camera up again, touching my finger lightly to the shutter button. “What?”“You should start a blog!”Click!Lowering the camera, I made a face. “I don’t think so.”“Why not?” Grandma demanded.I shrugged, examining the Elapse more closely. “I don’t like writing. And a blog sounds like too much work.”“I’ll tell you what’s going to be too much work,” she said. “Repeating the same stories over and over again when you talk to me and your friends and your mother and everyone else who’ll want to know what the glamorous ghost-hunting life is like. This way you can just tell us all at once.”“Eh, I’ll think about it.” I chewed my lip, flipping the mode dial back and forth again. “Hey, Grandma?”“Yes?” She was reaching for the remote when the question I’d been dying to ask for weeks now finally came tumbling out.“Is Mom back in Chelsea?”Grandma’s hand froze over the remote, and her mouth pursed slightly. “What makes you think that?”My stomach plummeted. I’d been hoping for No, of course not! “Trish,” I said, trying to sound casual. “Her brother said she was at the Starbucks by his school a few weeks ago. And she thought she saw her at the mall last weekend, too,” I added. Actually, Trish had been positive. “No one besides you and your mom has that crazy-long hair, Kat.”Grandma rewound the grate scene, chewing her lip a little. She seemed to be waiting for me to say something else. Or maybe she was just stalling, trying to think of a lie. Not that Grandma would ever lie to me. Neither would Dad. They both knew better.“Anyway, I thought maybe she came back to . . . say good-bye to us, or something,” I finished lamely. Sighing, Grandma settled back in her chair and looked at me.“If you want to know what your mother’s up to, maybe it’s time you start taking her calls.”She didn’t say it meanly, but I reeled a little bit. Grandma reached out to pat my hand, and I jerked it away.“Never mind,” I said shortly. “It doesn’t matter, anyway. I’ve got to finish packing.”Without looking at Grandma, I hurried back upstairs and closed my bedroom door. My oversize, must-weigh-less-than-fifty-pounds megabackpack was propped up against my wardrobe, stuffed with T-shirts, jeans, and hoodies. Most of my other stuff was in boxes for storage, although my furniture was staying put. That was the nice thing about having Grandma as a landlady—she would just rent this place to new tenants until Dad and I came home, so I didn’t have to say good-bye to the house I grew up in.Although to be honest, a small part of me didn’t care if I ever saw it again.I knelt down next to one of the storage boxes. This one was filled with sundresses I hated. The Thing crouched next to me, radiating disapproval as I taped the box closed. I ignored it.I’d almost told Grandma about the Thing probably a hundred times, but I knew she’d never believe it existed. In The Monster in Her Closet, Grandma played a girl whose childhood imaginary friend Edgar was terrorizing her neighborhood, and no one believed her.The Thing was kind of like Edgar. I couldn’t prove it existed. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t real.For a few minutes, I tried to distract myself by taping and labeling boxes. It didn’t work, though. There was no way Trish had mistaken someone else for my mom—we’d grown up in each other’s houses; she knew what my mother looked like as well as I did. And her hair—our hair, I guess—was pretty hard to miss. The superlong thick braid suddenly felt heavy against my back.It was the only feature Mom and I shared. She was pale in winter and fake-tanned in summer, with Grandma’s dark blue eyes and tiny nose. My skin and eyes were the same shades of brown as Dad’s, and our noses were both a little on the longish side. But Mom and I had the same slightly coarse, brown-black hair that fell in waves down to our waists. Two summers ago at the beach, I’d begged her to let me chop it off, but she’d said I’d regret it. What I really regretted were the hours I spent trying to get out all the saltwater knots and tangles.Grabbing the scissors, I cut a strip of tape a little more viciously than necessary and slapped it on a box of dressy shoes. Then I marched over to my dresser and set the tape and scissors down next to the Elapse.It really was an awesome camera. But I didn’t want to be a photographer anymore.My fingers tightened around the scissors.Maybe I didn’t want long hair anymore, either.Suddenly, my heart was pounding loud and fast in my ears. With one hand, I pulled my braid over my shoulder. With the other, I held the scissors to it at about shoulder level. Then I slid them an inch higher. And then another . . . and another.Then I started cutting.It took longer than I expected, probably half a minute of hacking away. When I finished, I set my braid down on my dresser and stared at it. It was weird, kind of like looking at my own severed arm (but obviously not as gross). Then I looked in the mirror.My hair was short. And slanted, since I’d cut it over one shoulder. I used a comb to part it down the center. Then I trimmed the left side until it was as short as the right and examined my reflection.It was about chin-length, and really choppy. My head felt a lot lighter. I liked it.I went back to packing, whistling the Passport to Paranormal theme song as I worked.CHAPTER TWOFrom: acciopancakes@mymail.netTo: trishhhhbequiet@mymail.netSubject: Re: DON’T LEAVE ME!!!Trish,Am at airport. Guessing Plan Frogpocalypse was a fail. Also a fail: waking up at 4 a.m. Our cab came at 4:30, and me and Dad were both still asleep. Oops.Kat“I’m sorry, Mr. Sinclair. This is more than a pound over the limit.”“No problem.”Dad’s talk-show host smile was going strong this morning. The airport check-in lady smiled back and watched, along with me and the approximately four zillion people behind us in line, as he unzipped my bulging megabackpack and started rummaging inside.“Dad—”“I got it, Kat,” he said. “It’s all just a matter of weight distribution.”I glanced at the line. A couple of blond girls, both younger than me, clutched the handles of their bright pink suitcases. Their parents were right behind them, the mom balancing a little boy on her hip.“Mickey!” the kid shrieked, and his mom smiled.“Mickey!” she agreed, stifling a yawn. “We’re going to meet Mickey tomorrow!”“Assuming we actually make this flight,” her husband grumbled, shooting Dad a dirty look.Family of five kicking off fall break with a trip to Disney World. How lovely for them.I turned back around to face Dad, who was holding up my puffy blue parka in one hand and a giant baggie stuffed with underwear and socks in the other. A green plaid bra was pressed up at the front like a kid’s face smooshed in a candy-store window.“Dad!” I hissed, and he tossed me the parka.“Don’t know what I was thinking!” Kneeling, he unzipped the already-stuffed duffel bag at his feet and crammed the baggie inside. “Jackets don’t count as carry-ons; we can just take them on board with us.”Dad pulled his own black parka out of my backpack (he’d run out of room in his), and we watched the scale drop from 51.2 to 50.5.“Almost there,” the check-in lady said encouragingly. Behind us, Blond Dad groaned.“Sorry, folks.” Dad beamed at the line of bleary-eyed travelers, and a few smiled back feebly. “Just another second.”He started groping around the backpack again, and the check-in lady cautiously peered inside.“What about that jar?”Dad turned to me, and I swallowed hard.“A jar of sand is pretty heavy,” the check-in lady added, her face suddenly uncertain as she glanced from Dad to me.Dad lifted the jar out of my backpack. The three of us had been bringing it to the lake every summer since I could remember, adding a little more sand every time. It had been Mom’s idea. I was in charge of packing it for every vacation—I hadn’t thought twice about bringing the jar. Dad cleared his throat. “What do you think, Kat?”“It’s just sand,” I said with a shrug. “Leave it.”Dad nodded slowly. “Okay. If you’re sure.”“Perfect!” the check-in lady chirped, and I saw that the weight had dropped to 49.6. “Now you’re ready to fly.”She set the jar under her console as we picked up our stuff, and I wondered what she’d do with it. Throw it away, I figured. She probably thought we were weirdos, trying to bring a jar of dirt to Europe.Once we’d made it through the crazy-long security line and the crazier-long Starbucks line, Dad and I flopped gratefully into a pair of black plastic chairs. I devoured two day-old blueberry muffins in about a minute. Dad burned his tongue chugging his latte and said it was worth it.“This hair’s freaking me out,” he said, making little circles in the air as he pointed at my head. “I could’ve taken you to a barber, you know.”I was trying to pick the blueberries out of my teeth. “It was a last-minute decision.”“Mmm.” Dad stirred his coffee, eyeing me. “You didn’t leave all that hair in your room, did you? It’ll scare the new tenants.”“Grandma took it,” I told him. “She said she’d donate it to some organization that makes wigs for cancer patients.”Dad smiled. “That’s nice, Kat.”“Hey, want to see something cool?” I asked.“Of course.”“I need your laptop.”After a few minutes of trying to get his clunky old laptop to connect to the airport’s Wi-Fi, I opened the browser, typed in a URL, then turned the screen to face Dad. His eyebrows shot up.“The Kat Sinclair Files?”“It’s a blog!” I said. “It was Grandma’s idea. This way I can post stories about the haunted places we visit for her and Trish and Mark and . . . anyone else. Plus pictures and stuff like that, too.”Dad laughed. “Very Nancy Drew.”“And Hardy Boys,” I agreed, thinking sadly of all the boxes of books I’d left in storage.“Ladies and gentlemen, we’ll begin boarding flight 221 to New York in just a few minutes.”A rush of nervous excitement flooded through me. Now that we were actually at the airport, this whole thing felt more real. When Mom took off last spring, I was convinced she’d come back. After all, she’d done this twice before—once when I was five, and again a few years later. Both times, she returned in less than two weeks, full of apologies and new promises.Not this time, though. Two weeks passed, then three. A month later, she was still in Cincinnati.That’s when things got weird. By the time school let out, I’d realized Mom probably wasn’t coming back. But I was still in a constant state of anticipation, waiting for something I knew logically wasn’t going to happen. And Dad started acting . . . restless. Like he needed a distraction, but nothing worked—not our traditional summer-slasher movie marathons, not a nighttime visit to Chelsea’s one and only supposedly haunted house, not even a visit to the paranormal museum on the other side of town. When I started school in August, Dad decided he was bored at Rise and Shine, Ohio! and started looking for anchor jobs at other networks, in other cities. After a few weeks, he posted something about job-hunting on his college’s alumni Facebook page, and Jess Capote left a comment:P2P needs a new host! Want to chase ghosts with me? ;)I still wasn’t sure if Jess had been kidding around. For all I knew, she was just as shocked as I was when Dad replied: Yes!“An adventure, Kat!” he’d said in a hyperenthusiastic sort of way, already looking up plane-ticket prices. “Traveling all over the world . . . It’ll be an experience, visiting all these new places. Haunted places,” he added, beaming. “That’s where the best stories are, right? The haunted places.”He went on and on like that. But I understood what he really meant. Yesterday at the going-away party my art teacher had given me, everyone kept asking about all the places I was going. And all I could think about was that I was finally leaving.I mean, I loved my house, school was easy enough. And I’d definitely miss Trish and Mark, and Grandma, of course. But I still wanted to go. It felt like an escape. I knew Dad must feel the same way.And secretly, I was hoping maybe the Thing would stay in Chelsea.“If the plane has Wi-Fi, I might work on my blog,” I told Dad when the other passengers started boarding. “I bet I can find a cooler layout.”“Sure.” Dad took a final swig of his coffee and tossed the paper cup into the trash can next to his chair. “I’m sleeping the whole flight. And the one after that.” He groaned, stretching his arms over his head. “And the one after that. Two layovers, bleargh.”I bounced up and down, watching the line of first-class people form at the gate. “I don’t know how you can even think about sleeping,” I told him. But ten minutes after the seat-belt light went off, I was crashed out, facedown on the laptop before the drink cart even rolled by.CHAPTER THREEPost: Travel Is a BeatingSeriously, all I want is a shower and a bed.That was my first blog post. No pictures, nothing else. I wrote it in Munich during our second layover. I didn’t think anyone needed to hear the details of the almost eighteen hours of boarding and unboarding I’d endured—squinting at airport maps, dragging luggage from gate to gate, chewing insanely dry turkey sandwiches, and kneeing the backs of inconsiderate people who insisted on reclining their seats into my lap before the plane even took off.When Dad and I finally checked in to our motel in Rotterdam, I passed out face-first on one of the twin beds and slept so hard not even Dad’s chainsaw-snores woke me.RING-RING. RING-RING.I groped around without opening my eyes, wondering why my alarm sounded so weird. Then I heard Dad’s groggy voice.“’Lo? This is Jack . . .” He cleared his voice, suddenly sounding much more awake. “Lidia, hello! Yes, we’re up. Half an hour? Sounds good, see you soon!”“Why’d they call in the middle of the night?” I mumbled. Dad pulled open the curtains and I yelped, ducking under the blanket to shield my eyes from the evil sunshine.“It’s almost eleven,” Dad said. “That was the producer—I’m going to check out the entrance to Crimptown, where we’re filming.” He yanked the blanket from my face. “Haunted tunnels, pirate ghosts . . . you coming?”My response was a grunt. I flipped over, piling two pillows on top of my head.But I couldn’t go back to sleep, despite my grainy, tired eyes. By the time Dad got out of the shower, I’d dug some clean jeans and a Tales from the Crypt T-shirt from my megabackpack.“Two minutes,” I promised, ducking around him and into the bathroom.Fifteen minutes later, we were out the door, the tangy smell of saltwater slapping me in the face. A man in a suit whizzed past us on a bicycle, jacket slung over his shoulder. I watched him head off the boardwalk toward the skyscrapers to our left. Farther down the harbor, I saw a massive bridge arched over the river, dozens of cables sweeping up from one end and connecting to a white, geometric sort of tower. It was oddly graceful-looking.“The Erasmus Bridge,” Dad told me. “Beautiful, isn’t it? They call it the Swan.”I nodded without responding. My head felt like someone had stuffed it with cotton balls, but through the fuzz, realization was starting to dawn.I was in another country.I followed Dad mutely down the wide boardwalk, eavesdropping on conversations and not recognizing a single word. Dad and I had listened to a Learn Conversational Dutch app he’d downloaded on one of our flights. Apparently nothing had sunk in through my jet-lagged stupor.Suddenly, I was very aware of how far from Chelsea I was, like someone had just swooped me from Ohio to this spot in two seconds flat. It was exciting and terrifying, like one of those elevator-drop rides at an amusement park. The breeze ruffled my newly cropped hair, and I felt a rush of giddiness. Maybe I really had escaped the Thing.“Do you see Jess?” I asked.“Lidia’s meeting us, actually,” Dad replied, his eyes scanning the crowd. “Jess is with the rest of the crew.”My stomach rumbled loudly. “Are we going to have breakfast with them? Do you think they have pancakes in the Netherl—”“Jack?”Dad and I both turned to face a woman barely taller than me. The frames of her glasses were huge and bright blue, the lenses magnifying her amber eyes. Strands of frizzy dark hair that had come loose from her ponytail whipped around her face in the wind. She looked kind of frazzled, but her smile was warm and friendly.“Lidia!” Dad turned on the talk-show charm full force. “Great to finally meet you.”They shook hands, and then Lidia held her hand out to me. “You must be Kat. Lidia Bettencourt.”“Nice to meet you, Ms. Bettencourt,” I said, taking her hand gingerly. It felt frail, like I might snap a bone if I squeezed a little too hard.“Oh, just Lidia, please!” Rummaging in her purse, Lidia frowned. “Now, let’s see, I thought I . . . here!” She pulled out an odd-looking gadget I recognized from watching the show—an EMF meter, which was supposed to . . . well, I wasn’t entirely sure how they worked. Grandma called them spook sensors. “Nope, that’s not it . . .” After another few seconds of groping around her bag, Lidia pulled out a few granola bars with a triumphant “Aha!” and held one out to me.“Thanks!” I said eagerly, ripping the wrapper off and devouring half in one bite.Dad took the other bar, watching me in amusement. “We haven’t had a chance to eat breakfast yet,” he told Lidia.“I figured,” Lidia said. “Jet lag is brutal, but don’t worry—you’ll get used to it. So, the theater’s just a few blocks . . . You don’t mind walking?”“Not a bit!” Dad replied cheerfully. I trailed behind them most of the way along the waterfront, staring out at the boats and wishing I had about eight more granola bars.Ten minutes later, we were looking up at a ramshackle theater. The bulbs around the marquee had all been removed, and only three letters were still hanging on—an I, an O, and a crooked U. The box office was boarded up and covered in faded graffiti.“Very creepy.” Dad said it like a compliment.“What’s with the ‘IOU’?” I asked, pointing at the marquee.Lidia tilted her head.“Ooh, I hadn’t noticed that,” she replied. “Good eye! Remind me to point it out to Jess—we should get a shot of it for the opening sequence.”I stared at the marquee again and found myself mentally framing it, adjusting the focus . . . Then I shook my head. I’d left the Elapse in my suitcase intentionally.“Do you believe in ghosts, Kat?”Startled, I looked at Lidia. She was smiling at me. “Oh, um . . . I don’t know.”“Good answer,” Lidia said with a grin. “I’ll ask you again in a week or so. Maybe your answer will be different.”“Maybe.” I couldn’t keep the doubt out of my voice.