Defender by Graham McnameeDefender by Graham Mcnamee

Defender

byGraham Mcnamee

Hardcover | April 12, 2016

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From the Edgar Award­–winning author of Acceleration comes a mystery about an old murder and new truths, perfect for fans of Barry Lyga, Madeleine Roux, and Michelle Gagnon.
 
They call her Tiny, but Tyne Greer is six foot six, a high school basketball star who is hoping the game will be her ticket out of the slum. She lives in a run-down building called The Zoo, where her father is the superintendent. One day she discovers a crack in the wall of an abandoned basement room. And sealed up in the wall is a girl’s body. Horrified, she runs to get her dad. But after he goes to take a look, he comes back and tells Tyne that nothing’s there. No girl. No body. He tells her she must be seeing things in the dark.
 
Tyne is sure it was real, though, and when she finds evidence that the body was moved from the hole in the wall, she knows the only one who could have done it is her father. But why? What is he hiding?
 
Tyne’s search for answers uncovers a conspiracy of secrets and lies in her family. The closer she gets to the truth, the more dangerous it becomes for her. Because some will do anything to bury the past . . . and keep her silent.
Graham McNamee won the Edgar Award for Acceleration. He also wrote the thrillers Bonechiller and Beyond. A creature of the night, he lives in the dark.
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Title:DefenderFormat:HardcoverDimensions:240 pages, 8.56 × 5.75 × 0.88 inPublished:April 12, 2016Publisher:Random House Children's BooksLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0553498959

ISBN - 13:9780553498950

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1  “Attack or retreat? Do I shoot, or shake you?” Dad says. “What’s my next move, girl? Read me.” He stares at me across the little back alley basketball court behind our building. He’s got the ball, but I’m between him and the hoop. “Whatever you try, old man, I’ll smack it down.” He laughs. Dad’s my trainer. He’s big, but I’m bigger. I play center on my high school team, and I’m a monster. Six feet six inches tall. They’ve got a lot of names for me--Girlzilla, Bigfoot, Titanic. But mostly they call me Tiny. Because my real name is Tyne, and they think it’s funny. “What’s my move?” He dribbles just out of reach. A bear of a guy, with shaggy brown hair, a stubbly beard and a growly voice. It’s after dark, deep in December. You can see our breath in the cold air as we work up a sweat, playing by the parking lot lights. The hoop is bolted to the wall. “Don’t watch the ball,” Dad says. “It won’t tell you. Not my eyes either--the eyes will trick you, looking one way when I go the other. I can fake you out with my shoulders, head, hands.” He shows me the fakes, making me bite every time. “Where do I look, then?” “Right here.” He pats his gut. “The belly button. Body can’t go anywhere without it. Where it goes, the rest follows. So, read me now.” Dad runs through a sequence of fakes, getting me to twitch but not commit to his moves. I waittill his gut twists, giving him away, and then I’m there to cut him off. “Not bad.” He backs up. “Remember, keep low. Knees bent, on your toes, butt down, arms out. How’s the knee feeling?” “Sore, but not screaming.” I’m a wounded warrior. Got injured in a game, and now I’m wearing a brace on my right knee till it heals. “Take it slow and steady. We’ll get you back in the game.” It’s crunch time for me in the push to score a college scholarship. I’m seventeen, and this is my senior year. The scouts are watching, looking for prospects, and I can’t let them think I’m damaged goods. So we have our after-school practices here, with Dad showing me what he picked up playing hoops himself, and we focus on the key defense drills--the moves and footwork. It’s a dance, he likes to say. “You had enough?” Dad asks. “You’re the one huffing and puffing.” I breathe deep, the chilled air a fresh shock to my lungs. These are the dying days of the year, but winter hasn’t really hit us yet. The city wakes to morning frosts but stays sunny and mild, with no snow. Feels like the calm before the storm. “You talk trash.” He grins. “Can you back it up?” “Try me.” He retreats, eyes shining in the darkness where the lights don’t reach. I crouch low, waiting for him to make his move. We face off for a long moment, the seconds counting down to the beat of the bouncing ball. Then he charges. Straight at me, before twisting right. I get there before him, but he pivots, spinning left to pass. I back up quick to stay with him, and just as he goes in for the layup I bang into him, swatting away the ball. We slam together and I get knocked off-balance. I lose my feet and start to go down, but Dad catches me. We stagger in each other’s arms, and he turns before we crash into the wall so he takes the impact. Dad grunts, the windknocked out of him. We separate and he hunches over. “You okay?” he pants. I nod, gasping. “That was . . . a foul, girl.” “No way,” I say. “Clean block.” “You play dirty.” “I get it from you.” He laughs, breathless. We call it a night. I hunt down the ball in the shadows; then we make our way to the back door, winded and stumbling, leaning together to keep each other up. A dance in the dark with my old man.    2  I wake up to the end of the world. My bed shaking, the room quaking. The deafening noise of concrete cracking. My eyes fly open. I try to focus and see if the walls are splitting open, and the ceiling is collapsing on me. My little brother isbouncing on my mattress, while the roar of the road crew tearing up the street outside thunders loud. I fight to catch my breath. Just another day here. Not the end of the world, only feels that way. “Quit it, Squirrel,” I say. We call my brother that because he’s always climbing, pouncing and bouncing--like now. I go to kick him off, but stop. Reaching down beside my bed, I grab a basketball off the floor. “Go fetch.” I toss the ball out the door of my room. As he chases after it, I get up and lock the door. Stumbling over to the window, I open it for a breath of chilly air, and get blasted by the wrecking crew twenty-five floors below. We live in downtown Toronto at the top of a slum tower they call the Zoo. Istare out at the view, still expecting something apocalyptic. But there are no bombed-out buildings, mushroom clouds or giant meteors in the sky. Those wandering figures in shredded clothes down there aren’t the undead rising, just homeless people turned out from the shelter down the street. And it’s a gorgeous sunny day, freaky fine weather for early winter. You’d think the city workers would get the week off from construction chaos. But it’s December 27 and they’re back at it with their Christmas break quake. I stretch out as much as I can in my small room. But it’s a tight squeeze for a giant with my reach. From fingertip to fingertip I’ve got a wingspan not far off seven feet. I take a size fourteen men’s sneaker. And my weight--never mind. I’m big. My phone buzzes fromsomewhere in my sheets. I dig it out and find a text from my guy, Stick. He’s known as Stick because he’s a skinny twig of a dude. The message says: Rise and shine, Tyne. HOLIDAZE CRAZE! Let’s run naked in the streets. Set this town on fire! And there’s a shot of Stick with his eyes bugged, spiky curls sticking straight out, mouth wide in a silent shout--looking like somebody just tased his testicles. I text back: Arson +Indecent Exposure? Count me in. But breakfast first. We’re free for another week, so I’m up for anything. I turn and trip over my discarded knee brace, wincing at the stab of pain that shoots up my right leg. I grab the bottle of painkillers on my desk and pop one. During a game, I got a minor tear in my MCL, the ligament that holds the knee together. I’ve been sidelined for weeks. I’m trying to cut back on the pills so I don’t get hooked, just one in the morning to get me started and one at night so I can sleep. I limp down the hall to the bathroom, keeping an eye out for Squirrel attacks, and shut the door. “You again,” I grunt at my reflection in the mirror. I’m not a big fan of my face. There’s too much of everything: wide brow, long nose, square jaw. I’ve got the bone structure of a Viking giant. I keep my black hair long because I get mistaken for a guy way too much. They never see me, just my size. But I like my eyes. They’re leaf green, a warm summer color, and they contrast with my dark brows and thick eyelashes. Stick calls them emerald, says they light up like green fire. He’s my kind of crazy. Dad customized the shower so I can fit. He’s almost as tall as me, so he understands. When you’re freaky big you’ve got to be a contortionist to fit into this world. I turn on the hot to ease the stiffness in my knee, but I’m blasted with freezing-cold water. I gasp, frantically twisting the hot faucet and getting only ice. Nothing ever works in this dump. I do a quick arctic rinse, grab a towel and rub some warmth back into my goose-bumped flesh, then pull on my pajama bottoms and T-shirt. I run into Dad in the hallway, carrying his toolbox. “Good, you’re up,” he says. “Up and frozen.” “Hot water’s out.” “Little late on the update.” I shiver, my hair dripping icicles down my neck. “We’ve got a broken pipe in the basement. Major flooding. And a partial power outage, with two of the elevators out of order. So I’m going to need you, honey.” “No way.” Dad’s the superintendent of our building, and when everything’s falling apart--as usual--I have to help. Slum slave, that’s me. “I’m on break,” I tell him. “No school, no work, no nothing.” “I just need you for an hour, tops. Then you’re free. Pay you double.” I want to say no. But he’s got a monster of a job, and I can’t leave him hanging. “One hour, then I’m gone.” “That’s my girl.” “More like your helper monkey.” The basketball I tossed for Squirrel lies on the floor between us. Dad puts down his toolbox and picks it up. “Maybe we can work on your free throws later. Gotta improve your shooting percentage.” He bounces the ball between his legs, shifting and shuffling his feet like he’s going to blast past me for a basket. “Show the scouts you can hit your foul shots.” Dad’s my motivator and superfan, dreaming up a life for me beyond this place. Not many Zoo grunts like me make it out and go to college. But right now it’s just a dream. So I’m stuck with janitor duty. He gives me the flood in the basement to clean up. “It’s all in the wrist.” He passes me the ball. “What, mopping or shooting?” “Both, honey.” He scoops up his toolbox and gives me a scratchy stubble-kiss on the cheek as he squeezes by. I dribble the ball through the living room, where Squirrel is arguing with the TV. In the kitchen, Mom’s getting her heart started with her first cup of coffee. They call her Red, because her hair is flaming. She’s so petite you’d never guess she’s popped out two kids, especially a beast like me. “You look blue,” she says. “Ice bath.” I set the ball on the counter, and she watches me mix up my morning protein shake in the blender. “Dad’s got me on flood watch. On Christmas break.” “What can I say? That’s life.” I think about that as I fire up the blender. Mom’s always a morning grouch, because she works late nights as a waitress over at Shooters, a local sports bar. “That’s helpful.” I gulp my chocolate-banana smoothie. “Hey, if you want wisdom, wait till I wake up.” She gives me a sleepy smile, a little hug and a pat on the butt to send me on my way.   The only working elevator takes forever. When the doors finally open, I have to watch out because theelevators are usually out of sync with the floor by about a foot. On four, old lady Celia joins me. At ninety-one years old, she’s been living here forever. I hold the doors and give her a hand so she can make the step down using her cane. Shemoves in slow motion, with an artificial hip and both knees replaced (but the boobs are still real, she likes to joke). “Thanks, supergirl. You know there’s no heat? I could make ice cubes on my radiator. What kind of place are you running here?” “More like it’s running us. A pipe broke. We’re working on it.” “Well, I’m going out to warm my bones in the sun.” She looks me up and down in my work gear. “You won’t be needing those rain boots. It’s a beauty of a day.” “Not where I’m headed.” The elevator stops and Celia makes her creaky way out into a lobby flooded with sunshine. I feel like escaping into the sweet daylight. But then the doors slam shut. Taking me down.    3  I wade into the flooded furnace room and turn on the pump to start draining the water through a hose that empties into a sink across the hall. The tremors from thedemolition work to replace the city’s old sewer lines have been shaking our foundation and breaking pipes all over the place. So here I am, GhettoCinderella, cleaning up her dungeon. Another half hour and I’ll trade these rain boots for some glass sneakers--and go party. The motor on the pump echoes loudly, thudding off the walls. Thump thump thump. I wander down thehall to get away from the noise and the damp, but the thumping follows, vibrating the air like the building’s heartbeat. My cell phone buzzes with a message from Stick:  You done yet? Let’s do lunch. I need to feed!!!  The shot he sends with it shows him sucking in his nonexistent gut so you can count his ribs. No matter how much he eats, he stays stick skinny. I start to text him back. But then I stumble over something. There’s a pile of crumbled plaster and concrete on the floor. I look up and see big cracks running up the wall around the door to the old incinerator room. Since the road crew started ripping up the street, the quakes have wrecked more than the plumbing. No real structural damage, just surface stuff that Dad patches up. But this is the worst yet. These cracks are wide enough to fit my fingers in. Feels like we’re living in a house of cards that could come crashing down any day. I should check to see if there’s more damage inside the room, and tell Dad. We’re always on disaster patrol. The incinerator room holds the huge furnace where they used to burn the trash. There was a garbage chute, with drawers opening on all twenty-five floors where you’d dump in anything burnable. The furnace was shut down decades ago, and the chute sealed up, with all the drawers plastered over. Nothing but spiders and dust in that room now. I pull out my copy of the building’s master key. The lock sticks, it’s been so long since anyone tried it. Even after I rattle the knob till my key turns, the door’s still jammed and I have to shoulder it open. I find the switch on the wall inside. Nothing--the bulb must be blown. Whenever Dad sends me on one of these jobs I bring a fanny pack with a mini tool kit--screwdriver, wrench, pliers and a small flashlight. The flashlight’s thin beam shows me the hulking black furnace built into the wall on my left, with its door clampedshut. There’s a shovel leaning against the smoke-stained wall beside it. They used the shovel to feed trash to the fire. A wooden chair sits forgotten in the middle of the room.