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The Age of Amy:
Mad Dogs and Makeovers

Chapter 1

Are You Watching?

Let's call him Policeman #1. I had forgotten the officer's name the moment he said it. And why wouldn't I? It's not every day that the Law comes knocking at your door. I spied the man on my front porch through the peep hole and thought, What have I done wrong now?
   True, I was known for being somewhat of a trouble-maker, but I never raised a stink that wasn't justified. So, what was I worried about? I mean, the cops wouldn't haul an innocent 16-year-old girl off to jail for no reason, would they?
   The porch light lit up one side of the man's face, while the other side faded into the night. He seemed harmless enough.
   I opened the door to find a short, portly gentleman in a white shirt and thin black tie, wearing a Shankstonville Police Department windbreaker. He politely removed his cap and asked, "Is this the Dawson residence?"
   There was a time when officers of the law had that macho look -- lean and hunky, with a mustache that matched the curve of their teardrop shades. I was a city girl back then, and like most adolescent females, I viewed policemen as brave and incredibly sexy. Lawmen in the farming community where I now lived didn't quite fit that city cop mold, especially with their expanding waistlines.
   "I'd like to speak with the head of the household, please," said the officer.
   Hearing the voice of our unexpected visitor, my dad bounded up beside me. "That would be me, sir," he said. "What brings you out this way?"
   A good question. Our upscale neighborhood seldom required the need for law enforcement. Every home was equipped with the most up-to-date, hi-tech security systems available. We had more surveillance cameras on our block than the Federal Reserve building in Washington D.C.
   "Who's at the door, honey?" called my mom, shuffling across our marble entryway in her flip-flops.
   "Sorry to bother you at this late hour, ma'am," said the officer. "Hope I didn't intrude on your dinner."
   Another policeman, this one taller and much, much thinner, paraded up our walkway like a military general. Under his jacket was a service revolver, tucked in a shoulder holster. He stood at attention behind his partner, then said, in a deep baritone voice, "Ma'am . . . Sir . . . Miss."
   We'll call him Policeman #2.
   "If it's convenient," said #1, "we'd like to have a word with Amy."
   Amy! Hearing my name gave me the heebie-jeebies right down to my toes. My dad, who was well aware of the mischief I was capable of, looked down at me sharply.
   I tipped my head back, and with puppy dog eyes, whimpered, "I'm innocent!"
   My playful remark broke the tension, and showed that I wasn't always so serious about everything. Just because I was politically active, people figured I didn't have a sense of humor. But, I didn't care. If there was a protest march against some social injustice, I was in it. If an anti-war movement needed volunteers to gather signatures, count me in. My only activity that didn't raise eyebrows was my charitable work for The Wild Things Survival Fund -- an animal rights group. Last I heard, stuffing donation envelopes and serving coffee at fundraisers was not a criminal offense.
   "Forgive me," said #1. "I didn't mean to suggest that your daughter had broken the law. We've been tracking a suspicious man who we haven't been able to identify. He made a phone call this evening that was traced to Amy's cell phone."
   "Sounds like a computer glitch," said Dad. "The only suspicious calls we get here are pranks from Amy's friends."
   "Maybe that's all it was, but we'd still like to ask her a few questions."
   My mom swung the door open. "Won't you come in?"
   I took the comfy armchair, while the short one faced me from the edge of the coffee table. #2 hovered over him, content to remain standing.
   Whipping a notepad and a pen from his shirt pocket, #1 promptly asked me, "Tell me everything that happened -- from the beginning, please."
   "Well, I was alone in my room, reading. I read a lot. I'm just into my first Agatha Christie mystery: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. You guys know that one, right?"
   Two blank stares.
   I went on. "Next thing, my cell phone rang. 'Hello,' I said. A voice on the other end -- a man's voice I'd never heard before -- said, 'Are you watching?'"
   #1's pen point was pressed against his notepad, but hadn't moved an inch. "Aren't you going to write this down?" I asked.
   "Not until I hear something relevant. What did he say next?"
   "The man told me to turn on the TV news. All the local stations were broadcasting live helicopter video of a police pursuit. The car being chased was one of those humongous pickup trucks everyone drives these days. Then the man said, 'See that black truck? I'm driving it.' Then he hung up."
   "Did he say anything else?"
   "That was pretty much it."
   Normally, I'm not in the habit of lying, but I had just told one. There was much more to our conversation. . . .
The interview was over, but I had a few questions of my own. "What did that man do?" I asked. "Why were the police chasing him?"
   "He's a suspected terrorist. A suspicious package was found in front of an office building. Eyewitnesses reported seeing a black pickup fleeing the scene. We were after him almost immediately. When he didn't stop, we were sure we had our man. Now, we don't know what we have. What worries us is that whoever he is may still be out there."
   "What was in the package?"
   "A homemade explosive device. The bomb squad defused it before it went off."
   "What kind of maniac would do such a thing?"
   "Someone who hates America . . . or hates animals. His target was The Wild Things Survival Fund. We know you're a volunteer there, Amy. Strange, that the suspect called you of all people, wouldn't you say?"
   "Quite a coincidence, isn't it, miss?" added #2.
   Mom and Dad walked the officers to the door. The men tipped their caps. "Evening, ma'am. Sir."
   The house was dead quiet after the front door closed. My parents' eyes were solidly fixed on me.
   I looked back at them timidly. "You don't think I had anything to do with this, do you?"
   Mom rushed to my side. "Of course not, sweetie. No one's saying you did."
   "Don't be ridiculous," said Dad. "Why would you be involved in blowing up the very organization you love working for? Anyway, I wouldn't worry about it." He yawned. "I think I'll turn in."
   "Me, too," said Mom.
   As they both retired for the night, I sat alone in the quiet. No fingers were pointing at me, yet a dark cloud of suspicion still lingered in the air. That was mostly my fault. With my reputation for stirring things up, why wouldn't the police doubt my sincerity? True, I had a streak of rebellion as plain as the blue streak in my hair, but inferring that I had collaborated with a terrorist was insane! Until I could separate myself from that despicable act, that dark cloud would always follow me.
   I knew what I had to do: find that mystery man!
   But, where to begin?

-- End of Excerpt --

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