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Authors: Peg Kehret

Cages

BOOK: Cages
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Caught!

Kit held her breath, wondering if the woman would notice that the bracelet was missing. She didn’t.

Kit tried to act casual. “I’d better go,” she said to Marcia.

“See you at rehearsal,” Marcia said.

Over my dead body, Kit thought, but she forced a smile before she turned and walked away.

As she rode up the escalator, she kept her hand in her pocket, fingering the bracelet.

A new thought hit her. What if the store had secret cameras hidden? Panicky, she scrutinized the ceiling and the walls above each sales counter. She saw nothing that resembled a camera.

Kit felt hot. She needed to get out of the mall. She didn’t want to call attention to herself by running but she walked quickly, as if she were late for an appointment.

As she stepped out into the main corridor of the mall, someone touched her elbow.

The woman held a small black folder toward Kit. She flipped the folder open.

There was a badge inside.

“I’m with store security.”

“Kit’s determination to free herself from the cages of . . . jealousy and ultimately, the secret of her crime make her an appealing protagonist.”


School Library Journal

ALSO BY PEG KEHRET

Earthquake Terror

I’m Not Who You Think I Am

Nightmare Mountain

Searching for Candlestick Park

Cages

PEG KEHRET

PUFFIN BOOKS

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers,
345 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.

Penguin Books Ltd, 27 Wrights Lane, London W8 5TZ, England

Penguin Books Australia Ltd, Ringwood, Victoria, Australia

Penguin Books Canada Ltd, 10 Alcorn Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4V 3B2

Penguin Books (N.Z.) Ltd, 182–190 Wairau Road, Auckland 10, New Zealand

Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England

First published in the United States of America by Cobblehill Books,
an affiliate of Dutton Children’s Books,
a division of Penguin Books USA Inc., 1991

Published by Puffin Books,
a member of Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, 2001

Copyright © Peg Kehret, 1991

All rights reserved

THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS HAS CATALOGED THE COBBLEHILL EDITION AS FOLLOWS:

Kehret, Peg.

Cages / by Peg Kehret.—1st ed.

p.    cm.

Summary: After losing an acting role and fighting with her alcoholic stepfather, Kit is arrested for shoplifting and ordered to work, as a part of her sentence, at an animal shelter.

ISBN: 978-1-101-66152-9

[1. Shoplifting—fiction. 2. Family problems—Fiction. 3. Animals—Treatment—Fiction.]

I. Title.

PZ7.K2518Cag 1991 [Fic]—dc20 90-21230 CIP AC

Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

This book is dedicated to the pets
who have given me so much pleasure:

SKIPPY, B.J., STOMPY, TIGER, NUSHIE, KITTY, T.J., SANDY,
MAX, SAM, PEPPER, GEORGE, MARTHA, DOLLY,
AND DAISY

And to The Humane Society & S.P.C.A.
of Seattle/King County
for providing love and preventing cruelty

Table of Contents

CHAPTER 1

CHAPTER 2

CHAPTER 3

CHAPTER 4

CHAPTER 5

CHAPTER 6

CHAPTER 7

CHAPTER 8

CHAPTER 9

CHAPTER 10

CHAPTER 11

CHAPTER 12

CHAPTER 13

CHAPTER 14

CHAPTER 15

CHAPTER 16

CHAPTER 17

About the Author

I
T was almost over. Kit Hathaway glanced at her notecards, but her hands shook so badly that she couldn’t read her own writing.

This was her last and most important speech of the year, the one that would determine her final grade, although that wasn’t why she was nervous. It was her topic. Of all the subjects in the world, why did she have to get this one for her final speech?

Her closing statement rushed out. “If you’re caught shoplifting,” she said, “your parents are notified, and the police come, and the juvenile court decides your punishment. It’s stupid to take such a chance.”

She nodded to Miss Fenton, indicating that she was finished. At last. Feeling drained of energy, she started back to her seat.

Before she got there, a boy in the back of the room said, “That’s a bunch of bull.”

Kit stopped.

“Do you wish to challenge this speech, Arthur?” Miss Fenton said.

“Yes,” he said. “Yes, I challenge it. Hardly anybody gets caught. Not if they’re careful. I know lots of guys who take stuff all the time and not one of them has ever been busted.”

Kit hesitated. Her classmates watched her, alert, awaiting her response. If she didn’t defend her position, it was an automatic drop of one full grade. But how could she prove her point without divulging her secret?

None of the other kids knew. Not even her best friend, Tracy. And Kit intended to keep it that way.

“A buddy of mine takes a candy bar from the Ben Franklin store every day after school,” Arthur said. “Every day. He’s done it since we were in kindergarten and he’s never been caught once.”

Kit glared at Arthur. Why couldn’t he keep his big mouth shut? He’s probably the one who swipes a candy bar every day, not his buddy.

“Kit?” Miss Fenton said.

Kit’s throat felt tight.

A new voice spoke up. This time, it was Arthur’s buddy, Phil. “Arthur’s right,” he said. “Lots of kids shoplift and hardly anyone ever gets caught. Even if you do, they let you off easy the first time. You don’t have to go to jail or anything.”

Kit clenched her teeth. What was this, National Gang-Up-on-Kit Week? Was everybody in the whole class going to try to raise their grade by challenging Kit’s speech?

They made it sound so simple. Nothing to it. Just walk into the Ben Franklin, day after day, and help yourself to a candy bar. No problem.

Only it didn’t always work that way.

Arthur’s voice grew louder. “Kit quoted a bunch of statistics,” he said, “but statistics aren’t real life. I’ve had experience and I say Kit’s wrong.”

Kit felt someone nudge her in the ribs. Turning, she saw that she was standing beside Tracy’s desk. Tracy held a note-card so Kit could see what it said. “
BRILLIANT SPEAKER STUNS CLASS WITH STATISTICS; HECKLERS SILENCED FOREVER.

Months earlier, Kit and Tracy had gone into fits of laughter at the supermarket, over the headlines of a tabloid newspaper. “Four-year-old Gives Birth to Lizard,” it had said, and, “Embalmed Body Rises from Grave to Accuse Ex-husband of Murder!!”

Ever since, Kit and Tracy had written exaggerated headlines for each other and joked about their future careers as Sharon Shocker and Harriet Headline, raunchy reporters.

Kit smiled weakly at Tracy. Tracy put the sign down and nodded encouragingly. Kit knew Tracy wanted her to defend her speech. Meet Arthur’s challenge. Put him in his place.

Oh, Tracy, she thought. You don’t know what you’re asking of me.

She could do it, if she wanted to. She could prove that she was right. She could zap Arthur with information that would stun him into silence.

All she had to do was tell the class what had happened to her. Tell them about the fear and the guilt and the lies. Tell them about the shame and the tears.

I can’t do it, Kit thought. I don’t want them to know. Not now. Not ever.

Tracy nudged her again and whispered, “Do it.”

Kit felt trapped. If she defended her speech, everyone would know her secret. If she sat down now, what would she say to Tracy? How could she explain?

Miss Fenton spoke quietly. “Do you want to defend your speech, Kit? This minute is passing.”

It was, Kit knew, a line from the play. “. . . while we’re talking right now, this minute is passing.”

This minute is passing. The quote swept Kit back in time, back to the day when the cast list was posted.

The day her life was changed forever.

The day her secret began.

O
N the day the cast list was posted, Kit had been too excited to eat breakfast. Although she knew the list would not be there until classes ended, she left early for school.

“Don’t get your hopes up too high,” her mother warned. “Sometimes the things we look forward to the most turn out to be the biggest disappointments.”

Kit didn’t answer. She had a chance. Not just for a small part, a chance for the lead. Frankie.

Kit knew she was being considered for the part. Why else would Miss Fenton ask her to read Frankie’s lines more than once?

BOOK: Cages
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