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Authors: Sophie Littlefield


BOOK: Infected
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Hanging by a Thread

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Text copyright © 2015 by Sophie Littlefield
Jacket art copyright © 2015 by Tom Sanderson

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, New York.

Delacorte Press is a registered trademark and the colophon is a trademark of Random House LLC.

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Littlefield, Sophie.
    Infected / Sophie Littlefield.—First edition.
         pages cm
    Summary; Carina, a high school track star and the niece of a scientist whose research deadly agents will do anything to obtain, is injected with a performance-enhancing drug that will kill her unless she can find the antidote in twenty-four hours.
    ISBN 978-0-385-74106-4 (hc : alk. paper) — ISBN 978-0-375-98357-3 (ebook) [1. Survival—Fiction. 2. Spies—Fiction. 3. Dating (Social customs)—Fiction.] I. Title.
    PZ7.L7359In 2015


Random House Children’s Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.



For Elliot Granick Wiecek

“Black Cherry Chutney,” Carina Monroe whispered, hiding her face behind the memorial program so no one could see that she was talking to herself. “Yellow roses. And Tanner.”

She peered over the top of the program, pretending to fan her face. Well-dressed men and women were slowly filling the rows of white chairs arranged on the bright green lawn. The memorial was taking place outside because too many mourners were expected for the cemetery’s chapel. Carina supposed she should be grateful that it was a perfect spring afternoon; rain would certainly have complicated things.

At least the burial was over: Carina didn’t think she could bear to look at the casket for another second, a reminder not only of what she’d lost but also of the fact that she was now truly alone in the world.

Carina wondered if the lab was helping to foot the bill. Mountain Grove was the most beautiful cemetery in the area, and no expense had been spared here either: the chairs were covered with white slipcovers, potted lilies adorned each row, and floral arrangements overflowed the area around the platform. Discreet staff assisted people in finding seats, and white-shirted caterers worked efficiently to set up the long tables of refreshments that would be served following the service.

She scanned the people arriving, the staff members, even the vehicles lining the service drive that disappeared around the building. Good—no one seemed to be watching, not even the security detail assigned to keep an eye on her. So no one had heard her doing her daily appreciations, a habit she’d begun after her mother, Madelyn, died last June and her therapist suggested she list three things she was grateful for every day.

The therapist hadn’t been particularly helpful, but maybe that was because Carina made a practice of lying to him. The biggest lie was that her mother’s career had been so demanding that the two of them hadn’t been close. Carina insisted that her life wasn’t that different now that her mother was gone—she’d been taking care of herself since she was in grade school, she said, and going to live with Uncle Walter after Madelyn’s death was just a change of scenery.

Besides, as Carina frequently reminded the therapist, Madelyn hadn’t been especially maternal. She’d been reserved, not very affectionate, uncomfortable with intimacy—the exact opposite of nurturing. So, Carina insisted, she’d
stopped depending on her mother long ago for emotional support.

It wasn’t true, of course. Carina, who’d never known her father, couldn’t recall a day in her life when she hadn’t wished her mother were more available. But it was easier to pretend that everything was fine, and once Carina was committed to that version of the story, there didn’t seem to be much point in being honest about anything else, so she simplified things further by telling the therapist what he seemed to want to hear:
I’m sleeping well, my appetite’s good, I’m doing great in school

Yeah. Not so much.

But to Carina’s surprise, some of the therapist’s advice wasn’t too bad. Like telling her to return to the track team right away; training did keep her sane. Seeing her friends never failed to cheer her up, even if she felt like she was sleepwalking through their get-togethers.

And then there were the appreciations. They seemed stupid at first, but just thinking of things to be grateful for and saying them out loud every day did make her feel better. Carina usually did them first thing in the morning, but today had been a mad dash to get ready for the memorial. This was the first chance she’d had to catch her breath, the first moment she’d been left by herself all day.

She wasn’t sure if it was cheating, but one of her appreciations was always the same, ever since she’d met Tanner Sloan last September. He was the best thing to happen to Carina for as long as she could remember. The other two were kind of lame today, but what could you expect on
the day you buried your last living relative? Besides, Carina truly did appreciate her manicure, the deep red polish called Black Cherry Chutney. And she was grateful for the bouquet of lilies and yellow roses that had arrived this morning, a gift from her best friends, Nikki and Emma.

She looked for them in the crowd; they had promised to come, along with most of the track team. She finally spotted them in line to be seated, far back behind the chairs, and resigned herself to not being able to talk to them until after the service. The security staff would never allow her to go sit with them. The two guards assigned to her, nearly identical men named Baxter and Meacham, had taken up posts at either end of her row, as though they were guarding a bomb rather than an orphaned high school girl.

Earlier in the day, when Uncle Walter had been laid to rest at the private graveside service, the security staff had had their work cut out for them keeping uninvited guests away from the cordoned-off area. But the memorial service was open to the public, and Baxter and Meacham were busy screening the crowd for suspicious characters. What constituted a suspicious character, Carina had no idea, but since her uncle had worked for the Calaveras National Laboratory on projects involving national security, the presence of armed guards was evidently a matter of course.

If Carina had had her choice, she wouldn’t have a security detail, much less hundreds of people she didn’t know, at her uncle’s funeral. But she was glad Baxter was there. He’d begun working at the lab five years earlier, and he had always been kind to her. And when he was moved from
the general security pool to head up the team working on Madelyn and Walter’s project, he’d taken a special interest in Carina. He had gone above and beyond the call of duty, driving her to activities if Madelyn and Walter couldn’t get away from work. Baxter was the one who came to get her when she caught the flu at school. He teased her about boys as though she were his kid sister, not his bosses’ daughter/niece. At her mother’s funeral, it had been Baxter who’d made sure Carina had a small pack of tissues for her purse. On her birthday, he’d sent a card; he’d signed it “The Team,” but she recognized his handwriting. He’d even come to watch her compete at the state track championships last year.

Meacham, on the other hand, was all business. He hardly ever spoke unless it was into his little Bluetooth mike, and never, ever cracked a smile. He looked like all the other security guards employed by the Calaveras National Lab: fit, reasonably attractive men in their twenties and thirties. Dark suits, starched white shirts, sunglasses, buzz cuts—it was like they had all trained with the Secret Service.

Meacham and Baxter had been waiting when Carina and Sheila Boylston pulled up at the funeral home. Sheila Boylston was the guardian Uncle Walter had appointed in his will, and a longtime friend and colleague who’d worked with Madelyn and Walter for years. Sheila had shown up at Carina’s school as soon as she’d heard the news about the accident, and by that night she’d moved Carina into her sterile condo with its sharp-angled furniture and echoing minimalist rooms.

Carina flashed back to the memory of arriving at her mother’s funeral, when Walter had comforted her in the car. Sheila had tried to make Carina feel at home, and Carina knew she meant well, but there was no way she could lean on her for support the way she’d leaned on Walter then.

Madelyn Monroe’s funeral hadn’t been this well attended, but that was probably because her job at the lab hadn’t been as high profile as Uncle Walter’s. Their work had started to attract public attention only after her death. Her suicide had caused quite a stir for a while, especially since rumors always flew about the secret projects being conducted at the lab, but Carina knew that their research was far less exciting than it seemed. “Basically, we’re building the modern K ration,” Uncle Walter always said. Researching ways to optimize nutrition for the armed services might have been important work, but it was also dull.

Still, Walter was the head of their division, and he’d been interviewed on television half a dozen times in the last year because of a massive contract that was rumored to be in negotiations, one that would bring hundreds of jobs to the city of Martindale, California. Peace protestors and lobbyists from the capital were frequent presences at the lab, as were scientists visiting from all over the world, all of whom brought media attention. That explained the news crews milling around with their cameras at a barely respectful distance.

BOOK: Infected
10.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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