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CAROL M. TANZMAN
CIRCLE OF SILENCE
THE STORY TURNED DEADLY
AUS $19.99 NZ $22.99 085501208 – R1
THE BIGGEST STORY OF MY LIFE
COULD BE HOW IT ENDS...
It’s my turn to run a Campus News crew, and I’ve put together a team that can break stories wide
open. And Washington Irving High has a truly great one to cover — if only we can find a lead.
A secret society has formed in our school. It announced its presence with pranks: underwear on
the flagpole, a toilet in the hallway, cryptic notes. A circle of silence keeps the society a mystery.
No one knows its members, agenda or initiation secrets...until a student lands in the hospital
under strange circumstances.
I will blow this story wide open and stop others from being hurt...or worse. And while my ex,
Jagger, might want to help, I don’t trust him yet. (And no, not because of our past together.
That is not important to this story).
But whether you find me, Valerie Gaines, reporting in front of the camera, or a victim in the top
story of the newscast...be sure to watch Campus News at 9:00am this Friday morning.
An explosive read that will grab you from the very beginning and
not let go until you’ve read the last page. I read this in one sitting.
Starry Sky Books on dancergirl
0812 Circle Of Silence.indd 1 25/05/12 9:46 AM
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reported ‘unsold and destroyed’ by a retailer.
Neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment
for this book.
First Published 2012
First Australian Paperback Edition 2012
ISBN 978 192179685 2
CIRCLE OF SILENCE
© 2012 by Carol M. Tanzman
Philippine Copyright 2012
Australian Copyright 2012
New Zealand Copyright 2012
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, Locked Bag 7002, Chatswood D.C. N.S.W.,
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otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the prior
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is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed
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product of the author's imagination or are used fctitiously, and any resemblance
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Printed and bound in Australia by Griffn Press
For Jack, Liana and Dylan
with love and gratitude
Bad idea, bad idea, bad idea…
The words keep time with my pounding heart. Dashing,
darting…hurtling forward. It’s like a nightmare. Chasing after
the school bus, the train, a minivan. No matter how fast I run,
I can’t get there in time. I’m left stranded, alone, surrounded by
abandoned warehouses, darkened streets and smelly drunks… .
This isn’t a dream. I know where I’m going. I just can’t move
Jagger. Jags! I asked you not to do this. Begged you…
My cheeks feel wet. How did I not see the approaching
storm? But the streets aren’t slick and the pitter-patter of rain
does not mingle with the sound of my feet slapping against
I touch my face. Taste the droplet. Salty…
That’s when I know I’ll be too late. Instinct, ESP or maybe
just plain terror breaks through. Because it’s my fault. I pushed
too hard; it went too far.
Whatever terrible thing I am about to see, I could have
stopped. No matter what anyone tells me, no matter who in-
sists, “You can’t blame yourself,” I will always know, deep
down, that it’s a lie.
My sweaty palm pushes the Media Center door open on the
second day of senior year. The single most important class of
my life is about to begin.
“Don’t look so worried, Val,” Marci tells me. “We got this
I give my best friend since eighth grade a pained look.
Sunny Marci. Always seeing the bright side. Except this time,
she’s especially naive. There’s no way it’s a sure thing.
Together, we move to the table Mr. Carleton assigned to
us. Yesterday, he divided the class into two permanent Cam-
pus News teams. First order of business today: each crew votes
for producer. The job I covet. The position I worked really
hard, during both sophomore and junior years at Washing-
ton Irving High School, to get. If mine, it could propel me
straight into the college of my dreams.
I steal a glance at my competition. Raul Ortega. His dark
chocolate eyes take everything in. Taller by about three inches
than me, he wears his hair in a brush cut that tops a solid body.
Raul’s definitely the guy you want on your side in a fight.
Not that he’s a hothead. On the contrary, the dude’s cool. He
CAROL M. TANZMAN 12
knows his way around TV Production almost as well as I do.
Exactly the reason he might get more votes than me.
He feels my look, turns. Grins nervously. Oh yeah, Raul
wants it, too. The real question is: which of us does the group
want? Besides Marci Lee, the team consists of Omar Bryant
and Henry Dillon. With five votes, there won’t be a tie.
Mr. Carleton takes attendance and then says, “Okay, folks,
you know what to do.”
For a moment, our table is silent. Afraid that I’ll come off
as either too confident or too bossy, I resist the urge to take
charge. Raul’s busy giving the other two boys meaningful
glances. A sinking feeling hits the pit of my stomach. Did he
talk to them last night? Make them promise to vote for him?
That would totally suck.
Marci jumps in. Energetically, she tears a piece of paper into
five pieces. “You all have something to write with?”
Henry whips out a pen. A classic overachiever, he skipped
both second and third grades, won a national award for draw-
ing in eighth and captains the chess team.
“I’ve got extras!”
Underneath the curtain of brown hair that covers his fore-
head, Henry shoots Marci puppy dog eyes. He’s been quietly
crushing on her for at least a year. Quietly—since she’s dat-
ing a football player. Doesn’t matter to Henry. He’d probably
faint if Marci actually kissed him.
Omar extends a well-manicured hand. “I forgot a pencil.”
“Forgot?” Marci counters. “Or never had one in the first
He wriggles his eyebrows. She indulges him a laugh before
handing over a slip of paper.
At first glance, Omar Bryant’s a diva. When he was eight,
he put on a sparkly cape for Halloween and refused to take it
off until Christmas. Didn’t care what anyone said—then or
CIRCLE OF SILENCE 13
now. But dig deeper and you’ll hit the sensitive soul of a true
artist. Everyone in Campus News knows he has a great eye and
a steady hand. When he gets behind the lens, his focus is total.
Marci hands out the rest of the paper. Names are scribbled.
Without a word, we all fold the slips into tiny squares, as if
that can disguise who voted for whom. Five tiny bundles are
tossed onto the table.
“I’ll count.” Carefully, Marci unfolds the first piece of
paper. “Valerie Gaines.”
I keep my face neutral because that doesn’t mean much. It’s
either my vote—or hers. The second paper has Raul’s name
on it. So does the third.
A wave of disappointment hits. I told Marci I might not
win. Not if it’s boys vs. girls—with the boys outnumbering us.
Marci gives me a cheerful look after unwrapping the fourth
Obviously, that’s hers. The score’s tied. Raul leans forward,
triumph etched across his face. I can practically see the writ-
ing inside the final piece of paper.
“Valerie,” Marci says.
She waves the slip. “The last vote’s for you. You won!”
The shock on my face is genuine. As is the surprise in Raul’s
eyes. Marci shoots me an “I told you” smile before prancing
to the whiteboard. She grabs an orange marker and writes
Valerie Gaines, B Team Producer.
Mr. Carleton nods. “Team A, you have a winner?”
Scott Jenkins raises his hand. His stick-up sand-colored
hair and square jaw make him look skinnier than he actually
is. Given who’s on A Team, he’s the person I’d vote for, too.
Scott’s good but I’m better. I work harder. I care more. I
won’t ever let my team down.
CAROL M. TANZMAN 14
The teacher heaves himself out of his chair. “Good choices,
folks. Now listen up! Rule review so you can’t say you didn’t
know ’em when you break ’em. Each show consists of four
segments, no more, no less, interspersed with anchor ins and
outs. Sixteen minutes total. Remember to look for the angle.
What’s the way into the story? Teams alternate weekly broad-
casts. B Team’s up first, then A.”
Which doesn’t make sense. You’d think A Team would
start because, well, it’s first in the alphabet. But that’s how Mr.
Carleton thinks. Roundabout. And backward.
“Last three rules. First—” he holds up an index finger “—a
Question Sheet must be filled out before every interview.”
Two fingers go up. “Rude behavior or fooling around in hall-
ways when you’re shooting Will. Not. Be. Tolerated. Third.
Do not open a case unless it’s on a table or the ground because
equipment in said case will fall out. If it breaks, your folks pay.
Trust me, they Will. Not. Be. Happy.”
Mr. Carleton, a portly African-American man, keeps his
head shaved smoothly and his desk immaculate, proof posi-
tive that he’s a fan of the “less is more” theory. Tightly edited
sequences, one-word sentences.
He continues with basic equipment sign-out procedures.
When he’s done, he glances at the clock. “Okay, teams, with
whatever time’s left, start planning your first broadcast.”
Excited, I pull out my Campus News notebook, but before
anyone can say a word, the door f lies open. Every head turns.
“Omigod!” Marcis hisses. “What’s he doing here?”
My heart takes a nosedive straight into my stomach.
Jagger Voorham! Pouty, rocker-boy lips, hazel eyes that
change color according to his mood, and yes, supercute.
Slacker Jagger crosses the room without bothering to look
at anyone, including me. As if he doesn’t know I’d be front
CIRCLE OF SILENCE 15
He hands Mr. Carleton a mustard-yellow Schedule Change
form. The teacher frowns.
“Don’t worry, Marci,” I whisper. “Carleton’ll never let him
into the class. Jags didn’t take Intro. He can’t be in Advanced.”
Resolutely, I tap the notebook and try to discuss stories for
the first broadcast. But everyone’s focus is on the quiet con-
versation at the front of the room. Finally the teacher nods.
“B Team!” Mr. Carleton points a finger at Jagger. “New
Do something, Marci mouths.
Like what? Throw myself under a bus? Jump off the Brook-
lyn Bridge? Drop the class?
Jagger saunters over. I look down, refusing to give him the
satisfaction of acknowledging his existence. There’s no way
I want him—or anyone else in the room—to see the tears of
frustration forming hot in my eyes.
How could Jagger do this to me? My triumphant moment—ruined!
My BFF, a four-foot-eleven, barely one-hundred-pound
Korean dynamo, kicks me. I don’t have to look at Marci to
know what she’s thinking.
Who wants to deal with Jagger all year?
That’s the moment the bell rings. Everyone in class jumps
up, as if electroshocked into obedience. Mr. Carleton gestures.
“Stay a moment, Val?”
Marci glances at me, but I wave her on. Scott Jenkins smirks
as he passes, knowing my team’s just been saddled with a com-
plete neophyte. Hailey Manussian, on the other hand, shoots
me a look of sheer hatred—or maybe it’s jealousy. Like most
girls at WiHi, Hailey’s probably going through an if only Jag-
ger wanted to get into my pants phase.
Backpack on shoulder, I walk to the teacher’s desk.
“I put Jagger Voorham on your team,” Carleton tells me.
CAROL M. TANZMAN 16
The blood rushes to my cheeks at the mere mention of his
name. “I noticed.”
“He can’t fit Intro into his schedule. I let him in because
he’s a senior like the rest of the class. Although that doesn’t
mean you let him slide. He needs to do his share. Show him
the ropes, won’t you, Val?”
Despite the fact that I find it hard to breathe, I put on a
tough act. “Sure, Mr. Carleton. I’ll kick his butt.”
The teacher laughs. “I bet you will.” He points to a couple
of Student Emmy Awards gathering dust on the shelf above
his desk. “Get those stories, girl. I’m counting on you to win
“No pressure,” I say.
His bald head gleams. “Would it be Campus News if there
The last bell of the day is like a tsunami warning on a Pa-
cific island. The halls explode as almost two thousand kids
run for higher ground—which in this case means lockers and
exit doors. I elbow my way down the corridor with just the
tiniest bit of amazement. Even though the school was cleaned
over the summer, initials are already chalked across the walls.
Marci stands in front of her locker, fiddling with her lock.
“Maybe you should try your new combination,” I tell her.
“That’s last year’s.”
She frowns as she searches her backpack for the combo
paper the homeroom teachers hand out. “Why can’t they let
us keep the same lockers every year?”
“The mysteries of WiHi are…mysterious, Marci.”
The metal door pops open. She switches a book and we
head down the steps. “I can’t believe I forgot to ask at lunch.
What did Carleton want?”
“We’re supposed to show Jagger the ropes.”
CIRCLE OF SILENCE 17
“Not we. You’re the one who knows everything. I only
take TV so we can hang.” She lowers her voice. “Think you
can get him to switch Jagger to A team?”
“What am I supposed to say?”
“The guy’s a killer. Broke your heart and scattered the
pieces without a second thought.”
Ouch. Rip the scab right off the wound, why don’t you?
Outside, the afternoon sun makes me blink. At least, that’s
what I tell myself. September in Brooklyn Heights is like an
iPod on shuff le. Summer weather, fall weather, and every-
thing in between. This week it’s end-of-summer-with-hints-
of-autumn. That means it’s too nice to have been stuck in
school obsessing about Jagger Voorham for the past five hours.
“Mr. Carleton gave me permission to kick his butt if he
screws up,” I tell her.
“Like that’ll help. He was my dialogue partner in French
III, remember? I wanted to murder the kid, but I swear
Mademoiselle Reynaud’s in love with him. Two-faced dog if
ever there was one.”
“Jagger or Mademoiselle Reynaud?”
The French teacher is ninety years old and mean as a pit
bull. She’s been teaching so long they’re thinking about nam-
ing the language hall bathrooms after her. Or maybe just a
“You know who I mean,” Marci sniffs.
I do—and I’m just as pissed off as she is. Why does Jag-
ger have to ruin twelfth grade the way he did eleventh? For
months, we were lip-locked and then one night, he finds some-
one else to soothe his tortured soul. Or whatever that stupid cli-
ché is. The fact that I wasn’t enough for him, that I didn’t even
know I wasn’t enough, left a cavernous hole deep inside me.
“I can ask Mr. Carleton to switch him,” Marci pleads. “I
CAROL M. TANZMAN 18
I shake my head. “Scott’ll never take him. Plus, Mr. C.
specifically asked me to help.”
“Worse and worse,” she mumbles softly.
“I heard that! You’re not helping, Marci.”
“Sorry! It’s just…I don’t want to see you hurt again.”
Again? I almost laugh. Watching Jagger walk into the Media
Center made it clear that the hurt had never gone away. It just
got buried inside the hole at the center of my life.
“I’ll just have to deal with it. With him. What doesn’t kill
you makes you stronger, right?”
My best friend shakes her head. “Not exactly the choice I
was going for!”
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