The Underdogs by Sara Hammel is a teen mystery with a breathtaking twist (Available May 31, 2016).
Who killed Annabel Harper?
When a popular teen beauty’s body is discovered by the pool at an elite tennis club, the regulars are shocked—especially twelve-year-old Evie and her best friend, Chelsea. While everyone else is haunted by the teen’s death, Evie and Chelsea jump on the case, dogging the footsteps of the lead detective as he investigates. As temperatures soar over the summer, tensions rise, fingers are pointed, and a heroic act sets in motion a chain of events readers will never see coming.
The day they carried sixteen-year-old Annabel Harper out of the club they had to close the pool area because someone had vomited everywhere. They found the vomit before they found Annabel.
She did not have a hair out of place. Her champagne-blond bob framed her face in two perfect angles, even in death. She would have liked that. Her skin, from her shoulders to her tummy to her long legs, was still flawless and bronzed and a little slippery from the water, not blue or red or pale like you might expect.
They carried her away from the pool, through the women’s locker room, into the lobby, and people stood alongside like a receiving line and gawked, but they would not have seen the perfection about her. They would have seen a big lump of dark blue plastic go by. I know because I watched them zip up the body bag.
Seeing Annabel like that was not the worst part of that day. It was Nicholas who got to everyone. He arrived later, as the sun arced higher in the sky and announced it was going to be a scorcher, and he ran to the revolving doors and pushed as hard as he could, shooting out like a bullet onto the pool deck. A detective rushed and grabbed his shoulders, pushed him back, but Nicholas wouldn’t go. He was taller than the detective. Younger, fitter.
“What happened? What happened? What happened?” Nicholas screamed, the question growing louder each time. He was crying and he didn’t care who saw. I watched from behind the glass in the hallway that led from the main building to the pool. Nicholas was Annabel’s brother, almost like a twin but not. He was older by less than two years, protective and so fond of his baby sister. An equally blond creature who tanned in the summer like he was made for the sun, like it was summer that brought him to life. Nicholas, who was tall and muscular but not bulky—he had the build of a catalog model crossed with a soccer player—always said,
It’s okay. We’re forever young. It was so wrong that Annabel would now stay young forever.
I remember Nicholas’s face that day, twisted with pain. His voice, feral and telling us he would not be the same person from this moment on. He was this local hero, and so old for his years. Nice to everyone, so composed and mature. Only seventeen. He had saved a little girl’s life earlier in the summer. That was quite a story.
I had to turn away when he started wailing. When the detective dragged him from the scene. That’s when I saw Lisa Denessen standing alone in the pool’s viewing lobby, staring out the big picture windows, a strange look on her face. Half-smile, half-indifference. Or something more sinister; there was no way to be sure exactly what she was thinking.
So much goes on at the club, especially in the summer. There’s always something juicy happening among the members, the staff, the aerobics addicts, the tennis people … Oh Lordy, the tennis people
. They alone could star in their own soap opera:
As the Yellow Ball Turns.
I remember everything, and I listen. People generally like me around this place. Apparently I’m a pretty nonthreatening figure, and unlike certain others I won’t mention, I don’t seem to alarm or offend anyone. People have gotten so used to me that sometimes I think I’m like wallpaper in this joint. So I hear and see more than I probably should.
You never would have thought that summer would turn out the way it did, but in retrospect, everything that went on—the betrayal and the tears and the raging hormones—was leading up to something dramatic.
Copyright © 2016 Sara Hammel.
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Sara Hammel is a former ranked tennis player and an award-winning journalist with more than fifteen years' experience writing for major publications including People, The Sunday Times Magazine (UK), U.S. News & World Report, Glamour, and Shape.