It was a long day, filled with activities organised by the Rising Star people. They went to a museum, and watched an inspiring movie, and in the later afternoon there was a rehearsal of the competition itself. Rozena found many chances to chat to Natasha. It was easy to be friends with her – she was so friendly and open.

Late that night, Rozena got another text. This one was from Trevor, and it asked her to meet him in the hotel lounge.

Rozena had time to change her outfit, putting on the new leather jacket that her mother had given her especially for the trip. The memory of meeting Trevor dressed in her pink pyjamas still made her want to blush. Emma was already asleep so it was easy for her to slip out of the room unnoticed.

“So?” said Trevor when she walked up to the table where he was waiting for her. “Made any progress?” Before Rozena had a chance to take a seat, he jumped up and pulled the chair out for her, and Rozena found that she was blushing again.

“I did,” she said, trying sound calm. “I got chatting with her at breakfast already, and we spent most of the day together: her, me, and Emma.”

“Did you load the virus on her computer yet?” Trevor took a sip from his drink.

“Not yet,” said Rozena. “But I don’t think it’s going to be a problem. We made a plan that I’d help her with her presentation tomorrow. I can easily do it then.”

Trevor laughed. “You’re going to help her with her Rising Star presentation? Aren’t you guys in competition with one another?”

Rozena shrugged. “It’s not like that. I mean – sure, I’m going to try my best to win, but her project is really cool as well. She’s doing this cartoon to help children understand what dogs are saying.”

“What?” Trevor was smiling broadly now.

“You know,” said Rozena, flushing a little. “Dog body language. Like, what dogs mean when they put their ears down, or bark, or whatever. She’s teaching children how to understand dogs so they won’t get bitten.”

“Okay,” Trevor still looked amused. “But you can put that virus on her machine, right?”

“I can,” said Rozena. She looked away, frowning a little. “I feel bad about doing it. Are you sure her father is selling illegal weapons? Or that she even knows about it?” She darted a look at him. “I mean, she’s nice and all. I really like her.”

Trevor took a long swallow, and Rozena suddenly wondered if he’d been drinking alcohol. He seemed a lot more relaxed and talkative than she’d ever known him before.

“Yeah.” He put the glass down and stared at it. “I know what you mean. SCRAM do like to mess about with people. It’s like the way they tricked you.”

Rozena felt a touch of chill at Trevor’s words. “What do you mean? ‘Tricked’?”

“You know that packet of drugs that Devon put in your suitcase?”

Rozena stared at Trevor. Of course she remembered. That had been how she’d got involved in SCRAM in the first place, when they’d offered to help clear her name of the fake drug charges.

“Well.” Trevor turned the glass in his hand, studying the contents. “I never actually saw Devon put those drugs in your bag.”

“What?” Rozena gaped in surprise. Was he joking? But no, his eyes were very serious.

“That’s right.” Trevor glanced at her. “They did the same to me. Made it seem as though I’d stolen a watch from the headmaster, and then offered to clear my name. That’s how they got me working for them. It took me a long time to figure out that it was SCRAM themselves that had framed me.”

“You mean …” Rozena’s mouth was dry, her heart racing. “Those drugs, that little bag … Devon never had anything to do with it?”

Trevor shook his head. “SCRAM told me to say I saw him do it, but I never did.” He looked at her. “My guess is, SCRAM found out how good you were with computers and wanted you on their team.”

“SCRAM planted the drugs? And then pretended to help me?” Rozena felt as though somebody had kicked her in her stomach.

“Hey,” said Trevor. “We really did help you. That part wasn’t fake. And Devon really was dealing in drugs. It’s not like he was innocent. So, it all works out in the end.”


Tell us what you think: Does Rozena seem to have the nerves to survive this world of secrets and spies, where ‘anything goes’ to get a result?