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By Seija Rankin
April 06, 2021 at 12:00 PM EDT
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Ace of Spades
Credit: Feiwel & Friends (2)

This summer, the classic boarding school novel is going to get a very compelling twist with Ace of Spades, a high-octane YA thriller that centers on two Black students at the prestigious Niveous Private Academy. Devon Richards and Chiamaka Adebayo are selected to be among the senior class prefects but begin to receive threatening text messages from an anonymous bully (think Gossip Girl meets Get Out). Here, in an exclusive first excerpt of author Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé's anticipated debut, we're introduced to the suspense in a chapter from Chiamaka's perspective.

Excerpt from Ace of Spades, by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

I can't imagine not following through with the future I've dreamed about; I can't imagine going to jail; and I also can't imagine how disappointed my parents will be. I've only ever worked to make them proud. Now they'll think all their sacrifices were wasted on a monster.

I don't notice the black car following me until a few houses down. It moves steadily, stopping and slowing when I do, then speeding up when I pick up the pace. I swallow, walking faster.

I'm probably being paranoid, I tell myself, glancing at the car window. My heart stops. Though the reflections on the glass make it hard to see clearly, I spot a pair of black-gloved hands on the wheel and the same creepy mask from Thursday covering the person's face. I start to run down the sidewalk, breathing hard now, eyes stinging as I try not to fall over.

What is this? 

My toes feel numb in my stilettos as I try to outrun the car, the sound of the engine revving making my whole body tremble. I can see my house's gates in the distance, and by the time I reach them, stumbling down the path, I can hardly breathe. I'm hyperventilating. As I push the keycode into the pad and rush through, I hear the car engine switch off.

I unlock the front door and dive inside, slamming it shut, sliding both bolts across.

I back away from the door like it's a bomb about to go off, trying to catch my breath but finding it hard to get air in. As I watch, there's a distant movement behind the blurry panes of the door.

They can't get through the gates. They can't get through the gates.

There's an angry beep of the keypad, before a figure approaches the door, and the distorted smile and pale skin of the mask come into view. I scream, backing farther down the hallway.

"Mom! Dad!" I yell, sobbing as I watch the door.

No one answers. Not that I should be surprised. They're usually at the hospital when I get home at this time.

Hardly ever home at all.

"Someone, help . . . please." I whisper the last part, voice breaking.

Again, no answer. 

I watch as the figure stands there, watching me. Then I watch as the mail slot opens, heart rattling my rib cage as a gloved hand pushes an envelope in. It falls to the ground as the metal flap shuts.

I don't move.

After a few moments, the figure starts to back away, a single black line that thins as it gets farther and farther in the distance.

I stand in silence for a few minutes, my tears drying up, fingers still shaking as I try to gather myself and work out what to do.

I move toward the door slowly, snatching the envelope up and opening it. It is filled with Polaroid shots.

The first picture is of my house from inside the gates . . .

The next is a zoomed-in photo of me through the window as I stand in my bedroom.

The next is of me again, tugging my shirt off.

The next, I'm in my underwear, the photo taken through the gap in my curtains . . .

I shakily pick up the next Polaroid.

I'm in a towel, just out of the shower this time.

I already know what's coming.

I let out a breath as I pick up the final photo.

No photo. Just writing.

All will be revealed . . . I'm ready to have a ball, are you? —Aces

This isn't just texts and high school pranks.

This is now all of my deepest secrets.

This is my house. My home. Where I thought I was safe.

Aces must have gotten my address from the central administration system. But I have no idea how they got through the gate. I look around my empty foyer.

I move toward the stairs.

It's so quiet, my footsteps echo.

If a tree drops in a forest and no one is there, does it make a sound?

If a girl all alone in a big fishbowl screams and no one is there, can you hear her? Does she even make a sound?

My phone buzzes.

It feels like I'm reliving the same nightmare over and over, and it will never stop.

I see London, I see France, I see someone's underpants, past the swing, in the purple tunnel, our favorite music student likes to snuggle.—Aces

Devon making out with some guy on a jungle gym.

My phone buzzes again.

There's more where all of this came from, Chiamaka. And I'm not afraid to share.—Aces

What does Aces want from us? What is the end goal? It feels like everything is out of control; I am out of control. I can't shake the feeling that they're three steps ahead, and everything we're doing is playing right into their hands. Sunday feels so far away, but I don't know what else to do. I go to my phone and watch as my fingers hover over the 9 and 1. But I can't call the police. However bad it gets. I can't call them, because Aces knows about the hit-and-run. Or at least, I can't call them before we catch who is behind this. So I open my contact list and scroll down. I hesitate for a heartbeat before hitting the call button.

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