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Down the Rabbit Hole: An Echo Falls Mysteryby Peter Abrahams
Ingrid Levin-Hill, three weeks past her thirteenth birthday, sat thinking in her orthodontist's waiting room. You're born cute. Babies are cute. Not hard to guess why — it's so everyone will forgive them for being such a pain. You grow a little older, and people say, "What beautiful hair," or "Get a load of those baby blues," or something nice that keeps you thinking you're still on the cuteness track. Then you hit twelve or thirteen and boom, they tell you that everything needs fixing. Waiting in the wings are the orthodontist, the dermatologist, the contact lens guy, the hair-tinting guy, maybe even the nose-job guy. You look at yourself in the mirror, really look at yourself, for the first time. And what do you see? Oh my God.
Two orthodontists divided the business in Echo Falls: Dr. Lassiter, who didn't mind pulling a tooth or two to speed things along, and Dr. Binkerman, who liked to say he'd turn in his badge before sacrificing a single tooth. One kind of parents sent their kids to Dr. Lassiter. Ingrid, whose parents were of the other kind, was well into her second year with Dr. Binkerman, and behind her braces lurked the same jumble of teeth she'd come in with in the first place. And by the way, what stupid badge was he talking about? Ingrid flipped to another page of Seventeen. The glossy paper made an angry snapping sound.
Ingrid looked up. Mary Jane, the chairside assistant, stood in the doorway that led back to the operatories, the expression on her face a little exasperated, as though maybe she'd been calling Ingrid for some time. If so, Ingrid really hadn't heard. Reading — it didn't matter what — always did that to her.
"All set," said Mary Jane. Ingrid followed her. There were two chairside assistants: Mary Jane, who wore her gray hair in a bun and always had circles under her eyes, and a younger one, who changed every two months or so. Mary Jane motioned Ingrid to the chair and raised it just as Dr. Binkerman strode in, flexing his surgically gloved hands.
"And how's Ingrid today?" he said, looming into extreme close-up, his gaze locking on her teeth. Like Sherlock Holmes — The Complete Sherlock Holmes had been sitting on her bedside table for years — Ingrid was a habitual noticer of little things. Sherlock Holmes believed you could find out just about all you needed to know about people from little things; his method, as he told Dr. Watson more than once, was founded on the observation of trifles. Trifles were things like the single but surprisingly long white hair poking out of Dr. Binkerman's left nostril; the sleepy seed, lima bean colored, in the corner of his right eye; the pinprick-size blackhead on the end of his nose, a millimeter off-center. All these trifles added up to the glamorous Dr. Binkerman, hard-riding sheriff of the overbite range.
And what was the question? How's Ingrid today? "She's fine," said Ingrid.
"Open, please," said Dr. Binkerman. He peered inside her mouth, felt around in back, where the screws were, with his rubbery fingers. "Been wearing the appliance?" he said.
"Uh-huh," said Ingrid.
"Every night?" Dr. Binkerman drew back, looking at her whole face for the first time, fingers out of her mouth now so she could speak clearly...
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