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Read an extract from A Game of Life or Death by Triona Campbell

Read an extract from A Game of Life or Death by Triona Campbell

To celebrate the publication of The Traitor in the Game last month, we’ve teamed up with Scholastic UK to share an extract from the first book in Triona Campbell’s edge-of-your-seat YA series.

Read the extract below and click here for a chance to win a book bundle featuring both books in Campbell’s epic thriller.

When sixteen-year-old Asha Kennedy discovers her older sister Maya’s dead body in their home, her world falls apart. Desperate for answers, and to stay out of the hands of the social services she grew up in, Asha turns to her hacker friends for help.

Her search leads her to Zu Tech, the hit games studio where Maya was a lead coder. As Asha begins to unravel the riddle of her death, she realises that the only way to uncover the truth is from the inside.

Asha ghosts her old life and infiltrates a Zu Tech eSport tournament as they launch ‘SHACKLE’, the revolutionary Virtual Reality video game Maya was working on – and which hides a monstrous secret



London, near future. 

I know it’s bad when I realize the nurse is leading me towards a room and not one of the cubicles. 

Her pace is unhurried. The frantic Saturday night chaos is all around us, but she doesn’t want to reach this destination any more than I do. The police officer who gave me a lift to the hospital shuffles alongside us. Plainclothes, white, middle-aged, middle everything, with the overconfidence to think that the too-small leather jacket he wears is retro-cool. The nurse ignores him, eyes multitasking. I watch them darting into the cubicles we pass, each with its own slice of drama inside. It’s like I

can see the numbers moving up as she mentally tallies the patients, the trolleys, the staff. Every time we fail to stop at one of those beds, my fear worsens.

The air is heavy with a mix of alcohol and disinfectant: hushed voices, monitors, occasional groans, perforated by loud, drunk talk. My palms are sweaty now, so I wipe them on my jeans as we move along. My head feels dizzy as we pass underneath the flickering strip lights. The hum of air purifiers signals we are in the “clean” area.

The door she stops outside has one chair beside it along with a strategically placed small box of tissues, hand sanitizer, and a prominent display of organ donation leaflets. “The doctor will be right with you.” A sympathetic, efficient nod. A final repeat of her last question: “You sure there is no one you want us to call?”

I shake my head again. It’s always been Maya and me. No one else.

The nurse leaves. The police officer sits down in the chair while I lean against the opposite wall. I stare at the ground, numbing out, counting the square pattern on the linoleum floor. If I let the feelings in, will I drown? I keep seeing her blue lips as I pushed against her chest over and over again, trying to get her heart to restart. I block out the image. I create a fantasy in my head while we wait. When the door is pushed open, Maya will be sitting upright in a hospital bed, an embarrassed look in her eyes. Some doctor beside her, talking about not overworking herself so much. Stressing the need for fluids, the importance of self-care…

This can’t be happening. Not the hospital, not me arriving home late from work. Not the weird smell in our apartment when I got there. That sharp aroma of burnt food from a pot left too long on the cooker.

“Maya?” I had dumped my bag and jacket by the door and trudged to the kitchen, the boredom of eight hours working in Sam’s local fast-food outlet and the smell of fish and chips pooling off me. I hadn’t wanted to work at Sam’s – Maya had called it character building; I called it a lot of other things. There was irritation in my voice at what smelt like another forgotten veggie culinary disaster. “Mai…”

I saw it then. The TV screen flickering, casting a pale blue light over the sitting room area. It’s on a pause screen for a video game: some web banner advert for an eSports tournament plays on the top. My sister hates those events despite her job. I looked down, and the world stopped.

Maya wasn’t answering because she was lying on the floor a few feet away. Body painted in the cold tones of the monitor’s images. Eyes hidden behind a VR headset the size of a small pair of glasses. A tiny blue light blinking on the frame, confirming her connection to some online game. A controller in her hand. Fingers wrapped tight around it. No movement. Completely, terrifyingly still.

The rest of the night is just fragments. I called the emergency services. The questions started over the phone. “Is she breathing? Was she sick? Did she take something? Can you see any sign that she was attacked?”

I looked around. Nothing. Nothing out of the ordinary.

Just her and some game that had switched off when I removed her glasses.

There was no breath – no rise and fall. The voice talked me through the chest compressions. My tears started streaming down my face as a horrible thought entered my mind – am I too late? I pushed against it, clinging desperately to hope. One, two, three. One, two, three. The ambulance crew and a detective arrived at the same time. It took ten minutes and all eternity for them to get there. They took over. One paramedic wearing blue quickly talked to the officer and a dispatcher on his radio. The siren not blaring as the ambulance took off. Me walking past our neighbours’ eyes; they all watched from their own doorways, none of them meeting my stare.

“Is there anyone I can call for you?” the police officer asked.


“Other family?”


“A friend?”


A sigh. The realization that there was no one to hand me off to. “My name’s Murphy.”


In my mind, I keep processing what I know. That the doctor isn’t going to come back with good news.

I slide down the wall and sit on the floor. Head buried in my knees, trying to make myself smaller. From a distance, all that is visible is slightly torn denim, dark trainers, and a mop of long brown hair. How could this have happened? Maya wasn’t sick. I go back to my last memory of her, searching for clues.


The frustration in her voice. “I called them. You never sent the acceptance forms.”

I stared at the ground.

Her tone changed, became more pleading. “They said they can still give you a place…”

I didn’t look at her. It was the same argument we’d been having for weeks. Maya pushing me to take up an early offer for an engineering course miles away. I knew why she wanted me gone. Maya worked for Zu Tech, the leading company in VR technology. Among other things. Their logo is on every platform, game, smart and wifi-enabled device; they are the biggest hardware-software corporation on the planet. The company who only hired the best of the best and then worked them hard. Maya didn’t have time to look after her kid sister any more.

She lost patience and snapped at me. “We’ve talked about this…”

She had dark circles around her eyes. I remember that now. She’d seemed tired. But then, she’d been looking exhausted for weeks. Was that a sign I should have spotted?

I had lost my temper too. “You got me out of the system so we could be together, and ever since I got here, you’ve been trying to get rid of me. That college is in the middle of nowhere, Maya!”

“It’s one of the best. They’re offering you a full scholarship. Everything is covered, including rooms. And with my salary, I can take care of anything else you need.”

“Why can’t I stay here in London with you? Finish regular school. Do college in two years’ time like everyone else. Why are you trying to get rid of me?”

“Not everything is a game, Asha. You can’t just spend all your life alone in your room escaping into the metaverse.”

“You never even went to college. You said it was a waste of—”

“I don’t want you to end up like me. This is an opportunity, Asha. I didn’t get one handed to me.”

I had looked away, ignoring the feelings that curled in my stomach. “You didn’t get one because of me.”

“No, that’s not what I meant.”

“But it’s the truth, isn’t it? You could have gone to college if it wasn’t for me. If you weren’t stuck with a little sister to look after? I’m sorry I’m such a burden. That you giving me a home and taking that stupid job meant you never got to go. Once again, Saint Maya needed to do the right thing. But you could have just left me in care. I didn’t ask you for any of this.”

I had turned towards the door.

“Asha, please. Don’t leave like this.”

But I had. I slammed the flat door behind me, and now that stupid argument and me walking out is the last memory I have of my sister.


Murphy shifts uncomfortably on the hard plastic seat while the world of the hospital moves around but doesn’t interact with either of us. I watch him fidget with his phone and notebook before he stands up. “Let me see what’s keeping them…”

I’m too numb to respond. I am not a people pleaser, and that isn’t going to change. Maya was the one who cared about manners and being nice.

Murphy returns after a few minutes with the doctor. Thin hands covered by surgical gloves. “Maya Kennedy’s next of kin?” Then a pause, a look at Murphy. “No adult?” she asks.

I stand up. “I’m her sister. It’s just the two of us.”

Her eyes are sympathetic. I guess this part of the job never gets easier. She looks at her notes. “I’m sorry that I can’t give you better news. Your sister died between ten and eleven p.m. The ambulance crew couldn’t revive her at the scene.” A pause. Of course Maya was dead. I knew that all along, but now it becomes real, and I can feel myself shutting down. “We’ll need to do an autopsy to determine cause of death. She’ll stay here with us till the Health Plus morgue opens in the morning. If you need to call anyone, you can use our phone.”

I blink at her. “Health…?”

The doctor glances up at me and then back at the chart. “Your sister worked for Zu Tech. They offer private healthcare. The dispatcher on the scene notified them of her death; it means your sister will be processed faster. If she had company life insurance, they will help you with the paperwork. All I can say for now is that the scan doesn’t indicate any biohazard. I am sorry for your loss. It’s always a shock when it’s someone so young.” Another pause, and then she says, “You can see her if you like? Say goodbye?”

I swallow.

“After that, the team here will need some information. Her doctor’s name, and there are some forms you and the social will need to sign. She was your older sister, is that right? You’re around fourteen, fifteen?”

“Sixteen. My birthday was a few months ago.” Maya had made a vegan cake. This can’t be happening.

She nods and catches the eye of a nurse standing to one side. “The hospital needs someone eighteen or over to sign. We’ll make the arrangements for you. Someone can come and collect you from here.”

The words don’t sink in at first. “Someone can come and collect you.” The doctor ushers me towards a room – before the door shuts, I catch a glimpse of Murphy outside, notebook open. The nurse is talking to him. The logo of social services is visible on the back of the documents she holds out.

My brain wakes up. Maya was my sole guardian. My only family. Without her, they’re going to try and put me back into the system.

The doctor leads me to the bed and then leaves. I look at Maya’s still form. It’s her, and yet it’s not. What made Maya special was her energy, her smile. I take a moment to breathe and say goodbye. Talking to her in whispers and tears about what I need to do next. Out of everyone, she would understand. We always said we would never go back.

She would be the first to tell me to run.

An hour later. Drizzle is washing the pavements clean. I cling to the shadows, hoodie up, head down to avoid the cameras. Keys laced through fingers, my ears searching for any sound behind me. Heart thumping whenever a car passes by. Cold wind wiping the tears away. Stupid – there’s no reason to panic. The social system is fast, but not that fast. I have time. Focus. Emotions lead to mistakes.

When I get back to our building, it’s quiet. I stay in the shadows for a while and check the perimeter – old habits. Count the number of lights, check the cars parked outside. Look for anything out of place. It helps me not to think about Maya. What comes next? Pack, erase, trigger the surveillance system. Leave. I wait for a few moments and then enter the building, making sure the communal door catches behind me.

Inside the apartment, I listen to the silence. The smell of burnt food mixed with something else still lingers. My jacket and bag sit on the floor. Everything looks the same until I glance at the sitting room and see the forgotten plastic glove from the ambulance crew on the floor, the small black electrode sticker from the portable EKG. I can’t look inside that room without seeing her lying there so I close the door. Breathe. Think. I grab a sports backpack from the hall cupboard and go first to my hidden stash of cash and codes. What next?

I hesitate outside Maya’s bedroom door, feeling the chrome of the handle before I push it open, forcing myself to go in. Her make-up is scattered on her home office desk/dressing table/dumping ground for lost things. Books and clothes lie on the floor. The smell of coconut body lotion from an open bottle. She never used to be this untidy. A yoga mat with a daisy on it, her favourite flower, is rolled up in a corner by her gym bag – I wonder when the last time she went to a class was. Then I stop. Quick. If I’m quick the feelings can’t rush in. I make a pile of her things on the bed to take with me. Handbag, mobile phone, which I remove the SIM card from, laptop powered off. On impulse, I grab the cheesy snow globe with the picture of us together and her favourite perfume, her “signature” scent, the good one she rarely uses because it’s expensive. Precise motions. No time to waste.

When I’ve finished packing, I take one last look around, glancing back at her unmade bed. It has clothes, pillows, a hairbrush strewn across it. I go to the right-hand side and slide my hand underneath the mattress till it finds the square edges of a book. I pull it out. World Myths and Legends: the dog-eared copy that Maya has carried with her ever since I can remember. The only thing left from the time when we had parents. My eyes well up, but there is no space to let go now. I hug the book and then push it towards the bottom of the bag before zipping it shut.

I move fast. The last thing I do is take my phone and dismantle it. I place it in the microwave and hit start. I don’t want to leave a trace behind me, nothing that might be saved to the phone’s internal memory, some random bit of data that might lead someone to where I am going next. It rotates inside, sparks, a few small flames that die as the microwave stops, leaving a black, bubbling, melted mess. I lock the door behind me. Will I ever be able to go back? Don’t think. Run.

I don’t stop till I get to the takeaway a few blocks over. Sam paid me off the books, so they won’t know to come here right away. The streets are empty as I disable the alarm and slip in the side door and into the back room, a sort of office with camera monitors, files, storage. Normally employees don’t have access, but Sam didn’t hire me for my people skills. If I’m honest, the main reason he hired me was probably to impress Maya when his Portuguese charms didn’t work, but the other reason I got my Saturday/part-time job was tech. My ability to upgrade his security system for a fraction of the cost.

Within a week of installing the cameras, they caught someone doing credit card skims on the night shift. By week two, I had made his shop impenetrable, both online and physically, rigging a silent alarm and introducing a lockdown protocol for maximum security. Now I use it to seal myself inside the closed takeaway. The clock on the wall says it’s one a.m. By six a.m., I need to be somewhere else. To become someone else.

I can’t break; that can only come later. Fear can either destroy you or drive you. It’s the only choice people like me get to make.


I start with creating a new ID and opening a bank account. I can’t rush this part. I need just enough cash so that it won’t attract attention. Money from my old life. I need to be careful not to leave digital fingerprints behind. While I transfer the funds, I think about the social. 

The doctor would have thought nothing of calling them. She was trying to help, and they were the only option. But for Maya and me, the “social” was twelve years of living hell. Maya was seven and I was three when our parents died and we started bouncing from care home to care home. A bin bag for our belongings. Maya’s book World Myths and Legends, the only thing from our parents, the corners always cutting through the thin plastic. With each move, they would try again to separate us. We’d had to stay alert. Aware that we were now stuck in a system where no one cares if you live or die. We were a number on a spreadsheet, a statistic that would simply disappear once it turned eighteen.

“Once we get out, Asha, we never go back.” Maya’s eyes had held my gaze when she said it. That memory is one of my earliest ones. I must have been about four or five. Maya holding my small hand tight in hers, her eyes bright. “Sister promise. Once we leave, we never let ourselves get taken back. We never let go of each other.”

Click. The bank account is done. Credit history and scores, fake ID, vaccination records that mirror mine. Nothing traceable.

I find a place near the London Eye. A small temporary rabbit hole, a single-bed studio in a buzzy part of Embankment. An area busy enough that I can blend in. I transfer the funds to cover a short stay and get a code to open the door.

Then I hack the street cameras. Disabling them would draw the attention of a tech crew and questions, so instead, I angle them ever so slightly to create a blind spot around the apartment block entrance.

I wait for the changes to process. Without warning, I think of Maya on the floor. No. I need to block my mind from going there. I can’t fall apart yet. Social systems are more advanced now. Once I get listed as missing, the file will go to surveillance. The algorithms there will link everything on my file and open a search. One bank transaction from my real account, one glance up at the wrong street camera, and I’ll be spotted.

I’m not going back, not ever.

Cameras re-routed. I secure a code for a nearby ATM for a cash card linked to my new bank account and start to repack. I load a large takeaway foil container with my old ID, travel cards, bank cards – anything with a potential electronic tag or strip that could be used to trace me – and wrap them up using some gaffer tape. I go through Maya’s handbag, doing the same. Moving fast, keeping hold of the slender, fragile thread that is keeping me anchored, stopping me from falling into that ocean of loss.

I pack both containers into the bottom of my backpack. It’s five a.m.; dawn is at five thirty-eight. Deep breath. Next: I wipe the computer drives, including the CCTV files and history. In my mind, I imagine Sam cursing when he comes in later and finds all the camera feeds and employee files deleted. My fingers hover over the keyboard. No choice; my index finger presses the delete key.

In the back office is an old black puffer jacket and a grey baseball cap. I take them and tie my hair up. Then I am out, moving swiftly away. Just another teenager out late.

I force myself to walk at a steady pace. Speed attracts the wrong sort of attention on an empty street. I can’t risk public transport or a cab, and that will cost me time. Shadows frighten me. Footsteps behind me, cars that pass by too slowly make my feet want to run. My heart keeps hammering so loud I’m sure it can be heard. By the time I reach the apartment on Embankment, dawn has already broken, and the first of the morning fitness fanatics are out exercising. I glance over my shoulder – no one seems to be following me. I slow down, looking at the apartment block numbers, counting them as I pass.

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Too close, the voice is too close. A copper, security? I glance up and see a guy dumping recycling into a nearby bottle bin with a crash. I keep my head low and my feet moving.

“You lost?”

He’s white, male, broad shoulders – and with a phone in his hand. Don’t look, don’t engage. Keep counting the flat numbers, breathe, walk, don’t run.

Footsteps. The voice is coming closer. “I said…”

The sweat cools on my forehead. He’s getting too close. I look up and see the door: Apt’s 1900–1970. I punch the code into it. Please work, please. It swings open with a slight creaking sound.

I slip inside and shut the door, then duck into the stairwell, eyes fixed on the enforced glass panel of the door. A few minutes later, I hear the muffled sound of the guy passing, the distorted image through the glass of the pods now in his ears, lips humming something out of tune. He doesn’t stop. He keeps walking. My hands are trembling. I struggle to catch my breath.

The apartment is on the fifth floor, up a small fire exit stair and down a rabbit warren of tiny airless corridors, past a dozen identical doors. The place is clean, but it smells of bad ventilation and takeaway food. I punch in a second code at number 1929 and wait for the reassuring click. Go in, look around. White, tiny, characterless, anonymous. I pull the deadbolts across from the inside. There are no other ways in or out. Not ideal, but safe. I am safe. They can’t get me if they can’t find me.

I put my backpack down and sink on to the floor. A weak ray of morning sun hits my face as I listen to the sounds of London waking up outside. The cars, trucks, voices, the beep of the nearby pedestrian crossing. Deliveries being made, shops and restaurants opening. Normal life. Not mine, not now. Not ever. No more safety net. I am alone.

Something inside me breaks then. Maya was my world. Blood. The only family I had to hold on to. No one came to claim us after our parents passed. No known extended family that we could remember. Nothing. Just us. We’d promised each other to never let go, and now she has. I cry angry, ugly, violent sobs that I try to muffle with my coat. I close my eyes and cry and cry.

Nothing will ever be the same again.


When I wake, there is a moment when the world seems OK. Half asleep, listening for the sounds of Maya’s movements – brushing her teeth, humming under her breath, the snap of her hairband, the faint smell of coconut. A vague hope that she might have made something normal for breakfast, something not revolving around lentils.

Then I remember.

I sit up slowly, my neck stiff and sore, payback from sleeping on the fake wooden floor. There are no more tears left inside now – just emptiness. It doesn’t make sense. How is she dead? Could she have been sick and I didn’t realize? If I had gotten home earlier, could I have saved her?

Maya’s gone. No – it still doesn’t feel real. She was “the nice sister”, the one who kept trying to figure out the system when we were little. To understand it so it couldn’t separate us. She’d encourage me to apply for schemes, funding, mentorships, to hustle for a better life. Even then, I kept asking her why. What was the point? Happy endings were for others, not us. I kept my expectations low. When you don’t have dreams, it can’t hurt you when they don’t come true.

Maya was my world, my family, the one who pushed me. She started telling me stories in our first group home. I was three, scared, clinging to her, too frightened to close my eyes. So, she crawled into my bed after lights out and whispered stories to me about the parents I couldn’t remember, every night a different one till I fell asleep.

“They loved us, you know,” she would say. “So much.”

“Then why did they leave?” I would ask.

“It wasn’t their fault. The virus doesn’t discriminate.”

It helped when the nightmares were bad. But as years passed, even her memories started to fade.

So, Maya came up with another story to keep us both from breaking as we navigated the “system”: “our plan”.

Late at night, we’d snuggle up together in a single bed, her voice barely a whisper. “Once I’m eighteen, I’ll get a job. Then I’ll get a place. After that, I’ll come back for you. They have to release you then. Once we’re out – we never go back.”

Nine years. An eternity and yet… “Promise?”

“Sister promise. We will always be together.”

Maya broke her promise, and now I have no idea what to do next.


I shower. The silence of the studio apartment adds to the feeling that everything is wrong. Afterwards, I look at the clothes lying on the bathroom floor and can’t bear to touch them. When I last put them on, Maya was alive.

I go out. Cash card in my pocket, shades to hide my red eyes, baseball hat pulled down. There’s a busy Sunday street market nearby, where I pick up food, clothes, hair dye. I buy a new SIM card, phone, metal tape for a better Faraday cage, and a laptop in the small Chinese store close by. No one gives me a second glance. The best place to hide is always within plain sight, deep inside the crowd. I walk back to the apartment, past the happy couples and friends heading out for late Sunday brunches. When I get back, I take out my new phone. I have no one to call, but I needed data. My hands start shaking again, so I eat, and then I set up. I need to find out what happened to Maya, and the system gave me one skill I can use.

The outreach programme run by the Zu Tech Corporation was designed to “create the workforce of the future”. Attendance from low-income state schools was compulsory. The classes taught primary coding languages that employers could use. Skills for the world outside. After a year, there were tests that led to more advanced courses, but for only a select few. Both Maya and I made it. The thing about the social was that we had nothing else to do. So we practised, played, and advanced faster than anyone else around us. We were taught by the best of the best. Software engineers, network technicians, cyber security experts, and we absorbed it all. Operating systems, maths, AI and machine learning, security and cryptology, networking. But where I did best – ethical hacking, cloud computing.

Maya encouraged me but, despite her people pleasing ways, she wasn’t as much of a die-hard as I was about our new courses. 

“It’s Zu Tech, Maya,” I’d say, and she’d just shrug. 

“I want more for you. University, joining some start-up that gets sold for a billion quid. Then you can keep us in a lifestyle we could get accustomed to. Remember, Asha, nothing ever comes for free.”

For Maya, tech was a means to an end: a way to get an apprenticeship at eighteen that would pay enough to get us out. For me, breaching firewalls, finding the things others liked to keep hidden gave me a sense of control and an addictive adrenaline rush. By twelve, I was on my way to building a different reputation from the one she wanted for me. I’d started hacking public records, searching for our parents, their past. The thrill of being places I didn’t belong led to me skimming from banks, not the public ones, but the private ones. The places only those with old or vast sums of money use. I built a stockpile of emergency funds. My just in case cash that I could never tell her about without revealing where it came from.

I log in to my new laptop and go to the NHS server – security is minimal. The file notes the transfer time to the Health Plus morgue – the autopsy is scheduled for early Monday morning. I swallow. It takes a few minutes before I can read the rest. Cause of death: Unknown. Scribbled on one of the scanned pages underneath: “Respiratory failure?”, then another single question mark written beside her blood results. I scroll through the other pages. No visible bruising to the skin, no cuts, no sign of any virus. Maya was healthy: no history of long-term illness or disease on record. So why and how did she stop breathing?

They don’t know any more than I do about how Maya died. No break-in, no one else in the apartment. No signs of a struggle. Maya was a yoga-practising, refined sugars will kill you person. I kick the table. She promised. “Sister promise. We will always be together.”

Anger starts to flow – at her for leaving me alone. At myself for not knowing at sixteen what I am supposed to do now. Do I stay hidden for two years in the shadows till I turn eighteen and age out of the social system’s reach? This is a mess.

A sudden buzzing noise makes me jump. I search around me, eventually finding the source: Maya’s handbag. The low humming of an incoming alert. My chest tightens. I searched it last night; I thought I’d got all her electronics. What did I miss? I flip the bag upside down, and the contents spill on to the table. Gum, make-up, hand sanitizer, swipe cards for work, winter mask, and then a collection of Maya’s favourite hair ties, crystals, hippie stuff. A necklace. Bracelets.

One of them is buzzing. A slender pink fitness tracker designed to look like a bangle. Incoming message alerts. The band looked like the gazillion other feng shui type items she liked to have on her wrist, so I’d missed it. Zu Tech must issue them. Damn. Damn. Messages mean it must have a clone of her SIM chip inside; someone could get a traceable GPS signal. I am better than this.

My heart starts to pound again. Emails from her job at Zu Tech, text messages, lots of them from a private number. I look for an off button, but there is none – fingerprint tech. I take the bracelet and plunge it into water. It keeps buzzing. Waterproof. Damn. I need another Faraday cage to block the signal. Bathroom. The rubbish bin is metal with a plastic lining. I take the metal tape and cover any joins, then I put the bracelet inside and seal the top shut. The buzzing stops, the cage instantly blocking the electromagnetic radiation and wifi signal. Like a switch has been flicked, the room is again silent. My breath starts to return to normal. I have to be more careful.

I go back to the table to sweep the rest of Maya’s stuff back into her bag, when I spot the small pink crumpled Post-it note. It must have been stuck to the lining at the bottom of the bag. The writing isn’t Maya’s; the letters are sharp, unlike Maya’s looping fluid style.

When can I meet Asha?

No initials, nothing else. Just this.

I sit down at the kitchen table and stare at it. Creepy. Maya never mentioned anyone wanting to meet me. That’s when it starts. What else don’t I know? The feeling in my gut twists. Something isn’t right. There is a puzzle, pieces that don’t fit, a picture I can’t see. The problem is where to begin to find answers.

A Game of Life and Death and its sequel, The Traitor in the Game, are out in paperback now.

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