Chapter One Time stretched with the draw of my bow. Ancient ages whispered in the slide of the arrow on the rest, and all possibilities collected in that suspended instant when my breath slowed, my knuckle kissed the corner of my mouth, I loosed the shot--­ And someone's cell phone went off in the spectator stands. I got the shot off, but the bowstring smacked my arm above the guard. The sting ran all the way up to behind my eyes. I did a little it-­hurts-­but-­I-­can't-curse dance but recovered quickly because, one, I did the same thing a couple of times a week, and two, Dr. Hudson's Third Law of Competition Dynamics was "Never let them see you lose your cool." Maybe Dad didn't put it quite that way, but it was what he meant. So I put my game face on and ignored the troubling fact that I'd let a cell phone distract me amid all the general tweeting and pinging and hubbub. God, Ellie. Just because everyone's watching to see when you crack . . . Even before I peered through the scope set up beside me, I knew it was a poor shot. But it was good enough that I could recover with a high-­scoring arrow and make it to the medal round. Hudson's Second Law of Competition Dynamics was "There is no such thing as good enough." There's ten points and there's try harder. With the Olympic qualifying trials coming up, and as the second-­highest-­ranked woman in the United States, fifth or sixth internationally, it was time to make my move up the rungs of the competitive ladder. That was what I was supposed to be doing in Nottingham. Not shooting like a reasonably accomplished summer camp counselor. But then, Rob was supposed to be here, not his alternate. Focus. That was Dr. Hudson's First Law. Its corollary was "Stay in the moment." Don't think about the last shot, or the next shot, only about this shot. One arrow left in my quiver and two minutes on the clock. I took my time fitting the nock to the string, trying to narrow the prismatic scatter of my thoughts. I visualized myself on the podium, the way the team sports psychiatrist had suggested. But what my brain called up was Rob and me on the stand, the way the U.S. Archery Team had run our picture after my first national medal. Crap. Instead of slowing its roll, my head game was about to go off the rails. I mentally swiped the image of Rob and me off the screen and zoomed in on the ten-­point X in the middle of the target. Just that. No flags and no nations, no babel of languages from officials and spectators. I focused until everything blurred except me and the target--­ And the bizarrely dressed man between us. "Hold!" I shouted, lowering my bow and slacking the string. Years of safety standards kicked in before I fully processed what I'd seen. "Man downrange!" The firing captain echoed my shout in three languages, and all the archers on the shooting line immediately complied. A confused murmur rippled through the spectators, and when I blinked myself back to the larger picture, I saw why. There was nothing between me and the targets, stretched out like a row of unblinking eyes. The officials conferred on their headsets, checking that the range was clear. The delay wasn't long, but I could feel the murmur of annoyance trickling through the shooters. Finally the firing captain gestured for me to come off the line to talk to him--­pretty much the equivalent of getting called into the principal's office. As I stepped away from my spot, the North Korean girl shooting next to me--­my major competition for the podium--­made a comment as I passed. It needed no translation. Before the official could reach me, Coach jogged over, with a look of serious concern. "What happened, Ellie?" I had my bow in one hand, and I spread the other in a palm-­up shrug. "There was someone downrange." Coach had brought Olympic medalists and world champions to the podium before. My brother was one of them. Coach was almost family. "Was it an official? A spectator?" he asked. Honesty made me pause. "I'm not sure." Safety had been drilled into me from my first archery lesson, and I knew calling a halt was the right thing to do, but I hadn't really processed what or who I'd seen. I couldn't even be sure if it was a man or a woman. I had the impression of a light-­colored dress or robe, like a costume. But I wasn't about to say that, because that was just plain weird and I didn't want to end up seeing a real psychiatrist. "I only saw him for a second, and then I yelled, and by the time I did that, he was gone." When the line captain reached us, we had almost the exact same conversation, except in French. After I explained, he still looked doubtful but got on the radio and instructed security to watch for someone dressed in light-­colored clothes. Then he had the field captain signal for shooting to begin again. "Hey!" I protested. "I'm not on the line yet." "Then I suggest you get there, Mademoiselle Hudson," the official said flatly, "instead of distracting your competitors with this delay." He left, and I spun to face Coach and vent my indignation. "What was I supposed to do? Keep quiet and hope this figment of my imagination didn't get hit with an imaginary arrow?" Coach made a calming gesture. "Ellie, this isn't important. You're wasting shooting time." "Not important?" I flapped a hand toward the French official. "I just got called off the line for doing the right thing! How is that not important?" "Arguing about it isn't important," he said before physically turning me around and adding, "The time warning is flashing." It was, and I was still behind the ready line. It was bad sportsmanship to step up while my neighbor from North Korea was at full draw, so I had to watch the time count down while she held her shot much longer than necessary. She played a good head game, cranking up the pressure. Then, before she let loose, the woman to my right lifted her bow, holding me back another precious few seconds. She loosed with six seconds on the clock. All the other shooters were finished, so I leapt to the line with my arrow already in my hand. Five. I fitted the arrow's nock to the string. Four. I put my eye on the target and lifted my bow. Three. I brought the bow down and drew back in the same motion. Two. My knuckle touched the corner of my mouth. One. I let fly. The scores took forever for the target captain to tally, and I sweated it out on the field, where only shooters and coaches were allowed, unable to face my parents until I knew whether I'd screwed up or really screwed up. By the time I got the news and went back to the field house, a lot of the women had already left, but the men were getting ready to shoot their qualifying rounds. Marco Canales paused in his stretching to give me some good-­natured hell. "Real dramatic, Ellie. Auditioning for a movie?" "Courting the cameras, more like." Erik Murray didn't look up from adjusting the stabilizer on his bow. "The video is probably already on your fan page." I pulled off the sweaty headband keeping my shortish hair out of my face and shot Marco a "very droll" look. I ignored Erik Murray. He was something like nineteen going on a hundred and fifty; his younger brother had to set up his Facebook page. The thing is, my unofficial fan page was a little embarrassing, but Mom and I tacitly supported it with exclusive videos and interviews because the moderators donated any ad revenue to the Women's Sports Foundation. Someone threw their arm around my neck. I jumped, but settled down when I saw the red, white, and blue manicure. Angela Torres was my closest friend on the team, as well as my closest competition. She was six years older than me but had never treated me like a kid, even when I'd been one. "What happened, Hudson? I was too far down the line to see." It was pretty quiet with the field house clearing out, so I set my equipment bag across two benches. "I barely squeaked by to the finals." She folded her arms and leaned against the wall, watching me disassemble my bow and pack up. "I heard you cracked under pressure. That's why I'm not gloating about being ahead of you in points." "Enjoy it while it lasts, Torres." I bantered on autopilot because I was thinking about what Angela had said. Had I cracked? I knew that'd be the gossip. Some bloggers had been just waiting for it to happen. I'd been training intensely, and competition was brutal even without any family drama. But if I was going to lose it and start seeing things, why would it be something so random? "Are you going to tell me?" Angela prodded. "I promise not to tweet it." That made one. It was a matter of record anyway. "I saw someone downrange, walking across the field." I didn't mention the weird clothes, which were the one thing that kept me from believing the whole thing had been some kind of optical illusion, like I'd seen someone on the sidelines out of the corner of my eye and just . . . Excerpted from No Good Deed by Kara Connolly All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.