A high school student finds a grimoire that shows how to make magical disguises.
|Previously: "The Girl Who Can Get You In"
"You could help us get into your school, to look around," you tell Roxanne. "So we could look for the, uh—"
"And how is that supposed to work?" she exclaims. "I told you, we can't have visitors out th—"
"It doesn't have to be a visitor. It could be, uh, one of the regular students?" You feel yourself blushing. "We've got a, uh, blank mask and set up. If we could, uh, copy someone who went to your school—"
All the blood drains from Roxanne's face. "Who?" she demands, haggardly.
"Your choice?" you reply in a small voice. "I mean, it's just an idea, if you don't—"
Your stammerings are interrupted by a groan from the floor, where Eva is stirring. Her brow furrows, and she winces as she sits up. She is dressed in Dylan's clothes, which, though loose-fitting, are bunched up around her in a way that looks binding. She gives you a dirty look, before turning to Roxanne.
"Okay, are you finally satisfied?" she groans. "You know, maybe you should try this thing out next time you want someone to put it on. Find out for yourself," she continues as she levers herself upright, "how much it feels like shit to put one of these things on and take one—"
"Who did you sleep with?" Roxanne demands of Eva. Her eyes and teeth flash. "Who was the guy you fucked while wearing—" A look of loathing crosses her face as she points at Eva.
"Oh, don't act like you wouldn't put one of these things on if it got you laid." But then she grimaces and says. "Patrick Sawyer," she says. "He said his name was Patrick Sawyer."
"Never heard of him."
"He said his name was Patrick Sawyer, but he could've been lying."
"The guys at the party said he went to Xavier's," Caleb puts in.
"Why, because that's what he told them?" Roxanne retorts. "He could've been lying!"
Eva sighs. "Well, do you have some pictures on your phone of some of the guys out at your school? Something I can look at to—"
But Roxanne has already pulled out her phone and is scrolling furiously through it. You and Caleb and "Eva" exchange glances.
"I don't have a lot," Roxanne says, "on account of I see them every day and I don't especially want to look at them outside of school. But here." She sidles up to Eva, and the two girls stand awkwardly side by side as they flick through the phone.
"I need a breath of fresh air," Caleb says, and moves toward the door.
"I'll go with you," you tell him.
Outside, Caleb stands on the stoop and stares out across the roofs of the houses toward the Keyserling campus. "What a clusterfuck," he says.
"I know. If we can't figure out who this 'Patrick' guy is—"
"I mean Roxanne in there. Jesus. It was fucked up enough without you bringing her—"
"What else was I supposed to do?" you demand. "We need to get into Xavier's to look around, and she—"
"She doesn't need to know about any of this, Will," Caleb tells you. "You could'a just pasted her with a mask, you know. Or at least with the memory copying thingie. Wasn't that how come you talked to her yesterday, up at Monte Viso? Because you wanted to—"
"I'd rather have her on our side," you retort. "It's easier this way, to get into the mutant school."
"We just need her memories, Will. Her memories of what the guys out there look like, for a start. If we could just copy those—"
"She's got pictures. Her and Dylan will figure it out."
Caleb frowns. "Why are you suddenly so ... gallant?"
"Gallant?" you exclaim.
"You're so dead set against copying her. Like with Lisa."
You blush. "Well, why are you so gung-ho?"
Caleb glances back at the door. "Because she's cute," he says. "In a tomboy kind of way. I bet she fucks like a sex-starved jackrabbit. If we got her face onto a golem—" He rubs his hands.
To your own astonishment, you have the urge to punch him. But you master yourself.
"Well, maybe that's how come I don't want anyone, like, doing something nasty with her," you coldly retort.
"Because she probably fucks like a sex-starved jackrabbit?"
"No! Because—" You snap off the retort when the door opens.
"No luck," Eva informs you as she gestures you and Caleb back in. "Roxy hasn't got a lot of friends out there."
Behind her, you see Roxanne bridle.
"There is one way we could figure it out," you interrupt before Roxanne can say anything. "But, it's, um—" You glance back at Caleb. "Really kind of creepy."
Roxanne's thought is readable on her face: As if this stuff isn't creepy enough?
"The problem," you continue with a quaver in your voice, "is that Dylan knows what the guy looks like, but he doesn't know the names of anyone at Xavier's. Roxanne"—you take a deep breath—"knows everyone at Xavier's, but she doesn't know what Dylan's, uh, date looks like."
You look around the room, hoping that you won't have to make your suggestion out loud. But only Caleb looks like he's following your train of thought.
"So," you conclude, "if we could put the two together— If, like, we could merge Roxanne's memories and Dylan's— If Dylan could see into Roxanne's memories—"
"You mean like telepathy?" Roxanne asks in a stony voice.
You cross over to the wobbly dining room table where Dylan and Caleb had been working earlier this afternoon, and pick up the completed memory band. You show it to Roxanne.
"This is one of the things that goes into a disguise. It copies, uh, memories. If we put it on you, and then Dylan—"
Roxanne's head swings between you and Dylan.
"Oh, what are you assholes trying to do?" she demands, and backs up a couple of steps.
Caleb says, "We're trying to figure out who got copied. To save his life."
"Save his life?" Roxanne echoes.
"It's a doppelganger," Caleb says. "We accidentally made a doppelganger, and we're trying to catch it and stop it before it does what doppelgangers are supposed to do." When no one says anything, he fills in the blank himself: "Get rid of the original and take his place."
Roxanne puts a hand out to keep herself from falling over. Then she sinks to the floor.
* * * * *
His name is Charles Whitney, Dylan is able to tell you a little while later, and Roxanne barks at the name. "Yeah, he's a real dick," she mutters.
He's also a local who, like her got into St. Xavier's on a scholarship—and being a local, it explains how he was able to spend the night in a faux-fraternity without getting into trouble. Dylan informed you of all that too, because Roxanne had to bust out of the house to cool her head. You give her a few minutes to be alone out there while Dylan writes down all the information that Roxanne knows about the guy. Afterward, he lays out on the futon, and you tear the memory band out of him. You take it outside to give to Roxanne, who is tapping away at her phone.
"Here," you tell her, and hold it out. She flinches from it. "What are you doing?" you ask.
"Trying to send Charles a text," she mutters. "Warning him."
You might be warning the doppelganger, you think, but you say nothing.
"Oh, fuck this," she mutters, and swipes to a new screen, which she taps at before putting her phone to her ear. "Hey," she says, "do you know Charles Whitney's phone number?" She listens. "Do you know his address, where he lives? Well, who do you know who—?"
It's the start of ten minutes of calling around as she tries to track down the contact information for a classmate she cordially dislikes. She's finally able to send him a text. That's when she asks, "What if it's the doppelganger, when we catch up to him?"
"We can take care of him," you assure her. She snorts. "No, really there's ways—"
"Put a fucking cork in it," she snaps. "You guys are fucking around with the mysteries of the universe and you've let loose a— a— thing! And you tell me you know how to handle it."
"Well, we do know, in this case. Oh, and here, before I forget." You press the memory band into her hand.
She holds it like it's hot, and thrusts it into her pocket. She turns her back on you. "Thanks," she growls. "And thanks for not putting it on yourself."
"I wouldn't have known what your friend— what Dylan's friend— would have looked like."
"Well, thanks anyway for not putting it on." She presses the heels of her hands into her eyes. "Can you take me for a drive?" she says, "while I'm waiting to hear back from Charles?"
The request perks you up, and you nod. She follows you back over to your truck. You take it slowly around the block, not talking.
You've not gone a hundred yards, though, before a Mustang roars up beside you and cuts you off. As you stare, four large boys pile out and swarm up to your door and to Roxanne's. You roll your window down a crack. "The fuck's going on?" you demand.
Then all the hair on your head goes up as a horrible anticipation washes over you. The two boys glowering in through your window are identical twins.
Next: "Getting Real with Charles Whitney"