A high school student finds a grimoire that shows how to make magical disguises.
|Previously: "Hand Off, Face Off"
You stare at the work table, where you last saw the book. It's gone.
"I dunno," you stammer, playing for time. "You're the last one that had it, weren't you?"
Caleb gives you a look. "Yes, and I left it right here." He taps the table top.
"Well, don't look at me!" you exclaim. "I didn't touch it! You must have moved it somewhere else and forgot!"
Caleb sighs, and starts peering around the basement. You pretend to help, looking inside desk drawers and under stacks of furniture.
First, though, you check the drawer where you left the five twenty-dollar bills. It's empty, and Chen didn't leave anything in their place.
Son of a bitch! you fume to yourself. That slimy, double-crossing, cock-sucking son of a bitch!
He must have taken the book, too, though how he got it out of the basement you don't understand. You locked the door after he came out, and he wasn't carrying it when you ambushed him.
And why would he carry off an old book that he "found" inside a smelly old school basement?
If you're lucky, it'll turn out that Chen didn't carry it off, that just for spite he hid it somewhere while looking for the money you left him. But though you and Caleb make a very systematic search—and you make a second search on your own when he goes home to see if he left it in his house—you don't turn it up. Caleb is furious when he gets back, and takes it out on you. You're also pretty sure, from the looks he's shooting you, that he suspects you of carrying it off and hiding it for some secret purpose of your own.
Texts come in while you're working—from your mom, from Kendra and Gloria, from Meghan Farris and some other suck-ups—but you ignore them until one pops up from Gary Chen. After reading it, you decide to wrap up the afternoon. "Maybe it'll turn up tomorrow," you tell him. He replies with silent, beady-eyed glare. "But I have to get home. Chelsea has a life, you know."
Caleb looks like he's going to say something cutting. But after another long glare, he shrugs and turns his back on you.
How the hell am I going to explain this to him? you wonder as you drive off.
* * * * *
Chen badgers you with two more angry outbursts (Don't idgnorw me bitch and U don't want to talk the hope deals off) before you find a spot at The Flying Saucer, one of the city's many kooky coffee shops, where you can catch a quiet moment wherein to deal with him.
His first text was alarming enough: Wats with ur crazy bitch frend steaphnie u tell her I don't fuckin play her stupid cunt games or fuck her. But while you're figuring out how to reply, he hurls another one at you: Ur cunt fend Stephanie says no deal so duck her n fuck u n eat shit bitch I not playing fucknw u blow me f I u want something I will fuck u up if u screw me. Yes, it's near gibberish, but the intent is clear enough. The most alarming bit, though, is the implication that he texted or went and talked to the real Stephanie Wyatt.
Gary can we please get together at talk? you plead with him, but he only replies with a string of curses. Maybe it's just as well. Because after you've given up trying to entice him to meet you, you realize you don't know what you would say to him. How could "Chelsea Cooper" possibly ask him whether he lifted a book from inside the basement of the abandoned elementary school down in Acheson?
And after all that, the final payoff comes almost as an anticlimax. You drive back out to Westside, where let yourself into the gym and hide in the very back of the girls' changing room. There you take off your clothes and Chelsea's mask long enough to slap a newly minted strip of metal to your forehead. It contains all of Gary Chen's garbagey thoughts and memories and personality, and it leaves you feeling like you're sealed up inside a sleeping bag that's crawling with snakes and cockroaches. And what do you learn?
First, that Chen did notbreak into the loft and take the briefcase, even though he did case the place and fiddled with the handle to the door. Second, that he most definitely did take the book. After finding the money you left him, he glanced around, and out of a spiteful sense of curiosity he jammed it inside the backpack he was carrying. You groan at the now-obvious solution to that puzzle.
But what is he likely to do with it? Based on what you find inside his head, your best guess is that he'll throw it into a corner of his house and forget about it.
* * * * *
"Pookie," you say in a small, careful tone of voice, "are you thinking of quitting the basketball team?"
It's Sunday afternoon, and you're up at the school again, in the loft. Chelsea is rarely up there on Sundays, but you arranged a meeting with Gordon today. It's a cool day, with temperatures in the fifties, and the sun is playing hide and seek among broken layers of heavy clouds. You're dressed warmly, in skin tight legging under your skirt, and a jeans jacket over your long-sleeve blouse. Even Gordon is dressed in long jeans. You're glad of the layers, because even though you're cuddling in his lap, with your arms around each other, you don't want things to go any further.
And you're only letting them go this far because you're trying to keep your contingencies open.
"Pookie?" you ask again when Gordon doesn't answer. You look up to find that he's been concentrating on your breasts. "Huh?" he says.
You sigh. "I'm not kissing you again until you promise to start paying attention to me."
He giggles. "I'm always paying attention to you."
"Not like that! I mean to what I say."
"Sure," he says, and pushes in for a kiss.
"Mmph! Gordon! This is serious! Are you thinking of quitting the basketball team?"
"Huh? How come?"
"That's for you to tell me! When was the last time you were at practice?"
"Oh, gosh!" he says. "Um ... Yesterday?"
"Yesterday was Saturday!"
"Day before yesterday?" His breath is coming in quick gasps.
"Well, are you going to keep going? Isn't Steve mad at you?"
"Uh ... Yeah? I guess so?"
"Gordon!" You clasp his face between your hands."I thought basketball was important to you!"
"Yeah, sure." He shifts beneath you, and his stiffened member pings off the bottom of your thigh. "But you know—" He squeezes your hips. "There's other things I like more!"
"Huh?" He stares at you, then breaks into an uncontrollable giggle.
"Gordon, what's gotten into you lately? You're skipping your classes, you're skipping practice, Steve is—"
"You want some now?"
Gordon mimes taking a hit off a blunt, and waggles his eyebrows at you. "I know where—"
"Pookie! Concentrate! You know what happened to that stoner, right! What's his name? Dane?" You snap your fingers, pretending to remember. "Dane Matthias!"
The color drains from Gordon's face. "Yeah?" he says, and all the mirth has evaporated from his voice.
"Well, you know what happened to him, right? Did you hear?"
"He got shipped off to boot camp! You hear that? Boot camp! Because he was always stoned! Even his own family couldn't take it any more, even after years and years of—!"
"Oh, why are you telling me this, Chelsea?" Gordon groans. "I don't—! I wanna have fun!"
"You're having too much fun! Gordon! If Dane's family finally had enough and shipped him off to boot camp, what do you think your dad'll do to you?" Gordon's father is a cop, and a borderline-abusive asshole to his son. "I don't want you going away from me, Pookie!" You pout at him. "I couldn't bear to lose my snoogie-woogie Pookie-Ookums!"
Gordon's head wobbles on his neck, and he almost capsizes as his boner pokes at you through his jeans.
"So I just want you to think about Dane, and what happened to him," you say as you resettle yourself on his lap. You straddle him and push your breast against his, and take his rough, unshaven face between your hands. "I don't want to lose you, Pookie!" You push in, pressing a hard, questing tongue into his mouth. "You have to promise me that you won't do anything stupid, that you'll always be here for me," you groan when you break away. "That every time I come up here looking for you, you'll be here, waiting!"
"Oh God, yes!" Gordon pants. His face is turning purple with pent-up desire, and a sweat has broken out all over him. It must have been torture for him, you think, pressing up close to Chelsea and not being able to close the deal. All you have to do now is say the word, and he will rip all his clothes off.
After which, you can take the mask off him.
That's the secret purpose you had in meeting and teasing him here like this. Get him alone and get his mask off. Then scare him into waiting for you here at school, in the gym, in the loft, while you drive out to Chen's house under Gordon Black's mask, to see if you can get the book back that way.
But even here, even now, as you have "Gordon" puddling in your hands, you still aren't sure this is the way you want to do it. As Gordon you can only threaten and bully Chen. From inside Stephanie's mask you can maybe seduce and cajole him—unless he is so pissed at the real girl that he just tries punching you.
That's all for now.