A high school student finds a grimoire that shows how to make magical disguises.
|Previously: "The Many Faces of Crime, Part 2"
You're woken the next morning by the chime on your phone. It's a text from Caleb, telling you he's on his way over to spend the day with you. The golem will be covering for him again at school.
"Jesus," you mutter as you let him into Dane's trailer. "Don't you plan on ever going to school again?"
"Sometime," he says, and pushes a bag of donuts at you as he squeezes past you into the trailer. "Just not as myself." He looks around the messy living room. "And are you really planning on living in this dump?"
"Well, someone's gotta cover for Dane," you remind him. "And it makes a great clubhouse when his mom's not here. Which she isn't, I don't think."
"She isn't," Caleb replies. "She was out all night with the other girls." He grabs the donut bag back from you and dips a hand into it. "She is getting pretty frantic about getting herself a new face, though. Which I guess is what I came out here to talk to you about."
But it isn't Mrs. Matthias who he wants to specifically talk to you about, but plans in general. The other guys have all worked out who they want to be, he tells you, and they plan to start making the replacements tonight. So Caleb has come over to help you finish up making the necessary masks.
It gives you a shiver to think of it—a bunch of guys turning themselves into copies of other people, and taking over their lives—even though that's what you were doing yesterday with Erik Carstairs and Gary Chen. And it's what you're doing now, which is why you are in Dane Matthias's trailer. But a thing like that, you suppose, always looks worse from the outside than from the inside.
That's not all you have to talk about, though. Lindsay, he says, is still trying to get the grimoire back from Bhodi so that she can destroy it. "I think we can keep it from her for another day," he tells you as you dump the unpolished masks and unfinished brain bands onto the floor between you. "After that, she's going to start thinking something is up, if she's not thinking it already."
"So what do you want to do about it?"
"Give it to her," he says.
"What?" you exclaim.
"Well, it's not like we can get any farther into it, you know," he reminds you. "So it's not like we're giving anything up."
"What if we want to make more masks and shit?"
"Funny you should mention that," Caleb says. "See, I was figuring that if you didn't have anything else to do—" He breaks off to give you a squint. "Do you?"
You prickle warily. "I dunno. What do you want from me? Maybe I do got plans."
Caleb snorts. "Well, I was figuring that, if you didn't have anything else to do, you could copy out the key spells so we could keep on keeping on. Like you said. We don't need the book for that, not if we've got copies of the key spells.
"The book doesn't like it when you try copying stuff out of it," you remind him.
"Well, could you at least try copying down the sigil things? And make some rough notes? In case we need to make more of this stuff? Not the ones that make golems, we don't need those. But the ones for making masks and—"
Well, he's right that it makes sense to make your own copy of the book, so you can give the original to Lindsay. So you agree to try copying the book, though it does leave you feeling like you're doing more homework by skipping school than you were when you going.
* * * * *
But for the rest of the day you and Caleb make more masks and brain-bands, so that by the time he leaves (taking a couple of masks and brain-bands with him) you have turned the rest of your supplies into a war chest of sixteen blank masks and eleven bands. You can tell by Caleb's expression that he has the feeling that there should be more than that on hand, but he doesn't ask, and you don't volunteer that you used some of them yesterday to make yourself a trio of golems. He leaves you the grimoire to copy out overnight, and says he'll be back in the morning to collect it so he can pass it along to Bhodi to give to Lindsay. As he heads out the door, you remember to ask him to ask Joe Dickerson if you can have back the brain band of yourself that you made for him.
Mrs. Matthias must have taken advantage of it being a Friday to go out (in disguise, certainly) to some high school parties, for she doesn't come home that night, giving you the freedom of the trailer to copy spells into an art sketchbook that Dane had in his bedroom. To your annoyance, you find that you still can't copy down the spell ingredients without breaking pencil points or smudging the ink, so you settle for writing down veiled clues and reminders of what kind of things you need for the spells, rather than an actual recipes. Given that difficulty, you are pleasantly surprised to find that the book—if it really is its magical influence that is interfering—will let you copy down the sigils. Even better, it turns out to be very easy to copy them, despite their intricate and highly detailed designs—your hand seems to move of its own accord, and the wheels emerge almost perfectly even as you work freehand. So easy is it, in fact, that you find your mind wandering as you entertain plans and possibilities for your own impersonations.
The day you spent in Dane's trailer has convinced you that you don't want to adopt Dane Matthias's persona. It's too filthy an experience, and the stories that Caleb told you about the way "Gordon" is now behaving have reminded you that the real Dane is still around, so that it would be awkward if he tried renewing his acquaintance with his replacement. Caleb has also told you about Mrs. Matthias's plans—she has picked out the identity of the sophomore girl she means to replace—and that reminds you that as Dane you'd be sharing this trailer with a fake version of his mother, which gives you the slight case of the heebie-jeebies as well. At the same time, you don't want to adopt (at least not semi-permanently) the personas of any of the three golems that you made. Carstairs, Chen, and Mathis are way too obviously tied to illegal activities. You still want an impersonation that is completely above suspicion.
Caleb tried telling you about the classmates that your new conspirators intend to impersonate, and about the impersonations that they have suggested to him. But the thought of being a sophomore again didn't excite you. Also, you decided it would probably be awkward if you, as a sophomore, were ever seen talking to Carstairs or Chen, your two chief lieutenants, let alone Karol Mathis.
And so, almost by default, you driven to the last expedient. You are going to have to "break bad" and impersonate a teacher.
Although, as you think about it, would that be such an awful choice?
You'd be an adult, which would be an advantage, and you'd be able to talk to Carstairs and Chen without it looking weird. You could collect and relay messages through a fake version of Dane Matthias to Caleb and the others. As a "crime kingpin," you'd be above suspicion.
The only problem is that almost all the teachers you know (or have had) are all kinds of old and ugly. Some of them are the kind of hideous that you don't often find outside of a deep-sea trench.
Like, how horrible would it be to wake up every morning as old, fat, bad-tempered Mr. Walberg?
You have to remind yourself that those are your teachers you are thinking of. There are at least some other teachers at the school who would be tolerable as impersonations. Mr. Hagerman, for instance, who was your junior-year English teacher, is young and hunky—all the girls in class had a crush on him, and you'd bet he gets lots of pussy outside of school. (Though there were rumors he got lots of pussy inside school as well.)
As you finish up, though, you reflect that you don't actually know enough to pick out someone to be at school. You could just make a list of the teachers you know, or go online to find someone to be. But you'd have a better idea of who to be if you consulted your two golems. Because if you're going to run your crime ring from inside the school, it would be best if you turned yourself into a teacher that either Carstairs or Chen actually took a class with.
Unless (it occurs to you) I just pick the best teacher, then turn one of their students into a golem.
Next: "Girls Galore"