A high school student finds a grimoire that shows how to make magical disguises.
|Previously: "Masks Need Moms"
(text by Masktrix)
It’s hard for you to comprehend why anyone would want to come back to high school on a weekend. You spend almost every waking moment you’re in Westside itching to get away from the place, and when you decided to go with Sydney to see if you could grab a target at the play rehearsals, you expected the buildings to be dead.
In reality, it’s anything but. You arrive at 1:30pm, only to see a stream of showered, toned athletes making their way from the gym.
Nor are they the only students at the school. On the playing fields, a group of teachers and students are looking at some kind of stretched out canvas. You don’t recognize at least 80% of them, with at least a few pod people scattered among the crowds and Coach Puente marshaling them along.
And you’re just beginning to get your bearings about all the comings and goings when none other than Chelsea Cooper almost runs you down, completely oblivious to your presence, and heads in to the building.
By the time 2pm has been and gone, Sydney has yet to materialize. You’re a little concerned that she’s going to come with a twist on the plan. Last night you finished the two masks – and used one on yourself already to make sure that the switch can take place – but exhausted the last of your supplies. Sydney shrugged it off, assuring you that once you’ve taken on your new guise, you’ll have a bank account full to the brim with money to burn. And the guise you and she settled on for you is one Joanna Hartlein.
It wasn’t hard to pull up who was in the play in what roles. Most of the big parts are occupied by seniors, with a few juniors and sophomores padding out minor characters. Top of the bill was, of course, the drama club’s president, Charles Hartlein. Stylish, sassy and openly gay, Charles has never been someone you’ve associated with, but you know enough from association to be unsurprised he seems to have taken the lead role in the play. It didn’t take long for you and Sydney to find his Facebook page, and from there a quick look at his model stage mom. Joanna Hartlein’s photos suggest someone who prides herself on appearance, with glamour shots on on a page filled with public posts that are almost so cloying they make you squirm a little – replete with a banner that says Live. Love. Laugh.
She couldn’t be more perfect for Baphomet if she tried. You didn't go much further down the list, and instead called it an early night, allowing you to return home and say goodbye, at least temporarily, to your old life.
Whr R u? you message Sydney, wondering what the hell is keeping her. You both agreed to arrive at 2pm to scout things out.
Almst thre. Change of plan, comes back the message. You wonder what the hell that’s supposed to mean. You’re just about to thumb back a reply when you hear your name called.
"Hey, Will." That's Coach Puente, coming over to join you. "You lost?"
"Uh ... " You squirm a little, from embarrassment and also from surprise—it astonishes you that the coach remembers your name from your freshman year. "No, no. What’s that canvas thing on the field?"
"Aeronautical Society," she replies tersely, clearly not interested in explaining herself to you when she’s gearing up for a grilling of her own. "It’s a bit late to be signing up, though. We’ve already oversubscribed twice over for crews, and the inclement weather is going to make flying a tricky proposition."
"Oh," you try and deflect. "Too bad. Well, see you."
"You waiting for a club?" she asks, not even bothering to take a step as you try and get her moving on. "Didn’t have you pegged as the extra-curricular type." Nobody ever seems to have you pegged as any type – except Sydney, of course… "You signing up for the East–West Club?"
"No. Ah…" you try and come up with some bullshit excuse. "I’m just waiting for someone."
Shit. You can’t exactly say you’re waiting for Sydney McGlynn so you can try and engineer a way to knock out Charles Hartlein’s mom and steal her identity, can you? You stick your tongue in your cheek and try to come up with a good excuse when…
"Sorry, coach. Prescott’s waitin’ for me, helpin’ me with some stuff."
You spin around in surprise, only to see a wall of muscle – that you’ve made use of very recently – walking toward you. Blake O’Brien ignores you like the gnat you are compared with him, addressing the coach directly. It seems to break any kind of question of you being up to some kind of mischief that the coach would want to sniff out. She drops the conversation virtually instantly, shifting her attention to the newcomer.
"Well, why didn’t you say so?" Puente smiles. "Good game last night, O’Brien. Tough loss to shake, but you gave those boys some big hits. Felt them right from the stands."
"Thanks, Coach," O’Brien grins with his lop-sided smile, before giving you a hit on the shoulder blades. It’s meant to be friendly, but you feel he could have pushed the bone straight through the front of your chest. "Go Dragons, huh?"
The coach gives you a passing glance, but Blake gets a raised fist. "Go Dragons." With that, she heads off along the front of the building, no doubt to finish details of storing whatever the hell was on the field. A balloon canopy? Seriously? Meanwhile, you feel Blake strong-arm you into walking with him.
You wait a few paces, sure that Puente is out of earshot, when you whisper to him. "Sydney?"
"Did you just call me 'Sydney,' Prescott? The fuck is wrong with you? Can’t you even spot your girlfriend any more? Do you see a pair of titties?"
"Uh, no! I just…" You practically swallow your tongue.
"Relax, Will!" Blake suddenly bursts out laughing, snapping completely out of character. You look at him wide-eyed. "Of course it’s me!" he hits you again, and you wobble a little to the side.
"Ouch! That still hurts."
Blake holds his meathook hands up. "Sorry! I didn’t know how strong this guy was. I’m still getting used to it. The memories are all kind of foggy. I can feel his weird white-knight thing, though. He’s actually kind of sweet. If he were doing what I did, he’d feel bad about it."
You look at Sydney. "Do what, exactly?"
"I took Blake’s mask home with me last night. And this morning, waiting around, I got to thinking that maybe he’d know some of the football team’s moms. I know there’s more than twelve of them, but we could pick a clique, like you said. So I put it on."
"Sydney! What about the real Blake?"
"Relax, Will," Blake grins. "He’s still at home, probably baby-sitting his kid sister. Maybe we should convert the two of them, that way we could be brother and sister. Wouldn't that be sick?"
"I thought we were going for Charles’s mom!"
"I'm getting to that, Will," Blake says. "I did some more snooping. And believe me, you do not want to be Joanna Hartlein. Those Facebook shots? All Photoshop. But I remembered Blake from our not-date talking about his step-mom and thought I could do a little snooping there, too."
Blake smiles. "I think you’re going to like what I’ve arranged. Blake’s got a small family unit – him, his sister, and his mom. His dad ran out years ago. I imagine that’s why he’s got that white knight complex."
You give Blake – Sydney – a pointed stare. "I didn’t ask for a psych paper," you say, giving her a taste of her own medicine. "How does this help us?"
"Because his mom’s a perfect get. She’s a manager at a bank – high profile job, busy hours, friends with most of the rest of the team. All we need to do is give her a quick message – I can grab her number from Blake’s messenger account, I know his password – and ask for a pick-up. She comes by, we slip a mask on her… and bam!"
You’re about to answer when you see one of the strangest sights you’ve seen in a while. Approaching the school gates is an SUV. Even from here, you can see Dragons stickers in the windscreen, and a short blonde with thick sunglasses in the driver’s seat. It pulls up next to you, the driver flashing a near-iridescent white smile and letting the window down.
"Blake, hon, fancy seeing you here!" she enthuses. "Do you know where I’m supposed to park around here?"
"Uh, anywhere’s fine," your colleague says. "What brings you up here?" he politely adds.
"Oh, Tom’s doing some kind of football thing for the Eastman-Westside Club today! They asked for members of the football team from both schools. Didn't they ask you, hon? Well, you had a good game last night! We were all rootin’ for you!" She gives a friendly, warm smile and drives a little distance away, parking up in one of the spaces.
"Who the hell was that?" you ask.
"Beats me, I barely got a grip on Blake's family. But you like her? She looks young and she seems to be into the football team. She could be perfect, whoever she is. And Blake seems to have an in with her."
You look over at the SUV with the short, buxom blonde inside, checking her hair in the rear view mirror. Sydney's got a point, you decide.
But you've got other alternatives, now that you are looking around with an open mind. If you don't want to pursue Charles Hartlein's mother, what about some of the others?
Or—and here's a really wild thought—how about using Coach Puente? It’d be easy to scoop up a load of team moms if you had control of a coach, wouldn’t it?
Next: "Before the Rehearsal"