A high school student finds a grimoire that shows how to make magical disguises.
|Previously: "Don't Mind Me"
"I think I can cover for myself, thanks," Caleb stiffly replies. "And you need to get back home to cover for Dane."
But you're distracted by another thought—the thought of using this new spell on Chelsea Cooper. "Huh?"
"God, is that what I sound like?" he asks. "'Huh?'"
"Yeah, probably," you retort with a very Caleb-like honk. "Listen, fine, you go home and I'll—" You look around for the book of spells. "I'll start working on the next thing in the book."
You catch Caleb giving you a doubtful look. "What?" you demand.
"I don't want you to get the wrong impression, like I don't trust you, Will," he says. "But—" He holds out his hand, then snaps his fingers.
"What do you need the book for?" you demand.
"I'm not asking you for the book," he says through gritted teeth. "I'm asking you for the—" He points to your face.
"Yeah, yeah, fine," you snort. "But I'm not going back to Dane's." You hop onto the table and settle back, shutting your eyes in anticipation of Caleb pulling the mask off you.
But he doesn't follow through right away. Not until you murmur, "Hurry up, asshole," do you feel his presence beside you. A moment a later his clammy fingertips grasp you by the temples.
* * * * *
Caleb has already gone by the time you recover from the swoon. And while you were out he also rolled out your sleeping bag and laid the book open so you can start reading up on the next spell.
That was nice of him, but you're still a little miffed at the way he demanded that you give his mask and memory strip back to him. Like he doesn't trust you with them?
Pfft! Like you'd really like to steal his life, to live in that shitty little house alone with his mother; to worry and gnaw at the wound of his father's abandonment when he was a kid; to chase hard after good grades and career contacts so he can win himself a solid, rewarding job so he can get a wife and family that he won't abandon; to stagger through the school halls with an erect cock and a frozen tongue at the sight of all the girls who he's sure won't even talk to him—
You rub at your forehead. Did Caleb really pull that metal strip off of you? You have a raw feeling inside you, as though something has been torn away, and you've lost that sense that you've got another person riding around under your skin. But the memories and impressions seem very vivid, and thoughts you recognize as not your own keep popping up unbidden. You wince hard at a remembered joke that Keith Tilley made behind your back about you and Lisa, and silently vow to get back at him somehow. And the thoughts keep coming even after you've bent over the grimoire in the dim light of Caleb's laptop, checking the translation of the ingredients against the supplies he'd started to set out.
It's not a hard spell, and it uses many of the same liquids and powders you'd gathered for the first two spells, and after about twenty minutes you're able to set a bowl of the slurry-like liquid onto the sigil in the book. As directed by the instructions, you run your finger three times around the circle and set a flame to it. It flashes into a brief fire, then goes out. The page beneath turns when you lift the bowl.
There is only a short paragraph on he other side, and the on-line Latin translator gives a straight-forward interpretation: It's a glue that lets you attach one of those metal strips to the inner surface of a mask. Cool! That means you'd be able to put the strip and the mask on at the same time instead of in two separate steps. And, on mulling it over, you think you see another benefit: You could get a mask and mind-strip onto a victim in one blow if you glued a blank strip into a blank mask. Like if you got that kind of combination onto Chelsea Cooper.
Of course, you reflect, there's no way you'll be able to talk Caleb into going along with such a plan. Is there? Also, you don't have any more masks. Do you even have enough makings for one more? After scrounging around, and carefully scraping together every last drop of liquid and pinch of powder, you confirm you've got enough for one last mask.
So that's the final thing you do before crawling into your sleeping bag: you cast amask, and by the dim, blue glow from the laptop you polish it to a burnished, bluish glow of its own.
* * * * *
You wake early the next morning, and after stretching all the sleep from your muscles—and waxing yourself off by fantasizing about what you are planning to do to Chelsea—you pop yourself into Dane's clothes and Dane's mask for a brisk morning run. The Danester isn't in the best of shape—he's started to carry a gut around, and he's easily winded, you discover—but you need to clear your head for some good, hard thinking, and you figure that a lot of cold oxygen to the head and hot, pumping blood to the brain will help you figure out the nasty puzzle you went to bed with last night.
Namely: how to get close to Chelsea Cooper.
Chelsea is the queen bee of the school, and so far above everyone who isn't a cheerleader, a star jock, or the girlfriend of a star jock, that she can't even see them. And Dane Matthias is a dirty stoner, the kind of person she'd wipe off the bottom of her shoe like cow flop.
Well, Will Prescott is that kind of person too. But that just highlights what a problem it will be for you.
Fortunately, it doesn't take you long to figure out that Dane Matthias has a very easy path to Chelsea. You stop in the middle of your jog to hop around, punching the air with excitement, as you play out that plan in your head.
* * * * *
Getting Chelsea's phone number winds up being the hard part, and you have text and cajole a lot of people before you are able to send her a text telling her why you want to meet with her. After that—pfft! It only takes her five minutes to reply, telling you where to be and what time. Dont be late, she adds.
You're not. You get in gear so quick you have time to run back to Dane's for a quick shower and a change into a less smelly set of clothes.
Your hair is wetly plastered down, and your boxer shorts and flannel pajama bottoms are sticking to your wet, hairy legs, as you jump out of the car at the high school. That Chelsea was serious is indicated by her choice of meeting places: the high school gym.
It's a Sunday, but Chelsea and her friends—lots of the athletes, in fact—have keys to the gym and to some of the other athletic school buildings. It's one of the weird perks that this sports-mad high school hands out to the jocks: 24/7 access to the sports facilities and the equipment. Right now, for instance, Kelsey Blankenship and some other girl are practicing their tennis volleys inside the tennis cages. You wave cheerily to Kelsey, but if she sees you at all, she only ignores you.
Bitch, you think. Maybe I should find some druggie cocksucker to switch you with!
Turning from Kelsey, you lope toward the gym's side door, rehearsing the speech you're going to give Chelsea, and cradling the book bag that bumps at your hip. Inside it, you are carrying the new mask and other supplies you will need to pull off the switch.
You haul open the side door—it's unlocked!—and step inside. The glare off the polished hardwood floor blinds you. "Chelsea?" you shout from behind your squint.
A hard, strong arm grabs you in a headlock, and you are rushed into the gym. "Hey hey hey!" you shout. Then your feet are kicked out from under you, and you splat face-first onto the hardwood floor. Your bag flies off your shoulder, and slides away.
"The fuck, man?" you demand as you turn onto your bruised side.
That's when you see who was waiting for you, and all your plans shrivel away.
Chelsea, looking very prim in a pleated woolen skirt and a white sweater, is seated on the lowest bench of the bleachers. Kendra Saunders, her Kenyan acolyte, is seated next to her, as is Gloria Rea, slowly and thoughtfully chewing a piece of gum as she glares disdainfully at you.
And standing over you, their arms folded and their expressions cold and merciless, are Steve Patterson and Jason Lynch.
"Thanks for coming, Dane," Chelsea says in a clear, high voice. "I really appreciate it. So, tell me." She holds up her phone, scrolls down it, and reads a familiar text off it. "How come is it that Gordon is acting all goofy these days?"
"And talk fast, you little fuck," Jason says. He nurses a fist.
"Shut up," Steve says, his ice-gray eyes locked on you. "Dane's dying to tell us. He'll just die if he doesn't."
* * * * *
Okay, so it totally doesn't go the way you were planning. You thought you were going to get Chelsea alone. And the story you babble out—that Gordon got into some "bad shit"—doesn't sit well with them. Doesn't tell us anything we didn't already figure out, Patterson snarls after pounding your guts out.
At least the session doesn't last long. They throw you out after five minutes, and you crawl off to the car.
There you wait, watching, as you nurse your bruises. Gloria and Lynch are the first to leave. Does this mean you still have a chance to get Chelsea alone? Or maybe you should just switch with someone.
Next: "A Coup in the Coop"