A high school student finds a grimoire that shows how to make magical disguises.
|Previously: "Too Many Tasks"
You would ignore Laura's invite, but you are in despair over your paper, and she also mentions that she heard from Leah about some trouble you're having with an anonymous stalker. So you decide to meet up with her. Maybe it'll clear your head, and maybe (since she knows about the video) she might have some ideas about who "Clover Mystery" might be.
* * * * *
"Hey, so how'd you get your mom to let you out after dark?" you call out as she rides up to meet you under a streetlamp. You're at the corner of the old elementary school, a landmark that you both know.
"What are you talking about?" she asks as he rolls up to a stop next to you.
"Your mom wouldn't let you come out the other night, on account of it was after dark," you remind her.
"Oh, right," she says. "I snuck out. What she doesn't know won't hurt her."
"Whoa, nice! Are you skipping out on your homework too?"
"No." She sounds surprised. "I got mine done early."
"Well, I still got a paper I'm supposed to write for tomorrow, but I can't figure out what to say. Like it matters," you acidly add. "You heard what happened to the school time capsule?"
"I heard someone dug it up a hundred years too early."
"Yeah, that's one way to put it. It was my class that put it together, and we're supposed to write a paper on what we put in. But it got dug up and vandalized, so, you know, pffbt! What does it matter?"
"So what did you put into it?" she asks.
"Some cupcakes. Out of the school vending machine."
"Oh my God!" she laughs. "What for?"
"On account of I didn't have anything else! I forgot we were even supposed to bring something in, so I had to, you know, improvise! Now I'm stuck trying to figure out how come the future needs some of our moldy old cupcakes!"
She laughs again, and you remount your bikes. You ride very slowly, side by side, wobbling, as you talk. She asks about the anonymous stalker.
"Psht, it's also to do with that stupid time capsule. Thing is just kicking my ass everywhere I turn! So, my dumb friend Caleb, he put in a thumb drive full of porn— Don't ask why," you add as she almost falls off her bike. "He did 'cos he thought it would be funny. But then he found out we had to write a paper on what we put in, so—"
You sigh. It was so stupid at the time, and it seems even stupider now in the retelling.
"So we dug the time capsule up to replace the thumb drive with a different thumb drive, one that didn't contain porn, so he could write a paper about that instead of one about porn. But anyway, someone was out there and they saw us and they filmed us on their phone, and they been sending me texts bragging about it, and I dunno what's going to happen if it all comes out, except that my dad'll kill me."
"For messing with school property, for one. Also, it'll totally look like Caleb and me were the ones who dug the capsule up and vandalized it."
"And you don't know who's been texting you? Or who made the video?"
"Pretty sure it was Jamie Rennerhoff, or one of his friends. They're using a fake name, though."
"Can I see?"
You stop and straddle your bike as you take out your phone. "Here," you say when you find the right stream. "That's them. I looked up their number online, and it belongs to someone called 'Clover Mystery'."
"I don't know anyone named that," Laura says as she takes your phone.
"It's a fake. Leah thinks— Well, she think it's some girl who's got, like, a crush on me or something," you stammer. You feel yourself blush as Laura raises her face to look at you.
She doesn't say anything, though, but bends back over the phone to scroll through the texts. She plays the video and watches it for a bit. "You told Leah about this?" she asks.
"Yeah. Her and Jack and now you. I shouldn't tell anyone else. I mean, I trust you guys, but if I keep telling people about it, it'll get out and then the shit will really hit the fan." You sigh. "Leah thinks I should blame it on Eric Murphy."
Laura looks up sharply. "What's Eric got to do with it?"
"Well, Leah thinks him and me look a lot alike, and the video's not that good, so, you know, if it does come out there's reasonable doubt or something about who's in the video. But Jamie Rennerhoff thinks it's me. He came and said something about it to me in class today."
"What did he say?"
"He asked me 'What's in the coffin?' You see how that's something that Clover Mystery asked me in her texts? So it's like her and Jamie were—"
"How do you know it's a her?" Laura's breath seems to coming in shorter and shorter bursts, and her breathing sounds very loud in the dark.
"Well, Leah thinks it's a her. It's a girl's name. She thinks Clover is a friend of Jamie's, maybe was out there with him and his asshole friends, but maybe she has a crush on me or something. Do you know him, know who hangs out with him?"
"I know him a little bit," Laura says after a fractional hesitation. "He sometimes hangs out at the theater. Hangs out with some of his friends there. Charles is always trying to run them off."
"Do you know which girls he runs around with?"
"Uh, no, not really. I wouldn't put a lot of stock in what Leah says," she tells you as she returns you your phone. "You know she's just speculating."
Her speculations seem pretty plausible, but you don't argue as you put your phone away. "So, anyway," you conclude, "I got a lot on my mind. That time capsule thing's turned out to be a total disaster for me!"
* * * * *
Laura can't really do much more than make sympathetic noises. You accept these at face value, and when they become embarrassing you try switching the subject to her—how is she doing in the production, what is it like working with Charles, etc. But she puts you off with a lot of shy stammering, and after telling you that she'll think about what you told her to see if she comes up with any ideas to help you, she says that she has to get home before her mom misses her. She rides off in one direction, and you take the other back to your house.
Shortly before you go to bed, though, you get one last note from her, a DM through x2z. It links to a thread showing a party down by the river, and she brings your attention to one photo in particular, showing a bunch of guys and a couple of girls rough-housing and laughing. Her note—Sorry but I don't think you can blame the thing on Eric—mystifies you as you study it, for you only know that you recognize a few of the faces: Spencer Osbourne, Elle Moore, and Jamie Rennerhoff. At first you think that she is drawing your attention to the fact that Elle is hanging out with Jamie. But then you notice one of the boys on the end, in a sloppy white cap like yours. It's Eric Murphy.
Dammit. That photo probably means that Jamie and Eric are friends, or at least they know each other. Laura is warning you that if you try to pin the video on Eric, Jamie will know it's not him just by asking. In fact, if Jamie made the video, or was with them that night, then he probably already knows that it wasn't Eric!
So you go to bed feeling very depressed.
* * * * *
There's worse waiting for you at school the next day, though at least it comes at the end. You text both Leah and Jack to ask if people are getting together to do something, but you don't get a reply until the start of last period, when Jack asks to meet you in front of the theater when classes let out. You think nothing of it, not even when his greeting is very muted.
"Have you talked to Elle anymore?' he asks you. You tell him you haven't. "But you talked to Leah about your, uh, thing with her?" You nod. Jack's frown deepens. "Because Elle told her and me both that it didn't happen."
"What didn't happen?"
"Her kissing you."
You blink, and your heart goes sideways in your chest. "Well, she did," you blurt out. "Wait, you asked her about it?"
"Leah did. She told Leah it didn't happen. She's actually kind of pissed off. At you, for telling people about a, uh, thing that she says didn't happen."
"Well, she did tell me not to tell anyone about it!"
"Yeah, and, but, you did, and she says it didn't happen. And, um—" He grimaces and scratches the back of his head. "She's pretty convincing."
Your jaw falls open when you realize what he's implying. "I'm not lying, man!"
Jack raises his hands. "I'm not getting in the middle of it. The good news, though, is that you don't have to worry anymore about messing things up with Elle. They're messed up really good now."
You bluster and fluster wordlessly. Jack interrupts to ask if you've told anyone but him and Leah about "Clover Mystery." You're about to say no, but you see Laura approaching. "I told Laura."
"Told me what?" she asks as she draws up with a smile.
"About Clover Mystery and that video."
"What video?" Laura asks. "When did you tell me?"
"Last night. When we met. Out riding our bikes, around nine" you add when she just stares at you.
She laughs. "I didn't see you last night! My mom doesn't let me out after it gets dark!"
Next: "The Pretenders"