A high school student finds a grimoire that shows how to make magical disguises.
|Previously: "Heists and Hustles"
"So what do you guys need me to do?" There's a bright, mischievous gleam in Leah Simmons's eye as she asks the question.
It's Thursday, and the final bell rang ten minutes ago. Tomorrow Mr. Walberg's class is set to bury the time capsule, so this will be the last chance that you and Caleb have to get into the teacher's desk in order to swap out thumb drives. Leah is on hand to help.
Oh God, yes, she said yesterday, at the river, when you asked if she wanted to help you and a friend break into a teacher's desk. Who is it and what's it for? So you explained the situation, which left her laughing.
Then she got the munchies and busted open a bag of Doritos she'd bought on the way out to the river.
So you weren't sure if she'd remember, let alone keep her promise to help, when you slid over to talk to her in English. She did look blank for a moment. Then her eyes lit up and she said, When and where? You gave her Mr. Walberg's classroom number, and asked her to be there after the final bell.
She was waiting there for both you and Caleb when you finally made it out of your own last-period classes.
Caleb gives you a quick, skeptical glance. "Dane Matthias is in there," he tells Leah. "He's got detention."
"Oh God." Leah snickers and covers her mouth with her hand. "Of course he does."
"Well, we need someone to distract him after Mr. Walberg leaves. If he leaves. You need to get behind Dane and talk to him, keep his back to the teacher's desk, while I sneak in and jimmy his desk."
"And Will?" Leah glances at you. Her open-mouthed smile is very wide.
"He's lookout, he lets us know when Mr. Walberg is coming back."
"Alright!" Leah claps her hands. "Sounds like you got a plan." She glances over Caleb's shoulder, toward the classroom door, then sidles past. She waves him off as she looks in through the doorway. To Mr. Walberg's rumbling query, "Can I help you, young lady?" she replies, "Just looking for someone." She hops back over to join you and Caleb. "So how are you going to get the teacher out?"
Caleb blinks. "We were gonna wait for him to go to the bathroom or something."
"Oh, pfhbt! What if he doesn't? You're gonna need another distraction. You're gonna need a bigger crew." She springs away, sprinting down to the end of the wing, and hangs a left into the school's main corridor.
Caleb gapes after her, then gives you a look. "Where did you find her?"
"We have her in English. You saw me go over to talk to her."
"You never talked to her in English before."
"I played frisbee-golf with her and some other guys yesterday. We got to talking. Shared a joint," you add under your breath.
Caleb stares at you, even as you dodge his eye, then he turns to join you in watching for her return. "She is cute," he says.
She is, in a tomboyish way. She wears her hair in a short blonde bob, shorter even than yours, and today like yesterday she is dressed in jeans, a t-shirt, and suspenders. Her Converse sneakers are covered in stickers. She is wiry with breasts on the small side, but her torso has a pleasing, hour-glass curve. And she's got a butt that, in those tight jeans, is just begging to be palmed. She also quivers with bottled-up energy. She puts you in mind of a compound bow, cocked and taut, ready to release a speeding arrow.
It's nearly ten minutes before she returns, a delay during which Caleb grows noticeably impatient, and he gives you a hard, feverish look when Mr. Walberg heaves himself out of his chair and lumbers out of the classroom. "If your girlfriend flaked on us," he mutters in your ear, "and we miss our chance here—"
You nudge him, and he turns to follow your gaze. Leah is sauntering down the hallway from the other direction she left in, and she ignores Mr. Walberg as he passes her. But her grin is glinting as she passes you and Caleb and saunters straight into the classroom. "Come on, fellas, get it in gear," she says.
You and Caleb look at each other. Then Caleb follows.
* * * * *
It was a call from the office that pulled Mr. Walberg from his classroom, and it was Leah who arranged for that call—she knows the office aide who works there last period, and got her friend to call in the teacher on some bullshit excuse.
Not that it does you much good. Though Leah succeeds in distracting Dane, and Mr. Walberg is gone long enough for Caleb to get into his desk, the desk drawer where he was keeping the time capsule items is empty. Apparently Mr. Walberg had already taken the stuff out and transferred them to the time capsule at some earlier point in the day or week. Caleb boils with frustration and anger.
"Oh come on, man, at least you had fun," Leah chides him afterward in the parking lot. "And what's the worst that can happen? Why did you even need to get your doodad back out of it?"
"Because I'm gonna have to write a paper about my doodad," Caleb tells her, "and I can't turn in a paper where I tell him that I turned in a thumb drive full of porn."
Leah stares, then explodes with laughter. Caleb reddens.
"Okay, in the first place," she tells him, "aces on what you gave him. But how come you have to write about that in your paper? Tell him you gave him a thumb drive full of, I dunno, Wikipedia articles."
"Because he'll check."
Leah's brow furrows. "When's he gonna do that? When's the paper due? Aren't you guys burying the capsule tomorrow?" She glances at you for confirmation.
"They're gonna dig it up—" Caleb starts to say.
"Of course they are. But in, like, a hundred years."
"No, next week. Or sometime," Caleb says. "They don't leave those things buried, not actually. They dig them up—"
"Who says?" Leah exclaims.
"I've got my sources. They dig them up and put them in a warehouse someplace or something. And then Walberg will be able to check my thumb drive and he'll be able to see—"
"Dude!" Leah explodes. "You're spazzing out over nothing! He's not gonna check, 'cos he's not gonna care, 'cos it's just a dumb—"
"It's a risk I can't run," Caleb snaps, and he wheels and stalks away.
"Dude!" Leah calls after him. "What's his name again?" she asks you in an aside. "Caleb!" she yells when you tell her. But he just shakes his head and stomps over to his car.
Leah laughs. "Your friend's a lot of fun," she tells you, "even if he is a spastic dingleberry. So what are you doing now?" she asks with a crinkly smile.
* * * * *
You'd love to go down to the river and smoke another joint with her, but she shrugs the suggestion off when you make it. "I wanna get with some people," she says. "Get with Jack, see if he's sweating over the doobie he lost yesterday." She takes out her phone. "You should text around, get some of your guys to come out too."
"I'll hang out with whoever you get." You don't feel like telling her that Caleb by himself is basically half of your friendship circle.
It's Thursday, so there's no chance of a real party developing, but between them Jack and Leah put together a study party that meets at a large back table at a Mexican restaurant, where homework sort-of kind-of gets done while everyone noshes on chips and salsa, nachos, and quesadillas. You meet a couple of new people, put some names to faces you've seen in school, and get reacquainted with one girl—Laura MacGregor—who you knew and hung out with in middle school.
In fact, the night is so successful that the next day, in English, when Leah summons you over to ask if you want to go to the Warehouse with her and some friends, you instantly agree. You don't even quibble when she casually mentions that you'll all be getting donuts together the next morning, even though staying out all night would be a catastrophic violation of your curfew.
"You making a date over there?" Caleb asks when you return to your seat. His tone is subdued, but there is acid in it.
"Yeah, what of it?" you mutter back. "Gonna go to the Warehouse tonight. You wanna come?"
"You've never been out there.
"Neither have you! And there's a first time for everything."
Caleb visibly bites his tongue. Then he says, in a mulish tone, "I was hoping you'd help me out tonight. I was gonna come up to the school and dig the time capsule up. Make the switch then."
You stare at him. Is he serious? Apparently he is. The capsule got buried first period, and he was snappish and angry all during class. He still is.
"Sorry, I already have plans," you tell him.
"So I see."
A frosty silence settles between you.
Next: "Wild Things"