A high school student finds a grimoire that shows how to make magical disguises.
|Previously: "Some Ginger and Mary Jane"
You snatch the bill from Keith.
"Fine," you growl at him. "But I'm keeping all the change!" When Keith glowers, you add, "If you want any of it, you have to come with me."
"Okay, keep it all," he whines. "Fucking highway robbery is what it is."
You give him a look and turn back to your locker. "Where's Chen now?" you ask as you finish changing out your books. "Keith?" You look around when you get no answer, and find that he's gone. "Chickenshit," you mutter.
* * * * *
You don't know where to find Gary Chen—drug-dealer and gangbanger—so as soon as the final bell has rung you race out to the student parking lot on the chance that you can catch him there. Anxiously you scan the crowd that comes pouring from the school, and are almost in despair after it has thinned to a trickled without your spotting him. You are checking the time, and gauging how much leeway you have for getting to detention late without getting in trouble, when you do a double-take at the sight of Spencer Osbourne coming out with some of his friends.
You make a line straight at him, and he blinks as you thunder up. "Hey man, you seen Chen around?" you ask.
"Gary Chen. You know."
Spencer stares, but Adrian Semple answers for him. "Hey yeah, I saw him about five minutes ago, hanging out back at the Music Annex." He smiles impudently at you, as though reading your mind and sharing a private joke.
"Thanks." You sprint off. You think you hear your name shouted behind you, but you ignore it as you streak away.
The Music Annex is clear on the other side of the school, and you're wheezing and nursing a stitch in your side when you round the last corner to come in sight of it. There's a few kids out front, but none of them are Chen, and with a worried frown you circle around to check out the rear of the building.
That's where you find him.
Gary Chen is not a big guy. He's probably a little shorter than you, but what he lacks in height he makes up in compactness. How muscled he is you don't know, for he wraps himself in heavy jackets and shirts, but he has a soccer-player's legs and a junkyard dog's talent in a scrap. He's one of the more psychotic bullies at school, but he's rarely hassled you, and then only because you accidentally bumped into him. But you've seen him in action, and you know that he has a short, seething temper and hard fists. He's squatting on the balls of his feet at the corner of the Music Annex now, with a cigarette and a scowl. A dark ski cap is pulled down to his eyebrows.
So you approach him cautiously. "Hey man," you call out in a voice that is free of any quaver only because you still haven't caught your breath. "Uh, you have anything I can buy?"
He turns his head only a fraction, and his mica-like eyes have the dead chill of a cobra's. "Like what?" he demands.
"Uh, like—" You mime taking a hit off a joint.
"You speak English, you fucking shit?"
"A joint," you sigh. You are still too blown from the run to be properly terrified. "A toke, a doobie, a—"
You take a step back as Chen rears onto his feet. His lips peel back from hard, white, even teeth. "Who for?" he demands.
"Whuh? Well, uh, me!"
He stalks up to you in three quick strides. You stumble back a step, and a patch of itchy sweat breaks out between your shoulder blades.
Chen studies you hard, takes a quick, hard drag on his cigarette, sucks in three fast, huffing breaths, and exhales a thin stream of smoke out of the side of his mouth.
"Bullshit," he says. "Who you buyin' for?"
"What? No one, I—"
Quick like a viper, his snatches at the side of your head. "Ow!" you cry as he slams you against the side of the building.
"Ow!" he mimics as he crowds you. "I asked who you're fucking buying for, you little shit!"
"A friend!" you gasp. "He asked me—! He couldn't find—! So—!" Now you are scared.
"He give you the money? How much?" He knees you in the hip, just missing your jewels.
"He gave me a twenty! What's the deal?"
"You keepin' any for yourself?"
"He could told me I could keep the change!"
Chen releases you and steps back. You peep up at him with a wince. He's glowering at you.
"This friend o' yours got a monobrow and a face as ugly as dog shit?"
You blink. That's not the most perfect description of Keith, but it's close enough, so you nod once. Then you say, "Except it's not for—"
"Shut your fucking yawp. Meet me out in the parking lot."
"The student parking lot?"
"No, the fucking parking lot of the fucking Mobley building." He swings at your head, and though he misses by a good eighteen inches, you flinch with another small cry. "Out front by the street, shit for brains. I'll meet you there in my ride."
He stalks off toward the school. You wait until he's gone, then race back around the front of the building to be in position to meet him.
It's ten minutes before he shows up, driving a Jeep with a canvas body. He doesn't even shut off the motor, but idles it while handing you a lumpy brown cylinder in a baggie. He snatches the twenty from you.
"I'm doing you a solid, motherfucker," he tells you. "You don't sub-deal at my school, 'less'n we got a arrangement. We got a fucking arrangement? No?" He shows you the twenty, then crumples it up in his fist and tosses it over his shoulder into the passenger seat. "If you and monobrow wanna subdeal, you make a deal with me. So I'll be wanting 'nother twenty from you tomorrow. You can find me where you found me just now, fourth lunch. I don't get that other twenty, I come lookin' for you. If I don't get that twenty, then you get a ass-kicking. Understand?" You gulp and nod. "And maybe we'll also have a nice conversation about how you and and monobrow'll be buyin' from me starting tomorrow, and what your cut of the subdeals'll be. You'll like that," he informs you, then jumps into the street with a blast of exhaust fumes.
The hair is standing on end as you stagger back toward the school.
* * * * *
"You'll take it and you'll smoke it in good health," you snarl at Carson as you tuck the baggie into his front shirt pocket. He stiffens and grimaces at you. "And by good health," you add, "I hope you get cancer and die in an alleyway."
It's Wednesday morning, and you arrived at school early so you could intercept him and James. You would have gone over to his house after school yesterday and stuffed the baggie down his throat, but you were grounded.
"Jesus," Carson mutters. "What did you say to him?"
"And wasn't it Tilley," James asks, "who was supposed to—?"
"Keith asked me to handle it 'cos Chen wouldn't sell to him. He sold to me, though, and I think he thinks I'm supposed to start sub-dealing for him or something."
"Shit," Carson says. "You can't sub-deal, you don't know the first thing—"
"Of course I can't sub-deal, you goatfucker!"
"So just tell him no," James suggests. His expression remains flinty even after you turn an incredulous stare onto him.
"You can help me by going and fucking yourself," you advise him. "It'd be better than saying stupid shit like—"
"Don't burst your hymen, Prescott," Carson snaps. "Chen can't make you sub-deal for him. You just have to stand your ground."
"Okay, I'll do that," you retort. "I'll tell him I'm not interested but you two cocksuckers are. You're the ones who wanted the thing." You pat Carson's pocket meaningfully. "So he'd believe me if I told him—"
"Well, hold on there," James says, "just because you're up shit creek doesn't mean you have to try dragging us—"
"Just try telling him no!" you scream at Lamont, who staggers back a step. "Oh, now I'm for sure going to wind him up and aim him at you two fucking ass-clowns!" You wheel and stomp off to class.
It's still early, so you're slouching in your desk in Mr. Walberg's mostly empty classroom when Caleb comes in. He says nothing to you but busies himself with setting up for class, daintily arranging his notebooks and pencils and pens and erasers on his desk. You stare at him awhile before he catches the expression on your face. "What?" he asks.
"Then don't look at me like that."
You glower at him. Then you ask, "What are you doing for lunch?"
"I don't know. Probably eat with Carson and Jenny and them. Why?"
"Pssh, you can do it without me. I'm never talking to them again. Or to Tilley either, if I can help it."
"Why?" he asks. "What happened?"
You do a little double-take at him, for there's an eager note in his voice.
"Look, let's just go off and eat, just you and me, man," you say. "I don't got anyone else I want to eat lunch with."
"What happened?" he insists.
You glance around. The room is mostly empty but just beginning to fill up. So you scoot your desk over close to him and tell him in a low voice of your misadventure with Chen.
"So I'm gonna be late to English, too," you conclude, "'cos that's when I gotta go find Chen."
"But you don't want to talk to him, Will!" Caleb insists. "That's just crazy!"
"I don't wanna go find him," you retort, "but he'll come find me if I don't."
"Maybe he's forgotten. You know what," he says with sudden energy, and takes out his phone. He hesitates over it for a moment, then puts it away. "You should go talk to Kim about it. You know, Kim Walsh."
"How come?" you demand.
"Well, she's the student council president. She should probably know about this!"
Next: "Narc Narc, Who's There?"