A high school student finds a grimoire that shows how to make magical disguises.
|Previously: "Coffee with Chelsea Cooper"
Thanks for coming out, Chelsea said. What a coincidence, us meeting up like this, she said. Are you Clover Mystery? you almost asked her.
You know the answer to that now. Chelsea Cooper, the head cheerleader, is Clover Mystery, and you know that because she gave you the same phone number that Clover Mystery was texting you from.
So, bullshit! on her calling your meeting a coincidence and bullshit! on everything else she said!
The question now is, what are you going to do about it?
Your thumb hovers over Caleb's number, but you don't seriously consider calling him or texting him the news. At least not yet. He was pissed off when he left, and didn't believe any of your shit earlier about Elle and Leah and Laura and Maria. If you now tell him that you had coffee with Chelsea Cooper after he left, he'll tell Gordon and get Gordon to fold you in half and tuck your head up your ass.
And that's if you're lucky.
No, the thing to do is to figure out Chelsea's game on your own.
Well, it's just basic cruelty, right? Chelsea is supposed to be "the most popular girl in school," but from the way people talk about her, you get the impression it's only because she's the head cheerleader that people say that. It's more like a police-state dictatorship back at Westside, and everyone has been frightened into parroting the party line. Chelsea, you've heard, is a terror to the other cheerleaders, and she lords it over as many other girls as she can. She's never had time for anyone like you or at your level. Why she'd pick you to tease and prank is completely beyond your comprehension. But there it is. That's what she's doing.
You sink onto your bed and scroll back through all those messages that "Clover Mystery" sent you. Now that you've got a voice to go with them, they certainly sound like Chelsea: sly, teasing, giggly, cruel. But thoughtless, mostly. There's no real personality behind them, you decide, no real interest in making their recipient—you—hurt. She just saw a chance to gloat over someone who she could get into trouble, and she took it.
So what was the point of calling you out to The Flying Saucer, to give that "apology"?
You consider (though more as a fantasy than as a real possibility) the idea that she was being honest and genuine, that she really did feel sorry for the way she acted toward you the other night. And maybe—just maybe?—she was also apologizing, in an oblique way, for teasing you over that video? It was a major slip-up on her part that she gave you her phone number, which ties her definitively to Clover Mystery. Too big to be a slip-up, right? So could that be her veiled way of confessing her earlier cruelty toward you?
You tell yourself that you're flattering Chelsea—thinking the best of her—by giving her the benefit of all these doubts. But you know who you're really flattering: Yourself. You're flattering yourself that the head cheerleader likes you and thinks well enough of you to embarrass and humiliate herself by apologizing to you in this way.
No, the more you think about it, the more likely it seems that tonight was just another bit of cruelty theater, another chance to tease you, this time with a fake apology, and that by tipping you off to her being "Clover Mystery" she is also boasting that she's done it before and that there's not a goddamned thing you can do about it. The phone number she gave you, after all, is a fake. It's a burner phone, one she probably uses to carry out some of the nefarious schemes that Jenny Ashton has told you about.
Jenny Ashton. You blink hard at the name, and decide to talk to her about it tomorrow.
* * * * *
"No, I've never heard of anyone named 'Clover Mystery'," Jenny says. She is leaning against the wall of the school, watching the entrance to the breezeway that leads to the student parking lot. Clearly, she is barely paying attention to you.
But then she does a double-take at you. "Wait, is this that person who was sending you nasty texts about your class time capsule?" You nod. "I thought you guys decided it was Jamie Rennerhoff who was sending you those."
You don't remember talking about that with Jenny, but it figures she would have heard. Jenny seems to have her finger on every pulse in the school.
"It was him and his friends who took the video," you tell her. "It was someone else who was sending me those texts."
"Well, I never heard of 'em," Jenny says, and goes back to watching the breezeway. "It sounds like a made-up name to me."
You roll your eyes. But before you can reply, Jenny leaps past you and runs up to meet a tall, willowy blonde girl who has just come sauntering in from the parking lot. You make a face, but follow her. It's Cindy Vredenburg that Jenny has rushed off to meet.
Cindy is another cheerleader, and is Chelsea's archrival. She is scarcely nicer than Chelsea, but at least she's friends with Jenny. And given her rivalry with Chelsea, there is some chance that she would know something about Chelsea's "Clover Mystery" pseudonym.
Jenny is jabbering at Cindy, but you have to get to class, so you break in. "Excuse me just a minute," you say, and both girls turn to stare at you. "Cindy, have you ever heard of a girl around school who texts or posts messages or anything under the name 'Clover Mystery'?"
Jennys says, "Will—" but you hush her with a raised hand. "Clover Mystery," you tell Cindy again. "Does the name mean anything to you?"
"No." She looks at you like you're some kind of raving maniac.
"What about Chelsea? Does Chelsea have secret names or accounts that she posts under? Or does she post everything under her own name?"
Cindy turns to Jenny. "What is—?"
Jenny grabs you by the arm. "Will," she says, "what are you saying?"
"I'm asking if Chelsea ever posts under fake names."
"Oh, sure she does." Jenny looks at Cindy, who nods in support. "But what does—?"
"Does she ever use the name 'Clover Mystery' when she does this?"
Cindy frowns, and a distant look comes into her eye. "I don't think so," she says. "It doesn't sound famil—"
"Will," Jennys says again, and her grip on your arm tightens. "Are you saying you think that 'Clover Mystery' is Chelsea?"
"Will." Jenny spins you around and pushes you toward the doors that go into the school. "Go to class."
She is giving you an exasperated look when you glance back over your shoulder. And when she frowns at you, you hang your head and shuffle off to Mr. Walberg's room.
* * * * *
But you must have made an impression on Cindy, for she finds you at your locker during the break between fifth and sixth period. With a quizzical frown she asks what you're doing after school. "Nothing," you tell her. "Hanging out." She tells you to look for her in the library.
It's on account of Clover Mystery that she wants to talk to you, and she frowns deeply over the texts that you show her. She doesn't seem much interested in the story of the video and of what it shows, and she looks frankly incredulous when you tell her of talking to Chelsea at The Flying Saucer on Wednesday night, and of the apology she gave you. She does confirm at least part of the story that Chelsea spun you, though. Maria was supposed to meet up with someone for a blind date at the Milagro Beanfield Warehouse on Tuesday night, and asked Chelsea to go with her. No one showed up, and Chelsea blew up in a fury at Maria.
"She told me it was an Eastman guy. One of their basketball players," you tell Cindy.
She shrugs. "All I know," she says, "is that she's furious with Maria, because apparently Maria totally forgot she was even supposed to be meeting someone."
But your meeting with Cindy doesn't last long. She is clearly less interested in you and your problems than in tracking down a potential new online alias that Chelsea has invented, and she ends the conversation by telling you to be careful of Chelsea. "I'd be interested in hearing if you hear any more from her," she tells you as she gets up, "but I think it'd be smarter if you just tried to forget it."
* * * * *
But Cindy's warning has the opposite effect, and whets your appetite to dig into the intrigue more deeply. (And at least part of the reason, you admit even to yourself, is because it might give you an excuse to talk to Cindy some more, and give her a reason to talk to you. As you walk out to the parking lot, you've got your phone in your hand and are trying to compose a text to send to Chelsea, and so preoccupied are you that you don't immediately recognize the figure that comes blasting out of the gym in front of you. It's Jack Li.
You make a face at his back. Smug son of a bitch, you think.
But then another thought forces itself on you.
Chelsea set up last night's meeting with you at The Flying Saucer, and Jack was out there with her, talking to her before that. What were they talking about? Did it have anything to do with you?
Is Jack part of whatever intrigue is going on?
Or is it possible that he has sniffed out Chelsea on his own, and has been secretly helping you behind the scenes, maybe by getting Chelsea to come clean with you, and apologize?
Either way, it might be worth talking to him.
Next: "Jack's Story"