A high school student finds a grimoire that shows how to make magical disguises.
|Previously: "The Leader of the Pack"
"So no one else is gonna say it?" You snort as the other three turn pale faces toward you. You stab at the air with a stiff forefinger. "I'm not gonna sit here for one more goddamn minute! Until I know who I'm sitting here with!"
No one moves.
"Macklin!" you bark. "You were down there with him the longest!"
"You were the last one to see him," Chris retorts.
You wheel on him. "So come at me, bro, if you think—"
"Stop it!" Vee shrieks. "It's not one of us! He isn't! The masks aren't that good!"
"I thought you said they're perfect!"
"For f-faces and bodies, yes," Vee stammers. "The memories don't work as good. It takes time to get them. You have to concentrate, and they don't come fast." She slips Abi a sidelong glance. "Besides, when did Prescott have a chance to get at any of us?"
"Todd left the party early," Chris says. "He went back to the Catacombs to check on Prescott." He turns a hard look on you. "And you were down there with him a really long time."
You come halfway out your chair. "I was down there like five minutes!"
"More like fifty!"
"I came back here first! To my room!"
"How come?" Vee asks.
You glower at her.
"Had to get something," you snap. "Alright, I came back to get that mask we took off him! The one of—" You cast a slit-eyed glance at Abi.
Which gives you an idea.
"Speaking of which, you're awful quiet over there, Steiner," you hiss. "Rest of us are yapping our heads off and you're Little Miss Church-mouse." She shrinks into herself. "Afraid you might say the wrong thing? Maybe the memories are coming a little too slow to be convincing?"
Vee jumps between you and her. "She was with me all night, after I went back to the party with you!"
"How do you know? Everyone was wearing a mask! Maybe she—"
"Let's just check, Vee." Chris pinches the bridge of his nose. "It's the only way we'll be sure. Just check us all out, see if any of us are—" He chokes on his own words.
"Start with Steiner," you say. "She was the one that fucker went after first. And if he got away with the mask of her again, maybe he put it back on and—"
"Alright, just shut up!" Vee bunches up her fists.
You can't help smirking as she turns to Abi. Both girls are very pale, and it looks like they're trembling. End of the road for you, Kristen, you think. Maybe you're not Prescott, but when Chris sees who his "girlfriend" really is—
Abi sinks into a chair and shakes her hair out. Vee leans over her. She whispers something you can't make out, and Abi gives just the tiniest nod.
Vee spreads her hand across Abi's brow, and Abi closes her eyes. Vee grips Abi by her temples, and mutters. Her fingers tighten, her knuckles whiten—
And her grip slips. Abi's face remains attached to the front of her skull.
Vee straightens up. "No mask," she says, turning to you with a prim expression of triumph.
You feel your own expression fall. The fuck? That has to be Kristen, she confessed she was Kristen, Vee said she was Kristen!
"Okay, Todd," Vee says. "Your turn." She raises a claw-like hand at you.
"Hold it! Fiore first," you bark. "He left lookout after I said I'd relieve him."
"I went to the party!"
"You went off, I didn't see which way you went. You don't touch me," you tell Vee, "till you check out him!"
Chris flushes a bright red but drops into the chair next to Abi. Vee grabs him by the face. She straightens up a second later. "He's clean," she says.
"We're all gonna get checked out," Chris snarls. But he turns to his girlfriend. "Abi?"
Vee flashes you a very sour look as she takes the seat that Chris vacates. Abi, looking cool with relief, bends over her friend. Sloppy, you think as she fumbles at Vee's face. It's like she's not even trying.
Then you think, Oh!
"Okay, you asshole," Vee sneers as she leaps back to feet. "You put it off long enough. Why, what are you scared of?"
"Not scared, just careful. One of us's gotta be ready to take down the imposter." You drop into your chair. "So let's find out if it's me."
Vee smiles—a sharp-toothed, snake-like thing—and advances on you. You can't stop your heart from beating wildly as her nails dig into your temples. Jesus, it's like she really is trying to tear the skin and bone away. Your eyes water as she murmurs to herself and her fingertips work. Your vision goes blurry, and for an instant you think the mask must be coming loose.
Then her hand slips. "Hang on," she mutters, and wipes her fingertips on her shirt. "I have to—"
"Nah!" You slap her away. "You had your chance. You took your best shot but I'm still standing."
"My hand slipped!"
"Did your hand slip when you tried it on Steiner? You got one go at her, you take one go at me. Or else we all get another shot. Better yet, go get the goddamn book, show all of us how the thing works, and we each take turns trying to tear each others' faces off!" You flex your fingers. "I'll go first on Abi."
"It's alright, Vee." There's a tremble in Abi's sigh. "Todd's right, it was a good enough test. It's him." She gives you a half-smile from behind her lank, unwashed hair. "He's being too much of an asshole not to be the real guy."
"Thanks." You grab her and pull her to your chest. She gasps. "Hey Fiore, mind if I kiss your girl, show there's no hard feelings?" He doesn't answer, but Abi punches you in the side. You chortle at her.
* * * * *
Tempers are still fraught, despite trust supposedly being established all the way around. The meeting breaks up, though not before Vee suggests a system of "sign and countersign" to be exchanged any time two of you are alone. "The good'll that do?" you demand. "If Prescott manages to catch and copy any of us—"
"Because like I said, the memories are kind of spotty," she says. Her eyes dart. "He won't be as fast with the answers as the real us."
God, I hope she really believes that, you think as you swagger out of her room.
You celebrate your success with a hot, soapy wash in the communal showers. You have them to yourself—it's early afternoon—but it's not like Todd is shy about shedding his clothes. He's a tight end on the school football team as well as a rower, and the muscles coil and writhe pleasurably under taut skin as you lather yourself all over. Afterward, at a sink with a towel wrapped around your waist, you admire rippling abs and plate-like pecs as you drag a wet comb through your thick brown hair.
Chris is loitering outside your dorm when you return, still wrapped only a towel. "Washington," he murmurs as you stick the key in the lock.
"Shit, we're really doing this? Okay, Washington." Sign is the other person's house; countersign is the first person's house. You push the door open, and Chris follows you in. "Leave it open," you order as he starts to shut the door behind him. "In case you ain't you." You grin at him. He makes a face, but leaves the door ajar.
"Why'd you take Abi's mask from my room?" he asks from behind folded arms.
You shrug and let the towel drop to the floor. "I was drunk. Seemed like a good idea at the time."
"You like taking stuff from my room when you're drunk?"
"Shut up, bro. You wanna know what I was thinking, I was thinking I was doing you a solid."
You shrug again, and open the flat-pack cupboard where Todd keeps his fresh clothes.
"What you were telling me last night," you say. "About you and Abi and the, you know." You glance at the doorway as there's a rush of feet in the halls; multiple doors fly open and slam. "The thing we took off Prescott. Remember what you were telling me? About how maybe you could put it on and then you and Abi could—" You waggle your eyebrows at him as you whip on some boxers.
"It's a fucking sweet play if you do it. 'Cept you can't do it now, right? Not 'til we find Prescott and get the stuff back from him." You pull on fresh slacks. "Anyway, I was moving it out to the Catacombs, so you'd have it there when you and Abi wanted to do it. I mean you don't want to do it here, where someone can catch you."
"It't not your job to keep track of my—! My—"
"Your sex toys? No. But I told you I was drunk. Hey, what's going on out there?" you shout as there comes another elephant-like charge through hallway. You brush past Chris and step out the door, almost colliding with Dalton Reeves. "What's up?" you demand.
"Dorm sweep, Baldwin." Your fellow prefect turns a cold face at you. "Illicit party last night, and I'm checking my house for contraband."
You grin at him. He knows you set up the party, but you're not in his house, so he can't touch you.
"You think maybe they brought doggie bags home?" You laugh. "Lemme have some if you find anything."
Reeves glares, then steps past to bang his fist on the next door down. "Dorm sweep! Open up!" He grabs the knob and pushes inside.
You suck in a cheek. Vee is in Reeves's house, and she'll have to clear out of her room for the sweep. This might be your best chance to make your own sweep of it.
Next: "Search for Tomorrow"