Read Firespell Online

Authors: Chloe Neill

Tags: #Usenet, #Speculative Fiction, #Exratorrents, #C429, #Kat

Firespell (10 page)

BOOK: Firespell
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A note—a square of careful folds—was stuck to my locker door.

I dropped my books to the floor, pulled the note away, and opened it.

It read, in artsy letters:

I saw you and Scout, and I wasn’t the only one. Watch your back.

A knot of fear rose in my throat. I turned around and pressed my back against my locker, trying to slow my heart. Someone had seen me and Scout—someone, maybe, who’d followed us from the library through the main building to the door behind which the monster lay sleeping.

The bells rang, signaling the end of class.

I crumpled the note in my hand.

One crisis at a time, I thought. One crisis at a time.

7

I waited until Scout had returned to the suite after classes, during our chunk of free time before dinner, to tell her about the note. We headed to my room to avoid the brat pack, who’d already taken over the common room. Why they’d opted to hang out in our suite mystified me, given their animosity toward Scout, but as Scout had said, they seemed to have a thing for drama. I guessed they were looking for opportunities.

When my bedroom door was shut and the lock was flipped, I pulled the note from the pocket of my hoodie and passed it over.

Scout paled, then held it up. “Where did this come from?”

“My locker. I found it after I left Foley’s office. And that’s actually part two of the story.”

Scout sat down on the floor, then rolled over onto her stomach, booted feet crossed in the air. I sat down on my bed, crossing my legs beneath me, and filled her in on my time in Foley’s office and the things she’d said about my parents. The genetic stuff aside, Scout was surprised that Foley seemed interested in me at all. Foley wasn’t known for being interested in her students; she was more focused on numbers—Ivy League acceptance rates and SAT scores. Individual students, to Foley, were just bits of data within the larger—and much more important—statistics.

“Maybe she feels sorry for me?” I asked. “Being abandoned by my parents for a European vacation?”

Okay, I can admit that sounded pretty pitiful, but Scout didn’t buy it, anyway. “No way,” she said. “This is a boarding school. No one’s parents are around. Now, she said what? That your parents are doing research in genetics?”

I nodded. “That’s exactly what she said. But my parents teach philosophy. I mean—they do research, sure. They write articles—that’s why they’re traveling right now. But not on genetics. Not on biology. They were into Heidegger and existentialism and stuff.”

“Huh,” Scout said with a frown, chin propped on her hand. “That’s really strange. And you went to their offices, and stuff? I mean, they weren’t just dumbing down their job to help you understand what they did?”

I shook my head. “I’ve been there. Seen their diplomas. Seen their books. I’ve watched them grade papers.” Scout pursed her lips, eyebrows drawn down as she concentrated. “That’s really weird. On the other hand, maybe Foley was just confused. It’s not that hard to imagine that she’d mistake one student for another.”

“That’s what I thought at first,” I said, “but she seemed pretty sure.”

“Hmm.” Scout rolled over onto her back and laced her hands behind her head. “While we’re contemplating your parents’ possibly secret identities, what are we going to do about this note thing?”

“What do you mean ‘we’? The note thing is your deal, not mine. Someone must have seen you.”

“It was on your locker, Parker. They probably saw you following me. Probably heard you clomping through the hall in those flip-flops like a Clydesdale.”

“First of all, I took off the flip- flops so they wouldn’t make noise. And second, I do not
clomp
.” I threw my pillow at her to emphasize the point. “I am a very slender, spritely young woman.”

“Doesn’t mean you can’t clomp.”

“I am not above hitting a girl.”

Scout barked out a laugh. “I’d like to see you try it.”

“Dare me, Pinhead. Dare me.”

That time, I got a glare. She pointed at her nose ring. “Do you have any idea how much it hurt to get this thing? How much I endured to achieve this look?”

“That’s a ‘look’?”

“I am the epitome of high fashion.”

“Yeah,
Vogue
will surely be calling you tomorrow for the fall spread.”

Scout snorted out a laugh. “What did someone tell me once? That they’re not above hitting a girl? Well, neither am I, newbie.”

“Whatever,” I said. “Let’s get back on track—the note.”

“Right, the note.” Scout crossed her legs, one booted foot swinging as she thought. “Well, clompy or not, someone saw us. Could have been one of our lovely suitemates; could have been someone else at St. Sophia’s. The path to the basement door isn’t exactly inconspicuous. I have to go through the Great Hall to get to the main building. That part’s not so unusual—going into the main building, I mean. Girls sometimes study in the chapel, and there’s a service in there on Wednesday nights.” She sat up halfway and looked over at me. “Did you notice anyone noticing us?”

I shook my head. “I thought I was caught when you stopped in the Great Hall. I sat down at a table for a second, but I was up and out of there pretty fast afterward.”

“Hmm,” Scout said. “You’re sure you didn’t tell anyone?”

“Did I tell anyone I was running around St. Sophia’s in the middle of the night, following my suitemate to figure out why she’s sneaking around? No, I didn’t tell anyone that, and I’m pretty sure that’s the kind of thing I’d remember.”

She grinned up at me. “Can you imagine what would have happened if one of the”—she bobbed her head toward the closed door—“you-know-what pack found us down there?” She shook her head. “They would have gone completely postal.”

“I nearly went completely postal,” I pointed out.

“That is true. Although you did have your flip- flop weaponry.”

“Hey, would you want to meet me in a dark alley with a flip-flop?”

“Depends on how long you’d been awake. You’re an ogre in the morning.”

We broke into laughter that was stifled by a sudden knock on my bedroom door. Scout and I exchanged a glance. I unknotted my legs and walked to the door, then flipped the lock and opened it.

Lesley stood there, this time in uniform—plaid skirt, oxford shirt, tie—wide blue eyes blinking back at me. “I’d like to come in.”

“Okay,” I said, and moved aside, then shut the door again when she was in the room.

“Hi, Barnaby,” Scout said from the floor. “What’s kicking?”

“Those girls are incredibly irritating. I can hardly hear myself think.”

As if on cue, a peal of laughter echoed from the common room. We rolled our eyes simultaneously.

“I get that,” Scout said. “What brings you to our door?”

“I need to be more social. You know, talk to people.” Still standing near the door, she looked at us expectantly. The room was silent for nearly a minute.

“Okaaaay,” Scout finally said. “Good start on that, coming in here. How was your summer?”

Barnaby shrugged, then crossed her ankles and lowered herself to the floor. “Went to cello camp.”

Scout and I exchanged a glance that showed exactly how dull we thought that sounded. Nevertheless, Scout asked, “And how was cello camp?”

“Not nearly as exciting as you’d think.”

“Huh,” Scout said. “Bummer.”

After blinking wide eyes at the floor, Lesley lifted her gaze to Scout, then to me. “Last year was dull, too. I want this year to be more interesting. You seem interesting.”

Scout beamed, her eyes twinkling devilishly. “I knew I liked you, Barnaby.”

“Especially when you disappear at night.”

Scout’s expression flattened. With a jolt, she sat up, legs crossed in front of her. “What do you mean, when we disappear at night?”

“You know,” Lesley said, pointing at Scout, “when you head into the basement”—she pointed at me—“and you follow her.”

“Uh-huh,” Scout said, picking at a thread in her skirt, feigned nonchalance in her expression. “Did you by any chance leave a note for Lily? A warning?”

“Oh, on her locker? Yeah, that was me.”

Scout and I exchanged a glance, then looked at Lesley. “And why did you leave it?” she asked.

Lesley looked back and forth between us. “Because I want in.”

“In?”

Lesley nodded. “I want in. Whatever you’re doing, I want in. I want to help. I have skills”

“I’m not admitting that we’re doing anything,” Scout carefully said, “but if we are doing something, do you know what it is?”

“Well, no.”

“Then how do you know you have skills that would help us?” Scout asked.

Lesley grinned, and the look was a little diabolical. “Well, did you see me following you? Did you know I was there?”

“No,” Scout said for both of us, appreciation in her eyes. “No, we did not.” She looked at me. “She makes a good argument about her skills.”

“Yes, she does,” I agreed. “But why leave an anonymous note on my locker? If you wanted in, why not just talk to us here? We do live together, after all.”

Lesley shrugged nonchalantly. “Like I said, things are dull around here. I thought I’d spice things up.”

“Spice things up,” Scout repeated, her voice dry as toast. “Yeah, we could probably help you out with that. We’ll keep you posted.”

“Sweet,” Lesley said, and that was the end of that.

Scout didn’t, of course, fill Lesley in about exactly how interesting she was. I, of course, didn’t contribute much to that interestingness. I hadn’t been more than an amusing sidekick, if that. It was probably more accurate to call me a nosy sidekick.

I was relieved we’d solved the note mystery, but I was quiet at dinner, quiet in study hall, and quiet as Scout and I sat in the common room afterward—which was thankfully empty of brat packers. I couldn’t get Foley’s comments out of my mind. Sure, I’d seen the articles and the offices and met the colleagues, but I’d also seen
Alias
. People had created much more elaborate fronts than collegiate careers. Had my parents concocted some kind of elaborate fairy tale about their jobs to keep their real lives hidden? If so, I highly doubted they’d tell me if I asked. I’d walked into St. Sophia’s thinking I was beginning day one of my two-year separation from the people who meant more to me than anyone else in the world—two people who’d been honest with me, even if we hadn’t always gotten along. (I was a teenager, after all.) But now I had to wonder. I had to look back over my life and decide whether everything I knew, everything I believed to be true about my mother and father, was a lie.

Or maybe Foley was wrong. Maybe she’d confused my parents for someone else’s parents. Parker wasn’t such an unusual name. Or maybe she’d known my parents before I was born, at a time when they’d had different careers.

The biggest question of all, though, didn’t have anything to do with my parents. It was about
me
. Why did Foley’s questions bother me so much?
Scare
me so much? Why did I put so much stock in what she had to say? Foley’s words had struck a nerve, but why? Did I have my own doubts?

I kept replaying the memories, going over the details of my visits to the college, conversations with my parents, the conversation with Foley, to milk them of every detail.

I didn’t reach any conclusions, but the thought process kept me quiet as Scout lay on the floor of the common room with her iPod and the
Vogue
from the coffee table, and I lay on the couch with an arm behind my head, staring at the plaster ceiling.

When her cell phone buzzed, Scout reached up and grabbed it, then mumbled something about exercise. I waved off the excuse.

“I know,” I told her. “Just do what you need to do.”

Without explanation, she packed her gear—or whatever was in her skull-and-crossbones messenger bag—and left the suite. Since I was going to do us both a favor by not spying, I decided I was in for the night. I went back to my room, and grabbed a sketch pad and a couple of pencils. I hadn’t done much drawing since I’d gotten to Chicago, and it was time to get to work, especially if I was going to start studio classes soon.

Studio was going to be a change, though. I usually drew from my imagination, even if Foley hadn’t been impressed. No fruit bowls. No flowerpots. No portraits of fusty men in suits. And as far as drawing from the imagination went, the Scout Green mystery made for pretty good subject matter. My pencil flew across the nubby paper as I sketched out the ogre I’d imagined behind the door.

The hallway door opened so quickly, and with such a cacophony of chirping that I nearly ripped a hole in the paper with the tip of my pencil. The brat pack rushed into the suite, a girly storm of motion and noise. Thinking there was no need to make things worse for me or Scout, I flipped my sketchbook closed and stuffed it under my pillow.

Veronica followed Amie, Mary Katherine behind them, a glossy, white shoe box in her hands.

“Oh,” M.K. said, her expression falling from devilishness to irritation as she met my gaze through my bedroom doorway. “What are you doing here?”

Amie rolled her eyes. “She lives here?”

“So she does,” Veronica said with a sly smile, perching herself in the threshold. “M.K. tells us you met with Foley today.”

M.K. was a talker, apparently. “Yep,” I said. “I did.”

Veronica crossed her arms over her untucked oxford and tie as Mary Katherine and Amie moved to stand behind her, knights guarding the queen. “The thing is, Foley never talks to students.”

“Is that so?”

“That is very much so,” she said. “So we were all interested to hear that you’d been invited into the inner sanctum.”

“Did you learn anything interesting?” Mary Katherine asked with a snicker.

Out of some sarcastic instinct, I almost spilled, almost threw out a summary of how five minutes in Foley’s office had made me doubt nearly sixteen years of personal experience and had made me question my parents, my family, a lifetime of memories. But I kept it in. I wasn’t comfortable with these three having that kind of information about me or my fears. It was just the kind of weakness they’d exploit.

BOOK: Firespell
11.16Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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