“A professor in Montana wants you to come and slay a Wendigo.”
“Who am I? Van Helsing?”
“He says he knows Dr. Barrows, from Holyoke.”
I snort. “Dr. Barrows knows that monsters aren’t real.”
My mother sighs. “How do we know what’s real? Most of the things you’ve put away could be called a monster by someone.”
“Yeah.” I put my hand on the door. “You’re sure you can get the herbs I need?”
She nods. “You’re sure you can get them to help you?”
I look at the crowd. “We’ll see.”
* * *
The hallways today look like something out of a movie. You know, the ones where the important characters walk in slow motion and the rest of the people just whip by as different flesh- and clothes-colored blurs. I caught glimpses of Carmel and Will in the crowd, but Will was walking away from me, and I couldn’t get Carmel’s attention. I never saw Thomas, despite going to his locker twice. So I try to stay awake during geometry. I don’t do a great job. They shouldn’t be allowed to teach math so early in the morning.
Midway through a lesson on proofs, a folded rectangle of paper finds its way onto my desk. When I open it I see a note from Heidi, a pretty blond-haired girl who sits three rows back. She’s asking if I need help studying. And whether I want to go see the new Clive Owen movie. I tuck the note into my math book like I’ll answer it later. I won’t, of course, and if she asks about it, I’ll tell her I’m doing fine on my own, and maybe some other time. She might ask again, two or three more times maybe, but after that she’ll get the hint. It probably seems mean, but it isn’t. What’s the point in seeing a movie, starting up something that I can’t finish? I don’t want to miss people, and I don’t want them to miss me.
After class I slide out the door quick and get lost in the crowds. I think I hear Heidi’s voice call my name but I don’t turn around. There’s work to be done.
Will’s locker is the closest. He’s there already with—as usual—Chase hanging on his hip. When he sees me, his eyes do this shifty thing from right to left, like he doesn’t think we should be seen talking.
“What’s up, Will?” I ask. I nod at Chase, who gives me this stone face like I’d better be careful or he’s going to pound me at any minute. Will doesn’t say anything. He just glances my way and keeps on doing what he’s doing, switching out his textbooks for his next class. I realize with sort of a jolt that Will hates me. He’s never liked me, out of loyalty to Mike, and now he hates me, because of what happened. I don’t know why I haven’t realized it before. I guess I never give too much thought to the living. In any case, it makes me glad to tell him what I have to tell him, about being part of the spell. It’ll give him some closure.
“You said you wanted in. Here’s your chance.”
“What chance is that?” he asks. His eyes are cold and gray. Tough and smart.
“Can’t you get your flying monkey out of here first?” I motion toward Chase, but neither moves. “We’re doing a spell to bind the ghost. Meet me at Morfran’s shop after school.”
“You’re such a freak, man,” Chase spits at me. “Bringing this shit in here. Making us talk to the police.”
I don’t know what he’s whining about. If the cops were as casual as they were with me and Carmel, what’s the big deal? And I have to believe that they were, because I was right about them. Mike’s disappearance spawned only one small search party that combed the hills for about a week. There were a few newspaper articles that quickly fell off the front page.
Everyone is swallowing the story that he up and ran away. It’s only expected. When people see something supernatural, they rationalize it down to earth. The cops in Baton Rouge did it with my dad’s murder. They called it an isolated act of extreme violence, probably perpetrated by someone traveling through the state. Never mind that he’d been f**king eaten. Never mind that no human could have taken such big bites.
“At least the cops don’t think you’re involved,” I hear myself say absently. Will slams his locker shut.
“That’s not what matters,” he says in a low voice. He looks at me hard. “This had better not be another runaround. You’d better show.”
As they walk away, Carmel appears at my shoulder.
“What’s with them?” she asks.
“They’re still thinking about Mike,” I say. “Is there something strange about that?”