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Authors: David Lubar

B005N8ZFUO EBOK (16 page)

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aturday afternoon, I got fetched down to Principal Davis’s office. I guess he wanted information about Flinch’s accident. I wasn’t happy about sitting there. Waiting to see the principal was no big deal—it was a fairly common experience for me—and sticking with the story was no problem. But I wasn’t alone. Bloodbath was there, too, waiting his turn and casually peeling strips of vinyl from the back of the chair next to him. Five other seats were also filled. From what I’d seen, Davis caught up with discipline on the weekends. I guess he didn’t have any hobbies at home.
“Whatcha do?” Bloodbath asked, glancing toward me without the faintest sign of recognition. I realized he had no idea I’d been in the yard last night. He didn’t know, or care, who’d been outside that window. He didn’t care who he hurt. I wanted to grab him and shout,
I’m here because you almost killed my friend
! But that wouldn’t do any good.
There was no reason to make him suspicious. As much as I hated the idea of talking with him, I decided the best approach would be to act naturally. “Got in trouble with Parsons yesterday,” I told him, selecting a safe reply. “You?” I figured that if I kept him distracted, he wouldn’t grow bored with the chair and decide to start peeling pieces off of me instead. I really wanted to hit him, but I knew I’d never get away with that.
He shrugged. “I wrote my name in the wrong place.”
“On a desk?” I asked.
“Nah, on some runt’s face.” He laughed, producing a sound I thought could only come from a baboon. He reached into his pants pocket and pulled out a marking pen. “Want me to show you?”
“No thanks.” I fought the urge to switch seats.
He uncapped the pen, releasing a strong chemical odor into the air. “You sure?”
I could see it was one of those pens with the ink that didn’t come off. This was getting out of hand. I had to get Bloodbath’s mind away from using my forehead for a sketch pad.
Behind Principal Davis’s door, a phone rang. A minute later, I heard the phone being slammed down.
“Ridiculous. They’re moving up the inspection—because of pressure from the town. They can’t do this to us! We were supposed to have the rest of the year. We aren’t ready. They’re coming this Friday.”
Bloodbath and I both turned toward Principal Davis’s door. It was him shouting. No mistaking that voice. I heard another familiar voice—Mr. Langhorn. Maybe they were having their shouters’ club meeting.
“I thought the mayor was on our side,” Mr. Langhorn said.
“Not anymore,” Principal Davis said. “Apparently Mayor Walden changed his mind. I just found out he’s been on the phone all morning calling in favors.”
“Walden has a lot of powerful friends,” Mr. Langhorn said.
“Oh crap,” I muttered, seeing an image of that jacket on the street.
. We’d picked a fight with the mayor’s son. Worse, he left his jacket right across the street from where we’d broken that window. One way or another, he was going to tell his father that the school was involved. Even if he had no proof, he could cause trouble.
“If they want to move the date, there’s nothing we can do about it,” Langhorn said. “Let’s hope they like what they see.”
“If they don’t, they’ll approve the merger plan,” Principal Davis said. “I heard they’re looking at a building in Riverside Junction. It’ll
save money, and that’s all they care about. Pack everyone together in one huge mess of a school. You know they’ll have more students for each teacher. Half of us will be out of a job when that happens. The worst part is, they don’t care about the students. We’re the only ones who really care.”
I listened to the rest of it. A few minutes later, Principal Davis stepped out from his office. “Go away,” he said. “I’ve got other problems. I’ll deal with all of you later.” He and Langhorn walked down the hall.
“Cool,” Bloodbath said. He slipped out of the chair and headed for the outer door of the office. As he was leaving, he glanced back at me and said, “Guess this is our chance to bring Edgeview down. One huge mess of a school. That’s what Davis said. Sounds like my kind of place.”
Bring the place down
? I didn’t like the sound of that. I waited until I was sure Bloodbath was far enough away so he wouldn’t change his mind about writing his name on my head. Then I hurried upstairs and told the others what I’d heard.
“What’s that have to do with us?” Torchie asked.
“If Bloodbath wants something, we want the opposite. No matter what. If Bloodbath wants to screw up the inspection, then we want the school to pass,” I said. I didn’t tell them the part about the mayor’s son. They were so proud about standing up for themselves, I couldn’t let them know that we were probably the reason the inspection was rescheduled.
“Why should we care about the school?” Lucky asked.
“Because we don’t know where we’ll end up if they close Edgeview,” I said. “It could be some big place. They’re talking about Riverside Junction. That’s real far from here. Your parents might not come for you as often. That’s not all. We might get split up. They could put us in different classes. Different rooms. How’d you like to end up with Bloodbath or Grunge for a roommate? How’d you like to have a bunch of teachers like Mr. Langhorn? It could happen. This place might be hell, but at least it’s our hell. We have to stop Bloodbath.”
There was silence in the room for a moment as that sunk in.
“You really want to stop Bloodbath, don’t you, Martin?” Torchie asked.
Torchie nodded. “Then I guess that’s what we want, too.”
“But who knows what they might try?” Flinch asked.
“Right,” Lucky said. “Who knows?”
At that moment, all the rest of us turned toward Cheater. “Who knows?” we all said. Then we all shouted the answer. “Cheater knows!”
“What?” Cheater said.
“You can find out their plans,” I told him. “Then we can stop them.”
“It sounds kind of dangerous,” Cheater said. “How can we stop Bloodbath and his gang? They’re too tough.”
“We’re smarter.”
I looked over at the source of those words.
Trash spoke quietly from his seat on the floor. “Between us, we’ve got a lot more brains than those thugs. And we have a few secrets. Watch this.”
rash stared at Torchie’s desk, one corner of his mouth still turned up in a grin. Torchie’s notebook rose slowly and gracefully into the air. Then it opened and the pages started to turn, one by one. Three pencils floated up to join the book, each drifting in a different pattern. All three pencils moved to the paper and began drawing. My jaw dropped as I watched. The demonstration only lasted for about twenty seconds. Then the notebook shot straight up, slamming into the ceiling so hard that little chips of paint dropped down. The pencils spun across the room. Two of them bounced off the wall while the third stuck point-first, quivering in the plaster. Everything else ended up on the floor.
“Oops,” Trash said. “Still a bit rough at all of this. Guess I need more practice.”
“Looks like you’ve been practicing a lot,” I said. This went far beyond just throwing stuff.
Trash shrugged and grinned.
“So you think we can do it?” Flinch asked me. “Do you really think we can beat Bloodbath?”
“Sure. We’ll figure something out.” I realized that the others were looking toward me as the leader. That was a mistake. But I’d step aside as soon as I figured out who should really take charge. “We have less than a week. The inspection is on Friday.”
The rest of the day passed quietly. We spent most of the time in the
room. With all of us urging him to find out what he could, Cheater looked for a way to get close to Bloodbath, but he didn’t come up with anything. Trash worked so hard on his talents he reminded me of a warrior training for combat. Torchie practiced his fire control. Flinch killed time describing various ways he could use his cast to rearrange Bloodbath’s face. Lucky didn’t say much, but he did wander into the halls once in a while, usually returning with an object or two he’d found. I watched the five of them and wished I was really part of the group.
Sunday afternoon, when Lucky didn’t come to the room, I went down the hall to see him.
“What’s up?” I asked.
He was sitting on his bed, staring at something. He raised his hand to show me what he had.
“Oh no.” I took the wallet from him and flipped it open. My gut tightened as I recognized the picture on the driver’s license. I didn’t even have to read the name. “Where’d you get this?” I asked, handing it back to him.
“I found it on the steps,” he said.
I remembered how Lucky had gone out while we were waiting for Flinch to come back from the hospital. The wallet must have fallen from Mr. Briggs’s pocket when he was kneeling down to help Flinch. “You have to return it,” I said as I handed it back to him.
Lucky shook his head. “They’ll nail me,” he said. “Or throw me in jail.”
I’d figured there was something he hadn’t told us about his power. “You hear stuff, right? That’s how you find things.”
“I’m not crazy,” Lucky said.
“I never said you were. Tell me about it. Do you hear the things you find?”
Lucky nodded. “Lost objects, mostly. Sometimes hidden things, too. They whisper to me. If I pick them up, the voices stop. If I don’t, they get louder.”
“Well, just put the wallet where he’ll find it,” I said.
Lucky shook his head. “If I do that, the voices will drive me crazy. Once I pick something up, I can’t put it back or toss it away. I’ve tried. When I do, it starts screaming at me. All I can do is keep it or give it to someone.”
“Give it to me.” I held my hand out.
“You going to give it back to Mr. Briggs?” he asked.
“Yeah. I’ll take care of it.” I took the wallet from him and put it in my pocket. I figured I could slip it in Mr. Briggs’s desk. Or I could toss it in the garbage. I didn’t owe Mr. Briggs anything. Either way, Lucky would be in the clear.
“Thanks,” Lucky said.
We sat and talked. Mostly Lucky talked and I listened. He was terrified of being locked up. That’s why he never told anyone about the voices. At least now he knew he wasn’t crazy.
The bell rang for dinner.
Right after we got to our table, Principal Davis walked in. “Your attention, please,” he said. “I’ve just been informed that at some point this weekend, a wallet was stolen from Mr. Briggs. This sort of behavior will not be tolerated at Edgeview. Fortunately, I have a very good idea who the culprit is. It would be best if he returned the wallet immediately.”
I thought about dropping the wallet on the floor. That wouldn’t work. It would be right next to us. I could tell them I’d found it, but then they’d ask why I hadn’t returned it before.
Before I could figure out what to do, Principal Davis came over to Lucky and said, “Very well, Dominic. It looks like you want to do this the hard way. Come with me, please. Perhaps we need to arrange for you to spend some time in the company of other criminals.”
“But …” Lucky spread his hands in a display of innocence.
“Come with me now, please,” Principal Davis said. He grabbed Lucky’s arm and pulled him from his chair.
Lucky looked back at me, his eyes pleading. I stood, planning to shout,
! But the words caught in my throat. I didn’t want to switch
places with Lucky. I didn’t want Principal Davis dragging me off.
“He’s dead,” Cheater said. “Even his dad won’t get him off this time.”
“No.” I headed out of the cafeteria. Whatever else I’d done wrong, I wasn’t going to add this to my list. But I couldn’t face Principal Davis. I ran up the stairs, hoping Mr. Briggs was still on duty.
“Martin,” he said when he answered my knock, “this is getting to be a tradition. I hope you aren’t here to tell me about another injury.”
“You dropped this Friday,” I said, holding out the wallet. “Principal Davis thinks Lucky—I mean Dominic—stole it. He didn’t.”
Mr. Briggs took the wallet from me.
Neither of us spoke. I waited for him to say something. He just looked at me.
“I didn’t steal it either,” I said.
He didn’t answer. Okay, I could play that game, too. I stared back. Sooner or later, he’d have to say something.
Finally, he spoke. “How would you like me to treat you, Martin?”
“What?” That took me by surprise.
He put the wallet in his pocket. “I don’t have a clue. Not a clue. It’s like you’re waving me closer with one hand and slashing a knife with the other. I believe you didn’t take the wallet. Beyond that, I don’t know what to think.”
I moved a step away from him.
“Well, I’d better rescue your friend from Principal Davis.” He closed his door and walked down the hall.
How would you like me to treat you
? What kind of a question was that? “I don’t want to be treated like anything,” I shouted. But he was gone by then.
I went back to the cafeteria. Before the meal was over, Lucky came in. “You took your time,” he said.
“Don’t worry about it. If I’d been in your spot, I’d probably have left town.”
“So we’re cool?” I asked.
Lucky nodded. “I can’t blame you for freezing.”
“Will someone tell me what’s going on?” Torchie asked.
We filled him in, then headed up to the room.
When classes started Monday morning, it was easy to tell that something was happening. The teachers were all nervous. The funny thing was that they were all nervous in different ways. Mr. Langhorn got even angrier and shouted more than before. I thought he was going to break something inside his head the way he was yelling at us. I could just imagine his head flying apart like a watermelon with a stick of dynamite inside of it. Miss Nomad, impossible as it might seem, got even more disgustingly nice, like she was hoping to soften us up. Mr. Briggs just acted kind of distracted.
It was also obvious that Bloodbath and his gang were planning to cause trouble. In a way this was actually good because they spent less time than usual terrorizing the rest of us. It looked like they were saving their energy for something grander.
There was only one incident before the inspection, but it was a whopper.
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