Ahir, Ahir Shaheen, Alicia Finger, Angelica, Arnulf, Ash House, Beep, Chicago, Cloud, Cloudius, Daphne, Jen Chang, Lyceum, Lyceum of the Lake Winds, magic, Maroons, Natalie, Pinhead, Rachel, Rats Laguna, Tom Hexane, wizard
“So what exactly were they doing the other night?” Natalie Lopez asked, as she and Rachel set around Angelica’s room with Daphne and Ahir, not quite ready to return to studying that Tuesday evening.
“They were trying out for the track team,” said Angelica, “just like I’m going to, and so are you and Rachel.”
“What?” said Rachel.
“You heard me. Now shut that door if you really want to talk about it.”
Rachel got up and went to the door. She looked out, then turned. “Should we let the guys in on this little confab?”
“It might be amusing,” said Daphne. “What guys are we talking about?”
“I’m coming,” said Arnulf, as Rachel stepped aside to let him through. “We trying out for the track team?”
“No way Jose,” said Cloudius, coming in behind, with Tom just behind him. “I’m gonna be backup catcher on the baseball team.”
“I get to be a bleepin’ relief pitcher,” said Daphne. “I can slug the ball out of the park and Whelp wants me to be relief pitcher.”
“You’ll get in games,” said Tom.
“You swing too quick,” said Arnulf. “You always want to butcher the poor ball. No wonder it avoids you.”
“Oh, so you’re my batting coach all of a sudden,” said Daphne. “What are you? Backup backup shortstop?”
“Something like that,” said Arnulf, sitting on the floor next to Ahir.
“He’s the Ryne Sandberg of Lyceum baseball,” said Cloudius.
“Don’t laugh,” said Natalie, “that guy’s gonna be good one of these days. So what are we really talking about here? Tell me it’s not baseball.”
“Hey now,” said Daphne.
“You are going out for track, Natalie. You are.”
“Okay. I am. Now what—?”
“Sigh,” said Rachel. “Ange wants to talk about those guys. Andrew Andrews and his stupid brother. I’ll be happy if I never see them again.”
“I’m just asking,” Natalie replied, “what do you suppose they were doing? Looked to me like they were either taking something off that cart or whatever, and putting it in the house. Or taking it out of the house and putting it on the cart.”
“So?” asked Arnulf.
“So,” said Angelica, “it was after eleven at night, at least one of them was using partial invisibility, and—well, did you look at that cart, Rachel?”
“I know what you’re going to say,” replied Rachel. “I didn’t really take it in.”
“What about the cart?” asked Ahir.
“It was a magical conveyance,” said Angelica. “They were not unloading cases of beer off a pickup truck. They were unloading something off a magical conveyance.”
“You’re sure they were unloading?” asked Arnulf.
“No. I think they were unloading. I’m not sure.” She half-grinned at Cloudius. “You have some input here, Cloud Man?”
“I think we should sneak into Shag House,” said Cloudius.
“Be my guest.”
“Aw, come on, you guys, you can’t expect me to go alone,” the backup catcher complained.
“I’ll go,” said Tom. He looked around the room. “Um, if everyone else goes.”
“Don’t expect that to happen,” said Arnulf.
“Why not?” replied Daphne. “You always say you’re not going to go, but you always go.”
“So,” said Natalie, “we’re just looking around the basement? Or is there something more ambitious going on?”
“Is she going?” asked Cloudius. “She’s not even in our house.”
“If she’s going,” said Ahir, “then I’d better be going, or I will raise a stink.”
“I’ll do the basement,” said Angelica. “But only the basement. Or maybe the attic. But not anything in between.”
“Does anyone know how it’s laid out?” asked Tom.
“I’ve been on the first and second floors,” said Natalie. “Not the attic or the basement.”
“Maybe,” said Angelica, “there’s a way to sneak in through the tunnels.”
They all looked at Tom. “Well,” he said, “obviously there is. The tunnels go everywhere.”
“There it is, Arnulf,” said Daphne. “We’re all going. You have to go too.”
He rolled his eyes, shrugged and said, “What the hell.”
Rumors of what had happened between the Ash House girls and at least one Maroon from Shag House crisscrossed campus for days. The watchfulness of everybody at least doubled, and now, where Ash’s residents and MacMorris’s minions had been chiefly watching one another, now they were both watching the Maroons and had an eye-stalk up in the air looking for other parties to join the party. Shag himself, not really a Maroon, looked uncomfortable about something; who knew what version of the rumor would have reached him first?
Tom and Cloudius were studying some maps from Tom’s increasingly weird collection the next night. They moved as much of Tom’s stuff as they could and spread them out on the floor, debating what corresponded to where on the city map and which parts they already knew.
“Hey guys, whatcha doing?” asked Beep Finger from the door. “Came up here to see if you wanted to study.”
“Sear’s history test,” said Tom. “I do need to study.”
“This is sort of like history,” said Cloudius.
Beep stepped in and took a distant look at the maps while the boys dithered about whether to hide them. “Is it Chicago?”
“Yeah,” said Tom in as vague a way as he could manage.
“Is it the, um, Chicago Underground?”
“You could say that,” replied Cloudius as craftily as he could.
“Oh come on,” said Beep, “do I get to go this time? I did okay last time.”
“Hey wait,” said Jen Chang, coming to the door from the nearby stairs up. “I’m from this house. You guys can’t bring her and not me.”
Ahir’s voice came from Arnulf’s open door. “Are you people talking about what I think you’re talking about?”
“What’s going on in there?” called Angelica.
Tom stood up and walked over to Beep Finger, then said, “Excuse me,” and went past her with a smirk. She and Jen followed him as he looked in Angelica’s door and said, “Mister Hexane requests your presence at a little reception, happening in fifteen seconds in his chambers.” He went on to Arnulf’s room, looked in and said the same thing.
He turned and there were Daphne and Spiny Norman. “We draw lots,” she said.
“No we do not,” said Ahir Shaheen, coming to Arnulf’s door. She was holding the history text, Morison and Commager’s European and American History through a Wizard’s Eye, 1600 to 1900. She looked down the hall toward the stairs and turned back to whisper, “I get to go! We already agreed.”
“Okay, meeting,” said Arnulf. “Tom’s office, ah, Tom’s room.”