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XIX. The Patriots’ Day Massacre

 

The second floor people took their time in informing Mistress Ash of the attack: their time was approximately forty-five minutes after returning from ice cream sodas. “Leonard will tell someone in White’s house,” said Arnulf to Daphne as they came up the walk. “Probably Keisha, because there’s no one else trustworthy over there other than White.”

“Keisha will either tell White, or Leonard will, or she’ll tell someone else like Geen, and he’ll tell someone else, and it’s off to the races,” said Daphne.

“So we have to tell her,” said Arnulf. They looked up.

“Come in, please,” said Mistress Ash in the doorway. “Tell me.”

So they did, in her study with Ahir and Angelica and Cloudius and Tom. Ash made a triangle of her fingers, but went no further in indicating disapproval.

“Don’t you find it curious,” she asked, “that two people actually died because you threw force at them?”

Arnulf looked at Ahir. “It’s not the first time,” he said.

“I’m aware of that. I am not criticizing, I want to be clear. You were protecting yourselves. But why you needed protection, I do not know. When a child—all right, when a teenager cannot walk down a street in a college town in this country without having spells thrown at her, I do not know what things are coming to. Still, it is curious.”

“I don’t know,” said Cloud. “Ahir is pretty scary sometimes.”

“Even I know I’m not that scary,” said Ahir. “So what is it, do you think, Mistress?”

“Why they attacked you, and why two of them died?” replied Ash. “I don’t know. I just find it.” She smiled without a scent of humor. “Curious.”

 

The week following seemed especially quiet. Everyone just assumed it was the looming menace of final exams, and the fear of God put into the hearts of those who wished Ash House ill by the dispatch of the attack in Ann Arbor with extreme prejudice. Then came Patriots’ Day, a holiday explained by Tom Hexane to the others that Monday night. They were sitting around his room: Tom, Cloudius, Arnulf, Ahir (she was half studying), Angelica, Daphne, Alicia “Beep” Finger.

“We have it in New England,” he told them. “Third Monday of April. Because of Paul Revere’s Ride. So we have school off that day, although sometimes we’d have it off anyway for the annual April blizzard.”

“We don’t need a blizzard,” said Arnulf. “We might miss a chance for another of our lovely one-victory weekends.”

“We might take two out of four this time,” said Cloudius. “Who we got?”

“Mizzou,” said Arnulf. “They were north regional champions last year.”

“How did Lake Winds do last year in baseball?” asked Beep.

“They sucked,” said Daphne. “They always suck. We haven’t had a winning season in baseball since like 1940. It’s Chicago. We should be called the Cubs.”

“I wish we had a wrestling program,” said Cloudius.

“Des Moines always wins in wrestling,” said Beep. “Yeah, my dad’s a wrestling coach at the local high school as well as teaching defense in adult ed.”

“They have magic defense in adult ed?” said Ahir.

“In Fort Wayne,” said Beep. “I don’t know why but it’s a hot spot for magic. It’s like 90% Baptists and 10% wizards.”

“He good at magic?”

“Not good enough to beat Mom,” said Beep with a grin. “Hey. You know what we should have. We should have spell battle competitions. Like, meets.”

“We call them football games,” said Arnulf.

“Baseball games, with you,” said Ahir.

“No kidding,” said Daphne. “That was a major contribution. Okay, hey, speaking of baseball. Major announcement.”

“You’re retiring,” said Arnulf.

“You’re going to play more than one position at a time,” said Cloud. “That might help.”

“Nope. Tommy here, Little Tom Hexane, is going to be a relief pitcher.” There was some minor cheering. “Yep,” said Daphne, “he’s been practicing and Coach Whelp says he’s going to get on the mound a little against Mizzou.”

“The way we pitch,” said Cloud, “that could be early. Uh, except for when you start, Dapher.”

“What’s your best pitch?” asked Beep Finger.

“Oh, I worked out a little curve.”

“Magic at all?”

“It’s within regulation,” said Tom. “It doesn’t, like, have spinning lights or anything.”

“I know you,” said Beep. “You’re going to use light effects to make it look like it’s going outside and it’ll go right over the plate, or vice versa.”

“Now that,” said Tom, “would be quite illegal, so I’d have to save that for at least the eighth inning.”

They went on laughing and joking and talking about baseball and field hockey and they did a little studying, and then Tom walked Beep back to her house, and everyone went to bed. It was a quiet night outside, a little rainy, and the Indian ghosts wandered an empty campus. The Ash House ghost and Kenneth the Cat and Eva the Ghost Cat patrolled a quiet house, with each of the kids sleeping in his or her own room. Ann Ash, herself, was seen leaving the house about 10:30, slipping across the alley to Susan White’s house, where she often stole away for a brandy nightcap.

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