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.
Then, at an hour which would have seen Paul Revere riding hard into the history books, three figures began to appear around Angelica’s room. Four more began to appear as the first three moved up to the bed, wands out: Josh Hubble, Emma Curie and the second-year Fortis Hook. The second group included Plymouth Class and Hardy Vyner along with two older teens from the Academy on the North Side.
“Sek ag min” came from the covers, where Angelica’s wand was sticking out. Emma went down. Josh and Fortis started to fumble out the same spell, but Angelica got off za nyk za at Fortis and he found himself repeating the same word, sek, over and over. Josh’s spell washed over Angelica and she sat up, flicking a bolt of magical force at him that made him step back and go over to defending himself.
“You got her?” asked one of the group of four, a boy from the Academy. “We have to get on with it. Hardy, help Josh, okay?”
“Sek ag min,” said Hardy Vyner at Angelica, but her kno eur shot the spell back and the Vyner girl was suddenly fighting sleep.
“I’ll take her,” said Plymouth Class, hurling a bolt that Angelica parried. She laughed as she bounced it off at Josh Hubble, who just managed to deflect it.
“Get that out of here,” said the Academy boy to the Academy girl who was standing there gawking instead of helping him search the underwear drawer. The girl looked down at Emma Curie snoring, and, with a shrug, waved her wand. Emma was gone, safely wafted back to MacMorris House. “Now help me look, come on,” said the boy. With a shrug, the girl turned to help. Behind them, Angelica was parrying hard but staying afloat against two foes.
There was noise outside. The Academy boy looked pained: they had hoped to be out by now. The door opened and there were Rachel Rabat and Jen Chang, wands out. They stepped into their thrusts and their combined force threw the Academy boy back against the dresser in a painful way. The Academy girl tried to take on Jen Chang, but Rachel took the opportunity to whack the boy with several more bolts of different colors, and he went down, thinking at the last moment to zap himself out to safety.
Fortis Hook was revived enough now to toss sek ag min at Jen, who was still not used to this sort of thing, and fell back into the hall, where she slid down the wall and was snoozing when she landed on the carpet.
“Emily Stoner,” said Rachel, advancing against the Academy girl. “My sister says you’re a wimp.”
“Sure,” said Emily Stoner, the Academy girl, now the senior member. She gave Rachel her full blast, and it caught Rachel off balance: she stumbled out and sprawled backwards across Jen. “Get them back in here,” Emily Stoner ordered. “We can’t let anyone see them out there, they’ll know we’re here.”
“What about her?” asked Fortis Hook, eying Angelica as he dragged Rachel into the room and Hardy Vyner went to do the same with Jen. Angelica was still managing both Josh and Plymouth without much difficulty.
In answer to Fortis’s question, there was a soft zap in the back corner.
“Take her down,” said an eighth figure, appearing. “I’ll secure the area.”
“Professor,” said Angelica, deflecting a Josh blast back at Fortis. “Shocked but not surprised.”
MacMorris strode to the door and took out his wand. “Take her down,” he said again. He turned and Fortis Hook and Josh Hubble began belaboring Angelica with zaps of force. Plymouth Class started pulling drawers out of Angelica’s dresser.
MacMorris addressed himself to the door. Before he could lock it, it flew open and Tom and Cloudius jumped on him. MacMorris was still a lot taller than either of them, so Tom went high and Cloud went low. “You, ergh,” said the young prof to Cloudius. “Didn’t you learn anything?”
“Apparently not,” Cloudius got out as the three of them grappled. Behind them Arnulf and Ahir Shaheen filled the doorway, the JS wand and that little black Iranian model waving side by side.
Professor MacMorris, with two thirteen-year-old boys wrestling him, managed to wiggle his wand at Arnulf. For a few seconds they connected, and then Arnulf’s force cascaded back and he was flung, unconscious, out into the hall. Ahir took up the ineffective struggle. Angelica wanted to take a moment off just to be astonished. This was the biggest spell battle of her life, her best friends were over there battling an actual professor, and they all seemed to be up to their spiritual armpits in Jell-o.
But then Angelica blasted Fortis Hook with a quick attack and turned to take on Plymouth Class. Josh Hubble aimed for Ahir Shaheen, but then saw Daphne behind in the hall. They cried out as they attacked each other, and then again as they each dropped unconscious.
It was at this moment that MacMorris managed to fling Cloudius and Tom from him and face the Iranian girl. Plymouth Class and Emily Stoner went over to attacking Ahir, but she held off all three until Cloudius took Emily Stoner off her with a magic combat blast, and Tom took down Plymouth with a flying tackle.
Things were not going MacMorris’s way, but there was just that skinny Iranian girl in the doorway, the only person actually fighting him. Then she stepped into the room, and there, revealed behind her, was Ann Ash.
MacMorris flicked his wand at his fallen student assistants. Three of them were thrown from the room, but two weren’t: Angelica jumped on Fortis Hook and Cloudius and Tom grabbed onto Hardy Vyner.
“Ash,” said MacMorris, “don’t get involved in this.”
“You’re in my house,” Ash replied. “Zap!” She couldn’t resist making the sound effect as she flicked her wand at him. Up went his wand in defense—and it flipped out of his hand, hitting him in the nose, then hitting the ceiling, then landing at Ash’s feet as he fell unconscious on Angelica’s floor.
“Where’s the thing?” asked Ash as Ahir started de-ringing MacMorris’s hands.
“It was in,” said Angelica, “it was in Ahir’s room. You don’t think—?”
“Ahem,” said Ahir, kneeling. She dropped four nice looking rings on the floor, and reached into her shirt. Then she pulled her hand out empty. “Still there.”
“Thank you, Miss Shaheen,” said Ash, “for giving me yet another heart murmur. All right. We have some magical authorities to call. Whatever shall we say they were looking for?”
Over the succeeding days, the massacre, a top secret black event, became common knowledge around the school. So did the top secret resolutions of the obvious disciplinary cases. All five students involved, even the three who were not found at the scene, transferred immediately to different lyceums in other parts of the country. MacMorris’s role was hushed up, but his contract would be over at the end of the year; he did not seek any other educational position.
The segment was never mentioned. In the telling, it was just the 1560 spell encyclopedia Ash owned, which MacMorris did not admit he was not looking for while passing through Angelica’s room. It was averred that his team was staging through her room because long jumping into Ann Ash’s study was obviously a bad idea; they also managed to float the hypothesis that MacMorris suspected there were two dozen black pages, an appendix that could not be found without a password.
Meanwhile, the Zephyrs managed to lose four games to Mizzou and win one—the one being the field hockey game. In the second game, the nightcap at Chicago on Saturday, Tom Hexane came in and pitched the last two innings in relief of Willow Greene, and allowed only two runs on two hits and three errors, en route to a 14-3 loss. He managed to get in another inning on Sunday, scoreless this time, at the end of a 5-1 defeat for which Daphne took the statistical blame.
They got back to Chicago Sunday night and found that, one, Professor MacMorris, who was still teaching for the rest of the term, had already been replaced for next term by an old former teacher of Ash’s, and two, that the Department of Magical Enforcement was going over Angelica’s room with several fine-toothed combs. They were very polite, they seemed possibly a little leery of Angelica and Ahir, not to mention Ash, and after they left, the residents of Ash House, gathered in the second floor hall, looked at Jen Chang, who patted her chest where her heart was and smiled.
“Guess what,” she said. “I’m wearing my first real bra.”
“Because you finally have something to put in it,” said Rachel.
“So what do you think he’s going to do?” asked Angelica, in Tom’s room a few days later.
“Who? MacMorris?” asked Cloudius. Angelica rolled her eyes.
“He’ll have more time,” said Arnulf, “to pursue his own projects.”
“You don’t think he has anything to do with Brutus, do you?” asked Ahir, who sat next to him holding his hand.
“Hey,” said Daphne, leaning on the window sill, petting a ghost cat, “Ahir Shaheen, you are an Amazon. I saw the look in your eye. You were ready to deal with MacMorris the way you dealt with that low-life in Ann Arbor.”
Ahir smiled primly. “But I stood out of the way for my elder,” she said.
“Ash is something,” said Rachel.
“So now you know,” said Angelica. “Ash and White. Never be on the other side of them.”
“And that’s the thing,” said Arnulf. “Yeah, we’re on their side. You know what that means. It means we’re old enough to be on a side. It means we’re in the battle.”
“You’re thirteen,” said Daphne, “like the rest of us, and you’re a soldier for the Cause.”
“And we don’t even know what the cause is, really,” Cloudius pointed out.
“But are you in any doubt about it?”
“No. No, actually.”
“Okay then,” said Angelica. “We’re in the Cause. We’re, oh, collecting segments. Or defeating Controllers. Or trying to become the MPW. Or we’re trying to figure out who Brutus is. When you figure out, please tell me. Okay?”
“It doesn’t matter,” said Arnulf. “It doesn’t frickin’ matter. Whatever it is, we know we’re in it. Together. Um, Angelica. Except we are not collecting segments. We’re not.”
“Why not?” asked Daphne.
“Because I don’t want segments. Why would I want segments? I’m sick of the one we got.”
“Don’t you want to find out what happened to your dad?”
“Segments happened to your dad, Arnulf.”