Episode 8: Plots | Scryer's Gulch
Annabelle felt the same tingle at her wrist the next day when Georgie and Jamie entered the schoolroom together. Jamie's grim face and Georgie's flushed one told her the boys had been arguing.
When it came time for the children to go home to lunch, she asked Georgie to stay behind. "I don't know anything about it!" he blurted as soon as the other children were gone.
"Don't know anything about what, Georgie?" she said, narrowing her eyes.
"The school, miss. That's why you wanted to talk to me, weren't it?"
"'Wasn't it,' Georgie, and no, that's not why I wanted to talk to you. But as long as we're on the subject, what is it about the school that you don't know?"
Georgie's already-florid face burned even hotter. "I thought you wanted to know about who might've done that to the school, miss."
"And why would I think you'd know anything about it, Georgie?"
"Why...well, I thought...I mean, none of the girls coulda done it. I'm a boy, and so's Jamie and Harry, and...I mean, I thought you'd think it was one of us three."
"Was it?" said Annabelle, giving him a hard, but sympathetic look.
"I don't know, Miss Duniway," answered Georgie, swallowing.
"I see." Annabelle stood up from her desk. "Well, Georgie, if you do hear anything, you be sure to tell me or Sheriff Runnels right away, all right? Now go along home for your lunch." Georgie fled the schoolroom.
Annabelle fetched her lunch pail and sat back down to eat. Nary a tingle from her detector bracelet. If Georgie had the infected hermatauxite, he didn't have it with him now--or the vibration came from Jamie.
When the children returned from lunch, the tingling began again, and this time, she asked Jamie to stay behind to help her clean the chalkboard after school. Jamie sullenly took the erasers from her for beating outside, and her bracelet pricked her so hard she had to suppress a wince: It was definitely coming from Jamie.
Jamie returned more cheerfully, covered with a thin white dusting of chalk and very clean erasers. Beating something must have lifted his spirits; Annabelle praised his work, and he even gave her a shy smile. "If you apply yourself to your studies the way you applied yourself to those erasers, you'll be an etheric engineer some day," she said.
Jamie shrugged. "Don't think I wanna be that anyhow."
"Oh? You're not interested in magical technology? It's such an exciting time to study it. Is anyone in your family of that mind?"
"Naw," said Jamie. "We don't like that sorta stuff. We're all lawmen! That's what I wanna be, just like my Pa, and Uncle Rab. Can I go now?"
She sent him scampering home, a frown creasing her brow. She believed Jamie, but it might be time to get a little closer to the sheriff. She squelched the small voice inside that said getting close to the sheriff might be mixing business with pleasure.
Misi, on the other hand, had no such qualms. His mission, as he saw it, was to get closer to Mamzelle, and do it in a way that wouldn't endanger Annabelle. He might have to tell Annabelle the truth, and Mamzelle might have to tell Bonham the truth, but they could both lie to one another as much as they liked. He would just lie to her about whose demon he was.
Misi slunk along the rooflines, much preferred to picking through the alleyway muck, or dodging among the horses' hooves on the street. Too many other cats under the boardwalks to go that way, either. He didn't want to fight cats, or more precisely, he didn't want to kill them; he liked cats, but he certainly wasn't going to let one tear a chunk out of his ear or bite him on the head. Territorial little bastards. He crept onto the Palace roof, then down to the balcony.
He heard nothing from her room but her own even breathing--no human breath or heartbeat, no human smell, only the deep red vibration of his demon sense. He peeped through the open doors; as expected, she was alone, watching for him. She lay on a red velvet chaise lounge, her opulent body draped in a white satin negligee, her black hair loose around her exotic face. "'Allo, kitty," she said. Her eyes turned an alluring ruby, and Misi licked his lips.
"Hello yourself, gorgeous," he grinned, strolling into the room.
"And oo's kitty are you, ehn?"
"Oh, that'd be telling."
"Ah, you're unfair to poor Mamzelle. You know my master. I should know yours."
"I have no master."
"Mon petit chaton, I was not born last millennium."
"You don't know my owner."
"I would like to meet heem."
"I'm sure you would, gorgeous, but you should be more interested in getting to know me." Misi jumped up on the table beside her. "It'd be better for both of us. Let me introduce myself. I'm Misiriplinapos Son of Misorianatus."
"And I am Mamzellarrainatta Daughter of Zelliniasipatiri," she replied, dropping the false accent. "'Ow long has it been for you?" she added, taking it back up again.
"Eight years. You?" said Misi, rubbing his cheek against the chaise lounge.
Mamzelle took the hint and scratched him under the chin. "Forever, or a year. Take your pick. Eight years! Dieu Noir, 'ow 'ave you not gone insane!" She picked him up and put him on her lap. "You cannot change form? Eh bien, nor can I, except ze color of my hair, my eyes." Her hair cycled through red, brown, the palest blonde, white, and back to black. "'E prefers blonde. Eef he orders it, blonde. Otherwise? Pfft." She waved her hand. "So. We have common cause, you an' I. Plans to make, ehn? We shall 'elp each ozzer."
Misi purred and flexed his toes as she scratched at the base of his tail. "Help each other how?"
"Trés simple. I kill your master...and you kill mine."
Misi stopped purring; his fur stood on end. With great effort, he smoothed it back down and resumed purring.
"What is amiss, mon petit?" she frowned.
"Nothing! You just surprised me. Yes, we will make plans, you and I." What have I gotten myself into? I can't let her kill Annabelle!