“It seems like this is the only option,” Andrew said, reaching into his pocket and pulling out the gun Alex had given him the previous night.
The boys had been arguing for several minutes now about what to do with the teacher. Mr. Xavier’s eyes opened wide with fear. We didn’t have any idea what this would do to the teacher or the ghost inhabiting him. Somehow, it seemed wrong to just shoot him and see what happened.
“No, don’t,” I said at the same moment Rune shouted, “Wait!”
Andrew pulled the trigger. The weapon didn’t really do anything. It just clicked. Mr. Xavier reeled back, shutting his eyes. However, as the seconds passed, nothing happened. The teacher opened one eye. Then he opened the other. He patted his chest down and then laughed. Andrew looked between the gun and the possessed man several times in confusion.
“Alex…” Rune growled, turning back to her.
She had a sheepish look on her face and had taken several steps away from the group as if she planned to spontaneously flee the room. As everyone turned to her, she sighed.
“There is no such thing as a ghost gun…”
“I knew it!” Rune exclaimed, “You made it up!”
“Well of course I did. It was the only way to guarantee Jane’s safety.”
“How did that guarantee her safety?” Andrew demanded.
Andrew’s voice sounded cold and distant. He hadn’t turned to look at Alex with the rest of them. He still faced the teacher on the floor, who seemed to have a gleeful look on his face.
“I assumed that if the ghost was listening to us talk, then he would also hear me mention the gun. It wasn’t necessary to have a ghost gun; it was necessary to make him think we had one. So, I pulled out a toy gun I happened to have in my purse and claimed it was something more. He wouldn’t take any of our bodies for fear it would hurt him when we shot each other.”
“Wait,” Stephan shook his head, “So what you are telling me is that I spent last night consoling Daniel over post-traumatic stress caused by Vietnam flashbacks because…?”
Daniel blushed. “My flashbacks may have simply been indigestion.”
Stephan laughed. “Well, it was clever. You had me fooled.”
“It wasn’t clever.” Andrew spun around, anger painted on his face.
It was a shock to me. I had never seen Andrew openly angry before. Well, I had seen that kind of emotion on his face before. It was when the ghost had possessed Alex. However, the smug look on Mr. Xavier’s face seemed to suggest that that was not the case.
Stephan spoke up first. “It is okay, Andrew. She is safe now, and now that the ghost is in someone, maybe we can deal with him easier.”
“What if you were wrong?” Andrew snapped at Alex.
He looked at each of us; his face suddenly looked desperate for a second. He threw the cheap plastic gun away with disgust, then left the room, pushing past Alex without another word. Everyone stared at each other in silence.
“I should go talk to him,” I suddenly spoke up and, as soon as I did, I knew it was the truth.
The others nodded in turn before Stephan turned to me. “We’ll deal with this ghostly problem. You go talk to him.”
I turned and raced out of the room. It took me a while before I was able to find him. It turned out he was in the art room, where we had planned to gather for our first club meeting. He sat in a chair. His head was lowered and his eyes were downcast. I didn’t know what to say. It was so strange to see him in a state other than cool and confident.
His beautiful face looked sad. His blonde hair disheveled and unkempt. Now that I got a chance to get a good look at him, it seemed like he might not have gotten a lot of sleep recently. I moved over to the chair next to him and sat. We remained in silence for a few minutes. I wasn’t exactly sure how to start. I realized that this was the first time we had ever really been alone. It was nice.
“Why?” was the question that came from my lips.
It was a question that had been working its way through my mind forever. I didn’t really intend to ask it. However, as the word came out, my desire to know the answer became even stronger.
“Why what?” Andrew asked, finally looking up at me with his sad eyes.
“Daniel thinks I smell like his mate; Stephan is lonely and I’m the first normal person he could confide in; Alex is a sexaholic with no better place to go. Rune just wants to challenge and fight you. Even the ghost thinks I remind him of my great-grandmother. Everyone has a reason for wanting me in their life; for wanting to be around me. Everyone except you.”
“Jane…” Andrew sighed.
“Don’t act like I don’t notice. From the first day we’ve met, you’ve done nothing but follow me around and try to make me safe,” I interrupted. “What is it? Why?”
Andrew dropped his eyes. He remained quiet for some time before he finally looked back up at me.
“You remind me of someone.”
“Remind you?” I asked incredulously.
“Yeah. A girl. A long time ago.”
“Did… did you love her?”
“No,” Andrew snorted, “I thought she was the most annoying person I ever met. Kept trying to act like my mom.”
I frowned. Andrew noticed and waved his hands.
“No, not like you. I don’t think you’re annoying. On top of that, I was a little kid then; girls were still icky. I like you just the way you are.”
“So, what happened?” I continued to press, fighting a blush from the comment about liking me.
My questions stopped right there. I didn’t really know what to say. I hadn’t expected that. When Andrew didn’t continue, I pulled my hand out and placed it on his shoulder. He sat up and I pulled my hand away as if it was burned. He looked me straight on, his beautiful features suddenly burning with intensity.
“I did everything I could and I couldn’t save her. I couldn’t protect her. In the end, she protected me. She died protecting me. I just… I just can’t forgive myself.”
“It wasn’t your fault,” I said, realizing I had no clue how to comfort him. It was a story I’d likely never know the whole of.
Andrew shuttered for a second. I saw his arms hanging loosely as if his entire body had gone slack. I nervously moved my hand to his and grabbed it. My palms were just a bit sweaty. His felt cool to the touch. He squeezed my hand. I squeezed his back. We stayed like that for a bit, holding each other’s hands in the empty classroom, making no other noise.
Finally, he looked at me. “Can you forgive me?”
“For what?” I laughed.
“Leading you on for such a silly reason. However, the more I’ve gotten to know you, the more important you’ve become to me. It may have started out because I felt guilty, but now I care about you deeply. You’re a very important friend to me.”
I turned away, the blush forming on my cheeks. “Well, the person you really should be apologizing to is Alex. I think you might have hurt her feelings.”
Andrew winced. “Yeah, I think you might be right. Sometimes, I’m an idiot. I imagine that’s why I’m down here instead of in Heaven with all the other Archangels.”
“I’m happy you’re down here,” I said. “I mean, I never would have met you if you didn’t come. I like you too; just the way you are.”
Andrew turned to me, his face finally growing soft as he stared at me with his bright blue eyes. He reached out his hand and cupped my cheek.
“Jane, I… l…”
“I love you guys, too!” the door suddenly burst open as Alex barged into the room.
The other guys followed closely behind her. Andrew pulled his arm away, turning with embarrassment. Alex moved up to me and gave me a tight, sisterly hug, then turned to Andrew while she held both of my hands in hers, nonchalantly.
“It’s okay; I forgive you.” Alex smiled.
Andrew returned a sheepish smile, seemingly content that the situation was resolved. Then Mr. Xavier walked in behind the group and he tensed again. My breath caught as I stared at the man. I still couldn’t get the image of him straddled over me out of my mind. I just couldn’t figure out if I should be flattered or feel violated. I wanted to slap him and blush at the same time. I certainly didn’t like him, per se. He was cute, but he wasn’t cute enough to do whatever he felt like.
“I thought you guys were going to handle him.” Andrew frowned.
The anger wasn’t in his voice as it was before, but he still sounded annoyed. Daniel looked down sheepishly. Rune just seemed angry and Stephan blushed and shrugged.
“Well, as it turns out,” Stephan spoke up first, “We’re not allowed to have these meetings in an official capacity without a teacher or school administrator to watch over us. We need a club advisor.”
“No!” Andrew threw his head back. “You guys want to let him continue to control this poor man’s body?”
“Well, if he’s in Mr. Xavier, we at least know where he is and he won’t be able to get into as much mischief,” Daniel offered.
“But what about this person’s life?” Andrew asked
“What life? The guy’s brain dead.” Mr. Xavier grinned.
“He was in a motorcycle accident. He’s been a coma for months. They were pulling the plug. Then I jumped in. They freaked out when Mr. Xavier woke up, but no biggie. A few calls and I was able to reinstate his former job as a substitute. It makes sense if you don’t think about it too much.”
“How can you even function as a teacher? You were just a kid when you died.” Andrew continued to demand.
Xavier chuckled at that. “I may have been a kid, but I was always very smart. Plus, you don’t remain a ghost for six decades without picking up your fair share of knowledge. I read a lot. Plus, with all of that texting and spelling/grammar programs you kids play with these days, it’s not difficult to come off as a literary genius. Before I was murdered, I even edited for a newspaper for a while.”
Andrew frowned, but couldn’t seem to come up with any other kind of argument.
“Hey, Andrew, isn’t it ‘keep your friends close and your enemies closer’? It’s no different than us. I joined so I can keep a watch on you. He’ll join, and we can keep watch on him. It helps solve an issue. The H club is official now,” Rune offered.
“Why, Rune, you sound almost excited to be part of this club,” Stephan grinned.
“No, it’s just that it makes things easier. I can keep track of all the crazies in town at once.”
The group chuckled softly, finally breaking the ice that had been hanging over the lot of them since Mr. Xavier had shown himself.
As the chuckles died down, Stephan spoke up. “So I guess that would make this the first meeting of the H club, huh?”
“And the problem at hand… the missing werewolves,” Daniel interjected.
“And the missing Demons,” Rune added.
“The missing people in general,” Stephan sighed.
“What is this now?” Xavier piped in.
The group all looked at him, but it was Stephan who took the lead, explaining the events that led them all together. The insolent grin on the ghost teacher’s face actually went away for a bit as he listened intently to their information. He occasionally interjected with questions or clarifications, but his handsome face remained thoughtful and polite. Like this, he actually was quite handsome. He looked scholarly and mature.
When Stephan finished the story, Mr. Xavier looked at each of them in turn, “So, it’s happening again, huh?”
Stephan coughed. “I’m sorry, what do you mean, again?”
“I’ve been around a long time; some 70-odd years. Something like you described, a sudden rash of disappearances, seems to happen every twenty years or so in this city. A couple suddenly go missing, the authorities are baffled, and then it ends, and the people are never found. I don’t know why the police never noticed this pattern. I never gave it a whole lot of thought, but if it’s not just humans going missing, this could be something a lot bigger.”
Andrew leaned forward, also very intent. “Do you have any clues? A direction we could look next?”
Mr. Xavier rubbed his chin, thinking about it for a moment. “If I recall some newspaper clippings I’ve read, the disappearances were also associated with crop circles.”
Andrew’s face turned sour, but it was Rune who spoke up. “Crop Circles?”
He laughed derisively.
“There has been a crop circle recently,” Stephan said quietly. “It happened on the same night another person went missing.”
The entire group went silent at that. The thought was there, but it was honestly too ridiculous to even mention. Not a single one of them would even entertain the idea.
“Aliens,” Alex said excitedly.
Well, maybe there was one person who would entertain the idea. Rune groaned, turning to Alex with a look of distaste on his tongue.
“It doesn’t need to be aliens,” Stephan interrupted the inevitable onslaught. “Crop circles are well documented throughout history. They could be connected to the missing people. Perhaps some kind of incantation.”
“Aliens is far too ridiculous a notion; it’s probably magic.” Rune waved his hand, as if dismissing the thought before stopping himself. We were arguing against the thought of aliens by assuming it was magic. Something about that felt off to me.
“Not even necessarily magic,” Stephan interjected. “A group might do it as some kind of cult worship.”
They all went silent again for a bit, then Rune spoke up. “It’d have to be a hell of a powerful cult.”
“Strong enough to take down an entire pack of werewolves,” Daniel added.
“The question I want to know,” Andrew asked, “is whether the demons and werewolves are just another part of the disappearances, or did they go missing because they got too close to the truth?”
“This could get very dangerous,” Rune said quietly.
The entire group turned to me suddenly. I blushed. They were all beautiful. Beautiful, yet dangerous guys filled with supernatural powers that I couldn’t touch. I tried to stare down the group; their dark eyes, each one deep enough to get lost in. I’d like to think I managed to hold my own against that onslaught.
“I can handle myself,” I responded, trying to laugh it off. “Look, I’m not going anywhere.”
The guys slowly nodded, one at a time. Andrew was the last. When he finally sighed and gave a nod, I let out a breath I hadn’t realized I had been holding. I felt like the group had come to a crossroads and just gotten over something. It was an unspoken agreement. A unification of sorts. I couldn’t really define it, but it was important.
“Alright, well, let’s call it a day then.” Stephan clapped his hands together. “I’ll need to do some research on these crop circles.”
“I’ll keep watch on the ghost. I’ve caught on to his scent by now.” Daniel nodded his head.
“Not necessary.” Mr. Xavier tried to defend himself, but after receiving everyone’s dark looks, he merely threw up his hands and shrugged.
The group disbanded and I left the room. To my surprise, everyone else had something they needed to do as well and, for the first time in what felt like forever, I found myself free of my entourage. I almost expected Samantha to pounce on me as soon as I was alone, intent on grilling me about everything I knew of the new teacher and the others as well. I supposed she was still in volleyball practice. It would be in my best interest to be out of the school before she was done.
Her tweets had been steadily growing more insane. She came to the realization that my inside knowledge on the greater part of the hawtness could be used to make her fanfictions more biologically relevant. She kept asking awkward questions about their personality quirks and measurements. She seemed disappointed that I hadn’t taken a ruler and measured their dimensions and sizes yet.
When I opened my locker, the first thing I noticed was the note. I picked it up and looked at it in confusion.
Meet me at 8:30 pm in the clearing where it all started.
I blinked, then reread the note. I read it a third time for good measure. Did Andrew write this? Perhaps there was still more that he wanted to tell me about his life before. Although, I suppose it could have been Rune. I’d assume they were the only two who knew about the clearing where we met. If there was a beginning, I’d say it was there.
However, which was it; Rune or Andrew? Did it matter which one? Would I go for one and not go for the other? Would I dress nicer for one and not the other? I couldn’t even answer those questions myself, without knowing which one was there. They were both boneheads, but I trusted both of them. I cared for both of them. There was little doubt I’d be there. Maybe it’s just some reconnaissance or something.
I crumbled up the note and left. I quickly made my way to my house. Alex was already there. I guess mom was teaching her how to cook. I decided not to get involved with it. I asked my mom if I could go to Samantha’s for a bit. She responded it was fine as long as I was back by 10:30. Alex looked at me suspiciously, but I was up the stairs and changing in my bedroom before she could react.
A few minutes later, I found myself out the back door and heading down the street. I knew if I waited too long, Alex would butt in. For whatever reason, I felt it was necessary to keep this quiet. It was almost exciting. A secret rendezvous with a handsome guy in the middle of the night. Of course, I remembered my last rendezvous ended with a naked werewolf and a big sister. The one before that had me drag an unconscious demon a half mile by myself. That dampened my excitement a little. However, this time would be different. I needed a win.
I had put on makeup, did up my hair a little nicer, and put on my jeans with the glitter and a cute blouse with a frog on it. The one thing I did forget was my coat. I realized this as I shivered in the cold. It was well into autumn and the weather wasn’t holding out. My arms were freezing. I rubbed them vigorously as the sun set and I found myself in relative darkness. I found the clearing without too much of a problem. It was a place I couldn’t forget. The fire damage from the fight the two had had was grown over with crabgrass. The stars overhead burned brightly, and a half moon hung in the sky.
It was a surprisingly quiet night for this park. Perhaps it was a little too quiet. That got me to start thinking about the dangers the H club had been talking about. There could be some kind of cult capable of capturing demons and werewolves. Here I was, standing in the middle of a dark clearing, waiting for a demon or an angel to come take me. I suddenly found myself feeling like a complete idiot.
The crack of a twig behind me caused a cold spike to shoot up my spine. I spun around in shock. There was nothing that I could see. I stared into the darkness, but I couldn’t make out any form.
“Andrew?” I said out loud. “Rune?”
Then there was rustling. The rustling came from the side and I spun again.
“Daniel?” my voice raised an octave.
The rustling became more and more vigorous. It was coming for me. It was coming quickly. I took a step back, and then another. Then a form grabbed me from behind and I screamed.
The voice that spoke was completely unfamiliar to me. “I’m sorry, but this has to happen.”
A sharp pain shot throughout my body and I felt myself being torn away from reality. My mind began to fade as the world fell apart. My vision faded to black and then there was nothing. So much for a win.