I finished over two hours later and was surprised at how exhausted I felt. The final result certainly didn't seem to justify all the energy I'd expended. I was left with a leather cord from which hung a silk pouch filled with leaves and rocks. I carted it and my notes back to my dorm room, intending to write up my report for Ms. Terwilliger so that I could put this assignment behind me. When I reached my room, I gasped when I saw the door. Someone had taken red paint and drawn bats and fanged faces all over it. Scrawled across the front, in big blocky letters, were the words
Full of panic, I burst into the room. Jill was there - along with Mrs. Weathers and another teacher I didn't know. They were going through all of our things. I stared in disbelief.
"What's going on?" I asked.
Jill shook her head, face mortified, and couldn't answer. I'd apparently arrived at the end of the search because Mrs. Weathers and her associate soon finished up and walked to the door. I was glad I'd taken my Alchemist supplies with me to the lab tonight. The kit contained a few measuring tools I had thought I might need. I certainly didn't want to explain why I owned a collection of chemicals to dorm authorities.
"Well," said Mrs. Weathers sternly. "There doesn't appear to be anything here, but I may do another spot check later - so don't get any ideas. You're already in enough trouble without adding yet another charge to it." She sighed and shook her head at Jill. "I'm very disappointed in you, Miss Melrose."
Jill blanched. "I'm telling you, it's all a mistake!"
"Let's hope so," said Mrs. Weathers ominously. "Let's hope so. I've half a mind to make you clean up that vandalism outside, but in light of no hard proof... well, we'll have the janitors take care of it tomorrow."
Once our visitors were gone, I immediately demanded, "What happened?"
Jill collapsed backward onto her bed and groaned. "Laurel happened."
I sat down. "Explain."
"Well, I called the library to see if they had those yearbooks in - the ones about Kelly Hayes? Turns out they do normally have them, but they've all been checked out by the newspaper staff for some Amberwood anniversary edition. And you'll never believe who's heading that project: Laurel."
"You're right," I said. "I never would have guessed that. Isn't she in Freshman English?" Laurel was a senior.
"I guess everyone needs an activity," I muttered.
Jill nodded. "Anyway, Miss Yamani was in the building, so I went to ask her about joining the sewing club and working for Lia. She was really excited and said she'd make it happen."
"Well, that's something," I said cautiously, still unsure how this was leading up to vandalism and a search of our room.
"As I was coming back, I passed Laurel in the hall. I decided to take a chance... I approached her and said look, I know we've had our differences but I could really use some help. Then I explained that I needed the yearbooks and asked if I could borrow them just for the night and that I'd get them back to her right away."
To this, I said nothing. It was certainly a noble and brave thing for Jill to do, particularly after I'd encouraged her to be better than Laurel. Unfortunately, I didn't think Laurel would reciprocate the adult behavior. I was right.
"She told me in... well, very explicit terms that I'd never get those yearbooks." Jill scowled. "She told me a few other things too. Then I, um, called her a raving bitch. I probably shouldn't have, but, well, she deserved it! Anyway, she went to Mrs. Weathers with a bottle of... I don't know. I think it was raspberry schnapps. She claimed I sold it to her and had more in my room. Mrs. Weathers couldn't punish me without harder evidence, but after Ms.
Chang's hangover accusation on the first day, Mrs. Weathers decided that was enough for a room search."
I shook my head in disbelief, anger growing within my chest. "For such an elite, prestigious place, this school sure is quick to jump on any accusations that come up! I mean, they believe anything anyone says about you. And where did the paint outside come from?"
Tears of frustration glinted in her eyes. "Oh, Laurel, of course. Or, well, one of her friends. It happened while Laurel was talking to Mrs. Weathers, so of course she's got an alibi. You don't think... you don't think anyone's on to anything, do you? You said before it's just a mean joke... and humans don't even believe in us... right?"
"Right," I said automatically.
But I was beginning to wonder. Ever since that phone call with my father, when he'd mentioned that there were humans who suspected and wouldn't be silenced, I'd wondered if I'd been too quick to dismiss Laurel's teasing. Had she simply found a cruel joke to run with? Or was she one of those humans who suspected about the vampire world and might make a lot of noise about it? I doubted anyone would believe her, but we couldn't risk attracting attention from someone who would.
Is it possible she really thinks Jill is a vampire?
Jill's forlorn expression turned angry. "Maybe I should do something about Laurel. There are other ways to get back at her besides freezing water."
"No," I said quickly. "Don't lower yourself to that. Revenge is petty, and you're better than that." Plus, I thought, any more supernatural activity, and Laurel might realize her taunts have more backing than she originally thought.
Jill gave me a sad smile. "You keep saying that. But don't you think something needs to be done about Laurel?"
Oh yes. I definitely did. This had gone too far, and I'd been wrong to let it slide. Jill was right that there were other ways to get back at someone. And I was right that revenge was petty and nothing that Jill should sully herself with. That was why I was going to do it.
"I'll take care of it," I told her. "I - I'll have the Alchemists issue a complaint from our parents."
She looked dubious. "You think that'll fix things?"
"Positive," I said. Because that complaint was going to pack an extra punch. A glance at the time told me it was too late to go back to the lab. No problem. I simply set my alarm extra early, with the intent to get up and head back there before classes started.
I had one more experiment in my future, and Laurel was going to be my guinea pig.
MIXING WHAT I NEEDED TO was easy. Getting it to where I needed took a couple of days. I first had to pay attention to what kind of shampoo Laurel used in the PE showers. The school provided shampoo and conditioner, of course, but she wouldn't trust her precious hair with anything so commonplace. Once I knew her brand, I hunted it down at a local beauty supply store and emptied its expensive contents down the drain. I filled bottles with my homemade concoction instead.