Chapter 11: Notes and Dead Things
Time seemed to stand still as I stared at the horrific sight before me. This cannot be happening to me, I thought as I found myself rereading the bloody message on my door over and over again.
I warned you and now you are going to pay.
Who could do this? And why? There was nobody here in the dorms except Alex. I could feel my heart beating chaotically. It almost felt like it was going to pop right out of my chest. But Alex wouldn’t do this! He maybe an asshole, but he doesn’t strike me as the type to kill animals. Suddenly a conversation a month back started flooding through my mind. I heard once that he killed Mr. Ommen’s dog and that he written I’m coming for you next on his front door – in blood.
Well, I heard that the dog was also pinned to the door, next to the bloody message.
Mia and Gabrielle had mentioned that Azazel had killed animals and pinned them to victim’s doors, while writing messages in their blood. Could it be Azazel doing this? Was he the one who had written that first note, the one telling me to leave Hunter Academy before things got bad? Or was it someone who was imitating his work, trying to scare me? Maybe seeing him that one night hadn’t been a coincidence after all.
I heard someone call my name, but I didn’t reply. I barely even heard them as I continued to stand there, feeling completely immobilized and numb. Who is doing this? And why? I couldn’t seem to stop asking myself these questions. Several screams erupted just then as some students saw the dead rabbit and message dripping down my door.
“Oh my God.” Someone said.
“We need to get Headmaster Death right away! It’s an emergency!”
I felt someone wrap their arm around me. I looked and saw that it was Jordan. “Are you okay?” he asked, his voice tight with concern.
I didn’t reply. I repeated his question in my head, trying to make sense of it. Was I alright? To be honest, I didn’t feel good. I could feel a stabbing pain in my stomach and before I knew it, I was rushing towards the closest trashcan, ridding my stomach of all the food that I had consumed while at the banquet. Jordan held my hair back away from my face, patting me gently on the back as I trembled.
“Thank you.” I panted.
He held on to me, never letting me go until Death finally arrived. It was completely crowded, with nosy students trying to see what was going on. I could see Scarlett, Mia, Morgan, Gabrielle, Alicia, and Jennifer eyeing me worriedly from the edge of the crowd, never taking their eyes off me. The thought of my friends being here sent a rush of tranquility over me.
“Everybody out of the way,” Said a stern, womanly voice. The voice belonged to Ms. Peril and behind her were Headmaster Death, Ms. Tabby, Ms. Hardwick and Mr. Grey. They seemed to stop when they saw the rabbit and the message, their faces contorting in fear and horror.
“My God,” Death said. His already pale skin looked paler than usual, almost resembling the non mortuus. He turned to look at me. “Spencer, who did this?”
I was tired. Couldn’t the inquisitions wait until after I got a full night’s sleep? “I don’t know. I found it like this when I got back from the Halloween banquet.”
Death’s red eyes turned to face the rest of the student body, his face accusatory. “Was anybody in this dorm house when this happened?”
My mind instantly thought of Alex again. Oh, no. I have to protect him. “Death I—“
I was instantly cut off by none other than Abigail Westchester, her face taking on one of her innocent expressions that she used when getting out of trouble. It always works. “I never recall seeing Alexander Torchwood at the festival. When everyone got back he was here, doing whatever it is that loser does.” Some students chortled at that, making them sound completely idiotic, which caused my temper to flare. How dare she mock him?
“You,” I said, pulling away from Jordan and getting right in that little trolls face. The sneer was instantly replaced by a look of terror. She had the right to be afraid because I wasn’t going to play games with her anymore. This girl had just crossed into the wrong territory. “Need to shut up or I’m fixing to make you. Meaning I’m going to melt you’re pretty, little smartass mouth right off.”
Everyone seemed to gape at me, even my friends. They could not believe that I had just threatened the most popular girl in school. And to be honest, neither could I. I must be in more shock then I realized.
I felt Jordan’s hands as he tried pulling me away from her. She had a look of disbelief on her face. “You bitch—“
“Enough.” Death’s voice rang loudly in the corridors, causing everyone to shrink into silence. No one dared to breathe a word as Death looked at everyone in the room. Finally his eyes rested on Alicia, who squeaked at the intensity of Death’s stare. “You. Find Alexander and tell him to come up here. I would really like to speak to him about this!” We all flinched at the harshness of his voice as he gestured at my door. Alicia just nodded. Everyone watched as she elbowed her way to the staircase to go and find Alex. Poor Alicia looked like she was in a hurry to get out of here and away from Death’s scary glare.
I turned towards Death in desperation. No way was I going to let Alex take the blame for this. “Headmaster, please. Alex didn’t do this. Yes, he was the only one in the dorm at the time that this happened, but—“
“Well, if that’s the case then he is definitely at fault.” Ms. Peril said tersely. “And even if you say he didn’t do it – if he was the only one in the dorm and he was downstairs the whole time – don’t you think he would have noticed someone waltzing through the doors and up to the ice users’ corridor? I’m sorry, but the odds are not in his favor.” Okay, so her explanation didn’t sound unreasonable, but…
“It wasn’t him. He’s—“I took a deep breath, trying to calm myself. “He’s my friend. And I know from personal experience how obnoxious and mean he can be, but I swear that he wouldn’t do this. It’s just not him.”
“Well, a lot of people thought he wasn’t capable of summoning a demon and ordering it to possess him, but hey,” Jamie Black said snidely. “Look what happened. Not only are people afraid to leave their homes at night, but they also don’t feel safe in their homes.” He shrugged. “Sorry Mason, but you just can’t trust anyone anymore. Especially Torchwood.”
I didn’t reply. I just looked back at Death, pleadingly. “He didn’t do this.”
Death sighed, looking deeply tired. “I’m sorry, Spencer, but as Ms. Peril pointed out the signs are not good.”
“But what about, Azazel? He—“
“We do not speak his name!” Ms. Peril hissed. She eyed me shrewdly. “Only a fool would dare speak that wicked name.”
I frowned, piqued. “And what are the people called that don’t speak his name? Cowards.”
Ms. Peril ground her teeth together as she eyed me with malice. Her hands clenched into fists. Fire seemed to engulf her hands. She didn’t seem to notice. “Why you little—“
“That is enough,” Death said in admonishment. “Goodness, Spencer. What has gotten into you? You are never this disrespect.”
“I just want people to listen to me. It’s rumored that Azazel killed animals and pinned them to people’s doors – the ones he would come after. He would leave bloody messages on their doors.” I pointed back at my door, which was stained with blood. The poor rabbit was still hanging from its little bushy tail. I looked away quickly. Bile was beginning to rise up in the back of my throat again. “Who’s to say Azazel didn’t do this?”
“No one has seen him in years, Spencer.” Mr. Grey eyed me apologetically. “It couldn’t be—“
“But that’s not true,” Jordan said, cutting his uncle off mid-sentence. “We—I mean, Spencer – saw him a few days ago, while we we’re patrolling. Didn’t you, Spence?”
I heard a couple people gasp at this news, including Headmaster Death. They looked completely startled by this news.
“That’s right. I saw him from a distance – watching me.”
“And how do you know it was him?” Ms. Peril asked. She appeared to be the only one that didn’t fully believe our story. “Being raised in the Powerless world, you couldn’t possible know what the man looks like.”
Jordan answered the question for me. “She didn’t see his face per se, but she said she saw a man in a black cloak with red eyes looking at her. And if I’m correct, he was known as the red-eyed, black hooded monster here in Hallowville. Was he not?”
“Well…yes, but it could have been a demon trying to pass off as him. They’ll do that, you know.”
I shook my head, exasperated. We were getting nowhere. “You’re all going to blame Alexander regardless, aren’t you? All because he’s Azazel’s son!” And I don’t know if it was because I was tired, stressed, or just in shock, but I started to cry. I put my face in my hands as I shook with uncontrollable sobs. I felt Jordan wrap his arms around me, whispering and telling me that it was going to be okay. But that just made me cry harder.
“Jordan,” I heard Death say. “Take Spencer back to your room to rest. I think she’s had enough for the night.”
“No!” I wailed. I pushed Jordan away and stared back at the Headmaster defiantly. “I want to see Alex first.”
“I don’t think that is such a good idea.”
“Well, I don’t care what you think. I wanna see him.”
I could see Death was about to protest, until something, or someone, caught his eye. Everyone turned to watch as Alex made his way towards Headmaster Death, with his head held high and his expression impassive.
That’s until he saw my door.
“Whoa,” His blues widened in horror. “What happened here?”
“We thought maybe you could tell us that, Mr. Torchwood.” Ms. Peril said. “Seeing as you were the only one in the dorm at the time.”
Alex seemed to understand. He glared icily at her. “I didn’t do this.” He looked at me then, his eyes desperate. “Tell them I didn’t do this.”
I opened my mouth, but Death beat me too it. “Ms. Mason already spoke on your behalf. She believes your father did it.”
He nodded. “Sounds like something he would do. My old man never did like animals. I had this gold fish when I was three and he let it starve to death.”
Headmaster Death merely stared at him.
“That makes sense,” Ms. Tabby mumbled. “I had the same thing happen to me too. I had this fish tank full of gold fish and every week I’d give one of my students in each class the privilege to feed them. When it was you’re fathers turn, he didn’t do it, therefore causing all my fish to die.”
“Dude,” Morgan said, flabbergasted. “What did your dad have against gold fish?”
“And what about you?” Ms. Peril asked, seeming to ignore Morgan and his irrelevant questions.
“What about me?”
“Do you like animals?”
“Well, yeah.” He said, as if it was obvious. “I have a pet hamster back home.”
“But you were the only one here when this happened. How do we know you’re not just imitating you’re fathers work?”
“Well, let me ask you something, Ms. Peril.” He said, coolly. “Now I know the banquet lasted about three to four hours, but according to everyone here, no one saw me leave. And to have a rabbit, you have to catch it in the wild. I never left this building. So how did I get a hold of a rabbit? There are no rabbits running around the dorm room, unless I really am oblivious and I missed them hopping around.”
Ms. Peril looked at a loss for words.
“That’s what I thought.” Alex said, smug.
“How do we know you haven’t had it holed up somewhere?” Jamie sneered. Cameron and the others murmured in agreement. “I mean, the smell alone says that it’s been dead for a couple of days now. And you’re messed up enough that I wouldn’t be surprised if you had it stored up in your closet, just waiting for the right chance like today, when you knew she wouldn’t be here.”
“Why would I have a dead rabbit in my closet?” Alex asked. He was looking at Jamie like he was stupid. “It would stink up my clothes.”
“I hate to admit it,” Jordan said dryly. “But he has a point. If he had a dead rabbit stuffed in his closet, not only would it stink up his clothes, but probably his bedroom too. He would have smelled like dead animal for a while now if that were the case.”
“Exactly.” I breathed. I smiled at Jordan gratefully, which he returned.
“Well,” Death said, still sounding unconvinced. “Regardless Alex, I’m going to have to expel you. The facts aren’t looking too great for you right now. And you have no alibi. I’m sorry.”
“But I didn’t do this! You have to believe me. I know I can be creep sometimes and a real pain in the ass too, but I would never do this. Please,” he begged. “Don’t take me back there. I can’t stand being in that orphanage. It’s horrible.”
Alex lives in an orphanage! I guess it shouldn’t have been surprised, considering he didn’t have any family, but still, hearing it said out loud was completely baffling.
As Alex continued to stare at Death with innocent, blue eyes, I had a thought. Alex really couldn’t have done this. The whole time we were away, he had been drawing. The trashcan full of discarded paper balls was evidence enough.
“Headmaster,” I said, interrupting whatever he was about to say. Death looked at me quizzically. “When we all left, the last thing I saw Alex do was draw.” Death merely raised an eyebrow, waiting for me to continue. “When I got back there were loads of discarded paper balls in the waste basket downstairs. Most of those he probably finished, but threw away because they either didn’t turn out right or he just didn’t find them worth keeping. Each drawing would at least take up to twenty or thirty minutes.” I smiled, feeling smug, while wagging my finger towards my door. “He couldn’t have done that.”
Death turned his red eyes back to Alex. “Is this true?”
“Yes, sir.” Most would say Alex looked arrogant at that moment, with his head held high and his eyes staring at Death with a look of rebellious rage, but I knew better. It was just a mask to hide what he was truly feeling. Though, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was pissed.
“Mind showing me one of them.”
Alex just nodded before quickly rushing downstairs. He was back seconds later, handing one of the crumpled paper balls wordlessly to Death. He snatched it out of Alex’s hand, unwaded and stared at it, his expression changing from disbelieving to bewildered. He stared back at Alex, questions visible in his red eyes.
“Are all of them the same?”
“Yes,” Alex said his face passive as he watched Death closely. “I’ve been drawing that subject for a while.” He looked away, his face going from pale to red in a second. Was he blushing?
“Interesting.” Death mumbled. He scanned the picture one more time and then folded it up, placing it in his back pocket. He turned his gaze towards Ms. Hardwick. “Tell the Board that we may have Azazel stalking one of our students and that we may need to start putting up wards around the school.”
Ms. Hardwick flicked her eyes at Alex for a mere second and then back to Death again. “So it’s not the boy.”
“No.” Death said, smiling gently at Alex. “It is definitely not Mr. Torchwood.”
Alex didn’t return his smile. He was still mad about the accusations, for which I could understand.
“Will you bag up the rest of those paper balls?” Death asked Alex kindly. Probably trying to make up for earlier. “I’m going to use them as evidence; just in case someone does try to blacken you’re name again.”
Alex just nodded as he hastily headed back down stairs to collect and bag the rest of the discarded paper balls. I looked back at Death, bemused. What had Alex drawn that it was enough to prove to Death that he was innocent? And what was it that it caused Alex to blush?
I did a double take when Ms. Hardwick disappeared. One minute she was here, the next she wasn’t. Gone in a blink of an eye. I looked at Jordan. I didn’t notice until now how tense he was. I guess these events bothered him as much as they did me.
“Where did Ms. Hardwick go?”
“To the Board.” He shook his head sadly. “All this crap about Azazel is going to have the whole town in a frenzy.”
“Well, at least Alex was proven innocent.” I couldn’t stop smiling. I saved him, regardless if he didn’t want to admit it or not, but I helped clear his name.
Jordan didn’t look too thrilled, but I knew he was smart enough not to say so. At least not to me.
“What do you think he drew? That convinced Headmaster Death he definitely didn’t do this.” Jordan gestured at the mess on my door, which formed a lump in my throat when I looked at the little bunny rabbit.
“I don’t know,” I replied. More questions about the secret drawing had me pondering all kinds of possibilities. “But whatever it was it helped clear his name. And that’s all that matters.”
I stayed with Jordan that night. It was weird at first, sharing a bed with a guy, but it became a bit more comfortable as we both fell into a heavy sleep. I hadn’t realized how tired I was and how so much of today’s events had taken its toll out on my body. I was completely exhausted and I knew it was probably going to take days before I fully recovered.
Last night was all everybody talked about all week!
It became big news! I could hear whispers down the hall as I passed and the quick glances that shot my way whenever they thought I wasn’t looking. And the topic was all about Azazel and me. Like Jordan, people were convinced that I was the chosen one – the legendary girl that would finally take down Azazel. I was still a bit skeptic whenever it was brought up. Why would I ever be some chosen hero to stop some evil villain from destroying the world? I tried not to think about it often because it gave me a headache whenever I really thought about it. A lot of people were still convinced that it was Alex who had pinned the rabbit to my door and those people were Cameron, Jamie, Abigail and most of the other fire students. But I didn’t care what they thought. I know Alex didn’t do it.
Whenever I saw Alex in the halls or in the classroom, I noticed him staring at me more then he used too. Except this time instead of glaring at me, he would gaze at me for long periods of time, sometimes with appreciation and other times with looks I couldn’t quite decipher. Sometimes I could feel his eyes on me in class, but sometimes I wouldn’t look back. I was trying to be mysterious, but I don’t think I pulled it off like I wanted. The heat of his gaze constantly had me shifting in my seat and causing my face to burn a bright red. And the worst part was that I knew he could see me because I could hear him chuckling at my reaction. It was absolutely galling.
But yeah, since that night, my life has been nothing but constant whispering and finger pointing. It was kind of annoying. Yes, the message and the dead rabbit was traumatizing, but wouldn’t the best solution be just to get over it?
I asked my friends about it during lunch on Wednesday.
“Well,” Gabrielle said. “I’m a big animal lover. So I would never get over it. If someone had pinned my Mr. Fluff Fluff to my bedroom door, someone would have to commit me to a psychiatric ward. Not unless they want me to go postal on anyone that came within reach.”
Morgan, who had been chewing his food in contentment, went rigid at her words. His mouth popped open and food started spewing out, like a waterfall, right back on his tray. He didn’t seem to notice.
“No.” was all he said, as he continued to stare at her with horrified, gray eyes.
Jordan and I exchanged smiles.
Well, at least we know what his biggest fear is. I thought, speaking directly to Jordan’s mind.
Hey, I don’t blame him for being scared of Gabby, he thought wearily. Morgan wasn’t kidding when he said she can be a real masochist. I feel sorry for any bastard that falls head over heels for her.
I narrowed my eyes at him. “That’s just wrong.”
He shrugged, but didn’t reply as he went back to eating.
Scarlett, who had been quiet during this small debate, said, “Well, I would get over it. Yes, the rabbit thing was a bit over the top, but what’s done is done. You can’t let Bugs Bunny haunt you for the rest of your life.”
My point exactly. The incident was horrible, yes, but the solution to getting over something that abhorred was to forget it altogether. But then another dilemma came to mind – one I didn’t particularly want to think about.
“But what about the issues with Azazel—“Everybody seemed to cringe at his name. I fought the urge to roll my eyes. “Sorry.” I tried again. “What about the issues with him? He’s obviously trying to get rid of me. What with the first note telling me to leave and then—”
Gabrielle and the others exchanged startled glances. “What note? You mean the rabbit and the bloody message wasn’t the first warning?”
“Er, well, no. The first warning I got was a note telling me to leave, otherwise bad things would happen.”
“Did you recognize the handwriting?” Scarlett asked.
“Well, that’s the thing,” Jordan said. Everyone turned to look at him. “The message was typed.”
“Yeah, I can’t see him typing a note.” Scarlett said, dubious.
“So it’s someone we know.” Mia said. Her lips trembled in fear. “It could be anyone in this school. Are we even safe?”
“Headmaster Death said that the Board of Education should be building up wards sometime this week,” Gabrielle said, soberly. “Even the strongest of demons can’t get through them. They should keep us safe enough until then.”
“Okay, but what about when I go home for Thanksgiving, or Christmas break?” I asked. “What about over the summer where he could easily kill my mom just to get to me?”
“I highly doubt he would go to high extremes just to kill one girl.” Morgan said. “Even he’s got better things to do.”
I just frowned.
Scarlett laughed. “Yeah, like killing someone’s gold fish.”
We all snickered at that for several minutes until we went back to eating in silence. I noticed they kept casting worried glances over their shoulders, probably making sure that Azazel wasn’t lurking in the shadows, listening to them as they joked about him and his bad luck with fish.
Then my sudden worries reappeared. “You really don’t think Azazel will come after me and my mom, do you?”
Jordan opened his mouth; probably about to say something comforting, when Morgan – his nostrils flaring in anger – said, “Will you stop saying his name? God, it’s no wonder all this stuff is happening to you. It’s because you’re cursed for saying his name.”
“There is no such thing as curses.” But as soon as the words came out of my mouth did I not believe them. I mean, it made sense. None of this stuff started happening to me until I started saying his name. But then I thought of Alex and the many times I heard him call his father by name. Wouldn’t he be cursed as well? Then again, he’s been shunned all his life and not to mention accused for what happened Saturday, so why not? Maybe we we’re cursed.