“I don’t get it, Gina. Anybody who was in that room could have cut that line. Why are you so obsessed that it was Corrine Mathis?”
“I’m not obsessed! I was just telling you that I saw her leave the science lab yesterday, right before we went inside the room and found the burner line cut.”
“Did you tell the teacher about it?”
“Well…no. I have no proof that she did anything and I don’t even know her so…”
“You think they won’t believe you?”
“I don’t know…maybe…I’m not even sure if I believe me.”
“Then stop worrying about it. Not like it’s a big deal, nothing happened.”
“I could have happened! If someone had lit a match while there was gas pouring into the room...” An image of a roaring wall of fire erupting from the science room and I had to suppress a shudder. “The teachers were really serious about it. The fire department came and everything.”
It was true. After Cameron and I found the cut line in the science room yesterday, the principal had called the fire department to make sure there was no immediate danger to the school. Then the principal made a very anger announcement over the P.A. system telling all of the students of the dangers that might have occurred and that school supplies were to be treated with the utmost care and if anyone knew or suspected anything about what had happened to let the staff know.
Although I was probably the only one who did have a suspect in mind (the word “suspect” made me feel like a stupid-wannabe detective but I had no other word for it) I said nothing to the teachers. Corrine could be totally innocent and what if what I said got her suspended, or even expelled, from school? That would be two schools she’d been kicked out of in one year! I just couldn’t do that to her, especially since all the evidence (another lousy detective word) I had was seeing her in the room and that weird look she had afterward.
“Still, that was quite an event,” said Ria. “It was kinda cool. I mean, I know it might have been all dangerous but, really, what other exciting things happen around here?”
“Ria,” I sighed, exasperated.
“Okay, okay, sorry,” said Ria, raising her hands in mock surrender. “Just…just don’t let it depress you too much. Again, it’s not like anything happened.”
I decided to let it drop. There was no point in discussing it with Ria, even though she was my best friend.
School was buzzing with talk of the mishap in the science lab most of the day. Most of the girls in the school were shocked at the very idea that something horrible may have happened to their precious Aquadeus, but Cameron Tithe seemed to be one of the people the least bit worried about it.
“I’m just glad that it was found before anybody could get hurt,” he told a couple of adoring fans at lunch. “It would have been dreadful. Good thing Eagle Eye Gina was able to spot it.”
He turned in my direction and gave me a cheeky smile. The smile gave me the creeps, but not so much as the envious looks of the girls surrounding him.
“Does he realize when he does that, it makes people hate me,” I mumbled, more to myself than to Ria, who was craning her neck to try and catch Cameron’s eye.
“I know! Isn’t he fantastic?!” Ria said, clearly under the impression that my mumbling was some kind of Aquadeus-fan-girl-musing rather than complaining about the super star.
I sighed again. I was starting to do that a lot lately. “I’m going to the bathroom,” I told Ria, getting up from the table with my tray in hand. “I’ll see you in class.”
“Uh-huh,” said Ria, not taking her eyes off Cameron, who was no longer looking in their direction.
I rolled my eyes, threw away the rest of my lunch, and walked out of the cafeteria. As I passed the windows, I was greeted by bright and cheery sunlight. Oh, how I wished summer would just start already. Then I could have a nice, three month break from life and gather my senses. Forget about ghosts (or dreams of ghosts as I was stubbornly refusing to believe the encounter with the ghost boy more than a dream) school work, drama, Cameron “Aquadeus” and Corrine Mathis.
And speaking of Corrine, I nearly collided with her as I tried to get into the girls bathroom that was just leaving.
“Sorry!” I cried, a little startled by the abrupt appearance.
Corrine didn’t say anything in response. She kept her head down, her black curls obscuring most of her face and she seemed to be rubbing her hands together. She stepped past me and half ran down the hall, still rubbing her hands distractedly. I stared after her for a moment, confused. Ultimately deciding to leave the strangeness alone, I went inside the bathroom. When I came back out a few minutes later, the bell rang to announce that we had about five minutes to get to class. As I made my way to my classroom, I noticed a large crowd gathered around the hall, a solid wall of people that prevented me from moving any further.
“What’s going on?” I asked a kid on the outside of the group.
“I don’t know,” the kid admitted. “Something about writing on the wall.”
Although I always hated being tall, it did have its perks in times like these. I stood up on my tiptoes and saw something on the far wall. What looked like green paint smeared clumsily on the wall, but I couldn’t see what was written there.
Several teachers were coming by to see what the fuss was about. Mr. Walters, our principal, came charging through the crowd, his loud voice booming and clearing a path through the sea of students.
“Out of the way! Clear a path now! Move along! Move along!”
I was able to follow the teachers to the center of the throng and I saw what it was that everyone was staring at. Green paint, splashed across the wall, sloppily spelling out the words:
MISSED YOU IN THE LAB, CAMERON TITHE
REMEMBER, ROCK HARD, DIE SOON
I stared at the message, startled as anyone else. I glanced around and Cameron was indeed there, staring at the message. I couldn’t really tell what he was thinking as his violet eyes scanned the large words over and over again, his face devoid of expression.
“Who did this!?” bellowed Mr. Walters. “How did this happen?”
Nobody said anything definite. They were all staring at the graffiti, whispering and pointing and glancing at Cameron. I had chills again. The mean message gave me the creeps, even though it wasn’t directed at me. Then something snapped in my memory. I turned my back on the scene and ran back the way I came and stopped only when I reached the girl’s bathroom I’d been in a few minutes earlier. I looked down in the trash can by the door and felt my heart sink.
The trash can was full of paper towels that were covered in green paint.
Needless to say, the staff was super angry.
“Someone in this school is committing acts of violation upon our school and our school’s property!” he bellowed over the P.A. system that afternoon just before school ended. Lots of people made fun of Mr. Walters. One of his more polite names was Mr. Walrus and, sadly enough, it fit him. He was fat with stubby legs so that he wobbled when he walked and he had bad teeth, no hair, and a mustache to rival even that of a real walrus. “These shenanigans MUST cease!” We also made fun of him for saying things like “cease” and “shenanigans” for that matter. “I understand the hype that’s going on recently with our…latest acquisition,” Even though I didn’t really like Cameron Tithe, I also thought that calling him an “acquisition” was a little rich. “But that does NOT mean that we can start pulling irresponsible stunts like this! If ANYONE has a clue as to who is behind these acts, I beseech that they step forward immediately so what the culprit shall not get away without retribution! Until that time, the ENTIRE school will be stripped of the privilege of assemblies and pep rallies!” I swear I could hear the outraged cries and moans of the entire school. “DON’T TAKE THAT TONE WITH ME! Just be grateful that it’s almost the end of the year, or I would include prom in the deal too!”
The P.A. system turned off with a loud scratching noise. Everybody started to complain.
“Mr. Walrus is such a…” Ria called our principal a word that I, personally, do not use and would rather not repeat. “Canceling the assemblies? It’s almost spirit week! That’s just unbelievable!”
Lots of people murmured in agreement.
“Is he cancelling the senior class pictures too?” asked Danielle, a girl from the yearbook committee.
“The cheerleaders have been practicing our routine for Friday’s pep rally all week!” cried the cheer captain, Kitty Cormack.
Our teacher called for silence and started to attempt to get on with the lesson. I couldn’t focus. The threatening graffiti was weighting heavily on my thoughts so I couldn’t concentrate. Of course, I had a suspect, but I was hesitant to say anything. Should I tell everyone what I saw in the bathroom and that I suspected Corrine? But then, what if those paper towels had been there before Corrine had been in there? I didn’t know Corrine at all, and my telling the staff that I thought she was the one responsible for the graffiti and the cut burner hose, she’d be facing suspension at least, and expulsion at most. I was completely torn. What if I ruined the life of someone who, it turned out had done nothing wrong?
Just as I sat brooding in my thoughts, there is was again. Those horrible chills that crawled slowly up my spine and making my skin erupt in goosebumps attacked my dull senses once again, sharpening them into action. I twisted my head around and, to my dismay, I saw Corrine walk past my classroom door. But, I just barely saw her. She had flitted down the hall with a strange quickness that didn’t seem…normal.
That was it! I had to do something.
I got up and told my teacher I was going to the bathroom, and I left the classroom. I had no idea where I was really going, but the halls were mostly empty since everyone was in their last class of the day. I just started heading in the direction that I knew Corrine had been headed it.It was time that I figured out just what Corrine Mathis was doing and, if I could, I had to put a stop to it.