Shafts of moonlight cast pools of light into the dark corridor of Olivier Academy. Two girls giggled, ducking around a corner into a pool of light. They held their hands over their mouths trying to muffle their laughter.
“Come on!” called the first girl, around the corner where they had just come from.
“Hurry up or we’re gonna be caught!” called the second girl. A third girl timidly followed them. “It’s about time, Violet. What was keeping you?”
“Were you going to chicken out?” taunted the first girl.
Violet adjusted her round glasses and looked up at the taller girls. “Come on now, Maura, Sienna. I’m not… I’m not a chicken. I told you that I was coming and here I am.”
“Alright then,” purred Sienna, giving a side glance to Maura. “Let’s go.”
Maura pulled down a wall sconce. The heavy stone wall creaked and scraped against the floor as it slid open. She winked at Violet, “You ready?”
The room was uncomfortably small for Violet’s taste. The high stone walls were growing tighter around her. The air smelled of incense that they burned and the designer perfume they wore. Violet tugged at her collar.
“What?” teased Sienna. “Are you scared?”
“You don’t have to join our coven,” reassured Sienna. She winked at Maura. “It’s completely your choice, but remember, every single popular girl at school belongs to our coven. If you join us, Connor Bates will notice you...”
Violet gulped and brushed an imaginary piece of lint from her skirt. “O-okay...”
Maura and Sienna pulled a cord. A heavy curtain fell away, revealing a shimmering gold mirror. Violet gulped, tugging at her necktie. She wanted to be pretty. Her hair was mousy brown and was cropped uncomfortably short after an incident a week ago with a wad of chewing gum. There were too many freckles on her cheeks. Her front teeth were too large. She’d never be good enough, pretty enough to be someone in this world. Not like Maura and Sienna. They were perfect.
“O-okay. I’m ready,” she squeaked. Sienna handed her a scrap of notebook paper.
“Mirror... Mirror...” Violet’s reflection on the mirror began to swirl, faster and faster. “On... the wall... Who is the f-fairest...?” Misty claws pushed through the rippling mirror and grabbed Violet.
Screams and laughter filled the air and then, silence.
“Where is Jamie?” asked Serena, coming into the briefing room. Her multi-colored bracelets clicked as she walked. Nick pursed his lips and typed faster. “Alright, Nick.” Serena put her hands on her hips. “Spill it.”
“I do not know where Jamie is,” he said, as he typed, pausing slightly after each word. Windows of different news streams, social media platforms, internet searches, and cat videos each filled a screen on the wall of computer monitors.
“Nick,” Serena said, putting her hands on her hips.
Nick gulped. “What? I already told you that I didn’t know.”
“Nicholas Okoro... You only pause after each word when you are hiding something. What’s going on? We have an alert. Jamie is normally the first one here when we get one. Is she doing test flights with her wings again?”
Nick bit his lip as he looked up from the rows of code he was writing. “Two words. Bead. Bucket.”
“Bead bucket? Again?” Serena groaned. “What happened?” Nick’s eyes darted over to Robin swinging happily on the swing Jamie had installed for her. “Little Bird – what did you do?”
Robin stopped swinging. Her dirty sneakers scuffing the tabletop beneath her swing. “What?” Serena glared at her. “What? Am I in trouble?”
“Why is Jamie in the bead bucket?” Serena demanded.
“What’s the bead bucket?” Johnathan asked Nick, taking his seat at the briefing table. “Where is Jamie?” Nick gestured for him to be quiet.
“I didn’t do anything,” Robin defended. “She was talking during the movie! She kept going on about how the science in the movie was not accurate. I stopped listening after she started telling me the artifacts in the museum has from the Hindenburg.” Robin looked away sheepishly. “I may have also called her a bag of hot air.” The others groaned. “What? It was so boring. She rambles on forever and never gets to the point.”
Serena cursed under her breath. “You need to make it up to her. Now, Little Bird!”
“I’ll go get her,” Nick volunteered, jogging out of the room. “Don’t start the briefing without me!”
“We can’t!” Robin shouted back. “You and Jamie are the only ones who know how to run this stupid computer!”
Jamie crouched over tubs of colored beads on her worktable, carefully sorting each bead into a small tub filled with matching beads. Pearl beads. Plastic beads. Wooden beads. The beads must be sorted by color, size, texture. They had to be sorted. Sorted. Sorted.
Nick rapped his knuckles on Jamie’s worktable. “Jamie?” He knocked again. “Jamie!”
“Huh?” She scrunched her glasses up on her nose. “What?”
Nick pointed to the flashing light on her cuff. “We got a page,” he repeated. Jamie rubbed her eyes and dumped the beads back into the larger tub.
“I’m coming,” she mumbled.
“Are you sure that you’re okay?” Nick asked. “You can’t let Robbie get to you.”
Jamie offered him a slight smile. “She didn’t.” It was a lie. “Sorting stuff calms the noise in my brain.”
“Hi Jamie,” cooed Serena in greeting as Jamie took her seat at the briefing table. Jamie gave a small wave in reply. Nick stood between her and Robin as he pulled up the briefing on the computer.
“Where’s Dad?” asked Robin, looking around the room for Cole.
Cole’s voice crackled over the speaker system. “I ain’t your dad!” His image flickered across the screen. “Nick! This... thing... isn’t working! What – what’s with this th...thing?”
“What? You’ve never made a video call before?”
“Shut up!” He groaned as the bell trilled behind him. “I gotta go.”
“Where is he?” Jamie asked. A school webpage blinked onto the screen.
“A school?” Robin scoffed. “Seriously?” Serena rolled her eyes and scribbled in her notebook.
“Olivier Academy. It was founded in 1900 by Joseph and Eleanor Olivier as a finishing school for the children of the elite. They made their fortune in the Oregon logging industry. Over the last 120 years, the students have gone on to become anything from senators, diplomats, to supermodels, I don’t know. There is a slew of internet rumors that several students have gone on to become royalty...” Nick began. Images flashed onto the screen.
“Gah!” moaned Robin from her swing. “You ramble as much as Jamie does...” The two men shot Robin a glare.
“Anyway, Miss Rudy Trudy!” snapped Nick. “Olivier Academy! It’s rating a 7.25 on the weirdness scale when three teenage girls were found dead in three weeks. Now, I don’t know how squeamish you all are, so I’m not going to show you pictures of how they were found. Let me just say... Imagine a water balloon when you... Or! Or, a juice pop when you – ”
“Enough!” Serena held up a hand.
“And, we think it’s artifact-related?” asked Jamie. Johnathan shifted in his seat. Static crackling as he moved. He didn’t like the idea of death, especially unnatural death. He learned a long time ago that only their Maker should decide when a body was going to die.
<ARE YOU OKAY?> Jamie typed, stealing a glance over at her friend. His phone vibrated. Johnathan glanced at it and typed a quick reply.
<IT’S NOTHING. I’M OK.>
“How are we going to play this?” asked Robin, swinging again. “Are we going...” She launched off the swing and into a perfect somersault. “To go in guns blazing, all secret agent like.” She karate-chopped the air.
“Are you done, Rob?” Nick asked.
“Yes, I’m done.”