"You're an Unruly, just like me."
"Caitlin Kane-O'Shaughnessy, student at the Ulrich F. Gephardt Academy for Unruly Girls, started there in Grade Seven. Prior to that, led a student revolt at the James Boyle Unlacke Public School in Halifax, guaranteeing acceptance as an Unruly."
"Wheeler wasn't playing chess. He's playing poker."
"He called me Ginger!"
Basketball Night in Canada
Chapter 8 - Ginger Bred
Laura looked at her watch. Ten minutes until ten, ten minutes before the coffee shop closed. Autumn sat, hunched over Caitlin's laptop, violating terms of the Asian girl's parole along with several laws against hacking into secure systems. Skye was the epitome of calm as she sat in the corner, looking over the dwindling crowd in the coffee shop. The baristas were in the middle of store closing cleaning, though one reminded the four Academy students of the imminent closure of the shop. For her part, Laura downed the dregs of her cappuccino. The caffeine wasn't helping with her nerves. The new girl expected the police to arrive any moment.
Caitlin glanced over Autumn's shoulder. "A little faster?"
"Tell that to the phone companies. I'm on a Bell line, trying to access Primus and the companies don't like each other." Autumn finished her latte. "It's also easier if I didn't have a pushy redhead looking over my shoulder. Shoo!"
With a huff, Caitlin sat back. "Laura, stop looking so nervous. You'll get us in trouble."
Laura's jaw dropped. "I will?"
"No more caffeine for you tonight."
"Got it!" Autumn pushed back a bit from the laptop's screen.
"Get the numbers." Caitlin looked at her watch. "We'll have to cross-check them somewhere else." The red-haired girl finished her chai tea. She gathered the empty mugs to bring to the staff.
Autumn shut the lid on Caitlin's laptop as Laura rolled up the power cable. "You do realize that we should be as far as we can get from here in about a half an hour? I think I tripped an alarm in your rush."
Laura dropped the power cable. "No. No no no nononono!"
"Relax," Skye said. "Everything's under control." The tall girl picked up the power cords again, handing them to Autumn. "Besides, we will be far from here. Lights out is at eleven, giving us an hour to get to the dorm. Longer, if we don't care about roaming in the dark on campus."
Autumn zipped up her backpack, laptop and cables already inside. "I have problems there. The Jennifers have it in for me."
"They like Laura," Skye said.
Caitlin returned to the table. "Everyone ready?" Hearing all the affirmatives, the redhead continued, "Let's go."
"Good." Autumn said. "I hear my bed calling for me."
"Your bed will have to be lonely for a while longer, Autumn." Caitlin led the girls out of the coffee shop. "We have another stop first."
Autumn stopped in her tracks. "Not Wheeler's work. No, Caitlin. No. That's the first place they'll check when they see the coffee shop closed."
"I am well aware of that, Autumn. When they check and see no one there, they'll talk to Wheeler. Given how the nature of the intrusion, they'll wake him up." Caitlin smiled. "By then, we'll be safe elsewhere."
"Elsewhere just where exactly, Caitlin?" Laura asked. "Witness protection, remember? I don't feel so protected."
"Trust me, Laura. You, I need back at the Academy. You get along better with our neighbours than the rest of us. I need the goth twin to do something to help us."
Relief passed through Laura. "What do you want Fawna to do?"
"See? You know her name." Caitlin smiled. "There's an envelope on my bed, under my pillow, with the details. Just give it to her."
"And the rest of us, Cait?" Skye asked.
"We have an annoyance to deal with."
Laura returned to the Academy's campus half an hour later. She ran from the gates to the main door, not stopping for any noise. Once inside, she forced herself to slow her pace and catch her breath by the time she reached her neighbour's door. After a quick trip into her own dorm to retrieve Caitlin's envelope, Laura knocked twice and waited. Vamsi opened the door, raising an eyebrow at the visitor. "Hi, Vamsi. Sorry for the disturbance. Is Fawna around?"
"Oh, for, really?" a voice called from deeper inside. "How long have you known me, Kamala?" Fawna appeared at the door, dressed in a floor-length black nightgown. "Oh, Laura. I should've known. You're just the only girl in our year who knows my name." Fawna directed the last at Vamsi.
"I'll leave you to gossip." Vamsi returned into her room.
Fawna ushered Laura out into the hall. "Ignore her." The goth twin shut the door behind her. "What's up?"
"Caitlin asked me to give you this." Laura handed over the envelope. "I have no idea what's in it, but Caitlin says there's instructions."
"Instructions?" Fawna opened the envelope. She pulled out a sheet of paper and read it. The goth twin looked up at Laura. "Is she serious? No, don't answer. Caitlin is always serious. At least she got me something useful." Fawna slipped a card into her nightgown's pocket. "Wait here." Fawna returned into her dorm room. After a few moments, with Laura looking up and down the hallway, the twin returned, now wearing her uniform. "Come with me."
Laura stared at Fawna. "Me?"
"There's no one else here. My roommates are useless. Vamsi will want a cut, my sister doesn't believe in what I do, and Cassie is Cassie. I need an assistant and since you're part of why I'm doing this, you just got volunteered."
With the pit of her stomach in free-fall, Laura followed Fawna up to the fourth floor labs. The new girl shuddered as she remembered the night of the Jennifers. She still didn't know how Kristie had managed to glue her feet to the lab floor, and Laura couldn't get up to the lab in time to get samples. By the time she had a moment to break away from her roommates to get to the lab, the residue was long gone.
Fawna took command the moment she entered the lab, ordering Laura to move chairs and even a throw rug. The goth twin set out candles on the floor. Laura tried to stay out of the way, but Fawna had her busy drawing lines with chalk, connecting the candles to each other one. An intricate pattern came into being on the floor. Fawna admonished Laura to avoid stepping on the chalk lines, then had her stand aside in a corner.
With one last flourish with the chalk, Fawna stood up. "There." She stretched, working out kinks in her back. "Whatever happens, Laura, do not interfere. Bad things will happen if you interfere."
Laura peered at the chalk drawing. "I don't see how this will help."
"Of course not." Fawna tiptoed over the chalk lines to the centre of the pattern. She sat down cross-legged. "You're too enmeshed by science."
"Quiet please." Fawna held her arms out from her, her palms facing the ceiling. "Remember, no interfering."
"Fine." Laura leaned against the wall.
Fawna intoned words in a language Laura only guessed was Latin. The candles flickered. A low hum started, felt more than heard. A wind whipped through the room, pulling on Laura's hair and skirt. Laura grabbed her skirt's hem with one hand. She shrieked as she felt something wrap around her leg. When she looked, there was nothing there. "Um, Fawna? Define 'bad things'."
"Shush." Fawna kept her eyes closed. The wind tearing through the room passed around the goth twin, never disshevelling her clothes. A pale blue-white form coalesced in the circle with Fawna. The teenager opened her eyes and smiled at the form. "Welcome."
Laura gawked at the form as it took the shape of an older adolescent girl in a uniform similar to hers and Fawna's. "This can't be real."
The pale form of a girl turned her head to address Laura. "Who's the biscuit?"
Fawna opened her eyes. "Mags, this is Laura. She's new here."
Unsure of what else to say, all Laura could muster was, "Hi."
"I'd shake your hand, but Fawna here has me bleeding trapped in her picture." Mags glowered at the goth teen. "It's like she doesn't bleeding trust me."
"How did you die again?" Fawna asked.
"I can't remember." The ghostly girl raised her chin, causing her wispy ringlets to bounce.
Laura forced a smile. "Caitlin wanted this?"
Fawna picked up Caitlin's sheet of instructions. "Or a reasonable facsimile."
"Ladies, I don't have all bleeding night." Mags folded her arms over her chest. "Fawna, be a dear and get to the bleeding point."
"Right, right." Fawna got to her feet. "Mags, there's something weird happening here at Gephardt Academy."
Mags levelled a stare at Fawna. "No, really? Weird as in a ghost floating in a summoning circle? I don't think your new biscuit is used to the idea."
"She's not mine. Mags, focus, please."
Laura raised her hand. "Can I ask a question?"
"This counts as one of your requests, Fawna."
Fawna sighed. "Later, Laura." She held up Caitlin's sheet. "According to this, there's someone trying to disrupt the Academy, possibly to have it shut down for good.."
Mags floated over to read the paper. "Her penmanship needs work."
"Whose doesn't? Mags, the person trying to shut us down?"
"Bleeding unthinkable." Mags leaned against a wall only she could see and feel. "Why should I help?"
"Rule Three, Mags."
"Which rule is that again?" She looked over to Laura. "Does the cancelled stamp know?"
Fawna gave Laura an apologetic expression. "Sorry."
Laura shrugged. "Rule Three, support your sisters. Caitlin had Skye and Autumn tell me them."
"That's your Rule Three?" Mags pushed herself off her wall. "That was Rule One when I was alive. What's Rule One now?"
"Always wear your uniform."
Mags pouted. "That's the first rule? What sort of pansies have you become?"
"The city imposed it on us," Fawna explained. "Something about following the Geneva Conventions. Can we get on with this? You're the one who wanted me to get to the point."
"I'm the one with your information. Oi, biscuit, where are you from?"
Laura blinked. "Toronto. Why?"
Fawna let her head drop. "No more questions, Laura."
Mags smiled. "You must have heard about the hockey team, then. The Maple Leafs. How are they doing?"
"Does--" Laura cut herself off. She turned to face the goth twin. "Fawna, has no one told her about the Leafs ever? Or is she just being cruel?"
Mags' face clouded. "Cruel? Biscuit, you ainn't seen cruel yet."
Fawna raised a hand to stop the ghostly girl from continuing. "I've never had anyone from the sports teams in for a summoning. Do you even follow hockey?"
"Yes. The Leafs. I'm tired of the jokes about it. They've just had a few bad years."
Mags perked up. "Bad years? How many?"
"They made the playoffs a few years ago, losing to Boston." Laura shrugged.
"And the Stanley Cup? I could've seen their first, except, well, here I am."
"It's, um, it's been a while."
Mags folded her arms and glared at Laura. "How long?" As Laura hesitated, the ghostly girl added, "Have you seen them play for the Stanley Cup?"
Laura sighed. "No. But I know I will, some day."
"Satisfied?" Fawna asked. "Now, let's get to business."
Mags gave Laura one last glare before returning her attention to Fawna. "Fine. It'll cost."
"You don't even know what I'm asking for."
"Doesn't matter. I have my price."
"Alright. Name it."
Mags smiled. "I want a weekend in your body."
Fawna chuckled. "That's original."
"A full weekend. From Friday evening until after Sunday dinner. I want to feel things again."
"I have conditions."
"We all have those."
"First, I choose the weekend. I have other issues on my plate and some can't be delayed."
Mags shook her head. "No. You could put me off until you die. The weekend has to be soon."
"I'll let you in within the month. I just need to clear the weekend first. Second, you'll be escorted so that you don't do anything permanent to my body. I don't mind you eating, but I draw the line at tattoos and extreme sports."
"I want the biscuit here as the escort."
Laura shrugged. "Sure. I don't see why not."
"You don't see why not, yet," Fawna corrected. "Mags, do you agree to the conditions?"
"As do I." Fawna got up from the floor. "Now, about the person trying to shut us down. Given that City Hall and the Board of Education have been doing that since forever, let's ignore them for now. Caitlin thinks someone else is involved but isn't sure who it is. What can you tell me?"
Mags wavered, her form flickered for several moments. "It's someone she knows. Someone with a grudge against her." The ghostly girl's form stabilized. "That's all I have." Mags shrugged.
Fawna turned to her neighbour. "Laura?"
"I'll tell Caitlin," Laura said.
Fawna rubbed her foot over three of the chalk lines she drew. Candles at both ends of the broken lines blew out. "There, Mags, you can leave."
"Just remember our deal. I'll come back and make your life miserable if you forget."
"I won't forget, Mags. Goodbye."
Mags faded away. Fawna began blowing out the candles. "Laura, can you sweep up the chalk? There should be a broom in the closet."
Laura grabbed the broom. "Can I ask what happened?"
"What the hell just happened?"
Fawna smiled. "That was Mags. Margaret Morrow, but she prefers Mags."
"How does she know about the Leafs?"
"Mags is from Toronto. Don't let her Cockney accent fool you. That's what they sounded like back in her day, kind of."
Laura began sweeping the lines on the floor. "Really? Weird. And what's with me being a biscuit?"
"Slang. Really old slang." Fawna placed her armful of candles into her bag. "You don't mind making sure she doesn't do anything I might regret?"
"You're helping us, right? Rule Three and all that, right?"
"I'll give you a list of things that Mags isn't allowed to do with my body later."
"And all this really happened? I'm not dreaming it?"
"'There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio.'"
Laura stopped sweeping. "Who's Horatio?"
"You are never passing English."
Caitlin had Autumn and Skye crouch down behind a parked grey SUV just at the edge of the street lamp's light. She kept an eye on a brick bungalow across the street. A sedan sat parked in the house's driveway. Caitlin confirmed the address before ducking into the gloom. "This is it."
"What's it?" Autumn asked. "We're going to be attacked by feral Jennifers by the time we get back to the Academy."
Skye poked her head up to look at the house. "Wheeler's home, Cait?"
The redhead smiled. "Of course." She checked her watch. "Took us a little longer than I wanted, but his car is still here."
"What will this prove?" Autumn asked.
"That he's not the mastermind." Caitlin saw the porch light turn on. "Down!" She peeked around the front of the SUV.
Coming from the house, a girl wearing the green jacket of the St. Dymphna uniform ran out. Wheeler stepped out, catching the outer door before it slammed shut. "Are you sure?" he called after the girl.
The girl stopped at the car. She turned to face Wheeler. "Where else is she going to go? All the clues point to your work, Dad. She's not going to ignore it."
Wheeler sighed. "Just be careful."
"I will." The girl opened the car door. "Make sure you call the police in five minutes. I just want to see Ginger's face when they arrive."
Caitlin clenched her hand into a fist, but remained where she was. She listened as the the sedan started up, the house doors closed, and the car drove off. As Autumn and Skye watched her, Caitlin held up her watch, then flashed five fingers at her roommates. After five minutes, Caitlin signalled the other two girls to get up.
"Now what, Cait?" Skye asked.
"We go back to the Academy and see what Laura found out." Caitlin's expression darkened. "Then we find out who that Dymphna girl is and make her wish she never existed."
Laura was already in bed when her roommates returned, stretched out and not quite reading her English homework. She set her book down when the door opened. Caitlin was the first into the room, striding with purpose. "Welcome back," Laura said. "How bad is it?"
"The G-word got used again," Autumn said.
Caitlin dropped her book bag on the table. "That girl has no idea what wrath she's unleashed."
Laura swung her legs over the edge of her bed. "Did you recognize the girl?"
Skye stopped at her bed to pick up her night clothes. "No, other than she's from St. Dymphna."
Autumn set down her laptop. "Never seen her before, either. Her last name's probably Wheeler."
Caitlin sat down on her bed. "Your research never said he had a daughter."
The Asian girl glared at Caitlin. "Fine. Her last name isn't Wheeler. She's just into older men with machine shops who are losing their hair. Happy?"
"That doesn't make any sense," Laura said.
"Oh, don't you start on me." Autumn stomped around the table towards her newest roommate. "I have been doing the best I can with a limited number of tools, not to mention having to run from a bunch of brats who have it out for me tonight."
Laura blinked. "Not that. What you said makes perfect sense."
"I'm lost." Skye walked towards the bathroom. "I'm getting changed. You can keep yelling at each other." She disappeared into the room.
"What I mean," Laura started, "is that Fawna said that it's someone you know, Caitlin. Someone with a grudge."
"Someone I know?" Caitlin laid back in her bed. "Are you sure?"
"No, but that's what Mags said."
Autumn stepped back to the table. "Mags?"
"Long story and I can't explain it. She said it was someone you knew, Caitlin. Are you sure you didn't recognize the girl? Maybe she was wearing a St. Dimples uniform to throw you off."
Autumn laughed. "Good one, Laura."
"No one wears their uniform or ours if they don't go to either school," Caitlin explained. "It turns them into targets."
Laura grimaced. "That's why Rule One exists, right? So that everyone else can clear the area?"
"Something like that, plus it gives us pride in our appearance."
Skye returned from the bathroom. "Someone Cait knows?" She waited for Laura to nod. "Makes sense, if you think about it. Cait, who knows that you hate being called a ginger?"
Caitlin rubbed her chin as she thought. "Possibly Vamsi, probably Claire and Felicia, though they know better. Wheeler. You three."
Laura held up her hands. "I just found out today."
Skye sat on the edge of her bed. "Wheeler, probably through the Dymphnoid. I haven't told anyone."
"I know you wouldn't." Caitlin glared at Autumn. "You, however."
Autumn made her way to her dresser. "Caitlin, I know you too well to tell tales about you. You'd track me down and do something unspeakable to me." She grabbed a pale yellow nightgown.
"Hmmm." Caitlin got up from her bed. "Verity would use the name to throw me off my game. I have no idea who that girl is, but she could have easily been recruited by Verity."
Laura stood up. "I don't see what the big deal is with the name." She turned back her blankets.
"You don't have red hair, Laura. None of us redheads like that name."
"That's not true. I met a redhead who went by the name Ginger." Laura slipped under her covers.
Caitlin picked up her pajamas. "And she had no problems with it?"
Autumn smirked. "And just where did you meet this redhead who liked the name?"
"The Carpet and Drapes."
Skye crawled into her bed. "The what?"
"The Carpet and Drapes. It's a gentlemen's club in Toronto."
Autumn's eyes widened. "You went to a strip club?"
"This Ginger, was she one of the dancers?" Caitlin asked.
"Duh." Laura flipped on her side to face the redhead. "My father had business there and needed me to verify the purity. I met her backstage."
"Backstage," Skye repeated.
"I was too young to be out front."
"I'm know I'll regret asking, but how do you know she was a real redhead?" Caitlin asked.
Laura smirked. "The collar and cuffs matched."
Caitlin walked to the bathroom. "I was right. We better get to bed, ladies. Tomorrow will be busy."
"Right, break into the police computer. Like they'd keep anything useful there."
"Of course it's a trap."
"Can I just fail English in peace?"
"Laura, correct me."