Before I could have a chat with a certain someone, I had someone else that I needed to talk to. As I headed to the front office, I initially thought that a hippie protest had camped out on Rosemary King’s property, but as I got closer to my destination, a young-looking lady with multicolored hair and a tie-dye shirt ran up to me and extravagantly offered, “Free hug!”
Before she could touch me, I politely declined, “No thanks! I’m good!” That wasn’t exactly true; I spent all of my Sunday physically and mentally exhausted, and after hours of research, we didn’t learn anything new about our adversary or new methods of destroying that key to the Netherworld. We did get quite the education on different types of phobias, but that sort of felt like a waste of time too because apparently, people can become deathly afraid of anything- numbers, mirrors, fresh air, you name it, there’s individuals out there scared of it! And whether a student had a unique trepidation or a typical one, there was absolutely no way to know who would get chosen as a victim of the fear mongers! We had a list of possibilities of what may come when Damon releases his monsters, but they were all so different that it would have been impossible to prepare for all of them! Like seriously, how would we protect against a fear of numbers? Cover up all of the class labels and make math teachers like Ginger take the day off? It didn’t help matters to have Blaise get the sniffles! You would think that him being ill would have made him quieter, but no! He disrupted the whole household as he turned into the world’s whiniest baby, and as he made constant demands for his care, it was infinitely difficult to concentrate on anything! Monday mornings were never easy, but coming from a rough weekend and a hard week previously, it was especially excruciating! So no, I wasn’t good, but a random stranger touching me would not make me feel more at ease!
“If you’re really as good as you claim, then why wouldn’t you accept a little extra love in your life?” the girl challenged me as she followed me down the walkway.
“Why are you so desperate to hug me?” I shot back. “Why can’t you just cut your losses and move on to the next poor sap who passes by?”
In a nearly ethereal tone, she reasoned, “Because there’s a drastic lack of compassion in this community, and when I see a soul in need, it bothers me if I can’t do something to make their world a little brighter! When they leave my sight, who knows what dark forces will plague them without another altruistic being to give them a hand!”
The dark forces bit almost resonated with me, and if I believed that she had any ability to combat Damon and his fear mongers, I might have stuck around to have a discussion with her. Just before I entered the office, I relayed to her, “Trust me, you can’t do anything to fix my problem! If that changes, I’ll let you know!” She opened her mouth as if she was going to debate the point even further, but I closed the door before she got the chance! I felt somewhat bad for my rudeness, but I didn’t have a minute to spare for this conversation! Besides, what could she have done to assist me other than give me a supportive embrace after battling a particularly nasty fiend?
It surprised me to see that Phoebe had arrived there before me! “How did you do that?” I pondered.
“I told you the back entrance would be faster!” Phoebe grinned triumphantly. “Yes, I had to do more walking, but I didn’t get pinned down by those flower children, which made me move much quicker!”
“One of those dudes grabbed me when I was in the middle of a thought! I freaked out ‘cause it seemed like I was getting mugged!” Aleck conversed. “I mean, I guess they did make me feel better when I realized they weren’t gonna rob me…”
Hazel gave the bohemian bunch a disapproving stare and grumbled, “None of them applied for visitor passes! But Manuel okayed this demonstration despite that! Just because that freak with the rainbow hair is the mother of one of our pupils doesn’t mean they’re above the rules!”
I blurted out, “Wait, she’s old enough to be the mom of a teenager? I could’ve sworn she was half our age! Jeez, she must be doing something right to have such a youthful face!”
“Don’t tell me you’re contemplating a beatnik lifestyle?” Aleck kidded.
“Not unless that would get Mister and Missus Scarecrow out of the house faster!” I joked, but in all seriousness, if I had any indication that mimicking their moves would motivate Blaise and Miriam to move out more expediently, I would have utilized some psychedelic moves in a heartbeat! I didn’t mind Miriam so much, but she and Blaise came as a package deal, so they both had to go!
Hazel gave me a peculiar look, so Phoebe clarified to her, “He’s talking about my mom and her husband.” Hazel appeared startled that Phoebe hadn’t gotten offended by my slight about them, so Phoebe added, “I didn’t want them in our home at all!” Hazel grew absolutely perplexed by Phoebe’s cavalier attitude, so Phoebe advised her, “Don’t ask!”
I have no idea if Hazel wanted to delve into this cryptic subject any further, but if she had any desire to do so, it got squashed as Fletcher unceremoniously burst into the room. “Get back! Get back!” he roared as he shut the door. He then huffed, “Free hugs! What does that even mean? Is there somewhere to go where you pay for hugs?”
“Oh sure!” Ginger responded to him as she and Ellie arrived through the back door. “My uncle got in trouble for that when he picked up a woman on the side of the freeway who charged for that sort of thing! Actually, she turned out to be an undercover cop! It was pretty funny! Well, not for my aunt…”
“Excuse me, can you tell them your sordid family affairs on your own time?” Hazel snapped. Ginger pouted slightly, but she did not object. I knew that it was early in the day and no one was happy to be there so early, but considering that we promised to give her dirt on a previous attendee who she vehemently disliked, I would have hoped that she would have acted more kindly to her guests! Hazel plopped a dusty box onto the counter and notified us, “Here’s the records for the early nineteen hundreds! I don’t see what this has to do with Mister Karro though!”
The Ghost League gazed at each other knowingly. Hazel certainly had suspicions about Damon when he disguised himself as a juvenile and infiltrated the classrooms here, but as far as she knew, he was merely a homeless teen from Philadelphia. She figured out that he was a criminal up to no good on this campus, but she had no clue regarding his vampiric nature! The six of us all agreed not to give out information on this supernatural realm unless someone had direct contact with it, but in this case, we would have to reveal the details to someone who had no inkling that this paranormal existence had any basis in reality! We couldn’t find any details about Damon outside of his public records though, so we had to comb through the files that Hazel retained! There could be some sort of hint in his past that would bring about his downfall in the present, so it was imperative that we accessed the secrets that they held! We had to go against our own guidelines in order to move forward! But the question remained- would she still allow us to remain in her favorable graces when she heard our rationale for this expedition?
I got the impression that we all were banking on somebody else taking the lead on this endeavor, but since everyone seemed reluctant to initiate this bout of uncomfortableness, I exasperatedly exhaled and addressed Hazel, “Damon… isn’t who he claimed to be. You see, well… We found this birth certificate from eighteen ninety…”
“You mean… Damon is a…?” Hazel gasped. We all expected her to register that Damon was a vampire or a ghost or both, and we mentally prepared ourselves to witness her shock at this discovery, but we were caught off guard when she finished that sentence with, “… fraud? He stole someone’s identity, didn’t he?”
“Huh?” Somehow, the whole vampire turned ghost concept made more sense to me than such an ordinary notion as that in that instance! Once I contemplated it more, her assumption was the easy explanation, and I berated myself for all of the stress over a bewildering reveal when this simple solution was at our disposal! “Yes! We wanna compare the real Damon with what this con artist has presented to everyone who’s crossed his path! If he somehow got access to records that are supposed to be confidential, then he could get charged with even more crimes!” I was rather proud of myself for rooting out a plausible explanation for why we needed old school chronicles. I knew her next query would have revolved around why we couldn’t get him incarcerated with what we already had, but now we had a logical argument to sell her on this premise!
Sure enough, Hazel had become fully on board with this project, and she could not get that box open fast enough! “I’d love to give you more ammo against that snot-nosed brat! I was always certain that there was something fishy about that kid! I’m so glad that there’s proof on my hunch!” I recalled that she had quite the aversion to Damon, but I had forgotten how it felt to view the contempt she harbored for someone who was supposed to be a child pour out! While Damon was a nasty piece of work, it kind of frightened me how much animosity she built up for an individual who, as far as she knew, was still so young, and I tried not to fixate on the potentiality of her having similar ire for any other students who attended this high school… She thumbed through the files and finally produced an object of interest! “Ah-ha! Here we are!”
With a disappointment that only threatened to grow as the seconds trickled onward, Ellie remarked, “That’s it?” It appeared as though we all concurred with her sentiment- Damon was such a troublemaker in the modern era, so how could he not have been the same devil in high school?
“Well, of course! These are the real Damon Karro’s records, not that conniving, self-serving, little cretin’s history!” Hazel pointed out.
“Oh, yeah, true!” Ellie pretended to agree with that statement in order to keep up with the guise we used to obtain this intelligence.
Hazel eagerly poured into the file and summarized it for us, “Damon Karro attended Rosemary King from nineteen o’ four to nineteen o’ eight. He got good grades and was an all-star athlete. What a model student!”
I hid my snickers over the fact that she had unknowingly complimented a person that she sincerely detested! I could see a slight smirk form on Phoebe’s visage too, but she tucked it away as she inquired, “Do you mind if we study it? You know, for evidence…”
“Oh please, go right ahead!” Hazel obliged. She handed us the thin set of paperwork, and we all peered over Phoebe’s shoulders as she took pictures of the sheets one by one. Nothing we read sparked much interest for us- he appeared squeaky clean in terms of his behavior back then, and he had a practically perfect attendance too. Nothing about the boy Damon used to be foreshadowed the sociopathic villain we would come to meet! It made me wonder when everything went so very wrong in his life…
“Hey! He was on the prom committee his senior year!” Ginger avidly observed. She mulled it over for a flash, and then she reconsidered, “Oh, I thought I was on to something there. Never mind!”
Fletcher chuckled, “They called it a promenade tea back then! Sounds real frou-frou!”
In an olden accent, Ellie educated him, “Fletcher, this was the early twentieth century- all of the keenest bucks adored the opportunity to gussy up and wear their best glad rags to shimmy at the swellest soirees! It was the best way to showboat to the wisenheimers and impress the dreamiest dolls! If you were a fella back then, you’d consider going to this shindig the bee’s knees!”
“Thank the heavens I was born in the modern period!” Fletcher blinked rapidly at Ellie’s imitation and crinkled his nose at the picture she painted.
“On the plus side, your little goyls would be required to keep themselves covered up!” Aleck brought up, which made Fletcher rub his chin contemplatively.
Ellie corrected Aleck, “They didn’t pronounce the word girl like that ‘til the fifties.”
Prior to Aleck piping up about this tidbit, I cut in, “We’re not here for a historical lecture, but your students will be pretty soon! Actually, we should all probably go get ready for that! Besides, we got everything we need from here.”
“We did?” Ginger queried.
“Well, not really,” I admitted. “But we got all we’re gonna get!”
Hazel evidently sensed my ebbed optimism for this avenue’s success since she asked me, “This wasn’t enough to make that louse pay extra for his crimes?”
I grinned at the sheer humor of trying to take a ghost through the judicial system, but obviously, I couldn’t share this musing with Hazel! We no longer had the obligation to illuminate her about the occult’s presence in our society, so I had no inclination to divulge anymore of what we learned about him to her! And frankly, while I would have preferred to have gained valuable insight from this incident, I was pretty relieved I could avoid interacting with her for a while! I appreciated her willingness to assist us, but she still pretty much creeped me out! So, instead of releasing my honest answer, I wryly commented, “No! No matter what we do, that jerk always seems to get away with everything!”
“Hmpf! That’s true, but I’ll still be praying for a fair ruling anyhow!” Hazel dourly stated. “Good luck on your investigation!”
“Thanks!” We weren’t engrossed with the cause she was envisioning, but we could definitely have used better fortune in this venture, so I accepted her well-wishes heartily! It was disappointing to have reached yet another dead end, but I didn’t want my friends to start their shifts with a sorrowful demeanor, so I attempted to buoy them up by suggesting, “Our morning may not have gone as planned, but we still have several hours left in our shift to make it better! You’re all so great at what you do, so remember that you have the talent to convince our kids to stay in school! Let’s make our lessons extra fun today so no one wants to drop out before that FAUK’ing rally or…!” As we headed out the back door, I stopped in my tracks! The avoidance of the Free Hug crowd along with the mention of the FAUK club gave me a stroke of inspiration on how to mitigate the influence of those dreary devotees! I ran to that groovily-clad congregation, and I let them know, “I need your help!” They all tried to hug me, so I graciously refused, “No, no! Not with that! It’s about something else…”