Ryan would never want to admit it, but he was a vampire. In the modern day world, this fact probably wouldn’t make his classmates shun or fear him, but it was just embarrassing. Vampires had been popular for a while, both as romantic leads and gory monsters, but not anymore. They had lost their sparkle. Get it? Sparkle?
No, Ryan had to keep his mouth shut about his blood-deficient condition, if only for the sake of his dignity. His parents had privately informed the principal of his condition when the school year had started. Since his-- disease --was hereditary, and his parents were from a long, respected line of elegant monsters, the whole matter was handled discreetly.
His cover as a normal high school student was perfect. Ryan was careful not to stand out too much or move too fast. He drank blood at school when he had to, carefully concealing it as a cherry-red slurpee. Power naps and strong sun-screen helped him stay out and awake during the overly-bright daytime hours. No problems... Except for Angie Moore in his algebra class. Ryan noticed Angie because she snored very loudly in class. Not just once, but everyday. With one cheek squished on her textbook and her mouth slightly open, she would puff out heavy breaths, and then snort herself awake. She’d sit up, look around in confusion, and put her head down on her desk again until the teacher threatened to send her to the principal’s office.
At first, Ryan really hated her for that. Not because she drooled, or because her snoring was annoying and distracting, but because he really, really wanted to sleep himself. Fighting against his nocturnal nature was even harder when he had to watch the girl right in front of him doze off over and over again!
Still, it was only a minor annoyance. Whenever it got to be too much, he’d see Bridget smile at him sympathetically from across the room, and that made him feel better. Bridget was a blonde-haired, blue-eyed witch, a star volleyball player, and his partner-- not in an intimate way, although he wouldn’t have minded that... She was hot, smart, and really nice, but anyway, for now they just worked together. At the end of the last school year they’d both been recruited, trained and handpicked from the top of their class by the FBSI: the Federal Bureau of Supernatural Investigation.
Now they were official federal agents-- junior agents, but still official. They were strategically placed in Maple Ridge High and given the mission of keeping watch on their fellow students. This town, they’d been told, was an especial hotspot for supernatural events. There had been reports of ghoul sightings, howling at night, green slime under windows, etc. The two of them had found nothing yet, but they felt ready.
On Friday morning, the week before Halloween, Ryan and Bridget were quietly discussing the best vantage points around the school before class started. There was a dance that night, and it was important to keep a lookout when there were crowds involved. Bridget was agreeing to take the first shift of lookout duty when Angie zoomed into class and slid into her seat, panting and out of breath.
“Angie, your eyes are all puffy!” Bridget said affectionately. “You okay?”
Angie’s eyes were practically sealed shut with sleepiness. “Never been better. You could try to find a time in my life when I was better, and you couldn’t. Because I have never been better.” She leaned all the way back in her chair until her head was resting on the back. She tilted it further to see Ryan from an upside down angle. “Hi, Ryan!”
“Hi.” Ryan answered automatically.
Angie squinted.“You’re blurry.”
“You need to stop partying so hard.”
“I keep telling myself that too, but it never seems to work,” she sighed.
Mr. Barnes walked in, Bridget went back to her seat, and class started. Angie’s head was down on her desk within five minutes. She was so annoying. Ryan was there to do his job and learn. Angie was just there to goof off and sleep. The class liked Angie, though. Even the teacher couldn’t be too mad at her; she was just too good natured.
Ryan was still surprised, though, when he came to the dance early to meet Bridget and found her sitting in the cafeteria with not only Sean and Kevin, but Angie as well. He gripped the cold, wet sides of his slurpee cup tighter. Getting to know his classmates was part of his job description, but still. Bridget was just too friendly sometimes. The only open chair was right next to Angie, too. He grimaced and sat down.
Bridget seemed to be friends with everyone. Ryan only sort of knew Sean, a burly guy who hardly talked, and he’d spoken to Kevin a handful of times. Kevin was more talkative, which in Ryan’s book meant he was someone to be listened to but not trusted.
“Ooh, slurpee! What flavor is it?” Angie’s voice sprang out by his elbow suddenly, and far too late, he saw her reach for his cup and take a sip from his straw.
“Don’t, that’s mine!”
Too late. Angie gagged, coughed, and stared at him in the eye. “That’s quite a flavor.”
“I told you not to drink it.”
“I should have listened.”
Kevin piped up, “What flavor is it?”
Angie finally looked away from Ryan. “The worst ever: fake cherry medicine.”
“Ugh, I hate that!” Kevin shuddered.
“Yeah, why do people still use that flavor? Oh, hey, the dance is starting!” Bridget said, hurrying to change the subject. “You guys go without me, I’ll use the bathroom first.”
That was her code for saying that she was starting her rounds to look out for trouble. Ryan heard her, but his eyes were trained on Angie, who was walking down the halls to the gym as innocently as you please. They entered the dimly lit gym, and stood at the edge of the crowd. Kevin and Sean started talking about football. The fast, rave beat ended, and a slower song began to play, which Ryan recognized as a Rumba. He turned toward Angie, and their eyes met. Both were significantly expressionless. He held out his hand. She took it very calmly, and they stepped out onto the dance floor together.
There was plenty of silence to be filled. Angie was looking over his shoulder at the other dancers. She chewed her lip for a moment, as if sampling a new taste in her mouth, and then said, “You know what I always think of when I hear the word ‘vampire’?”
“Please don’t say Twilight.”
She laughed. “Well, almost. There was a picture I saw on the Internet a while back-- a parody of the book cover-- with the same font, same outstretched hands... only instead of ‘twilight’ and instead of the apple, it said ‘crap’. So that’s always what comes to mind for me: a pair of beautiful white hands, full of crap.” She turned her head towards him, eyes twinkling.
Ryan laughed, not knowing whether to be insulted or relieved. “Do you think you’ll have a hard time keeping this a secret?”
“Oh, heck no,” she smiled. “C’mon, man, everyone has their secrets. Me, I don’t wear shorts because I have a hematoma just above my left knee.”
“Yep. So I don’t think I’ll be telling anyone. That’s just silly.”
“Well, yeah. Five years ago vampires were all the rage, but they’re kinda lame now. Besides, I already know you’re the good kind.”
“Oh, am I?” Ryan raised his eyebrow. “What makes you so sure?”
“Because you’re drinking blood from a slurpee, and not out of someone’s neck. That makes a difference.”
Ryan was pleasantly surprised. Angie was acting kind of... intelligent. And it was nice-- really, surprisingly nice to have his embarrassing and dangerous secret so quickly accepted.
This happy feeling left very suddenly as screams pierced through the big speakers, followed by howls and vicious laughter. His phone vibrated in his pocket; there was a text from Bridget:
Ghouls. Weight room. Now.
Ryan fought his way through the crowd and booked it through the gym doors. As he sprinted down the hallway, he was surprised to see Angie running in the same direction.
“Wait, where are you going?”
Angie didn’t wait. “What about you?” she retorted. “Who runs towards the screaming?” There were more screams heard further down the hall, and both started running towards the sound. They turned the corner and found tables overturned, papers flying, and a classmate Ryan recognized as Jake Smithington whimpering under a table. Ryan and Angie hoisted it off of him. Jake cowered, his hands over his face.
“You’re okay now. What happened?” Ryan asked him.
“Don’t hurt me!” Jake whimpered.
“Don’t worry, Jake; he’s not gonna hurt you.” Angie started using an accent. “He just vants to drink your tomato juice.”
Ryan scowled at her in disgust. “Jake, tell me what you saw.”
Jake lowered his hand and whispered, “Ghosts. And demons. Terrible demons from Hell!”
Angie patted his shoulder. “Jake, what did they look like?”
“That’s not really helpful, dear.”
“Terrible, bloody, and flaming!”
“That’s a little more helpful.” Angie nodded thoughtfully.
Ryan prompted, “Did they see you? What did they do to you?”
Jake shuddered. “They threw the table at me. Then they laughed. It was terrible laughter.”
Ryan noticed a streak of slime on the floor. It was faintly green. Green slime meant it was a Class 4 or even 5 ghoul. “Which way did they go?”
Jake pointed to the left corridor.
“Yep, that’s the way to the weight room. Okay. Angie, you stay here with Jake, I’ll--” to his dismay, Angie had already charged around the corner. “Angie, get back here!” He had to run to catch up with her.
“What’s your plan?” Angie threw over her shoulder.
“Not to have you come along! What do you think you’re doing??”
“I’m going to fight the ghosts or whatever!” Angie panted. “Can’t have ghosts flying around and throwing tables.”
“Do you even know how to fight them?”
“Without a ghostbuster backpack? No.”
“Then go back! Bridget and I can fight them off.”
“You don’t have those backpacks either. I’ll be your diversion.”
The door to the weight room was open. Angie slid to a stop just inside the doorway. The lights were off, but moonlight from the windows lit up stretched rectangles along the floor. At first it was perfectly quiet-- then a blue mat flew right at her head. Angie ducked. Before the mat could hit the floor, it turned around mid-air and flew back at her again. Ryan zipped forward using his speed and kicked it away. There was a crash in the walk-in closet off to the side.
“Bridget?” Ryan called out.
“Ryan, help!” Bridget sounded muffled and frantic. He rushed over to see her tangled up in the volleyball net, whirling about and trying to stop weights and dumbbells from hitting her. As a witch, she had the power of telekinesis, and she was quite good at it, but this was a bit much, even for her. They were flying at her from all directions. Ryan had to look really hard before he could see who was throwing them. He dodged a 20 lb weight and saw that there were three of them: three ghastly, greenish, grinning ghouls. Two in the closet and one out. They were the same dome shape as most cartoon ghosts, with gaps for eyes and mouths, and their tails fluttered like sheets and oozed with slime along the walls and floor.
“Hey!” He called out sharply, and they laughed. It was indeed terrible laughter. They swooped towards him, their new prey, throwing more blunt instruments at his head. Being a vampire, he easily dodged all of them and started untangling Bridget from the net. They didn’t like that. It was no fun. Their eyes and mouths turned red, and they started closing in on the two junior agents caught in the net, barbells held at the ready.
Then Angie threw the blue mat at them. They were lined up so nicely that it hit all three at once. It bounced off their gooey forms and flopped onto the floor. They turned around with wide new grins, formed half from anger, and half from delight that someone was finally playing their game again. With shrieking whoops, they flew towards her.
Ryan almost had Bridget free. He knew he shouldn’t leave Angie out there by herself, but... it was better to save her with Bridget’s help than alone, right? Angie was calling out taunts anyway. She was fine. And he had warned her. There was a loud thump: Angie had been knocked onto her back.
“Stupid girl!” he muttered, frantically throwing the net off of Bridget. The heavy steel pole had fallen on her shin. It looked red and bent where it should have been straight. Probably broken.
“I don’t think I can stand,” Bridget apologized. “Ryan, watch it!”
Ryan stumbled forward as a big yoga ball hit the back of his head. He growled, threw it back, and dragged Bridget out of the closet. From there she stopped a few flying objects and even threw some back at the ghouls. Ryan grabbed a barbell and zipped toward the ghouls with a good baseball swing. Angie even popped back up and charged at them bare-handed. Between the three of them, they had the ghouls cornered and tied up with jump ropes before the SWAT team got there.
Things seemed normal on Monday. Bridget was still in the hospital with her leg broken in two places, though she said she’d be back for duty in a few days. The school was quiet. Angie was the same, dozing off in front of Ryan. Her hair was strapped like usual into a messy, brown bun, and it bobbed up and down as she nodded off.
“Angie!” Mr. Barnes snapped.
“Sorry, sorry!” Angie said, shaking herself awake. She stared determinedly at the writing on the whiteboard until her eyes watered, only to start nodding off again once they closed. The class giggled until Mr. Barnes noticed again.
“Angie! Get up here and solve this problem!”
“Yes, sir!” Angie bolted up and saluted. Then she stared at the (fairly simple) Algebra problem on the board in blank horror, the orange marker in her hand hovering uncertainly. After a minute, she scrawled the number 42.
Mr. Barnes sighed. “Why is the answer 42, Angie?”
“It’s always 42. That’s the answer to everything.”
Those who got the reference laughed. Mr. Barnes got it (he liked “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” himself, but please, now was not the time), and he forced himself not to laugh.
“I’m sorry, I don’t get this at all,” Angie apologized.
“Then sleep less and study more!”
“Sorry, Mr. Barnes.” She really did seem sorry. The weird part was that she was awake for the whole rest of first period.
Ryan spoke up as class was getting out, “I don’t know how you’re still in school,” and then winced. He had intended to be friendly, but it came out kind of rude.
Angie just shrugged and pulled her backpack out from under her desk.“Dude, I am failing Algebra. I try to stay awake, but there’s just no point to it!”
“It’s not like you use it in real life, anyway!” She put her textbook back in her bag and pulled out a bagel.
Ryan stood up. “That’s it. Jamba Juice: tonight; 6:00.
“What for?” Her mouth was full.
“I owe you one for keeping quiet, and another for helping with the ghouls. So I’m gonna tutor you.”
“Oh, please... you really don’t owe me any favors...”
Ryan went off to his next class. “Six o’clock, Angie.”
“Grrrr.” Angie glared at his back and bit into her bagel savagely.
“Here’s what I’m wondering.” Ryan commented. “How can a bagel sandwich be ‘calcium enriched’?” He and Angie were standing at Jamba Juice, reading the menu. There were a few other people sitting at the tables, and loud music booming from the overhead speaker.
“Hmm,” Angie thought it over. “They might mean the cheese inside.”
“Oh yeah, cheese... great source of calcium...” Ryan scoffed. “That’s like saying I drink blood because it’s a good source of iron!”
“Isn’t it, though?” Angie wrinkled her nose.
“Tsh.” To the cashier, Ryan said, “I’ll have a bagel sandwich, please.”
Angie lightly bumped his upper arm with her fist. “Good idea. I learned in my health class that eating calcium helps your body absorb iron better.”
“Well, at least you’ve learned something.. All right,” he said as they pulled out their chairs and sat down. “Take me to the last section in Algebra that you felt comfortable with.”
Angie raised her eyebrows, obviously thrilled. She pulled out her book with a heavy thump on the table. “Ooookay, Let me see... Chapter 4 was okay. Not after section 2.2, though...”
Ryan tried to explain while Angie frowned at the math and slurped her smoothie. He could hardly hear himself over the music, so he went up to the pretty young cashier again.
“Can you turn it down, please? I’m trying to help my friend study.” Ryan knew he wasn’t particularly handsome, but a friendly smile and a little hypnotism can go a long way. It worked. The cashier smiled back-- even a bit flirtatiously as she turned down the music right away.
“Ohhh, turning on the old charm, eh?” Angie said, with a grin as Rick sat back down.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Ryan finished his sandwich and studiously returned to the textbook. He found Angie looking at him sidelong, with narrow eyes.
“What?” Ryan queried.
“Can you turn into a bat?” Angie asked in an undertone.
He gave her a flat look. “No. That’s just in Dracula.”
“That’s a pity. What about the sunlight? Does it really make your skin burn?”
“No, I wear sunscreen. You know, you could read about all of this on the internet. Now, about solving problem 18--”
“I wondered if “Blade” had that right,” Angie leaned back in her chair, clasping her hands behind her head. “That’s a disgusting movie, by the way.”
Ryan tapped his pencil impatiently. “Back to Algebra...” They both looked at the book again for a few more minutes. Angie wrote an equation or two.
“So, what about werewolves?” Angie asked suddenly, making him look up. “Vampires are supposed to hate them. Is that true?”
Ryan shrugged. “Relations with them have never been good. I wouldn’t say I hate them.”
“No?” Angie started folding her napkin lengthwise and twisting it.
“No, not hate them.. but I wouldn’t say I like them either. They’re like rabid dogs when they transform, and like biker gang punks when they’re human. I don’t know. I’m here to help you study! Let’s get back to that.”
“Look, I’ll just get a C! It doesn’t matter...” Angie protested.
“Yes, it does! Now do this problem again.”
“Grrr!” Angie growled and scrubbed her eraser over her previous scribblings.
“Don’t get mad, I’m just trying to help you!”
“But Algebra makes me mad!” she whined. It took the next forty-five minutes, but Ryan somehow dragged her through the whole section and began the next. The cool night air was refreshing when they finally left the building. It had already gotten dark, but the street lights made it easy to see.
“Thanks,” Angie said a bit grumpily as they walked down the street. “It makes a lot more sense now. But I still wouldn’t use it in real life!”
“Well, you might some day.” Ryan sighed and ran a hand through his hair.. She just didn’t want to learn! Oh, well. He had sort of forced the tutoring on her. She hadn’t asked for help, but then, she did show up.
They fell silent for a minute. Ryan was starting to feel awkwardly silent when they passed a Blood Donation poster. “Are you giving blood next week?”
“Oh, no. I really hate needles,” Angie cringed.
“I’d still consider it. They’re not joking when they say it saves lives. Don’t give me that look, I’m serious. Why do you think you don’t hear about vampire rampages anymore? We’re talking about a peace treaty here.”
“Oho, so that’s why there’s such a push to give blood! Sorry, buddy, you’ll have to do without,” Angie laughed and patted his arm. “Besides, I’ve got training to do every night. Boy, do I have training to do!”
“It’s not me you have to worry about,” Ryan muttered, mildly offended. “What kind of training are you doing, anyway? You seem pretty athletic, especially how you threw those mats at the ghouls, but you’re not on any of the sports teams, are you?”
“Oh, well... no... it’s sorta like Cross Country, except it’s a team of one, and you have to run at least five kilometers every night.”
“You have no idea.” Angie put her hands on her face and squished her cheeks. “And then I do strength training three nights a week.”
“Wow.” Ryan found that impressive. He exercised regularly, but even his FBSI training didn’t sound quite that intense or as draining..
“And you run that far by yourself?”
“Right now, yeah; my trainer is corresponding with me until exams.”
“Hmm. Can I try it? It’d be good to have a running buddy.”
“Haha, no! It’s against the rules! My mom would flip if she found me running off into the woods at night with a boy.”
“Tsh. We don’t have to run in the woods.” Ryan found that embarrassing. Moms always assume the worst. “It seems more dangerous to run that far alone at night.”
“Nah, you saw how I handled those ghouls.” Angie flexed her biceps, which Ryan had to admit were rather toned, but he still rolled his eyes.
“I have a problem,” Ryan said at school a few days later. Angie’s head was down on her desk in an attitude of utter exhaustion, but she opened one eye.
“I don’t wanna solve any more math problems. Noooo,” she mumbled as she buried her face again.
Ryan tapped his pencil on the desk nervously. “Not a math problem. I’m asking for a favor.”
“Ooh, a favor!” Angie pulled herself up and gave him a teasing look. “Let me guess: the blood bank is dry!”
“No, no. Just listen. Do you know Steve Morrison in our class?”
“Never met him.” Angie rubbed her eyes and yawned.
“No one has. He’s been absent from day one for medical reasons, but he hasn’t been to any hospitals, or anywhere. There’s no record of injury, but no one has seen him in or out of the house. I got a mission from the Bureau last night to check on him. Since Bridget is in the hospital still--” Ryan sighed. “Would you mind coming with me after school? I’m not supposed to go alone, but they haven’t sent me a replacement. My supervisor said just to keep it low-key.”
“Hmm,” Angie looked intrigued. “Consider me in, Detective Inspector!”
Ryan rang the doorbell to # 305 Sunnyside Apartments while Angie hid another yawn. A plump woman with short, curly hair answered the door. She seemed nice enough.
“We’re here to see Steve?” Ryan asked, giving her his best friendly smile.
“Oh, are you his friends?” The woman’s face lit up. “I wish you’d have come sooner, but I don’t blame you for taking so long. It’s hard with such an introvert like him sometimes. Well-- you know how he is. Please, won’t you come in?”
They walked in. The living room was a little cluttered, with dishes on the coffee table that faced the TV. Steve’s mother started clearing the dishes off the table in a panic as if she hadn’t noticed them before.
“So sorry,” she was saying. “We don’t get company very often. Please sit down.”
They sat on the couch. Angie made herself at home by setting her backpack on the floor and clasping her hands in her lap with a business-like air. “Mrs. Morrison,” she asked, and Ryan realized that she was imitating a TV detective. “How has he been lately? Can you tell us how it started?”
“I don’t know how it started,” Mrs. Morrison sat down and sighed. “He’s always been a shy boy, and you know how much he likes gaming on his computer. It was normal for him to disappear in his room for hours at a time, but this--! At first I just thought he was moody from puberty-- you know, but then I just started seeing him less and less. He’ll only yell at me from across the house, or talk to me from another room now. Worst of all--” She paused dramatically. “Lately he’s been using Instant Messenger to tell me what he wants for dinner!” Steve’s mother put her face in her hands and groaned. “I don’t know if he’s just going through a phase or what!”
“Have you talked to him about going to school?” Ryan asked.
“He says there’s no need to go. He does all of his homework via email,” she sniffed. “His teachers tell me that he’s getting straight A’s. But for what? This isn’t normal!”
“Well, why don’t you just barge in his room and ask him what’s going on?” Angie suggested.
“He said I can’t see him,” Mrs. Morrison said sadly. “No matter what I do, I can’t see him.”
Ryan and Angie looked at each other.
“Is it a really bad case of acne?” Angie guessed, and Ryan elbowed her. “Ow!”
“No, dear,” Mrs. Morrison shook her head. “He just says that he’s invisible now. It’s so childish, right?”
Ryan knocked on Steve’s bedroom door. There was no answer. “Steve,” he tried. “We’re your classmates-- um, fellow students... uh... are you okay?”
Angie rolled her eyes and whispered, “That’s not how detectives talk!”
“We’re not detectives! I’m an agent, and you’re just helping me today!” Ryan hissed back.
Angie shrugged and knocked as well. “Hi, Steve! We’re in your math class. What’s your secret to getting straight A’s when you don’t even come to class?”
“I’m not sure about that approach, either,” Ryan murmured.
There was still no answer, not even a sound.
“Do you think he’s in there?” Ryan wondered aloud. “Maybe he leaves without telling his mom. This is the third floor, though. That’d be something to see.”
Angie knocked on the door again. “Hey, Steve! At least yell at us from behind the door or something.”
Only silence. Angie frowned and tried the doorknob. It turned. The door clicked open. “He must’ve forgotten to lock it,” she remarked.
“Should we go in? His mom only said we could try talking to him,” Ryan cautioned, but Angie had already stepped into the room. Maybe she had been the wrong person to bring. The room turned out to be empty of people, but crowded with books, computer monitors, and stuff-- so much stuff!
Ryan could tell something was off about it. The room seemed full of a presence, at least, it was really full and obviously lived-in. There were take-out containers and dirty dishes piled here and there among the clutter too. There was a bowl with some broth on the bottom what was still warm. It looked like Steve had just stepped out.
“The funny thing is, if he is invisible, and doesn’t make a sound, we really have no way of telling if he’s here or not.” Ryan put his thumbs under the straps of his backpack and frowned.
“Don’t you have any sensors that detect infrared heat or something?” Angie asked.
“Ohh,” Ryan liked the sound of that. “I should get one of those. But it doesn’t help us now. I wonder where he would have gone?”
“Nah, he’s in here, all right,” Angie said with a somewhat predatory confidence. “I can smell him.”
“What? What are you, a dog?” Ryan was skeptical.
“Come on! Can’t you smell that? That is the scent of an unshowered, adolescent male. Believe me, it’s everywhere at my house!” Angie sniffed around, shuffling her feet and walking with her hands outstretched. “It’s just a matter of narrowing down where he is exactly...”
There was a slight scraping sound on the other side of the room, like a sliding door moving. Cold air seeped in behind them, and both of their heads turned to see the window opening. There was no screen on it.
“He’s making a run for it!” Angie yelled. “Block the window! I’ll cut off his escape!” She bolted out the door, leaving Ryan to stand by the window feeling foolish. Steve wasn’t their enemy-- at least not yet-- there wasn’t any reason to chase him down. He heard thumping on the stairs and the outside door slam. From where Ryan stood, he saw Angie sprinting across the grass and over the fence. Then with a yell, she fell on her face-- but not quite to the ground.
“Gotcha!” She sprang back up with a grin. Angie made grabbing motions through the air, rather like she was trying to find something in the dark, and thrust her right hand forward. Then she pumped it up and down. “Nice to meet you, Steve!”
“So you really are invisible?” Ryan asked, fascinated.
“Like a ghost,” Steve’s voice answered gloomily. They were back in his room: Angie and Ryan were sitting on the bed (there was nowhere to sit on the floor) and facing the computer chair-- above which a pair of black, rectangular glasses floated.
“That’s so cool,” Angie said, leaning back comfortably.. “Nod your head up and down again!”
Steve sighed loudly and complied, making the glasses bob up and down.
“Ah ha ha, I love it!” She clapped her hands. “Now do Vincent Price’s voice!”
“Angie, stop,” Ryan said and turned back to Steve’s chair. “When did this happen?”
“August 12th.” The glasses tilted. “Woke up one morning and wondered why my mom wouldn’t look at me. Then I looked in the mirror, and whoops! No me. I thought I was dead at first, but I couldn’t find my body anywhere. And I still got hungry. Still tripped on things and stubbed my toes.”
“Can you see yourself?” Ryan got out a spiral bound notebook and began taking notes for his report.
“No,” Steve’s voice said. “But I made myself some custom glasses that can detect infrared heat. So now I show up as a reddish blur.”
“That’s so awesome!” Ryan scribbled as fast as he could.
“Yeah, what did I tell you? Infrared is the way to go! Can I try them on?” Angie added, holding out her hand. The glasses dropped into her palm. She put them on. “Whoa... Ryan, you try!”
Ryan got to see a red human outline wave at him from the chair. He waved back automatically. “This is brilliant. But back to your story.” He handed the glassed out to Steve again.
“Well,” Steve said. “It was awkward going to school, even when no one could see me, because I’d get stepped on, sat on, and bumped into everywhere, so I set up some cameras to watch the lectures. I watch them on here.” The chair whirled around and the mouse on the desk clicked. Ryan and Angie stood up to look over his shoulder. There were wide views of at least five of the classrooms.
“Wow,” Angie said. “You’re invisible, but all you’ve done is study and watch classes at school? I would have milked that for all it’s worth and traveled for free or something.”
“I don’t want to leave my mom alone,” Steve said simply.
“Hold on...” Ryan pointed. “Is that the weight room? You had a camera in there?”
“I’ve seen you both at school,” Steve said, and his voice started to waver a bit.“On Friday, I saw what you did to those ghouls. I’m sorry I ran when you came... I know you’re both nice people, but... What else could I do but run if some Federal Bureau classified me as a monster and sent you to kill me?”
“They wouldn’t do that!” Angie exclaimed, and turned to Ryan. “Would they?”
“You’re not a monster, so no, they wouldn’t,” Ryan said firmly. “Especially if all you’ve done is stay inside and study. They’ll certainly view you as a potential threat, though. But don’t worry. I’ll send my report to them, they’ll register you in their system, and as long as you stay in contact, I don’t think there will be a problem for you to keep living here.”
The glasses wiggled a bit, and there was a small sniff.
Angie rocked forward and back again on her heels. Ryan briefly wondered if she was losing balance or restraining an impulse. “Would you like us to help you explain to your mom?” she asked.
Steve’s glasses wiggled some more. “That would be nice. She didn’t get it at all before.”
They left Steve’s house after, satisfied with their work in reuniting a family and helping out a scared and isolated boy. The sun had gone down, but the sky was still bright. Angie carelessly kicked around the leaves that had fallen on the sidewalk. “I wanted to give him a hug,” she confessed abruptly. “But I thought it would be a bit much, and I might accidentally poke him in the ear or something.”
“I’m amazed that you put that much thought into it,” Ryan said, and wondered why he sounded so rude instead of just sarcastic.
“I know, right?” Angie laughed. “I’m so proud of myself.”
“Actually,” Ryan admitted, shoving his hands in his pockets. “You were really helpful back there. With the right training, you could easily be a federal agent.”
Angie stared at her feet that were shuffling through the leaves. “I don’t think so, but thanks.” She changed the subject. “Man, my heel really hurts! I scraped it last night, you know. I stepped on someone’s beer bottle. It got all bloody, see?” She pulled up her right pant-leg and showed him a gauze bandage right above the heel of her shoe. Then she looked up and waved to a guy across the street.
It was the same Jake that had been attacked by the ghouls. He was carrying a box and going the opposite direction. He jumped when Angie called out. After a nervous nod, he scurried away and around a corner.
“Do you think the ghouls messed with him? Maybe possessed him?” Angie asked Ryan. “He’s been acting really weird.”
“Weird how?” Ryan replied. “Ghouls don’t usually possess people.”
“Well,” Angie explained. “I don’t know him super well, but we are neighbors. I ran into him on my way back from training last night, and he acted just like that. Then during class today, I caught him staring at me. Several times. I think he may even have followed me for a while.”
Ryan nodded wisely. “Ah, I think I know what’s going on. He probably has a crush on you.”
Angie’s forehead wrinkled. “I don’t think so. If he liked me, why would he act so creepy? Nervous I can understand, but creepy staring?”
Ryan bowed his head. “As a man, I feel the need to apologize. Sometimes the fear of rejection can be crippling.”
Angie laughed, but shook her head. “No, if you like someone, you gotta get closer to them, smile at them a lot, find non-creepy ways to touch them, etc. You don’t distance yourself like that--”
She was interrupted by Ryan’s phone going off. He was interrupted from answering it by a distant explosion that shook the ground beneath them.
The phone call was from Bridget. “Ryan, they’re in the town centre!” she said, sounding urgent but bemused, as if she couldn’t believe what was happening. “I can see them from the hospital window!”
“Okay, but who’s they?” Ryan asked patiently.
“More ghouls!” Bridget said. “Five of them! No, six-- seven of them! Oh, my gosh, there are seven and they’re tearing up the town!”
Ryan shivered in the cold, dusky air. He looked up at Angie; she seemed to have heard the conversation. “Call the Bureau and let them know. I’ll be right there.”
“Admit it. You want my help,” Angie said, folding her arms as Ryan put away his phone.
Ryan chewed his lower lip. “I can’t ask you to help. You could get seriously hurt.”
Angie smiled and placed her hand on his shoulder. It was warm and reassuring. “Silly Ryan,” she said, shaking her head and turning towards the town centre. “It’s an emergency. You don’t have to ask.”
They sprinted forward together, as fast as they could. Ryan soon passed Angie, but she was going pretty fast. His lungs felt like they were about ready to burst into flames by the time they got to the town centre. The first thing Ryan noticed was that there was garbage everywhere. Bits of flaming garbage lying here and there on the street. The air was hot and smelled awful. This was due to a propane tank exploding. Most everyone had already ran away from the centre.
The second thing Ryan noticed was a small, class 6 ghould rummaging through a trash can. It was quite green-- a weaker, slime-ball of a ghoul. Ryan rushed toward it, grabbed it by the back of its head, and flung it away like a discus. It flew quite far. He hoped the rest would be that small.
No such luck. Two more ghouls came swooping out at him from a restaurant’s alley. Judging by their size and paler color, they were more like class 3, and their gaping eyes were already red with bloodlust. Ryan dodged one and tried to grab the other from behind, but it threw him off of its back. He rolled back onto the pavement and gasped for breath.
“He slimed you,” Angie said humorously, finally catching up.
“Yeah, I noticed.” Ryan wiped the goo from his arm. No good, it was all over the front of his shirt and jacket. “Yuck. You want to take this guy?”
“Are we going to tie them up again? Because we don’t have any rope,” Angie said while the ghouls wiggled their sheet-like hands and floated toward them.
Ryan urgently looked around at the town. “We either have to scare them away, or trap them somehow.”
Angie ducked as some garbage flew at her head. “Can we trap them in a room, or does it have to be someplace special?”
“The high class ones can go through walls, so it’d have to be in a steel box of some kind. Run away! Go!” He yelled to some middle school kids who had entered the street. They ran. One ghoul went after them, but Ryan caught it and threw it back.
“So, like a bank safe?” Angie guessed while wrestling with the other’s slimy form. It tried to shake her off, and she flopped around in the air like a fish.
“Something like that!” Ryan looked past Angie and her ghoul and saw the sign of a pizza place. “Angie! The oven!” He pointed.
“Ohhh!” Angie grinned and nodded as the ghoul shook her off. She started acting scared and ran off towards the pizza place; the ghoul followed after. They can’t resist a chase. Ryan followed suit. Ghouls also are attracted to food, which helped both Ryan and Angie lure them toward the ovens. They found a class 4 taking apart an old thrift shop brick by brick, and trapped it the same way. The next ghoul was another little class 6.
“Only two more,” Ryan was saying with a smile, even though he was tired and there was slime in his hair.
“All right!” Angie clapped and slid over the front counter. “I wonder where they’re hiding.”
Bridget called again. “Ryan?” she said. “Um... now there’s also a werewolf.”
“What?!” Ryan craned his head to look up at the sky. It was just about a full moon. That didn’t matter too much, though. Now that the new serum that had come out, werewolves could transform whenever they wanted to instead of being forced to change during the week of the full moon.
“It’s headed down 2nd Avenue,” Bridget was saying. “And coming up to the historic brick buildings. I’m watching it on TV-- the news helicopter is following it.”
Ryan took off running. “What else can you tell me?”
“It’s male-- apparently.” Bridget coughed delicately. “Judging by the hair and style of jeans, I mean. Um, it’s... he’s stumbling around like he’s dizzy and trying to bite the streetlight poles in half. I’d say it’s a new adolescent transformation... Oh, he found the ghouls. Now they’re fighting.”
“Great,” Ryan said and hung up. There were sirens wailing-- the SWAT team would be there soon. This was good, because if the werewolf was just a kid, he really didn’t know how to take him down without killing him. He skidded to a stop when he had the wolf in his sights-- the half-man, half-wolf was growling and swinging his claws at the two ghouls (class 3 and class 1), who were hovering over him and purposefully drooling on his head.
“Get away!” Ryan yelled to the werewolf, flapping his arm. He rushed forward to separate them, and to his dismay it worked, but instead of just breaking up the fight, the werewolf and the ghouls ran off in opposite directions.
“Crap,” he was muttering as Angie caught up with him. She saw the retreating monsters.
“Go after the ghouls,” Angie told him. “I’ll take down Wolf-boy.”
“Angie, that’s a terrible idea. Ghouls are one thing-- the class 1 can be terrifying-- they’re bad enough, but even a weak werewolf-- “ She had already given him a thumbs up and started jogging away. Ryan caught her arm. “Angie, if he bites you, even once, you’ll--”
“Ryan, I know.” She looked him straight in the eye. Ryan found himself letting go of her arm. She ran after the werewolf. He heard the SWAT pull up behind him and saw the cop lights flash against the windows. They called out the two ghouls and the werewolf on their radios. He heard the voice of his supervisor telling him they would take care of it from here, and good job. Ryan shook his head and ran after Angie.
He caught up with her in an alley as she was mounting a fire escape ladder to climb up to the rooftop of a building where the werewolf was stumbling around. “Angie, come down!” he yelled as soon as he got his breath back. “The SWAT team is here.”
“What, you don’t think I can get him?” Angie stuck out her tongue, but came down the ladder. She dropped to the ground again.
“That’s a relief, actually. I was afraid I’d have to--”
There was a crash as Wolf-boy tried to jump to the next rooftop, missed, and fell right through some old wooden cellar doors. He was unconscious when they found him, lying in a tangle of steel and copper pipes.
“Well, that looks expensive,” Ryan said, carefully stepping down to haul him out. “Let’s get him away from the leaking pipes.” Angie helped him pull the werewolf out of the cellar and back onto the street. There were shouts and running footsteps coming their way. Ryan looked around the corner to see the SWAT team waving and flapping their arms in a panic. Heat suddenly brushed his cheeks and he turned his head to see the flaming blue face of a fiery class 1 ghoul coming through the very walls of the building. It had escaped the SWAT team. Angie gave a startled scream just as Ryan realized that the white-hot, gaseous ghoul was hovering right over the broken gas line.
Ryan was sent flying through the air and landed hard on the concrete. Debris like bricks and floorboards came raining down on him, as well as the blown-up ghoul’s slimy substance. It was a few minutes before he could hear anything. The next thing he knew, he was propped up against a wall being desperately and clumsily tended to by Angie. The ringing in his ears stopped, and finally he started hearing again.
“Ryan! Ryan! Ryan! Ryan--” Angie was saying frantically, tapping his face with her hand.
“Stop it! I’m okay!” Ryan laughed, flinching as he adjusted himself against the brick wall. She was kneeling in front of him with wide, anxious eyes.
“Are you okay?” Angie asked anyway. She had a cut on her cheek and a scrape on her arm, but other than that, she looked fine.
“Yes! I said I was okay.” He was going to have plenty of bruises, though.
Angie heaved an enormous sigh of relief. “Don’t scare me like that! I thought you were dead!”
“It would take a bit more than that to kill me. Give me some credit.”
Angie laughed shakily and then leaned forward. For three heart-stopping seconds Ryan thought she was going to kiss him, and he wasn’t sure if he would have minded. But the scraping sound of stumbling feet made them both look over to where the werewolf had been laying. He was human again. It was Jake.
“I knew it!” Jake roared triumphantly, pointing at Angie. “I knew you were a werewolf! I took a sample of your DNA to make sure, and just now I turned myself into a werewolf to save the town from you and your army of ghosts! What now?” He almost drunk with triumph, stumbling and shaky from his transformation (and from falling off of a roof).
“What are you talking about? It wasn’t my army! And what DNA?” Angie frowned in exasperation.
“Your blood! I’ve heard the howling at night when you’ve gone running! I knew strange things were going on. I saw you cut yourself and took a sample of the blood you left behind! Then, when I saw the ghosts, I injected myself with it. And I was right! It worked!”
Ryan was staring at Angie, not only astonished, but growing angrier by the second. She didn’t bother to deny it. It was true. He could see it in her face. Angie took a slow, heavy breath and stood up. Amid Jake’s woozy blabbering, she took hold of an arm and a leg and hauled him away on her shoulders. The medic came right after she left, and Ryan was debriefed.
The next call Ryan made was to the Bureau, pressing 1 to talk to a representative, and *348 to talk to Records. “Hi,” Ryan said. “Yes, I’d like to know if you have a registered werewolf by the name of Angie Moore.” He closed his eyes and hung up soon after.
So. Angie was a werewolf. It made sense after he thought about it. Her night training, why she insisted on running alone... her questions about whether or not Ryan hated werewolves. Why she wouldn’t give blood. Her complete lack of fear towards the ghouls or towards a vampire like himself. How she wasn’t afraid of being bitten and turning into a monster.
She already was one.
After he had showered thoroughly, Ryan swung the glass hospital doors open and stepped through. He glumly watched the green numbers in the elevator count up to 5. He rubbed in the hand sanitizer and walked into Room 5-23. Bridget was sitting on her bed, reading, and she looked up and smiled warmly when Ryan entered. Ryan’s returning smile faded when he saw the cast on her leg and the crutches propped up against the side table.
“I’m so sorry,” he said.
“Ryan, you said that a million times when you last came to visit.” Bridget put down her book. “It’s not your fault.”
“I took too long to get to the weight room. You were all alone.”
“I should have waited for you! A good agent always waits for backup when she can. Come on and sit down.” Bridget waved her hand and an armchair by the wall slid over next to her bed. “Now, is that what’s wrong? It’s weird to look sad after you did such a fantastic job fighting those ghouls.”
Ryan sat on the armchair. “Angie’s a werewolf,” he blurted, getting right to the point. “She was lying to me this whole time.”
Bridget blinked and then began to laugh.
“Why is that funny?” Ryan demanded.
“It’s not, sorry. I was just thinking that it totally fits her personality. I mean, she’s so dog-like already. She likes and talks to everybody, she falls asleep everywhere... The way she tries to shake water out of her ears, too. Totally fits.”
“It took me longer to believe it,” Ryan said.
Bridget sent an inquiring look his way. “Is it such a bad thing? She was a huge help back there.”
Ryan raised his hands. “She lied to me!”
“Well, Ryan, we have our secrets too!” Bridget said reasonably. “We’re federal agents, and she’s probably a member of the Werewolf Underground. They have to keep their mouths shut just like we do.”
“Yeah, but they’re a lawless gang!”
“Well,” Bridget shrugged. “That doesn’t mean Angie had any other agenda in befriending us or helping you. She’s a good girl, Ryan.”
Ryan sighed. “You’re probably right. Thanks.” She had a point, but he didn’t feel any better. He told Bridget that he’d see her later and left the hospital. He almost walked straight into Angie less than a block away.
“Hey,” Ryan said out of habit.
“Hey,” Angie answered with some signs of trepidation.
Ryan shoved his hands into his hoodie’s pockets, trying to look casual. “How’s Jake?”
“He’s okay. They’re trying to extract the werewolf DNA before wiping his memory.”
“And then he’ll be back to normal, huh? Just like that?”
“Just like that, if it works. Since he already transformed, his chances of normality aren’t good, but we’ll look after him if it doesn’t work. He’ll be fine.”
Ryan nodded. “So. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I’m not supposed to tell anyone. You know how that works.”
“Yeah, but you lied to me with such a straight face!”
Angie considered this. “I don’t remember flat-out lying. I tried to just leave the whole wolf part out. Well, okay, the hematoma on my leg is really my bite, but it looks close enough to a hematoma. I wanted to tell you. It would have made fighting off those ghouls and taking down Jake so much easier! I could have cut the time in half, but--!”
“But you couldn’t trust me enough to let me know,” Ryan finished for her.
Angie raised her eyebrows. “And how many people do you trust enough to tell? I found out about you by accident.”
“Yes, but I thought you were--” Ryan trailed off.
“What? You thought I was normal?” Angie guessed with a bitter smile. “Sorry to disappoint.” She started to walk away. “You and I are age-old enemies, Ryan. Well, see you at school.”
Ryan turned to watch her go.
“I think I’ll be a pirate for Halloween this year,” Angie said without looking back. “You should come in a high-collared cape and a tux!”
THE END....for now.....