“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 the next day at school. 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?”