The girl had been slammed into the lockers. She was a freshman I didn’t know, wearing glasses that had been knocked askew.
The guilty party was a boy I did know. Not any kind of thing that sneaked in, unless he was possessed.
“Leave her alone,” I said.
“Why? She’s just a frosh.”
“Leave her alone,” came Kanesha’s voice, backing me up. “Or I’ll use my black belt on you.”
“And get suspended.”
“Would be worth it.”
He grunted and dropped the girl then stalked away. “What was that about?” I asked her as I moved to help her up.
“I told him I didn’t have any interest whatsoever in meeting him behind the school.”
I flinched. “Let’s get you cleaned up. He’ll have some story that would make sure you were the one who got into trouble.” That was how it worked. Bullies bullied, victims got suspended. People who disagreed with that didn’t tend to get very far with the system. Nobody seemed to want it to change.
I did, but I knew what battles I could fight. Monsters, easy. The school system, not so easy. I helped her to the bathroom. “What’s your name?”
“Okay. Look. Find some friends and stick with them for a while. Chuck does this kind of thing all the time, but if you make yourself less available he’ll move on to somebody else.”
She looked up at me through her glasses. “Is that all we can do?”
“Right now, yes.”
I wouldn’t shed any tears, of course, if Chuck came to a bad end in an alleyway. Or, even better, got himself beaten up by a valkyrie and ended up afraid of women for the rest of his life. Maybe when Thea got back I could arrange it. Or maybe I could just do the beating up myself, as long as I did it off school properly and in an area with few witnesses.
A shadow spun past me. Instinctively, I shielded Mary from it. She barely seemed to notice…she was crying now. “I’ll walk you to class.”
She nodded. Hopefully I didn’t have a puppy dog follower. That wasn’t really something I could afford right now. Somebody else to protect was the last thing I needed. But she’d make friends before too long and I knew Chuck would move on to somebody else, but I did wonder about that shadow.
I thought it was another firebeast and now I was pretty sure I knew who had sent the first one to harass me. Or maybe just to get a really good look at my scent. It hadn’t been able to hurt me. Had I done the right thing convincing it to leave?
I had done the only thing and, besides, it had only been a dog. This shadow was the same thing, and I resolved to track it down as soon as I could get out of the class I really needed to be in right now.