I left the hospital before Barry’s parents arrived. Maybe I just didn’t want to face them. He’d been given an addictive hallucinogen and possibly other stuff as well, and I knew it was to get at me.
The obvious answer was not to have any friends.
The less obvious and more sane answer was only to have friends who could look after themselves. It’s in books when the hero decides never to have friends again and has to be beaten up by his friends to get over it.
I wasn’t that stupid. But I didn’t have any friends except maybe Kanesha, and she sure as heck couldn’t look after herself. Thea was never going to be my friend. She intimidated me far too much. A big part of me wanted to grow up to be like her. A big part of me wanted to never see her again.
So, she wouldn’t be a friend. Maybe an ally, not a friend. Which left…Bruce? Nah. I wasn’t going to involve him further. He was too old to be a friend, and while he definitely knew stuff.
Definitely knew stuff. I called him, asking if we could meet at the store again, then went home and tried to sleep.
Sleep wasn’t very quick in coming, nor was it helpful when it did come. I remembered, on waking, snatches of dreams about fiery people, Mr. Otter laughing…with me or at me, I wasn’t sure which, deformed horses…yeah. I woke up even more tired than when I’d gone to bed and I had to somehow drag myself to school. I really wished I went to one of those schools with a later start. Teenagers, supposedly, weren’t ever any good at getting up early. I fell asleep twice in class, and it was no better than the sleep I was supposed to be getting. All it got me was yelled at about how I was already behind. I didn’t want to tell them the edited version of what had happened, but I escaped with last bell into the heat. Summer break would start in a week anyway. Thank the gods. Then I only had to worry about work and trying desperately to study and catch up, but at least I could sleep in a little. I didn’t have to work, so I headed to the store to meet up with Bruce.
“You won’t believe what’s happening.”
He took one look at me and started to head for the waterfront, at a slow pace. “Try me.”
“One of my friends got kidnapped and drugged.” A pause. “Probably the closest thing I have to a real friend. And I think it was to get to me.”
“Have you talked to the cops?”
“They wouldn’t believe me.” The cops weren’t competent, couldn’t deal with this. “I think…I know this is crazy, but I think there’s actual magic or something or…”
Bruce fell silent. “Real magic isn’t like in the movies. If you only think it’s there it’s more likely to be real. As for your friend. He needs protection.”
“He does. And I’m worried about you, too. About anyone I’m seen with.”
“Let me worry about myself. You need backup.”
I hesitated, but something told me not to mention Thea just yet. “I can manage. I got him back.”
With help. I realized not admitting that made me sound cocky, but it was all I could say.
“Then keep doing what you’re doing, but I do think you need to call the cops.”
“They know Barry was drugged. I think they believe me when I said he hadn’t done it himself. I think.”
I wished I could be more sure.