Chapter 13

Cate Fox and the Case of the Fading Magic by Emily


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Synopsis: Everything comes to a head when Cate interrogate the Barnes's

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An hour later, Coach declared practice over, “Good job ladies!” Then she turned to me, “Congrats, Fox, you made the team.”


I did? Shit. I wasn’t supposed to make the team. I had forgotten that I was supposed to purposely make mistakes and blow the tryout.


“Good hustle everyone,” she concluded. “See you all tomorrow.”


As the lacrosse team scattered to go home, I walked over to Coach Barnes.


“I made the team? Really?” I gushed. “I wasn’t really trying. I don’t even know how to play.”


“Bring that ego to practice with you at tomorrow's scrimmage.” She picked up her bag. “See you tomorrow in class.”


“Wait, it's after practice. Can we chat about the whole swap thing?”


“Sure,” she said. “Or we can talk about it in class tomorrow.”


“I didn’t want to wait-”


“OK,” she sighed. putting her bag back down.


I need to find out where she lives so we can find out about her husband. "Actually, we can walk and talk,” I suggested. “I don’t want to keep you from getting home.”


“Sure.” She picked her bag up and started walking. “What did you want to talk about?” 


“You said you swapped bodies with your husband.”


“15 years ago. On our wedding night.”


“And you were never able to swap back?”


“The device that swapped us was destroyed. We were paid a hefty settlement to not discuss it in public. That meant we were stuck as each other.”


“What was that like?”


“It was rough. I was suddenly a woman. And I was suddenly married to a man. It helped that that man was also my wife. So, I loved the person inside of him.”


“That must’ve taken its toll on your marriage.”


“Cate, what’s this have to do with you?”


“Well…” I started. I needed to find a nice white lie. “I was thinking about getting back into the dating pool. But I’m at a school surrounded by TGs. What does sexuality really mean here?”


Mrs. Barnes chuckled. “It means what you want it to mean. Sexuality is usually the attraction to a given gender. Everyone here has a gender. Sure, everyone’s gender is different from the one they were assigned at birth. Some don’t subscribe to the binary either, but you have to ask yourself, which one are you attracted to? You can be pan and ace too.”


“Was it that easy with you?”


“Hell, no,” she admitted. “I was a straight man. My now husband, on the other hand, was always bi. It took me longer to accept being married to a man. Don’t get me wrong, it was fun at first doing something different, but it eventually took its toll.”


“Cause you were straight?”


“Well, I consider myself a lesbian now, but back then, yeah.”


“So you identify as a woman?”


“I am a woman, Cate. You weren’t here for the first week of my class, so let me tell you what I told the class. You’re going to find a lot of trans individuals at PAA. Each of them with different stories and how they realized their gender. Some knew before they were TG’d. Some realized after. Some realized they were one of the fluid genders. Some agender. Some aren’t even trans but are either closeted or have become trans towards their original gender. I myself never considered myself trans at first. But at some point, I realized I didn’t care what my gender was. When I realized that, I started having more fun as Heather. The longer I was Heather, the more I enjoyed the way it made me feel. The more I looked in the mirror and let myself be Heather, I eventually became Heather.”


“How long did that take? Will that happen to me?”


“A while. Years. I rebelled at one point, cutting my hair and asking people to call me Joshua - my original name. But over time both of us… me and my husband, we just settled into our new lives. Especially since nobody outside of PAA believed us. They thought it was an elaborate prank. Eventually as we became each other we stopped resisting it. I go by Heather now. Obviously I go by Mrs. Barnes, to my students. I call Mr. Barnes, Joshua, or my husband. And the same is true with him.”


“But you don’t have the memories of growing up Heather.”


“True, but over the past 15 years my husband and I have told each other so many stories of our childhoods, I can almost picture those events as my own.  It’s funny, I can recall growing up as Joshua. I know I was a boy, but when I recall those memories now - I see a young girl.”


“Was all of this rough on your marriage?”


She was silent for a long moment, “Let’s keep this about you, Cate. As a Displaced you’re going to feel like you’re your old self for a long time. You have no connection to your body’s past outside of the muscle memory. And depending on your situation you may not have any connection to your own past outside of your memories. A stranger is in your old body. You’re in a stranger’s body. It’s a stressful time. If you do find someone special - who cares what gender they are? I love my husband. We shared a traumatic experience. That has made our bond stronger.”


We reached the edge of campus. Onward was a small road with a sign that read “Faculty Housing.”


“Good night, Fox.”


“Thank you, Coach.”


I stood there, watching her walk up the faculty housing road. Three minutes later, Sam, Sophia, Lulu, and Julia caught up to me.


“What did you find out?” Sam asked.


“Nothing we didn’t already know,” I replied dejectedly. “When I asked her about her marriage, she got quiet. But she also emphasized that she loves her husband.”


“Next step of the plan?” Sam asked.


Sophia sighed. “I don’t want to do this step.”


“You don’t have to,” I said. “You, Julia, and Lulu can head to dinner. Sam and I will catch up with you.”


“Oh, so you both solve one missing person case and suddenly you’re Sherlock Holmes and Watson?” Sophia teased.


Sam chuckled.


“No, we’re going,” Lulu replied. “I have to know if Mr. Barnes knows about Ashley or this magic club. All of you have been graciously doing this for me. I can’t let you do it alone anymore.”


I turned around to see the silhouette of Mrs. Barnes getting smaller. “If we’re going, we have to go now before we lose her.”


We nodded and quietly speed-walked to catch up to the teacher.


“How did tryouts go?” Lulu asked.


“I uh… made the team.” 


“Cate!” Sophia exclaimed. “I thought you said you were going to purposely screw it up so you didn’t make the team.”


“I’m sorry. I have an ego. I couldn’t not try my hardest.”


“I knew that was going to happen,” Sam said, shaking her head.


“OK, so I made the team,” I replied. “So what?”


“I think it's awesome,'' Lulu chimed in.


“Thank you, Lulu!”


“It means you’re letting go of your dead-life and are moving on,” she added.


I sighed. “I thought you were on my side.”


“I am,” Lulu smiled. “We've all been in your position. Sophia let go of Seth. I let go of Louis- even though I suppose I’m physically Louis again-”


“And, let me guess,” I cut her off. “Sam let go of being Mittens the cat.”


“Asshole,” Sam said, shaking her head. You couldn't tell, but I’m sure deep down she was laughing too.


“I let go of my boyfriend,” Julia said.


“Your quote-boyfriend is in jail.” Sam said, making an air quote gesture.


“Sam...” Sophia admonished.


Julia shrugged.


“Mrs. Barnes said it could take years before I let go,” I said sadly.


“Maybe it took years for her,” Lulu replied. “But the only one who can truly determine your fate is you.”


We watched as Mrs. Barnes turned into a driveway of a nice single family home. We then followed her at a distance and watched her enter the house. We quietly walked up the driveway and looked through the curtainless bay window.


“What are you doing?” a girlish voice from behind asked us.


We turned around to see a girl standing there. She was too young to be a freshman. She had to be maybe 11.


“Who are you?” Sam asked.


“This is my house,” the girl stated.


“Are you Mr. and Mrs. Barnes’ kid?” Sophia asked.


“Duh,” she answered derisively. “I’m Ella.”


That made sense. Ella very much looked like Mrs. Barnes. I looked at my accomplices and they looked blankly at me. I didn’t know the Barnes had a kid. It looked like neither did they.


“We should go,” Sophia urged.


Just as we were about to leave we heard a male voice. “What’s going on here?”


“Oh, Hi Mr. Barnes,” Sophia said, her bubbly voice masking her shock at being caught.


“Miss Blake,” he acknowledged. “Who are your friends?”


“We were taking a nice evening stroll,” Sam suggested.


I decided I needed to take one for the team. “I’m Cate, I have class with your wife. I just joined the lacrosse team.”


“Mrs. Barnes just got home, I can go get her,” Mr. Barnes offered.


“Actually,” I interrupted, “I kinda wanted to talk to you.”


“Me? What about?”


“Ashley Tart.”


All color left his face. “Ella, why don’t you go inside?”


“What is going on here?” Mrs. Barnes suddenly asked, coming outside. “Fox, Blake, Weaver? I thought we had an intruder. Campus security was just called.”


Sophia whispered into my ear, “Cate, abort. This plan just blew up in our faces.”


“We came this far,” I whispered back.


“You can’t do this in front of their daughter.”


“We have to.”


“Caaaate.”


I stepped away from Sophia. “Sorry, Mrs. Barnes,” I replied. “We wanted to ask your husband about Ashley Tart.”


“What about her?” Mrs. Barnes asked. “I heard she was found over the weekend. What does this have to do with my husband?”


“He was the one she was last seen with before she went missing.”


“I don’t know where you heard that,” Mr. Barnes replied. 


“The diner where you two met. We have witnesses”


“Josh?” Mrs. Barnes asked, looking from us to him. “What's going on?”


“Nothing,” he replied. “I was tutoring Miss Tart.”


“Off campus?” Sam chimed in. “At the diner? In street clothes?”


Mr. Barnes turned red.


“You were seeing a student off campus?” Mrs. Barnes asked her husband.


“It was innocent,” he replied. “She was having a problem with magic. She needed advice.”


“But that wasn’t the only time you saw her there, was it?” I asked.


Mr. Barnes looked like a deer in headlights. 


There was silence as we all looked at each other. 


Lulu turned to the daughter. “Hey Ella, do you like dogs and cats?” 


“Of course,” she replied smugly.


“My girlfriend changes into one. Wanna see?”


“Sure,” she replied, intrigued. “I’ve never seen a Shifter up close.”


“Let's go over there,” Lulu offered, pointing at the other side of the yard.


I saw Sam roll her eyes as she and Lulu lured Ella away from her parents. I remained on the porch with Sophia, Julia, and the Barnes.


When Ella was no longer within earshot, it was Mrs. Barnes who asked the obvious question, “You were having an affair?” 


“I wasn’t having an affair,” he replied tersely. “I have never cheated on you.”


“Then what was it?”


“Miss Tart needed someone to talk to.”


“For how long?”


He sighed, and lowered his gaze. “Months. You haven’t been intimate with me in so long. Ashley was giving me the attention I so craved. But I never cheated on you.”


“Then why was Ashley getting older?” I asked.


Both teachers gave me a “stay out of it” look.


“So you were emotionally cheating?” Mrs. Barnes turned her attention back to Mr. Barnes.


“I’m so sorry. I should’ve come to you first. I know you don’t find me attractive anymore,” Mr. Barnes admitted.


“I’m sorry too. It’s been hard,” Mrs. Barnes confessed. “When I was pregnant with Ella, my masculine identity and self-esteem took a hit. I feared you would no longer see the man you married.”


“You’re right, I don’t see the man I married. But I see my caring and loving wife. The mother of our child. I don’t need the man I married. I need my wife. Ashley treated me like a real person with emotions and feelings. For the first time in years I felt alive.”


I looked around and I realized Sophia had also retreated to play with Lulu, Ella, and Sam the puppy. This plan wasn’t working.  Instead of getting the answers I needed, this had devolved into a marital dispute which wasn’t helpful.  I turned to the couple who were tearing up. “I’m sorry. This is a private matter. We should leave.”


Just then a campus security patrol car pulled up. Out popped campus security - and Ms. Hathaway. Shit just went from bad to worse.


“Just what is going on here?” the headmistress asked, eyeing the group gathered in the Barnes’ front yard.


“Just a misunderstanding, Headmistress,” I said before anyone else could speak. “We were just leaving.”


“No, I want answers.” Mr. Barnes insisted.


I looked at the teachers, then the headmistress, then my friends who were looking to me for guidance. “I heard that Mr. Barnes was one of the last people to see Ashley Tart before she disappeared.”


“What gives you the right to come to our home and do this?” an angry Mrs Barnes demanded. “To interrogate us about our personal lives?”


I looked at Ms. Hathaway. She wasn’t standing up for me. She said she wouldn’t. I had no way out of this. I saw my friends coming closer to us. I sighed, knowing that the next words out of my mouth would change everything. “I’m a police detective.”


The expression on everyone’s faces changed to that of shock and anger.


“You’re a cop?” Julia asked, looking right at me.


“I was hired to find Ashley Tart. And when I found her, I sought to find the person who did that to her.”


I saw Lulu shaking her head, Sophia looking at me like I betrayed her trust, and Ella curiously looking on as if she didn’t understand what was going on. Even the puppy started growling at me.


“Did you know about this?” Mrs. Barnes asked Ms. Hathaway.


“I assure you, I do not,” the headmistress predictably lied and looked at me. “It appears you’re here under false pretenses, Miss Fox.”


Great. Throw me under the bus. “It appears so,” I reluctantly agreed.


“Heather, Joshua,” Ms. Hathaway addressed the couple. “I’m so sorry for this regretful incident. Miss Fox,” she said sternly, “pack your things.”


“What? You’re expelling me?” I asked incredulously. 


“Yes. Be at the administration building in an hour.”


I angrily walked away from the faculty members. Sophia and Julia caught up to me. Lulu and Sophia stood there in shock as Ella ran past me to her parents. I saw Sam coming out of a bush wearing parts of her uniform, but holding the rest. “Let’s go,” I said, completely defeated.


“Wait.” Sophia said.  


The rest of the group stopped and I turned to face them.


“You lied to us,” she accused.


“You’re a cop?” Julia repeated. I can feel the judgemental disdain coming from her.


“I’m a detective,” I tried to differentiate. “I find missing persons. That’s how I ran into a Slider. I was trying to protect the previous inhabitant of this body.”


“Cops are the worst. They only exist to protect the interests of the rich!” Julia spat.


I’ve heard that before. But that doesn’t describe me. “No…I try to help people.”


“Oh yeah, this girl you were looking for when you got displaced? Was she rich?”


Fuck. She got me there. “Yes. But not all of-”


“Screw you!” she said. “I thought you were cool.”


“That’s not fair,” I said. “I was hired to find a missing girl. It’s what I do. It doesn’t matter if her family is wealthy or not.”


“Are you still a cop? Are you still working for the police?”


I desperately wanted to say no.  It’s true Jack Baker is on administrative leave.  I don’t have access to that money. I am getting a small per diem from Chief Hamilton, but I hardly call that working for them.  But I know If I told the truth - that I’m here at Hathaway’s request, I’ll be called a liar.


“Cate - or whatever your name is,” lectured Sam. “Cops don't like people like us. We fear them. They represent the people who want us dead.”


“But I’m not like them,” I implored.


“You brought a fucking gun to campus!” Sam yelled.


I looked at Sophia, who was being comforted by Lulu. She hadn’t said anything yet. “Sophia?”


She didn’t respond, or even look in my direction.


I looked back at Sam and Julia. “This is bullshit - you’re all my friends. So what if I’m a cop?”


“Friends don’t lie to each other,” Sam said.


“After the speech you all gave about letting go of your past self? You’re going to judge me on my previous profession?”


“You just said you ‘are’ a cop, not you ‘were,’” Julia said. “It’s not a previous profession if you’re still doing it. Who paid you to find Ashley? Whose interests are you looking out for?”


I know I couldn’t tell them the truth on that front. “Fine.” I started walking away back towards the road. This will all blow over. We’ll all have a good laugh about this later tonight. 


When I reached the road, I realized nobody was following me.


I felt like my world had been flipped upside down again.


I continued walking back to the dorm, trying to hold back the tears. Who needs friends? I don’t. I’m Detective Jack Baker. I can do this by myself. 


It was no use. The tears started flowing as I continually tried to remind myself who I was. Fucking hormones. Fucking School.  Fuck them all!


* * *


When I got to my dorm, I pulled my rollerboard out of the closet and started haphazardly throwing the clothes I brought with me into it.


Sophia came into the room and shut the door behind her.


I looked at her, but kept packing.


“It makes so much sense now,” she quietly said.


“What does?” I spat.


“Your attitude. You think you’re above the rules. You think you can get away with anything and everything.”


I didn’t acknowledge that.


“Have you ever had to pay for your actions? Consequences?”


Again I didn’t reply. She’s right of course. Even when there are consequences, I try to put them out of my mind and pretend it wasn’t my fault.


“Was anything you said to me the truth?”


“I don’t know. Maybe my age. I really am 42. I am definitely a Displaced.”


“Tell me the truth. Who are you?”


“My name is Jack Baker. I’m a detective. I was looking for a missing person - Emma. After a run-in with a Slider I wound up in her body.”


“Why did you come to PAA?”


How did I want to answer that without throwing the headmistress under the bus? “You don’t see too many teenage girl cops. I was put on leave. I heard about the missing students. Finding missing persons is my job. I needed to keep busy. I didn’t want to stay with Emma’s parents any longer. And you have to admit - this is the perfect undercover disguise around here.”


“I feel like I don’t know you. Like you were pretending to be our friend. Was that part of your ‘disguise’ too?”


I tossed my disassembled glock, then my underwear, into the suitcase and zipped it up. “Sophia. I’m sorry I mislead you about who I was. But my friendship was no act.”


“Did you ever really care about me? About Lulu or Sam?”


“Of course.” I stuffed my phone and notebooks into my backpack. I bit my bottom lip. I honestly felt bad she felt this way. “I did. I mean, I do. But,” I looked sadly at Sophia, “I know when I’m not wanted.” I wiped my eyes.  Damn hormones.


“Cate…Jack,” she started, “tell me honestly. All those tears - are they real, or part of your undercover act?”


“What?” I replied. “Yes, they’re real. Very real.”


“What about when your wife left you? Did you cry then?”


I thought back to that day when Cheryl left. I knew the tears were coming - the sense of loss was overwhelming. I looked at Sophia and the tears started coming harder.  I sniffled and wiped my face. “Cheryl…she was too good for me. I took her for granted. I thought my job was more important than her. She got lonely like Mr. Barnes did. And I did nothing to fix the situation. I got what I deserved.


Sophia said nothing, so I continued.


“I had a horrible trauma in my 20s.  I was in therapy for shooting someone in the line of duty. She pulled me out of it. She kept me sane when things got rough. And I didn’t realize any of that until she was gone. Did I cry? Hell, yes, I cried. Then I got drunk and cried some more.”


Sophia looked at me like she was unsure of what to do or say, so she just stood there, lips trembling. But her eyes were tearing up too.


I continued. “After the divorce I threw myself into my work. I solved crimes. I helped people. That’s what I do.  But even then that’s not enough. My job isn’t as glamorous as TV makes it out to be. I looked up to how Hollywood portrayed detectives.  The good guys. Dirty Harry, John McClane, Axel Foley, Jack Traven. They did their job, caught the bad guys, and everyone loved them. Why couldn’t my life be like that?”


Sophia finally spoke up. “But that’s Hollywood. It’s not real,” she said softly.


“Real,” I echoed. “What’s real? I’m in a school full of guys that somehow got turned into young girls. Is any of this real?” I swung my arms around me. “Maybe I hit my head and I’m lying in a coma somewhere. Maybe I’m dead, the Slider actually killed me and this is my punishment.”


Sophia winced as she thought about her old life. “Yeah, this is real. You’re alive. You’re really a 14-year-old girl.”


“Fuck. I don’t even have friends.  My best, and only, friend is - my boss.  How fucked up is that? You know,” I rambled on, “My aunt was a cop - that’s where I got my name from. Aunt Cate made it look so simple. She was a hero. I looked up to her more than my actual parents. She had friends and a family. She had it all figured out. What do I have? Nothing. Just my job. I don’t even have that anymore.”


Sophia just stood there, sniffling. I had just unloaded years of unresolved misery on her. She was probably in shock.


Enough talking. I put my backpack on then pulled the suitcase off the bed and left the room. I wanted Sophia to follow me. She didn’t.


* * *


Before I left the dorm for the last time, I ordered an Uber to take me to the bus station. I had no desire to wait for the Kincades or Max to come pick me up. I needed to get out of PAA as fast as possible.


I walked out of Cooper Hall with my rollerboard.  It was actually a gorgeous warm October evening that made me remember and yearn for the better times here. Instead I was fleeing and students in the quad stopped and stared at me. I heard various people say “cop” under their breath. I saw one girl spit on the ground near me. A boy made an oinking sound. Clearly, I had worn out my welcome.


I saw familiar faces in the crowd. Amanda, Jessica, Sally, Becky, Mellissa, Kayla. Even Brett. Each of them had looks ranging from disappointment to disgust on their faces.


I’ve had my fair share of getting judged for being in law enforcement. I’ve had to be around for protestors before. But those were strangers. I knew these people. For a week and a half, these students accepted me as one of their own. That acceptance has now been ripped away and I feel like an outcast.


Jessica stood in front of me blocking the sidewalk. “I was once thrown to the ground, cuffed and jailed because a local boy robbed the pharmacy. Do I look like a fucking boy?”


I didn’t respond. What could I say?


“I was beat up for walking down the street off campus,” Sally said. “I just wanted some candy from the store. But some local kids from Weatherford high jumped me. They all got off free because their parents had money and I was a TG. I was the one locked up and had to post bail.”


“I’m not like them,” I said defiantly, as I attempted to walk around them.


“How about before?” I heard Kayla say. “Before you were Displaced? What kind of things did you do?”


I looked at them. I could tell them again that those guys weren’t me. Or I can give them what they want. “I was complicit,” I said to the crowd. “I watched as my colleagues did questionable things. I told myself we had a job to do. It's not a precise job. We get things wrong. I won’t bother you anymore.”


I managed to walk around the crowd and they let me go.


I stopped in front of the Administration building where Ms. Hathaway was waiting for me.


“I’m sorry detective that this didn’t turn out the way I had hoped it would’ve” she said plainly.


“You still have a person making your student’s magic disappear,” I said.


“We’ll take care of it,” she replied.


“Like you took care of Ashley Tart?” I accused, raising my voice.


“That’s enough, detective.”


“No, fuck you, Judy. You claim to care about these students, but all you care about is playing it safe and catering to the Normies outside. Those kids over there think I’m the one protecting special interests.”


She didn’t respond to that. I turned around to find the Uber pull up. I loaded myself and my suitcase into the car. There was still a crowd of students in the quad watching me.


As the car drove off I could feel the distrust and disappointment emanating off the ones who I had gotten to know.


* * *


When I arrived at the bus station, I tipped the Uber driver $20. He asked me all sorts of questions about being a TG. I wasn’t sure whether he was afraid of me or fascinated.


As I stood at the ticketing booth, I thought about Pittsburgh as a potential destination. I had a decision to make. Where was I going?


I could go home. Mope around my house or the Kincades house. Or, I could go to Pittsburgh. Look for Emma’s boyfriend. Maybe even find Emma’s trail.


“One ticket to Pittsburgh,” I told the person behind the ticket counter.


“When did you want to travel, miss?”


“As soon as possible.”


“The next available bus is at 2:05 p.m. tomorrow, and it gets into Pittsburgh at 7:50 p.m.”


“Tomorrow,” I whined. “Nothing tonight?”


“I’m sorry, miss, that route only runs during the day.”


“OK, fine,” I said. Guess I would need to find a place to stay tonight.


“That will be $33.99.”


As I handed her the money I asked if she knew of any places to stay nearby. She told me there were a couple of motels down the street. I took my ticket, thanked her, and headed out into a cool night to find some place to spend the night.



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Emily

Hi, I'm Emily and I'm writing Gender Transformation Fiction! This site is a place for me to keep all of my stories in one place. I'm also a software developer in the daytime, so this site will also be a proving ground of cool new features that pop into my head. Feel free to message me on Twitter or at my Discord Server! You can also find me on TGStorytime.com and FictionMania.tv.

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marter

I still think the head mistress is sus and I think Cate is right about her. I'm glad she was able to realize what the other cops were doing at least
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