Chapter 18

Cate Fox and the Case of the Fading Magic by Emily


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Synopsis: Cate returns to PAA

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When we got back to PAA, I had a lot of damage control to do. Most students still treated me like a pariah. Amanda, Jessica, and Sally avoided talking to me. I reluctantly wound up eating lunch with Brett.


Brett used the opportunity to ask about his apology. “Can I finally apologize?” he asked before I was able to eat my chicken salad.


“I suppose so,” I replied. “You did help save my life, so I guess I owe you that.”


He cleared his throat and looked me in the eye. “Cate, I really like you-”


“I thought this was an apology-”


“Let me finish! I’m sorry I deceived you. I shouldn’t have done that. I figured out you were into girls and not guys. But I turn into a girl three days a month. I thought - I thought maybe you would like me for those 3 days. That’s why I didn’t speak up that Brett and Brittany were the same person. I wanted you to get to know her without any feelings of me clouding your judgment. Again, I’m sorry.”


“Brett,” I replied. “Again, thank you for coming to my rescue. But I didn’t come to PAA to date anyone. You asked me before who Cate was. I don't know yet. This was supposed to be a temporary thing. The longer this goes on, the more blurred the lines between Jack and Cate become. And I don’t want to rush into anything. I know you don’t want to hear, “Let's be friends,” but that’s what I need right now. Friends.”


He nodded. “What about Brittany?”


“Brittany? What about her? You’re the same person.”


“But not in your mind. I saw the way you looked at me - I mean, her.”


I hadn’t considered that. It’s what Sophia is doing with James. But even Sophia admits that it’s not fair to Jamie. But I really hadn’t considered just dating Brittany and not Brett. How would that work? Would I want it to work? “Brett, let’s just keep this simple. Let’s all just stay friends.”


“You didn’t say no,” he teased, flashing a smile I recognized as a Brittany expression. The thought of it got me flustered. 


I shook myself out of it. “I’m not looking for any type of relationship right now, Brett. Please don’t make me repeat myself."


He nodded. I think he accepted that answer.


I also ran into Brandon. They’re happy they have their curse removed. They do keep asking me to let them help with the case, but Sam doesn’t want them around. 


Sam is upset that Josyln, and now Brandon, get to stay at PAA despite being Normies - but Lulu is gone. When she starts ranting about that, I stay quiet. I’m the real reason Lulu is gone, and I don’t want to remind her of that fact.


Brandon, surprisingly, keeps asking me to hang out. They invited me to play video games one night and join them at Technology Club another. I respectfully declined as I spend most of my time either keeping Sophia company or following leads with Sam.


Monday, I wanted to reconcile with Mr. and Mrs. Barnes, but they’ve been absent since the incident at their house.


In femme class, we had a substitute teacher. A Mrs. Wilson, who just put on YouTube videos of makeup tutorials. All of that went in one ear, and out the other.


Also in Mrs. Barnes’s absence, Kayla has taken it upon herself as Lacrosse captain to hold practices without the coach. I wasn’t going to show up, but Kayla insisted. Slowly, I started learning how to actually play the sport. I took a selfie of me holding a lacrosse stick and texted it to the Kincades. Hopefully that buys me some more allowance.


Mr. Sanders made a big deal of my first day back. “Ms. Fox. I am surprised to see you here. I have no idea what strings you pulled to undo the commotion you caused last week.” Yeah, it’s good to see you too, pal.


I tried to remain silent in class. I would still get angry glares from classmates.


One day as I was leaving science class, Sanders did ask if I wanted to stop by one evening and tell him about my adventures. I wasn’t so sure. While I could totally go for a drink, I didn’t necessarily trust him after knowing our last drink is now part of my school record.


After class each day, I would go to dinner and bring home food for Sophia, who was still only leaving the dorm for class. She was terrified of going out in public for fear of catching whatever affected Ashley and the others. That was fine with me, as I didn’t want to be out in public either.


Each night after dinner, Sam and I would sneak around campus, looking for clues to this Magic Club. I noticed since Lulu left, Sam has been wearing Lulu’s bracelet. Since it’s out of magic, it’s a little big on her, so it just dangles idly on her wrist.


So far our search has come up empty.


On Tuesday night, I experienced cramps for the first time. Yup. As if I wasn’t dealing with enough bullshit, I started my period. Sophia caught me digging in my stuff, looking for the feminine products we bought my second night here. And that pamphlet that I got my first day of femme class that I most certainly did not read.


Naturally, Sophia was excited, giving me a hug and congratulating me on my first period. “Welcome to the club, girl!”


And naturally, I wasn’t amused.


It did, however, remind me that I was supposed to get out of this body before its next period. That didn’t happen, so now I get to experience something I never wanted to.


* * *


“Welcome back, Cate,” Virginia said, handing me a mug of coffee. “It’s been two weeks since we’ve met.”


“It has,” I agreed. “I’m sure you heard the rumors.”


“I have. I was told you were expelled for…” She checks her notes. “Drinking, firearm possession, disorderly conduct. Then you admitted you were lying about your identity and were really a police detective investigating a missing student.”


“That pretty much sums it up,” I agreed. 


“Do you want to tell me your side of things?”


“We found her, by the way. Score one for the good guys.” What I didn’t say is, I’m unsure how I was expelled for the gun or the alcohol. Only Sam and Sophia knew about the gun. Only Mr. Sanders and Brittany - I mean Brett - knew I was drinking that evening.


“What about the week you were away? I heard some things about that too. Care to talk about any of it?”


We both looked at each other in silence as we sipped our coffees. 


Truthfully, I was still processing everything that happened myself. “OK, fine,” I said. “As we just established, I was expelled last Monday night. And as we’ve discussed previously, I am a Displaced. When I left campus, I went out in search of my body’s owner. This time last week, I was stalking her online boyfriend, but he got the jump on me. He turned out to be part of a sex trafficking ring. Thankfully some of my friends from PAA showed up and bailed me out of a very bad situation. That about sums it up.”


“Well there’s certainly a lot to unpack there, Cate.”


“Yeah I know. I haven’t finished unpacking that either.”


“That’s why I’m here. That’s my job. To help you unpack that.”


“Maybe we can start with my suitcase,” I deadpanned. “I brought with me some more season-appropriate clothes from Emma’s house.”


“Cate.” Virginia didn’t find my play on words amusing.


“I know, I know.” I took a deep breath - then a sip of coffee. “I’ve never felt so helpless and vulnerable in my life. Is that what you want to hear?”


Virginia looked at me with a nod to keep going.


“From the moment I got expelled, I was accused, judged, and convicted of being an awful person. Then I was alone, and felt enormous guilt. Then loneliness. I knew the guy was a dangerous person. I thought I was being careful. I underestimated him. The embarrassment of getting caught. Then I was forced to perform intimate acts with another girl my age. My own gun was pressed against my head. I felt like my life was over. I lost. I was going to die - or worse - me and this other girl were going to get trafficked. I also felt anger and rage.”


“My God, Cate! That sounds horrible. I think we should have a deeper discussion about what happened. Don’t you?”


“I had a good cry with some of my friends. I’m ready to move on.”


“That’s not how grief works, Cate.”


“I know. I’m well aware. So, to finish my story. When my friends saved me, I felt hope. I wasn’t originally going to come back to PAA even if Hathaway herself begged me. But listening to their stories, hearing what I meant to them, made me change my mind.”


“So you felt an obligation to come back?”


“Yes… and no.”


“Oh?”


“I… kinda… wanted to come back, too.”


“For the investigation you were working on? You said you found the girl.”


“I did, but that isn’t why I wanted to come back. Those three days by myself. I was lonely. I had no friends. I was scared and helpless. I was a TG in a Normie world and I was looking over my shoulder the entire time. I realized I missed the comfort and security of being here.”


“That’s huge, Cate. It’s important to acknowledge that you’re finally doing something for you. Not because of an investigation, but because it will benefit you as a person. All of those emotions you described. They’re all natural responses to the situation you were in.”


“I know. I mentioned there was also this girl there. When we got the situation under control, she picked up my gun and was about to kill the predator. Some people said I should’ve let her.”


“Why didn’t you?”


“I believe in the criminal justice system. Despite what people say about the police, there are rules. We aren’t vigilanties. Plus - I have experience killing someone. I didn’t want her to experience that too."


“On your original intake form you mentioned that.”


“Yeah. That's why I originally saw a department-mandated therapist.”


“Did being in that situation last week bring back memories and emotions from that incident?”


I nodded. “Yeah.”


Virginia looked at me. She didn’t need to ask. I saw it in her face. She wanted to know the story.


I sighed and took a deep breath. “So, about 16 years ago, I’m out on patrol with my partner. Officer Angela Rodriguez - a cute, fiery woman who grew up in New York. We got along well professionally. She was a great partner. We had some fun banter together.”


“Your partner was a woman?”


“Rodriguez was like one of the guys. A real ball-buster.”


“Continue.”


“So one evening after our shift, we went to one of our favorite delis. We’re done with dinner and are walking back to the patrol car. At the same time, this guy, Oscar Smith, 31, single father, was coming out of a convenience store across the street. He saw us. He thought we were there for him. He freaks out. He opens fire and shoots Angela right here.” I motion to my left abdomen. “She’s down. A whole load of emotions floods through me. My partner was just shot. I react instinctively. I pulled out my service pistol and returned fire.” I pointed to my center chest. “Right here. Oscar Smith, 31, single father. A man who was picking up dinner for his family was dead. Bled out from a bullet from my service pistol. The look on his face the moment my bullet hit him is forever ingrained in my memory. It took years before I could come to terms with that.”


“Why would he shoot at you?”


“Toxicology stated that he had methamphetamines in his system. He was high on meth. He was paranoid. Who knows what he actually thought we were doing there.”


“And your partner?”


I took a deep breath. “Officer Angela Rodriguez, 27, killed in the line of duty from a bullet wound to the abdomen.”


Virgina stopped taking notes and was silent for a long moment. “You recall the details of this case very vividly.”


“I relived that moment a thousand times. I’ve re-read the case file a thousand times. Officer Jack Baker, 27, was found innocent. He was found to have acted in self-defense. My shrink at the time told me I had problems forming lasting relationships because of this. That I push people away. That I constantly relive that trauma.”


Virginia handed me a tissue. I didn’t realize I was crying. “Cate, it's OK.”


“It’s not OK,” I snapped back. “It’s never been OK. Two people are dead because of me.”


“Do you think it’s your fault?”


“How could it not be? It was my idea to go to that deli. If we didn’t go, both Angela and Oscar would be alive.”


“Cate, you can’t blame yourself for a series of unrelated events. You could substitute any number of ‘if only’ possibilities, and the result would be the same. You can’t change the past.”


“That’s what my first therapist used to say. I also used to have dreams of Angela. Lying on the ground. Reaching up to me. Begging, ‘Jack, save me!’”


Virginia continued writing in her notebook. “This was 16 years ago. You stopped seeing that therapist. What eventually happened?”


“I threw myself into my work. My only friend was the police chief. And my ex-wife.”


“Tell me about your ex-wife.”


“Cheryl. She’s responsible for getting me out of my self-hate funk. For a while I was able to put aside what I had done. The dreams of reliving Angela and Oscar’s deaths occurred less frequently. But it wasn’t the same. I was broken. How could I possibly form new relationships if I kept on worrying they’d suffer the same fate? It’s why I work alone now.”


“Did you sabotage your marriage to Cheryl?”


“Probably. But at least not consciously. I’ve admitted as much to a few people.”


“How about forming new relationships here at PAA?”


“Yeah. I suppose. I mean, my friends stuck their necks out for me. One even sacrificed their enrollment and their subsequent safety for me.”


“You just called them your friends.”


“Yeah, they’re good girls. They are why I came back here. Why I’d rather be here than spending my time alone waiting for my colleagues to catch the Slider who did this to me.”


“Do you still have those dreams of Angela?”


“Not recently. Now I’m just having dreams of Emma.”


“What are those like?”


“She’s being held by the Slider. She’s saying…” I stopped and made eye contact with Virginia.


“What?”


“‘Jack, save me.’”


Virginia quickly jotted down some notes, eager to explore that revelation. “Cate, you were a detective. What did you investigate?”


“Missing persons.”


“Tell me about these missing persons.”


“A loved one reports someone missing. We interview them. We find them. Usually a runaway. Sometimes a kid is abducted during a custody dispute. Sometimes a grandparent gets confused and forgets where they live.”


“Do you take all of those cases?”


“Not all of them. We spread them around the department.”


“Are you selective on which cases you take?”


“Usually. I kinda stick to young people. In their teens and twenties.”


“Are they usually girls and young women?”


“Yeah, mostly, I suppose.”


Virginia took some notes then looked up at me. “I’m sensing a theme here, Cate.”


I could see where she was going. I wasn't quite ready to make that mental leap. 


“Would you say that you’ve been trying to save Angela for the past 16 years? And you’re still trying to save her here at PAA?”


“No. I don’t want to dismiss each case like that. Emma isn’t a stand-in for Angela.”


“But Emma brought back all of those memories. All that trauma. That has to be weighing on you.”


“And here I was thinking it was just teenage hormones,” I sarcastically said.


“I’m sure those don’t help.”


“So what? You think I have White Knight Syndrome? That I seek out girls who are in trouble? Just because I wasn’t able to save Angela? Because I wasn’t able to save Emma? Or Amanda, or Lulu, or Brandi? Or… myself?” I stood up. “I need to leave.”


“Cate, we made a huge breakthrough here. Don’t bottle up these emotions. Let yourself process them.”


With that, I walked out of Virginia's office and out of the Sociology Building.


* * *


After my session with Virginia, I went straight back to the dorm. I couldn’t handle going to any classes after that. I wasted a decade replaying Angela and Oscar’s death in my mind, I didn’t want to waste another moment. Eventually, Sophia came home.


“How was class today?” she asked.


“I didn’t go,” I replied. “I had a rough therapy session this morning.”


“I’ll bet,” she said. “After what you went through. Did it help?”


“No.”


“Do you want to talk to me about it?”


“No,” I said tersely. Then I paused and looked her in the eyes. “Sorry, Soph. Everyone keeps telling me I need to process the trauma. I’m tired. I don't want to process it anymore. I just want to move on.”


“I understand,” she said. I’m not sure she did, but I let it go.


She turned her focus to homework, and I turned my focus back to my case notebook. I was no closer to finding this Magic Club than I was two weeks ago.


“Hey Cate, I was going to invite Julia over for dinner. Are you OK with that?”


I hadn’t seen Julia since that night at the Barnes'. I think she’s been avoiding me. “Should I leave?”


“Not at all. This is your room too, and you’re my roommate and friend. She can deal.” 


A half hour later, I made my way to the dining hall, swiped my card for two and got two trays of dinner to-go. One for me, one for Sophia. I hope she likes tuna casserole.


When I got back to the dorm, Julia was already there with her dinner. She ignored me.


Sophia put the TV on in the background and we ate. I was mostly quiet as I’ve been preoccupied with my innermost thoughts these days.


Julia was trying to lecture Sophia about locking herself in this room. She turned to me - the first time she acknowledged I was sitting there. “Maybe you can get Sophia to leave this room?” 


I swallowed the food I was chewing. “I’m trying. If I can find out what’s causing the fading magic, we can take precautions.”


“Even if you don’t, she can’t stay up here forever,” she implored me.


I shrugged. “I’m not one to rush anyone on getting over trauma.”


“I’m so glad I have you as a friend,” Sophia said to me. She then turned to Julia. “Cate said she will do everything in her power to keep me safe. Even if it involves finding ways to undo whatever is happening. Even if it involves using magic to re-TG me.”


“Whoa,” I said, raising my hands. “Don’t be saying stuff like that out loud or I’ll wind up getting expelled again.” I then looked at Julia. She wouldn’t sell me out would she?


That reminded me. “Hey Sophia,” I asked. “Did you tell anyone I had a gun?”


“Um,” she said, “I only told Julia over here.”


I looked at Julia again. “Did you tell anyone?”


“What?” Julia scoffed at being accused. “Why would I do that? I mean, I thought it was a little weird at first. With all of the school shootings, what sociopath brings a gun to school? But no, I didn’t tell anyone.”


“Just wondering,” I said, tabling the subject for another time. I should ask Sam the same question. After all, she threatened to tell the headmistress about the gun when we first met. But after getting to know her, I just can’t imagine Sam having done that.


There was a knock on the door. 


I looked at Sophia for confirmation that she wanted visitors. 


She nodded.


“Come in,” I said.


The door opened and a beautiful girl came in. In fact, I recognized her as a Were. I think she’s James’s non-lunar doppelganger.


“Hey,” she said. “I wanted to check up on Sophia.”


“Jamie, right?” I asked.


“Yeah,” she replied. “And you must be Cate.”


“Hi, Jamie!” Sophia said, standing up to greet her guest.


Sophia walked over with arms outstretched and they hugged each other. Maybe it was my imagination, but Jamie really wanted a kiss.


“What’s going on?” Jamie asked. “I haven’t seen you around.”


“I’m just afraid of this fading magic that is being passed around the sophomores.”


“Oh. Is there anything I can get you? Homework? Care packages?”


“Nah, I think I got all of that covered. But there is something I wanted to say.”


“Oh?”


Sophia looked at me, then turned her attention back to Jamie. “I’m sorry for how I’ve treated you. You and James are the same person, yet I avoid you when you’re Jamie. It’s not fair to you. I want to at least be friends with you too.”


I was surprised Sophia did that in front of Julia and me. I wondered if Sophia was indirectly talking to me. Either way, I felt this was a private conversation. Besides, I think I need to go meet up with Sam. I took a look at the time. “Hey, I need to head out.”


“Have fun,” Sophia said. “Say hi to Sam for me.”


I waved bye, and headed out of the dorm.


* * *


We were quiet as we walked. Only our footsteps and the rustle of that creepy corn broke the silence. “All right, so where are we going?” I asked Sam. We had originally met on the quad, but we were now walking towards the entrance of the campus. 


“The nursing home,” Sam replied.


“Why there? Is Ashley more… coherent than last time?”


“We’re not going to see Ashley. I found someone who has more insight into how things used to be.”


“I heard Brandon wanted to join us.”


“I don’t trust them,” Sam said conspiratorially.


“Should we have invited Sophia?” I asked. “She does need to get out of her room.”


“I don’t trust her either.”


“Sophia? Really?”


“Look at the facts, Cate. One. She is good friends with all of the victims - including Ashley. Two. She’s now hiding from everyone. Guilt perhaps?


“All of the victims are sophomores. Obviously she’s going to know them.”


“No, All of the victims are in her class. Coincidence?”


“I don’t know, Sam.” I shook my head and counted on my fingers. “Sophia doesn’t have a motive. She’s deathly afraid of becoming Seth again. Besides, she and Lulu helped get me reinstated.”


Sam sighed. “I’m sorry. Ever since Lulu left, I’m paranoid about everyone. What if Sophia is like a succubus and needs a constant diet of magic to remain Sophia?”


“Sam, that’s ridiculous. That’s your paranoia speaking.” And what the fuck is a succubus? At this point I’m afraid to ask.


Just then, Sam’s phone rang. She answered it and a video chat popped up. “Hey,” she said with a smile.


It was Lulu on the screen. “Hey beautiful,” she replied.


“I’m with Cate,” Sam informed her caller.


“Hi Cate!” Lulu said cheerfully.


“Hi, Lulu,” I said, poking my head in front of Sam so I appeared on the screen.


As Lulu and Sam carried on a conversation, I was wondering if I should talk to Lulu. I wanted to know why she left PAA for me. Nobody has ever sacrificed themselves for me. Of course, knowing that she did that puts more pressure on me to actually figure this out. “Hey Sam, can I talk to Lulu?”


“Sure,” Sam said, handing her phone to me.


“Hey, Lulu. I’ve been meaning to talk to you since you left… Why? Why did you do that?”


“Cate, are you religious or spiritual?”


“No.”


“Well, my parents were really big on religion. I wasn’t. However there were a few times in my life where I have prayed to whatever higher being is out there. When I got sent away to PAA, I was at my lowest. My parents rejected me. I was alone. I had just learned I was transgender. I then prayed for something to lift me out of that funk. That night, I met Sam. Call it coincidence if you want, but that made me believe there’s more to life than us just bouncing around aimlessly. Then came the night my bracelet’s magic started to fade. I was angry and scared. I thought I was going to lose everything I managed to achieve here. My newfound love for myself. Sam. My life at PAA. Then, that night Sam met you.”


“You think I’m the answer to your prayers? Lulu, I’m just some schmuck who got put into this body at random. I’m in way over my head.”


“You don’t have to believe. But I do. I have faith in you, Cate Fox. I believe you will help us all.”


I forced a smile then handed the phone back to Sam. That wasn’t the answer I was looking for. What was, though?


Sam shrugged at me and continued talking to her girlfriend for another few minutes before wishing her a good night and hanging up.


We reached the nursing home. It was rather quiet, as most likely many residents were already sleeping. A woman was sitting at the receptionist’s desk working a crossword puzzle. “Can I help you ladies?” she asked.


“We’re here to see Kathy Norris,” Sam replied.


The receptionist looked up her room number and then led us out of the lobby and down a long hall. I noticed a few patients in their rooms. Some were watching TV or reading. They all looked at us as we passed by. The air had a weird smell of antiseptic and…old. Like my great-grandmother’s house. I hated that smell.


We were led down the same wing as Ashley’s. As we passed her room, I could see that she was sleeping. I suppose we should pay her another visit in the daytime one day. Too bad she wasn’t coherent, or we could ask her more questions. Hell, if she was coherent, whoever is doing this might come after her.


I stopped in front of Ashley’s door with an idea. “Sam, I have an idea.”


“Can it wait until later?” she asked, keeping pace with the receptionist.


“Yes, it can,” I replied, catching up to them.


We reached our destination.


Kathy Norris was an older woman. She saw us and smiled.


“Hi, Mrs. Norris,” Sam announced. “I’m Sam, we spoke on the phone.”


“Sit down, girls,” she said, gesturing at the small loveseat beside her bed.


We both sat down and got comfortable.


“I don’t get many visitors,” she stated. “Would you like some candy?” she asked, holding out a small dish of treats. We both declined.


“You’re interested in Puellae Aurora’s Magic Club, eh?”


“Yes ma’am,” Sam replied. “We have reason to believe someone has brought it back.”


“And bad things are happening on campus,” I added.


“Magic is a tool. It can be used for good and for bad,” Mrs. Norris explained.


“What can you tell us about the Magic Club?” I asked.


“It ceased to exist. After all, magic is illegal now. Magic has been illegal for a long time. People couldn’t be trusted.”


“What happened?”


“More and more people started to misuse magic. Many western governments were paranoid about anything related to the supernatural. So they created organizations to deal with it. Here, the secret Order of the Dawn was created.


At first, the Order focused on Normies who attempted to practice magic. Those Normies tended to be reckless and self-centered. But over time the Order increasingly 'stepped on the toes' of actual witches who considered magic part of their cultural heritage. The witches pushed back against the Order’s interference in their sacred activities.


“When was this?”


“This was going on for centuries. Once in the early 19th century, a Normie tried to use magic to bring their deceased best friend back to life. It didn’t work and instead turned their friend into a monster. The town revolted, hunted down, and killed the monster.”


“Isn’t that the plot of Frankenstein?” I asked. “Come,on Sam, she’s pulling our leg.”


“Fiction is often inspired by real life.”


“The Order of the Dawn? Why haven’t I heard of it?”


“They go through painstaking efforts to hide supernatural abilities and themselves from the general public. Often the Order is hidden in plain sight as people in positions of power. Occasionally, magic makes its way into the news through tabloids. But the general public doesn’t believe it.


“When did it become illegal?”


“Eventually, some Normies ruined it for everyone. A whole town was transformed into hideous creatures. But the damage was done. This was in the late 1930s. The world was at war with itself. There was a very real fear that magic would fall into the wrong hands. I’m sure you’ve heard of Hitler’s obsession with the supernatural and the occult. In retaliation, the Order pressured lawmakers to pass laws prohibiting the practicing of magic by Normies and also restricting the use of magic by actual witches."


“What stops bad people from using magic?” I asked skeptically. “We know you can regulate something dangerous all you want, but that won’t stop bad people.”


“They have their ways to prevent the general public from using magic. There are rumors about how they enforce it. How much of that is true and how much of it is to keep everyone in line, I don't know.”


“1930s? How old are you? And how do you know about this?”


“My parents were Magical TGs. They met at Puellae Aurora. They told me stories about being in Magic Club.


“When was Magic Club disbanded?”

“Shortly after magic was made illegal. In the early 40s.”


“Do you think someone could’ve revived it?” I asked. We were starting to get somewhere.


“While it’s possible, how would they be able to keep it a secret?” replied Mrs. Norris.


My phone buzzed and I looked down at the notification. It was from Sophia. “Come home.”


I looked at Sam. “Sophia wants me to come home.”


Sam thanked her and we quickly left the nursing home.


* * *


Sophia’s brief text sounded urgent, so I anxiously ran back to campus. I think I left Sam in the dust. When I arrived back at my dorm, I quickly barged into the room. Sophia was sitting on her bed in silence. She didn’t acknowledge my presence.


“What’s wrong?” I asked. “I came as fast as I could.”


“I was attacked,” she replied through a haze of confusion.


“Here?”


“There was a knock at the door,” she explained with more clarity. “I thought it was you and that you had lost your keys. But when I opened the door, a boy barged in.


“A boy?” I repeated. “Where was Julia? Jamie?”


“They left shortly after you did.”


“What did he do?”


“He grabbed me. I fought him off. But he held me tight for a few seconds. It seemed like a lot longer. When I was able to push him off, he dropped this and ran out.” She pointed to a small silver disk on the floor. “I was afraid to touch it.”


I picked it up using a dirty sock and examined it. “What is this? Did you recognize him?”


“He looked familiar, but I couldn’t pinpoint where I knew him from. It happened so fast, Cate.”


“Tell me as much as you remember. How old was he? What did he look like?”


“Maybe 15 or 16? Black hair.”


“A shifter?”


“No. He had normal eyes - I don’t remember the color.”


“So that’s all he did? He barged in and held this against you?”


She slowly nodded. She was shaking so she wrapped her arms around her shoulders.


I held the disk up to the light. “What the hell is this thing?”


“Is this what happened to Lulu and Brandon?” Sophia asked with dread in her voice.


I wanted to say I hope not, but that wouldn’t be helpful. Neither Lulu or Brandon remembered their attackers. But they didn’t fight them off either.


Sophia laid down in her bed and got under the covers.


There was a knock at the door. 


I verified it was Sam, and I walked out into the hallway with her.


“What happened?” she asked, panting from the run back here.


“Sophia was attacked while we were away.”


“Attacked? In your room?”


I nodded. “A boy she didn’t recognize forced his way in. She fought him off but held this against her skin for a few seconds.” I held up the disk for Sam to see.


“What is that? Do you think this is the same boy the others mentioned?”


“I think so.”


“Cate, I’m sorry I accused Sophia of being behind all of it. I just-”


“It’s fine,” I said, cutting off her apology. “I gotta find whoever fucking did this.” I slammed my fist against the wall which attracted the attention of some other girls who were down the hall. I turned to the girls down the hall. “Hey did any of you see a boy come in or out of my room?”


The girls down the hall shrugged and walked away.


“Cate, are you OK?”


“No, I’m not OK. I’m angry. My roommate was attacked. In our room. I’m pissed I wasn’t there.”


“Let’s focus on what we can control now. What was your idea from earlier?”


I took a deep breath and tried to put aside my emotions. “So, I was thinking about Ashley. How if she was coherent, she might be able to tell us who is in this Magic Club, right?”


“Right.”


“But that’s also a liability to whomever is doing this. She knows too much.”


“Right.”


“If Ashley was coherent, what do you think would happen?”


Sam shrugged.


“Whoever did this would try to silence her. They’d go to the nursing home and confront her.”


“OK, but Ashley is not coherent.”


“That doesn’t matter. We can just lie and spread rumors.” A new idea dawned on me. “Hey, what if you were Ashley?”


“Cate, everyone would notice my eyes.”


“Only TGs would notice. Normies wouldn’t. That’s enough to spread the rumor.”


Sam raised her eyebrow. “Do you think that’ll work?”


“That's all I’ve got.”


“What about Sophia? You don’t want to leave her alone. What if her attacker returns? Do you want her involved in the plan?”


“No,” I replied. “I trust her, but not the people around her. Someone found out about my gun. Someone found out I was drinking. There’s a mole, and this is going to expose them too!”


“OK,” Sam finally agreed. “Do you want to do this tomorrow after school?”


“That’s too late. I was thinking tonight. So the rumors start to spread tomorrow during school.”


“Tonight? I’m not even sure how we’re going to hide the real Ashley.”


“What kind of security does that home have?” I mused.


“I have no idea. Until Ashley, I had never set foot in one.”


“Me neither. Both my late parents had in-home hospice care.”


We were both silent for a few moments as we brainstormed this particular puzzle. 


“We won’t be able to hide her in the home,” Sam realized. “We’re going to have to remove her.”


“Then we’re going to need help. Do you think we can trust Brett or Kayla again?”


“Well, they helped bring you back. I think they’re trustworthy. There’s no way we could have gotten you out of that situation in Pittsburgh without them.”


“I agree, I’d be halfway around the world in my new career by now.” I said. I then texted both Brett and Kayla, “I need a favor. Meet Sam at my dorm. We need to do a heist.”


“Cate, what about school? We both have class tomorrow,” Sam protested.


“My gut is telling me this won't take long and we might only miss one or two classes.”


Sam sighed. “OK. I’ll go back to the nursing home. I’ll scope out the joint and let you in.”


“Thank you,” I said, putting my arm on her shoulder. “Sam, we're going to catch this asshole and make him pay for Lulu and the others.”


She nodded and walked away as I re-entered my room.


I put the disk down, turned off the lights, and laid down in bed with Sophia. I put my arm around her. She was still shaking. “Don’t worry,” I whispered. “I’ll do everything in my power to find who did this.” She squeezed my hand in acknowledgement.



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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

Time for a sting! I really hope they can fix everyone who wants it and also Ashley
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criticalsmoke

In the original Frankestein story the monster became a monster because everybody treated him with hatred. I also always wondered,what would happen if the the guy that tried to bring back the dead guy had succeeded, not by creating a monster, but actually bringing the dead back. I had never heard of that type of story. Writers always go one predictable way. Sad cause magic seems like such interesting thing but we never see it in a positive light, just a tool for evil.
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Emily

Thanks for reading and the feedback! I'll admit I never sat to really read Frankenstein, but your description makes sense. The problem with magic stories (and why I try to avoid them) is that once you introduce magic as something a normal person can do, you also have to explain why its not common and why its used to make the world a better place. Same with this story. Magic is out there, but nobody is using it to help the people who need it. Instead they're afraid of it. Besides, there's plenty of fluffy magic stories on scribblehub and I know i didn't want to write "Hogwartz West" so I instead tried to envision it as a more underground highly regulated subculture.
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criticalsmoke

You could make a story where magic goes from secret to not secret and the villain is the people keeping it secret. I haven't finished reading th story so I don't know if that is where it is going.So far it seems the science guy is the villain, as awlays in stories.
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