Chapter 20

Cate Fox and the Case of the Fading Magic by Emily


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So, I sat there in the cold, inhospitable jail cell most of the morning. I’ve put many people in shitholes like this, but this was my first time behind bars. It was disgusting. At least I had the cell to myself. A teenage girl would be fresh meat to the usual drunks and hookers you’d find in here. I took this time to try to put the pieces together of what I learned over the past day. I wish I had my casebook with me. Hathaway, the Order, the Barnes’ device, Ashley the hacker, the male attacker. These pieces all fit together, but I feel there’s something missing. Who is this mystery attacker? Is he or she a TG or a Normie? Who was Ashley working with? I couldn’t think anymore. 


Sheriff Dipshit came to see me around lunchtime - well at least my stomach told me it was lunchtime. Maybe he was here to take my lunch order.


“What the hell am I even being charged with?” I yelled.


“Disorderly conduct and assault,” he replied. “And I called your principal,” he continued. “She’s not posting your bail.”


“Bail? I haven’t seen a lawyer or a judge. Besides, those are misdemeanors. I can write you a check. Did the boy in question even press charges? If he did, I have a right to know who he is. And if he didn’t, you can’t hold me.”


I am the law in this town,” he groused. “I’ll decide who you can see, and when.”


“Alright, Judge Dredd.” God, the ego on this prick.


“I have witnesses suggesting you were chasing him in the street and assaulted him.”


“Well, I have a witness who was strangled at the nursing home by him.”


He ignored that and announced, “Anyway, you have visitors.”


In walked Sophia and Sam, and out walked the sheriff.


“Cate, I just heard the sheriff say Ms. Hathaway is not bailing you out,” Sophia said in a panic, rushing over to the cell.


I replied loudly so Dearing could hear me, “Yeah, well I wasn’t read my rights, I didn’t get my one phone call, and the sheriff is just making up false charges to hold me here.”


“Son, you have the right to remain silent.” I heard from around the corner.


“I also have a right to eat,” I yelled even louder. “Why don’t you run your fat ass down to the diner and get me a pastrami sandwich.”


“Cate, don’t make it worse,” Sam cautioned.


I turned my attention back to my friends and sighed in frustration. “Did anyone catch that guy?” I asked. 


“By the time I got there, you were already in the patrol car,” Sam explained. “And he was gone.”


“I had no idea what was happening,” Sophia complained. “Oh, and thanks a lot you two for filling me in on your little scheme,” she said sarcastically.


“Sorry ‘bout that,” I apologized.


“That was incredibly embarrassing. I told a lot of people that Ashley was getting better.”


“Again, I’m sorry, but our plan hinged on you doing exactly that. And it was working, until Barney Fife here came along. I’m now convinced your attacker and the fading magic are connected.”


“Who’s Barney Fife?” Sophia asked. Was that rhetorical?


“What happened with you and the attacker?” Sam asked.


“I chased him down the street. I introduced him to my fists. But Sheriff Dumbfuck out there interrupted me.”


“Did you recognize him?” Sam asked. “I know I certainly didn’t.”


“No. I wonder if he’s a Normie.”


“Why would a Normie be involved?” Sophia asked.


“I have no idea,” I said, shaking my head. “How’d it go with Ashley?”


“I helped Brett return her,” Sam replied. “She’s back safe in the home. The staff was none the wiser, but disappointed she is sinking deeper into a vegetative state. I don’t think she has much time left.”


“That’s so sad,” said Sophia. “I really was hoping she’d get better. ‘Cause if she got better on her own that would mean…” Her voice trailed off.


I looked at Sophia and Sam standing there. I noticed for the first time that Sophia was taller than Sam. “Soph, come here.” I held out my hand through the bars.


She came over and squeezed it.


I looked at her face. She was wearing more makeup than normal. “It’s happening already, isn’t it.”


I could see the pain in her eyes. “Yes,” she said quietly.


“I’m sorry. I need to get out of here. I promise to fix this.”


“We can set up a GoFundMe for you,” she tried, in vain, to force out a chuckle.


I smiled at her joke. “This should be a cheap bail. I’m being held...” I raised my voice, “because somebody is having a power trip.”


“Y’all need to leave now,” the sheriff announced. “Visiting hours are over.”


“Visiting hours?” I shouted in disbelief. “It’s the middle of the day!” That got no response. I calmed down and looked at my friends. “Sam, please take care of Sophia until I get out.”


Sam nodded.


“I’m OK, really,” Sophia said, unconvincingly.


“Liar,” I quietly said.


Sam and Sophia left and I sat back down in my cell.


Sheriff Dearing came into the cellblock and stood there. “I don’t like your kind,” he spat.


“You’ve made your opinion very clear, you transphobic piece of shit.”


“Don’t make me come in there and rough you up.”


“Rough me up? A 14-year-old girl? Guys like you always gotta prove you have the bigger dick. God, I hate your kind. My problem with you is you give the rest of us a bad name.”


“Us?”


“Police. We’re supposed to protect people. Right now you’re protecting the bad guys by letting them go and keeping me locked up. I have an investigation to conduct.”


“Investigation? Ha! You’ll never be a cop, fairy boy.”


“For your information, my name is actually Detective Jack Baker. I was 42, up until a month ago, you dickwad.”


“Just because you ‘identify’ as a cop,” he said using air quotes, “doesn’t make you one. What are you investigating anyway? Who stole your panties?” He then guffawed like that was the funniest joke in the world.


“Want my badge number? Hey, if you don’t believe me, you dumbass, call my boss. Chief Maxwell Hamilton. I’ll give you his number.”


“That name sounds just as made up as you being a cop.”


“Look, someone is stealing the magic of the students. What it’s being used for I don’t know. This is happening here in your town under your nose.”


“I don’t give a shit what you do in your devil-worshiping, role-playing games.”


“This isn’t role-play, sheriff. This is real.” I paused for a moment then looked at the bigot in front of me. He looked confused. “You don’t know, do you?” 


“Know what?”


“What do you think PAA is? The academy in your own town.”


“A school for sissy boys.”


“And the magic?”


“Magic? That’s a fairytale.”


“The girl I found at the nursing home?”


“Someone’s granny who got lost.”


“No, she was a student. She’s 15. Have you heard about the Order of the Dawn?”


“Another myth made up by the people of this town to normalize the freaks who go to your school.”


“Sheriff, you need to open up your eyes. There’s alot about this school you think is just made up that is actually quite true.”


There was a buzzer and the sheriff got up and walked out of the cell block.


A few minutes later, he returned. “Apparently some idiot wants to claim you,” I heard the sheriff say as I heard footsteps approaching.


I was about to thank Sophia and Sam, but another person I didn’t expect came in with Dearing.


“Cate,” Mr. Sanders said. “What happened?” he asked, worry written on his face.


“Mr. Sanders?” I replied incredulously. “You’re the last person I expected to show up here.”


“Us Displaceds have to keep together,” he whispered. He turned back to the sheriff in the doorway. “How much is bail?”


“Nothing. There are no charges against him. I can’t hold him. He’s only in here because he keeps running his mouth. Get him out of here!”


I rolled my eyes. I wanted to correct all of the incorrect pronoun usages, but decided now wasn’t the time.


As I walked by the sheriff, he grabbed my arm. “If you screw up one more time, boy, your ass is mine.”


I look forward to seeing him try.


* * *


“Well, thank you for coming down here,” I said gratefully, as we walked from the police station. “But how did you even know about me being in jail?”


“Headmistress Hathaway told me,” Mr. Sanders replied. “It was her idea for me to come down here. She said it might send the wrong message to the town if she was tied to bailing out a student who assaulted one of the townspeople.” He looked me up and down. “You look like shit, Jim. Tell me what happened. How’d you wind up in jail?”


“My roommate was attacked. I found her attacker. I introduced him to my right hook. I got arrested and he got away.”


“Your roommate was attacked?”


“Yeah, the magic that changed her into a girl is starting to fade.”


“That’s terrible. Who is your roommate?”


“Sophia Blake.”


“Ah, Ms. Blake,” he said, nodding. “I had her as a student last year. I’m sorry to hear she’s not doing well. Such a shame. She’s a good kid.”


We got to his car and he opened the door for me. “When you didn’t show up in class today, I got worried.” He shut the door and walked around to the drivers’ side.


“Do you get this worried about all your students being absent?” I asked as he got into the car.


“Only the ones I genuinely enjoy having as a student.” He started the car and pulled out of the police station parking lot.


“Well, thanks, I guess.”


“Jim, we haven't gotten a chance to talk since you’ve been back.”


“I’ve been preoccupied with taking care of Sophia.”


“I heard about your ordeal last week. And now this thing with your roommate. That’s a lot on a person - even one with your background.”


“It’s rough.”


“How’d you even get out of that? I keep thinking back to what happened to my original body.”


“I have excellent friends. I don't even want to think about what would've happened if they hadn't shown up."


“Probably end up at the same place they found my body.” He paused, the memory causing him pain. “Did your friends help you out today?”


“Yeah. We set that sting up at the nursing home. I would’ve caught that shithead if it wasn’t for the sheriff.”


“Can Headmistress help you?”


I sighed and gritted my teeth. “No. She told me on day one that if I got in trouble I was on my own.”


Sanders shook his head. “So typical of her.” 


We arrived at campus and Mr. Sanders parked. We both sat there as he looked at me. “Are you sure you don't want that drink? I don’t have any more classes today.”


“Not today, Jackie. But thanks anyway.”


“If you need to blow off steam, let me know. I’d be so angry if I was you.”


“I am, but I’m even more pissed that the sheriff let the attacker get away.”


“I’m sure you’ll find them. This kind of violence can’t stand at PAA.”


“I promised Sophia I’d keep her safe. I promised her I’d fix this.”


“Have you looked into fixing her magic?”


I paused. “I thought about it. But I’m out of my league in that arena.”


“Did Ms. Blake tell you the story of how she was TG’d?”


“A magic cupcake given to her by a teacher.”


“Ms. Vansi is a close friend of mine. She told me about the conversations she had with that boy. She saw someone who was in desperate need. She told me how she pleaded with the school administration to use their powers to help. She was denied. She then took it upon herself to do what no one else was willing to do. She used her special powers to help your friend.” 


“Magic?”


Sanders rolled his eyes. “Sure, that’s what some people call it. You said you promised to keep her safe. How far will you go to do that? Would you go as far as Ms. Vansi?” 


“Well, Hathaway has made it abundantly clear magic is illegal.”


Sanders nodded. “What are you thinking? You know you’re in safe company with me.”


“What do you know about the Order of the Dawn?” I asked.


“The Order of the Dawn,” he repeated. “Goddamn hypocrites. They have the power to help people, but sit in their ivory towers and make judgments on who will receive that help. Meanwhile people like me and you have to live with the consequences of those decisions. How does that make you feel?”


“I’m pissed off. Hathaway was using me as a pawn to track down illegal magic users. I was under the false impression I was here to find missing students.”


“They could’ve fixed me, you know. Given me back my youth. Given you back your masculinity. They could fix your roommate. Even those other students.”


“I promised her I’d fix this.”


“Then fix it, Cate.”


“I don’t know how.”


“Yes you do. The answer is right there.”


I was confused for a moment about what he was alluding to. “You mean magic? I don’t know the first thing about magic.”


“I do. I can get the recipe Ms. Vansi used.” he paused. “If you want.”


“You can?”


“Yes. But no one must know.”


I suddenly got my hopes up. “No one will.”


“That means your friends too,” he cautioned. “You could be putting them in danger just by knowing about or being around magic.”


“I understand. What do I have to do?”


“Meet me back here tomorrow. I’m free after Technology Club. 5 p.m. Or you can come to the Technology Club. We’d love to have you.”


I nodded. “I’m not really a joiner, so I’ll pass on the club. But I’ll stop by at 5.”


* * *


On my walk back to Cooper Hall, I was hopeful that together with Mr. Sanders we can find a curse for Sophia before time runs out. That doesn’t fix the current problem in front of me. What to do about the attacker. 


I do, however, need to share everything I’ve learned. I texted Sophia, “Assemble the Avengers in our room. We have lots to discuss.”


When I entered my room, everyone was there. Sophia, Sam, Brett, and Kayla.


“Who bailed you out?” Sam asked.


“One of my teachers,” I replied. I neglected to mention that there never was a bail. But that would be admitting I sometimes let my mouth get me in trouble. I sat next to Sophia. “How are you doing?”


Sophia shrugged.


“That good, huh?” I clapped my hands together. “Hey, does anyone want dinner? I could go for some pizza. Sheriff tried to starve a confession out of me.”


Sam rolled her eyes. “Cate, you were only in jail for like, an hour.”


“Julia is bringing me back dinner,” Sophia replied. Her voice was getting deeper. And she had lost that ‘bouncing off the walls’ personality I had actually come to appreciate. Honestly, that personality hadn’t been around since we saw Lulu’s magic fade. Thinking back on it, I kinda wish that version of Sophia was still around.


There was a knock at the door and Julia came in holding food to-go containers.


“Hi Sophia,” she said. “Oh, wow, there’s a party in here!”


“So what did you bring us together for, Cate?” Kayla impatiently asked. “It’s Friday, and I was supposed to go to the gym to shoot hoops with some friends.”


“I wanted to compare notes. I saw the headmistress and the Barneses this morning.”


“The Barneses are still around?” Julia asked, splitting up the food between her and Sophia.


“Mrs. Barnes is too embarrassed to go back to class unless Mr. Barnes’s name is cleared,” I explained.


“Good luck with that,” Julia said. “You heard him last week. He was seeing Ashley Tart. Eww!”


“They didn’t do anything,” Sophia said defensively.


“It’s still creepy.”


I chimed in, “Anyway, I learned Ashley was a hacker. It looks like she was used to hack into a company to get the plans for that device Sophia’s attacker dropped.”


“A hacker?” Brett asked. “That’s so cool.”


“That doesn’t surprise me,” Sophia added. “We’d talk about computer stuff occasionally. She knew far more than I did. She was even in Mr. Sander’s Technology Club last year.”


“Technology Club?” Kayla laughed. “Here you were thinking she was in Magic Club.”


“Well, that’s what she said when we saw her,” Sam clarified.


“Yeah, but remember the first rule of Magic Club-” I repeated the same bad joke I used last week. But I paused, looking at everyone in the realization that they weren’t following me. “You know - you do not talk about Magic Club…” My voice trailed off as the wheels in my head were turning. Suddenly an epiphany!


“Yeah, yeah, we heard that quote the last time you said it,” Sophia grumbled.


“No, wait up,” I said, so close to putting this together. “What’s that quote Mr. Sanders said? About science and magic? Do you remember, Brett?”


“The quote from that sci-fi writer?” Brett asked. “Something about advanced technology being the same as…” He paused and looked at me wide-eyed. 


Sam finished the sentence, “magic.”


“Arthur C. Clarke,” Sophia said. “Mr. Sanders used to say that all of the time.”


I raised my eyebrows. “There is no Magic Club,” I said, pointing for effect. “But there is a Technology Club. And according to Arthur C. Clarke, they’re the same damn thing.”


“A Technology Club playing with magic?” Julia asked.


“So that device, that was on our floor…” Sophia said, looking at me.


“Someone is sciencing magic,” Sam realized.


“What device?” Julia asked.


“A smallish silver disk,” Sophia explained. “About the size of a checkers piece.”


“Like this?” Julia said, pulling a necklace out of her shirt. And the end of the silver necklace was a silver disk exactly like the one Sophia found. We all just stared at it.


“Where’d you get that?” I asked, moving to examine it.


“I… don’t remember,” she sheepishly said.


“How long have you had it?” Sam asked.


“About a month. Around the time I was out with the flu.”


“You found a mysterious pendant on your neck and you didn't think to take it off?” Kayla asked.


Julia shrugged. 


“Where did you go last night, after you left?” Sophia asked.


“I was here with you and Jamie,” she said, slowly retracing her steps. “Jamie left first. Then I got up to leave. I reached the quad and…”


“And?” I questioned.


“I-I don’t remember how I got home.”


“This is stupid,” Sophia said. “That was a boy who attacked me. Not Julia. ”


“And you said he had black hair,” I reminded her.


Julia suddenly looked worried. “What else can you say about him?”


Sophia responded, “My height - well, my former height. Lanky. Pale.”


“Zits? Glasses?” Julia probed further.


“No glasses, but sure, he had acne,” Sophia agreed.


“And now he’s likely to have a shiner,” I chuckled.


Julia stood up, starting to panic. She placed a hand on her face near her eye and winced. “I have to go.”


“What’s wrong?” Sophia asked. “That’s not you. You’re a girl. And blonde and beautiful.”


“My former identity,” Julia confessed. “I used to be lanky, nerdy, and pale with black hair.”


“That couldn’t have been your former identity,” Sophia protested.


“You’re not a Shifter or a Were,” Brett said.


“Plus, that description could describe anyone,” Kayla added. “It still doesn’t rule out a Normie. Maybe some boy from Weatherford High.”


I looked at Julia’s face. It was similar to the attacker. “I examined his face for a good moment before he fled. His face. He does look similar… He looked like he could’ve been your brother.”


“I-I don’t have a brother,” Julia replied, confused about where this questioning was headed.


“That device,” I said. “Mr. Barnes said it was designed to control people.”


“So she’s being controlled now?” Kayla speculated.


Julia shook her head in disbelief.


Sam turned to the group. “So our theory is that someone is using those devices to steal people’s magic and control Julia… disguised as her former self?”


“Who was the second missing student?” I asked the room. “Before I enrolled, Ms. Hathaway said there were two missing students. Ashley, and one that was found the day I was enrolled.”


Everyone else in the room looked at Julia.


“It wasn’t me!” she said in denial. “I was sick with the flu. In my dorm.”


“Do you remember being sick in your dorm?” Kayla asked.


“You didn’t come to class or answer any of my texts for a week,” Sophia pointed out.


She thought about that. “It can’t be me. It just can’t,” she stressed. “I’m not Ashley. It’s not like my magic faded-” The moment she said it, she realized.


“Your former best friend used magic to completely rewrite your identity,” Sophia said. “So, if your magic faded… your previous self comes back.”


“No!” Julia cried, backing up to the door. “It can’t be me. I don’t remember any of it. Why would I do this to my friends?”


“Julia, don’t leave,” Sophia said softly. “We’re not going to do anything to you. Cate, Sam, tell her she’s safe.”


“You’re safe with us,” I said. Although, if my suspicions are correct, I’m not really sure if we’re safe with you, I thought to myself.


“OK, so what if someone is controlling Julia?” Sam pondered. “It could be anyone.”


“Someone in the Technology Club?” Brett suggested.


Throughout the conversation, I kept flashing back to earlier this afternoon and my conversation with Mr. Sanders. That feeling of dread in my gut kept growing. I shook my head and sat down on my bed. 


Could Mr. Sanders be involved in this? He offered me a way to fix Sophia. He told me he could illegally obtain magic. Tell no one, he said. But what if he isn’t involved? This is his Technology Club. What if I accuse yet another teacher and I’m wrong? I get expelled and Mr. Kincade ships me off again. Good-bye PAA, hello military academy. Plus Mr. Sanders has been nice to me - when we’re alone that is. He’s only a dick during class. A façade to hide the truth from his students.


Should I confront him? By myself or with my friends?


“Cate,” Sophia said. “Is something up?”


“I know who it is,” I suddenly announced.


They all looked at me for an explanation.


“Ashley was involved in Mr. Sander’s Technology Club. Ashley was a hacker who could steal the plans for that device. Ashley, Sophia, Brandon, and Lulu were all in Mr. Sanders’ class last year. It’s gotta be Mr. Sanders.”


“Old man Sanders?” Brett asked, doubt in his voice. “Our science teacher?”


“Yes, our science teacher,” I explained. “The faculty sponsor of Technology Club.”


“The one who doesn’t believe in magic?” Sophia asked.


“Cate, are you sure of this?” Sam questioned. “You know what happened last time we accused a teacher of something.”


I thought back to all of the conversations I’d had with Mr. Sanders. He was also offering me a way to help Sophia - with magic. “How was I so blind?”


“Who else is in the Technology Club?” Sophia asked.


“Brandon,” I replied. “They’ve been asking me to join them.”


“Mr. Sanders asked me to join earlier in the year,” Julia suddenly recalled.


“Did you join?” Sam asked. “Do you remember?”


Julia looked at Sam blankly. “I don’t remember if I did or not.”


“This is pretty far-fetched,” Kalya countered. “Do you think it’s Mr. Sanders or do you know it’s Mr. Sanders?”


“That teacher who I said who got me out of jail - it was Mr. Sanders. I explained to him what we were doing. We shared our frustrations about magic being illegal.” I paused. “I... I wanted him to help me find a fix for Sophia. He… offered a cure. Using magic.”


Everyone was silent.


“He’s smart,” I added. “He’s also a Displaced.”


“Whoa,” Brett said. “Sanders is a TG?”


“He always showed contempt to us during class,” Sophia pointed out.


“How do you know?” Kayla asked. “How do you know he’s a TG?”


“Because he told me,” I explained. “He’s pissed that his youth was stolen. He’s likely jealous of other TGs because we’re all teenagers. He - or rather she - is only 21.”


“21!” Kayla exclaimed. “So she must have aged like-”


“60 years,” I completed the equation. 


“So when do you want to confront him… or her?” Sam asked.


“Tomorrow,” I said. “During Technology Club.”


“Should we tell the headmistress?” Sophia asked.


“No,” I replied. “She’s looking for the culprit too. If she finds him first, we may never find a way to fix everyone.” I hoped no one would question why not, I didn’t want to get into a discussion about the Order of the Dawn. “No, we need answers. We also need the cure for Sophia. Who’s got Brandon’s number?” I asked.


“I can look them up in the campus directory,” Sophia offered, scrolling through her phone.


“Found it.” Sophia dialed the number. “Hey Brandon,” she greeted. “It’s Sophia, sorry about my voice…Yeah, it’s happening to me too…. Hey, Cate wants to talk to you about Technology Club.” She handed me her phone.


“Hey Brandon, it’s Cate, can I join you at Technology Club tomorrow?”


“Hi Cate, sure,” they replied. “That would be awesome.”


“When and where?”


“Science Lab at 3.”


“Great, I’ll see you there.” I disconnected.


“Science Club on a Saturday?” Brett asked. “That by itself is totally sus.”


“What about Julia and her pendant?” Sam asked, pointing at Julia’s neck.


“Yeah, why are you still wearing that?” Kayla admonished.


“No,” I interrupted Julia from taking it off. “Keep it on. If your former self shows his face, I have a bone to pick with him.”


Julia backed away. “Please don’t. Are you the reason why my face was all bruised this morning?”


I sighed. “I’m sorry. I promise not to kick his ass. I just want to ask him a few questions.”


Julia timidly nodded, but kept her distance from me.


Sam came up to me and whispered. “If her dead-self has her memories, is it really wise to keep her around?”


I whispered back and smirked. “I’m actually counting on that.”


Sam nodded and backed away.


“OK,” I announced. “We need to formulate a plan. But first - let’s order pizza.”



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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

Not Sanders! I would have thought she would want to help people not hurt them. Unless she lied about being TG
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Emily

I'm quite sure have an explanation
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