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Reese woke up to the sound of Wyn screaming. He scrambled out of bed, threw on a pair of jeans and darted out into the hallway. “Wyn?”he called. Where was she? He checked her room, but she wasn’t there. Her bed was still made. Was she downstairs?
No. The scream had sounded close. His eyes swept the hallway, which now contained mostly empty rooms since half the school was dead or hiding out. That left Gavin’s room.
Reese tried the doorknob. Locked. He pounded on the door. “Gavin!”
“Reese!”It was Wyn’s voice, muffled a little through the door.
Reese pounded harder. “Let me in, Gavin.”
“Gavin’s busy,”said another voice from inside. David. What was that weirdo doing in there? “Go away, Reese.”
“Reese, help m–“But Wyn’s voice was smothered, as if someone had covered her mouth.
Reese kicked at the door in frustration, then rattled the doorknob again. Damn it. He had to get into that room. Something bad was happening to Wyn. He backed away for a second, running his hands through his hair in thought. Busting down the door was out. It looked cool in movies, but Reese was pretty sure he couldn’t actually pull it off. Which meant that if he wanted to get into that room, he’d have to get the door unlocked.
The doors to the rooms in the academy were newer doors, not nearly as antique as the house itself. They all employed push button locks, so that went you closed the door, you just pushed in on the button and the door was locked. Reese remembered having locks like that in a beach house that he and his family had stayed at once. His dad had showed him how to unlock the doors from the outside. It hadn’t been that hard. He just needed something long and pointed.
Reese dashed down the stairs and into the kitchen. He rummaged through drawers until he found a paring knife. Then, brandishing it like a weapon, he took off running back up the steps.
“Reese,”Madame Braith called after him, standing on the landing with the morning paper, “don’t you know it’s not safe to run with knives?”
Reese ignored her. She was the reason they were in this mess to begin with. He was sick of that witch.
Reese arrived back at Gavin’s door. “Wyn?”he yelled.
“Go away,”growled David from inside.
Reese tried the door again. Still locked. He fitted the paring knife inside the small hole on the outside of the knob. He turned it.
It turned too easily. He needed to get inside and find the catch of the lock. He pushed the tip of the knife in again, this time forcing it further inside the lock. He felt around for a bit of springy resistance. When he found it, he pushed and turned again. The lock snapped open.
Reese burst in the door.
Gavin was sitting on the floor, his head in his hands. David was holding Wyn against his body, his hand over her mouth. He was whispering something in her ear.
“Let go of her,”said Reese.
David arched his eyebrow even higher than it sat naturally. “I wasn’t going to actually hurt her,”he said. He tossed Wyn away from him. She stumbled over her feet and went sprawling on the carpet.
Reese knelt down next to her. “Are you okay?”
“He’s crazy,”Wyn said, her eyes fierce. “He’s a complete nutcase psychopath.”
David rolled his eyes. “Now, now. Just because I was calling you names doesn’t mean you have to go all grade school on me and do it back.”
Gavin looked up. “Lancelot, why couldn’t you have been more discreet? Now the kingdom knows for sure. They’ll demand her death!”
Reese crossed to Gavin and took him by the shoulders. Shaking him, he said, “Gavin, snap out of it. You’re not King Arthur.”What was Gavin doing here, anyway? Did he think he’d arrested Guinevere? Why was David playing along?
“And I’m the crazy one,”said David. He held up his hands, palms up. “Why me?”
“You!”Reese advanced on David. “What did you do to Wyn?”
“Oh, she liked it,”said David, “and don’t let her tell you any different. Most girls won’t say no to a little roughness.”
What was he saying? Had he–?
“He just slapped me,”said Wyn. “He said a bunch of creepy things and called me names, but he didn’t really hurt me.”
David had slapped her?
Reese’s fists tightened. “Get out of here, David.”
“No,”said Gavin. “He has to stay. I’m the king, and I command it.”
“For God’s sake, Gavin, wake up,”said Reese.
“Well,”said David, “we wouldn’t want to upset the king, now would we?”
Reese dove for him, driving a fist into David’s jaw.
David’s head jerked back. He swore. David rubbed his jaw. “That was a bad idea… Lancelot.”
Reese’s knuckles hurt. He cradled his hand with the other. “Don’t touch Wyn ever again.”
David took a step toward Reese.
Reese’s fists went up.
David reached for Reese.
Reese threw another punch.
David twisted out of the way. Reese’s punch only grazed the side of his rib cage.
David grabbed Reese’s shoulders.
Reese tried to step backwards, but David pulled him closer.
David brought his knee up, landing right in Reese’s crotch.
Reese doubled over, gasping, pain exploding and wiping out his thoughts.
David was laughing.
Vaguely, Reese could hear Madame Braith in the doorway to the bedroom. “You boys weren’t fighting, were you?”
Reese straightened up, glaring at both David and Madame Braith. It was too bad he wasn’t the real Lancelot. Instead, he was a wimp of a guy who couldn’t punch and was taken down by one dirty move. Some kind of hero he was.
It was Wyn’s laundry day again. Reese had tried to talk her out of it, but she was sick of sitting in her room all the time. Reese told her it wasn’t safe for her to be alone, since David and Gavin were both out to get her. Gavin seemed permanently stuck in King Arthur mode, while neither Wyn nor Reese had experienced any dreams or visions in the last couple days. It didn’t mean things weren’t weird, however. They were.
Doing laundry was normal. She was going to do laundry, whether or not Reese approved. When she put it to him like that, he relented. Sure, she could do laundry. But he was coming with her.
It actually was nice to have Reese around for laundry. He helped her carry her baskets down the steps to the basement and helped her sort her lights and darks. They didn’t talk much. There wasn’t a lot to say, really. They’d talked most of the subjects to death. For instance, David was seriously delusional. He’d whispered all kinds of disgusting things in her ear–things he wanted to do to her, things he wanted to watch Gavin do to her. Most were just icky sexual fantasies, but some were violent.
Madame Braith, of course, didn’t think there was anything wrong with David. He was her favorite student of all time, it appeared. She refused to address any of it. She wouldn’t talk about Gavin thinking he was King Arthur. She wouldn’t talk about the fight Reese and David had gotten into. She dismissed the allegation that David had slapped Wyn. Madame Braith wasn’t interested.
Wyn and Reese had discussed the idea of stealing her car and leaving the academy, but they didn’t want to leave Gavin behind, and Gavin wasn’t speaking to them. Furthermore, Gavin didn’t know who he was. They were also terrified that even if they left, the spirits would keep haunting them. They stayed, hoping they could figure out what was going on.
Wyn stuffed her lights into the washer and looked around for the bleach. She’d been using the communal bleach and detergent for quite some time. Madame Braith bought it out of their tuitions. Wyn didn’t see the point in buying her own. The bleach usually sat on a shelf above the washer and dryer, along with the detergent and dryer sheets. Everything else was on the shelf, but the bleach was missing.
“Whatcha looking for?”Reese asked. He was perched on the steps and was watching Wyn.
“Bleach,”said Wyn. “It’s usually right here.”
“Guess we ran out.”
“There was a whole bottle here last week,”Wyn said. “I remember putting it in.”
“Before you rushed out to make out with me?”Reese asked.
Wyn shot him a withering look. “Yes. Before that.”
“Well, you weren’t exactly yourself. Maybe you took the bleach with you. Maybe you poured all of it in.”
Wyn shook her head. “Maybe. Or maybe it just fell off the shelf.”She leaned over the washer, peering behind it. She didn’t see any bleach back there. It was mostly dark and musty. But there was another smell. A gross one. She leaned over further, swiping a hand behind the washer. It brushed something fabric. She straightened up and yanked on the washer, trying to pull it away from the wall.
“Let me help you,”said Reese, coming over from the stairs. He pulled the washer back.
“Wow,”said Wyn, impressed. “You did that quick.”
“Well,”said Reese, “I might not be manly enough to fight off jerks who are trying to hurt my girlfriend, but I can move washers.”He grinned at her.
She didn’t grin back. He’d called her his girlfriend. “Reese,”she said, “just because Gavin–“
“Damn it,”Reese said. “I didn’t mean to say it. It slipped. I know you’re not my girlfriend.”
“Good,”said Wyn, starting around the washer to look behind it.
Reese caught her by the elbow. “It’s just that lately, between us, we’ve been, you know, close.”
She turned to him. She put her hand on his cheek. She knew what he meant. They were close. She cared about him. Sometimes, when they were making love, she could swear that she loved him. She had a connection with him, a deep one, maybe deeper than any connection she’d ever felt with Gavin, but she didn’t know where that connection came from. She pulled her hand back. “We’ve been fucking, Reese, that’s all.”
He looked stunned for a second. Hurt. Then he smiled wryly and took a step back. “Right,”he said. “And it’s just because of the spirits.”
“Right,”said Wyn. She turned away from him and peered around the washer. She didn’t see any bleach. “It’s not here,”she said. There was only a dirty sheet. That must have been the fabric she’d felt. And it was also what gave off the icky smell. Well, after she washed her clothes, she could put this in the washer as its own load. It might need to go through twice. She pulled it out and threw it on the floor.
There was a clattering noise.
“What’s that?”Reese asked.
“Some dirty sheet,”said Wyn, following the clattering. The bleach! It had been behind the washer after all. It must have been tangled up in the sheet. She reached down and picked it up. “Found it!”
But why was the bottle all smeared with this brownish-red stuff?
“Wyn?”said Reese. “I think this sheet is covered in blood.”
Gavin glared at his bedroom door. Someone was pounding on it. “Go away,”he yelled.
“Gavin, it’s me,”said Wyn. “Let me in.”
Wyn? Guinevere? Everything was so foggy these days. Half the time, he wasn’t even sure who he was. He stumbled across the room and threw open the door. Wyn and Reese walked inside.
“What is he doing here?”Gavin demanded, glowering at Reese.
“We found something,”said Reese.
“Right,”Gavin snorted. “You found your genitals attached to each other. Excuse me if I don’t feel like hanging out with the guy who’s fucking my girlfriend. Get out.”
“Girlfriend,”repeated Wyn. “You know who you are.”
Gavin crossed the room and sat down heavily on his bed. “Right now I do. Sure. But it goes in and out. Most times, I just feel like everything’s murky. I can’t keep it straight.”
Reese stared at his shoes. “We didn’t mean–“
“I know,”said Gavin. “It was the spirits.”
“Like you and Madame Braith,”said Wyn.
She would bring that up, wouldn’t she? Gavin swallowed. “Close the door.”
Reese shut it behind them. He and Wyn stood awkwardly, looking everywhere but him.
“What did you find?”asked Gavin.
“Bloody sheets,”said Wyn. “Behind the washer. There was a lot of blood.”
What did that mean? Gavin knitted his brow. “That’s gross and kind of scary, but what do you think it means?”
Reese looked at Wyn. “Wyn thinks that maybe when Madame Braith got unpregnant–you tell him, Wyn.”
Wyn nodded. “You remember that we’d figured out that Madame Braith was Morgan le Fay and that she was supposed to be pregnant with Mordred. But then we did the ritual, and she seemed fine.”
Gavin nodded. He did remember this, through all the mists his memory had recently become. “We thought it was a mystical pregnancy or something.”
“I think she gave birth,”said Wyn. “That’s what the bloody sheets were from.”
“What did she do with the baby?”Gavin asked, horrifying images of Madame Braith murdering it dancing before his eyes.
“David?”said Gavin, looking confused. “But he’s our age.”
“He’s Mordred,”said Wyn. “Arthur’s son. Your son, sort of. And he’s grown up, because everything was moving quickly. Madame Braith’s pregnancy was going too quick. Maybe he could be a teenager really quickly too.”
Gavin bit his lip. David was his…son? The thought made him feel queasy. “I don’t know.”
“He’s playing the part of Mordred in the myth,”said Reese. “Mordred discovers Lancelot and Guinevere’s affair and forces Arthur to put Guinevere on trial.”
“In the myth,”said Wyn, “Lancelot gets away. Guinevere is about to be burned at the stake, but Lancelot sails in at the last minute and rescues her. Then Mordred tries to take the throne from Arthur. They meet in single combat on the battlefield and each delivers a mortal wound to the other.”
“They kill each other,”said Gavin.
“So if David is Mordred, he might be trying to kill me?”Gavin asked.
Reese and Wyn exchanged a look.
“He might be trying to kill all of us,”said Reese.
“Yeah, and maybe not in the disappearing bodies way either,”said Wyn. “Maybe in an actual flesh and blood kind of way.”
Gavin stood up from his bed. “He is kind of creepy.”
“He’s super creepy,”said Wyn.
“Screw this,”said Gavin. “We’re getting out of here.”
Wyn and Reese looked at him, surprised.
“I know where Madame Braith keeps the keys to her car. Meet me outside in ten minutes.”
Under the cover of darkness, Gavin eased the car into reverse without starting it. Wyn and Reese pushed the front end while he steered. The car inched out of the driveway. When they were out of sight and out of earshot, the two got inside, Wyn up front and Reese in the back. Gavin started the car. “Did anyone see you?”he asked.
“No,”said Wyn. “We’re home free, I think.”
“Good,”said Gavin, stepping on the gas. He pulled out onto the road and sped away from the mansion.
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