Read Dead Is Just a Rumor Online

Authors: Marlene Perez

Dead Is Just a Rumor (7 page)

BOOK: Dead Is Just a Rumor
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My "cooking lesson
" that Saturday turned out to be a total disaster. My orders were to report to the Nightshade Harbor to help Circe cater the high school's big fundraising event on a yacht. The name on the side was
Sea Nymph.

Practically everyone in town was going to be there, including my parents.

As instructed, I wore plain black pants with a white button-down shirt. Circe provided the aprons. Wilder's Restaurant was the official caterer, but I noticed that the aprons read "Cooking with Circe."

Most of the food had been prepped already, but there was a full, although small, kitchen on the yacht. I had assumed I'd get the chance to observe Circe in action. Instead, I ended up as a buffet runner, which meant I refilled the food on the buffet line when it was empty. And I didn't even get a fun station, like the carved prime rib station or the dessert station. Instead, I got stuck with making sure the breadbaskets were well stocked.

The room looked lovely, with white linen tablecloths and dark purple napkins.

The double doors were thrown open wide and the room was filled with people. Ms. Tray sat at a table in the front, near the bandstand. There was a clipboard in front of her. She wore a long white angora sweater dress, which made her look like a fluffy little kitten. Gold heart earrings dangled from her ears.

My parents arrived with Rose and Nicholas. Since the breadbaskets were secure, I went to say hi. But Ms. Tray beat me to it.

"Mr. and Mrs. Giordano, so nice to see you," she said. She greeted them like they were long lost friends. For a minute, I thought she was going to try to hug my father. But at the last minute, she changed her mind and offered him her hand.

Dad took it and shook it vigorously. The warmth of his smile made Ms. Tray flutter her eyelashes girlishly.

"Who is this gorgeous girl?" she asked, obviously talking about Rose.

"This is Rose. She's my oldest and is a sophomore at UC Nightshade," Dad said proudly.

"Well, bless your heart," Ms. Tray said. "Aren't you just the cutest little thing?"

Rose said all the polite things and then excused herself to go talk to Mr. Todeschi, her old band teacher.

As Ms. Tray continued chatting animatedly with my father, my mother whispered into my ear, "Who is that woman?"

"She's the new guidance counselor at school," I said.

"She's about as subtle as a barracuda," Mom said. "Oh, there's Chief Mendez and Ryan. Keep your father company while I go say hi."

But I had to get back to the buffet table. I was reluctant to leave my dad alone with Ms. Tray, but he assured me that he would be fine.

Stuck behind the buffet table, I kept my eyes glued to the guidance counselor and my dad. Their conversation looked so innocuous, but I still kept watching. My father was talking and laughing. I used every ounce of my powers to listen in.

At first, I couldn't tune in properly, since there were so many other conversations going on in the room, and I think some dolphins around the boat might have been interfering, too. But I finally managed to tune out everyone else and hone in on the two of them.

Ms. Bea Tray spoke with a honey-laced southern accent and had soft blond hair and big blue eyes. But she was pure poison. A trace of venom threaded through her words.

"Your daughter," she said. "Bless her heart, but she is not living up to her potential."

"She's not?" My dad's smile turned to a frown.

"If only Daisy would concentrate on her studies, instead of..." Ms. Tray paused delicately. Probably deciding where to stick the knife.

"Instead of what?" My dad sounded almost panic-stricken. I wondered what lies she'd make up this time.

"I don't want to be indelicate."

"Please, tell me if there is something wrong with my daughter," he replied.

"I've heard something quite disturbing about her, it's true," she said.

Between school, work, cooking lessons, volunteering, and trying to spend time with Ryan and my family, I didn't have any time for anything
even if I'd wanted to.

Ms. Tray was trying to cause trouble, I was sure of it. I clenched my hands into fists and the plastic serving tongs I held snapped in two.

"Something wrong?" Sam said, puzzled. She and Sean stood on the other side of the buffet, plates piled high with food.

I put a finger to my lips. "Hang on a second," I said.

But I'd lost the connection.

What else was Ms. Tray telling my father? She was playing Dad like a country fiddle, exploiting his paranoia.

"Hey, what do you know about the guidance counselor?" I asked Samantha.

"Not much," she said. She gave me a searching look.

"She said that I better pray for a football scholarship," said Sean. "Come on, babe, let's eat," he said to Samantha. "I want to come back for seconds."

My friends went to find a table, and I looked back over at Ms. Tray and my dad. She put her hand on his arm and leaned inclose, like she was telling him a secret. That's when I noticed Penny Edwards, lingering near my father and Ms. Tray, doing the old-fashioned kind of eavesdropping. She gave me a wicked smile that made me want to throw her off the boat. Clearly, she had overheard whatever I had missed.

Ryan and his dad headed my way.

"Hi, Chief Mendez," I said. I leaned across the buffet and wrapped an arm around Ryan. "I didn't know you were going to be here tonight."

He gave his dad a little sock on the arm. "Dad needed a date."

Chief Mendez chuckled and then said, "It's quite the shindig. I've never seen your mom so dressed up."

Mom was on her way back to Dad. Excellent news. Mom would be able to extricate him from Ms. Tray's clutches.

"Let's dance," Ryan suggested.

"I can't," I said. "I'm working."

I glanced over at Ms. Tray. She was still yakking away, but Mom had arrived to save the day.

"Come on," Ryan urged, "Let's check out the view from the deck."

"Okay, but just for a few minutes," I said, and popped out from behind the buffet.

When we got up to the deck, it was empty.

I told Ryan about what I had seen and heard. "That's all I need," I said. "For my dad to be more paranoid."

"Maybe it's not as bad as you think," he said. I knew he was trying to comfort me, but it wasn't working. I had a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach.

"We should go back," I said. But I didn't really want to.

Ryan put his hands on my waist. "We should stay," he said. He bent his head and gave me a tiny kiss.

"But what about the fundraiser? My dad?"

"Just five minutes."

Several very enjoyable minutes later, I stopped kissing him.

"Ryan, we've been gone for ages. Circe is going to kill me."

We practically ran back. Nobody seemed to notice that we'd been gone. At least that's what I thought until Circe caught up with me.

"Daisy, where have you been? I've been looking for you everywhere."

"Sorry, I went out for a breath of air and just lost track of time," I said.

For a minute, I thought she was going to explode, but instead she smiled. "I was young and in love once," she said. She sighed and her eyes grew distant, changing from an icy green to a soft blue. She shook herself and the ice returned. "Don't let it happen again. Now go fill the breadbaskets."

A little while later, I spotted some one I needed to talk to. I'd tried to corner Wolfgang Paxton several times at school, but he always managed to avoid me. Now he was stuck on a boat in the middle of the harbor, however. He couldn't avoid me here.

I found him refilling his plate at the roast beef station. "I said rare," he snapped at the server.

"Hi, there, Wolfie," I said.

"What do you want?" he asked.

"That's not very nice," I replied. "A little birdy told me that you might need help."

"I don't," he said, but he still refused to face me.

"You do," I said. "Someone is blackmailing you. Maybe I can help."

"Like you helped me last time?" he said scornfully. "Thanks, but no thanks."

"You'd rather just give in to their demands?" I said.

"I can handle it," he said. "It's not that much money." He realized he'd slipped up and inadvertently admitted he was being blackmailed. He swore under his breath and stalked off.

I felt Circe's eyes on me and hurried back to my breadbaskets. Hardly the learning experience I'd dreamed of when I'd first won the lessons.

A little later, I noticed Lilah Porter and her family sitting at one of the tables. I waved to her, but she didn't look like she was having much fun. Her hair was soaking wet. Her father looked over at her and frowned.

After the party ended and the yacht docked, Circe had me scrubbing pots and pans until midnight.

When I got home, Mom was in bed, but Dad was waiting up and he didn't look happy.

"Hi, Dad," I said. "Did you have a nice chat with Ms. Tray?"

"It was ... illuminating," he said. "I'm very concerned about your relationship with that boy," Dad said. "I've heard things."

"What kind of things?"

"It doesn't matter," my dad said. "I don't see a future between the two of you."

"So you're psychic now?" I said. "It's my senior year. Do I really have to decide every bit of my future right now?"

"Don't you think you should be thinking about the future of your relationship? Can you trust him if you both go to different colleges?"

"Don't you think you should give Ryan the benefit of the doubt? Maybe a chance to defend himself? How can he do that if you won't even tell me what you heard?"

"I heard that he's dangerous," my father replied.

"Dangerous?" I snorted. "Ryan? You mean because he's a werewolf?"

"That's not what I mean at all," he replied. "I've never cared about that sort of thing. You know that."

"Then what's the problem?"

"I don't think he's a good influence on you."

The conversation was going nowhere. "Look, Dad, I'm not going to break up with Ryan."

"You'll do what you're told," he said sternly. "I am your father."

"My father, who has been gone for the last six years," I said. "You can't expect to come home and find everything the same as when you left."

"I don't," he said. "But I do expect you to listen to me."

"Listening isn't agreeing," I replied.

"Promise me you'll think about it," he said. "That's all I ask."

"I promise, if you'll promise to give Ryan a chance."

But he wouldn't even consider it. He squared his shoulders. "You are grounded," he said.

"What? That's not fair," I said. The plates in the cupboard rattled and I forced myself to calm down.

"You are not allowed to go out with that boy until further notice," he said, his voice rising.

Poppy poked her head into the kitchen. "What's all the shouting about?" she said, looking from Dad to me in bewilderment.

"He's trying to ruin my life, that's all," I said.

I ran from the room before I started to cry. I stomped up the stairs and into my bedroom, slamming the door behind me.

What had gotten in to my father? How was Igoing to convince him that Ryan could be trusted? Or more important, that
could be trusted?


Getting to see Ryan
again was the only good part of going back to school on Monday.

I vented to Sam about my problem. She was an expert on relationships. Practically every guy in school wanted to date her, but she and Sean were as steady as ever.

"What should I do?" I asked her. We were in the library during study hall.

Sam pushed her history book in front of me when the librarian looked over at us.

"My father is completely unreasonable about Ryan," I said, ignoring both the librarian's glare and the history book.

"Do you think it's because of, you know, the
thing?" Sam said.

"You mean because Ryan's"—I lowered my voice—"a werewolf? Of course not."

Dad had adjustments to deal with, but I knew it wouldn't bother him that two of his daughters were dating werewolves. Or that his other daughter was pining over a ghost.

"Maybe he's trying to make up for lost time," Sam suggested.

"But there's no way he can really do that," I pointed out. "I'm not a little kid anymore, no matter how much he wishes I were."

"I don't know, Daisy," Sam admitted. "I figured he would loosen up as time went on, but that doesn't seem to be the case."

"No kidding," I said. "Ever since he talked to that guidance counselor—"

guidance counselor is more like it," Sam said. "She must have told him something pretty bad."

Suddenly I spotted Penny, lurking in the stacks nearby. If anyone knew what Ms. Tray said, it was her.

I followed Penny down a deserted aisle. "Tell me what Ms. Tray said to my father at the fundraiser," I demanded.

"Your father?"

"Don't play stupid, Penny. I saw you listening in on their conversation."


"So, what were they talking about?"

"What is your problem, Giordano?" she said.

"What's your problem?" I could feel the tension ratchet up a notch, but I couldn't help myself. The beads on the necklace she was wearing cascaded to the floor.

"That was my favorite necklace," she said.

"What were they talking about?" I demanded again.

"Nothing," she said as she picked beads up off the tile.

I didn't believe her.

"That was a pretty long conversation about nothing," I said.

Penny just glared at me. "The world doesn't revolve around you, you know. You think everyone is talking about you? Just wait until you find out what it's really like to have everyone whispering."

"Is that a threat?"

"It's a promise," she said, before stomping off.

"Real original, Penny," I hissed.

But Penny topped me. "Just you wait, Daisy. Just you wait."

The librarian approached, clearly miffed about the noise Pennyand I were making. I think she was about to write me up, but luckily the bell rang at that very second.

I was grateful to have a shift at Slim's that Friday. Work was the only thing that got me out of the house since being grounded.

I missed the home football game but was regaled with my boyfriend's football prowess during the minor rush after the game. I didn't get to hear it from Ryan, because he was out celebrating with the rest of the team.

Finally, the hungry fans and tired tourists were all fed and Slim's gradually emptied out. My feet were grateful that it was almost closing time.

Flo approached me. "Just so you know," she said conspiratorily. "The city council is handling that blackmail thing."

"Really?" I said. "Who do they think is sending the notes?"

"No clue yet," Flo said. "But if you know anyone who gets one, make sure they report it to the council."

I wondered if Wolfie had brought his note to the council's attention.

After a long pause, Flo said, "Daisy, I hate to ask, but would you mind if I left the lockup to you? I ... I have something to do."

She glanced over at a two-top, where the drummer for Side Effects May Vary sat, using two straws to drum on the table. When he saw us staring at him, he gave Flo a slow smile and a wave.

Flo had a date! I grinned at her. "You go ahead. Vinnie's waiting."

Flo had thrown a button-down sweater over her work tee but managed to make the outfit look like she'd spent hours getting ready.

"Have fun, but don't stay out too late. You have to work in the morning, too," I called after her.

She turned and said, "Don't push it."

After they left, I decided to consult with Lil again and see if she could give me a hint about the blackmail notes. "A little help, please," I said, as I dropped a bunch of quarters into the slot.

Lil played immediately, which I took as a good sign, but I wasn't sure what her song choice meant. The song she chose was "Pig" by Weezer. Did that mean the blackmailer was a pig? Circe had a pet pig. It was a start.

I got another clue when she played a second song. "My Body Is a Cage" by Arcade Fire. But I still didn't know what they meant.

By the time I'd done all the closing chores and locked up for the night, it was late and Main Street was deserted. Fog had rolled in from the ocean and covered everything in a fine gray mist. I was glad that I had the car for a change, even though I'd had to park it around the corner.

I wasn't thinking about much of anything except getting home to bed, so I didn't really pay attention when I heard footsteps behind me. Probably a tourist straggler.

But some little voice inside my head told me to stop, to see what the person (at least I hoped it was a person) behind me would do. I fumbled in my bag and pretended to look for my keys, which were already clenched in my right hand.

The footsteps stopped, too. I felt warning prickles at the back of my neck. Someone was watching me. Following me. My heart rate accelerated, but I took a deep breath and tried to remain calm.

I suppressed the urge to run and walked slowly to my car. I sent out a little psychic probe to see if anyone was there but came up against a mental block of some kind. Whoever was behind me knew me or at least knew of my abilities. Knew enough about me, anyhow, to block my telekinesis.

I was almost at my car. "I know you're there," I said in as loud a voice as I could muster, but it came out a scared little squeak. I told myself it was probably someone harmless, just somebody trying to scare me. Someone like Penny.

"Penny, I know you're there," I said, louder this time. I was proud of the way my voice hardly trembled at all.

There was a blast of frigid air, so cold that I started to shiver.

Then nothing. I held my breath until I heard the sound of footsteps receding. I hurried to my car and got in, clicking the door locks as quickly as I could before I put the car into gear and went home.

Rose was still out, but Poppy was in her room, studying.

"Do you feel like taking a break? I'll make you a snack."

Poppy looked up from her textbook. "You look like death warmed over," she said. "I'll take a break and you can tell me all about it."

We went down to the kitchen and while I made hot chocolate, I told her what happened.

She looked at me doubtfully. "Are you sure it wasn't just your imagination working overtime?"

"No, it wasn't my imagination," I said. "Someone was following me, I'm sure of it."

I put the chocolate in front of her. "Do you want marshmallows?"

She made a face.

I shrugged. "More for me, then."

We talked about the possibilities. Poppy was less positive than I was that it was Penny.

"I know she's mad at you," she said. "But I can't see her stalking you."

"I can," I replied. I went to bed without convincing Poppy I was right.

BOOK: Dead Is Just a Rumor
11.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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