The noise didn’t let up for the entire period.
Whether it hailed, thundered, or rained, it never became anything that could exist comfortably in the background.
Meanwhile, I attempted to explain the situation between Lee and Isaac while simultaneously not explaining things. I couldn’t exactly tell her that the friend saying nasty things another friend was an FBI agent who acted as a handler for heroes in this region. I also couldn’t tell her that what bothered Isaac about Lee wasn’t interpersonal stuff as much as that Lee might be capable of plunging the world into an unholy reign of darkness and terror.
“I shouldn’t ask this,” she said, “but do either of the people you’re talking about work at this school?”
After waiting for the most recent blast of thunder to end, I said, “No. That would be bad, wouldn’t it?”
“Believe me,” she said, “it gets awkward. Knowing that something like that’s going on and not being able to tell anybody? But I shouldn’t have brought it up. What are you feeling about the situation?”
“Me? Well, it’s not much of a situation. It’s just that one of them tried to warn me to watch out for the other.”
“Well, then what bothers you about it? Why did you want to talk about it?”
The honest answer was, of course, that I didn’t want to go over the fight again and talk about my imaginary anger management issues, but I couldn’t say that.
“It bothers me because I can’t really do a thing about it. It’s not like I’m going to get them together. Whatever’s going on is their problem and not mine. So what I’m planning on doing is, well, basically nothing. It’s just kind of strange in that I didn’t even know that either one of them knew about the other one’s existence, and, now one of them’s telling me to watch out for the other one because he might be the anti-Christ or something.”
“I might be exaggerating a little.”
I was, but, given what Isaac had told me, less than one might assume.
“A little?” She said, but she let it go. “Overall, I’d say you’ve got a very mature attitude to the situation. You’re not responsible for either of them. Having them take up their problems with each other, and, not through you is exactly the right approach. Now though, I think we should talk about the reason you’re here.”
By the end of the session, I’d gone into the whole fight with Sean, and the reasons it happened — including Haley’s relationship with him, but not, obviously, the part where she’d poisoned him.
She looked unhappy when I started to explain Haley’s experience with him. By the time I described the fight and its aftermath she began to look angry.
“Did Mr. Sledge say why he assigned you to get counseling instead of Sean?” She asked.
“No. I assumed it was because Sean and his friends all looked hurt and I didn’t. Well, also I think Sean’s dad has some kind of influence, but it’s not like I can prove that.”
She stopped talking, saying nothing for an uncomfortable moment.
“This story bothers me on more levels than I’m comfortable talking about. I can’t make any promises, but I don’t see any reason why you should have to come to counseling sessions. From what I’ve seen of you, you don’t seem to have any major issues at all, and I don’t see evidence of any in Mr. McGhee’s notes either.”
“That would be great, but, I think this was some sort of deal with Mr. Sledge and Sean’s dad and my parents. No matter how much sense it makes, I don’t think anybody’s going to let me out of this.”
“You might be right, Nick, but counseling sessions are for helping people. They’re not supposed to be a weapon against other students.”
I didn’t know whether it said bad things about me or the school that I’d never even considered the possibility that an adult might end up on my side.
When the bell rang, I walked toward Vaughn’s locker because even if he wasn’t responsible for the storm, he might be able to answer some questions.
It took a little while to get there because he’d been assigned one on the second floor of the school.
When I found him, I discovered he wasn’t alone. Cassie and Kayla stood next to him in front of his locker.
“Oh geez,” Vaughn said as I joined the group, “I just told them it wasn’t my fault already.”
He continued putting his books in a backpack.
I looked from him back into the hall and to the lockers on either side. No one seemed to be listening or even especially interested. Still, it would be so easy to blow secret identities by standing around and talking like this.
“Cassie,” I said, “do you happen to have a car today?”
“Do you need a ride?” Cassie asked.
“Well, thank you for your input, Mr. Mind in the Gutter,” Cassie said, but she looked more amused than offended.
“I do need a ride home,” I said.
“I’ve got Mom’s car,” Cassie said. “You’re welcome to ride along. I’m already bringing him.” She nodded toward Vaughn.
“Might be the last time,” Vaughn said. “I could be getting a car tomorrow.”
“Really?” I said. “I didn’t think that would ever happen.”
“Tell me about it,” Vaughn said. “I think my parents must have figured that almost a year was long enough. That, and they’re sick of driving me places.”
“If you’re all going to go,” Kayla said, “I’ll get to track practice.”
After she left, walking downstairs toward Cassie’s and my lockers, Cassie said, “It might have been nice to be on the team during senior year. Still, it’s not as if there would have been any real competition. I’d have spent the whole year trying not to break too many records.”
By the time we got to the front door, we had stopped at three different lockers and were among the few people left in the school. Four people hung around in the front of the doors, all but one of them talking on their cell phones. None of them looked very happy.
We stopped in front of the front doors, barely able to see through the glass thanks to the rain.
“Anyone got an umbrella?” Cassie asked.
Vaughn muttered, “Yeah, right.”
“No,” I said. “Don’t you?”
“It’s in the car,” Cassie said.
“I guess we’ll have to run.”
Cassie pulled a door open and stepped into the rain, instantly becoming soaked.
I stepped through the door next to hers at about the same time, suddenly remembering that I could have pulled a hood out of my jacket’s collar.
The cold rain hit, dripping down the back of my neck and under my shirt.
As Vaughn stepped outside, the rain stopped.
Not a drop hit him.
“No shit,” Vaughn muttered.
Then it started again, pelting all of us just as hard as before.
I would have started running down the steps toward the street except that I heard a voice coming from off to the side.
Composed of darkness and rain, a squat, manlike shape stood just past the railing.
With a voice just barely distinguishable from the sounds around us, it said, “‘Storm King,’ my master, the King of Storms, bids you to meet him on the shore of Lake Michigan at 4 o’clock next Wednesday.”
“Where on the shore?” Vaughn said. “The State Park? Behind my house? What?”
“Choose one. He’ll find you.”
“You got it.”