Haley colored. “Sorry. I wasn’t going to take it or anything. I just wanted to look at it. My mom has the same book.”
Jeremy turned out to be a slightly chunky guy in shorts and t-shirt. The t-shirt said “Gevil” (except the “e” was a sigma) in Google’s multi-colored letters. Jeremy himself had a small mustache and five o’clock shadow.
“Does she actually believe it?”
“What? No. I don’t think so. I think she bought it at a garage sale. It was really popular once, and she was curious, so…”
After a pause, she said, “I’m Haley, Nick’s girlfriend.”
“I’m Nick,” I said, and even though it was obvious, followed it up with, “I just moved in.”
“I guessed,” Jeremy said. “I don’t believe in any of that stuff either, but it’s connected to some deep, deep secrets.”
“Oh yeah. Mind blowing stuff. You ever heard of the Immortal?”
“A little,” I said.
Haley’s upper lip twitched, but she managed to smooth it into a smile, and appear politely interested.
“He’s big. Really big. Records of him go back to Sumerian times, and some people think they’ve seen records of him in cave paintings. The guy’s totally mysterious. He appears all over the world. He changes his looks and name, but some things never change—his attitude, the way he takes outrageous damage, and how he manages to make weapons appear out of nowhere.”
“Oh yeah, he’s totally devil-may-care. Nothing fazes him. Plus, he’s a total sociopath. He’ll kill anybody. Former allies, friends, whatever. He doesn’t mess with his employers—he’s a mercenary—but, after the job’s done they’re fair game too.”
I’d seen web sites devoted to Lee, and his actions as the Immortal. This was going to suck. I did not need to watch my every word—especially since I’d be heading to Lee’s studio to train with him every Wednesday.
How easy was it to change roommates?
“Um,” Haley caught my eye briefly, “what does that have to do with Teachings of the Eldest?”
“He wrote it.” Jeremy practically shouted. Then he stopped.
“Sorry, this is the biggest new development in years. He co-wrote the book with another guy, and now the guy is suing him. Well, not as the Immortal, but as ‘the Eldest’ who has a P.O. Box in Chicago ‘in care of’ Don Juan Matus. And that’s also where he gets his royalty checks.”
“Don Juan?” I thought about that. “That sounds…”
“Fake?” Haley supplied.
“It is fake,” Jeremy said. “Don Juan was this old Indian shaman or something in a totally different series of spiritual books. He was fake too.”
I could totally see Lee finding that funny.
“How did you find this out?”
“There’s this Internet group that studies him, and one of our guys stumbled on it. You know what? That’s not the best part. He’s associated with the Heroes League, and he showed up here in his Gunther identity just last spring. I might see the guy. Wouldn’t that be cool?”
“I guess,” I said, “but if he’s a totally remorseless killer, are you sure you want to?”
“I wouldn’t get close,” he said. “I’m not crazy.”
* * *
Haley and I took a walk around campus before she left. It seemed like the only way to get away, and by then it was nearly supper time. Time to use my brand new ID card in the dining hall for the very first time ever. I planned to join Vaughn and Cassie, and maybe Jeremy, but I hoped not.
Figuring out what to do about him would be harder if he were around.
Giles Hardwick Hall had been built only five years ago. I didn’t know what to call the style. Pseudo old building? Though mostly red brick, the arched doors, inset windows, and concrete corners shaped like stone blocks gave the impression of age. At any rate, it looked better than my dorm.
The line extended out of the dining hall and onto the sidewalk outside. The other dining hall wouldn’t open until the rest of the student body arrived. For the weekend, it was Freshmen only.
The practical result? I got to examine the trees and grass behind the dining hall while waiting.
I stood in line behind a group of girls I didn’t know at all. They were talking and laughing together. I tried to think if there were anything I’d done that would give Jeremy clues that I was more than your average student.
Deeply into my own thoughts, I barely noticed when one of them said, “Nick?”
Then I did recognize her—Courtney—as in Courtney and Keith, the biggest fans of Guardian I’d ever met. They’d dated all the way through high school. Last I’d heard, they’d been planning to go to the same college, but not Grand Lake University.
What’s more, Keith’s uncle had been one of the first people to brew power juice in Grand Lake. Courtney could use it to change her appearance.
She looked great. Better than I’d ever seen her in fact. She’d lost a lot of weight last year, but she’d changed more than that. She’d had two large moles on her cheek, but now her skin was perfect. Something about the shape of her face seemed different too, but I couldn’t think what.
Come to think of it, she also seemed taller than she used to.
“Hey, Courtney. I didn’t recognize you. I didn’t expect to see you here at all.”
She walked around her friends to stand next to me. “Keith and I broke up this summer, and I didn’t want to go to the same school.”
“Sorry. I should have guessed.”
“Don’t worry about it. I’m happy it’s over. Believe me, it was a miserable summer. How are you and Haley?”
We caught up on the way in, and she introduced me to her friends. I stayed with them until we got inside the cafeteria. Once I got my food, I sighted Vaughn and Cassie.
Walking over to join them, I reflected that if Courtney wanted to keep all those changes, she’d need to use power juice all the time.