Trouble with Debutantes – Part 4

by jeanineoloughlin

hunter_crest_nobanner

“Why don’t we take this to someplace quieter to discuss?” Nicolai suggests. Adrian nods and I glare at all of them.

“Fine, but I want answers!” I stomp off towards the door. The tile floor of the hallway outside  is cold on my feet, but I’d rather they be cold than blistered.

“Mr. Borzini was kind enough to explain what’s happened. Now, may I ask why you are interrogating my cousin?” Nicolai asks with an air of warning in his voice.

“Your cousin here has information about the drug your people have used to poison Hunter Acolytes around the campus. This could be seen as actions against the treaty,” I crossed my arms over my chest, facing him squarely. I refuse to be intimidated by this pompous pretty boy, even if he could snap me in two faster than I could call out for help.

Nicolai looks to Charlotte raising an eyebrow questioningly. She straightens, and in a calm and formal tone says, “My lord, Zachary Sterling has developed a substance that made it into the hands of a few irresponsible humans and had some ill effects. That is all I know,” she bows her head to him in respect.

“Oh please, I heard you two talking; there’s a lot more going on here than someone’s chem lab getting out of control.” I stare Charlotte down, not willing to give her an inch.

“I will not stand here and listen to these accusations!” Charlotte cries, stepping forward into my face.

Before I know what’s happening,  Adrian has stepped between Charlotte and I, and with his hand against her collarbone pushes her up against the wall behind her. Charlotte gives a grunt as she hits the wall hard, but with her vampire strength it is no more than a mild annoyance. Her eyes flash in anger and she responds with a backhand across his face. Adrian’s dodge makes it a glancing blow, but it still forces him back several steps. Charlotte begins to advance, but Nicolai steps between them. He says nothing, but stares at Charlotte coldly.  Adrian takes a step forward, but I put a hand on his forearm to stop him. Normally, I would be all for putting that haughty bimbo in her place, but neither Veronica nor I are in a position to provide ample back up against two purebloods.

Charlotte takes a deep breath, before stepping back, eyes lowered. Nicolai turns to face us, eyes cold and unflinching. “Now, if we’re done with the theatrics,” he looks from Adrian to me and back to Adrian. I give Adrian’s arm a squeeze and he relaxes, slightly.

“Where can we find Zachary Sterling?” I ask flatly. Nicolai turns to Charlotte.

“He’s not here,”she says, crossing her arms and looking away.

“Hey, you self-centered, privileged little tramp! I have two Hunters in the infirmary in serious condition, and, just knowing that you had something to do with it, I can drag you in front of the entire Council on charges if I want. Now, you can hope that your Synod are willing to risk uprooting the entire truce to save your little ass or you can cooperate and you can just deal with Headmaster Winston.” I tap my foot impatiently. Charlotte looks to Nicolai, who doesn’t return her gaze, which tells us both that she’s lost his support in the matter. She looks shocked.

“His lab is in a basement room of the male dormitory. Some kind of old storage closet he found hidden away. He’s usually there.”

“Adrian?” I turn, but see that he’s already halfway out the door. I get on the radio to Sam. He seems relieved I was successful to some extent, but then tells me that both Acolytes’ symptoms haven’t responded to any treatment and Laurel’s temperature is starting to rise to very dangerous levels.

I turn back to Charlotte, “What were you guys doing with this thing? How did Laurel get it? Why are you targeting Hunters?” I turn to Veronica, “How many others have access to it? Who else did Laurel give it to?” Both girls start talking at once, Veronica with excuses for her involvement, and Charlotte offended by the insinuation that this is malicious on their part. I run out of what little patience I have left.

“SHUT UP!” I scream and both girls stop speaking at once.

Nicolai put a hand in the air as if he were in a classroom asking to speak. “I suggest we start with ensuring that this substance has been contained. Charlotte, Miss Veronica, who else had access to the vials?” His calm politeness is a stark contrast to my red-faced frustration.

“As far as we knew, it was only Zachary and myself. No one else knew the combination to the cabinet he kept his samples in,” Charlotte says, putting a hand on a cocked hip to try to regain some of her presence. Veronica, on the other hand, looks down at her feet like a child.

“Acolyte Wells?” I don’t have time for this. Two people are counting on me to find a way to save them. I step forward getting as close as I can to her with both our enormous skirts.

“Laurel caught sight of the combination one night while Zach was opening the cabinet. We snuck in after he’d left; only a couple the first time, then a few more the second,” Veronica starts to get tears in her eyes and is fighting a losing battle to keep them from spilling over.

“We didn’t mean to hurt anyone. We were just having fun,” she snivels out after a minute.

“Who else did you give it to?” I ask, taking a gentler tone to keep her talking.

“Just Eliseo. I told her we should wait like Zach suggested, but she wanted to impress him.” Veronica sniffs again and pulls a tissue out of a small clutch purse she’s been holding. Thank God for small favors, I think as I let out a sigh of relief.

“Now that we know this is an isolated incident, I think it would be best to send the girls to their rooms, under guard, and allow Headmaster Winston to conduct their interviews once we’ve stabilized the victims,” Nicolai suggests motioning the two girls towards the door. They start walking, but I’m not about to have him take charge.

“Hey! I say when we’re done here. This is my investigation.” I grab Veronica by the arm, keeping her with me, but don’t dare try for Charlotte.

“Lizzie, come in,” squawks my radio. I think it’s Adrian’s voice, but last I checked he didn’t have a radio on him.

“This is Liz, Adrian?” I put up a hand telling Nicolai and Charlotte to wait there. We aren’t done here.

“Yeah, I’ve got Mr. Sterling in custody and I’m taking him over to the infirmary,” he says through the static of the radio.

“Got it. I’ve confirmed that we’ve isolated the spread. I’m bringing Charlotte and Veronica with me for more questioning. Sam, you got that?” I look at Charlotte and Veronica and, with a jerk of my head, tell them to start moving towards the door.

Sam confirms our status, and I start moving quickly with both girls, Veronica still crying quietly next to me and keeping Charlotte within arms reach. Nicolai joins us, and I don’t like it. “You are not required, Lord Lambert. Please return to the party,” I say with a bite to my tone.

“If you wish to continue questioning my cousin, a vampire under my protection here, it is within my right to be present for such interviews.” I know what he says is true, but I keep a good distance between us while we walk.

When we arrive, Adrian is standing next to another vampire who could be Nicolai’s younger and less fit brother. His right eye is puffy red, and will definitely have a good shiner tomorrow. I look at Adrian questioningly who shrugs with a smirk on his face. Dr. Daniels is talking to the vampire and scribbling down notes on a worn yellow legal pad as he does.

My father is speaking with Sam, but excuses himself to come speak with us when he sees us come through the door. “So, are they going to be okay?” I ask before he can start in.

“We don’t know yet. Depends on the information we get from Mr. Sterling; however, he seems to be cooperative and genuinely regrets the situation,” my father replies, looking over at Nicolai.

“Yeah, I’m sure it’s killing him inside… well, we can  hope,” I mutter to myself, but my father gives me a warning look. I straighten up and start giving a report of what I found out.

“Yes, I’m aware of this, Lizzie, but why bring them here?”

“Well, so we can get to the bottom of why they attacked us in the first place.” I’m surprised that this isn’t obvious to him as well. He raises an eyebrow and looks over at Nicolai.

“Acolyte Reilly believes that Charlotte and Zachary have concocted this substance to use as a weapon against our Hunter allies. I can assure you, this is not the case,” Nicolai says, bowing his head.

“Why else would your lackey be working in a secret lab making drugs that nearly kill us?” I ask, turning on him.

“Lizzie, let’s not jump to conclusions,” my father warns.

“This is inane and insulting. If we were trying to kill you, you’d already be dead,” Charlotte says, glaring.

“If it were that easy then why haven’t you done it?” My pride and anger get the better of me and I take a challenging step towards her. My father pulls me back gently and Nicolai puts a soothing hand on Charlotte’s shoulder as well.

“Let’s all calm down,” my father says in an even voice. Charlotte and I are both incensed and ready for a fight, which if we weren’t both so lethal would be comical given our elaborate attire.

“Adrian?” Adrian leaves Zachary and heads over. “Adrian, please take Miss Lambert and Acolyte Wells back to their dormitory. They are both to remain there until I call for them tomorrow morning.” The Headmaster looks from Veronica to Charlotte, his gaze staying a few moments longer on the latter. Charlotte looks over at Nicolai, who gives an almost imperceptible nod. Adrian motions for both girls to follow and heads out of the infirmary.

“You’re just letting them go?”

“According to what we’ve learned from Mr. Sterling, a colleague of his came across a vial of our truth serum in the main infirmary. Mr. Sterling is a respected chemist among his peers. He had heard the ridiculous rumors of ‘Hunter alchemy’ and decided to investigate the properties of our serum. Through his research, he discovered the euphoric side effects of the serum, and attempted to create a safe, recreational version.” my father looked at Nicolai clearly disappointed.

“With our increased stamina and metabolism, we are often able to  reap the benefits of recreational substances with little of the detriments. This practice is not uncommon amongst some of our kind.” Nicolai gives a casual shrug. I open my mouth to tell him what I think about that, but my father puts up a finger to stop me.

“Apparently, our two young ladies stumbled upon his laboratory while trying to find a place to smoke, and were able to persuade Mr. Sterling to allow them to try a sample. At the time they showed none of the symptoms we now see. Dr. Daniels’ theory is that on increased dosage and continual use may have been contributing factors.” My father puts a reassuring hand on my shoulder.

“He could have said no! He could have stopped them!” I say, unable to believe that my father was taking their side in this.

“Sterling is not particularly strong-willed. He is a very dedicated scholar and has closer relationships with books and beakers than with others. I am not surprised that he was so easily coerced,” Nicolai says in Zachary’s defense.

“For now, we’ll allow Mr. Sterling and Dr. Daniels to work on finding a treatment for Laurel and Eliseo,” my father says. I huff in exasperation, then move to a chair near one of the hospital beds. My father lets me stay while he continues talking with Nicolai.

I had counted the beads on my dress for the third time when I notice Dr. Daniels, Zachary, Nicolai, and my father are hovering around Laurel talking in excited voices. I get up and walk over. “What’s going on?” I whisper to my father.

“They think they may have found a way to bring down her fever and start flushing the drug out of her system. They gave her an injection an hour ago and are checking for improvement,” he tells me as Dr. Daniels is finishing up his examination.

“Her fever has gone down. It’s still high, but she’s out of real danger for the moment,” the doctor says as he hands her chart to a nearby nurse.

“Is she going to be okay? Can you cure her?” Sam asks hopefully. I guess no one sent him away either.

“Well, I can’t be sure just yet, but I think with Mr. Sterling’s help we can get them both up and moving again in a few days.” The doctor looks over at Zachary and Nicolai, who both nod.

“Thank you, Dr. Daniels. Please keep me informed if anything changes. I want to speak to both of them as soon as you feel they are able,” my father instructs Daniels. “Now, I think we all should to head to bed.” He looks at his watch, then notices my feet. “Lizzie… where are your shoes?”

“Uhh… they’re around somewhere.” I look around for where I had thrown them. Sam hands them to me from underneath his chair, a smirk on his face.

“Oh, yeah, see… they’re right here.” I keep them in my hands and my father raises an eyebrow.

“Well, put them on and head to your room,” he says with a small smile.

“I’ll just head to my room.” I turn away from Laurel’s bed as the nurses start closing the privacy curtain around her. We both start towards the door and Nicolai joins us.

“I believe I, too, will head back. Tonight has been quite interesting,” he says bemused.

“Interesting? Your mad scientist nearly killed two Hunters!” I turn and look him square in the eye or try to, at least, Even standing on my toes to make myself taller, my nose only comes to his chin.

“Lizzie, this is not the time…” My father puts his hand on my arm, trying to calm me.

“Not the time?! This is about someone’s life!” I’m shouting now, and see Sam and Zachary giving me wide-eyed stares.

“Yes, and they were as much at fault as their vampire counterparts,” my father states in that calming tone he has learned to use with me.

“I know, but what are Hunter lives to them?” I say bitterly.

“I assure you Miss Reilly, we do not view lives of our new allies as expendable, if that is what you are implying. I apologize for my poor choice of words. I was merely trying to express how much excitement there has been, and how tiring that can be for one.” Nicolai gives me a formal bow, his head almost reaching his knees.

“Yes, I’m sure we’re all tired after today’s events. I will see you tomorrow.” My father gestures for Nicolai to join him in his walk out, away from me.

I huff, frustrated at the two of them, before making my own way to the girls dorm. The campus is quiet, the party having ended only an hour or two ago, but there are still a few lights on as people settle in after the long night. I find Adrian sitting on the steps outside, two underclassmen girls trying to talk with him. When I walk up they turn their attention to me and my dress, buzzing around me like gnats. I swat them away and order them back to their rooms. They head inside and I plop down on the stairs, my dress spilling out around me.

“That’ll ruin it ya know,” Adrian says, shoving some of the skirt away from him.

“Good. I hate this thing. I hate this school. I hate this night. I hate them,” I give a waving gesture towards the building.

“Are Laurel and Eliseo going to be okay?”

“Dr. Daniels thinks so. He gave them something that seems to be helping.” It’s cold out and I start to feel it seeping in. I realize I left my wrap at the party. Oh well, probably never use it again anyway.

As if reading my mind, Adrian takes off his jacket and puts it around my shoulders. I’m too upset to argue with him right now, so I let him. I adjust the jacket and see the corsage on my wrist, the flowers looking a bit worse for wear. “I’m sorry I ruined the pretty flowers you gave me,” I say, sadly.

“They’re not important right now. It’s okay,” Adrian says soothingly. “So, what do we do now?”

“Dad says we can just turn in. He’s going to deal with Veronica and the rest tomorrow.” We sit in silence for a few minutes, me calming down and Adrian, well, just being quiet Adrian.

I let out a long yawn and finally say, “Okay, I think I’m crashing. I’ve got to figure out how to get out of this dress and go to bed.”

Adrian stands with me as I pull off his jacket. I see a blush on his face again, but I don’t know why. “What?” I ask holding the jacket out to him.

“Nothing,” he says, taking it from me before starting down the steps.

“Hey Lizzie?” Adrian calls up as I turn to the dorm.

“Yeah?”

“You did good tonight,” he says with an encouraging smile.

“I guess.” I return his smile. He stands there for a minute, not moving. I feel awkward just waiting there for him to leave. Then he finally speaks.

“And you, look pretty, even as a cupcake.” He turns and walks down the path towards the boys dorm. I feel my cheeks warm at the compliment, then open the door to go inside.

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