The Secret Circle: The Hunt Chapter 13
Cassie was nodding off in eighth-period math to the drone of Mr. Zitofsky explaining the quadratic equation when she heard the unmistakable buzz of her phone vibrating in her bag. It was a text message from Diana:
COME TO THE BAND ROOM. NOW. EMERGENCY MEETING.
Cassie looked across the room at Melanie, who had clearly gotten the same text message. They exchanged a worried glace as Melanie started gathering her things. The Circle had spent the last week translating Black John’s book in bits and pieces from the pages Cassie had copied; maybe someone had stumbled onto something important. Cassie preferred that theory to the alternative: that something terrible had happened.
But how would Cassie and Melanie escape from the classroom now without drawing suspicion?
As if someone had read her mind, the fire alarm went off. Mr. Zitofsky took off his glasses and rose from his seat. “Okay, everyone,” he said. “You know the drill. Up and out, single file.”
Another text, this time from Nick, confirmed Cassie’s suspicions:
FALSE ALARM. YOU’RE WELCOME. BAND ROOM, NOW.
Cassie fought the urge to grin as she and Melanie followed her classmates, soldierlike, out the door. The crowded hallways teeming with students striding toward the emergency exits made sneaking away to the band room easy. They let themselves in just as Chris asked, “What are we doing in here?” Then he picked up a French horn and blew into it with all his might.
“It was the only empty room we could find that also happens to be soundproofed,” Deborah said. And then she looked at Cassie. “Glad you could make it.”
Everyone from the Circle except Adam was already gathered in the dimly lit room the band kids called the Pit. But only Chris and Doug fiddled with the assorted brass instruments strewn about.
Adam stepped in the door and Nick said, “That’s everyone. Now what’s going on?”
Chris and Doug set down their clarinets and waited, along with the rest of the group, for Diana to say something. Cassie got the sense this announcement had nothing to do with the book. Diana had been trailing Max quite a bit, spending more and more time alone with him this past week, and Cassie had an awful feeling her announcement had something to do with him.
Diana stepped to the center of the floor and stood in front of an empty music stand. “I have disheartening news,” she said.
“We’re shocked,” Faye called out.
“Do we ever have emergency good news meetings?” Deborah added.
Diana took something out of her back pocket. “I found this today when I was going through Max’s bag.”
Faye mumbled under her breath, “You’ve been spending enough time together, it’s about time you found something useful on him.”
“Excuse me?” Diana said. “Do you have something you’d like to say to me?”
Faye shook her head. “No. Nothing. Just wondering what you found.”
Diana walked solemnly over to Suzan and Deborah. “It’s a picture,” she said. “Of the two of you.”
Deborah took the photograph from Diana’s hand and stared at it. Suzan looked at it over her shoulder.
Cassie watched Deborah’s face turn from pink, to red, to light purple. Then she crumpled the picture in her fist and threw it violently onto the floor.
Cassie bent down to pick it up, smoothing it out to view its image. It was a photograph of Suzan and Deborah on the night of the Spring Fling. It looked like it had been taken from far away, maybe on a cell phone – it had a grainy surveillance look to it. It was from after the power had gone out, and it looked like Deborah and Suzan had used magic to light their way in the dark. But the most disturbing part was that over Suzan’s and Deborah’s faces, the photo was stamped with the mark of the hunter.
Cassie turned the photo around so the whole Circle could see it. “Now almost half of us are marked,” she said.
“How did this happen?” Melanie asked, examining the photograph. “This was taken the night of the dance. How did we not know about this until now?”
Suzan nodded soberly. “We knew we’d been marked. We just … we didn’t want to tell you all just yet. It was stupid of us.”
“The secret is out now.” Deborah retreated to the corner. She pounded the wall with her fist, and Cassie worried that she might have punched right through the plaster.
It was stupid of them – to use magic in the first place, and to not tell the Circle they’d been caught – but nobody had the heart to criticize them for their poor judgment. Not when they were facing far graver consequences.
“This has gone way too far.” Adam stood up. “Two more members being marked means we have to take action.”
“We’ve made some progress translating the book,” Laurel offered. “The pages we worked on yesterday could be the witch-hunter curse we’ve been looking for.”
Diana shook her head. “But it’s a haphazard translation. It’s nowhere near ready yet.”
“I’d say giving it a try is long overdue.” Faye went over to where Deborah was hovering in the corner and led her back to the group. “Let’s go get our revenge.”
But Diana stood her ground in spite of the circumstances. “We don’t want to use dark magic we don’t understand. It’s too dangerous.”
“Then it’s time we go after Scarlett.” Faye was growing frustrated. She leaned forward with her jaw set and her golden eyes gleaming. “She’s the only one who can help us understand dark magic.”
Adam sensibly kept quiet on the matter this time, but Diana surprised everyone by speaking up. “I agree,” she said, and then she looked at Cassie regretfully. “It’s time.”
“We’re not strong enough to overpower Scarlett, remember?” Melanie said. “Not even all of us put together.”
Diana took a chance and put her arm around Cassie. “We’re strong enough if we get the Master Tools back.”
Cassie raised her eyes just in time to see Adam smile. “Exactly,” he said. “With the Tools, we were strong enough to defeat Black John himself.”
“Then I guess we have to find Scarlett,” Nick said. “But just to get the Tools back. That’s all we can risk right now.”
Everyone seemed to be in agreement – even Nick. But all Cassie could think about was her mother telling her that if she had any chance of defeating Scarlett, the answers were in the book. Nothing seemed possible or realistic anymore without the secrets it contained.
“Cassie,” Diana said, and only then did Cassie realize the whole group was watching her. “We need you with us on this.”
Cassie looked at each of them. Diana appeared desperate but sincere. Deborah and Suzan were newly terrified. Faye was out for blood. Finally, Cassie rested her eyes on Adam. He appeared repentant and regretful for bringing Scarlett back to the forefront of their lives. But he was doing what he thought was best for her, and for their friends. That was plain to see.
The whole Circle really believed they could do it. They thought they could triumph over evil without resorting to darkness. Cassie envied them, really. There was a time she had believed that was possible, too.
But what could she say? They were her Circle, and she was obligated to go down with them, if that’s what they were going to do.
“I’m with you,” she said. “Let’s go get our Tools back.”