I didn’t know why me being ‘The Amos girl’ explained anything, unless it just meant she knew my parents had a daughter. They did work for her, after all. They had us ride in the back of the police car, which was a first for me, and told Rufus to join us at the West house once his relief showed up. Meanwhile, he would drag the specter corpse out of sight and guard it until someone got there to clean up.
Once I thought about it, I wondered how he would be able to find Sam’s house. Then I realized he had already called her ‘The West girl.’ He knew who she was.
I was The Amos girl, and Sam was The West girl? I sort of got how these adults might know me, but why did they know Sam?
It was only a short drive to Sam’s house, so I never got a chance to ask. It seemed a little weird that we weren’t taking Sam to the hospital, but I didn’t say anything. On the way, the Major called her office to have a doctor join us. She also had them contact my parents and Sam’s mother.
I was learning lots of stuff I had never known before. I didn’t know my parents had military ranks. My father was ‘Chief Warrant Officer Amos’ and my mother was ‘PTO Joss’. I had never heard of a rank called ‘PTO’ before, either. I also learned Sam’s parents knew about the town’s guardian force and that they already knew my parents. I had been friends with Sam for almost a decade but had no idea our parents knew each other. It seemed Sam’s mom had never connected me to my parents either.
And most important of all, I learned that some people’s attitudes about me changed a lot once they knew who I was.
The police officer had given Rufus an attitude I can only call both respectful and repulsed. He became exactly the same toward me once he knew I had killed the specter. It was weird, but to him I had become something somehow both horrible and helpful at the same time.
To the Major I had been some innocent bystander at first, until she learned my name. Then, she thought of me as one of her own soldiers, just like ‘Sergeant’ Rufus and the ‘Gunner’, which is what she called the police officer. Gunner is a rank that I had never heard of, before. She didn’t have the same attitude toward Sam and her Mom because they were civilians, but I didn’t quite get why a middle-school kid like me wasn’t also a civilian.
Sam’s mom had fluttered around in panic as the policeman and Major McCampbell helped Sam into the house. But, after she had her wits back and wondered why I was there, she learned I was the daughter of ‘Chief’ Amos. When she learned that, she had the most extreme attitude change about me. She saw me only with stark horror and fear.
My mother insists I hide it when I can tell what people think of me. Mrs. West had so much fear that I wanted to beg her ‘be not afraid,’ like some angel from the Bible. But I kept my mouth shut somehow.
With all the negative impressions of me swirling around, the doctor provided a welcome change when he arrived. He turned out to be Dr. Reyes, my own family doctor. For him, I was just Tawny, and he treated me like any other kid.
It turned out he also had a rank, ‘Lieutenant Commander’. I was beginning to wonder exactly how many people I knew were in the military. He gave Sam a shot which seemed to help a little, wrote a painkiller prescription and gave Mrs. West some samples.
“As soon as we can arrange a cover story, I need to get her into the hospital for some tests,” the doctor instructed her. “The specter doesn’t appear to have left anything inside her, but I can’t determine that for certain from here.”
When he bid a cheery goodbye, I was sorry to see him go. It left me alone with people I couldn’t be comfortable around. It also left me wondering why I had the distinct impression he was in a hurry to leave.
The Major sat in the chair the doctor had been using and looked with two completely different feelings at Sam on the sofa . I can’t explain this right, except it was like two completely different people were looking at her at the same time. I learned later the Major has a son not much older than me, and I suppose that’s the Major who was looking at Sam with concern. The other Major was looking at her like a fascinating bug in a jar.
“Well, then,” she said. “Why is the Enemy interested in you, I wonder?”
Sam’s mother gasped. “They couldn’t have been after my daughter! I’m sure she just got in the way, when they attacked her!”
She was pointing at me. It stung me that she thought Sam got hurt because of me, but before I could protest, the Major responded.
“We can say for a fact that such a thing is not possible, Mrs. West. Specters take great pains to avoid her kind. They are terrified of them. I suspect it was quite shocked to discover Miss Amos there. And an eyewitness saw Miss Amos push your daughter out of the attacker’s way, saving her from more severe injury. It had no other target available, so we can be certain the specter was after your daughter.”
Silence fell for a while after that, giving me a chance to wonder what the Major meant by my kind. Why was I a them?
Sam was conscious, although I could tell the shot was affecting her. She felt fuzzy, but she still felt terrified and confused. “Why?”
The Major smiled. “Why was it after you? That’s my question, young lady.”
Sam shook her head and forced herself to think, to ask her real question. “No. Why was it there at all? Why are there real monsters? Why are my best friend and that homeless guy some kind of soldiers? Why do all you people, and even my mom, know all about it? Why is this happening?”
The Major’s cellphone sounded just then. She frowned as she retrieved it from her purse. “Your parents are supposed to be teaching you these things. You’re more than old enough.”
She answered her phone by snapping “McCampbell!”
A moment later, I could feel from her that something big was happening.
She shot a look over at Sam as she hung up, then turned to me. “Young lady, keep your glass ready. We’re getting reports from all over of specters criss-crossing the town. It looks like a search pattern. Your friend needs you right now. You sit here next to her.” She stood up to give me the chair.
The Major and the police officer were choosing spots to stand and getting out their weapons as I took my seat, feeling tiny. When the specter attacked Sam the first time, I didn’t have any time to think about it. I just reacted. Now I was on guard duty and, well…
My best friend depended on my ability to stop the attackers. My best friend, who I had already let down once. The chance that Sam might die if I screwed up again scared me. I held my scrying glass like prayer beads.
Something frightened Sam’s mom too, even more now. The terror raged like a fire burning up the room.
She had seen Sam and me together many times. We had hung out at each other’s homes since elementary school. But now, she could see what was sitting next to her baby. Now, she could see that I was one of them.
She could see that I was a monster.