Chapter 24: Empty Campus
Leading Charlie up the stairs, taking them two at a time, Corrie paused briefly at the fourth floor. She hadn’t knocked to see whether Rico or even Duncan were home. She didn’t think they were—she recalled Dawn saying something about wanting Rico to come to the party, but him being busy—but she still ought to check, since Dawn was Rico’s girlfriend and he would want to help. Then again, she really didn’t want to explain the situation to him. When Dawn woke up, it would be her choice what and whether to tell her boyfriend about being drugged and dancing with another guy. Feeling a little guilty, she continued up the steps.
Naomi looked up alertly when Corrie opened the door. Glancing over at Dawn’s sleeping form, Corrie asked, “No change, right?”
“Nope. She really seems to be sleeping normally. Hi, Charlie.”
“Hi.” Charlie walked quickly to Dawn and shook her shoulder, then quickly lifted her eyelids and looked at them closely. He shrugged. “She doesn’t seem sick, you’re right. But I’ll get her for you.” He slid one arm under Dawn’s knees and one under her shoulders, then straightened up, lifting her with no apparent effort.
Corrie raised her eyebrows. “Werewolf strength?”
He grinned. “Yup. Told you it was cool.” He nodded toward the door. “But I don’t have a hand free, so you’re going to have to help with that.”
“Of course.” Corrie held the door open while he maneuvered Dawn out. Naomi locked the door behind her and quickly caught up with them. Corrie glanced at her. “You didn’t put your bracelets on.” She sounded like a disapproving mother, but she sort of felt like one, too. Naomi knew about faeries, but she didn’t seem to take them very seriously.
“Oh, crap.” Naomi jogged ahead and held open the fire door for Charlie. “I guess I forgot. I was paying attention to her. Well, you can be in charge of watching for faeries.”
Corrie nodded resignedly. “I guess so.” She let Naomi lead down the steps and hold the door at the bottom, then hurried ahead, reaching into her pocket for her clover. “Let me check if the coast is clear.” Bad enough if there were other students out there walking around, but they might be in trouble if the antlered faerie was waiting for them. She knew what his glamour looked like, but he’d be easier to spot with the clover in hand.
However, luck seemed to be with them; the moonlight and emergency lighting only revealed empty grass and cement, though clouds had built up in the sky, and the light was dim. They took the shortest path that followed the sidewalks to the magic building, encountering no one on the way. From time to time Corrie heard bursts of music or laughter, and there was plenty of light spilling around the edges of blinds, but no one was out on the campus. It had been the same way when they’d brought Dawn home from the party.
The magic building, though, was dark. Corrie felt a sinking in her stomach. It hadn’t occurred to her until now that Professor Lal might not be around. But she never was around when they looked for her at night, was she?
Well, there was always the backup. She motioned the others into the building quickly and pointed Charlie to the small lounge. “You may as well put her down on the couch in there. If Professor Lal is here I’ll bring her out.”
Charlie followed instructions, frowning. “You don’t know?”
“No. But we’ll find her. Or someone.” Corrie sounded more confident than she felt. Naomi followed her silently into the hall where the magic teachers’ offices were.
Corrie found herself unsurprised, but more and more disappointed, each time they knocked on a door and found no response. The hall was completely dark except for the window at the end. Finally, she stood in front of the door that held the short old woman, fist raised to knock. Her stomach churned with anxiety, though she didn’t know why. Finally, she forced herself to knock, and held her breath.
There was no answer after more than a minute. “She’s never not answered before, has she?” Naomi asked, echoing Corrie’s own thoughts. Corrie shook her head and tried the knob. It was locked. She knocked again, and when there was no answer, sagged, leaning against the window frame.
“What should we do now?” she asked, of both herself and Naomi. Naomi just shook her head.
They walked back to where Charlie waited with Dawn. He looked up and frowned when he saw them coming. “You didn’t find her?”
“There’s nobody here,” Corrie said. “Which is weird. There’s usually… someone.” She walked up to Dawn and touched her face gently. She didn’t stir, her breathing still slow and even. “I have no idea what to do now.”
“Are there any other faeries you can ask?”
“I don’t think so,” Corrie said. “Not… not safely.” She thought of Ever, whose whereabouts they couldn’t predict, and Leila, who she didn’t completely trust and who she didn’t know where to find anyway. “Unless there are faeries in the art department you trust, Naomi?”
Naomi shrugged. “Dawn told me about a few of them, but I didn’t remember who they were, so I must not know them well.”
“I think you should just let her sleep,” Charlie said. “In the morning, if she’s not better, you can try again.”
Corrie sighed, knowing it was their only option. “Sorry to make you carry her all this way. We’ll do that.”