Elves are wonderful. They provoke wonder.
Elves are marvelous. They cause marvels.
Elves are fantastic. They create fantasies.
Elves are glamorous. They project glamour.
Elves are enchanting. They weave enchantment.
Elves are terrific. They beget terror.
- Terry Pratchett, "Lords and Ladies"
I: Family Tradition
“But, Suuuummmer . . .” Jane whined. “Mom said . . . .”
“Is Mom here?” Summer snapped.
“Who’s in charge when Mom is gone?”
“But Mom said . . . .”
“Jane Raine Lane! Do you want supper tonight?”
“Yeah . . . .”
“Then do as you’re told.”
With her head down and her hands in her pockets Jane shuffled into the kitchen and over to the basement door. In the living room, she could hear her sister’s boyfriend commenting that maybe Summer had been too hard on her kid sister.
He has no idea. If I was Summer’s kid I’d run away all the time. Why does bossy Summer have to be in charge? I don’t wanna go down to the basement, it’s dark and scary and there’s rats and spiders and homeless people and Mom told me never to go down there and Summer will let me go hungry and I wish Trent was here he stands up to Summer for me and why are Mom and Dad gone all the time don’t they love me?
Jane pulled the basement door open and stepped down onto the first wooden step, hearing it creak alarmingly under her light weight. The air was musty and smelled like things she didn’t want to know about. The light bulb halfway down the staircase struggled to hold back the dark, oppressive gloom. Jane tried to whistle the Smurf song to cheer herself up as she slowly descended the steps, but her mouth was dry with fright and the tune came out as a broken collection of disjointed notes.
Jane reached the cracked concrete floor of the basement and looked around apprehensively. There were boxes piled up all around her, the stacks looming tall in the dim light and concealing she knew not what. Twenty feet from the foot of the staircase stood the wooden shelf filled with dust covered jars of jams, jellies, and preserved vegetables. One of those jars was her goal, the object of the quest her meanie older sister had sent her on. For a scared little girl in a big, dark basement twenty feet may as well be twenty miles.
I just gotta run over there, grab the jar and run out. I’m fast as the wind, Penny says so. I can be back to the top of the stairs before anything can get me.
Jane sprinted across the basement, grabbed a jar, and spun back towards the stairs. She took two steps and slammed to a halt, her heart in her throat. There was a man sitting on the bottom step, watching her. He looked short, maybe not much taller than she was, but he was much bigger. His arms and shoulders looked big, and he was barrel-chested. He wore funny looking leather clothes, including a big cape like Batman, and big boots that looked like they were made out of metal, and a funny little red hat.
“I’m not supposed to talk to strangers.”
“It’s ok, I’m not a stranger. Your parents know me very well, I helped them start their careers. They’re very successful people now because of me.”
“You helped them not ever be home,” Jane said, crossing her arms and scowling at the funny little man. Somewhere in the back of her mind part of her was gibbering in terror at being trapped alone with a strange man, but she knew that showing him she was scared would only make things worse. That’s what Wind always told her: be brave, no matter what.
“Well,” the man said thoughtfully. “I suppose you could say I did. I’m sorry if that upset you, maybe I could make it up to you.”
“How?” Jane asked, her eyes narrowing with suspicion.
“I can grant you a wish, anything your heart desires. You just have to give me some small token in return, since I’m not allowed to give people gifts.”
“Is that how you helped Mom and Dad?”
“It is indeed. They wished they could be better at their hobbies; I taught your mother the deep secrets of clay and earth and showed your father the art of capturing color and form forever in his photographs.”
“What token did they give you for it?”
“I just asked them for the same love they gave their children.”
“And now you’re all alone in the basement,” Jane said, nodding. “They do love you the same as us.”
“You are wise beyond your years, little girl. How old are you?”
“I’m six!” Jane said proudly. Her fear of the funny man had vanished entirely, and in fact she now felt a little sorry for him. How awful it must be to have to live in the musty, dusty basement!
“That’s a good age,” he said, nodding slowly. “What does your heart wish for, Jane who is six?”
“I . . . I want a friend.”
“A friend is a wise thing to wish for, and I can bring you one. It’ll take time, though. Can you be patient?”
“Ten years, but she’ll be the best friend you’ll ever have.”
“Ten years is a long time,” Jane said thoughtfully.
“Yes, it is. If you wanted something easier, I could bring it to you sooner.”
“No, I want a friend. If I have to wait ten years, I’ll wait.”
“Ok, there’s my half of the bargain. Now, you have to give me something in return.”
Jane thought about that a moment. “I give that to everybody anyway. Trent says I should always be nice to people. Are you sure you don’t want a painting or a sandwich or something?”
“No, just your kindness.”
Jane walked to the foot of the stairs and stuck her tiny hand out. The man took it in his large, calloused one and they shook three times. Jane suddenly felt a slightly painful tug behind her stomach, and the man vanished in a cloud of basement dust. Jane sneezed.
The basement door slowly swung open, and Summer turned to glare at her annoying kid sister. “Jeez, Jane. I was about to come down there looking for you. Did you get lost or something?”
“No,” Jane said absently, glancing around the kitchen.
“Did you get that jelly, kid?” her sister’s boyfriend asked.
“Sure.” Jane handed him the grime encrusted jar, and her lips twisted up into a tiny smirk. “Summer’s pregnant.”
“What!?” he said.
“Uh huh. She was cryin’ about it on the phone last night. She’s pregnant and it’s not yours.”
Leaving a stunned silence behind her, Jane sprinted away through the living room and up the stairs to hide in her own bedroom. She could barely restrain her giggling as the screaming and yelling started downstairs.
II: Through the Looking Glass
“You’re such a freak,” Tiffany said, looking down her nose at Jane. “You should
be ashamed of yourself. You dress like a boy, and your hair is ugly.”
“These were my brother’s clothes,” Jane muttered, looking down at her slightly over-sized jeans and t-shirt. “They’re all I have to wear.”
“Oh, so you’re not just ugly; you’re ugly and poor,” the asian girl said, giggling at Jane’s obvious embarrassment. “We don’t want you to play with us, Jane Lame. Go away!”
Tiffany’s retinue chimed in, laughing at Jane and chanting at her in a sing-song voice as her eyes filled with tears and she fled across the playground.
Jane Lame, Jane Lame,
she’s as stupid as her stupid name.
Jane Lame, Jane Lame,
ask us again and we’ll say the same.
Jane ran into the school building and into the library, since she knew Tiffany and her little friends wouldn’t follow her there. At the bright young age of eight, Jane had learned how to hate her tormentors . . . Tiffany Blum, and her sidekicks Sandra Griffin and Anna Rowe.
She wandered through the stacks, occasionally drying her eyes with her shirt sleeve as tried to stop crying. She looked around and found herself in the fiction section, surrounded by brightly colored fairy tale books.
“Two years down,” she whispered. “Eight more to go. She better be worth waiting for, I could have wished for eye beams or something.”
Jane heard a loud thump a few rows over, and tip-toed across the library to investigate. She saw a big, heavy book on the floor. It had apparently fallen from one of the shelves and lay on its back, open and strangely inviting. She walked over and examined the book, recognizing it as one of the encyclopedias the big kids used sometimes to write reports. The illustration of paint cans on the page caught her eye, and she leaned forward to read the article.
The symptoms of chronic lead poisoning include neurological problems, such as reduced cognitive abilities, or nausea, abdominal pain, irritability, insomnia, metal taste in oral cavity, excess lethargy or hyperactivity, chest pain, headache and, in extreme cases, seizure and coma. There are also associated gastrointestinal problems, such as constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, poor appetite, weight loss, which are common in acute poisoning. Other associated effects are anemia, kidney problems, and reproductive problems.
She frowned down at the encyclopedia, having only understood every second or third word of what she’d read. It sounded like there was a type of paint that could hurt people, and she was very interested in finding out more about that.
Later that afternoon she walked through the front door of her house, her thoughts whirling from the long conversation she’d had with the janitor that worked at her school. Old paint was dangerous, because it had lead in it . . . lead was a metal that could poison and kill people. The best part was that it built up slowly over time, and lots of people didn’t even know they were being poisoned!
“Trent!?” she yelled. “Summer?! Penny!?”
After listening to the silent house for a moment, she smiled wickedly and ran for the basement door. She pushed it open and ran downstairs, stopping in the middle of the basement to look around.
“I know you showed me the article on lead,” she whispered. “I guess I owe you another favor, so just tell me if you want something.”
After waiting another moment and not getting an answer, she quickly walked over to the corner of the basement containing her mother’s cast off art supplies. She carefully scanned the labels of the paint cans, setting several aside that listed lead as an ingredient. Finally, she grabbed a small can of red and a small can of white and took them back upstairs to her room.
She put the cans down and then snuck into her sister Summer’s room. After rifling through the drawers of the vanity for a few minutes she found a wooden hand mirror and took it back to her room. Jane put the mirror on her arts and crafts table next to the paint cans, a couple of brushes, and the small sander she’d swiped from Penny’s room a couple of weeks back. Remembering what she’d been told, she tied a handkerchief around her face and pulled on a pair of yellow rubber gloves from the kitchen.
“Oh, look Tiffany,” Sandra said, pointing. “Here comes Jane Insane. Skylar told me she was wandering around the library talking to herself yesterday.”
“Hi,” Jane said as she walked up to the trio. “I wanted to make nice with you Tiffany, show you that I wasn’t mad about you being mean to me. I made you something.”
“Like I’d want anything from you,” Tiffany began, but her voice trailed away when Jane held out the beautiful hand mirror. The wooden part was painted a delicate shade of pink, and glass almost shimmered as it reflected back her perfect, beautiful face. “It’s so pretty.”
“I thought you might like it.” Jane pressed the mirror into the other girl’s hands and took a couple of steps backwards. “I don’t want to hang out or anything, but maybe you and your friends could just ignore me from now on?”
“Yeah,” Tiffany said, still staring at her reflection. “No more picking on Jane, girls.”
Jane backed away a few more steps and then sprinted away to the girls’ bathroom so she could wash her hands.
III: Stage Fright
Jane Lane, age thirteen, stood just inside the cafeteria of Lawndale Middle
School. She wore a mid-riff cut, fire engine red t-shirt that matched the
lipstick her sister Penny had mailed her as a birthday present, and over that
she wore a black button down with the sleeves rolled up. Her black denim shorts
started life as full length jeans before she attacked them with a pair of
shears, cutting them off high enough that her scandalized teachers demanded she
wear a pair of tights under them. Her outfit was completed by a pair of
oversized, steel reinforced engineer’s boots she’d found sitting by her bed one
Jane Lane had noticed boys a year or so back, and they were finally getting around to noticing her. This, of course, was the cause of her current problem.
Jane Lane, age thirteen, stood just inside the cafeteria of Lawndale Middle School and gritted her teeth against the burning pain from the left side of her face. The sound of the slap echoed through the room as all conversation stopped.
“Keep your slutty claws to yourself,” Anna Rowe said, glaring balefully. “Kevin and I are going steady, and I better not catch you around him again.”
Without a word, Jane turned and walked out of the cafeteria.
“I don’t know that I’d have done that,” Sandra said, watching the young artist stalk away.
“Yeah,” Tiffany drawled, dragging out the vowels in the word.
“Well, I did,” Anna said, rolling her eyes at her feckless support group. “That’s why I’m the captain of the cheerleading squad and president of the Booster Club while you’re still trying to put together that clothes club or whatever.”
“Fashion Club,” Sandra muttered.
“Hey, babe.” Kevin, Anna’s boyfriend and the number one kicker for the Lawndale Middle football team, walked up with a look of confusion. “What did you talk to Jane about?”
“I had to explain the rules to her,” Anna said, smiling prettily at Kevin.
“You know, the rule: like how football players are only allowed to date cheerleaders.”
“That’s a rule?” Kevin said, scratching his head.
“Uh huh,” Anna said. “Come on, let’s get lunch. Can you carry my tray, Kevin?”
“Are you going to be in the school talent show?” Brittany asked, absently
twirling a long lock of blonde hair around one finger.
“Sort of,” Jane said with a shrug. She set aside her paint brush and stood, stretching until her back popped. “I’m not any good at singing or dancing or anything, so I’m building the sets for other people’s shows. It’s like I get to be on stage over and over again without having to actually enter in the contest.”
“Wow, Jane! You’re smart,” Brittany smiled brightly at the artist. “I wish I could be smart like you sometimes, but I figure I’m already pretty and popular, so maybe being smart would be too much, you know?”
“You do ok,” Jane answered with a shrug. “I just appreciate you hanging out and talking while I work on this stuff.”
“It’s ok,” Brittany sighed sadly. “I don’t really have anywhere else to go, and this is interesting.”
“You tell funny stories, I never knew the cheerleaders were as screwed up as the rest of us.”
“You won’t tell anybody what I told you, will you?” Brittany asked, her eyes going wide.
“Not a word to anybody, I promise,” Jane said, grinning at the worried blonde. Brittany wasn’t observant enough to notice the edge in the smile or Jane’s voice, and she relaxed upon hearing the promise.
I’ll never tell anybody about your mother abandoning you, or about Nikki’s youthful indiscretions, or Angie’s private coach doing her homework for her, and I especially won’t tell anybody about Anne’s . . . problems.
“Watch where you’re going, loser.”
Jane took a half step back from the head cheerleader and raised her hands in surrender. “Sorry, Anne. I’m just a little clumsy today. I didn’t mean to bump into you.”
“Make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Jane turned and hurried to the bathroom, ignoring the giggling cheerleaders behind her. She quickly hid in a stall and opened her hand, looking at the bottle she’d lifted out of Anne’s purse.
ONCE DAILY FOR ANXIETY
Jane dumped the capsules out into her hand and then carefully opened them one by one, dumping the contents into the toilet in front of her. She then closed the toilet lid and sat backwards on it, spreading the empty capsules out on the tank. After unzipping her backpack, she pulled out a bottle of aspirins and a mortar and pestle she’d found in her sister Penny’s room. With a grin, she got to work.
“Aren’t you a little old to believe in leprechauns?” Charles said, finishing the joke.
The audience stared up at him a moment, and backstage Jane hit the button that turned on the neon LAUGH light she’d rigged up that morning before the talent show started. Several people in the audience laughed and a couple clapped half-heartedly.
“Thank you, thank you. I’ll be here all week, please tip your waitress and try the veal,” Charles said, waving as he walked off stage.
“Rig me up,” Anne said, giving Jane an imperious look.
“Sure, sure.” Jane ambled over and began quickly and methodically connecting the thin cables to the harness Anne was wearing under her dress; one at each shoulder, one over her right hip, and one over her left hip. When Jane knelt down and started attaching something to her left ankle Anne took a half step away.
“What are you doing?”
“Adding your legs into the wirework harness. You don’t want to fly across stage and accidentally break a shin because you didn’t turn fast enough, do you?”
“Oh, I guess not.”
Quickly and methodically Jane buckled the leather cuffs to the cheerleader’s ankles and connected cables to them via D-rings. She gave each connection a quick tug to make sure it was secure, and then fished around in her pockets and pulled out a handful of weighted clamps.
“One more thing,” Jane said, attaching the small clamps to the hem of Anne’s dress. “I was told you had to wear these to keep your dress from flying up.”
“I bet you’d have loved that,” Anne said. “Seeing me humiliated in front of the whole school.”
“The furthest thing from my mind,” Jane answered calmly. “Are you ready?”
“Yes. And don’t forget, I sing the first verse and then you pull me straight up. I sing the second verse, and then you start slowly lowering me at an angle so I land on the opposite side of the stage by the end of the song. You got that?”
“Got it, boss.”
Anne walked out on stage and the crowd applauded. The music came up and she began to sing, her voice wavering a little at first and then firming up as Jane worked the pulleys to lift her off the floor. The second verse ended, and Jane began sliding Anne across the stage and slowly down . . . and stopped when the brunette was center stage and still about eight feet off the ground.
Jane changed grips on the rope, grasping a smaller cable that no one had noticed her attaching and, with a sharp tug, Jane unlatched the harness holding Anne in the air. The girl screamed as the weights on the other end of the harness yanked it away from her, ripping her dress and causing her to flip upside down to hang from the ankle cuffs. The weights on the skirt hem finished the job on her dress that the run-away harness had begun.
Jane lashed the suspension cable to a cleat, and then lightly tugged one of the attitude ropes causing Anne to begin slowly rotating in place. With a smirk, she tapped the button to turn on her neon sign.
“Your discipline record makes for an interesting, if somewhat disturbing, read;
especially considering that today is your first day of high school. Fighting,
verbal threats to both students and faculty, public displays of affection,
smoking, alcohol, vandalism, petty theft, dress code violations, truancy, and
you seem to have raised tardiness to an art form.”
“Well, I do take pride in my art,” Jane said, smiling thinly across the table at Lawndale High’s staff psychologist. Jane was dressed in a red t-shirt, over which she wore one of her brother’s black button down shirts with the sleeves rolled up. The short-shorts and tights she’d worn in middle school had been replaced by a black, pleated miniskirt and white knee-socks. The scuffed, steel-toed engineer’s boots remained.
“You have quite the checkered past,” Dr. Manson said, closing the file folder and shaking her head.
“I like to think of it as the Lane family tartan.”
“Your brother and sister were certainly challenging young people,” Manson said with a nod. “But you are more unruly than both of them put together.”
“Miss Lane, how are things at home?”
“I know that your parents spend an excessive amount of time away from home. You’ve been raised by your older brother, and as I recall he was never a particularly diligent or attentive young man.”
“He does ok,” Jane answered with a frown.
“Never the less, you must be a very lonely young woman.”
“You think all that,” Jane pointed at the folder, “is a sad cry for attention?”
“Miss Lane, I’m going to sign you up for the self-esteem workshop Mr. O’Neill runs after school. I think you could really benefit from the experience, and Ms. Li has agreed to hold off on expelling you as long as you take the class and show improvement.”
“I’m sorry, what?” Jane asked, rising to her feet. “Are you telling me that I have to go to a touchie-feelie workshop or I’m gonna get kicked out of school? I haven’t done anything to get kicked out of this school.”
“Yet,” Manson answered, tapping the folder. “Jane, we both know it’s only a matter of time before your self-destructive impulses take control again. Don’t go to the workshop because Ms. Li is threatening expulsion, go because it will help you grow past this bad place you’ve gotten stuck in.”
“Fine, I’ll be there,” Jane said, glaring down at the psychologist. “Anything else?”
“I want you to feel free to come in here and talk to me at any time, about anything.”
“Yeah, that’s real comforting. I’ll keep it in mind.” Jane stalked out of the office and headed in what she hoped was the direction of her first period class.
Eighteen months, almost there. In a little while, I won’t be suffering alone and I’ll have an ally to make everyone else suffer. It’s gonna be great.
V: Parent/Teacher Conference
A girl who will chew gum will smoke, a girl who will smoke will drink, and a
girl who will drink . . . why, everyone knows what a girl like that will do!
Jane fidgeted in her seat, her odd behavior occasionally attracting the attention of her classmates. The usually apathetic girl was practically squirming in her seat, her pale cheeks unusually flushed and her blue eyes shining like arctic skies.
Lizzie Borden took an axe, and gave her mother forty whacks. And when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.
The usual smirk on her red, painted lips had grown into a smile that occasionally showed flashes of her pearly white teeth. As she crossed and uncrossed her ankles, her skirt rode up and occasionally showed flashes of her pristine white panties. Jane was usually hypersensitive to being stared at, but at the moment she seemed off in her own little world.
The new girl in the class, Jodie Landon, sighed quietly to herself. She had already heard about the Lane girl’s reputation, and it looked like she was even more outrageous than the descriptions indicated. Jodie glanced over at the boy she’d gone out with a couple of times, a smart and athletic young man named Michael, and saw he was staring at Jane just like all the other guys in class.
“Probably wouldn’t have worked out anyway,” she muttered under her breath. “Dad is already harping on me for wasting my time dating.”
We are each of us books of blood: where ever we are opened, there are we red.
“Miss Lane.” The teacher’s voice cut through her fugue and Jane sat up straight in her desk, although her smile didn’t fade any.
“Yes, Miz Barch?”
“The boys in this class are already frothing, sex-crazed imbeciles. I’d appreciate it if you didn’t stir them up any further with additional fidgeting.”
Jane glanced around at the suddenly embarrassed looking boys, all of which were now studiously avoiding her gaze. She then glanced down at herself, and straightened her skirt with a throaty chuckle that did nothing to relieve the tension in the room.
“I didn’t mean to interrupt class,” Jane said. “Can I be excused? I think I need to talk to Dr. Manson, I had a very intense personal experience last night and I need to talk about it to someone.”
“Well, I suppose.”
Jane stood and sauntered out of the room, heading down the hall towards the stairwell that gave access to the roof.
Mr. O’Neill pulled the door to the faculty lounge closed behind him and stepped out into the hallway.
“Yeah, Mr. O?”
“I’ve left several messages on your answering machine and your parents have yet to call me back. Do you think you could ask them about it?”
“Actually, they happened to both get into town at the same time yesterday,” Jane said. “The last time I saw them they were pretty dead, though. Do you want me to arrange it so you can talk to them this evening?”
“That would be wonderful,” Mr. O’Neill said with a smile. “Would you feel more comfortable if I visited them at your home, or if they came to see me?”
“Give me your address,” Jane said. “I’ll drop by your place after school and make sure everything is handled.”
“I’ll write it down and give it to you when I see you in class later.”
“Thanks, Mr. O.”
Local Teacher Victimized
The body of Timothy O’Neill, a teacher at Lawndale High School, was found at his home yesterday evening by one of his students. The minor’s name is being withheld, but police say that she is cooperating fully and they hope to close the case soon. At this point, evidence indicates that Mr. O’Neill interrupted a burglary in progress . . . .
VI: Film at Eleven
Jane sat on the foot of her bed, channel surfing. Sick, Sad World was a
rerun, and it was one of the boring reruns. The phone rang, and she dropped the
remote to answer it.
“Casa Lane, how may I direct your call?”
“Hey, Janey. Could you do me, like, a really huge favor?” Trent asked. Jane could hear the crowd noise behind him, and guessed he was probably using the bar phone at The Zon.
“Well, that depends. What do you want and what’s in it for me?”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that.”
“Monique left her . . . um . . . make-up bag on my nightstand. Could you bring it down here to the Zon?”
“Right. So your smack-tarded fuck-toy left her drugs in my house, and you want me to jog ‘em down there so you can give them to her. I guess it’s a good thing I’m a minor and can’t go to Angry Lesbian Named Bertha Prison.”
“I wish you wouldn’t talk about Monique that way.”
“I wish my brother wasn’t dating a heroin whore.”
“Janey . . . .”
“Fine, fine. I got nothing going on right now anyway. I’ll be there in about half an hour, and when I get there you’re feeding me and giving me fifty bucks. I’ll spend some of that on groceries for the house. Deal?”
“Thanks, Janey. I really appreciate it.”
Jane hung up and glanced over at the television, which she’d left on a news channel. They were showing aerial footage of a burning school building, and Jane turned up the volume so she could hear the anchorman.
“ . . . suspect the building was destroyed as part of a murder-suicide pact between two students. So far the casualty count rests at eighty-one hospitalized and seventeen dead, including the two teenage boys allegedly behind the arson. Almost fifty people, students and teachers, are still missing and presumed to be somewhere inside Highland High School. Now going live on the scene to . . . .”
Jane clicked the TV off and tossed the remote back onto the bed. She had an errand to run, and some school she’d never heard of getting torched was not her problem.
VII: A Friendship Forged in Hell
Jane stood near the front doors to the school and fidgeted. Ten years to the
day from the morning she’d gone into the basement and met the funny little man.
Ten years to the day from the promise he’d made to bring her a friend.
She didn’t know for sure that she’d find her new friend at school, but it seemed as likely as anything else. After all, if Jane’s new friend was the same age she was they’d both be going to Lawndale High, right?
She perked up a little when a blue BMW pulled up the curb and a girl she didn’t recognize stepped out. The girl was wearing tight blue jeans tucked into combat boots and a dark green belly tee. Her stylish gold framed glasses set off the highlights in her long auburn hair.
“Hi!” Stacy gushed. “You’re cool. What’s your name?” Jane smirked a little at the broken, neurotic mess that used to be Anna, the head cheerleader.
“Cool name,” Sandi said. The President of the Fashion Club scrutinized the new girl, obviously weighing the pros and cons of inviting her to the club.
One of the random freshman boys stepped forward and asked, “Will you go out with me?”
“Oh, please.” Daria smirked at the guy and rolled her eyes. “I haven’t even set foot in the building yet, don’t you think you should give me a day or two to get to know people first?”
“Um, I guess?”
“Hmm.” Daria stepped around the boy and walked over to Stacy and Sandi. “You girls look popular. You’re freshmen, right?”
“Ok, the two of you can hang out with me. I need people to make introductions and fill me in on the pertinent gossip.”
“But,” Sandi started.
“If that’s too much of a problem, I’m sure there are other girls who would be happy to help me out,” Daria said, quirking an eyebrow.
Everyone’s attention was drawn by the loud bang caused by the school door slamming shut. Daria peered through the cracked glass at the dark haired girl storming off down the hall.
“And you can start by telling me about her.”
Jane sat in the library and sulked. There was no way that dolled up, perfumed, prima donna was supposed to be her friend. Jane wasn’t stupid, and she’d figured out a long time ago that she wasn’t like the other kids . . . that something was missing. It took a while, but she had slowly come to the realization that she’d given that guy in the basement a part of her soul.
“Just like Mom and Dad did,” she muttered, and then smirked. “He ended up getting the rest of them eventually, though.”
She had, as a stupid kid, traded away part of her soul and she hadn’t gotten anything in return. Unless, maybe . . . .
“God,” she said, slumping over in the chair and resting her head on the table. “She’s probably exactly the kind of person I would have looked up to when I was six.”
“Thanks for the compliment,” Daria said. “But I hate kids, so it wouldn’t have worked out.”
Jane sat up and glared at the other girl, who was leaning nonchalantly on the library door. Daria walked across the room and hopped up on the table Jane was sitting at, crossing her legs and smirking down at the artist.
“What makes you think I was talking about you?”
“Because you’re Jane. You are Jane aren’t you?”
“Last time I checked.”
“Jack talks about you all the time, about how you’re one of the most inventively cruel people he knows.”
“The redcap,” Daria said. “You know; about this tall, wears Monty Python peasant gear and big iron boots. Oh, and the red hat.”
“He never told me his name.”
“Well, he told me everything about you. I don’t know which story was best, what you did to that cheerleader or that you had the brass ovaries to kill your own parents. Something I haven’t managed to do yet, and I’ve spent years trying to keep up with you.”
“You . . . have?”
“Oh, yeah. Like, how you ruined your brother’s music career . . . I did something like that to my dad. Now he’s a raving basket case that can’t hold down a job or keep a client.”
“Cool,” Jane said. “So, did you use drugs or what?”
“I had to use a couple of different tactics, but I’ll tell you all about it later. Does this town have a decent pizza joint?”
“Good, we’ll get a slice and plot after school. We’re going to have a lot of fun you and I. These people are going to suffer, and they’re going to scream, and then they’re going to die.”
Daria smiled brightly down at Jane, who slowly returned the smile in full.
Daria put down the soldering gun and sat up straight, stretching her back. She
pulled off the latex gloves that were protecting her manicure and then handed
Jane the results of her labor.
“Ok, slot this into the rack with the others,” she said. “We’ll let everything sit overnight and power up the new server farm after school tomorrow.”
“Awesome,” Jane said, walking across her basement and sliding the computer system into place. “I wonder what’s going to happen to the café now.”
“Don’t care, really. Some idiot will probably turn it into a coffee shop or something.”
“I hope so, I wouldn’t mind having a fancy coffee machine down here,” Jane said.
The girls shared a chuckle, and Daria looked around with a satisfied expression. “I always wanted my own server farm, but my parents couldn’t afford it.”
“Hey, can I ask you something?”
“I was wondering something about the pictures on the wall over the stairway at your house.”
“The red haired kid?”
“Yeah, you said you were an only child. Who is she?”
“You mean who was she,” Daria said, frowning slightly.
“Dead?” Jane asked.
“I don’t know. Her name was Quinn, she was my little sister. I hated her.”
“Oh. What happened to her?”
“Have you ever seen Labyrinth?” Daria asked.
“Yeah, the girl that gives her little brother to . . . the . . . ah,” Jane said. “I see.”
“I tried to wish for her to come back.” Daria said quietly.
“Yeah, Jack said he couldn’t do it. Then he started telling me stories about you.”
“Here there be monsters,” Daria said softly, looking into the darkness that surrounded them.
IX: Law and Order
Helen tapped her fingernails on her desk and tried not to scowl at the annoying
hold music. Thankfully, the line clicked and the syrupy electronic tune
disappeared and was replaced by a man’s voice.
“Hello, this is Eric Schrecter. I’m sorry you were kept waiting Mrs. Morgendorffer, but you know how busy a law office can get sometimes.”
“It’s quite alright, Mr. Schrecter.”
“So,” Eric said. “What can we at Vitale, Davis, Horowitz, Riordan, Schrecter, Schrecter and Schrecter do for the District Attorney’s office?”
“Oh, nothing today,” Helen said, chuckling lightly. “I’m calling on my lunch break, this is a personal matter. I need a good divorce lawyer.”
“No problem, I’ll line up one of the associates for you and get the ball rolling. What time is good for you? I’ll go ahead and set up the appointment.”
“I said I wanted a good divorce lawyer, Mr. Schrecter.”
“Ah, I see. Well . . . I haven’t done a divorce in a while, but I always got good results back in the day. If that’s not enough, I can transfer you to my father or one of the senior partners.”
“No, you’ll do Mr. Schrecter.”
“Please, call me Eric. How is nine o’clock tomorrow morning for you? We could meet at The Settlement and talk over breakfast.”
“That sounds fine, and if I’m to call you Eric you should call me Helen. I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Looking forward to it, goodbye.”
Helen hung up the phone and shook her head. If I didn’t know any better, I’d have said that man was flirting with me.
There were two quick raps on her office door just before it swung open and her legal secretary walked in carrying a few file folders.
“What’s up, Marianne?”
“We just got handed the High School arson case.” The blonde woman dropped the folders on Helen’s desk and then sat to wait for her boss to read through them.
As she read, Helen’s eyebrows slowly went up.
“This is an ugly looking case,” Helen said quietly. “The victim is Andrew Landon’s daughter?”
“Yeah, and he’s already screaming for blood,” Marianne said, shaking her head. “I don’t blame him, her wrists and ankles were duct taped and according to the medical examiner she died of smoke inhalation. She was alive and awake when the fires were set.”
“No specific evidence of that, and she may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. She was helping set up the displays for some kind of art contest, and the police think the paintings may have been the actual target.”
“Yeah, the principal had a lot of outlandishly large policies on the school and the objects in it. Very unusual, since private citizens don’t normally take out insurance on public property. There’s a second line of investigation, though, and you’re not going to like it.”
Helen looked up from the paperwork and motioned for Marianne to continue.
“One of the art pieces had been altered by the school’s administration, and the two students responsible for the painting requested that it be removed from the competition. Their request was denied. Further, one of the students is known to have an adversarial relationship with Ms. Landon as they’re competing for the same place on the social food chain.”
“So who are these two students?” Helen asked.
“Jane Lane and Daria Morgendorffer.”
“My daughter is not a murderer,” Helen said quietly.
“Then we’d better be able to convince a jury that Angela Li is,” Marianne replied.
X: Mental in the Morning
“So what’s with the mini-dress?” Jane asked. “I thought we had a deal: since
you’re too lazy to run and I haven’t been blessed by the ‘chest fairy’ I’d show
leg and you’d show cleavage.”
Daria glared for a moment and then sighed. “I wore it to piss of my grandmother. I was hoping for a heart attack, but it’s looking like I might actually have to hide her blood pressure medicine after all.”
“Grandma Ruth has been hanging around ever since Dad’s funeral, she claims she’s too distraught to travel. Mom has been spending all her time on her campaign for DA since her boss retired, so guess who’s been playing babysitter to the elderly?”
“We can put your grandmother in the basement right next to Wind, I think there’s still room,” Jane said. “It’ll be fun.”
“Maybe,” Daria said, and then shook her head. “I dunno. Between Dad’s health problems and suicide, and Grandma’s Ruth’s borderline psychosis I’m starting to worry if I inherited any of this crap.”
“At least you don’t come from a family of wacky morning deejays,” Jane said, grinning widely.
“Ugh, don’t remind me. Between the crap at home and that damn party van I can’t get any peace. It’s starting to make me cranky.”
“Don’t worry,” Jane said. “The van will move on soon. Or be destroyed in a mysterious bombing. I haven’t decided yet.”
The two girls snickered at the thought and continued on their way to school.
Daria walked through the front door of Casa Lane and stopped halfway
across the living room, her eyes narrowing with annoyance. After a few seconds
she stepped into the kitchen and cleared her throat loudly.
Jane and Tom broke their kiss and stepped away from each other. Tom looked vaguely embarrassed, but Jane just gave her best friend a cold look and raised one eyebrow.
“Sorry about that,” Daria said.
“It’s ok,” Jane said tartly. “You had to learn about kissing sometime, right?”
“I, uh, I think I’m gonna go,” Tom said, edging around Daria and heading towards the door. “Call you later?”
No one answered him, and after a moment he left.
“What’s up Daria? Running away from home?”
Daria rolled her eyes and put her overnight bag on the kitchen table. “Look, I need a place to stay for a little while.”
“I guess you can crash here, we have plenty of empty rooms. Trouble with Helen?”
“Not exactly.” Daria sat and shrugged her shoulders. “She and Eric were getting weird with candles last night and they accidentally set some drapes on fire. By the time they noticed and ran for the fire extinguisher there was damage to a couple of walls and the ceiling.”
“Sounds traumatizing, tell me more.” Jane dropped into the seat opposite Daria.
“Well, watching two naked people covered in candle wax running around in a panic was funny, until it sank in what I was seeing and what must have been going on in that room previously. Finding out your mother is into kinky sex is definitely a free ticket to Therapyville.”
“You know, I could do with some sympathy here. I’m mentally scarred and my house is being renovated for at least a week.”
“Sorry, sweetheart. I traded my sympathy for a jar of jelly years ago.”
“Hey, it was good jelly.”
“You know he’s been flirting with me, right?”
“Who?” Jane asked.
“Tom. Whenever you’re not around he tries to chat me up, that’s why he was so upset about me walking in on the two of you playing tonsil hockey.”
“And I suppose he came about this attraction all by his lonesome self?”
Daria shrugged. “I already have guys tripping all over themselves, I don’t need yours.”
“Good, because that’s what he is: mine.”
“Fine, fine. Keep him. Can I stay here or not?” Daria asked.
“Yeah, like I said. We’ve got plenty of room here.” Jane stood and started to walk away. “Come on up when you’re ready, I’ve got a painting I’m working on.”
“I’ll be up in a minute,” Daria said. She sat at the kitchen table until she heard Jane’s footsteps on the floor above, and then waited another minute for the artist to get focused on her painting. Then, she stood quietly and walked to the basement door. Opening it carefully to prevent squeaking she slipped through it and took the steps down into the darkness.
XII: Die, Die my Darling!
Daria walked along on the sidewalk, her expression betraying her anger.
Jane wanting to dye her hair was fine, really it’s about time she took more interest in her appearance. It’s not like I couldn’t do it, I dye my hair all the time . . . but tiger stripes? That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of, and that includes listening to the Fashion Putas kiss up to me.
She sighed and shook her head when she remembered the argument that followed. Jane did not appreciate having her artistic vision questioned, and then there was the rant about Daria supposedly trying to steal Tom.
Like I don’t already have a waiting list for guys that want to take me out and spend money on me. I mean, sure, most of them don’t have Sloane money to throw around, but one of the things that always got on my nerves about Tom is that he doesn’t like to take advantage of his social standing.
Her walk slowed when she saw the distinctive junker parked in front of her house.
Speak of the devil.
“Hey,” Tom said as Daria walked up. He was leaning against the side of his car with his arms crossed, and giving Daria a boyish, charming smile.
“Hi, Tom. What are you doing here?” He must think I’m some kind of clueless moron.
“I wanted to talk to you, and nobody was home when I got here so I decided to wait.”
“I see,” Daria said. Fine, this works for me anyway. She shyly looked away and said, “You want to come in and . . . talk?”
“Yeah, that’d be great.”
Tom followed Daria into the house and sat on the couch. She sat near him, turned so she was facing him.
“So,” Daria said, breaking the silence. “Did you want to talk about Jane?”
“Oh . . . then, what?”
“I wanted to talk about our situation,” Tom said.
“I wasn’t aware we had a situation,” Daria said, quirking an eyebrow.
Tom sighed. “Dammit, why is everybody mad at me?”
“Look,” Daria said. “I have literally spent my entire life waiting for a friend like Jane. We moved to this town and I finally met her, and everything has been exactly like I hoped it would be. Then you come around and all of a sudden Jane gets all jealous and neurotic on me.”
“I just met a cool girl and we went out for a while. Now we’re bored with each other, and that happens all the time. It’s not like it’s anybody’s fault.”
“Would you still be bored with her if I weren’t around?” Daria asked archly.
“Probably, but even if I weren’t she’d have already gotten tired of me. This has nothing to do with you, or even me really . . . I guess Jane just has a short attention span.”
Daria frowned. “Good, because I’m not interested in you. I’d be metaphorically stabbing Jane in the back if I even considered it.”
“Exactly, and what kind of a jerk would that make me?”
“All right then.”
The pair sat on the couch and stared at each other for a moment, letting the silence stretch out again.
“Did you bring a condom?” Daria asked.
“I’ve got a box of them in the car.”
“Go get them, I’ll be upstairs changing clothes. Second door on the right.”
XIII: Happily Ever After
Daria’s doorbell rang over and over again until eventually she came downstairs
and opened the door.
“Hey,” Jane said. “Look, can I come in?”
“I suppose.” Daria stepped aside and allowed her best friend to walk into the living room.
“You weren’t at school today, I was sort of worried. I was thinking about the argument we had, and about how much we’ve both invested in this, and how we shouldn’t throw away a very important friendship over a guy.”
“So what are you proposing?” Daria asked.
“We should kill him together,” Jane said, leaning down and pulling a long knife out of her boot. “It’ll be great, just like old times.”
“It might be a little late for that.”
Daria sighed. “I killed your boyfriend, Jane. I killed Tom. He showed up here last night trying to sweet talk me again, and I decided to kill two birds with one stone. At least now I know why you put up with him as long as you did.”
“You bitch!” Jane screamed, lunging forward and slashing at Daria with her knife. “I knew you were trying to take him away from me! I knew it!”
“I didn’t plan it in advance,” Daria said, dodging and backing away. “I just took the opportunity he presented me with.”
“I’ve been planning on killing him ever since he ate those damn gummy bears,” Jane snarled, following Daria with her knife ready. “I was going to share it with you. Goddamnit, I sold part of my soul for you and this is how you repay me?”
“My whole life I’ve tried to be like you,” Daria said. “All the stories I heard about you, how cruel you were and how you never let anybody hurt you. Then it turned out you were just as insecure and pathetic as everyone else.”
Daria turned and ran into the kitchen, with Jane close behind her. Daria dodged around the kitchen table, and the two girls glared at each other from opposite sides of the room.
“I’m going to mount your head on my wall,” Jane said. “How dare you betray me like this, I own you!” With a shriek she jumped onto the table and dove at Daria, bringing her knife down in an arc.
Daria stumbled back, pulling a pistol from the small of her back and firing at Jane. The artist slammed into her and both girls fell to the floor in a heap. Slowly, Jane levered herself up and looked down at the blood steaming through her ruined shirt.
“Looks like you got me,” she said.
Daria didn’t answer, and Jane looked at her best friend’s still form. The knife handle jutted up proudly between Daria’s breasts.
“But I got you first, bitch.” Jane chuckled, a harsh croaking sound followed by a prolonged cough. She spit a mouthful of blood onto the floor and looked over at Jack. The redcap was sitting at the table, watching the scene intently.
“Help me,” Jane said. “I’m dying.”
“I know,” Jack said regretfully. “Nothing to be done about it, I’m afraid. You see, her wish was to be just like you and now she’s dead. Since I’m not allowed to bring her back . . . .” He shrugged.
“Go to . . . go to . . . go to Hell,” Jane’s voice drifted away and she slumped over on the floor, her blood mingling with Daria’s.
“I’m afraid I’m not allowed to do that, either.” Jack stood and spent a moment hunting through his pockets, eventually finding a bone saw and a small selection of Tupperware containers. He placed the containers on the table and stepped forward with the saw.
The redcap turned, motioning for the girl to continue speaking. His daughter stood in the kitchen door; a vision of alabaster skin and ruby hair, her dress was woven of moonlight and spider webs, and she wore a delicate silver tiara. She was as beautiful and gentle as her father was ugly and crude.
“Father, you left so quickly you forgot to lock the door. I grew afraid and followed you,” the girl said. She quietly moved across the room, seeming to float a few inches over the floor, and looked down sadly at the dead girls. “What happened here?”
“Don’t dwell on it, princess. They were cruel, heartless girls and not worth your concern.”
“She looks like someone I once knew,” she said, pointing at Daria. “Someone I used to dream about a long, long time ago. She made me cry, I think.”
“And you made a wish with all your heart,” Jack said.
“I want to go away, and live in a fairy tale,” Quinn whispered.
“And so you do, Princess. And so you do.”
Disclaimers: Stereo Hifi font is ©1997 by Cathy Davies. This story based on characters and situations created by Glenn Eichler and Susie Lewis. The Daria TV show is a trademark of MTV Networks, a division of Viacom International Inc. and is referenced here without permission, and without profit. Original characters and situations created by the author are under (K) – all rights reversed. Hail Eris.
Author’s Note: This story originally appeared on the PPMB as a series of short vignettes in an Iron Chef thread requesting stories about an ‘evil’ Jane. The story has been slightly edited from the original, mostly for spelling/grammar/punctuation and clarity.
Author: the NightGoblyn