Chapter 14
Snake in the Grass

Vigau, Arielle, Bonaventure

The sun was already low on the horizon when club let out. There was little chance Margot would make it home before dark, but even though Vigau was safe enough, her parents would have a fit if she stayed out any longer than she had to.
Ever since she and her friends started experimenting with magic, she found herself becoming more paranoid. They had yet to successfully cast a spell, but they were getting close. Spacey as she was, Amelie seemed to have the most natural talent for it. It really seemed to frustrate Bernie, who thought that her brains alone ought to avail her as well with magic as they did in class. And of course Netty whined all the while because she was being left out.
Jenny and Angie were talking about kicking her out of their group, but Bernie pointed out that if they did that, she would tattle to the proviseur. Darkly, Jenny suggested they make sure Netty never told anyone about what they were doing. She tried to play it off as a joke later, but Margot worried that it was more than that. Was this what magic did to people? If so, the Mage Ban was starting to make a lot more sense than it ever did to her before.
She was losing her nerve. Her one chance at amnesty was gone. Giving in now would not save her from whatever they did to people who violated the Mage Ban and she would be betraying her friends besides. In for a denier, in for a sous...
She had not gotten far from the school when a man's voice called out to her.
"Margot? Margot Leider?"
Margot turned and asked, "Yes?"
It was a young policeman, probably only having been on the force a year or two. He was not that bad to look at, but there was something in his bearing and the way he looked at you that seemed uncomfortably weaselly.
"Hello there," he said. "I'm Constable Jarvis Leach. You can call me Archie. I'm with the Witch-hunters."
It took all her willpower to keep her panic from showing. Did somebody tell? Did one of them get caught?
"What's this about?" she asked, as nonchalantly as she could manage. She was happy that she did not stammer.
"You've heard about the stories of little girls dabbling in witchcraft, I'm sure."
He was fishing. If he had solid evidence on her, he would have gone ahead and arrested her. Also, he would not have approached her alone.
Trying not to make it obvious she was looking around for any partners of his, she told him, "My dad was telling me about it the other day."
Constable Leach nodded.
"Your father, right. Sergeant Leider. And what did you tell him?"
If he had anyone else with him, they were out of sight at least. She did not have to worry about three or four Witch-hunters jumping her and carrying her off. Still, if he could catch her in some trap, he would have all the excuse he needed to bring her in. She had to be careful.
Just as she did with her father, she played up the part of the offended teenager and said, "I don't think that's any of your business, but I told him I didn't know anything about it."
Margot shrugged and flipped her hair. She had to hope the performance looked natural. She was in the drama club, after all.
"Sure, we gossip about it, but I don't know anyone who has one of those... what are they called again?"
"Witch Crystals."
"Right, those."
Constable Leach pulled out a notepad and a stubby little pencil and started to scribble down some notes. While he was still scribbling, he asked her, "And about how big is your circle of friends?"
She had to be evasive while not looking evasive. It was tricky game to play.
"I'd only call about ten or twelve people my friends," she said, "but I know most of the people in my class."
Constable Leach looked up from his notepad.
"And your classmates would corroborate your story?"
Margot crossed her arms and replied, "It's not just a story. It's the truth."
Constable Leach gave her one of his weaselly smiles and asked, "How would you like to come the station with me and answer some more questions?"
Margot was not about to fall for such an obvious trap.
"Unless you catch me in the act of committing a crime, you can't take a minor to the station without a parent or guardian."
"Leave it to the policeman's daughter," Constable Leach said. He then reached out to touch her hair, holding a shock of it in his hand. "That is some beautiful hair you have. Is it natural?"
Her skin crawled, but she did not dare pull away. She had to hold her ground.
"Yes," she said curtly.
His eyes strayed downward for a second before asking, "So all your hair is like this?"
Any boy in her class would have gotten slapped for that, but she could not very well strike a policeman even if her father was the superintendent. Speaking of which...
"If you don't stop, I'm going to file a complaint with your superintendent," she said coolly. "And my dad'll probably kick your ass."
Constable Leach only grinned at the threat.
"A tough little thing, aren't you? Pardon me. I don't think I worded the question well."
"There's no good way to word it," she said. "Are we done here? Can I go?"
The young constable bobbed his head obligingly.
"Sure, sure. I imagine we'll be talking again. Have a nice day, Miss Leider. Give my regards to your father when see him."
"Yeah, I'll be sure to let him know you dropped by."
Constable Leach turned to walk away, whistling as he went. Margot would have to warn the others. Hopefully none of them had to deal with any police before she saw them again tomorrow. She wanted out now more than ever, but after this, she really had passed the point of no return.