My Sister the Vampire Book 2: Fangtastic! (Chapter 2)
This is not a good sign, Ivy thought.
It took her forever to pick everything up and cram it back inside. Finally, the only things left were two black boots on the floor just below her open locker door. Ivy went to pick one of them up, but it wouldn't budge. She pushed it with a frustrated grunt.
"Hey!" a voice cried as the boot moved away.
Ivy pushed her locker door shut to find Sophia attached to the boots.
"Where have you been?" Sophia demanded.
"Tidying my locker," Ivy answered sheepishly.
"Tidying your locker!?" Sophia repeated incredulously. "Well, while you were cleaning out your locker, Serena Star convinced Principal Whitehead to call a meeting with the staff of the Scribe!" The Franklin Grove Scribe was the school paper, where Ivy was senior writer and Sophia was a photographer.
"Why?" Ivy asked.
"I don't know," Sophia answered, "but it can't be good!"
"When's the meeting?"
Sophia looked at her watch with false noncha- lance. "Oh, you know . . . RIGHT NOW!" she replied, pushing Ivy along in front of her.
As they charged through the halls, Sophia whispered, "You know we're the only vamps on staff."
"That's why we have to get on Serena's good side," Ivy responded, following her friend through the frosted-glass Scribe office door. She saw at once that they were the last to arrive; everyone else was already seated around the big editorial table. At the far end of the room stood Serena Star with Principal Whitehead at her side.
She's so much shorter than she looks on TV, thought Ivy.
"Thank you for joining us," Serena Star said with a flash of her brilliant smile as she shot a tiny glance over the girls' shoulders.
Ivy turned to find herself face-to-face with a WowTV camera lens. She hadn't noticed the cameraman squeezed into the corner by the door. For a moment, she felt as if she'd been turned to stone; she hated being in front of cameras, crowds, and tape recorders.
Camera or no camera, I have to charm Serena Star, she told herself. With a gulp, Ivy looked right at Serena and smiled as brightly as she could. "As the senior writer of the Franklin Grove Scribe, allow me to say what an honor it is to meet a journalist of your, uh, standing, Ms. Star. I'm sure we all have a great deal to learn from you."
"Thank you," said Serena Star, clearly flat- tered by the praise. She gestured to the boy sitting closest to her. "This young man has just finished saying so himself."
Toby Decker, one of the best reporters on staff, blushed slightly. His blond hair was combed neatly off his face, and he was dressed in a blue button-down shirt and a red power tie. Ivy thought he looked like he was running for office.
Sophia and Ivy grabbed two seats next to Camilla Edmunson, who was the paper's book reviewer.
Serena officiously placed her palms on the table. "I called you here, fellow reporters, because I need your help."
"We'll do whatever we can," said Toby eagerly, and everyone nodded.
"Good," said Serena. "Because I'd like one of you to work with me on my nationally covered story about life here in Franklin Grove."
A bunch of people gasped.
"You mean, be your assistant?" asked Will Kerrell, a seventh-grader who usually covered sports.
"Exactly." Serena Star nodded. She paused to let the information sink in. "I'm holding an audi- tion, and the person who wins gets to be my assis- tant."
"How exciting!" Principal Whitehead said approvingly.
What is she up to? Ivy wondered suspiciously.
Serena Star looked around the table with her wide eyes. "To audition, you have to get out there and get me a quote about Garrick Stephens and his coffin."
"What kind of quote?" asked Kelly Marlings, flipping open her spiral pad and furiously starting to take notes.
"Something juicy," replied Serena Star, "something that will make the American public sit up and take notice. And the person who gets the best quote will get to help me, WowTV's Serena Star, with my story," she finished, her eyes sparkling.
Ivy was beginning to see what Serena had in mind. She's using us to find out stuff no adult could, she thought.
Ivy felt Sophia slip a piece of paper into her hand. She unfolded it beneath the table and glanced down to see one of her friend's hastily drawn bunny cartoons. Surrounded by a bunch of wide-eyed baby bunnies was a particularly thin bunny with enormous eyes, long hair, and a sparkly smile–Serena Star, obviously. Her speech balloon said, "The first little bunny to give up their fur wins a rabbit coat!"
Ivy hid her smile. Serena Star isn't the most eth- ical reporter, she thought, but she's not as dumb as I thought.
Ivy cleared her throat. "Does the quote have to be about Garrick Stephens's stunt at the ceme- tery?" she asked. "I mean, that was just a lame practical joke, right?"
"I think there's more to the story," Serena said meaningfully, "and a good reporter will find out what."
So much for my attempt to derail her, Ivy thought.
Camilla raised her hand, looking a little bored. "Does everyone need to get a quote? I mean, I'm more of a critic than a reporter."
"Only those with investigative reporting expe- rience need apply," Serena answered.
Ivy saw Sophia grin at Camilla and whisper, "Looks like you and me are off the hook!"
"Well, for those of you who do audition, I can- not imagine a greater opportunity than working with a journalist as respected as Serena Star," Principal Whitehead said.
A snort of disdain erupted from Sophia. Ivy kicked her under the table, and her friend tried to make it seem like something had been caught in her throat. She descended into a dramatic cough- ing fit, shrugging at Ivy in a way that said "Oops." Camilla was also suppressing giggles.
If Serena Star noticed, she didn't show it. She flashed her trademark smile at the staffers around the table. "You have twenty-four hours to get your quotes. May the best reporter win!" she declared.
"Thank you, Ms. Star," Toby Decker said pro- fessionally. With that, the Scribe staff started to file out of the room, chattering about their high- profile assignment. Sophia started to leave, too, but Ivy put a hand on her arm. They had to talk to Serena first.
"See you," Camilla said to Ivy and Sophia and headed toward the door. Just before she reached it, though, Ivy saw her do a double take and walk over to the cameraman.
"That's the Sign of the Cyborg!" Camilla said, pointing to a symbol on the guy's T-shirt.
"You're a Coal Knightley fan?" he responded.
Soon they were deep in conversation about Coal Knightley's books.
Meanwhile, Ivy and Sophia went over to talk to Serena. The reporter grabbed Ivy's hand and shook it. As she did, she peered down at Ivy's fin- gers. "Interesting choice of nail polish," she said, raising her other hand and signaling her camera- man to come closer. He was too busy talking to Camilla to notice, so Serena smiled at Ivy in a plastic way and waved her free hand more franti- cally. Finally she snapped, "Martin!"
"Sorry!" Martin the cameraman said, rushing over as Camilla left the room.
Serena huffed and let go of Ivy's hand at last. She looked at her and Sophia intensely. "You two must be friends with Garrick Stephens."
Sophia scoffed, and Ivy elbowed her before she said something rash. "Do you mean because we wear dark clothes?" Ivy asked innocently.
Serena Star nodded. "Exactly."
Ivy frowned. "You mean you agree with stereo- types?"
"What?" Serena Star spluttered. "No. Of course not."
"Thank goodness," Ivy said, "because Principal Whitehead always says that a great reporter is never swayed by prejudice." She smiled at the principal over Serena Star's shoulder.
"That I do!" Principal Whitehead confirmed cheerfully.
"I couldn't agree more," Serena said stiffly, glancing uncomfortably toward the camera. She changed the subject. "So where do you kids hang out?"
"The diner," Sophia told her with a shrug.
"Which diner?" Serena Star asked immedi- ately.
"We like the Meat & Greet," Ivy replied.
"Is that the one that's decorated like a meat locker?" Serena Star said.
Uh-oh, thought Ivy. She's digging, and soon she's going to hit a coffin. "Plus I love Mister Smoothies," Ivy lied.
"Me, too," Sophia chimed in quickly.
Serena Star paused. "So you two don't know Garrick Stephens?"
Ivy and Sophia didn't say anything.
"And you don't know anything about him or his friends?" Serena pressed.
"Everyone calls them the Beasts," Toby piped up from a few feet away. Ivy hadn't even realized he was still there.
Serena Star nodded at him encouragingly, and Toby went on. "They're always playing practical jokes and things. Several weeks ago, they dragged me to a party at Ivy's house, even though they knew I wasn't invited."
Ivy winced. Serena turned to look at her. "You invited Garrick Stephens to a party?"
"Just a, you know, a Halloween party." Ivy gulped. "Lots of people were invited."
"But not Toby, who you work with closely on the school paper?" Serena said pointedly.
Ivy shrugged helplessly.
Serena Star turned back to Toby. "What else can you tell me about Garrick and his friends?"
"I think they're into heavy metal," Toby said, "although that might just be their T-shirts. And they're always saying weird things, like `blood- sucker' this and `bloodsucker' that."
Ivy's mouth went dry.
"Bloodsucker?" Serena's eyes widened. "Are you sure?"
"Yes," Toby replied.
Serena looked at her cameraman. "That's a wrap," she said. She didn't even thank Toby or anything. "Looks like we have some investigating to do, Martin. Let's start by doing some under- cover eating at this Meat & Greet, where certain elements seem to hang out." She looked at Ivy and Sophia meaningfully. Then she marched out of the room, her cameraman hurrying after her.
"Celebrities."Toby shrugged at Ivy and Sophia by way of explanation. They smiled back at him awkwardly.
A few moments later, Ivy and Sophia were trudging down the hall toward the cafeteria.
"You've got to do something, Ivy," Sophia said.
"Me?" Ivy cried. "What about you?"
"I can't. I'm just a photographer," Sophia said. "You have to get that assistant job."
Ivy knew her friend was right, but it wasn't going to be easy. "I have a feeling Serena Star doesn't trust me very much."
"You have to make her!" Sophia pleaded.
Ivy thought about it and pushed her hair out of her face. "What I need to do is come up with a killer quote that is also completely misleading."
"Hey, that's all Serena Star does every day," Sophia said with an encouraging smile. "And you're much smarter than she is."
At that very moment, Serena Star rushed past with her cameraman in tow. "Didn't the actor Hank Hogart call his wife a bloodsucker after their divorce?" the girls heard her say. "Maybe there's a connection there!"
Sophia and Ivy looked at each other and then burst out laughing as they pushed through the cafeteria doors.
As she walked into media studies class, Olivia was having a hard time not imagining an angry mob storming into school and carrying off her sister for the WowTV cameras. She absentmindedly took her seat beside Camilla as the bell rang.
In strolled Mr. Colton wearing dark sunglasses and his trademark short-sleeved Hawaiian shirt. "Good afternoon, media moguls!" he sang, dra- matically throwing his old leather briefcase onto his desk. "Judging from all the TV cameras around here, I'd say it's quite a day for media studies at Franklin Grove."
He scanned the class until his eyes rested over Olivia's shoulder.
"Mr. Stephens, it's clear from your little per- formance at the cemetery that last month's jour- nalism segment made quite an impression on you." Olivia and Camilla both turned around to see Garrick sitting with the other Beasts at the table behind them, an ear-to-ear grin above his Interna 3 T-shirt. "Maybe next time, you'll actu- ally complete the assignment on time," Mr. Colton finished with his eyebrows raised.
Ouch, thought Olivia. She couldn't help feeling pleased as the smile fell right off Garrick's face.
Mr. Colton dug into his briefcase and held up a sheaf of papers. "Drum roll, please!"
Everyone started drumming on their desks with their fingertips. The thrumming got louder and louder, until Olivia and Camilla were slap- ping the table they shared with their hands.
"Introducing . . ." Mr. Colton shouted over the din, "the Film Assignment!" He held the papers over his head in a disco pose.
"Your mission, should you choose to accept it," Mr. Colton said, darting around the room and passing an assignment sheet to each student, "is to produce, film, and edit a five-minute docu- mentary.
"You can pick any topic you choose, as long as it's appropriate. That means," he said, looking fierce, "no footage of me dancing and singing `Do the Dudley' from my 1989 appearance on Star Search."
After Mr. Colton had explained the process for reserving cameras and time in the school's editing suite, he said, "I know everyone's anxious to get started, so why don't you take a few minutes to talk in your groups about possible topics?"
Camilla turned to Olivia. "So, what should we do?" she asked excitedly.
Olivia thought of Charlotte on the front steps this morning, directing her to talk about what it was like to be a new student in Franklin Grove. "What about a documentary that shows what it's like to move to Franklin Grove?" Olivia sug- gested. "It could be an introduction to the town and what it's really like." Not what it's really like, she thought, but close enough to fool people like Serena Star.
Camilla frowned. "I think Serena Star has the truth-about-Franklin-Grove angle covered right now."
Olivia realized Camilla was right. It wasn't a very fun idea for a school project, anyhow: it was sort of like trying to make the most boring film possible about Franklin Grove.
"I know!" Camilla said. "I've always wanted to do something about alien life-forms. We could show organisms from all different star systems."
"That sounds cool," Olivia said, nodding.
Then she sighed. "But do you think our budget's big enough to cover shipping and handling of alien organisms?"
Camilla blushed. "I guess alien life-forms are reasonably hard to find."
There was snickering behind them, and Olivia heard Garrick say, "That's killer!"
Olivia had really had enough of Garrick Stephens for one day–after all, he was the one that had started all the trouble with Serena Star in the first place. She spun around. "Can you goons keep it down, please?"
The Beasts hooted. "You're just jealous because we have the best idea," leered Garrick.
Camilla turned around, too. "I think it's fair to say we've all seen enough of you in front of the camera, Garrick," she said coolly.
"Picture it," Garrick said, putting his thumbs and forefingers together to form a square viewfinder. "A documentary that shows how vio- lence is an important part of the modern middle school experience.We're going to film the football games and call it `Cheers for Fears'!"
"Yeah!" All the Beasts guffawed, high-fiving each other. Olivia glared at them.
"Hey," Garrick said, his eyes suddenly lighting up. "You're a cheerleader, aren't you, Olivia? Want to star in my movie? Now that I'm famous, I've got connections."
"You wish," Olivia told him, rolling her eyes and turning back around. "Unbelievable," she added quietly to Camilla. "Garrick's time in the spotlight has actually made him even more obnoxious!"
"No kidding," Camilla agreed.
Olivia tried to tune out the boys behind her. "Are you coming to the football game after school?" she asked Camilla.
"I was planning to."
"Why don't you come over to my house for dinner afterward?" Olivia offered. "I bet it'll be easier to come up with an idea for our film with- out all the chatter."
She gestured over her shoulder, only to hear Garrick say, "I bet those would make a good impression on a cheerleader!" She had no idea what he was talking about.
"I have to check with my mom," Camilla said, "but that sounds great."
Behind them all the Beasts shouted, "TOUCH- DOWN!"
Mr. Colton shot the boys a look, and they all piped down.
"Just promise me Garrick Stephens isn't going to pop out of a casserole at dinner," Camilla joked.
Olivia grinned. "With my mom's cooking," she said, "he'll be sliced, diced, and sautted way before that."