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My Sister the Vampire Book 2: Fangtastic! (Chapter 4)

Olivia rushed downstairs on Tuesday morning, her hair still dripping from the shower. She bounded through the small kitchen and into the family room, where she was frantically searching for the remote control between the cushions of the couch when she heard a noise: whooooosssshhhh!

Olivia stopped in her tracks and stood up. She scanned the room, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Maybe someone flushed the toilet upstairs, she thought, bending down to look for the remote control again–

Whoooooooosssssshhh! The noise was louder this time.

That sounds so close, Olivia thought, her heart beginning to race. I think it's coming from right behind the couch!

She grabbed a cushion and crept to the end of the couch, holding the pillow over her shoulder like it was a baseball bat. Ever so slowly, she peered around the edge of the sofa . . .

"Whoooooossssshhhhh!" Her father exhaled, and Olivia found herself staring at the bottoms of his bare feet.

Ew, she thought, relaxing again. Her dad was lying on the floor in his pajamas with his eyes closed. For a split second she thought maybe he was hurt, but then his right leg came up in slow motion, and he brought his left hand over to touch his big toe. He held the toe aloft, his ankle shaking slightly.

"Whoooooosss–"

"DAD!" Olivia yelled.

Her father jumped as if she'd thrown a bucket of ice water on him. "What is it?" he cried.

"What are you doing?" Olivia demanded.

"I'm practicing li ching," he answered matter- of-factly.

Olivia had never heard of li ching, but her dad was always taking up obscure martial arts. None of them ever made him any less embarrassing. "You scared me," she said.

Her father raised his chin. "He who masters li ching can do scary things!"

Olivia rolled her eyes and said, "Where's the remote?"

Her dad shrugged and glanced around the room. Then he said, "Oh!" and reached into the pocket of his pajamas.

Olivia grabbed the remote from him and flipped straight to The Morning Star. On screen, Serena Star was standing in front of Franklin Grove Middle School, talking into her microphone.

"Anonymous sources say Garrick Stephens, the Franklin Grove student who hijacked a dead man's funeral on Sunday"–a leering photo of Garrick appeared beside Serena Star's head–"is kingpin of the Beasts, a gang of bullies who con- stantly reference the occult," Serena Star reported gravely.

"Serena Star was at your school?" Mr. Abbott said curiously.

Olivia shushed him with a vigorous nod.

"Some students believe that Mr. Stephens and his friends' strange behavior," continued Serena Star, "may be symptomatic of a much larger problem. One that's nothing short of . . . GRIMARKABLE!" A graphic with the word "GRIMARKABLE!" appeared beside her head.

What a ridiculous word! Olivia thought. She was shocked, though, when the graphic was replaced by Charlotte Brown's flushed face, over a caption that said CHARLOTTE BROWN, HEAD CHEER- LEADER.

"I was in the girls' bathroom, re-applying gloss, when two Goth girls came in," Charlotte said. Olivia shut her eyes in embarrassment. "They were dressed from head to toe in black rags, and their nails were covered in black nail polish." And then, "They growled at me!"

"So you think it's a problem," Serena Star's voice said offscreen, "that so many Franklin Grove students are obsessed with darkness?"

"Totally!" Charlotte agreed.

"Interesting," Olivia's dad murmured.

Serena Star reappeared on screen. "It's clear that a sinister, corrupting influence is alienating the good students, like Charlotte Brown, at this school." Olivia rolled her eyes as Serena Star walked dramatically toward the camera, stopping only when her face filled the screen.

"America, where there's smoke, there's arson! Who is behind the dark forces strangling Franklin Grove? Young Garrick Stephens clearly isn't smart enough to be the real ringleader, so who is it?" Serena demanded. "I, Serena Star, am deter- mined to find out, because the Star of truth must shine!" she cried, thrusting her microphone into the air and bringing it down. Then, with sudden calm, she smiled and said, "I'm Serena Star.Wake up, America!"

Olivia shut off the TV. Her father noticed the frown on her face and said, "Don't worry about those Beast boys, Olivia. I'll teach you li ching so you can protect yourself."

Olivia groaned and walked into the kitchen. She was staring into space, thinking about Serena Star and eating a yogurt, when some- thing in the next room caught her eye: a sparkling feather was sticking out from the top shelf of the tall glass cabinet where her parents kept the good china.

Olivia realized that after she and Camilla had pored over Great-aunt Edna's priceless artifacts last night, her mom must have moved them all up there so that they wouldn't get damaged.

Without another cheerleader in the room to give her a boost, Olivia had to drag her chair over to reach the top shelf.

Leaving the ostrich fan where it was, she care- fully carried the wooden box back to the kitchen and set it before her on the breakfast table. She still couldn't get over how beautiful it was. The box was made of gleaming cherrywood, delicately carved in a pattern of flowers and birds.

Olivia opened the lid and gazed at Great-aunt Edna's precious necklace, which lay glittering on the deep-blue satin lining of the compartment. For some reason, that made her think of Garrick Stephens in his luxury Interna 3, but she wiped the thought from her mind.

Olivia carefully lifted out the sparkling necklace and set it aside. Then she pressed ever so gently on the bottom of the compartment, just as her mother had shown her. There was a soft click, and the false bottom sprung open to reveal a stack of yellowed letters beneath.

A half hour later, Olivia was still sitting there, reading. The letters were so romantic. She folded one and unfolded another. It read,

My Dear Duke,

You know that it cannot be.We are of

different worlds. Oh, how I wish we could

be together, but I dare not allow myself to

imagine a future in your arms. How

wonderful it would be to live together in a

home of love and peace, to have a precious

child–a babe with your handsome eyes . . .

But I must not write of such dreams. How

my head battles against my heart!

Please do not look at me when I bring

this afternoon's tea. I do not think I could

bear it!

With love and sadness,

Edna

As she finished the letter, Olivia felt a tear roll down her cheek.

"I made you some toast," her mother inter- rupted. Olivia hadn't even noticed her come into the kitchen.

Olivia quickly wiped her cheek with the back of her hand. "Thanks," she murmured.

Her mom sat down opposite her and slid the plate of toast across to Olivia. She studied Olivia's face. "So . . . how are the movie plans coming along?" she asked.

"Good," Olivia replied quietly.

Her mother nodded. "What's wrong, sweetie?" she asked gently.

Olivia felt a lump in her throat. "Nothing," she said, looking down at the plate. Her mom reached over and took her hand.

Olivia fought the urge to cry. "I guess"–she gulped–"the family connection with Great-aunt Edna has made me think, you know, about my own biological parents."

Her mom sighed and nodded. "It's healthy to want to know about your birth parents, sweet- heart," she replied softly. "I only wish I had more to tell you about them."

"I know," Olivia said.

"I'd be happy to get the adoption file out again for you to look at," her mom offered.

Olivia took a tissue from the box on the corner of the table and blew her nose. "There's not much to look at," she quavered, looking up at the ceiling tearily. "It just says that someone dropped me off at the adoption agency anonymously."

"With the note that had your name and date of birth on it," her mom added. Then she smiled and squeezed Olivia's hand. "You know I've always loved your name."

"Don't forget the ring," Olivia said, wiggling her finger and forcing a smile.

"And the ring," her mom agreed, standing up and coming around the table to give Olivia a big hug. Olivia buried her face in her mom's shoulder.

"I love you so much, sweetie," her mom whis- pered, and Olivia found herself feeling a tiny bit better. Then her mom glanced at the clock over the stove. "The Mom Express is departing for school in fifteen minutes sharp," she teased. "And you still haven't done your hair."

Olivia grinned again in spite of her tears.

"Why don't you go finish getting ready, while I put away Edna's things?" Mrs. Abbott suggested.

"Thanks, Mom," Olivia said and padded upstairs to do her hair.

Twenty minutes later, Olivia was staring out of the car window as her mom drove her to school. Her mind continued to buzz with questions about her real parents: Who were they? Why'd they give us up? Were they in love, like Edna and the duke?

Two blocks from school, Olivia noticed a black- clad person walking on the sidewalk up ahead. Even from the back, she could tell it was Ivy.

"I'll get out here," Olivia blurted. She really wanted to talk to her sister, but there was no way she could risk her mom seeing Ivy up close in case she noticed the resemblance.

"Why?" her mom asked.

Olivia hesitated. "For the fresh air . . ." she tried.

Much to her relief, her mom pulled over with- out asking any more questions. Olivia hugged her good-bye and got out of the car. She waited for her mom to drive away and then shouted, "Ivy! Wait up!"

Ivy turned, her face set in a scowl, and kicked some dirt off her boot as she waited for Olivia to catch up.

"You don't look too happy," Olivia observed.

"I'm not," Ivy replied flatly.

"What's wrong?"

"I still don't have a quote for Serena Star," Ivy explained. "But don't worry about me.What's the matter with you?" Olivia looked at her quizzically, and Ivy said, "Just because you always look sunny doesn't mean I can't tell when you're feeling cloudy."

Olivia smiled, and she and her sister started walking together slowly.

"Camilla and I are doing a movie for media studies," Olivia began.

"I saw the Beasts working on theirs." Ivy nodded. "Apparently, Garrick's going to make Charlotte Brown a star."

"Yeah." Olivia sighed. "Well, Camilla and I are doing ours on this relative of my mom's who I never even knew about: her great-aunt Edna. She just died recently, and it turns out she left my mom her love letters, plus some other stuff. There's a ruby and diamond necklace you'd love."

"Really?" Ivy said, her eyes lighting up. "That sounds killer."

"It is," Olivia agreed.

"So what's wrong?"

Olivia sighed. "Do you ever think about our real parents, Ivy?"

"Every time my father drives me crazy," Ivy said, cracking a smile.

"I'm serious," Olivia said. "All this stuff about Great-aunt Edna has really got me thinking– about our family and history and stuff. I mean, I love my mom and dad and I feel superlucky that they adopted me, but I wish so badly that we knew something, anything, about our biological parents. Who knows? Maybe we have grandpar- ents somewhere, or aunts and uncles and cousins. We could have a whole big family we don't even know about!"

"I thought about our parents a lot when we first found each other," Ivy said. "I'm lucky that my dad's seriously great and that now I have you. But I'd like to know more about where we came from."

"Exactly," Olivia agreed as they crossed the street in front of school. "I mean, who wrote the notes when they put us up for adoption?"

Ivy stopped in her tracks. "What notes?"

"You know," Olivia clarified, "the piece of paper they left with the baby's name and date of birth on it."

"I didn't get a note," Ivy said. Then she mur- mured, "At least not that I know of." She bit her lip thoughtfully as they resumed walking.

"So how did you find out about where you were born?" Olivia wondered aloud.

"My dad told me it was in the adoption file." Ivy replied. "But he never said anything about a note."

"Well, you should ask him. Serena Star doesn't have to be the only person in Franklin Grove determined to discover the truth," Olivia said.

"Thanks for reminding me." Ivy winced. "I only have until lunchtime to save all of vam- pirekind! But as soon as I get through with that, we'll dig up our parents together. Okay?"

"Sounds like a plan," said Olivia with a grin. "Good luck getting your quote!"

Ivy was already hurrying up the steps ahead of her. "I need it!" she called over her shoulder.

By the break before third period, Ivy was flitting around school like a bat that couldn't find its way out of a cave. Her sister came bouncing toward her, jacketless to reveal a pink long-sleeved T-shirt that had the word "Yay!" printed on it in blue bubble letters.

"Hey!" Olivia said. "Any luck?"

Ivy shook her head, feeling faintly sick.

Olivia's eyes widened. "You mean you still haven't found a quote?"

Ivy ran a hand through her hair. "It's not for lack of trying!" she wailed.

"Okay." Olivia nodded. "That's okay. We'll think of something." She scanned the hallways as Ivy bit her lip hopefully.

"I got it!" Olivia announced after a moment.

"What? What is it?" Ivy asked eagerly.

"Mr. Slipson," Olivia told her.

Ivy followed her sister's gaze and saw the school guidance counselor, Mr. Slipson, waving his arms wildly as he talked to Mrs. Klinter, the computer science teacher, in front of his office. The buttons were nearly bursting off his shirt, and a tiny paisley bow tie hung under his enor- mous chin. "It's outrageous!" Ivy heard him cry, his tiny eyeglasses nearly popping off his round face.

The corners of Ivy's mouth curled. Mr. Slipson was always going off on bizarre tangents that made no sense, and he was constantly saying things that were completely alarming but had no basis in reality. He was utterly perfect.

Ivy threw her arms around Olivia. "You are seriously the best twin sister I have ever had," she said.

A few moments later, Ivy was in position next to the guidance counselor. "Excuse me," she interrupted him. "Mr. Slipson?"

"Miss Vega!" Mr. Slipson bellowed. "I was just telling Mrs. Klinter here about the problem with toilet brushes." Mrs. Klinter smiled weakly before fleeing down the hall as if her life depended on it.

"Yes," Ivy said. "Um, Mr. Slipson, I wonder if I could talk to you about–"

"Of course you can talk to me.That's my job– I'm a listener!"

"Right. Well, I'd love your thoughts for a story that Serena Star is doing," said Ivy.

"Serena Star!" Mr. Slipson gasped in delight. "Her `Hygiene of the Rich and Famous' expos� last year was riveting!"

An hour later, Ivy walked into the Scribe office with Sophia. This time, they were the first ones to arrive, except Principal Whitehead and Serena Star herself.

"Good morning," Ivy said as brightly as she could, taking the seat next to Serena.

"Good morning," replied Serena Star. "As the senior writer here, did you get your quote?"

Ivy leaned closer to Serena and whispered, "Garrick Stephens is just the tip of the iceberg."

Serena Star's wide eyes shone with excitement. "Well, I can't wait to hear what you've learned," she said approvingly.

Camilla came in and went over to the camera- man. "This is that Eighth Dimension book I was telling you about," Ivy heard her say as she handed him a dog-eared paperback.

"Thanks, Camilla," the cameraman replied with an appreciative nod.

The rest of the staff filed in. Toby sat down on the other side of Serena, straightened his polka- dot tie, and folded his hands on the table in front of him.

He looks confident, thought Ivy, shifting uncom- fortably in her seat.

"Let's get started," announced Serena expec- tantly. "Who wants to go first?"

Marnie Squingle raised her hand, and Serena Star pointed to her.

Marnie cleared her throat and read from her notebook. "`Justin Fairfax, a Franklin Grove Middle School eighth-grader who has gym class with Garrick Stephens, told me–and I quote– "Garrick Stephens has the worst BO ever. He smells like death."'" Marnie lifted her face with a look of smug satisfaction.

"That's it?" said Serena.

"He smells `like death.'" Marnie nodded. "Isn't that shocking?"

"No," replied Serena, "not really. Who's next?"

Rudy Preston waved his beefy arm in the air. He glanced at the piece of a paper in front of him and then folded it up and put it in his pocket.

He must have memorized his quote, Ivy thought, impressed.

Rudy looked around the table and began. "I want to be Serena Star's assistant because she is the most beautiful, intelligent, interesting reporter working today," he said in a steady voice. "I admire her courage, her sense of justice, and her perfect smile. I remember the first time I saw her on television. I was–"

"Time out," Serena interrupted. "Is any of this going to be about Garrick Stephens and his cult?"

Rudy's eyes crossed. "I thought you just wanted the best quote."

"Next," Serena said dismissively. Rudy opened his mouth and shut it again, clearly not under- standing where he'd gone wrong.

"Poor guy," Sophia whispered in Ivy's ear.

Next was Will Kerrell. Nervous at the best of times, he glued his eyes to his notebook and read in a rushed monotone, "`Those Beasts are into heavy metal music, and everyone knows that if you play that stuff backward, it will make you eat the head off a bat, and then you'll run into the street screaming and your eyeballs will explode and your brains will go everywhere!'"

"Who said that?" asked Serena.

"My cousin Charlie," Will told her. "He's in high school."

"Well, he's absolutely right," Serena said. "Unfortunately, heavy metal is old news."

At this rate, Ivy thought hopefully, I just might get the assistant job. She took a deep breath and raised her hand.

"Let's hear it," invited Serena.

"My quote is from Franklin Grove's very concerned guidance counselor, Mr. Reginald Slipson," Ivy said. "Mr. Slipson has long sus- pected that something is very wrong with stu- dents in Franklin Grove. According to him, this latest incident at the graveyard was a perfect example of the sinister problem that is threaten- ing our community."

"This sounds promising," Serena murmured. Sophia looked at Ivy encouragingly.

"Mr. Slipson has done some digging into the school records," Ivy continued, "and he's noticed a disturbing pattern. It appears students aren't getting enough sleep at night. In fact, he would bet that Franklin Grove has more students falling asleep in class than anywhere else in the nation!"

"Why?" asked Serena.

"Yes, why is that?" asked Principal Whitehead.

Ivy raised her eyebrows. "I think you'll all be shocked by the answer," she said. Then she paused for effect and cleared her throat. "I quote Mr. Slipson directly: `What, exactly, are these stu- dents doing when normal people are in bed? Horrible things. Unnatural things!'"

Serena Star's eyes were wider than Ivy had ever seen them. Ivy leaned back in her seat and shared a triumphant look with Sophia.

After a second, Serena said, "Don't stop there."

"W-what?" Ivy stammered.

"Tell us the rest of your quote. What kind of `unnatural' things?"

Ivy hesitated. She had really hoped that what she'd read would be enough to do the trick.

"Go on!" Serena insisted, and Sophia looked at Ivy hopefully.

Ivy read Mr. Slipson's quote in its entirety, her voice getting quieter and quieter as she went along. "`What, exactly, are these students doing when normal people are in bed? Horrible things. Unnatural things! Eating junk foods packed with additives, listening to portable music devices, surfing the Internet, playing video games, watch- ing satellite television beamed from the sky. This insomniac epidemic is destroying our youth!'"

Serena tapped her pink fingernails on the table. "I liked the beginning," she said, "but then you lost me. Help me out here. Is the scoop that kids are staying up late?"

"Exactly," Ivy agreed.

Serena nodded. "I was afraid so." Then she added, "What a snooze." Everyone laughed.

Ivy pressed her hands into the table. "The truth is sometimes less sensational than we imag- ine, Ms. Star."

"I know," Serena said. "Isn't that the worst?"

Ivy closed her notebook, trying not to look defeated. She knew that her quote wasn't what Serena Star was hoping for, but maybe the begin- ning would be good enough to get her the assis- tant job. Or at least, Ivy thought doubtfully, convince her that there's no deep, dark secret in Franklin Grove.

Soon the only person left to try out was Toby. He pulled a leather briefcase up onto the table and said, "Before I begin, allow me to thank you, Serena Star, for this extraordinary opportunity." Then he opened the briefcase and pulled out a single piece of typed paper, as if he were about to present an opening argument before the Supreme Court.

"I owe my quote to the dental profession," Toby began, stowing away his briefcase. "And, more specifically, to my dental hygienist, Ms. Monica Messler."

Serena was not looking impressed.

Next to dentistry, my quote might not seem so bor- ing after all, Ivy thought, brightening.

"Allow me to explain," Toby continued. "I was at a dentist appointment yesterday afternoon, when a repeat of the morning edition of The Morning Star came on the television above my chair. Ms. Messler, who was cleaning my teeth at the time, said that she recognized Garrick Stephens. He had recently come to the dentist's office."

Suddenly, a dark and heavy feeling spread through Ivy's chest. She and Sophia exchanged worried glances as Toby said, "Ms. Messler said it was a very strange visit."

Serena Star leaned forward, clearly interested now.

"I nearly choked on the suction tube trying to ask her more about it. Here is what she said. . . ." Toby looked down at his sheet of paper. "`Garrick Stephens came into the office last Thursday. He wanted to know how much a set of vampire fangs would cost.'"

Ivy felt her skin flush, and she thought she might faint. She closed her eyes, trying to make the dizziness go away, and felt Sophia grab her hand tightly underneath the table. Ivy opened her eyes to find Serena Star staring right at her. Ivy looked away quickly.

"`We all thought it was such a strange request,'" Toby said, continuing his quote, "`especially because he isn't even one of Dr. Roth's patients.'"

"What happened?" Serena pressed.

"Nothing." Toby shrugged. "The receptionist told him he'd have to talk to Dr. Roth, who was seeing a patient at the time, so Garrick said he'd come back later–but he never did."

Serena Star was on her feet. "Did he say what the fangs were for?"

"No," Toby replied.

"Is she–the dental assistant lady–is she will- ing to go on camera?"

Toby nodded. "I think so."

Serena Star's wide eyes went starry. "I can see the on-screen graphic now," she murmured, spreading her hands in the air like she was mak- ing words appear on an invisible TV screen. "FANGTASTIC!"

Then she blinked, picked up her bag, and ges- tured to her cameraman. "Principal Whitehead," she said, barely looking his way, "I'm taking Toby out of school for the rest of the day on fieldwork. Toby, let's go!"

"But who won the assistant job?" Marnie Squingle blurted.

"Who do you think?" Serena shot back. And, with that, she charged out the door, closely fol- lowed by Toby Decker, grinning widely as he hur- ried to catch up.

Ivy was about to bury her face in her hands when she heard a blubbering noise. Rudy Preston had burst into tears.

"Don't blame yourself, Ivy," Sophia said as they trudged down the hall. "How could anyone com- pete with a quote like that?"

"I know," Ivy said. "But this is seriously bad news, Soph." She looked around to make sure no one was listening. "A vampire inquiring about a new set of fangs? What was Garrick thinking?"

"Probably that his mom would kill him if he let his own incisors grow," Sophia said gloomily.

"But why would he go to a human dentist?" Ivy said, utterly exasperated.

"You know the answer to that," Sophia said, rolling her eyes. "There isn't a dentist in our com- munity who would agree to do it!"

She was right, Ivy thought. Getting fangs made–or even not filing down your real ones for an extended period of time–violated the 1926 Bylaw of the Night: A vampire will never try, or conspire to try, to bite a human. The risk of get- ting caught was too great, not to mention the fact that it was incredibly evil.

"Anyway," said Sophia, "it's time for plan B: damage control. We have to keep an eye on Toby and on what he and Serena are finding out."

"And how do you suggest we do that?" Ivy asked.

"I was sort of thinking that maybe you could become Toby's new best friend," Sophia sug- gested.

"As if," Ivy replied. "Did you see that tie he was wearing today? I don't really think I'm his type."

"Come on," her friend teased. "You'd look killer in polka-dots."

That gave Ivy an idea. "I might not be the right person," she said, looking down the hall, "but I think I know who is."

Ivy hurried over to join her sister, who was opening her locker.

"Did you get the job?" Olivia asked hopefully.

Ivy shook her head, and Olivia's face fell.

"We lost to a quote about Garrick Stephens ask- ing a dentist for a set of fake fangs," Ivy admitted.

Olivia winced. "That doesn't sound good. What are we going to do now?"

"I'm glad you asked," Ivy said. "We're going to make sure we know what Serena Star's finding out even before she does."

"How?"

Ivy smiled. "Well, Olivia, have I ever told you how seriously great you are at making friends?"

Olivia looked at her suspiciously. "Why do I think you're buttering me up for something?"

"I'm not," Ivy answered innocently. "I just thought you might like to make Toby Decker the next new friend on your list."

"Toby Decker?" Olivia repeated. "I know him. He's in my math class. He's nice. A little boring, though."

"Not anymore," said Ivy. "Now he's bound to have some interesting stories to tell; he's Serena Star's new assistant on her Franklin Grove inves- tigations."

Olivia took this in. "I'd better start befriend- ing," she said.

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