The moment Sam got home from school on Thursday of the first half-week of school, her father was waving a copy of the Weekly World News in her face. "Young lady! What is this?"
She blinked and dropped her book-bag. "I don't know, Dad. A newspaper?" Sam caught the title. "Oh, no. It's just one of those tabloids. You don't actually read those things?"
"I do when the whole town is buzzing with the news that my own daughter is a juvenile delinquent! There was that story on the local news with Marcy Lee and her group saying things, and now this!"
"What?!? Let me see that." Sam took the paper from her Dad and walked down to the kitchen while she read the sensationalistic article in which she and her friends were named - Tori, Drew, Joshua and Kevin in particular. It said that they clearly did drugs, and came from broken homes, and much was made of Kevin's Wiccan trappings and Joshua's shady past. It described Samantha Kessler as the "ringleader" of the group, a description that made her laugh and snort at the same time. As if she could lead that group anywhere! Accompanying were two photographs: of a dark-colored Jeep Cherokee with flames painted down the sides, swinging in a circle in the middle of an empty football field, and a white Volvo bearing down on a man on a motorcycle. The driver was clearly a dark-haired girl, and her arm out the driver's-side door very clearly wielded a sword - Tori's Chinese straight-sword that she'd taken from Vivian's ashes, to be specific - aimed at decapitating the biker. Who'd ducked out of harm's way, and even gotten away scot-free, the only one of the eight vampires who'd attacked the marching band, which, strangely, was not shown in either of the shots.
Sam groaned and let the paper fall to the kitchen table. "You don't actually believe any of this?"
"Is that not your vehicle in the picture?" Samuel tapped the first photo. "What am I to think, when you go out late every night, and never tell me where you're going with that Killian boy all the time? And these others... didn't that Joshua Archer have trouble in New Jersey, and that's why his parents sent him here to live with his aunt and uncle?"
"That was more like... preventative. His parents thought he was getting into a bad crowd, and wanted to remove that big-city influence..."
"And those new-age weirdoes. I've seen that Kevin you go around with, too. Boys should not wear makeup. Something strange about that, too."
"Kevin is harmless. So he smokes clove cigarettes from time to time. That's not illegal, and neither is wearing eyeliner, even if I think it looks kind of swishy, too. He's not gay. He did have that crush on Cora last year..."
Samuel waved his hands, "Be that as it may," His voice rose, "What were you doing spinning donuts on the football field?"
Sam hung her head. That, she couldn't deny. And only pointing out what the picture had conveniently missed - or had erased, somehow - would not belay her father's anger. "Okay, that was stupid..."
"Stupid, and crazy!" Sam Sr.'s face crumpled. "Are you doing drugs, Samantha? Would you tell me if you were?"
Sam gaped. "I am not doing drugs, Dad!"
"But then, why?"
She couldn't tell him really why. Eight biker-vampires had tried to make the marching band into snacks. They'd killed Joey Hartman, the tuba player already, before Sam and her friends stopped them, but that would just cement the label of "drugs" in her father's mind. She'd tried to tell him about the vampires once before, and he'd said that she had a wonderful imagination...
But Sam tried. "The picture is just one shot, from a lousy angle. It doesn't even show the bikers I was chasing, or the band."
"The marching band. Look on my schedule if you don't believe me. The marching band practices on the football field after the football team is finished practicing. That means they start late." Sam folded the second picture to focus on the motorcycle. "There were eight of these guys on bikes, and they broke right through the fence and were hassling the musicians, which isn't fair, so I wanted to chase them off. I was on the football field before I even knew it... If you were to look at the divots on the field, most of them would be from two wheels, not four."
"But what about your friend, that's Tori, isn't it?"
"The sword's fake, Dad." Brainstorm. "Tori is trying out for The Pirates of Penzance this year. If she'd hit him, she might have knocked him off his bike, but that's it." A lie, but it couldn't be helped.
Samuel shook his head. It sounded plausible, what she was saying, but still... "I don't know, Sam. Why were you chasing bikers in the first place? Don't you have better things to do than go out looking for trouble?"
Sam slumped down into her chair. That was it. She couldn't say any more, so she raised the teen-ager's first line of defense: sullen silence. They squared off that way for several long breaths before her father broke it.
"So, you're not going to tell me. Fine. You are staying home tonight."
Sam mumbled "I'll have to call Drew and tell him."
"One phone call, but then you and I are scrubbing the garage floor tonight. Getting slippery in there. Don't want the safety inspectors shutting us down."
Sam sighed and hauled herself out of the chair, swept the paper to the floor and stepped on it on the way over to the wall-phone.
"Drew? I can't go out tonight. Did your parents see the," She breathed sarcasm into the name, "Weekly World News today?"
Drew sounded befuddled. "No. They don't read that kind of stuff. But they did see Marcy on the local news."
"Yeah, that didn't help, either. There's an article in the tabloid, about us doing donuts in the football field. With pictures, no less. So, I'm grounded tonight."
"That's okay," he was trying not to sound disappointed, but Sam knew better. "There's supposed to be a big storm tonight. Not a good evening to be outside, anyway. Besides, I'm sure my parents would love me to stay home and spend more time getting to know," even over the phone she could feel his eyes rolling, "Pandora."
Sam smiled a little, reminding herself that she could be thankful that at least she didn't have to put up with a St. Germain's student bording with her family. "Right, then. I'll see you in school tomorrow, okay?"
Drew agreed they'd see each other tomorrow, glad that his parents only read the Boston Globe and New York Times.
Gloved and masked against the fumes, Sam and her father spread a mixture of detergent and sand over the floor of the garage and worked it in with stiff-bristled brooms before hosing the whole thing down and scrubbing it again, just to be sure. The deep oil stains under the lifts would never entirely be clean, but the slippery surface grime could be removed, revealing the solid concrete underneath. They worked in silence, letting the physical labor wash away much of the anger and frustration between them, as well.
When they were done, Sam leaned against her broom to the right and wiped her brow with her sleeve. "Are you having second thoughts, Dad?"
"About what?" Samuel stood in the same attitude, leaning on his broom to the left.
"About taking me on as a partner. Now that I'm a notorious juvenile delinquent, and all."
Samuel stared at her. "What would make you think that?"
Sam shrugged. "Well, if you trust some sleazy tabloid reporter more than you trust me, then what am I doing working for you? Maybe I should just get a job at the mall like other kids in my class, and you could hire someone with a squeaky-clean reputation, like Marcy Lee, to work here." How that had happened, Sam had no idea. In spite of a whole year of actually smoking pot in the girl's room, dressing like a Nirvana flunkie and only escaping getting kicked out of Solomon by transferring to St. Germain's, Marcy Lee had cleaned up, at least on the outside, and come out smelling like a rose. She'd probably even try to unseat Tori as Snow Queen again.
Now, Samuel had to laugh. "I wouldn't have that Marcy Lee in here, except as a customer. Drives a BMW, doesn't she?"
"Yeah. Nice blue one." Sam grinned at the image of Marcy, up to her elbows in grease, but then she got serious again. "I don't do drugs, Dad. If you want, we could go into Boston, to a clinic and get me tested. But that poppyseed bagel I had at the Sacred Grounds yesterday would probably skew the tests..."
Samuel shook his head. "I do trust you, Samantha. But I don't understand what kinds of things you think about, sometimes..."
"Sometimes, I don't either. But would it help if I borrowed some money out of petty cash,to have the sod replaced on the football field? I'd pay it back, of course."
Samuel thought about that. "That would be a good start, my girl."
"Then, I'll go over to Hechinger's and do that." They gathered up their brooms and bucket and walked home in the deepening dusk. Sam watched carefully, but there was no sign of anything threatening out there, yet.