Chapter 1: Day One
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
It had seemed like a good idea at the time. The Larceny II videogame was being released on a Tuesday, and by the time school got out, every store in Amity Park would be sold out. So, Danny and Tucker did what any other self-respecting seventh-grade video game connoisseurs would do—they ditched school to wait in line for 3D Games to open to make sure they didn’t miss out.
In retrospect, it hadn’t been a very well-thought-out plan. Tucker didn’t sound very much like Danny’s mom, and Danny didn’t sound very much like Tucker’s mom, so the school office wasn’t impressed when they’d called each other in sick. And their real moms were even less impressed. Both boys were grounded, the Larceny II games confiscated, and they were stuck with a whole week of lunch detention starting the following Monday. And even worse—this week’s detention monitor was none other than Mr. Gleason. A tall, thin, rail of a man with salt-and-pepper hair and a perpetual scowl, Gleason was Muddlemore Middle School’s answer to Professor Snape. Danny tried not to grimace as he and Tucker entered the dreaded room. One whole week.
“Mr. Fenton, Mr. Foley, take a seat.”
Danny slipped behind a desk in the third row, and Tucker sat down beside him. As they put their backpacks on the floor and pulled out their sack lunches, Tucker gave a small exhale of relief. “At least we’re the only ones here. Some of those detention regulars can be pretty scary.”
Danny was about to voice his agreement when Mr. Gleason cut him off. “Mr. Foley!” Tucker sat bolt upright in his seat. “Lunch detention is not social hour. If you were here to chat with your friends, it wouldn’t be detention, now, would it?”
Gleason raised his eyebrows.
“No, Mr. Gleason, sir.”
Danny fought against the temptation to roll his eyes. What was it with adults, always demanding respect they hadn’t bothered to earn first?
Gleason smirked at them from behind his desk. “You will not talk. You will not move from your seats. You will eat your lunch, and when you are finished, you will sit with your hands folded on your desk. Are we clear, gentlemen?”
“Yes. Mr. Gleason. Sir.” Danny and Tucker nodded in unison.
“Good. Ah, Miss Manson, so good of you to join us.”
Danny’s and Tucker’s eyes swung to the door where a girl had just entered the room. A really scary girl. She was dressed all in black, with heavy-soled black army boots on her feet and a black studded dog-collar around her neck. Her black hair hung shoulder-length on the left, while the right side of her head was shaved almost bald. She wore black lipstick, heavy black eyeliner, and at least three earrings in the ear they could see. Danny was pretty sure her nose was pierced as well, but as nose rings weren’t allowed in school, there was no way to tell.
Danny leaned infinitesimally closer to Tucker and whispered out of the corner of his mouth. “Dude. Isn’t that the girl whose lunch box you threw up in in second grade? What’s her name again?”
Tucker slumped down in his seat, looking terrified. “Shh! I told her Ricky Marsh did it. And she doesn’t exactly look like the forgiving type.”
“Perhaps tomorrow you will remember that lunch detention starts promptly at noon?” Gleason continued, not noticing his other two charges already disobeying his first rule. “If that’s too difficult to remember, then you can make up the time next week. One additional day for every day you’re late this week.”
“Yes, Mr. Gleason, sir.”
The teacher glared at her. “Are you being smart with me, Miss Manson?”
Danny frowned. He didn’t think she’d sounded sarcastic. A little monotone, maybe, but how else did he expect them to sound when parroting back what he made them say?
“No, Mr. Gleason, sir.”
Gleason looked only slightly mollified. “Then take your seat. You will not talk. You will not move from your seat. You will eat your lunch, and when you are finished, you will sit with your hands folded on your desk.”
The girl nodded, then turned on her black-booted heel and tromped to a seat in the last row, barely sparing Danny and Tucker a glance as she passed by. Tucker gave another exhale of relief.
The half hour passed more slowly than Danny could have ever imagined. He’d finished his lunch within the first ten minutes, and sitting with his hands folded on his desk for the remaining twenty had been boring to the point of excruciating. At one point, he was sure the clock had not only slowed to a stop, but had begun moving backwards.
Then the bell rang, and he was pretty sure he’d never heard a sweeter sound in his life. He’d started to bend down to collect his backpack, but a loud cough from the front of the room stopped him.
“The bell does not dismiss you. I dismiss you.” Gleason paused, then favored them with a smug grin. “You are dismissed.”
Danny swept up his bag and was out of his chair almost before the word dismissed was out of Gleason’s mouth. They bolted from the room.
“Man, that was the longest half hour of my life,” Tucker said when they were safely out in the hall. “As if being bored to death by Gleason wasn’t bad enough, we have to share detention with the biggest freak in the school.”
Someone brushed by them in a haze of black. Tucker stopped short, fear frozen on his face, but she didn’t stop or even look back at them as she disappeared into the crowd of students changing classes.
“Nice going, Tuck. If she didn’t have reason to beat the crap out of you before, she does now.”
“I… I can’t get beaten up by a girl! It’ll kill my social standing!”
“Uh… you can’t kill something that’s already dead. And buried. And has completely decomposed.”
“Okay, I get it!”
“Well, look on the bright side. We’ve only got four more days of this.”
Tucker paled. “Oh man, four days. I’m so dead.”
Since Casper High is named after a Friendly Ghost, I named their middle school after a more obscure—yet still friendly—ghost: Jonathan Wellington "Mudsy" Muddlemore, aka The Funky Phantom, a really lame 70s knockoff of Scooby-Doo. It had virtually no redeeming qualities, other than its deliciously awful 70s title and the fact that Mickey Dolenz from the Monkees was one of the voice actors. But given the wide range of cartoons Butch parodies in The Fairly Oddparents, I wouldn't be surprised if he'd heard of old Mudsy.
Mr. Gleason was named after actor Paul Gleason, who played the uptight petty tyrant, Principal "Dick" Vernon in The Breakfast Club.
Chapter 2: Day Two
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
The girl was already in her seat in the back row when Danny and Tucker arrived for their second day of lunch detention. Tucker completely avoided eye contact, but Danny glanced her way to see if she was giving his friend any threatening looks or any other indications that the end of his life was imminent. Danny was a far cry from the strongest kid in school—he’d have to suddenly develop superpowers to even make the list—but Tucker was his best friend, and Danny would do his best to protect him from any threat. Even if he sorta deserved it.
If the girl was harboring a grudge, however, she didn’t show it. She barely acknowledged their presence at all when they took their seats, her attention instead focused on the weirdest looking sandwich Danny had ever seen. He didn’t even wanna know what was in that thing.
Danny got about three bites into his own sandwich when some sort of commotion started up in the hallway. Gleason looked up from the book he was reading, Seven Habits of Highly Authoritative Teachers, and gave an irritated glance toward the door. When it didn’t die down, he slammed the book down on his desk and rose from his seat, glaring at his three charges. “No talking, no getting up from your seats, and when you’re finished with lunch, sit with your hands folded on your desk.”
As soon as he was gone, Tucker turned to Danny. “What do you think’s going on out there?”
“Who cares, as long as it keeps him busy a while.” Danny took another bite of his sandwich. “So how long are you grounded for? Think we can hang out on Saturday?”
“Yeah, probably. I’m only grounded through tomorrow.”
“Lucky. My parents grounded me for the whole week. How about Larceny II? Any chance of you getting it back this weekend?”
“No way. My mom threatened to trade it in at the used bookstore for cookbooks.”
“That stinks. My mom ranted for like four hours about how twelve-year-olds should not be playing games rated M. And I think my dad used the disc in one of his inventions.”
Tucker raised his eyebrows. “He used a video game in one of his inventions? Isn’t that a violation of copyright law or something?”
Danny shrugged. “I dunno. He might’ve melted it down or something for all I know. His inventions are made out of the weirdest junk.”
“So. No Larceny II, then. We could just go to the mall and hang out.”
“Man, I am so sick of the mall.” Danny slumped down in his seat and leaned his head back in a show of pre-teen angst. It was then that he caught sight of the third occupant of the room, whom he’d completely forgotten was there. He quickly sat up again, but he couldn’t bring himself to continue his conversation with Tucker as if she weren’t there. It just felt weird to ignore her when she was the only other person in the room. Swallowing, he turned in his seat. “So… uh… what are you in for?”
He ignored the look of horror on Tucker’s face. The girl looked up at Danny, as if surprised to find him addressing her. She tilted her head a moment, as if studying him, and he squirmed in his chair, wondering if he hadn’t just made a huge mistake. After a moment, she wrinkled her nose. “What am I ‘in for’? What is this, some 40s prison break movie?”
He felt his cheeks turn red. “No. I was just trying to make conversation. Sorry.” He turned quickly back in his seat, angry at himself for being such an idiot.
“I replaced a DVD they were gonna show in health class with something I thought was a little more… honest.”
He turned back around, curiosity making him forget his humiliation. “What was it?”
“Well, they were supposed to be showing a video about nutrition and eating healthy. Except the one they had was produced by the ChemFarms Food Corporation, the same people who, not coincidentally, supply the food for our school lunches. The whole thing was just one big commercial for ChemFarms ‘fun and nutritious’ foods.” She rolled her eyes as she made air quotes.
Danny was back to regretting having asked. “Okaaaaay…”
“So I swiped the DVD from the player and put in a more accurate one about ChemFarms. It’s an exposé of their manufacturing process, and how much chemical crap gets added to their ‘organic’ foods.” She made air quotes again. “And it showed their slaughterhouses, and how inhumane and filthy they are. I mean, if we’re supposed to be learning about nutrition, we should know what they’re really feeding us.”
Danny, who often ate the school lunches, was kind of glad he wasn’t in health class this semester. But he had to admit, it was a pretty gutsy thing to do. “So I take it that’s not from the school cafeteria.” He nodded toward her lunch.
“Not hardly. It’s Tofurkey on whole wheat with soy cheese and alfalfa sprouts.” She gave him an innocent smile and held out the sandwich. “Wanna bite?”
Danny turned to Tucker, who had remained silent up to this point in desperate hopes that she would overlook him. But devoted meat lover that he was, he couldn’t contain his disgust. Then he seemed to realize that he’d not only called attention to himself, but insulted her twice in as many days. He slapped his hands over his mouth, his eyes widening in horror behind his large glasses.
The girl merely chuckled, a low throaty sound that Danny thought was a lot better than the stupid giggling sound most girls his age made. “I’m just kidding. I know this stuff grosses most people out.”
Tucker looked completely unsure what to do next. “Uh… okay.”
“But you should give it a try. It’s not half bad, and it’s what all the freaks eat.”
Danny cringed, and Tucker froze again, suddenly becoming fascinated with the floor. “Uh… I…. Yeah. Sorry about that.”
She shrugged. “No big. I consider ‘freak’ a compliment. Although, for future reference, the correct term is ‘Goth.’”
Tucker nodded stupidly, his expression somewhere between mortified and relieved.
She looked at Danny. “So, how about you?”
He had to force himself not to recoil. “Uh… no thanks. I’m good.” He held up his sandwich as proof.
She frowned a minute, then shook her head. “No, I meant, why’d you get detention?”
“Oh. We ditched school last week to buy Larceny II when it came out.” When he said it out loud, it sounded childish and lame next to what she’d done, and he felt the tips of his ears burn.
She just nodded, giving him no indication one way or another of what she thought.
The doorknob rattled, and Danny and Tucker snapped around in their seats to face forward once more. Mr. Gleason backed into the room, shouting out into the hallway, “And if I hear any more of this nonsense, it will be two weeks of after school detention. Have I made myself clear?”
He came fully into the room and shut the door, then glared at his three charges as if daring them to defy his rules. Danny popped a Cheeto into his mouth and chewed it silently.
Satisfied that his edicts were being followed, Gleason returned to his seat and buried his nose in his book once more.
Seven Habits of Highly Authoritative Teachers. A riff off of Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Somehow, I don't think Gleason cares all that much about being effective.
Chapter 3: Day Three
For the second day in a row, the Goth girl was already in her seat in the back row when Danny and Tucker arrived in Mr. Gleason’s room. This time, however, she looked up when they entered the room, acknowledging their presence with a small nod. Danny nodded back, and even Tucker didn’t avoid her gaze.
By the time they’d finished their lunches, it was apparent that Gleason wasn’t feeling very well. He was looking pretty green and, halfway through detention, he excused himself without even bothering to give the usual reiteration of the rules as he made a dash for what Danny could only assume was the bathroom.
“See? That’s what you get when you eat the cafeteria food.”
Danny turned around in his chair. “Man, you’ve really got it in for the cafeteria, don’t you?”
She shrugged. “I just think they should serve us real food instead of factory-manufactured glop. At least in high school, we’ll get the choice of a salad bar.”
“Just as long as you don’t go after the Nasty Burger,” Tucker said. “Nobody messes with my Nasty Burger.”
“Eh, as bland corporate fast food goes, the Nasty Burger isn’t too bad. I heard they’re even considering adding a tofu soy melt to the menu.”
Tucker looked like someone had just killed his firstborn. “What?”
She rolled her eyes at him. “Don’t worry. They’ll still serve all the same old dead animals, too.”
He slumped in relief. “That’s all I’m saying.” After a moment, he looked over at the door. “Gleason looked pretty sick, huh? Think he’ll be gone a while?”
Danny looked at the door as well. “Who knows? Why?”
“I downloaded the trailer for the new Cyber Zombie Commando movie onto my PDA last night. Wanna check it out?”
“You already got the trailer? It’s not supposed to come out for another week!”
Tucker gave a modest shrug. “Nothing your average brilliant techno-geek couldn’t accomplish.”
“Tucker, you so seriously rock!”
“I know. You think we have time before Gleason comes back?”
Danny gave the door another long look, as if he could divine the exact time of Gleason’s return by staring at it. “I don’t know. If he catches us, it’ll be another day of detention.”
The Goth girl got up from her seat. “Oh, please. I’ll watch the door for you, if you’ll let me watch when you’re done.”
Tucker’s eyes widened in surprise. “Really? You like Cyber Zombie Commando?”
“Uh, yeah. Or maybe you think I’m into Lizzie McGuire?”
“Yeah, probably not.” Tucker dove for his backpack and pulled out his beloved PDA. After typing in a couple of commands, he turned the device over to Danny.
“Sweet! This almost makes up for losing Larceny II.”
“So whatever happened with that? Did your dad actually melt it down?”
“It’s sort of a good news, bad news thing. He wanted some of the game elements to test out this helmet he’s developing to directly control computers without having to rely on a keyboard or mouse. So at least he didn’t destroy it.”
“And the bad news?”
“The only way I’m ever gonna see that game is if I agree to let him test the helmet on me.”
Tucker whistled. “Dude. I’m not sure the game’s worth risking your life over.”
The Goth girl glanced at them from her post at the door. “Your dad’s an inventor?”
“Yeah. Danny’s parents own FentonWorks,” Tucker told her.
“That really funky-looking building on the corner of Maple and 13th? With the big giant metal…” She made motions with her hands indicating something large and vaguely round. “…thing on top?”
Danny sighed. “That’s the one.”
“That place looks so cool.”
He widened his eyes. “Really?”
“Totally! What kinds of stuff does your dad invent?”
“Oh…” He looked away. “Just, you know, stuff.”
“They’re mostly into ghosts,” Tucker said, and Danny glared at him.
“Ghosts? You’re kidding.”
“It’s just kind of a hobby of theirs.”
Tucker grinned. “They’re planning on drilling a hole in the basement to get into the ghost world.”
“Okay, Tucker, I don’t think she wants my whole family history,” Danny said through clenched teeth while simultaneously giving him his best I’m so going to kill you glower, but he knew Tucker was getting back at him for talking to her in the first place when Tucker had wanted to stay low profile.
“Wait.” She stepped away from the door. “They’re going to drill a hole to the ghost world? What, do they think ghosts live underground or something? ’Cause that sounds more like zombies to me.”
He couldn’t tell if she was mocking him, or if she was really interested. Either way, he wasn’t really crazy about this stranger knowing how… eccentric his parents were. But since Tucker had already opened that can of worms…. “First of all, it’s Ghost Zone. And second, they’re not actually drilling into it. They’re drilling a hole in the wall of the basement lab so they can build some sort of… I don’t know what it is, exactly. A door or portal of some kind. They’re building it into the wall. That’s how they think they can get into the Ghost Zone.”
“That is so cool!”
She seemed sincere, and Danny relaxed just a bit. “Well, I wouldn’t count on it working. Half of the stuff they make doesn’t work, especially the stuff they make to… study ghosts.” He’d almost said hunt ghosts, but no way was he going there. “And even if they can get it to work, they say it’ll take at least a couple of years to get the thing built and fully operational.”
“Still… can you imagine if it did work? How awesome would that—”
The doorknob rattled and, too late, she realized she had forgotten to watch for Gleason’s return. She made a dive for her seat while Danny tossed Tucker the PDA. The handheld made it into Tucker’s backpack in time. The Goth girl wasn’t so lucky.
“Miss Manson! Didn’t I specifically instruct you not to get out of your seat?”
“I was worried about you, Mr. Gleason, sir. You looked so sick, I thought I should go check and see if you were okay.”
He was having none of it. “I’m so touched by your concern, Miss Manson, that I think I’ll have the pleasure of your company during lunch next Monday as well.”
She stifled a groan. “Yes, Mr. Gleason. Sir.”
Chapter 4: Day Four
Danny was a little apprehensive when he and Tucker arrived for lunch detention on Thursday. He tried to tell himself that it wasn’t his or Tucker’s fault, that she’d been the one who had forgotten to watch out for Gleason, but he knew the only reason she was doing it was so that he and Tucker could check out the Cyber Zombie Commando trailer. She hadn’t ratted them out, and he couldn’t help but feel he and Tucker had been cowards for not speaking up and letting her take all the blame.
When they arrived, however, she wasn’t there yet. They took their usual seats and were just unwrapping their lunches when she showed up, out of breath.
“Cutting it a little close, aren’t we, Miss Manson?”
“Yes… Mr. Gleason… sir,” she panted.
He narrowed his eyes. “I warned you about that sarcasm, Miss Manson. As much as I enjoy your company, I’d hate to add yet another day to your detention.”
She didn’t say anything, just walked back to her usual seat in the last row.
Danny chewed on his lip, wanting to turn around to see how she was doing. Once again, she’d been accused of being sarcastic when she’d actually sounded completely polite, especially considering she’d obviously run to get here on time. He suspected that if she’d had hair on both sides of her head, normal-colored lipstick, and only one earring in each ear, her tone would’ve sounded just fine to Gleason. That struck Danny as really unfair.
Unfortunately, Gleason seemed to be over whatever bug had afflicted him the day before, and he stayed in the room the entire lunch period. By the time the bell rang and he dismissed them, Danny thought that if he’d had to sit in that chair with his hands folded on his desk for one second longer, his brain would have shriveled up like a raisin and fallen out of his ear.
Once they’d escaped into the hallway, Danny called out to the Goth girl. “Hey, wait, uh…” He stopped, embarrassed to realize that after spending four days in detention with her, he hadn’t even bothered to learn her first name. “Manson?” he finished, remembering what Gleason had called her.
She stopped and turned.
“I, uh… I’m sorry. I don’t know your first name,” he finished lamely.
She didn’t say anything.
“I just… I wanted to tell you… I think Gleason was a real jerk to you today. Well, bigger than usual, I mean. He had no reason to threaten you with another detention.”
She shrugged. “It’s pretty standard treatment for us freaks.”
“It doesn’t seem fair. And…” He glanced at Tucker, who was standing silently beside him. “We’re sorry about yesterday, too. You were out of your seat to help us out, and we shouldn’t have let you take the fall by yourself.”
She shrugged again. “No big. I’m the one who wasn’t paying attention. I got distracted by all that ghost talk. You seem…” She stopped, as if searching for words. “You seem too normal to have parents who are freaks.”
From anyone else, he would have been mortified at the dig at his parents. But from her, he knew it was a compliment. “Yeah, well… Anyway, I’m sorry.”
She nodded, then turned to head off to class. Before she got more than half a dozen steps, however, she stopped and turned back. “And it’s Sam.”
“My name. Short for Samantha.”
He’d kind of been expecting something more, well, gothic. “Oh. Right. Okay, then, Sam. I guess we’ll see you back here tomorrow.”
“I’ll be here.”
Chapter 5: Day Five
“Last day of lunch hell with Gleason and we’re free, Tuck, my friend.” Danny grinned as the two of them walked towards Gleason’s classroom.
“But that also means the last day with your new girlfriend.” Tucker flashed him a mischievous grin.
Danny made a face. “Ew, please. She is so not my type.”
“Oh, come on, Danny. Can’t you just see it? You, her, a candlelight dinner of Tofurkey with soy cheese—”
Danny slugged his friend in the arm. “Yeah, right. And maybe someday I’ll be able to shoot lasers from my hands and learn how to fly.”
“It could happen.”
“Shut up, Tucker.”
They turned the corner to the hallway where Gleason’s classroom was located and stopped short. A group of six or seven boys were clustered around one of the lockers. In the midst of them, standing a good head above everyone else, was Dash Baxter. Although a seventh grader like them, Dash looked big enough to be in high school. He was the quarterback of the seventh grade football team, and general consensus was that he would be the first freshman to make varsity as soon as he started at Casper High in two years. When Dash wasn’t using his freakishly large arms to hurl footballs, he was usually using them to shove some smaller kid into a locker. Much of Danny’s and Tucker’s school life was spent staying completely off Dash’s radar. That goal in mind, they ducked back around the corner.
Sure enough, they heard a plaintive squeal from the middle of the crowd. “Sounds like Mikey,” Tucker said.
Danny nodded in agreement, peeking around the corner. He could see Mikey now, a short, skinny redhead, pressed back against the lockers. He was holding a tray from the cafeteria, loaded with whatever today’s mystery meat was, and was trying somewhat unsuccessfully to use it as a shield between him and Dash without spilling its contents. Two of Dash’s groupies grabbed the tray from him so that Dash could gain better access to his prey without risking getting the gelatinous goo all over his designer shirt. Danny looked down at Tuck, whose head was poking out around the corner just below him. “Think we can get to Gleason’s classroom without being noticed?”
“They seem pretty preoccupied. We should make a run for it.”
“Yeah. Just as soon as—”
“What’s the problem, Dash? Did you lose your way again? I know it gets really confusing for you when you wander away from the gym.”
Everyone looked to see Sam approaching from the other end of the hallway. Her arms were crossed, and she was using a sweet sing-songy voice like he was a kindergartner who had lost his mommy in a crowded shopping mall.
Dash, for his part, looked delighted to find a new target. Mikey forgotten, he rounded on Sam. “Look at what the bat dragged in.”
She rolled her eyes. “Is that really the best you can do?”
“Oh, I haven’t even gotten started, Buffy the Vampire.”
Sam leaned back against the wall just below a huge purple banner that proudly proclaimed in gold letters, Muddlemore Middle School: A Tradition in Excellence! “Buffy’s a vampire slayer. Drusilla, Darla… they were the vampires. And I’m way more Drusilla than Darla, in case you’re wondering.”
Dash moved closer to her, his eyes narrowing in threat. “You trying to say I’m stupid?”
“Why should I bother when you do all the work for me?”
“Man, he’s gonna kill her,” Tucker said.
Danny shook his head. “I dunno. She seems like she can hold her own. And I don’t think Dash beats up on girls.”
As Danny guessed, Dash didn’t follow up the threatening look with his fists, but he did continue to use his mouth. “Haven’t seen you in the cafeteria, lately. Not enough blood on the menu for you?”
A spark of anger flashed in her eyes. “Oh, there’s plenty of blood on that menu, believe me.”
Clearly thinking he’d found a weakness in her armor, Dash moved in to exploit it. “And you vampires love your blood, don’t you? And here it is, lunch time. You must be starving!” He snapped his fingers at his sycophants. “Hey Kwan. You still got Mikey’s lunch? The poor, starving little vampire needs her blood.”
Kwan, who was only slightly smaller than Dash but with significantly fewer brain cells, looked confused. “Uh… I’ve got his lunch, but it looks like beef goulash, not blood…”
Dash rolled his eyes in annoyance and held out his hand. “Just give it here.”
Sam, seeing where this was going, tried to slip away, but he had her pressed against the wall. Danny looked down at Tuck again. “We should do something…”
“I thought you said she could hold her own.”
“Well, yeah, but I’m pretty sure the cafeteria’s goulash qualifies as a lethal weapon.” And she’s a vegetarian…
Danny stepped out from the corner just as Kwan offered up the tray. Dash scooped up a handful of what may or may not have been goulash and went to smear it in Sam’s face, but she used his momentary distraction to slide down the wall into a crouch. The goulash landed on the wall where her head had been, and while Dash was still trying to figure out what had gone wrong, Sam slipped between him and Kwan, knocking the latter off balance. The lunch tray went flying, smashing most of its contents onto the purple and gold banner. What didn’t end up on the banner splashed back at Dash, splattering his hair, face, and shirt with the disgusting brown goop. Kwan got a few drops on him, too, but their intended target escaped without a speck of food on her.
Danny stopped short, impressed. “I guess I was right in the first place. She can hold her own.”
At that moment, a door banged open. All of Dash’s herd, save Kwan and himself, scattered as Mr. Gleason appeared. His eyes swept around the hallway, taking in the mess on the banner, Dash, and Kwan, and finally coming to rest on Sam. “Miss Manson! Do you care to explain yourself?”
“I’m not a big goulash fan.”
Gleason exploded. “That banner is older than you are, and significantly more difficult to clean! You not only bought yourself another week of detention—after school this time—you will also be responsible for the cost of dry cleaning the banner and Mr. Baxter and Mr. Kwan’s clothes! Do you understand me?”
Dash and Kwan snickered, but Sam just shrugged. “Fine.”
Gleason, looking apoplectic, opened his mouth to say something more, but Danny had had all he could take. “No, it isn’t fine! She didn’t do anything, Mr. Gleason. It was all Dash’s fault!”
Dash’s mouth dropped open, and he glared at Danny. “That is a total lie! We were minding our own business, on our way to lunch, and Batgirl here comes out of nowhere and throws a lunch tray at us!”
“You’re full of it!” Danny shouted back.
Gleason glowered at him. “Mr. Fenton. I suggest you stay out of this, unless you want to add a few more days of lunch detention.”
“But he’s lying! He and a bunch of his friends were picking on Mikey, and Sam stopped him, so he took Mikey’s lunch tray and was gonna throw goulash in her face, but she ducked and he hit the banner instead. Tucker and I saw the whole thing, right, Tuck?”
Tucker, still standing at the corner, looked horrified at being dragged into this mess, but he nodded in confirmation. “Yeah, he’s right.”
Gleason’s eyes narrowed. “Really. Then where is Mikey? And this ‘bunch of friends’ that were supposedly picking on him?”
Danny looked around and saw that at some point Mikey had also fled. “They all ran off.”
“I’m sure they did. And the fact that Miss Manson is already serving detention for one inappropriate rant against the food that the school cafeteria provides is a complete coincidence.”
“I find that rather unlikely.”
“Why? Because she wears black and has more than two earrings and half her head is shaved? She’s different, so she must be the problem?”
Gleason clenched his jaw so hard it looked like it was going to shatter. “I’ve had enough out of you, Mr. Fenton! One more week of lunch detention!”
Now that Danny was in trouble, Tucker was completely willing to jump in. “But he’s telling the truth.”
“Would you like another week as well, Mr. Foley?”
Tucker looked from Gleason to Sam to Danny, then back to Gleason. “If you get detention for telling the truth around here, then sign me up.”
“Then two for lunch it is. And one for after school.” He turned to Dash and Kwan, who were both grinning like the idiots they were. “Mr. Baxter, Mr. Kwan, you are excused. You three—” He jerked his head at Danny, Tucker, and Sam— “wait for me in my classroom while I go find a janitor to clean up this mess.” He stomped off down the hallway.
Danny turned to go into Gleason’s room, but Dash moved between him and the door. “Fenton, is it? Well, listen, Fen-Ton-O-Dead-Weight. You’re on my list now. I’ll be watching you.”
Danny didn’t flinch, but his stomach did an uneasy roll as Dash and Kwan walked away, laughing. Great.
Inside the room, Danny and Tucker sat in their usual seats, but instead of taking up her spot in the back row, Sam sat right behind them. “Why’d you do that, Danny?”
He pulled out his lunch and unwrapped his roast beef sandwich. “’Cause you didn’t do anything wrong. And we kinda owed you.”
“Yeah,” Tucker agreed. “Gleason is such a jerk.”
“And now you both have to spend another whole week with him.” Sam shook her head. “Thanks.”
Danny grinned. “No big.”
Tucker pulled his lunch out of his backpack, then plopped it down on the desk, groaning. “Dude. I just realized… we’re so gonna be grounded again for getting another week of detention. There goes our weekend.”
“I dunno. I’ll bet if I explain what happened, my mom at least will be on our side. Your folks, too.”
Sam gawked at them. “You’re kidding me.”
“Why? Won’t your parents believe you if you explain what happened?”
“Uh… let’s just go with ‘no.’”
Danny frowned, wondering what her parents must be like.
“What about your dad?” Tucker asked him. “He’s kinda…”
“Clueless,” Danny finished. “But they’ve got the contractors coming in to start digging up the basement this weekend. He’ll be too distracted to even care.”
“Good point. Should we still try and get together, then?”
“Sure.” Danny looked over his shoulder at Sam. “Wanna come over?”
Her eyes widened in surprise. “Me?”
“Yeah. I mean, we’re probably just gonna hang out and junk, but if you’re not busy or anything….”
She grinned. “Will you show me the portal thingy your parents are building?”
“It’s not gonna be anything more than a bunch of guys drilling a hole into the wall at this point.”
“Still, sounds cool. And you never know. It might be a momentous occasion. The beginning of something really huge.”
Danny considered this. “Yeah. I guess you never know.”