Gemma could see clearly that Liv’s face was twitching all over, and she was probably using all of the little restraint she had. And it looked like that was about to snap.
“She won’t listen to me or Thea,” Gemma tried to reason with Penn. “And if you don’t get in there right now, someone’s going to end up dead, and your cover is gonna be blown wide open. Do you really want that?”
Penn reluctantly looked away from the face painter and stared up at Gemma. Her black eyes locked on hers, and her full lips were pressed together in an irritated line.
“Liv, she’s not worth it,” Thea told the new siren, making her husky voice more melodic in hopes of easing the tension. “Calm down.”
“Don’t touch me,” Liv snapped, sounding like something from The Exorcist. Everyone had to have heard the beast inside her. “Don’t you dare touch me.”
“Penn,” Gemma pleaded.
“Liv, stop,” Daniel said, and that’s when both Gemma and Penn snapped their heads around to see what Daniel had just walked into.
He had stepped between Liv and Aiden’s girlfriend, turning himself into a human shield for the girl. She was trembling, and Gemma thought she might be crying.
Daniel’s back was toward Gemma, but Liv was facing her. And Liv’s eyes were pure bird, and pure evil. She smiled, revealing far too many sharp teeth.
“Daniel’s just killed himself,” Gemma whispered, and she had no idea how to save him from getting his head ripped off.
The door to Professor Pine’s office was shut, but Harper could hear the familiar tones of the Beatles singing about Eleanor Rigby. She knocked loudly on the door to be heard over the music. When Pine didn’t answer, she leaned forward, trying to see through the frosted window on his door.
The clock on the cell phone said it was one minute after five, so Harper was right on time. Cautiously, she opened the door and peered around it. A phonograph was set up in the corner, which explained the scratchy quality of the music.
Pine was sitting in his chair, his feet propped up on the large oak desk. Students’ papers were spread out around him, and he was slowly flipping through a stack he had resting on his lap.
“Professor?” Harper said, nearly shouting to be heard over the music.
“Oh, Harper!” Pine exclaimed when he saw her. “Right, of course. Come in.” He sat up with a start, nearly knocking over the large can of Red Bull he had on his desk, then rushed over and switched off the record.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to disturb you,” Harper said, hesitating by the doorway.
“No, you’re not disturbing me.” He waved her in. “I just got some old vinyl from my dad’s house this last weekend. I was helping him move into a smaller place, and, of course, I had to try some of them out.”
Harper smiled. “I understand.”
She walked over to his desk, meaning to sit down in the chair across from him, but the spot was already taken by a crate of records.
“I’ll get that. Sorry.” Pine hurried around the desk and picked up the crate, then set it on the floor. “Have a seat.”
“Thank you,” Harper said, and obliged him.
“So, you said you had something for me to look at?” Pine asked as he went back around the desk. He was gathering the papers into a stack as he spoke, and he looked at Harper over the top of his glasses.
“Yes, I was able to convince my sister to let me bring the scroll with me.”
That had been a bit of a challenge. After they’d taken their swim together yesterday afternoon, Harper and Gemma had a very long discussion about it, and Gemma finally relented after an hour of Harper’s promising her that it would be absolutely safe with her.
“Oh, excellent,” Pine said. “You have it with you now?”
“Yeah.” Harper reached into her book bag and pulled out the rolled-up tube. Gemma had carefully tied a string around it so it wouldn’t unfurl during Harper’s travels.
Pine untied the string, then carefully spread the scroll out on his desk. It was roughly two feet long, so he placed a desk lamp and a heavy tape dispenser on either end to keep it from rolling back up.
“What do you think?” Harper asked, leaning forward on the edge of the seat.
Pine let out a low whistle between his teeth. “I think that I can honestly say I have no idea what I’m looking at.”
Her shoulders sagged. “Really?”
“No. I mean, I have an idea.” He rubbed his forehead. “But it doesn’t make any sense.”
“What do you mean?”
“This paper it feels…” He ran his finger along the edge. “It should be falling apart. It has that texture, it feels authentic, but if it were, this should be … disintegrating.” He readjusted his glasses and shook his head. “I should do a carbon testing on this.”
“What about the words?” Harper asked since she didn’t particularly care how old the document was. She believed it was real, which meant it was thousands of years old, but that was irrelevant to her pursuit.
“This ink is like nothing I’ve ever seen.” Pine tilted the scroll to the side. “Do you see that? The way it changes color in the light, going from black to reddish.”
“It’s some kind of iridescent ink,” Harper said.
“Could be.” Pine took off his glasses and rummaged through a desk drawer before pulling out the monocular. He attached it to his glasses, then leaned over the paper, analyzing the ink more closely. “Could be blood.”
“Blood?” Harper asked, but that shouldn’t surprise her. Of course an ancient curse would be written in blood.
“Don’t quote me on that, and it doesn’t really have the consistency of blood, so I can’t explain why I think that’s what it is, but…” He sighed. “Call it gut instinct. But I think it might be.”
“Do any of the letters or words look familiar?”
“This might be…” He tapped a letter. “This is one that I thought was an aleph, and I’m really leaning toward that. And this word”—he tapped a word starting with the aleph symbol—“it appears several times.”
Harper had noticed that before, but she hadn’t been able to glean any meaning from it. Many of the words looked similar to her.
He grabbed a Post-it note and started scribbling on it, drawing out variations of the symbols. “If that’s an a, then this could be Cypriot, so that would make the next letter an i.”