Corrie didn’t have a lot of hope that Professor Lal would be the one on duty, but she headed over to the magic building anyway. Somewhat to her surprise, Professor Lal’s door was ajar and the light was on inside. Corrie glanced around the hallway, but no one else seemed to be there. She knocked lightly on the door.
“Come in,” Lal said.
Corrie opened the door and walked inside. Lal was bent over her desk, a pen in one hand, reading something. “Hi, Professor Lal.”
Lal looked up at her, eyebrows arching. “Hello, Corrie.”
“If you’re busy, I can come back later.”
Professor Lal put down her pen and shook her head. “I am not busy. Do you have some concern about class? You are doing remarkably well—though, I should not say remarkably.” She smiled and stretched her arms above her head. “You are doing precisely as well as I expected, given how you performed in your introductory class, and your control is growing every day.”
Corrie grinned. She hadn’t come here expecting or even hoping to be praised, but it sure was nice, especially coming from such a strict teacher. “It’s not about that. It’s just some research I was doing, and I was curious. You’ve been at this school for a while, right?”
“A hundred and fifty years, on and off.”
Corrie nodded, hoping Lal wouldn’t ask her about what the research was. “Did you ever know a student named Alice Atkins?”
“Atkins.” Lal tapped her lower lip with her finger. “I remember an Otis Atkins. Alice Atkins… the name does ring a bell, but I don’t think I taught her. Of course, I can’t guarantee that I have memorized the names of all the students I have ever taught.”
“No, that makes sense.” Corrie was sure that if Professor Lal had taught a student who had died on campus, that would be seared into her memory. Corrie would certainly always remember the names of Elrath, Sean, Payton, and Elena, and she had barely even known Sean.
Then again, what if Professor Lal had taught Alice Atkins, and it turned out that she hadn’t died on campus? Maybe she was just tied to Mary Thomas because she had been a student there; maybe she’d died years after she graduated and returned to campus. That would help explain why the magic professors seemed to be so certain that there was no ghost in Mary Thomas.
“Maybe Alice Atkins was Otis’ little sister, and he told her not to take any of your classes when she came here,” Corrie suggested, grinning at the idea.
Professor Lal shook her head at Corrie. “I do not think so.”
“What about the Mary Thomas scholarship? Were you around when they were doing that?”
“Yes, I left the school for a time not long before Miss Thomas died, but I remember it had been her intention to leave her house and her money to the school. When I returned, they were giving out a scholarship in her name, and I remember two or three girls who received it before the money ran out.” She pursed her lips. “There was said to be some bad luck associated with the scholarship. I can’t recall why.”
Corrie raised her eyebrows. Maybe Alice had died at the school after all. “That’s weird. Why would a scholarship be bad luck?”
“It was given to girls who could not have attended a college otherwise. Perhaps they were not all well suited to this particular college.” Professor Lal shook her head. “I can’t tell you any more than that, Corrie. What is this research related to?”
Corrie bit her lip. “It’s just personal. I read that Alice Atkins made some contribution to magical theory, and I thought—“
“Corrie.” Professor Lal leveled an unamused look at her. “If this was about magical theory, I would know about it. Who is Alice Atkins?”
“I don’t know,” Corrie said truthfully.
“Are you following that ridiculous story about a ghost in Mary Thomas again?”
Corrie tried to control her annoyance. “Why are you so sure there isn’t a ghost in Mary Thomas?”
“I have personally investigated the story more than once, as have several other professors on this campus. We have seen absolutely no evidence of such a thing. Perhaps you should stop chasing nonsense and focus on your schoolwork instead.”
Corrie nodded, taking that as a dismissal, and left the office, frowning. She hardly saw the campus around her as she walked back to Sayer. How could the ghost have hidden her existence so thoroughly from the professors, when she was so very obvious to Corrie, her friends, and especially Lin?