I had another late morning that Monday.
Without school there were no timetables, no orders and certainly no alarm clocks! I had eventually reached my home at 3: 10am without a hitch in my plan, then collapsed into my bed. The next time I will go on an exploration like the one last night, I must remember to bring money for a late-night bus fare. My feet hurt too much for me to care about piecing together the expanding puzzle. I let my mind do that, subconsciously in my dreams; flickering 20s-style images of the couples, burning on a reel of film disappearing from life itself. Waking up exhausted was not my idea of fun, but I had way too much on my mind to rest, even after only six hours of REM sleep. As far as I knew I was still under ‘house arrest’, forced to spend my days doing zilch.
After hiding under my thickest and certainly most colourful (but definitely not my favourite) quilt for minutes, it became clear to me that I was alone in the house. Wiping sleep from my eyes, I wandered downstairs and found a note tacked to the conservatory door. It was from my mother. She said:
(Humph! I recon she wasn’t really saying that!)
I have gone to drop off Ben as, in case you forgot, he still has school today. Then I will go shopping for dailies. (That’s normal stuff: toilet paper, a meal for dinner, breakfast cereals that she forgets to buy until it’s too late. I opened the breakfast cupboard. Yes, as promised, I wasn’t going to be eating any cereal this morning.)
Hopefully I will be back soon; do remember that you’re GROUNDED! (Important to note: Capitals)
Love, your mother. xxx
PS. Do you remember cousin Emily- the one who shares your birthday? She’s coming over tomorrow, so get the rooms ready. (And why couldn’t you just tell me this when you got back?)
After scrunching the note and missing the vibrant recycling box stuffed into a small corner of the room, I grabbed one of my mother’s oat, health bars, some paper, and my favourite black biro. I called it my lucky biro, but that was just a name; there was nothing at all lucky about it. It was one that my dad gave when I was, oh, about eight, another late birthday present, and another not so fabulous one! It was mainly silver but had several shocking blue lightning bolts printed onto its middle. That pen went with me wherever I ventured and was my sole writing instrument whenever possible. I knew it would never let me down…unlike the people.
I sighed, thinking like that would not get me any more friends. I supposed it came from having a father who, back then, rarely visited. He was too busy with his wife and their new baby boy.
My father was born in France but moved over to England to continue his English Studies, then charmed the heart of a young Literature student, took her as his wife, had two joyful children, then left her for a younger, more beautiful model, when their eldest was only five. My mother filed for a divorce as soon as she knew he wasn’t coming back. As soon as he was free, my father snuck back to the Parisian banlieues with his newest fiancée. So I was half French, which explained my quick grasp of languages and the tendency to slip in words that belonged to a different tongue.
A couple of years ago I saw my father and his captivating blonde, out in their neat bungalow.
“Come live here with me,” he had said, “You can kick-start that singing career of yours, and they’ll be celebrities here, and the best fashion stores around too…”
Ha! I wasn’t prepared to make that jump away from all I had in my little British town. They had been trying for a baby; I think that was the only reason my father wanted me to stay there. To be honest, I didn’t much like my half-brother, Damian, and couldn’t see why anyone would want a child. I must have sounded like a horrible individual, but I wasn’t a child person. I could never have been a teacher like Joshua Craig or Andrew Smith…
Something stopped my thinking. Something nagged at my brain. Something good, something new, something helpful and interesting.
Then it was gone.
It had faded away like forbidden dreams of lost loves.
Trudging upstairs, I picked up my ‘special’ pen, and wrote, on one page, ‘suspects’, on another ‘motives’, and on the last: ‘opportunities’. This was something I had seen on TV and it might help me sort out my thoughts.
Suspects- but I had none, or more truly: I had millions of suspects. Anyone could have had the opportunity to sneak in and strike down the innocent teacher. That probably left my ‘opportunities’ page blank too; there could have been any chance in the evening to stay behind at the school. Unnoticed behind the tall shelves, anybody, young or old, could have come into the library incognito. Especially as there were no CCTV cameras around the school. So much for the trust.
And then there were the questions:
Why was Joshua Craig in the library in the first place?
How did his killer know where he would be? Was it a coincidence? Did they know each other? Were they on good terms?
What was the motive?
It amused me slightly to think that Mr. Craig had stumbled upon some deadly secret, some poisoned love affair.
But then there were the less-straightforward questions:
Why was there cucumber yoghurt on Joshua’s jacket? And in his stomach, when he clearly didn’t like it?
Why were many of his precious items being horded in an unused science cupboard? Items that could be used as evidence or clues?
Who was the girl I was seeing trying to put an end to these investigations?
And why couldn’t I shake the feeling that all events were linked…The Mysterious Girl, My Schoolteacher’s Death…and Elizabeth Craig’s Disappearance?