I ran. I ran like I’d never run before. I could hear Madeleine calling me back, but I didn’t care. I kept on running until her voice faded away.
I don’t need that silly girl anyway. I bet she set it up to make me look stupid so she could tell everyone at school. I decided I’d better pull a sickie on Monday. I’d never done it before but I sometimes went home from school early when I was being picked on.
By the time I arrived home I was soaked with sweat and bawling my eyes out. Make-up was streaming down my face and my hair was a straggly mess. Hysterical with fear, I stripped down and got in the shower before my Mum could see me like this. She’d probably keel over and die or call an ambulance or something. I didn’t need her right now.
When I was out of the shower I began to calm down. I climbed into bed and pulled the covers right over my head, planning to get an early night.
But I couldn’t sleep.
How can you sleep knowing that someone somewhere is following you? How else would he know about my friends? The thought made my blood run cold. What else did he know?
Don’t be stupid Bells; Maddy had said it was a set up didn’t she? But why was she even there unless she set it up herself? How can she not be scared to the moon and back by all of this like I am?
No, shut up, this is nonsense. You are a stupid baby and you just embarrassed yourself in front of the most popular girl in school. You will not go to school until it blows over.
Bring, bring! Bring, bring!Barbie forced me out of bed at a ridiculous time because I forgot to turn her off before I went to sleep.Stupid Barbie.I thought. She doesn’t have a creepy man called “B” following her around.
Feeling miserable, I decided to go downstairs and pretend to be ill. I felt like I needed to be babied by my Mummy right now. I walked into the kitchen in my pyjamas and sat down at the table coughing.
“Cough. Mummy? I ehem, think that I ehem, am coming down with something. Cough, cough… cough. Ehem…”
“Oh goodness dear we’ll send you to the doctor’s straight away and I’ll buy you a pony. They always used to make me feel better when I was your age.”
“No Mummy! I ehem, just wanted to be looked after at home.” I covered my mouth with my hand and pretended to have a coughing fit.
“Nonsense darling! My baby booboo is ill and the doctor needs to see what’s wrong with you.”
Oh shish kebabs. That backfired didn’t it? My giddy god’s pyjamas…
I let Mummy drag me to the doctor’s and after what I later decided was the most boring half an hour of my life, she took me home with some tablets the doctor reluctantly prescribed to me after she basically rugby tackled him to the ground when he said I was ‘fine’.
I walked in through the door ignoring my Mum’s ramblings – “Well I can tell you we’re never going to see him again! Nothing wrong!? Normal temperature!? I’ll show him!” – And picked up the newspaper that was lying on the doormat.
Feeling utterly miserable I took the Sunday paper into the living room and sat down to read with Princess sitting at my feet; deciding to stop being ‘ill’ tomorrow to avoid being carted off to the hospital. I would just have to survive school on Monday…
When I opened the paper at the first page, I almost jumped out of my mermaid pyjamas…
B. that was the headline splashed across the double page I was looking at. The single letter would mean nothing to anyone else reading this paper…anyone else but me.
With shaking hands I slid my finger along the page, tracing the words. With each sentence I read, my stomach knotted tighter and tighter until I was in agony by the time I read the final line…
Boy found dead at 13 Bankside! After a series of police investigations, a conclusion has been made that the body found in the skip yesterday afternoon at 2:00 had been tortured brutally before being repeatedly stabbed. Engraved on the boy’s forehead was the single letter “B.”
Who knows what this letter signifies? Investigations will continue…
I felt sick. I could feel a bead of sweat winding its way down my face and the palms of my hands were slippery with perspiration. I leapt from the sofa, upsetting Princess who was happily snoozing on my feet; and pulled out drawer after drawer of the dining room dresser until at last I found what I was looking for.
Yanking the phone book free of a pile of magazines, I flicked through the pages – my pale quaking hands ripping through the alphabet until I found it. Drake Rippon. That must be her Dad.
Frantically I dialed the number. My mother came in to offer me lunch but I waved her off. I had to warn Madeleine now! Ring after ring after ring and still nobody answered, until finally I heard a tired voice croak down the receiver:
“What do you want?”
“Hi it’s um, me?”
“Helpful. Do you want to expand on that, me?” Her sarcastic voice sounded hoarse. Had she just woken up at 2 in the afternoon?
“It’s Isabel! I have to tell you something!”
“Oh Bellsipoops! Nice to hear you this fine morning. Now go away, you just woke me up. It’s a Sunday for Christ sakes!”
“This is important! It’s about B!”
“Oh well that changes everything…who the fuck is B?” She drawled, obviously getting annoyed at me. But this was too important!
“Madeleine this is serious! Do you get the paper?”
“Do I fuck get the paper. Knob head. Who do you think I am, the Queen of Shieba?”
“Well I was reading it this morning and…well… there’s been a murder.”
“Who cares? People get killed every day!” She was ready to put the phone down I could tell.
“Erm. No it’s important! Someone murdered a little boy and etched “B” into his forehead! Don’t you understand what this means!?” I was getting frustrated now. I was clutching the phone so hard my knuckles turned white and I began to tremble.
“No I won’t bloody take Blaze out! Sorry what?”
“Come over to my house. Now!”
“Well how am I meant to know where you live?” I sighed and told her my address, then hung up.
After putting the phone back on its hook I went upstairs to get dressed. I would rather have puffins peck out my eyeballs and fill the empty sockets with rotting pickled eggs than let Madeleine Rippon see me in mermaid pyjamas.
A few hours later there was a knock on the door and she sauntered in looking peed off. I blushed furiously: it was a lot easier to shout at her over the phone. Now she was here in person I was going back to scared, helpless, bunny in the headlights Bell.
As I lead her upstairs to my room, Mum came scurrying down the corridor most probably about to say something toe curlingly cringworthy like: “Would your new friendsy wendsy like to stay for afternoon tea in the Wendy house?” But we managed to escape up to my room before she could open her mouth.
Madeleine sat down on my bed with her arms folded and eyebrows raised.
“What do you want?” She looked me straight in the eye and I blushed again.
“Here.” I passed her the newspaper. “Read this.”
“Hmff.” She snatched the newspaper and opened it at the first page.
I watched her eyes scan the columns, widening as the words sunk in. When she was finished, the newspaper slid off her lap onto the floor.
“Don’t swear please. My, um, My Mummy’s downstairs. She doesn’t like it.” I whispered and looked down at the floor.
“So what are we going to do Bellsipoops?” Madeleine asked, ignoring me.
“Isn’t it obvious?” I squeaked.
“See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil?”
“We have to…” I swallowed and my lips began to quiver. “We have turn him blind deaf and dumb.” I finished and sat down on the bed, feeling my knees give way.
“Or what Bellsy? What are you gonna do?”
“It’s not me! It’s him! Don’t you see? He’s going to do what he did to that boy to the people we love. Remember the letter? That boy’s murder was a threat…to us.”
“I’m not good with this CSI shit.”
“We have to do this Madeleine.”
“Don’t call me that! What are we, the knitting club? Call me Maddy for fuck’s sake.”
“OK, Maddy. I think we have to make a plan. Meet me at lunchtime on Monday at the library.”
“I’m not going to be seen dead withyouat school!”
“Okay, after school…” I hesitated, “At Costa Coffee.”
“Fine. If anyone finds out about this, then I’m afraid I’ll have to eat your liver. Goodbye.” She left in a rush and with one sweep of her mad curly hair she was gone.
Hopefully she didn’t meet my Mum on her way down the staircase.
The next morning at school Maddy ignored me, as usual. I wasn’t expecting much, just an acknowledgement or a wave or something. Not just a stare and an insult.
After a boring day of hearing Kerry-Jo talk about her new bedroom, and Georgina wade on about her mother’s Botox treatment, the day ended. I had many ideas of what to tell Maddy.
I sat at a window seat in Costa Coffee for half an hour after our agreed time. I tapped my fingers on the table, drumming out a rhythm to pass the time until finally I saw Maddy sauntering along the pavement toward the shop.
She entered and glanced around. Seeing no-one she knew, Maddy plonked herself down on the bench beside me and gave me a nod.
“Go on then. I don’t have any ideas so I hope you’ve thought of something.”
“As a matter of fact I have.” I retorted.
As much as I hate to say it; I actually enjoyed planning the breaking and entering of my flute teacher’s house. It was kind of like an English assignment. I made folders and spider diagrams, bullet pointed ideas and brainstormed a list of weapons. I quite enjoyed the experience at times, when I wasn’t thinking about actually carrying out the deed.
Now that it came to it however; sitting here in this café, planning to mutate one of my best friends, a lump began to rise in my throat and I mentally kicked myself for how much effort I’d put into my preparation. The sudden realisation that this was real instead of some project made me feel ill. This thing was one of the most exciting things to happen to me in a long time and it was evil, sick and twisted… what’s worse: It felt good. I got a weird buzz out of this…
I eagerly got my pink folder out of my school bag and took out several sheets of A4; displaying them on the table in front of us.
“You really made an effort, didn’t you?” she stared at me, scarily, “Are you a mass murderer in your spare time or something?”
“Er…No?” I whimpered. Maddy took each sheet of paper and read it individually.
“So what you’re saying is that we break into his house and attack him with sulphuric acid?” Maddy looked at me in astonishment, “Because that’sverynormal.”
“Look, what do you suppose we do?” I shouted, suddenly quite angry.
“I have no idea. I just want to be normal! This isn’t normal!” she sounded quite distressed and I wondered what she was thinking.
“All we have to do is break into the technician’s lab at school and take some concentrated sulphuric acid. That is basically it.” I didn’t want to admit we were going to turn my flute teacher into a mentally disabled flute teacher.
“And then burn his eyes, tongue and ears off his head.” Maddy added.
I fiddled with the zip on my bag and bit my lip. “Well actually I was hoping you could help me with that. Sulphuric acid won’t do much for the tongue and ears so I was thinking maybe…”
“You were thinking maybe I would have a bloody dagger in my purse? I know I can be weird but I’m not some kind of assassin! Get your own knife!”
“No!” I stuttered, realising who I was talking to, “Sorry, it’s just…”
I paused. There was a silence that hung in the air for a couple of minutes.
“I really like my teacher. I don’t want to do it… m-myself.”
“Oh, so you thoughtIwould do it? Well, I’m sorry, but I really do not have the kind of mind to break into someone’s house, blind them and cut off their only assets of making communication with this world other than their hands. Sorry, Bellsipoops but I think you are a bit sick in the head.”
The reality of what we were doing hit me like a block of stale cheese. We were about to become criminals. There would be no turning back after this deed was done. I looked down at the table in front of me and picked up my plans, screwing them into a ball and throwing them onto the floor of the café. Tears began to fall hard and fast and I suddenly needed to get away from Maddy. Away from everyone.
I started running. How come I always ended up running away from Maddy crying?
She started shouting after me and I realised I’d forgotten something
Something that might be quite important…
I’d forgotten I had a flute class tomorrow evening.
I stopped in my footsteps and turned around. Maddy was stood there, taller than me; I had to look up to see her face and was intimidated by the height difference so I sat her down on the pavement outside the coffee shop.
“Ok, say I stop running and decide to do this with you.” I sniffed.
She raised an eyebrow. “Say you do.”
“Well, I have a flute class tomorrow at 6pm.”
“So? What are you suggesting? We go to his house and kill him instead of having your lesson?”
“Pretty much… But we’re not going to killhim are we?”
“Oh, sorry I forgot we were only going to turn him into a seriously deformed retard.”
“Don’t call him that!”
“It’s the truth, whether you like it or not. You’re the one who’s acting like you actually get a thrill out of this crazy shit…”
“I don’t want to do this anymore than you!” My voice cracked and I began sobbing. “Don’t youdareimply that I actually enjoy this! It’s agony for me. Do you understand!? Rue isn’t just my teacher, he’s my friend! I don’t expect you of all people to understand about real friendship but I’m sure you know the severity of this situation. We can’t go to the police or he’ll kill the people we love. We can’t ignore him or the same thing will happen. I’m sorry Maddy but if you can’t do this I’m still going to do it myself. But it’s because I have to. Not because I want to.”
With that I picked up my things and turned briskly around, striding down the street with my cheeks flaming and my eyes blurry with tears. She shouted after me again.
“Are we going to get this stupid sulphuric acid then or not? To be honest I can’t really see this working though. You know, me and you, teaming up. It’s a bit – awkward. But I just don’t want my friends to get hurt, okay? For fucks’ sake justturn aroundwhy don’t you? Or are you just too much of a baby to face me.”
“Shut up! Shut up, shut up, shut up!” I screamed back at her.
“Calm down, dwarf. We’ll go tomorrow, get the fucking acid, and attack this dude at your flute class, and it’ll be over. All over. Okay?”
“Fine.” I agreed
The next morning, I woke up to my Barbie alarm. My uniform was placed neatly on my sofa in a folded pile. I picked it up and sighed; remembering what could happen to Mummy if we didn’t carry out our plan today.
“Mummy…” I said at the breakfast table, delicately nibbling the edge of my toast,
“Yes, sugar plum?” she sang,
“I…” I suddenly got seriously nervous, “I… think I’m g-going to quit my f…flute class.”
She put the spatula down and stared at me, “What?” she didn’t seem too angry though thank goodness.
“I don’t reallywantto play the flute anymore, Mummy darling.” I fiddled with my thumbs,
“Oh,” she sniffed, “Are you still going tonight, then?”
“Umm…” I couldn’t bear to think about tonight, “Yes. I’ll tell him tonight.”
At lunch, I met Maddy secretly in the girls’ bathrooms. She nodded in my direction, then looked around the bathrooms checking no one else was watching us, and followed me a few paces behind through the corridors until we reached the science lab.
As we carefully opened the door, I realised no teachers were there; they were probably all eating their lunch, like the students. Opening the cupboard of receptacles inside the laboratory, I got a glass flask with a very tight seal on top and carried it across the lab to a door which led to the technician’s office.
Pushing the door open, I saw no one was in. We’d have to be quick though; what if the technician had just popped to the bathroom?
“What does sulphuric acid look like?” Maddy glanced here and there, looking out of place in a laboratory.
“Well it’s clear.” I scanned the room frantically, “And…Oh, it’s here!” I grabbed the pot hastily from a shelf of acids; it almost splashed over the sides onto my hands. That would’ve been a gruesome experience. “Put on these gloves before you put it in the flask.” I mentioned to Maddy
“Fuck that!” Maddy recklessly stole the acid from my hands, messily spilling it down the sides of the flask. I wiped it quickly with a tissue before it disintegrated in my hands. She looked at me and smiled a smile I’d never seen before. Her eyes lit up and her mouth curled up at the corners. It was the closest to nice she’d ever been.
The flask was almost full with sulphuric acid, until in a mad moment, she accidently knocked the glass. It attacked my skirt, eating away at the material surrounding where it had landed.
“Argh! My skirt!” I screamed. But I stopped as footsteps were echoing down the corridor. “Quick! Put it down!”
“Shit, sorry, Bellsy.” It was the first apology I’d ever heard her make.
Wide eyed, I searched the room for a cupboard or something we could hide in. The technician’s footsteps across the lab got louder and louder as he approached the door to his office, whistling a tune and rattling his keys. My eyes fell on a tiny cupboard whose door stood slightly ajar.
“Quick! In here!” Before she could open her mouth to speak, I squeezed into the cupboard and pulled Maddy in beside me; clicking the door shut and plunging us both into total darkness just as the office door opened and the technician walked in.
“Mrs. White?” The technician’s gruff voice could be heard from the other side of the door. He must have heard us in here and thought it was the head of science, Mrs. White.But why would she be in his office..?
“Mrs. White?” He paused. “Gloria?”
No answer. My breathing became quick and shallow as his footsteps approached the stockroom door. There was very little space in here and Maddy and I were already squished against each other. Surely he didn’t think Mrs. White would be hiding in here? (Especially knowing the size of her. I doubt she’d even fit through the door.)
“Are you waiting for me in here Gloria, you naughty girl?” The technician leaned down and whispered into the keyhole.
I could feel Maddy shaking with silent laughter beside me. She probably thought the idea of Mrs. White having a boyfriend hilarious. I inwardly blushed at the thought.
“I’m coming in honey bun. Are you sure there’s enough room in there?” The real Gloria White strode into the lab just as Maddy burst into laughter, unable to contain her hysteria any longer.
“Mr. Picket? You’re needed in the staffroom.” Mrs. White blobbed into the room and took Mr. Picket the technician by the arm.
“Oh is there a meeting going on in there?” He let her guide him out of the office and into the main lab. The door swung shut just after we heard her reply…
“Oh there’s still half an hour of our lunch break left. I’m sure we can get something a little more exciting than a meeting going on in there…”
Maddy was in hysterics. The cupboard door burst open; we fell out and laughed on the floor until it hurt.
Maddy suddenly sat up and retrieved the sulphuric acid flask from the table.
“Almost forgot.” She smiled at me.
“Why are you being nice?” I asked her, bewildered,
“I can be nice…” she looked hurt, then a sarcastic smile slid its way onto her face, “But only if I’m in a good mood.”
She took the flask, slid it into her pocket and went running out through the door. I stood up, brushed my skirt down into place and started briskly walking towards the lunchroom, momentarily forgetting about the hole in my skirt. I looked down and realised the only way to cover it up was to put my hand over it for the entire day. A pathetic solution, really, but I didn’t have any more ideas.
Kerry-Jo and Georgina were waiting for me at our usual table when I arrived in the dining hall; they stared at me, shocked.
“Where have you been?” Kerry-Jo sounded angry.
“I was…” I was, actually, frantically attempting to think of an excuse so I decided just to change the subject instead. “Never mind, hey did you know Mr. Picket and Mrs. White are having it off in the staffroom right now?” I giggled then farted. I blushed violently, whilst Kerry-Jo laughed unstoppably.
I guided them towards the staffroom where you could hear faint moaning through the door. The occasional, “Yes!” could be heard through the paper thin walls. Georgina giggled, and then the bells rang out loud and clear to signify the end of lunch. We headed away from the staffroom back to English.
On the way, we saw Maddy, Taegan, Maegan and Brittany all leaning against the lockers. They were laughing about something too.
Taegan laughed deviously, “Who let the dogs out?” Obviously she was referring to us.
Maegan chuckled, “Yeah! What’s wrong with you? Were you born without all the right parts to your brain?”
“Do you even know what a brain is, Maegan?” Georgina threatened,
“And where are your shoes from? A charity store?” Kerry-Jo sniggered in her annoying posh laugh-way.
“Why don’t you go fuck yourself, sweetie pie?” Brittany said, glaring at us. Maddy stayed silent, unusually.
“Yeah, go away, short arse.” Maegan was obviously talking to me when she said that, but I chose to ignore it, walking away, my face burning with embarrassment. They just left us alone then, and carried on gossiping.
The time came.
For my flute teacher to become a retard, as Maddy says.
Mum offered to drive me to his house, but instead I walked, so Maddy could tag along.
“You got the knife, Bellsipoops?” she mocked,
“Shutup! Someone might hear you!”
“Who? The deaf granny in the apartment over there? The old man with the hearing aid across the street at Lidl?” she laughed patronisingly.
We finally arrived at 101 Chauncey Lane, after the most sarcasm I’d heard in an hour, by then I’d finally had enough of Maddy’s annoying tone of voice.
“Will you please be serious about this!?” I said, enraged, as we stepped up to the green door and knocked. “This is not some kind of joke!”
“Yeah, yeah, don’t give yourself a migraine, idiot.” She elbowed me in the ribs playfully then skipped round to the back of the house to get in via the window as previously arranged.
“Oh hi, Mr. Harris!” The door opened just as Maddy disappeared around the corner and Rue stood in front of me, his huge belly and jolly red face looming over me.
“Hello there, Isabel.” He showed me into his house. It was a nice house, nothing special, but warm and cozy, we walked down the narrow corridor into the living room.
Tears started to trickle down my face as I realised this might be the last time he saw me, or heard me speak. Poor, poor Mr. Harris. I cried inside.
Maddy waited until half an hour into the lesson for the signal. She was waiting patiently at the window I could see from my left. ‘The signal’ was me going upstairs to the bathroom.
When I left for the ‘loo’, Mr Harris went into the kitchen to make us some tea and scones.
All I heard was a smash whilst in the bathroom. I heard a couple of things being broken, and the Mr. Harris’ voice. “Who goes there?” When I came back down from the bathroom, Maddy was hidden behind a beanbag in the living room, poised and ready to strike. Mr. Harris hadn’t seen her, he was still in the kitchen but he had the phone in his hand.
I entered the kitchen.
“Mr. Harris what are you doing!” I reached out and took the phone from his hand.
“I heard noises; I was going to call the police. I think someone’s broken in!” He whispered urgently.
“No Mr. Harris that was um…me.”
“I thought you were in the bathroom?”
“I was. Erm…something fell off a shelf.”
“Oh ok then…” He seemed unsure but let me lead him back into the living room to continue our lesson.
I placed him with his back to Maddy’s hiding place and picked up my flute ready to play ‘Ode To Joy’, but I had to stop after the first line, my lip was quivering.
I looked down to Maddy’s hiding place, nervously and realised she wasn’t there anymore.
“I’m so sorry Mr. Harris.” I sobbed
“For what dear? What are you talking about?” His furry eyebrows knitted together like two woolly caterpillars kissing
“For…for…this.” I whispered as Maddy hit him hard on the head with a frying pan.
“Holy fuck I’m stronger than I thought!” Maddy said triumphantly as Mr. Harris fell onto the floor with a thud, unconscious. I curled up into a corner and cried.
“Just…do it quickly, please?” I whimpered, pleading.
“Fine, fine. Hand me that acid shit.” I passed her the flask. She opened it clumsily, and some fell on his hand. It started to bleed and disintegrate horrifyingly; you could almost see his bone sticking out of his finger.
“Oops! Sorry, Mr. Harris.” She giggled, as ifthiswas fun.
She took the flask and poured a fair amount into each one of his eyes, and took a step back as it made an unpleasant sizzling sound. She whimpered slightly and the playful smile slid off her face as his sockets began to gush blood.
“Look… this is too…freaky. You do it!” she stood back,
“No! I can’t!” I whispered, frightened and refusing to look. “You’ve started it now! Just finish it!”
“Okay.” She shakily took the flask in hand, about to close the lid and take out her knife, as it fell on his face.
Sulphuric acid riddled its way through his skin, piercing each and every available orifice on his face, burning through to the bone. I couldn’t watch. I huddled my eyes into my knees and left Maddy to stand there and watch the slowly melting skin fall off his face like a wax mask.