‘Hi guys. How were the hols?’
I felt browner than usual as I grinned at my mates. Everyone seemed to have changed a little. Avril’s hair looked longer, Elena’s eyes shone greener in her tanned face, Iris seemed an inch taller and Isabella’s hair appeared bouncier.
‘Germany was good,’ smiled Elena, showing off her new braces.
‘We just watched movies all through the winter!’ said Isabella, winking at Avril.
‘The holidays were great,’ said Iris and then pouted. ‘Pity we’re stuck with Mr. Stilton again!’
She was replied to with a volley of groans from us.
‘Not him again!’
‘Another year of Maths with him?’
‘Hey! Maths isn’t that bad!’
Guess who said that? Everyone turned to glare at me. ‘Yeah but the teacher is,’ I added before I was hung, drawn and quartered (or something along those lines) by my friends.
‘Hey, that’s the bell!’ cried Elena. ‘Can someone go with me to see Ms. Jackson before lessons? It’s about gymnastics.’
‘Entering the Olympics are you?’ smirked Iris. ‘Sorry, I can’t. I have form mass tomorrow and need to prepare. You do too Isabella!’
‘So I do,’ sighed Isabella. ‘Such a pain when you’re atheist. Oh well, at least we miss the first half of Maths!’
‘I’ll go with you Elena,’ sighed Avril.
‘Me too,’ I squeaked, not at all keen to go face Mr. Stilton on my own.
We all went to our lockers, dumping our stuff in before Isabella and Iris took off while Avril and Elena impatiently waited for neat-freak, little old me to hurry up. ‘Sorry,’ I mumbled under my breath before straightening by music sheets one last time. We hurried down the corridors towards the gym, desperate not to be late to our first lesson after the holidays.
We arrived outside the gym and Elena’s knuckled were about to make contact with the door when we heard Ms. Jackson speaking to someone. ‘Yes, his body was found in his room. It’s a murder. A knife was stuck in his back. He taught 9A just an hour before we found him dead after school on the last day.’
‘9A!’ I whispered, as Elena’s hand slowly dropped to her side. ‘That’s us! What teacher did we have last? Was it Mrs. Hope?’
‘Mr. Horace?’ suggested Elena, who – I could make out – was hyperventilating (which isn’t that common for a person who gets red in the face only after sprinting a mile and a half).
‘T’was Mr. Stilton,’ said Avril calmly, who still seemed to have her head on after all that we’d heard. Must be all those action films. Well, seems like Sherlock Holmes was rubbing off on her, because what Avril suggested next nearly made my head implode with sheer shock.
‘Elena, forget the gymnastics for now,’ she said, her voice low and authoritative. ‘When we meet the others at break, we shall solve the whodunit. I’m sure they’d agree. They’re daredevils. We’ll be the Investigative Investigators!’
Um… Avril. I thought you’d known me long enough to gather that I am scared of spiders. And what about Elena? I know she might be strong enough to single-handedly uproot a tree, but the girl whimpered when we watched Women in Black. How d’you think she’ll like living it out? Have some mercy!
I opened my mouth and was about to let all that gush out when I heard someone squeak, ‘Okay!’
I turned toward Elena and was about to stare her to death when I realised she was doing precisely that… to me. And it was then that I realised that it was me and not her that had said ‘okay’. Elena, I don’t know if you’re reading this, but I’m sorry and I’d like to tell you that your death stares are really effective…
I could still feel Elena’s eyes boring into the side of my head at Maths. Not that I was paying any attention to them. The new teacher, Mr. Paris was way too strict for that. We’d arrived at Maths a second (literally) after the late bell rang and found Ms. Kevinee – our Head teacher – introducing a new someone to our class. This new someone happened to be her old friend, Mr. Paris who was French. He just happened to be in the job-free-zone when Mr. Stilton died and got the job of teaching us Maths. She didn’t say anything about Mr. Stilton dying though. Must’ve thought we’d freak out (quite true…).
I actually felt quite sorry for him to have to teach a lot as rowdy as us. But that was before Ms. Kevinee left the room. For as soon as she did, he turned from a shy little angel to a fire breathing dragon and yelled at us. Us being Avril, Elena and me…
‘You, you and you! Why were you late? Detention tonight!’
The whole class gasped. Elena and Avril never had got a single detention. Well, neither have I, but that goes without saying… Right?
Just then the classroom door squeaked and Iris and Isabella entered. They were about to smile at Mr. Paris (waste of time, really) when he roared at them, nearly blowing the roof off the school. ‘Why are you late? Detention tonight!’
The class gasped again. Isabella and Iris had never got into trouble either. ‘And the whole class gets a detention for acting like a bunch of toddlers,’ he yelled. That shut everyone up. When we finally did get down to Maths, Avril managed to scribble down what she’d thought of and hand it to the other two (without getting another detention).
So that lunch, us girls went investigating. I went with Isabella and Iris. Elena went with Avril. We went to find out who’ got detentions on the last day. That way we could question them and see if they’d seen anything. But I guess we were in luck; there was no one in detention on the last day and therefore no questioning to do.
Avril and Elena and gone to check with the Maths corridor for anything fishy but had come back empty handed. Elena was still in a huff with me so I just pulled out a bag of Hula Hoops and offered her some and instantly I had the old Elena back.
Handy tip: Always carry your friends’ favourite food around with you and if they’re in a huff with you, offer it them and watch the magic. (Although is they keep getting angry with you they’re either very greedy or just not a very good friend.)
Anyway, Avril said that they’d bumped into Ms. Kevinee. She’d asked them what they were doing and Avril had got nervous and blurted. (Don’t worry Avril. At least now you know what normal people do in the face of danger.)
Isabella sighed, ‘What a successful day this has been hasn’t it?’
‘It has?’ I asked, confused.
‘That was sarcastic!’ they all yelled at me. Well, all of them except Elena who was still busy munching on Hula Hoops…
It was the next day that the haunting started. We went to our lockers first thing in the morning and nearly jumped out of our skins when Isabella, Avril and Elena screamed at exactly the same time and, spookily, pitch. Hmm… Maybe there is such a thing as synchronised screaming.
‘What?’ I squeaked, loosening my grasp around Iris’ shoulders where I’d suddenly found myself after the scream.
‘My…’ began Elena, Isabella and Avril at the same time, and the rest of the sentence was lost n a jumble of words uttered from each of their mouths.
‘Avril first,’ said Iris, spotting that everyone was in shock.
‘My Chris Evan’s poster is ripped and whatever remains of it has graffiti on!’ bawled Avril, looking very near tears.
‘I’m sure you have at least seven more of those in your room,’ snorted Isabella. ‘My Baby Shark DVD is destroyed. Look, the pieces are here!’ She was holding up some bits of plastic and film. I rubbed her back, knowing how much that song meant to her.
‘What’s the matter Elena?’ asked Iris, going over to her friend.
Elena mournfully pointed to a picture at the back of her locker. It was a magnificent fire and what looked like an phoenix being drawn into the flames. Iris gasped. ‘Where’s your phoenix picture?’
‘That’s the thing!’ Elena snapped. ‘It’s turned into this!’
We all gasped. Elena’s beautiful phoenix just morphed – still on paper – into a dying bird? That’s when Isabella said, ‘Maybe Mr. Stilton is telling us to stop troubling his past. Maybe it’s bothering him now.’
I immediately snorted. ‘Ghosts don’t exist.’ Iris and Elena nodded but Avril just shook her head. ‘How do you know that?’ she asked in a deep, dark, husky voice. See? Told you she’d been watching too many movies.
‘What about me and Nicole then?’ asked Iris. ‘How come we’re not haunted?’
‘Maybe ‘cause you were his best students,’ shrugged Isabella.
Iris had the grace to blush. She went into her locker, muttering something about a Harry Potter book for English and came out paler than any ghost. ‘Has anyone seen my new Harry Potter book?’
So much for being his best students…
Later at break, we were discussing the events of the day. ‘Nicole always has the best luck of us,’ grumbled Isabella. ‘You could drop her off a cliff with a 500 tonne rock strapped to her back and she’d manage to land as gracefully as a ballerina.’
‘Hehe,’ I laughed nervously. ‘You’re not planning on try that one any time soon, right?’
‘Dunno,’ said Isabella, distractedly.
I got up to go. It needed to fetch my guitar for my music lesson. So I went to my locker and found, thankfully, that my guitar was still there. I crouched down so I could pull it out of its case without dropping it and then got the shock of my life. What was Isabella saying about me being the luckiest…?
‘All the strings?’
‘All the strings,’ I nodded, sniffing. ‘Cut right in half, along the bridge.’
‘Oh dear,’ Iris got up to hug me.
‘What’s confusing me is how the person is getting into our lockers,’ said Elena. ‘We have our keys with us at all times.’
‘We’re dealing with ghosts, Elena,’ said Isabella. ‘Poltergeists actually.’
‘Gott hilf mir,’ said Elena, reverting back to her native German. ‘Ghosts don’t exist.’
‘Then what’s this?’ asked Avril, holding up a book. She’d just been to her locker.
On the book, there were scribbles, all to do with Maths. Numbers, algebra, inequalities; you name it we got it. Just one little twist. They were all scribbled in blood…
‘I still don’t believe in ghosts,’ I said firmly. As firmly as I could with a wobbly voice anyhow. ‘And the equations were all wrong. Ghost or not ghost, Mr. Stilton would always get his sums right!’
‘Okay Miss Clever Clocks!’ said Isabella, rolling her eyes.
We were in the gym, after school, and Elena was showing off her skills on the balance beam, doing straddles, pikes, aerials and back-flips. Honestly, that girl should be in the Olympics.
Just then Ms. Kevinee walked in, her stilettos making a huge racket in the echoing, empty hall and nearly throwing Elena off balance. Iris stopped somersaulting on the trampoline and Avril put her phone away. Isabella and I looked up.
‘Hi girls,’ she said. ‘Still investigating?’
I was the closest to her. I had to tell her that we’d stopped. ‘Yes,’ I said. Nooooo!!! My mind screamed. You blimmin’ idiot!!!!
Ms. Kevinee muttered something under her breath and handed me a package. ‘You guys must be hungry,’ she said sweetly. ‘I’ve got some sandwiches for you. Bye.’
And before I could thank her, she click-clacked her way out of the gym. I stuck the package down the pocket of my shorts and went over to the trampoline and Iris. She said she was going to teach me how to somersault. We’ll see how well that goes though…
Half an hour later, I was flipping around the trampoline like I’d been doing it for forever and a day. Just then, the packet flew out of my pocket and hit the floor, bursting open. The sandwiches were fanned out over the ground, bread and filling everywhere. Avril and Isabella, who were at ground level, hurried to clean up the mess but made disgusted noises when they saw the filling.
‘Uncooked chicken?’ cried Iris. ‘That’s dangerous. It can cause poisoning and even death!’
‘But then,’ said Elena. ‘She’s an art teacher, not a chef.’
‘Elena, this chicken doesn’t look like it’s ever seen a flame,’ snorted Avril.
‘And why would she offer us sandwiches in the first place?’ I asked.
‘Dunno,’ said Isabella. ‘But something isn’t right.’
The next day, we were just locking up our lockers (we had found nothing out of the ordinary) when we heard someone gasp behind us. We turned and saw Ms. Kevinee standing about 25 metres away from us. I grinned and waved cheerily at her. She grinned stiffly and disappeared down the food corridor.
We were exceptionally early today. By half an hour. We’d had a group project to complete for geography and we’d agreed to finish it before school. We were about to walk off to form when Ms. Kevinee appeared again, waving and calling. She was wearing an apron over her crisp suit and was obviously beckoning us, as we were the only ones in the corridor.
I was about to move forward when Iris held out her hand, stopping me. ‘Don’t,’ she whispered through clenched teeth, doing an impressive impression on a ventriloquist. ‘She’s got a knife under her apron.’
‘What?’ I whispered back in disbelief. All the same, I pulled Elena back beside me and watched Iris do the same for Isabella and Avril. I saw Ms. Kevinee’s strained smile distort into a grimace and then a scowl even from the distance. ‘Girls, come here please!’ she called sternly. She began to walk towards us.
‘Run!’ said Iris. And we were off. We ran down the corridor at top speed, Elena in the lead, me next, Iris, Isabella and Avril bringing up the rear. Elena reached our form room and pushed at the door desperately. ‘It’s locked!’ she panted.
‘Stand back!’ cried Isabella. She took a run up to the door and with a great grunt, shoved it open with her shoulder. All I can say is thank heavens for her super strength and Ms. Kevinee’s stupid shoes.
We poured into the room and slammed the door behind us, breathing hard. Isabella, Iris and I were leaning against the door and Elena and Avril stood beside us, not knowing what to do.
‘T’was her all along!’ I whispered.
‘Iris, if it weren’t for you then we’d all have been minced meat by now,’ panted Elena.
‘T’was her all along!’ I said again, my mouth making up for the fact that my brain seemed to have shut itself off and gone into hibernation mode for eternity.
‘But why would she do it?’ asked Avril. ‘Kill Mr. Stilton, I mean.’
‘I remember now,’ said Iris suddenly. ‘Few years ago, when the old Head died, there was a vote for a new one. Ms. Kevinee won. All the teachers voted for her because she was rich and powerful. Well, all except Mr. Stilton. He dared to contradict her and say that power was not all that was needed to be a good Head.’
Elena gasped. ‘So this must be her, mnfff!’ She widened her eyes at the hand I’d clamped over her mouth. And then all our eyes widened.
‘Girls! Girls, where are you?’ there was a click-clacking outside our door as Ms. Kevinee walked by, still searching for us. And then the noise faded away.
We all breathed again. ‘So, the locker stuff. Was that her?’ Avril asked.
‘Yes,’ Isabella said. ‘She has spare keys remember? In case we lose ours. She robbed or destroyed or wrote with fake blood on our stuff.’
‘What about mine?’ mumbled Elena.
‘She was an art teacher before!’ I cried, my mind coming out of hibernation. Everyone shushed me. ‘She destroyed Elena’s phoenix and replaced it with a different one to make it look as if there really was a spirit at work! And that’s why the equations were all wrong! She obviously wasn’t her Maths teacher’s favourite.’
‘So what do we do now?’ asked Iris. ‘Call the police?’
‘Yup,’ said Avril, pulling out her phone and hammering 999 into it. She explained everything to the person at the other end and added, ‘And she tried to poison us with a chicken sandwich.’
I felt sorry for the person at the receiving end. This story must make no sense whatsoever to them and Avril’s excited voice was quite off putting, especially as the rest of us were huddled up in a group for comfort (and warmth)…
‘You’re not allowed to enter the room with us.’
‘Yes Inspector!’ we chorused. And as soon as the door to Ms. Kevinee’s office was shut, Avril turned around and pulled us through a window. ‘Gott hilf mir!’ sighed Elena, hauling herself up the window. Soon we were all behind some thick, red, velvet curtains which I recognised as the ones that hung in the Head’s office.
I was the last one up and so had to stand right at the edge of the curtains. I was terribly afraid that I might be seen. On the other hand, if someone was to open the curtains, I would be the last to be found, Avril being the first.
That wasn’t the only problem though. I found it extremely tempting to peek around the edge of the curtain to see what was going on, for all I could hear through this thick material was a low hum of voices.
So I peeked. And I made eye contact with Ms. Kevinee. I quickly withdrew my head and was about to hiss to my friends to move up when I heard the screech of a chair being scraped back, a scream and a thud. I couldn’t bear it. I had to look.
So I looked. And I screamed. For at my feet was Ms. Kevinee, holding a knife, and on top of her was the Inspector. Gosh, she’d wanted to kill us so bad that she almost did so in front of the Inspector!
‘Girls!’ The Inspector towered before us menacingly.
And a lecture followed. In the middle of which Avril winked at me and said, ‘Three cheers to our next adventure.’
I rolled my eyes and dry retched. God help me. Or as Elena would say, Gott hilf mir…