The Sacred Secret
Chapter 6 - ...the spit can hit the fan!
Lights were coming on all over Hopewell Hall and sleepy students, now
wide-eyed, were spilling out into the corridors of the dormitory wing, wrapping
dressing gowns about their bodies to ward off the chill. Through the windows
that opened onto the Quad they could see the brightness of stadium electrics
blooming into action so that the entire area was suddenly transformed into day.
Several dressing-gowned live-in staff, clutching torches, were dashing about in
confusion until one of their number pointed and led the way toward the
Administration wing. The frantic screaming had abruptly ceased in the moments
before, yet as the teachers rushed forward some played their torch beams up and
across the roof line of the three story school-office building and Priscilla
thought that she glimpsed the outline of a single figure huddled at the edge of
grey slates, where the guttering was the only impediment to the flagpoles and
the bitumen below.
'Alright neow! The show is over for tonight! All of you can turn round and
march straight beck to bed, I'm telling you. You don' have to worry about a
thing, it's all under control. You hev early morning start to the day and then
weekend. Get some shut-eye an' we will see about this. Go, go!' Hopewell's
assistant Head, Stanley Mitikovsky, was brooking no resistance. He propelled any
who looked like they might want to linger back into their rooms and hauled their
doors firmly shut, strutting down the passage and cutting a swathe as he flushed
them out of his path.
'Phew!' said Priscilla, groping her way back to bed, 'what was that all
about? Didja see the kid on the roof?'
Monique, who had managed to crawl back under the covers and was busy removing
her dressing gown, said, 'Non. You saw a student up there?'
'I think so...well at least it looked like...Oh gosh! Louis! It couldn't
'Now, now, make yourself calm Cilla. It is not your Brother, not unless his
voice has rebroken and he screams in falsetto,' Monique assured her.
'Oh yeah, sure,' said Priscilla, fumbling with the blankets, 'just
jumpy...you know...gotta get some zzze...'
In the morning the Palace was awash with more than soap and water; it fairly
buzzed with excited gabble and rumour, especially when it was discovered that
neither Roseanne Sole or her room-mate Saif Al Saiph had appeared.
'Why are they both missing, I wonder,' said Terri Tory-Toth, stepping out of
a shower recess, towelling her hair dry. 'Do you think last night was something
to do with them?'
But before Priscilla or Monique could answer, Saif entered the block carrying
her towel and toilet bag and hurried over.
'Where's Boofhead?' Priscilla asked, referring to Roseanne Sole.
'Up in the school infirmary,' said Saif, breathlessly. 'I have just come from
Miss Poe's office...'
'So it was her!' exclaimed Terri, as others began to gather around.
'Ah...yes, it was her on the roof. I believe that she has been sedated and
the school nurse has examined her, and her family has been notified, although I
do not know if they have yet arrived.'
'Well!...Well!...Don't just stand there getting yourself ready for a shower.
What happened?!' said Priscilla, fairly bursting with curiosity.
'Yeah!' chorused several of the others from various first forms. 'Tell us
'Ohh,' said Saif, rather tremulously, 'I can tell you very little. I was
asleep last night and awoke to the sounds of screaming. I stayed in my bed until
I heard the noise of others in the corridor outside and then I risked turning on
my bedlight. It was then that I discovered that Roseanne was not in her bed. By
the time I came out, Mister Mitikovsky was sending everyone back into their
rooms, so I went back and got under the covers...'
'Gawd! What a wet blanket!' said some girl from the back of the crowd.
'Didn't ya think ta tell somebody?'
'Would anyone here like to share a room with Roseanne Sole?' Saif asked in
general. A swift silence fell over the Palace. Roseanne's reputation, even in
one week, was spreading. 'I did not know what the screaming was all about, I did
not know it was her. I only thought that at any minute she would come back, and
it would be better for me to be asleep. Then, early this morning, I was awoken
by Mister Mitikovsky and taken up to the office of the Head Mistress and they
asked me the same questions as you have. That is how I know what I have already
told. And I can tell no more. Now I must hurry, or I shall miss breakfast.' She
timidly made her way through those nearest the showers and vanished into a
cubicle, closing the door behind her.
During early breakfast in the main hall on the second floor of the students
wing, Priscilla, Monique, Tsuang Tsu and Terri Tory-Toth were deep in
conversation. '...so she is up on the Admin roof in the middle of the night,
screaming her head off,' said Terri, dunking her spoon into a bowl of
'Who, How, When, Where and Why?' muttered Priscilla, staring thoughtfully at
her untouched glass of fruit juice and ticking off the words on her fingers.
'What is it that you say?' asked Monique, turning to regard her friend with a
Priscilla drew a long intake of breath. 'Well...They're the questions that
newspaper reporters are trained to ask. We know the When bit, and I saw the
'On the roof of the Administration building, yes, we know that...' said Tsu,
'Yeah, but I saw where she was,' Priscilla emphasized, looking up, 'directly
above the flag pole that flys the aboriginal flag, that's where. How did she get
up there? Who took her there? Why? To scare her? Has someone found out about
what she did to the flag? Was she being threatened?'
'You don't think it could have been John Wynd?' asked Monique.
'Not unless he had others to help him. He couldn't do it on his own. No one
could, not with that big lump. She's too hefty to force alone...but now I'm
thinking How. There's a fire escape grid that runs all over Hopewell on the
inside walls, that's how it could have been done.'
Terri nodded, 'That makes sense, it's unlikely that she could have been
forced along the corridors and upstairs without some of the night staff seeing,
and besides I don't know how to get out onto the roof from the inside of the
building, do any of you?'
The other girls shook their heads.
'O.K. Maybe that takes care of the How part,' Priscilla said, unconsciously
pursing her lips as her father and brother often did. 'Now we are making a guess
as to the Why and the Who.'
'Wait a minute, it does not take care of the how part,' Monique pondered. 'I
mean, if she was taken against her will, how did the attackers get into her
room? She and Saif have keys and I suppose the only other keys are kept in the
school register. Who could have access to the duplicates?'
'Who? Yeah,' replied Priscilla, scratching at her nose, 'because it seems
plain enough that the Why was to scare the knickers off her...'
'Unless she did it herself,' suggested Terri, biting into a slice of jam
toast, 'mhat way,' she continued excitedly with her mouth crammed full, 'she
could mave opened mer own door...'
'What for? To get us into trouble? Umm Terri, rude to talk with a face
full...Is she that smart?' wondered Priscilla aloud.
'She is smart enough to blame you both for trying to drown Nisha's little
sister,' Tsu offered.
'And smart is one thing, vicious is what she specializes in,' suggested
Monique, twisting her fingers together, 'She has pulled my hair, and now I have
pulled her hair. Perhaps she wants to make it look like we have done this thing
'No,' said Priscilla, shaking her head. 'Won't work. How can she make us look
guilty if no one knows about the spitting thing? It only works if someone
blabbed about John Wynd and the flag and...you guys haven't said anything to
anyone, have you?'
Terri shook her head and Tsu gave Priscilla a reproachful look.
'Yes, but what about Saif and Narenda?' asked Monique, and just at that
moment a Prefect arrived at their table. 'I'm Rick Hill, Class A, Sixth Form,
and I've been sent to ask Miss Monique Bateleur and Miss Priscilla Black of Form
One B, to proceed with me to The Office of the Headmistress.'
Priscilla and Monique were cooling their heels outside Miss Poe's office door
on a rather hard wooden bench when John Wynd emerged, looking sullen, and his
mood deepened when he saw them. 'I trusted you all to stay out of this,' he
muttered as he passed, 'couldn't keep a secret if your life...' He shook his
head violently as if to ward off some thought in his mind and stamped down the
corridor toward the stairs.
'Ohhh, not happy John!' said Priscilla as he disappeared. 'Well, I guess that
lets him out of the running. Couldn't have been John that opened his mouth...'
'Come in girls,' said a voice from the doorway. It was Lyn Reynard, Sonia
Poe's secretary. 'Considering what's happened through the night, she's not in
too bad a mood,' she added, with a wink.
Moments later, both girls were sitting on the dark-stained timber chairs in
front of Sonia Poe's mahogany desk. The Head Mistress had her back to them as
they entered and while she continued to stare through the high window that
looked out across the Quad she said, 'Do you know why I have sent for you?'
'Umm...No,' Priscilla answered truthfully, although she had a strong feeling
that it was not for scones and tea.
'As you are both aware, I am sure, Roseanne Sole was discovered on the roof
of this building during the early hours of the morning in a very distressed
condition. Would either of you care to make a comment about that?'
'We do not honestly know how that came to be,' said Monique. 'It is a
shocking thing to have happened. She could have fallen to her death.'
'She claims that she was abducted from her room during the night, blindfolded
and taken up to the roof, where she was abandoned. She also claims that she was
gagged with masking tape and that her hands were taped together. After working
them free, she managed to remove the binding over her mouth and then the
blindfold. The shock of realizing where she was, stranded on the edge of fragile
guttering three stories up, caused her hysterics. If she had not stayed still
she could have plunged over. Now...' Sonia Poe turned from the window to gaze
sternly at Priscilla and Monique, 'I am aware of the flag-spitting incident, and
no, John Wynd did not tell me about it. He had nothing to say at all, even after
I confronted him with that information. He wished only, his words, that he
should be allowed to complete his duty as flag-monitor. He is an interesting
case,' Miss Poe pondered, almost losing her train of thought. Then regaining it
she went on, 'However, I know that you both, and several others, saw what
happened between the two of them.' She waited for a reply, but both girls
remained silent. 'Very well, I take it that you gave your word on your honour
not to say what you might know, and I commend you both on keeping your word; It
is something few, these days, consider worth anything. However, let me appraise
you both of this; the two of you have been in Hopewell less than one week and
already are marginally involved with some kind of crack-pot intimidation
incident, the cause of which probably lies in a bullying student who has been
dealt rough-justice by persons unknown. No, I don't suspect that either of you
had a part in this, but...' and here Miss Poe's face softened slightly, 'I
should caution you that it would not be prudent to become aligned one way or the
other. You don't understand anything about the situation...' she trailed off,
sitting down and drumming her fingers on the desk for a few moments as if making
up her mind whether to say more, then she added, 'Very well, you may go to your
next class but bear in mind that this incident is not over. I intend to get to
the bottom of it, and by the way, I have not forgotten what happened at Hedgeley
Dene when you both saved Narenda Upaday's sister from drowning, or the anonymous
girl amongst the crowd who accused you of pushing her in. I have no proof of
course, yet I am fairly certain who the culprit was. And I will be equally
pursuing those who abducted Miss Sole and so foolishly risked her life,
especially when they signalled their intentions by marking her...'
'They didn't cut her or anything!' exclaimed Priscilla, momentarily caught
'No, Miss Black, but they did spray three colours across the back of her
night shirt. Need I say more? You are new students to Hopewell Hall. This is a
school like any other, in this much, there are and will always be factions
moving through it, some for the good and others that...require our earnest
attention to set them on the right course. These various camps occur through all
levels from top to bottom and must be continually monitored, and here is where
our Prefects do the school great service...'
Just at that moment there was a swift knock at the door before it opened and
Miss Reynard looked in. 'Roseanne Sole's...um...Uncle...Mister Angelo Sole is
here Miss Poe.'
'That's fine, the girls were just leaving. You may ask him to come in,
thankyou Lyn,' said Sonia Poe, her expression leaving no doubt in the girl's
minds that she was preparing for trouble. 'Off you go Ladies, and do try to
avoid vexatious situations. I don't want to see you in front of my desk again
As Priscilla and Monique passed through the outer office they both found it
necessary to dodge around the figure of a large man dressed completely in black:
shoes, trousers, jacket and polo-neck cotton shirt. His head was shaved bald and
he wore a pair of dark sun-glasses that almost obliterated his features, except
for the toothpick jutting from a corner of his large-lipped mouth. 'I ain't got
all damn day!' they heard him bawl as he shoved past Miss Reynard and entered
'Ooddley Dooddley!' said Priscilla when they were out in the corridor, 'did
you check out that dude? He's bigger than Dad and looks like thunder. Miss Poe
is gonna have her hands full in there!'
'Yes, he seems a very overbearing person well suited to be an uncle of R.
Sole's,' Monica noted, without humour, as the pair hurried off toward the Quad
on their way to Science with Peter Brooks.
At lunch in The Thumpin' Tummy, another student cafe not far from Queasies,
they bumped into Louis, Priscilla's brother. 'Boy you two can get yourselves
into the action faster even than Henry could,' said Louis, waving a couple of
his second form mates on toward a vacant table.
'What's that meant to mean?' said Priscilla defensively, putting down her
'Well, it's all over the school,' Louis replied matter-of-factly, 'you lot
getting yourselves hauled up to the Head's office after that loony Roseanne Sole
copped her just deserts last night, not that I think either of you were in on
it,' he added hastily. 'But after her disgusting effort with the flag...'
'What do you know about that?' shot Monique, puzzled and affronted all at
'What do I...What does the entire school know, don't you mean? Look, it's
been circulating for a couple of days now. I wondered why it took so long for
somebody to sort her out. Probably just getting themselves organised...'
'So...somebody, one of our group, spilt the beans,' said Priscilla,
disappointment in her words.
'Didn't have to, the silly bitch took care of that herself,' Louis winked,
'apparently she couldn't stop herself from boasting to a couple of her pals
about what she'd done; you know, tell a secret to one and maybe that's O.K. but
let it out to any more and...well, I'm guessing, but sooner or later that's
going to reach a Prefect's ear, and away we go!' he ended, swooshing off with a
flourish of his lunch tray.
'That stupid lump blabbed about what she did herself!' said Priscilla,
dumbstruck. 'How could she, why wouldn't she just want to hide her head in
shame, instead of being so...'
'She is a bigot and doesn't know that she is,' said Monique. 'She thinks that
what she did was a good thing, and that most other people would agree with her.
Yet plainly, there are those amongst us who do not.'
'And suspicion falls upon John Wynd especially, that is if anybody knows that
he's part aboriginal...'
'And squarely upon anyone else in the school who is an aboriginal. All of
them will be watched from now on, not to mention others who's skin happens to be
black,' Monique added gloomily. 'But I have been thinking further about who
might have done this and how it was done. When we go home tomorrow I will need
to visit a...what do you call them...you know, where you buy hammers and nails
'Oui, then if I can find what I am looking for we may test one of my
After a period on the Politics of Australia, served up by the parchment dry,
long haired Justice Croad, his grey pony-tail swinging behind him as he strode
the aisles droning on about Chifley and Curtin, Class One B. was treated to the
final term of the day; another period on politics World-Wide. And again it came
from the same teacher, who looked as if a good dusting might at least cause a
pulse to begin beating beneath the robes that appeared never to have left his
back. At last, as the mini-seconds finally dripped through an hourglass of
agony, release came in the sound of the school siren. The first week at Hopewell
Hall was at an end.
'Oh, such a pity,' said Croad, his almost totally blue lips hardly moving,
'and just when we were about to see where the farming peasants of Italy, in the
aftermath of the great Greek civilisation, were about to begin their ascent
toward a community founded on the principles of politics. But never mind, Form
One B. I will prepare to enlighten you all next week. Enjoy your first weekend
at Hopewell, homework free. Although I should recommend The Rise and Fall of
Athens by Plutarch as a useful tome.'
'Yeah, there's no place like tome,' muttered Priscilla as she and Monique,
accompanied by Saif and Narenda, got the hell out of there and made for the
'I think that might be from where he has just arisen,' offered Saif as the
four trudged toward the Dorm wing.
'That would be tooomb,' suggested Monique, at which the four of them burst
into spontaneous laughter.
John Wynd was sitting on one of the many benches that were placed about the
Quad, gazing up at the Koorie flag fluttering proudly alongside a multitude of
others. In his hands he held a plastic bag that was the covering for the black,
yellow and red silk. As the girls drew near he rose and fell into step with
them. 'Listen, I have to apologise for what I said. I didn't know until later
this morning that it wasn't any of you. I found out that Roseanne mouthed off
about what she'd done to some of the others and the word got spread.' He
scratched at the top of his head, and heaved a large sigh. 'And I just want to
say I'm...' He was interrupted by the trill of Monique's mobile phone.
'You must think that I'm a...' John began again, but almost at once Monique
silenced him with a swish of her hand. 'Yes, yes Henry! Thankyou! Thank Granny
Black for me! Oh I could kiss you and her too. Yes, tomorrow! Thankyou Henry...I
will tell Priscilla...' Monique looked up at Priscilla and the others, her face
beaming. 'Everyone, my Mother and Father are flying in from Africa at ten
tomorrow morning! They will be here in Melbourne...Here...Home...My Mum and
Dad...Oh Cilla! I am so happy!'
All of them, including John Wynd, danced for joy, Monique's enthusiasm so
encompassing that for a few moments, everything else was forgotten. When they
had settled down, Monique turned to John, saying, 'Do forgive me but I thought,
up until a week ago, that I might never see my Mother and Father again.'
John, his enthusiasm draining away like a suddenly emptied receptacle, could
only manage a muted, 'Yes...It must be wonderful to know that they are alive and
on their way to Australia. It's good that you can see them again
tomorrow...Anyway, I suppose you'll need to get back to your room and have an
early night. I've got to hang around until five, to take down my...the flag.' He
turned back toward the bench. 'See you on Monday Monique, you can tell me all
about your weekend then...'
The girls, each of them elated at Monique's news, said goodbye and strode off
toward the Dorm wing without a second thought. None of them noticed a number of
other students, standing in small groups, amongst the trees and flagpoles at
several borders of the Quad.
Chapter 7 [Next]