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BlackEagle Girls
and The Ice-Angel of Death

Chapter 4 - Blood Pool

'These dreams seem to be ongoing Cilla. Do you not think that you should report them to Sister Menzies?'
said Monique, as she and Priscilla walked across the cobblestoned pathway that led from the Dormitory North-Wing to the old Chapel buildings that were set apart from the main squared plan of Hopewell Hall's boundary. 'At the least they are disturbing your hours of sleep, and what with travelling for a good part of last night in the Black Eagle to England and back, it cannot be good for you.'

'It's all probably to do with getting bopped on the head because of that big ox Roseanne,' Priscilla replied, stopping to stretch her arms and then bending them so that her hands clasped the back of her neck. She tilted her head from side to side and shook it tentatively. 'Still feels a little wuzzy, but I'll get over it, and dreams happen, even if this last one was so scary. I mean I don't like spiders at the best of times, but when one is bigger than me and has me cornered in an empty room without any doors, and its hairy white legs are reaching out... '

'I know, you woke me with your cries and I spent half an hour calming you until you settled,' said Monique, massaging Priscilla's shoulders. 'Promise me that you will tell the Sister... '

'Oh look,' answered Priscilla, changing the subject, 'There's Saif and Jesus Mendosa. Isn't it really good that other people of different countries and beliefs feel comfortable coming to spend some quiet time here?'

'Yes, it is good,' answered Monique, who was well aware of her friend's dismissive ways, 'but changing the subject will not save you. Promise me that if these dreams persist, you will speak to the Sister, or else I shall have to tell your Mother and Father... '

'Reckon you'd tell your folks too, if they weren't in Tasmania,' Priscilla said with a laugh, enjoying Monique's gentle, soothing fingers. 'Anyway, Mum's probably tied up with the post-production of Child's Play, and Dad's still laid-up at home giving Granny a hard time. Henry too. Bet he's on the go with Harry and Gizard. Come on!' She darted forward, leaving Monique, hands in mid-air, shaking her head, her mouth breaking into her characteristic white-toothed grin.

On this particular autumn Sunday mooring, the interior of the Chapel was cool, and yet not unbearably so.
The upper walls were composed of sandstone, with bluestone laid along the lower levels and down into the foundations. It was an old building, by Australian standards, dating back into the early Eighteen Hundreds when white settlers had moved inland along the rough roads radiating out from Port Phillip Bay and it's burgeoning city of Melbourne. Here, sometime in that past, a collection of farmers had founded a community that required a House of Homage and the supporting buildings for those who would see to its upkeep and the schooling of their children. More than a century later, the sprawl of the city and its extending suburbs had overwhelmed the tiny outpost and it, along with many like it, had been submerged in the nexus of a fading importance. By the time of Hopewell Hall's beginnings, not too long after the turn of the Twentieth Century, the old buildings lay derelict but were again resumed as storage areas for the new school. Slowly, during the latter years of the century, the ensuing Custodians of Hopewell Hall began to consider that the Chapel and its adjoining school and store rooms and associated outhouses might be of some worth, and attempts to maintain them were sporadically carried out.

At the beginning of the new, enlightened (as every new century is always acclaimed) Twenty-First Century, the Chapel was again fit to receive worshippers. By then the Board of Benefactors had realised the Heritage potential of the building, restoring parts of the slate roof and installing heating, but it was Sonia Poe, Hopewell's Principle, who had seen further, and it was because of her vision that not only the non-denominational Chapel was available for any who wished to find peace and solace within its walls, but also rooms had been set aside to accommodate other religions: Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, and these were available to and tended by the senior students of the school who were responsible for their cleaning and upkeep. There had been many objections and obstacles from students, parents and the Board to overcome, but in the end, Sonia Poe and her Assistant Head-Master Stanley Mitikovski, backed by their staff, had prevailed. Any students who wished were able to access the facilities through the daylight hours of each weekend and on special days, according to individual religions. And because of the serenity of the old buildings, those of no particular religion, or even those who were un-believers, were still inclined to come there and spend some time to rest, contemplate and unwind, unhindered by adult supervision; although it was not unusual for teachers and the general staff at Hopewell to also attend from time to time.

'Brrr, it's a bit chilly in here, wonder why the heating's not on?' said Priscilla, doing up the buttons of her navy blue cardigan with trembling fingers and then thrusting her hands into the pockets.

Monique stole a sidelong glance at her friend, noticing her pale, pinched face and said, 'It does not seem all that cold to me Cilla. Are you feeling unwell?'

'No, no... I'm O.K. Just... Oh there's Terri and Belinda over there. Come on, I want to sit with them.'

After spending twenty minutes in quiet contemplation amongst a gathering of students that continued to grow whilst the four sat together in silence Priscilla, looking pale and tense, motioned to the others that she was going outside. Anxiously, Monique got up and moments later the two other girls followed.

They found Priscilla standing in the warming Autumn sunlight, and it was like looking at another person. Colour seemed to be draining back into her cheeks and she had stopped shivering.

'Sorry guys, I don't know why, but for some reason I felt like I was freezing in there. I'm feeling better now that I'm out here,' she said as the others gathered anxiously around her.

'You're not coming down with the flu are you?' said Terri Tory-Toth, holding the palm of her hand to Priscilla's forehead.

'I don't think so,' Priscilla replied, pulling away abruptly. 'Anyway, now that we're all here and nobody's around I want to apologise to you Belinda.'

'To me, why?' Belinda answered, surprised.

'Because I had some silly thoughts that you were being sniffy with us, like you didn't believe what was going on. Like you thought you were somehow superior and we were all just idiots.'

'Oh Priscilla! It's me that should be saying sorry to you, to all of you.' Belinda looked around at their faces and her hands sought theirs. 'I've been thinking about what happened last night ever since we came back, I'm sure I'll have to go to bed early or I'll never get up for classes tomorrow, but now, in a new day... '

'In a new day, you are just like me; dumb-belled!' said Narenda, joining the group un-noticed until she spoke up.

'I think that is dumbfounded!' said Monique and the others laughed, as did Narenda.

'Now I am the dumb-bell!' she cried. 'And I don't care. It is all such a fantastic thing. It really did happen, didn't it?'

'Yes of course it did,' Terri said, reassuringly.

'And as Harry would say, "Welcome to the real world, Woof!' added Priscilla.

'Oh he is such a clever dog. I cannot wait for you to see him Belinda, he looks just like any...' Narenda fell silent as their Music Teacher Auguste Munro and Purdie Smith from Arts and Craft strolled by.
'So now Belinda and I are a part of the BlackEagle Girls,' she whispered conspiratorially, ' you have to tell us what we are to meant to do.'

'Well for one thing,' said Priscilla, 'seeing Miss Smith and Mister Munro together reminds me...'

'Oh you do not think that they might be, how do you say it? Ah, an item?' said Monique with a smirk.

'I was just going to say that it reminds me about Saif and what she can't do, like basketball and swimming and stuff. I've got this thought about girls from others countries and religions where there are limits to what they are allowed to do and I was just thinking that... ' Priscilla's words seemed to freeze in her throat.

Monique, who was standing beside her, followed Priscilla's gaze and saw the figure of a student emerging from one of the further buildings at the rear of the Chapel. For a moment he turned toward their group and was fixed on the instant in Monique's memory: tallish, wearing the school colours of navy and gold, a forth or perhaps fifth year pupil, pale skinned, and with the most stunning shock of white hair crowning his head; she had seen him before in Sister Menzie's Infirmary. He turned away, as did Monique, to find Priscilla shivering again, her mouth agape.

'What were you saying Priscilla?' she urged, attempting to gain her friend's attention as they all began to walk back toward the Quad.

'Yere... Um... What was I say... Oh right, I thought maybe dancing could be good, you know, classes for girls; rapping and DJ-ing and stuff like that, to give them a chance to show what they can do and get them into the action, sort of... '

'A way to express themselves through writing their own words and singing and dancing it out in rap and hip-hop! That sounds like a splendid idea Priscilla,' said Belinda, 'and of course we would need to approach Miss Smith and Mister Munro to see if such a programme might be possible.'

'I think Mister Munro would have all the electronic equipment required and Miss Smith is as close as we have to a dance instructor,' said Terri, chiming in, 'so why don't we talk to them and see what they think?'

'Well I suppose we should suggest it to Miss Van Weenan first, after all she is One B's Form Mistress and it would be good to have her on our side,' said Priscilla. 'How would you like to do that Narenda?'

'Me? Oh! I would be privileged to take on this task,' Narenda replied, enthusiastically. 'I should like to be involved with rapping also, although I am not too sure of the music I hear from overseas, sometimes it is very violent and has lots of swear words in it.'

'That does not have to be the way it works here,' said Monique, 'we could make it our own; Australian, but with themes from all the countries that we come from. Belinda is right when she speaks of expression; free expression, and without the violence and swearing.'

'Let's do it!' said Terri, excitedly. 'That's what The BlackEagle Girls are all about; making things better for all! Narenda, it's up to you to!'

Narenda positively beamed. 'Thankyou for your confidence, I shall not fail you. I will speak with Miss Van Weenan as soon as I can tomorrow!' The words had hardly left her mouth when the figure of Roseanne Sole loomed up in the corridor that led back through the ground floor of Hopewell's east wing.

'Comin' soon to a swimming pool near you! Annie Sole smashes all comers! Get yer black arse ready for a tanning Batface!' she said, her broad grin covering the threat of her words as she pushed her way through the group. 'Annie got Blacky at basketball,' she said in a sing-song voice, 'and now she's gonna nail you, ya bitch!' she flung at them, poking her fingers into Monique's shoulder as she thumped past.

'Ohhh! She's asking for it!' Priscilla ejaculated, taking a step after the girl.

'Come on Pricilla! Do not let her provoke you into a fight,' said Narenda, catching hold of her arm. 'Let's leave it be until the class trials. She only wants to stir Monique and upset her. And anyway, Karen Presley seems to be nearly as strong in the water, she might be able to beat Roseanne.'

'I'd like to beat her!' said Priscilla, allowing herself to be drawn away, 'with a cricket bat!'

It was Friday afternoon and around the indoor pool at the southern end of Hopewell's grounds, all of the First Formers were gathered to compete and support their class mates.

'This is the first of three swim-offs in the two hundred metre breast-stroke section for the boys of One B The finalists are Ray Sharp, Sandro Anastasi, Jesus Mendosa and Douglas Downes.'
There was a burst of applause and cheering that fed back into the Public Address system, followed by a metallic resonance that distorted Barry Garland's words until someone tweaked it into submission. 'Swimmers, on your blocks, set!'

A starting pistol, brandished by Juliet Van Weenan, cracked and the four boys dived into the water and burst forward as a tightly packed group.

'Go Doogy!' yelled Anita Duncan as she stood and stamped on the wooden seats, so that Priscilla had to move slightly to one side.

'Bloody hell! You'd think she thought Doug was the best thing since sliced bread!' Priscilla managed, bellowing into Monique's ear above the racket all around them.

'Well he is a good swimmer!' shouted Narenda leaning around Monique's back, 'but I think Sandro can beat him!'

'Perhaps over this distance, but not in the four hundred meters,' said Monique emphatically, watching as the boys began to string out with Ray Sharp taking the lead by a half-body length.

'Go Sharpey!' screamed Sylvia Knight, barely missing a beat of furious gum-chewing, and banging with her fists on the back of the timber seats.

'Carn Jesus! Get your rhythm going! Ya know! The old rhythm method! In, out, in, out! Aw sorry, I mean up, down, up, down!' yelled Jeff Sinclair, doing all the movements and grinning.

'Shut up Sinc!' called Leroy Amberson, as the four swimmers reached the end of the pool, touched and flipped for the return, 'Sandro's got it in the bag!' And as the words left his mouth, Sandro Anastasi began to peg back the field. By half the length of the pool he had worn down his opponents and was almost a body length in front. The students of One B were screaming as he touched, with Ray coming in second, followed by Jesus and Doug in a dead-heat.

'Well done guys,' boomed Mister Garland's voice, 'Sandro Anastasi takes out the first heat, but don't get disappointed just yet. You all have a couple of chances at him in the weeks to come. There's a lot more before the finals later this year. Now it's the turn of the four qualifying boys from One A! Let's hear it for Tim Nichols, Tran Chok, Vennie Bonenza and Jimmy Crandle!'

The One A section erupted as the boys cleft the water and began their sprint up the pool.

'Phew!' shouted Priscilla over the tumult, 'this school rocks! The way the competition works is brilliant! Next up comes One A's girls and then us! It's going to be you Moni! I know you can do it, you can beat Marge and Karen, you just gotta watch out for Roseanne, she's pretty powerful and she's already said she's gonna win and she'll do anything to win, you know that.'

Monique, studying the boys of One A fighting it out, grinned, 'Yes, I know that. Now I must go and get ready.'

It was Jimmy Crandle of One A, a boy whose father was an American business man setting up a pizza franchise in Melbourne, who blitzed the field and won easily by three body lengths.

'Wow, can he swim!' shouted Tsuang Tsu, as she arrived to sit in a seat behind Priscilla. 'I think he will win every trial for our class in this event, and he is probably favourite for the school finals.'

'He is pretty good, ' called Priscilla over the din of students cheering and catcalling, 'and whoever ends up challenging out of our form will need to eat plenty of spinach to beat him! What about your girls, how do you think Terri will go?'

'She gives herself a chance, but Olive and Cathy are... Ah! Here they come!'

'Attention everybody. Now it's One A's girls that take centre stage. Let's hear it for Susie Berri, Olive Atandi, Terri Tori-Toth and Cathy Crapper!'

The poolside students burst into loud applause and hoots of support.

'Go Terri, go!'

'Yea Susie, you can do it!'

'Olive, Olive! Oi! Oi! OI!'

'Give 'em heaps of it!' shouted Jeff Sinclair gleefully, 'you can do it all over them Cathy baby!'

'What does he mean by that?' asked Tsu, standing and clapping.

'Aw, Jeff's having a go at her name,' answered Priscilla, who was also now on her feet, 'there was a great swimmer in the Olympic Games in Melbourne in the olden days about fifty or sixty years ago, won medals. Her name was Crapp.'

'Ah! I see, so he refers to her,' shouted Tsu.

'Yeah! But crap is another word that's used for... I mean here in Australia it means... um... you know, what um... when you go to the toilet... do-doos... um...'

'Oh!' said Tsu, 'I thought it just meant rubbish or something worthless. Mister Sinclair is a naughty boy!'

The starting pistol cracked and the four girls cleft the water as one. At the turn, Terri was third behind Olive Atandi and Suzie Berri, and had Cathy belting up hot on her tail. As they touched at the far end and spurted out for the return, Suzie Berri had overtaken Olive and Cathy had drawn alongside both Terri and Olive.

'Come on Terri!' shouted Priscilla and Tsu together, and Narenda, standing too, hailed the girls as they flew down the length of the pool.

Olive began to overhaul Suzie with Cathy and Terri hard on her flying heels. Halfway down the pool the four girls were neck and neck, hardly an armspan between them.

'Oi Olive Oi!' screamed several of the One A boys who fancied her.

'Get your bum into gear C C!' shouted Jeff Sinclair, becoming involved and forgetting any inferences toward her name.

'Go Terri go!' ' You can do it!' Priscilla, Tsu, Narenda and now Saif Al Saiph were screaming all at once.

In a flurry of spray, the four girls crashed toward the end of the pool locked together, but it was Suzie who touched first with Cathy coming second, followed by Terri and Olive.

'Ohh, they were all so close!' yelled Priscilla, flopping back onto the hard boards of the pool seats, as the contestants spluttered and began hauling themselves out of the water.

'Now it is our turn,' said Saif, pointing at One B's girls emerging from the locker rooms and heading toward the starting blocks.

'Alright everyone, settle down, next on the bill are the girls from One B and after them we have One C, D, E and F, so plenty more to come. But now, let's hear it for Karen Presley, Marge Turnbull, Roseanne Sole and Monique Bateleur!'

Even before the four had mounted the starting blocks, One B's section began cheering and was joined enthusiastically by many from One A and others around the pool who knew Roseanne Sole by reputation. There came a rattle of jeering and catcalling as she thumped up to take her position, but when she looked around, sweeping her gaze across the audience, many faltered and fell silent. Marge Turnbull was also greeted with little enthusiasm because she was known as a pal of Roseanne's, but when Karen Presley stepped up there came a rowdy burst of stamping and clapping, and some loud wolf whistles from many of the boys of all the first forms. She certainly could turn heads, even at the age of twelve, and had also made an early impression with her abilities in the pool in both breaststroke and butterfly events.
Last came Monique, and Priscilla beamed. Her friend was wearing new black swimmers with a tricolour slash of blue, white and red from shoulder to waist, and with her shimmering blue-black skin and firm body contours she looked ready to do her best against strong competition.

'Moni picked the bathers because of the colours, French flag with the black background, thought it was luck!' shouted Priscilla above the cries and cheering.

'Well she will need it!' called Tsu into her ear, 'She's got Karen on one side and Roseanne in the other lane next to her. I do not know about Marge in the far lane, is she good?'

'She can swim strongly, but she would not dare to beat Anni... oh, that is Roseanne,' said Saif, chewing at the rag-end of her head-scarf.

'Carn Karen! You can take that big girl!' yelled Sinclair, standing and stamping his feet as the four settled.

'Quiet! Quiet everybody!' boomed Mister Garland's voice over the public address system. 'Swimmers, on your blocks, set!'

A moment's pause, then the pistol snapped and the four competing girls plummeted into the pool. Marge Turnbull broke the surface before the rest but after several strokes the group drew level, ploughing through the water in a line abreast.

As they forged toward the pool's end Roseanne Sole began to inch into the lead, the others still locked together right behind her.

'Come on Moni! Give it all you've got!' Priscilla cried, noting with despair that Monique and the other two were slowly falling behind.

As Roseanne touched the wall and turned for home, Priscilla had a brief glimpse of her grimacing, or was it grinning, face emerging from the water before she plunged on. The three behind her turned as one and pushed off with strong legs that brought them up in her wake, three-quarters of a body length behind.

'Blast off Karen! Now's the time!' yelled Gary Ingles, grabbing Sinclair's shoulder as both began dancing down the pool's edge.

'Get out of there you two!' commanded Barry Garland's voice over the PA, causing them to drop in a sudden crouch.

The swimmers were quarter-way now and both Karen and Monique were pegging Rosanne back. Together, they drew level with her and in a few more strokes forged ahead. Marge Turnbull appeared almost to be hanging back. Now neck and neck at the half-way mark, Monique and Karen surged through the water with Monique seeming to be on the verge of pulling away. All eyes were watching the struggle between the two leaders when a cry of distress caused them to glance back.

'Help! It's Annie! Cramp! Can't hold her!' There was a sudden thrashing in the two far lanes where Marge and Roseanne were swimming. Both disappeared beneath the surface in a flurry of arms and legs, Roseanne resurfacing, spluttering and choking, Marge following, spitting water. 'Help! Someone help! She's pulling me dow... ' Marge vanished again in the flurry of white spray.

On that instant Monique faltered in her stroke as the cries of distress reached her. Then almost in slow motion, as Priscilla saw it, she veered aside, diving beneath the ropes into Roseanne's lane, her strong, supple arms dragging her back toward the stricken pair. In the meantime, hardly noticed, Karen Presley kicked on to touch in first. There was a sound that reverberated around the pool which, afterward, Priscilla could only describe as shock and horror as Monique reached the thrashing pair, somehow tore Marge loose, pushing her free, and grabbed hold of Roseanne around the neck. Barry Garland, who had sprinted the length of the pool, hit the water fully clothed. Juliet Van Weenan was busy holding back all those others prepared to take the dive, but before Mister Garland could get near Monique and Roseanne, both went under in a great spurt of spray that left the water frothing and heaving.

As Barry Garland powered through the water toward the submerged pair, someone in the crowd called out, 'Look! Look at the pool! That's blood! That's blood in the water!'

Chapter 5 [next]

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