and The Ice-Angel of Death
Chapter 8 - Surban
The outer reception door of Miss Poe's office was vigorously yanked
open and two men emerged. The figure of the first was that of someone
both girls had seen once before in almost the same situation. He was
tall, broad, dressed in black, wore the same anonymous dark glasses and
was chewing furiously on a tooth-pick that jutted aggressively from
between his large lips. But it was the sight of the second man that
caused Priscilla to grab Monique by the arm and turn her aside at a
drinking fountain situated in an alcove along the corridor. 'That's
Morris Sole! He's a Real Estate guy from the place where Dad and Mum bought
'Sole, as in Roseanne... ' began Monique.
'Sshhst!' said Priscilla, turning her back and pretending to be sipping, though watching out of the corner of her eye.
'... she don' have ta stay here, you can take her. You got no kids and plenty o' room at your joint!' barked the man in black.
Morris Sole seemed to wince as he hurried to catch up. 'Come on Angie,
you know that I would, but Julie's too busy to look after children,
anyway Roseanne has to go to school somewhere... '
The big man, Angie, halted and turned to face Morris Sole, bending his
shaved head to glare at him through his dark glasses, 'Julie's been a
pain in the ass since before ya married her! She's inta you for
everything she can get and you're too stupid ta see it. Anyways I can't
take the kid, you know that. I got lotsa business ta see to; Ronaldo...
Ronnie's business, and yours too. But I'll tell ya this! I aint happy
Morrie, I aint happy at all. An' now, after talkin' to that jumped-up
Headmistress again, I'm really gettin' put out, ya know? I promised yer
cousin ta take care of his motherless kid before he went inside. I owe
him, I'm his cousin too, we're all family right? An' now this bum
school wants to treat Rosie like she's a piece of garbage when she
tells it like it is. I don't like that Morrie. I'll back what she says,
she's got rights, and I'm not gonna let her get dumped on, there's
gonna be changes, ya got that!'
The smaller man defensively raised his arm, when suddenly he caught
sight of Priscilla and Monique. 'Wait a minute Angie, those girls
there, that's them Angie, they're part of all this grief. That one,
she's Prissie, or whatever-her-name-is Black and the dark girl is
probably her pal, the one Rosie said attacked her in the pool!'
The big man slowly turned like an immense battleship, his sunglasses
tilting toward Priscilla and Monique who were still huddled together at
the water fountain. 'Youse two,' he croaked, the tooth-pick in his
mouth splintering as he spat the fragments out onto the floor, 'don'
even thinka makin' a move.'
At this early time of the morning the corridor was empty of students
and teachers. Priscilla and Monique were alone, effectively cornered in
the alcove, as Angie's looming figure advanced, hemming them in, his
bulk closing out most of the light of day. 'You tha kid that kicked
Rosie in the guts?' he demanded of Monique, his left hand flexing as if
he was ready to grab her if she tried to bolt.
'She!' Priscilla's voice hit an indignant top note that cracked, 'she didn't kick anyone. Monique was trying to help her!'
'Not the way I got it kid! Shut yer mouth and keep outta this, I wanna
hear what yer black pal here has ta say,' came Angie's low, threatening
reply as he reached out to take hold of Monique's arm.
'Oh there you are girls,' called a voice from the direction of Miss
Poe's office. It was Lyn Reynard, secretary to the Head Mistress. 'Miss
Poe is ready to see you now. Stop being annoying with whatever you're
chattering on about. Hurry up and allow these gentlemen to be on their
Without further invitation both Priscilla and Monique dodged around the
two men and hastened down to the flapping arms of Miss Reynard who
ushered them inside with a swift, backward glance.
'Gee thanks Miss Reynard,' said Priscilla breathlessly, 'you really got us off the hook... '
'Did I just,' replied Lyn Reynard, shutting the door, 'well be that as
it may, what are you, Miss Black, doing here? The Head Mistress wishes
to speak with Miss Bateleur.'
'I know that, but I've got some stuff to tell her that's important,' urged Priscilla.
'Umm, I see,' Miss Reynard answered, weighing Priscilla's words before
opening the inner door. 'I have Miss Bateleur and her roomy Miss Black
here,' she said.
There was a pause, then, 'Send them both in,' came Miss Poe's voice,
and the two girls registered her rather quavery tone before they
they found the office apparently empty as they gazed, wide-eyed toward
the large desk and then around the room. Behind them the door closed
with a quiet, but firm click.
'The last time you were both here in this office, I said that I did not
want to see either of you again this year. Yet now, Miss Black, you are
indeed here again, and this time voluntarily. Why?'
Priscilla heaved a very audible sigh. 'Because, Miss Poe, I have something to tell you about a plastic bag... '
Ten minutes later Miss Poe, who had not spoken at all during
Priscilla's tale, finally nodded. 'And that is all you have to say Miss
'Well, yes,' said Priscilla slightly exasperated. 'But surely that gives you an explanation of what happened... '
'An explanation, yes,' said Sonia Poe, biting at the corner of her lip,
'but an empty plastic bag is not sufficient evidence to make
accusations. As it is, I commend you Monique, for your efforts to save
a competitor in distress. So both of you may return to your classes
without another thought.'
'Does that mean you believe what we say?' asked Priscilla.
'It means only that I take into consideration your thoughts and note
them. For the time being I have no further questions and strongly
suggest that you both put the incident behind you.'
'But what about Roseanne?' protested Priscilla. 'Is she going to be allowed to get away with this?'
'Miss Sole, when she returns from observation, after recovering from
her... trauma, will be transferred to another Form One class... '
'Why?' said Priscilla aghast, as Monique tried to restrain her. 'You
can't be serious? She'll only spread her poison wherever she goes. She
should be kicked out of... '
'Miss Black!' said Sonia Poe, rising from her seat, 'You are not in
charge here! You are a first year pupil and will do as you are told!
Decisions are taken by the staff of Hopewell Hall and I am the Head
Mistress of Hopewell Hall! Both of you seem to have a way of turning up
whenever there is a difficult situation... '
'Miss Poe,' said Monique, quietly, 'we are not the cause of any trouble... '
'I understand that,' Sonia Poe answered, her grim expression softening,
'I didn't say you were. You just appear to be on the periphery of
trouble. Get along. It's time for School Assembly.' A pulse was
beating, standing out against Sonia Poe's temple as she dismissed them,
and both Monique and Priscilla noticed that her fingers were trembling.
'Hurry up girls or you'll be late,' said Lyn Reynard, holding open the
outer office door. 'The coast is clear, those Gentlemen have gone,' she
winked at them, 'and off the record, don't take anything too much to
heart, the Head knows what she's doing. You're going to get a new
addition to One B, and she will need all the help and kindness you and
your classmates can give her. But don't tell that to anyone else yet,
or my head will be for the chop!' Secretively, she put her finger to
her lips and propelled them out into the empty corridor.
'Ohh Priscilla, I have a bad feeling about all this,' said Monique as
the two girls hurried out onto the Quad. 'What do you think?'
'I think it stinks!' said Priscilla emphatically. 'Roseanne's done it
again, for whatever reason, and she's going to get away with it. She
gets moved! And we get someone in her place, some other trouble-maker
probably. In the meantime what the heck are Morris Sole and that big
gorilla Angie doing? Annie's dad is "inside". That means prison
probably. She's "motherless", like her mum's gone or dead maybe, and
her uncle is Morris Sole. Henry didn't like him when we went to the
real estate office and my little brother, although he's a pain in the
bum sometimes, is a pretty good judge of character. It looks like both
those men want to keep her here because nobody wants to take care of
her and it's easier this way as long as she stays on ice. But because
she's making waves, Angie Gorilla doesn't like it. Miss Poe is just
moving Roseanne to shift the problem so that she doesn't get heavied,
'... Now, with ancient valour rising, let us hail you, Liberty!'
The National Anthem of Cyprus was blaring as Monday Assembly, conducted
by Hopewell's Assistant Head, Stanley Mitikovski, ended and the flags
of many countries fluttered proudly along the Quad on the winter
As the music concluded, Priscilla and Monique were trudging side by
side amongst the rest of form One B toward the entrance of the corridor
that led to Auguste Munro's music class.
'Hoo Boy!' exclaimed Jeff Sinclair, sauntering along in front of them.
'I'm glad it's "Mad Munro" first up this early morn, I'm done an'
dusted after the weekend, phew! What a hooter the last couple of days
'Whatja get up to Sinc? Heavy horseshoes or intense tiddlywinks?' asked Doug Downes, sneering over his shoulder sarcastically.
'Motorbikes, smart arse!' Sinclair shot back grinning, 'Remember, it's
you that gets to visit yer old Granny for all your kicks. I do the cool
stuff. Especially when Dad and big Bro are winding up the vroom-vroom's
on their new machines like you wouldn't believe. Early Saturday morning
we went upcountry and camped out under the stars in the best secret
place! Whoh! it was awesome!'
'Get yer hand off it Sinc,' said Ray Sharp, giving him a friendly
shove, 'some of us don't care about your love-life with a big
mechanical throbber between your legs!'
'Yes,' added Jesus Mendosa, rather piously, as the class reached the
already vibrating door of Auguste Munro's music class, 'some of us are
interested in the higher, musical things of life...'
The door was hauled open by their teacher and as he beckoned them
inside, the words of a song blasted out at them, '... dead skunk in the
middle of the road. Dead skunk in the middle of the road. Yer gotcha
dead skunk in tha middle of the road, stinkin' to high heaven!'
The song rattled to a conclusion as Form One B stumbled to their seats.
'What in hell was that?' asked Dion Delmenico from behind, whilst
Priscilla and Monique and the rest of the class sat down, stunned.
'That, was a snip of what's to come this Crazy Songs period Mister
Delmenico, and you're gonna get some Spike Jones and The City Slickers,
On the Amazon by uncle Don, a thing called, Ain't gonna fatten no more
frogs for snakes, and The William Tell Overture. Who was that masked
man? And who was the guy with the bow and arrow? Not Tonto that's for
sure, but we'll have to let William Tell us all aboot it!' shouted
Auguste Munro, seated now and propelling himself across the rostrum
toward his audio console. 'But first we have a few "but firsts" on the
agenda. To begin with, and having been heavied solidly by your very own
Narenda Upady, I've spooken with Miss Purdie Smith of Art and Dance and
with your Form Mistress Miss Van Weenan aboot a certain "girl's only"
Rap-dance workshop. We all think it's a good proposal and that it might
just open up opportunities for some of our incoming year-seven
students. Especially for those who are not able to indulge in other
forms of physical activities,' and here he winked directly toward Saif
al Saiph who smiled, somewhat uncertainly, back.
'Having said that,' Gus Munro went on, 'there are still some minor
details to get sorted before we can actually organise times and a venue
suitable; maybe one of these rooms or even the basketball court,
depending on how many girls are interested in a Rap class, and of
course it has to happen outside of school hours, so night-time when you
have to fit in studies and so forth. But we'll get around all the
hassles one way or another. Purdie and I are both willing to put in
some time if you girls from One B and those from other classes are?'
There was a general murmur of approval from the girls in the room, but
Dion Delmenico called out, 'What about us guys? Don't we get a go at
'Dancing with girls?' said Sandro Anastasi, 'What about footy and soccer practice?'
'Big decision Mister Anastasi, another free-time night taken up. But
it's only dancing with girls anyway. Come to think of it, you weren't
invited. This is girls only. Maybe later. Get a life you guys and let
the girls do their thing. Girls only Rappin' class is in the mix! Take
a bow Miss Upaday!'
Narenda stood and nodded her head toward Monique and Priscilla, before
modestly sitting again to find, to her surprise, Saif's fingers curling
'And now that you kiddies are all settled I want to tell you that your
classmate Roseanne Sole has moved on. She's gone over to One E. Seems
Miss Sole sucked up... '
'Hey, that doesn't surprise anybody!' Sinclair called out, prompting some laughter around the room.
'Cool it Mister Sinclair!' Gus answered, sweeping his arm in the
direction of the grinning boy. 'As I was saying, "sucked up" some pool
water, and didn't like the taste. Looks like the swimmin' is easier in
One E. Anyhow, there's good news and bad news depending on how you view
it. The good news is that One B has a new settler to take her place.
Her name is Surban... '
'Not the Masked Marvel,' muttered Leroy, who was sitting with Sandro
Anastasi just in front of Priscilla and Monique. 'She's just a tent on
'Or a letter-box,' Sandro sniggered.
'Welcome to Australia, Mister Amberson, Mister Anastasi!' remarked Gus
Munro. 'You guys think you own this place? Nobody else should come
here? Especially if they don't look like you or your sisters? Well
This is Freedom Big Time! This is what people fought to have and to
hold, for you and for your kids. Get off the Heydy-Ho and reach out a
helping hand. You got mail and it's coming through that door just aboot
On cue, the class-room door opened and Juliet Van Weenan entered.
Behind her another figure, clad from head to foot in dun-coloured
robes, shuffled in. It was a totally anonymous figure; there was
nothing about it that might have signified whether it was male or
female. Even the dark eyes, glimpsed through a slit in the
headcovering, were over-shadowed.
'Sorry to interrupt your class Mister Munro. This won't take very long,
I just wanted to introduce a new pupil', said Miss Van Weenan, drawing
her charge forward. 'As Form Mistress of One B, I want to present...
umm... this young lady. Her name is... ahh... Surban. She came to the
school a couple of months ago and was placed in One E. However, with
the change of class for Roseanne Sole it has been decided that um...
... should be re-situated to this class. It is neither a promotion or
demotion for either pupil, merely a repositioning suitable to both. I
trust that One B will welcome Surban and quickly make her feel at home.'
'That's just dinky-fine Miss Van Weenan, let's find a spot... Hey! An
empty seat right down there with Marge looks the goods to me,' said Gus
Munro, heartily flapping his arm towards Roseanne's vacant chair next
to Marge Turnbull. 'Come along young lady, take a load off your feet so
that we can get going on this morning's lesson.'
Surban's hooded head tilted slightly to one side, then the shrouded
figure shuffled to the offered place and sat down, motionless.
'There is just one other thing,' went on Juliet Van Weenan, and her
body language seemed to suggest that she was not happy in what she was
about to say next, 'I... It has also been decided that some room-mates
are to be changed around for reasons... Head Mistress Poe takes
responsibility for these new allocations,' she ended lamely, unfolding
a slip of paper and consulting it. 'Miss Bateleur is to shift in with
Marge Turnbull and Surban is to room with Miss Black.'
For a moment there was silence before Priscilla rose from her seat, her
face a mask of astonishment and anger. 'You can't be serious! Is this
some kind of punishment? Why are Monique and me being split up? We
haven't done anything wrong!'
'Nobody is suggesting that you have Priscilla,' said Juliet gently.
'Room-mates get moved around for all kinds of reasons. This has nothing
to do with punishing anybody.'
'Well it will be punishing Moni and me! We're best friends! I mean I
haven't got anything against this new girl or Marge, it's just that...
that... ' Tears began to ebb from Priscilla's eyes and she collapsed
onto her seat while Monique, whose face was also deeply troubled, put
an arm about her friend's shoulders.
For a second, Juliet Van Weenan seemed almost to lose control of her
own emotions; she took a pace forward, then halted, bouncing slightly
on the balls of her feet, her extended hand hesitating before coming up
to her rather flushed face. 'I'm sorry that this is upsetting, but even
as Form Mistress there are some things beyond my control... '
'That's O.K. Miss Van Weenan, we kinda get the picture,' said Ray
Sharp, One B's Form Captain, from the back of the room. 'We'll make
Miss Surban welcome and I reckon she couldn't get a better roomy than
'Or Margie with Monique,' offered Leroy Amberson, turning toward the two distraught girls.
Miss Van Weenan, seemingly lost for words, glanced at Auguste Monro,
the look on her face clearly saying, Thankyou Sharpy, Leroy; guys
coming to the aid of girls, whoever could have imagined? Now Gus, get
me out of this, please!
Munro, taking in her distressed look, said, 'Well now kiddos, I'm sure
Miss Van Weenan has another class sitting around twiddling their thumbs
and we've got plenty to get through, so let's get on with Crazy Songs!
Here's Bongo Bongo Bongo, I don't wanna leave the Congo!' And with that
he hit a button on the audio console and music erupted into the room.
Juliet managed to make her exit, wiping away a tear as she left.
Yet for the rest of the period, with all its mad lyrics and raucous,
rowdy music, Priscilla and Monique huddled together, completely
Chapter 9 [next]