and The Pirates of the Mystic Caravan.
Chapter 9 - They seek him here.
They seek him there.
The next week began with an amusing incident.
Amusing, at least, to Hopewell's students if not all the staff, although it was rumoured that some of the teachers were hard put to disguise their mirth.
It happened at the conclusion of Monday morning Assembly. England's national anthem, God Save The Queen, was programmed to accompany the marching groups to their various classes. Instead another orchestral piece, loud and strident and vaguely familiar to Priscilla, blared from the loudspeakers around the Quad. It continued unabated for several minutes until someone finally located the key, which had mysteriously gone missing from the door to the Public Address and Bell Room.
'So that's what my termite brother was doing over the weekend!' said Priscilla in an aside to Monique, as they left the Quad with its flying standards of many countries flapping in the wintry breeze.
'That music, it did sound familiar. What was it?' asked Monique, striding along.
'I'm pretty sure it was the sound track of Robin Hood. You know, that ancient movie that Henry made us watch last year.'
'Well I did not mind too much, it was kind of corny, but also rather exciting and romantic too with that man Errol somebody and Maid Marion and the evil Sheriff of Nobbleham.'
'Nottingham. Shows how much you took notice. I wonder if the little rodent will get away with this. He must have sneaked in and switched cassettes. Then locked the door and chucked the key, that's why they couldn't shut it off.'
'Why would they want to, it was very rousing.'
'Henry's gonna get a rousing if Miss Poe nails him,' smirked Priscilla.
But Henry had a perfect alibi. He had been in the school infirmary, complaining of a headache for some time before Assembly and all through its duration; a fact confirmed by Sister Menzies, who had administered aspirin and kept him under observation until he showed signs of improvement and was sent off to science class with Mister Brooks.
Of course he was still the prime suspect, and terms such as 'Master Mind' and 'accomplice', or 'accomplices unknown,' were bandied about with quite good humour during morning tea in the school staff room.
'Slick little beggar,' winked the English teacher Don Gannon, sipping at his steaming Earl Grey.
'Probably a career choice toward a life of crime as a con artist,' muttered Leon Rankin, rapidly filling squares in a numerical puzzle book.
'Or a cat burglar,' suggested Jan Kelly.
'Then again it might not be him at all,' said Jane Aderly, conspiratorially. 'It might be a whatchamacallit? You know, copy cat joker. Someone who uses somebody else's modus operandi.'
'Yes, quite right Missus Aderly, although some might say you spend too much time reading who-dun-its during Library hours,' said Roger Dance, idly inspecting his fingernails and making a mental note to re-varnish them that evening.
'Well there are other pranksters at Hopewell,' Jane answered defensively. 'Jeffery Sinclair in 2B. And... and even Eddie Mott from 4D. for one.'
'Mister Rankin will tell you that Sinclair and Mott add up to more than one, Jane.' said a voice from the door.
'Oh yes Head, they add up to trouble from a mathematical point of view or just simply in tandem. That I do know.' answered the Librarian. 'Throw in Henry Black and we have a Trinity of Terrors...'
'Well at least none of them are of the vindictive kind... so far.' said Sonia Poe, beginning the makings of a cup of coffee. 'Meantime, setting this morning's audible disruption aside, one of the gardeners has managed to run his ride-on along the side of a vehicle in the car park. Who owns a white Ford Commodore, licence number... '
'So how's your headache now?' Asked Priscilla of Henry as he and his two pals Vincent and Brodie sauntered into The Thumpin' Tummy Cafe during a break in the lunchtime racket that passed for music. 'Couldn't let me be sick last week without getting in on the act could you?'
'Yay! Hi Sis, Moni. I'm O.K. Just a bit queasy still,' Henry said, grinning and nudging Brodie.
'You're going to get yourselves caught sooner or later, you know that don't you?' said Monique, her eyes roaming around the nearest tables to make sure they were not being overheard.
'Ever seen The Scarlet Pimpernel?' Henry countered.
'Well... No. I do not even know what it is,' Monique answered, turning to Priscilla, who looked equally mystified.
'They seek him here, they seek him there,' said Vincent in a whisper that bubbled into a guffaw.
'I've got a new, old movie,' Henry confided. 'The Great Race. Tony Curtis. Jack Lemmon. Soo funny. I will be Tony Curtis. Every one else will be... waiting.'
'Bummer that we can't get jam and cream buns in school anymore,' said Brodie, eyeing the Cafe's distant glass counter with its array of fresh fruit, yogurt-muesli and dried-fruit offerings.
'Yeah, I really fancy a custard tart,' said Vincent grinning broadly.
'Custard apples are about as good as it gets at Hopewell.' said Priscilla, shaking her head in exasperation and eye-balling Henry directly. 'You'll have to convince Granny to do a special desert for you and your little gan... er, friends next time you all get a weekend home.'
'Aw Sis, you're beginning to sound grown up and boring like Louis.' Henry answered. 'You never know when a cream pie is just around the corner. See ya Moni. Common dudes, let's go check Rosalind and her mates over there.'
'Who is this Tony Curtis?' Monique asked after the trio had wandered off.
'Another grandpa actor out of Henry's stable of old far... and away! Get a load of that!' Priscilla indicated with a widening of her eyes in the direction of the large plate-glass window that overlooked much of the Quad. 'That's Morris Sole, Boofhead's Uncle, with Mister Mitikovsky!'
'There is a lot of arm waving and I think it is Mister Sole that is doing the "I'm telling you!" to Mister Mitikovsky.' said Monique leaning forward.
'Wonder what's up and why Sole is here?' said Priscilla. 'He only makes an appearance if there's drama with Pig-face. Maybe he's come to take her out of school? Nah! We couldn't be that lucky. He's probably just bitching about Hopewell's fees or something. Oh bugger!'
Priscilla's final outburst was because of the school warning bell chiming the end of lunch break. 'Come on Mon, it's time to drag and drone with Croad and Politics.'
'I am half-asleep already,' Monique replied, hefting her satchel of books across her shoulder.
As it so happened, the two girls were able to overhear the final part of the conversation between Mitikovsky and Sole and head Mistress Poe, who had appeared upon the scene as they exited The Thumpin' Tummy and dallied by the outside seats, doing up shoe-laces and re-organising books behind a screen of potted trees.
Morris Sole was in fact complaining about his motor car, or more correctly, the paint markings down its side. Mitikovsky was endeavouring to mollify him and Sonia Poe counter-attacking by reason of the fact that Sole had created his own parking space where none was allotted.
'Being a Real Estate Agent, I should have thought someone of your qualification would understand that you cannot park half-way over a grassed area without the possibility of lawn mowers bearing down and at the least the chance of stone chips...'
'At the least! The idiot has left paint from his mower down two side panels!' spluttered Sole, his face as tomato red as his bow-tie.
'As I was telling Mister Sole,' interjected Mitikovsky, 'the green paint can be removed with a little cutting compound. There is no actual damage to the motor car.'
'Just as well,' said Sole indignantly, otherwise I would be consulting my solicitor post-haste! However, I shall overlook the inconvenience, except to add that here is a demonstration of the very reason I made this appointment to speak with you both.' Then, as if guided by some inner radar, Sole's gaze found Priscilla and Monique amongst the potted plants and the trickle of students wandering to and fro and he added, 'Perhaps within the privacy of your offices, Head Mistress Poe?'
The second bell chimed and, resigned to their fate with Justice Croad who was forever busily occupied manufacturing cobwebs around himself and his entire subject of Political mis-comprehension, the two girls hurried away to class.
Not long before lights-out in the Dormitories, Monique, packing her winter clothes carefully into the wardrobe space alloted in their room, said, 'You did not finish telling me of this Curtis actor person. What is he to do with Henry and why should I be starting to feel a tiny bit uneasy?'
'It's The Great Race. That's why.' Priscilla answered from behind a stack of sweaters.
'So it is another of Henry's favourite films and is about racing: foot-running, horses, dogs, pigeons... cars?'
'Cars, yeah cars, a comedy about bad guys trying to beat a white-knight good guy in a race from America across some place full of ice and into Europe.'
'What then has that got to do with your little Brother? Don't tell me Henry is going to steal somebody's motor car and go joy racing?'
'Unlikely, even for Henry.'
'The movie also has the biggest, most spectacular pie-fight you've ever seen, and the only one that never gets even a speck on him is the hero who's dressed in a white suit and walks through the whole thing smiling.'
'Correcto, Sherlock. Henry's turning into The Old Movie Serial-Bandit.'
'What does that mean?' asked Monique.
'Means he's over collecting lizards and trying out amateur pranks and is now into serious theme stuff. When he starts wearing all white and his teeth begin sparkling it'll be time to run for cover.'
Chapter 10 next