If there's one thing I've learnt in the years Daisy and I have been investigating, it's that once you start looking for things, you end up finding far more than you bargained for.
Daisy was in a funny mood when we went in for supper. Alicia had sought us out earlier in the day and it was painfully obvious that the third formers had both worked out that they were being questioned and about whom. That was the problem with investigations involving other schoolgirls, they tended to talk to one other.
Daisy wasn't pleased that not only did Alicia know what we were doing but that she also wasn't taking it all that seriously. I thought that it might just be how Alicia approached every situation. Nevertheless, Daisy wasn't keen on chatting over supper. Which hardly mattered as there was quite the air of excitement courtesy of the return of one of the class, Mavis Allyson.
"What did the doctor say?", Jean asked once the hellos were out of the way and Mavis had settled in at the table.
"He was pleased with my progress but says I've got a long way to go, I'm still not to do any singing", Mavis paused mid-sentence and took a drink of water, "but Mr Young is going to do a few vocal exercises with me each week to see how I get on".
Mary-Lou lowered her voice and quietly explained that Mavis had once had a marvellous singing voice but had lost her voice after coming down terribly ill during a previous term. As Mary-Lou explained, I saw Gwendoline watching out of the corner of my eye and I raised my eyebrows at the peculiar look that came over her face. I didn't have much time to think about it though as the conversation around the table swiftly moved on and Mary-Lou and I returned our attention to the others.
"Oh, did you hear that Mr Young has a trainee teacher this term?", Mavis asked after a few minutes of talking, "I met him when I first came back, he was with Mr Young when my parents spoke to him".
"So that's who was following him around earlier", Irene knocked Belinda's bread out of her hand as she gestured, sending the bread flying into Jean's lap, "During my lesson, he knocked my sheet music stand over just when I was getting to the complicated bit".
"He's made an enemy for life there", Alicia teased.
"I simply can't imagine how irritating it must be to have someone so clumsy around", Belinda muttered as she tried to help brush the butter and crumbs off of Jean's lap.
Irene ignored them both and turned to Mavis, "Did Mr Young say whether he would be involved in our lessons?"
"I think so, I heard Mr Gregory, that's the new teacher's name, saying he had to do a certain number of classes to finish his training", Mavis said, "and he'll be sitting in on one-to-one sessions too".
"You know an awful lot about this new teacher for someone who is taking a rest from music lessons", Alicia said and I felt awfully sorry for Mavis, for her cheeks went crimson.
"Oh, like that is it", Lavinia grinned and all eyes were immediately on her, "This new teacher, is he younger than your Mr Young?"
Mavis cleared her throat and glanced around the table, "Well, yes, he is a trainee after all".
"And is he a rather a lot nicer to look at too?", Lavinia's eyes gleamed as she narrowed in on her point and Mavis clamped her mouth shut as Alicia burst out laughing.
"Girls! Where is all this excitement from? Quiet or Miss Potts will come over", Mam'zelle Dupont shushed the growing excitement around the table, "What has gotten into you?"
"Sorry Mam'zelle", Alicia said quickly and turned to Daisy instead, "Did you solve your little mystery then?"
Daisy glared at Alicia, truly a look that could have shrivelled a more timid girl into a whimpering mess. Alicia just smiled back.
"Alicia", Jean said, a warning to her voice that Alicia seemed to merrily ignore.
"Is Miss Parker a spy, perhaps? Maybe she's undercover", Alicia continued. Daisy's expression grew darker still.
"Alicia, what is this you say about Miss Parker?", Mam'zelle Dupont called, she must have caught a snippet of Alicia's comment and, really, whichever snippet it was must have sounded odd.
Before Alicia could answer, there was a commotion across the hall. It sounded like a sharp cry of dismal or alarm. I looked up in time to see the other French teacher hurrying out of the hall with one hand was covering her face as though she didn't want the girls to see her.
"Oh no, girls, I will return", and with that Mam'zelle Dupont was on her feet and rushing away too.
"Well, this is jolly exciting isn't it?", Alicia said, "There's another mystery for you, Daisy, the mystery of the disappearing Mam'zelles".
I truly thought Daisy might snap at that but before she could say anything, Darrell jumped in.
"Give it a rest, Alicia, would you? You're giving me a headache", except Darrell didn't look like she had a headache and the words were delivered too good-naturedly for her to be being serious. It did quieten Alicia down though, which I was grateful for. Daisy can be quite awful when she's in a bad mood and I suspect anything she might have said would have led to the remainder of our exchange being horrid. I tried to get Daisy's attention and offer her a sympathetic smile but she steadfastly avoided my eye and I gave up in favour of enjoying my pudding. Malory Towers might not have bun breaks but their puddings were very good.
Daisy kept up her sullen routine as we all trailed up towards the common room, then all of a sudden said she was going to go and lie down as she didn't feel well and marched off towards West Tower instead. When I went to follow her, Kitty grabbed my arm,
"Do leave her be, Hazel, she's been in a foul mood all day".
Though a part of me worried that Daisy would go off and do some investigating by herself, it didn't take much convincing for me to follow the others up to the common room.
"So why are you all digging into Miss Parker's business anyway?", Alicia asked as she put a record on and turned the volume down so we could still talk, "Was she a suspect in the murder before?"
"For a while", I admitted. Mary-Lou and Daphne shuffled along the two-person seat to make space for me and I smiled gratefully. The rest of the girls found seats around the room in various places. Alicia jumped up and sat on top of of one the drawer sets, earning herself an eye-roll from Jean.
"Beanie mentioned to Darrell that Miss Parker and Miss Bell were close", Alicia said. Poor Beanie blushed and mouth a sorry to me, I simply shrugged with a smile.
"They were", I said.
"Close as in best friends or close as in something more that we don't discuss in public?", Alicia asked and I gaped for a moment, I probably looked like a goldfish.
I shared a few uncertain glances with Kitty, Lavinia and Beanie and then looked at the Malory Towers' girls. Most of them hadn't picked up on Alicia's insinuation and looked quite confused. Jean avoided looking at me or Alicia, Daphne's eyebrows had shot up in realisation, and Sally looked uneasy and I'm sure she was blushing.
"I think the latter", I said eventually.
"I can see why she was a suspect", Alicia said, crossing her legs at the ankle and swinging her legs back and forth.
"What are you talking about?", Gwendoline asked. She certainly wasn't the only one who had lost track of the conversation. I saw Darrell ask Sally something, no doubt the same question, and Sally leant across and whispered something in her ear. Darrell's face lit up with understanding.
"Well-", Alicia started to speak but she was interrupted when Darrell asked me,
"You haven't explained why Miss Parker being here is a mystery though, why does it matter?"
Alicia looked thoroughly annoyed by the interruption and I was about to suggest letting her finish when something in the way Darrell looked at me changed my mind.
"I suppose it's not on its own", I fumbled over my words, trying not to look at Alicia. Mercifully, Kitty dived in and helped me out.
"But adding in the matter of her pretending that she doesn't know us and it becomes a bit suspicious", Kitty said.
"Maybe she just didn't like you?", Darrell suggested and that prompted some exaggerated outrage from Kitty and Lavinia followed by a lot of giggling as they recalled numerous times our class had wound Miss Parker up. After that, the conversation was completely waylaid and we all splintered off into little groups to talk.
"I really should go and check on Daisy", I said, "If I don't she'll simply stew herself into the worst possible mood".
I hurried out and towards West Tower but when I reached the dorms, Daisy wasn't there. She had gone investigating without me. That made a dreadful, dull ache grow in my stomach and I went back down the stairs much slower. Had I been an awful friend by spending so much time with Mary-Lou and the others? But even as that thought tried to take hold, I pushed it firmly away. No, this was like Daisy's silliness over my friendship with Alexander. Well, not exactly the same but similar. I hadn't done anything wrong and I wasn't going to go beating myself up over this, not this time.
I was going to find Daisy though.
The teachers were all still up and about so Daisy wouldn't have been foolish enough to go prying on the teacher's floor but she might have tried to find Miss Parker's classroom back in North Tower. I went back towards North Tower. As I crossed the courtyard, and just before reaching North Tower, I saw Alicia coming out of the door and I shuffled behind one of the trees and out of sight. It was instinct, I thought, I was too used to having to hide and spy on people. Just as I was about to step out, the door to North Tower opened again and Darrell ran out to catch up with Alicia.
"Wotcher Hazel, spying on your new friends?", I nearly screamed when Daisy's voice practically tickled my left ear and the fact that Daisy's hand shot up and covered my mouth told me she had expected me to. Where had she come from?
"Where have you been?", I whispered but Daisy's attention was firmly on the other two girls. I strained to listen and was able to hear most of what they said.
"Sally told me what you meant about Miss Parker and Miss Bell", Darrell said.
"Of course she would know", Alicia sounded nasty for a second and I saw Daisy file that information away, no doubt for misuse later.
"I couldn't let you go telling Gwen what you meant", Darrell continued.
I couldn't hear what Alicia said next as she lowered her voice. Whatever it was must have been hurtful because Darrell got this funny look as though she might wallop Alicia. I wondered if Daisy and I would be able to break up a fight between the two of them if matters came to that.
"If Gwen knew that Miss Parker is...just think, would you Alicia?", Darrell said eventually, "What's the first thing Gwen would do?"
Alicia was quiet for a few moments, then said, "I wasn't really going to tell her", but even from our distance I could tell that it was a limp excuse of a lie. It didn't seem to matter though because Darrell gestured for Alicia to follow her back to North Tower and she did, with very little grumbling by the looks of it.
"Have a nice chat about their teacher, did you?", Daisy asked once the Malory Towers' girls had gone back inside, "It seems you've caused quite a stir".
"Where have you been?", I ignored her and repeated my earlier question.
"Well, since Alicia made the suggestion, I went to see what had happened with the two Mam'zelles", Daisy said and I groaned. Of course she had.
"What's the big mystery then?", I asked as Daisy pulled me back towards West Tower. I didn't know whether I was coming or going this evening!
"Not much of a mystery, Mam'zelle Rougier's had some bad news about her brother and is returning to France for a while to spend time with him. It sounds as though he's dreadfully unwell", Daisy explained, "I'm beginning to think any mysteries we find here are going to be just as dull as that".
Looking back, neither Daisy or I could have known just how wrong she was.