Chapter 1: A Long Morning (MMU)
In hindsight, it was a good thing I took notes for our school exchange or we would have missed a lot of the early details.
Of course, Daisy insisted that she had noticed them and realised they were peculiar and said she would have remembered them. Some things simply aren't worth arguing over. Choosing where to start writing about this was much trickier than usual, so in the end I just decided to start from the first day of our exchange. Daisy rolled her eyes at this and said that yet again I had started with details no-one was interested in.
The Detective Society - Daisy, Myself, Lavinia, Kitty and Beanie - left Deepdean before any of the other girls were awake. Not for any kind of Detective business for once, for our school exchange.
Daisy had complained about it nonstop (though she said that was an exaggeration on my part) since Miss Bernard announced that our dorm would be swapping places with girls from another boarding school. Daisy was very put out that she should be shunted to any other school, though I suspected that the teachers were rather more pleased than she was.
Still, it was organised and there was nothing that Daisy could do apart from complain. Which she did. A lot. Until Lavinia threatened to smother her with a pillow. Anyway, on that early morning, all five of us stumbled out of Deepdean School for Girls and onto the minibus outside, accompanied by Miss Cunningham, Matron's new assistant.
By the afternoon, my brain was fried. Not literally, of course, because that would have been horrid. It had been a long journey. An hour to the station, five hours on the train, then another hour on this minibus, and all the while Daisy had insisted we continue to hone our detective skills. Which was jolly difficult to do when it was just so unbearably hot.
"You've forgotten one, start again", Daisy said. We were up to a list of nearly fifty objects to remember in order and it was pushing the limits of everyone's memory to try and recall them all and think of new ones to add. Even Daisy had faltered for just a moment in her last turn, though I knew she would never admit it.
"Give it a rest, Daisy", Lavinia groaned from across the aisle, "It's a wonder Hazel's never throttled you".
Which, of course, Daisy responded to with self righteous indignation but it did make her quieten down. My heart sank because it was just more proof that she had lost something in recently months, a part of her that made her so...Daisy. I had often thought I would prefer it if Daisy had her corners rubbed off a bit but I'm quickly finding that isn't the case. Daisy but less-Daisy wasn't the person I became friends with two years ago.
"You'll see the school soon", the driver called from the front, "Move around to the left if you want a good first look, let me tell you it's something!"
Daisy rolled her eyes. We had, of course, already heard that Malory Towers looked like a castle on the cliff tops and Daisy had immediately decided that that was simply too twee for words. I privately thought that given the high and mighty opinion Daisy had of herself at times (okay, all the time), she would be a bit more excited.
Still, despite her protests, I did see Daisy's face come over with the same look of amazement as everyone else. Beanie's mouth was practically hanging open.
"I'd much rather be coming here than Deepdean", Kitty said.
Daisy ruffled and I knew she was about to defend her school (and Daisy really did think of the school as hers, each term I half expected to hear that Daisy had managed to swindle her way into having the land ownership transferred to her), but then the minibus took a sharp turn and everyone was thrown back into their seats.
"Not long now", I said, still looking up at the school as I spoke. It really did look much nicer than Deepdean, but looks could be ever so deceiving.
Chapter 2: A Surprise Meeting (MT)
"Is that them?", Alicia said, her keen eyes spotting the bus before the rest of them. The girls bundled around the window to get a look, with varying degrees of success.
"Looks like it", Darrell agreed as she ducked back out from the crowd of girls.
"Oh, I do hope they're nice", Mary-Lou said, wriggling out herself. She was still the smallest in the form by rather a lot and it was so easy for her to get squashed.
"Well I heard many of the girls at that school are the daughters of proper Lords and Ladies", Gwendoline said, and from the way she tossed her hair over her shoulder, everyone knew she felt she would fit in with them.
"Wonderful, a whole class of Gwens", Belinda muttered to herself as she sketched the scene of the bus winding its way up to the school. Darrell covered up her chuckle with a cough and looked away as Gwen narrowed her eyes. She hadn't heard Belinda but she was always convinced that any and all whispering was about her.
Which was fair this time, since it was.
"Are we meant to go down and meet them?", Sally asked, as always more interested in practicalities than opportunities to take a dig at Gwen.
"They're going to the West Tower dorm so won't some of the West Tower girls be meeting them?", Darrell asked.
"Well, we can't let them have all the fun", Alicia said, she jumped down from the windowsill and nearly knocked Daphne over in the process, "besides, they're our age and you know that the older girls won't be interested in spending time with them".
Darrell thought that it was probably more likely that Alicia considered herself something of a resident of both North and West Tower, courtesy of her friendship with Betty Hill. With Betty and the rest of her dorm off at this other school as part of the exchange, Alicia would be desperate to see who Malory Towers had gotten in return.
"Come on!", Alicia grabbed Darrell's arm and pulled her.
Darrell offered an apologetic smile to Sally who waved it off and rolled her eyes. Darrell had to admit that she was almost as curious as Alicia about their exchange students.
Darrell nearly stumbled over as Alicia dragged her out of the main doors just as the bus pulled up, righting herself in time to avoid falling on her face.
"I've never seen you so eager to help with a school exchange", Miss Potts commented dryly. Darrell blushed while Alicia just looked back at their teacher innocently.
"I'm awfully helpful", Alicia said, "Golly, is there only five of them? In exchange for our ten? I think their school got shortchanged".
Miss Potts raised an eyebrow at Alicia's cheek but didn't say anything, instead she stepped forward and greeted the five girls and their escort.
"Welcome to Malory Towers", Miss Potts smiled warmly, "I do hope your journey was good?"
As the adults exchanged pleasantries, the students scrutinised one another. Darrell squirmed under the inspection of one particular girl - a tall, pretty, blonde girl - and felt sufficiently scruffy that she lowered her gaze to the floor. Alicia, of course, looked all five girls straight in the eye without shame.
"Alicia, Darrell? Since you're here, if you could show the girls to the West Tower dorm?", Miss Potts asked. Alicia nodded and gestured for the five girls to follow.
"The school's divided into four towers, North, South, East and West", Alicia did what she did best in these situations and talked, "We're in the North and-"
"Hazel?!", Mary-Lou had never, in the whole time Darrell had known her, jumped in and interrupted a conversation like that.
Darrell looked around and saw one of the girls, a short Asian girl, wriggle out from between two of the others,
"Mary-Lou? This is your school?"
Chapter 3: No-one is sleeping by the window tonight (MMU)
"Hazel? Who's this?"
"Mary-Lou, you know her?"
I blushed as Daisy and the girl from Malory Towers showing us around spoke at the same time, both with the same tone of disbelief.
"Hallo Hazel", Mary-Lou had gone bright red too. She waved shyly at me and I smiled back with my own hesitant wave.
"Come on Hazel, introductions if you will?", Daisy elbowed me quite hard and I glared at her. She pointedly ignored my glare and nodded towards Mary-Lou.
"Perhaps we should get up to the dorms and then make introductions all at once?", a girl with a broad Scottish accent took control of the situation and raised her eyebrow at the girl who had been showing us around, "Rather than stand around in the middle of the hallway?"
"Oh, very well. If we must", Daisy sighed and we all traipsed up the stairs to the third floor and the dorm. The girls from Malory Towers were whispering amongst themselves and I could see Daisy trying to work out if any of them were talking about her. I was dreading the possibility that they were talking about me.
"This is you", the Scottish girl pushed a door open and we all bundled in.
Ten beds were lined up, five on either side of the room, made up neatly with blankets and eiderdowns. At one end of the room were the sinks and the entrance to the showers beyond that. All of the bedside tables were empty; obviously the girls who had been here before had tidied everything away. I couldn't remember if I had accidentally left any of my belongings at Deepdean and I felt a peculiar (and slightly silly) sensation of panic.
"Look! None of us shall need to sleep by the window", Kitty said gleefully as she jumped onto one of the beds. Beanie practically fell over her feet and onto hers and I stifled a smile as Daisy sighed dramatically beside me.
"Really, no sense of decorum at all, and in front of these girls", Daisy grumbled. I carried my luggage over to one of the beds. I could have been a bit petty and chosen the one at the end between the wall and Beanie but Daisy would only have made Beanie or I move so I decided it was more trouble than it was worth.
"You assured us introductions?", Daisy turned to the Scottish girl after placing her case at the foot of her bed. Daisy, of course, introduced us all and I saw one of the Malory Towers' girls eyes light up when Daisy emphasised the Honourable part of her name. I had hoped girls having ridiculous pashes on Daisy might have been left at Deepdean.
The Scottish girl, Jean, introduced the Malory Towers girls and my brain got in rather a muddle remembering them all. Daisy guessed this I think because she gave me a pitying look but I knew I would remember them all soon enough.
"We'll leave you to get unpacked, then you can come outside and we'll show you around", Jean offered. Daisy inclined her head in a show of gratitude, which was of course entirely for show because Daisy would have been much happier showing herself around. Then the Malory Towers girls left us to our unpacking. Daisy suddenly turned back around to face the door.
"Oh wait! Bother, they're gone", Daisy said, "Nevermind, you can tell us, Hazel. How did you meet Mary-Lou? Jean neglected to allow her the time to answer that question".
I sighed and lay back on my bed with my arms folded behind my head, "We met during the Summer hols last year, we had lunch together and we began writing to one another from time to time".
"Oh", I could tell Daisy was disappointed at how mundane my explanation was, "Well, I suppose that's nice..."
Kitty giggled from over on her bed, the way Daisy had said nice left no doubt that it was practically an insult. Of course, to Daisy, nice was boring and something ordinary people described things as. Daisy was not boring or ordinary, even if she was plenty of other things that I might not be quite brave enough to say just yet. I grinned at Kitty instead as Daisy set about unpacking her case.
This was going to be rather a long exchange...
Chapter 4: An Unappreciated Tour (MT)
Alicia grabbed Mary-Lou's arm before she could hurry off,
"You owe us an explanation, how do you know Hazel?"
Mary Lou went brilliant red and shuffled a little closer to Daphne as the Third Form made their way back down the stairs and towards the doors to the courtyard.
"I met her a year or so ago and we had tea together", Mary-Lou explained, "then we wrote a few times but we both got rather busy and so we haven't for a while".
Alicia looked downcast that it was all so mundane and tedious but something was ticking over in Darrell's memory. She was so focused on trying to remember what, that she nearly missed the bottom step and ended up having to jump down to avoid looking the fool. Sally seemed to be the only one who noticed though and she just gave a small smile and a shake of her head.
"I remember now, the girl who told you her teacher was murdered?", Darrell asked as she pushed the door open and held it for the rest of them, "of course, I didn't recognise the name until now. Deepdean School for Girls!"
"Whatever do you mean?", Alicia's interest was piqued again and she skipped to the front of the group as they found somewhere to sit down. Irene stumbled over Belinda and they both ended up in an undignified pile on the grass but the rest of the class managed to sit themselves a little more sensibly.
"I didn't realise that I'd heard of them. They've had terribly bad luck actually", Darrell said, she frowned as she tried to remember all the details, "first one of their girls committed suicide...except it wasn't suicide at all it was murder I think. Or an accident, I can't remember. Then two teachers were killed and then the next year their head girl was murdered! I remember reading about it in the newspapers".
"Hazel said she and her friend helped solve the murder of the teachers", Mary-Lou jumped into the conversation, quite energised by being the girl who knew something the others didn't.
"Don't be ridiculous, they're only school girls", Alicia scoffed.
"How dreadful", Gwen said, "Father looked at Deepdean for me, don't you know, and Mother thought it would be rather more suited to my needs because it was where all the Lords were sending their daughters but I'm quite glad Father chose here now".
Darrell caught Sally's eye, rolled her eyes and pulled a face. Sally tried her best not to react but her lips twitched with a grin. Even the mild-mannered Sally couldn't be sensible about Gwen all of the time.
"Our loss is Deepdean's gain, I suppose", Alicia sighed and it took a moment for the swap in the phrase to sink in. Gwen glared at Alicia but the other girl resolutely avoided looking at her much to Gwen's irritation.
"Here they are", Alicia said as the five girls from Deepdean emerged from Malory Towers. She waved, a little unnecessarily as they were the only form sat as a whole in the courtyard area. Darrell watched as the blonde girl, Daisy, whispered something to Hazel and they seemed to have some kind of heated discussion before Hazel strode towards them with purpose.
"We'd like to take you up on that tour of the school, if you don't mind?", Hazel said.
"We needn't all go, surely?", Daphne asked, quite enjoying the gentle sunshine, "I don't mind if you want to spend some time with Hazel, Mary-Lou".
Irene had a music lesson and Belinda wanted to spend a bit more time on a painting she had been working on. Bill, of course, made her apologies and hurried off down towards the stables to visit Thunder.
"I've got a meeting for the head of forms", Jean said, looking at her watch, "Tell you what, you four", and she gestured at Mary-Lou, Alicia, Sally and Darrell, "go and show them around and we'll all meet up later in the common room. How does that sound?"
"I don't particularly need showing around", Daisy said with a sigh but a sharp elbow from Hazel stopped her saying any more.
Alicia, of course, took the lead and none of the other girls were much inclined to challenge her on it. Mary-Lou walked alongside Hazel, offering quiet asides to provide context to some of Alicia's more outlandish and creative descriptions. Such as corrections to the story of the feud between Mam'zelles Dupont and Rougier that Alicia told.
"They nearly came to blows in class that term", Alicia finished after that had passed the Mam'zelles Dupont and Rougier talking in one of the classrooms.
"They really didn't", Mary-Lou whispered to Hazel, "Actually, they mostly ignored one another".
"And Alicia managed to forget her particular role in the cartoons ending up in Mam'zelle Rougier's hands", Sally added lowly, too quiet for any of the Deepdean Girls to hear. Darrell bumped her gently with her elbow, perhaps unnecessarily as Sally would voice her annoyance with Alicia with Darrell but she was hardly one to air a girl's past in front of guests to the school.
Darrell glanced around to find the fifth member of Deepdean; Hazel was of course with Mary-Lou, and Kitty, Beanie and Lavinia were all listening to Alicia quite keenly - even if Lavinia was trying to pretend she wasn't. So that left Daisy. Darrell checked over her shoulder and found the other girl walking a step behind, quite separated from her school friends. There was a small scowl on her face as she watched Hazel and Mary-Lou, though she was quick to cover it up when she saw Darrell watching her. Then her expression changed again and she didn't try to hide this one; in fact, the surprise that covered her face was so immediate, Darrell wasn't sure she could have if she wanted to.
"Steady on there, Darrell!", Miss Parker's voice interrupted Darrell's thoughts and Darrell faced forward just in time to avoid crashing straight into the second form teacher.
"Sorry, Miss Parker", Darrell rubbed the back of her neck as she stepped to one side and let her old teacher pass.
"Do watch where you're going", Miss Parker said, softening her words with a smile.
"Yes, miss", Darrell said but her attention was back on Daisy, who watched Miss Parker walk down the corridor with the most peculiar expression.
Whatever was all that about?
I recognised her a split second before Daisy jabbed me - rather painfully actually - in the ribs with her forefinger. I hadn't even noticed her move around to stand with me.
"Watson", she whispered, and I nodded to show that I had recognised the teacher as well.
"What did you call her?", Alicia seemed almost as observant as Daisy and I, and she jumped on the nickname immediately even though I would have sworn Daisy only spoke loud enough for me to hear, "Did you say, Watson?"
"As in Sherlock Holmes and Watson?", that was Darrell. I remembered her name because Mary-Lou had mentioned her a few times in her letters and seemed rather fond of her.
"It's just what Daisy calls me sometimes", I explained, feeling a little foolish and childish saying it out loud.
"Oh! Because you solve crimes?", Darrell asked, "Do you call her Sherlock?"
"Of course she doesn't", Daisy said, as though the very idea were ridiculous. It wasn't Darrell's fault, she wasn't to know that Daisy thought herself even more marvellous than Sherlock Holmes himself, after all.
"What were you whispering about anyway?", Alicia asked, looking around, and Daisy gave me such a ferocious look that I shut my mouth tightly and said nothing.
"Thanks awfully for the tour", Daisy smiled, "You're welcome to keep showing the others around but Hazel and I have something we need to attend to". If you didn't know Daisy had just arrived that morning, you would have been certain she was a regular student.
Before anyone could protest, Daisy had taken my hand and dragged me back towards the main building of Malory Towers.
"You're being ridiculous", I complained as Daisy hauled me inside the building in a most undignified manner.
"I've told you that I'm not altogether fond of this new outspoken Hazel", Daisy looked around, "Oh blow, I don't know where any of the good hiding spots are".
"Maybe if we'd finished the tour...", I said and Daisy narrowed her eyes at me.
"We shall have to make do with the dorm I suppose, come on Watson", and Daisy ran over to the stairs and up them.
In a somewhat immature act of defiance, I followed at a more sedate pace. I passed a few Malory Towers' students on the way and tried to ignore the double-takes. It was like each time I went somewhere new, I had to endure that particular plaster being torn off all over again. By the time I reached the dorms, Daisy was pacing back and forth inside.
"Did you bring a case book?", Daisy asked, "Never mind, of course you will have. Get it out and let's get started".
I had brought a notebook for a new case. I always had one with me. However, I didn't hurry to get it out of my suitcase.
"It's not really any sort of mystery yet Daisy", I said, "Maybe we should find out a little bit more before we start?"
"We were told Miss Parker went to work at a school in London after Miss Griffin was arrested. This isn't London", Daisy said firmly, as though that were all the proof we needed to assume the very worst about our old teacher.
"Maybe she just changed her mind", I argued, "or perhaps Malory Towers pay better than the other school".
Perhaps I was being overly stubborn about it; I too was interested as to why Miss Parker had ended up down here as well, but it also didn't make sense to use a completely new case book for a matter that might be resolved with the line 'Miss Parker decided she didn't like London and took a different job'.
"I suppose the best approach would be to find out when she joined the school and what Miss Parker has revealed about herself here", Daisy only faltered for a moment before regaining her stride.
"We might have had an easier time doing that if we hadn't run away from Mary-Lou and the others. They could tell us, I'm sure, but now we look awfully peculiar and they'll be suspicious about it", I pointed out, not bothering to be delicate.
Daisy pursed her lips and looked back at the door. It had been strange, now that I thought about it. Normally, Daisy would have jumped at the chance to begin drilling Alicia and the others for more information yet she had dragged me away, made quite the scene, and left Kitty and the others with the opportunity to quiz the Malory Towers girls about Miss Parker. If any of them had recognised her, that was. In fact, when I put it all together, it was so unlike my best friend that I had to wonder why she had done it.
"I suppose we should go back and find them...", Daisy said, "Perhaps you could spend some time with Mary-Lou and get some information while I talk to the others".
The slightly sharp tone on Mary-Lou's name made something click into place in my brain and, before I could stop myself, I started to ask, "Daisy! Did you drag me off because you were-"
"I didn't drag you off, stop being so ridiculous", Daisy cut me off and I suspected she had a very good idea what my question was going to be, "Now, we were past the entrance hall when we left them so by my estimates, they will be headed down towards the playing fields. We saw them on the way in".
Daisy ran back off towards the stairs and I followed with a bit more vigour this time, vindicated by the fact that I had a good idea of what was causing Daisy's odd behaviour. Daisy was right - infuriatingly, when she's not distracted by pesky emotions she usually is - and we caught up with the girls as they headed down to the fields.
"Finish with your secret meeting already?", Alicia asked as we caught up with them.
Daisy went a touch rosy in the cheeks but held her head up high, "It didn't take as long as expected".
I fell back in step with Mary-Lou as Alicia teased Daisy some more. I could see that Daisy didn't appreciate it but Lavinia and Kitty quite enjoyed seeing Daisy on the receiving end of some ribbing for a change.
"Do you play lacrosse at Deepdean?", Mary-Lou asked as Alicia pointed out the tennis courts and the lacrosse field.
"Only in lessons. I'm not very good", I smiled.
Mary-Lou linked arms with me and confessed that she wasn't very good at lacrosse either. At least for my stay at Malory Towers, I would have someone to stand and huddle near the goal with now that Lavinia had gone and gotten good at lacrosse. Alicia checked her watch and said she had one last place to show us. She led us down towards the sea before having us all stop abruptly and waved her hand out in a gesture towards the school's swimming pool.
Despite being someone who didn't really understand the girls who went running outside for sports in all weathers, I could appreciate the swimming pool at Malory Towers and I was surprised to see even Daisy looked impressed for the first time on the tour.
"Can we swim today?", Beanie asked, bobbing onto her tiptoes.
"It'll have to be tomorrow now, we have to go back up for tea", Alicia explained, "If you're half-mad like Darrell, you can get up before breakfast and go for a swim. I prefer the extra hour in bed".
Darrell didn't look at all bothered at being called half-mad and I got the feeling that this was just Alicia's way of speaking to everyone. Much like Daisy had her way of speaking to everyone. I wondered if people got as annoyed with Alicia and her ways as they did with Daisy.
"Let's go back up and meet up with the others before tea", Sally suggested, and Alicia led us all back towards the school.
As we walked, Daisy fell into step with me and lowered her voice to barely more than a murmur,
"I don't mind getting up early to see what Darrell knows but you need to see what you can get out of Mary-Lou".
I opened my mouth to ask whether she was going to tell the others about Miss Parker and assign each of them another student to try and quiz about Miss Parker but I saw Darrell glanced over at us and decided to keep my mouth shut. Daisy had already made them all suspicious with her strange behaviour; I would have to wait until we went to bed for the evening.
Apologies for the long delays on all my works, I have broken two fingers and this is slowing down my typing. Thank you for continuing to read despite the slower posting schedule.
Chapter 6: Rumours of Teachers Past (MT)
"They're a good laugh. Well, most of them", Alicia said as the third formers got ready for bed, "Lavinia has a wicked sense of humour".
"And I've never heard Mary-Lou talk so much", Belinda teased as Mary-Lou clambered into bed, "You let your tea go cold with all your talking".
"Hazel's really decent, and a wizard storyteller", Daphne distracted the conversation from her blushing friend, "I'm glad Miss Potts let them sit with us rather than over with West Tower".
"Daisy's a bit off though", Alicia added, glancing around to see who agreed with her. A few bobbing heads confirmed her suspicion that she wasn't the only one who'd noticed.
"Maybe she's homesick?", Jean suggested, "Or school-sick I suppose you might call it".
"Maybe she doesn't like Hazel talking so much with Mary-Lou", Alicia grinned wickedly, sitting on her bed, "Case of the green-eyed monster".
"She was acting peculiarly after we bumped into Miss Parker", Darrell added, returning from brushing her teeth.
"After you bumped into her, you mean", Alicia added and Darrell half-heartedly swatted her on the shoulder as she walked past her.
"I'm serious. She had this odd look, as though maybe she knew her? Then she ran off with Hazel", Darrell explained, dropping down onto her own bed and quickly running a brush through her curls.
"Perhaps they do. Miss Parker did only join halfway through our first form", Jean said to Alicia, "Remember? Before that, the second formers had that dreadful teacher".
"Miss Ainsworth?", Irene snorted, "Gosh, I'd nearly managed to forget about her".
"She was before you joined", Alicia explained to Darrell and Sally, "We all think Miss Grayling fired her".
Footsteps coming down the corridor silenced their chatter and everyone scurried to their beds just as Matron opened the door and poked her head around.
"Lights out girls", she said, "sleep well".
Matron flicked the light switch and plunged the dorm into darkness. The third formers waited for the sound of Matron's footsteps to fade away and then promptly sat back up. Alicia turned on the small lamp at the end of the dorm near her bed and a soft glow gave them just enough light to see one another.
"Miss Ainsworth hit a girl, is what I heard", Irene whispered, "she was fierce enough".
"I don't think that's true...", Jean protested weakly, though she didn't sound entirely convinced herself.
"I heard she was caught trying to steal from Miss Grayling's office", Alicia added.
"No-one knows why she left and we don't all think she was fired", Jean aimed a pointed look at Alicia who just raised an eyebrow, unconvinced.
"But Miss Parker hasn't been here for long then?", Darrell brought the conversation back to what they had originally been discussing, "so Daisy and the others could know her? She could have worked at Deepdean before coming here?"
"Oh dear", the quiet that fell after Darrell's question meant Mary-Lou's words were heard by everyone.
"Oh dear, what?", Alicia swung her legs around and leant forward, resting her elbows on her knees.
"Well, just over a year and a half ago was when the first murder that Hazel and Daisy solved happened. The teachers who were murdered?", Mary-Lou explained, looking over at Daphne for reassurance.
"Well, there's a reason to move to a new school if ever I heard one!", Alicia grinned, "we have to find out for certain if that's where she was, I wonder what she saw!"
"Why does it matter?", Jean protested, knowing that when Alicia got that wicked look in her eye it was almost impossible to get her to turn her attentions elsewhere.
"Jean's right, is it our business that she wanted to work somewhere else after going through that?", Sally asked.
"Tomorrow, we need to do some of our own investigating about Miss Parker", Alicia ignored both of them and turned to Darrell, "you'll help, won't you?"
Darrell looked between Alicia and Sally, then promptly lay down and pulled her duvet over her head,
"I'm going to sleep", Darrell's voice was muffled by the duvet.
"Oh come on!", Alicia laughed all the same and Jean shushed her.
"You're not doing anything tonight at any rate", Jean said firmly as she got up and walked over to turn the lamp off, "now be quiet or you'll bring Matron back with all this noise".
Just as Jean reached out to turn the lamp off, Darrell pushed her duvet off and popped back up,
"Why don't we just ask Daisy or Hazel if they know Miss Parker? Why all the secrecy?", she asked.
"You have no sense of mystery do you?", Alicia sighed.
"Bed, and quiet", Jean turned the lamp off before Alicia could protest again, "and if you turn it back on again, Alicia, I'll put it in the hallway".
Jean walked carefully back to her own bed and got in. A few minutes of silence followed before Alicia spoke again,
"I bet some of them start asking us questions tomorrow".
"Alicia!", Jean groaned, "Go to sleep".
"Alright, don't go up in smoke. Just you wait and see though. I bet I'm right".
Chapter 7: Detective Assignments and Late Night Escapades (MMU)
"Of course you can keep the windows closed", the Matron of West Tower said when Beanie asked, "though you might want some breeze with the nights getting warmer".
Beanie's face lit up and I thought for a moment she might hug the Matron.
"I'll be back in half an hour for lights out, no girl is out of bed without good reason after that", Matron warned and she gave Beanie one last bewildered look before leaving us to it.
"Are you going to tell us what you two have been scheming about?", Lavinia asked.
Daisy perched on the end of her bed and crossed her legs at the ankles. I knew she'd drag out telling them and we only had a short time so I started,
"Daisy and I are planning to get to the bottom of why Miss Parker came here instead of the school in London".
Daisy sighed dramatically but I ignored her.
"Miss Parker?", Lavinia asked, furrowing her brow.
"Oh my gosh!", Beanie bounced onto her bed on her knees, "the teacher Darrell nearly bumped into. I knew I recognised her. She's let her hair grow!"
Daisy looked surprised that it was Beanie who put things together the quickest but I just smiled. Beanie's brain worked differently to most other people's. Daisy didn't always appreciate that in others. I suppose because she was wired differently to most people as well.
"Yes, exactly", Daisy recovered quickly, "She was going to a school in London. This most certainly is not London".
"It doesn't seem much of a mystery Daisy", Kitty said dubiously.
"She didn't say hello to any of us though", Beanie mused, trying to maneuver around to sit cross legged on her bed. Beanie was still getting used to her growth spurt and the longer limbs that came with it. Sometimes Kitty laughed fondly at her and said it was like watching a baby giraffe try and get up and down.
"That is a little odd", Lavinia said, "all the teachers would be told about an exchange right?"
"Maybe she didn't see us?", I suggested, the conversation was starting to snowball back towards jumping to conclusions.
"I was stood right beside Darrell", Daisy pointed out, and of course she would be outraged not to be seen, remembered and acknowledged.
"Well, let's ask the third formers tomorrow", Beanie suggested.
"That was our plan", Daisy said firmly, "there's twice as many of them as us so we'll each take two".
"I'm sure just one-", Lavinia started but Daisy ploughed ahead anyway.
"Hazel, I suppose you should take Mary-Lou and her friend, Daphne", Daisy said, "Beanie, you take-"
"Could I...", Beanie trailed off at Daisy's unimpressed look over being interrupted, "Sorry. I was just thinking, Darrell invited me to go swimming first thing tomorrow and I think her friend is going as well, so I could ask them both?"
Daisy didn't look happy at not making the assignment but she agreed,
"Fine, fine. You take Darrell and Sally", then Daisy hurried to assign the rest of us. Kitty was to speak to Irene and Belinda, Lavinia to Jean and Bill, while Daisy would talk to Alicia and Gwendoline.
"Right, now you should all make sure you get a good night's sleep", Daisy said, taking her washcloth and toothbrush from the side and heading towards the sinks.
"And what about you?", I asked, suspicious that Daisy had finished the meeting so abruptly. I grabbed my own washbag and followed Daisy.
"What are you up to?", I asked.
Daisy conveniently decided to start brushing her teeth at that moment, leaving her unable to talk. I fumbled with my washbag and dropped half the contents into the sink. By the time I had collected them, then finished brushing my teeth and washing my face, Daisy was in bed with the duvet pulled up under her chin.
I knew she wouldn't be going to sleep so I watched her suspiciously for a few seconds then decided I would pretend not to think anything was off. I chatted to the others until Matron came up for lights out.
Just as I suspected, once the soft sounds of sleep from the other three girls were audible, Daisy slipped out from under her duvet and tiptoed to the door. I feigned sleep as I listened to the door open and close softly, then I sat up.
As much as I wanted to chase right after Daisy and demand to know what she was doing leaving me out of her plan, I counted to five. My detective skills had improved enormously over the years but sneaking about was not one of my better skills. I needed to give Daisy a small head start without losing her.
I went without slippers, it was quite warm at Malory Towers and I worried that my slippers would make too much noise with their solid soles. I placed each step carefully and followed Daisy's path out the door. I could just make out a shadow turning left at the end of the corridor so I went that way.
Feeling bold, I sped up near the corner and pressed myself to the wall to peer around. It was definitely Daisy, I could see her better now. She approached the stairwell and I was about to follow when the lights went on, leaving Daisy exposed with nowhere to hide. She jumped and I only just got my hand over my mouth in time to stifle my yelp of surprise.
"You're one of the Deepdean girls, what are you doing up?", Matron came into view and I ducked back around the corner so she wouldn't see me.
"Oh Matron, I'm so dreadfully sorry", Daisy slipped so easily into different masks and characters that sometimes it worried me, "I got turned around looking for the toilets, I suppose I must have been half asleep and still thinking I was at Deepdean".
I didn't know whether Matron would buy that, thought it did sound rather convincing in Daisy's syrupy innocent tones, so I hurried back to the dorms so that I too wouldn't be found out of bed. A short while after I had got back into bed, the door to the dorm opened and Daisy was ushered inside. Matron must have decided to escort her.
Daisy sat down heavily on her bed and yanked her duvet up and over herself. I sighed to myself, she was going to be in a foul mood tomorrow. Still, I couldn't help wondering what she had been planning to do and decided that as well as asking Mary Lou and Daphne about Miss Parker, I would also be keeping a close eye on Daisy...
Chapter 8: Who's questioning who? (MT)
"Morning!", Beanie was waiting for Darrell and Sally at the top of the stairs.
Darrell returned the greeting as enthusiastically and waved for Beanie to lead the way down the stairs.
"And we won't get scolded for being out of bed too early?", Beanie asked.
"It's fine, as long as we're in uniform and presentable for breakfast, no-one shall mind", Sally reassured her.
They chatted away on their walk down to the pool. Or, rather, Darrell and Beanie did most of the chatting. Sally, not being as outgoing as Darrell, was happy to listen for the most part.
"So they really are amateur detectives", Darrell marvelled as they reached the pool and set their towels down and took off their bathing robes, "It sounds so unbelievable".
"Sometimes it seems unbelievable while we're helping them", Beanie grinned as she adjusted her bathing cap, "Some of the things we've gotten up to...".
Beanie got a peculiar look on her face at that and smiled a little stiffly at Darrell and Sally, as though she were wondering if she had said too much.
"Come on then", Darrell said and she led the way to jump into the pool.
Beanie hesitated and then followed Sally's lead of getting in a bit more carefully. The water was just cool enough that it made the girls gasp when they first got in but warmed enough to be quite lovely within a few minutes. Darrell swam a few lengths normally before diving underwater and disappearing from sight.
"Is she likely to dunk us?", Beanie asked, looking around so that the other girl couldn't sneak up on her.
"Depends on what sort of mood she's in", Sally replied with a fond grin, "Just watch your back is all".
Beanie squealed as Darrell splashed up out of the water beside her, then splashed an armful of water towards Darrell.
"What are lessons like here?", Beanie asked once they'd settled down.
"It depends how well you get on, I suppose", Darrell glanced at Sally for her input.
"Most of the teachers are good sorts but they work us hard, I expect they'll be a bit easier on you Deepdean girls to begin with", Sally added.
"Oh good", Beanie kicked her legs up and floated on her back for a few seconds before righting herself when she started to sink, "I get in an awful muddle in class sometimes and the teachers at Deepdean are strict. I thought they might be the same here when I saw Miss Parker had come here"
Darrell caught Sally's eye and raised her eyebrow. Sally nodded silently, not too proud to admit that Alicia had been right after all. And so soon as well!
"Yes, we noticed that Daisy looked rather shocked to see her yesterday", Darrell said.
"Well, we all thought she was going off to work in London so it was quite the surprise", Beanie said.
"Do you want to swim a little more? We only have a few more minutes if we're to shower before breakfast", Sally asked and Darrell watched as Beanie floundered for a moment, unsure whether to swim or ask more questions. She shot an amused look at Sally and then took off to get a few more lengths swum.
Once they got out of the pool and were on their way back up to school, Darrell took pity on Beanie,
"Miss Parker joined Malory Towers about 18 months ago, so perhaps all didn't work out at this London school?", Darrell suggested, "Was she close with one of the teachers who died? Maybe that has something to do with it".
"Oh! Yes, her and Miss Bell were...um...", Beanie hesitated and bought herself some time by taking her bathing cap off and putting it into her robe pocket, "They were rather close at a time so perhaps you're right".
"Miss Parker's not a bad sort though", Darrell said, "I'm surprised you were worried about her being here. She was a bit nosy when we were in her form last year but not overly strict".
"Really? She used to get into these frightful tempers at Deepdean. We were all scared of them, she'd scream and her face would go all red", Beanie grimaced and then quickly finished, "I'm glad you say she's not like that now. Thanks awfully for inviting me to swim".
Beanie hurried off ahead of them and towards West Tower.
"Who was quizzing who there?", Sally asked as she and Darrell made their way back up to the North Tower dorms.
"If they're going to be doing investigating, I don't see why we shouldn't", Darrell grinned, "I can't understand why they're so interested but it could be fun to find out the truth first. It is odd how different Miss Parker was when they knew her, right?"
"People change for all sorts of reasons and having your friend be murdered would change someone", Sally pointed out as they climbed the stairs back up to the dorm.
The rest of the form were just waking up when Darrell and Sally arrived in the dorm so they hurried to take a shower while the other girls set about their morning routines.
"Beanie was asking questions about Miss Parker", Darrell said to Alicia as she returned to get dressed.
"Gosh, they got started quickly", Alicia finished tidying up her tunic and ran a brush through her hair, "Make sure you do a better job with your hair this time, Darrell".
Darrell blushed at the memory of the order mark and talking to she'd been given for presentation the last time she had gone swimming early.
"Do you think they'll ask the rest of you?", Darrell changed the subject as she dressed.
"Oh. I dare say we're all in for questions", Alicia looked rather gleeful over the idea, "It'll be quite exciting to see who quizzes who. Let's compare notes at lunchtime".
By the time they regrouped at lunchtime, only Alicia and Gwen hadn't been spoken to. Alicia took charge and asked the girls one by one what had been asked of them.
"By my estimates, Gwen and I are going to have a nice chat with Daisy sooner rather than later", Alicia said, "They are frightfully interested in what could turn out to be nothing more than a better job offer".
"Kitty let slip that Miss Parker had pretended not to know any of them, she did the same at break time too, did you see?", Belinda asked.
Miss Parker had been out walking in the courtyard when the Malory Towers girls had broken the news to the disappointed Deepdean girls that not only did they not have bun break at Malory Towers, none of them had ever heard of such a thing. They did agree, after Hazel and Beanie between them had forlornly explained that it was when cakes and biscuits were handed out during breaktime, that it was a shame that Malory Towers didn't do bun breaks. In the middle of all this, Miss Parker had walked past them and it was almost as though she avoided looking at the Deepdean students.
"Beanie said that Miss Parker and Miss Bell, the teacher who died first, were close", Darrell walked back and forth as they talked, "And the way she described her makes her sound like a different woman".
"It must have been awful for her", Mary-Lou said, "Imagine losing someone you care about like that".
The girls grew sombre for a few minutes, thinking on how true Mary-Lou's sentiment was.
"I say, I hope none of them goes and asks Miss Parker any questions", Jean voiced what a few of them were thinking. It had seemed exciting before, investigating a harmless mystery, but thinking about who was at the centre of it all and why she had moved in the first place made them all a little uncomfortable over how much of a game they were making of it.
"Well, I suspect the only one with the nerve to would be Daisy. If she's distracted by trying to get information out of me, maybe she'll forget for the time being", Alicia jumped up and dusted down her tunic, "I'll go and 'accidentally' find myself wherever Daisy is".
With one last grin, Alicia hurried off.
Chapter 9: A Rather Tense Supper (MMU)
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.
Chapter 10: High Spirits and Unfortunate Collisions (MT)
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
By the end of breakfast the next day, word had spread throughout the school that Mam'zelle Rougier had left school for a personal emergency. No-one seemed to know the exact details of the emergency but it had to be quite serious as she wasn't expected back for many weeks. A replacement French teacher would be found but until then, Mam'zelle Dupont was covering all French lessons. Given how exhausted that was likely to make her, the third formers were quite relieved they had French second lesson, before Mam'zelle Dupont would be at the end of her tether.
"Do you think that means we'll get fewer lessons or that they'll merge classes together?", Irene asked as they traipsed in from break.
"Fewer lessons, I should think", Alicia said, "How would they get us all in one class otherwise? Have us sitting on one another's laps?"
Mam'zelle Dupont was already in the classroom when they arrived so they quietly took their seats.
"She doesn't look like she's slept well", Alicia whispered across to Darrell.
"Maybe she's worried about Mam'zelle Rougier?", Darrell whispered back, though she looked a little dubious about that being the case. Truthfully, the girls were never sure week-to-week whether the two Mam'zelles were on friendly terms or not.
"Alicia! Darrell! What is this whispering?", Mam'zelle Dupont stood up as she shouted and the girls clamped their mouths shut and faced forward, "So early and you are already causing me problems".
"Sorry Mam'zelle", both girls spoke at the same time. Mam'zelle's expression softened and she sat back down with a sigh.
"Merci, mes enfants", she said, "I am worried about Mam'zelle Rougier, I know you will all be on your best behaviour so that I have nothing more to worry about, oui?"
"Oui, Mam'zelle", the class chorused back and they meant it, for they were all fond of the good-natured French teacher.
Mam'zelle Dupont still worked them hard and by the end they were glad that their next lesson was singing.
"Looking forward to seeing Mr Gregory again?", Lavinia asked, appearing at Mavis' shoulder with a sly grin.
"Why are you coming since you can't sing?", Alicia asked.
"My parents thought it would be a good idea to use the time I couldn't sing to work on improving my piano", Mavis gratefully latched onto the new question, "so I'll be playing some of the piano accompaniments. It was either that or I joined the fourth formers or second formers for an extra lesson in French or Maths".
The rest of the form could quite see why Mavis had opted for piano rather than extra lessons elsewhere and the distraction meant Mavis could get away with ignoring Lavinia's question.
"Some of them are quite stuffy about a few matters aren't they?", Lavinia chuckled as she dropped back to join Hazel and Mary-Lou.
"You have been winding up Mavis any opportunity you get about Mr Gregory", Kitty pointed out.
"True", Lavinia grinned, "How exactly did Mavis lose her voice again, Mary-Lou?"
Mary-Lou looked troubled as she tried to decide how much to say and was just about to answer when another voice joined their conversation, "It was awful really, such a shame", and they looked around. They hadn't realised that Gwendoline had been walking behind them.
"Go on then, what happened?", Lavinia asked.
"She tried to enter this dreadful town talent show", Gwendoline explained, "but of course they wouldn't let schoolgirls enter and they turned her away. She ended up getting caught in the rain and collapsed. One of our teachers found her on the side of the road and brought her back to school but it was too late, she'd ruined her voice. She felt ever so silly about how she'd let such a daft idea ruin such a wonderful talent".
"Oh, how dreadful", Beanie said, "She must have been so upset".
"That's why we don't talk about it", Gwendoline said.
There was no chance to ask anything else because they had reached the music room and all went in, one by one, for their singing lesson.
"We all thought he was going to stamp on the chalk and then Miss Grayling walked in", as they walked to lunch, Belinda had told the Deepdean girls about the prank Alicia and Betty had pulled in second form. The Deepdean girls had been highly amused by Mr Young and his odd ways, and even more amused by how many girls were displaying their own odd behaviours around Mr Gregory. Mavis was quite relieved to no longer being the only girl on the receiving end of the teasing.
"We don't really go in for pranks at Deepdean", Beanie admitted, "I half think the teachers might give us a caning if we did, or a clip around the ear".
"The teachers here don't go in for that sort of punishment, though I am surprised Mam'zelle Dupont hasn't throw a board eraser at someone yet", Irene grinned, "If she'd seen what Darrell did with the invisible chalk she might very well have".
"Do we have to dredge that up again?", Darrell groaned but when she glanced over her shoulder at Irene she was smiling.
"Darrell!", a voice from behind them in the corridor called out.
"Aaw, it's one of your fan club", Alicia teased, earning herself an elbow in response.
"Did you hear?", Kate, a little first former, came to a stop by Darrell, "about the practice match?"
"The exhibition match", Darrell ignored Alicia's grin, "I did, well done".
"You'll be there watching, right?", Kate asked and Darrell could almost feel Alicia's smile growing behind her.
"Of course, we all will", Darrell said, "Go on, before you're late to lunch".
Kate ran on ahead, practically bouncing in her excitement.
"Best make sure you're standing right at the front", Alicia chuckled.
"Shut up, Alicia", Darrell said a little brusquely, "The little ones just get excited is all".
"I'll say, she's practically floating", Jean nodded ahead to Kate, "Oh no..."
Unfortunately for poor Kate, as she skipped down the corridor, Miss Potts and another adult came around the corner and Kate ran straight into them.
"Kate! Do be careful", Miss Potts chastised immediately.
"Well, I never", the other woman said, staggering backwards a few steps and putting her hand to her chest in surprise.
"What were you thinking?", Miss Potts asked and Kate just stared back like a rabbit caught in car headlights.
Darrell hated to see anyone in such a situation and she hurried forward, shrugging off Alicia's hand.
"Kate's just had some very good news about the exhibition match and got a little over excited", Darrell said and she nudged Kate in the side, which seemed to bring Kate to life.
"I'm so terribly sorry Miss Potts, Miss...", Kate trailed off when she realised she didn't recognise the woman beside Miss Potts. And from the sour look the woman gave her, she didn't want to know her either.
"Mam'zelle Beaufort", the woman drew herself up to her full height and sneered at both Darrell and Kate. Darrell glanced at Miss Potts to see if she noticed but the other teacher was looking at them, not the woman beside her.
"Terribly sorry Mam'zelle Beaufort", Kate apologised, lowering her gaze. The other girls quite felt that if Miss Potts had not been stood there, Mam'zelle Beaufort would not have accepted Kate's apology. As it was she accepted with a grace that the girls suspected was put on and hurried along with Miss Potts.
"Mam'zelle? Do you suppose she's interviewing for Mam'zelle Rougier's job?", Mary-Lou asked as they continued walking.
"Don't say that. If she gets the job she'll have it in for me now", Kate wailed.
"Do buck up, Kate", Darrell patted her awkwardly on the shoulder, "I'm sure she'll forget all about it. Look there's Edie, go catch up with her".
"It's rather quite, wouldn't you say for a substitute to have applied and be interviewed?", Alicia asked once the first former had left and then she caught Daisy's eye and grinned, "Another mystery for your detective agency, Daisy?"
Daisy scowled for a moment and then cleared her expression and did her best to look unaffected.
"You could investigate and find a way to make sure she doesn't get the job? That would be jolly useful, she seems awful", Darrell suggested and even Daisy's lips twitched with a ghost of a smile.
"You can't make that kind of judgment from meeting her once", Jean cut in as the voice of reason, "Now get a move on or we'll be in trouble for being late to lunch".
Just a short update, thank you for your patience.
Chapter 11: Enthusiasms and Best Interests (MMU)
Even after all the years I've spent at school in England, I cannot understand the English schoolgirl fascination with lacrosse.
Standing around on a field, in all sorts of weather, and shivering while trying to avoid being charged over or having your ankles whacked with a stick is not an activity that will ever, ever appeal to me. Daisy adores lacrosse and, of course, she's very good at it. Which meant that, for once, she was chatting quite merrily with some of the Malory Towers girls about the game.
"I'm awful at lacrosse", Mary-Lou smiled, linking her arm through mine on the way down to the changing rooms, "Miss Remmington usually knows to set up the teams so we have enough good players on each side to avoid us stuffing up the game".
I smiled in relief at that. Here, away from Deepdean, I didn't mind giving lacrosse a good go for the sake of being a good sport (a high honour in boarding schools) but for all the good intentions in the world, I doubted any real talent for the game would follow.
As we all got changed, Alicia appeared, late, in the changing room bursting with news for us,
"I just found out that they hired that Mam'zelle Beaufort", Alicia grabbed her games uniform and raced to change in between sharing the news, "She could start immediately and she came with jolly good references from her last school".
"How could you possibly know that?", Jean asked and I smiled, wondering how many times I had thought that about Daisy. I glanced at Daisy, dreading that she might be put out that Alicia had uncovered news before her but she was listening with interest.
"Doesn't it strike anyone as a bit convenient that she just happened to be looking for a job and could start here days after Mam'zelle Rougier had a personal emergency?", Alicia asked, brushing the creases out of her sports tunic as she finished dressing quicker than some of the girls who had been there the entire time.
"Not everything is a mystery or a conspiracy, Alicia", Mavis teased as she followed Jean out of the changing room.
"Except when it is", Alicia called after her, then turned to Darrell, "What do you think?"
"I don't know", Darrell finished lacing her boots up, "It does seem terribly coincidental but sometimes coincidences do happen. I just hope she isn't as unpleasant as she seemed the other day".
Alicia glanced over at Daisy and I, and I anticipated another joke about solving a mystery but nothing came and instead we all headed out onto the field.
The teams were well divided and as far as a lacrosse game during a lesson could go, it was quite an exciting one. There were a good few solid players across both the teams, clearly Malory Towers took sports more seriously than Deepdean, but what caused all the excitement was that the games mistress had placed Daisy and Darrell on opposite teams.
Daisy was by far one of the best players at Deepdean and I could only hazard to guess - when Darrell outpaced our entire midfield and defense along the wing to pass into Jean so she could score - that Darrell was one of Malory Towers' best. Now, I see a good lacrosse player and decide it would be best to just hop out of the way if they're charging in my direction. Daisy sees a good lacrosse player, one she thinks of as being on her level, and she makes it into a single-minded pursuit of competition. Which more often than not ends in some kind of disaster.
Daisy made it her goal during the game to try and make any play as difficult as possible for Darrell. Darrell, from what I could tell, seemed overjoyed to have serious competition and didn't notice that the times where she would manage a clever feint that meant she could slip past Daisy and speed off with the ball only served to frustrate Daisy.
Late in the game, I saw the exact moment Daisy lost her cool and a split second later came the rather silly and dangerous tackle that sent both her and Darrell clattering to the floor. A sharp whistle signaled the game was to be called to a stop for a moment and I saw the flicker of embarrassment on Daisy's face as she realised how foolish she had been. She got up and held her hand out to help Darrell up. Darrell accepted, let Daisy pull her up and then nearly went back down again when her leg buckled, only stopped by Daisy grabbing her arm.
"Don't tell me that exchange girl has gone and injured Darrell ahead of next week's game", I heard someone fume from behind me and I looked over to see an older girl striding across the pitch.
"That's Molly Reynolds, our head of games", Mary-Lou whispered. That certainly explained the anger. I felt a sudden need to jump in and protect Daisy in any way possible, even though she was perfectly capable of defending herself.
"You better go and be checked by Matron", Miss Remmington was saying just as Molly reached them.
"I'll take her", Molly said and she turned on Daisy, "and you, I saw that tackle, awful behaviour".
Before Daisy could say anything, Darrell spoke, "It wasn't just Daisy, we both got overly competitive Molly, that's all. I'm sure my leg will be fine if I rest properly".
Molly's scowl seemed to deepen and Daisy looked genuinely surprised at being defended. Then I saw a flicker of the old Daisy and she stood up straighter.
"I let my emotions get the better of me getting so into the game", Daisy explained, "I am sorry", that last part was directed to Darrell and it even sounded genuine. Whether it was or not, I would have to find out later.
Molly still insisted on taking Darrell to the San and Daisy said she would go off to the sidelines to even up the teams, which must have been an awfully big deal for her as lacrosse was the first thing she had enjoyed so far this whole exchange, so the remainder of the match was a far tamer event. There was a slight uneasiness in the changing rooms that led to subdued conversations and Daisy kept to herself in case the Malory Towers' girls were upset with her for the whole incident. Thankfully, when we went up to the common room, Darrell was there, changed back into her uniform, and seemed as happy as always. I breathed a sigh of relief.
"As long as I don't overdo it, I should be fine by next weekend", Darrell explained, "So no real harm was done. Molly says I'm not allowed to play against Daisy again though because I get too enthusiastic and enthusiasm is not always in my best interests, which is a shame because it was fun playing against you. You're a good player".
"I know", Daisy said with her trademark self-assuredness, it was the follow-up that surprised me, "So are you and I am sorry I tackled you like that, I was a poor sport and you're so annoyingly nice and honest about everything that I feel even worse about it".
It wasn't the most conventional of truces perhaps but Darrell seemed quite amused by Daisy's description of her and it made her laugh, which rather cut through the tension in the rest of the room and when Daisy actually down on the sofa with Darrell and Sally, and joined in with a little bit of the conversation that went on, I felt like at last things could only get better.
Chapter 12: French, Threats and a Mysterious Letter (MT)
Please click below or hit the 'End' button on your keyboard to read the Content Warning first.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"Is Mavis off at another music lesson?", Daphne asked as she joined the rest of them sitting on the grass, "I've looked for her everywhere".
"Of course she is", Lavinia snorted, "Mr Gregory has simply been gushing about how she's improved already". Lavinia clutched her hands to her chest and fluttered her eyes in a ridiculously exaggerated manner, prompting giggles all around.
"She's not the only one being daft about Mr Gregory", Jean said, exasperated by the way many of the girls had started to behave around the young teacher, "I even thought about talking to Miss Peters or Miss Potts about it but it seems too much like sneaking".
"Oh leave them to it", Alicia waved her hand lazily from where she lay on the grass, "It's not hurting anyone".
"It could", Sally said quietly.
"You think everything is too risky", Alicia waved her hand to dismiss Sally's concerns, "It's just silliness, nothing more than that".
"Silliness can sometimes become something more serious", Daisy said, "Haven't you heard rumours about this sort of thing in other schools?"
"Well, look there's Irene", Alicia said, spotting the other girl walking over to them, "She must have had extra teaching from Mr Gregory, she can tell us what he is like".
Irene had barely sat down when Alicia asked,
"What's Mr Gregory like in one to one lessons?"
"How should I know? Ask Mavis", Irene fanned out her sheet music on the grass and put it back in order. Somehow it would be out of order by the next time she needed it.
"How can you not know?", Alicia asked, catching one of the sheets as a gust of wind caught it and nearly sent it flying off, "You always have extra lessons".
"I used to", Irene corrected, "But Mr Young isn't teaching any this term and I don't like Mr Gregory so I'm taking a break from them".
"Why don't you like him?", Daisy jumped in before Alicia could.
"He just...", Irene looked off into space for a few seconds, "I don't really know how to put it. I just find everything about him irritating".
The bell for afternoon lessons went and all talk about Mr Gregory was pushed aside. History was mercifully uneventful and Miss Carlton found no need to pull any of the girls up for lack of effort. They were just making their way to French when they came across the first formers crowding in the corridor.
"Come on, move alone you lot", Daphne chided. Some of the first formers started walking straight away and then Edie popped out from the small huddle remaining and tugged on Darrell's sleeve.
"Mam'zelle Beaufort threatened to ban Kate from the lacrosse game, she's awfully upset", Edie explained.
Darrell shot Alicia a look to silence any silly comment she had.
"Well, the rest of you clear off. You won't be making her feel better by crowding her", Darrell said to the younger girls. Most of the third and first formers took the hint and carried on to lessons.
"What happened?", Darrell asked Kate.
The story came tumbling out about how Kate had found the French work particularly difficult and couldn't get a few pronunciations right and how Mam'zelle Beaufort had been convinced she was doing it on purpose. The more she criticised Kate, the more nervous the poor girl had become, until the rest of her spoken French suffered too.
"I have to go back this afternoon for my punishment", Kate rubbed her eyes with her hands, "It will be frightful, I'm sure of it. She's frightful".
"It'll probably be lines or cleaning the classroom", Darrell reassured her, "Which is boring but it's not too bad".
"Mam'zelle was being unfair though, wasn't she?", Edie asked, "Especially threatening to make sure Kate couldn't play in the match".
Darrell hesitated, not sure that she should openly criticise a new teacher in front of the younger students, she was relieved when Sally spoke up.
"Some teachers are stricter than others, especially newer teachers so they're not given the run around in class", Sally explained, "I'm sure she won't ban you from the team but you better run along to your next class before we're all late and in more trouble".
Privately though, as they walked quickly to class, both Darrell and Sally thought that the punishment did seem a little too much. Worse still, the third formers had French with Mam'zelle Beaufort next and if she were in a foul mood they would soon find out.
Mam'zelle Beaufort certainly was firm and the lesson got off to a swift and quiet start. In many ways, it wasn't so dissimilar to Mam'zelle Rougier's lessons and after more than two years of those lessons, the third formers found it easy enough to settle down and concentrate. The stricter French lessons were always balanced out by Mam'zelle Dupont's more easy going ones so they didn't mind. After going over the key points for the lesson on the board, they were set work to complete by themselves. Even the girls who normally flew through such tasks, like Alicia, took longer than usual to work through the difficult exercise and there was a good ten minutes of silence in the class before something happened to disrupt them.
"Darrell Rivers!", Mam'zelle Beaufort's sharp voice made half the girls in the class jump, including Darrell, "Stand up and repeat what you were saying".
Darrell looked utterly bewildered but stood up as she was told to. Though she couldn't go through with the second request because she hadn't been saying anything.
"Well?", Mam'zelle took a few steps forward and Darrell desperately tried to think of an answer that wouldn't be impudent.
"I truly wasn't speaking Mam'zelle", Darrell said.
"I saw your lips moving, or do you question my eyesight?", Mam'zelle asked.
"I was rereading my work, I might have been mouthing the words I suppose?", Darrell offered as the only explanation she could think of. She knew she did that sometimes because Alicia had made fun of her for it.
"A likely story", Mam'zelle turned and walked back to her desk, "Very well, if you won't be honest then you can stay back with me after class".
Darrell felt a hot flame in her chest as the familiar burn of her temper took over. If Sally hadn't taken her hand and squeezed it, Darrell was sure her temper would have gotten her into even more trouble.
"Yes, Mam'zelle", she choked out instead and sat back down.
The girls spent the rest of the lesson barely daring to breathe and when the bell went and everyone but Darrell headed out, more than a few sympathetic glances were sent her way.
"Oh how awful, I hope Mam'zelle isn't too hard on her", Mary-Lou sighed on the way up to the common room.
"I thought Darrell was going to blow up when Mam'zelle told her she had to stay back", Kitty admitted, "She looked so angry".
"Well that's because Mam'zelle accused her of being dishonest, isn't it?", Daisy asked, opening the door to the common room and striding in.
"Of course it is", Alicia said, "If Darrell had been talking she would have owned up to it. It's a good job she wasn't doing that thing where she sticks her tongue out when she's concentrating or Mam'zelle might have thrown her out of the class for impudence".
"It was mightily unfair though", Daphne added, "Mam'zelle overreacted if you ask me".
"She's making Kate go back after class as well", Sally added, "All because her pronunciation wasn't as good as Mam'zelle wanted it to be".
"Oh no, if she starts punishing us for poor pronunciation, I'll be in detention with her every day we have French", Beanie groaned.
"I hope she's just being so strict to make a point or it'll be a frightful term", Alicia mused and there was a murmur of agreement amongst the others.
Once half an hour was nearly up, Sally got up and headed out of the common room, "I'll go find Darrell before she goes off and stews somewhere".
"I'll come with you", Daisy called after her, uninvited, and hurried to catch up.
"I don't know if that's a good idea...", Sally said as Daisy pulled the door shut behind her.
"I want to find out what this Mam'zelle is up to", Daisy said as though that were the only justification she needed and, not sure how to dissuade her, Sally reluctantly let her go along.
They turned down the corridor to the classrooms and Daisy caught Sally's arm and stopped her. Further down the corridor stood Miss Parker, hunched over a letter with a deep frown growing on her brow. They watched as she got to the bottom of the letter and then started to tear the letter up.
Sally, not entirely comfortable with being privy to the emotional outburst of a teacher, starting walking again. The sound of footsteps prompted Miss Parker to look up and she shoved the letter into the pocket of her cardigan and forced a smile on her face.
"Sally. Looking for Darrell?", Miss Parker asked, even her light voice sounding put on, "I just saw her head outside".
"Thank you, Miss Parker", Sally wasn't sure she managed to smile as naturally as she should have if she wanted to convince Miss Parker they hadn't been watching her but Miss Parker seemed so preoccupied that she didn't notice. The teacher hurried off down the corridor, pointedly not looking at Daisy.
"That was a little peculiar", Sally admitted, then saw Daisy crouch down, "Whatever are you doing?"
Daisy stood back up and held up a few torn pieces of paper, parts of the letter that Miss Parker had been reading.
"I don't know if we should read her private correspondence", Sally said hesitantly, though she had to admit she was a little curious herself about Miss Parker's odd behaviour.
"Sometimes we must invade people's privacy in the pursuit of solving crime", Daisy said, examining the pieces of paper carefully.
"What crime exactly has Miss Parker committed?", Sally asked, "I thought you wanted to investigate Mam'zelle Beaufort?"
"I'm perfectly capable of investigating more than one person but for now, this must take precedent", Daisy said, putting the pieces of paper carefully in her tunic pocket, "If Darrell does say anything valuable about Mam'zelle, do let me know".
As Daisy hurried off back towards the common room, Sally shook her head with a sigh and carried on looking for Darrell before her friend worked herself up into being more upset than she already was.
Content Warning: Veiled discussion relating to adults abusing students in school settings.