"I'm sure you're not allowed to lock me in here," called Bets through the keyhole.
"Elizabeth Hilton, you were warned the punishment for cheeking a prefect is thirty minutes solitary confinement in the storeroom. It's half past four. I'll be back at five to let you out to change for dinner," said Rita. "Perhaps this will help you think more carefully in the future."
"What about giving me lines? Five hundred to be done by tomorrow," offered Bets hopefully. "I'd do really long ones."
"No. We at St Etheldreda's pride ourselves on our originality. Lines are simply too commonplace. I'm going now."
Bets heard the key turn in the lock and the sound Rita's footsteps fade away. She hadn't believed it when the big prefect had handed down her sentence, but it was real, and here she was, locked in a room on the third floor of the school until such time Rita returned to let her out. She hoped the prefect meant what she said and Bets would be released in half an hour.
"Oh, Mother, this would never have happened at St Margaret's," cried Bets, as she sat on a wooden chair, obviously placed there for use by recalcitrant pupils. "You should have let me go there with Daisy."
Bets had fully expected to go to St Margaret's when she turned twelve; she'd talked of nothing else for four years. Mrs Hilton, however, had other ideas. Determined Bets would spend time with girls who would not be involved in sleuthing or pretending to assist the police would be good for her youngest daughter, particularly as the latest mystery had involved Royalty, and Foreign Royalty at that. When she found out Bets had impersonated Princess Bongawee, it had been the last straw and Bets had been duly enrolled at St Etheldreda's.
Bets drummed her heels against the legs of the chair as she recalled the details of the Mystery of the Vanished Prince, as Fatty referred to it in his notes. It had been tremendous fun dressing up with the other Find-outers and fooling Ern, Sid and Perce with their disguises. Fatty had done his 'getting out of a locked room' trick, and they'd even rescued Mr Goon.
Suddenly, Bets stopped kicking the chair legs and sat up straight. She was a Find-outer. She should be able to get herself out of a locked room. She stood up and briefly took stock of her surroundings. The narrow window at the end of the room was too small for her to climb out of; naturally the prefects had realised this when they'd chosen it for the punishment room. Hurrying over to the door, she knelt and looked through the keyhole.
"Hooray!" she cheered. What luck! Rita had left the key in the hole. Now all she needed was a piece of paper and some wire.
Shelves running the length of one wall were empty of anything useful, but they'd been lined with paper. Joyfully, Bets helped herself to a piece. She sneezed as she shook off the dust. Taking it back to the door, she knelt once more and, keeping hold of one edge, slid it through the gap between the bottom of the door and the floor, and then pulled it carefully back into the room. It hadn't torn.
"Wire. Wire. Where will I find some wire?" she muttered as she examined the shelves once more. Time was passing and Bets wanted to be out of the room before Rita returned. She checked her wristwatch; she still had fifteen minutes to go.
Carrying the chair over to the window, she climbed onto the seat, hoping to spot some wire, handily lying on the ledge, or even holding the window shut. As she reached up, she felt something in her blazer pocket. It was a pocketbook, the one in which she wrote her vocabulary words for English. Miss Langholme made them keep a list of any words they didn't understand in the books they read. Each week, twenty words were chosen from everyone's lists and the class had to learn how to spell them, as well as use them correctly in a sentence.
The pen that should be with it was missing, but Bets didn't care about that. The pen would never have fitted into the keyhole, but the spiral wire that bound the pages together certainly would. Bets jumped down from the chair and hurried back to the door. Eagerly, she pulled the notebook apart and straightened the wire. Then remembering to first slide the paper beneath the door, she jiggled the wire until the key fell with a satisfactory thud.
Slowly, she eased the paper back, and to her satisfaction, the key came with it. Moments later, she had the door unlocked and she stood safely in the corridor. With a wicked smile, she relocked the door and left the key in the hole. Let Rita figure that one out, she thought as she scurried off to change for dinner.