The Sacred Secret
Chapter 11 - Tick-a-lock. Pick-a-lock. Or, un-tic-a-lock?
Unreal orange peel!
'Whadda youse two shmucks want?' Roseanne Sole grunted as she pushed
her way through the milling students outside her dorm.
Three days had passed, it was late Thursday evening around nine o'clock
at Hopewell Hall and only an hour from lights out for all first
formers. Priscilla and Monique, who were both leaning against the wall
next to the door, straightened up and Priscilla said, 'We want to have
a little chat with you.'
'Yes,' said Monique, 'we have been wondering how someone could get
your room and attack you and we have found out a way.'
'Gar'n! What'ud youse two know about it and why would ya care?'
Roseanne, nonchalantly swinging her room key on its chain, which was
tied to her toilet carry bag, though her eyes narrowed and she looked
suspiciously at them.
'We thought you would want to know so that whoever it was could be
caught,' replied Monique evenly.
'Since when would knowing how they got in help to catch 'em anyway?'
'You will be surprised when you see,' answered Monique. 'I can give
a demonstration right now.'
'Piss off!' hissed Roseanne, as she inserted her key in the lock and
opened the door.
'It'll only take a minute,' said Priscilla, placing a hand on the
frame as Roseanne blundered through. Before she had time to turn and
stop them the two girls followed her inside.
'Listen! Annie don't want your help. Get out of her room!' shouted
Roseanne, rounding on them, her big bulk taking on a threatening
'Calm down a minute,' said Priscilla. 'We only want to show you what
we've found out. We've got an interest here too.'
'Like what!' said Roseanne, looming, as if readying to physically
'Like showing you that Saif wasn't involved, for a start!' said
Priscilla, thrusting forward aggressively, only to be restrained by
Monique's hand upon her shoulder.
'That little towel-head! Don't like her lot anymore than blacks.
Muslims, or whatever they are! Don't need 'em in Australia. And don't
want 'em in Annie's room either, anymore than Annie wants you two!' She
prodded her chubby finger into Priscilla's breast bone. 'Bugger off!
Before Annie gets mad and chucks both of ya out!'
'Very well,' said Monique, quietly. 'It seems you do not want to
what we can tell you. And we will go now. Why not step outside with us
and lock your door. Bring your key of course, and then I shall show you
how easy it is to open it.'
Roseanne sniggered, 'Yer full of it, Blackie! O.K. Gar'n, let's see
get back in again!' She ushered them out and pulled the door closed
behind her. The lock clicked shut with a faint snick.
The corridor was fast filling now with first-form students hurrying to
and from The Palace, their hair slick after washing, or racing to get
in a last minute shower.
'Alright,' said Monique, facing Roseanne, 'your dorm door is now
locked. You have your key. I,' she extended her open palms, 'have
nothing. Now,' she turned and inspected the door, 'I shall open this.'
'Bull-crap!' said Roseanne, standing back, smirking.
Monique ignored her comment and, placing her left hand on the door
handle turned it, gently pushing with her right which was held flat
against the key-hole plate. For some moments nothing happened.
Monique's shoulders seemed to tense as if she were summoning some inner
Roseanne guffawed, saying, 'You stupid...' The rest of the words were
never spoken, because slowly the door began to open and, almost as if
she had been wearied by the effort, Monique released her hold on the
handle, resting her other hand against the door frame. 'There,' she
said, her back still to the others in the corridor. 'It can be done, if
you know how.'
'Get outta Annie's way!' cried Roseanne, shoving Priscilla aside, to
get to Monique. 'This is a trick, ya can't open a door without a key!'
'I just did,' said Monique coolly, turning and stepping forward to
confront the big girl.
'Show us yer hands! Open yer hands Blackie!' Roseanne demanded, her
out-thrust chin inches from Monique's face.
'Step back and I will,' said Monique, without flinching, though her
skin seemed to glow with a shimmer of perspiration.
Roseanne backed off a pace and folded her arms. 'Car'n, let Annie
what's in them fists. Ya got another key, ain't ya? That bitch roomy of
Annie's, I'll bet she gave ya hers!'
At that moment, Saif Al Saiph arrived, sliding between several other
students who had gathered around at the commotion. 'What is happening
here?' she asked. 'Did I hear you say something about my key?
Here it is. I have it with me of course when I go out. Now quickly, you
must excuse me, I want to get my things for the showers...'
'Yere... er right, cloth-head,' said Roseanne contemptuously,
Saif to pass between them into the dorm room. 'Anyway, if ya ain't got
her key, ya must have a copy. Like I said before, open yer hands!'
Monique's face split into one of those huge grins that Priscilla had
seen from time to time. She opened her balled fists to reveal empty
pink palms. 'Now do you believe that people can get into your room
without a key?'
Roseanne appeared stunned. She glanced about at the onlooking pupils
and screeched, 'Wot are youse all lookin' at? Take a walk!' Then,
turning to the others she muttered, 'Let's talk in private,' and
hustled them inside, suspiciously examining the door and its surrounds
as she entered.
'Right, smart-arse, how did ya do it?' she demanded, closing the door
and checking that it really had locked.
'That is for me to know, and not for you,' said Monique, watching as
Saif quickly gathered up her toilet gear and made for the door where
she paused, saying, 'Do you want me to stay? I should like to find out
what this is all about but I also need to shower... '
'Go on, stupid, ya don't need to know nothin', bugger off!' said
Roseanne, unlocking the door and almost kicking Saif out. 'Go wash
yerself silly, won't change a thing!' she flung at Saif as the girl
'Now... ' Roseanne said, turning back to Priscilla and Monique, 'Annie
wants to know about this. How can you get into doors when they're
locked? And yer not gettin' out of here til you tell her.'
Priscilla shrugged, 'We'll have to go eventually. It's lights out in
fifty minutes. Of course, now that you realise certain people can get
through a locked door anytime they want to... '
'What's that s'posed to mean?'
'It means,' answered Monique casually, 'that every time you lock
yourself in at night, you are not as safe as you think. You can be...
how do you say it? Ah oui! Got at!' she concluded dramatically.
The anger in Roseanne's face drained away to be replaced by
uncertainty. Her mouth twitched. 'Get outta here,' she whispered, doubt
reflected in each word as realisation slowly sank in.
'We aren't finished yet', said Priscilla, making herself comfortable
Roseanne's face began to turn bright red as she took a pace forward.
was plain that she was about to start screaming, yet before she could,
Monique strode to the door and took hold of the handle. 'I said when we
first came here tonight that we were wondering how someone could get
into your room and attack you and that we had found a way.'
'So ya found it, now get out!' spat Roseanne, barely controlling her
'But of course that was not how it actually did happen,' continued
Monique, flashing her extensive, pearly- toothed grin.
'What are ya talkin' about?' said Roseanne.
'No-one entered this room last Thursday night,' snapped Priscilla.
'Only someone left it. You, you scheming bitch. It was you, you did it
all by yourself!'
Roseanne made as if to protest, but Monique held up her hand saying,
'If you do not want me to open this door and let in some of the
students and maybe a teacher or two, you will keep quiet and listen.'
The big girl sullenly shut her mouth, her hands clenched into tight
'Very well,' said Monique, and Priscilla inwardly smiled at the
accented "very" coming out of her black friend's mouth, 'now I expect
that you want some proof of this accusation?'
'Perhaps you should try looking inside your school bag over there,'
Monique indicated the bag lying on the bed next to where Priscilla
'Yeah', drawled Priscilla, patting the hold-all affectionately, 'the
proof is in the bag.'
Looking totally confused Roseanne, with surprising speed, crossed to
the bed and snatched up her hold-all. Opening it, she peered inside,
her mouth suddenly gaping. 'Wha? Where'd you get this?' she said in a
low tone as she withdrew a crumpled brown paper bag.
'Where you stashed it,' said Priscilla. 'Don't bother to look
it's all there. All the stuff you used to fake your own abduction!'
Roseanne's hands were shaking, so much so that she threw the bag
the bed as if to distance herself from its contents. On cue they
spilled out over the bed-spread: an almost empty roll of masking tape
and three marking pens, red, yellow and black.
'Yer bluffing, these aren't anything to do with Annie, yer just
guessing. You couldn't have found them in the... '
'In the where?' said Priscilla, slowly standing. 'You were going to
where we couldn't have found them because you know where you put them
and how difficult it would be for anyone to get at them, especially
since the police aren't being called in at the request of "your
family." At the request of you to your Uncle, more likely.'
Roseanne stared hard at Priscilla, her eyes squeezing up in fury.
'Don't you even speak about Annie's family! You'll be very sorry if...'
'Let us go back a little bit and allow me to tell how it actually
happened,' interrupted Monique, her hand still upon the door. 'Why
don't you just sit down and make yourself at home Roseanne?' She
indicated the bed just vacated by Priscilla who had moved away and was
now leaning against the double wardrobe that was part of the furniture
in every dorm room.
Resentfully, the big girl sat heavily on the mattress, her hands
gripping the bedcovers.
'Your telling others of the spitting incident was not bravado
continued Monique calmly. 'When you realised that John Wynd and we who
witnessed your outrageous behaviour were not going to speak out, you
let it be known to a chosen few, who immediately spread it all over the
school. After midnight on Friday morning you sneaked from this room in
your nightdress and out into the Quad, using the low hedge that runs
along the ground floor windows to cover your passing. Then you came to
one of the fire escape ladders and climbed up to the steps. From there
you arrived on the roof, took off your nightdress, probably out of
sight behind the chimney, drew on it with those coloured marking pens,
put it back on, tore off enough strips of masking tape to be used to
bind your hands, ankles and mouth, put the pens and the last of the
roll back into the bag and reached up high enough to drop the evidence
into the chimney. Having done that, you climbed down to the edge, took
the strips of tape from your arms, wrapped your legs and mouth, and
last your hands, waited a short while then tore them off again and
'That's stupid!' protested Roseanne.
'Is it?' said Priscilla. 'We don't think so. We've got the Why
You wanted to start real trouble between the Coories and others in the
school, and now we've also got the How.'
'Anybody could have hidden that stuff... wherever it was that you
it,' Roseanne ended, lamely.
'They could have thrown it off the roof too, but they didn't,' said
Priscilla. 'Why would some-one else leave this where it could be
discovered, on the roof or down in the Quad? No, they'd have taken it
with them. If they were caught on the fire escape it wouldn't make any
difference whether they had it or not, they'd be nicked anyway. But if
they weren't caught they could remove the evidence altogether. Only
someone who could not get off the roof and didn't dare leave the pens
and tape anywhere they could be found, for fear of them falling into
the hands of the police, would try to hide the bag in the chimney.
Unlucky for you that it didn't drop all the way to the floor below
where the old fire-places are blocked off.
Lucky for us that we decided to check out the roof!'
'Yeah, and how'd ya get up high enough to look into the chimney?
'Ever heard of a person standing on another person's shoulders,'
Priscilla, prepared for the question, shot back.
'So ya think ya got Annie yeah?' said Roseanne, a grin slowly
over her face. 'Well ya got nuthin!' She grabbed up the pens and tape
and shoved them into the bag. 'Cos Annie's got these now and it's your
word against hers. Thanks for bringing 'em down, now ya can both leave.
This bag full a' junk means bugger all... '
'Do you suppose we would be that foolish,' said Monique ominously,
before Roseanne could answer, Priscilla said, 'We've taken certain
precautions,' she reached up onto the top of the wardrobe and took down
a voice-recorder clock-radio.
'Hey that's Annie's!' said Roseanne in some surprise. 'Hand it
She made to snatch at the recorder.
'That isn't all,' replied Priscilla coolly, moving back out of
'What would you say if we had a real witness to this conversation?'
'Whadarya talkin' about!'
'Try looking under Saif's bed,' said Monique, a smile playing about
'Ya puttin' Annie on! There's no-one under there!' Yet as if
disbelieving her own words she scrambled to her knees and peered into
the shadows beneath the bed. 'There! Ya bluffin' bitch... '
That's when it happened!
There was a loud report like a car back-firing, and a cloud of
grey-white smoke erupted around the room.
Roseanne, still on her knees, jerked her head up in time to see the
wardrobe door fly open and a black apparition leap from within. She
recoiled in horror as it advanced through the billowing, acrid smoke
toward her. It was the figure of an aboriginal dressed in nothing more
than a strip of red cloth bound around its loins, across its face and
naked chest were smeared the three colours of the Coorie flag. She had
a fleeting impression that it carried a white bone in one of its hands
and that it raised the thing before her bulging eyes, yet the object
was not pointed directly at her, merely displayed. Momentarily it
seemed to mesmerize Roseanne like a snake does its prey, and that's
when the figure lifted its other hand, the fingers serpent-like, and
darted them straight at her face, smearing her mouth and chin with some
kind of slippery substance. Then, an instant later, the figure bounded
across the floor and vanished through the doorway, the door wrenched
open by Monique.
Roseanne's mouth hung agape, her watering eyes were blinking in the
shaft of light from the corridor as the smoke billowed out, blocking
'Enjoy the listen,' said Priscilla, idly tossing the recorder onto
Roseanne's bed, 'oh and there's a message at the beginning just for
little old you.'
'I think that will be all for tonight,' said Monique calmly, as she
Priscilla took their leave, stepping into the hallway filled with the
vague shapes of crowding figures, and shutting the door firmly behind
'What's going on in there?' said a wide-eyed girl they didn't know.
'Yeah, where'd all the smoke come from?' asked a boy, who was from
of the second year classes, waving his hands to dispel some of the
grey, curling whips still lingering.
'That? Oh that,' said Priscilla as she and Monique threaded their
between the students. 'It's only Roseanne Sole, I think she's just
blown a gasket.' She took hold of Monique's arm and hurried forward as
the figure of Justice Croad, who was on corridor duty that night,
emerged from the further end of the hall, moving with the speed of
sloth toward the point of commotion.
'Good evening Mister Croad,' said Monique as they passed, but he
otherwise occupied, slowly pushing his way through the tide of pupils
flooding in the direction of Roseanne's dorm.
'It is twenty-five past nine,' said Monique, checking her wrist
as they headed toward their own room, will we have enough time?'
As if in answer a figure emerged from a stairwell and stepped toward
them. 'Everything go O.K.?' said the tallish aboriginal youth.
'Couldn't have gone better, Charlie' answered Priscilla gleefully.
should have seen her face!'
'I'd like to see it when she listens to that tape,' he answered,
grinning as he held out a package. 'Don't forget that you promised us
'All part of the deal,' said Priscilla, taking the object from him.
Warragal sorted out?'
'Yeah, got him into the showers without being spotted by anyone.
stuff, charcoal, but messy. Did you pick up the flashpot?'
'It's here in my pocket, I grabbed it while Roseanne was goggling at
Warragal,' Priscilla replied, fishing into her tunic and pulling out a
small item with a very thin wire attached, 'Louis said it might still
be a bit warm but at least it hasn't singed my jacket.'
'Well you'd be paying for your own dry-cleaning and mending if it
said a bright voice behind them.
It was Louis and he was grinning broadly. 'Better give that to me and
we can talk tomorrow at lunch time.
Thanks for all your help Baroonah, you did a great job with Monique's
recorder, it really does look like a bone.'
Charlie Fairman, lanky for his age but extremely wiry, winked an
'Amazing what some plaster and papier mache can do,' and as an
afterthought he added, 'here's Saif's part of the deal,' and he handed
a small flat, rectangular piece of metal about the size of a long
fingernail to Monique. 'I bet that big oaf will be barricading her room
from now on.'
She might first have to barricade it against the teachers who will
to know what happened,' said Monique.
'If she's got half a brain, and I reckon that's about all she's got,
she'll take a look in the mirror and wash off the Coorie colours
Warragal smeared on her face before she opens the door to anybody, and
I don't think she'll be in much of a mood to say anything until she
listens to Priscilla's message,' said Louis. 'Now with a bit of luck,
Saif should be out of the showers by now and If she can't get back into
her dorm because of what's gone on she knows she can bunk in with Karen
Presley for tonight.'
'And me and the boys'll make sure Warragal gets back to his room
A.S.A.P.' Charlie gave Louis and the two girls high five's and turned
on his springy heels toward the Palace.
'See you tomorrow,' said Louis, pocketing the flashpot and heading
his dorm upstairs.
As soon as the girls got back to their own room and closed the door
Priscilla dug out the silver metallic card and Monica placed the
peridot ring and chain to its surface. It activated at once and as it
began to unfold, the soft sounds of music issued forth.
'Harry! This is no time to listen to... Is that Scott whatizname?'
'That is indeed Scott Joplin, from the soundtrack of The Sting, most
appropriate I would have thought,' said Harry's voice as the music
faded into the background.
'We did it Monsieur Harry! It went like um... how do you say it? The
'Close enough. I get your drift. Congratulations! Run it by me, I
a blow for blow in all the gory details, especially the last look on
'Well, as soon as Roseanne went off for her shower, Saif rang
The boys were waiting for the signal from us. So, while everyone was
hurrying back from dinner and off to the Palace, we arrived outside the
dorm and Saif let us in. That's when Warragal, who's name is actually
John Wynd, painted all over with spray-on colour and charcoal under his
dressing gown, got into the wardrobe with my recorder. Gee it's well
done, this really looks like a bone, and to think, the thing that was
getting her confession was waved right under her nose, how perfect!'
said Priscilla, removing the object from its wrapping and gently
breaking the voice-recorder from its cunning disguise.
'Yes, and while that was happening Priscilla put our message on
Roseanne's recorder and left it running on top of the wardrobe,' added
'That's while Louis was setting up the flash-pot just in front of
Oowee! Did it go off with a bang,' said Priscilla excitedly.
'In the meantime, I placed the tiny, flat magnet that I got from one
the old throw-out kitchen doors in the garage on the door-frame so that
when the door closed it created a little gap between the door and the
lock striking-plate. As all the dorm locks are old, the ordinary
door-knob closers have worn and become somewhat loose. With the magnet
there they will still click shut, but the gap prevents the actual,
newer lock-part sliding into its housing, so that you think the door is
secured but it is really not! When Roseanne came along, Saif had gone
off to await the next step and we two were just hanging about outside.
Baroonah, that is Charlie Fairman, and his mates were all waiting too.
Roseanne arrived, we talked, went in and came out again.'
'Yeah, that's when Monique did her Door-Opening surprise,' said
Priscilla, 'and for a sec I thought it had all gone wrong...'
'I was waiting until I could see that Saif was ready to appear with
bit about her key,' Monique interrupted. 'After all, she was an
important part of Our Sting. It was her task to remove the magnet from
the door-frame when she entered, while Roseanne was busy asking me to
open my hands. After that, we went back inside and voila! That is when
the merde hit the fan!' said Monique, triumphantly, her face splitting
into a wide grin.
'Oh it was so good, grilling that big lump and knowing that it was
all along,' Priscilla said enthusiastically, rewinding the tape on the
now uncovered recorder. 'We just need to replay the moment and be sure
we got it all. Then we're gonna create... ohh!... quite a few
duplicates, and get them out to Charlie and his pals and... Well, it
could become a cottage industry really. Listen in Harry.' Priscilla hit
the play button and for the next few minutes they kept quiet,
enthralled at the clarity of the tape. Priscilla hastily turned down
the volume just before the sound of the flashpot going off, and said,
'Wow, we've really got the goods on her now!'
'And what do you intend to do with this confession?' Harry asked.
'Nothing. We are merely going to allow the information out to the
school and let her squirm. When Roseanne listens to Priscilla's message
on her recorder she will know that we have a duplicate. What can she do
but be afraid,' said Monique.
And Priscilla completed, 'Be very afraid. And put a chair and a
wardrobe or three against her door. She won't know where it's coming
from next, the students or Miss Poe, if the information leaks back to
the teachers. How good is that! Eventually everyone will know that she
faked the whole thing!'
'I think you had both better get some sleep,' said Harry, 'and
remember, there are times when revenge is not enough, justice is much
better; Harry's Law.'
'Don't be so pompous,' said Priscilla, you're only a dog.'
'And an Alien from around Wasat, way out in the nebulous void of
space,' Harry reminded them. Now I'll leave you both with a little
night music. Sleep tight.'
'Unreal orange peel,' muttered Monique, turning on her side and
up the blankets.
'Moni says "orange" the same way as "very", rolls her r's. Or at
she just did,' Priscilla thought, giggling to herself. 'And what about
tonight! How good was that... ' she nodded, drifting contentedly
All of Hopewell Hall was now at rest, although there had been some
confusion for a time on the ground floor of the dorm wing.
In the meantime, the sounds of Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer"
to fade away as Monique and Priscilla slept, and the three dimensional
box slowly folded itself and became again a blank silver
Chapter 12 [next]