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BlackEagle Girls
and The Ice-Angel of Death

Chapter 11 - Walking in backwards

Monique managed to haul Priscilla upright and the two of them practically fell into each others arms. For some moments they remained together, trembling and breathing deeply, their legs shaking and the damp of the stone beneath their feet seeping into their shoes.
'Where are we?' said Monique, peering into the darkness at a street lamp some distance away.
'A lane... But I think I know... Come on Moni, along here,' sobbed Priscilla, wiping at her eyes as they began to stumble forward. 'There should be a little park at the end here... yes! We can cut across it and that takes us a couple of blocks from Hopewell. Hurry, we have to get back there before they close up for the night!'
'What are we going to say? Do we say that we have been abducted?' gasped Monique as they emerged from the lane and struggled over the wet lawns, and then beneath the dripping trees.
'Yes... No! We mustn't say anything! You heard what they told us. We have to think about all this. Let's just worry about getting back into school first.'
'How can we do that without saying what happened to us?'
'Don't know, just keep going,' Priscilla panted. 'We'll think of something by the time we get there!'
Within a matter of ten minutes the two girls had found their way across the park and down the silent blocks that led to Hopewell Hall. Not too far off they could see the entrance gates and the lights of the building. A soft drizzle had begun again as they both drew breath, leaning down to grasp at their legs, puffing out showers of moisture against the bright lighting beyond.
'Phheww! Look at that bus,' said Priscilla, straightening and staring at a white bus slowly making its way toward them with its yellow indicators blinking. 'That's coming into Hopewell! Maybe there are some teams going out to play in the country this weekend. Quick! Let's at least use it for cover to get past the gates!'
Darting forward, the pair managed to sprint the distance between so that they squeezed through as the vehicle hauled its way in, running to a halt outside Hopewell's main entrance. The Hall's doors stood open and yellow light spilled across the steps and out toward the iron gates as the pair slipped along the shadowed side of the bus.
From within the foyer there came a sudden burst of cheering whilst a number of students emerged, running and laughing as they hurried down the steps. More followed in twos and threes, all adding to the commotion. Then a larger group of girls, possibly Year Eleven's or Twelve's, came trooping down hefting shoulder bags.
'Alright Moni, now's our chance,' said Priscilla determinedly. 'Do as I do, start yelling and walking backward. Wave and cheer! Come on! Join in! Yeah! Go team! Go girls! Yea Hopewell!'
Monique caught on straightaway although she thought her friend was really pushing their luck further than it could possibly take them. 'Erm, oh oui... erm... yes! Good luck! Yes! You can do it! Come on girls, best of luck! You will be the winners!'
'Good on you team, you can beat them! Go get'em!' shouted Priscilla as she and Monique edged their way backwards up the steps until they both stood at the entrance doors amongst a crowd of well-wishers who were all yelling and waving the school colours of cream, gold and navy blue crepe-paper floggers.
'We might just get away with this,' muttered Priscilla, glancing over her shoulder at the reception area. 'We're in luck! Old man Croad's on duty, he wouldn't know if a tram was up him unless it rang its bell, keep waving, the team's all on board now.'
Some of the girls on the bus had slid open windows and as it began to pull away they were frantically waving back, laughing and calling out to their well-wishers. In the next moments the bus had turned a half circle and was pulling out between the gates, lights beaming through the rain, blinkers flashing; a few short bips of the horn and it was droning away into the night.
All the students who had come to see the team off were now flooding back up the steps and into the foyer, shaking the rain out of their hair and chattering away excitedly. Grabbing Monique by the arm, Priscilla merged with these taller groups, mostly girls, slipping between them and heading for the doors that led to the inner Admin corridor and the Dorms beyond.
'Miss Black, Miss Bateleur, what are you both doing here? It's eight-thirty. Shouldn't you be getting ready for lights out?' said a woman's voice that pinned them both as surely as a butterfly is pinned to a board.
Priscilla's heart sank as she saw Juliet Van Weenan and Barry Garland looming through the press of pupils. 'Wha... we came to see the girls of... off,' she stammered, cornered.
'We didn't see you here before, and why would you be interested in a Year Five team?' said Barry Garland, eyeing them suspiciously as he and Juliet drew closer.
'Oh well, you know, Girl Power, we're always ready to support any of our School's girl teams, aren't we Moni?' said Priscilla, her fingers prodding at Monique's back.
'Oh yes, of course,' Monique agreed, we want them to slam-dunk to victory.'
'Slam-dunk?' queried Garland, his head tilting curiously to one side.
'Think she means like in swimming,' said another voice. Both Monique and Priscilla turned to find a young man, perhaps sixteen or seventeen, standing just behind them, a coloured flogger in one hand and a half-eaten banana in the other. 'You know Mister Garland, like in a manner of speaking; "slam-dunk", water, swimming and dumping the opposition. And that's what Year Eleven's Eels are going to do to the Ballarat girls. Four girls out of my class are in the swim team for this meet. They're gonna cream 'em!'
'Oh, Joe... Joe? ' said Juliet Van Weenan, searching to recall his name. 'You're a Probationary Prefect from Eleven... '
'Eleven B,' said Barry Garland, recognising the young lad at once, 'everybody knows Joe Simiani.'
'Well, actually not everybody,' replied Joe modestly, neatly flipping his banana skin into a waste bin nearby. 'Anyway, it's good that these newer kids are here to support the older girls. Not many younger ones bother.'
'No, they don't,' said Juliet, now eyeing the state of Priscilla and Monique's crumpled and, in places, very wet uniforms.
'That's right Miss Van Weenan, so I was a bit surprised tonight by the turn-out, pretty good really,' went on Joe, gazing about the still milling crowd.
'You saw these girls in here?' Juliet asked, and both Priscilla and Monique could sense the wheels whirring inside their Form Mistress' head.
'Sure, think so, why?' asked Joe, looking somewhat mystified.
'No... Nothing, that's fine Joe,' said Garland. 'Better see if you can herd this lot out, time's getting on, and perhaps you two,' he said directing his words at Priscilla and Monique, 'had better head for the showers before lights out. You both look like you've been pulled through a barbed-wire fence backwards.'
'Um, right, yeah, well we did manage to slip over together as we were coming across the Quad in the rain,' Priscilla answered. 'In a hurry to get here before the team took off, you know.'
Minutes later, the two of them met in the Palace and fell into adjacent shower cubicles, still shaking from their ordeal. As the welcome heat of the water sprayed across their shoulders Monique called, 'Cilla, Marge has gone home for the weekend, do you think... '
'Do I think what I think you're thinking?' answered Priscilla, showering away in fast-forward. 'I'll speak to Surban. Found her kneeling on the floor with her head in her hands like she was praying or something. Nearly nine, if she O.K's I'll knock!'
At three minutes to nine Priscilla, clutching a carry-all, rapped at Monique's dorm door and was literally dragged inside by her friend. 'What did she say?' Monique whispered as she closed the door.
'She said, "Surban cares not if she sleeps alone. Surban is always alone." Phew Moni! Tell you what, she's like ice! If she had a bed of needles I bet she could handle it, but at least I don't think she'll blab about me being in your dorm tonight.'
Monique heaved a trembling sigh, 'That is good, if you don't mind Marge's bed?'
'I don't care, we have to talk and... hate to say this after everything ... but my stomach's growling, we missed out on dinner... '
Monique smiled, 'I have some apples, dried fruit and nuts... a couple of chocolate bars and... some cocoa. Can we make do?'
'Sounds like a feast to me,' said Priscilla, sitting down on Marge's bed. 'But it's lights out, we'll have to talk and eat by torchlight.'
'How are you feeling?' asked Monique, holding onto her torch as Priscilla juggled two mugs of warming cocoa onto a makeshift table which was in fact a suitcase placed on Monique's bed.
'Better after a shower. Have to get our uniforms and undies into the laundry first thing tomorrow. Ooley! I was so scared. Where were we taken do you think?'
'I do not know, perhaps somewhere underground, I have not had time to ponder that as yet.'
'What are we going to do?'
'Well,' said Monique, taking a sip of her cocoa, 'nothing tonight. We need to sleep and think with clear minds in the morning. Of course we do have our friends and Harry. No one can know about that,' she added, slipping out her chain and producing the thin metal card. 'Let us try to speak with him. He is only a little alien dog who comes from faraway in outer space, but he is very wise... and has connections.' She winked as she placed the chain and stone around the shiny plate.
'What's to do?' came a voice from the three dimensional box after the Peridot had activated it.
'Harry, moh Harry! mit's so good to hear you,' said Priscilla, munching on a chocolate bar.
'Mit's good to hear you too, meven if you are speaking in Chinese. Lucky you caught me, just going out to have a... to look at the sweet peas. What's happening?'
Twenty minutes later both girls had completed their rather frantic account of abduction, ordeal and threat.
'Owwh!' said Harry. 'Yowel! Guess it's time for the BlackEagle Girls to take some responsibility here.'
'Like, what does that mean?' said Priscilla.
'Means that you're not alone. You have the beginnings of a team. You have pals, just got to learn how to make it all work. Who were these guys? Do you have any ideas?'
'Non,' said Monique.
'Yeah, one was that white haired, pale skinned kid with the red eyes that scared me half to death in the Infirmary after Roseanne knocked me out on the basketball court,' said Priscilla, 'he called me Zits back then and again tonight. Don't know what they used to knock us out this time, but I bet you he has access to ether or chloroform What did Louis say about him Moni?'
'Oh, I do not recall... Oh yes! Er, he is a, was a, forth former who failed to make year five, a year ten who did not get into year eleven. His name... is Dennis... Whiteford... Whitely? Louis said that he worked in the Infirmary and was kept down along with some others... '
'Ummm' said Harry, 'and this Zits thing, do  students often call each other that? Whatzit mean?'
'It's a put-down,' sighed Priscilla, 'means pimples, acne and stuff, and no they don't.'
'Never had the problem myself, bit of dandruff from rolling in the dirt and excess fur... '
'We can always fix that with some doggie shampoo,' suggested Monique.
'Moving right along,' said Harry, in a sudden, brisk business-like tone, 'if this fellow is one of the culprits, chances are that his friends might be... '
'Wait on Harry, the other week when Mon and me were at home the night before Henry's birthday you said something about "Players". What was that all about?' Priscilla asked, her eyes suddenly alert in the torchlight.
'Yes, that's right I did, just working on the possibilities,' Harry answered. 'Stands to reason doesn't it? You've got Roseanne Sole, the big man Angelo who's a cousin of her dad Ronnie-Ronaldo, Morris Sole the Real Estate man, also a relative, and now what's happened tonight. Enough "Players"?'
'But how did you know? You little four-footed alien,' Monique persisted.
'Canine intuition,' said Harry, 'some cats have it too, but it's called Catnine, that's to do with lives I think.'
'You are doing that pulling-of-the-leg thing, Monsieur Harry.'
'Oh right, found me out then Miss Monique? As I was saying, chances are these others could be some of this Whitey kid's group from year ten. Anymore thoughts?'
'One of them is called Monkey. He's just a lot of screaming and crashing around with plenty of ape noises,' said Priscilla, 'and there was another voice; Sand Paper, "Ice Man" Whitey called him, he seemed to be the leader. But I think there were maybe one or two more.'
'So perhaps four or five young males?'
'And there was another thing,' added Monique. 'It was the smell of the place we were first in when I became conscious, before they took us for a ride.'
'Smells! I like smells, doggy thing, what were they like?'
'Very, how do you say it? Pungent, yes! Dampness and decaying wood, but there were other odours. I was pushed up against what seemed to be soft packages and crunchy surfaces so close that although I could not see, I could get a feel of the textures and the odours. Wherever we were, I think maybe there are some things there, very dangerous, unlawful things; perhaps drugs, I cannot say for sure.'
'Miss Monique, how do you know about stuff like drugs?' Harry asked, delicately.
'My Father and Mother have worked around the world and I was with them since a small child on many of their film projects. The fragrance of dried marijuana leaves is something I have experienced.'
'Moni,' said Priscilla shocked, 'you don't mean that your folks ever... '
'Of course not, I only mean that I was with them when they were secretly filming opium harvests in Afghanistan, marijuana in Thailand, Indonesia and Bali. My parents get around, you know, in their work. It's not always lions in Africa and  elephants in Siam... '
'And poppy growers in Afghanistan, I get the general picture,' said Harry. 'Now, here's my advice for the moment; go to sleep, go directly to sleep, do not pass go. Do not collect two hundred.'
'Gees Harry, this isn't Monopoly,' said Priscilla, stretching her arms and yawning. 'This is serious, oohhumm.'
'Exackery, so you both need to get up to speed, and from my doggy perspective nothing beats a snooze. Cats'll tell you that, they're the experts. Meantime, think about this; something bigger than your boofhead mate Annie's antics is happening in Hopewell. Heavies like the Fab Four or Famous Five, or whoever these guys are, don't come out from under their rocks for nothing. Probably Roseanne has something to do with it in some way, but I think that they aren't just warning you off to protect her. If Miss Monique's nose works a sniff as well as mine, then drugs are somewhere involved. You need the help of the rest of the Black Eagle girls; their eyes and ears, and the eyes and ears of others that you can both trust. These guys said that you're being watched. Fine, let them watch you. Meet with the others out in the open. Let them do the work. Find out who these fourth year failures are, that's where to start. Oh and Miss Priscilla, maybe even your brother Louis might be of help. And don't forget, I do have my own pals, you might need them sometime soon. Nighty night Ladies.'
The little silver box folded in upon itself and became again a flat metal sheet before either of the girls could say anything else.
'Ohh, sometimes Harry can be so... so... ohhh!' said Priscilla, shaking her head wearily and setting her drinking mug aside. 'Moni, would you mind if I curled up with you?'
'It will be a tight squeeze, but as long as we both turnover at the same time a hug will be comforting,' Monique answered, putting the suitcase on the floor. 'And you will not have to sleep in Marge's bed,' she added.
'Or get her fleas or whatever,' said Priscilla, sliding under the bedclothes.
As they settled down, spooned together, the little light of their torch turned off, Priscilla whispered, 'Moni, there's something I want to get sorted with you. I'm not too sure how to say it and I just have to tread kind of carefully here. We never talked about religion and beliefs and stuff. And we don't have to right now. I just want to say that if you have strong feelings about anything like that, I want you to know I respect your thoughts and... well... I hope nothing I said before will change our friendship.'
Monique, who had cuddled in at Priscilla's back said, 'It would take much more than that. I am very sorry too Cilla. It was my fault really. Having lived in places where I have seen poverty and suffering and much that is hard to imagine, I have feelings for people that I find it difficult to express. But just think about this; if you were to go to a strange country, far away from your own homeland without the chance ever to go back, and were laughed at and teased because of what you believed and especially the way you dressed, how would you feel? People like Surban, alone amongst many, have to face this every day. It takes great courage to hold to their faith, to keep the way of their ancestors in an unwelcoming place.
Australia may be a country where freedom of speech and liberty is valued, yet to some it is an alien land, and sometimes all that they have is the clothes they wear and what they have only ever known before.'
Priscilla's eyes widened so that she stared into the shadowy darkness of the Dorm room and suddenly she realised that what Monique was saying rang with truth. 'I think I'm beginning to get it Moni. People want other people to be the same as them, but they forget to offer help and understanding. And they forget that we can all learn from each other.'
'Oui, my dear friend, and people who dare to dress the way Surban and Saif and others do have much... um... plenty of... how do you say it?... Oh yes, eh, guts.'
Priscilla began to drift off, and almost the last image that passed through her journey into dreamland was that of Monique's face, tucked up against her back, that big Whoopi Goldberg smile beaming. There was only one other thing that danced and drifted at the edges of Priscilla's fading thoughts; it seemed vague and unsubstantial, something nagging away, not quite attainable, illusive as a butterfly fluttering through a verdant garden. Something to do with... peanuts...
'Drugs somewhere in Hopewell Hall? And you were both knocked out and kidnapped!' exclaimed Terri Tory-Toth, shocked.
'And all we have is the albino boy from the Infirmary; connection, the word "Zits", nothing else?' asked Tsuang Tsu.
It was late Saturday afternoon. All six of the BlackEagle Girls were gathered out in the open, kicking their heels on the seats that cornered an elbow of the north-west Quad. On the far side, some third or forth-formers were engaged in a rowdy game of hand-ball and on the Library side a couple of male teachers slowly strolled together, gesticulating toward the garden beds.
'Harry thinks that Dennis Whitey or Whitford or whoever he is, is part of a group of boys who were kept down in year ten, but of course that might not be so,' said Priscilla. 'Anyway, apart from Sand Paper's voice, the one they called Ice Man, that's all we have to go on.'
'And you need us to find out who these boys are?' said Narenda Upaday. 'But how?'
Priscilla heaved a long sigh. 'I don't know. Haven't any of you got friends in the higher grades?'
The other girls shook their heads.
'What about Louis, your brother?' asked Belinda Moss hopefully.
'I'm going to try him but I have to be careful, I can't let on about us and Harry. Just have to be kind of casual or Louis will get... wait a minute!' said Priscilla, still watching the teachers as they rambled past the entrance to the Students Wing. 'What about the library? Hopewell's school magazine and the year photos?'
'That could be a possibility,' Belinda answered, 'although the photos will only give us last year's classes.'
'It is a start, at least we might find which class this Dennis boy was in and who was with him then,' offered Narenda.
'Let me do that, I like researching,' said Belinda. 'Oh, but that won't help us very much. We still wont know who was kept down with him and there wont be any pictures of this year until school's end.'
'Let's just get a list of Whitey or Whitford's class first. Maybe then we can narrow it down,' said Priscilla, 'and meanwhile I'll try to work out how I can ask Louis about it.'
'There is one more little thing,' said Monique, unfolding a slip of paper and smoothing it across her knee. The other girls leaned forward, craning their necks to see what was written there.
'Numbers?' said Tsu, puzzled.
'Footsteps,' said Monique. 'I counted them.'
'Footsteps? Of what?' asked Terri, peering at the short sequence of numbers.
'You didn't? You couldn't?' exclaimed Priscilla. 'We were both out of it, too frightened to think or even scream. You're not telling me that you remembered... '
'Nine steps up, four steps forward, stop, eleven or twelve steps on, five steps down, thirty-nine steps to where we stopped again and heard noises that took us out through a gate and into the street. I remembered: nine, four, twelve, five, thirty-nine.' Monique began to tear the paper into smaller squares. 'I'll write them down again for everybody. >From now on when you are in the area of the Chapelry keep your wits about you. I am sure we were taken into a building there, either the chapel or one of the other outhouses... '
'And the gate! Of course! that would have to be nearby,' said Narenda, 'probably within thirty or forty metres!'
'It might be in the hedge on the north boundary of Hopewell,' said Terri, getting excited.
'Or somewhere back along the east side,' added Tsu, 'It's pretty overgrown there but I think the distance is about the same. All we have to do is go and search for it.'
'Easier said than done,' said Priscilla. 'We can't just start looking. Moni and I are being watched, and probably now so are all of us. These guys weren't fooling. We have to be really careful what we do and where we go. We don't know for sure just how many of them there are.'
'Perhaps Harry can help,' suggested Belinda.
'Being invisible would certainly do the trick, but first let's just play it cool and see what we can find out about these tough cowards who bully girls. It's no good knowing where we were without knowing who they are,' said Priscilla.
Tsuang Tsu raised a finger in caution. 'Priscilla is right. We must know our adversaries: who they are and where they have this secret hiding place, but also we have to find out what it is that they want to keep hidden and how is Roseanne Sole of interest to them. Why do they want to protect her? Are drugs involved? Is she one of them? There is a mystery here. I will speak with Fon Jien and seek his thoughts. My Guardian is wise in many ways. Perhaps he will have some knowledge to enlighten us. Time here seems of no great importance, so I feel we must remain patient while we seek our way forward.'
The girls remained patient into the following week and it was not until Thursday when they again managed to gather in the morning, an hour before assembly on one of the playing fields beyond the South Wing class rooms. Hockey practice was going full tilt amongst several of the First Year classes and the girls from One A and B, having taken their turn, were getting ready to head off for the showers.  On the field at that particular moment, Roseanne Sole was all too busy battering the legs and ankles of the girls of One D and enjoying every second of the damage. It seemed that she had already risen in the estimation of some of her female classmates as a vicious protector and it was equally apparent that she had converted them as followers.
'That big cow is going to really hurt someone sooner or later,' muttered Priscilla, bitterly, as she trudged away amongst their small group.
'That's going to be bad news when it happens, but I have better,' said Belinda Moss, undoing her satchel and pulling out a sheet of paper and several photos. 'Look what I've found!'


Chapter 12 [next]

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