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BlackEagle Girls
and The Ice-Angel of Death

Chapter 12 - Prying in the Chapel

'Well? Well? Give us a look, let's have a quick gawk before class. Come on Belinda, show and tell,' urged Priscilla, as the group sauntered toward Hopewell's south wing, allowing others of their teams to hurry on ahead.
 'Alright, alright. Please don't get your unmentionables into a twist,' said Belinda, in her rather proper English tone, offering the pages out to the others. 'These are photocopies I made from the school mags of last year and the year before. I had to go through quite a lot of them to find this group but I think we have at least some positive suspects.'
 'Well that's certainly him!' said Priscilla, stabbing a finger at a picture of a white-haired youth staring at the camera in a school class photo.
 'I thought that you would get him first,' nodded Belinda. 'Pretty hard to miss really. Name of Dennis Whitely, coincidental considering his colouring I suppose. That is where I started from. After thinking about it I went back through all the previous year class photos and found one with Dennis Whitely in Three E, and looked at all the others with him. One name stood out, Tony Ichema, because I had already seen him in the first photo. Last year both of them were kept down to repeat Forth form this year. Here is another failed forth former from last year's Four F.' Belinda offered a class picture to the others gathered around her. 'That is Neil Beresford. And with him three to the left is Lionel Monkhurst. Both had to repeat and both ended up in the same class as the first two, Four B.'
 'Monkhurst!' said Monique, grasping Priscilla's shoulder, 'Could he be Monkey?'
 'Good chance,' said Priscilla, 'and maybe this guy, Tony Itchy...howja say it?'
 'I-key-ma, I would pronounce it,' said Belinda.
 'Yeah, right,' said Priscilla, screwing up her nose. 'Maybe he's Sand Paper Voice, the one they called "Ice Man", the Head Honcho.'
 'So what is to be done now?' asked Narenda, as the group entered the south wing corridor, heading for a double class of Science with Mister Brooks.
 'Put away those photos and split up for the moment,' said Tsuang-Tsu. 'We do not want to be seen always together. Let's have a further conference after school.'
 'If we shouldn't be seen together, how will we do that?' asked Teri.
 'We could text on our phones,' suggested Belinda.
 'Never ever use phone messages for our secret communications,' said Tsu rather sternly. 'We have another way via Harry. Belinda, Narenda, come to my dorm just before five this afternoon, Teri and I will be there.'
 'What about Moni and me?' said Priscilla. 'We can't take a chance on either of our dorms, Surban or Marge might be there.'
 'Go for a walk in the Quad or out to the Sports Area. You know what to carry with you,' answered Tsu, waving brightly at Tran Chok and Jimmy Crandle as the group merged with the crowd.
 'Harry? Are you there?'
 Priscilla felt completely foolish, whispering urgently into a large folder that concealed the strange metal plate that had activated into a box which was, in truth, the miniature layout plan of the Black Eagle.
 Monique, sitting beside her on the grass overlooking the Swimming Pool and Basket Ball enclosures and the open areas of Track and Field, tilted her head, expectant of a reply.
 It came. 'Ho boy! Hope you don't have an emergency right now. Harry was on walkie patrol with Mister Black who is out of his cast and mobile. Well sort of. Just got home. I only have a second or two. Can you get back to me late tonight when the folks are asleep?'
 'Well Teri and I can,' cut in Tsu's voice from their dormitory room, 'but Priscilla, Monique, Narenda and Belinda can't. They have other roomies, remember?'
 'Yep, O.K. How about you two bring me up to scratch tonight. Scratch! Good doggy terminology there, and maybe we can figure out something then... Oh oh! I'm being called. It's dinner time. Gotta go!'
 'But Harry!' Priscilla hissed.
 'We have lost him,' said Narenda in the background of Tsu and Teri's dorm.
 'That does not matter for the moment,' answered Tsu, 'Teri and I will get him later. What we could do, if it can be arranged, is to meet on Saturday at my house. Who is going home for the weekend?'
 'I am,' said Narenda.
 'We weren't, but we can,' answered Priscilla, getting a nod from Monique.
 'I can't,' said Belinda, despondently. 'My home is too far away and I'm not expected anyway.'
 'No problem,' said Priscilla, 'you could come home with us for the weekend. I don't think Dad and Granny Black would mind an extra pal staying over. I'll ring them and ask. By the way it's pretty cool that we can all talk together. Tsu, have you got one of these fold-up metal boxes too?'
 'Standard issue,' laughed Teri.
 'Yes, do ring your father,' said Tsu. 'If everyone can get overnight passes, confirmed by parents or responsible adults, we should all meet up on Saturday morning at my Guardian's home. I will make sure Fon Jien is expecting us, oh and Priscilla, that would be a good time to bring Harry along for a walk.'
 'He does love his walkies,' said Monique, grinning away as usual.
 'So why do you want to know about Tony Ichema and Dennis Whitely?' asked Priscilla's brother Louis, between mouthfuls of noodles.
 The group, Priscilla, Monique, Louis and Charlie Fairman were sitting at a table in The Thumpin' Tummy Cafe during Friday's lunch time.
 'Well, um, well... me and Moni are sort of interested, that is, curious about them. I mean Dennis was at the Infirmary after I got clobbered by Roseanne on the basketball court a while ago and Moni and I were told that they hang out together and... well... you know...'
 'Don't tell me you've got the hots for them!' said Louis, his eyes bulging. 'You're my little sister, and Monique, you're...' he left the sentence hanging for a moment, '...almost like family, kind of.'
 'Oh of course we do not have these "hots" for anybody,' said Monique demurely, 'but they do seem to be different from a lot of boys...' She flashed her biggest smile.
 'You can't be serious!' said Charlie. You're twelve or thirteen! These cats are sixteen, seventeen. They aren't the kind of guys that would even notice you. And besides, from what I've heard, they hang out in a different world.'
 'What does that mean?' Monique asked innocently.
 Charlie scratched at his ear, 'Aw nothin'. They're just spooky guys, a few years ahead of us. They do things different. Got their own mates. Pretty tight. Keep themselves to themselves. Don't put out. That's all I know. Keep away from them though. They flunked last year. Doing it again. And there are others who blew it too. They all got lumped together in Four B. And they have a reputation for smacking kids who annoy them...'
 '"Smacking?"' questioned Monique.
 'Yere, frightening them, one way or another. They're like stand-over merchants. If they want someone to do something or to give them something it gets done or given. Otherwise people get hurt. Even the Prefects keep out of their way.'
 'Charlie's right Priscilla,' agreed Louis seriously, 'these guys are mean. You both shouldn't have anything to do with them... Umm gotta go!' he suddenly said, checking the time on the big cafe clock. 'Don't want to be late for Science. Retep Skoorb's doing The Planets and Outer Space. We want to see how he tackles Mars and the Martians that took him away. Should be a huge hoot!'
 Monique sighed as the two boys rose and hurried off. 'I wonder if Mister Brooks realises what is going on behind his back. Poor man, he should never have made such fantastic claims.'
 'He should never ha...ahec-ahec!' Priscilla practically choked on the last of her ham and salad roll. 'Are you kidding? We're doing what we're doing with this dog and an old tree-house and you're talking about "fantastic claims." Get real, Moni. We're right in the absolute middle of "fantastic claims" except we know better!'
 Monique's grin exploded. 'I am, how do you say it, oui, baiting you.'
 'Bitch!' exclaimed Priscilla, smirking.
 'Did you sleep alright?' asked Priscilla as she, Monique and Belinda Moss walked briskly along the tree-lined boulevard that was Silverglade Road.
 'Yep, she did,' panted Harry, straining on his lease for the next tree, before Belinda could answer. 'She was pushing out the zeds every time I looked in, that's for sure.'
 'Harry! Just do what you're supposed to do. Act doggy and keep the smart remarks to yourself!' cautioned Priscilla. 'We're out in the open here, and not supposed to be having a conversation with our dog.'
 'Oh yeah, sorry,' muttered Harry, sniffing at a hedge. 'Just be the little canine, keeping his nose out of where it shouldn't be. Even though it's cool, nobody coming along, nobody around... Yike! Yike! Yike!'
 A marmalade coloured cat, who had been sunning itself in a gap of hedge at dog-nose level, suddenly performed one of those gymnastic events that only cats seem able to execute. It shot virtually straight up into the air and vanished into the shrubbery with, what seemed to the girls, the sound-effects of something out of an animated cartoon.
 'There smarty! That's what you get for being so cock-sure of yourself!' Priscilla gloated, hauling Harry in on his lead.
 Tsu Tsuang, Narenda and Teri were waiting for them beneath the leafy bowery that led down the path to the house of Fon Jien, which was situated on a street on the other side of Camberwell Road.
 'Lunch is just about ready,' said Teri, closing the gate behind the girls and Harry.
 'Great!' said Harry. 'I've only had a handful of munchies since last night. I'm starving!
 'Lunch is for us,' answered Priscilla, pretending to be rather snooty. 'You might get a few nibbles, if you're lucky.'
 'Lucky lives down at Two Twenty-eight, Silverglade. He's a Poodle-Shitzu cross and hyperactive. I'm here and now. What's on?'
 'A very tasty salad: bok choy, tomatoes, olives, onion, various other greens, cucumber, beetroot, egg-plant, plenty of rice, lots of lettuce, carrot and several different cheeses,' said Fon Jien, coming up the path to greet them, immaculate in a cool, white linen suit.
 'Come along and welcome to you. Now we have a complete gathering of BlackEagle Girls and, of course, Harry. Without him, we could not be here at all.'
 'Yeah, yeah, s'fine, but where's the good stuff for me?' said Harry, nosing his way through the front door after Priscilla had taken off his lead.
 'You did make the choice to be a dog all those earth years ago,' offered Tsu.
 'Correct, and it works most of the time,' answered Harry, trotting down the hallway. 'People don't notice little black dogs, and one's the same as the next mostly. But of course everybody has to eat, including me.'
 'Fear not, Master Harry, I have taken the liberty to keep aside some morsels from our previous nights' roast,' said Fon Jien, leading the way past the Library and further down the passage.
 The group following were ushered to the rear of the house and into a conservatory filled with a riot of indoor plants and a dazzle of bright sun's rays issuing through several skylights.
 There they found a long trestle and a dozen chairs around it, and on the table were many net-covered dishes and plates and cutlery. Pitchers of iced-water and cordials, and cut glass tumblers were set together on the white starched table-cloth. 
 'Young Ladies, help yourselves,' said Fon Jien with a flourish.
 'Emmphh,' said Harry, having cleaned up his plate of left-overs, 'That's like what you guys call "Bubble and Squeak", well for a dog anyway.' He swiped his mouth with a long red tongue that circled and circled again.
 'Now while you're all still munching on that rabbit food I want to say something. Having heard the story about being abducted and threatened and secret places, and drugs in Hopewell School and some very intimidating young male students there, I think it's time you girls got busy. You have  suspicions, you also have some suspects.
 You know that it's not our way to alter the course of human activities and events where possible, unless no other way prevails. This time,' and Harry held all their gaze with an uplifted paw, 'I think it is justified. This is something that strikes at the heart of our cause. If Hopewell Hall cannot be a safe starting point for students, where can be? No! There is much more to this than we can guess. And there are lots of unanswered questions. First off, where does Roseanne Sole fit into it? Where is this place Monique and Priscilla were taken? What is kept there? And who, exactly, are the kidnappers? To give us some clue, Monique has already recorded her memory of imprisonment and what happened after. Whoever the culprits are, there is one thing they don't know.'
 Harry vaulted lightly from the chair he had been occupying and landed delicately on the end of the table. 'They don't know about you and what you can do. If you're not all too filled up with bunny nosh, I suggest you get organised and go back to Hopewell now. Yes right now. Toilet break first, drink some water and start thinking what you should do and where to go? And before you girls even think of asking, yes, it's here, just outside. Take a look through the French Doors.'
 Priscilla and the others turned to where Harry indicated, and sure enough, outside amongst the greenery of the garden hung the impossible shape of the battered old tree-house.
 'Oh, I do feel as if I'm going potty,' exclaimed Belinda. 'It really is so difficult getting used to Master Harry talking and that rickety old thing that looks like it might fall apart at any moment being our vehicle of conveyance.'
 'It's not vreally that difficult, and that vrickety old thing happens to be State Of The Art,' said Priscilla, mimicking Belinda's slight speech impediment, and at the same time throwing her arm about the girl's shoulder to show she was only joking.
 'Well,' replied Belinda, taking up Priscilla's prattle, 'Going potty is probably the best thing we all can do. I'm first!'
 It was just after four in the afternoon when the Black Eagle came to rest in the north-east corner of Hopewell Hall's grounds.
 Both Fon Jien and Harry had remained behind at Fon Jien's house, since it had been previously arranged that all the girls were having a stay-over Saturday night Slumber Party there and would be returning to their homes on Sunday afternoon, before going back to school Monday morning.
 Priscilla and Monique had convinced Granny Black, Mathew and Henry (who was still preoccupied with his possible new girlfriend Rosalind Dawtrey and, of course, Gizzard his lizard) that Harry needed a change of scenery and wanted to be a part of the Slumber Party, mainly because he was pretty good at slumbering himself.
 And as Harry had commented, it was not necessary for either of them to go out on this adventure since Fon Jien should remain at home in case a concerned parent rang.
 So only the six BlackEagle Girls, rather cautiously, emerged from the craft where it hovered just above the level of the rank weeds that had invaded this particular, unloved area of Hopewell. Trees and wild shrubbery surrounded them so that they could barely catch a glimpse of what appeared to be the high masonry wall that marked the boundary of Hopewell.
 'Don't forget,' came Harry's voice from the Hand Activators that each girl carried, 'I'm with you...'
 'Yeah, yeah, you're with us,' said Priscilla, clearly unimpressed, 'you're just not with us as usual.'
 'I am with you,' Harry persisted, 'or else how could I remind you about the Night-Sight Goggles. Everybody got 'em?'
 'It's still broad daylight for heavens sake! We're only going to wander around the bushes, not go into a coal mine!' Priscilla exclaimed.
 'What is the Boy Scout motto?' asked Belinda, gazing about the overgrown expanse. 'Be prepared, that's what it is.'
 'Spot on! I used to know a dalmatian by that name. No, just kidding,' replied Harry. 'Tally ho and all that!'
 'What's the male canine equivalent of bitch?' asked Priscilla, rolling her eyes.
 'Dog,' said Harry. 'And you realise what Dog spelt forward is?'
 'Still Dog,' said Narenda, with a puzzled expression on her face.
 'Too right,' came Harry's reply. 'And in this case, Top Dog. Make sure all the sensor buttons are depressed: sight, sound, smell, touch and taste. Now you're all totally invisible and can get on with your investigations without being annoyed by anybody.'
 'So the first thing for us to search for is a gate that opens to the outside beyond Hopewell,' said Teri.
 'We could have done that from the streets,' suggested Monique.
 'But then we would have had to get back into the grounds via the Black Eagle,' said Tsu, 'and then relocate the gate anyway through all this jungle. This way we are working from the inside. Let's just find our way through to the fence line.'
 It took about twenty minutes for the girls to carefully beat the bounds back along the north-east corner, watching their step and trying not to leave too much indication of their passing. They encountered several overgrown stone or gravel paths that appeared not to have been used for a long time, one which actually did run to a gate, or what had once been a gate. Now it was only a brick-filled enclosure.
 'I suppose that over the years there were lots of different entrances to Hopewell Hall as it slowly grew and established,' remarked Monique, pulling away the sticky, trailing weeds.
 'Sure can't be what we're looking for,' said Priscilla, pushing on.
 Eventually they discovered three gates, all rusting plate-metal in construction, all padlocked, all enclosed by solidly bricked arches; the ivy-covered mortar slowly crumbling away from the foundations about them.
 'This path looks as if it has been used,' whispered Narenda, peering down at the growth along the way.
 'Well, it is a little clearer than the others,' offered Tsu, examining some crushed ivy.
 'But it's locked,' muttered Priscilla, rattling the tall, spiked structure of the ancient gate.
 'What were you expecting?' enquired Teri Tory-Toth, 'something with a sign that said 'Go out here?'
 'Well no,' answered Priscilla, bending closer to examine the padlock. 'Hey! take a look at this! This looks old and unused, but just here, along the metal bits that go into the lock. See! It's shinier. This has been unlocked not very long ago. And probably before, rust hasn't built up. That means somebody has a key... '
 'Well spotted!' came Harry's voice from their Activators.
 'But how could just anyone have a key?' Belinda asked. 'I mean, really! Aren't these old gates all secured forever? I mean to say, if they're locked up, well they jolly well are. And keys would be well out of the way, kept in Hopewell's registry, or perhaps even lost.'
 'The answer to that is yet to come,' said Tsu Tsuang, determinedly.  'For now let us see where this path will take us, and Monique?'
 'This is the time for your little equation of steps taken. Was it thirty nine paces from here, do you think?'
 The group had only advanced a dozen steps along the gloomy, late afternoon path, which was now becoming overshadowed by dense bushes and trees on either side when they heard what appeared to be a giggle. Moments later it was followed by the murmur of voices and then the distinct, repeated sound of a further girlish giggle.
 Mindful that they were completely invisible, the BlackEagle Girls boldly advanced, and were met by the sight of two people seated together on a flat stone recessed into a retaining wall that was almost smothered by variegated climbers.
 'Ohmygosh! That's Mister Munro!' Priscilla exclaimed.
 'And that's our Miss Purdie Smith!' Teri said, her mouth falling open.
 'Look! He's holding her hand!' Narenda whispered, her own hand coming to the side of her face.
 'And he's kissing her fingers!' said Monique, with absolute enthusiasm, her eyes gleaming.
 'How romantic, how gallant!' sighed Belinda.
 'How extremely odd,' Tsu remarked, her eyes narrowing. 'Come on, we must pass them.'
 Belinda, forgetting their situation, said, 'But we simply can't, we might disturb... '
 'Don't be silly Belinda, the way they are, even if we were visible, we could march past in our birthday suits and they wouldn't notice,' interrupted Priscilla.'
 'What exactly is a birthday suit?' asked Narenda, after they had all slipped by.
 'It's you without anything on Narenda. You know. Like no clobber. Gear off. Knicker-less!'
 'Oh, you mean starkers,' said Narenda. 'Yes, I was just being a jokester. I knew what it meant all along.'
 'Ho boy! Smarty-pants Indian girl!' said Priscilla, exasperatedly.
 'Smarty-pants! You just had her knicker-less!' chuckled Monique, before suddenly falling silent as the sound of someone whistling a little way off came to their ears.
 'What is this! Bourke Street in peak hour traffic!' exclaimed Priscilla.
 'Quickly, move aside everybody!' said Teri, stepping off the path and into the undergrowth. 'Make some room for them to pass!'
 'Who is th...  Oh, that's the guy we met when we came into Hopewell bum-first after being taken for a ride,' said Priscilla, crouching amongst the bushes.
 'Oui! Err, Joe, Joe somebod...' began Monique.
 'Yeah... Joe Simony... Joe Samarmy... Salami...  You know!' said Priscilla, struggling to recall.
 'Oh yes! That's Joe Simiani,' said Belinda. He's a Probationary Prefect out of Form Five. Everybody knows Joe, he's rather nice looking, don't you think?'
 'This is not the time to be thinking about boys,' cautioned Tsu. 'Come on.'
 The girls stepped out onto the path after Joe had strolled by, and heard the faint snatches of conversation in their wake. 'Uh, um, hi Mister Munro. Hi Miss Smith! You two taking a walk together?'
 'Hi yourself young man. Guess you like to do the same thing aboot this quiet time of the day? Miss Smith and I are part of Hopewell's weekend patrol... Ya know, Grounds, Gates, Garbage.'
 'That's fine Miss Smith, Mister Munro, um yere, me too... right... well, I'm heading this way. Catch you later.' Joe's whistling began again and trailed off into the distance.
 'Well, he's certainly spoilt their little party,' said Priscilla. 'Are you still counting Moni?'
 'Forty,' said Monique in reply.
 'Well, and where are we?' asked Narenda.
 'Duh! Nowhere,' said Priscilla, gazing about at the trees and the wild riot of bushes that surrounded the path on both sides.
 'I think that's the roof of the Chapel just over there,' said Teri, pointing at a solid patch of grey slate through the trees.
 'Umm, yet the path here seems to be going in the opposite direction,' said Tsu, clearly puzzled. 'What have we missed?'
 'Dunno,' Priscilla replied, gazing about, 'but that sounds like our lovey-doveys coming along behind us. Better get out of their way.'
 'No,' Tsu answered, 'that will not avail us anything. Come on, we are just wasting time here,' and so saying she led them further along the pathway until they finally emerged into an open area that revealed the northern side of Hopewell's dormitory wing and the Chapel itself on the left.
 'How many steps?' asked Tsu.
 'Fifty seven now,' answered Monique
 'No, I mean, how many down when you came out of wherever it was?' Tsu pursued.
 'Oh, um, five.'
 The girls made toward the Chapel and once there counted the stone entrance steps.
 'Snap!' said Priscilla triumphantly.
 'Maybe,' Tsu answered, 'yet let us just check the old schoolhouse at the rear and those little ones that have become store-rooms. 
 'Darn! They all have five,' said Priscilla in frustration, when the girls had completed a round tour, startled every time a stray student or teacher appeared along the diverging pathways as the evening began to draw on.
 'These old structures were all probably built around the same time,' observed Belinda. 'So I suppose that their architecture would be similar.'
 'There is just this small thing,' said Monique. 'The schoolhouse is twenty seven paces long, longer than I would have expected, although we have no way of knowing where we might have emerged inside, but the other smaller buildings are certainly not long enough.'
 'Well once they were only store-rooms or something I suppose,' offered Teri.
 'That is not my point,' Monique replied. 'There is only one other possibility. The Chapel here. When Priscilla and I were made to climb blindfolded up some stairs, and there were nine I am sure, we took another four steps and were ordered to halt. After that we had to walk eleven or twelve paces and then five down. By then we knew that we were outside. The fresh air, the light rain... '
 'But we've already paced off the Chapel, it's pretty small too,' Priscilla interrupted.
 'Just long enough,' mused Tsu. 'We need to search on the inside of both.'
 'Well since we're back where we started, let me check and see if anyone's still inside,' said Teri, scampering up the worn stone Chapel steps.
 Vanishing within she emerged moments later. 'Doesn't seem to be anybody around!'
 'Wait a minute!' said Priscilla, trying to focus on some vague recollection, 'That night when they got us outside and made us walk to wherever the gate is, Moni do you remember? We were on a gravel path for a bit, then we seemed to be walking through grass, you know, or wet patches of overgrown weeds. Remember!'
 'Oui! Now that you mention, I do have a feeling that is correct,' nodded Monique, 'and considering our frightful situation we could have been led anywhere. I was only consumed with counting and did not pay very much attention as to our direction.'
 'Then this is the time to look,' said Tsu. 'Perhaps there is a short-cut around there through the bushes that will lead back to the gate from here or from the old school. Teri please go and investigate. And remember to keep a count if you find a path. Now... ' and she turned to the others, 'What can we hope to achieve at this late time of the day. Yes! I will stay on watch outside while you girls split into pairs and measures the inner areas; Monique and Priscilla the church, Narenda and Belinda, the school. Off you go, and stay in touch while you explore, it should not take you more than a few minutes.'
 'And don't think I'm not monitoring you guys,' came Harry's voice from their Activators. 'Fon Jien and me are just taking it easy out in the garden right now, I love this time of the evening, but we're here for you... '
 'As we all know!' said Priscilla, already up the Chapel steps and venturing inside with Monique close behind.
 Once within, Priscilla reacted almost immediately. 'Woh! is it cold in here or is it just me?'
 'It is cool, but perhaps it is just you,' replied Monique, gazing down past the dark-timbered pews toward the empty pulpit. Beyond that raised area, everything lay in shadow. 'Come on,' she said determinedly, 'it's not far to measure.'
 In a matter of seconds the two girls were stepping out the required distance along the tiny interior and quickly reached the doorway at the rear of the pulpit.
 'Back in the good old days they probably didn't have much out here,' observed Priscilla, peering inside and entering, 'It's almost like a big cupboard, but I suppose it must have been a place for something? Not a Confessional. Maybe they had a wash stand with a basin, the dunny... um, the toilet would have been outside. Well that's all long gone. They probably didn't need much. A tiny church with not many worshippers. But I suppose that there were only a few people around back then.'
 'Apart from the original owners of the land, or are you forgetting them?' muttered Monique. 'Anyway, now it has a toilet and sink, thanks to Hopewell. Well, the distance is about right.'
 'Is there another door somewhere at the rear?' asked Tsu, her voice sounding oddly metallic through the Hand Activator.
 'Nope, just a wall,' Priscilla answered. 'Solid old timber panelling. It's amazing how wood can last over such a long time, but I suppose it's been re-stained or whatever.'
 'True,' said Monique, running her fingers across the grooved verticals. 'In Africa, which is dry in parts like Australia, wood can be a most tenacious survivor, even after years of dereliction.'
 'Derra whatshun?' said Priscilla, shivering slightly. 'Anyway Moni, looks like we've got nothing here, unless of course,' and as she said the words she rapped her knuckles over the panels, 'this is a hollow wall.' Her face broke into a grin, 'Only kidding, we have to allow for the thickness of the stone walls outside too.'
 Monique shook her head. 'Perhaps it is the school house. That is longer than here. Or maybe we are completely in the wrong place. What if we were taken somewhere back into Hopewell?'
 'The steps are wrong in Hopewell,' said Priscilla. 'Only two or three along the student's wing, I'm certain,' muttered Priscilla, rubbing her upper arms. 'Gee Harry... Are you there Harry?'
 'Where else would your little obedient doggy be?' said Harry, via the Activators.
 'If only we had your drug-sniffer pal Rolf. He could dig some dirt for us I'll bet.'
 'No problemo!' said Harry, 'but not until after midnight. Rolf's employed remember? He's a full-time working guy at the Airport. And I'd have to get him up and going without his Master... Read here, "Dog Handler"... knowing. A bit too late into the early hours for you kids right now.'
 'Thanks,' said Priscilla. 'Well, guess we... '
 'Moni, Cilla!' cut in Tsu Tswang's voice. 'Mister Mitikovsky has just appeared. He is approaching rapidly and carrying a bunch of keys. Get out quickly!'
 But even as the pair hurried up the aisle the silhouette of Stanley Mitikovsky loomed in the doorway.
 'Some others are approaching,' said Tsu. 'Get ready to squeeze through if you have a chance! Narenda, Belinda! Come out now too! The Schoolhouse will get closed next!'
 From the steps of the Church, came a teenage girl's voice. 'Hi Mister Mitikovsky. Ready to lock up?'
 'Ah, punctual as usual Miss Drake, and you also, young man. Next year as a Prefect you will have access to the keys of these premises and be responsible for the opening and closure times along with all the other Prefects of Year Twelve, I'm telling you Joe.'
 'Yes Sir, I know,' said a third voice, 'and believe me I feel really privileged to be part of it. Sandra here has kind of helped me a lot with what goes on around the school, you know, and I appreciate her efforts. There's so much to learn, and I never even guessed at the responsibilities, but it kind of makes you feel important.'
 'Monique! Priscilla! You can walk out around them!' urged Tsu. 'They will not feel you!'
 'Coming!' said Monique, hustling Priscilla closer to the door.
 Priscilla seemed to be dragging her feet. 'This feels like I'm in a story, or a dream. Wow! Can't be really happening. The pieces seem to be falling into place like it's all fate and I can't stop it, an' I'm feeling woozy again, Moni... Moni!'
 In the few seconds that it took Monique to steady her friend, Hopewell's Assistant Head, Stanley Mitikovsky drew the church door closed and clicked the padlock.
 'Oh Bugger! 's all my fault!' exclaimed Priscilla, slumping onto the nearest pew. 'My body felt like lead, like I was walking through sand drifts, and everything went blurry.'
 'Are you feeling any better now?' asked Monique, holding Priscilla's wrist and counting her pulse rate.
 'Yes, things are steadying again, but what are we going to do? We're locked in again like at the airport.'
 'We are both out and just in time!' came Narenda's voice from the Activators. 'Mister Mitikovsky and the others, that Joe boy and Sandra Drake are here now and locking up.'
 'Alright,' said Tsu. 'Both of you come back here. Teri, where are you now?'
 'Just coming around the corner. My news is good, I found a way off the gravel path between the Chapel and the old School that gets you through to the path where we discovered our two love birds. Probably explains how we missed it whilst dodging around them. But we have a problem with Moni and Priscilla. No way out?'
 'I do not think so,' said Monique, putting on her Night-Sight goggles as the last rays of the sun vanished through the high windows of the Chapel. 'There is no other door in the rear and nothing anywhere else along the walls as we already know.'
 'Looks like your both stuck in there for the night,' came Harry's rather cheery voice, considering their prospect. 'I'm sorry to tell you that even I can't get you guys out of there, so you're going to have to make the best of it until tomorrow morning. The Chapel gets opened again on Sundays doesn't it?'
 'Yep. About nine, I think,' said Priscilla wearily. 'Great! Just great! I always wanted to stay in here overnight!'
 'Well at least we can get out in the morning,' said Monique, her face, for once, somewhat glum.
 'And what of the rest of us?' Tsu enquired. 'What are we to do now?'
 'This is your Captain speaking,' said Harry, 'and I'm handing over to my co-pilot. I have to attend to another matter of concern. Over to you Fon Jien.'
 'That'd be right,' said Priscilla, 'Harry's real good at pis... passing the parcel.'
 'Tsu, I think it would be best if you four girls returned to the Black Eagle and came home. There is little point in remaining at Hopewell overnight. It seems there is nothing that can be done until tomorrow... '
 'But we can't just leave them Mister Fon Jien,' pleaded Belinda.
 'That is alright,' said Monique. 'We are in no danger, and we have a toilet and water. We will survive.'
 'And thanks to me, we'll be pretty hungry by morning, so late breakfast please,' said Priscilla.
 'Very well, it appears that our exploration has taken us almost nowhere and ended in a small disaster,' noted Tsu, sighing audibly. 'If there is no other solution then we must leave you here girls. But of course we will stay in contact through the night. Make yourselves as comfortable as you can in there.
 I suggest that you take turns to sleep, as will we. In the morning we will return for you, and have a fine breakfast awaiting.'
 'Errgh! Sorry Moni. Guess I really got the wobbles at the worst time,' said Priscilla, trying to settle herself on the hard wooden board of a pew and shivering with the descending cold that seemed to clasp them as night drew on.
 'This will not do,' said Monique. 'Come on. Let us both get into the pulpit and cuddle up. At least it is sheltered there. I will stay awake to begin with and keep talking to the girls and Fon Jien. Now shut your eyes and rest.'
 'Peanuts!' said Priscilla so suddenly that Monique flinched.
 'What is it you say? Are you thinking about food? If so, stop it, think of something else.'
 'That's just it,  I am thinking of something else, but I don't know what?'
 'This "peanuts," do you mean the eating kind or perhaps the cartoon strip with Charlie Brown and Snoopy? He is one smart doggy like Monsieur Harry?'
 'No... I don't know I just... There's something... I just keep having peanuts pop into my mind... '
 Monique slowly shook her head in the darkness and began to gently stroke Priscilla's brow. 'Whatever is popping, peanuts or corn, rest and put it all out of your conscious. Sleep, sleep... sleep... '
 The night wore on.
 Around eleven o'clock, Monique roused Priscilla and left her to stay awake talking to Teri, who was on duty at the other end, whilst she attempted to nap.
 At about one-twenty, Priscilla heard a faint rattle. She still felt dazed and somewhat vacant and sleep deprived, but her mind tuned in as the click of a padlock sounded.
 Lifting her Activator she whispered, 'Hey guys! Whose there?'
 'Narenda. What is the matter?'
 'Someone's at the Chapel door! Moni! Wake up!'
 'Murnmph, mumph! Oh! Wha... What is it? What? Where are... Oh! Oui! Stuck inside the belly of a big crocodile... Non! Dream! The Chapel... We are in the Chapel... Locked in! We can't get out!'
 'Lucky for us, no one can hear you!' said Priscilla, rubbing her friend's shoulders as Monique dragged herself to a sitting position. 'Look,' she continued as the Chapel door slowly opened and a sliver of moonlight invaded the darkness, 'we've got visitors!'

Chapter 13 [next]

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