© Copyright of Christelle Erina van der westhuizen
The Martha School: Cold Case Mystery
TWO YEARS AGO
Hands tied. The girl hung from a rope uncomfortably, a distance over the hook shaped rocks which was bombarded for years, forming the danger that was below her. Through her gagged mouth she was breathing words, attempting to throw her stress away, and forget that her hands were tied behind her back.
In the corner of her eyes, she could see large black boots shuffling around the cliff edge, covered in white chalk. Bending her head to look at her assailant. Her hair was wisping in the wind. She could not remember how she got here. Her body was searing from the sun.
She was bruised, and her hurting joints felt twisted. Kicking around, she wore herself out. Waiting for help was an useless choice. The ability to scream through the sock stuffed in her mouth was gone. A hoarse dry feeling. The taste did not bother her, but the smell was strong, like that of a perfume which could repel mosquitos.
She was becoming light headed. She slid her feet to obtain control, and a sudden icy object touched her cheek. Frozen with fear—a pistol was pressed to her left temple, by a lady who held the young girl, against her will.
As the gun's shot sound echoed, the abducted girl’s muffled screams stopped. The girl remained silent. When her body fell limp at the second shot, her eyes shut. The rope was cut loose, and she lifelessly drifted down the river, being driven by the high tides. Her teenage body drifted miles away from where she was killed.
The northern dam was closed off from any trouble on scene,including civilians with cameras and news reporters. It was empty except for the cops and forensic scientists. The body had lain on the spot for three days from April Thirtieth 2010. The cop on scene quickly called another to assist.. “Harry Connell…”
Harry moved away from the scientists. The little rocks that penetrated the limp body of the girl did not seem to come from the same place she laid. A plastic bag with a diary wrapped in it was in this girl's jacket. She looked to be fifteen, however the lady’s diary she had with her was dated back in 1937.
A lady on the scene took the book from Harry's hands.
"It looks like a student story book, a cruel way to die."
Since then, the diary has not meant anything to anyone.
* * *
Two years later -present time
Chapter one: Coins, bullies and protection
The silver taxi came to a stop at the curb. The smoke dispersed into the wintery air, unveiling the steep incline of the school. The dreadlocked driver ignored the girls and their bags were tossed out at their feet.
“Hey!” Claire blurted out at him.
“Enjoy,” when he climbed back in his taxi, he laughed at the little bit of contents that spilled from the bags.
The cab driver was as rude as possible, snorted, and wiped his runny nose, throwing the tissue, and replacing it with a new one. A shiver ran down Claire's back at how disgusting he was. Her feet moved, pushing her sister Mia to dodge the taxi that was making a sharp donut turn.
"At least, those things he crushed were unimportant"
Claire pushed her blonde hair from her heart shaped face, and nudged her sister Mia. Both had a shape that of a young child. Their genes was partly Eskimo. It was a gene from their father, who passed on a few years ago.
Dragging the bag's weight over her thin shoulders, Mia wiped her brown hair. She began picking the shards of pencil up from the ground. Breathing heat into her palms, Claire noticed her sister's naked feet, they had been in the taxi for hours.
"He drove off with your shoes Mia."
"Well, he is rude. It doesn't surprise me that he steals." Mia mumbled.
Both looked at the main school building. It had a water fountain at the stairs, and another on the school grounds at the left side.
A smaller building apart from the school was located in a very secure garden. It could be seen a distance from the school entrance.
Each window was privately hidden by bars and curtains, so others could not look in. There was barely any noise around where the two sisters were standing.
"This is the private school mum sent us to?" Claire asked her sister. “Step- dad, sent us. Remember?!" Claire blurted, "If it doesn't work out, I am doomed."
"Don't worry, everything happens for a reason."
Mia pulled out her cellphone, tapping her fingers quickly. "Letting dad know we are here."
Claire breathed out her frustration, "Step-Dad"
"You have to accept it! He is a part of our family."
"He's a cop that dumped his wife for our mom!"
"I know he is rude for doing that, he told me his wife was cheating.... And that mom was an angel that walked into his life."
Stepping on the concrete walkways, they stood still at a glass door. The only piece of the school that was illuminated by the little bit of sun shining through the open patch of the dark clouds.
A shadow was coming closer in this cold morning. The shadow was dark, and when the door opened, neither of them expected a tanned girl to pop up. The girl had a short blue skirt on such a chilly day and around her neck was a blue scarf which was being wiggled around in irritation.
“Hello. I’m Claire, and this is, Mia my younger sister.”
This girl giggled and tried hiding it. To be laughed at so lightly, Claire believed this could be a school with a humorous spirit. However, she didn’t do something about it. It seemed to be innocent giggles from someone who probably likes seeing people. Even though it felt awkward, staring at this girl with large white teeth, bushy brown hair tied in a side-knot.
The girl waved at an old man, who walked out of the building. This old man had a tag saying, “Salutations.”
The guy touched the giggling girl's shoulder. “My daughter will make your time here pleasant.”
“I’m Juniper Zazzie! And this is my dad, the dean of the school.”
Juniper’s clothes could show everything if she were to choose to pick something up.
Claire looked at Juniper and breathed in the air. “The air is so fresh and cold..."
The school wasn’t such a sad spectacle from the outside. It was well cared for, especially on a day where it felt like an ice age for Claire and Mia.
Juniper spoke, "It is much warmer inside, I'm sure you guys haven't had much heat, from where you come? Right? Most work on Sundays, and after doing your part, you can visit the malls."
“This school is a highly chosen sought for young aspiring students.” Juniper made clear, as they followed her.
“Really, so what would you say is the best thing here? ” asked Mia skipping a few old crumbled stone stairs.
“Halloween. ” Juniper giggled.
“Honestly, we have not previously had a Halloween from where we come. ” Claire commented.
Juniper asked quizzically “Where is that? ”
Immediately giving the impression of not getting anywhere other than the school. The way Claire and Mia looked probably made her think they lived in cold climates.
Claire followed, “North-shore of the Highland.”
"I wouldn't have guessed that!" Juniper gasped.
Claire and her sister followed the dean and Juniper.
Before they got properly seated and signed in, the dean said,“Here we are. All the needs will be cared for.”
Claire shut her ears to the sound of the screech of the area’s door. The door was heavily decorated in metallic slabs and wooden modern carvings.
The smell of food drove her stomach to twist as she walked past all the girls, her feet echoing as she passed the tables. Maybe she had Jet lag. The feeling of hunger hit a hollow spot from the hours drive they had in the taxi.
The Area had a huge stage where the dean was walking towards, a destination which seemed only for the teachers and their assistants. A banner on the top of the stairs at the stage stood, "Teachers only, no exceptions". Another paper lay at the foot of the stairs, “Risk of own accord, be kind and y’all shall receive kindness.”
It seemed like the school was either very thoroughly run, or tampered with information to drag you into being obedient.
Seeing the announcements on a black board, “Rules” Claire breathed.
Two girls was standing at the blackboard, "Hi." Claire smiled, but they turned around and went to sit down at their chairs. She mumbled, "Yeah, nice to meet you too."
Blackboard, "Collect: Daily schedule, Daily signature attendance and no screaming."
Claire stood with a fake smile. Her dimples however made it look far more genuine. She breathed as she waited her sister Mia to sign papers. Her sister was still walking around with no shoes. Which did not stop others whispering about how dirty her sister's feet would be.
Claire waited at the bottom of the stairs. So each of them could be helped individually.
In a glance, Claire saw what appeared to be food.
Claire shook her head trying to stay concentrated on one thing and her sister Mia mouthed “stop it, you’ll be ok.” and she motioned with her head to follow.
For such a small stature and lanky body, people could not tell that Claire was on a diet. She took two steps to the stage and took the first schedule and signed her name. When she looked back at the cafeteria lady she heard a girl asking, “Can I have a pastry?”
Claire bit her lower lip, a hunger started burning inside. She hurried with the signing papers, scrawled an unruly signature, and giving everything to the teachers, she passed on and moved into the food queue.
At the far corner with a window composed of wood, where the cafeteria lady worked. It had a mantle piece where the students got their meal for the day.
Claire breathed and her stomach was growling. She felt so embarrassed by her stomach noises that she left the line and just went to sit down in her seat.
The cafeteria lady walked up to her. “Everyone is on a diet,” That doesn’t mean you don’t get to eat.” She laughed, “I can hear a stomach if they're hungry or not.” The lady put a pastry in front Claire.
Claire's face turned bright red from embarrassment.
The other girls frowned at her. Claire just turned away and just took that frown as a notion as no-eating.
Claire looked frazzled at all the clothes of the seated students. They wore two different colours, a dull pink and a navy blue, all wearing cold clothes. Maybe the weather would heat up a bit.
There were precisely six long tables each with exactly thirty-two chairs. The students were being counted and each had been signing their name on a clipboard as they sat at their tables, to mark their attendance by signature.
Claire’s head was hit accidentally by a girl tried pulling her poncho the right way around. A few girls had pushed this girl's poncho into her pants, and she had collided in her struggle.
Having no hint of an apology, she ignored the direct hit from this younger looking girl. Her expression seemed lonely and strongly protective of her own feelings.
A girl wearing dull pink outfit rolled the time table in her one hand and tossing it into the dustbin. “The class roster is really starting to get on my nerves. I already know what classes I have”
"Nauda. You always throw things you need!"
An old lady wearing a black suit with a missing button shot an eye of prowess towards Nauda.
“Watch out, the dragon saw you. ” Giggled her friend, who looked like a butch in nature. She had an athletic stature. “There is nothing we can do about it, you already threw it away. Lest risk being in the detention hall with that old hag. You better stay safe from being incompetent.”
When Nauda and her largely built friend saw Claire looking they immediately went quiet.
Claire knew she wasn’t welcomed to come and talk to with those two girls. They seemed oblivious to those around.
“Martha-All-Girl-School gives the privilege of getting the best education.” Spoke the dean. Continuing, “192 students.”
Claire saw the girl who hit her head moving her chair two paces to the left away from the other girls. Claire could see she was hurting. She needed to be addressed. Her eyes were miserable and sad, like she had recently lost something.
The old lady that acted like a patrol cop that lost a button frowned and pushed the chair back into place. Loudly embarrassing the girl. “Winnie, Order and perfection I keep saying. Keep it like that, glued to the chair.”
"Yes, miss Carla..."
A teacher who seemed to be made up like an old Egyptian Goddess; her Bronzer was put up a little too much. Bent down and whispered something into the emo girl's ear.
Claire was eager to make friends. Slowly Claire and Mia signed their names and signature on the attendance roster as they sat at their own tables, since Mia and Claire was one year difference in age.
Before sitting the dean took a microphone and a bass blundering voice announced, “Two new students have enrolled. Please welcome them with open arms. Their names are Claire and Mia Thorton, the daughters of a police officer. As I say every morning at this gathering. Be nice and help. If any are bullied or pushed into something they don't want to do. I warn that the girls will be punishable to their deeds if they are ill-intentioned.”
A girl with matted hair was sitting next to Claire, staring at her. “Do you dye your hair?”
“Um... ” Claire wiped a hair strand from her face.
“Because, your sister has brown hair and you have blonde, silvery hair?”
“My sister dyes her hair, actually my name is Claire, Claire Thorton.”
Claire looked to the opposing table where her sister was seated. They were seated on the opposite sides of the hall. So much space between each other, yet they had become distant anyway ever since the death of their father. The four year marriage of their mom to another man, who loved to control. 2008 married to their mother. It is now 2012 and Claire was fifteen and Mia was fourteen. They did not have the strength to let go of their mom’s maiden surname.
“I'm Amanda Buchner,” the girl with the wet hair replied, with a smile. She immediately turned away from Claire and carried on eating.
From a distance Claire saw Mia accepting the plate and waved at the cafeteria lady. When Mia saw Claire looking, she looked away and started eating, stuffing it into her mouth.
“Wow, you must be hungry, hey?” Amanda continued, “I’m quite the eater too, I swim almost everyday.”
Claire Swallowed the lump of food, “So that’s why your hair is so matted.”
“Yea I get drilled to swim and to get a sponsorship. I’d give anything not to look like a back side of a wookie.”
A large church bell of the school rang. A gonging sound resounding around the whole girl school, the sound had come from behind the school.
* * *
A man could be seen standing at the closed gates, he was smoking. Claire could see he was ignoring the female gardener. With a snare scar in his lip, he stared at the girls flocking to their first class of the year. Puffing smoke into the gardener's face.As Claire hid behind a tree, looking, he was gone.
The grounds had beautiful gardens, rows of pink flowers, and some blue forget-me-not flowers. A large fountain, which was often filled with coins, was where Claire had been watching Winnie from a window, sneaking closer and hiding behind the statue of the school founder.
She watched for an hour at what Winnie was doing. It seemed that Winnie was a girl with no friends. Tossing coins into the water, her head swaying like the waves, synchronizing of each coin tossed into the water.
Winnie was wearing her black poncho over her school clothes. She was standing in a drizzling weather. Each coin was tossed into the fountain, Claire stepped on dried twigs, and Winnie's head moved to the tall grass.
Claire sneaked closer, and when Winnie tossed another coin after another, she spoke, “I know you’re there.”
Claire's eyes grew big. She stepped into the open light to reveal her presence.
Claire walked slowly closer to Winnie, hiding her hands behind her back, twiddling her fingers in an insecure way.
“So what are you doing?” She swayed with her hands behind her back. Claire looked at the fountain's bottom, it was covered in different coins.
“Well, each year of a coin is a zodiac sign of the problems you want to throw away” Winnie said without looking at Claire, she was staring at her reflection. "I just throw anything I have in my pockets. Good luck is good luck, I say"
“So what would this coin mean?” Claire showed a coin with the year 1989 and Winnie took the coin from her hand and replied without looking, “I need to be alone.”
“Oh, so, "I need to be alone". Did you toss one with that year?”
“Please...” she said with melancholy, “I need to be alone” She began to hum.
Claire felt stupid, and kindly replied, "I will leave you to your thoughts."
Claire softly turned away. She went off to her room to put her personal objects into their places. She began to hang her clothes, including the ones she had fetched from the seamstress down near the locked library.
Claire took out a little rabbit teddy, one with little buttons red and black for eyes. The doll used to be named “Patches”. It was the only thing that ever made her feel at home. Her three roommates were not yet in her living space in the hostel.
She looked oddly at her school clothes. hers were a very dull pink with a brown scarf-tie. Looking over to the open cupboard of one of the girls, an outfit caught her eye. It was long sleeved shirt, a thick mended pants, short skirt, of the same colour as Claire's. Claire looked at her short skirt and scarf-tie. Apparently she needed her pants and long sleeved shirt.
Claire steadily put Patches down and hid it under the cushion. Hurriedly she ran over some of her clothes that were scattered across the floor. She looked a short while and followed the map she dug out of her pocket.
“North-by-north-west, Um” She turned the map upside down, then turned it right-up. There was a little spot pointing to the library, with a “w” stamped on the library area. There was a picture of a door downstairs.
Claire passed the library and saw the stairs. Four short stairs with a very steep incline. Taking hold of the railing she started down, hearing a few more girls laughing.
“I couldn't hold it in, Maraiha was wearing a robe made of blue.”
“She must be in a fight with Fawn Lore again”
The giggling was getting closer and Claire felt afraid of anyone seeing her dressed in her sleeping clothes. Her clothes was an onesie and it was a bit worn out. She had to ask the Seamstress a huge favor for some proper sleeping clothes.
Knocking on the metal barred door, a beeping sound rang and the girls were apparently turning back around. They were laughing, “Wrong way again girls, Halloween will be the highlight of the year”
Claire Smiled, “I hope it'll be a good one then” she whispered to herself
“I said come in!”
Claire was shocked. She had forgot the door made a beeping sound. She walked down a concrete floor path into a room where different materials were packed into little wooden cabinets. A lady's face was hidden behind a large sewing machine, and her glasses were at the top of her head.
Claire stammered, “I am- I'm...”
“The girl who didn't get her winter clothes” said the voice of the lady. It sounded young and girlish. “I'm Maraiha Witherspoon. I hope you don't mind, I'm just fixing my clothes.”
Claire walked closer. Maraiha raised her hand and turned it, pointing to a white line on the floor. “Hun, I hope you don't mind, no one is allowed past this line”
“Stand on that side of the wall, so I can see your length and body form.” she added, “Take off most of your clothing, clothes that are too thick”
Claire stepped back and put her back to the wall. She closed her eyes as she took off the onesie. “Mam, could you make me some proper sleeping jams?”
“You want jam to make you sleep?” Maraiha stood up. Her eyes had a kind warm look. “Oh, Pajamas. Yes, Dear. I can make one for you-- maybe two.”
Maraiha threw a pair of long pants to Claire along with a long sleeved shirt. “It's a bit big don't you think?” said Claire. She looked at the pants with disgust, she wasn't that fat. Claire put her one leg through the pants when Maraiha interrupted her, “Do you know your size pants? All girls are the same size shirts. They are forced to lose weight, because they should not be lazy.” Maraiha passed a size 8 pants. “There that is better now isn't it.” She also gave Claire maid clothes with an apron.
“What is the cleaning clothes for?” Claire held it with two fingers on each hand.
“Its new, Hun and its yours. Every Sunday the girls clean their rooms, the halls and the bus. If they do that, they will be allowed to go to the malls when they’re done” Maraiha winked whilst saying, “There might be someone there just for someone like you.”
“I doubt that.” Claire looked at the floor. It had cracks on it, and the white line had pig-ear curls at the ending of the sticky tape. To her that floor represented her broken heart, and those white pig-folds were her dysfunctional life.
“Deary,” Maraiha waved her hand in front of Claire's face. Claire was looking down, like a child that's done wrong.
“Well, go on to your room. I just need you to tell me what housemother you have.”
Claire looked at the back of her schedule. “It seems my housemother is 'Naira'.”
“Ah, Naira Greenwald. Well if you ever have trouble with your clothes, tell Naira. She is sometimes very hard-headed. Don't tell her I said that, she can easily cry too.”
Claire nodded, turned around and walked up the incline with one hand on the railing, and the other filled with clothes. She heard Maraiha shouting, “Come get your pajamas tomorrow morning!”
Claire came to her room, door number 50, wiggling the door handle. It was locked. She looked into her pocket to see if she had brought her key with. She started banging on the door and heard giggling. "I'll see you soon again” a snorting laugh was heard and the door opened up.
“Hi, I live here too, I'm Claire” Claire held out her unhindered arm, and before she could prepare, the girl was shaking it over excitedly,gripping it like a vice. Claire walked over to her bed, and noticed all her personal things were already hanging in their place.
“I fixed it. If Carla Shrew saw the clothes on the floor, you'd be sitting in the detention hall.”
“Thank you, I wouldn't have been able to stand a detention. Don't they smell like smoke?”
“Well, if only you were to smoke. No girls smoke or try to skip homework. Thus Carla Shrew only has the time on her hands, which she uses to curb everything that is not perfection.”
Claire turned her body to the bed and sat on the cushion. It might be lumpy because Patches was hidden under it. This girl is someone who would always touch your things, Claire presumed, but the fact remained that she did have her cleared from the detention hall.
The girl with dark long brown hair replied, “I'm Betty Lile. Sorry for keeping you outside. He usually sends me letters on Sunday. He couldn't wait for it.”
“Oh, ok. Hello Betty Lile.”
“Hi. I saw you coming into the cafeteria with another girl. Is she your sister?”
“Yes, she is my sister.”
“Well I hope you don't mind. On Sunday I'll be cleaning the room, so if you don't want Carla Shrew to find anything, I'd suggest hiding them.”
Claire put her hands at her back to feel if Patches was still there. It was. “Well, I've been on a plane ride the whole day, I'm still a bit jet-lagged. I'll see you tomorrow in the history class. Then I'll get up early on Sunday to clean.”
Claire climbed into her bed, closed her eyes, and started counting not only the sheep's legs, but what colour their wool would be. She fell asleep immediately after counting the tenth sheep's legs, adding it to the others.
* * *
As night drew nearer, Claire's eyes shot open. The three girls were in their beds, and she was awake at night. A small cell phone was blinking and charging in the only plug on their side. Double bunk beds. It must be that each girl has three roommates. Claire stood silently u, and looked out the window over the grounds, when she saw a row of muddy prints going from the street to the west side of the girl school.
She wondered, “Should I awake them. If I do, what can we do?”
Betty Lile mumbled, “The Damn police is in class again, don't they ever...get…. sick?” She then snorted, like her giggling. Maybe it was her boyfriend again. A girl turned in her bed and a long braid hit Claire she started screaming, “Spider!! Get it off! Get it off”
Claire was embarrassed it was the blond girl at her bunk sleeping on the top bunk. The girls screamed and Claire grabbed Betty's mouth, keeping it shut.
“Someone is sneaking into the school.”
Thank you Zage. This book im gonna try publishing in about 1 months time.