16 FOUND DEAD IN CHARLES PASCAL HIGHSCHOOL HALL.
Many are still in shock today after 16 people were found dead at Charles Pascal Highschool in the early hours of yesterday morning. Though reporters were on the scene when this first came to light, every single one was unceremoniously ushered from the hall by new Principal Sinestre Tims.
Mr Tims was the school’s science teacher prior to the event and had only worked at the school for 3 years prior to the deaths which included former Principal Wescott and Vice Principal Bullard. Aside from the considerably more accomplished professors to the previously Tims, the remaining 14 were all students from the school.
Names were finally released to the press late last night, when officer Greenland made an announcement.
Quin Seymore and Kerrie Cho were both seniors at the school, as were Sophia Orlington and partner Wilton Evered. Popular 11th years Faren Martinson and Lesleigh Hill were also named – the latter head cheerleader for the school, found alongside her 2nd in charge Kasey Snyder. Rounding out the rest were Jarrod Hanley, Jeb Gibb, Stewart Aby, Devan Ledford, Zac Holmwood and Issac Fairburn.
Officer Greenland advised that there is no clear motive at this time and askes everyone to remain vigilant. Especially when going out at night.
The other members of the group looked at Sarah who had just finished reading the article in it’s entirety.
“He got one thing right,” Marcus said pompously. “Tims is definitely not fit to be Principal. I’d personally take Pavy or Curtis any day.”
Everyone nodded in agreement, Sarah and Leyla more fervently than the others. Though it was the following day, the both remembered their detentions easily. Mr Tims had made them clean the science room top to bottom. It was a nightmare. Rather than sitting with paper and pen and writing 50 or so lines or even carrying on with homework, they’d been equipped with brooms, mops and all the equipment needed to make the room shine, which it did by the time they were done.
Kneeling next to Sarah, Leyla gave her a surprised look.
“I have no idea how you can hold that paper up,” she said. “Let alone have the strength to read it. I’m still so exhausted after yesterday.”
Leyla had been complaining from the moment everyone had met for the impromptu sleep-over at Sarah’s, thank goodness everything had occurred on a Friday for now they had the weekend to mull over everything and debrief before the school week began again on Monday.
Looking over at the door-way, Sarah smiled as Mace re-entered the room.
“Everyone, breakfast’s ready,” he said as cheerfully as he could muster.
“Right, thanks Mace,” Sarah replied as everyone else got up and headed for the kitchen.
Irwin and Mel, Sarah’s parents had phoned last night unexpectedly, telling Sarah they needed to go overseas for work. Sarah had been glad to hear it as she couldn’t imagine spending the weekend with them after everything that had gone down at the school.
Sarah was so nervous.
Granted she’d discussed it all with Mace last night during their 5 minutes of alone-time together before the others had arrived, but that hadn’t made any of this any easier. In any case, it had to be done and there was no way Sarah could get out of it.
At half past 9, breakfast finished and with everyone helping food put away and kitchen and dining room restored to normal, Sarah looked at her now re-seated friends and took a very deep breath. What would they say? She wondered. Truth be known, she could only imagine and so taking another deep breath, she began.
“You all know why we’re here,” she began in what she hoped was an authoritative tone. “Sixteen people have been killed and it’s up to us to find out who the killer is.”
“What?!” Jason asked. “Why?”
Sarah took another deep breath and made her way over to one of the cabinet draws in the room feeling all eyes on her. Never before had Sarah felt so nervous. Yes, she’d struggled with getting to know everyone and nerves were a factor then, but those were expected. The nerves she was feeling right now after Robin’s revelation had threatened to change her life.
What if she were arrested? What if she spent the rest of her life in jail, or worse? Didn’t they euthanise those found guilty of murder?
Sure, she hadn’t actually committed the crime, but in this day and age what trigger-happy jury wouldn’t be willing to convict someone if enough evidence was placed in front of them, especially the murder of 16 people.
Sarah made her way back over to the table and placed the slip of paper down. Unsuprisingly Marcus grabbed it first and read it out to everyone.
“I’m sorry for what I have done I just couldn’t take it anymore – Sarah Charleston,” he said in a hollow voice.
“Wait a minute,” Deven said. “You killed those people?!”
His jaw had dropped and his eyes widened.
“No of course not!” Sarah bellowed back. “But I think the real killer wanted me to look guilty. Though why, I’ll never know.”
“It’s almost as if-” Mace began.
But Robin cut him off.
“The killer intended you to be the 17th Victim,” she said in a hollow voice.
Everyone else looked from Robin to Sarah in such quick succession that she needed a moment to right herself before she continued.
“Yeah,” she replied at last. “That was my thought too. Clearly the killer wanted to point the finger of accusation in my direction.”
“And the question is,” Leyla jumped in. “Why?”
Everyone seemed to jump onboard with that question and began spewing out a myriad of theories, but Sarah stopped them instantly.
“No,” she corrected. “The question is who is the killer!” she shrieked! “If I’m to be exonerated I need to find out who committed the crime and well, I could really do with your help.”
“Of course,” Robin said quickly, getting up from her chair to give Sarah a consoling hug. “All you needed to do was ask. Whatever you need.”
Everyone else nodded in agreement.
Despite Sarah feeling very much like a loner for the majority of her high school life, it was nice to know that she’d found some true friends.
“So, the leading suspect has to be Mr Tims,” Sarah said confidently.
Half an hour had gone by and everyone had been sorted into teams. Leyla and Marcus were the discovery team which meant that any new evidence would be brought directly to them to be studied. Robin and Mason had been placed onto the stealth team, which meant that they would be the ones retrieving evidence.
Sarah had been surprised at Robin’s eagerness to the task, but her friend had thrown off the shock telling everyone that people usually underestimated her bravery and that it was her most overlooked trait.
Not surprisingly Jason and Deven had opted to work together telling everyone that they would be on the ‘undercover’ team. This meant that they would be the ones that would talk to anyone who might have any information. Their sweet kind-hearted nature added to their good looks could fool almost anyone into believing they were simply trying to have a conversation with them. Though Sarah had half a mind to think that they only wanted to do this to have more ‘alone’ time together.
“I agree,” Leyla said almost at once. “I mean just look at how he reacted to us finding the bodies!”
“You should’ve called me first indeed!” Marcus agreed. “If that’s not covering something up I don’t know what is!”
“Quite right Marcus,” Robin chimed in, before tucking her busy brown hair behind her ear and grabbing the morning’s paper to look at the article. “And I mean obviously he had issues with certain pairs, right?”
“Pairs?” Sarah asked, holding her hand out for the paper as though this were something she’d missed.
“Yes Sarah,” Robin replied. “Pairs. If we look at the article it shows Sophia and Wilton – who according to the article were partners. Then of course there’s Ms Westcott and Mr Bullard-“
“They were a pair?!” Jason asked, almost revolted at the thought.
“Not a romantic pair Jason,” Robin answered. “They’re paired in running the school. I mean Principal and Vice Principal?!”
While everyone else murmured their thoughts around the table, Sarah’s mind was racing. On the one hand she was grateful for Robin speaking up, but on the other hand it wasn’t very much to go off of.
“Sooooo,” Sarah dragged out. “What does that mean? Is it a motive?”
“Not exactly,” Leyla answered for her friend. “But Sarah, it’s a start.”
Indeed, it had been a start but considering they had nothing else to go off of, by the time Monday had rolled around there still hadn’t been any new information.
Sarah was beginning to worry.
What if the killer had left more clues leading to her being the killer?
What if in fact she was the killer and had somehow repressed it?
“Sarah! Sarah!” a distant voice yelled, as she groggily opened her eyes.
It was Mason and as Sarah’s groggy eyes met his, she realised two things. One, she must have somehow fallen asleep and two, that her boyfriend seemed to carry a bit of urgency about him.
“What did you find?” Sarah asked, as the grogginess faded away rather quickly.
“We may have uncovered the motive after all!” Mace said back rather excitedly. “Come on, everyone’s downstairs. Jason and Deven have loads to tell us. Come on!”
Allowing herself to be dragged out of bed, Sarah whipped on a jacket and almost flew downstairs. It’d been almost 3 days since they’d all discovered the dead bodies and so far no one had seemed to know anything. But clearly, unlike her earlier thoughts, Jason and Deven had been more focused on their role than she’d suspected.
“Sarah!” Jason cried out the moment he saw her.
“My god you look like a train catapulted right into you,” Leyla remarked. “Are you not getting enough sleep?”
Sarah simply gave Leyla a look that screamed I don’t have time for this and sat down at the dining table which already had the others seated around it.
“Mace tells me you might’ve found a motive,” she began looking towards Jason and Deven. “What did you find?”
“It was brilliant!” Leyla chimed in. “I mean, what they uncovered was-“
“Maybe Jason and Deven should explain what they found?” Mace interrupted.
Truth be known, he started to grow quite sick of Leyla lately, who seemed to take it upon herself to oversee everything to do with operation 17th Victim or OSV for short.
Leyla glared at Mace for quite some time and seemed to be considering a retort of sorts. However, after a few moments she bit back whatever it was that she wanted to say to Mace and simply nodded.
“Well,” Jason began rather excitedly. “You know how we said we’d go undercover?” he asked, pointing back and forth to himself and Deven.
Sarah nodded, still surprised they’d gone ahead and done it.
“Well we found out a few things,” Jason concluded.
“There were more than enough people willing to give us information,” Deven agreed, smiling at his partner. “And how could they resist I mean, look at that face.”
Deven grabbed Jason’s chin and began moving it from left to right as though showing it off to everyone. Jason went red as a beetroot and after a moment removed Deven’s hand.
“Yes, well, thank you Deven,” he said quickly as though trying to brush off the embarrassment. “Whether it was my face, yours, both of ours or neither, the point is – everyone seemed willing to talk.”
“We began with the geeks and they were very eager to spill stuff on Westcott and Bullard,” Deven agreed. “Apparently, they’ve been turning the school into a school for profit so to speak.”
“Yeah,” Jason said. “Doing all kinds of things like rigging tests and stuff. According to Cindy Chambers, she received a 20-point advantage on a test she should have failed last week simply because failure meant a worse grade-average and less money for the school.”
While the majority of the people at the table seemed rather intrigued to hear this information, Marcus seemed outraged.
“What, she’s complaining?” he asked. “Far be it for me to say anything to anyone about the school choosing profit over student advancement. But shouldn’t she just be grateful that she passed? I know Mr & Mrs Chambers and let me tell you, if Cindy had failed you can be sure they would’ve come down quite hard on her.”
“Whilst I agree with what you’re saying,” Layla chimed in. “You have to admit, it’s bad for the school. If the board of education found out, Pascal High could be in a world of trouble.”
Not surprisingly an outbreak of theories regarding what could or what could not end up happening if Charles Pascal Highschool was found to be doing things wrong, but this was the last thing that Sarah wanted to discuss. Sure, it was something to talk about – one day – but certainly not today! Not when they seemed to have some sort of lead going on the killer’s motive.
“Guys,” Sarah began, but no one was listening. “Guys,” she said a little louder again to no affect. “HEY!” she finally roared.
Everyone stopped at once and turned to look at their host. With Sarah’s parent’s phoning the previous night to advise they’d be away for much longer than expected her home would remain as HQ.
“This is all very interesting-” she began.
“Yeah,” Layla jumped in. “It is. If anyone finds out!”
“How?!” Jason, surprising everyone, demanded.
“Enough!” Sarah yelled out over the top of them, lest the two kept going and no one got anywhere that night. “I was saying it is all very interesting BUT we don’t have time for a debate on where the school stands right now. For all we know, they’re going to shut them down pending an investigation anyway.”
Whether this was the right thing to say or not didn’t seem to occur to anyone but Sarah who instantly regretted it the moment the words came out of her mouth. Not wanting to interrupt her again, but feeling very much shocked most people made quick glances at one another while others whispered softly.
“My point is,” Sarah went on through gritted teeth. “We need to be focusing on what you guys have found. If I am indeed the intended 17th Victim I don’t plan on sitting around here discussing hypotheticals about the status of the school.”
“Quite right Sarah,” Marcus replied pompously. “Right. Silence everyone except for Jason and Deven.”
It had to be said that everyone had at least one issue with the group or a person in the group. For Sarah the hardest thing she had to contest with had been Marcus’ attitude. He always seemed to be rather pompous and whenever he didn’t get his way he became rather sulky. She’d thought about bringing this up with him on a couple of occasions, but every time she’d stopped herself because he’d said something unjustifiably rude to her.
However, in this very moment, Sarah couldn’t have been prouder to have pompous Marcus as part of the group and she took a moment to smile at him, before turning to face the two boys.
“Basically, we discovered that a lot of students had issues with Westcott and Bullard and we don’t mean the usual issue of student Principal/Vice-Principal,” Jason said.
“Yeah, I mean Cindy Chambers may be a geek, but Theresa Quin and Shaun Patterson aren’t,” Devon agreed.
“What beef do they have?” Sarah asked.
“Theresa wanted to set-up a group for Wiccans,” Jason explained. “But Westcott said no.”
“And Shaun wanted to set up a straight-gay alliance group,” Devon said nodding to Jason. “Westcott had no issue with it, but apparently Bullard felt it would change the school in a way unbefitting of Charles Pascal.”
Everyone’s eyes widened at Devon’s comment. It wasn’t to say that Theresa’s dream of running a Wiccan group was irrelevant, but it was more understandable than disallowing a gay-straight alliance especially given the tough issues that both sides seemed to be having at that moment.
“There have been other complaints too,” Leyla said cautiously, glancing around as though waiting for approval before going on. She handed a folder to Sarah. “Letters from students and parents alike, disagreeing with how things are run.”
Sarah grabbed the folder anxiously and opened it.
Leyla was right!
Letter upon letter upon letter – typed and handwritten from Parents and indeed students either suggesting changes, complaining or demanding that action be taken. Sarah took out the top one and read it aloud.
Dear Mrs Westcott,
It has come to my attention that a lunch-time yesterday my child Stanley Thompson was punched by a fellow student by the name of Zac Holmwood. I have also been led to believe that nothing is being done about this situation. I must impress upon you the seriousness of this situation and require your contact no later than close of school today. If this does not happen I will kindly take legal action against the school.
Thanking you for your time,
At the bottom of the letter was a bold green stamp mark with the letters NDA clearly visible.
“NDA?” Sarah asked. “Nada? As in they’re not doing anything about it?”
“NDA is an acronym for Non–Disclosure Agreement,” Leyla replied. “Basically, we can assume that Westcott, Bullard or both paid Mrs Thompson off and made her sign an NDA. If they were smart they would’ve handed her a waver too.”
“A waver?” Deven asked having never heard the term before.
“Basically, it’s a contract a party signs, in this case Mrs Thompson, where she cannot sue the school. Generally speaking paying someone off is a bribe to getting them to sign an NDA and a waiver.”
As Deven sat there with an oh look on his face, Sarah closed the folder. She had read through 5 other letters, all containing things that students or parents had wanted to bring to Westcott or Bullard’s attention.
All of them had been stamped.
“Ok,” she said at last. “So, they were corrupt educators. It explains why they were killed, but what about the others?”
“I’m so glad you asked!” Deven replied taking that moment to stand as though about to give a speech. “Remember how the article suggested that Sophia Orlington and Wilton Evered were an item?”
“How could I forget?” Sarah asked.
Indeed, it seemed to be the only clue she’d had prior to this evening.
“Well wait for it,” Deven said smiling. “Cause there’s more.”
As everyone was talking Dark Moon’s cell began to vibrate. Taking a moment to apologise to their friends the killer excused themselves and made their way into the hall. They would’ve gone outside, but there was simply no need, everyone seemed to be chatting away rather excitedly at the news they’d discovered.
“Hello?” Dark Moon enquired.
“Hello…Sun Beam,” came a reply from the other end.
The killer jumped violently and their face lightened to a shade of bleach.
No! Dark Moon thought. It’s completely impossible! The only person who knew I had that name is dead!
“Ah,” the killer said rather shakily. “Who is this?”
“Let’s say for now…a friend,” came the reply.
“A friend?” Dark Moon questioned, their tone going ice cold.
“A friend who…knows…” the voice added. “I know what you’ve done Sun Beam and unless you do exactly as I say…so too…will your friends.”