When J’s alarm began beeping the next morning, it was accompanied by smells of bacon & toast wafting upstairs. He felt light with relief that he hadn’t had a dream about anyone new being traumatised by the mystery ‘man’. Yet this was the puzzle, his chief suspect was the new Librarian, who was a woman. Was it possible that she wore a disguise when she took control of the minds of the children? J suspected that if he could see a ‘pattern’ to those chosen as her victims, then maybe he could get a better handle on solving the mystery. He made sure he had the hypnotism printouts tucked in his rucksack before heading out of the door to meet Alex.
Lulu waved goodbye from the back-seat of his Mum’s car. She was beaming from ear to ear with excitement, her party invitations clutched in her hand, twinkling with the holographic stickers she’d added the night before. Sometimes, when he looked at his sister, he yearned for the simplicity of his days at primary school, but most of the time he was glad to have left the claustrophobia of that tiny school and its mostly spinster teachers behind.
J joined the steady stream of red blazers and black suits heading out of Cranberry Gardens towards St Ethelred’s, pleased to see Alex was already waiting for him outside his house. They fell into step with one another. Alex was keen for an up-date, quizzing J as to whether he’d had one of his dreams the previous night.
“No, thank goodness! So maybe no new zombies today! I did learn a lot about hypnotism though.”
With that he passed Alex the pages which he’d recently downloaded from Google. Although impatient to discuss it, J needed to give his friend time to read and absorb the information, so he stayed quiet letting Alex read as he walked.
Finally J put forward his theory that perhaps the Librarian wore a disguise, which could be why the kids hypnotised so far kept talking about letting ‘him’ in.
“Vampire!” Alex butted in excitedly. “A vampire can’t come into your home unless you invite them!”
This seemed an undisputed piece of vampire folklore, mentioned in all the vampire films the boys had ever watched. They thrashed this idea around as they continued down to the school gate. Somehow the idea of a vampire existing in their home town seemed too far fetched, surely they weren’t real?
“See you at lunch,” Alex called over his shoulder before he headed off to English class.
Still puzzling, J made his way to the language block for a double lesson of German.
When lunchtime rolled around, they picked up their conversation where they’d left off. The vampire theory seemed less viable, instead J wanted to pursue the Librarian for more clues.
“Hey! What if she’s a dude disguised as a woman? Y’know, like in Mrs Doubtfire?!” Alex was warming to his theme. “She is pretty old and caked in powdery make-up. Her hair could easily be a wig!”
J couldn’t help laughing at the idea. However, the laughter died in his throat as Laurie walked past their table, looking pale and haggard. The shadows under his eyes were pronounced and his movements were robotic. On his tray he carried an unopened carton of milk and a shrink wrapped pork pie, with which he sat down alone, at a remote, empty table.
The two friends watched him in silence, as he stared into space, making no move to eat the food he had purchased.
“That’s seriously weird,” remarked Alex, who was always hungry due to the amount of sports he played.
“Yeah,” J nodded, feeling guilty that he couldn’t think of a way to help. “We’ve got to get to the bottom of this. You still want to investigate the Coach?”
He and Alex dumped their plates and trays at the hatch and spent the rest of their lunch break hanging round the pavilion trying to see in through the windows looking for clues amongst the stored sports equipment; they didn’t have much success. Alex had Rugby practice after school, so he intended to try to get into the building on some sort of pretext then, offering to untangle the bibs or some such helpful tactic.
J made his way across the quad , heading for his next lesson, and that’s when he spied Laurie again. He was at the heavy double doors into the main school building which housed Reception, the assembly hall and Drama, because they liked to utilise the stage. The Music block was accessible from here too, several practice rooms and a couple of classrooms ran down the outside wall of the building.
J was curious as to where Laurie was going, because as far as he knew Laurie studied neither music nor drama. He didn’t have time to investigate, but his mind was turning over facts all afternoon looking for the pattern. The last thing he wanted to acknowledge was that the common factor which was linking the trance-like children was him!
[To be continued …]