The TeacherBy: Katerina Diamond
A Shocking and Compelling New Crime Thriller
NOT for the Faint-Hearted!
Jeffrey Stone looked over the sea of despondent young faces as he gave assembly, occasionally glancing up at the steel frame of the atrium. At this time he had no idea that come the morning he would be discovered hanging from it by his neck.
The crisp white shirt collars and fresh faces stared forwards, past Jeffrey and into the space beyond; waiting for that bell. Everyone loved the idea of assembly until they were actually in it and were painfully reminded of the tedium. This ceremony was a strange limbo between work and rest; the calm before the storm. Jeffrey felt as though the clock was louder than his voice. With every tick and pause he expected the bell to ring, to rescue him from the apathetic gaze of both students and teachers. All feigning interest and failing; trying not to excavate their twitching noses. Jeffrey was always as relieved as they were when the end finally came, no longer forced to regurgitate anecdotes that no one wanted to hear, least of all himself.
The first clue to his forthcoming demise came when Jeffrey returned to his office and found the parcel on his desk. Tentatively he tore open the brown paper, as though something about the size and weight of the gift was familiar to him, from a time that he had tried to put out of his mind. Jeffrey’s face paled as he stared at the contents of the package. It was an old German book. Of course he knew what it meant. It’s not as if this was a bolt out of the blue but it had been twenty years since he had seen this book, twenty years since he had given it as a gift to someone; a ghost. The book was a surprise, but not the unspoken message its very arrival conveyed. It meant the end.
He put the book in the desk drawer, he would deal with it later. He picked up the wrapper and scanned it for information, he saw the handwriting, and the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end as it occurred to him the package had been hand-delivered. Why now? What was different about today? Not that today wasn’t as good a day as any to die but over the years Jeffrey had presumed he had been forgotten. Got away with it, maybe. But now he knew that he had not.
He walked through the intricate wainscoted corridors for what he assumed would be the last time, running his fingers along the grain of the oak panels, the arabesque carvings almost worn down completely. Churchill School for Boys had been his home for so long. He wondered who would take his place. This building was centuries old, important to the history of the city of Exeter, one of a handful of gems that survived the Baedecker raids in 1942, Hitler’s retaliation on Britain for bombing the towns of Lubeck and Rostock in Germany. It was a calculated attack by the Luftwaffe on the five most beautiful cities from a tourist-information book. During the raids a selection of the population hid in the underground tunnels built originally to bring fresh water into the medieval city. Now the city centre was a mish-mash of handsome old buildings either side of the road that ran straight through from east to west with large, ugly, square brick consolation structures squeezed in between them to hide the gaping holes where the shells had hit. Exeter was still littered with history but was an unforgettable testament to the atrocities that had befallen the country. But not this building, the school stood proud and alone, nestled among trees, a remnant of another time. The rich emerald ivy, always so thick and strong in the summer term, clung to the deep terracotta-red brick structure as though it were trying to pull it back into the ground, to reclaim it. This was one of the reasons he had so much love for the place. The traditional and exquisite among the ugly; the truth laid bare for all to see. This was his school, from the moment he had stepped through the gates as a student he was overwhelmed with a sense of belonging. Yes, Jeffrey could not imagine himself anywhere else.
Jeffrey turned around to see Avery Phillips walking towards him. Avery was the head boy. His gait displayed a confidence seldom found in the young academics at this school. Avery presented Jeffrey with an envelope.
‘It’s the money from the fun run at the weekend, sir. We raised over five hundred pounds.’