Mystery at Doyle High School, by the Jeanster

© 2007 Jean Akins

Billy's mother read the permission slip that her son asked her to sign. Fifteen years old and wanting to work, she thought. Where does the time go? It seemed not too long ago when her little Billy was still a toddler playing in the sandbox in their backyard. She looked at him now as he stood before her. He had grown into a healthy teenaged boy and was now in his first year of high school.

"Please, Mom? I won't let this job get in the way of my homework and chores. I promise!" Billy pleaded. "And it's for only fifteen hours a week!"

"Oh, very well," said his mother. "But if I see any problems later with your school grades, then you are to quit this job."

"Thank you, Mom!" said Billy. He watched as his mother signed the slip.

She handed it back to him. He carefully placed it in his book bag.

"You won't regret this, Mom! I promise!" said Billy happily.

"Here's some money. I didn't have time to pack you a lunch, so go buy a hot meal in the school cafeteria."

"Thanks, Mom."

Billy kissed his mother and waved good-bye as he headed off to school.

Doyle High School was within walking distance from Billy's house. That was one of the reasons Billy's parents bought the house on Baker Street. The school was a mere five blocks away on the same street.

Billy was looking forward to this afternoon when he would start his job at the school library. He was nervous the other day during the interview with the librarian, but Mr. Holmes soon put him at ease as he explained what the duties would be. Billy loved libraries. He thought of what Mr. Holmes had said yesterday.

"Billy, I just want you to know that this is real work. Some people think that being employed in a library just means sitting around all day reading books. There will be plenty of tasks for a page to perform."

"Oh, don't worry, Mr. Holmes. I'm a hard worker."

"Good. All you need to do now is get parental permission. Here's the necessary slip. Bring it back to me signed by either of your parents. I'll see you tomorrow at three o'clock."

Billy spent the morning at his classes. He had a bit of trouble understanding some of the mathematics being taught. He considered asking Professor Moriarty for a tutoring session. But how could he fit that in with his after school job at the library? Perhaps the professor would be willing to tutor him during lunch one day.

"A tutoring session?" asked the professor. "Why, certainly, Billy. It's good to see a student taking his education seriously. I'll be able to help you for half an hour tomorrow during our lunch hour. That'll leave us thirty minutes to eat. Think you can manage that?"

"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir."

"Good. Meet here in this classroom tomorrow at 12 noon."

"Yes, sir. I'll be sure to do that."

Billy put his books away in his hall locker and headed for the cafeteria. It was filled with other students hungry and ready for lunch. Billy got in line. The boy in front of him turned and smiled.

"You're new here, aren't you?" said the boy. He was a blond handsome lad about Billy's age.

"Yes. I'm Billy Drake."

"Wiggins," said the boy pointing to himself. "Albert Wiggins. You were in the school library yesterday talking to Mr. Holmes."

"Yes, I was. I was applying for the job as the library page. He said I could start this afternoon. I just have to turn in the permission slip that my mom signed."

"Congratulations," said Wiggins. "Mr. Holmes is a good man. You're fortunate to be working with him."

"You know him?"

"I do." Wiggins gave Billy a mysterious smile as he changed the subject. "Oh, look. Mrs. Hudson is serving pot roast! I tell you, Billy, the meals here have gotten so much better since Mrs. Hudson became the cafeteria lady."

Billy and Wiggins carried their trays to a table and sat down. Lunch consisted of pot roast, mashed potatoes with gravy, steamed vegetables, milk and a slice of fresh fruit for dessert.

"How do you like this school so far?" asked Wiggins.

"It's okay." Billy thought of his first day. All of the new first-year students attended an orientation session in the school auditorium where they met Principal Queen and some of the faculty members. One of them was Professor Moriarty who taught mathematics.

Principal Queen was an older woman, short in height and a bit on the heavy side. Her grey hair was neatly pinned back. She wore a black skirted suit and low-heeled black pumps. A simple strand of pearls adorned her neckline to complete her look. As she addressed the students in her welcoming speech Billy could sense a regal air about her.

"Since you'll be working after school in the library, that won't leave you time to partipate in extra-curricular activities," said Wiggins.

"Like what?" asked Billy.

"Clubs," said Wiggins. "There are notices on the bulletin board just inside the main entrance. Chess club, math club, science club, pottery club, etc."

"I guess not. My calendar's very full now."

"This morning I saw a notice for an odd-sounding new club. Apparently, you can only join if you have red hair! Can you believe that?"

"A red-headed club? Why on earth would anyone start such a club? It sounds silly."

"A league, actually. That's the name printed on the notice: 'The Red-Headed League'."

Suddenly there was a very loud commotion at the entrance to the cafeteria. A man wearing a security uniform rushed in while shouting at a boy he was chasing.

"Stop right there! Stop, I say!" the man shouted. But the boy kept runing and successfully escaped capture by darting out the other set of double-doors that led to the school courtyard.

The security officer would have caught the boy if he had not collided with a student carrying a lunch tray.

The plate of hot food landed in Billy's lap.

"Ow!" shouted Billy as he jumped up.

Wiggins grabbed some paper napkins and tried his best to help Billy clean the spilled food.

"Sorry about that," said the security officer. "I'm Officer Lestrade. That boy I was chasing was caught vandalizing the door of the school library. Just wait until Mr. Holmes sees it. He takes pride in that library. Defacing the door isn't going to sit well with him, I tell you."

"How bad is the damage, Officer Lestrade?" asked Wiggins.

"Well, I guess it can be cleaned off. I caught the boy as he drawing a series of little stick-figures on the door. They were about four-inches high, a whole line of them."

"Did he use chalk? Crayon? Permanent marker ink?"

"Chalk," said Officer Lestrade showing Wiggins a stick of white chalk. "The boy dropped this as he ran off when I gave chase."

"Be sure to show that to Mr. Holmes," said Wiggins.

"Of course I will. Do you think you need to tell me how to do my job?"

Wiggins raised his eyebrows as he stared back at Officer Lestrade. "Just trying to help."

"Hmph!" said the security officer. He looked at Billy. "That food was hot. You might have suffered some burns. Better go see the school nurse."

"I"ll take you there," said Wiggins. "The nurse's office is right this way."

Billy felt self-conscious as the other students in the cafeteria looked at him, pointed and whispered among themselves.

I feel so dorky, thought Billy as he walked past them with his clothes all stained with food.

"Perhaps after the nurse sees you they'll let you go home and change clothes," said Wiggins.

"I hope so. I live only five blocks away, so that shouldn't be a problem. And I can't start the first day of my new job looking like this."

* * * * * * * * * *

It was early morning in London, England. Dr. Watson was about to go downstairs to have breakfast with Holmes when he glanced outside his bedroom window. He could see Inspector Lestrade approaching.

Watson headed down the stairs. The door to the sitting room on the second floor was open. He could see and hear Mrs. Hudson preparing the dining table for their breakfast. Holmes emerged from his own bedroom. Their landlady had brought in the morning newspaper. Holmes picked it and scanned the headlines.

The doorbell rang.

"That would be Inspector Lestrade," said Watson. Holmes and Mrs. Hudson both turned to look at him. The doctor smiled as he said, "Perhaps he seeks your assistance with a case, Holmes. Finish setting the table, Mrs. Hudson. I'll go downstairs and answer the door."

Watson continued down the stairs. He could see the silhouette of Inspector Lestrade through the glass window portion of the front door. The doorbell rang once more.

Watson reached the foyer. He opened the door.

"Good morning, Inspector --" Watson began to say. But he stopped when he saw there was no Inspector Lestrade standing there.

Watson stepped outside. He looked up and down Baker Street, but he could see no sign of Inspector Lestrade. Was the Scotland Yard official playing some sort of prank on them?

He was certain it was Inspector Lestrade he had seen from his bedroom window.

Watson stepped back inside the foyer, closed the door and slowly walked upstairs.

"There was no one there," said Watson as he entered the sitting room. Then he stopped and looked around the room. He could not see Mrs. Hudson or Holmes. Breakfast was there on the table. The newspaper was on the floor next to Holmes' chair.

"Holmes? Mrs. Hudson?" Watson called out as he walked through the sitting room. The door to Holmes' bedroom was open. Watson stood in the doorway and looked around the bedroom, but there was no sign of his friend.

"Holmes? Dash it all, where are you? Mrs. Hudson?"

There was no answer.

What Watson did not know was that Inspector Lestrade had indeed been on his way to see Holmes regarding a case. People in London were disappearing one by one, and what had prompted Scotland Yard to send Lestrade to seek Holmes for help was when the Queen of England mysteriously disappeared from Buckingham Palace. No one could find her.

* * * * *

Billy's mother was dusting the living room furniture when she noticed something. She looked out the window and saw a strange-looking bearded man wearing dark glasses and a hat. He was straddling a bicycle and just standing there outside her house. He appeared to be looking in her direction when he quickly averted his gaze.

She was certain he was the same man on the bicycle who rode slowly by when she was outside watering her flowers. He had rode past three times, in fact, as she worked in her garden.

And now there he was parked outside and staring in her direction.

Billy's mother thought of calling the police.

* * * * * * * * * *

The boy who was eluding capture from Officer Lestrade was still running on the campus grounds. He had reached the lawns and glanced back to see if he was still being chased. That was when he collided into the physics teacher who was giving an outdoor demonstration involving an air rifle.

Mr. Moran was about to hit the target which he had made sure was safely out of anyone's way when the boy collided into him and caused him to stumble. He had already pulled the trigger.

"Oh, no!" said Mr. Moran as he heard and saw the window of the art classroom shatter. Screams came from that room. A moment later he saw Principal Queen looking out. She looked displeased.

"Mr. Moran! Is that a rifle I see you holding? I hope you have a good explanation for bringing a weapon on my school campus! Report to my office immediately!" she ordered.

"Yes, Principal Queen," said Mr. Moran. His students watched as he headed inside the building.

"Go to lunch, class," said the physics teacher.

The boy who had collided into him had already gotten up and fled.

On the floor of the art classroom were pieces of shattered glass from the window.

Principal Queen said to Mr. Holmes, "Tend to her, Mr. Holmes, while I meet with Mr. Moran in my office."

The librarian nodded and turned to the fifteen year old student whose recent art project now was in shattered pieces on the floor.

"There, there, Marie. I'm thankful it was only the bust that got hit and not you or anyone else in this room."

Marie tried to keep from crying, but a couple of tears managed to roll down her face.

"I spent hours working on that wax bust of you, Mr. Holmes!" said Marie. "It was going to be entered in the annual school art exhibit, and then afterward I was going to give it to you to keep as a gift!"

Mr. Holmes smiled.

"That's very sweet of you, Marie. I'm touched. But what's done is done." He looked at the broken pieces of the wax bust.

"There's still several weeks before the art exhibit. Do you think you could make another one?"

"I guess I could," said Marie.

"Oh, dear. It's already past noon. We'd better take a lunch break. I have to get back in time to get things ready for my new library page. He starts work this afternoon."

Marie stared at the librarian.

"Mr. Holmes, you hired a new page? I didn't know there was even a job opening! I would have applied!"

"Marie, the job notice was posted on the bulletin a week ago. The position was filled yesterday. I'm sorry, but I didn't know you were interested."

"I was so busy working on this art project that I never bothered to check the bulletin board. Oh, Mr. Holmes, can't you unhire that boy and let me work as the library page?"

"Marie, I can't do that. You do realize that, don't you?"

"Of course. I'm sorry. I'm just upset right now."

"Quite all right. Why don't you take a few minutes to compose yourself and have some lunch. I'll check up on you later."

"Thank you, Mr. Holmes."

* * * * * * * * * *

Mr. Holmes sat beneath a large oak tree on the school campus grounds. It was his favorite spot to take his lunch break. Sometimes he dined in the teacher's section of the cafeteria. Today he wanted to enjoy the good weather while he ate his ham and cheese sandwich. His eyes were closed as he savored the cool gentle breeze.

"May I join you?"

Mr. Holmes looked up. The new music teacher stood before him. She carried a paper sack and a thermos.

The librarian politely motioned for her to sit down.

"Thank you," she said. He moved over a bit to give her room on the blanket he had spread on the ground beneath the tree.

"Could you please explain something to me?" she asked him.

"If I can, certainly," he replied.

"What is it with the faculty lounge? I wanted to eat my lunch there, but they kicked me out!"

Mr. Holmes smiled as he said, "Tell me everything that happened from the moment you entered the faculty lounge to when you were 'kicked out'. Don't leave out the smallest detail, no matter how insignificant you might think it to be."

"I walked in carrying my lunch and thermos, sat down, greeted the other teachers and was about to open my lunch bag when the mathematics professor came over to me. He said, 'That's one'. And then he motioned for me to leave by pointing to the door. I asked him, 'Are you telling me to go?', and he nodded and stood there and stared at me. The other faculty members there joined him and stood over me. They weren't smiling. Their stares made me feel so unfortable and unwelcome that I quickly got up and left."

"You're new here. I take it you haven't read your copy of the faculty handbook," said Mr. Holmes.

"The handbook? Why, no. I've been meaning to read it, but you know how it is. One gets so busy. I tucked it away in my bag so that I could refer to it later."

"You would do well to make time to study the faculty handbook at your earliest convenience, Miss Adler," said the librarian. "If you had read it thoroughly on your first day here, you would know that no faculty member is permitted to take notice of the others in that lounge. And no talking is allowed in there. If you break the rules three times you will be banished from the faculty lounge."

Miss Adler stared at Mr. Holmes.

"You're joking, right?"

"I assure you I am serious. Look it up in the handbook."

"I will! I hope the handbook includes an explanation for such absurd rules! It makes no sense!"

She paused for a moment before speaking again.

"Mr. Holmes, did you break those rules and get banished from the faculty lounge? Is that why you're eating here underneath this treee?"

"Not at all," said the librarian. "This happens to be my favorite spot to take my break. I find it relaxing here."

Suddenly they were interruped by a young male student who came running over.

"Mr. Holmes!" he said. "Thank you for helping me earlier!"

"You're quite welcome."

"I'm sure to win first prize in the science contest!"

"Just do your best. That's all anyone can ask of you."

The boy grinned, waved and ran off.

"Science contest?" asked Miss Adler.

"Yes. He wanted some books about snakes. He thinks he can train one to come on command by using a whistle."

"Fascinating," said Miss Adler.


* * * * * * * * * *

Marie stared sadly ahead at the couple seated beneath the oak tree. She was too far away to hear what they were saying.

"Might have known the new music teacher would be so beautiful," Marie muttered to herself softly. Suddenly she did not feel hungry for lunch. She reached into her backpack and pulled out her iPod. In a moment she was wallowing in self-pity as she listened to the Poni Tails singing "Born Too Late".

Marie was careful to keep her feelings about the librarian quietly to herself. She dared not let any of her classmates know of it. She was sure she would be teased unmercifully if word got out that she had a major crush on Mr. Holmes.

She spent many a night trying to figure out why she felt this way. It was not until she was watching a rerun of an early Star Trek episode when she realized that he reminded her of Mr. Spock. That Vulcan who melted the heart of ship's nurse was Marie's favorite character on the series.

Marie tried to force herself to eat her tuna salad sandwich. Snacking during class was not permitted, so she had to fortify herself with nourishment during this noon hour. But it was not easy to eat as she watched the librarian and the music teacher chatting together beneath the oak tree.

She decided to go elsewhere to eat where she would not be tempted to watch them. She got up and walked toward the other side of the campus. As she turned around the corner of the building she collided into a student who was carrying something. The collision caused him to drop it where it shattered on the sidewalk.

"Oh, no! I'm so sorry!" cried Marie.

The student stared downward. He then smiled and reached down to pick up something from among the shattered pieces of his art project.

"So this is where it's been all this time!" he said as he held a shiny ring.

"What is it?" asked Marie.

"My class ring. I lost it. It must have fallen into the plaster as I was making this bust of Napoleon."

"I'm glad you found it. But I feel terrible about your bust getting broken. It's all my fault."

"Don't sweat over it. I have five more just like it."

Marie looked puzzled.

"These are going to be Christmas gifts for my aunts, uncles and grandparents. I still have the mold for it, so it'll be easy to make another to replace this one that broke."

"Why were you carrying it outside?"

"I wanted to see how it looks in natural light."

The boy smiled at Marie. She smiled back.

* * * * * * * * * *

"Rules are rules," said the school nurse. "You don't have a valid reason for leaving campus."

Billy tried to keep from raising his voice as he argued with the nurse. "But I start my job in the library in a few hours! I can't show up with food stains on my clothes! What kind of an impression would I make on my boss?"

"You can ask the school principal, but she'll just give you the same answer I did."

"What am I supposed to do? I mean, look at my clothes!"

The nurse sighed. She opened a closet door and pulled out a light blue smock.

"You may borrow this. It's clean. Return it to me tomorrow morning."

Billy took the smock.

"I guess this will have to do. Thanks."

But he still did not feel comfortable showing up to work on his first day not dressed appropriately.

* * * * * * * * * *

TIME PERIOD AND PLACE: Late nineteenth century, London, England

Dr. Watson searched the upstairs where his bedroom was located. Then he searched the rest of the entire building for Holmes and Mrs. Hudson. There was no sign of either of them.

"What the devil is going on here?" he muttered to himself. And what of Inspector Lestrade? Watson was certain he did not imagine seeing Lestrade heading this way earlier.

He opened the front door that led to Baker Street and stepped outside. It was eerily quiet. Normally at this time there would be fellow citizens of London going about their business. But Watson could only see three persons at the most. He was startled as one of the persons he happened to be watching suddenly disappeared in mid-stride.

"That's impossible!" said Watson. He blinked. Then he turned to see the couple down the street. Suddenly they, too, vanished. One moment they were about to enter a bookstore. The next moment they vanished just as they were about to open the door.

Watson was overcome by a sick and terrifying feeling.

"Mycroft!" he thought. "I'll seek help from Mycroft!"

Watson could see no hansom cab anywhere, so he rushed on foot toward the Diogenes Club.

* * * * * * * * * *


This page was created on June 9, 2007 and was updated on July 10, 2007.

The Jeanster's Sherlock Holmes Page