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Cricket Lone Wolf Part 23

Final exams end and the school sighs with relief. Marcia is the top student by a wide margin.

Exactly thirty minutes after they left the tunnels, Marcia and Naomi stood at the headmaster's door. Marcia knocked quietly and moved aside when the door opened. Hans showed the girls into the office and left quietly leaving the meal cart outside the office. The girls took their usual places around the small table set with their dinner. As they sat, the headmaster entered through the door to his private quarters, which were next to his office. He changed his clothes and wore a very casual outfit for him.

"Let's talk while we eat. I want to know what happened in the tunnels today and why you were there. The tunnels are off limits to students because it is too easy to get lost. I see that one of you had a map of the tunnels and it was accurate. How did you get the map?" The headmaster started.

Marcia pondered her answer carefully not wanting to reveal too much. "Stefan and I found the tunnels when we searched the castle and its grounds. We noticed that the staff used them every day rather than sit idle and abandoned. There was a supply closet of a sort we found, which contained a few copies of the tunnel complex. We took a few copies and used them to learn our way around below the castle. Today we were in the stable when the sudden violent downpour occurred. It was close to dinner and we needed to get to our rooms and clean up. The easiest way to do that without getting drenched was to use the tunnels." Marcia paused not wanting to offer too much information, but just enough to appease the headmaster.

"How did Stefan and Polina happen to get trapped in that room? We knew the door was unstable not in a position to cause any harm. Someone moved the door and deliberately caused it to fall. Who did that?"

Naomi jumped in ahead of Marcia, "It could have been Daria as she limped down the tunnel and tripped against the door and jarred it loose. She was moving quickly and trying to keep up with the rest of us. Everyone but Daria and Franci was way ahead of them and could not see what happened. It might have been just an accident." Marcia nodded her head in agreement.

The headmaster looked at the girls and nodded his head in agreement. What Naomi proposed seemed to fall right in line with what could have happened. Fortunately, the injuries were minor and the danger was short-lived. As he shared dinner with the girls, he decided that he would not interrogate the remaining students when they appeared in the morning. Instead, he would advise them to be careful in the tunnels and try to stay out of them as much as possible. He decided that the students can use the tunnels, as they were safe and afforded protection from the weather.

When dinner ended, the headmaster pulled two sets of papers from his desk and handed them to the girls. "These are the final exams for the two courses you studied while being in my office every week. It should not take more than an hour to complete and your whole mark depends on your grade on the exam. The hour starts now."

The girls moaned but set to work immediately marking the exam and their eyes stayed on the exam. Naomi found the exam difficult but not impossible. Marcia moved through the exam as if she cut through a large butter cake with a warm knife. The headmaster sat behind his desk, watched the girls and admired the tenacity with which they attacked the test. Marcia finished the exam in thirty-five minutes, passed the test to the headmaster and looked out the window. Naomi finished five minutes later, passed in the exam and turned to talk to Marcia.

They quietly whispered to each other while the headmaster graded the tests. In a few minutes, he stood walked around to the front of his desk and announced the results to the girls. They scored identical grades on the exams. The headmaster praised the girls and gave them the special dessert from the village as a reward. The girls savored the dessert and ate it quickly. When they finished, the headmaster dismissed them and sent them on their way to their room.

Rather than return to their room, the girls went to the orchestra room to hang out with their friends. As they approached the room, they heard the sweet melodious notes from Daria's flute mixed with Polina's oboe. When they entered the room, the music continued, but they saw Stefan with a hangdog look sitting holding his clarinet. Marcia looked at him and shrugged as if to ask what happened. Stefan tilted his head toward Daria and gestured shrugging his shoulders as if to say, ask her.

Marcia and Naomi sat on the piano bench and listened to more of the music played with gusto. Daria kept the pace of the music up and drove the rest of the musicians. Fifteen minutes later the rest of the orchestra stopped playing. Marcia stood and walked to Daria to make her stop driving the others so hard. Marcia reached out and tapped Daria's shoulder because she shut her eyes getting lost in the music.

Daria almost dropped her flute when Marcia touched her. As she opened her eyes, the glare from Daria's eyes menaced Marcia's countenance and penetrated deeply into her. Marcia sensed and felt a puncture to her soul that ripped her open, Daria wanted to do her harm. Her memory went back to a time in New Jersey when she felt something similar from another girl named Sarah. A chill ran up her body as she thought about Sarah and how all that ended, she did not need that again. Marcia stood in front of Daria as a quiet patience descended over her and her demeanor became cold, calculating, almost evil and menacing.

Naomi moved between the girls and forced Marcia to go over to the piano and sit looking at the ivory keys. Daria looked up at Naomi glaring but said, "What did the headmaster have to say about the 'accident' in the tunnels? Did he try to place blame on anyone or discourage us from using the tunnels?" Daria looked between Naomi and Marcia as she asked the questions. Naomi noticed her eye movements and suspected there was something going on that might implicate Marcia in the incident.

"The headmaster did not try to place blame on anyone in the incident. He was more interested in what happened and asked why we were down there. He wanted to know who discovered the tunnels and how long we have been using them. He was not happy that we were down there but in the end he told us that we could use them but be careful wandering around." Marcia offered. Naomi shook her head in agreement and started to add more but stopped quickly.

"Are you worried about sitting with the headmaster in the morning? I don't think he will try to place blame on anyone. You are all in the clear and we are safe to continue using the tunnels. Right now, I think we all need to get out of this room and get some sleep. Tomorrow is the last day of exams and they are all the hardest ones. Once they are done, the results will post for the class rankings." Naomi interjected.

As the group broke up, Stefan hung back waiting to talk with Marcia and Naomi, but more specifically Naomi. Ever since Naomi arrived at school, Stefan looked at Naomi in a very different manner than any other girl in school. Something about her attracted him and he could not let it go. He approached the girls and fell in beside them as they walked out of the room. He tried to get close to Naomi, but she looked down the hall at Daria and Franci. Marcia talked to him about the exams and riding, but to him it was just chatter. As they came to the corner where Stefan must turn toward the boy's dormitory, he tried to get closer to Naomi, but she exchanged places with Marcia. Stefan hung his head and slowly turned the corner and dragged away from the girls.

As the next day dawned, the mood in the freshman class got somber and quiet. The last day of exams was always the worst with five exams for the freshman class. There were three seventy-five minute exams in the morning with a fifteen-minute break between exams. Lunch followed the morning exams and the dining room filled with the students, but it was extremely quiet. After lunch, the last two exams lasted ninety minutes with a short break between them. When the exams ended, the freshman class whooped with glee that they made it through the year.

The orchestra room buzzed with excitement that exams were over and the group of musicians played happy, celebratory music. It was too early for dinner and Stefan wanted to ride his horse. As he went to exit the school to walk to the stable, Naomi joined him. He looked around for Marcia, but she was not visible and he felt a bit elated for that. As they walked down the hall to the exit, Stefan grabbed her hand and pulled her along. She held him back and wanted to stay in the school. She would not go into the tunnels again because of the 'accident' and her fear of enclosed places.

The sky turned black with heavy rain bearing clouds, lightning and thunder, which announced their approach. Stefan stopped just inside the door and witnessed sharp bolts of lightning, as they zigzagged across the sky, followed by window-rattling thunder. Naomi squealed at the lightning and thunder because the stone castle seemed to amplify the noise. She clung to Stefan's arm, as she sought his protection. She held him close, forced him to stop and wanted to return to the interior of the castle. Stefan turned with her and went back into the protecting center of the castle. His mind drifted from the close attention of Naomi to thoughts of his horse tethered in the stable with all the flashes of lightning and heavy, loud claps of thunder.

By the time Naomi and Stefan wandered into the castle interior, it was time for dinner. The dining room was abuzz with a clamor because exams for the school were over. Stefan and Naomi joined the musicians at their table and waited for dinner. Daria looked at the couple but registered no feelings about them. Marcia smiled at Naomi, who gave her usual 'who me?' expression in return, which drew the usual scowl. Polina looked at Stefan and felt great relief that he finally expressed that he liked Naomi as more than just another friend. Dinner proceeded with the usual chatter and speculation about the class rankings.

After dinner, the class broke up into small groups and dispersed through the castle to several recreation areas. The musicians stayed away from the music room, choosing instead to gather in the waiting area. A discussion started speculating who would the top student was. Polina spoke up, which was rare for her, announcing that Marcia was number one. Marcia felt self-conscious about the recognition but conceded that it was probably true. A more heated debate began, as to who was number two. That was a more difficult choice, but most knew it was between Naomi and Daria.

When everyone dispersed to their rooms for the night, morning could not come fast enough. Marcia lay in her bed looking at the storm out the window. Occasionally, the parapet shook with a clap of thunder. When it did, Naomi squeaked a shock of fear and covered her head with the blankets. Around midnight, the storm blew away and a bright moon with bright stars shone through the clean air.

The waiting area grew crowded in the morning after breakfast. It was the central gathering area for important notices and the results of the final exams. Hans walked solemnly into the waiting area with a single piece of paper that contained the class rankings. The crowd of students parted to allow him to post it and swelled back around him as he stood there watching. A slow murmur spread through the group as they read the list. As expected, Marcia was number one, but a shock at number two, Daria and Naomi tied. Number four was Polina followed closely by Stefan at number five.

The margin of difference between number one and number two was very wide. Marcia set a new high score that would remain for many years. Daria glowered at Marcia when she read the score and the margin of difference. She was not surprised that Naomi tied with her, but they were friends and co-conspirators to take Marcia down. Now it was time to plan Marcia's demise.

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than storiesspace.com with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

Copyright © Copyright 2012, 2013 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 by Cal Erickson, aka frogprince

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