This is the story of a young girl who discovers the terrifying secrets of her new school
Wolf Creek was a small town in northern New Hampshire. Established in 1690, its population was small and lived simply. The only stores in Wolf Creek were a general store, a small grocery store, a police station, a fire station, a post office, The Wolf Creek Economy bank, a local diner, an independent doctor’s practice and three school buildings. Wolf Creek Elementary was on one side of town, and Wolf Creek Middle and High School were on the other. A tall, four-story brick building that served as the town hall was located in the center of the square. The oldest home in town had been turned into a charming little bed and breakfast, offering solace and serenity and an escape from the chaos of every day life, surrounded by the beauty of the country. The lives of the residents of Wolf Creek were simple and unpretentious. The town was located in a remote, secluded section of New Hampshire in the heart of the White Mountain region. The closest neighboring town, Pineville, was fifteen miles down the winding, sinuous mountain roads.
It was because of this secluded distance that Wolf Creek rarely experienced the pressures of modern day. Now and then a few kids at the local schools would experiment with some pot or dope, but otherwise the small community enjoyed a peaceful and tranquil existence.
This veil of concealment was not to last. In the mid 1990’s, the high school in Pineville was severely overcrowded and school officials were sending kids over to Wolf Creek High School. Wolf Creek High was not very big, due to the town’s small population. The Pineville kids mixed with the Wolf Creek kids, which soon became apparent that it was a not so hot mix. Many families began to see a change in their children. The innocent little town was gaining the disruptive attitude of a small city.
Desperate to retain its rustic country look, school officials congregated and decided these kids had to be straightened out pronto. Wolf Creek had always been a mainly rural community, and along with the influx of another town’s school children, this look was beginning to fade. Determined not lose the things that Wolf Creek prided itself on, they decided to build a place where troubled school children could go and work on their problems and sort out their troubles and still get their schoolwork completed. Construction of the new building began in January of 1997. After almost two years, Wolf Creek Alternative School was finally erected on November 3, 1998. It was scheduled to open on September 8, 1999, in time for a new school year. It was to originally serve the general northern region of New Hampshire, but in the weeks prior to the opening of school, New Hampshire and Massachusetts formed an unusual collaboration and Wolf Creek Alternative School became a place that would serve any child within both states.
Located on the shores of beautiful Wolf Lake, the townspeople felt that the beauty of the lake and sincere encouragement of the staff would no doubt turn the troubled children of Wolf Creek, Pineville and all of the surrounding areas around. Not only would Wolf Creek Alternative be Wolf Creek’s landmark for an alternative education, but also the sight for the most puzzling and arcane calamity that Wolf Creek would ever encounter.
In early 1999, a violent, shocking wave of school shootings rocked the nation. During this time of extreme school violence, Lenore made a mistake. She was accused of committing the most horrible crime in existence-murder. The week before she was accused, she had lost her temper and said some nasty things to her math teacher and was given a two-day detention. Less than a week later in May of 1999, her math teacher, Mr. Carrington, was found dead in his classroom, slumped over his desk, with a pair of scissors sticking out of the middle of his back, by another teacher. It looked like he had been caught by surprise. The principal figured he never saw it coming.
The context of her angry words that had brought her the detention raised the school official’s eyebrows of suspicion towards Lenore for his bloody, untimely death. They continued an undercurrent of harassment towards her even though the accusations were unfounded.
Unfortunately, this happened to her during a particularly bad time. Earlier that year, two withdrawn and repressive students at a high school in Oregon, went on a crazed killing spree in their school and brutally murdered 20 students. Lenore didn’t know how they actually pulled off the murders. The news did not offer much information due to pending investigation except that they were “armed and dangerous” during the onslaught. Like an epidemic, several more school shootings followed, along with bomb threats and physical confrontations.
Desire was located in Massachusetts, neighboring on the southern New Hampshire border. Once a bustling manufacturing community with a high production of textiles and apparel, the mill city was crime infested and a haven for lowlifes.
Lenore suspected this was the reason why they continued to harass her about Mr. Carrington’s murder. She was the only student from Desire attending Newburyport High School, which was forty minutes and thirty miles from her house, an upscale city on the coast.
A week after his body was discovered, the principal called Lenore into his office for another round of questions. He ended up grilling her, yelling accusatory, untrue things at her. Angry and tired of being blamed for something that wasn’t her fault, she screamed back this time. She shouted threatening things at him, not really meaning any of it but too incensed to hold back.
The principal was enraged, and thinking Lenore meant every word she said, called the police. They showed up at the school fifteen minutes later. Lenore had calmed down by then, and realized the severity of her actions too late. He wasn’t the first one she’d gotten into an argument with recently. Over the past week, she had defended herself against several cruel, condescending remarks about Mr. Carrington’s murder, some from the other kids and a couple of her teachers. She was so sick of hearing her name whispered in the halls whenever she walked by.
Lenore was shaking uncontrollably while the police talked to her, answering honestly while trying to blink back the tears she felt creeping down her cheeks. They talked to her for almost an hour, then said she could go back to class. Lenore ran out of the office feeling like she had just been released from death row. She was finally free and this was all over, Lenore mistakenly thought.
At seven o’clock that evening, two Newburyport police officers showed up at her door. At that moment, life as Lenore knew it was over. Following her arrest, the judge took into consideration her age and the fact that she’d gotten into several verbal squabbles with other teachers and a few students, as well as the principal. He was lenient and recommended an alternative setting away from Newburyport High School. She was then told in the fall she would be attending Wolf Creek Alternative School in New Hampshire. She was shocked. She had lived in the city her whole life. The idea of venturing into the country was new to her. Even though she wasn’t going there for the best of reasons, it still sparked a bit of excitement in her.
She was to spend the summer performing community service for the city of Newburyport. She would rather hang around on the worst streets Desire had to offer than do that job. As much as she detested the judge’s orders, her work began on July first. Her first duty was to walk up and down High Street, picking up any trash she saw lying on the sidewalks, store doorways or in street gutters. On that particular day the temperature rose to a roasting ninety-five degrees.
She had her long blonde hair pulled back in a high ponytail and was wearing the shortest pair of shorts she owned, but was still constantly wiping sweat off her face. Under the hot sun, she could practically feel the pounds rolling off her 110-pound frame.
“Oh man,” she mumbled to herself as she bent her aching back over to pick up the nine thousandth piece of trash that day, “jail would be easier than this.”
The Day Before School
“Star, have you seen Lenore Savage’s file?” It was the afternoon of September 7, 1999. Buck Blanker, the school’s director, and Star Mckinnery, the assistant director, were at Wolf Creek Alternative School, admiring its clean and attractive interior and making sure the incoming student file’s were in order. The following day would welcome in a new year for the brand new school.
“Yeah, it’s in the filing cabinet!” Star called back.
“Which filing cabinet? There are filing cabinets in every single office in this building!”
“The one in Claire’s office!” Buck closed his desk drawer and headed into Claire’s office. He grasped the handle and pulled to no avail.
“Damn!” He muttered and went back to his office to find his key. He couldn’t help but be grumpy the day before school started. He had just spent thousands of dollars on a brand new school building and he knew the walls would be full of holes and marked up in no time flat.
“Did you find that file you wanted?” Star inquired. She dropped a stack of math textbooks on his desk. “That’s the last of the textbooks. I think this place might finally be ready for tomorrow.”
“Until next month when we have to spend another couple thousand to replace the holes and damaged furniture,” Buck grumbled. He finally found his key, buried at the bottom of his desk drawer. “This is sad. School hasn’t even started yet and my desk drawers are already a bottomless pit,” he uttered grumpily.
“Oh Buck, relax! You’re always so tough on them.”
“I know, I know. I’m sorry. I just get worried sometimes how well this school is going to work out. This year is going to be a trial period.”
“True, but I have a feeling we’ll do okay,” Star assured him. “After all, we have some of the best teachers in the business,” she said, following him into Claire’s office. “Lyle Wolfe was the assistant director at Peabody Alternative School for ten years. Rosemary York spent the last six years teaching at alternative schools. Max McCaulfield has taught at public and alternative schools for the last twenty-five years! These people are not amateurs!”
“I have no doubt in my mind they’ll be able to handle the kids,” Buck replied. He turned the key and yanked the drawer open with an exasperated groan. It squeaked annoyingly as it opened. Buck winced at the sound.
“Do you have the name of the janitor who will be cleaning this place yet, Star?”
“When you get it, remind him that this drawer needs a good oiling.” He shuffled through the mass of files. “Wow, there sure are a lot of kids starting here! Ah, here it is! Lenore Savage’s file!”
“Isn’t she the one who…?”
“Yes,” Buck interjected. “The one who killed that teacher. It was all over the news. Frankly, I think she belongs in a much more restricted environment.”
“Oh Buck, you don’t really think she did it, do you?” Star asked.
“Why, of course I do!”
“Honestly Buck, she’s a fifteen year old girl. She comes from a good family. You know that, we were both at the interview with her parents last week. She said the wrong things at the wrong time, to the wrong people. That happens. She couldn’t possibly have done it,” Star gasped.
“That’s what people said when they saw pictures of Ted Bundy. Indeed, he looked quite harmless. Yet he still murdered at least fifty women. You don’t have to look like a murderer to be a murderer,” Buck snorted indignantly. “And I do have a problem with a murderer being in my school. The little wretch should be in jail.”
“You are so judgmental! I’ll have a long talk with her tomorrow if it makes you feel better.”
“I’d actually like to join that conversation if you don’t mind,” Buck stated. He heaved the stack of files out of the drawer and shut it with his elbow. “There must be at least twenty kids coming! I’m going to look these over. I need to make sure they’re up to date.”
“Let me take half. You’ll be here all night doing all these by yourself,” Star volunteered.
“Thanks.” She carefully removed the first half of the stack from the pile.
“Say, why did you want Lenore’s?”
“Because I want to get a good look at it,” he answered.
“All right. I’m going to take off after I finish these. I suppose I’ll see you tomorrow morning?”
“But of course.” He started to speak but stopped when Star’s eyes widened. “What’s the…” He said nothing more. The heavy pile of files slipped out of his arms, scattering all over the floor.
“I saw that one coming,” Star said. “Your grip on them kept loosening.”
“I’m too old for this stuff,” he moaned.
“Oh, it’s not that bad. I’ll help you clean up.”
“Honestly Star,” Buck groaned as he bent down to gather the files. “Sometimes I wonder why I stay in this business.”
Lenore could not be happier that her summer of community service was over. School would start tomorrow and she’d much rather work her brain than her muscles.
Lenore was born and raised in Desire, and lived all her fifteen years there in a small white Cape house on Caroline Lane. It was a nice home, just the right size for her parents, herself, and her dog, Princess, a beautiful Black Labrador. Lenore was an only child, and even though she heard her friends with siblings vent about them and tell her how great it must be not to have any brothers or sisters to bother her, there were still times when the loneliness of being an only child set in and she thought that maybe having a brother or sister around to talk to wouldn’t be so bad.
Lenore’s home, number twenty, was located on one of the few back roads in Desire. What little forest that had escaped the bulldozers and withstood being turned into housing developments, sprawled throughout this quiet neighborhood. There were only a few houses on the street. Her home, of all of those on the lane, had the best view of the local pond.
What Lenore loved most about her secluded homestead was the huge backyard she had surrounded by a high chain link fence to keep Princess from wandering away. In the middle of the yard stood a tall Oak tree from which her father had attached a rope swing to its braches, some years back when she was younger.
Lenore had spent hours upon hours on that swing, swinging as high as she could, often pretending she didn’t live in Desire. Instead, she lived in magical settings and was sometimes the captain of a ship sailing into adventure out on the high seas, or she was an astronaut blasting off into some bleak, unknown universe out in the star filled blackness of outer space. It wasn’t that she was unhappy, she just had a very active imagination. As she grew older, Lenore gradually stopped entertaining these fantasies, but she still loved the feeling of clean, windblown freedom as she propelled herself effortlessly back and fourth on the swing. She could really get lost in her thoughts out there.
She had always considered her home life pretty good. She had attended the Newburyport school system since the beginning of high school. Desire High School was rowdy and drug-ridden, and her parents wanted to get her away from that setting. She liked Newburyport High and was happy enough with their decision.
This new school she would be attending in the fall was going to be another chance to begin anew, to start her life over again after the incident at Newburyport High had brought it crashing down.
Wolf Creek was a forty-five minute ride over the border into New Hampshire from Desire. A van from Safe Trip, a transportation company from New Hampshire, was scheduled to pick her up at seven thirty in the morning.
That evening, Lenore was nervous and turned to the solace of the pond behind her home to try and quiet her uneasiness. Most of the residents of Caroline Lane considered it their private pond since it was relatively small and could not be seen from any other point in the city. Many homes had private docks and piers on the water’s edge and during the spring and summer months you could almost always count on seeing someone boating, canoeing, fishing or other water activities at the pond. Although it didn’t have an official name, many of the residents called it simply, “Caroline’s Pond” because of its locale.
On nights like this, the moon reflected off the water and cast silver hues against the trees and surrounding forest. Sights like these were rare in Desire. She was leaning against the railing, soaking in the beauty, but her stomach was churning and her mind was filled with anxious thoughts. She felt rather foolish going to an alternative school. Only losers went to those schools, she thought. Anyway, most likely it’s only for one year, she reassured herself. If I can just get through this one year, I’ll be off to a regular high school and back on track.
As she gazed over the shores of Caroline’s Pond, she vowed to somehow, in some way convince everybody that she did not kill Mr. Carrington and win back the many friends she had lost. She was determined to get her life back.
The First Day of School
The morning of September 8, 1999 was gray and rainy. The rural town of Wolf Creek was doused with heavy showers on and off all morning. Not a good omen for the first day of school. A heavy veil of mist hovered above Wolf Lake, gracing it with an eerie air of beauty. Rain and moisture hung in the air, making for a good indoor day. In his office, Buck put his pen down and strode over to the window. He had two offices, one at the back of the building and one at the front. Even though he would probably use the office at the back to do most of his work during the year, he was readying himself mentally for the first day of school in his front office. The big bay window provided a perfect view of the incoming vans and students. He hoped by getting a quick look at the kids before the school day began would help prepare him. He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. Most of the kids looked okay, at least for the moment. He watched the last van, arriving from Portsmouth, pull up to the front of the school. Two boys leaped out of the front seat, quickly concealing something in their front pockets. Buck recognized the gesture immediately. Cigarettes. He sighed, knowing already that he would be dealing with that issue throughout the year and in the years to come. Sounds of laughter and excitement floated across the hall from the group room.
“Buck, it’s past eight-thirty. We’d better get started,” Rosemary called from the doorway of his office. Buck turned to face her. Rosemary York was all smiles. That’s what Buck loved about her the second he saw her. Her bewitching smile. Only thirty and physically perfect in Buck’s eyes, her bright blue eyes and enticing blonde hair that swept her shoulders added to her tantalizing figure. It made Buck wish he wasn’t married.
“Right. I’ll be there in a minute, Rosemary. Don’t start without me,” he answered.
“Gotcha,” she said and hurried back to the group room. Buck shot one last look out the window and headed to the group room.
So, this is it. Wolf Creek Alternative School. How impressive, Lenore thought to herself. It was the last building on the street, number six. The one story building appeared to be quite large. Its exterior was covered with white clapboard and had a low, flat roof. It sat very close to the banks of a lake located just behind it. One of the first things she noticed when she got off the van besides the immediate look of the school was the smell. The air was saturated with the scent of balsam pine and fir. It was an exhilarating scent, a refreshing, liberating aroma, something completely new to Lenore. This was certainly different from the city.
Lenore was the only student on her van, so her driver said goodbye and drove off down Cobblestone Lane as soon as she stepped out. Walking to the door, she smiled at the teacher waiting beside it. Smiling back at her, he directed her to go through the front hall directly to the group room, the first door on the left.
When she entered the hall, she was surprised at how small the building appeared inside. What was most noticeable was the fact that there was only one window in view. That one window was a large bay window and was located in the very front of the building. Lenore looked around, peering down the hall towards the rooms where the doors were open. Not another window in sight! How odd, she thought. Why would they build a school with only one window? She found it slightly creepy.
At first glance, the entire school seemed to be made up of a long corridor, leading straight ahead of her with several rooms off of it, which Lenore assumed to be classrooms. She stood quietly in the front hall, taking in her immediate surroundings. On either side of her were two closed doors; both labeled ‘supply closet.’ To her right, a little past one of the closets, were two open doors along the wall.
Lenore peeked inside and saw another door between the two rooms, connecting them. The walls were decorated with several posters, one that read ’peaceful ways to resolve a conflict,’ and another next to it that read, ’twelve easy steps to keep your cool during a conflict resolution.’
To Lenore’s left, next to the supply closet on the opposite wall, she saw a large piece of the wall had been hollowed out and was furnished as an office, which housed a large desk, a computer, a fax machine and two more supply closets. This room had an open doorway, no door. The front part of the wall above the desk had been cut away, allowing visitors to greet the receptionist from the front hall. Several framed photos and stacks of applications and other things were placed neatly on the desk, where a slightly plump middle aged woman with friendly green eyes and dark black hair, cut in a pixie style, sat working. She looked up and greeted Lenore with a friendly smile. Lenore smiled back and courteously said, “Hello.”
She moved further into the front hall, walked past the office and glanced down another short corridor on her immediate left. She saw a small kitchen area right next to the office, complete with a stove, refrigerator, a sink, a couple of cabinets and some counter space. Beside the kitchen area, she noticed three more doors on the left farther down the corridor. The first one was closed and unmarked, with a thin bar of light stealing out from underneath it. The next two were also shut, with restroom signs posted on the front. On the other side of the hall there was only one door, this one open with loud, excited voices and laughter coming from inside.
Walking back into the center of the front hall, she peered down the longer corridor again, the one she’d seen when first entering the school. At the very end, she saw what looked like another horizontal stretch of hallway at the back of the building. There were more doors along the wall, all closed. Lenore guessed they might be offices.
Lenore went off in search of the group room. She left the front hall, passing a row of lockers along the left wall, and found the first door on her left. When she entered, she realized she had walked straight into the midst of a small group of goofoffs tossing spitballs across the room. Watching them, she noticed the group was mostly boys. There was only one other girl in the room besides herself. She wasn’t so sure about this place.
She took a seat off to one side and surveyed the room. It was large, with three tables set up at the back and a circle of chairs arranged in the center. There was a large big white board hanging from the right wall, where someone had drawn a huge blue smiley face and colored it in with yellow marker. Set up at the front of the room was a tall easel holding a large flip roll of white paper. Written on it in red marker was, “Welcome to Wolf Creek Alternative School,” and the date beneath that, 9/8/99. So far, it didn’t look like any school she had ever been to. She didn’t see any windows in this room, either. Sitting at the front of the room, she saw a rear door at the back, realizing it was the one near the bathrooms where she had heard the laughter.
Lenore also observed a few obnoxious characters. At the moment, a short, dark skinned boy was running around the room, talking at the top of his lungs, not making much sense. Most students were ignoring him.
As she looked the room over closer, a tall, well-built boy sitting near the front door talking to one of the teachers caught her eye. Now he doesn’t look so bad, she thought, sizing him up with her eyes. He had calm, quiet vibes about him. Lenore was eager to get away from the turmoil buzzing around her. She grasped her backpack and walked over to him. He stopped talking abruptly and looked at her as she approached.
“Hi! I’m sorry if I’m interrupting you, but I’m kind of nervous with this being our first day and I was just wondering if I could sit with you.”
“Sure, this seat is free,” he said with a warm smile. “I’m Artie.” His short brown hair was cropped to just above his ears and was slicked neatly back. With friendly, inviting brown eyes and the faintest sensual shadow of facial hair on his chin and lower cheeks, Lenore found him probably the easiest person in the room to approach at that moment.
“Hey. I’m Lenore.”
“Hey, Lenore. This is Max,” Artie said, gesturing to the man next to him. Max looked to be in his early fifties, very lean and slender, with thinning brown hair combed neatly back.
“Hi Lenore,” Max greeted her, offering his hand. She firmly shook it.
“What subject do you teach?” She asked him.
“Everything but math,” he said with a laugh. “I’m a disaster when it comes to math.”
“Same here!” Lenore agreed.
“What town are you from?”
“Desire!” Max exclaimed. “The most desirable city on the North Shore,” he said, quoting the city slogan.
“Yeah, that’s right!” Lenore laughed. “That’s what they say.” The residents of Desire had their own private slogan, “The most undesirable city on the North Shore.” It amused Lenore, given the fact that the city left much to be desired.
“You’re from all the way down there! You must have quite a ride every morning,” Max commented.
“Forty-five endless minutes. It’s grueling, actually. Especially when the van driver blasts country music the whole way.”
“Yuck! Country music!” Artie said, making a face. “I prefer some good Creed. That’s bearable music.” Their conversation momentarily ceased as another girl strode in, talking as if she knew everybody like family.
“I hate that van ride! God Christ, it seems like it’s never going to end!” A few students shot her a disinterested glance.
“Who is she?” Lenore asked, slightly disgusted by her behavior.
“That’s the first time I’ve seen her morning,” Artie said.
“This year should be very interesting,” Max said, leaning in close. “I’ve worked in alternative settings before. They’re not the most fun places to be, but I must admit the senseless little dramas can be quite amusing.”
“’Senseless little dramas?’ This place is a school,” Lenore said, confused.
“Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish the difference. Don’t forget to bring a bag of peanuts in the morning.”
“All right people! Everyone take a seat! It’s time to begin.” The robust, powerful voice carried over the chatter. A tall, strapping man who looked maybe five or so years younger than Max, sporting a mustache and a smile that oozed confidence, strode into the room. He took a seat at the front of the room and cleared his throat.
“First of all, I’d like to welcome everybody to Wolf Creek Alternative School. We are all new here, even the staff. I hope we all have a great year together! My name is Buck Blanker. I’m the director of this program. You can think of me as your principal and your friend. Don’t ever be afraid to talk to me, I am your friend. Just keep that in mind. Now, would anybody like to introduce themselves in front of the group? You don’t have to, but it would be a good way to get to know your classmates.”
Believe it or not, someone did raise his hand.
“My name is Seth and I hope that I can become friends with all of you,” he said.
“Good! Anyone else?” Buck asked the group.
Predictably, no one else volunteered. “Ok, that’s fine. Over the course of the day, I’m sure we will learn everyone’s name.”
Lenore looked Seth up and down. He was lanky and angular and appeared a bit preppy, but decent. He had intelligent blue eyes and short brown hair. Dressed in brand new khakis and a clean white shirt he looked very intellectual with his binder perched in his lap, ready to begin the school year. She could tell already that he was one of those people who were really into school and schoolwork. So was she…most of the time. He seemed friendly. Okay, so he could have been the poster child for the straight A, academic scholars of the world. Lenore generally liked that crowd. She made a mental note to introduce herself later.
“Now I’m going to pass out a copy of the school philosophy. Every morning this will be read out loud by a student.” A chorus of groans followed that statement. “Hey, come on its not that bad! This philosophy is the backbone of Wolf Creek Alternative School and I want each and every student to take it to heart. In and out of school this paragraph should be your mantra, so never forget its wisdom. Would anyone like to volunteer to read it now? Dexter, how about you?”
“Um, no thanks. I’ll pass,” Dexter said, grinning smartly. Sitting in the back with a group of other boys, sporting a blue Yankees cap, he just rolled his dark brown eyes and leaned back in his chair. His pals just snickered.
“Matt? Victor? Anthony?” How about some of you?” Their snickers quickly turned to mumbled, “Ah, no thanks. Not this time.”
“I will! I’ll read it!” Seth volunteered, eagerly waving his hand in the air.
“Great! It’s only one paragraph, it won’t take that long.” Seth took the paper and sauntered back to his seat. His gait was one full of poise. It defined smoothness and said, “I’m as cool as a cucumber.” Lenore found herself wondering what could have possibly landed someone like him at an alternative school. He cleared his throat and began to read the philosophy, doing so smoothly and glibly.
“Every person is born with the innate ability to become an actualized human being. Sometimes along the path to understanding ourselves we become lost. This then is the time to find our own realities. To accept that we are neither the dwarf of our fears nor the giant of our dreams, but a human being. Therefore, we have taken upon ourselves, each and every one of us, the mission of doing all we can to be of help to one another.
“Our school dreams involve students making their way back-back to being productive, contributing members of their communities. To live life as it should be lived.”
Lenore didn’t really comprehend most of it. She knew what it was aiming for, but didn’t really see the point of reading it everyday.
“Excellent job, Seth! Now that wasn’t so painful, was it? Tomorrow we’ll get someone else to read it. Also, starting tomorrow every student will take a turn reading the theme of the day. The theme of the day is going to be the daily mantra and it will change each day. Now, I’m going to pass out a copy of your schedule to each of you. I want you to put it in a place where you won’t lose it.” He handed them out alphabetically, so Lenore’s was near the end of the pile.
Buck paused and looked down at the remaining pile in his hand. He was down to the last four. The next one in the pile was Lenore Savage’s. She didn’t look like a murderer. She was an innocent looking young girl with pretty blonde hair and soft hazel eyes. It would be hard for a stranger to peg her as a killer. But he knew that you could look like a supermodel and still have murderous intentions. He shuddered and quickly handed it to her. He couldn’t let himself forget to have that talk with her. He felt he should warn everyone else that a murderer was among them, but that was something he just couldn’t bring himself to do. And even if he could, he knew that the school regulations would prevent him doing so. He just hoped that she didn’t try anything here.
Buck had stuffed the paper into her outstretched hand and walked away, never even looking at her. Lenore had no idea what that was supposed to mean. She observed how he politely handed everyone else’s theirs and said hello and welcomed them to the school. Had she said or done something that offended him already?
“It’s just like a public high school. They’ve got us divided into classes and everything. I didn’t think this place was going to be this sophisticated,” Artie said to her, impressed. She studied her schedule. She had English at eight forty-five, History at nine twenty-five, break at ten o’clock, Science at ten-fifteen, Math at ten-fifty and lunch was at eleven twenty-five. The afternoon was pretty laid back, just a free period and seminar, whatever that was! And of course, gym.
“What grade are you in?”
“Huh?” Lenore looked up, momentarily lost in her schedule.
“I said what grade are you in?” He repeated.
“Oh, tenth grade! Sorry. My brain is really fazed right now.”
“Mine too. Anyway, I’m in eleventh.”
“You’re a junior? Cool!” she exclaimed.
Beyond their brief side conversation, Buck continued to drone on, “I’d like everyone to become familiar with the teachers here. Max teaches English, History, and Science. Brandon teaches Math and English. Rosemary teaches English, Science and History. Lilly teaches Math. The others don’t deal too much with academics. Claire deals with phone calls and most of the paper work at the front desk. Star is the assistant director. She’ll be working with me most of the time. Lyle is the behavioral intervention coordinator. He runs the support center. I’m sure that brings up the question what is the support center? The support center is the room where you will be asked to go if you’re being disruptive or ill-behaved and need to cool down. You can also go there if you’re having a bad day and need to talk it out. Remember, if you have any questions you are free to ask me.”
Judging from the way he had described its usage, Lenore figured the support center was the two rooms she had seen when she’d first walked in, the ones with posters about solving conflicts on the wall.
“I think he needs to take a breath,” Artie muttered.
“I would like you all to report to the classroom you are assigned to,” Buck instructed. “The day will begin now.” With the onset of the day, the chatter resumed as kids filed into the hallway. “The teachers’ names are on the doors, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding your classrooms,” Buck shouted over the rising chatter.
“Where are you supposed to be?” Artie inquired. Lenore looked at her schedule.
“Nine o’clock? Let’s see. History. With…” Lenore hesitated, looking over her schedule. “Max.”
“Ah, too bad. I’ve got English. I’ll see you at lunch then.”
“Right. See you later.” She swung her backpack over her shoulder and headed to her class. The crowd had dispersed. There were only a few still lingering in the hallway.
“Lenore!” She heard someone call. She turned around. Buck came striding down the hall toward her.
“Yes? Am I in trouble already?”
“No, not yet. I do need to talk to you, though. Come to my office.” She didn’t know why he wanted to talk to her, but she had a feeling it would explain why he was so cold to her in the group room.
His office was next to the back door, down the hall from the group room in the last horizontal stretch of corridor she had seen earlier. She was right, along with Buck’s, the rest of the rooms were just offices. There was another window, identical to the front one that faced out to a big field behind the school. Beyond that, was the riverbank where small waves on the lake licked at the shore. The serene sight caught Lenore’s attention and she imagined losing herself in that view for hours.
On their way down to Buck’s office, Lenore peered into each classroom. Not one of them had a window in it for the entire length of the corridor. The last room on the left was marked ‘conference room.’ Inside, Lenore saw a long, rectangular table, with several half empty coffee cups on it and an empty box of munchkins in the center. There were two tall metal file cabinets along the right wall.
When they reached the end of the hall, there was a walled in, open space directly across from Buck’s office. A copy machine was set up along the right wall, with a long wooden table at the back of the small area that contained the extra copy paper and other supplies.
Buck’s office was very tidy, just the way she would imagine it to be. In here, she saw, with relief, a third but maybe the last window in the school, providing another gorgeous angle of the lake.
“Take a seat,” he offered, pointing to a metal chair with blue padding in front of his desk. She sat down, feeling a bit uneasy. She had a gnawing feeling that she wasn’t going to like what he was going to say.
“Buck, are we ready?” Someone asked from the corridor. Lenore recognized it as Star’s voice.
“Ready as ever.” Buck called out to her in response.
“Great.” She closed the door softly behind her and took a seat in a chair next to Lenore. She was a very pretty woman with long, wavy brown hair with attractively highlighted blonde streaks and clipped a few inches below her shoulders. Her soft, warm eyes were sky blue. She had an aura about her that radiated a caring and maternal instinct, and Lenore liked and respected her immediately.
“Lenore, this is Star,” Buck introduced her.
“Hi Lenore,” Star said sweetly. “Do you have any idea why we want to talk to you?”
“No,” she answered flatly.
“Everyone is at this school for a reason. As I’m sure you know, we’re aware of what happened to you at Newburyport High School,” Buck explained.
“I didn’t kill anybody!” Lenore protested automatically. She should have known this was coming.
“No one is saying you did, Lenore! Please, calm down.” Star said reassuringly.
“There are, in fact, many people who think you did do it,” Buck stated curtly. “I run a school. I do not run a jail. Nor do I run a mental hospital. This is a school.”
“Buck!” Star said sharply.
“Star is right. No one is saying you killed anybody. That remains to be seen. You know the rules of this school and you know how to follow them. As we do in every interview, your parents were given a copy of the sheet with the school rules on them for you to look over when they were here last week. I assume you did read them over carefully.”
“I did read them,” Lenore said.
“Good. Then I expect you to take them in all seriousness and respect them,” Buck said sternly.
He is such a liar, Lenore thought miserably. He obviously thinks I did it. That’s why he wouldn’t even look at me earlier.
“I expect you to follow them,” he continued. “I want to emphasize that if any kind of weapon is brought onto the premises by any student, they will be arrested immediately.” The coldness in his voice was thick enough to turn the blood in her veins to ice. Lenore wanted to crawl into the floor and disappear.
“I expect you to follow this rule in particular, in addition to all the other ones at this school. Is that understood?” Buck questioned.
Lenore nodded glumly.
“Good. That’s all then. You can go to class,” Buck dismissed her. His eyes were on his desk, not on her. Star shot her a sympathetic look, but said nothing. Lenore grabbed her backpack and scooted out of the office as fast as she could. Her next class was History, but she raced right past the door and darted numbly into the bathroom. She tossed her backpack into the corner and pushed the door shut and leaned against it, tears pouring down her cheeks. She couldn’t believe it. Buck thought she killed Mr. Carrington, he was practically screaming it at her. She sobbed inconsolably, not even bothering to stifle her cries. Her chest heaved and her breathing was racked with sobs. She was too distraught to move. Struggling to control herself, she bravely gazed into the mirror. Her eyes were red and puddled with tears. Her face was flushed and her cheeks were stained with tears. She was wreck. The accusations stung red-hot. Still staring at her reflection, she opened her mouth and let out a piercing cry. It surprised her because it didn’t sound like anything that had ever come from her throat before. She hoped no one had heard her.
She glanced at her watch. It was nine-thirty already. She was late for class on her first day. She rested her head against the mirror, the tears subsiding at last. The pain still lingered in her heart, ready to slice it cleanly in half. She quickly washed her face in cold water and readied herself to face the rest of the day. From the hallway, she heard an angry yell and the sound of a door slam.