The student council meeting had approved a motion to put up flyers around the school and pass them out to every student. A committee was formed to prepare the flyer and given a short fuse for getting it done. O’Connor, as the president got the job of reporting the decision to Ashworth. Ashworth wasn’t receptive, sending the council back to the drawing board. Samantha offered another proposal.
How did I let myself get roped into this? I wondered. Actually I knew. O’Connor had tried to get school funds to pay for the flyers the student council was supposed to put out. We could have used someone’s home printer or gotten a shop to do it, but no one wanted to cough up the money to pay for it. We all thought it was a school problem, and, therefore, the school should pay. Of course, Principal Ashworth objected. His rational was the school was short on funds, which may or may not have been true. Personally, I thought it was because he didn’t want to publicize that the school had a problem, and our flyers would invariably get out in the public. O’Connor had tried his best to convince him, and when that failed I got elected because I had the most convincing argument.
Now I was standing across the counter from Ms. Farrow. “Let me understand this, Miss Pederson. You want to talk to Dr. Ashworth about the pranks. Are you admitting to doing them?”
I didn’t say anything. I think she read my face and saw the anger there. Yes, I was responsible for some of the better shenanigans, but I wasn’t about to admit to them. I was angry because of the tendency to blame me for just about anything unfortunate that happened that year, and I still wondered if Ingrid Hoffman hadn’t started a rumor or suggested I was a trouble maker.
Ms. Farrow seemed to be determined to get rid of me. “Don’t you have a class?”
“I have study hall this period.” I was tempted to add, “If you’d stop stalling me, I could get this over with and still have time left to study.”
She harrumphed. “I’ll let him know you’re here. Have a seat.”
“I’ll stand, thank you. Tell him I have a solution to the practical jokes.”
She glared at me before walking to her desk and keying the intercom. “Miss Pederson to see you, sir. She claims to have an answer for the pranks.”
There was a pause. Then I heard Ashworth’s voice in the tinny tone of the ancient intercom. He sounded weary and resigned. “Send her in, but she’d better not be wasting my time.”
He didn’t bother to get up when I came through the door. “What do you have to say, Miss Pederson? And please make it brief.”
I got straight to the point. “As you know, the practical jokes have become increasingly frequent recently. In talking to other students I’m hearing that your inept detective is the main cause. Most everyone I know calls him Sheerluck Jones and says that the pranksters are competing by challenging him with their tricks …”
Ashworth exploded. “What? Who said I had a detective?” His face was bright red. He started to rise up in his chair but stopped.
“As I said, he’s inept. He’s obviously not a real cusodian, and his questions are inappropriate for a cusodian. He has to be authorized to be in the building, so you have to know he’s here and not legitimate. Ergo, you must have hired him. No one else would be interested in finding out who the jokers are and have the authority to get him in here. Besides, his secretary told us he is working for you.”
“She what?” He looked apoplectic. I began to be concerned he would have a heart attack.
“Sir, the solution is simple. Get rid of him. It’ll stop the competition. I won’t guarantee it will stop all the tricks, but it should keep them from getting out of hand and getting somebody hurt.”
I almost couldn’t believe it. I swear I could see the light go on. He actually relaxed. He was silent for a moment. Then he smiled at me. I think that scared me more than being taken to the police station. “Thank you, Miss Pederson. I’ll have to seriously consider your advice.”
“Yes sir.” I looked at my watch. “I should get back to study hall now.”
“You do that.”
I headed out the door, wondering if he was pleased or predatory.
––– # –––
As soon as I walked into the library, I was surrounded. “How’d it go?” “Did he buy it?” “Did we get the money for the flyers?”
Ms. Olsen was giving us dirty looks, so I shushed everyone and whispered, “Keep it down. I’ll tell you about, but let’s move into the auditorium first.”
When we arrived, I gave a detailed briefing of what had happened. I finished with, “I don’t know how to read Principal Ashworth, but what I suggested seemed to make him happy. I suspect he was tired of throwing money away on Sheerluck.”
O’Connor asked, “When do you think we’ll know something?”
“I suspect before the end of the day.”
Right then the class bell rang and we all hurried to our next class.
––– # –––
When I came out English class at the end of the day, Principal Ashworth was waiting for me. “Miss Pederson, could I speak to you privately?”
My stomach did a flip-flop.