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 The New Teacher ... Part one (15,850 words)

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Cal

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Join date : 2015-11-11

20170412
PostThe New Teacher ... Part one (15,850 words)

---oooOOOooo---


The new Teacher
By Cal


---oooOOOooo---

PART ONE

(scene one 3,100 words)

Emelda Francesca

“Frankie”

Spencer-Widget


As far back as I can remember, I’ve wanted to find out everything I can about everything there is to know.  It’s just common sense.  Someday I may need to know that stuff.  Apparently, this is worrying to adults.  I think it’s because some of the ones I’ve met, don’t know very much about anything, and they are afraid I might know more than they do one day.  Anyway, if I’m not normal, then I don’t think I want to be normal.


My parents were first told, I might not be normal, by Trinni.  She used to look after me.  I didn’t have brothers or sisters then, and Trinni said I wasn’t normal because I didn’t like to play with other children.  I also didn’t like her hugging me, or having anyone touch my feet.  This made me not normal, even though, even then, I knew how to tie my own laces and didn’t need someone else to tie them for me.
 
I remember back then, very well, because it was scary.
 
Other children never sat still or stopped screeching and they all seemed to be one big thing.  A loud, screechy, moving thing, of hands and feet and bleary colours.  Very scary and very not normal.  There was a book shelf in the nursery, and a small chair, that wasn’t scary.  I think it was very sensible of me to stay away from other children till I got bigger.


I am now eight.  


I am not very tall, but I know now, how to separate the children into different people, and I know now, what I have to say to each of the people, to stop them screeching, or touching me, or saying that I’m not normal.  


For example, if Tom Brent says something stupid, and all the other children laugh, I know now that, that is a joke, and the normal thing to do is say “Very funny.” But you don’t say it like you think anything is very funny, you say it like you don’t think anything is very funny at all.  


That’s normal.


You just have to remember the rules of acting normal, and then you can be quiet, and other people don’t bother you.  I didn’t know the rules then, and no one told them to me.  I couldn’t find a book that lists them.  I know most of what I know because I’ve read about it in a book.  


At school I learn the rules of acting normal.  


I ran out of books to read from the nursery but I was very lucky. I learned how to open locks, and could read all the books in daddy’s study.  I now know, there are more books to read at the library, because daddy said,


“If you want a damned book to read so bad… go to the damned library… and don’t climb all over my study!”


And this is how I know how to open locks.  


When I was five, I was on a train that was robbed by outlaws, Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry.  I was in the best carriage of the train because my daddy owned the train I was on.  Daddy owns a lot of trains, and a mine, and


“…nearly every damned thing there is to own in this God forsaken hole...”  


Daddy had money in the safe and the outlaw, Hannibal Heyes, opened the safe without the combination, which daddy said was,


“… near damn impossible… How’d he do that?!? Must have used voodoo or something… It’s not natural, the man’s a menace!“


It means Hannibal Heyes isn’t normal either.  


I asked Hannibal Heyes how he was opening the safe, and he said,


“Can someone get this kid outta here … How am I supposed to hear the tumblers …if I got a kid blabbing questions in my ear every five minutes?”


So, I knew he was listening to the safe and trying to hear tumblers.  I have read many books about safes, and I know now, that tumblers are the parts inside the safe that lock it, and have to be moved in the correct combination for the door to open again.


I didn’t know that then, so I asked Hannibal Heyes what tumblers were, and he said,


“For Christ’s sake… whose kid is this anyway? Kid! … Kid get in here … and get this Kid outta my way...”


Which didn’t answer my question, and sounded like Kid Curry would want to try to touch me, and I didn’t want that to happen. So, I kicked Hannibal Heyes’ leg and ran away to the corner of the carriage and hid under my daddy’s desk. I could still watch Hannibal Heyes opening the safe, and ask questions, but Kid Curry couldn’t reach me because I could bite him, and then he said,


“Jeeez! You little … Arhh! …Just stay under there then… but stay quiet will yer… Here… play with these … see if you can open the top drawer of the desk with them like Heyes can…. But do it quiet will yer!”


He gave me two pieces of thin dark metal with hooky bits at the ends, from Hannibal Heyes’ hat band that, I now know, are called lock picks.  I tried to open the drawer but back then, I didn’t know how to open locks yet.  It takes a lot of practice.


After Hannibal Heyes opened the safe, he showed me how to use the lock picks properly to open the drawer.  My daddy’s gun was in the draw, and Hannibal Heyes locked the drawer again real quick, but let me keep the lock picks to carry on practicing because he said


“…what’s it matter …they’re old and kinda worn… it’s not like she’s gonna be able to open it! Might keep her from followin’ me around like some puppy dog though…”


Hannibal Heyes was right. I didn’t open the drawer that time but I did practice until the train pulled into the station.  Uncle Steadman didn’t like it, he said


“What’s the kid doing playing with damned lock picks!?! ... If I ever get my hands-on Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry again ..they’re gonna need more than lock picks to get them out of where I’m planning on sending them!”


I don’t know where Uncle Steadman was planning to send Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry, but my daddy said,


“Let her alone will yer … at least it keeps her from asking me any more damn fool questions … I got to write telegrams to Pinkerton’s and Bannerman’s … I’ll have them filthy, money stealing outlaws strung up, if it’s the last thing I do!”


Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry weren’t filthy.  They looked quite clean, but daddy didn’t know that, because he was outside, down on the ground with uncle Steadman, when Hannibal Heyes opened the safe, and didn’t see them properly like I did.  He did get a bit dirty himself though, especially on the knees of his new suit.


I am now very good at opening locks with lock picks. I have had three years to practice.  I can open daddy’s study door in twenty-three seconds and I can open the top drawer of his study desk in ten seconds, if you don’t count the time you have to wiggle the drawer a bit because its sticky.  That’s my fastest time ever.  


I can open the school doors and locks of all the draws and cupboards in the school and the pantry door at home, but I have never opened a safe yet. There is a safe in daddy’s study.  I cannot find a book in the library, or daddy’s study, that tells how to listen to tumblers, so I can’t practice opening safes yet.


That’s why I was very happy when the new teacher, Miss Henderson brought to the school room today, was not Mr Theodore Smith that we were expecting.  


Theodore Smith is the man daddy had been writing letters to, about becoming a progressive teacher at this school.  Daddy is very pleased because Mr Theodore Smith is a Herbartian scholar and daddy thinks he will,


“… kick this here town, screaming into the twentieth century.”


Mr Theodore Smith’s last letter is in daddy’s top desk draw, along with his thesis on educating the young.  That’s us. The book was still in its brown paper wrapping so daddy hasn’t seen it yet.  I’ve seen it, and read some of the chapter headings and the summary on the back with Theodore Smith’s photograph.  


I got it sealed up just like new.


It isn’t a very good book, and the photograph is grouchy, so I wasn’t looking forward to coming to school today.  So, it was a nice surprise when Miss Henderson brought Hannibal Heyes into the classroom, and introduced him as our new teacher, Mr Smith.  Hannibal Heyes introduced himself as Mr Smith also, but his real name is Hannibal Heyes and he’s an outlaw.  


I didn’t tell Miss Henderson that Hannibal Heyes wasn’t Theodore Smith, daddy’s new progressive teacher, that was going to


“Shake things up a bit at that lame, waste of funding of a school, run by a nanny goat”,


because I’m hoping Hannibal Heyes has forgotten that I kicked him, and is going to teach me how to open safes, just by listening to the tumblers.  



I think Kid Curry must be outside because Hannibal Heyes keeps looking through the windows.  I hope Kid Curry has forgotten that I bit him.  Daddy says he’s a,


“…no good … no account gunslinger.”


Daddy’s wrong about that too.  


Kid Curry is the fastest gun in the West, that means he is a very good gunslinger.


---oooOOOooo---


(scene two 2,500 words)



Jedediah “Kid” Curry


alias


Thaddeus Jones



The rhythmic beat of the bodhran, in the hands of his older brother Michael, was like gentle hoof beats on the dusty trail. In the dream, little Jed grinned.  He longed for Michael to show him how to play it just the same.  If he could play like that, no one would be expecting him to jig.




Jed “Kid” Curry twisted in his blankets to avoid a particularly pointy piece of grit in his chosen hollow, and exhaled dreamily in his whiskey induced sleep.

 

He watched his two eldest sisters, Siobhán and Sinéad, dancing a jig, in a swirl of skirts and ribbons, to the fiddle and feadóg played by his Pa and eldest brother, Brendan. Little Máire wouldn’t dare dance like that. She sat at their mother’s side, helping with the peelings.  Across the table, little Jed watched wide eyed.  He loved the energy and noise of it all.  He loved seeing his Pa fiddling up a tune and belting out a raucous song, fit to make the whole family scream with laughter.




Curry breathed slowly in his sleep. This was his favourite dream.  It had only started to visit his nights since he and Heyes had turned honest.  He thought of it as encouragement, a portent of better things to come.




At any minute, his Pa would slow the fiddle to a caressing lilt, and his mother would sing the song.  In the dream, he’d watch his younger self squirm, as he tried not to listen, and be taken away with the glory of it.  Fight to keep his heart from filling and sappy tears springing to his eyes. Think of anything just to fight against any weakness he’d be teased for: Had the dog had her pups yet? Would Hannibal still have a black eye in school tomorrow? Anything, to fight the joy and the beauty of it.  




Kid Curry waited.  His breath almost held.  The fiddle sank to low sweet melody and his mother smiled.




“Sure Ned …and you’ll not be wanting to hear that again?”




“For me Maebh, now will yer?” pleaded Pa.




“Go on Ma” pleaded the older girls, collapsing in a heap on the hearth. The bodhran stilled, the tin whistle ceased.




And his mother lowered her red swollen hands to the table with a smile.  A faraway look came into her eyes like she was actually stood there, on the shores of the Loch, waiting for her lover’s return.  




Curry knew his mother could sing like an angel, he sighed in his sleep.




“Who are you? What do you want?” came a sharp intruding voice.  




In the dream, it seemed to Curry that it came from outside the family’s cabin, on the other side of the large, heavy door. Loud jeering replies, again from outside, drowned out his mother’s voice and Curry felt panicked by the intrusion.  




Had they found him? Even here … in his dream? Was he not safe anywhere?




“Look here … whatever it is you want…” continued the first brash, annoyed voice.




It sounded Eastern and educated.




Kid looked back to his family. They were still listening intently to the singing he longed to hear.  They hadn’t seemed to notice the other voices yet.  The voices that would tell them what he’d become after he’d left them.  




What he’d done with the life without them.  Life that they’d been robbed of.




He felt sick to his bones with shame.  He couldn’t bear to look at his mother’s face.  He couldn’t bear to see the disappointment form in her eyes, those eyes that were smiling across at her little Jed just moments before.




Kid rolled in his blanket, away from his dream, and onto more sharp grit.  He fought to find comfort and failed, drifting ever upwards towards daylight.




“My name is Theodore Smith” insisted the Easterner’s voice.  “I’m a school teacher … and I don’t believe any man needs to settle his differences with violence … but if you gentlemen insist… then… then… well… we should at least settle our differences like gentlemen … without need of guns.  I am prepared to take on …any one of you …in a fair contest… A FAIR CONTEST … DO YOU HERE ME?  Fought like gentlemen... Not three against one … like a pack of roustabouts!  As you can see gentlemen … I am unarmed … but I am not without skill with my fists!”




“Jeez Janx… He’s right … he ain’t armed! … Just shoot him! Get him to quit his yakkin.  Let’s just grab the horses … the supplies … and the money and go!  Come on … what are you waitin’ fer?  This here’s a busy road!”




A pistol was cocked.




Curry’s eyes shot open, surfacing at last.




It took him a heartbeat to remember where he was. Over the ridge, off the trail in a natural bowl of cover vegetation and low trees.  Out of sight, out of mind of any road agents. A second beat, and he remembered, no Heyes.  




He was meeting Heyes in the fancy town at the end of this lone dusty trail.  One road in.  One road out.  Hadn’t he argued it was a fool place to meet?  Set for ambush? Asking for trouble? But Heyes had read all about it in a newspaper. How it was a progressive town, prospering with mines and set up to be a future conjunction of many major railroads.  How it couldn’t fail to grow and prosper in the hands of its modern progressive thinking, and wealthy, founders.




Heyes couldn’t miss that.




Sounded like someone was in trouble.  Scratch that.  Sounded like some idiot was in trouble!  




Curry sighed heavily, he’d just go take a look.  




He snatched up his rifle and loosed the colt’s safety.  From the sound of the voices, the robbery was happening right below him on the road.  




The sun was up.  




He smiled, at least he’d have the sun behind him.




He’d decided, as he been early for meeting Heyes, he’d catch a little shut eye before riding on into town.  Heyes would probably have him caught up in some nonsense, before he’d even left the saddle if past experience was anything to go by, so he’d felt justified in taking a little time out for himself.




He’d cooked the end of his bacon, heated his last tin of beans.  He’d liberally laced his morning coffee with the dregs of his whisky bottle, just to help him sleep of course, and found an out of the way spot to lie in his blanket.  




From the look of the sun, that had been at least three hours ago, maybe he shouldn’t have used all of his whiskey?  




Curry stretched his eyes wide to clear them of sleep, removing his hat to peek over the ridge.  




Things were about to get nasty below.  




A suited and booted, citified gentleman sat his horse, bristling like a porcupine covered in ants.  He seemed oblivious to the intentions of the men surrounding him.  There were three of them, looking filthy and starved.  One, wasn’t even wearing shoes.  One had a knife, but the leader had an old, long-barrelled pistol trained on the fist-wielding cockerel on the horse.  A second horse, loaded down with supplies stood patiently off to the side, obviously glad for the stop and the rest.




“Just git it over with will yer, Janx? … and lets git out of here” encouraged the whiskered one in a battered top hat.




“Mister…” smiled Janx, lifting the pistol.  “Welcome to the West…”




“HOLD IT RIGHT THERE!” called Kid Curry, coming into view, brandishing the rifle under his left arm, finger on the trigger.  “Now …let’s not all go getting excited boys, shall we? Drop the pistol friend.”




Four surprised faces turned up to squint at Kid as he walked slowly down the slope with the morning sun on his back. They couldn’t make out his face, but they had no difficulty focusing on the rifle.




“I wouldn’t if I were you” said Kid quietly.




The Colt appeared at his side in a blur and a fourth would-be robber, who was lifting the muzzle of his shot gun from behind a tree, just a little further back by the group’s two runty looking mules, squealed in pain as the gun shot out of his hands and flipped upwards into the air.




“Did you see that draw?” he squealed, shaking his bruised and battered fingers.




“Who are you Mister?  This here’s got nothing to do with you” sneered Janx through too few broken teeth.




He lazily threw the ancient pistol just a few yards to his side.




“Why don’t you just go on about yer business … and we’ll go on about ours.  We weren’t really gonna shoot him dead… just wing him … stop him getting’ anywhere too quick, is all. “




He eyed Curry warily, noting how Kid tied down his gun.  How still he stood.  Mostly, how unafraid and self-assured he was.  Kid was hard to read.




“We were just looking for a little … contribution … that’s all… Look at him … Not like he can’t afford it.  I bet he’s another one of them Eastern Mine owners … Come on out here to see what more he can squeeze from us working men. Not enough … they already bled us dry.”




The rest of the men nodded, and jeered.  The one in the Top hat spat in Theodore Smith’s general direction.  The one with no shoes spoke up for the first time.




“Bet… cost of his boots alone …would’ve fed my family… for the whole winter!”




Kid looked at the men again.  




They were too old to be outlaws, that was a young man’s game. They had hard faces, etched with lines and black dust. Their feet and fingers were black and their forearms were a mass of small scars, some raised, healed and black.  Miners.  All the men looked underfed and gaunt.  They also looked dangerous.  He believed any one of them to be capable of killing.  Not one would waste any time at all, killing him, and this idiot school teacher, to rob them and throw their bodies over the first ravine they came to.  He’d seen desperate men like this before. Hungry, with families to provide for.




“What’s your name friend?” Kid asked the teacher.




“Theodore Smith, and I…”




“How much money do you have on you?” Kid asked quietly, riding over any further unnecessary information.




“Are you planning to rob me now?” barked an affronted Smith.




“How much?  In your pockets.  How much you got?” Kid snarled back, without taking his eyes off the troupe of would-be robbers, leaving Smith in no doubt he should just answer the question.




“Maybe …Forty dollars….” answered Smith flatly between tight lips.




“It’s enough” stated Kid.  “Give it to him …”




Kid waved the rifle towards Janx.

 

“NOW MR SMITH!”




The notes were passed reluctantly to Janx.




Janx looked at them disbelievingly, then shot a frowning enquiry at Kid.




“You got families to feed, haven’t you?” asked Kid to no one in particular.

“Don’t suppose this was your first choice …to get the money... was it?”




No Shoes cleared his throat.




“If you get too sick …to last a whole shift … they take you off the payroll.  No pay …means your children starve ... and you can’t pay the mine’s doctor neither …when they get sick… My family’s gone …Winter took ‘em… but these here others…”




“That’s enough!” spat Janx.  “He ain’t the law … He’s probably just another one of their hired guns … How much you planning on telling him…?”




Janx clamped his mouth shut to cut off the name he was going to give No Shoes.




“Now …he already knows my name…”




He shot Top Hat a withering look.




“That’s enough… You’ll be telling him how to find our families next!”




“I ain’t the law” said Kid coldly.  “And I certainly ain’t nobody’s hired gun. But I am aiming to get Mr Smith here… into town without any further trouble.”




This time the questioning frown was on Theodore Smith’s face.




“Well my partner’s name is Smith.  I kinda got a liking fer the name” said Kid flatly.  “Now …you got what you came for … it’s time for you to leave.”




“But that’s robbery!” shouted Smith in protest.  “That’s my money you’ve given them. And I certainly don’t need anyone to see me into town, thank you very much. I am more than capable of finding my own way along this road without your assistance.  But first I’ll be retrieving what’s lawfully mine!”




Kid sucked in his breath, closing his eyes and stealing his patience.




“You have your life, Mr Smith …” he stated through gritted teeth.  “The forty dollars just bought you safe passage into town … with or without me at your side.”




Kid turned his back on the teacher.  




Conversation over.




“Gentlemen … start walking … that way … and if I so much as hear a leaf fall on my back trail … I’ll sit up in the rocks behind the first bend I come to… and kill each one of you ... Now git!”




The sorry bunch of rag tags started to move on up the trail, each holding a ten-dollar bill.




“I’m going to be holding you responsible for this robbery…” Smith started to mutter at Kid’s back. “When I get into town…”




“TAKE OFF YOUR BOOTS” snarled Kid without turning.




“What?”




“Take them off… NOW!”




The would-be robbers turned and watched fascinated, as without further words, the dude on the horse removed his boots and threw them at the cowboy’s side.




Kid picked up the discarded boots and threw them to No Shoes. Then he walked to the well-stocked supply horse and felt around in the packages, easily identifying the ones that contained food.




“Here…” he said, throwing a couple of well-stocked sacks over the back of the nearest thin mule as it passed him.  “That should hold your families for a while… at least until you can come up with a better solution than highway robbery to solve your problems… NOW GIT! … And don’t even think about coming back here for more.”




The four stunned would-be robbers walked slowly away, openly discussing who Kid could be, looking back and staring at his tied down gun from time to time, until they disappeared from view around a far corner in the trail.




Kid stood and watched every step.  




The draw had been a mistake.  He knew it, but he didn’t know if it was going to cost him yet.  Heyes would not be happy, and he hadn’t even reached the town they planned to meet in yet.  




He became aware of another set of eyes on his back, seemed Theodore Smith had thought better of riding into town on his own.  




“Those men…” he said.  “They were miners?  Hungry … with no work to feed their families.  Desperate men.  Capable of … anything.  I believe I owe you an apology… Mr...er...?”




“It’s Jones” said Kid turning to face the man.  




He really did look apologetic staring back to where the men had disappeared.




“Thaddeus Jones.  Come on …We better get into town before it gets dark … Like the man said... Welcome to the West Mr Smith.”





---oooOOOooo---


(scene three 2,400 words)


Hannibal Heyes


alias


Joshua Smith

Heyes stood at the school house window, watching Miss Henderson’s prim retreat, down the cinder path, through the gap in the picket fence and out across of the busy main street.  He unknowingly, held his breath as her path veered towards the front of the Sheriff's office, then he exhaled a long whistling sigh as she nodded a curt greeting to the occupant of the office, and continued to walk out of view.
 
Heyes’ eyes closed in silent prayer, then circled skywards to thank the Guardian Angel that had got him off the street just in time. Sheriff Brent was still sitting there now, out on the wooden boardwalk in front of his office, nursing his freshly made coffee and an over-full sandwich.

Abe Brent looked older.  He’d held Heyes in a cell for nearly a week, crowing like a rooster, till Kid had figured out a way to rescue him.  


Kid and dynamite, wasn’t the most successful combination!


Heyes rolled his eyes again remembering the huge explosion that had nearly taken the whole building down around his ears.  Well, that was over eight years ago now, up in Boulder County.  Old Abe Brent must have decided to make his way to Clearwater for a quieter life.
 
He’d know Heyes on sight.


That was close.


Too close.  


Heyes’ mouth was suddenly very dry. He looked about the school room as if he were expecting to find a stove with a simmering coffee pot and tin mugs nearby. What he saw were two dozen wide-eyed juvenile faces, of various maturity, staring back at him with expressions of expectation and wonder.


“Oh…”


Miss Henderson had seemed flustered, almost annoyed that the new teacher had deigned to turn up as expected, even though a huge banner welcoming said teacher adorned the outside of the school house.  She’d practically accosted Heyes on Main Street as soon as he’d rode into town.  Just as his eyes had come to rest on the sign, nailed above the Sheriff's office door, with the way too familiar name.


“Are you Smith?” she’d crowed.


“Errr… Yes Ma’am” he’d answered distractedly not even looking at her.


“It’s MISS … MISS HENDERSON … Former teacher of this parish.  The school house is this way Mr Smith.  I do hope you’ve come prepared to take over immediately! I don’t intend to spend my time … well… it’s this way if you will.”


She’d barely let him dismount, carefully hiding his face behind his horse’s neck, before she’d turned on her heel and marched straight across the street to the school house.  That was when Heyes had seen both the welcoming banner, for the new teacher Theodore Smith, and the all too familiar figure of Sheriff Abe Brent leave his office to sit out front with his coffee to watch the street.


Heyes had taken in the precarious situation in a heartbeat, and quickly fell in behind the strutting spinster.  He hadn’t meant to lie to her.  Her question had caught him off guard.  His name was Smith, well sort of.  


He’d quickly tied up his horse, pulled his hat low over his eyes, hunched up his shoulders and nearly danced the poor lady up the cinder path and into the school, jabbering all the time how he was real pleased to be there and couldn’t wait to get started.  


The enthusiastic jollity hadn’t go down to well with the rather bruised ego of the school’s former teacher. Newly unemployed, and having to fall back on the charity of family, with no more than a succinct note of thanks and a few months’ notice, Miss Henderson was not a happy woman.  


With the most fleeting of introduction of the new incumbent to the assembled children, she’d turned on her heel, and slammed the door on her way out.  Unlike the children, apparently, she hadn’t noticed that Hannibal Heyes was wearing a tied down six gun under his travelling coat.  


As he turned from the window, hands on his hips, all the children’s eyes were fixed on the well-polished, obviously much-used, six gun.  Heyes followed their stares and quickly covered the gun with the flap of his coat. He smiled lamely back at the crowd and watched as confused wrinkles formed in small brows.


“Oh…”


He was meant to be their new teacher, not some friendly cow poke.  


He tried on a scowl, cleared his throat and straightened his clothes.  At least he looked presentable.  He was wearing a white shirt and ribbon tie.  He’d had a barber shave and haircut just yesterday. Maybe it was a good thing he’d stayed so late playing poker in that last town, he hadn’t had time to change.  Well the cards were just being so good to him.  It would have been a crime to leave any earlier.  


He’d ridden most of the night to make up the time, to make the rendezvous with Kid as planned.  He was supposed to have arrived here last night and he wasn’t expecting Kid till noon today.  He’d planned to get a room and some shut eye before then.  Now here he was playing school teacher.  He cleared his throat again purposefully.


“Hurm … I’m your new teacher … herm… Mr Smith … Urm …”


Heyes looked around the room for props that would prove he was a teacher to the Kids.  He eyed the chalk board in front of the class.  That would do it.  Only teacher’s get to write on chalk boards. It was heavy with dust and had some geometrical shapes with some angles still scratched out on it in white chalk.


“Herm … I’m gonna need a little time to put a plan together… um … yeah… That’s it …I need a plan… Errr… a lesson plan that is… so … I’ll be setting you a problem to do… It’s like a puzzle … You’re gonna work it out on your own fer a while … so …  so …I can see how far along y’ all are with your math and such… That’s real important fer teachers… like me... t’know.”


He nodded for emphasis.


He turned to the board and wiped it vigorously, causing a storm of chalk dust to rain down upon him.  He whipped off his black hat, fanning away the dust with it and coughing loudly, dancing away from the dust cloud.
 
A fit of giggles ran around the room.
 
This wouldn’t do.
 
That wasn’t teacher-ly. Not teacher-ly at all!  


He turned and fixed the room with his Devils Hole gang leaders stare, carefully placing the near white hat on the desk and purposefully picking up the chalk.  


The children fell silent instantly.  


Heyes secretly smiled at the board.  He felt he was getting the hang of this now.  He sketched a cuboid on the board, adding the internal dimensions of a Pierce and Hamilton '78 to each outer edge from memory. As he lowered the chalk and stood back to admire his draughtsmanship, a small voice piped up from the centre of the class.


“Is that the P & H '78?”


Heyes’ eyes went wide with shock, staring at the skeleton sketch of white lines he’d just drawn on the board. He hadn’t embellished it with the word ‘safe’, or added a P & H crest or dial.
 
What was this?  


He swallowed and set his features to what he though was calm teacher-ly educator. He turned to face the class searching out the owner of the small voice.  They were silent.  No clue as to who had spoken.  This lot would make good poker players, he thought.


“This is a cuboid, it has six flat planes… see… Every single angle is a right angle.” he said scouring the room for a reaction.


Nothing.


He turned back to the board.


“It could be ANYTHING this shape … a cupboard … or even this desk here … see…”


“Or a Pierce and Hamilton safe.  With those dimensions, the '78,” said the small voice.


He swung around quickly to see all the other children focused on a small, be-spectacled girl, neatly dressed with a yellow ribbon in her dark wavy hair, sitting in the very centre of the class.  Her dark-eyed gaze, magnified in the specs, was intently fixed on the board.  She sounded vaguely familiar to the ex-gang leader, and mercifully, sounded much more interested in the problem on the board than of accusing him of anything.


Where had he heard that voice before?


He tried to bring situations to mind when he’d had dealing with kids.  There weren’t that many.  Strangely his mind kept taking him back to his own schooldays.
 
That wasn’t any help.
 
No help at all.
 
He shook his head to start again. But no matter, he couldn’t grasp what it was that sounded familiar to him. The memory was just too ethereal and distant.
He took a deep breath and resumed the teacher-ly expression. He was still in charge.  He was Hannibal Heyes.  He felt she was more a puzzle than a threat.  He could handle a little girl.


“Well …well yes … yes …I guess this cuboid could represent a safe… that’s a possibility … but it could represent ANYTHING … anything that shaped … that’s kinda the point… so it don’t have to be a safe”


He placed a long tapering fingertip in the centre of his drawing.


“Leastways… a safe is just another kind of a cupboard anyway… Just happens to be a more secure one.”


“Not that secure, if someone has taught you how to listen to the tumblers” counteracted Heyes’ small, overly well-informed tormentor hopefully.


Heyes’ mouth fell open again.  His eyes narrowed, who was this girl? Small cogs were turning in his head and falling into place. How could she possibly know about tumblers?


The class was getting restless, chattering amongst themselves again. He was losing them.  This was worse than briefing the Devils Hole Gang about the next job.  All he needed was Kyle…


“Outlaws use dynamite to blow up safes” piped up an even younger child from the front row.  “Everyone knows that.”


“Not all outlaws” stated the be-spectacled girl. “Some can open safes by discovering the combination of the lock, just by listening to tumblers in the door, but it takes years of practice. And some use nitro glycerine instead of dynamite, but they have to create a vacuum inside…”


“That’s enough!” shouted Heyes from the front slamming his hand down on the desk.


All heads whipped around to face him again.


“The point is… I’m your teacher …and it’s a cuboid … I’ve given you all the information you need.  You don’t need any more INFORMATION… is that clear?”


He fixed the girl with a withering look. She set her mouth in a tight line. He nodded, satisfied that she’d got the message. In a quieter tone, he turned back to the board and addressed the whole class.


“Now …There's a formula for everything... just like there's a formula for this cuboid... You got all the dimensions …of all the sides... All I want you to do, is work out what the volume…”


Before the words had finished leaving his lips, the same small voice sang the answer, perfect to two decimal places, in cubic feet and inches.
 
Heyes’ whole head dropped to his chest defeated. He scrubbed dusty fingers back through his hair, then rubbed his tired eyes with chalk-covered thumb and forefinger. His eyes instantly stung and watered. He blinked around at his small nemesis through red rimmed, disbelieving eyes.


“How could you possibly…????”


“I read all about it in the American Science Journal. They have a copy in the library” she stated solemnly, with not a trace of impertinence or recrimination. “There was an illustration of the way to create the vacuum, and the formulae for how to make it work.  I remember the answer because I’ve read the article fifteen times.”


“You’ve read… how I … I mean how someone would… and you remembered….”


Heyes sank into the teacher’s chair holding his hand over his mouth less anymore confession should escape his lips.

He was Hannibal Heyes.  He was a renowned outlaw leader.  He could deal with a room full of outlaws. He could deal with this one little girl. He placed both hands purposefully on the desk in front of him.  He slowly looked around the class making eye contact each child in turn.
 
They all understood he was talking to them now.


“Has anyone else read … this article …in the library?” he asked quietly.


Thankfully, he was met with a crowd of incredulous shaking heads. A large, tall boy from the back row got to his feet.
 
“Don’t worry about Frankie, Mr Smith. She ain’t like a normal kid.  She goes in that lib’ry all the time… ‘n’ reads stuff …just fer the fun of it! No one even has to make her. The rest of us only have to go on Founders Day.”


The other children all nodded agreement. A tall girl stood from her desk in defence of the younger girl.


“You get used to Frankie after a while… She don’t mean nothin’ by it. She knows most everything already anyway… she don’t really need to come to school … but her Pa… He pays fer the school… so he reckons she gotta come … so he gets his money’s worth ...  she’s only here ... coz her Pa’s away all the time… and… her Mom’s dea...errr...um... well… she don’t mean nothin’ by it … is all … Mr Smith…”


The poor girl was bright red and sinking back to her seat, mortified that her treacherous legs had launched her out of her seat just moments before.


Heyes took all this in with smile and a nod.  He watched the passive expression of the be-spectacled girl, Frankie, as her piers discussed her reading habits and her family wealth.  


She was completely unfazed.


And he knew who she was.  A little older maybe, but the steady intelligent gaze and the light of curiosity in the eyes was the same.  She hadn’t been fazed then either, by two notorious outlaws in her daddy’s carriage holding up her daddy’s train.


Got you.


He chewed his satisfaction and his own dark eyes lit up.


“Do any of you others… need me to make the puzzle… harder… before I let you take a crack at it?” he asked innocently, sitting back in his teacher’s chair.


More vigorous head shaking from the class and picking up of pencils.


“Good … well... get to it then.”


Heyes focused on his small nemesis, feeling properly in control for the first time. She was watching him closely too. What to do with you?


“Frankie is it? Come here kid …”


---oooOOOooo---


(scene three continued 1,100 words)



“Frankie”

Spencer Widget




I nodded and stood slowly.

 

Being singled out from the class never usually ends well, either here in school or later outside.  One of the first rules of normal I learned in school was, never be singled out from the class by an adult.  It’s one of the things about me that riles the other children the most.  Reminds them I exist.

 

It’s my own fault this time, I’ve brought this on myself.  




I just got too excited.  It’s not everyday someone like Hannibal Heyes walks into school.  Someone that can actually teach me something I actually want to learn about. And then he went and drew the P & H '78 on the board.




It was just too exciting.  I forgot the rule about not being singled out.




I think I upset him, by saying the answer to the problem too quickly.  That’s another rule of school, you have to pretend everything’s hard and takes a long time to work out or people think you cheated.  




Maybe I’ve made him mad at me.  That’s why he’s called me to the front of the class.




It’s confusing because he isn’t a real teacher, so I don’t have to do what he says.  But he’s an outlaw, and if you don’t do what they say, they can shoot you.  He’s also an elder, and daddy says




“I don’t care how much you think you know, Li’l lady … Life’s a hard teacher! You should show a lot more respect fer yer elders… fer anyone fer that matter, that’s seen a darn sight more of life than you have.”




So, I’ll do what Hannibal Heyes says because he’s old, he’s seen more life than me and he’s wearing a gun.  The rule with adults being mad at you is, if they are shouting or talking very slowly and quietly, then they are mad at you. Hannibal Heyes asked me to come to the front nicely, but he’s doing staring as I walk to the teacher’s desk and that usually means trouble.  




I guess he’s remembering that I kicked him and he wants to shoot me.  He isn’t reaching for his gun though, in fact he’s starting to smile.  




It’s very confusing.  




Perhaps he’s looking forward to shooting me.




No.




I remember now.




He smiled like that when he showed me how to open the top desk draw on the train.  It was right after he’d emptied all the money out of daddy’s safe and put it into a sack for Kid Curry. I liked the way his cheeks creased up at the edges of his mouth then, just like they’re doing now.

 

When daddy asked me what Hannibal Heyes looked like after the robbery, I told him I liked the way Hannibal Heyes’ cheeks creased up when he smiled, and daddy said




“I’ll give that grinning hoot owl something to smile about if I ever catch up with him, you just see if I don’t.”




And I told daddy that he didn’t have to worry about giving Hannibal Heyes anything else to smile about.  He already had all of daddy’s money from the safe on the train and that had made him smile, a lot.




A crease on a cheek like that is called a dimple, and babies have them on their bottoms.   Hannibal Heyes’ smile had a dimple in it when he held up the sack with all of daddy’s money in it on the train. He said




“…Now I’m feelin’ rich again darlin’ …you can make as much noise as you like … Here … let me show you how us professional outlaws use lock picks … It’s real easy … but there’s a knack to it… Even The Kid here …managed it …eventually … ‘course… not as good as me… I’m what’s known …in the Newspapers… as a genius with lock picks…  Come on out here… ‘n’ I’ll show you how it’s really done.”




He was friendly that time, when he smiled.  And he let me keep the lock picks and told me to practice opening locks and, like I said before, you have to do what an outlaw tells you or they can shoot you.  That’s why daddy got off the train and laid down in the mud next to Uncle Steadman.




I always carry the lock picks with me. They’re in my pocket.  Perhaps if I show him that I did practice, and I am really good at opening locks now, he won’t shoot me.  




I’m being very careful, putting my hand into my apron pocket.  I don’t want him to think I’m reaching for a gun, so I’m putting a smile on my face too.  I hardly ever smile, so the smile feels kinda funny and I’m not sure how long I can hold it for.  You have to show all your teeth.




Last time I opened the top draw of the teacher’s desk, to get daddy’s magnifying glass back before he found out it was missing, it only took me fourteen seconds.  




Daddy doesn’t like it when he finds out I’ve borrowed something from his desk without asking him, but he spends nearly all his time in Boston now with my new mummy and her children, and he isn’t there for me to ask.  He says




“What’s the use of me wasting my money on an education if you ‘re just gonna turn out a thief! You’re no better than an outlaw …taking what don’t belong to you … Who do you think you are? … Hannibal Heyes!”




I’m not Hannibal Heyes, but I am going to be an outlaw when I grow up.  I’m not going to be a mummy.  Mummy’s die. Outlaws can go to prison, but you have to catch them first, and really good outlaws can open locks and escape.  




Hannibal Heyes is a very good outlaw.  




He opened daddy’s safe on the train by concentrating on hearing tumblers for much longer than fourteen seconds.  I’m sure I can hold a smile on my face for fourteen seconds, even if I have to concentrate a lot to do it.

 

I usually stick my tongue out when I concentrate and close my eyes.  It helps you imagine the insides of the lock better.  I learnt that by watching Hannibal Heyes concentrating on hearing tumblers when he opened daddy’s safe.  




This time, I’d better keep my eyes open, and hold the smile, just in case he stops smiling and reaches for his gun.




He’s seen I’m holding the lock picks, because his eyes have gone all big.

 

I better be quick showing him I practised opening locks like he said I should, because this smile is starting to make my face hurt.




---oooOOOooo---


PART ONE is completed here - http://asjbuckshot.forumotion.com/t447-the-new-teacher-part-one-continued-6750-words-unfinished-thread#1143
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