Did he jump or was he pushed?

Section 110 is called in for questioning

Vernon hurried up to his office and sat down with the newspaper. Two teachers at the school in the Park, it read, have been named as the brains behind a local scandal in which members of the business community have seen their bank accounts embezzled and a young computer whizz-kid go missing. Vernon sank back into his chair and absent-mindedly braided his beard glad of its reassuring texture like a frightened child clinging to its comfort-cloth. His thoughts had melded into an indeterminate goo; he was no longer thinking, he was a consciousness on the very edge of thought, a consciousness pulled backward through the hedge of thought itself.

Vernon sank back into his chair and absent-mindedly braided his beard.

Vernon sank back into his chair and absent-mindedly braided his beard.

Vernon made his way down to the grand hall with its atrium and balconied upper levels. He knocked anxiously on the Headmaster’s massive panelled door and stood vulnerable and alone in the marbled hall waiting for a summons inside. His sensitivity to the grandeur and heritage of the place took him back years, and looking down, he was surprised in his woe to find that he was not in actual fact wearing short trousers.

The Head came up behind him unannounced and unflustered like the special forces operative he’d once been. “Let’s go inside shall we? Have you had tea or coffee? I’ll order some shall I?” Vernon followed the Head into his inner sanctum and gasped once more at the buttoned leather sofas, the carefully chosen oils, the oil-tanker of a desk and the ivy framed views of the manicured South front. Last time he’d been here the drapes had been drawn and a roaring fire had been set.

“Ah Vernon, you’re a bright boy you’ll have seen where this is going I’m sure. Now then, how long have you been with us, six years is it? I suppose you’ve seen the papers this morning?”

Even the Sofas had a thicker skin than Vernon who felt keenly the Heads disapproval.

Even the Sofas had a thicker skin than Vernon who felt keenly the Heads disapproval.

So far Vernon had not spoken. He wondered whether academic, ecclesiastical or military protocols applied here. Should he stand to attention and say ‘permission to speak sir’? No. He was being ushered to a leather sofa whose hide looked fit to protect a centurion from the barbarian hordes.

“Vernon what do you think we should do now? Mrs McGuin is most upset about her son’s predicament, I’m not too happy about the school’s reputation and Dr Gumtree is puzzled about what to do with your professional development. He had the bright idea of giving you a sabbatical but I think that chance has gone. Ah here’s the coffee, do help yourself to a croissant.”

Awash with rhetoric and regrets, Vernon could not reply and so as was his habit he made the most of the freshly ground coffee and croissant. They were so good that he forgot momentarily the occasion that had given rise to the treat.

“I’ll need you to assist us in finding a replacement for you Vernon. When that task is done you are free to enjoy ‘gardening leave’; I will be providing a generous severance sum but you will need to sign an agreement that you will not draw members of the school into your difficulties nor visit the School in the Park until this has all been resolved.”

He might be regarded as Anglo-Saxon... nevertheless there was a price on his head.

He might be regarded as Anglo-Saxon… nevertheless there was a price on his head.

The Head stood up abruptly and looked out onto the lawn. “It looks bright out there, a fine day I think.” Whilst the Head was busy forecasting, Vernon quickly put the rest of the croissant, and another, into his jacket pocket. Turning on his heel with military precision Rev Dr Albright (Captain probably) marched silently to the door and opened it wide. “Shame to see you go Vernon” he said, “you’re a bright chap; you might want to hoover some of that French pastry out of your beard eh what. Nice plait though; very Anglo-Saxon.” At a much quieter volume, and leaning forward to say it, the Headmaster delivered the final bombshell of the day. “When you’ve cleared your name Vernon, and that of Monsieur Géron, do come back and speak to me. Perhaps then Mrs McGuin will be Mrs McGone eh what?”

As Vernon walked back to his office and whatever the training day held in store, the complication that was his resignation letter suddenly hit him like a runaway train. The question was, had he jumped or was he pushed?

Check out the path to this point on The Novel page. This marks the end of Chapter Five


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