Today's Reading

The double history feels like it goes on forever. A few more randoms have close shaves with the heavy book, but nobody actually ends up out there holding it. Emma Wilkinson gets closest when she accidentally drops her pencil and it rolls all the way across the floor to the other side of the classroom. She decides to go and find it without asking the Sergeant first, and he goes full-scale mental. Emma makes such a hash of apologizing, though, even starting to cry at one point, that the Sergeant lets her off with a warning, and calm descends on us once more. When the bell rings, and the whole sorry ordeal finally draws to a close, I grab hold of Mark before I gather up my stuff, and we walk along the corridor together.

"What about that idiotic gang of yours?" I ask him. "Surely one of those guys must know Objective-C."

He shakes his head as if I've just wandered into his chess club and set up a game of draughts. It's a bit much, but I power through. I need to know whatever he can tell me.

"There's pretty much only one person in the whole school who knows Objective-C," he says. "Some of the teachers might, but there's only one pupil."

"I only need one," I tell him. "That's all I'm looking for."

"Not this one," he says. "You'd be better off forgetting about it."

"Who is it?" I ask him.

He shakes his head. "You should dream up something else," he says. "You don't want to know."

I stop walking and grab hold of his elbow. He gets a little bit of the ghost look again, although not quite as much as he had in Monahan's class. "Just tell me who it is," I say. "Let me judge whether I want to know or not."

He pulls his arm away and makes a show of brushing the sleeve of his jacket. I stand waiting, and eventually he says just one word to me, the name I've been asking him for.


I nod at him slowly and then let him walk away. Greensleeves. Elsie Green. Bloody hell.


The school canteen is over in the new block, so Sandy gets a head start on me lunchwise. By the time I drag my terrifying sausage and onions over to his table, he's already halfway through his ordeal.

"All right?" he asks me, and I nod as I pull out a chair and sit down. He points his fork at my sad-looking sponge cake while he's doing battle with a mouthful of misery, and when he manages to clear some of it away he tells me I won't be needing the cake today.

"Why not?" I ask him, and he opens a plastic tub that's sitting on the table.

"Hospitality muffins," he says.

They look good. In fact, they look so good, I consider bypassing the sausage and onions altogether and just making a lunch of the muffins. I realize I'm pretty much starving from all the brain work I've done that morning, though, so I pinch my nose and get started on the main course.

"How was Monahan?" Sandy asks. "Who got the book?"

"Fritter Mackenzie," I say. "Emma Wilkinson almost got it, but she started crying and Monahan caved."

Sandy looks surprised. "If I was in that guy's class, I'd write to the European Parliament," he says. "He needs stopping."

"Probably," I agree, "but the more time he spends on the craziness, the less time we spend on the history. That can't be all bad."

Sandy takes one more mouthful of gruel, then pulls the tub of muffins across the table toward himself. He opens the lid again, smells them lovingly, and starts demolishing one.

"So what's wrong with you?" he asks. "What's happened?"

"Me?" I say, suddenly confused. "What do you mean?"

"The idea," he explains. "I know what you're like when you're on one. I shouldn't be getting a word in edgeways here, but you haven't even mentioned it yet. What's happened?"

"Ah," I say, catching his drift. "It hit a snag. I don't know if it'll happen."

He doesn't look too bothered.

"It was pretty stupid anyway," he says. "Pie in the sky."

"Grow up," I tell him. "There's nothing stupid about it. It's gold dust."

He shakes his head.

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