Chapter 1

Small Heath School, Birmingham. Evelyn looked down at the scrap of paper in her hand and put her small suitcase down on the cobbled street. Her perfect flourish of cursive handwriting had smudged and run as thick raindrops pattered onto the paper. Evelyn tried her best to shield it with her glossy leather gloves but the damage was already done. With a heavy sigh she carefully folded it into four and placed it in the pocket of her woollen coat. The sodden fur trim of her coat was but a small comfort against the chill of the October rain.

Evelyn looked around for a street sign. She was looking for Green Lane. According to the directions she took down over the telephone the school would be on the left. Evelyn's eyes caught a grimy sign on the dark brickwork of an end terrace, Watery Lane. That wasn't right. Evelyn frowned, she was so sure she followed the instructions down to the last detail. She considered asking for directions but with the dreary Sunday afternoon the street was all but empty. Most people would be tucking into their Sunday dinners keeping out of the torrential downpour.

Through the dark haze of the city smog and rain Evelyn could see figures leaning against the wall of a house mid-way down the street. Their caps pulled down over the eyes and heads down studying something, she assumed a newspaper. Evelyn weighed up her options. Her gut instinct told her not to approach them. She clutched her handbag closed and looked away from the men. One of them looked up in her direction. Fear engulfed Evelyn as imagination took over. She spun on her heel and picked up her suitcase and turned back the way she came leaving behind the echo of her heels tapping on the road. Evelyn was about to turn left out of the road and continue on to try the next road over as the unmistakeable sound of a car rumbled its away towards the turning of the road. Its wheels bumped along the cobbles splashing Evelyn with the black water of puddle festering at the side of the street soaking her to the bone. The car continued on without a care for her. Evelyn was beginning to regret ever leaving the familiarity of her home city. Evelyn mustered up the remainder of her spirits ready to give the driver a piece of her mind but she was too slow. The car had already pulled up alongside the men down the road. Evelyn made a swift exit from the street and continued on to the next street hoping for better luck. She definitely didn't need a run in with whoever the unsavoury character was that was driving the car.

As luck would have it the next street over was Green Lane much to Evelyn's relief. She hastily made her way down the street until she got to the small building that was Small Heath School. The school was in darkness and the wrought iron gates with their chipped black paint were padlocked shut. She reached into her handbag and rummaged beneath the train tickets and a wrapper from the hastily eaten station pastry to find what she was looking for. A set of rusty keys that arrived by post a week ago. She fumbled with them until she found the correct key for the padlock. Evelyn gave the gates a good shove to get them open. Fallen leaves crunched as they buckled beneath the heavy iron. The gates grated on the stone path filling the quiet street with sound. Evelyn left the gates open and headed for the inside of the run down school. Dull green paint on the door peeled away reelaing several other shades below and mould grew around the windows.

Evelyn wasn't prepared for the chill of the entrance hall as she shut and locked the door behind her to be on the safe side. Her breath misted as she hoped the school had electricity. No such luck. Instead an oil lamp sat on a table in the damp foyer. For a moment Evelyn struggled to get it lit but eventually a warm glow was cast over the small room. To say it had seen better days was an understatement.

Evelyn continued her inspection of the school or rather the small entrance hall and small classroom that made up Small Heath School. An outbuilding out in the school yard looked like it could be a toilet with its smashed window. As she walked down the length of the small classroom her eyes caught names etched in to battered wooden desks, "Arthur, Danny, Charles, Tommy," she spoke them aloud as she inspected each desk. Some of the names had been worn away over the years or couldn't be made out through illegible handwriting. "Mary, Robbie, Ada," Evelyn was a little surprised to see a few girls names in there. Evelyn raised an eyebrow at a rather delightful four letter word scratched onto one of the chairs. It wasn't for the first time that Evelyn began to worry what she had gotten herself into. A fairly new name caught her attention on a desk near the front, "Finn." Perhaps that was a current student of the school.

Evelyn sat herself down in the wooden chair behind what was to be her desk. She pulled open the stiff wooden draws looking for a register. Anything that was going to give her a clue as to what she was walking into. All she knew so far was the school had been empty for three weeks following the swift disappearance of the previous teacher. A previous teacher who by the looks of things had kept no record of any of the students. Evelyn never had got to the bottom of why the previous teacher vanished resulting in the closure of the school. What she did find was half torn piece of paper buried beneath a tatty maths textbook titled 'Detentions'. She read over the names recognising some of them from the tables. Robert was at the top of the list followed by Finn. Written next to both was a reason 'truanting'. Evelyn set the list down not even sure if it was recent or from years gone by. It was hard to tell with the state of the paper.

The first order of business was clearly going to be getting the school room tidy for her first day tomorrow. She was going to have to work well into the night before using the only other key on the set she was posted to up the end terrace next to the school that was to be her home for the foreseeable future. Evelyn dared not give the place a thought until she was done with the school room. There would be no telling what condition it would be in.

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