There was something strange going on and Barbara Wright, history teacher at Coal Hill School, meant to get to the bottom of it. Five months ago, a new girl, Susan Foreman, had arrived at the school, a girl who was amazingly brilliant at history but had several inexplicable gaps in her knowledge. Such as not knowing how many shillings there were in a pound; even a child of primary school age knew the answer was twenty. And that remark: "The decimal system hasn't started yet." What did Susan mean by that? Despite this, Barbara couldn't deny that Susan was one of the best pupils she had taught; she had even suggested that the girl should specialise in history.
But that was where the trouble began. Susan had refused Barbara's offer to come to her home and tutor her privately, saying her grandfather disliked strangers. But the way she said it made it sound like she had something to hide. And then there was her homework; its standard had been slipping lately and Barbara had now decided enough was enough. She was going to have words with Susan's grandfather, tell him to take some interest in his granddaughter's education.
Now, Barbara was making her way up Totter's Lane; according to the school secretary, Susan lived here, at Number 76. She counted off the house numbers as she walked - 73, 74, 75 . . . Then, she stopped; in the place where Number 76 should have been, there was nothing but an old junkyard, beyond which stood a large wall. According to the words painted on the gates, a scrap merchant named I.M. Foreman was based here.
Frowning, Barbara checked the piece of paper on which the secretary had written Susan's address. It definitely said: 76, Totter's Lane and this was definitely 76, Totter's Lane, but the name on the gates could only be a coincidence. From what Barbara knew, Susan's grandfather was a doctor, not a scrap merchant. So what was going on here? Maybe the neighbours knew something. With that in mind, Barbara walked up to Number 75 and knocked on the door.
After a couple of minutes, the door was opened by a middle-aged woman with her hair in curlers. "Yes? Can I help you?" she asked.
Barbara cleared her throat, then tried to explain as simply as she could. "I'm sorry to disturb you, but I'm a teacher at Coal Hill School. I'm rather concerned about one of my pupils and I was told she lived at 76, Totter's Lane. I was hoping to speak to her guardian." She decided it would be best to avoid mentioning why she was concerned; this woman didn't need to know all that stuff about Susan being brilliant at history but seemingly lacking in knowledge when it came to things like the number of shillings in a pound.
"Well, you won't find anyone living in there." The woman gestured in the direction of the junkyard. "Least of all one of your pupils. It's been a junkyard since before the War. Sorry, but you've obviously made a mistake somewhere."
"I see," said Barbara, keeping her tone neutral. "Well, thank you anyway. I'll be going now."
With that, she turned and walked away, pondering the mystery that was Susan Foreman. From the sound of it, Susan had given a false address when she enrolled at Coal Hill School. But why? What was she trying to hide? She seemed to be an ordinary girl, if somewhat brighter than most, but there was definitely something about her that couldn't easily be explained. For one thing, how on Earth had she learned as much about history as she had? Barbara sighed. "It's no good - I'll have to talk to someone about this." She left, as yet unaware of the police box (or at least that was what it appeared to be) standing incongruously in the junkyard.