Chained in time, p.1
Chained in Time, p.1David Waine
CHAINED IN TIME
The First Rutter Book
All rights reserved: no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher.
Copyright © David Waine 2011
To my wife, Helen, and our sons, Michael and Paul
Friday, September 9th, 1988
“We should look first at page sixty-four,” announced Miss Earl from her vantage point by the window as her two students opened their books.
The early September sun roasted the many glass panes of the Wilberforce School, lulling most of its unwilling occupants to premature drowsiness and surreptitious fidgeting long before the bell finally released them back into the waiting streets of Finchley. Named after William Wilberforce, who had succeeded in having the evil of slavery abolished almost two centuries earlier, the school had nothing else in common with the great man. Instead, it was a vast concrete and glass structure, barely older than its young inhabitants, and already showing signs of beginning to crumble. It was, however, proud of its history department, largely because of the influence of its thrusting new leader. Jennifer Earl was young, articulate, ambitious and rising fast in London’s academic circles. A head of department only five years into her teaching career, the bob-headed, power-suited, upwardly mobile star of the local education authority would not allow the Wilberforce School to detain her long, for it was but a stepping stone in her preordained career plan.
This was the final lesson of the day, one to be looked forward to with a top set or dreaded with an idiot group. Gone until tomorrow were the smelly second years with their constant demands for the toilet and never-ending accusations of stealing each other’s pens. Now it was the Lower Sixth: two students only and an atmosphere of peace, productivity and progress.
Various long-dead kings and one equally dead queen stared sightlessly down from posters on the walls at an attractive girl with vivid green eyes and a gleaming cascade of striking auburn hair that fell simply over her shoulders. She was fairly tall at around five feet six. With some, that would have indicated an elongated stringiness and sparrow legs, but not with her. Marie Kelly was perfectly proportioned and moved with the natural elegance of a swan.
She was the brightest student in the school, the sort that a good teacher could nurture, as opposed to endure; the sort who would see her as a valued mentor rather than the tyrannical hellcat that kept the howling masses in the lower years from each other’s throats. Miss Earl never failed to complete a lesson with Marie without feeling that something worthwhile had been accomplished.
The only other person present was Joe Burnett, Marie’s lifelong friend and neighbour. He was taller and heavier of build than her, as was to be expected, and his hair was a nondescript brown, but his general appearance was pleasing enough to a feminine eye. It was not his looks that irritated her, however, for he was not in Marie's league academically. A respectable ‘A’ Level result was within his grasp, at a pinch, whereas her potential was limitless.
Leaving the window, with its faint hint of stirring air, she perched herself on the edge of her desk and resumed her introduction to the assignment.
“At this time London’s population was approximately three million people, of whom roughly half were at or below the poverty line.”
Joe yawned. Like his teacher, he did not respond well to oppressive heat. “Exactly what is the poverty line?” he asked grumpily.
She looked at him with a mixture of impatience and pity. “The poverty line,” she explained with an audible sniff, “is a level of subsistence beneath which normal, civilised life becomes untenable. This usually results in a rocketing crime wave, widespread anarchy and, in extreme cases, revolution.”
Marie looked up from her book, a question already forming in her eyes. Miss Earl admired her ability to absorb new information while attending to something else altogether: the woman’s capacity to multitask. So superior to the sequential plodding of men, doomed forever to do one thing at a time, poor things.
“I don’t remember reading about a revolution in Victorian England,” pointed out the girl, checking back through the text in case she had missed it.
“No, Marie, there wasn’t one,” agreed the teacher, “but that was as much good luck as good government. If you think that today’s crime wave is disturbing, you should compare it with the one the police had to deal with in the 1880s.”
Joe was only half listening. The mention of a crime wave had brought a more current concern to mind. “Like that Nichols girl who’s gone missing?”
“Very much so,” acknowledged Miss Earl, nodding. The story had been on the front page of every newspaper, and the first item on any news bulletin, all week: a fifteen year-old schoolgirl, Mary Anne Nichols, had failed to report home after visiting her friend ten days previously. “That sort of thing is nothing new. Remember that the era we are studying was the period when Jack the Ripper held his reign of terror in the East End.”
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