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Authors: Pam Harvey

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BOOK: In the Deep End
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Chapter 8
Teasdale Secondary School: Tuesday morning

A small crowd of kids gathered round David Kelly, who was brandishing his white swipe card like it was the last Willy Wonka golden ticket. He seemed to have grown taller over the weekend. He’d never been the centre of attention before, but he looked like he was getting used to it very quickly.

Hannah sat alone near the door, eyeing the group. The swipe card. Dave had slid it into a neat-looking plastic sleeve and it was now hanging round his neck. He looked like some important official at a sporting event. It was his special pass to take him places where normal people couldn’t go. The more Hannah thought about it the angrier she got.

That should be hanging around my neck, she thought, as she watched Dave let Samantha
Green take a photo of him holding the swipe card, a stupid grin on his face.

‘Very well, David. Can we all return to planet Earth now so I can commence this English lesson?’ Mrs Stevens said crisply. Hannah wasn’t sure that Mrs Stevens approved of the whole
Whatever, Wherever
thing. She certainly wasn’t allowing David to enjoy his moment of popularity—his only one, as far as Hannah could remember.

‘Now, we talked about the importance of adjectives last week. David, do you recall what an adjective is?’

He looked at her blankly.

‘Come now, David. Surely you know what an adjective is.’ Hannah turned to look at Dave. He was slowly turning red, uneasily fingering his white swipe card as if somehow, magically, the very act of rubbing it might mysteriously produce the answer. ‘No? Perhaps someone else in the room can jog that memory for you. Anyone?’

A few people, including Hannah, raised their hands.

‘Hannah? An adjective?’

‘A word that describes something,’ she responded flatly.

‘Very good, Hannah.’

Mrs Stevens droned on, and the class grew restless. Dave released his swipe card from the coloured cord with the little crocodile clip and carefully passed it over to Ben Richards. Ben slid it across to Lana McKinstry, who held it in her hands and stared at it in wonder. Most kids were keeping one eye on the swipe card as it slowly made its way round the room.

Dave had quickly forgotten his earlier embarrassment and was now beaming with excitement again, delighted at his rapid elevation in popularity. The seat next to Dave Kelly in class would be prime real estate, a dejected Hannah thought to herself.

‘Unreal!’ Sammy Houlihan said, loud enough for the whole class to hear. Mrs Stevens looked up from her table at the front of the room.

‘Samuel Houlihan, bring that to me!’ she snapped, rising out of her chair.

‘It’s not mine, Mrs Stevens. It’s Dave’s.’

‘I know perfectly well whose it is. Now bring it to me. David, you can come and collect your card tomorrow.’

‘But I’ve got the photo at 3.15, and I’ll need my swipe card for that,’ Dave said, looking agitated.

‘I’m sure the photographer will manage a photo of you
without
the swipe card,’ Mrs Stevens said coolly.

‘But that’s the whole point of the photo,’ Dave wailed.

‘David Kelly. You may come and collect your card tomorrow morning, not a moment before. Do I make myself clear?’

‘But Mrs Stevens. I need—’


Do
I make myself clear?’

‘Yes, Mrs Stevens,’ Dave said quietly.

Sam walked out to hand it over, looking guilty as he slunk back into his seat. ‘Perhaps
now
the class will be able to concentrate on the adjectives exercise I’ve given you. Silence all of you until lunch.’

Hannah watched Mrs Stevens slip the swipe card into her table drawer, with not even a cursory look at it before she slammed it shut. Hannah looked down then up again quickly, waiting for Mrs Stevens to lock the drawer, but she went straight back to correcting their stories from last week. Perhaps she would be taking the swipe card with her at the end of the lesson, Hannah thought. Her eyes glazed over as she stared at the teacher’s table.

I want that card.
Hannah had been vaguely aware of the thought tossing around in her head over the last ten minutes as the swipe card slowly made its way round the room. But suddenly, the idea was clear to her. It was her right to at least borrow the card, if only for a few days. She’d put it to far better use. Dave didn’t seem like someone who’d be interested in a free pass to Explore! He had all those chickens to look after.

She stared at Mrs Stevens’ table as a plan slowly formed in her mind. It was going to take skill, daring and a little bit of luck—okay, maybe a lot of luck. But it was worth a try.

Hannah put her head down to finish off the work. It was boring and repetitive and required little concentration. She worked steadily, writing each sentence neatly and underlining all the adjectives in red. Keeping an eye on the clock, Hannah worked through the exercise, finishing seven minutes early. If she could distract Mrs Stevens somehow, then she might forget to lock the drawer. It was all about timing.

Exactly eight minutes later, just as Mrs Stevens started dismissing the class, Hannah made a beeline for her table, her work book open.

‘Mrs Stevens, I was thinking about the word
global
,’
Hannah began, as Mrs Stevens packed her books. ‘As in
global warming.
Do you think
global
would be categorised as an adjective?’

Mrs Stevens peered over her glasses at Hannah.

‘It certainly is an adjective,’ she said, following Hannah, who was making her way towards the door. ‘It’s describing the kind of warming it is.’

But Hannah had stopped listening. Mrs Stevens closed then locked the classroom door. Hannah nodded politely once or twice, thanked Mrs Stevens, then took off the opposite way down the corridor. When she got to the end she stopped and waited.

A few minutes later, Mr Benson walked past, but she ignored him. There was no way
he’d
let her back in to get her jumper from the classroom. Hannah sat on the steps, twisting her hands together, hoping that some nice teacher would appear. Another three minutes and her prayers were answered. Miss Cole, the new Phys Ed teacher, was heading across the oval towards her. Brilliant! She was carrying a softball bag and moving quickly—she was taking a team of students to a school softball competition today.

Hannah jumped up.

‘Miss Cole, I’m freezing,’ she said, shivering. ‘Can you just quickly let me into the classroom so I can grab my jumper?’

Miss Cole looked at Hannah and smiled. Hannah smiled back.

‘Just pull it shut,’ Miss Cole said, relocking the door and leaving Hannah alone in the room. Hannah ran over to her locker and pulled out her jumper. Glancing quickly at the door, she dashed back to the front of the room. Taking a deep breath, she pulled open the drawer, snatched the swipe card, and thrust it deep into her dress pocket.

Gently she closed the door, then as calmly as possible walked away.

Hannah was tempted a couple of times during the rest of the day to tell Angus and E.D. what she now had in her pocket, but decided against it. It wouldn’t be fair to involve them. And besides, she wanted to have her own look at Explore! There was something she was keen to find out, and maybe, just maybe, her luck might continue.

Hannah set off for Explore! after dinner. The sun had set, but there was still plenty of light as she rode up to the door marked KHS.
Kids’ Head
Start.
Whatever that meant, Hannah thought. Head start to what? And who gets left behind? What happens to them?

Taking a nervous glance behind her, she set her bike down further away from the building and approached the door. To the left of the door handle was a silver console. Above the handle was a small display screen with a keypad next to it. Three red lights glowed beneath the keypad. Hannah swiped the card through the slot and the first red light changed to green. Suddenly the screen lit up.

Name?
Hannah typed in David Kelly. The second red light turned green. Hannah held her breath.

Password?
Hannah froze, then a wave of disappointment flooded over her. How stupid of her! As if she was going to be able to walk into Explore! just because she had his stupid swipe card. And now she’d stolen it for nothing. Unless…

She punched the first word that came into her head. It was the only possibility with David Kelly.
Chickens.

Hannah stared at the third light, willing it to turn green. There was a clicking sound then it happened. The third red light flashed once, then
changed to green. There was a hiss and the door clicked open.

For a moment Hannah stood still, not quite believing what she’d done. She thrust a foot inside, just as the door started to close again.

The first thing she noticed after the door had closed behind her were tiny squeaking sounds. A dull blue light cast an eerie, metallic haze over the place, but Hannah could make out a row of cages, each filled with white mice.

Dinner for the snakes in the green tube, she thought, moving quickly to an open door on the other side. She stepped into the next room—an office. Her attention was immediately drawn to a large filing cabinet directly opposite her.

Hannah listened for any sounds. All she could hear were the mice, scrabbling and nibbling in their cages next door. She walked to the filing cabinet and eased the top drawer open. Neatly labelled files, each with their own colour tag, were lined up inside. A file with a green tag caught her attention.


Whatever, Wherever
,’ the label read.

Hannah reached in and pulled the file out. Again she paused, straining her ears for the slightest sound. Nothing. She opened the file. In spite of the situation, she smiled. Here was what
she was looking for. Each page was the results from different schools in the area. Quickly she rifled through the file, finally coming to Teasdale Secondary. Hannah swallowed as she glanced at the names.

There was her name, and Dave Kelly’s too, along with the other kids who had turned up for the competition. Next to them was a score. Hannah stared at the first few lines.

Hannah looked at the number next to Dave’s name then looked again. It appeared different. She moved closer to the light coming through a tinted window and stared closely at the number. It was different typing—she was sure of it. But why?

Then she noticed another file, deeper inside the drawer. It had Andrea’s name printed neatly on the label. Hannah quickly pulled it out. It was empty except for a remote drive data stick neatly attached to the side of the folder in a small plastic case. Frowning, she took out the data drive, then made a decision.

Flicking the computer on, Hannah pushed the data stick into a slot in the tower beneath the desk and waited for the computer to load. Almost straight away a message appeared on the screen:
You are trying to access a secret file. Please enter the access code. An unsuccessful attempt will destroy the data on this disk.

Without thinking, Hannah pressed the off button of the computer and hastily removed the drive. What had she done?

THUMP!

Hannah froze. Her heart suddenly pounding, she quickly put the data stick back, closed the file and shoved it into the cabinet. The blue light was slowly disappearing. The hairs on her arms bristled. What had made that thumping noise? It had sounded close. Maybe the mice in the room next door? Why was the light suddenly fading? Was someone in the mouse room flicking switches?

Hannah didn’t wait to find out. She charged back to the room with the mice and raced to the door. But the handle had jammed.

‘Come on,’ she muttered, shaking it.

THUMP!

Panicking, Hannah raced back into the room she’d come from. She ran through the open door
next to the filing cabinet and along a corridor, away from the mouse room. There were closed doors on either side. It was getting darker and darker by the second.

She tried a door on her left. Locked. She ran on, the corridor opening up into a large open area full of empty bag spaces and lockers. Was she near the entrance? Taking out Dave’s card, she ran to the nearest door, but there was nowhere to swipe it. She ran across the opening and down another long corridor. Wasn’t this the way to the Rite Bite Café?

A steady humming had started. Maybe the loud noise was the air conditioning or something turning on? Hannah looked at her watch. Just after eight o’clock. Surely that was it? Some sort of automatic device timed to switch on the machines at 8 p.m.? Hannah kept going. She could feel the blood thumping in her head as she reached the end of yet another long corridor.

The café. She entered the room, desperately hoping there’d be an exit. There wasn’t. Just two doors behind the counter, both labelled.

STRICTLY NO ADMITTANCE. AUTHORISED PERSONNEL ONLY

She opened the door to the left and stopped. She’d been expecting the room she’d seen from the pink tube with the huge vats of ice cream.

But it wasn’t that at all. In the fading light she could just make out a work bench covered with flasks, beakers and other equipment. She stepped closer. On the bench was a range of jars with dull-coloured powders in them. Each one was neatly labelled. Two enormous gas bottles, each painted red, stood like sentries on either side of the bench. Under the bench, by itself on a shelf, was a jar. Green and orange balls the size of small grapes half-filled it. Hannah turned around. Near the door was a small plastic-covered tent. When she looked closer, she could see it was like a mini hothouse filled with pot plants.

BOOK: In the Deep End
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