10th February 2019
Headmistress Ophelia was deep in paperwork when there was a rap on the door.
“Headmistress? Your eleven o’clock is here.”
She looked up at the door, her broad and plain face scrunching up in concentration as she tried to remember who she was seeing.
“It’s the boy, Headmistress. Damien?”, said the voice, as if sensing the headmistress’ hesitation.
Ah yes, she thought to herself. The boy.
Headmistress Ophelia shifted what she was working on to the side.
“Send him in, Sister Susan”
The door opened. A young man stepped through and stood before her desk.
Headmistress Ophelia gesture to the chair in front of her.
The boy hesitated for a moment before pulling the chair out and sitting down.
“Welcome back to Victoria City. I hope the train ride was not unpleasant?”, she said pleasantly
“No ma’am”, came the mumbled response.
The Headmistress did not speak again, choosing instead to take a few minutes of silence in order to study her guest for the day. His black hair was all tussled up, likely due to the gale that was howling outside the walls of the orphanage. His deep black eyes seem to bore into hers as he kept his gaze forward, never flinching away even after making contact with her own eyes. After a moment, it was the Headmistress who had to glance away, such was the well of strength she found in those coal black eyes. His thin, cracked lips betrayed no emotion but the faint scar etched on his right cheek spoke volumes about the kind of person Headmistress Ophelia was dealing with.
Her gaze travelled down his dusty brown leather jacket that had colourful patches her and there due to wear and tear. From where the Headmistress was sitting, she could only see up to his waist. However, even here there was evidence to suggest that, just like the jacket, the boy’s faded blue jeans were a few sizes too big for him, due to the worn black belt that seemed to grip his waist like a boa constrictor strangling its prey.
However, it was the boy’s knuckles that caught most of her attention. His folded hands rested on the table, within easy reached of the Headmistress’ own pair of hands. She didn’t need such a close proximity to see that his knuckles were wrapped with dirty and bloodied bandages that were frayed at the edges. Dried blood was splotched all over it and, she could only assume, the scars underneath those bandages were a testament to his past.
Still saying nothing, the headmistress plucked a thick file titled ‘Marcus Hunt’ from the top of a pile to her left. She licked her index finger before flipping it open, extracting a single sheet located just inside the cover.
“You’ll find the city has changed little since you were last here”, she said as her eyes scanned the sheet before her. “Traffic is a mess, crime in Haven is barely contained, the Draught is infecting more people by the day and the city’s leaders are as spineless as usual. The only good thing still left is that Jenny’s on the corner of James and Smith still serves up the best burgers in town.”
She looked up at the boy.
“But you’re no stranger to crime, aren’t you, Mr Hunt?”
The boy said nothing in response. The Headmistress ignored the silence, glanced down at the sheet of paper and continued.
“An impressive rap sheet, if compared to the kind of kids we usually get on a daily basis. Causing public nuisance, battery, assault, minor theft, armed theft and beating an orphan at a different orphanage to a pulp. All before the tender age of sixteen.”
The Headmistress placed the sheet of paper back into the file and closed it with a sharp snap.
“Let me be honest with you, Mr Hunt”, she continued, leaning back against her creaking leather chair. “There is only one reason why we’ve decided to take you from your last orphanage, even after they advised us you were better suited for juvenile hall. Your parents were this orphanage’s biggest benefactors. We’ve been operating just on the funds they left us for the last couple of years after their deaths. So, we do have a sense of gratitude towards them and are willing to take on their son in their stead.”
The Headmistress leaned forward, her eyes holding the boy’s own black pair in a steady gaze.
“But let me warn you, Mr Hunt.”, she continued in a low tone. “You might have been able to get away with this sort of shtick with your previous benefactors. But here at St. Julius Institute for Gentleman, we have a zero-tolerance policy for this kind of behaviour. No matter who your parents were, one step out of line and you’ll find yourself behind bars quicker than two shakes of a lamb’s tail. Do I make myself clear, young man?”
“Crystal, ma’am”, he replied, not shying away from the headmistress’ gaze.
In response, the headmistress nods. She pulls out another file in the middle of the stack, seemingly at random, which was entitled ‘School Admission’.
“Now, one final thing. You start school on Monday. After many discussions, I was able to get you enrolled in Riverdale High, who were also a benefactor of your parent’s final will. They are willing to overlook your past record and accept you as a student. I gave them my word that you will not cause any trouble. Don’t make me regret this, Mr Hunt.”
She glances up from the file.
“Anything else to add, Mr Hunt?”
The boy shakes his head.
“Good. Sister Susan?”
The door opens and a middle aged nun popped through the door.
“Show Mr Hunt to his room.”
She nodded and beckoned to the boy. He got out of the chair and followed her out.
The Headmistress waits for him to leave before opening a bottom drawer. She pulls out a mobile phone and presses a number on speed dial.
After a few rings, she hears a click, indicating the other side had been up her call.
“The boy’s just come in today. What would you like me to do?”
She pauses for a moment, listening to the instructions from the other side.
“Watching him shouldn’t be a problem. Like the other orphans, much of his daily schedule is prepared a week in advance. We’ll know where he goes at all times.”
“We’ll see. It won’t be long until we know if he has the potential.”
“Yes, I know, sir. They will definitely try to recruit him if he does have the potential. After all, his parents are the reason all of this began.”
“Yes, I’ll keep you posted.”
Headmistress Ophelia keeps the phone back in the drawer. Glancing at the amount of paperwork she still had to complete, she sighed and lost herself in her work once again.