The Boy With the Golden Eyes
by London Lampy
"We've told you, we don't know where any of them are." Dana stated for the third time. Jane could tell that her sister was struggling to keep her temper and she prayed that Dana wouldn't loose it and get them both into trouble again.
"And I'm meant to believe that?" Mother Hardigan snapped at her, her deep set eyes flashing in anger.
Jane wrapped her arms around herself, both for comfort and warmth. When Jack, Exit and Elodie had all been discovered missing after lights out the two girls had been dragged to Mother Hardigan's office to find out if they knew where their brother and the others were. "Jane, what about you?" The nun asked, fixing her with an unblinking gaze.
"I...no." She shook her head, afraid of the woman, and afraid of what Jack might have done to Elodie. She knew her brother had a temper, one of her earliest childhood memories was of Nanny restraining a five year old Jack from hitting Drew who had been teasing him by repeatedly holding out a rubber ball to him them snatching it away when Jack tried to grab for it. He had ended up lashing out and putting his fist through the window despite their guardian's best efforts, and Jane could still remember how the stream of blood from his small fist had shocked her to tears.
She didn't know if he'd hit a girl, but she was scared that if Elodie pushed him far enough he might, although what the echoback boy had to do with it was a mystery, apart from the fact that Jack seemed to have befriended him.
The door suddenly opened and Father Frederick came into the room, his normally friendly face grim. "I can find no sign of her...or the boys." He stopped as he suddenly noticed Dana and Jane. "We've searched everywhere."
"Father." Jane said, winding a strand of hair around her finger nervously. "Will Jack be in a lot of trouble when you find him?"
"That depends on the reason for all this, although I've no doubt some sort of punishment will be in order. Can you think of any reason why he would have disappeared with Elodie?" The intensity of his gaze made her shiver.
"And Exit." Mother Hardigan added.
"Yes...and Exit." He echoed. "I know you told me there had been some settling in issues between the two of you and Elodie, this wouldn't have anything to do with that would it?"
"I don't know...really...I don't know anything." This came out as a sob, which caused Dana to glare at the priest.
"It's all right Jane, I believe you, but if you do think of anything that could help us you must speak up." He patted her on the arm as he said this, his face softening into an attempt at a smile. "Now, the pair of you had better get back to your beds, I wouldn't want you to be losing your beauty sleep."
"Where do you think Jack's gone?" Jane asked Dana as they headed back to their dorm, the lino cold beneath her bare feet as they headed down the gloomy passageway.
"If he's got any sense he'll have run away." Dana muttered, her thin arms folded across her chest.
"He wouldn't do that, he promised he wouldn't, and why would he be with Elodie and Exit?"
"Just because they've all gone missing at the same time doesn't necessarily mean that they're all together." The dark haired girl pointed out.
"Oh...I didn't think of that." Jane put a finger to her mouth. "Why didn't you say that to Father Frederick?"
"If he can't think of that by himself then why should I help? Let's say Jack has run away, the more confusion there is, the more chance he has of not getting caught."
"What about here?" Jack's fingers stroked the smooth skin on the underside of Exit's tail.
"It's good there, but it's better higher up." Came the reply, spoken against his chest. They were lying on the rug, Jack on his back and the smaller boy wrapped around him.
"I'll remember that for next time." Jack said, stroking higher up.
"Mmm...keep doing that and next time is going to be very soon."
"Jack's own body started to react as well, and it was swiftly helped along when a hand reached down between his legs. "Do you think we've got time?" He questioned, wondering how long they had been in the hidden attic.
"Shit!" Exit sat bolt upright. "No...I think we should have been in bed ages ago!"
"You think it's after lights out?" Jack asked not moving, he wanted the hand back.
"Yes. Shit shit shit, we are going to get in so much trouble." Exit jumped to his feet and started to pull his pyjamas back on.
Truthfully Jack didn't really care how much trouble they were in, it had been worth it and he would have been quite happy to stay where they were and spend the next few hours exploring one another's bodies, even if it meant facing the worst punishments the nuns could dream up, but Exit clearly did care so he joined him in getting dressed.
"What do you think the chances are that they've noticed we're missing?" He asked as he buttoned his shirt.
"They count us after lights out, but not always right away, if we're very lucky we might make it back before they realise."
Exit led the way back across the roof then through the darkened corridors, explaining to Jack that unlike humans echobacks could see in the dark, a fact Jack was both surprised and rather pleased to discover, it meant that at least one of them had been able to clearly see what they were doing in the attic. They almost made it back to the dorm undiscovered but just as they reached the final flight of steps Father Frederick rounded the corner carrying a small oil lamp. He stopped and stared at the pair of them, then up the corridor behind them. "Where's Elodie, what have you done with her?" He asked roughly, stepping toward the two boys.
They looked at one another frowning, then back at the priest. "Elodie?" Jack questioned. "I don't know." He had been expecting a grilling as to why they were out of their beds after lights out, not one concerning the whereabouts of the girl. He assumed that if she was absent it had something to do with the money he had given her, but he wasn't about to mention that.
"You're lying." Father Frederick stated flatly. "Tell me where she is and I'll go easy on your punishment."
"I'm not lying, I know nothing about where she is." Jack squared up to him, not liking being accused of something he hadn't done.
"Exit, where's Elodie?" The priest rounded on the smaller boy, his voice harsh and angry.
"I...she's not with us." Came the quiet reply, while Jack took half a step forward closer to the man, putting himself between the priest and Exit, clenching his fists at his sides.
"You are both liars." Father Frederick growled. "And liars go to hell."
Jack took a deep breath, trying to still the anger that was building inside of him. "Father Frederick." Mother Hardigan's voice came from behind them, causing Jack and Exit to turn around. "Perhaps you should find out what they have been doing, it is possible that they are telling the truth about the girl." The nun was also carrying an oil lamp and the way it illuminated her face from below made her resemblance to a skull all the more pronounced.
The priest regarded her, Jack thought he saw something twisted and feral in his face for a moment, then it went, and he couldn't be sure it was anything more than the shadows.
"So." The nun said, looking at the pair of them, her eyes two black holes. "You were found to be missing after lights out, where have you been?"
The silence dragged on for several long seconds, Jack tried to desperately think of something to say but his mind seemed frozen, eventually Exit spoke up.
"The kitchens." He began, and was quickly cut off by Father Frederick. "With Elodie?" The priest asked.
"Father." Mother Hardigan interrupted. "Let him finish, we'll hardly get to the truth of all this otherwise, and the sooner we know what's going on the sooner we will find the girl. Exit, continue."
"We were hungry..." He looked up at Jack who nodded then added. "Really hungry."
"You stole food?" The nun asked them, her voice harsh.
"Yes." They both said at once, Jack admiring the other boy's ability to think up a plausible sounding excuse.
"That is an offence we take very seriously, you will both be severely punished." She frowned at them. "Stealing will not be tolerated, neither will greed."
"Yes." "Sorry." They replied, both trying to look suitably chastised.
"What about Elodie?" Father Frederick asked again, seeming to not care about their offence.
Mother Hardigan held up her hand to stop him. "Do either of you know anything about her disappearance?" She asked, staring at them unwaveringly.
"No, it was just Exit and me in the kitchens." This time it was Jack who spoke up first.
The nun watched the pair of them, seeming to weigh up their answers, eventually she spoke again. "Go to your dormitory, your punishment will commence in the morning. Come to my office straight after chapel."
"Yes Mother." They chorused, then walked off together.
Mother Hardigan watched the two boys as they went, knowing they were lying, about what she was unsure. Stealing food from the kitchens wasn't something you'd confess to lightly, and she was sure that they were trying to cover up a worse crime, but equally sure that it had nothing to do with Elodie's disappearance. She would perhaps be more concerned with trying to discover what it was they were hiding if she wasn't preoccupied with both the mystery of where the girl was, and why the priest was behaving so strangely about it.
The caning part of their punishment had to be postponed as Father Frederick had gone into the city to look for Elodie, and in his absence Mother Hardigan sentenced them to several weeks of extra lunchtime chores along with spending their free time in the evenings copying out large chunks of religious texts concerning the sins of greed and theft.
"Could have been worse." Jack mused as they made their way the mornings lessons. "She could have stopped us spending time together."
"That's because she doesn't really know what we were doing." Exit said quietly. "If she knew that she'd keep us at different ends of the building, after they caught me kissing Kyle she threatened to make me sleep in one of the girls dorms.
"Is he still here?" Jack frowned.
"No, he left a few months ago." Jack was very glad to hear that.
After a lunch that was spent stuffing a sandwich into his mouth as he swept the dead leaves and general street debris up in the cobbled yard Jack once again found himself in the kitchens peeling potatoes. He had been at it for about ten minutes when he became aware of Ward's presence beside him. He kept going, scraping away at the endless pile with numb fingers while waiting for the other boy to speak until he couldn't stand it any more. "Do you want something?" He sighed eventually.
"What did you eat?" Ward blurted out, as Jack looked up at him puzzled. "Last night, what did you eat? I've been all through the store room and the ice box and I can't find anything missing, you didn't take the scraps out of the dustbins did you?"
"No." he shook his head in disgust at the idea.
"Good, because we sell that to the pig farm." Jack went back to the potatoes ignoring him.
"So what did you eat?" Ward asked again, sounding anguished.
"Nothing." Jack said eventually. "We weren't even in the kitchens."
"But...but why did you tell Mother Hardigan that you were? You're in so much trouble for something you didn't even do!" He asked shocked.
Jack looked at the large eared boy, for a moment he thought about telling him the truth, but he had nothing in common with Fletcher's easy going nature or disregard for authority, and he was something of a pet among the nuns.
"Ward, don't take this personally but it's none of your business."
"Does it have something to do with Elodie going missing? Because of you've hurt her..." Ward pulled himself up to his full height and glared at Jack.
"You'll what?" Jack said flatly, sick of being accused of Elodie's disappearance.
"You have, you've hurt her...and I bet you used Exit to help you hide the evidence, is her body lying somewhere on the roof?"
"For fuck's sake...I do not know where she's gone, and what's more I don't care. It's got nothing to do with me or Exit. I am not some sort of depraved murderer, and she's not on the roof, more likely in a pub somewhere."
"I know you don't like her." Ward threw back.
"No, I don't, she's a nasty little bitch." Jack suddenly pictured her the way she was the last time he saw her, and how scared she had seemed, he'd almost felt sorry for her. "Most of the time." He added. "But I haven't touched her."
"I hope you haven't, I'm going to marry her one day."
"Good luck in that." Jack shook his head, then went back to the peeling.
"I'm covered in ink again." Jack complained, looking at his fingers. He'd never been very good with a pen and ink, Miss Osram had done her best to get him to write neatly, or at least legibly and without too many smudges, but in the end she had to admit it was just something he wasn't suited to.
"Have you been sticking your hands in the inkwell?" Exit grinned at him.
"No, I always seem to get the leaky pen." He grumbled.
"Do you want to swap?" The other boy offered.
"Then you'd get covered in ink too."
"Hmm...maybe not as much as you." Exit put out his hand and tried to take his pen off him, but Jack caught his wrist in his hand. For a long moment they looked at one another. Jack glanced quickly at the door, then back, Sister Oakley had left them in the classroom to begin the writing part of their punishment ten minutes ago, he was pretty sure she wouldn't be back for quite some time. "How about if you sat on my lap and helped me?" He suggested.
"Yes Sister, I was just sat there helping him with his penmanship, that's all, nothing else was going on." Exit laughed.
"She won't be back for ages." Jack said confidently.
"All right, one quick kiss?" He bargained.
Jack had just touched his lips to Exit's when he heard the sound of the door handle being turned, they both jumped apart before the door opened, expecting to see the elderly nun, but instead Dana's head appeared round the door.
"Is he in there?" He heard Jane ask from outside.
"Yes, he is. We just wanted to check how you were." Dana opened the door fully so both girls could be seen.
"I'm fine." Jack tried not to sound irritated at them for the interruption. "But you'd better not stay here, Sister Oakley is supervising us."
"We won't." Jane said. "I'm on my way to see if Father Frederick is back yet." Beside her Dana rolled her eyes.
They chatted for a few minutes, Jack hadn't told them the truth about him not having been in the kitchens last night, he felt a little bad about that and he did want to try and explain everything to them at some point, but now wasn't the time. He introduced them to Exit though, who Jane still seemed rather nervous of, although both girls were happier than he had seen in a long while which was undoubtedly down to Elodie's absence. The sound of footsteps echoing from further up the corridor and around the corner eventually sent them scurrying off before they got the boys into any more trouble.
"So do you still think Exit bites?" Dana teased Jane as they walked quickly away.
"No, I suppose not, but Father Frederick says he shouldn't be here, that he should be sent back to the forest where he came from." Jane replied.
"I wish he'd send us back to where we came from." Dana muttered, opening the door to the outside. "I'll wait under the tree, please don't be too long this time, it's bloody cold out here."
Jane trotted across the yard and let herself into the chapel, going straight through it to the priest's office where she knocked on the door hopefully. No one answered, she tried again, this time she heard a faint sound from inside and it sounded like someone moaning or crying softly. She stood still listening with her head cocked trying to work out what she was hearing, then put her hand down and twisted the door knob opening the door a crack. The lights were off in the room but the heater had been left on and everything was bathed in its orange red glow. Jane stepped inside and heard the noise again, it was coming from the floor by the desk and she looked down to see a figure lying curled into a tight ball on the rug. The blond hair was messy but unmistakeable, and the girl looked up at Jane with wide, pain filled eyes. "Help me." Elodie said in a choking sob.
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