There was a shabby grandfather clock in the corner of the office, making the room more cramped than it already was. A second clock ornate and made of gold (at least painted to look so) sat on his desk. It would look more fitting upon the mantle of a fireplace rather than the rickety piece of wood that wobbled on its old legs.
But fitting in wasn’t the point of the clocks, it was more so the old professor could show off his precious trinkets, preening like a magpie. They weren’t even wound up properly, not even with each other. It was driving David insane, the tick of the second hand, now a fast snap of the scuttling legs of time, beat against his ears as he waited. The longer the headmaster said nothing, the more his smile became feral. The professor didn’t see it though, as he was leaning over the pages before him.
“Well, well my boy,” he said shaking his head at the scrawled notes from the school nurse, “what a sorry mess you have gotten yourself into.”
The Headmaster clasped his hands across the pages. David had recognised the foul crone’s handwriting immediately and the scene her words described. Though the words was so clinical and unimaginative. It hardly began to describe the blood and gore, the lifeless body and the look of fear that had turned glassy in Robert’s eyes. His smile became a lot softer thinking over the fond memories.
“You do realise what has happened don’t you? You do understand?”
David’s eyes flicked back up to the Headmaster. He was a man who appeared to have had all the colour drained from him. He looked tired, sighing heavily on his heavy grey moustache. Gone were the sympathetic tones from this morning, as the professor had spoken empty words about a lost pupil that would be remembered with a heavy heart. Now he was just a man, too exasperated to deal with the aftermath of the murder and clearly thought it beneath him.
“I do,” David replied.
“My boy,” he leant over the creaking table and plumes of his stale breath washed over the younger man, “I don’t believe you do. You were in your dorm with Robert, you woke up this morning with his body sleeping barely five feet away from you. If you can’t tell me what happened last night, the police will think it was you.”
“Do you think it was me professor?” he asked, for once wanting to know the man’s banal opinion.
“No, of course not. You’re a smart lad. But I can’t help but be baffled by the situation.”
It was because he refused to entertain the obvious. Of course he wouldn’t, not when the obvious involved one of his favourite pupils.
“You have to tell me the truth,” the headmaster continued, “if you don’t, then I’m afraid I’ll have to contact the police. You’ll be arrested.”
“Have you not called the police yet?”
The professor’s eyes bulged and his stuttering words made the monster within David slither and rise, like the cheap excuses the professor gave him were heavenly choruses.
“No, I understand headmaster,” he interrupted the useless babbling, “I can tell you exactly where I was yesterday evening. I was with Robert. I was killing him.” He paused and thought for a moment, “though, I think he was dead, long before I stopped.”
The headmaster leant away again, pressing himself into the back of his chair with his mouth agape. He was scared. David controlled his twitching leer.
“Come now headmaster, there’s no need for that.”
The ancient man blinked and slowly swallowed.
“Dear God boy. You have given me no choice.” He picked up the telephone from its cradle, still keeping his back pressed against his chair, “I’ll have to phone the police…tell them,” he sighed, more heavy at the loss of David than at the death of Robert. “And then only God can judge you and forgive you.”
“No. It will be the courts that judge me…and you too sir.”
He looked at David with a squinted brow, the phone pressed against his cheek as he tried and failed to understand his student’s words. Shock made all good men freeze like rabbits. The look in the headmaster’s eyes was disappointing though. Robert had the decency for his pupils to go wide, his whole eyes turning black. That look of betrayal and fear stayed there as his face went red then purple then blue. The headmaster just looked at him like he was mad.
“What are you talking about? Have you truly lost all your senses? You murdered Robert, not I.”
“Yes…and you let me. How do you think Robert’s parents will react when they find out this school not only let their son be murdered in his own bed but let his murderer sleep in the bed next to him.” He gasped in mock horror, “can you imagine what they’ll tell the papers? And not to mention, boys talk, in a week’s time there won’t be a governor nor parent who wants to keep this place open when you just let any murdering riffraff in.”
The headmaster’s eyes darted around the cupboard-cum-office. Walls had ears of course and the professor had to make sure there were none here before speaking.
“You’re being preposterous.” The quaver in the old man’s voice, that part of him that wanted to say something else, made David smile and hungrily sunk his teeth into it.
“You know I’m not. Hand me over and the scandal will tarnish the school’s reputation like red ink. But it doesn’t have to be that way,” David crooned, leaning forward, “it doesn’t have to be me. Just some renegade who found his way into the dorms.”
“Or some perverted foreigner, some simple minded brute,” he pressed on, “an unfortunate case of Robert just being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
“Then how, pray tell,” his spittle landed on Robert’s folded hands on the desk. He flexed his fingers, reminding himself that now was not the time to be getting his urges. “did you not hear the gruesome goings on when you slept in the bed beside his?”
“Why headmaster,” he reached over and took the handkerchief from the headmaster’s breast pocket and wiped his hands. He spoke over the professor’s indignant spluttering, “I was with you. We had a lovely late-night talk about the downfall of the Roman Empire and then I went back to my dorm. By that time, the killer had already fled. It was dark, so I didn’t realise what had happened until the housemaid came in the morning.”
She had smelt something off. It had been all the blood, it was hard to miss and the smell had followed him into his pleasant dreams as it had turned cold and stale in the air. He had been proud of his work and had nearly cried when they had destroyed it: the sheets burnt, and the body removed. But he had kept his composure, as he did now, there was no need to ruin a promising future with a few tears.
“I was very distraught over what happened to poor Robert,” he continued, folding the handkerchief, “so you invited me here to give me tea and some words of advice.”
He handed the handkerchief back. The headmaster never stopped looking at him as he crumpled it into a tight ball.
“You have snuffed a good man’s life away,” he said dangerously quiet, “his like will not walk amongst-”
“Yes headmaster, I too heard this morning’s assembly,” he snapped, “but this is a sorry mess. That’s what you called it. And I apologise for causing you that.” Not that he’d apologise for anything else. “But I can help you make this go away. Let his parents mourn and give the police something they’d like to chase. Knowing them, they might even find a culprit.” He was close to laughing and had to bite his cheek to stop himself. “With our good diligent policemen watching over us, we can all sleep easy.”
He bit down so hard that he broke his skin and bled. It didn’t taste as good as Robert’s.
“And what about you?” the headmaster asked.
“What about me?”
“Will you…do it again?”
“Oh no, I promise I won’t,” not while he was here anyway. “I just wanted to see what it was like.” And Robert did deliver.
He smiled as the headmaster looked at him, unblinking. This was almost as good as killing Robert, the tense wait, knowing it could all go terribly wrong. The air tasted of blood even, warm and thick as he hung on tenterhooks.
When hatred burned fiery in the grey eyes, he knew he’d won. It was the pity that he feared, that the headmaster would once again look sorry for sentencing him to prison. The hatred that the headmaster glared out wasn’t for David. It was towards himself, for letting David win.
The professor inhaled sharply, and his moth-eaten moustache shivered as the man ground out the words, “You are excused Mr Kendall.”
David stood, straightening his blazer and dusting his trousers though he knew they were clean. He had to scrubbed them and his hands raw all night to get rid of the blood.
“Thank you, professor.”