The Cook (Chapter 11)

The next day, Friday, she finished cutting the potatoes and went outside for some fresh air. From a grey sky, a few drops of rain fell here and there, but it was not cold. Some children saw her and waved.

‘What’s for lunch, Miss?’ they shouted.

‘Wait and see,’ she called back and loosened her purple scarf around her neck. It was almost nine o’clock. She stood beside the wall and watched the schoolchildren slowly go into their class lines.

This time, it did not take her long to find Billy Pugman. At the end of one line near the gym hall, with his big fists quietly at his sides and a gentle smile on his face, he stood and waited.

‘Good,’ she said quietly, ‘very good.’

Out came Mr Tomkin from the main building.

‘Good morning everyone,’ he called.

‘Morning, sir,’ replied the children.

‘Today, we have a special guest and we are going to go to the gym hall to listen to him.’

‘Yeah!’ cheered the children. They loved having guest speakers.

Suddenly, a police officer stepped out of the main building and stood beside Mr Tomkin.

‘This is Sergeant Roberts and….’ Just then, Mr Tomkin caught sight of their new cook’s face. It was as white as snow. ‘What is happening? Why is she looking so afraid? He finished his sentence: ‘…the sergeant is going to talk about road safety today. Please go the gym and sit down.’ He decided she was just strange and began walk towards the gym hall with all the other children.

But not Sergeant Roberts. Now he stood on the steps of the main building and stared hard at her. She stood completely still. ‘Oh, no,’ she thought, ‘he is trying to remember. Please don’t remember.’ Then the sergeants faced changed. His eyes became wide and his mouth dropped open: the poster on the wall in the police station. The woman from Scullwell! He took a step forward, but it was already too late.

In a flash, she was across the playground and at the security door. She took a quick look at dining hall behind her and ran into the street. The security door closed behind her.

The surprise stopped Sergeant Roberts from moving; but only for a moment. He dropped his hat and ran after her. He was just seconds behind. He pulled the security door open and ran into the street. His mouth dropped open. He looked one way, then the other. He ran to Martin’s Fish Bar and looked up that street. Nothing. He turned around and began to run all the way around the wall, but she was not there. ‘Now what do I do?’ He thought about the poster in the police station – about the information on it. ‘I must warn them,’ he said and rushed back to the security door. It was still half-open. He looked down. On the ground, between the door and the lock, was a long purple scarf.

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