فصل 13

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فصل 13

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CHAPTER THIRTEEN

In the Cafe

Peter stopped the lorry outside Manor Park Secondary School. Then he looked at his watch. It was already eight o’clock. The school looked dark and closed. Peter got out of the lorry and then he noticed that there was a light on in one of the rooms. Peter went over to the window and looked in. There was a man of about sixty cleaning the floor of the classroom. Peter knocked at the window and the man looked up. The man saw Peter and opened the window.

‘What do you want?’ the man asked. ‘I’d like to have a talk with you,’ Peter replied. ‘I’m very busy at the moment,’ the man said. ‘It’s about Mr Stevens,’ Peter said.

‘Oh,’ replied the man, ‘you’d better come in then and we can have a talk.’

The man was the school caretaker. He cleaned the rooms and took care of the building. The caretaker let Peter in and they sat down in the caretaker’s room together.

‘What do you want to know about Mr Stevens?’ asked the caretaker carefully. ‘Are you from the newspapers?’

Peter shook his head. ‘No,’ he said, ‘and I’m not from the police either. I’m a friend of Mr Stevens’ nephew, John.’

‘Ah, yes,’ said the caretaker. ‘John has been arrested by the police.’

Peter nodded. ‘That’s right,’ he said, ‘but I think the police are wrong. I don’t think John killed his uncle. Did you know Mr Stevens well?’

‘Yes,’ replied the caretaker, as he lit a cigarette. ‘I’ve been working here for nearly twenty years and Mr Stevens had been here for ten years.’

‘What was Mr Stevens like?’ asked Peter.

The caretaker thought for a moment before saying anything.

‘He was always very pleasant to me,’ the caretaker continued, ‘but his pupils did not like him.’

‘Why not?’ asked Peter.

‘Mr Stevens lost his temper very quickly,’ said the caretaker. ‘He got angry very easily. He had fixed ideas about his pupils. Once he got the idea that a particular pupil was bad, he would never change his opinion.’

‘Did Mr Stevens ever hit his pupils?’ asked Peter.

‘I think so,’ replied the caretaker, ‘but it would be better for you to ask some of the boys themselves.’

‘Where can I find some of them now?’ asked Peter.

A lot of the boys go to a cafe about a kilometre from here, close to the Scala Cinema,’ the caretaker replied. ‘If you go there you’ll find some of Mr Stevens’ pupils.’

Peter thanked the caretaker. He left the school and drove down to the cafe which the caretaker had told him about. The cafe was dark inside and the radio was playing very loudly: See the girl with the diamond ring

She knows how to shake that thing

Oh yes, all right, Tell me what I say.

A crowd of boys and girls aged fifteen or sixteen were standing by the door. Peter went up to them, said hello and then asked them if they knew Mr Stevens.

‘Stevens,’ said one of the boys. ‘I’m glad he’s dead. He was terrible.’

‘Why was he terrible?’ asked Peter.

‘Mr Stevens used to make us look stupid. He used to make jokes about our clothes and say how stupid we were all the time,’ the boy explained.

‘My father’s in prison,’ said another boy, ‘and Mr Stevens used to make jokes about it in every lesson. He used to ask me if I was going to be a thief like my father.’

‘Stevens used to hit us, too,’ said another boy.

‘Why?’ Peter asked.

‘He used to hit us all the time,’ the boy replied. ‘He hit us if we were late, or if we didn’t answer his questions correctly.’

‘What was Mr Stevens like in school on the day he was killed?’ Peter asked the group of boys.

‘It’s funny you should ask that,’ said one of the boys, ‘because he had a big argument in our class that day.’

‘What was the argument about?’ inquired Peter.

‘I don’t remember now,’ said the boy. ‘I think it was because Mr Stevens said that a boy had been rude to him. The boy said he hadn’t, but Mr Stevens shouted at him, and gave him a lot of extra homework to do.’

‘What was the name of this boy?’ asked Peter.

‘I think it was Tommy Logan,’ said another boy.

Peter thanked the boys for their help and asked them where he could find Tommy Logan.

‘Tommy could be anywhere,’ one of them said. ‘He’s got a motorbike. But he usually comes here to the cafe at about nine o’clock, so if you wait you’ll probably see him.’

Peter went into the cafe, got a cup of coffee and sat down. He had been waiting for nearly half an hour when he heard a motorbike arrive outside. A dark-haired boy, wearing a leather jacket, pushed through the crowd at the door. The boy came up to Peter.

‘I hear that you’re asking questions about me,’ he said, staring at Peter. ‘What do you want?’

Peter looked at the boy in the leather jacket. Peter couldn’t remember where he had seen him before. Then Peter remembered. This was the boy he had seen talking to Bob Steel.

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