Third Excerpt from The Lady in Red

Hi everyone. In today’s blog I want to share with you another excerpt from my published horror novel ‘The Lady in Red’ which is available on amazon. In the upcoming scene young Paul Stanley the main character of the novel is hauled in front of the Headmaster at his school to explain his unruly conduct in class. His mother (a teacher at the school) is asked to attend the disciplinary proceeding which follows. When she arrives in the Headmaster’s office and discovers her son has been charged with attacking a fellow pupil and not just any pupil but one of his best friends she is understandably appalled. Her feelings on the matter become that much stronger when Paul admits to the offence. We join the scene as Paul tries to explain himself:

The Headmaster let out a deep sigh as he explained the situation to Margaret. “Paul’s teacher told me he had been getting more and more objectionable in class.  He became aggressive towards his fellow pupils when they were having a spelling test.  At first this took the form of petty remarks he aimed at them.  However, matters soon spiralled out of all control and he attacked one of his classmates…”

“Paul?” Margaret turned to her son with a look of disbelief.  “Please tell me you didn’t do any of this.  Come on: speak up! You didn’t hit another child.  Tell me you didn’t.”

“I’m afraid it’s all too regrettably true,” informed Mr. Barlow.  “I think you can see by your son’s demeanour that he did indeed conduct himself in the unaccountable way I have said.  The strange thing about it is that he picked on one of his friends to torment.  If it had been, say, Andrew Jamieson or Colin Dexter then there might have been some logical reason for his behaviour.  Paul is not alone in having received some harsh treatment from these boys.  They’re a couple of bad apples, I’m afraid to say: real troublemakers who seem to delight in making a nuisance of themselves.  Until today I would have said Paul had absolutely nothing in common with them.  But now I’d have to profess a very different opinion on the matter.”

“Well I never!” was all that Margaret could initially blurt out.  Turning once again to her son, she shot a venomous look at him.  “I want answers, Paul, and I want them now.  Why did you act in this unsavoury manner? Come on: out with it or there’ll be even more trouble coming your way, both from the Headmaster and myself.  Just wait till your father hears what you’ve been up to.”

“Please, Mum,” begged Paul.  “Don’t tell Dad about this.  He’ll kill me.”

“Well,” sighed Margaret.  “Maybe you should have thought about that before.  Whatever came over you in class today? Can you answer me that, at least?”

“I don’t know,” began a faltering Paul.  “It felt like it wasn’t really me saying those things to Alan.  Before I knew what I was doing, I had him by the throat and kept hitting him over and over again.  He was on the floor while I was kneeling over him and I squeezed his throat tighter and tighter until he began choking.  Even then I didn’t stop.  It took Mr. Arnold to pull me off him.  All the time I was acting so crazy it was like somebody else was making me do these things…”

“What  do  you  mean  somebody  else?”   asked  Mr. Barlow.  “Are you suggesting someone put you up to this? Is that what your little performance in class was all about, young man? Were you doing somebody else’s dirty work?”

“No, no, no!” stormed a near tearful Paul.  “That’s not it at all.  Unless…”

“Unless what?” asked Margaret.

“Oh, it’s nothing,” shrugged Paul.

“No,”  persisted  an intense  Margaret.    “You  were about to say something and I want to know what it was.  What aren’t you telling us?”

“Well,” Paul wore a doubting expression as he looked first at his mother then at the Headmaster,  before bowing his head in shame.  “You’re not going to believe what I say.  You’ll think I’m being silly…”

“No we won’t,” assured Margaret in motherly tones.  “Come on: you’re in enough trouble as it is.  I’m sure Mr. Barlow will listen to whatever you have to say with an open mind.”

“Yes, that’s quite right,” smiled the Headmaster.  “And just consider this for a moment, Paul: if you are able to give us some information which could in any way explain your uncharacteristic actions in class, then it will act in your favour.  Perhaps, for instance, you were acting for someone else as I suggested before.  If that’s so, then it would be in your best interests to speak up now.”

Paul raised his head at this point, but he still wore a haunted look.  It was as if he was deeply troubled in some way, but was unable to explain his situation to the two grown-ups.  However, he decided to make a stab at it, whatever the consequences might be.

“Well,” he began in a hesitant manner.  “What I was trying to say before was that a strange feeling came over me in class.  I couldn’t explain it then and I still can’t.  But it was like I wasn’t the one who was hitting Alan.  How could I be? He’s one of my best mates.  So why would I attack him like that? No, that didn’t make any sense at all…”

“And I’m afraid you’re not making much sense, either,” put in Mr. Barlow.  “What’s all this talk of it not being you? Is that a roundabout way of admitting your own guilt? After all, it’s as I said before: your behaviour in class today was totally unlike your normal self.  You’re usually a model pupil.  You’ve never been in trouble before.  But saying you acted out of character is just not good enough.  I want to know why you conducted yourself in the manner you did.  Only then will I truly believe we’re getting to the bottom of the matter at hand.  Now…”

“But Mr. Barlow, Sir,” protested a fraught Paul.  “I wasn’t meaning anything like that.  When I said it didn’t feel as if I was the one hitting Alan, I was telling the truth.  It was almost as if I had become possessed by a demon or something that was taking me over and was making me do things I didn’t want to do and that I had no control over my actions…”

“Oh really, Paul!” scolded Margaret, while the Headmaster shook his head at the boy’s fanciful words.

“You surely don’t expect either myself or Mr. Barlow here to believe such childish nonsense, do you?”

“But you asked what happened to me in class and I’m telling you.”

“What we were looking for,” pointed out the Headmaster, “was a reasonable explanation for your conduct in class, something which would satisfy us and help us to see the situation from your perspective.  Instead you speak of demons and of being possessed!”

“Oh,” sighed Paul.  “I knew you wouldn’t believe me.  It must be that dream I had which made me act the way I did.  I thought there was something weird about dreaming of a man being strangled to death.  I  bet that’s how the demon got inside me in the first place…”

“Right, my lad!” Mr. Barlow slammed his fist on the desk as he shot a menacing look at Paul.  “I’ve had quite enough of your stupidity for one day.  First you attack a classmate, then you concoct this fantastic story of demons and possessions to try to confuse the issue.  Well, it won’t work, I can tell you that.  In fact, I’ve got a good mind to increase the punishment I had in mind for you before this little meeting.  However, I’m prepared to deal with you leniently seeing as this is the first time you’ve been in trouble.  But if there’s any repeat of your disgraceful behaviour of today then I’ll take a much firmer line with you.”

“Don’t worry, Mr. Barlow,” assured Margaret.  “Paul won’t behave in this way again, not if I can help it.  That’s correct, isn’t it, Paul?”

The disgruntled boy could do nothing else but sit meekly by his mother and nod lamely.  But how could he be sure it wouldn’t happen again? After all, it hadn’t really been him who had attacked Alan.  Somebody else had been behind his wild behaviour earlier in the day, Paul was convinced of that.  But what chance did he have when he couldn’t make either his mother or the Headmaster believe in his innocence?

It was thus a case of having to grin and bear it for the moment at least.  However, Paul was inwardly dreading his next meeting with dark forces.  He hated this prospect with a passion which was out with his childish years.

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