James R McFranklin took a step backwards and the table leg struck the ground, wrecking the tiled floor and throwing up dust and chips of cement.
“Ow! Ow! Fuck! I got some in my eye!” said the student.
“Don’t swear, Johnson,” said James R McFranklin, flicking a chip of floor from the shoulder of his jacket. “Go to the nurse.” The student limped off.
The other pupils were now crowded around the base of the fortress, staring at James R McFranklin. “Take it down and put everything away. If the cafeteria isn’t ready for lunch then all of you will be in detention held personally by me. Now, do I have to stay and watch you move every table or are you able to act responsibly about it all?”
Nothing was said.
“Good. I’ll be back every half hour and anybody messing around will get to report personally to my office. Understood?”
“Good.” He smirked, turned on his heel and walked to the kitchen. The lunch lady was next on his list.
The double doors swung inwards and James R McFranklin walked into the kitchen. Doris looked up and saw him. “Thank God you’re here!” she said, “The meat delivery hasn’t come in and those children go crazy if they don’t get their meat!”
James R McFranklin sauntered over to the stove she was hunched by. “Doris,” he said, “have I ever let you down before?”
“No, Mr McFranklin, you haven’t.”
“Then why would I this time? I don’t know why you ever thought I would. What are you cooking?”
“A tikka masala.”
“Push it up to vindaloo levels. We’ll need something to disguise the taste.”
“Won’t the kids find it too hot?”
“You’d be surprised what these kids can handle.”
“Then I can push it up to vindaloo levels.”
“Good. Then open up the air vent above the oven and put a big pot there.”
“I don’t know what you’re up to, Mr McFranklin, but I’ll trust you on it.”
James R McFranklin left the kitchen and went to the maintenance rooms. The door was locked, but he kicked it in, readjusting his sunglasses afterwards.
Stepping down the stairs into the school’s basement, he made his way to the furnace, switched off for the summer, and began disassembling pipes. The school’s ventilation system was also managed from down here, and he diverted the furnace into there, then switched the whole thing on, leaving the ignition switch for the moment.
Gas flowed out into the vents, he counted under his breath, hit the ignition and listened to the roar that came from the walls and ceiling. They shook around him as he counted down once again, then shut down the furnace. He wiped his hands on a towel and headed back up. As he reached the kitchen he could hear Doris hard at work. He pushed through the double doors.
“Rats!” she cried, beaming at him, “and pre-cooked! You’re a genius, Mr McFranklin. A real life genius.”
James R McFranklin grinned at her, looked at the clock and walked back into the cafeteria. The tower was half dismantled. He nodded and headed back out. Principal Partridge was standing in the hallway, wringing his hands. “Oh man oh man oh man!” he said, “the inspector will be here in no time at all! You’ve got everything sorted out but the school isn’t in a fit state to be examined! He’ll shut us down for sure!”
“Leave it to me, Partridge,” said James R McFranklin.
Fifteen minutes later, District Inspector Townslow got out of his car in front of the school and walked down the the path to the entrance. The sun was shining, the birds were singing and he had two weeks of holiday booked, starting tomorrow. He was going to spend the time fishing, he’d decided, up in the lakes to the north.
The front of the school was looking good, he thought, lots of greenery and plenty of space for the kids to play too. A good looking school is definitely a good sign, he thought. If they could afford to spend time on appearances then they probably didn’t have much else to worry about, which made his job easier. It wasn’t always true, of course, but generally his hypothesis bore out.
The school had received plenty of good reports in previous years, the only thing he worried about was the principal’s personality; he was quite impressionable and Townslow thought that the right teacher could probably walk all over him without him realising.
As he neared the doors, he thought he saw something shining on the roof. He paused for a moment and looked up at it, shielding his eyes against the sun. It looked like there was somebody up there. Weird, he thought, but probably just maintenance. He’d ask the principal about it.
At that moment, James R McFranklin, the coolest teacher, perched on the roof with his sunglasses pushed up on his forehead and his eye to the lens of a high-powered sniper rifle, decided he had the perfect shot.
“Eat shit, motherfucker,” he whispered, then pulled the trigger.
The shot echoed off the nearby buildings and District Inspector Townslow slumped over, a small hole between his eyes and a large cavity in the back of his head. Brain, skull and blood were sprayed over the steps.
After two days, James R McFranklin was killed by a police sniper and the hostages were rescued. The school’s lunch lady had lost it and attacked police with knives as they stormed the building; she was brought down too. Principal Partridge had shot himself in his office.
Over the next few days, more details emerged about James R McFranklin, the coolest teacher. He wasn’t qualified and had talked his way into the post. He’d abused dozens of the children during his time there, endangered countless lives and stolen enough from the school to flee the country and retire forever. He had a stash of illegal firearms, child pornography and sun glasses at his house.