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The Ballpoint Pimpernel


Chapter 4

Under pressure from the Ballpoint League (and constant embarrassment), Hopson began to relent. The students' mail was left uncensored, and the study hours were no longer enforced. But the curfews were still firmly in place, and the Honors students were still forced to live in the dorms. Moreover, every time Hopson relented on one issue, he found another way to subdue the students. The Ballpoint Pimpernel and her League were making little headway, if any at all. But they still pressed on.

One day, after about two months of sabotage work from the League, Abigail walked into Calculus and passed Patricia on her way out. As they passed each other, Patricia whispered softly,

"I've found it."

"Are you sure?" Abigail whispered back. Patricia nodded.

"Good. Wait for my instructions." Abigail said as Patricia left the room.

Later on in the day, each member of the League recieved this note:

*Urgent. Meet tonight, 7:00, my room. Destroy this note immediately.*

Signed, of course, with the familiar little flower.

That night, Abigail's room was the scene of whispered confusion and excitement.

"What is it that's so important?" Matt asked.

"Is it the convocation tomorrow night?" asked David. A murmur of approval rippled through the room at that suggestion. The mandatory Honors convocation was a dreaded event every quarter. They were all eager to attack it, just to make it a little more interesting. But Abigail shook her head solemnly.

"No, it's more serious than that." She looked at Patricia. "You all know that Patricia has been volunteering in Dean Hopson's office since we began this private--war, if you will."

"To keep an eye on the enemy," Michele offered, who seemed to know where Abigail was going. Abigail had, in fact, briefed her on what she was about to propose, and Michele gave her full support to it.

"But there was another reason I asked Patricia to do this for us. Students have been disappearing from the college for months, the unfortunate ones that haven't made good enough grades to appease the administration. That's the very reason we started this." Abigail paused, looking for the right words to convince them to take this more dangerous step. "Patricia has found the place where those students have been taken."

Five faces around the room registered extreme shock. This was wholly unexpected. Only Abigail and Patricia had known about this; Abigail hadn't wanted to raise their expectations if Patricia couldn't find it.

"These students have been kept in a sort of prison-school for months, being fed information day and night, with nothing to eat but cafeteria food. Even that is sometimes withheld if they slack in their studies. They are denied all contact with the outside world and forced to sleep on dorm beds. Their parents haven't seen them or heard from them at all; no doubt they are worried sick. I think it's time we take our operation a step further, don't you?"

"What do you mean, Abigail?" Stephanie asked.

"We can't get all the students out of there, but I'm sure we could get some, at least, and return them to their families."

"Rescue missions?" asked John. "It's a thought . . ."

"It's a worthy cuase," Abigail said. "They're keeping these students under lock and key without just cause. Someone needs to get them out. Remember what I said when we began; if we don't do it . . ."

"Who will," Michele finished softly.

There was a moment of silence, oddly reminiscent of the day the League was formed. Finally, they all stood up at once.

"We will," Jenny said firmly.

* * * * * * *

In his next visit to the "Honors Reform School," Alain Chambertin didn't expect to find what he did. Making his rounds to the "rooms" (which were little better than prison cells), he found that three of the fifty students on the first floor were gone. In each empty room he found a note, in the same distorted handwriting he had come to know and hate over the past couple of months.

*Don't worry yourselves about trying to find them. You will not find them, and very soon they will be out of your reach. I warned you that you'd wish you took my advice, did I not?*

In a fit of rage, Chambertin tore the three notes each in two pieces and threw them on the ground, storming out of the room. On the floor of the empty room, three flowers in black ink were left as the only evidence that anyone had ever occupied it. But down the hall, Alain Chambertin entered his office and sat down at the desk, fists and teeth clenched in anger.

"You've gone too far, Ballpoint Pimpernel," he said quietly. "I'll find you, and when I do, you'll regret it for the rest of your life."

On to Chapter 5
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