Mystery and Mayhem

A story by Ellie O’Mordha, age 11, Dublin

Annie felt a sharp pinch on her right arm, and her best friend Riley slipped her a crinkled piece of paper. It read: MEETING AT BREAK. Annie gave a slight nod of her head, still gazing innocently at her teacher.

When the bell rang for break, Annie jumped up quickly, grabbed a rosy red apple and hurried over to Riley. “Annie, I think we have a mystery at last!” blurted out Riley. “Rumour has it that Martha James, the school principal’s daughter, has been kidnapped. Ms James found a ransom note on her desk this morning saying that if she stepped down from her role as school principal, Martha would be returned!”

Riley’s eyes sparkled and her face lit up. “This is our chance, Annie,” she said softly.

“Let’s go and discuss this in the library, Riley. It’s too noisy to talk out here,” said Annie.


They went indoors and settled in a cosy corner of the library by themselves. Riley opened her mouth to speak but we will never know what she was going to say. For at that very moment, the handle of the door opened and in walked Ms James! She had left the principal’s office to collect some documents from the library.

The girls crouched behind a red chair in the library, as quiet as mice, barely breathing. Ms James started to pace, muttering under her breath. The girls strained their ears to try to catch what she was saying.

“What will I do? Oh, what will I do?” Ms James mumbled. Suddenly, she came to a sharp halt. The girls wished and hoped they weren’t seen. “I will step down as principal tonight,” and with that, Ms James turned sharply, smoothed her pleated, long silk skirt and walked briskly out.

“The rumours were true,” breathed Annie. Riley said nothing. She was far away, staring into the distance. Together the two girls left the library silently to go to their next lesson with Ms Howard.

Ms Howard was the school’s deputy principal who occasionally taught lessons. Riley had noticed recently that she seemed distracted but put it to the back of her mind. When the lunch bell finally rang at the end of the lesson, Ms Howard told the class to pack up their books and head off to the canteen.

The aroma of hot soup drifted around the school. “Come on!” said Riley and weaved through the corridors with Annie alongside her. They both sniffed hungrily. Soon, dishes of steaming tomato soup were placed in front of them with home-made, crusty bread rolls straight out of the oven.

As they ate, Riley showed Annie a list of case notes she had made. Riley had covered everything and since they were both still a little hungry, they decided to have two chocolate chip cookies to round off their meal before returning to class.

Afternoon lessons were held and, in no time, it was 9pm and time for lights out. One at a time, the girls in their dormitory nodded off to sleep. When the last girl, Emily, finally fell asleep, Riley and Annie pushed their beds together to talk.

Their school, Red Towers, allowed pets and Riley’s big golden retriever Sammy was lying quietly on their beds keeping their toes toasty. The girls talked about the case for hours on end when Riley eventually sat up sharply and said “I’m going to investigate!”

“Shhh!” said Annie, alarmed someone would wake up. “Okay, but please quieten down,” whispered Annie.

The girls both slipped on their silk dressing gowns and soft slippers. Just as they were about to leave the dormitory, Sammy whined loudly. The girls stared at each other in dismay. “We can’t leave him behind. He’ll wake up everyone,” said Riley. So the threesome crept out into the twisting corridors, stumbling a little in the dim light.

Suddenly they saw a dark looming figure sneaking around and they pressed themselves against the wall, hearts beating fast. Sammy growled softly and as Riley laid her hand on his collar, she could feel his hackles rising. The figure turned and checked that nobody was around, not realising that Sammy and the girls were nearby. All of a sudden the figure bent low and disappeared!

The girls ran to the spot where the suspicious figure had gone. There they found some rolled-back carpet and a hard wooden trapdoor! They opened it cautiously and, without warning, they were pulled through!

“Well, well, well,” said a familiar voice. “What have we here?”

“Ms Howard!” gasped the girls. They were both shocked but it made sense to them that Ms Howard was the criminal. For if Ms James stepped down as school principal, Ms. Howard would be the next in line for the job.

Sammy snarled and leapt at Ms Howard but, as quick as a flash, she grabbed Sammy and the girls and led them roughly past a room with a closed bolted door from where noises rang loudly. Biff! Crash! Bang! The girls shared a look of pure terror as they passed the door. Ms Howard looked anxious as she strode past it but this didn’t last long as she shoved them into a different room and locked the door. The girls hammered the door with their fists yelling but Ms Howard walked away, laughing cruelly.

“Hairpin?” asked Riley.

“No” said Annie, confused.

“I have one” said a small voice.

“Martha!” squealed Riley with a beaming smile and reaching for the hairpin from Martha’s shaking hand. Riley got to work busily picking at the lock. In no time at all, the lock clicked open and they all tiptoed out.

As they made their way back to the trapdoor, Ms Howard suddenly appeared in front of them! Sammy snarled in fury and lunged at her, knocking her down. The girls all screamed and ran for the trapdoor.

Ms Howard’s eyes flashed furiously as they clambered out and Sammy bounded towards the girls and leaped out with them, leaving Ms Howard in a rage lying helplessly on the cold, stone floor.

The girls locked the trapdoor and sprinted to Ms. James’s office. They burst in panting breathlessly.

“Mum!” shrieked Martha, flinging herself on Ms James.

“Martha?!” cried Ms James, tears of pure joy streaming down her face. She dried her eyes and said gently, “Please tell me everything, starting from the very beginning” and the whole story poured out.

Ms James phoned the police, and they promptly arrived and arrested the sullen Ms Howard, who looked ashamed and sorrowful.

After all the excitement was over, Annie, Riley and Martha drank mugs of steaming hot cocoa to warm up. “Off to bed now, girls,” said Ms James with a warm grateful smile now that the mystery was solved and her beloved Martha was safe.

As Riley lay in bed about to drift off to sleep, one last thought crossed her mind. “What was behind the closed bolted door?”

Well, that’s a mystery for another day!