September 20, 1896
Sarah Waters entered my room with me right behind her. I slammed the door closed as I entered and stood nose to nose with her. She did not blink but neither did I. Anger has a way of giving strength and courage when nothing else will do.
“Why are you poking your nose into Miss Hill’s affairs?” I demanded.
“Why do you care if I do?” She replied.
“I am the one asking questions, Miss Waters. You can either start talking or I will start paddling.” I said.
“Don’t threaten me. I don’t take kindly to it.” She said.
“I’m not making threats.” I said.
I shoved her back by her shoulders and pulled open the drawer of my desk. I reached in and removed the paddle, Mr. Carrington had given me. I waved it at a stunned Sarah and then slammed it down on the desktop with enough force that it made a loud pop. Sarah jumped and no doubt anyone in the hall would assume she was being paddled.
Sarah straightened back up and closed the distance between us again. Her expression hardened and doubt flickered through my mind. I might win a physical battle with her, even that was not certain, but she was stubborn enough I would likely never find out what I needed to know. Perhaps a different tack would have been better.
“You are a student here, Miss Waters. Such position does not give your free reign of the house nor permission to search rooms or invade the privacy of the other girls at this institution. You have a choice and you are going to have to make it right now. Either you explain yourself and your actions or you pack your bags and leave here.” I said.
“What are you afraid I might find?” Sarah asked.
“Pack your bags.” I said.
I turned my back on her and walk to my door. I pulled it open and turned to usher her out. I thought I saw the briefest flicker of fear across her face. Perhaps it was wishful thinking or maybe Sarah Waters is a real woman underneath the veneer.
“You don’t have the authority to expel me from Primrose College.” Sarah said haughtily.
“You are correct, but I do have the authority to expel you from Carrington Manor.” I replied.
She regarded me coolly for a moment before replying. If the prospect of being thrown to the street frightened her she made an excellent performance in hiding it.
“I’ll take my boarding money then and be happy to go.” Sarah said and held out her hand as though she expected me to slap the money in her palm.
“That money is forfeit on account of your behavior and if any refund were to be arranged it would be with those who paid it and not you.” I said.
“I’m certain they will have their own questions about Miss Hill’s supposed suicide.” Sarah said.
I slammed my door closed again. Frustration with this rude, obstinate girl building to the point I wanted wrap my fingers around her neck.
“Why? Talk to me, Miss Waters, if there is something you know about Miss Hill’s death you have no right to keep it to your self. Do you think you are the only one who cares about the truth?” I said, stepping closer to her with every syllable.
“I don’t trust you.” Sarah said.
“That makes us even. Tell me what you know.” I said.
“I know Mr. Parker is a business man who makes his money off the suffering of others. I know his companion Mr. Howe likes to kidnap, torture, and rape the wives and daughters of men who dare to stand opposed to Mr. Parker. I know Mr. Parker orders the death of men with less thought than he puts into ordering a pair shoes. I know you know him and I know he is not to be trusted. Not ever.” Sarah said.
I gasped involuntarily as realization hit me. Things were beginning to make sense although the picture remained murky in spots there was no doubt in my mind Sarah had been hurt by those men. Probably hurt in such unimaginable and unforgivable ways as to make living harder than dying and yet here she stood in my room, full of fire. She hated me, not because of me but because I dared to know the man responsible for her pain.
“I didn’t know.” I said.
“No one knows them like I do.” She replied.
“You think they had something to do with Gloria?” I asked, my brain suddenly making the connection and wondering what had taken me so long to put it together.
“Trouble always follows Mr. Parker. He doesn’t pull triggers, just the strings that make other men pull them.” Sarah said.
“Can you prove anything?”
“Only that Gloria lied about not doing her homework.”
“What is the significance?”
“I was in the classroom when she was spanked. I saw her face. She wasn’t traumatized, she was excited. If she killed herself it had nothing to do with what happened in Mr. Bard’s classroom. She wanted that experience and she sought it out.”
“Why would she do that?”
“If you can’t fathom her reasons, I can’t explain them to you other than to say not every woman is ashamed of her sexuality.” Sarah said.
I blushed at the mere word and the thoughts it evoked. Sarah nodded.
“The sheriff needs to know.” I said.
“The sheriff is most likely on Mr. Parker’s payroll. He should not be informed of anything until there is more substantial evidence.”
“You are going to keep looking whether I approve or not.”
She nodded again.
“I want to help.” I said.