Harriett could read people in a matter of seconds. And it took her less than a second to realise she wasn’t going to like the woman that stood before her. Her stance and her atmosphere-oozed with power, power she clearly didn’t have once she’d left this school building. Harriett could have mentally listed approximately seven things about the woman that stood hovering over her that she disapproved, but the one she found herself repeating the most was the way she was looking at her. Like I was nothing. The woman’s chin lifted ever so slightly. Not in a defiant way, but more so challenging Harriett. This woman wasn’t going to be easy interviewing, and staying calm was going to be even harder, Harriett thought. It didn’t help that the woman was a foot or two taller than her, so any action the woman performed, like gesturing towards a chair for her to sit in, felt like a demand that she was forced to comply with.
Harriett politely declined the offer to sit, knowing if she sat down her height would further decrease along with the power this woman seemed to try to take away from her.
“What can I do for you detective…?”
The woman said sitting behind her desk, speaking whilst rearranging the items that were already neatly organised on the table.
The woman nodded and smiled, in attempt to hurry her along with the conversation.
“Yes, so what can I do for you today?”
Harriett stood behind the seat that was offered to her and brought her pad of notes out, ignoring the blatant hint the woman threw at her showing her lack of interest.
“I have a few questions for you.”
“Regarding the two missing children from your school, Annabelle Adedun and Abiola Lawal?”
Harriett watched her face attentively to see how she reacted to the news about two of her pupils being classified as missing. But only felt angered when the woman shrugged nonchalantly as though she hadn’t taught or known both girls that were students in her own school.
“Detective, I have many pupils in this school. Calling out a name or two won’t help narrow down who you’re referring to. I assume you have photo’s, information or something more specific to help me remember these girls?”
Harriett controlled her anger and plastered a smile on her lips, she’s testing me, she thought. There weren’t many reasons as to why Harriett disliked teachers, but one reason for sure was that they never seem to turn off that patronising voice they used on their students. No matter who you were, teachers were most likely going to speak to you in the same tone they spoke to every child who walked through those gates every morning and who walked out every afternoon.
“I’m surprised you, as the head mistress, is unfamiliar with the names of pupils that attended your school. When I was in school my head teacher made sure she familiarised herself with all the students.”
“Well detective, I don’t know what school you were taught at,” She paused, far longer than needed. The unspoken words added to Harriett’s anger, but she calmed the roaring seas in her mind and allowed the woman to finish. “But it’s not a priority to learn the names in this institution. What is the priority is to ensure the students are learning in a safe environment and are getting the most out of the education we provide for them.”
“How safe can this environment be if two of your pupils were reported missing a week ago, whilst on school premises?”
This had gotten her attention. Straightening her back and squinting her eyes slightly, she looked at Harriett daring her to add to her last comment. With no further addition to her question, the head teacher leaned forward on her desk, resting her chin on both her hands that were intertwined with each other.
“Are you claiming that I – the head mistress – played a part in the disappearance of these two pupils or are you just being disrespectful about the way I handle and run this school?”
“Neither, I just want to know a little about the students and their progression in school. Whether they were failing or not, did they have behavioural issues, was there any complications between the girls and other students?” The head mistress dropped her hand and slowly rose from her chair, not breaking eye contact with Harriett. She slowly walked around the desk, sorting a loose sheet of paper and stood head to head with Harriett.
“You’ve come to me in the middle of the school day, insulted my procedures and as I will take it, have attempted to place me under the suspicion that I may be a suspect of the disappearance of those two girls. Whatever information you are looking for would not be coming from me detective. Maybe try their parents, or close friends but for now I suggest you turn around and leave my office – because there is nothing here to help a person like you with this little case you’re trying to build.”
“A person like me? Being a detective or being black?”
The head mistress bent down just a little so that their faces were a few inches away from each other and slid on a small smile. Looking into Harriett’s eyes, holding her gaze as she spoke, “Either, take your pick.”