The Secret Gate
Published by Michelle Dry
Proofread by Lynda Shea
Copyright Michelle Dry
This book shall not be lent, resold or hired out by way of trade or otherwise without the author’s consent. All rights remain with the author: Michelle Dry
Especially created for little Davina.
Bounce, bounce, bounce.
The person with the most natural bounce I ever met.
Thank you for being an inspiration.
Thank you for advising me that Gargoyles eat walls
– I never knew that before.
What does a kid really remember?
The fastest pace throughout the chase.
Davina hated being chased. So why was she in that situation? With her heart pounding, she glanced behind her. The beefy black-suited men were catching up. She gritted her teeth, put her head down and ran her absolute fastest. Effortlessly, she wove through the crowds with such speed and agility that she was barely even noticed. It was as if a warm breath had been exhaled and then she was gone.
In all directions, the hunters yelled into small lumps of black.
‘Cut her off!’ screamed the voice in charge.
How had the situation grown so out of hand? One minute she was eating from the large dark container on the street, the next she was being hunted. What was the problem? She had watched a hairy man with a long jacket eat from the cabbage smelling place. So why were they picking on her? Admittedly she was small, acrobatic, with long, dark hair and pale skin. Nothing that unusual, other than her blue freckles.
‘Stop right there!’ a brawny bloke had hollered.
Instinctively she had scarpered. The chase began with one angry-looking man and now there were already ten involved. She had done nothing wrong! Well, certainly nothing she could remember.
The screeching sound of the wheeled, metal cages jerked her from her thoughts. Her pursuers intended to surround her. There was no way! She had to escape but she was at that designated place for a reason – but why? There had to be a clue…
Davina rounded a corner and searched for an escape or somewhere to hide. The crowd parted and watched her curiously. She wasn’t panting or making a noise, so why were they staring? Maybe running, climbing and jumping at a rate none of them could manage was something to do with it. Or was she more agile than many children her age? Actually, what was her age? That was a completely different matter.
Ahead of her, two burly black-suits blocked her path. She glanced behind her – four grimacing men, waving their arms, attempted to round her up like a chicken. The onlookers expected her capture and stopped in the street, gawking. Why couldn’t people mind their own business? What did it matter what she had eaten or where she had obtained it from? Maybe they had been monitoring where she slept at night. Had they followed her to the place where people pulled down their trousers and sat for a while before they left again? All she did was climb through a small, square window when the moon rose. It was completely opposite to her usual routine, but she had to live the same rhythm as the ‘outsiders’.
With a deep breath, she sprinted towards the two chunky chasers blocking her path. ‘Idiots!’ she muttered, ran sideways up a wall and used a dustbin to launch herself clear over them.
Some of the gawping onlookers applauded.
With an elegant landing, she continued. As she raced along, she glimpsed a reflection in a window: the two male black-suits huffed at each other, puffed out their chests and lolloped back into a heavy-footed run.
Frantically, she searched for a place to hide. The church – the same church she had woken up outside of on that first day. She hurdled the wall, sprinted the graveyard but ground to an abrupt halt. Something about the carved, stone figures leaning out of the church jogged her memory. Were they associated with her mission?
She scurried to the nearest grey, stone wall, ingrained with yellow and green lichen. Using all her upper body strength and her fingers like claws, she navigated the carvings up to a balcony. The strangely familiar Gargoyle faces appeared to grin at her as she wedged herself into a tiny alcove on the roof. Had she heard a growl of welcome?
Below her, a small pile of steaming stones appeared. They tumbled heavily to the ground. Plop, plop, plop!
Cautiously, she traversed the edge of the roof and found a small nook to hide in. Unfortunately, it was not enough to conceal her from what was overhead. The whirring of blades from a metal flying machine made her jolt. Up in the sky, men shouted into the dark talking machines and called in her location. She caught her breath and clung to the ledge. The wind from the machine was strong and blew her hair across her face. Davina scraped it back and erratically scanned the area for escape. She considered fighting the black-suits directly, but that would give her away. Davina sighed, if only she could remember. ‘Whatever you do Davina – do not draw attention to yourself. She will send people to capture you. This is all you are supposed to remember,’ was all that remained.
What had she done? She had already drawn attention to herself and that meant trouble!
Davina gazed up at the whirring, flying machine and glanced below. The black-suits beneath circled like starving dogs. She had to take action. Her only possible escape was to leap to a nearby tree then across the adjacent field. Could she make it?
Davina took a deep breath launched herself along the balcony. Bang!
The bitter sting of something sharp bit into her behind. Darkness descended upon her. Time was lost with her last thought – who were the outsiders?
Brain drain what a shame.
The stark, grey walls were lined with dark wooden benches. The suspended tubular lights emitted a green glow that made her feel queasy – more queasy. Lemon flavoured bleach tinged the air whilst Davina’s mind remained bleary. The tranquiliser had completely wiped her out, she hadn’t even managed to track her location.
In one of the offices down the corridor, two adults discussed her in hushed voices; they assumed she couldn’t hear. Sergeant Riley, wearing his black police uniform, noisily sipped from a cup of tea served in a blue, china cup. The Sergeant resembled an old bear with the deeply inset lines on his brow and sagging bags beneath his eyes. All the while, Ms Kirk flitted about the office in her long, shadowy dress. She was a hunched, bony women with sharp, penetrating eyes, a jutting chin and lips that naturally turned down at the corners.
‘So what you’re telling me is that little girl outran ten policemen and a helicopter? That kind of behaviour suggests she’s guilty of something,’ Ms Kirk said in a scolding tone.
Sergeant Riley nodded blankly and gazed at the television. It played a news feature with a wind-swept presenter talking about a church with ten extra Gargoyles. Coincidentally, it was the same place they had captured the girl.
‘Did you see that?’ asked Sergeant Riley.
‘Did I see what Sergeant?’
‘That there church is where we were today. Where the girl was rounded up.’
‘What are they saying about it then Sergeant? Is there anything about her?’ asked Ms Kirk sharply. ‘We don’t want any attention!’
‘Nothing about the girl, just that the statues were miscounted in the middle ages. I wonder why she ran there of all places?’
‘Mmm,’ said Ms Kirk stopping mid-stride. ‘The people in the middle ages probably couldn’t count properly because they had fingers missing or hands chopped off for stealing. I think the girl running there is a coincidence Sergeant. You only notice it on television because you were there today rounding up a badly behaved child.’
‘We don’t know for sure that she’s done anything wrong,’ he replied taking another sip of tea.
Ms Kirk stopped her pacing and turned sharply. ‘So tell me that again Sergeant. You chased a girl because she didn’t do anything wrong?’
Sergeant Riley stirred his tea and huffed, ‘Ms Kirk it was an anonymous tip-off. Anyway, she doesn’t seem to remember doing anything at all. What’s more, she seems fascinated by some of the simple things that we take for granted.’
‘Like what?’ Ms Kirk studied the Sergeant with her eyebrow raised.
‘Well she stared at me curiously when she heard the voices down the radio.’
Ms Kirk paced some more, ‘Are you completely sure that she remembers nothing at all?’ she said leaning close to Sergeant Riley.
‘Well only her last few days.’
‘Sergeant Riley that is not nothing! That is something! If she can remember a couple of days then she could very well remember more. You know how these children are always pretending… All this make-believe twaddle they’re fed and look what happens… They start believing it. It’s no wonder there is such a need for a naughty children’s home like this. The thing that’s bothering me Sergeant is why did she run if she’s not guilty of anything?’
Ms Kirk rubbed her cheek with her bony hands. ‘God whoever invented children? Life would be so much easier without them! Anyway, she must know more. Kids don’t forget. They’re like elephants but with smaller brains.’
‘Look I don’t think she’s fibbing,’ said Sergeant Riley.
‘You can never tell. Some children are so well trained at lies that they don’t even know when they are lying themselves. So tell me Sergeant Riley has she been naughty or not? Does she fit the criteria to be brought here?’
‘I don’t know – I didn’t reference the disobedience parameters that you provided. However, there is something very dangerous about her. Her ability to climb, mixed with her acrobatics would suggest something is laying dormant. At times there is something ferocious in her eyes.’
With a stroke of the chin, Ms Kirk digested what was being said.
Folding his arms and crossing his legs, Sergeant Riley appeared to be in conflict. ‘Although, she seems quiet and keeps staring at me with those large, green eyes. Sometimes she does it without blinking too. Then at other times she seems to have so much energy that she practically bounces off the walls.’
Ms Kirk rolled her eyes. She wasn’t surprised. ‘Kids do that to freak you out. Now listen to me. I will only allow her to stay if you can prove to me that she’s been misbehaving.’
‘Well I didn’t want to mention this, but I saw her eating out of a dustbin. That was what originally started the chase.’
‘Disgusting! But Sergeant you chased her because she ate from a dustbin. Then why the use of the helicopter?’
Sergeant Riley flushed red. ‘Ms Kirk, well… that anonymous tip-off said she was a threat – a violent one at that.’
‘Hmm, what exactly did they say?’ she asked, scratching her long, chin.
‘I don’t know the details but my Gov’nor gave me orders to round up a girl fitting her description. He said she was around thirteen, highly athletic with caramel skin. Her description stated that she had green eyes and long, black hair. His source said she was extremely violent and that we had to catch her before she…. well, before she made any attacks.’
‘And… she ran but was not aggressive.’ The Sergeant stirred his tea again. ‘So Ms Kirk will you keep an eye on her?’
Ms Kirk huffed. She didn’t like it. ‘She can stay but if she causes trouble…’
Davina paced back and forth along the gloomy corridor. Did she want to stay in a place where they confined misbehaved children? Was she in some kind of prison? Who had tipped them off? As far as she could see, she had done nothing wrong! Yes, she had eaten out of what they called a ‘bin’ to survive. That was because she had no shiny lumps of metal or drawn on paper to exchange, so how else was she supposed to eat? If she hadn’t seen something called a tramp do it, then she certainly wouldn’t have considered doing it herself.
Davina leant against the wall and waited for the adults to inform her of their plan. They took ages. For some reason they wanted to discuss her further.
‘Is there anything else I should know about her?’ asked Ms Kirk.
‘Well… when she finally spoke, she talked with a strange accent. I don’t think she’s from this country.’
‘You know I don’t like foreigners Sergeant Riley. They scare me,’ Ms Kirk picked up her cup and sipped her tea.
‘Ms Kirk, she’s a child.’
‘How do I know she isn’t a spy? You know this school is still in its trial stages. So what is the accent? French, German, Scottish?’
‘I couldn’t tell you.’
‘You see… there’s something awfully suspicious about not being able to identify an accent isn’t there Sergeant?’
Sergeant Riley shook his head, Ms Kirk’s reluctance was infuriating!
‘Ms Kirk, my Gov’nor, says can you do him a favour and keep the girl here for a short time. Til we find out more? I know you have some spare beds ‘cause you had two girls adopted last week.’
‘They’ll be back before the three month trial is up… mark my words!’
‘Maybe they’ll change. Maybe they’ll like having a home and a family,’ protested Sergeant Riley.
‘They never change, that’s the problem. Once bad – always bad. Rotten children are like rotten apples. Once they turn nasty, they stay that way. That’s the truth and you know it. As they say… even the nice ones turn nasty!’ she said slamming her cup on the table.
Sergeant Riley sipped his tea and sighed. ‘Come on give her a chance. She’s just a kid after all and she needs a bed.’
‘Well where was she sleeping before?’
‘We heard she was sleeping in a cubicle of a public toilet.’
‘Well maybe that is where she belongs: in toilets, eating out of bins.’ Ms Kirk stamped her right foot emphatically, ‘Let me talk to her. She will talk to me! She will tell me everything. Then we will see where she’s really from.’
With the clatter of heels, Ms Kirk stormed out of the office. Davina skidded across to the seat where she was supposed to be sitting. A few of the inhabitants of the home peeked through a door opposite, trying to see who was causing all the kafuffle. Davina studied the other children; they looked scruffy and unkempt, just like her.
An intimidating dark, bony shape emerged from the office. The scowling woman carried an atmosphere of cruelty, the kind of woman who would kick a small puppy. Her features were hawk-like and she appeared to scan every movement for fault and potential criticism.
The clench in Davina’s gut bothered her. The woman ‘felt’ odd. Her skin seemed grey, actually no, it had more of a blue glow and her eyes were pale, so pale that they were like ice. Davina averted her gaze, the presence of the woman made her feel like she was in trouble (even if she hadn’t done anything wrong).
Ms Kirk stomped over to Davina and placed her hands on her hips.
‘Right! What is your name?’
‘Davina – I think.’
‘Davina I think what?’
‘I don’t know. Davina is all I remember.’
‘Okay Davina no name, we are not playing games any more. What is your last name?’
‘I just told you… I don’t know!’
Ms Kirk leaned forwards and stared into Davina’s eyes. ‘You’d better not be winding us up! You’re not here for fun. This is not a fun day out or a bit of a lark! This is the Nadim Naughty Children’s Home. Every child here has been disowned by their parents. Do you understand? Even the parents don’t want these kids anymore because they’re bloomin’ awful! How does that make you feel? Now I assume you are bad because your parents got rid of you. I am correct aren’t I?’
Davina’s lower lip quivered. ‘I don’t know miss. I don’t remember.’
‘Of course you don’t remember! You don’t remember anything do you? That’s a good excuse isn’t it! You mean you won’t remember!’
‘No miss I can’t remember.’
‘Do not call me miss, I am Ms Kirk, I am in charge here and you will demonstrate respect or be disciplined. Now what is that stupid accent of yours anyway?’
‘I don’t know and it’s not stupid!’
‘Have some respect girl! Now you’re not from round here, you’re not even from this country. Where are you from?’
‘I have no idea.’
‘Of course not. You seem to be sticking to that same story. How long have you been practising this?’
‘I haven’t been practising,’ said Davina.
‘Likely story!’ Ms Kirk sighed, adjusted her long, stringy ponytail and placed her hands behind her back. ‘Now… I need you to prove your naughtiness.’
‘I don’t understand.’
‘What have you done that is really bad?’
Ms Kirk spun on her heel. ‘Do you think I was born yesterday? All children do bad things… they’re just excellent at hiding it!’
‘I slept in a toilet and ate garbage. Is that bad enough?’
Ms Kirk came to an abrupt halt and turned slowly, ‘What did you say?’
‘I slept in a toilet and ate garbage.’
‘Disgusting! You are foreign. Do you eat rubbish in your own country? Doesn’t matter… so tell me how old little Davina is?
‘I don’t know I…
‘Don’t remember,’ said Ms Kirk mimicking Davina’s voice.
The locking of Davina’s jaw and the clenching of fists revealed her feelings about the vicious woman in front of her. She had to focus and remain calm, instinctively she wanted to take the woman to the ground but that would no doubt lead to more trouble!
‘Look I’ll let you stay for a short time. But be warned, if anyone else arrives we will kick you out. Do you hear?’
‘Yes ma’am.’ Davina stared at her feet, she had to conceal her rage.
Sergeant Riley smiled and nodded, Davina had a place to stay. ‘I think you should tell her what’s expected of her Ms Kirk.’
‘I was coming to that Sergeant. Stop getting your ten peneth in where it’s not required! So Davina no name… you will do your chores like everybody else. You are not special… do you understand? Then on Thursdays you will line up like everyone else for the selection process.’
‘That’s where desperate people come along and try to adopt a child. It seems all the good ones are running out and some consider the dregs we have here. Can you imagine? Anyway the potential parents choose who they want from the line-up. And before you ask, it’s a new system based on an old system. And don’t think you stand a better chance because you’re cute.’
Davina frowned, ‘I don’t get it.’
Ms Kirk shook her head in aggravation, ‘Haven’t you listened to a single word I said? These unwanted children are here because their previous parents could not cope. There are always do-gooders who believe they can convert them. It never works, they always return within three months… once bad, always bad. You cannot teach any child new tricks.’
‘But why do they come here then?’
‘Questions, questions, questions! Ask your other inmates, I mean kids, I mean children… I haven’t got time for dull chit chat!’
Ms Kirk leaned forwards, her sharp nose almost touched Davina’s nose. ‘From now on you are a Nadim child. That means you are here to repent for all the bad you have done.’
‘What if I haven’t done anything bad?’
‘Then you can repent for all the bad others have done!’ Ms Kirk glowered.
OUT MAY 5th 2017