"Henshaw and the Case of the Missing Blackboard Eraser" Challenge
|by St. George|
Copyright on this story text belongs at all times to the original author only, whether stated explicitly in the text or not. The original date of posting to the MMSA was: 11 Nov 2011
Henshaw and the Case of the Missing Blackboard Eraser
It was an ordinary classroom. It had desks that bore the scars inflicted by decades of schoolboys seeking to liven up dull lessons by using sharp objects to carve their initials into wood. It had a blackboard. The blackboard had a trough beneath it on which lay several pieces of chalk. Above the blackboard was a hook from which a thin yellow cane hung by its crooked handle...
But something was missing, and Mr. Snarey realised the object was missing when he reached behind him. His fingers groped about for the expected blackboard eraser, which he intended to throw at one of his pupils. The throwing of his blackboard eraser was an infallible method of waking slumbering pupils and focusing the attention of inattentive pupils.
As Wilkerson continued to slumber, blissfully unaware of his peril, he drooled a small pool of saliva from his open mouth. The other boys had carefully tucked back the corners of their mouths to suppress grins, and their wide eyes had the unconvincing who-me-innocence of a cat that has just polished off the cream.
Snarey turned to the blackboard and snatched the cane; then he stalked towards Wilkerson's desk, where he cracked the cane down hard. The loud report startled Wilkerson into wakefulness and he leapt from his seat, yelling,
“Wha' the hell?”
The rest was anticlimactic. Snarey unleashed the full and impressive range of his sarcasm upon Wilkerson and then forced the boy to hold out his left hand, with his right hand under it for support.
The cane slashed across Wilkerson's palm, and the boy grimaced in pain. Snarey waited impatiently for Wilkerson to uncurl his fingers and offer his smarting hand for another agonizing cut.
Wilkerson's lips now trembled and his chin quivered. Tears were imminent. With sour satisfaction, Snarey watched the boy once more force his hand to open before saying,
“That will do, Wilkerson.”
For the remainder of the class, Wilkerson surreptitiously nursed his bruised hand, while Snarey surreptitiously used his handkerchief to wipe the board. For some reason, he felt rather foolish that his eraser had gone missing and couldn't bring himself to ask if anyone knew where it might be.
At break Wilkerson's classmates commiserated with him and pronounced the red marks across his sore, swollen paw as very bad luck. Henshaw, who was an enthusiastic reader of detective fiction, went further:
“This is an outrage, and I intend to get to the bottom of it. Whoever took Snarey's blackboard eraser is responsible for Wilkerson getting the cane. If the eraser had been where it should have been, the Snare would have just fired it at Wilkerson to wake him up.”
Henshaw, like Mark Antony, had the ability to whip up indignation in a crowd. By the end of break, twenty-five twelve year olds had determined to assist Henshaw in solving the mystery of the missing blackboard eraser and bringing the villain who had stolen it to swift and painful justice. If Henshaw made himself a nuisance with his endless questions about his classmates' whereabouts at all sorts of odd hours, they were prepared to endure it. When Henshaw asked them to submit to weird indignities involving ink and their fingertips, they did more than endure it. They entered into the spirit of the thing with such enthusiasm that two dorms were covered in inky fingerprints after Henshaw had finished using the fingerprinting ink that had been included in his 'Complete Amateur Detective Kit'. Henshaw had sent off for the kit and paid for it with his own money after seeing it advertised in a boys' magazine.
Of course, Henshaw's activities brought down the wrath of Matron, who did not like the inky fingerprints of boys on the woodwork and the linens. She appeared in very full fig, brandishing a menacing clothes brush, and demanded the boys present their fingertips for inspection. Any boy with ink-stained fingertips was required to drop his pyjama bottoms and lie over Matron's ample lap for two burning cracks of the clothes brush on the left cheek and two on the right cheek. And as all the boys had ink-stained fingertips, all the boys ended up with dark red circles on their tender little bottoms.
Henshaw sniffled a little as he quelled the rebellious murmurs of his sore-bottomed friends:
“This isn't my fault. This is the fault of that blackguard who stole the blackboard eraser! Now more than ever we need to find out who is responsible and make him pay.”
The murmuring continued but it turned against the mysterious blackboard eraser thief.
In the interests of justice, Henshaw visited the scene of the crime. Of course, this visit required that the classroom be empty, which meant that Henshaw had to sneak indoors when he was supposed to be enjoying the fresh air outdoors. It was bad luck that a prefect named Darcy happened to find Henshaw in the midst of his investigations and perversely insisted upon mislabeling the situation as being out of bounds.
With a combination of resignation and indignation, Henshaw gave up the messy grey powder he had been sprinkling liberally around the classroom and which had also been part of his 'Complete Amateur Detective Kit'.
Darcy also made Henshaw touch his toes for three fierce whacks of Darcy's size 8 plimsoll. Darcy enjoyed the experience, for Henshaw's tight grey shorts made a firm, round target. The rubber sole of the plimsoll bounced off Henshaw's bottom as though the bottom itself were rubber, which encouraged Darcy to whack a bit harder each time. Darcy hated when the plimsoll seemed to sink into a bottom, but paradoxically felt the need to see the plimsoll smash the bottom down a bit.
There was a hard whack to Henshaw's left buttock, which burned and stung brightly before subsiding to a dull throb. There was a harder whack to Henshaw's right buttock, which burned so intensely that Henshaw felt as though the top layer of his hide had been scorched away. The hardest whack was low and right across the middle, seeming to carry its heat to the core of Henshaw's body.
Henshaw stood as soon as Darcy released him, shuffling from foot to foot, and longing to rub his aching bottom. Darcy had enjoyed watching Henshaw's squirming buttocks attempt to squeeze the sting out, but he wasn't cruel enough to prolong Henshaw's misery too long. He sent him on his way and went in search of other transgressors.
Nothing daunted, Henshaw returned to his investigations, more determined than ever to find the thief of the blackboard eraser. Not knowing where to turn next, he fell back on hoping something would turn up; and it was not long before something did turn up in the form of an anonymous note on his pillow that evening. The note was written in block capital letters, as its composer did not have the time and materials to paste together a note of letters cut from newspapers. It read:
THE THIEF HAS HIDDEN THE ERASER IN THIS DORM
Henshaw announced to his dorm mates,
“All right, this note says the eraser is hidden here. Let's search!”
An enthusiastic but destructive search began in which covers were torn from and mattresses pulled off beds. Not surprisingly, every boy except Henshaw became distracted and soon a pillow fight was underway. The noise brought Darcy, and he swooped down on the dorm with his plimsoll in hand. His baritone carried over the excited treble tones of the younger boys and quelled the riot.
“Silence! What is going on here?”
Henshaw put himself forward to explain,
“Um, er... someone left a note that said old Snare's, I mean Mr. Snarey's missing blackboard eraser is hidden here and we were just searching for it.”
Darcy gave a significant look at the small locker which sat at the foot of Henshaw's bed. Henshaw's was the only locker not opened and rifled through. With great deliberation Darcy opened the locker and searched through it. A gasp went through the dorm when he held up the missing eraser.
The nonplussed Henshaw stuttered,
A fierce glare from Darcy silenced the confused whispers that had begun. He grasped Henshaw firmly by the arm and said,
“Right, you lot – not one word. I'm closing the case of the missing blackboard eraser. I'm taking Henshaw to the Head, and by the time I get back, I want to see this dorm restored to order and every one of you with your pyjama bottoms down, bent over the end of your bed.”
As Darcy marched Henshaw to the Head's office, Henshaw protested his innocence.
“But I've been framed, Darcy. Don't you see, the real thief put the eraser in my locker to incriminate me. I would never have hidden it there myself, and besides – I've been in trouble several time trying to find the thief. Doesn't that show I'm innocent?”
Darcy's heartless reply was,
“Oh, I'm sure you are innocent, Henshaw, but you are causing all sorts of disruptions with your investigations. I'm taking you to the Head for being a silly little boy, not a thief. I hope he gives you six of the best. Perhaps that will cure you of snooping.”
Ten minutes later, the Head had heard the entire story and Henshaw was bent over the arm of a leather chair. His pyjama bottoms were pooled at his ankles and the traces of his encounters with Matron's clothes brush and Darcy's slipper were visible on his bare, quivering, long-suffering bottom.
The Head, however, had been interrupted while enjoying his nightly glass of sherry. He was not inclined towards mercy.
“Henshaw, I am giving you six of the best, and after each stroke, I want you to repeat: 'I am Richard Henshaw the nosy parker schoolboy, not Hawkshaw the Detective.'”
The Head drew the cane back and brought it down with a sharp flick of the wrist across the middle of Henshaw's bottom.
“I am... OH!... Richard Henshaw the n-nosy parker schoolboy, not H-Hawkshaw the Detective.”
Another smarting stroke of the cane landed below the first, and Henshaw's bottom underwent some lascivious lifting and clenching before he could find his voice.
“OW! I-I am... Richard Henshaw... mmmmm.... the nosy parker schoolboy, not Hawkshaw the Detective.”
The third stroke stung Henshaw's bottom and he squeezed his cheeks so tightly that the Head reflected Henshaw would have made a diamond if only he'd had a lump of charcoal between his buttocks.
“OW... ow... ow... I am Richard Henshaw the nosy parker schoolboy, not Hawkshaw the Detective.... Oh, Sir!”
The cane sliced a new red stripe below the first three and Henshaw shrieked,
The Head tapped the cane patiently against Henshaw's gyrating bottom and said soothingly,
“Just two more, Henshaw. Hold still now so we can get this over with.”
The cane landed with a vicious THWIP and Henshaw whimpered,
“Ohhhhh.... I am Richard Henshaw the nosy parker schoolboy, not Hawkshaw the Detective.”
The final stroke was a zinger and landed neatly in the crease between Henshaw's bottom and legs. This time he sobbed,
“I'm Richard Henshaw the nosy parker schoolboy, not Hawkshaw the Detective.”
The Head set aside the cane and offered a hanky, saying,
“All right, Henshaw, stand up and pull up your pyjamas. Here, wipe your face. If this is the worst thing you ever have to cry about, you'll be a very lucky fellow. Now get along to bed and let's have no more of this detective nonsense, my boy.”
By the time Henshaw had limped to the dorm, he had managed to get his tears under control. He entered a room of boys rubbing their own sore red bottoms. Displaying his well-striped bottom to the others cheered him enough to say,
“I'm going to get to the bottom of this case one way or the other!”
The other boys formed a circle and began to close in on him. He heard a voice say,
“You've already got to the bottom of it enough to suit me, Henshaw. If I get whacked again because of you...”
Henshaw wisely decided not to voice his suspicions of Darcy. The Case of the Missing Blackboard Eraser was destined to remain unsolved.
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