Chapter One

Wesley forlornly wondered into class, her hands in the pockets of her plaid purple, blue and black uniform skirt. And, head hanging with an ashamed posture, while the locks of wavy strawberry hair curtained passed, as she entered. The purple tie seemed to choke her neck, even though it was tied very loosely. Even the top button of her blue shirt was undone, a minor infraction of school policy, but only done so she could actually breathe without being even slightly restricted.

The dreary outside rain tumbled from the sky as if it didn't want her to be the only miserable one standing on the grounds of Usherwood co-head high school in the middle of spring. Everybody had to stay cooped up inside, much to their dismay, instead of enjoying the weather that was supposed to be perfect for running, raging, and ranting. But, as per usual, if Wesley feels dreary, the weather doesn't feel so hot either. Perhaps if it were a happier day, things would be okay. Then everyone could venture outside, and she could disappear in a brilliant book waiting just for her in the school library. But, not today, the library would be cluttered with people looking for some place dry.

There is nothing worse than going into a classroom except going into a classroom containing the person Mike. Michael Robert Banks, younger brother to Calvin Nicholas Banks the school athletic wonder, twin brother to Damian Stephen Banks the schools hotshot wonder, and older brother to Toby Leon Banks, the schools intellectual wonder. The only thing worse than being compared to your older brother is being compared to your twin brother, and the only thing worse than being compared to your twin brother is being compared to your young brother. But, Michael doesn't face just one or two, he faces all three. He is average at fitness, average at hotness, and average at intelligence. Therefore, he goes above and beyond at being the schools bully.

"Well hello, Weasel Brain," he gleefully sniggered with a vicious undertone, walking over and kneeling down before her. Weasel Brain, a name that came about when a oversees teacher whose English was less than perfect attempted doing the role in year seven couldn't manage to read Wesley Branne, but easily pronounced Shylaheekah Frainskin-Tumberland like she knew it off by heart.

"Michael," Wesley nodded, collapsing in her mathematics desk, away from everyone else and wiped the water droplets off her glasses.

"How'z m'favouri' Weasel girl?" He taunted, laughing like he just told the best joke.

"Brilliant!" Wesley sneered sarcastically as she began sorting through her bag for her stuff.

"Well tha' jus' won' do, I'll have t'see t'tha', young Weasel."

Wesley groaned. "Are you unable to discover enjoyment within activities that do not include the harassment of fellow students?" Whenever circumstances forced her to converse with the reincarnated medieval torturer, she always made sure to use unusual words that are not in common use to oppose his slurred way of speaking.

He vigorously laughed again, something he does often in her presence. "'N' leave ya a' th' mercy o' all them nice people bound t' cheer ya up, I don' think so."

"Your kindness does overwhelm me."

"Oh, I'm kin' now, well, I'll jus' have t' see t' I' ya don' ge'[ tha' impreshun agen."

A quiet sigh escaped her mouth. "Fantastic, now, I do beseech, why must you converse with me?"

He flashed a mischievous grin. "Well, well, well, i' tha' suspishun I detect? Wha'eva reasin woul' ya wanna suspec'me? "

"Well, I would in fact read you my list; however, I regret to inform you that such list I as unable to produce at this moment as at home I was forced to abandon it. Unfortunately, my list now is oversized at such a degree I was unable to collocate within my backpack."

"Oh, then I'guess I'll neva know how t' gain ya trus' 'n' b'come'a be'er persin."

Wesley cringed at his appalling pronunciation, by mistake, showing Michael her annoyance at his speech.

Again Michael guffawed, but decided there were people of more interest elsewhere.

The morning bell rung and all the students not having first spell in that class dragged themselves through the door, away from their friends, causing a tight jam as others tried to push inside. Everybody who was already inside took their designated seats, including Mike, who flashed a mischievous smile again, causing Wesley to remember her school bag was sitting right at his feet, and his hands were out of view for the entire time he was talking to her. She glared at him, and he was watching her with anticipation. However, within seconds, she completely forgot what with all the commotion at the door distracting everyone. Somehow, everybody got to their desired side, including Mr Cass, the maths teacher who managed to squeeze his oversized belly through the crowd.

Mr Cass ran his fingers over his bald, round, pink head as if he had hair, and eyed each person like a tiger, stalking its prey through the tall lengths of grass. He straightened his tie before snatching a piece of paper off his desk.

"As you should know class," he began in his husky, old voice, "yesterday, two people stole a whole box of nutty peppermint crunch ice blocks from the café here at school yesterday. The board thinks this is an act of some sort of vengeance since we have decided to no longer stock them since they are unpopular."

Wesley groaned for the second time that hour. "Please say you're joking Mr. Are there anymore left?"

"No," he chuckled accusingly, "and you would know that since you and Mr Banks are the thieves."

Shaking her head she spoke. "Okay, one, which Mr Banks? And, two, no I did not."

"Well, Miss Branne, there are five people who eat those ice blocks. You are one, as well as, Mr Banks, Mr Vano, Mr Rangi, and Mr Wright. Mr Wright is a brilliant pupil with a future; he already has a scholarship to Victoria University, so he wouldn't risk expulsion for that. Mr Vano was in detention with Mrs Wake. And, Mr Rangi was at home sick that day. That just leaves you and Mr Banks, and considering a witness saw a boy and a" he paused for effect, "girl, committing the crime, it's safe to say you were one of them, along with Mr Banks."

"Okay, one, which Mr Banks? And, two, no I did not."

"An', three," Mike butted in furiously, "wha' evidence d'ya have against me?"

"I never said it was you, Michael." Mr Cass snarled.

"Yeah, bu' my bruvers don' li' those ice blocks, y'have t' b'referring t' me."

Mr Cass growled like he had some sort of plan that was just thwarted. "I wasn't talking to you, Mr Banks. We know it was you and Miss Branne here, so you two can get your butts off down to the principal's office and confess."

It was Wesley's turn to growl now. "That guy has tortured me since I first met him, never would I ever join up with him in anything."

"Well, the evidence against you is clear! I don't have time for your games you two, pack up your things and get moving!"

Furiously, Mike bolted up, slamming his fist on the table in the process. "I did not steal anything, least of all with that wretched weasel!" Any other time and Wesley would have congratulated him on his correct pronunciation, but now is not the time for sarcasm and jokes.

"How do you know your witness was accurate, who was it anyway?!"

"The café lady, Mrs Dubose, she is the witness, and she saw you two!"

"So, you are saying she saw our faces!" Wesley drilled her eyes into Mr Cass.

He hesitated. "I said I don't have time for your games!"

"Did she or didn't she see our faces!" Mike glowered menacingly. His extra height and bulkiness for his age seemed to intimidate Mr Cass more than her average sized ways.

"She saw one red-headed girl in a long, pink skirt and brown jacket walking beside a Maori or Polynesian boy in a red t-shirt and track pants, and they had the box between them. You do the maths!"

"I was unaware I owned a brown jacket, and I certainly would not wear it with a long pink skirt!"

"And, why not?" Mr Cass queried disbelievingly, like he knew he was right.

"They look perfectly horrid together!"

"Damian is'th'only one i'our fam'ly tha'has a'red t-shirt. He ha' one sto'en a while ago. Since Damian 'n' I ar' identical, he ge's red, I ge' blue."

And, there goes the pronunciation award he was going to win. Wesley internally sighed.

Mr Cass' already pink faced suddenly burn red with anger as the two kept providing reasons why it couldn't have been them. If you prove Mr Cass wrong, you are immediately on his bad side for the rest of high school, no matter what you do. And, he'll do everything he can to ensure you fail. There's even a rumor that one kid who proved him wrong, he send a hit man to kill him as revenge. And, the only reason he is still working there is because they never found proof. But, only the stupid believe such a rumor, and those are people who usually get good reports in maths. Everyone else has their parents thinking they're flunking.

"You two, get to the principal's office and confess!"

Mike and Wesley glanced at each other almost reading each other's thoughts. There is no point discussing this now, Mr Cass has already decided he's right. Their only hope is that the principal has a more open mind than Mr Cass. Hopefully, the principal is more understanding and open to other possibilities.

They both collected their stuff and boldly exited the room, so as not to give Mr Cass the impression he has defeated them. If that happened, he'd use it as evidence of their guilt. "They shamefully exited my classroom," he'll say in the husky, old voice of his. When Mr Cass is accusing you, he'll look for all signs of guilt, even body language, his favourite, even though the old prune can't actually read it.

Mike and Wesley stood motionlessly in the hallway, suspiciously staring at each other just passed the door so Mr Cass couldn't see them. Much of Wesley's cold stare, emulating from her bold crayon green and crystal blue eyes, was blocked by her glasses, but enough managed sneak passed and defend her against Mike's deep dark, almost black, eyes. His eyes didn't seem to shed as much suspicion, as if he already thought it wasn't possible she could have committed the crime. Around them, the vicious, suspicious, threatening air encased them in a cocoon of distaste towards each other. Mr Cass' voice could be heard inside the classroom while he started the maths lesson that should already be half over, as they continued their staring. Around them was silence, except for Mr Cass, as they waited for each other to break it, to admit and say who their partner in crime was so the other can go free. Somehow, it seemed unlikely either would admit to it, not even Mike, who despite his reputation as a bully, has always admitted to something he has done, no matter what it is.

Wesley broke the silence. "Tell me straight, Mike, you owe me that, did you steal the ice blocks?"

"I promise you Wea… Wesley I didn't." The way he said 'you' was peculiar, like there was a hidden undertone. And, he was even taking the time to speak properly.

"Then we better find a way to prove we're innocent. Come one."

Principal Jerkins was waiting for them as they shyly entered that office. She glanced up at the two, a confused look washed over her face as she noticed Wesley entering with Mike behind. Wesley noticed her nose jutting out from her face, as if it wanted to greet them. She tied her hair in a fashionable bun upon her frail old head. Saggy eyelids shadowed over what could have been piercing blue eyes when she was younger.

The principal's office was rather large, with green-grey carpet like wallpaper, and cloudy grey ceiling and carpet. Her wooden desk hid in the corner of the room, as if it were trying to protect her from evil killers who may enter the large office. Pictures containing mottos for students who must endure being stuck in her presence in this cold, dreary place, hung on the wall trying to add some sort of illumination to the area, but only made everything appear more depressing. The principal's office, the most depressing room in the school, and they had to journey there.

Wesley and Mike took the soft, comfortable seats across from her and her desk nervously, Wesley more than Mike. Although he has been here many times, Mike has never come for something he didn't do. And, Wesley has only ever come to complain with her mother about Mike.

"Well, this is a surprise; I certainly didn't expect you Wesley to be the sort who would steal from the school, especially to an extent like this, and with the very guy you and your mother often come and talk to me about bullying you," Mrs Jerkins shook her head sadly. Mrs Jenkins personality is usually quite the opposite of her office. "Paul said he knew who the culprits were, but I never expect you to be one of them."

"We're not, Mrs Jerkins, for once in my life, I didn't do it." Mike defended.

"I'm afraid I can believe it was you Mike, but Wesley is another story. She has never been in trouble for anything, not even had one detention, yet Paul still believes it was her, and still, he believes she did it with you."

"W-When d-did it h-happen?" Wesley stuttered nervously.

"The robbery?" Mrs Jerkins asked.

Wesley nodded.

"Yesterday after school, when Mrs Dubose was packing up. She saw the culprits running away."

"Time?"

"Around three forty five."

"I would have been walking home then." Mike broke in.

"With your brothers?"

"Usually yes, but that day Calvin had a sudden rugby or relay or something practice at Shire Park, Damian was invited to hang out with some friends after school, and Toby was having a get together at Maccers with a bunch of brainy people."

"Okay, that happened to happen on the same day the stuff was stolen. Did you get home on time?'

"No, Calvin, the athletic one, sets the pace. I'm normally a slow walker, and some idiot's car burst into flames on the road I normally use, so I had to find a different route which took ages as the blocks where we live are huge."

Mrs Jenkins nodded. "I read about the car burning last night, they say someone messed with the motor, but can't find any leads onto who did it. It was Mr Cartwright's car that was burning. Someone wanted it to burst into flames, probably a bunch of kids looking for some stupid entertainment." She turned towards Paul's other accused person. "What were you doing at the time, Wesley?"

Watching how Mike handled the situation filled Wesley with confidence. If she continued as a stuttering wreck, he'd annoy her about it forever. There is no way he is going to tease her forever for looking like such a sissy in the principal's office. It's not like it's the first time too, but she has never been in for something bad. "I was on my run."

"Alone?"

"Alone. I normally run with Alice, my neighbor, but she was having a bad allergic reaction. Some kid was selling cookies as fund raising, and she bought one. They didn't mention peanut butter was being used."

"Wouldn't the nuts have given it away?" Mike asked.

"They were peanut butter biscuits covered in chocolate, the kid called them chocolate cookies."

Mrs Jenkins stared thoughtfully at the picture of her cat on her desk, a deep look of concentration on her face. "It is interesting how circumstance lead to the two of you being alone at the time of the crime."

"My brother's are often meeting up with other people after school for whatever reason," Mike stated. "It's not like it's the first time."

Wesley broke in. "I've been wondering this for a while, why didn't they practice running or rugby on the school field?"

"It was last minute, so the field was already booked for soccer, but then the coach, Mr Cartwright, couldn't come because his car was stolen so it was cancelled." Mike explained, laughing a little.

Wesley's mind formed questions in her head, as all the pieces laid on the table circulated around like a tornado of brainwaves. "You're right, Mrs Jenkins, it does seem kind of odd that all this stuff happened on the same day."

"And the only reason I think that is because you are thought to be a culprit, Wesley," Mrs Jenkins rested her chin in her hand, again staring at her cat in deep concentration. "I think you must have been framed, Wesley."

Mike chirped up, happily. "Then I was framed too."

Mrs Jenkins gave him a doubtful stare. Clearly, she still thought he was a culprit.

"There is no way Mike was involved in this." Wesley said reluctantly. Part of her wanted him to have had something to do with it, just a little bit at least, but, if he did, he would admit straight away, as he has always done with any infraction he commits. Suddenly, she remembered her bag this morning. "Forget what I just, actually, I just have to check something."

Wesley reached for her bag by her feet. When she stuffed everything in, it all went into the biggest pocket at the back, but she didn't open the small pocket at the front. Resting the bag on her lap, she watched the pocket wearily for any signs of danger. It seemed to move and rustle about, like a small creature is in there.

"What is in my pocket?!" Wesley snapped viciously and her tormentor.

"A mouse," Mike spoke plainly.

Wesley hastily opened the pocket, revealing a beautiful white mouse hidden inside, begging to exit the closed in space. It pocked its nose up at her, watching to see if she were friend or foe, afterwards quickly deciding that perhaps the small pocket isn't so bad, and hiding inside for safety. Carefully, Wesley removed the mouse from her school bag pocket, and watched it sitting in her hands as it tried to work out what to do, and how to do it. Its nose tickled the palm of her hand as it sniffed for clues about its holder, much to Wesley's amusement. She smiled, caressing its back softly as it sat in her hand, fitting perfectly like it belonged there.

"Why'd you put such a sweet little thing in my bag?" Wesley asked, not really looking at Mike.

"I thought you'd scream, most girls scream over mice." Mike groaned, clearly annoyed at the showing affection towards the critter.

"Nah, I love the little things," she laughed, before staring up at Mike with a vicious expression, "and, I would hate you right now if I didn't. You're lucky I do."

Mike chuckled. "Judging by your expression, I'm sure I am." His mischievous grin popped onto his face, before he coolly spoke. "Guess next time it'll have to be a frog."

Wesley laughed confidently, ignoring Mike. It's probably best he doesn't know she catches frogs at the river behind their house with Cherry and Christopher, her younger five year old twin siblings.

Mrs Jenkins growled. "Well, I'm not so impressed, Mike. You've done this one before, and then complained when Whitney nearly killed the horrid thing. If I see another creature in my office, I promise you will be suspended!"