Chapter Four

Wesley and Michael dashed to her house, eager to arrive before the paper boy. Her school bag heavily dragged her shoulders, like rocks had replaced the books, after the torturing eternity day at Usherwood High. But, the thought of collapsing on the veranda with Mike was enough to withdraw all reserves hidden within the depths of her body and carry her at a speed just as rapid as Mike zooming alongside her. Despite the tiredness looming over her, Wesley managed a grin towards the boy beside, as she strained her muscles into travelling at a greater speed, willing her legs to overtake him. Mike goofily shot a sly expression as he suddenly increased dramatically, moving metre after metre ahead with ease.

Mike glanced back at Wesley trailing behind, laughing like a lunatic. He'd been at just passed jogging so Wesley could keep up. However, when she decided to overtake, it was time to show her who is really the boss. The only person faster than he within the whole school is Calvin, his athletic wonder brother. Mike slowed down, allowing Wesley to again run alongside him as they neared her house, and stopped near the letter box puffing.

Ed seems to 'forget' a great deal of houses if you don't wait out beside the letter box and remind him each and every day. Today is newspaper day, and within todays paper should be a front page story on the theft they are being accused of, James promised it would be there. He even gave Wesley a sneak preview, as he interviewed her yesterday, as to the content within the article, and it should be most entertaining. Even Mike agreed it should be entertaining.

In the distance, a hunched figure struggling to balance his newspaper overloaded bike as he pedaled along the tar road towards them unhappily. Glancing up, Ed noticed the two waiting expectantly just for him. A groan escaped his mouth; he had wanted to skip this street entirely. Why did they have to stand their? Why? Pedaling along, Ed, after delivering to all the houses before them, gradually braked beside Wesley and Mike and tossed them the paper, only rewarded with a friendly smile. Pathetic. A tip would be nice; this job just isn't worth the pay.

Bundling inside, Wesley and Mike dragged themselves towards the kitchen for enormous glasses of refrigerator chilled water, topped off with multiple ice cubes.

"Fancy place you got here," Mike remarked, glancing around the cheery cherry red walls, aligned with grey storage units and silver benches. It was all so homey and happy, yet Wesley seemed to treat it with strong detachment.

She shook her head, rustling those golden orangey-red locks of hair. A pale, dejected face washed over, superseding her happier one. "It is one of the nicer places we've had. We're looking after it for some friends until it sells. This family barely makes enough money to cover food. My mum was sixteen when she had me. My father was twenty, and when he found out mum was pregnant, he skipped town. Mum's family also bailed on her too, except Uncle Jim. Then at eighteen, she remarried. But, Tim died a year later, just before mum found out she was pregnant again with Christopher and Cherry. Mum works at Pak'N'Save; however, she is becoming quite ill with depression and struggling to raise my siblings and I. It's hard, but we manage."

They stood in awkward silence beside the sink. Wesley, cursing her for being such a big mouth, gulped down the last few swallows of water, whilst giving Mike a sedated stare.

He hung his head in a solemn fashion and continued to drink to water. Guilt and commiseration boiled deep within his stomach, as it somersaulted around.

They headed to the veranda outback, and collapsed in the deck chairs, beneath the sails. She tossed her bag beside her chair, carelessly. Michael copied. Wesley opened the newspaper.

HIGH SCHOOL THEFT

Monday at 3:45pm Horowton's very own Usherwood High School, named after Isaac Usherwood, reported a theft. This theft is assumed to be by two students who broke into the school café, and stole a box of Nutty Peppermint Crunch ice blocks, in what appears to be a vengeance act as the school shall no longer be stocking them after this Friday, due to their unpopularity. The two students accused of the crime are the educational experts Wesley Branne, better known by students as Weasel Brain, and Michael Banks, Better known as Bobby Banks.

Paul Cass, teacher at Usherwood High School, seems to have the case wrapped up. But, has he given Weasel and Bobby a fair chance? The two accused maintain their innocence. So, what happened on Monday at 3:45pm?

Paul Cass: "Wesley and Michael broke into to the café, and stole a box of ice blocks."

When asked how they managed to get in undetected, Paul Cass speculates: "Michelle Dubose is getting along in years; I wouldn't be surprised if her memory was becoming faulty, and she simply forgot to close a window, allowing the two brats entry."

However, Wesley Branne has another theory, one that is backed up by some proof. "Two students posing as Michael and I broke into the storage room, by first removing the seal, then carefully pulling the glass out of the window; if you look at the window, you will see it has been picked at by someone constantly in the same spot to create a hole, allowing them to remove the seal and thus the glass. Mrs Dubose's memory has been reliable thus far, and there is not proof it is deteriorating, so it would be wise to believe her."

Examining Wesley's evidence, it is quite obvious this is how the culprits managed to get in undetected, just look at the photographic evidence yourself: the scratched seal, the dirt on the inside of the glass. Paul Cass must be incorrect is his assumption as to how the culprits entered. Thus, if he is wrong about this, is it not possible he is wrong in accusing Wesley and Michael.

Paul Cass states: "Michelle Dubose saw Michael and Wesley running away from the crime scene with the box of ice blocks." The Michelle Dubose he stated could be lacking in memory suddenly has a perfect one that Paul now agrees with.

However, Michelle Dubose told us: "I do not know who I saw; I could only see their backs. One was a tall Māori or Polynesian boy who had short black hair, and was wearing a red t-shirt with black sporty track pants. And, a shorter girl who had long, tacky, red hair and wore a long pink skirt reaching her ankles with a large brown puffy jacket; it was much too hot for that jacket."

Wesley added: "The female was well covered for such a hot day Monday brought, so perhaps she was trying to hid something identifiable on her body, but what identifiable feature that could cover her entire body, I do not know."

So, perhaps it is Paul Cass with the faulty memory, as he failed to remember Michelle Dubose did not identify Wesley and Michael, she saw two people that looked like them from the back. Thus, once again, evidence shows Paul Cass may in fact be wrong in his assumption against Michael and Wesley. What else does he have to say?

Paul Cass: "There are five people who actually buy those ice blocks, and Wesley is the only girl. The others are Michael Banks, Wirimu Rangi, Stephen Wright, and Holland Vano, who all have alibis. Wirimu detention, Holland sick, and Stephen is a perfect student and wouldn't risk being expelled."

Mrs Dubose states: "She saw Wirimu Rangi heading over to the café. And, Wesley is also a perfect student, and despite Michael's faults, he wouldn't do something like this. They wouldn't risk expulsion just like Mr Wright wouldn't."

So, Paul Cass is basing his accusation of very little evidence and speculation. If this country has equal rights for everyone, then why are Wesley's and Michael's right to a fair trial being denied There is no solid proof the Wesley or Michael committed the theft, yet they are being blamed anyhow. We live in a fair country, how is having your rights taken away fair.

Wesley Branne and Michael Banks are out to prove they are innocent. If they succeed, Paul Cass will lose his job. Fail and they will be expelled despite the lack of evidence. Amanda Jenkins, principal, is rooting for their success, as she fully believes in their innocence despite what Paul Cass has the Board of Trustees thinking. And, with only circumstantial evidence of their supposed guilt, we at the Harrowton Weekly wish them good luck.

Wesley, after reading the article aloud to Michael back tracked to Wirimu Rangi, excitedly. Mike watching the look of joy upon her face felt his own happiness level raise up to Wesley's. It has to be something good.

"Mike, Mike," Wesley breathed, "this could get you off the hook; Wirimu could look like you from behind."

Michael shook his head depressingly. "No, not with Mr Cass running things. Remember, he said we have to find the real thieves."

She groaned then tossed the newspaper onto the deck angrily. Mr Cass will do anything to prove it is them. Even if there is a shred of possibility towards the wrong conclusion, if Mr Cass put his money there, he will do everything to make it seem so, even to the point of destroying a student's education and lying. He is a horrid teacher, and the fuel behind Mike and Wesley's determination.

"Hey Mike," Wesley began, remembering Damian yesterday. "Damian was pretending to be you, and telling all that we stole the ice blocks."

"I know," Mike stated. "I asked him too, I figured he'd be able to handle the situation better than I. I was surprised he said yes in the end, actually, I had to beg him."

"Oh, why did you want him to tell all that we did it?"

"Right now, you and I, we are the coolest people in school. Cooler, even, than Damian."

Wesley sighed. "But, we didn't do it. Do you want to be expelled?"

"No."

"Then why add fuel to fire." Shaking her head at his stupidity, she flicked off an ant crawling along her arm. Reaching for the pencil and notebook, Wesley noted down the little fact about Wirimu Rangi. Perhaps more evidence will show itself in due course.

The two sat in silence, mid the ardent heat, despite the sails blocking out much of the of the suns blaze. Everything was far too torrid a noonday to bother with advanced thinking about any matters, including homework. The stagnant air soaked into their skin. All the two wanted was to relax and de-stress about things, especially after the long, tiring race they just had to here. The sound of the graceful river was like a mother lulling a crying baby to sleep.

Wesley broke the silence. "Mike, you didn't happen to bring your togs?"

"No, why?"

Pointing towards the fence that blocks Cherry and Christopher from journeying towards the river at their will, Wesley sighed. "There is a river down there."

"I have shorts in my bag."

"Great," Wesley grinned, "I'll lend you a towel. Come on."

She directed Mike to the bathroom, and then headed of towards her own room.

Before doing anything else, Wesley quickly wrote a segment in her diary, wanting to note down some important things before she forgets.

Dear Diary,

So, thanks to Cousin James, we have learnt that Wirimu Rangi, one of the people who liked those ice blocks we are accused of stealing, was near the café at the time of the crime. I can't believe I missed that. Mr Cass told me straight, that he was in detention. But, when Mrs Dubose mentioned him, I completely forgot. What kind of detective am I? Not a very good one, that's for sure. Well, hopefully with Mike hanging around I won't miss something like that again.

That's something I never thought I would say. Ever since Mike and I were accused, we have started getting along. Now, I would consider Mike a friend, and it has only been three days. Me and him, we just sort of clicked. Makes me wonder how I could have hated him in the first place. He is the first friend I have had in a long time. At least, I think of him as a friend, I don't know how he feels. Apparently, according to Mrs Dubose, his friends call him Bobby, yet, Mike hasn't asked me to do so yet. So whether I'm just getting ahead of myself, I don't know. However, if this is what having friends are like, I am certainly happy.

Mike is here now; we are going to go for a swim in the river, so I can't be too long. I'll write again later, but for now, goodbye.

Wesley Branne

W.Branne

After hiding her diary, Wesley quickly changed into her fiery orange togs and red swim shorts hiding in her draws. She hurried out to the bathroom where Mike was waiting, wearing a pair of navy blue Canterbury sport shorts and a perfectly invisible t-shirt, revealing his tight, muscular chest.

Wesley smiled, training her eyes on his face. She nodded him to follow, and lead the way to the cool refreshing river. Eagerly jumping in, they laughed like Looney Tunes, and grinned like gifted girls. For Wesley, this was the first time she had ever enjoyed the cool water with someone other than her siblings, making it seem much more refreshing and revitalizing to swim within. And, ever since the council project to clean the river, it has been so clean you could drink from it.

They splashed each other like girly best friends, and dragged each other beneath like boyish close mates in a wrestling match. All the while, they were barely able to contain their laughter as they continued. Suddenly, noticing her neighbours, old lady Mangan, from next door, and Mr Magogan from the house further along, watching them in their moment of immaturity, instantly Wesley realized there could have been more witnesses they didn't think of speaking to.