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The missing elephant was noticed almost immediately and just as immediate was the wrath of Mrs. Cole. An exhaustive search of the bedrooms was made but no elephant materialized.

Mrs. Cole stood in the middle of Billy’s room as she searched once again for the missing object. ‘It has to be Billy,’ she thought, ‘he is just smart enough to make certain to hide it somewhere I will not think to look.’ Finally she straightened from the stooped position that she had been in as she searched behind the steam radiator in front of the lone window of the room. She gasped slightly as she brushed her hand against the hot metal and was grateful that the contact wasn’t more prolonged.

As she straightened she thought about the boy who was even now serving his time in the jail for the attack on the driver. The amount of time given the child wasn’t extensive, but Billy was no doubt lamenting his current location. He had actually been very lucky that the magistrate hadn’t given him more time than he had. Billy had a long record of brushes with the police and the magistrates.

Tom sat in his own room while the matron demolished Billy’s rom in search of the missing item and now nearly regretted his decision to steal it. His room would be next and that meant cleaning it up once Mrs. Cole was finished. Even though there was very little in the rooms for the matron to disturb, the chore of cleaning afterwards was detested by all of the orphans. There was also the indignity of having to rearrange the rooms that currently had no occupants, but were being searched regardless.

The boy looked up as the door to his room swung open to reveal Mrs. Cole and he rose from the chair that he was sitting in as she entered the room. He hastened to exit the room as the woman pulled open the door to his cabinet and began to remove the contents before tossing them onto the bed. She examined the now empty interior of the cabinet and then ran her hand along the top of the door frame. Her only reward was the sudden sharp pain as a splinter pierced her finger. The injured finger went into her mouth as she examined the boards that made up the side and floor of the space. None of them gave way to her attempts to lift them even though Tom was nearly frantic with fear when he considered what would happen if he was found out.

The matron closed the door to the cabinet and then moved on to search under the bed. Tom knew that the room would be a disaster when she finished and mentally prepared himself for the task at hand. He barely glanced at Amy who was standing next to him and occasionally looking up at him with furtive glances. Minutes later, the matron stepped out of his room and, as she descended the stairs, Amy whispered a message that only he could hear.

“I know something that you do not!”

He looked sharply at the girl before she turned and skipped off to her room to begin organizing it. As he reentered his scrambled room his mind replayed what she had said and he wondered exactly what she meant by it. He opened the door to his cabinet and began to place his clothing back into it as they were refolded, but not before a careful examination of the board that covered his hiding spot. The wood was secure in its space and the objects under it hidden from view.

Amy finished with her room and then hurried down the stairs content with the knowledge that she held. She intended to inform on Tom, but was trying to figure out when to do it when inspiration entered her mind. She didn’t need to inform on him at all! All that she had to do was to let him know what she knew and then make him do whatever she wanted lest she let the cat out of the bag. The girl hoped that life would get much easier for her with him doing the chores that she had been assigned.

Tom was soon walking down the stairs to the classroom to find a new book to read when he encountered Amy. Normally the girl shied away from him as she had since the incident in the cave, but there was something different about her now and he wondered what it was. Then the girl approached him and was soon standing face to face with him.

“I know something about you that you do not want Mrs. Cole or Martha to know,” she hissed.

“What could you possibly know, Amy?”

“I saw what you did in Mrs. Cole’s office.”

Tom’s mind reeled as the gravity of her words hit him, yet he tried to seem unconcerned.

“I do not know what you are talking about!”

“Oh, you can be coy about it, but the fact is that I know what you took from her office.”

“You’re mental! I took nothing from her office.”

Amy raised her arm in a mimic of an elephant’s trunk and Tom realized that the girl held a very powerful card. He thought about attacking her but realized that this option would bring immediate repercussions. Amy would not hesitate to inform on him if he did that and he wondered what he would have to do to get out of this situation.

“I am going to tell Mrs. Cole unless you do exactly what I want you to do.”

“What do you want?”

“I want you to do my chores every day until we leave this place.”

“That could be years, I am not doing your chores for that long.”

“Then I guess that Mrs. Cole will find out where her elephant is and who has it.”

“You do not have any proof and they will not believe you because they know that you do not like me.”

“Are you really sure of that? Surely you remember the cookie and what you got for that?

Tom glared at the smaller girl and realized that she held the upper hand, but then he considered something that could sway the attention from him and towards her. He hung his head as if in defeat, but knew exactly what he was going to do. The girl wouldn’t hold the advantage for long and he was going to make certain that she remembered this occasion for a very long time.

“Okay, I’ll do your damn chores, but don’t you say a word about this or you are as guilty as I for not saying anything.”

Amy’s triumphant smile faltered for a moment as she considered what he was saying. Tom was right, by not informing she was as guilty of the theft as he. Now she had to be careful about what she said or did. The advantage had shifted and she wondered how to get it back.

“What’s your first chore?”

“Oh, it’s done for the day, but you can gather the laundry tomorrow morning.”

“Fine, I’ll do it, but you keep your mouth shut!”

As they parted a plan formed in Tom’s mind and all that he needed was a chance to put it into play. Mrs. Cole was still searching for the elephant and he knew that she would conduct another search of their rooms. The plan had to be working before then or it would fail and fail badly. He walked back up to his room and, as he did, he glanced at the cupboard. It would have to be tonight after everyone was asleep and he could move unobserved.

Mrs. Cole was angry to the point of livid. Twice this item had been stolen and when it was found she intended to put it somewhere it would never be found by the children. While she was relatively certain that Billy was the thief she also realized that none of the children were above suspicion. She knew that the children often entered her office on some errand or another and any of those times would have been ample opportunity for the scheme. She sat down behind her desk to review some paper work that had arrived there that morning.

It was the decision by the church that funded the orphanage that guaranteed funding for another year. This was a bit of good news that she had feared would not come given the current world economic situation. America was still locked in the grips of a depression that had lasted for many years and showed no signs of easing while President Roosevelt encouraged the people of that nation to have faith that things would improve.

More worrisome to her, however, were the actions of Germany and its leader, Adolph Hitler. The German leader was busy building up his military and many wondered when war would come. Already, Austria had been swallowed by Germany and Italy was becoming expansionist as well. It was only a matter of time, many said, before war would grip the continent once again.

She laid the letter from the church back onto her desk and then walked out of her office and into the dining room to assist Martha who was preparing the meal. Tomorrow morning she would search the rooms of the children again while they were busy playing outside. Sooner or later the elephant would be found and when it was the child in possession of it would be punished.

Tom sat in his room with the door open so that he could appear very visible and unconcerned. He intended for Amy to get caught with the artifact and face the punishment that should be his. Certainly the girl would try to cast the blame onto him, but Mrs. Cole dealt only in what she could see not with what she had been told. Tattlers were listened to, but physical evidence was paramount in her eyes and she put that ahead of informants.

Amy was in her room as she straightened the clothing in her cupboard. Mrs. Cole had made a dreadful mess and the child was not content until her things were straight. She scanned the room again and then hurried to silently close the door to the chamber. Once behind concealment the child pried open a loose board that hid her own cache of items. She pulled a small metal dog from behind its cover and played with it silently. The item had been found in the courtyard, a remnant of a long departed orphan, and had been claimed by the one who had discovered it. There were items, however, that didn’t have such an innocent origin such as a long hunted for silver spoon that had come from a shelf in the dining room. It had migrated to this space a year ago and, despite an exhaustive search by the adults, had remained hers. She was certain and felt quite safe that no one else knew about this hiding spot for her treasures.

‘Tom thinks that he scares me and he does, a little bit, but he will not dare to do anything lest I inform on him again. He can have that dumb old elephant as long as he does exactly what I want him to do. If Mrs. Cole was as smart as she thinks that she is she would realize that he spends a lot of time in this building without anyone around to watch him. He would have gotten away with this if I had not had to come into the building to go to the lavatory.’

She continued her play while Tom schemed about his revenge. Amy had gotten him a switching when she caught him trying to snitch a cookie. But now she could count on one of her own once that old bat Mrs. Cole found her precious elephant. He suddenly jerked away from the steam register as the heat from the object entered his mind and with it a plan to further his dealings with the girl.

The remainder of the day was spent studying and then eating the dinner that had been prepared for them. A bath followed and soon the children were preparing for bed. Tom dressed swiftly and then climbed into bed where Martha found him snuggling under the blanket that covered it.

“Goodnight Tom, have pleasant dreams.”

“Goodnight Martha.”

He watched as the door closed behind the woman and then listened as her footsteps faded down the corridor before descending the stairs. The boy lay under the cover as he listened to the hissing of the steam as it went through the pipes that contained it. The heating system was the only thing that actually worked in the orphanage, but sometimes it worked too well and severe burns had occurred when children got too close to the metal of the registers.

Gradually the noises from the floor below settled into silence and Tom perceived that his chance was arriving. He slipped out of bed and to his cupboard where the board was soon loose and the elephant was in his hand once again. Regret filled him as he looked at the object after the board was back into place. He likely would never get ahold of the elephant again and he would miss it. Resolved to his course of action he stole to the door of his room and then quietly opened it before moving as silently as a ghost towards the chamber where Amy lay sleeping.

The girl remained asleep as Tom crossed her room to slip the elephant behind the leg of the register in a natural pocket formed in the wall. Then he crossed the room once again to stand next to Amy where he glared down at her for a moment before looking back at the hissing radiator with a plan clear in his mind. He concentrated for a moment as he looked down at the girl and then slipped back out of the room to steal back down to his own. The boy was no sooner gone when the eyes of the girl opened; she smiled broadly and then rose from her bed to walk towards her window.

Amy was having a wonderful dream. She stood at the rail of one of the great steamships that crossed the ocean to go to America. The throngs of those who were not as fortunate as Amy waved at the great vessel as it slowly moved away from its berth. The girl reached forward and gripped the rail with one hand as she waved with the other at those that she was leaving behind. A mild lurch of the vessel made her grip the rail with both hands and she watched as the crowd began to grow smaller. A mild burning smell reached her nose and she took it for the smell of the fuel that the great ship used to power itself on its voyages. She watched as the ship moved farther and farther from the shore and realized that the smell was becoming stronger. The strange part was that when she turned her head she could see no smoke coming from the great smoke stacks that towered above the decks. In fact, as she looked around her, the crowd of passengers that had surrounded her was now absent. Only one person remained in view and her heart nearly stopped as the person turned around.

Amy gasped as Tom turned to face her with an evil grin on his face and horrible red snake-like eyes. He approached the girl and she attempted to flee except that she couldn’t release the rail that now held her hands with fingers that had grown from the wood. Her hands were held fast as he neared her and then he stopped to look down at the rail where smoke was beginning to rise.

“Oh, dear, Amy, I do believe that something is burning.”

She looked down at her hands and realized that smoke was issuing from her flesh as she attempted to pull free. Abruptly she was back in her room as she stood by the steam radiator while she gripped it tightly. A horrible hissing noise issued forth and she noticed for the first time the fingers that held her hands in place, fingers that seemed to have grown from the very metal itself. Incredible pain filled her hands and she felt her flesh begin to sear as she tried in vain to pull free. The only thing remaining for her was to throw her head back and scream.

Not for the first time in recent history the residents of the orphanage were awakened by a terrible shriek that brought all of them to full consciousness immediately. As peal after peal of terror issued from the throat of the girl Mrs. Cole and Martha rushed from their rooms and then up the stairs to the source of the noise. Mrs. Cole hurled the door open and beheld the predicament of the girl although none of it made any sense to the sleep addled brain of the matron.

Amy stood as she had been while she clutched the extremely hot metal of the radiator with both hands and made no apparent attempt to release it. Martha rushed past the stunned matron and grasped the arms of the girl before pulling them free of the metal. Amy continued to scream as the gravity of what had occurred met her and she could see the damage done to her skin. Martha turned back to Mrs. Cole and screamed a directive.

“We need Doctor Barlow now!”

Mrs. Cole, shocked out of her stupor, rushed down the stairs to gather her coat while Martha hurried the wailing child down to the kitchen to begin slathering the injuries with one of her home remedies. The remainder of the children stood in the entrance to the dining room as they watched with wide eyes as the girl was tended to. Tom made certain to be in the front of the pack so as to be visible at all times. It was not long before the doctor and Mrs. Cole burst through the front door and pushed their way into the room where the girl was. Martha finally left Amy and then ushered the boys back up to their rooms and bed.

“Is Amy going to be all right?”

Martha looked with surprise down at Tom as he asked her the question and believed that the child was finally showing compassion for another. She hugged him tightly and then released him before answering his query.

“Her hands are badly burned, Tom. The doctor will do everything that he can, but the burns are serious. You have all been told to avoid touching the radiators and now you know why. Now off to bed with the lot of you.”

The boys hurried to their rooms and, once she was certain that they were not going to steal back down to spy, Martha walked back down to render any assistance that she could. Tom climbed into bed and then fell into a deep and rewarding sleep; his plan was working wonderfully and tomorrow would be complete. Amy would be implicated in the theft of the elephant and he would be in the clear. Added to that was the fact that his opponent was out of action for a while and wouldn’t be troubling him any time in the near future. He continued to dream his wonderful dream while Amy was tended to down in the dining room.

“I just do not understand why she continued to clutch the radiator. It was obvious that she was in terrible pain and yet she refused to let go of it,” Mrs. Cole said as the doctor tended to the hands of the wailing child.

As they worked on her hands Amy tried to tell them about seeing Tom in the office of the matron and how he had appeared in her dreams. Nothing made sense in the mind of the girl, but she was certain that the boy had something to do with her injuries, but had no way to prove any of it. None of the adults seemed to be listening to her and in fact looked at her as though she were speaking gibberish.

The small girl would finally be bandaged and then bundled out into the carriage that the doctor had ridden. As she felt asleep that night her dreams revisited her over and over again, but the most terrifying part were the red snake-like eyes that Tom had used to glare at her. She woke up screaming several times and Doctor Barlow finally resorted to giving her a sedative so that he could get some rest as well. The elderly doctor knew that the process of her recovery would be lengthy and that the child would no doubt have lasting marks from her ordeal, both mentally and physically, that would stay with her for the rest of her life.

Mrs. Cole would wake the next morning after a restless night that was filled with nightmares. She saw the girl standing at the radiator with her hands ablaze and could hear laughter echoing through her mind. The laughter sounded familiar but she couldn’t place it. A careful search of the room revealed what she believed had been the reason that Amy had been at the register as the small elephant came to light. The tiny figure lay near one of the legs of the register and now the culprit had been revealed. That would be dealt with at a later time once the girl returned and had a chance to mend.

Tom sat at the table eating his breakfast when the matron came down the stairs holding the elephant and knew that his plan was working better than he had planned. Billy was dealt with, Amy had also been dealt with and soon the rest of the residents, including the adults, of the orphanage would come to fear him more than they could ever imagine.
 

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