THE SCHOOL TEACHER
Squinting his deep blue eyes, he raked his hand through his thick black hair as he stared deep in thought at the crackling fireplace. His office was the original library in the château. He loved the rich cherry and mahogany wood bookshelves filled with antique leather-bound books.
Brother Sean as he had become affectionately known, stood up from his chair and straightened his broad shoulders, a habit from years of military training. He turned to look out of the expansive floor-to-ceiling windows framed by antique mahogany woods. It was a crisp fall day, a Parisian day. The fall leaves were beginning to turn every color of gold and brilliant reds,soon to fully display their colorful fashion show before their long winter sleep.
Sitting back down, he broke his gaze on the elaborately carved wood and marble adorning the fireplace when he heard a soft sob coming from the hallway. He leaned back in his oversized chair and peered through his office door that was slightly ajar, allowing him to observe a student saying a tearful goodbye to her father.
This was orientation weekend for all new students. Sean stood up and went to his window. He recognized Doug Conyers walking towards the waiting car. Still with a powerful athletic stride for a man in his early sixties. Waiting within the chauffeured car, Sean presumed, was Doug’s soon-to-be new wife.
Sean again heard a sniffle coming from the hallway as the heavy front door slammed shut. He saw a slightly disheveled, but nonetheless attractive, young woman in flared jeans and long, straight blonde hair. She was trying very hard not to cry. Her distress was most disconcerting.
He rubbed his eyes from the irritation of the fireplace smoke and from lack of sleep, then glanced at the pile of books on his desk,taken from the dark-cherry bookcases crammed with them. He was thankful for this elegant office that the school had given him as student counselor and teacher of philosophy/theology.
The stacks of student files sat next to the books were daunting. He would be counseling and teaching about twenty of the one hundred students, including mostly wealthy South-American girls looking to refine their husband-catching skills or to escape the present dangers of their countries.
His blue eyes squinted as he tried to evaluate this new student standing in the hallway. She was pretty, but most of all, he was startled by her resemblance to Anna. Nonetheless, it was her brave attempt at squelching her tears that drew him in. Impressed by her attempt at bravado, it conjured up a storehouse of memories and images from his own orphaned childhood.
Well, best to let her get settled in and perhaps later I can help her if she needs to talk,he thought.
He looked at her dossier, though he already knew her history by heart. Her name was Mackenzie Conyers, aged nineteen, soon to turn twenty next month,mother deceased, father,executive vice president at an American global communications corporation; previous schooling in Boston and Brussels. Mackenzie had been given a one-year deferment to Oxford University to study for her remaining tests and baccalaureate due to her missing final exams. The report indicated that Mackenzie had been the victim of an attack and had been in the hospital with head trauma during her last few weeks of high school.
Mackenzie is a survivor in more ways than one. But how deep are those emotional scars? His mind wandered back once more to his own parents’ car crash when he was only a baby and more recently, to the murder of his beloved adoptive parents.
Her records showed her IQ tested at 131, though her grades were unremarkable for someone of that intelligence. Teachers’ remarks were generally that she was very bright but lacked motivation. This was the kind of student that excited him: a great mind with huge potential. But then, didn’t he already know that? Both Anna and Doug were brilliant in their own right.
His thoughts turned to Anna. He had only been a young boy in Brussels back in 1940, as the Second World War began, when he tried to save their lives. He thought Anna was so beautiful. Mackenzie looked so much like her. He smiled as he looked again at her high-school picture. No doubt she had also inherited her father’s look of determination and his mischievous charismatic smile. It was a smile he remembered well, for it was Doug who had pulled him out from under the trampling hoofs of a thoroughbred stallion. It was Doug who paid his way through private school and got him admitted to the Naval Academy, where he graduated at the top of his class. From there, he completed his pilot training and then the Navy Seals, doing two tours in Vietnam. There was one catch. He was never to tell anyone that Doug sent him to school and he was never to acknowledge him publicly, which was why he could not greet him when he dropped off Mackenzie today. Doug Conyers held a top-secret position within the United States government, and Sean, who worked for him, was one of the very few who knew.
At first, young Sean was puzzled by the need for this secrecy, but he soon stopped asking why and set out to prove himself worthy to work for this man, who seemed a master of the universe.
He closed Mackenzie’s dossier, with her high-school picture in it, feeling somewhat melancholy. The loss of her mother must’ve been traumatic and terrible. And then the attack.
I’d like to get my hands on the person that attacked her. But Mackenzie seems to be a survivor like her mother.
He wondered who would have attacked her and why. He watched with great interest as she started to climb the great staircase of the château.
Examining the piles of paper on his desk, he threw himself back into his course curriculum, which would start tomorrow. He was anxious to get through his work and return to his quarters on the chateau’s property. In years past, it had served as thegardener’s cottage and before that, was a top-secret Morse-code broadcast headquarters for the French Resistance bands, prior to the invasion of Paris in 1940. This would be his home for the next year. No men, priests excepted, were allowed to live at the château now that it was an all-girls college.That suited him fine, he could come and go as he pleased.
Glad to be out of his Laos missions at last, Sean had a lot to accomplishon this new mission. First, he needed to reread a letter.And he had a lot of exploring todo: he of course wanted to see the stables that housed six horses, given his childhood background, but he needed to walk the large property and get its layout clear into his mind: the possible entrances—and emergency escape routes—where cover might be found … where undesirables might hide.
Sean inhaled the refreshing evening breeze as he walked back across the lawn and up the gravel driveway to the cottage. He surveyed the beautifulproperty with its acres of sweeping gardens with boxwood, hedges of yew, and lavender rows. It was a short walk to the cottage. Tomorrow, he would survey the horse stables, he decided.
His mind turned again to Mackenzie and wondered how much she knew about her mother’s molecular discovery, the secret serum that could restore a damaged cell and cure most diseases, as well as be the antidote for most germ warfare currently known. The other side of the equation was that it could be genetically or chemically manipulated and, if infused in the water system, it could even wipe out humanity—the reason the Gestapo hunted for it in 1940. And presumably was the reason for Anna’s wise decision to hide this secret formula.