This is part three of a story that I started a couple of days ago. The first part was called The Toad and The Tigress.
Part 2 is here
Chess with a Snake.
It was nearly two weeks before Miss Huntley could arrange a meeting with Cathy Pargeter’s Father. Apparently parliamentary affairs had kept him too busy to meet before this. In a way that was a good indication. If Mr Bernard Pargeter was too busy to discuss why his daughter had been suspended from school, this could indicate that his daughter was rather lower in his priorities than she should be. This could well be the root of the problem. Cathy was exceptionally bright, there was no doubt of that. She had so many good qualities, she could inspire loyalty in others, she had determination and could plan ahead but also take advantage of a new situation. Unfortunately, she was also extremely devious and lacking in any moral compass. In short, she had every skill necessary to become a successful politician. Miss Huntley hoped for something better for her. She was determined, if possible, to make something worthwhile out of Cathy Pargeter.
Miss Huntley knew she was about to embark on a very important meeting and she was prepared to play the game of politics for all it was worth.
Ethel entered the room.
“Headmistress, the Right Honourable Member of Parliament, Mr Bernard Pargeter is here.”
“Thank you, Ethel; show him in please. You know what to do?”
“Yes, Shall I bring in tea?”
“No let’s let him thirst for a bit. I will call you if necessary.”
Ethel left the room and in moments a large man bounced into the room. He was in his early fifties and had a carefully cultivated air of respectability about him. He was dressed in a very smart three-piece suit, Navy blue, with matching waistcoat and gold cufflinks. He extended a hand and Miss Huntley shook it and invited him to sit down.
Miss Huntley fixed Mr Pargeter with her interrogating stare. The effect of her blue eyes was always enlightening. Mr Pargeter stared back, his eyes were similar to those of his daughter, well genetics will tell.
“Look Miss Huntley, let’s get down to brass tacks. I’m a busy man and I haven’t got time to waste. You’ve suspended my Daughter from school. What did she do? Forget to do her homework?”
“No, I’m afraid it is rather more serious than that. Very serious. I don’t suspend girls for anything trivial, I can assure you. We are dealing with blackmail, extortion and bullying. Oh, and planning an attack on a teacher.”
“I suppose you are going to expel her then. Just like the last school she went to. This is very embarrassing to me, my reputation. If this gets out, it could lose me votes, and the elections only next year. Right, I will take her away if that’s what you want.”
“No, not so fast. Can you tell me a bit about her home life? What about her Mother?”
“Her Mother died seven years ago. She’d been an invalid for a couple of years, rather made a career out of it. We used to wait on her hand and foot. Cathy, in particular used to like to sit with her and read her the newspapers. It was a bit of a surprise when she suddenly went downhill and died.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. What did she die of?”
“Some kind of gastric trouble. Anyway, I threw myself into my work at the time. I had only just been elected for the first time then so I was very busy.”
“But you remarried. I remember you and your wife coming to parents evening last year.”
“Yes, I married my secretary a couple of years ago. She had been so kind after Virginia died and so helpful in getting me re-elected. We’d grown very close.”
Miss Huntley remembered the current Mrs Pargeter. She was in her thirties and had worn very heavy make-up, a Mink stole and rather cheap perfume. The image fitted the circumstances.
“So how do your current wife and Cathy get on?”
“Well, not very well at all. They keep far away from each other as possible. Cathy keeps to herself.”
“You don’t spend much time with her then?”
“No, it’s awkward with her and Laura not getting on. My wife is jealous.”
“Thank you for telling me this. It paints a picture for me.”
Miss Huntley was, quite frankly, relieved that Cathy’s home life was difficult; it accounted well for her behaviour. Had her home life been stable and loving then that would have indicated a more psychologically disturbed reason and one that Miss Huntley hated dealing with. That Cathy may have been born a Psychopath. The fact this did not now appear to be the case was a huge relief. It did not, however, make the problem less difficult to deal with. A great deal of the problem was sitting in front of her.
“I will be frank with you Mr Pargeter. Your daughter is exceptionally gifted. She is intelligent and persuasive. I don’t want to give up on her. I think if we worked together we can turn her back to the right path.”
“Well, what do you have in mind?”
“I am going to feed her to the lions. Or more accurately, a Tiger. One of my staff is a very forceful lady and called behind her back by the girls, the Tigress. I am going to place your daughter into her care. Further more I want her to be dropped off an hour after school starts and picked up an hour after school ends, so she cannot mix with the other girls. Only for a while, until I am convinced she is cured and fit to mingle. I would suggest that you yourself drop her off in the mornings as much as you can and you spend as much time with her as possible. She needs you in her life and that may well be the most beneficial thing we can do.”
“Well I am very busy, I may be up for a plum role if I get elected with an increased majority. And there’s Laura, she might divorce me, think what that would do to my career?”
“I can assure you that whatever fuss she creates Mrs Pargeter will not divorce you. She knows which side her breads buttered better than that! Your daughter is at stake here. Would you rather I just expelled her?”
“It may be the easiest course. Laura can be quite nasty when she wants to be.”
“Don’t you care for your daughter at all? Don’t you care what your voters will think if they find out you could have prevented her being expelled but you decided to do nothing instead?”
“I care for her, of course I do, but this is all nonsense. How will people hear about it anyway?”
Miss Huntley leaned over the intercom and spoke to her secretary.
“Have you got all that Ethel? Lock the tape away for safe keeping, will you?”
Mr Pargeter sat back in his chair and gave Miss Huntley a new appraised look. It was impressed, it said ‘Bravo’ and ‘Checkmate’ as clearly as any words could.
“I will do what you ask Miss Huntley. I do think it’s time I got reacquainted with Cathy. She takes after me in many ways, perhaps that is what I feared, facing myself. Is there anything else I can do to help?”
“Well, we are always looking for donations to our scholarship fund, I would be most grateful if you could make a contribution. I will be sure to mention it widely if you did.”
“I see, Miss Huntley, that you would have made an excellent politician, an excellent Prime Minister even.”
“Oh no. I have something far more important to do. Thank you for coming to see me.”
They shook hands and the Member of Parliament left the room.
Miss Huntley smiled to herself and looked out of the window at the girls playing in the school field. Her faced glowed, it was practically luminescent. Nothing was more important to her than this.
Copyright: Kristian Fogarty 10/April/2018