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A new principal takes Harding High by storm, wreaking havoc with every executive order and every decision, tearing apart the stellar school tenet by tenet.
Teachers, other administrators, students, parents, and the community at large increasingly react to the tremors shaking Harding High as Principal Wendy Storme churns a destructive path through their traditions, values, and protocol. Everyone associated with Harding has a valid motive for murder.
Determined to save her school and friends, English department chair, Rose Lane, and her rookie sidekick, intern Penny Bright, vow to move the hurricane-force Storme out of Harding for good…except somebody beats them to it with the decisiveness of murder.
Page Count: 272
Word Count: 68810
As the day wore on, one thought kept Rose sane. She had made up her mind to stand up to the principal, spit in her face, if necessary. Penny Bright had not been far from the truth in her morning comment, “We’re counting on you to take her by storm.” Yes. Rose was prepared, and she had been repeating her mantra all day: Stand Strong. Still, the situation called for concern. A direct hit from a tornado was not to be taken lightly. And, Rose Lane hated confrontation. If at all possible, she preferred to problem-solve through diplomacy. She had a tendency to clench her fists whenever she knew that a confrontation was inevitable.
“Is she ready for me?” Rose asked the secretary who sat at the big desk in the middle of the main office.
The young, cheery administrative assistant glanced up at the wall clock. “Oh glory. It’s almost quittin’ time. What a busy day this has been.” She drew her gaze back to Rose. “You’re the last in a train-length of appointments today—the caboose. Go on in,” the woman said with a wave of her hand. “I’ll be prayin’ for you,” she added in an undertone.
The door to the principal’s office was slightly ajar. This was unusual. Storme always kept her door firmly closed lest anyone violate her inner sanctum without formal admittance. No open-door policy for this tyrant; it threw Rose off a bit. Her first planned move was to knock authoritatively and enter with an air of confidence far beyond her real feeling. Now what? Balling up her fists and peering furtively through the narrow opening, Rose’s gaze aligned with the island coffee bar the principal had installed. A caffeine addict, Storme was known to drink the brew all day. The bar was stocked with all sorts of coffee paraphernalia as well as a fancy latte machine. A strong scent of fresh, dark coffee wafted toward her.
Holding the door steady with her left hand, Rose knocked with her right. There was no answer. Though she leaned an ear toward the aperture, Rose could discern no sound at all in the principal’s office.
With a blast of nerves, Rose pushed open the door and moved inside the large, windowless room. Settling her eyes on the principal’s desk, she noticed that the woman’s position was oddly out of the ordinary; her limbs stretched unnaturally and her neck twisted away to the side. The desk itself was covered in a flurry of papers and every drawer had been pulled and left open. A mug of spilled coffee puddled down one side of the desk. Written on the mug was the word Boss.
Rose fought panic as she moved in and surveyed the surreal scene before her. Principal Wendy Storme had not moved. The face on the twisted neck was frozen in an ugly grimace of terror—with mouth and eyes wider than normal. Her swollen jaws and neck had darkened to a macabre blue. A thin stream of drool crept down Wendy’s chin and her eyes stared unseeing at the wall beyond. Without notice, Wendy’s body flopped to the floor with a flaccid thud, virtually at Rose’s feet. Principal Wendy Storme was dead.
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