“You need to understand, Mr and Mrs Gleeson,” cautioned the Headmaster of the Alloura Academy for Gifted Students, “that the reason we’re able to take Ranald at this time is that we were founded as and remain a school of last resort for the preternatural community. Our students were not accepted for admission to the more prominent schools in the milieu, were expelled from them or, like Ranald, found themselves unexpectedly in need of a preternatural education.”
Ranald Gleeson, a teenage boy who looked like he hadn’t gotten used to his body yet after its last growth spurt and whose face sported erupting acne, slumped down further into the chair he was sitting in.
“He blew up part of his old school,” said Mr Gleeson. “I doubt that anyone he meets here is going to be a worse influence on him than he is himself.”
Looking concerned, Mrs Gleeson interrupted with, “Do you offer a full set of matriculation subjects? As well as the speciality subjects, I mean. Ranald’s very bright and we want him to go on to do law at King George University when he finishes high school.”
“That’s a quite specific ambition,” commented the Headmaster. “May I ask the reason for it?”
Mr Gleeson, an accountant, compressed his lips and said nothing while Mrs Gleeson flushed. It was Ranald who answered, “There’s money for tuition in a family will if I do that. More if I get into their Abbots College as well. I won’t be able to afford university otherwise.”
“That’s certainly something to keep in mind,” acknowledged the Headmaster. “Now, Ranald can be either a day boy or a boarder. Which do you intend?”
“We can’t move away from our jobs,” replied Mr Gleeson gloomily. “He’ll have to board. I’m afraid you’ll have to accept liability for any damage he inadvertently does to school property – we simply can’t afford to pay any more costs.”
“Costs?” The Headmaster looked at each of the three Gleesons in turn.
“I destroyed two science classrooms, a set of stairs and the boys’ toilets in that block,” said Ranald, trying to sink deeper into the chair.
“And put the son of my firm’s senior partner into hospital,” Mr Gleeson reminded him.
“A young man,” commented the Headmaster, “whose parents seem intent on making sure he learns nothing of worth from the episode, least of all that bullying people is a bad idea. I cannot help you there, but I will put you in the hands of Mr Jerkins from our Bursar’s Office. In my experience, he can probably persuade your son’s old school that they should pay Ranald for the demolition work he did.” The Headmaster smiled. “We’ll move Ranald into his dormitory as soon as possible, shall we? It would be best if he could start classes on Monday.”
“We didn’t bring any of his things with us,” prevaricated Mrs Gleeson.
“My dear lady,” the Headmaster smiled, “what he doesn’t have with him, we can provide.”