Tristan was filled with dread as his phone began to ring. His stomach plummeted when he saw it was an unknown number. It couldn’t be a coincidence that he was getting phone calls from strangers the day after he’d lost six school girls in the English countryside.
“Hello? Tristan Tribble speaking?”
He tried not to let his dread fill his voice. He failed miserably.
The chipper reply he got was in that automatic tone that teleprompters have. Really condescending and overly cheerful.
“Good morning, my name is Kelly Clarkson, my boss Dorothy Richards would like to talk to you, is this a good time?”
“Dorothy Richards?” Tristan repeated slowly.
He knew that name.
He didn’t know why but he recognised that name.
“Yes, that’s right. It’s just a few questions, no more than ten minutes, is this convenient?”
“err,” Tristan said.
Without a pause Kelly continued, “I must legally inform you that this phone call will be recorded and used later for training purposes, is that okay?”
“err,” Tristan repeated.
Kelly didn’t give him time to answer. “great, putting you through now!”
Tristan hung up immediately. He could only think of one reason he would be called right now and it wasn’t good. If she was from Collins Tourisms HR department he would lose his job now. He didn’t want to face the music right now.
Kelly hummed in surprise as she realised that no one was replying to her.
“Hello? Mr Tribble?” She frowned and placed the phone back down on the hook. “He hung up.”
Dorothy raised her head to look up from her laptop. As she did her long jet black hair ran across her smooth dark shoulders. Her piercing green eyes shone through her glasses. She could sense a story.
“Try again in an hour,” she said.
She dragged the mouse to the open instagram page on the left of the screen, and refreshed it. A new post appeared at the top of the page.
Ravi’s beautiful face, framed by her hair, with a cute grey and brown stone cafe behind her.
“Breakfast with the girls! 💖" read the caption underneath.
“Bakewell, Derbyshire” read the location beneath her username.
“Kelly, have you worked out Tiana’s password yet?” Dorothy asked.
“Not yet. I’m sure I’m close though,” Kelly promised.
Dorothy stood up and began to pack her things into her bag. “Don’t worry about it. I just found a way to track them down for myself. Phone my wife and tell her I won’t be home tonight.”
“Where are you going?” Kelly asked in surprise.
“Derbyshire,” Dorothy stated.
“But it’s our anniversary. We’re supposed to be going out for a meal tonight,” Kelly insisted.
Dorothy hesitated at the doorway. “Um... I’m really sorry honey. I’ll... I’ll wait until tomorrow to go.”
Dorothy stepped back into the room reluctantly. Kelly sighed.
“No. Go. You’ll keep chasing the story anyway. I don’t want to share you with the story and your wife.”
Dorothy couldn’t help smiling. She liked getting her own way. She put her arms out for Kelly to take. “Honey I’ll be back soon. I’ll take you for a weekend away, I promise!”
“Really?” Kelly asked hopefully.
“I promise,” Dorothy grinned.
She kissed Kelly on the forehead, and ran out of the room. She raced out to the corridor and hurried to the lift. She smacked the button repeatedly to try and get it to hurry up.
A male colleague popped his head around the doorway. “What’s up with Dorothy? She got out of here in a hurry.”
A surge of annoyance rushed though Kelly. She had been passed over by Dorothy a lot since their affair started. She wanted to get her own back.
“Lady problems. Big ones,” Kelly stated.
He wrinkled his nose in disgust, apologised for asking, and hurried off. Kelly huffed. Dorothy knew Kelly deserved a promotion. She knew Kelly deserved more than she was being given. She worked harder than anyone else here, and she deserved to be appreciated.
Kelly picked up the phone on her desk and dialled the number taped to her computer monitor. After a few dialling tones, it was answered.
“Yes, yes, who is this?” He sighed.
“Hi this is Kelly Clarkson from the paper. You spoke to my bo- err, colleague yesterday?” Kelly corrected herself sharply.
“Dorothy, yes, I remember, why?” Mr Edwards asked.
“Dorothy knows you have lost your students. She’s going to do a report on them,” she explained.
“What?! Um, I mean, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” He squeaked.
“Sure, whatever, she’s going to the peak District to find them. I thought you’d like to know.”
“How does she know where they are?”
“Instagram, get with the times grandad!” Kelly hung up with a huff.
Mr Edwards looked at the phone in bewilderment as he realised she hung up. He began to tap away on his keyboard to search for their instagram accounts. It was only when he was on instagram that he realised he had no idea who these people were online.
He stared at the computer screen for a while. Then he realised he could call Tristan.
Tristan was laying across the hotel bed that he had been forced to pay for himself (this had taken a lot of effort since the girls had his credit cards. All he had was his apple-pay, ID, and PayPal right now) when his phone went off. He sighed heavily. There was very little chance it was his boss because he liked to Skype. He had no idea who this would be and really didn’t want to answer. But he didn’t want to anger anyone else that didn’t need to be angered.
He reached a lazy arm over to where his phone was, and pressed it to his ear.
“Hello?” He sighed.
“Tristan? This is James Edwards, Eric gave me your number.”
“I’m the teacher who organised this trip.”
Tristan sat up in alarm. “I err, I’m pretty busy right now, the girls are fine! We’re at the beach right now, and -”
“I know they’re missing. It’s in my best interest to get them back before their parents know they’re gone, as it is in yours,” Mr Edwards stated.
Tristan breathed a sigh of relief. He really didn’t want to lie to their teacher and get into even more trouble when the truth came out.
“I’m so sorry. They just-” Tristan began but Mr Edwards interrupted.
“There’s a reason that I chose those girls to leave, Tristan. They usually have common sense, but when they misbehave, they go big.”
Tristan didn’t reply. He felt a sting of resentment towards this man who knowingly inflicted this trouble onto him. But he knew this was his only chance to get help from someone as desperately as he was.
“How far are you from the Peak District?” Mr Edwards asked.
“The Peak District? I’m miles away!” Tristan said. “It’d take hours by road and I don’t have a car.”
“Can you rent one?”
“I can’t afford to.”
Mr Edwards stopped himself from offering to pay for him. He didn’t want to lose that money only to have the girls leave before he could get there. He needed a way to track them.
“Do you know any of their instagram account names?” Mr Edwards asked hopefully.
Tristan frowned. “I’m twenty-nine years old. I don’t know instagram names of anyone below twenty!”
Mr Edwards sighed. Things were looking hopeless. He happened to glance up at his office wall. Hanging in front of him (above the wall of thank you cards from past students) was a year group photo. He was front and centre, and all the year elevens were crowded in around him and their tutors. Up in the left corner, the five girls had messed up the height order to get to be together.
Including Sapphire and Neha.
They would know their instagram accounts.
“I’ll call you back,” Mr Edwards said to Tristan and hung up.
Tristan frowned. Did no one say goodbye anymore?
Within ten minutes Sapphire was drumming on the window of Mr Edwards office door. He yanked it open eagerly.
“Come in!” He ordered.
She frowned suspiciously and stepped into the room. Mr Edwards slammed the door shut behind him. He indicated for her to sit down. Reluctantly, she did. He sat across from her and folded one leg over the other.
“I’m not stupid Sapphire,” Mr Edwards said.
Sapphire still looked suspicious. “Alright?”
“I know you know what your friends have done,” Mr Edwards said.
“What friends?” Sapphire asked innocently.
“Tiana, Ravi, Zangi, Simi and Tahati. You know what they’ve done don’t you?”
“Yeah of course. Everyone in the school does. It’s all over Snapchat.”
Mr Edwards heart plummeted. “What is?”
“Simi says they’ve ditched their guide, Ravi says they’re going on an adventure, Tiana says she’s having a lot of fun, Zangi says she’s lucky to be alive and Tahati says... well Tahati doesn’t use snapchat much so I don’t know about her,” Sapphire explained.
Mr Edwards took a deep breath and sighed heavily. “How many people have they got on snapchat?”
Sapphire made an I-don’t-know sound. How could she know? She wasn’t them.
“Do their parents know?” Mr Edwards asked.
“I dunno. I don’t think Tahati’s does because they’d kill her. Simi too probably. And Zangi’s would ground her but she’s always grounded anyway.” Sapphire shrugged.
“What about Ravi or Tiana?” Mr Edwards asked desperately.
“Tiana’s probably don’t. Her mums pretty chill but even she probably draws the line at her daughter driving a van she’s not insured on and doesn’t have a licence for. Ravi... I dunno about Ravi. Her parents are either irrationally strict or completely laid back. I can’t figure it out and I’m white!”
Mr Edwards sighed. Sapphire was good at rambling until you forgot what you were trying to say to her. It got her out of a lot of detentions. He glanced at the pink camera in the centre of his computer screen, asking him to search for usernames.
“Sapphire, do you know their instagram names?” He asked.
Sapphires heart skipped a beat. She smiled innocently. “Who’s?”
“Don’t muck me about Sapphire. Do you know, or don’t you?” Mr Edwards demanded.
Attitude filled her so fast it wrinkled her nose. “Yeah course. Who’s d’you want?”
“Ravi’s,” Mr Edwards demanded.
“It’s M-R-E-G-O-F asterisk,” she waited for him to type it in, “C-K-Y-O-U-S-E-L-F.”
As he typed in the last letters he glanced back over it and realised what it read. A frowned wrinkled his forehead. He was the son of a vicar and was privately educated. Bad language made him very uncomfortable. Which, in hindsight, he really should have thought about before taking a job at a state school for teenage girls.
“This had better not be a real account,” he warned.
It was. It was run by someone in Mr Rah’s media club to complain about a character called Mr Ericsson on a TV show she liked. Mr Edwards didn’t even get a mention on it.
“We’re not stupid either sir. Our school bashing accounts are much more subtly named,” Sapphire said sarcastically.
One was called Coulsdon-Higher-Academy-Vocational-Studies-2 and was a parody of the schools own account. Another was called this_place_is_a_shithole. So yeah. Subtle.
“What’s Ravi’s account name?” Mr Edwards repeated impatiently.
“Ravi, Ravi, Ravi. All capital Rs, no spaces,” Sapphire said.
“Thank you,” Mr Edwards stated sharply.
“I don’t think you’ll get what you want though,” Sapphire warned.
He ignored her and typed in the username he had been given. Beside the user name was a picture of Ravi in an orange sari, grinning, with her little brother. He clicked onto it. The picture became larger in the corner of the page, and her bio appeared underneath it. Below that, there was a white page with a shut padlock in the centre.
His chest fell. “It’s blocked.”
“Nah,” Sapphire said sarcastically.
Mr Edwards groaned in frustration, and grabbed the curls at the top of his forehead.
“Why?!” He cried.
Sapphire shuffled uncomfortably in her chair. Mr Edwards dropped his head into his hands and covered his eyes.
In a quiet, pained voice, he repeated, “why?”
“Mr Rah preaches about Internet safety in assembly every year. This is your fault.”
“Just... just be quiet for a moment,” he sighed.
Sapphire saw an opportunity to get a deeper insight into her head of years’ life through his instagram. She had to find out his username.
“If you follow them you can see everything they post,” she offered.
Mr Edwards sighed again. After a moment he said, “If I follow her she’ll tell the others and the jig is up.”
“Not really. Ravi’s a social media slut, she accepts everyone who asks. She’s got a thousand followers and gets at least two daily. I don’t think she’ll notice,” Sapphire insisted.
Slowly, Mr Edwards raised his head. He laid his chin in his hands, his fingers covering his mouth. His piercing blue eyes stared at Sapphire. His mind whirled with thought. Sapphire leaned back in her seat suspiciously.
“What?” She asked, her voice tinged with nerves.
“You follow her,” he said.
“You follow all of them.”
She tried to think fast.
“Give me your phone.”
Sapphire shook her head. “You ain’t got a warrant you ain’t getting my phone.”
“Give me. Your phone.”
“I need to find them.”
“I have to. My job depends on it.”
“They’re in a lot of trouble, aren’t they?”
“Of course they are.”
Sapphire bowed her head and frowned. She was caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, she really didn’t want her friends to be in trouble, but on the other, they already were. Go big or go home so.
Sapphire took a deep breath and looked Mr Edwards in the eye. “I’m sorry. If I hadn’t spent so much money on back stage passes I would be with them and they might not have gone wandering. I mean they probably would but I’d be with them so I wouldn’t care.”
“I have to stay loyal to them even though they left me behind. I can’t let you see my instagram unless you get a warrant.”
Mr Edwards clenched his teeth. The more this week went on the more he wondered why he ever became a teacher, let alone why he wanted this stupid promotion.
“Fine. Go back to class. I have an instagram account to make,” he stated.
Sapphire stood up and headed to the door. Immediately her hand slid into her pocket.
“Oh, and Sapphire?” Mr Edwards stopped her at the door.
She looked back, one hand still on the handle. “Yes sir?”
“Don’t you dare warn them about this,” he said.
Her hand in her pocket was already unlocking her phone to text them.
“Of course, not sir. I want them to be safe.”
As she shut the door behind her, she pulled the phone into her hand and sent Ravi a text.
DO NOT ADD NEW INSTA FOLLOWERS ONE IS MR E AND HES TRYING TO FIND YOU!!!!!
If only Ravi had charged her phone through the night.