Lockwood & Co

Free Lockwood & Co by Jonathan Stroud

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Authors: Jonathan Stroud
The Dagger in the Desk
    It was a winter’s morning, the day after the messy conclusion to the Case of the Floating Fingers, and Lockwood, George and I had assembled in the kitchen for a very late breakfast. Rapiers, chains and salt-bombs lay scattered on the table. George’s jacket, peppered with ectoplasm burns, hung steaming on a chair. A severed hand, securely contained in a silver-glass case, sat by the cornflakes, ready for disposal later. This sort of thing is normal in our house, and it didn’t spoil our appetite. We were just helping ourselves to another round of tea and toast when there was a clanging on the bell outside.
    ‘Could be a client,’ Lockwood said. ‘Go see who it is, Lucy.’
    I frowned. ‘Why me?’
    ‘I’m still in my pyjamas and George’s face is covered in jam.’
    They were decent points; I couldn’t argue with them. I answered the door. On the step stood a small, roundish man with a pink face and a dishevelled mop of sandy hair. He wore a brown tweed suit and a wild-eyed expression of deep horror.
    ‘I-I’m sorry to disturb you, miss,’ he said, ‘but I-I believe I’ve seen a ghost.’
    I smiled cheerily. ‘Then that’s our business, sir. Come in.’
    If anything, the man’s unease grew once I’d settled him on the sofa with a biscuit and a cup of tea. His fingers shook, his teeth chattered, his eyes darted from side to side as if he expected something to leap from the wall and devour him. When Lockwood (now fully clothed) and George (partially de-jammed) came in, he jumped violently, sloshing tea down the front of his shirt.
    Lockwood shook his hand. ‘I’m Anthony Lockwood. These are my associates, George Cubbins and Lucy Carlyle. How can we help you today?’
    ‘My name,’ the pink-faced man said, ‘is Samuel Whitaker, and I am the headmaster of St Simeon’s Academy for Talented Youngsters, a well-known school in Hammersmith. It is an old school, but much modernized over the years. Only last month, indeed, we opened a new library, and it was then’ – he swallowed audibly – ‘that the
incidents
began.
    ‘It was the children who noticed the change first,’ Mr Whitaker went on. ‘Pupils in Class 2A. They complained of an unpleasant odour in the air. Of course, 2A is just along from the boys’ toilets, so I thought nothing of it. But they also spoke of a spreading chill, a feeling of inexplicable dread – and of hearing a faint clinking sound.’
    ‘What kind of clinking?’ George asked. ‘Manacles? Chains?’
    ‘I don’t know. I am an adult. I heard nothing.’
    ‘When do these phenomena occur?’
    ‘Always late afternoon, as the light starts fading. Anyway, yesterday things got worse. I was teaching Class 2A. Just as the pupils were packing up, complaining again of the cold and the troubling smell, something was thrown into the classroom. It smashed straight through the glass of the door, whizzed through the air, and plunged deep into the side of my desk. A knife, Mr Lockwood! A long thin knife with an antique handle! When I got over my shock, I ran outside, and looked up and down the corridor. Just for a moment I fancied I saw – out of the corner of my eye – a shadow standing by the library door: a hunched and disfigured shape. I turned my head – and the presence was gone. Yet I had the impression that something was watching me; something filled with terrible wickedness and spite . . .’ Mr Whitaker shuddered. ‘That was enough for me! I have closed the school and come to you in the hope that you will help.’
    ‘We will certainly do our best,’ Lockwood said. ‘One question: where is the knife?’
    The headmaster blinked. ‘It was deeply embedded in the desk and I could not pull it free. I left it when we evacuated the classroom. It will still be there.’
    Lockwood clicked his tongue. ‘I hope so . . . Well, we will find out tonight. Is Class 2A in one of the original sections of the school?’
    ‘Yes, it is a hundred years old. You

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