The Black Widow
The room is not large and it is sparsely furnished. There are no comfortable chairs; it is all rather formal. She is not one for artwork, the walls are magnolia. There are no photographs displayed on the desk, simply neat red files full of paperwork. There is a small, discreet radio which is never switched on and a floor plan of the school pinned on the noticeboard.
She has a list of the staff in front of her while she drinks Earl Grey. She has lists of the children too, but they are safely tucked away in the red files today.
She purses her lips as her eyes rove down the page. Four of the names will be crossed out soon so she puts them in brackets as a happy reminder. She suspects the caretaker will not be long for this educational world either, which would round it up to a rather satisfactory five.
But these are the easy meat. The pattern is always thus: those who are a whisker away from retirement and give up the ghost early; the newly qualified who runs to another job, terrified; the part-time, exhausted new mum, always the easiest to crack.
Other names on the list interest her far more. The deputy head, a tough, bright cookie who had been in line for the headship. She ahs been tested many times, and while the strain is beginning to show, she has spirit and isn’t yet afraid to answer back. she would make an excellent henchwoman if she wasn’t such a do-gooder.
The admin staff will all have to go, but that’s an easy axe to wield. She’ll just restructure, change the job titles slightly, insist on qualifications for the posts none of them have, dish out a paltry payment and replace them with her faithful, grateful cronies.
The head of the sixth form is useful. Already a proven toady, he knows which side his bread could be buttered and likes to bask in her reflected power. He has let plenty of gems fall – the competent maths teacher who successfully hides her drink problem, the two who are having an affair, the one who had a nervous breakdown five years ago. He will be very handy for spreading rumours about upcoming redundancies, sackings, promotions and rule changes. It is far more subtle to have a stooge do this for you – and, of course, she doesn’t have to carry any of these out if they don’t suit, but a culture of fear makes even the most difficult people easy to manipulate.
And she can do all of this without leaving these four magnolia walls. She stretches her legs out in front of her and relaxes back into the chair. It suits her very well, this modest little control room.