"I'm here because of unnecessary roughing."
"If you can't stay out of her way, keep your head down, say, 'Yes, Caitlin,' a lot, and make time for yourself."
"Someone in an Academy uniform and someone in a St. Dymphna uniform stole our Jennifers."
The Ulrich F. Gephardt Academy for Unruly Girls was founded outside Oshawa in 1886 to help young, troubled women turn their lives around. In 1889, U. F. Gephardt changed the mission, refining the girls to become his personal army. Gephardt retired to the Century Manor Asylum in Hamilton after suffering a nervous breakdown. The Academy, however, still continues, helping troubled and troublesome girls get an education and a good start in life, whatever their ambitions are.
Basketball Night In Canada
Chapter 1 - Miracle on the Courts
Laura threw down her pen in frustration. "I hate writing! Why do we have to do this?"
Caitlin glanced over at her new roommates homework. "'We' don't have to. You do. I don't see why you're complaining. It's for Mr. Baker." The red-haired girl exhaled a dreamy sigh. "Do you know how many girls would kill to get special homework from him?"
"Cassie has hitmen on speed dial," Skye said.
"It's the only way she'll be the smartest, eliminating the rest of the class." Caitlin returned to her own homework. "No, Mr. Baker's safe from her."
"Like he's going to ever date a student." Laura picked up her pen. "Especially someone from here."
Autumn set down her tablet. "What's that supposed to mean?"
A knock from the door interrupted the argument. Skye got up to answer the door. Standing on the other side was a junior who held out a sheet of paper. "Coach Cherry wanted me to give you this," the girl said. "It's the basketball schedule."
Skye took the paper and read it over. "This can't be right."
The girl at the door huffed. "I know, but yes it is. Positive. The coach told me so." She handed a second sheet of paper. "Everything else is covered on this." The girl left.
Skye checked the second sheet of paper. "A FAQ? Really?" The tall girl let the door close. She returned to the table. "This is different." She passed the first paper to Caitlin.
The redhead skimmed the document. "Is this right?" she asked.
Skye handed the FAQ over to Caitlin. "Must be. Cait, do you know what this means? The team won't be suspended for the year the first game of the season."
"Wait, we're not facing St. Dymphna?" Autumn craned her neck to read over Caitlin's shoulder. "How did that happen?"
Caitlin pointed at question five on the FAQ list. "Apparently, the schedulers used a randomizer this year."
"Guys! This is great news!" Skye sat down. "Do you know how long it's been since our team faced anyone else in basketball?"
Laura shrugged. "Before I came?"
Skye stuck her tongue out at her new roommate. "We were in our second year."
Caitlin passed back the papers to Skye. "I'll get the usual people out."
"No, Cait. Not this time."
"No?" Caitlin blinked.
"No. Cait, I want to win a game for real. I'm tired of not seeing any other team. This time, Cait, this time, I want to see how well we can do using our skill, not our tricks."
Caitlin leaned across the table to get closer to Skye. "Are you sure?"
"Cait, we've been practicing with Coach Cherry since before class started. We were going to play fair with the Dymphnoids, at least until they got nasty. This?" Skye waved the schedule. "This is a miracle!"
Autumn sat back down properly. "Who are you playing first?"
Skye looked at the schedule. "Simcoe Secondary."
Caitlin jotted a note. "We've never really dealt with them."
"Lucky them." Laura smirked.
"Yes, well, all it means is we don't know what they're capable of, and they've never been on the receiving end of us."
"Cait, promise me you won't interfere."
"Skye, when have I ever interfered? Autumn, shush."
Autumn shrugged. "I wasn't going to say anything."
"Cait, please," Skye pleaded.
"Fine. Skye, I promise to not interfere with the outcome of the game. Happy?"
"Thanks!" Skye noticed the amused look on Laura's expression. "What?"
"I'm just can't believe that you can call your coach by her first name, is all." Seeing her roommates staring at her, Laura continued, "What? Cherry's a perfectly cromulant name, if a little trashy. I've met a couple of Cherries. They were in the personal entertainment industry."
Skye glared at Laura. "Coach Dina Cherry, Laura. She doesn't let us use her first name. And what the hell is the personal entertainment industry?"
"I'll answer that later," Caitlin said, before Laura could say anything. "Skye, you should check with the coach on when practises will be. It's going to be a big game."
"You're right." Skye got up and darted to the door. "Cait, remember, you promised."
The red-haired girl nodded. "I promised, yes. Go!" Caitlin waited until the door was closed before turning back to her remaining roommates. "I need to know who is on the Simcoe team by tomorrow evening."
Laura rolled her eyes. "You promised Skye you wouldn't interfere!"
"I promised Skye I wouldn't interfere in the outcome of the game. I never said anything about looking into the team and seeing if they're going to do something underhanded." Caitlin stood up. "I'll have your assignments shortly."
Skye ran all the way to the gym. Several of her teammates were already outside the coach's office. Coach Cherry opened the door. "Girls, don't you have anywhere else to be?"
"It's the schedule," Sasha said.
"Is it real?" Felicia added. "I'm mean, really real?"
Coach Cherry ran her fingers through her prematurely greying hair. "Yes, girls. It's real. I even called Simcoe to confirm."
The girls cheered, the shouts echoing off the walls. "We're going to mop the floor with them!" Skye yelled.
"Hey, none of that!" Coach Cherry clapped to get the team's attention. "We're going to be clean. I don't want to hear any threat to the other team."
Skye blushed. "Sorry, Coach. I got carried away."
"I know, Martin. It's exciting." The coach stepped into the centre of her girls. "This game is big. If we show the Simcoe Loyalists just how hard a Phoenix plays without getting down and dirty, the other teams will take notice. Got me?" Coach Cherry saw people nodding. "I can't hear you. Got me?"
"Yes, Coach Cherry!"
"Good! And since you girls have so much energy, go get changed and meet me in the gym in five minutes. Let's put that energy to good use."
Autumn set her tablet down. "Caitlin, you do know that not one school keeps their electronic records online? You do know that we're the reason why the records aren't online?"
Caitlin let herself slump in her chair for a moment before drawing herself back up. "No, Autumn. Please, enlighten me on how the Headmistress and the school board are preventing you from doing basic research. That never gets old."
"When did you learn sarcasm?"
"Autumn, did you ever think about checking newspapers?"
"Pfft." Autumn waved away the suggestion. "Like you can trust them."
"Just because North Korea hid your theft from everyone doesn't mean that the sports page is total fiction. If it was fiction, the Maple Leafs would win a game."
"Hey!" Laura crumpled a sheet of paper into a ball and threw it at the redhead. "They do too win games!"
Caitlin eyed her new roommate. "Shouldn't you be writing for Mr. Baker?"
Laura sighed. "I am never going to get this done. My hand's starting to cramp up."
"That explains the throw."
"Oh, shut up." Laura pushed her papers away. "I'm taking a break."
"Good idea. You were getting cranky." Caitlin turned back to Autumn. "Can you please check the newspapers for the Simcoe team? I'm not looking for their birth certificates, yet. Just how they did last year."
Autumn picked up her tablet. "Yes, Caitlin."
"Thank you, Autumn." Caitlin stretched. "You really watch the Leafs, Laura?"
"I'm from Toronto, duh." Laura stood up. "I don't suppose there's a way to watch their games here?"
"We don't have cable out here. No one ever thought of putting it in."
"Which makes it difficult to get decent Internet speeds, especially if the sophomores start pirating again." Autumn rolled over on her stomach. "Would you believe they wouldn't cut me in?"
"I'll talk to Vamsi." Laura walked over to the door. "Any special orders while I'm there?"
Caitlin thought for a moment. "Nothing tonight."
"Energy drinks! I'm almost out. Rockstar." Autumn waved to Laura without looking. "Thank you!"
Laura left her dorm. She knocked on her neighbour's and waited to see who answered. Cassie opened the door. "Lorelei! I didn't imagine you would be here. What did Kitty-Cait send you for?"
"Kitty-Cait didn't send me, Cassie." Laura tried to peer beyond the blonde. "Is Vamsi back?"
Cassie gave Laura a beaming smile. "Of course Vammie's back. Come in, come in!" The blonde ushered her neighbour deeper into the dorm.
Inside, twins Flora and Fawna were at opposite sides of the room, doing what looked like homework to Laura. Vamsi sat at the table with her laptop. She looked up. "Hey, Laura."
Cassie clapped to get the twins' attention. "Girls, we have a visitor. Say hi to Lorelei."
"Hi, Laura," Flora said. Fawna remained engulfed in her work.
"Well, half of them were polite. It's an improvement."
"We know where you sleep, Cassie. Right, sis?"
Fawna held a finger to her mouth. "Sh! Working."
"Ignore the Geek Chorus," Vamsi said. She indicated the chair across from her. "Please, sit. You look like you're here on business."
Laura sat down. "I am. I need access to Leafs games."
Cassie moued. "Really? I thought you had better taste, Lorelei."
Vamsi glared at her blonde roommate. "Cassie, what have I told you about annoying my customers?"
Cassie thought for several seconds. "That if I couldn't be helpful, I should somewhere else?"
With a sigh, Cassie slipped on her shoes, a pair of heeled Mary Janes. "I'm going. Lorelei, don't take too long. I need my beauty sleep if I'm going to look my best for Mr. Baker in the morning." Cassie swayed her hips as she left.
Once the door shut, Vamsi said, "There goes the reason why almuni in the family should never be a reason to let anyone in here." She shook her head. "Access to the Leafs. What sort of access? Are we talking radio, television, locker room?"
"TV. Wait, you can get me into the Leafs' locker room?" Laura edged forward on her chair. "Who do I have to seduce and/or kill?"
"Will no one rid me of this turbulent blonde?" Vamsi grinned. "Find a way to get Cassie to disappear without question, I will move hell and high water to get you to live in the locker room. For television, we can work out something less messy. Best way is through an Internet connection. If you have a computer, I can get you passwords."
Laura sighed. "Add a computer to my order."
"That's easy. Laptops fall off the back of the truck more often than people expect. Just don't let Autumn near it. You'll be wanted in some Balkan nation for destabilizing their money."
"Speaking of Autumn, she's almost out of energy drinks. Rockstar."
Vamsi wrote down the request. "Anyone else?"
"Someone to take dictation would be nice." Laura shook out her right hand. "I have to give Mr. Baker a writing sample. A handwritten sample. Oh, maybe you can get me a writing sample to give in instead? Please?"
"Sorry, Laura." Vamsi shook her head. "That's the one thing I don't deal in, homework. The Headmistress caught me once and, well, you know how Autumn doesn't want to go to North Korea? I don't want to go to Pakistan."
Vamsi reached across the table to pat Laura's shoulder. "Cheer up. It's not a difficult assignment."
"Easy for you to say." Laura snapped her fingers. "There is something else. Did you hear that the basketball team isn't facing St. Dimpled in the first game?"
"Oh?" Vamsi cocked her head. "Tell me more."
"That's about all I know, other than they're facing Simcoe."
Vamsi grinned. "Thank you, Laura. I've been waiting years to open up betting on something besides who will be the first to foul out or the number of police cruisers to show up. Care to make a wager?"
"I don't know anything about basketball."
"Your loss." Vamsi shook Laura's hand. "I have some research to do. Handicapping this will take time."
Laura got up. "Happy to help?"
"And I'll have your order by the weekend. Pleasure doing business with you."
Skye returned to her dorm, her excess energy drained by the practice session. She entered, pausing long enough to hang up her blazer. "Anyone here?" she called.
"Hello, Skye," Autumn called from the bathroom. She emerged, a towel wrapped around her and another around her hair. "Caitlin had errands and Laura needed to get over herself."
"Did you leave any hot water?"
"Ha, ha. I took a bath. You know how difficult it is to get even five minutes alone here." Autumn returned to the bathroom. "Give me another ten minutes," she said before closing the door.
Skye grabbed a bottle of apple juice from the fridge. "Did Caitlin say what the errands were?"
"Does she ever say?"
"Damnit, she promised!" Skye sat at the table. She opened her bottle of juice. "Why didn't you stop her?"
"Stop Hurricane Caitlin?" Autumn came back out, a towel still in her hair but now wearing a short red nightgown. "Want me to stop a truck on the 401 next? Hey, maybe a tornado! Those are easy compared to Caitlin."
Skye slammed back the apple juice, drinking the bottle dry. "I should have known she had something in mind when she sent me to the gym."
Autumn sat down on her bed. "For what it's worth, Laura called her on it. Skye, what's wrong with finding out what the other team can do?"
"Coach Cherry is already doing that." Skye set down her empty bottle. "Caitlin is trying to get blackmail material."
"She doesn't have any."
"Yet." Skye tossed her empty bottle into the recycling bin. "Ha!"
"Nice shot." Autumn slipped her legs under her blankets. "Skye, Caitlin is Caitlin. She was ready to do whatever she has in mind to St. Dymphna. Caitlin's just out of sorts because she has to change her plans."
"The season starts in three days. I want just one game - one game, Autumn - where the results are decided through play and not through threats. One game that counts instead of the usual brawl between us and the Dymphnoids. Is that too much to ask?"
Autumn shrugged. "Ask Caitlin. Me, I'm not even betting on the game."
"We are not common criminals."
"We're winning. We're just getting some tough calls."
"The ref's not even seeing the blatant fouls done to us."
"You could let us in on your plans once in a while, Caitlin."