Mr Campbell was hardly Batman, but they still gave him the superhero treatment.
‘The Protractor!’ proclaimed the front page of the Northern Courier. Followed by ‘Masked man foils cafe intruder with maths instrument’.
It was true. He had used a protractor. Another option might have been a pair of compasses, but you could take someone’s eye out with those. Plus it would mean combat at close quarters.
Whereas Mr Campbell had pretty much mastered the art of throwing a protractor. Catch someone on the head with a metal one and chances are they’re going down.
That burglar didn’t know what hit him when he broke into the Covesea Cafe at two in the morning only to be clipped by Mr Campbell’s weapon of choice.
While the stricken culprit lay groaning and clutching his head next to the ice cream cabinet, Mr Campbell ran over and dragged him across the floor before hauling him to his feet and pinning him against the jukebox.
Keeping one hand on his captive’s throat, Mr Campbell fished 10 pence from his pocket and put it in the coin slot.
Choices, choices. It was a toss up between New Order and Roxette. World in Motion was a top tune, but the Swedish duo won the day.
‘What the hell do you think you’re playing at?’ asked Mr Campbell as the song kicked in. ‘You should be ashamed of yourself.’
I hit the road out of nowhere …
‘It’s a good job I happened to be walking by or you might have got away with this.’
‘I-I’m sorry,’ gasped the burglar.
‘So you bloody well should be,’ said Mr Campbell as it struck him that this trembling figure in his grasp looked familiar. He was one of his former pupils.
And it all begins where it ends …
‘You’re Billy McPherson. Daniel McPherson’s boy, aren’t you?’
‘Um, might be.’
‘Well Billy, you’re a bloody idiot.’
Mr Campbell didn’t like the sound of that. Perhaps in the classroom but not here.
She says hello, you fool, I love you …
‘Let this be a lesson to you, Billy,’ said Mr Campbell as Roxette hit their stride.
‘Wh-who are you?’
Mr Campbell thought for a moment.
Come on, join the joyride …
‘I’m your worst nightmare, got it?’
The boy seemed to have absorbed the message. Mr Campbell felt the mask helped. It lent him an air of menace while keeping him incognito. He had never enjoyed either advantage in the classroom.
The mask was a modified kipper tie from his early teaching days. Dark burgundy, it clashed with his purple shellsuit. As for a cape, Mr Campbell saw no need for one. It’s not as if he was about to take to the skies over Covesea.
Mask, shellsuit, cutting edge weaponry. What more could a novice crime-fighter need?
Mr Campbell thought his first intervention hadn’t gone too badly. There was using a protractor to measure angles and there was using one to bring down criminals. And he had just succeeded in stopping a burglar in his tracks while scaring the living daylights out of him.
Now he was going to leave the quivering wreck in the hands of the local police.
‘Okay Billy, sit tight.’
Mr Campbell produced a length of rope from a plastic bag and set about strapping Billy McPherson to the jukebox while Roxette played out.
With his gift to the authorities wrapped up, Mr Campbell exited the cafe through the smashed front door, his new Hi-Tec trainers crunching on broken glass. In his hand, he held a piece of chalk.
Anyone for tennis?
‘Morning, Mr Campbell.’
Mr Campbell glanced up to see Jimmy the janitor waving at him from the school roof.
‘Morning, Jimmy. Operation Tennis Balls, is it?’
‘Just the three so far,’ said Jimmy, plucking another ball from the gutter. ‘The kids love their games, Mr Campbell, but it means I’m never off this flipping roof.’
‘Looks like you’re doing a grand job, Jimmy.’
‘Aye, just don’t be taking away my ladder now.’
‘Oh I wouldn’t dream of doing that. See you later.’
‘Every chance of that, Mr Campbell.’
It was the final week of the summer term at Covesea High. Four more days of classes before a fun-packed Friday in the shape of sports day.
Mr Campbell was looking forward to the usual confusion of the wheelbarrow race and the customary climax of the sack race. He was also looking forward to six weeks’ holidays and the prospect of doing little else than honing his superhero persona.
Halfway to the staff-room, he bumped into Miss Massey, the school secretary.
‘Morning, Alex,’ she smiled.
‘Morning, Sally. How are you today?’
‘Very well, thanks. Not long now till the holidays.’
‘No, not long at all. But I’ve still got time to cram some more maths into the kids’ heads.’
‘Good luck with that.’
‘Thanks Sally, I’ll be needing it.’
Mr Campbell reached the staff-room in a buoyant mood that was swiftly ruined by the all-too-familiar drone of Mr Fraser, the geography teacher, holding court and giving his latest views through a fog of cigarette smoke.
‘It’s ridiculous taking the law into your own hands like that,’ said the expert in clouds and weather patterns. ‘Who in the blazes does he think he is?’
‘A dispenser of justice,’ offered Mr Menzies, the English teacher, leaning against a cabinet. ‘A defender of the populace and perhaps a hero of our times.’
‘Rubbish,’ said Mr Fraser, making one of his screwed-up faces that Mr Campbell always thought deserved a punch. ‘Superheroes belong in comic books. What we have here is a madman in a cape and, frankly, that’s the last thing Covesea needs right now.’
‘Supposedly he wasn’t wearing a cape,’ said Mrs Richmond, the home economics teacher.
‘A madman in a mask then,’ said Mr Fraser. ‘Look, this whole thing is preposterous and to be honest Jean, it’s the burglar I feel sorry for. He shouldn’t have done what he did, but neither did he deserve to be manhandled by a maniac in fancy dress. What do you think Alex?’
Mr Campbell had been standing by the kettle, waiting for it to boil, but thought he had better answer.
‘Well, I think Matteo will be glad the person who broke into his cafe was caught. And however this “maniac” decides to conduct himself and whatever he wants to wear is up to him.’
‘Fancy yourself as a superhero, Alex?’ asked Mr Fraser.
‘No, not really Derek.’
By the time Mr Campbell sat down with his coffee, the conversation had turned to football. He had tuned in to last night’s commentary while putting the finishing touches to his mask. Although his team had lost, the night had otherwise been a raging success.
The bell rang for the first class of the day and first up for Mr Campbell were the fourth years. He had put together a lesson on simultaneous equations, but all they wanted to talk about was the new superhero in town.
‘He’s massive,’ said Kenny Scott. ‘Seven feet tall and built like a brick -’
‘Kenny,’ cut in Mr Campbell.
‘And he’s got laser eyes,’ finished Kenny as various classmates chipped in with their own revelations concerning Covesea’s masked crusader.
‘His car’s like the Batmobile except it’s bright green.’
‘He can stop time.’
‘He’s living in a cave over by the Cove. That’s his secret base.’
Mr Campbell decided to set aside the simultaneous equations for another day. ‘Can anyone tell me the square root of 64?’ he asked.
Wendy Andrews raised her hand and gave the correct answer as always, but Mr Campbell barely heard her.
He was contemplating his next move. Not as a maths teacher but as a superhero. A maths teacher times ten. No, a maths teacher to the power of one hundred.
During the morning break, Mr Campbell dropped by the school office with a requisition form for fresh classroom materials. Rulers, set squares, pocket calculators …
‘My, that’s a lot of protractors,’ said Miss Massey, glancing at the form.
‘Two hundred might seem like a high number,’ explained Mr Campbell, ‘but they fair go through them.’
Classroom Superheroes will be released in Winter 2015.