It was only now that Kai wondered if all of the money was worth it. It was only now, as he stood in front of the silent firing squad, that he wondered whether the dissolution of his two-year-old empire and the gargantuan benefits it had bought were really worthy of the consequences he was about to face; of course, he knew it was much easier to analyze a situation in retrospect. Humans were impulsive creatures by nature--most people's acts were driven by that primitive sensation that stirred within, the same primitive impulse which had ushered Kai into this sparsely furnished office where he waited to be convicted of providing his fellow students with addictive products, a business venture that had earned him considerable monetary profits over the last two years.
Mr Bailey, the head teacher and therefore the judge and executioner, sat behind his desk. His palms kissed. He managed to swing an uninterested glance at the Head of English – to the silent and standing Miss Bennett. Kai wondered how any male could look at such a beauty of a woman with such boring impassivity; he also wondered how a man who looked like a cowboy ended up being in charge of Thornleigh Salesian Secondary School. The thick, grey horseshoe moustache below Mr Bailey’s nose trembled of its own accord, as though it were part of the chaparral in the American wilderness. Like a tunnel, his face was slim, his cheekbones jutting outwards as though they yearned to be free. His eyelids were tiny, which made him appear as if he were always squinting, much the way Clint Eastwood did before blasting away some poor bastard in a Western flick. No matter the day or the occasion, Mr Bailey always wore black – black suit jacket, black shirt, black jeans, black shoes and a black tie. Kai expected him to pull out a Scholfield Revolver from his desk draw at any moment.
“You do know that your little venture is grossly illegal?” Miss Bennett broke the silence, addressing Kai.
Not even the voice of his greatest fantasy could abduct Kai from reality. Yes, he was well aware of the illegality of his business. Did she really think he was that stupid?! Or maybe because she prided herself on being a modern Shakespeare she felt she was capable of delivering trite rhetoric without making herself look like an idiot. Kai inhaled and exhaled, as if he’d just run a marathon. He spared a glance at Miss Bennett – her beauty was like a warm glow amidst a cold winter night, one that every boy in the school was unable to resist. Of both English and Scandinavian descent, her honey blonde hair fell over her shoulders, transforming her into a creature that was reminiscent of Sleeping Beauty or some other Disney princess. Her cleft cheeks appeared slick, like those transparent grey eyes which changed colour upon the reflection of light. Her body was fit and slender – the knee-skirt she wore accentuating her slim-hipped nature. The first three buttons on the shirt that covered her upper body had been left unhinged, allowing a tantalisingly limited view of the swelling valley in her chest. The fact that she had been the one to bust him, failed to diminish Kai’s infatuation with the woman. He was convinced he was in love.
Miss Bennett reiterated the question while sparing a glance at Mr Bailey - the flash in her eyes revealing her hope that he would speak soon. Mr Bailey ignored her. He simply stared at the sixteen-year-old boy standing in front of his desk. The look in his serene black eyes suggested that he was undecided; a perception, Kai was all too aware of, that was grossly inaccurate. After all, Mr Bailey wasn’t feared at the school for being aggressive or angry, but for being a highly pre-emptive man; in other words, he knew how to handle a situation before anyone else did. His ability to neutralise a possible student brawl before the two clowns had a chance to butt heads had earned him respect among teachers and parents alike, as well as a tentative distrust among his daytime wards. So, needless to say, Kai more than suspected that the man had already decided what fate would be dealt to him long before Miss Bennett had ushered him into the office.
“You do know we’ve been watching you?” Mr Bailey asked Kai after a moment, his deep voice as gruff as crunching gravel.
“No, sir.” Kai’s response was almost whisper.
Mr Bailey smiled without warmth. “Of course you don’t. Otherwise you wouldn’t have been stupid enough to keep peddling this trash –” Mr Bailey waved at the contents of evidence strewed on his desk “- around my school.”
The head teacher got up from his chair, turned around, and walked past a platoon of steel cabinets. With his back facing the other two souls in the room, the man in black stopped and stood in front of the window, which displayed a drab, unimpressive view of the square sixth form block and the large play yard comprised of asphalt. He placed his hands on his waist, subtly sliding back the sides of his jacket. He then proceeded to push open the wings of the window. The unit fell back with a woeful squeal; a procession of sounds invaded the office; a chorus of chattering, shouting and laughing children. Kai felt dizzy with longing – with the desire to be among the innocent whose spirits spilled in through the open window like a playful gust of wind, almost taunting him with what he should have been and not what he should have aspired for. He felt perspiration invading his underarms as he glanced at the evidence strewn on the desk - as he thought of what his parents would say.Man, I've fucked up real bad this time.
“Come here, Kai,” Mr Bailey said, his back still turned.
Kai joined the head teacher at the window, aligning himself to Mr Bailey's side but keeping a yard’s distance as though the man were a dangerous animal.
“Tell me what you see,” Mr Bailey said, nodding towards the children congregated on the playground two stories below.
“Are you blind? Tell me what you see in front of you.”
Kai cleared his throat. He glanced at the silent and equally perplexed Miss Bennett. She could only blink. Kai then cast his gaze on the yard below. In reality, he saw boys wearing repulsive chocolate coloured blazers and girls wearing brown skirts that were short enough to be classed as belts, milling about in the yard. He heard a series of loud discharges as a football slammed against asphalt, followed by the sight of a stampede of boys chasing after the round object. He saw cliques of girls laughing and sitting on benches, occasionally waving arms at the boys playing football and then speaking amongst themselves. Other interspersed groups, from the lesser popular students in scattered legions to the shroud of smoke rising behind the steel container where the smokers congregated every lunch like faithful men and women seeking solace during mass, populated the spacious yard.
“I see students. I see a lot of them.”
“Is that all you see?”
Kai shrugged, lowering his gaze to the floor. He shifted on his feet, his right foot carving circles on the marble floor.
Mr Bailey smiled – a genuine expression of humour. “Let me tell you what I see. I see boys with far too much energy running about like headless chickens. I see girls that do nothing but gossip themselves to death. I see those Emo children that are obsessed with death and suicide hanging amongst themselves, resenting everyone and everything around them. I see a group of those useless teachers under my command drinking coffee and as per usual, ignoring that little pall of smoke rising behind that container, which, God knows what it contains.” He then paused, glanced at a baffled Miss Bennett before staring at me.The smile, evoking visions of flame-ravaged bark from a burning tree, disintegrated from his face. The thick moustache twitched, a sign of irritation perhaps. Kai half-expected to see columns of smoke explode from the man’s flaring nostrils.
“And then I see you,” Mr Bailey said, “you, the only kid who’s perpetually followed by a horde of fellow students from the youngest to the oldest. Now you might wonder why, when I first came to this school six months ago, that I thought this was strange. And I know for a fact that you’re not that tough, charismatic, popular or that good looking! I also know it doesn’t have anything to do with you being the only black kid in your year. You’re pretty average to me, which begs the question, why, whenever I looked out of my window, did I see you walking with something close to a little posse surrounding you? You see, everything on that yard is ordinary. Smoking children and gossiping girls is something I expect. But you,” he chuckled bitterly, “you’re something else. So, young man, will you explain to me as to why you’re a little superstar?”
The sore lump in Kai’s throat felt as if it were about to explode; the sickening sensation in his stomach whirled like a turbulent hurricane, overwhelming each one of his senses. He couldn’t understand how the head teacher had such power, or how the man was able to take such pleasure in tormenting him so profoundly when all of the cards were already on the table. After two years of taking meticulous precautions, they had him. The amount of product they had discovered in his schoolbag was far too heavy to be pinned on personal use. He knew they had him on intent to sell. Kai’s father had once told him that a good military general knew when to retreat, and a good soldier knew when he was beaten. Kai knew he was defeated. His empire—his legacy—was dead.
And so he confessed.
With tears crawling down his caramel coloured skin and a trembling bottom lip, he confessed to being the dealer. He confessed to selling illegally for the last two years. He confessed to providing his fellow students with highly addictive products. Mr Bailey wanted a full explanation – everything from purchasing to distribution.
Kai explained. Purchasing began at the local ASDA supermarket right before school started. He’d sell most of his stock during the prelude to school and break-time. By the time his stock ran out before the last two lessons of the day, he’d have accumulated a thirty pound profit after selling stock at an outrageous premium. The reason Kai made so much money was because he’d paid a great deal of attention when it came to his GCSE Business Studies lessons. Kai was able to extortion his customers, for he had no competitors. Zero competition meant he was able to dictate his own prices without outside influence.
Miss Bennett’s jaw dropped when Kai told Mr Bailey he made £150 every week.
“What?” The young woman snapped, her face turning strawberry red, her eyes wide with disbelief. “You make that kind of money by selling cookies, crisps, fizzy drink cans, chocolate bars and doughnuts?”
Kai, summoning his customary adolescent spirit, rolled his eyes in insolence. “You think that’s crazy?” He shrugged. “It’s not. Not really. I mean, we’re kids. We love sweets, candies and loads of fatty foods. And we can't buy none of that here. It’s all that green, organic crap that you lot in the canteen sell, isn’t it? And we don’t wanna eat that. We want chocolates and cookies. So you shouldn’t really be wondering how I can make that amount of money when I’m the only one who can provide such a service in this entire school.” Kai shrugged again, remembering a tad bit of information from his History lesson. “It’s a bit like when Prohibition was enforced in the US. The mobsters could charge stupid prices for alcohol because not only was it in high demand, but they were the only ones selling the stuff; hence the reason they dictated the prices.”
After a moment’s contemplation, Kai said: “Jeez, Miss, it’s not rocket science. And trust me when I say this;if it wasn't me, it'd have been someone else." After a pause, Kai suddenly felt an influx of liberation - of bold courage. Now that he'd been caught, hell, he didn't have much more to lose, did he? "And believe me when I say this. If you think that you've seen the last of people selling snacks brought from ASDA at a premium in this school, you're wrong. Very wrong. There's simply too much money to be made."
"Okay, Niccolo Machiavelli," Mr Bailey said, "what do you suggest we do to combat this revolutionary sensation? Which, I may add, you were the catalyst of ."
"It's not all that difficult. Not really. You want to stop people breaking commerce and trading laws because they want to make big profits? There's one simple solution. You control it."
"And how do we do that?"
Kai smiled. "Simple. You start selling the snacks people are smuggling in the school. You legalise it."