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Facetaker by Philip Gross
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Exciting mystery about a photo booth with a sinister yet seductive power. It began as a game - the four of us, winding each other up with those stories about the photo booth down at the station - how it could... see things about people - things they wouldn’t want to know about themselves. But once you’ve started, you can’t stop. And by the time we realised it was serious - deadly serious - then it was too late.
Pollinger in Print; Read online
Title: Facetaker
Author: Philip Gross
I'm trying to think when it was, the first time t h e first time I noticed that Denzil had that special thing about him. You could call it power. Things would happen round him Like they did round no-one else. At the time it seemed exciting; it set my nerve ends on edge. It's only afterwards, Looking back, that I realize the feeling was fear. We were friends, after all. And the first time I'm thinking of, it wasn't me he was frightening; it was Mr Pinkus. I was a bystander, one of the class, though I caught on to what was happening quicker than most of the rest. He was subtle, Denzil was. You've got to grant him that. And Mr Pinkus? If ever there was a natural victim, he was. You could see it in his eyes. The moment he stepped through the door, before most of the class had even noticed him, he Looked cornered. It wasn't that we were out of order, just a bit high, the way you are when you know the English teacher's off - a teacher that nobody likes - and it's Shakespeare again. We were chatting and pushing each other about a bit and joking, and then the door opened. There was Mr Pinkus looking ... well, I've got to say it: pink. It was his skin: it had that slightly boiled Look. He blinked too, several times, as he Looked around the classroom. You could see the pinkness of his scalp right through his thin white hair. "Hello, sir." It was Denzil who spoke first, and it seemed polite -just a bit too polite to be true, but he smiled as he said it, and Mr Pinkus looked relieved and gave a bit of a smile in return. "Uh, I understand Miss Stokes has set you work to get on with," he said. Someone muttered something at the back, and Mr Pinkus jerked round. "Pardon?" he said and blushed. That's what gave Denzil his cue. Mr Pinkus's hearing wasn't too good these days; he missed things, and felt bad about it. He was a couple of years from retirement and you could see the younger members of staff thinking that the time couldn't pass too quickly. "Ben said: Yes she did, but she didn't explain it, sir." Denzil spoke Loud and clear, and Mr Pinkus's eyes were drawn to him. What a helpful boy, you could see him thinking. Looking back now, there was something just then in the way that Denzil nodded slightly as he smiled ... "Could you explain it to us, sir?" "Oh ..." Mr Pinkus said. "It's not my subject ..." Mr Pinkus was Religious Studies. My mum told me later that he'd been a vicar once, but found it stressful so he turned to teaching. Little did he know. "Please, sir?" said Denzil. I Looked at the worksheet we'd been left. A Midsummer Night's Dream. "What is the dramatic effect", it said, "of Oberon telling Puck to make Titania fall in Love with Bottom?" At the back of the class, some people shifted restlessly. For clarity, the question scored about two out of ten. It was the kind of question we could Leave till Miss Stokes came back next week, then tell her we hadn't been able to do it because we didn't understand. If Pinkus went and explained now, we'd have to do it. "Shut up, Denzil," whispered Lisa. Lisa was queen bee in our class, the one at the centre of the biggest group of friends, and what Lisa said went. Denzil was new, and in nobody's gang, but he gave her a straight Look, not aggressive, just sort of calm and controlled. I know what I'm doing, it said. And - this is what I mean by power - Lisa Let it go.
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