Published: Bunty #2045 (22 March 1997) – #2054 (24 May 1997)
At St Jade’s Boarding School, Carol Davies and Fiona Mathieson are best friends. One day voting forms go out for School Captain. Fiona wins the post, which gives her privileges such as a whole study to herself. Carol, who was runner-up, is appointed Fiona’s deputy. On parents’ day, Mrs Davies finds her watch has been stolen and then it falls out of Fiona’s pocket. Fiona says she does not know how it got there, but is expelled for theft and Carol takes her place as School Captain.
Before Fiona leaves, she proclaims her innocence to Carol and her other friends. They believe that someone framed her and agree to help her prove her innocence. To this end, Fiona is going to a local boarding school, Hallcote Lawn, which will enable her to stay close by so she can check up on progress, any potential developments in the investigation, and exchange clues.
It turns out that it was Carol who had framed Fiona because, of course, she wanted the School Captain’s job. However, this is not revealed to the reader for several episodes. Still, there were small clues in the first episode, such as Carol not looking happy when the girls say they expected she voted for Fiona. In the meantime we see Carol do subtle things that, after the revelation, we realise were attempts to derail and misdirect the investigation.
First, Carol has word about Fiona’s expulsion spread to Hallcote Lawn by telling another St. Jade’s girl who is transferring there. As planned, Fiona becomes an outcast at her new school. But instead leaving Hallcote Lawn as Carol suggests, Fiona bravely stays on in order to stay close to the girls’ investigation. Then Carol drops a suggestion to the girls that Fiona had actually committed the theft in order to go to Hallcote Lawn, where fees are cheaper, but the girls don’t buy it. She drops another hint that a teacher did it because she was jealous of Fiona’s aunt getting a job she wanted, but the teacher is soon cleared of suspicion.
Then, a mention of pickpockets in Fiona’s English class has her realise that the culprit acted like a pickpocket in reverse – slipping the watch into her pocket instead of taking something out of it. So the culprit has to be someone who got close enough to her for that. Fiona draws up a list of people who would have gotten close enough to her to plant the watch on her and passes it over to the girls. It is this point that it is revealed to the reader that Carol is the culprit. Once this is established, the story puts full focus on her. It openly shows Carol trying to sabotage the investigation, her ruthlessness and underlying desperation in holding onto her position, and also shows her thought bubbles.
The girls begin to realise that Carol had the strongest motive for getting Fiona expelled – getting the captaincy. Carol deflects suspicion by faking her study being wrecked by an unknown enemy. As planned, this leads the girls to think that the same person is after Carol now. Later, Carol tries to plant evidence for it on another girl. Fortunately it founders and the girl is soon cleared of framing Fiona.
Fiona sneaks back to school, telling Carol she wants to speak to a girl who may be a potential witness. But when they try to hide from the headmistress, she discovers Fiona when Carol “sneezes”. The headmistress throws Fiona out, but is so furious with Carol that her captaincy is put on the line. Carol soon finds a way to get back into the headmistress’ good books; there is no way she is going to lose her captaincy.
Carol has another close call when the girls discover a father made a video of the parents’ day. But when they review the tape they discover it got accidentally taped over. Carol is safe again.
But not for long – a new girl, Kirsty MacPherson arrives, and she happens to have seen Carol slip the watch on Fiona when she and her parents visited on the parents’ day. Once Kirsty discovers why Carol did it, she starts blackmailing her. Carol gives in to Kirsty because she just has to hold onto her captaincy.
The blackmail does not last long because the next episode is the final one. Carol comes to realise that as long as Fiona persists with the other girls in proving her innocence, they will keep investigating and her secret will never be safe. If Fiona was removed altogether, the girls will soon give up. So at a chess tournament with Hallcote Lawn Carol tries to get Fiona expelled from her new school by using the same trick as before. But when the alarm is raised, the search does not find the stolen item in Fiona’s pocket where Carol planted it. Instead, it is found in Carol’s bag! Carol is so astonished that she openly declares it is impossible because she planted it on Fiona – OOOPS!
Fiona then explains she put the item in Carol’s bag after feeling Carol slip it into her pocket and tells Carol that she is too heavy-handed for tricks like that. Carol retorts that she is not, saying that was precisely what she did with the watch on that fateful parents’ day and Fiona did not notice.
Now the truth is well and truly out, Carol is expelled and Fiona is reinstated to her old school and position as School Captain.
There have been many stories where a best friend becomes a secret worst enemy when the heroine is promoted at school. Stories where this has happened include “The Captain’s Friend” (Tracy) and “In Petra’s Place” (Bunty). In most cases they just try to make the heroine look too irresponsible to have the promotion and don’t go as far as trying to get her expelled. But getting her own best friend expelled for a crime she did not commit is precisely what Carol does. This puts on her on a low that far exceeds the depravity of most schemers. We have seen other girls try to get another expelled, such as “’I’ll Take Care of Tina!’” (Mandy) but they are usually either just out for misguided revenge or are already nasty schemers whom we cannot expect much of. But a best friend? That is beyond the pale. So Carol Davies must rank as one of the most despicable schemers in the history of girls’ comics. Moreover, there is no hint of remorse or shame that could redeem her in any way. Sure, Carol says (to herself) that she did not like to do what she did to Fiona, but she had to because she wanted the job so much and this was the only way to get it. It may or may not be her self-reasoning to ease a guilty conscience, but she never gives any real impression that she is feeling in any way guilty about what she did. Furthermore, she has no compunction in trying it again (which is her undoing) or in trying to shift the blame onto others in the course of the girls’ investigations.
Having another girl discovering Carol’s secret and start blackmailing her is a surprise twist that is left so underdeveloped. It had the potential to be spun out for more episodes and add more turns and twists that would have made the story even more exciting. And it would have been really interesting to see where Kirsty’s blackmail would lead if it had been developed more. Would it have ended in Carol being discovered? Or would Carol try a frame-up on Kirsty to get her expelled and out of the way? The possibilities are so tantalising. Instead, the blackmail only lasted one episode and left on a thread that was not tied up before the final episode, which is really annoying. Maybe the writer intended to take the blackmail angle further but then the editor gave the order to end the story.
When considering Fiona and her quest to prove her innocence, we get the impression that there is an untold story that would have made a brilliant and popular serial if told in its entirety. In the brief glimpses we see of Fiona as she pops back to check on progress we can see her courage and persistence shine through. There are also hints and mentions of mental anguish as she tells the detective team she is going through hell at her new school because they think she’s a thief. In the final episode a girl reports back that Fiona is now really desperate, and most likely this is because she has reached breaking point. Just imagine what a powerful and emotional serial this would have made if the story had been told from Fiona’s point of view and we could see it all for ourselves.