If you’re just arriving, you may want to start with the first chapter. Here is a table of contents:
The murmuring from the teachers’ lounge was little better than the breathless whispering in the halls. Principal Fricke strode into the room with his usual brusque efficiency, clapped his hands loudly, and called for attention. “Good morning, everyone. I’m sure by now you’ve heard that Mrs. Peters fell ill during fourth period, yesterday, and was taken to Mercy Hospital. Rumors and speculation are not helpful at this point, and I expect you all to remind your students of this fact and help nip the gossip in the bud. I’m sure that Mrs. Peters would appreciate that, as well.” Mr. Fricke did not stick around to answer questions; he left as abruptly as he came, leaving a sucking void, momentarily, where his larger than life personality had momentarily filled space. The first period warning bell rang, startling all of us into gathering purses, books, coffee mugs, and sweaters to haul to first period. Some of us dragged our feet like recalcitrant sophomores.
“Think there’s any truth to it?” I asked George Lane. He was a rarity among high school teachers: a math genius pressed into secondary duties as the school’s football coach. Sweaty locker room pep talks usually fell to a former jock who was often pressed into service as a substitute math or history teacher, but Mr. Lane had advanced degrees in applied mathematics and geology. Our team’s second-from-the-bottom standing made it an unattractive career move for many “real coaches,” and George was the only one of us who cared enough about the sport – or the kids banking on it for their college scholarships – to learn the rules and qualify to coach the kids.
George gave me that look–that look I imagined crossed Caesar’s face as he muttered, “Et tu, Brute?” “I doubt it,” he said. “I can think of ten more likely targets, and that’s without even trying.”
I raised one eyebrow and stared back at George. “Oh? And where were you the afternoon of November the fifteenth, at the end of fourth period?” I asked, imitating every clichéd private eye or detective ever to grace the small screen.
“I was running drills on the field,” said George, with a smirk. “There were at least thirty witnesses. Ask any of them.”
“It was hot. Maybe one of them will talk, in exchange for not having to run the bases.”
“Put down that fountain pen! You’ll never take me alive, Writer! And it’s football, Janie,” he added, “not baseball.” George glanced as his watch. “Shouldn’t we be in class?”
“Oh, I suppose. But the longer we drag out their hopes, the longer we can savor the look of disappointment on their cherubic faces when we walk into the room.”
“You do have a mean streak in you!”
“Did I ever claim otherwise?” I asked, laughing.
Walking down the hall to our respective classes, we spotted two uniformed officers stepping into Principal Fricke’s office. George and I turned to one another. “What’s that about?” he asked.
“Your guess is as good as mine, but probably blows my ‘Lizzie Peters just ate a bad fish sandwich’ theory.”
“Mmm hmm. I am feeling another pow-wow in the teachers’ lounge before the day is out.”
Annie Lestrade slipped across the hall as the officers shut the door, and soon had her ear pressed to the Principal’s office door with its frosted window. Our intrepid girl reporter was definitely pushing her luck; it wasn’t hard to make out the shape and height of a student’s head from the other side of that door. I’d seen it for myself. “Annie,” I said, softly, causing her to jump a foot and blanche perceptibly. “What are you doing? Good reporters don’t skulk at doorways,” I chided.
“Sure they do,” she said, brightly. Annie was charmingly incorrigible, but I was worried; if there was something criminal afoot, the girl was wholly unprepared for the real life consequences of getting caught sleuthing.
“Have you unearthed any new clues?” I asked her, steering her gently from the doorway and towards class.
“Only that that police are investigating Mrs. Peters’ illness as a possible crime,” she said. “I did overhear them saying that she’s expected to recover.” Annie tried not to sound disappointed, but she didn’t stifle the heavy sigh in time. She hardly knew Mrs. Peters, and getting the scoop on a murder mystery would be a coup for the young journalist-in-training.
“Don’t be ghoulish, Annie. Your time will come, I’m sure.”
“Sorry, Mrs. Hobbes,” she said, blushing. “It’s just…nothing exciting ever happens here. I’m tired of writing about football scores and what glee club is singing this month.”
“I know you are.” I wasn’t unsympathetic to the poor girl’s plight. I saw a way to redirect her focus and get her to do my dirty work for me. “Hey, see if you can social engineer an update on Mrs. Peters’ health, over at Mercy.” I felt a small, guilty twinge suggesting that, but the thrill of an illicit chase after facts might keep Annie out of trouble for the next hour or so, while I dealt with my Language and Lit class. The worst that could happen is an alert staffer at Mercy would stonewall her. It wasn’t against the law to ask about a patient’s health.
“Sorry I’m late, Class,” I said, laying my purse under the desk and an armload of books atop it.
“Did you bring a hall pass, Mrs. Hobbes?” asked Joe Krebs. Half the kids snickered softly, furtively watching me for my reaction to his impudence.
It was my turn to smirk. “No sir, Mr. Krebs. Guess I’ll have to stay after to clean the erasers and grade papers.” At that, a few of the girls laughed out loud. “Okay, everyone, open your books to Chapter Five, Rhetorical Devices. We’ll begin with sarcasm.”
Live-blogging a novel is sort of the equivalent of karaoke for writers. Only the courageous, drunk, or daring ever try it. I’m not drunk.
Sorry for not posting yesterday – I got so caught up in work that I forgot to come up for air, let alone to attempt 3000 words. I probably wrote 3000 words worth of search queries. If only I could work those into the story…
I need to sleep. Will write more tomorrow, when the brain cells are fresh and adequately caffeinated.
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