The adventures of Lennie and Rey (God help me, but I have more ideas) got me thinking about something I wrote a while back, when an old friend on FB mentioned having a dream about the two of us teaching and solving crimes together. Why do I never get anything done? Because as soon as someone mentions something, however casually, I have to drop what I'm doing and write something like this [the narrator is my friend, and I've taken the liberty of changing our names]:
It was raining hard. Not that we'd have known that in our windowless adjunct office. Come to think of it, even if we had a window, it would have been blocked by the stack of Fred's ungraded papers. It was a normal morning—I had just finished grading the last of my student papers, and Fred had just told another student that he was just about done with everyone's papers, and that he would have the kid's paper done by the time the class met in an hour. As the kid walked out of the room, Fred resumed his game of solitaire.
"How can you lie to their faces like that?" I asked.
"I'm giving them the greatest gift of all: hope," he said.
After he lost another two games, he started to crawl under his desk for a nap when the boss's secretary walked in. She was the kind of dame that could get a man in trouble. Tall, brunette, fire-engine red lips, legs that wouldn't quit. When she walked into a room, everybody knew it, and she knew they knew.
"The chief needs to see you," she said.
Fred asked, "How about you—you feel like seeing us, doll?"
She didn't need to answer that question. She just rolled her eyes and walked out.
Fred said, "Say, she's a tall drink of water, isn't she?"
"I'm a married man," I said.
"So am I, but it doesn't stop me" he said.
"Wait—no you're not," I said.
"Well, I could be, I mean, I—shut up," he said.
We left the office. I knew Fred was mad because he slammed the door so hard that I could hear the stack of ungraded papers fall off of his desk. When we got back, I hoped that he would pick them up this time, instead of waiting for me to get them off the floor or, worse, waiting for the janitor to throw them away. It wouldn't be the first time.
When we walked into the chief's office, I could tell that he was in one of his moods.
"Oh, it's you two clowns," he said. "My favorite pair of lazy, incompetent drunks."
"Wait, how am I—" I started to say.
"Shut up!" he shouted.
"Yeah, better to just let it slide—you need to be able to take criticism," Fred said, taking a drink from his flask.
I knew that it wouldn't be worth trying to say anything more. People didn't seem to understand that Fred and I were different people.
The chief continued, "If I can tear you away from your busy schedules—"
"Going to be tough," Fred said.
"I need you two to get across campus on the double."
"Wait, it's raining?" Fred said, looking out the window for the first time. "Screw that. I've got papers to grade."
"What's the case, chief?" I asked.
"Enough! I'm tired of your attitudes. Here's the case: we've got a student in a Dumpster. I'm not going to lie—it's an ugly sight. Gory, scary, but kind of funny when you look at it right."
"But, the rain…" Fred said.
The chief sighed in disgust, then punched the intercom button with his middle finger. "Malory," he said. "Can you rustle up an umbrella for Joe so he doesn't get his hair wet doing his job?"
"When did I ever—"
"Wait a second, Joe," Fred interrupted. "You said it was a student?"
"Yeah," the chief said.
"Is it one of mine?" he asked.
"Who cares?" the chief said.
"Well, it's just…I've got this stack of papers, and I figured—"
The chief rolled his eyes. "Do you two ever stop complaining about having to do your jobs?"
"We're sorry, chief," Fred said. "When you put it that way, we really should be more professional."
I said, "I still don't see how any of this is my—"
The chief interrupted me: "Just stop with the excuses and take responsibility. Now get the hell out of here and get to that Dumpster."
As we walked out of the office, Malory handed me an umbrella, saying, "Here you are, your majesty." I offered it to Fred, but he said he didn't really need it, since he was planning on driving his car—which was parked in the lot under the building—across campus.
"But why were you complaining about the rain?" I asked.
Fred shrugged. "You know, the roads are going to be slick, and they might not have the tent thing set up over the crime scene yet. It's inconvenient. Just get in."
We drove across campus and sat for a few minutes while the crime scene techs finished setting up the tent so whatever remaining evidence wouldn't wash away. I figured it was as good a time as any to clear the air a bit.
"Look, Fred," I said, "I know that you don't care about this stuff—"
"How can you say that?" Fred asked, hurt.
"Put the flask away and I'll tell you," I said. He put the cap back on and looked at me expectantly. "We can't just keep framing your students for every crime that happens on campus so you'll have fewer papers to grade. Take that last kid—"
"Listen, I'm not saying that mistakes weren't made…" Fred said.
"I caught the real killer, then you stole the evidence and planted it on the other kid because he was *your* student," I said.
"I'll admit that looks bad," Fred said, "but that's why pencils have erasers."
"The kid got the chair," I snapped.
"And, in retrospect, maybe you were right, maybe I was right. There *was* compelling evidence against the kid," Fred said.
"Evidence you planted!"
"That's certainly one interpretation," he said. "That's why we're such a good team—we both help fill in each other's blind spots, and then we let the chips fall where they may."
"You chloroformed me, then left me tied up in your basement until the kid's appeals were exhausted," I pointed out.
"But before that happened, I was happy to listen to your theories about the case—and boy, did you never shut up about them," he said.
The techs had finished putting up the tent, so I got out and ran to the Dumpster. Fred drove up to the very edge of the tent, got out, and jumped under, cursing loudly as water dripped onto his coat. "Boy, they just *love* sticking it to us, don't they?"
I didn't respond. I got my first look in the Dumpster and saw something I wish I hadn't. I knew I would never be the same.
Fred looked in an immediately burst out laughing. "Wow, I didn't believe the chief," he said, tears rolling down his cheeks. "You should see it from this side…man, oh man, that's something. Alright, boys, it's almost beer o'clock, so let's get this thing over with."
As he ducked off to the side for a quick nip from his flask, I rolled up my sleeves. This was going to be a long morning.