Posted by: Caitlynn | January 15, 2010

Genre #10 — Mystery

(For more information on my Genre Self-Challenge, read previous entry here.)

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“The Death of Dr. Robertson”

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The faculty offices had been desolate after Dr. Robertson, the math department chair, had died.  Investigators had ruled that it was a suicide—there were no signs of struggle or foul play, and he was found slumped over his desk with household poisons in his system—but as I now recall, even I found the news very peculiar when I first heard it.  Dr. Robertson was a kindly old man who made friends easily. Though I hadn’t had many classes with him, he had always seemed so happy that I couldn’t imagine him ending his own life. But, like most other students, it didn’t take me long to accept the idea. That is, until the rumors started.

“Did you hear?” a girl in my philosophy class whispered to her friend. “They say Dr. Robertson’s death may not have been a suicide after all. Some are saying it might’ve been murder.”

“No way!” her friend replied a little too loudly. “That’s too creepy…who would’ve done such a thing?”

“Who knows,” the first girl continued. “Another faculty member, maybe? Or a student with a grudge? Or maybe,” she leaned in, getting even quieter and making it harder for me hear, “that strange student worker of his.”

A shiver ran down my spine as I eavesdropped, not only at the thought of Dr. Robertson being murdered, but also at the mention of his student worker, Edda. She was, oddly enough, an English Literature major employed by the Math Department. Stranger than that, she had no known friends, never smiled or spoke in class, and could typically be overheard mumbling to herself with a blank expression on her face. She was also known for being scary smart.

“Definitely an odd one,” I mused, “but…murder?” The thought unnerved me, so I pushed it to the back of my mind and tried to move on with the rest of my day.

A strange thing happened that afternoon, though. I was sitting at a table in the library, studying, when I heard a chair across from me being pulled out. When I glanced up, I saw none other than Edda sit down in it. I could feel myself seizing up as I recalled the conversation I overheard earlier.

“Why does the atmosphere around her seem so dark to me…it’s only a rumor…” I tried reminding myself. “It’s only—”

“—Murder,” Edda mumbled, causing me to start in sudden shock. She looked up at me briefly before looking back down at her book. I followed her gaze and noticed that she held a volume of Shakespeare’s plays in her hands.

I laughed at myself. “She’s probably talking about something from that,” I reassured myself. Then, feeling a little guilty for jumping to conclusions and listening to rumors, I decided to attempt conversations with the oddball in front of me. “You know, the only Shakespeare play I can remember reading is Romeo & Juliet. So romantic…and so sad, too. It’s terrible that they die like that.”

“Not really,” she said bluntly. “They drove themselves to their own deaths. I can’t pity them.”

A very heavy, awkward silence fell between us, and I felt myself shifting in my seat. Just as I thought to get up and leave, however, I felt a tap on my shoulder from behind.

“Sorry, you’ll have to excuse Edda,” a guy’s voice said. “She’s just always been this way: unsociable and rude.” I looked up at him and saw him smiling as though he meant to tease her.

She sighed, otherwise ignoring him, and continued reading.

“How cruel!” he shouted, feigning offense. Then he looked at me and smiled, adding, “Don’t you think so, too? Here I am, her childhood friend, and she ignores me as I cover for her lack of social graces.”

I chuckled a little nervously, hoping not to offend her. “Oh, so you’re childhood friends?”

“Yep. My name is Wiley,” he extended his hand.

I took it in mind and allowed him to shake it in a much exaggerated, playful manner. “Lottie,” I said in return.

“Lottie? That’s a beautiful name.” He turned to Edda. “Right? It’s very girlish, isn’t it, Edda?”

She slammed her book closed and got up. As she began walking away, she looked at us coldly, saying, “Just because we went to the same high school does not mean we’re ‘childhood friends.’”

Once Edda was gone, Wiley sighed and looked at me again. “I really am sorry about that,” he said in a serious, apologetic tone. “She’s a good girl. At least, she always used to be. Please, I hope you can forgive her.”

Okay, so I admit that I was a bit charmed by his obvious show of concern. But I really did mean it when I tucked my hair back behind my ear and answered, “It’s no big deal. Don’t worry about it.”

He smiled gratefully. “Thank you. I just don’t know what to do anymore, though. I can’t keep a watch on her forever.”

“Were you really childhood friends?” I asked, jealous of Edda if the answer was yes.

“In spite of what she says, I’ve known her since we were ten or eleven. We lived on the same street.” He sat down in the chair next to me. “She’s always been on the introverted side—her nose always in a book—but at least back then…well, maybe I’m boring you.”

“No! Not at all,” I turned my full attention towards him, closing my notes and textbook. “Please continue.”

“It’s just,” he began, suddenly seeming distant, “well, it’s not that she’d bad or anything. But since she’s come to college, it’s like she’s forgotten how to smile. It must be that she’s worried about maintaining her scholarship. It’s all that’s keeping her here, and if her GPA drops too low…” he shrugged. “Plus, she was struggling in math for a while. The curse of English majors everywhere, I’m told. Since I’m a math major, I offered to help, but she refused, saying she had her own solution.”

Suddenly, I felt a twinge of alarm. “Wait, but…doesn’t she work for the math department? If she hates it, then why?”

Wiley suddenly looked flustered. “Uh, I may have said too much,” he stammered, getting up again. “You’ll get the wrong idea.”

“No I won’t!” I tugged at his sleeve without thinking. “I just want to understand.”

“Well,” his eyes darted from side to side before he leaned in and whispered, “okay, but you can’t tell anyone else. I still don’t know how much is true, but her math grades improved dramatically once she started working for that professor. Sometimes, I almost wonder if something more wasn’t going on.” He stood straight up again, clearing his throat. “Of course, like I said, I don’t really know anything for sure. But she’s definitely not the same girl I knew when I was a kid.”

After that, Wiley left, leaving me to struggle in vain with my studies. I felt too distracted, however, and before I knew it, hours had passed without me absorbing a single thing. It was now dark and well past the time I meant to stay.

“I guess I should head home,” I sighed, gathering my things and leaving the library.

On my way out, I happened to pass by the building with the majority of the faculty offices in it. “This was where Dr. Robertson died,” I thought forlornly. On a sudden impulse, I decided to walk inside. I’m not really sure what I hoped to accomplish, or what I expected to find. Maybe I figured that the ‘criminal always returns to the scene of the crime,’ or something. At any rate, I only meant to glance at the math department area from the hallway, but when I got to the door, it was unlocked. “No,” I realized upon looking at it more closely, “It’s more like it was forced open.” I peeked inside and looked towards Dr. Robertson’s old office. Someone was there. My heart nearly stopped when I realized who it was: Edda!

Panic-stricken, I dashed down the hallway again, taking out my cell phone to call the police. Before I could manage, though, I ran into someone else, letting out a shriek.

“Lottie!” Wiley whispered urgently. “It’s only me; calm down. Thank goodness you’re all right. I saw you walk in, and I was worried, so I followed.”

My head was racing. “Edda, she…” I began, frantic. “She…she’s there, in the office.”

“Oh? Is that so? What a shame,” he replied, his tone suddenly cold and stiff. “Go home, Lottie. I’ll take care of this.” He let go of me and immediately went in Edda’s direction. I hesitated, half wanting to leave that very moment, but ultimately deciding to follow at a safe distance.

By the time I got back to the office area, they were already talking. “It’s no use,” Wiley said. “It’s over now, Edda.”

“You’re wrong,” she shot back, her voice shaking.

Suddenly, I remembered the recorder function on my phone. Thinking that a confession could be close at hand, I took it out and discreetly began recording the conversation. I was not quite prepared for what I’d end up getting, though.

“Face it,” Wiley spat out, taking a few steps closer to her, “the old man is dead. Everyone’s convinced he did it to himself.”

“You and I both know that he didn’t,” she protested.

Wiley laughed, sending chills up my spine. “Wait, just what exactly is going on?” I wondered, breathless.

“Even if you say that, who’ll believe you? Do you have any evidence?” When she remained silent, he smirked, concluding, “Then it looks like I’ve gotten away with murder.”

Do you know how, sometimes, the one thing you don’t want to do is the one thing you end up doing? Well, as stupid as it sounds, at that moment I couldn’t help but gasp and drop my phone.

“Who’s there?” Wiley snapped.

I hurriedly scooped up my cell and took off. The video had saved, I noted. Now I needed to call the police. My fingers slipped on the buttons as I tried to dial the numbers, and I could hear Wiley’s footsteps quickly catching up to me. Before I had a chance to react, I was grabbed, and my phone flew from my grasp again.

“No!” I shouted, trying to fight back.

“You’ll regret not going home when I told you to,” he growled.

In the midst of the struggle, however, it seemed that neither of us heard the sirens approach. And so, when the police rescued me, it came as a shock to both of us.

The recording I took earlier was, thankfully, unharmed. With that and additional evidence that investigators later found, Wiley was eventually tried and convicted of Dr. Robertson’s murder. It seems that the lame motive he had tried pushing on Edda was actually his own: he was failing Dr. Robertson’s math class and was in danger of losing his scholarship—and, more importantly, his pride and reputation—because of it. When the professor suggested asking for help from Edda, an English major whom Wiley had always bore a grudge against as an academic rival, Wiley had had it. His plan was to kill of the old professor and, in the midst of the resulting chaos, alter his grades without being discovered. He had only succeeded in the first part.

Later, I spoke with Edda again. She told me she had called the police earlier that night, anticipating Wiley to attach her and be caught in the midst of it.

“That alone wouldn’t have been enough to connect him to Dr. Robertson’s death, though,” she told me. “It’s good that you were able to record his confession. Thank you.”

“You were fond of the professor, weren’t you?” I asked hesitantly.

She nodded slightly. “I respected him a great deal. He was the only one who didn’t treat me like I was strange. He allowed me to by myself, and even treated ‘myself’ as someone worthy of respect instead of scorn and strange looks. That’s why I loved working for the Math Department. I was appreciated there. Well, plus, I’m one of the few English majors in existence really good at math,” she smiled vaguely, though her eyes were still distant. “But I’ll always be thankful for that respect. Which is why I would’ve done anything to get justice for him.”

I looked away, feeling ashamed for having misjudged her earlier. “Edda, I…” I began, turning back. But when I did, I found myself surprised once more. Edda was crying. Trying desperately not to, but crying nonetheless.

I gently touched her shoulder. When she glanced back at me through her tears, I returned a tearful smile. “He would’ve been grateful, I’m sure,” I said. “Maybe somewhere, he actually is.”

She hid her face in her hands. “Thanks,” she muttered, nodding her head. “Thanks.”

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Responses

  1. Edda…that’s a really curious name. I like the way this mystery ended, a whole lot of action and a chunk of technology. i.e.=excellent mystery! ^_^

  2. Wow. Very good! I can’t write mysteries to save my life 😛

    • Thanks. 🙂 I was surprised to realize that I could write a halfway decent mystery. I actually got into it more than I realized, but it’s definitely something I would need to practice with more if I was interested in continuing with it.


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