by Mr. Z
The first three pages of one of the mystery novels I have written.
Chapter One—The Hallowed Halls
Oh the hallowed halls of education—a place where aged sages impart knowledge to eager, young pupils. A place where young minds flourish from being nurtured with stimulating conversations and challenging classes. A place where the thirst for knowledge replaces the shackles of illiteracy. What a place to be. So, what were we doing here? Good question! Well it began with car trouble.
Perhaps I should introduce us first. I’m Beauford, but everyone calls me Bud. My partner is Jeff Terrell. We originally met in the Marine Corps where we served together with the military police in California and then later Iraq. We returned to the States, got out of the corps and spent a couple of years as rent-a-cops before Jeff became a private investigator. The two of us were doing okay. All right, maybe not okay, but we were managing to stay out of trouble and most of the time, pay our bills. The truth is real live private investigation is nothing like TV shows with lots of action and lots of beautiful woman and romance. It’s more like lots of boredom, lots of cheap clients who you have to chase down in order to get paid, and lots of bad coffee. On television, there are murder cases, robberies, kidnappings, and adventure. Our adventure usually involves listening to neighbors who gossip, going through garbage in order to find embarrassing facts, and dealing with a lot of bad take-out.
Today, Jeff’s girlfriend, Naomi, had car trouble. I don’t mean the battery is dead kind of thing. I mean it’s the kind of thing where Jeff stands over the engine and asks Naomi to try starting the engine and he then looks like he is examining the engine and then says he thinks the problem is with the starter. In other words, he didn’t have a clue to what was wrong. Now me, I’ll admit it—I don’t know a thing about cars except you get in them to go somewhere. Good grief, I don’t even have a driver’s license.
So after half an hour of Jeff trying to impress Naomi, and of Naomi getting more and more upset, because she was going to be late for class, we finally came up with the idea of us taking Naomi to her college class.
Understand, these college classes are important to Naomi. She used to work as a receptionist at an insurance company until she met us. Hey, it’s not our fault she quit. We became involved in a couple of homicides, and her job came to an end when her former boss was arrested. Not that she blames us, especially since her boss tried to kill her. Anyway, Naomi is now taking classes at night in an effort to earn a degree and go into business for herself. She’s not quite sure what she wants to do, but she’s sure she doesn’t want to go back to being an insurance receptionist.
So here we were volunteering to take Naomi to her class and volunteering to wait three hours until her class finished so we could take her home. It started out well enough. Jeff kissed Naomi good bye and we headed off to find the cafeteria. Yes, Naomi did give us directions. It’s amazing, we spent all those hours doing field map and compass training in the military, all those missions in the desert in Iraq where the closest thing to a landmark was the intersection of two roads in the endless sand, and yet we got lost going to the most popular place on campus. It’s a good thing we weren’t with the Lewis and Clark Expedition. We would have ended up in Pittsburgh and then headed south in search of Canada.
Furthermore, Jeff and I are not new to college. I remember when we first hooked up after getting out of the military. Jeff came to this very university to check it out. I remember us going to the registrar’s office and Jeff trying to get the young lady’s phone number. She was one of those picture perfect blonds with a tight sweater, a very short skirt, a figure that did justice to both and a smile that would melt the heart of cavemen. I remember she gave him an application form, a college catalog, a smile and no phone number.
I remember we actually did find the cafeteria. I remember getting in line behind another possible freshman, and this individual coming up to the milk dispenser. It was the kind you find in school cafeterias throughout the country. It was the kind where you put a large five-gallon carton of milk in the dispenser and weave the little plastic hose through the lever.
Anyway, this guy grabbed hold of the lever. He pushed it, pulled it, and twisted it. He did everything but lift up the lever. The machine has one moving part and this guy can’t figure it out. Then a young lady standing next to him finally lifted up the handle and showed him how to get milk from the big silver box. The boy looked at the glass of milk and said “Wow, how intense.” I remember Jeff looking at me and deciding that if this is higher education, then we really didn’t need it.
So here we were, walking down the hallway in the basement of the science building. Once again we were wandering the halls of this noble institution, lost. It was just like old times; like we had never left. Just then a woman came running from around the corner.
“Oh my god, he’s dead, he’s dead,” she screamed.
Okay, maybe it wasn’t like old times.