by Mr. Z
The rest of the first chapter of the novel College can be a Killer. I hope readers enjoy.
“He’s dead. Someone help. He’s dead,” the young lady kept screaming. She ran up to Jeff and grabbed his arms. “Do something. Help him.”
Normally Jeff would love to have an attractive woman come up to him and grab hold. After all, she was young, in her late twenties, tall and sexy under her bright blouse, jeans and dark jacket. She wasn’t wearing any jewelry except for a flowered watch and a pair of pierced earrings. On her back was a full dark knapsack. She had that wholesome beauty which needed very little if any makeup. In short, if she hadn’t been half hysterical about some dead guy, Jeff would be enjoying himself.
“Calm down,” said Jeff as he grabbed hold of her arms in order to keep her from running away. “What happened? Where is this dead guy?”
“He’s…he’s over there,” she replied pointing down the hallway to a room around the corner and out of sight.
“Come on and show me,” insisted Jeff while holding on to her arm and moving toward the direction she had pointed.
The woman shook her head. “No, no, I can’t”
Jeff took hold of her arms again. “Look it’s okay. Show me where you found the body. I’ll take care of it after that.”
She took a small step toward the way she had come. Then took another one as she once again pointed, “Around the corner, in a storeroom off to the right. That’s where I saw him. He’s dead. I just know it.”
“What happened?” asked Jeff.
“I was coming down the hall when I happened to look in the storeroom and saw him on the floor,” answered the young woman. “I panicked and started running. I don’t know what to do.”
Jeff let go of the woman’s arms. “You wait here. Bud and I will check it out and then we’ll see what to do. In the meantime, call the police.”
We left her there in the hallway with her pulling her cell phone out of her pocket. We turned the corner to find several closed rooms except for one partially opened on the right. We cautiously approached the door. Jeff slowly pushed the door open a bit more. There were shelves with boxes labeled with chemical names and formulas. There were also several places where the patterns in the dust gave evidence that something had been removed recently. We stepped into the room to see the body on the floor. Jeff kneeled down to check for a pulse. Feeling none he stood up.
The body was that of a young man, face up. He was dressed in jeans and a Fort Lauderdale tee shirt. Beside him, on the right side, was a large canister. There were no visible wounds, but from the lad’s pale color and lack of breathing, it was obvious he was dead. On a shelf to the victim’s left were a notebook and some textbooks. I stooped down to get a better look, to kind of sniff around for clues. First I checked to make sure he was dead. Then I checked out the canister next to the body. I started to feel light headed and had a hard time staying on my feet. The next thing I knew I had fallen down. I was still conscious, but unable to do anything but watch as Jeff came rushing to my side.
“Bud, what’s wrong?” asked Jeff as he knelt down by me. “Come on buddy. I’ll get you out of here.” Jeff put his arms around my chest and started to drag me out of the room. I could feel the strain on my muscles as Jeff pulled me into the hallway. It was rather uncomfortable and embarrassing, but I was in no position to argue. In fact, I even felt it was a bit humorous. He dragged me outside of the room and closed the door. I would have helped but staying conscious was about all I could do. I wouldn’t have felt so embarrassed if Jeff had been dragging me out of a bar, at least then I would have a good excuse for being in this condition.
Jeff went down the hall to find the woman. She was gone. He quickly walked around the corner and came back alone. Jeff took out his cell phone and called 9-1-1. He gave the operator a location from the sign on the storeroom. As soon as he finished, he came back to see how I was doing. I hadn’t gotten any worse, but then I wasn’t feeling any better either.
“Don’t worry Bud. The paramedics are on their way.”
Great! We have one dead guy and me totally out of it. Still Jeff was there rubbing my back and encouraging me to hang on. No problem, I wasn’t going anywhere.
Jeff was still comforting me when a campus police officer showed up. “I just got a 9-1-1 call about someone murdered down here?”
“Not quite,” said Jeff. “I called in there was a dead body down here; in that storeroom as a matter of fact. But I never said anything about it being a homicide.”
“Maybe I got it wrong,” said the campus police officer. “What can you tell me?”
“Found someone dead on the floor,” answered Jeff. “Called 9-1-1 and we were waiting for you, or someone else, to take over.”
Before the campus cop could respond, two paramedics came rushing around the corner with their kits and a gurney. “Someone called about a person down.”
“Yeah,” answered Jeff. “There’s a body in there. I’m pretty sure you’re too late.”
“Hey, let us worry about that.” The paramedics entered the storeroom. Meanwhile, the campus police officer pulled out his cell phone and made a call. While we couldn’t see what they were doing, we could hear them opening kits and talking.
Within a few minutes, they came out. “You were right. He’s gone. What’s wrong with him?” asked one of the paramedics pointing to me.
“He collapsed,” answered Jeff. “Can you do something to help him?”
One of the paramedics kneeled down to take a closer look at me. He pulled back an eyelid and lifted up my lip. Here I was, feeling nauseous and miserable, unable to really move, pissed as hell about the situation, and yet I felt like laughing at the position I was in.
“It’s probably a reaction to the nitrous oxide,” said the paramedic. “He should be all right in a few minutes. Don’t worry. It even started to bother us when we were in there.”
“Nitrous oxide?” asked Jeff.
“Yeah, laughing gas,” explained the other paramedic. The gas in there was laughing gas. It’s a kind of anesthetic.”
Before he could explain further, two cops came around the corner and met up with the campus cop. After a brief conversation, the two police officers and the campus cop came over to us. “Someone called in a dead body?” asked the senior police officer.
“Yeah,” piped up one of the paramedics. “He’s in the room over there. We checked for vitals, but he’s dead.”
One of the police officers went into the room and took a quick look around. He came out and closed the door. The other one spoke into the microphone on his shoulder. He called for the coroner.
I was beginning to feel better, not much, but better. It had been less than 15 minutes, but I was now able to kind of sit up, as long as there was a wall to support me. I still felt like throwing up, and would have but I didn’t want to make a mess in the hallway. Hey, my social upbringing was paying off.
The uniform officers had sealed off the area. Then Dr. Karl Petrofski, the medical examiner showed up. Petrofski was an old man who had actually retired years ago, but after two months of staying at home and gardening he came back. No one complained. Even at almost seventy, he hadn’t really slowed down any, and it certainly hadn’t dulled his senses. No doubt about it, he was by far the best there was.
Petrofski entered the storeroom and kneeled over the body. It took him almost two minutes to complete his initial examination, which included taking the body temperature. He came out and looked at us. “Jeff, how are you doing,” he asked.
“I’m fine, but Bud seems to be affected. Can you take a look at him? The paramedics said it was laughing gas. But should it be affecting him this way?”
Petrofski bent over me and looked in my eyes. Then he opened my mouth. “Yeah, he’s fine,” said the doctor. “It probably was the gas. It looks like that’s what killed the boy. But the autopsy will tell us for sure. As for Bud, take him outside for some fresh air and he should be okay.”
“How long has he been dead?” asked Jeff.
“Hard to say for sure, but it looks like less than two hours. Say, what are you two doing here?”
Jeff chuckled. “We gave Naomi a lift because her car broke down.”
“Who’s Naomi?” asked Petrofski.
Jeff smiled sheepishly. “We’ve been dating for a few months. I think you met her when I was working on an earlier case.”
“Oh, yes, I remember,” replied Petrofski. “She was a really nice girl. I didn’t know she was a college student. Isn’t that a bit young for you Jeff?”
“Who found the body?” bellowed a loud voice before Jeff could answer. We turned to see Mike Hammond, Eddie Haskins and Lieutenant Debra Dankton from the detective division. Lieutenant Dankton was a petit woman who believed in speaking softly and carrying a big stick. The fact that she held a third-degree black belt in karate made it real easy, something that a lot of people behind bars didn’t appreciate. Haskins was a tall, black man who had majored elementary education before he discovered his affection for children was limited to his own two daughters. Still, he was a first-rate detective. As for Hammond, with his large belly, he had a Santa Claus physique and a junk-yard dog personality. Many thought he had bullied his way onto the detective squad. But they didn’t know about the three commendations he had won for bravery or how his bulldog tenacity helped him solve cases. “Hey, come on,” bellowed Hammond again. “Who found the body?”
“Some woman,” said Jeff. “Bud and I were walking down the hall when we ran into her. She screamed and we came to her aid. She told us about the body. We checked it out; then we called 9-1-1.”
“Did you screwed up the crime scene?” said Hammond with a snarl on his face.
“Hey, give me a break. I know better,” answered Jeff. “Remember, I used to be a cop.”
“Okay, both of you mind your manners,” said Lieutenant Dankton to Jeff and Hammond. “What about Bud? He doesn’t look so hot.”
Hey, what could they expect; I was sick. Even though I was about to lose my lunch, I still had the presence of mind not to upchuck in the hall.
Jeff decided to answer Lieutenant Dankton. “Bud went in with me, but I think he got a whiff of the gas that killed the boy. It made him a bit shaky, but he didn’t do anything to your crime scene.”
Dankton leaned down to put a hand on my shoulder. “Hey, take care big guy.” She nodded to Hammond and Haskins and they both went into the storeroom to a look at the crime scene.
Jeff took a look at me. “Come on Bud, let’s get you outside for some fresh air.” He helped me to my feet and kind of half carried me to the elevator. We managed to stumble out of the building. All right, I stumbled and Jeff helped me out. We sat down in the grass next to the building. It had already turned dark, but the grass was cool and soothing. Petrofski had been right; the fresh air was helping. Even though it was early November, the temperature was mild. I enjoyed the cool air on my face. It was surprisingly quiet, especially with more than five thousand students attending classes in the evening at this university. Off in the distance you could hear the traffic on the highway that ran by the school.
Jeff sat down next to me and patted my back. “Take it easy big guy. You’ll feel better in a few minutes.” He looked around. I was sure he was looking for girls. Instead, we found Hammond.
“So here you are,” said Hammond with irritation in his voice. “I need to get your statement.”
“There isn’t much to it,” answered Jeff. “We were walking down the hall when this young lady came up to us and told us there was a body in that room. We checked it out and then called 9-1-1.”
“Yeah right,” replied Hammond. “Just one problem. Where’s this girl?”
Jeff looked at me. Why I don’t know. I certainly didn’t know where she took off to. “I don’t know,” said Jeff as turned back to face Hammond. “When Bud and I were checking out the body, she took off. She must have gotten spooked.”
“Yeah, right,” said Hammond with a sigh. “Can you describe her?”
When it comes to noticing pretty girls, Jeff is extremely observant, especially when he gets to play the white knight. “She was young, but probably in her late twenties. She was a bit older than most college students, so she could have been a graduate student. She was about five feet six, slender, maybe hundred and twenty pounds, had shoulder-length chestnut brown hair, soft as cat fur, dark brown puppy dog eyes, soft full lips—”
“Hey Romeo,” snapped Hammond. “I need a description I can issue that won’t get the department sued for sexual harassment. Did you notice anything unusual about her?”
“You mean other than she’s the kind of woman you dream about being stranded with on a desert island?”
Hammond sighed. “Just tell me what she was wearing.”
Jeff smiled. “She was wearing tight blue jeans, a red blouse, a brown jacket and gold loop earrings. She also had a dark blue backpack.”
“Great,” scoffed Hammond, “this is about as useful as a rowboat in the desert.” He walked over to me. I was still sitting on the grass. Hammond leaned over. “Boy, Bud is as sick as dog. Still feeling queasy?” Hammond said with a smirk.
If he hadn’t asked, I would have been fine. Instead, I threw up on his shoes. Hammond jumped back cursing me. The problem was I really didn’t feel sorry for what I had done.
We stayed outside on the grass for quite a while, although we did move to a new location. Jeff’s cell phone rang.
“Hello,” answered Jeff. He listened for a few seconds and then responded. “Sure, we can meet you there in a few minutes.” Jeff, put up his cell phone and turned to me. “That was Naomi. It’s time for us to go and meet her.”
I was feeling better and able to walk without any assistance. I still felt a bit queasy, but able to keep myself from throwing up again. We managed to make it to Jeff’s car where Naomi was waiting.
“What took you so long?” queried Naomi. “I expected you guys to be waiting in the cafeteria. What happened?”
“There was an incident,” said Jeff.
“What kind of incident,” said Naomi with a degree of anger in her voice.
Jeff smiled. “We found a dead body.”
“You what,” exclaimed Naomi. “A dead body! How did you find a dead body? Who was it? Never mind, you were supposed to go the cafeteria, gawk at the pretty girls, eat junk food and wait for me! Instead, you go off and find a dead body.”
“Relax,” said Jeff throwing up his hands to protect himself from Naomi’s anger. “We were walking down the hall when this girl came up and told us about some dead guy. What were we supposed to do?”
“Call the police and leave.”
“Now, Naomi. You know we can’t do that.”
“Yes, you can,” yelled Naomi. “You take out your cell phone and dial 9-1-1, and leave. You don’t have to get involved in murder cases.”
“Wait a minute,” said Jeff trying to calm Naomi down. I found it kind of amusing to see Jeff, a five foot, ten inch, lean muscular individual having to restrain a petit woman. When Naomi got riled, her shoulder-length dark hair turned into a lion’s mane and her dark eyes burned with fury that was easy to see when she was angry. “It was just a dead body,” said Jeff. “No one said it was murder. It was probably some kid who overdosed on some drug.”
Naomi moved till she was face to face with Jeff. “It had better be. Because if it is anything else. Remember, the last time you found a dead body, you almost got me killed. I am not going to have people shooting at me again. I’m not going to have people breaking into my apartment and trashing it again. I want to grow old, join some old folks club, and complain about health care. You are not going to get me involved in a murder case again.”
“Actually, someone else found the body, remember?” smiled Jeff.
“I don’t care who found the body,” yelled Naomi. “You are not supposed to find dead bodies, and you are not going to get me involved in another murder. Have I made myself clear?”
Jeff was losing this battle. “Bud and I checked it out and called the police. That’s all we did. Honest.”
“Then what took you so long?” demanded Naomi.
“Oh, it was Bud,” answered Jeff.
Great, blame it on me. Here I am, still recovering from my brush with death, all right, maybe I’m being a bit melodramatic. Still it wasn’t my fault.
“When we checked out the body,” Jeff continued, “Bud got a whiff of the gas that killed the boy and lost consciousness.”
“What,” exclaimed Naomi. She walked over to me and gently took my head in her hands so that she could look into my eyes. I have no idea of what she could see since it was already dark and the lights in the parking lot did little more than illuminate the key locks on the doors. “Bud are you okay?”
“He’s fine,” answered Jeff. “It was just a little gas. We got some fresh air and he’s as good as new.”
Naomi turned to Jeff. “Yeah, right. It’s all his fault. What did you do to him?”
“Nothing,” said Jeff. “Look this is what happened. Some young lady came down the hall and told us about a dead body in this chemical storeroom. We checked it out. Bud got a whiff of the gas and he went down. I dragged him out and called the police. They took over the scene. We have nothing to do with the case. We’re out of it. The closest we will get to this case is reading about it in the newspaper. Now will you relax?”
Naomi gave Jeff one of those you-had-better-be-right-or-I-am-going-to-smack-you-so-hard-your-grandkids-will-be-dizzy looks. “Are you sure Bud’s okay? I don’t want to find out he’s been exposed to some deadly chemical or biological agent and have him start some kind of epidemic and kill everyone. Haven’t you seen the movie Outbreak with Dustin Hoffman?”
While Naomi had a good point, I was sure I wouldn’t be the start of the epidemic, not with seven or eight others who had also gone into the room. Also, the body was down at the morgue and not in a contained area. Still, Naomi’s paranoia wasn’t making me feel any better.
“Hey, what do you want me to do?” pleaded Jeff. “You want me to take Bud to get checked out?”
“I want to make sure you two are finished with this case.”
“Scouts honor,” said Jeff holding up three fingers on his left hand and crossing his heart with his right. That got me to wondering—was Jeff ever a boy scout?