“I don’t know what detective Branch is able to do, or what he knows,” replied Mary, with a touch of sarcasm. She could easily have finished the sentence by saying “besides hassling us with his stupid conspiracy theories” but she didn’t. Nevertheless, in my mind I heard her say it.
“I’ll check with Elizabeth and find some time this afternoon to review those records.” I acted as if I knew exactly how to go about this task. “So let me get this straight: tomorrow, Branch is coming to do his version of an audit, and Mr. Stevens, along with his attorney, is also showing up to do God knows what about his daughter’s grade appeal. Right?”
“That’s correct, Dr. Marshall.” She tried to smile but the attempt was not very successful.
“Is there a chance they will be here at the same time?” A worst case scenario passed through my mind briefly, left, returned, lingered, and like a ghost, developed into something more elaborate.
“I don’t know, Dr. Marshall.”
The expression on her face indicated she was being truthful. Over the past week, I’d learned to translate Mary Duling’s body, and facial, language in a way I’d never noticed in her previous 23 years as our department receptionist and general assistant to the chairman. Aside from our shared appreciation for good dark roast coffee, we didn’t have much in common, or have a reason to engage in social conversation. But if you have Clyde Renner’s files at your disposal, and have read at least a few of them, Mary’s posture, facial expression, and tone of voice tell you a lot more than you could discover from either the files, or conversation, alone. What is my conclusion from all this amateur psychology? Mary Duling hated Clyde Renner enough to kill him, but had no experience as a hit-lady, and no real weapons at her disposal—at least to my knowledge.
“There is something else you’ll want to read, Dr. Marshall.”
“Some secret file, I presume?” My feeble effort to lighten up the conversation.
An answer I did not expect. Mary walked to a file cabinet, opened up the bottom drawer, pulled out a file, and laid it in front of me. The tab read “A. Stevens.” Clyde Renner kept a file on at least one coed and was stupid enough to keep it in his office. As I opened it, I half expected to see pictures of some babe without any clothes on. Instead, there were letters from her father, copies of her grade reports, and a scathing memo from Rebecca Stitcher demanding that Charles Weatherford be fired for violation of our policies regarding sexual relationships between students and faculty members. In Clyde’s easily recognizable scrawl, he’d written across the memo: TOTAL BULLSHIT.
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