Authors: Mark Richard Zubro
By Mark Richard Zubro
The Tom and Scott Mysteries
A Simple Suburban Murder
Why Isn’t Becky Twitchell Dead?
The Only Good Priest
The Principal Cause of Death
An Echo of Death
Rust on the Razor
Are You Nuts?
One Dead Drag Queen
Here Comes the Corpse
File Under Dead
Everyone’s Dead But Us
The Paul Turner Mysteries
Another Dead Teenager
The Truth Can Get You Killed
Sex and Murder.com
Dead Egotistical Morons
Nerds Who Kill
Mark Richard Zubro
St. Martin’s Minotaur
This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
SCHOOLED IN MURDER
. Copyright © 2008 by Mark Richard Zubro. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. For information, address St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Zubro, Mark Richard.
Schooled in murder : a Tom and Scott mystery / Mark
Richard Zubro. — 1st St. Martin’s Minotaur ed.
1. Mason, Tom (Fictitious character)—Fiction. 2. Carpenter,
Scott (Fictitious character)—Fiction. 3. High school
teachers—Fiction. 4. Baseball players—Fiction. 5. Chicago
(Ill.)—Fiction. 6. Gay men—Fiction. 1. Title.
First Edition: July 2008
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
I wish to thank Barb D’Amato and Jeanne Dams for
all their help and support.
The screaming didn’t start until fifteen minutes after the torture stopped. It was a typical faculty meeting, or at least, typical for this faculty. Bored to tears or furiously battling, the assembled members of the Grover Cleveland High School English department rivaled, in irrationality and intractability, the disputes among the most virulent warring religious factions on the planet.
The initial torture consisted of the mind-numbingly boring speech delivered at the onset of every meeting by Mabel Spandrel, the head of the department. She had a soft voice that droned from opening syllable to closing pluperfect subjunctive verb (e.g., The teachers wish the administrator had been eaten by a fire-breathing dragon before she started speaking). I could picture the punctuation in her speeches pleading for release. I, however, was not about to join the cynics in the back who placed bets on and then counted how many times she used the phrase “educational leaders.” I would never countenance such disrespect. Besides, I always lost money in the pool. I always came in too low. Well, somebody’s got to hold out hope.
Behind Mabel’s boring exterior lurked the heart of a python combined with the cunning of a particularly petrified rock. She was dangerous enough as a dolt. Give her a dose of intelligence and there was no telling what ghastly calamities she might perpetrate. She had a business background and had never spent a minute in a classroom until she got here, a surefire guarantee of an attitude of contempt from veteran teachers. Getting business people into schools had been a big trend for several years. And if kids were widgets, it might have made sense.
After communication-challenged Mabel nearly droned us to death, Francine Peebles always made a plea for civility and decorum. Francine headed the “can’t we all get along” faction on the faculty. Frankly, come the revolution, I’d vote for her to lose her head first, and I’m passionately against the death penalty and not all that fond of revolutions unless they’re really done right. Francine’s peace bloc was a vocal splinter group that managed to irritate everybody equally.
Being someone unwilling to scream publicly at my colleagues, I was often placed in Francine’s group. The danger with seeming to be neutral was that both sides rushed to you with their latest lunatic plans, half-baked schemes, and harebrained proposals. This was always done in strictest confidence with whispers and glances around. I expected someone to suggest we meet at the third pillar from the left outside of Pierre’s. At the very least, you’d think they’d offer to buy me a cup of coffee late at night at the nearest Starbucks. No luck on any of that yet.
I compounded this nearly lethal mistake of not publicly disagreeing with them at the top of my lungs by listening to them. Patiently. My lack of opposition caused the less discerning to assume I was on their side. The lack of discernment about themselves, their colleagues, and the importance of their issues had reached epidemic proportions.
The two major factions divided the department almost evenly between the suckups and the non-suckups. I hate suckups. It makes no sense to sell your dignity and self-respect at any time. It was even more ludicrous to sell them for the few silly privileges that could be accorded to someone sucking up at Grover Cleveland High School. Whatever it was the suckups so desperately desired, I neither needed nor wanted.
Within fifteen minutes of Spandrel’s finish and Peebles’s plea, acrimony erupted.
I glanced out the windows. Rain poured down. A few desperate leaves clung to the trees. Late afternoon October gloom was rapidly rushing toward evening.
Over forty of us jammed into the Learning Center for the monthly battle. The pro-and anti-suckup warfare, plus the usual academic infighting, had been exacerbated in recent years by the wild ambition of younger teachers and the mad, although usually inept, machinations of Mabel Spandrel. I loved the passion of these new college graduates and their allies. I hated their blind adherence to the latest education trends. I also admired their eagerness to try out new things in the classroom. As for Mabel, even torture, as envisioned by right-wing Republicans, might not be enough punishment for all the inept and outright stupid things she’d done.
Then again, many of the non-suckups were the “old guard.” Too many of them adhered fervently to the dictum, “I’ve done it this way since dirt, and you can’t make me change.” A whole bunch of folks in this faction needed swift kicks in their butts. I understood, all too well, the arguments for their position. A lot of them, however, were close-minded dinosaurs who refused to admit that maybe what they were doing in their classrooms wasn’t the most effective approach.
Although my sympathies lay with the old guard, I was sick to death of all of them.
Once in a while a brave soul would dare to suggest that both sides of the new-versus-old-techniques factions were talking about the same thing except that now some boob in college academia had given a random educational process or approach a new name. This, of course, was heresy. Far more important to impose your trendy or traditional educational philosophy or psychology or methodology or vocabulary on the unwilling. Never mind that study after study showed it was the teachers’ relationship with the pupils that was the key to success in the classroom, not the methodology employed.