Crime du Jour: 31 Days of Malfeasance, Misconduct, and Immorality
One crime story per day, all the way through October. Ebook to be published Nov 1. This will be under my mystery/crime pen name, Diane R. Thompson!
Crime du Jour #1: Aggravated Assault
She’s sixteen years old and the kind of dame to die for, a brunette with wide eyes whose color disappears into shadows and mystery. Call her Lila.
She says, “I have a problem.”
Me, I’m seventeen, already balding, the kind of good teeth that have never seen braces. I’m not handsome, just forgettable. Mattie, my best friend but who goes to a different school, says that when I get older at least I’ll look like Joe Pantoliano from The Matrix. I’m not sure if that’s a compliment or not; the guy plays a real backstabbing son of a bitch.
“What’s the problem?”
“I need to have someone taught a lesson.” Lila slides me a manila envelope marked McCall’s Patterns 1989-1991. I pop it open. Inside is a Nintendo game cartridge, sparkling gold. I purse my lips. “Is that—?”
She nods, and I believe her. A 1990 Nintendo World Championship Gold Edition cartridge. The last one sold on Ebay for over $25 grand.
“Who?” I say.
Lila names the name, and somehow I’m not surprised: Ms. Clapper, Ms. Eunice Ann Clapper. She’s a psychology teacher at our high school, old, been around forever. She even used to go to school here. I won’t get into details, but I’m not against the idea of teaching her a lesson. Three kids from her class have committed suicide this year. Two more last summer, after having a class with her. Evil isn’t the word for what she does.
I nod and push the envelope back toward Lila.
“Don’t you want it?”
“After,” I say.
“You trust me?”
I shake my head and she gives that smile, the one to die for.
I’m in Clapper’s classroom. Low ceiling, acoustical tiles, fluorescent lights. Black pressboard tables with one or two seats at them—mostly two. Whiteboards, synchronized clock, a poster of Freud smoking a cigar, another poster of a shrugging cartoon character that reads Trust Me, I’m A Psychologist.
“Hello, Dylan,” Clapper says, looking up from her laptop on a neatly-ordered desk.
“Hello, Ms. Clapper,” I say. We make small talk for a minute. Then I say, “Gotten any death threats lately?”
She snorts. “When do I not?”
I slid a manila envelope across her desk to her. Butterick Classics Fast & Easy Women’s. She goes still.
I say, “What size?”
She chokes out, “Where did you get that? We haven’t had Home Ec classes in years.”
I tell her to open the envelope and she does. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and maybe that’s so. This one’s worth over $25 grand.
“What size?” I say. “I’m guessing you’re a twelve or a fourteen petite, these days.”
“I used to be a size four,” she says. Stumbling over the words.
“Hey, you want to be a size four, you can be a size four.” I shrug. “But I wouldn’t call you a size four.” I wave at the picture. “Not yet, anyway.”
She screws up her eyes and her mouth goes bitter. “S-sixteen,” she stutters. “I’m a size sixteen.”
“I can see you in size sixteen–if you don’t think you can fit into something smaller, that is. I’ll get the pattern sewn up,” I say.
“Hey, rush job like this, it’s gotta be soon.” I slide the photograph back into the envelope. “They scan all these patterns and put them online now, you know? Good patterns like this, they shouldn’t get lost. Sometimes the size you want is hard to find. You can get custom fabric printed up, too.”
She tells me to do something anatomically impossible.
I chuckle. “You older people these days, you think you were the last ones to practice arts and crafts. Home Ec class is still around. It’s just online these days.”
I leave. It’s a satisfying moment.
We all knew those kids.
Size zero is disappeared without a trace.
Size two is “accidental death—brutal.”
Size four is making it look like suicide, or forcing people to actually kill themselves.
Size six is accidental strangulation—you know, sex stuff.
Size eight is overdose.
Size ten is “accidental death—not brutal.”
Size twelve is losing a limb, or an eye.
Size fourteen is facial scarring.
Size sixteen is aggravated assault.
I could keep going, but you get the point.
If you look up the 1973 yearbook, you can see Clapper’s photo in the clubs & groups section.
Head of the Sewing Club.
Lila says, “She says she didn’t know who hit her.”
I shrug. “She shouldn’t.”
“Good job.” She slides the manila envelope over to me.
I check the contents and nod.
She hesitates, almost like she wants to throw in a little extra. I say, “Anytime you need a size sixty-nine…” and she grimaces. The mask is back on. I shrug. “Good luck with sewing club.”
“It’s called Stitch’n’Bitch now, loser,” she says, flicking her fingers toward the envelope. “Have fun with your toy.”
That night Matty, in a bad mood from how sore her hands are, comes over. I tell her next time to wear gloves. She says she did wear gloves. I say, padded ones. She rolls her eyes.
Then I plug in the cartridge and we play.
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