Mr. Whitlock’s Final Lesson
Emily Etcitty sat at her desk in the Navajo Police Substation in Crownpoint, New Mexico studying the pictures of Mr. Whitlock, found murdered in his classroom at the Twin Mesa Community School. The weapon, his own cane, was lying beside his body, wiped clean of prints. Mr. Whitlock had taught Junior High math at the school for the past twenty years. He had even been Emily’s teacher, and, due to his pure meanness, was feared and disliked by nearly everyone. It wasn’t a question of finding someone who had a grudge against the man; too many people wanted him dead.
The FBI was investigating, but hadn’t turned up a solid lead. Emily glanced at the names she had jotted down, and decided to make another visit to the school. Further motivation, was the fact she might see Abe Freeman, the New Jersey drifter who had teamed up with the resident Navajo artist to teach music and native crafts. If she timed it right, she and Abe could have lunch together. She felt sure they had a mutual attraction, one that teetered on the edge of romance. But, either one or the other backed off when things warmed up, both seemingly afraid to test the fires.
Officer Etcitty told the sergeant where she was going, squared the cop hat over her neat bun, and climbed into her Navajo Police Chevy Tahoe. The road from Crownpoint to Twin Mesa was rough, as was most of the territory in this part of the checkerboard area of New Mexico, but the desolate ride didn’t bother Emily. It helped her think about the case. As she crossed the rugged land, dotted with piñon, yucca, and washed-out gullies, she considered the people on her list.
First was custodian, Joe Curley, who had reported finding the body when he went in to do his daily cleaning. Then, there was Evie Martinez. She taught science in the adjoining classroom, and there had been a lot of bad blood between her and Mr. Whitlock. Evie resented his condescending attitude toward women, and the two had been overheard in a heated argument the afternoon Whitlock was killed. Finally, she knew she would have to talk to young Albert George, the recipient of frequent raps on the knuckles and humiliations delivered by Mr. Whitlock. On the day of the murder, Albert had been forced to stand in front of the class with his nose pressed into blackboard, and was kept after school for more punishment. The rebellious teenager was often singled out: he refused to cut his long hair, he spoke Navajo in Mr. Whitlock’s presence, and he would not salute the flag. But worse, he had been overheard on several occasions stating that he’d like to kill that old white man.