Mr. Whitlock’s Final Lesson – Part 2


Emily parked in front of the L-shaped boarding school and entered through the front door.  She stopped to check in with Hilda Morganstein, Principal Dwayne Harris’ secretary. Hilda, a withered-looking spinster, was another fixture at the school. She looked severe with her tight gray knot of hair, horn-rimmed glasses and beaked nose, but, according to Dwayne, was indispensable. Hilda told Emily that she would ask Mr. Harris if he could see her now, and after a closed-door consultation with her boss, waved her in.


Dwayne and Emily knew each other; she had even dated him for a while. Dwayne was still pretty shook up by the murder. Nothing like this had ever happened before in ‘his school’ as he called it, and after the incident he suspended classes for a week to offer counseling for students and teachers.  Things were back in full session now with a substitute teaching math. Mr. Whitlock’s room, being a crime scene, was off limits to everyone except law enforcement, so math was being taught in the library. Emily figured she’d have another look at that room before she left.


“Hi, Dwayne.

The principal looked up and smiled when he saw who it was. “Emily, how are you?”

“Keeping busy. Sorry to bother, but I’d like to use your conference room. I need to talk to a few people in private,” she said, handing him her list.

As Dwayne read the names on her list his smile turned to a frown. “Haven’t you already interviewed these people, Emily? Surely, you don’t think anyone here had a part in that terrible incident. It had to have been an outsider, a drunk, or some crazy person on drugs. Didn’t you say his wallet was missing?” Dwayne Harris was Mormon and thought most crimes were the result of drinking or drugs. He was always trying to convert Emily to Mormonism, which didn’t help their relationship.

“I’ve got to check all the angles, Dwayne, and these were the last people to see him alive.” She wrinkled her nose in distaste and frowned.  “I can’t understand why you rehired him every year. He was such an ornery old fart.”

“Now Emily, that’s not fair.  He was a strict disciplinarian, but his class scores on the standardized tests were consistently high.” Dwayne’s pragmatic approach to everything was another reason Emily couldn’t work up any passion for the guy. He managed a tight school, but he was so predictable. “Guess you’ve got your job to do,” he said, checking his watch and looking again at the list. “I’ll send for Joe.”

“Thanks, Dwayne.” Emily headed for the small conference room located off to the side of the principal’s office, and started to close the door. “He probably cheated on those scores, you know. You can’t bully people into learning.” She clicked the door shut and sat on one side of the long table.


When she heard a soft rap on the door Emily said, “Come in, Joe.” She had grown up with Curley, a lumbering giant known for his big heart and protective manner with kids. The Joe Curley she knew wouldn’t so much as swat a fly. She knew she better go slow and easy with him as well, and spoke in Navajo, the first language for both.