Suggestion Sunday: Professor Chapman’s Misery

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This week’s suggestion was provided by Sick Puppies Comedy Fan Steve Rubin.  His suggestion inspired the following short story.  Thanks Steve.  Keep the suggestions coming.

Professor Chapman’s Misery

The coroner pronounced the time of death as 2:21am on Tuesday morning.  The victim, Tanya Messenger, was found face down on her macroeconomics book inside of her dark and cold dorm room.  Her roommate, Linda Marshall, didn’t actually realize she was dead until that evening.  “It wasn’t unusual to see Tanya sleeping at her desk due to the amount of work given to her” Marshall told the detective.  “Like, I knew something was wrong when I asked if she wanted to watch ’16 and Pregnant’ and she didn’t move”.  Detective Timothy Branson was in no mood to hear the screechy, whiny voice of a distraught sorority girl, but he could empathize with her loss.  He too had lost his daughter just a year earlier to a mysterious aneurysm at this very campus. The crime scene resurfaced all of the feelings of contempt and frustration that led him down this recent path of alchohol abuse and Bravo Channel watching.  Branson did his best to console Marshall, but knew time was a commodity he couldn’t spend on hugs and Hershey kisses.

Friday was the first day of class after Messenger’s death.  The preliminary findings showed no evidence of foul play and the University resumed business as usual after the campus had been closed for two days.  Messenger’s Econ class was only 30% full that day.  Understandably, those students knew her the best and were in mourning.  Professor Chapman entered the room just as he did every other morning, wearing a University sweater vest covering white collar button down and tweed pants.  His hair was the only indicator of his mood and for the first time since any of the students could remember, every hair was where it was supposed to be.  “We are a small University” Chapman said quietly while staring at the  floor, “which is one of the main reasons I chose to be professor here.  Everyone knows everyone else and we are a family here at Farmington State, but on a day like to day, I wished that we are as big as UT to displace all of this pain.”  The students sat still and stared at the professor.  The room was quiet with little movement.  Even though Tanya wasn’t the best student in the class, she was well liked.  She asked a lot of questions and could even impede the progress of some of the classes, but most of the students understood she was really trying so nobody got too angry when she would stop class multiple times, except for Professor Chapman.  He was notorious for passively aggressively attacking his students into withdrawing from the class by embarrassing them in front of the rest of the class.  For whatever reason, this fueled Tanya to work even harder at night to be prepared for Chapman’s retorts.

Detective Branson decided to finish his day by stopping into the local watering hole just across the street from the University Library.  “Any update on Ms. Messing Detective?” Larry, the Owner of Larry’s Bar, always enjoyed hearing about ‘cases’ Branson was on, but this one was more than curiosity.  Tanya and Linda were regulars and he had some real equity in finding out what really happened.

“Nope.” Branson belched out “They said it’s another ‘aneurysm'”.

“You don’t seem convinced Tim.  You don’t think there is a connection to this and your daughter, do you?”.

“I don’t know Larry.   Her death has haunted me all year and just as I began to accept the reality of it all, it happens again.  The worst part of it all is that I’ve been instructed to stay away from Chapman after his threat to sue the department for harassment and all I want to do is question him, follow him and get the evidence I need to prove he did it!”

“We’ve had this discussion 100 times Detective.  How could the professor have forced your child to have an aneurysm?  The autopsy showed no drugs or other issues with her brain.”

“That’s just it.  What’s more perfect than to make a person do so much work, they blow a circuit?  It’s like a running a greyhound to death.  They never know when to stop.”

“Have another Tim.”

Every Friday night, Professor Barnaby Chapman has the same ritual.  He drives up to his one bedroom apartment  checks the mail and then walks around the building twice to check for anyone that might be watching him.  This used to be a daily habit, but over the last few months, it’s only been Fridays.  He knows who the culprit is, but can’t prove it.  The physical threats have decreased over the last few months, but he knows with the recent death, they could quickly escalate.  Assured the coast is clear, he inserts the key to his front door and quickly opens it, rushes in, goes to close it, but before he can latch the door he’s thrown back to into his closet by a force he’s all too familiar with.  Except this time, the figure remains in the doorway.  “Do yourself a favor Detective.  Leave before it’s too late.” The figure remains silent and in the doorway.  It appears as a silhouette with only the moon and rain to frame it.  “Tim, I’m not going to tell you again.  Get the hell out of my home.  You can do this as many times as you want, but it’s not going to bring your Wendy back.”  The reply Chapman hears surprises him; “Professor, if you can prove the existence of our own consciousness vs. the illusion of our own existence in the next 24 hours, I’ll spare you your life.”  However, it wasn’t the words that disturbed him as much as the fact the words were said by a woman.  Before Chapman can react, the figure vanishes.

The banging had to stop.  Once he was convinced it wasn’t inside his head from the hangover, the detective decided to go downstairs to answer the door.  He peaked through hole and saw it was Jimmy and Frank from the local station.  “Jesus Christ guys, it’s 6am!”

“Sorry Timmy” Frank says “We gotta take you in”

“For What?”

“Chapman was found dead at his desk.”

—-

“Timmy, you have a visitor” Branson steps up to his cell and waits for the door to slide open.  As he approaches the visitors wall, he recognizes the face.  He picks up the phone, “How do I know you?”  The woman replies “You remember me Detective Branson!”.  “How do you know I was a detective?  It’s been at least 10 years.”

“I’m sorry about Wendy, Tim.  You may not have known this, but she and I were lovers.  When she died, I had the same feeling you had.  I knew Chapman had killed her.  I overheard you talking to Larry one night and decided to test it.  Tanya was a nice enough girl, but she was dumb as a box of rocks.  I convinced her that Chapman would approve of her and maybe even love her, if she would study until exhaustion.  It worked.  I knew that the only way I’d be able to get at Chapman would be to scare him. You did that for me.  Your drinking, your smoking, your violent outbursts in public were only going to get you in trouble anyways, so I decided I’d help that along.”

“Why are you telling me all of this?  Why did you do this to me? This isn’t fair?”

“I could feel my own guilt crushing me and I wasn’t going to let myself die the same way.  This is a completely selfish act.  It’s up to you to do what you will with this information.  I’m sorry Tim.”

********************************************

Thanks for taking time to read Sick Puppies Comedy first short story.  The suggestion was “College professors giving too much work”.  Would love to hear your feedback.  Post it below.  

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