A Murder?

"Aha! It all makes perfect sense now, Mrs. Norts. Using every detail at my disposal, I have determined what you are about to do. I noticed how you reached for that row on the bookshelf, that row that just so happens to obtain all of your workbooks. I also perceived you furtively glancing at the whiteboard. Yes, Mrs. Norts, you were most definitely preparing a nasty surprise for us all. For as you see, you were going to open the workbook to a page that correlates with the chapter we are currently working on in class. You were then going to note the page number and write it on the whiteboard. You were going to assign us a homework assignment!"

"Mayfield Academy's Sherlock strikes again," replied Mrs. Norts, rolling her eyes while doing so. The teacher was tall, with graying hair and wrinkly skin. Her glasses hung low on her nose, locking her into a permanent condescending glare. "Now, if you please Matt, could you get off of your desk?"

Matt looked below him, barely noticing that in the heat of the moment he had climbed on top of his desk. "Oh," he remarked abashedly, and he stepped down from his perch. His classmates snickered. The freshman class had no respect for detective work and deduction these days.

Mrs. Norts approached Matt's desk, receiving more mocking laughs from the class. She leaned down towards him and challenged, "Care to 'deduce' what will happen next?" As she said this, she gave Matt the evil eye that all teachers are known to possess. "A detective of your skill would have no difficulty in doing this."

Matt's voice was somewhat lacking confidence. "From your demeanor and your tone of voice, I can deduce that you are very-"

"To the office after school," interrupted Mrs. Norts. "It doesn't take a Sherlock to determine what will happen there."

"Yes, Mrs. Norts," conceded Matt, his face as red as a tomato.

When the bell rang, Matt reported to the office as instructed. He didn't get it; why did all of the teachers hate him? He wasn't a bad kid. He just announced his deductions in the middle of class- a lot. But that wasn't a bad thing in and of itself, was it? It wasn't fair: Sherlock Holmes was never reprimanded by his teacher.

Matt sat on the couch in the office, observing his surroundings, for it is always important for a detective to observe. He was sitting on a scarlet red couch, which looked far more cozy than it actually was in practice. Evidently students were not meant to be the slightest bit comfortable when sitting in the office. The room was obnoxiously bright, the jubilant yellow tricking one to believe that the office itself was a joyous place. The office desk was made of a very shiny wood, and it stretched nearly all the way across the room. The bathroom door was just barely cracked open, and the light was on. The sound of running water and sniffing could be heard inside. And then the principal entered. Mr. Michaels was a tall and slender man. He was a younger man, younger than most of the teachers at Mayfield. He was also rather athletic, making him the complete antithesis of the stereotypical teacher. "Well, well," chortled Mr. Michael derisively, "it seems the detective strikes again! You were sent here for disrupting class, right?"

"I didn't disrupt it," argued Matt. "I was simply deducing Mrs. Norts's actions."

"That would be known as disrupting," replied Mr. Michael. "That is your second detention this week, Matt. Can you deduce the result of too many detentions?" Matt's answer was prevented by a quick signal from Mr. Michael. "Suspension is not a pleasant thing. And if you would like to avoid it, I would suggest you stop 'deducing' so often."

The conversation was interrupted by a boy who ran through the door. "Mr. Michaels, there is blood all over the floor!" he cried. The boy was short and thin, and his voice was very high. He had a mop of blonde hair on top of his slightly round head. He looked almost too small to be an eighth grader. "In the hallways!" he finished.

"What?" shouted Mr. Michaels, outraged. He turned to Matt. "I have some business to take care of. Whatever you do, stay put." And with that, Mr. Michael's stormed towards the bathroom, to take care of his "business."

But Matt was already thinking. Blood on the floor? It must be a murder. An actual murder! This was better than practicing a simple deduction on a teacher in class. This was a real mystery. Of course, every mystery needs its detective. And if this was a mystery, then Mayfield's very own Sherlock would be on the case.

Then a thought struck Matt. All of his previous attempts to deduce something, from a teacher's actions to the school lunch that day, had never amounted to anything. No matter how correct he was, he was always met with laughter whenever he tried to solve a mystery. But everyone took Sherlock seriously! What did Sherlock have that he didn't? Sherlock had a pipe; so did he, albeit fake. Sherlock had a trench coat. He had one too. Sherlock had a hat. Okay, Matt did not have a hat. But that wasn't important. What else did Sherlock have?

A Watson!

Matt was suddenly struck by ingenious inspiration. "Hey kid, what's your name?" Matt asked the boy who had made the announcement.

"Jerry," the boy squeaked out, who was still a little rattled from Mr. Michael's yelling and the whole blood incident.

"Jerry," asked Matt, "how would you like to be the second greatest detective who has ever lived?"

Uncertainty clouded Jerry's eyes. "I don't-"

"Great!" shouted Matt, blatantly ignoring Jerry's protests. "Let's go!" Matt grabbed Jerry's arm and hauled him out of the office. Soon, Jerry gave up all hope of resistance and followed Matt willingly. However, he was not very happy about it.

"First, we need to grab some stuff from my locker," commented Matt as he walked along the hallway. Jerry didn't respond; he was too busy moping about being literally dragged into this. Little did Matt know that he had instilled a permanent phobia of freshman in Jerry. When they reached Matt's locker, Matt quickly undid the combination lock to retrieve what was inside. The locker was stuffed with detective paraphernalia, from notepads to detective attire to various handbooks on How to Be a Great Detective (for the Moderately Advanced). There were also several volumes of Sherlock Holmes scattered about. From the locker, Matt took a trench coat, a fake pipe, and a magnifying glass. Matt frowned. He really did need a hat.

Matt started searching around with his magnifying glass, even though there was absolutely nothing to search for at that point. He turned to Jerry, still holding the magnifying glass to his eye. "So Jerry," he asked, "where did you first see the blood?"

"At the base of the stairs," replied the eighth grader, fear in his voice. "The blood is everywhere!"

"Thanks, Watson," said Matt. Seeing Jerry's confusion, he added, "You know, I'm Sherlock, you're Watson…" Jerry was uncomprehending.

However, the next statement was clearly comprehended by all. "Matt!" It was the cry of Mr. Michaels, and from the sound of it, he now realized that Matt had escaped. And not very happy about it.

"I would deduce that Mr. Michael's has noticed my absence," shouted Matt quickly. "It's time to get going, don't you think, chap?" They both bolted off to the base of the stairs, Jerry not asking about the use of the word chap.

At the base of the stairs, Matt stood stock still. Everywhere was not an adequate word to describe the amount of blood at the scene of the crime. The dried blood was spattered all over the ground in little droplets, smeared in some areas. It also trickled down a wall, like a gash in the wall itself. The blood had mostly dried at this point, but that did not make it any less gruesome of a sight. Matt was finding it quite a challenge to keep his lunch inside his stomach. It was very fortunate that the bathroom was just down the hall- just in case.

Matt whipped out his magnifying glass and stuck his fake pipe into his mouth. "Come on Watson, let's take a closer look."

"My name's not Watson!" shouted Jerry.

Instead of listening to Jerry's shout, Matt bent closer to the ground and observed the scene more carefully through his magnifying glass. He tried to pretend that the magnifying glass was helping, but really, at that point, blood was blood. A closer look was not going to provide any hints. Or would it? Matt pressed down even closer, ready to examine a very intriguing portion of floor.

That is, until some very thunderous footsteps came down the stairs. "Matt, when I get my hands on you…" called the principal. Matt racked his brain for a possible way to escape the principal. The principal would be there any second! What could he do? That's it! He grabbed Jerry's arm and dashed into the bathroom. But not just any bathroom- the girls bathroom.

Once the door was firmly closed, Jerry turned to Matt and asked the question that had to be asked: "Why are we in the girls' bathroom?" Jerry might have been short, but at that moment, he was very intimidating.

Matt opened his mouth to answer, but a different one answered first. "I would deduce that Matt thought that the principal was less likely to check the girls' bathroom than the boys'." Matt grew almost as nauseous as he had from the blood. He knew that voice, and even if he hadn't, only one girl could read his mind so perfectly.

"Hey, Lucia," Matt said while awkwardly smiling. Leave it to him to sneak into the girls' bathroom when his biggest crush was in there. Lucia had it all: she read the Doyle, she could deduce about as well as Matt himself, and somehow she knew how to keep her mouth shut in class. She was a dream. And that dream would never come true, now that she saw him in the girls' bathroom. "This isn't as bad as it looks," defended Matt.

"That's okay," said Lucia. "I would have done the exact same thing." Matt was about to smile in relief, until she added, "But that's because I'm a girl." Matt's face fell. "Still, it was a clever idea. I'm certain that Mr. Michael's won't check in this bathroom." As if to prove Lucia wrong, the door to the bathroom opened. Matt bit his lip and turned around. Thanks heavens! It was just a normal girl. When a look of pure horror came across her face at seeing Matt, Lucia mouthed, "Walk away." The girl was all too willing to oblige.

"So how did you know I was in trouble with Mr. Michaels?" asked Matt, noting that Lucia had not been in the office.

"Well," she started, "I noticed you walking to the office after school." Matt's heart almost stopped from pure joy. She noticed him walking! She continued, "Your face was more dejected than usual, so I was able to assume that you were in trouble. However, now you are not in the office, and you seem as though you are in hiding. And if you were hiding for not being in the office, then the only person you could be hiding from would be Mr. Michaels. Therefore, I deduced that you were being chased by Mr. Michaels."

"That would be correct," Matt dopily affirmed, dreamily gazing into Lucia's eyes with a stupid expression on his face.

"Man, you're almost as bad as him," said Jerry, shocking Matt out of his short reverie, which consisted of the two eventually marrying and starting a detective agency, where they would snuff out ever criminal in the entire United States. They would both become very famous, and detective stories would be written about them. Then, their detective stories would inspire other children to embark on their own detective adventures. It had been a very elaborate daydream.

"So why did you leave the office?" asked Lucia.

"I heard Jerry here talking about how there was blood on the ground by the staircase. I knew that it had to be serious, so I came down to check." Another girl tried to enter the bathroom, and the entire thinking-it-was-Mr.-Michaels-with-it-actually-bein g-a-girl-and-then-awkwardly-asking-her-to-leave process was repeated. "After all, we needed a detective on the case. And what are you doing here, Lucia?"

"I'm hiding too," she whispered. After looking at the confused expression on Matt's face, she laughed, "It's the girls' bathroom, silly! What do you think I'm here for?"

"Quite right, quite right," answered Matt, turning very, very red. "Hey, do you think that Mr. Michaels is gone by now? There was something at the crime scene I wanted to check out."

"Probably," said Lucia. "Care if I come with you?"

"Yeah, of course," said Matt nervously, until he realized what she had asked. Then, much more smoothly, "I mean not at all."

So the three of them exited the girls' bathroom, and they all walked back to the crime scene. "Aha! Just as I expected!" shouted Matt. He brought his magnifying glass closer to the portion he had been observing earlier. "A handprint!" Everyone crowded closer. It was a right hand print, and it was placed facedown next to the wall. "So this wasn't just an accident. There was a struggle! The victim took a blow to the head, and was then knocked against this wall, his hand landing right there." He then moved his magnifying glass closer to the middle of the scene. "And here we have a pants-print."

"A pants-print?" asked Jerry skeptically.

"The assailant fell on the ground here, and his pants left a print in the blood," supplied Matt. "While on the ground, the victim kicked out at his assailant's legs, which caused the attacker to slip and fall. But it appears it was already too late for our poor victim."

"Hold on a second," said Lucia. "How do you know that wasn't where the victim fell?"

"There are two reasons," answered Matt. "First of all, why would the victim have fallen twice? True, he could have fallen and gotten up again, but there is more convincing evidence. You see, the pants-print here is different than the pants-print there. It appears our victim was wearing corduroys."

Jerry signaled both of their attention. "Look! Footprints!" he called.

"Excellent work, Watson!" praised Matt, shaking Jerry's hand heartily. "I always knew I could count on you!" Jerry did not care that Matt was a terrifying freshman. Even a scary freshman's praise was something to be proud of. He smiled happily.

Matt got down on all fours and placed his head near the ground. He used his magnifying glass to make the footprints more visible. "With any luck, we can trace these to our culprit." The other two excitedly followed Matt, thrilled to be involved in such an riveting case. But Matt did not have time to be excited. His face was one of strict concentration. The footprints were getting fainter and increasingly difficult to track.

The footprints led upstairs, and then when they reached the next hallway, Lucia gasped in dismay. Matt hesitated to look up. If a fellow detective was gasping in dismay, then it could be deduced that something was truly wrong. Finally, Matt lifted his head to see what the matter was. And a problem it was: Mr. Konley, the janitor had washed away the remaining footprints.

Desperation built up in Matt until he could hold it in no longer. "No!" he screamed. "I have done everything right! I have followed every clue to the last. I made every assumption possible from the evidence given. I even carefully evaded Mr. Michaels so that I could finally finish this case. And now, and now I have nothing. My chance of finally solving a mystery has vanished, just like mist into thin air. I'm a lousy detective, one who can't even solve a simple murder mystery."

It would have been impossible for anyone to not hear Matt's outcry. That being said, Mr. Michaels was soon upon the threesome. "At last," he sighed. "I finally have you Matt. You're going to get into a whole lot of trouble for this." If it was possible for a school principal to have a villainous smile, then that was what was on Mr. Michaels's face. Matt almost expected him to begin a maniacal laugh.

"Now wait a second," said Mr. Konley, who was known for both his kindness and his joking nature. "Matt, I think I can help you here. After all, I had to know where I was wiping those footprints from. So what do you say; do you want to see this mystery through, or just give up like a no-good detective would?"

Matt lifted his head, but there was still some doubt in him. How could he solve this case with the help of a janitor? It wouldn't be his victory at all! But then a thought came to him. What would Sherlock Holmes do? The answer was obvious. Holmes would see any case through, no matter who helped him. It was a detective's duty to see through the mystery. "I'm in!" answered Matt. The rest of his team cheered behind him.

"Great!" exclaimed Mr. Konley. "Follow me, and I'll lead you to where I saw the last footprint, Mr. Holmes." The group all followed Mr. Konley. But Matt was slightly dismayed. All he was doing was following a janitor. He wasn't actually helping solve the mystery! He was just sitting by, letting someone else do the work. Mr. Knoley seemed to read Matt's mind. "Don't think of me as a janitor, Matt. Think of me as more like an eyewitness who saw where the criminal went. Or more fittingly, the victim." This last part thoroughly confused Matt. The victim left the footprints? But the victim was supposed to be dead!

All was explained when they reached the end of their trail: the office. There, sitting on the very bench where Matt had sat earlier, was Billy, a kid with a knack for getting bloody noses. He had a tissue on his nose, preventing any more blood from flowing.

"Hey," said Billy awkwardly, noticing Matt's admittedly odd attire. He also noticed Matt's completely dumbfounded look. "Do you want to say something?"

Matt put his forehead on his right hand. "Just explain," he commanded Billy without looking.

"Well, I was walking downstairs, when all of a sudden I got a bloody nose. I kind of panicked; I didn't know what to do. It didn't help when Damon arrived at the scene, somehow not noticing the blood that had already fallen, and tried to beat me up. He pushed me against the wall, where I slipped and fell. At that point, I accidentally sneezed, and that got blood in quite a few places. The look on Damon's face was priceless; in surprise, he slipped and fell, smearing the blood even more. By then, there was far too much blood on the ground. I went to the office to get cleaned up, but it seems that I left tracks all the way there. There, I went to the bathroom to wash my face. Oh yeah, also, I forgot to tell the people in the office that the blood had gotten on the floor. When Jerry ran in saying that, Mr. Michaels reprimanded me for not saying so sooner."

Matt was ashamedly banging his head against the wall. "It was a bloody nose? How could I be so stupid?" he asked, raising his hands into the air. He then continued to bash his head against the wall.

"Way to go, Sherlock," laughed Lucia, and she walked out of the office.

"My name's not Watson," stated Jerry defiantly, and he too walked out of the office.

Mr. Michaels then walked into the office. "And think, Matt, you could have gotten away with only one detention today if Billy here would have told us about the mess earlier. But now, thanks to your escapade earlier today, you have three."

"Three?" shouted Matt in indignation. "What for?"

"One for your outburst in class, one for leaving the office, and one for not permitting any girls to enter the downstairs bathroom." At this last note, one of the girls from earlier came out from behind Mr. Michaels's back with a look of sheer horror still on her face. "Good day, Mr. Michaels, and you are expected to fulfill all of those tomorrow. Don't plan to leave here tomorrow until about 6:00 p.m."

Matt walked out of the office, as downtrodden as physically possible. This all would have worked so much better if he would have had a hat.