DEATH INTHE FACULTY ROOM- XV

The opening day of school is very exciting, not only for the kids, but for the staff. We are all kind of hysterical when waiting for our little bundles of joy to come into our classrooms. It is especially true of kindergarten and first grade teachers. Those little people can just make you smile all day long. There is such a difference between them both physically, emotionally and academically.
There are some who come into the classroom, not really toilet trained. Those are the ones cowering in the corner of the room waiting to see if they need to go to the bathroom. Some are so academically ready to learn that they have the New York Times under their arms (just kidding). Then there are those who look like they came straight out of bed to the classroom- unruly, sometimes mucous dribbling from their noses and lots of things unbuttoned. You can’t really tell who is going to be a crackerjack student from what you first see. They will all surprise you as the year goes on.
3rd grade is a bit tamer. They have learned the system and are ready to get down to some serious stuff. That’s who came into my classroom that Wednesday. There were 27 kids. I can see them ambling towards me and saying, “Good morning Mr. Hodges.” That is pretty much all that I remember of my classroom that day. The events that occurred later in the day made me forget almost everything.
Our 30 minutes lunch was never enough. On this first day, Mama Pags was not running the cafeteria. For some reason, Mr. Ryerson had given that job to a newer teacher, Janice Prudhomme, who taught in the 6th grade. Janice was a very tall and stately person. She commanded respect just by dint of her appearance. She did not run the cafeteria like a Quaker meeting, but kids were aware of her piercing stare when they got too loud. It’s great to have folks like that in a school. They have a tremendously calming effect on everyone. When the real yellers and screamers fail to get the kids attention, all Janice had to do was crane her neck, look over to the offending parties and all became well. This took no longer than a few seconds. I was even afraid of her.
Not sure that I can describe what happened in the afternoon. I was called out of my class at about 1:00 p.m. I was just beginning a lesson on kitchen science, when a monitor from the office came in with a note saying that I had gotten a phone call that needed response post haste. The monitor said that Mr. Reyerson would soon be down to take over for me. In fact, Reyerson was there a minute later and I gave him the skinny on what we were doing. The kids had their assignments and all Ryerson had to do was monitor.
I ran down to the office, got my message and went into Mr. Ryerson’s office (with the permission of his secretary) and called the number on the note. When I called, I got the Philadelphia office of the FBI. When I told them my name they connected me immediately with Aramis Baumgartner. “Hodges, you need to get down here right now. It is an emergency that will not wait.” Not only did I think about how this would look to the staff, but I wondered what would happen in the future with such emergencies. Now that I was a full-fledged FBI agent, would I be called out of my classroom frequently?
I said to Baumgartner, “You have got to tell me that this won’t happen too often. The people here will get suspicious.” He said that this was a once and done deal and that the chances of it happening again was nil. I asked him if he could tell me what it was about. He said that they had apprehended the man who drove the car that killed Miss Reinhold. I was startled. What manner of legerdemain was this?” How could they have found this man? Baumgartner told me that a few weeks after Miss Reinhold’s death a witness came forth to say that she had actually seen the “accident.” She could identify the car, the license plate and a fair description of the man who was driving. She told us that she kind of stopped when the accident occurred and saw the man get out of the car with a gas can in his hand and douse the vehicle that had been run off the road. The reason that she did not come forward sooner was because she was afraid and she did not want to take time off from taking care of an elderly mother. She thought that she would have to answer the police questioning and she was not up to it. After a while, she realized that she had let a murderer get away with the crime and she just had to report the incident.
After the FBI got the information, they traced the car back to a car rental place in Philly. The name on the rental agreement was phony, but the fingerprints on the paper were not. From those prints, they found the man’s information in their data base. He turned out to be someone who they had suspected was a contract killer.
They put out an All Points Bulleting and captured him, as he was ready to do another job in Los Angeles. He was now in the holding tank in the basement of the FBI building. I wondered why it was that this had anything to do with me. I was on the case, but what did they need me for. When I asked that question, he told me that the killer had asked to speak to me personally.

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