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I know he freezes because I’m still watching his feet.
“Oh,” he says softly.
“Put down the blinds,” I say, to the floor.
“What?” Pete’s voice sounds funny.
“The window blinds,” I say. “Anyone walking by along the sidewalk can look in and see. I’m surprised someone hasn’t yet.” On the other hand, it’s New York City. Busy, busy New York, filled with busy, busy New Yorkers. “Put the blinds down.” I realize I’m starting to feel better. Not well enough to look into the room Pete’s standing in. But well enough to sit up a little and grab the phone. “I’ll call nine-one-one. You put down the blinds.”
“Right.” Pete’s voice still sounds funny. This might be because he’s swearing, steadily and with a great deal of creativity, under this breath. I hear the blinds slide down.
I still don’t look behind me, though. I clutch the phone receiver to my ear and stab the number 9–9–1–1 into the phone. The extra 9 is so that I can get an outside line.
It’s as I’m doing this that a key is inserted into the keyhole of the door to the outer office—which locks automatically when closed—and a second later, Sarah, our grad student assistant (or, I guess, more correctly,my grad student assistant, since there’s no our anymore), comes in, looking surprised to see me sitting at her desk.
“Hey,” she says. “What’s going on? Why’s Pete in here? Where’s—”
“Don’t!” both Pete and I yell at the same time, as Sarah takes a step toward the open door to Dr. Veatch’s office.
It’s at that exact moment that the emergency operator says, “Nine-one-one, what’s the emergency?” into my ear.
“What’s wrong?” Sarah wants to know, because Pete has put his hands out and is striding toward her, blocking her efforts to get into Dr. Veatch’s office. “What is it? Let me see. Let me see!”
“Hello?” the emergency operator squawks in my ear.
“Yes, hello,” I say. “I need the police at Fischer Hall, on Washington Square West.” I give them the address, even though it’s hardly necessary. Every emergency operator in Manhattan knows where Death Dorm is by now.
“Just go sit down over there at Heather’s desk,” Pete is saying to Sarah, as he pulls the door to Dr. Veatch’s office closed behind him.
“Why?” Sarah demands. “What’s going on in there? Why don’t you want to me see? This isn’t fair. I—”
“What’s the matter with you?” Pete wants to know. “I told you to sit down, so go sit down!”
“You can’t tell me what to do,” Sarah cries. “I’m not just a student, you know! I’m an employee of this college, same as you. I have as much right to know what’s going on as any other employee of this college. I’m tired of being treated—”
“What’s the nature of the emergency, ma’am?” the 911 operator wants to know.
“Um,” I say. I can hardly hear myself think, with Sarah’s whining.
“—like a second-class citizen by President Allington’s administration,” she goes on. “We’re unionizing, and no amount of hiding behind a regressive administration’s labor board decision is going to deny us our right to do so!”
“Ma’am?” the operator asks. “Are you there?”
“Yes,” I say. “Sorry.”
“And what is the nature of your emergency?”
“Um,” I say again. “The nature of my emergency is that someone shot my boss in the head.”
You’re not fat
But put down the cake
Here, eat this celery
Give dessert a break
Written by Heather Wells
Okay, I’ll admit it. I wasn’t Owen’s biggest fan.
Well, whatever! I mean, he was only assigned to Fischer Hall in order to do damage control. That’s what an ombudsman does. It wasn’t like he wanted to be here. The president’s office parachuted him into the hall director’s office to try to do what he could with the whole “Death Dorm” mess.
But it wasn’t even like Owen ever fully concentrated on doing that, since he kept getting distracted by the grad-students-unionizing thing.
And yet he managed to find time to gripe at me about borrowing supplies from the dining office.
Okay, I know, it’s petty to complain about that when the man is dead.
But at least I, unlike Sarah, refrained from saying he deserved to get shot.
Of course, Sarah hadn’t seen the way that bullet had tunneled through Owen’s skull and come out the other side, leaving a black hole—surrounded by blood spatter—in the middle of his Garfield Month-at-a-Glance Day Planner (Garfield: a cat that wears sunglasses and eats lasagna).
The actual damage to Owen’s skull had been surprisingly minimal. The bullet had entered the back of his head from the window—the street noise I’d heard had been audible because the window was open, not because someone had shot out one of the panes—and exited out the front. I guess Owen had wanted to enjoy the warm spring morning.
He hadn’t even fallen out of his chair, but was instead sitting upright, his coffee untouched—but obviously cold—in front of him. Just his head was slumped over, like he was taking a nap. Clearly, death had taken him unaware, and been mercifully quick.
But still. I’m pretty sure he didn’t deserve to go that way. Or at all.
“Well, whatever,” Sarah says, when I mention this. We’re sitting in an empty storage room down the hall from our own office, which has been cordoned off as a crime scene by the police.
Formerly used by the student government as their administrative office until after months of complaints we offered them a new one—not located directly across from the dining office like this one, and so reeking of smoke from the dining manager’s illicit cigarettes—upstairs, the storage room is supposed to be where we stack old broken chairs from the lobby and misdelivered boxes for the North American Man / Boy Love Association, which has an office down the street, and whose mail I often “accidentally” forget to forward.
For some reason, however, there is a small desktop computer set up in the storage room, along with several non-broken chairs, a sleeping bag, and what appears to be a fully functional Mr. Coffee with quite a few mugs scattered around it. I suppose the housekeepers or building engineers are using the space as an unofficial break room. It’s a good thing Owen is dead, because if he found out, he’d burst a blood vessel or two, let me tell you.