By Kathy VanWey
He was drowning. In booze, in debt, in life. When did it all go wrong? Wife Number Two? Number Three? Four? He studied his reflection in the bottle of brown liquid.
There he was, Marcus A. Lipinski, Ph.D., Professor of Literature. The former darling of the campus was now old, grizzled. LIFE, LOOK, 60 Minutes had covered him and his plethora of awards. Students clambered to get in his classes. Where had it all gone?
After yet another student complained of his reeking of alcohol, the personnel director had warned him, “One more time and you’re fired. Tenure or no tenure.”
Where had all the money gone? It had been over ten years since his last publication or royalty check. The mountains of bills on his desk were snowcapped by the foreclosure notice for his house. He slumped into his desk chair pouring himself another drink.
“Professor?” The tall, gangling man/child stood at the door. “I’m Stuart Samson from your Intro to Literature course. I’m failing your class. Is there any extra credit I could . . .?”
“I don’t do extra credit. You’ve had all semester. It’s a piss poor time to be concerned now.”
“Yes, sir. It’s just, who really cares what Keats saw that stupid urn. But, if anyone needed to install a speaker in it . . .”
“Electrical engineering, it’s my major.”
“If there was any extra . . .”
Lipinski’s eye caught the picture of his most recent wife, Number Five. The ex-beauty-queen half his age had a voracious appetite for the finer things of life. And for the not-so-finer men of life. After sleeping her way through his department and countless others, he learned that she had spoken with a divorce lawyer. He was embarrassed, humiliated. What little he had left, he wasn’t going to give her. Lawrence Films had contacted him about buying the rights to his novel, LOVE’S LONG LOST. He stood to make to make six-seven figures. She wasn’t getting a dime.
“Yes…I do have an extra credit project for you”
“Can you meet me at the Boar’s Head at 9:00.”
“Sam, our secret.”
“Stu, sir. I understand.”
* * *
“Over here,” the Professor signaled to him.
The waitress sauntered over to the dimly lit corner. “What’ll you boys have?”
“A double Scotch on the rocks.”
“Nothing for me.” The student’s stomach let out a growling yelp.
“My treat,” Lipinski lamely offered.
“Burger and Pepsi.”
She winked at the kid. “To each his own, but after you service Gramps here, look me up. I’ll show you what life is really about.”
“Enough,” the older man retorted.
For the next half hour Lipinski feigned interest while the man/child prattled on about every science project he had ever made. The red-headed twenty-year-old looked twelve, with mountains and valleys of acne, and a laughable excuse for a moustache.
“The extra credit? What do you need? A remote starter installed? A burner for your computer?”
“This is confidential.”
Stuart scratched his chin. “You want me to plant some surveillance equipment, don’t you?”
“No. I want you to jimmy my car to make it have an electrical fire.”
“No offense, Professor,” he snickered. “I’ve seen the heap you drive. It’s not worth anything.”
“I want my wife’s car to catch fire. It’s an old, dull yellow Mercedes, only one like it around campus. But, when the fire starts, I don’t want her to able to escape.”
“It’s called doing all of mankind a huge favor. The woman’s a predator.”
“No! It’s wrong!”
“Sam, I’ll give you an “A,” and two grand.”
“The name is Stu. Keep your blood money. I’m not doing this.”
“You don’t have any choice. I can prove you’ve cheated. You’ll be expelled and it will stay on your record.”
“I never . . .”
“I can prove you did. What’s it going to be? Your entire life down the tubes, or are you going to do the “extra-credit?””
“We’re all going to die anyhow, just some of us before others.”
“Meet me here tomorrow at noon. I’ll have half the money. You get the other half when the project is completed.”
He disgustedly sighed. “12:00.”
* * * * *
“I’m Paula Zender with the 6:00 news. Our breaking story: Internationally renowned author and local celebrity, Professor Marcus Lipinski has been killed in a horrific car accident. It’s been a tumultuous twenty-four hours for the Lipinski family.
“Yesterday, Lipinski was arrested and charged with Conspiracy to Commit Murder. On Thursday evening, Lipinski allegedly approached one of his students, Stuart Samson, about murdering Lipinski’s wife, Catherine. Samson has reported that in exchange for the murder, the Professor offered him an “A” for the class, plus $2000. Samson states that he went directly to police to report the murder plot. Officers arranged for Samson to be wired when he met Lipinski to receive the first payment.
Then this morning, in what the jail is calling an “administrative snafu,” Lipinski was inadvertently released on bond.
Lipinski was driving westbound on Central near Monroe, when he lost control of his ‘72 Pinto, driving over the curb straight into a parked semi. Lipinski’s car erupted into a fiery blaze. He was killed immediately upon impact. The Highway Patrol states that Pintos have a history of the gas tanks catching on fire, which is why Ford discontinued the production of the vehicles years ago.
There was a robbery at . . .”
“My hero,” she purred, pushing the off button.
“It would have been easy money.”
“Don’t worry, darling. After I sell LOVE’S LONG LOST, you’ll be the first recipient of the Marcus A. Lipinski Memorial Scholarship.” She nuzzled against his shoulder. “Are you sure the troopers won’t figure out the fire started before he crashed into the semi?”
“Not a chance babe. Not a chance.” He refilled her wine glass. “I love you, Catherine.”
“Oh, Stuart, I love you too.”