Title: Testing, testing
By Author: Percy Spurlark Parker
Tag line: Professor Marsh had to figure out who had cheated or else get a failing grade for her detective skills!
Police characters: None.
The gist: There were three students left in the classroom taking a mid-term test. The professor called them “the usual trio of slackers”. Ashley finished her test, placed it on the desk and left. Ten minutes later both Karen and Tammy finished and left. The professor left her classroom to attend to another matter and returned 20 minutes later. She noticed that the drawer on her desk was protruding slightly. She was certain she had locked it as it contained the answers to the test along with a stack of blank test booklets. Nothing appeared disturbed but just to be sure the professor counted her blank test booklets. There were only 49 and there should have been 50. Someone had sneaked into the room and using the answer sheet retook the test. She checked the completed pile of tests. Tammy’s, Ashley’s and Karen’s booklets were on the top (in that order). She graded the three papers. Tammy scored 88; Ashley scored 79, and Karen scored 76. The professor was sure one of those girls had cheated. She thought about making them take the test again, but decided they could pass or all fail the second time around and that wouldn’t prove anything. She decided to question the students and went looking for them. She spotted them in the cafeteria. When she approached Tammy and Karen were drawing circles in their catsup with what fries they had left. Ashley was just taking the first bite of her sandwich. When questioned, all three girls told the professor that they had left the classroom and came straight to the cafeteria for lunch. The professor knew who had cheated.
Crime scene: Classroom.
Clues: The girls’ lunches and the order of the tests on the desk.
Suspects: The three girls.
Red herrings: None.
Solution: Ashley is the cheater. She left the classroom before the others yet she was just starting her lunch. Why? Because she went back, broke into the desk drawer, and retook her exam. Also in her haste Ashley didn’t put her test booklet back in the same order it had been.
My two cents: The only real clue here is the order of the test booklets. The fact that Ashley was just beginning to eat her sandwich proves nothing. She could have made a phone call first. She could have eaten her dessert first. She could have eaten a salad or fries or just about anything else in the world first. The story didn’t say what was on the lunch trays. Or she could have stopped and talked to someone before settling down to eat. Or sent a few hundred text messages. You know teenage girls.
There was a lot of talk (that I left out of my ‘gist’ above) about the professor working with an architect and about her being designated the coordinator for the new wing, something she grudgingly accepted, and the secretary's call that he’s ready for her, etc, etc. All just filler. All that could have been cut. It’s just a waste of our precious 700 words. Perhaps the story was so simple that that extra padding was needed?
I didn’t think “the usual trio of slackers” was a very nice thing for the professor to say.
I’m not so sure the professor would have gotten away with ‘making’ the three girls retake the test. I know as a parent I would have raised a stink.
All in all not a bad idea for a mystery story. It was a little dull. I think it could have been written in a more interesting way.