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The International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Open and Shut Case

The Adjunct Detective: The Case of Well-dressed Gentlemen
Michael Hammond

Temporarily distracted from his work, Stu Hanagan peered out the window of the Albany Park branch of the Chicago Public Library, watching the winter weather worsen until the intersection of Foster and Kimball slowly disappeared into a swirling mess of white.

Fruitfully spending the time in between teaching a morning composition course at the nearby Illinois State University at Chicago and a night course at Illinois Academy of Art downtown, Stu conducted his first-ever online class session, this one for a third school, the Internet-based Ashland College. While Stu possessed little computer acumen, money was tight for a part-time instructor stringing together rent and bills at multiple schools; even with his altogether uncomplicated if not entirely frugal lifestyle, additional employment was always welcome. However, without home Internet service, Stu was primarily dependent on the public library’s free Wi-Fi to complete his newest job, filling in the gaps with computer usage at his crowded ISUC office and the altogether unreliable afterthought of a part-time faculty bullpen at IAA.

He often resorted to checking his various e-mail accounts, one for each school, at open computer labs primarily intended for students. With new web-based responsibilities, Stu very recently graduated to computer ownership of sorts, obtaining an old-time laptop lovingly renovated by a computer-savvy friend with a basement full of machines rescued from the both the figurative and literal trash heap. While the laptop functioned properly, it was hot, heavy, clunky, and not always compatible with Wi-Fi servers at certain cafés Stu found that his new computer’s compatibility with these establishments often corresponded with his own social compatibility—the places that made him feel most out of place almost never got along with his machine.

The Albany Park library was not unlike many of the neighborhood branches throughout Chicago in that a children’s room occupied nearly half the open space. The remaining portion included a prominent magazine rack near the front, an entire wall dedicated to new fiction along the Foster Avenue side, a few more general circulation stacks in the back of the room, and a largely unpopulated reference desk next to a quartet of computers intended for public use that were usually occupied by social networking teenagers. Stu sat somewhere in the middle, to the immediate left of a paunchy older gentlemen with slick black hair likely filled with both dye and gel. The man began muttering to himself and belching, rather calculatedly by Stu’s estimation, given the relaxed, even proud manner in which the man occupied his chair. Stu grimaced after each successive belch. As the man’s auditory accomplishments amplified, Stu’s facial expression, a sneer punctuated by a painfully crinkled nose, grew more pronounced, by his intention, more loud. Unable to crack the other man’s comfortable countenance with the sheer force of even the most pointed sneer, Stu started to produce his own noises, ones intended to register as complaints. The resulting cacophony of grunts inspired equally agitated looks from a third patron, a curly-haired young woman wearing a thick green sweatshirt. Dirty looks of her own did not succeed, so she turned her back to the two men and continued to flip through a fashion magazine. When he rattled off yet another doozy, she pulled her hood over her head and yanked the strings down tight, doing as best she could to protect her ears.

With the "live" class session finished, Stu mopped up a few final responsibilities, responding to student drafts posted on the Blackboard website and fielding after-class questions via instant message. Stu was delighted to finally log off Ashland’s web interface, which he found confusingly arranged if not even counterintuitive, given to instructions that led the user to folders that either did not exist or were otherwise mislabeled. His mind promptly settled on a new object of apprehension: the inclement weather that he had hoped to wait out. Stu reluctantly checked the clock above the front door, as he had somehow managed to mess up the clock on his new computer and had yet to get around to resetting it. If he was to arrive in time to prepare for the first course of the Winter term at IAA, he was going to have to leave shortly for the train.

Stu shut off his computer and began to pack his things, but the old machine was slow to wind down. With some unwanted downtime, he tried his best not to gaze out the window, as facing the weather that would complicate his immediate future wouldn’t do much to settle his nerves. As his eyes scanned the room for something innocuous at which to stare, the serial burpist blasted his coup de grace, one so loud it garnered a glance from the circulation desk a dozen feet away. Having had enough, the female patron flung her magazine to the table and left in a huff.

The computer finally inactive, Stu slammed it shut and stuffed it, with some degree of difficulty, into the fancier of his two overflowing bags, an aging but respectable black leather over-the-shoulder number. His other bag was a well-worn plastic shopping bag from the discount grocery chain Aldi, which he kept overstuffed with course papers. His possessions accounted for, he headed for the door with a meager sigh, nodding ever-so-slightly, if barely perceptibly, to the familiar faces at the circulation desk.

A blast of cool air smacked him in the face upon opening a first door into the little lobby; a more full-bodied blast slammed into him upon opening outermost door, pushing it backwards into him, bashing his bags and body. His long tan trench coat not entirely sufficient for the season was still unbuttoned; he struggled to fasten its many buttons as he made his first somber steps southward down Kimball Avenue, straight into a moist, vicious and unusually horizontal snow. It didn’t take long for him to realize that the fabric below his waistline, left vulnerable due to a missing bottom button he hadn’t yet bothered to fix, was kicking upwards in the wind, exposing much of his lower body to the elements. It would not be long before his gray wool trousers soaked through from his hips to his ankles.

Stu found his glasses were not of much assistance in such nasty conditions, the wet lenses obscured by mist. He feared they might be damaged or that the left nose piece, replaced with glue after it fell out a few weeks back, might be lost entirely. Unable to see with his spectacles, he removed them, only to realize, of course, he was even worse off without them, stumbling wildly about and nearly tripping on a dip in the sidewalk. A few blocks into the endeavor, it was clear he should have waited for a bus in the relative safety of the library lobby. The bus option hadn’t especially dawned on him. The normally simple ten-minute walk down wide sidewalks along perfectly flat terrain had never proved difficult in the past, and, alas, this was not always an easy bus ride, often complicated by rowdy packs of high school students with no regard for his sanity.

By the time Stu reached the train station twenty dreadfully slow and stressful minutes later, his entire body felt punished by the elements. Perhaps the only fortunate aspect of the endeavor was that an empty soon-to-be southbound train waited for him upon his arrival, allowing him to settle comfortably into a bench all to himself. Stu enjoyed a deep breath, fetched a handkerchief from the deep, dry inner recesses of his trench coat, and carefully began to wipe his glasses. Lulled into a restful daze by relative peace and quiet, Stu was startled when two male CTA employees in puffy blue coats covered by bright orange safety vests burst into the car, their boisterous voices rising above the hum of the train and the whistle of the wind sailing through the still opened doors. "Dude," commented the smaller of the two, "there's always people making out in the front of the car." At the head of most CTA cars was a somewhat walled off bench adjacent to the small closet-like space reserved for train operators, which seemed private in comparison to the seats located in the car's rather open body. Stu had also witnessed many a couple make out in this space.
"But it always smells like pee up there."
"Hey, man. I never said I made out there."
Both men were filled with riotous laughter when the larger of the two workers received a communicae via walkie-talkie: "Ripe fruit, Northbound platform, Sedgewick. Over."
"I copy that, daddy," replied the big man. His compadre giggled as the two slapped hands.

Stu recalled a article in a newspaper he, ironically, found on an empty train seat the previous week regarding an enhanced video monitoring system along the El lines, which he now realized was most certainly also employed for such sleazy surveillance purposes. He wondered how the CTA could cite budget woes to justify service cuts when its booty-watching infrastructure seemed provided for so thoroughly.

Once the train departed, slowly rolling around the bend towards the Kedzie station, Stu stared vacantly out the window into the darkened sky, yet with the mirror effect common on twilight CTA rides, he found his gaze unwittingly focused on his own reflection, which he marked as listless and sad. With this small slice of solace shattered, his thoughts drifted yet again to the pants he desperately hoped would dry before his course began at 7pm. Being opening night of a new term, first impressions with his students were a subject of intense concern, likely setting the tone for the entire course.

This fact seemed especially prescient after a difficult fall term, his first at IAA, in which spoiled and unruly pseudo-art students made his Monday evenings miserable. While IAA students lacked the troubling pretentiousness one might find in the more cultured class of learners at the Art Institute of Chicago, Stu found the student populace nevertheless substantially more intimidating than the relatively down to earth batch of city kids he so appreciated at ISUC. He certainly didn’t want to walk into his new classroom wearing dripping wet trousers only to be eaten alive by a throng of affluent, trendy, fashionable, and, mostly white, young suburbanites fresh from Kansas and Michigan.

Even with the cold, wet fabric clinging to his thighs, Stu tried to talk himself out of nervously obsessing over his clothing crisis. Better to dampen your pants than to damper your demeanor, he attempted, even snickered softly to himself, but this brief flirtation with positive thinking didn’t pan out: Stu spent much of the forty-minute train ride brainstorming unfortunate nicknames he would gain and never be able to shake thanks to his wet pants. To be forever branded Professor Soggy Pants, he feared, we be more than he could possibly bear after a term living with the moniker Mr. Moist Pits after an exceedingly hot first week of classes.

After the train rounded the last big curve before the Loop and trudged past the Chicago stop nearly an hour later, Stu departed the El at Merchandise Mart with still unspeakably wet clothing, only to collide with a tall, dark-haired businessman dressed in a crisp blue overcoat as he attempted to cross through the turnstile before Stu and his bulky set of belongings had sufficiently cleared the way. "Watch it, bud," the man warned. Stu watched in dismay, gasping as the snow-damaged Aldi bag ruptured during the accident. Seemingly oblivious to the damage done, the other man kept on walking, barely lifting his head from his PDA while the bag tore apart at the seams, spilling the course papers across the damp and somewhat dirty floor. He would later find it tragic that the practical concern posed by the rescue of his belongings compromised his ability to pay proper respect to the dearly departed relic of his many academic travels. His life with the tremendously cherished companion passed before his eyes—several years and countless miles, from the North side to the South side; from downtown to the western suburbs; state schools, city colleges, private and corporate universities; business schools, trade schools, and art academies. His deep sentimental attachment aside, they simply didn’t make them like that anymore—literally—the new variety of bags offered at Aldi cost a quarter and had what were meant to be fancier handles composed of thicker plastic. He found the smaller handles more difficult to grasp, especially when controlling a bag for a long distance standing on public transit. Most appallingly, the new design featured loud, colorful photos of produce in the background, a tad garish when compared to its understated predecessor, which featured a simple store logo, "Aldi" spelled with a big blue A perfectly befitting a discount grocer and cast against an dignified orange-yellow field.

After a painfully brief mourning period, no more than a few flummoxed seconds, Stu took to his hands and knees and began retrieving the countless scattered papers strewn about the busy walkway leading from the CTA to the heart of the Mart. While the damp surface was troublesome, he quickly realized a greater obstacle in the other commuters passing in and out of the turnstiles, some of whom thoughtlessly trampled on his materials with their muddy boots and shoes. To onlookers, his debacle appeared a tortuously ongoing screen of the vintage video game Frogger, one in which the frog was unable to cross the street, instead doomed to cross and re-cross the same hazardous stretch of road.

After a few desperate minutes, most everything was recovered, although not without significant damage to several items. Stu paused to take a deep breath, thankful that at this early stage of the term his bag had been fortunately free of papers that would need to be returned to students. While only momentarily relaxing his defenses, the tips of the fingers on his right hand were stepped on by yet another tall, dark-haired business type hustling by in a handsome blue overcoat. Stu’s mouth opened as if to shout only to be outdone. "Get out of the way, moron," the man remarked with some degree of hostility, albeit without hesitating to turn and face the target of his scorn. While the pain quickly subsided, Stu’s sunken morale lingered in the depths, as he trounced, huffing and puffing, through the now closed food court to its still open restroom. Oblivious to any others who may have been in the men’s room, Stu whipped off his coat and boldly marched straight to the hand dryer, tenting the crotch area of his pants out with both hands to catch as much warm air as possible. Glancing over his shoulder to note his reflection in the mirror, Stu’s already sullen mood was exacerbated by the sight of his disheveled appearance. His hair was obliterated, his face was pallid yet screaming frustration, and worse yet, his pants were nowhere near dry. One of the tall dark-haired businessman who gave Stu grief moments earlier, although with such brief glances Stu wasn’t immediately certain which one, entered the restroom to observe him laughing to himself and standing with his hips under the hand dryer. "Freak," the man muttered. Undeterred, Stu sternly gave the large round metal button one more push, as if it were the grandest act of defiance ever accomplished. With his crotch region progressing nicely, he employed a new strategy intended to address his still intensely damp legs, leaning back into a wide stance and rotating his hips to allow the hot air to reach a greater area.

The resulting, remotely funky, pelvic gyrations got the attention of another man entering the restroom, a short, stout Merchandise Mart security guard with curly blondish-brown locks jutting up from under his cap. Their eyes locked, commencing a tense pause. Stu felt a twinge of panic that was quickly relieved when the man, who wore black shoes, black pants, and a black jacket, joyously quipped, "Now that looks like a good time!" The guard punctuated his comments with a robust yet slightly screechy belly laugh. Stu smiled awkwardly, happy to avoid the guard’s scrutiny and to receive any reaction that recognized his basic humanity. The guard nodded and stepped towards the only remaining empty stall, the one nearest the restroom door.
"Hey, wait a second," hollered a disembodied male voice emanating from the area of the stalls. "Wait a damn second. Somebody lifted my iPhone!"
The guard quickly popped back out of the stall, crouching to peak into the open space at the bottom of the doors to view an expensive pair of white Nike hi-tops with a red swoosh occupying the one in the middle, flanked on both sides by pairs of shiny black loafers. A young man with spiked blond hair flung open the middle stall door, nearly smashing the guard in the face. The guard sprung from his crouch just quickly enough to evade all but a glancing blow, deftly catching his cap as it fell from his head.

The victim, who wore a bright red t-shirt over a white long sleeve thermal, was still fastening the belt that held up his baggy blue jeans as he resumed his complaint. "It was resting on my bag and now it’s gone. It’s gone, man. Gone. You gotta do something, dude. I just got it for Christmas."
The guard knocked on the remaining two occupied stalls, simultaneously tapping on one door with each of his hands. "One minute," replied the voice on to the young man’s right. A tall, dark-haired man in a blue suit emerged from the left side. Another tall, dark-haired man in a blue suit soon emerged from the right side. The gentleman on the right was perhaps an inch taller than his counterpart. He wore a red tie, while the other’s was yellow. His suit had very fine pinstripes, while the other’s had none. Most notable to someone who viewed the two from the perspective of an adjacent restroom stall, their neat black leather loafers were closer to identical than their other features and accoutrements, near spitting images of each other in style, shade and size. They each even possessed attractive blue overcoats, both hanging from hook attached to their respective stall doors. Perhaps the most distinctly different feature was their briefcases. While both were brown leather and nearly the same size, the briefcase belonging to the man on the right had gold-colored trim, the other’s a less dazzling silver color.

The total affect of their appearances was similar enough that a person encountering these men in passing, without any real reason to focus on their identity, might struggle to tell one from the other in a police lineup the next day. For Stu Hanagan, who had in fact encountered both just moments before, as he scrambled for his belongings beneath the CTA turnstiles, and even possessed a perfectly good reason to pay attention to them given the respective injustices they had both perpetrated upon him, was completely unsure which man had perpetrated which injustice.
"Wouldn’t you have seen someone swipe your device?" Stu interjected.
"Darn tootin’," the guard agreed. "That’s a pretty good point, there, bud."
The youngster shrugged and sighed. "What can I say? I was zoned out. I had my eyes closed."
"That’s convenient," quipped the man on the right, drawing a skeptical glance from Stu.
"What model do you have?" asked the man on the left. Though both men possessed particularly deep voices, this man’s voice was recognizably more gentle than his opposite. The man on the right made fierce, almost intimidating eye contact when speaking; his counterpart didn’t make eye contact at all. While the man on the right appeared perturbed by the hassle, the man on the left seemed disturbed by the accusation.
"G3. Very sweet."
"Interest you?" asked the gentleman on the right of the gentleman on the left. His cocky protestations reeked of defiant indignity. He was above the fray.
"No, in fact," replied the man on the left as he pulled a device from his blazer pocket, displaying it with the proud smile of a new father. "I have a perfectly nice PDA of my own."
"Super sweet," remarked the victim.
"The new Blackberry PDA SmartPhone."
The guard then addressed Stu. "And you?"
"Huh? Um, I own a Compaq Presario 1200."
"Did you pick that thing up in the ‘80s?" asked the man on the right.
"I’ve been told it’s a ’99."
"Who told you that?" continued the man on the right. "The lady at the flea market?"
"Somehow I don’t think you’re guilty," remarked the guard of Stu. "OK, big guy. Whatta you got?"
"What do I need with toys? I’ve got a brand new NDB."
"NDB?" the guard asked, somewhat perplexed.
"None of your Damn Business."
"You could clear things up pretty easily if you opened up your briefcase," the guard asked, realizing he had no authority to request a proper search.
"Are you a police officer?"
"May I direct your attention to the jacket?" He traced his fingers over the big, gold letters "MART GUARD" printed across his chest while silently mouthing the words they spelled. "Private security, brother."
"Not that I’d need to be to know better, but I’m an attorney. You have no right to search me."
"You have no obligation to comply, bro, but I would, however, happily radio the actual cops and let them straighten this matter out," he threatened, widening his hips and bended his knees as if poised for action before pulling his walkie-talkie from its holster like a loaded six-shooter.
"Listen, I’m a busy man . . ."
"Are you in a hurry, son?" the guard interrupted, now addressing the accuser, who also appeared to have somewhere else to be, distractedly checking his watch every few minutes.
"Yeah, actually. It’s the first day of classes. I’ve got a stupid writing course at IAA." The student pointed in the general direction of the college housed in the Apparel Center, the Merchandise Mart’s less attractive annex, located down a long corridor on the west end of the complex.
This perked Stu’s attention. "Really? Which course is it?"
He pulled a slip from one of his rear jean pockets, unfolding it to read, "Writing I. Professor Haragan."
"You mean Hanagan?"
"What?" The young man seemed confused.
"Hanagan. Check the name again."
"Oh yeah, Hanagan."
"Why, that’s me! I’m your instructor."
After years as an adjunct, Stu had trained himself not to use the term professor, even in the small-p general sense.
"Sorry about the stupid crack."
"Why, that’s OK. I realize not many students look forward to Gen Ed writing courses. In fact, I even encourage some of them to pen persuasive essays arguing against mandatory Gen Ed courses. I don’t agree with them, per se, but it makes for a fascinating debate."
Reassured, the student spoke freely. "Yeah, I know what you mean. I’m here to design video games, not to write essays."
Stu crinkled his nose dubiously but did not offer a reply.
"But you know, dude, there is one thing that bothers me—these books are expensive."

Stu wanted to complain openly about textbooks he considered creatively confining and dramatically inadequate but decided against airing dirty laundry in front of a student, opting instead for the politically cautious, "The department requires each instructor employ those particular texts. I don’t have any say in the matter."
"Enough about your little classes," quipped the man on the right.
"College education is important," returned the guard.
"I know. I went to Northwestern Law."
"Exactly," the guard continued, cutting off the man on the left as he attempted to jump in. "That’s why I’m taking business classes at Odyssey down the hall." Odyssey University was a mostly Internet-based college that shared some facilities with IAA. "I wanna open my own e-business. Kind of a Netflix for tools."
Visibly frustrated by his inability to get a word in, the man on the left finally had his turn, beaming as he declared, "I’m a U of C man. MBA."
The guard grew still and silent, upset no one had inquired about his business plans. Stu sensed an opportunity to segue, "Where was the iPhone?"
"Lying on my bag," the student explained, pointing to the red and black backpack lying on the floor.
"Was it on the right, the left or the middle?"
"You know, I don’t really remember. To the right. Maybe?"
"The right, hey?" the guard gloated, doing a bit of a chicken dance in the direction of the man on the right "What do you have to say
about that, brother?"
"I’m leaving. That’s what." With his right hand, the man grabbed his briefcase, which was on the floor on his right hand side. As he pushed the door forward, he paused, turning to conclude," And I’m most definitely not your brother. I’m not certain we’re from the same gene pool."
He took one step through the door before Stu shouted, "Wait!"
"Yes?" the man growled.
"You’re right handed!"
"And you. You are left handed?"
"I am," the man on the left answered softly, as with some degree of uncertainty, even though he most certainly was left-handed.
"Well, that does it!"
"You know who swiped my phone?" the student asked eagerly.
"Maybe not, but I do know one thing." Somewhat confidently, Stu approached the man on the right. "You sir are a hand-stepper. The man who stepped on my hand held his briefcase in his right hand, passing by on my right side while virtually leaving track marks on right hand with his left foot, offering nothing in the way of an apology in the process."
"I’m glad your memory serves you, but . . ." the man on the right’s sentence trailed off as he once again pushed open the door.
"Hold your horses," the guard warned. "It was closer to your stall. You did it!"
"That doesn’t prove anything! You have no reason to delay me. The only wrong I’ve committed is, apparently, accidentally stepping on the hand of some fool crawling around the floor beneath a busy CTA turnstile. Unless he plans to charges for assault with a loaded loafer, I’m not sure this is a matter for the authorities."
As if oblivious to the guard’s recent line of questioning, Stu popped back in. "May I ask you both what business you were conducting at the Mart tonight?"
"My office is here in the building," the man on the left casually replied.
"It’s awfully late for an office to be open?" Stu probed with a single-minded purpose and in total control of his faculties, utterly free from shyness and clumsiness.
"I’m on my way out," he said more sternly, making direct eye contact with Stu for the first time. "Long hours. You know how it goes."
"And you?"
"I have a case in town. The cheapskates put me up at the Holiday Inn over at the Apparel Center. Simply dreadful."
"You went to NU, but you’re not local?"
"I’m from around here, originally, but I work for a practice in downtown Milwaukee. I was brought to town on for a slip and fall lawsuit."
"Aren’t there plenty of slip and fall experts in Chicago?"
"Listen, I’m the top slip and fall guy in the Midwest."
"U of C?" Stu abruptly shifted his questions to the other party.

Having recently spent a great deal of time with another part-timer at ISUC known for indulging in tales of his glory days at the University of Chicago, Stu felt informed enough to pursue details about the man’s education. "What year?"
"Did you like it there?"
"Sure, it’s a lovely campus. Best education in the world."
"Chicago certainly is a world famous business school. Did you have any classes with Friedman?"
"Yeah, plenty."
"Really? Courses with Thomas Friedman. Must have been something."
"I think you mean Mil . ." the guard attempted to correct only to be swiftly shut down.
"Sure, the legendary Professor Friedman."
Stu quickly shifted his attention to the guard. "Do you have a class tonight?"
"Yeah. 7:30."
"Who is your instructor?"
"Professor Perkins. Slick guy. Real smart."
"Ever heard of him?" Stu asked the man on the left.
"Excuse me? How would I know this Perkins guy? Of course not."
"Would you please allow me another look at your Blackberry?
"OK," he fumbled around a pocket on the inside of his blazer.
Stu stepped forward, stooping a touch to take a closer look at the device.
"The more I think about it, the more I’m sure that I have cracked both cases."
"No kidding?" the guard asked.
"I wouldn’t kid you. One may say that both gentlemen are guilty of something, one of avarice and fraud and the other of ruthless self-importance, but only one of you is a thief, at least according to the letter of the law." Peering at the man on the right and shaking his head in condemnation, he continued. "You sir, are a no-good hand-stepper and a discourteous jerk, but you are no thief."

Stu returned his attention to the man on the left. "This other gentleman passed by my right side with his briefcase in his right hand. You, on the other hand, if you will, squeezed by my left side, holding your briefcase with your left hand, while my bags were caught between your body and mine. Though you were not at fault, you caused my bag to give way. While it may be hard to understand, the bag held much sentimental value. Alas, you are not to blame for the destruction of my bag; you are, however, caught in a needless lie. You claimed to be leaving your office for the train, yet I saw you coming in through the turnstiles after 6pm, and I can confirm it was you based on the design of your Blackberry. Here in the restroom, you weren’t aware that Professor Milton Friedman was a world famous University of Chicago economist."
"That’s my guy!" the guard proclaimed.

Stu’s instinctively started to sneer, but made sure the guard’s input didn’t interrupt his line of thinking. "You also weren’t aware that Professor Friedman retired from the university over 30 years ago, which means you were not truthful about your University of Chicago education, if not the MBA itself. Given that no Mart office that I’m aware of is likely to be open at this hour, my guess is that you too are a student at Odyssey . . . probably a freshman."
"Even if these things are true, and I’m not saying they are, that doesn’t prove I took his iPhone!"
"Perhaps not, but it proves you lied. Why, if not to hide your guilt?"
"I wanted to seem like a big man in front of the Northwestern lawyer, a big shot with an office and a degree."
"Really? There is no shame in taking courses at Odyssey; however, there is plenty in stealing a silly gadget from a college kid."
"Silly? Are you kidding? Do you know how much a G3 can fetch?" His face reddened immediately after the last word was spoken.
"Oops!" hollered the guard, this time activating his walkie-talkie.
"I knew it," Stu continued, "A lawyer, no matter how crass and insincere he may be, is not a crook. A businessman, even a potential businessman just embarking upon an MBA program, would not be dissuaded from taking an item simply because he already possessed one. You might have a dollar. That doesn’t mean you don’t crave many more."
Stu extended his hand to the guard. "Excuse me, friend. I need to prep for my class session. I’ll let you handle the rest. The guard offered a respectful salute.

Stu attempted to exit at the same time as the lawyer, causing both men to converge under the doorway, colliding gently. "Pardon me," Stu apologized. "After you," the lawyer offered, although not without rolling his eyes and muttering, "you clumsy S.O.B" as he slipped away.

A few weeks later, Stu would learn of the story’s denouement via a remembering an event narrative essay written for his course by Tyler, the student involved in the incident. When the student proposed the strange developments in the restroom as a potential paper topic, Stu loved the idea. Per Tyler’s account, the MBA student and attempted thief offered the aspiring electronic artist his own Blackberry in exchange for letting the matter slide. The student was happy with his new iPhone—it was the Mart Guard who accepted the Blackberry to look the other way—but settled for letting the man pay for his expensive textbooks. Tyler's essay's reflective conclusion emphasized that while business school was not for him, business students sure knew how to strike a deal. For his part, Stu regretted he had not asked for a quarter to buy a new Aldi bag.
© Michael Hammond June 2009
michaeljhammond at

The Adjunct Detective
Michael Hammond
Legendary among road-weary part-time professors, adjuncts, Stu Hanagan, for more than a decade, rode public transportation from school to school, college and university, teaching composition and literature courses to predominantly ambivalent general education students.

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