Murder Is Our Mascot, Schooled in Murder Book 1
Author – Tracy D. Comstock
Cozy Mystery/Light Romantic Suspense
Gemma Halliday Publishing/65k
Murder is the new mascot at Ellington High…
A murdered coach and a missing counselor has thrown the school into a foreign curriculum of anger, fear, and suspicion. English teacher Emily Taylor is determined to prove that her missing friend is not a murderer. But if she’s not, then who is? And where could her friend be? Against the advice of fellow math teacher and former crush Tad, Emily and her best friend Gabby dig into the dead coach’s past. But someone doesn’t want Emily unearthing their secrets and is determined to see that she gets a failing grade in the sleuthing department. Soon, Emily finds herself scrambling for a new lesson plan to solve the murder…before the killer sets his own deadline!
The clack of Emily Taylor’s high heels echoed hollowly in the deserted high school hallway. Normally, she loved the sound her heels made on the tile floor. Her obsession with high heels began when her height topped off at a gargantuan five foot one inch, and their authoritative tapping sound typically made her feel confident and in charge. But not this morning. The click-clack reverberating off the rows of metal lockers seemed ominous, a warning of some kind.
Letting herself into her classroom, she decided that the school seemed somewhat sinister because she was unused to being there that early. Her great love affair with her snooze button meant that getting to school before it was filled with a mass of hormone-fueled teenagers was a rarity for her, but she had needed to get in early today in order to prep for a special before-school meeting with a student’s mother. Stevie Davis was new to Ellington High and was really struggling in Emily’s junior-level English class.
Something about Stevie tugged at Emily. He usually hid his eyes behind his fringe of bangs, causing Emily to fight the urge to grab her scissors and hack away at his curtain of hair so that she could see what was going on behind it. The few times he had tossed his hair back with the irritated shrug that was his typical answer to any question, his eyes had seemed sad, lost, or…something. Emily wasn’t sure what that something was, but she was hoping that this meeting with his mother would shed some light on his issues.
Her cantankerous old computer whined to life as Emily flipped on her desk light. Dark, swollen clouds crowded the sky, swallowing her early morning classroom in shadows. Emily felt jumpy and spooked, as if those dark clouds were pressing down on her, enshrouding her in their gloom. Must be an allergy medicine-induced hangover making her feel strange this morning. Nothing like fall to get her sinuses going. As soon as she got her notes together for her meeting, she’d grab a cold shot of caffeine from the stash of sodas she kept in the teachers’ lounge fridge. That would help clear her head. Or at least it would if Tad, the conference-hour-sharing, next-door math teacher and fellow soda junkie, hadn’t depleted her supply.
As she pulled out samples of Stevie’s writing and wrestled her computer into spitting out a copy of his grade report, the lights flickered. Glancing out the back wall of windows, Emily watched the increasing wind whip the trees into a frenzy. Multicolored fall leaves rained down like confetti. She usually loved the electric feel in the air before a good thunderstorm, but a loss of power would ruin her day’s plans. Figuring she better make her copies before the ancient, temperamental copy machine went on the fritz, she began sorting through the piles on her desk for the paper she needed. They were organized piles, of course. Oh, who was she kidding? Trying to find the one thing she needed on her messy desk was like trying to isolate a single snowflake during a blizzard. Shuffling papers and files, Emily jumped at the first boom of thunder. The accompanying flash of lightning happened to spotlight the copy of the quiz for which she was searching. Hoping to entice Stevie into becoming more involved in class discussions, she was starting a unit on mythology since he had shown some interest in legends. Today’s quiz was over the gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus, or it would be if she got her copies made in time.
Tucking all of her information for the meeting with Stevie’s mother into a stray file folder, Emily grabbed up a fresh legal pad and pen and headed out the door. Halfway there, she turned on her heel to go back for the quiz she needed to copy. Yep, she definitely needed that soda. A glance at her vintage Strawberry Shortcake watch showed she was, as usual, cutting it close on time. But first things first.
Popping the top on the last soda in the fridge, Emily silently thanked whoever was the God of caffeine for their nectar as she took her first icy sip of the sugar-laden soda. No diet drinks for her, no sir, as the extra ten pounds on her hips could attest. Tad had tried to hide the last can behind a pitcher of green tea, knowing Emily would never touch that, even if it might benefit her hips. She, however, was on to his nefarious ways. Practicing her evil victory laugh, she click-clacked her way to the copy room to get her copies started before the meeting. Another crashing boom of thunder rattled the windows as Emily threw the door wide, propping it open with those cursed hips while she flipped the light switch. Nothing. Scanning the hallway confirmed her suspicions. The power was out. She took a step backward, thinking she would head downstairs to consult with Principal Matthews. Rain began to lash the windows over the stairwell, making the darkness of the hall seem even more complete. She fumbled her way a few feet down the hallway until the lights flickered back on again. Not wanting to waste a second in case the power decided to blink off again, Emily dashed back to the partially open copy room door. Hitting the light switch again with one hand, she rushed toward the hulking machine on the far wall. That was when papers went flying and sticky, syrupy soda sprayed everything in its path. Emily went airborne. Throwing her hands out in front of her to break her fall, Emily winced as they skidded through sticky wetness. The picture of grace she was not, so finding herself flat on her face was actually not uncommon for Emily. She could trip on a completely flat surface. The lights flickered again as she clambered to her feet, worrying about getting the sticky mess cleaned up before someone else slipped. Glancing down at her hands, she was busy cursing her lost lifeline, her last caffeine hit, when she realized that the sticky substance covering her hands was not soda. It was something thicker, and redder. Finally looking back to see what she had tripped over, Emily saw what appeared to be a head protruding from behind an office chair. Taking a cautious step closer, she could see that the head was surrounded by what looked like a puddle of congealing blood and was, thankfully, attached to a body. Unfortunately, it appeared to be a dead body. And that’s when Emily began to scream and scream.
Interview with Emily Taylor
Emily Taylor has been awarded Teacher of the Month at Ellington High School. She is being interviewed by Ryann Monroe, editor of the school newspaper, The Soaring Eagle.
We know you also attended Ellington High. What is your favorite high school memory?
Oh, it would be hard to pick just one. I loved going to school here. I would say that one of my favorite memories would be when we were juniors and put on a class play. We did a murder mystery dinner theater production called A Lesson in Murder. I got to play an elderly English teacher who actually ended up solving the murder.
Who was the murder victim in the play?
I hate to admit to it now, but it was the superintendent. We weren’t too fond of our own superintendent at the time because he had refused to let school out when the football team made it to state. It was our jab at him. I’m surprised now that we got away with it.
So you guys wrote the play yourselves?
Yep. We wrote it, held the auditions, and produced the entire thing ourselves. I was part of the creative writing group who wrote the play. Overall, besides killing off the superintendent, I’m really proud of the work I did on that play.
Are you still in touch with anyone from high school?
Oh, yes! I am still best friends with Gabrielle Moretti Spencer. We are close with Amelia Franklin now that she had returned to town to open up her own dentistry practice. And of course, Mr. Higginbotham and I are still friends, too.
When did you first know you wanted to be a teacher?
It took me awhile. I always loved learning, but I just couldn’t quite seem to settle on a career path. I’d say that it was around my sophomore year in college that I truly settled on teaching high school English.
What inspired you to go into teaching?
Besides my love of learning, I would say that my dad was my true inspiration. He taught history here at Ellington High for more than twenty-five years before he retired a couple of years ago. He has always been my go-to guy for advice. He has never steered me wrong yet. And seeing his great love for teaching all the years I was growing up finally rubbed off on me, I guess.
Where did you go to college? Any favorite memories?
I went to Missouri State. I think some of my favorite memories are from my freshman year when Gabby and I were roommates. For the first time, I felt what it was like to share a room with a sister. As an only child, I always wanted to have that experience growing up. Every Sunday we would have dinner at this little hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant. We shared a lot of memories over their cashew chicken. College was never the same for me after Gabby left to marry her husband, Greg.
Where all have you taught? Where was your favorite place to teach?
I taught at Williamton, two hours north of here, after I first graduated from college. After three years of big city living, I just missed home too badly. When an opening became available here, I applied immediately. I am now on my third year teaching here. Naturally, Ellington will always be my first and last love. Go, Eagles!
What is your favorite thing about teaching?
I love sharing my love of the written word through reading and writing. Through both reading and writing, we explore our world and our place in it. My favorite moment is when I see one of my students truly expressing themselves through writing. If I can help a student find his or her voice, I feel like I have done my job.
Is there anything you don’t enjoy about your job?
Giving grades. I sometimes feel like grades are pretty arbitrary. I wish I could just give students points for participation and progress, never labeling them with a traditional grade. But I don’t see grades disappearing anytime soon, unfortunately.
What is your best piece of advice to your students?
Don’t be afraid to try. The only way to truly fail is to never try. You need to own your voice. Make yourself heard. Find yourself through all you read and write. That is why I teach English, and why I believe my area of expertise is so important to a well-rounded education.
What is your five-year-plan?
Good question. Over the next five years, I hope to finish my Masters degree, while still teaching here at Ellington. I would like to work on my own dream of writing, also.
Any wedding bells in your future?
Not unless you know something I don’t! J I have all I need with you guys—my students!
Congratulations on being awarded Teacher of the Month, Ms. Taylor!
Thanks, Ryann. It’s truly an honor for me.
About the Author
Tracy Comstock is a small-town girl from Missouri. She lives in a home where she is outnumbered 3:1 by the males in her life: her husband and their two extremely adorable, but terrifyingly ornery sons. She has no pets as all living things, besides humans, of course, come to her house to die, including the victims in her books. All her life Tracy devoured books. Her parents’ most effective punishment was grounding her from reading. Although she has a B.S. in Education and a Masters in Literature, she was nudged down the path to publication by encouraging (and sometimes threatening!) family, friends, professors, and students. When not working on Emily’s adventures, Tracy is an adjunct instructor for several local colleges, where she gets to teach others about her greatest passion: writing.