NOTE: This is part of the new novel I am writing. I am posting it here as a diversion for readers who may be living under shelter-in-place policies while the world waits for the coronavirus pandemic to pass. For an explanation of this project, please click here. To read the chapters I’ve posted in order, click here.
Think of the Children
Coldwater Elementary School ~ Coldwater, N.M.
Gloria Henley frowned at the spreadsheet in front of her. Where the hell did Dr. Scherer think she was going to find $75,000 worth of extraneous expenses she could trim from the budget? She was already short-staffed, and at least three classes were two years overdue for textbook adoptions.
She rubbed her temples. If Scherer would quit giving his pet deviant down the hall every damn thing she asked for, no matter the cost, there might be money left for the elementary. Gloria was getting sick of hearing how great that bitch was at every faculty meeting. Give me the kind of budget she’s got, and I might start pulling rabbits out of my ass, too.
Gloria remembered the days when she was the favorite — when her husband was superintendent, and she was special-ed director, and the building was full of quiet, respectful, God-fearing kids from quiet, respectful, God-fearing families that taught them to say “Yes, Sir” and “No, Ma’am” and act like they had some sense. Their test scores weren’t always perfect, but they tried, God love ’em, and they were good kids who knew how to sit still and listen to their elders. Then her husband went and died on her, and Scherer came in with his buzzwords and his bullshit and his endless parade of consultants with magic-pony ideas for Leaving No Child Behind, and the next thing she knew, the district was inundated with every little hellion in three counties in the name of keeping the doors open.
Oh, sure, the state had talked about consolidation, but everybody knew it was just talk. The Moyas had owned enough politicians in the Roundhouse to put paid to that every time it came up. But to hear Scherer tell it, he’d single-handedly saved the district from certain annihilation by inviting every other district in northeastern New Mexico to dump its trash on Coldwater in the name of “serving at-risk youth.” At-risk, my ass. When we were kids, the only risk was getting your backside warmed with a paddle at school and again with your daddy’s belt at home if you mouthed off to an adult.
It had been bad enough when Loucks was principal. His habit of fanboying over Scherer’s hare-brained alternative-school schemes had grated on Gloria’s last nerve, but in the interest of career advancement, she’d held her tongue.
Advancement. She snorted. She’d been handling most of the discipline for the elementary ever since Bill died. Scherer had finally deigned to ask the board to upgrade her title to match the job she’d been doing for years after one of his imported brats punched her in the face and called her a foul name while she was trying to break up a fight on the playground one afternoon.
When Loucks’ freak kid had shown up at school, disrupting class with her creepy silent tantrums and being rewarded for them with trips to Daddy’s office, Gloria had gritted her teeth. It was irritating, but nepotism was the way of the world these days, and there was nothing she could do about it.
Then Loucks had died — everybody said he’d walked in on a robbery at the Gas ’n’ Go and been shot for no apparent reason, but Gloria had her doubts — and Scherer had gone completely off the deep end. Instead of promoting from within, he’d gone outside the district to hire that bitch from Oklahoma. She might have everybody else snowed, but she wasn’t fooling Gloria.
There’d been stories about the Loucks kid for years, but it hadn’t really clicked for Gloria until Kavanaugh started bawling and claiming allergies, too, and then, just coincidentally, somebody would turn up dead the next morning.
Leave it to Scherer to hire a fucking serial killer. She ought to be locked up, and the Loucks brat, too, but Gloria knew better than to voice her suspicions out loud. Coldwater could believe in curanderas and faith healing and La Llorona and all sorts of other hokum, but only behind closed doors. Talk about it openly, and you were liable to get run out of town on a rail — especially if the banshees you outed were the superintendent’s pet and her predecessor’s kid.
That was all right. Gloria knew. Gloria knew, and she hoped to God she’d gotten their attention. Somebody had to protect the kids, and if Scherer didn’t have sense enough to do it, she did.
She’d made sure the cameras in the office were shut off before she left any of her little gifts for Kavanaugh, and she knew for fact the woman was too stupid to have a surveillance system on her house. Leaving the note at the Tumbleweed had been a calculated risk, but she hadn’t seen any telltale blinking red lights around, and she was sure that even if she’d missed a camera somewhere, she’d concealed her identity well enough to keep anybody from identifying her. Not that anybody would suspect her anyway. Not the sweet widowed teacher-turned-principal. The same role that protected Kavanaugh would protect her.