the school murder case (part eleven)

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"My name is David," said the next student, a plump young man with frizzy hair and glasses. "I'm sorry if my question isn't career-oriented, but I have to ask why you dress so funny." He smiled at his own impudence. "And you were talking about people with phony names. Is Jan Sleet your real name?"

My employer laughed, nearly dropping her cigarette case and her lighter. "I can tell already that a couple of you may end up being reporters," she said. "First James pins me down on my education, and now this. That was very sharp, so I'm going to let you get away with asking two questions instead of one.

"You're right, Jan Sleet is not the name I was born with. I was born Janice Stiglianese, but people usually mispronounce it, so I decided it would be good to have a shorter name, for professional use. So, that was a good question. Another thing you learn as a reporter is to be thorough, including asking questions that might seem very obvious.

"As for my attire," she gestured with a certain pride at the newspaper ad on the wall, "let me ask a question of my own. Do you mean funny as in peculiar, or do you mean really funny?"

"Well, both, I guess," he said slowly, as if realizing belatedly that his questions might not have been entirely appropriate.

"I want to try, as much as possible, to keep people from jumping to conclusions about me. I want them to look at me and realize that there isn't an easy box or category they can put me into.

"Also, we go to some dangerous places, and dressing well can give people the impression that there might be a price to pay for torturing or killing you."

"When did you decide you wanted to be a detective?" he asked.

She smiled. "I'm sorry, you've used up your questions for now. I'm sure we'll get back to this subject."

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About Anthony Lee Collins

I write.
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