the school murder case (part four)

This story started here.

Jan Sleet paused as the teacher reached for the doorknob of the classroom. She tugged at the bottom of her vest, though it already hugged her slender torso without a crease or fold. Then she reached up and quickly touched the knot of her tie, reassuring herself that it was perfect, which it was.

She had affected casual indifference about the U-town School, but I had noticed that she'd dressed her best for this event. She was wearing her newest suit (dark blue, single-breasted), freshly cleaned and pressed, with a pale blue shirt. Her shoes and her cane were polished, her hair was brushed, and she smiled as she did when people were about to see her looking her best.

Amusingly, the first thing we saw in the classroom was a full-page newspaper advertisement, taped to the wall. I was quite familiar with it, since it was an advertisement for a top haberdasher, and it featured a picture of Jan Sleet. The photograph was striking, and I supposed it was being displayed in honor of her visit.

The advertising campaign had been somewhat controversial. Doc and Ray had been concerned that it would appear that U-town itself was endorsing the clothier in question, and the agreement had been that the ads would not feature her name or any mention of U-town.

So, it was just a photograph of Jan Sleet: very tall, very slender, one hand on her hip, the other holding her cane. Her expression was pensive, as if regarding an unexpected corpse. The only text on the page was the name of the company, in small type, at the bottom.

My employer didn't mind the publicity, or the assumption that a significant number of people would recognize her photograph, or that the static images in the ads wouldn't show her occasional awkwardness and clumsiness, or her goofy moments (intentional and otherwise).

She didn't mind any of that, or the indirect publicity for U-town, but the main attraction was that the company paid her not only in cash, most of which we donated to the U-town treasury, but also in clothing, all tailored to her exacting specifications, including the suit she was wearing today (though the dark maroon tie she wore, her current favorite, had been a gift from me).

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About Anthony Lee Collins

I write.
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