"Mr. O'Connor!" came a shout as soon as we stepped into the building. I was surprised to see Mr. Guthrie gesturing from a doorway. The only other time I had met Mr. Guthrie was the day I had brought Ron to the school to get registered, and it hadn't seemed that we'd ended that experience as boon companions.
He gestured and we followed him into an office. It was small, and at the moment it was crowded. Behind the one desk sat a man I didn't know. He was in his thirties, with his long blond hair tied back. There were books and stacks of paper everywhere, including one precarious pile that was blocking the lower half of the one dirty window.
There were two straight-backed chairs. One was occupied by Ms. Tumolo, who I had met before. Mr. Guthrie took the other one, leaving Ron and me standing.
"Mr. O'Connor–" the man behind the desk began.
"'Marshall' will be fine."
"Marshall, then. We have a bit of a mystery, though nothing on the level that Miss Sleet usually solves, thank goodness. Mr. Guthrie and Miss Tumolo disagree about pretty much everything, but they agree that you and Miss Sleet may be able to help."
"We will if we can. I'm getting a message to her, but I don't know her exact schedule today."
"Well, let me lay the basic facts before you. We were giving a test today, to five students, and it appears that one of the five stole the answers. Certainly somebody did."
"Is that the whole class?" I asked. "Five students?"
"No, the rest of the class took the test last week. But one boy, Corey, missed it the first time because he was in the hospital with a broken arm. One girl, Phoebe, missed it because she was out with the flu. And, since we had to give it to them anyway, we decided to give it again to three students who had taken it already, two brothers and a sister, because there was some evidence that they cheated–"
"Of course they cheated," Ms. Tumolo said impatiently. "They always cheat. I can't see–"
"Fuck you!" Ron snapped, but Mr. Guthrie interrupted Ms. Tumolo's response.
"I must say," he began firmly, "that it does say something about the state of the world that we have three students in the entire school who are prompt and polite and intelligent, and people persist in treating them as though they are the problem."