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Three Cheers for Molly Sullivan
About the Author: John H. Dromey was born in Northeast Missouri. He enjoys reading—mysteries in particular—and writing in a variety of genres. He’s had short fiction published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Crimson Streets, Flame Tree Fiction Newsletter, Gumshoe Review, Mystery Weekly Magazine, Thriller Magazine, Woman’s World, and elsewhere.

“Welcome to the halls of academe, Mrs. Sullivan. A word to the wise. While you’re on campus, be careful not to let your guard down for even a split second. Above all else, don’t show any sign of weakness or you’ll be pedestrianized.”

“I’ll what?”

“The short-term residents in your dormitory are—by and large—both physically fit and academically gifted young women. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be here. Unfortunately, many of them are also strong-willed, highly-competitive, and accustomed to having their own way. Fair warning. Unless you project an air of authority in their presence, they’ll walk all over you. Please don’t shoot the messenger. I’m simply telling you the way it is, but that’s neither here nor there. I’ll get you a roster with names, room numbers, and photos. You’ve got the job.”

“I’m not sure I want it. Sounds to me like you need a drill sergeant more than you do a housemother.”

“You think so? We have a couple of retired military personnel on our teaching staff already. They earned their stripes and both received honorable discharges. Indeed, those two are capable of handling almost any challenge you can imagine related to physical training in general and to the disciplined activities associated with cheerleading at an elite level in particular. On the other hand, despite offers of extra pay, neither one could be persuaded to interact with our students outside of scheduled classes.”

“Why is that, do you suppose? As former enlisted men, or women, are they reluctant to pull rank on the captain of a cheerleading squad?”

“They didn’t really say, but I suspect it has something to do with a number of unsubstantiated but nonetheless disturbing allegations of hazing during our previous workshop. Some of the attendees at this special summer session have been here before.”

Molly Sullivan sat quietly for a moment. So, too, did the man facing her from behind a massive mahogany desk. She looked him right in the eye without saying a word. He met her gaze at first, then looked down. A couple of heartbeats later, he snaked both hands slowly forward to grasp either end of an ornate plaque emblazoned with gold letters to indicate his title and surname: Dean Reynolds. There were no obstacles on the uncluttered wooden surface to interfere with the straightening process. The dean swiveled the nameplate counterclockwise approximately half an inch to align it with the leading edge of his desk. Was it a delaying tactic or perchance a power play of some sort? Either way—mission accomplished—he leaned back and crossed his arms over his chest.

Molly leaned forward and said, “What am I doing here?”

“I’ve been asking myself the same question, Mrs. Sullivan. Why did you volunteer for this assignment?”

“Ah! If you’re under the impression—perhaps I should say misapprehension—that I came here by choice, without any discernible reservations, it’s little wonder we’re having difficulty communicating. At some point, your recent request for help reached a person to whom I owe a favor. I’m here to fulfill that obligation. I have no interest whatsoever in being a mother hen to a bunch of privileged adolescents. Especially, if there’s a fox, or—to be gender specific—a vixen in the henhouse. Surely, you have a disciplinary committee to deal with incidents of hazing, real or imagined. Now would be a good time to tell me what’s really troubling you.”

“What if I choose not to?”

“I’ll have to conclude everything is hunky-dory.” She patted the bulging leather satchel beside her chair. “With my debt paid in full, just by showing up here, I can pick up my purse and go home.”

“I thought that was your suitcase.”

“A common mistake. Which will it be? Full disclosure or do I walk?”

This story appears in our AUG2021 Issue
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