Authors: Frances Lockridge
Murder Is Served
A Mr. and Mrs. North Mystery
Frances and Richard Lockridge
John Leonard tilted his chair, felt its back engage the eraser trough behind him, removed his glasses and regarded forty-three members of X33, Experimental Psychology, most of whom regarded him. He enquired whether everything was clear to everyone and forty-two men and women looked back at him, as if hoping that he would, in fact, make everything clear. The forty-third looked rather dreamily out a window.
“Good,” Leonard told them. “Very good. Then you may as well get about it.”
Forty-three students got about it. A young woman in the front row shook her fountain pen, as if to shake thoughts out of it. The young man next to her looked at the ceiling. Three rows back, a girlâundergraduate, as Leonard rememberedâput her pencil in her mouth and, although he could not see them, he could guess that she tied her legs into a knot. Situation normal, Leonard told himself; situation as always was and always would be. He lighted a cigarette. He watched while, one by one, the forty-three began to write in little blue books; he shuddered to think how difficult most of what they wrote would be to read. Situation normal, situation as always. And the two or three who would have the most to say would be the least decipherable.
What would they make of it, he wondered? He wondered what he would make of it if he were one of the forty-three. You came expecting something, you came for an examination. You came, perhaps, with names and dates, with definitions. And you got thisâthis evasive instruction. Write me a discussion, as long as you like, as short as you like, of the effect of some emotion on human behavior, the effect of hate or fear or love or greed as those things were felt normally by the normal mind. Tell me, from what you have heard here, what you have read during the course, what you have found out during your lives, how one of these emotions colors thought, tilts logic into illogic, makes the abstract into the particular. What would I have made of such a demand? John Leonard wondered. What would Weldon Carey make of it? The young woman looking out of the window? The undergraduate with the tangled legs? What would Peggy make of it? John Leonard, Associate Professor of Psychology, Department of Extension, Dyckman University, corrected himself. Not PeggyâMrs. Peggy Mott. In this room, at this timeânot Peggy. He looked at her. She was writing very rapidly, very intently. The shadows on her face, with her head bent so, made her expression uncharacteristically sombre.
Love would be the emotion of which she wrote, John Leonard suspected. It would be appropriate; if he was not mistaken, it would be something she knew about. Not hate, surely not fear. Fearâor hate or angerâwould be what Weldon Carey would know about. Carey had had cause to be afraid, Leonard suspected, to be afraid, to hate. And he seemed always, obscurely, angered. He would, in all probability, write the best discussion of any of them, and the most violent, the most resentful. Probably, as regards me, as of now, his resentment is abstract, Leonard thought, looking at the top of Weldon Carey's head, with the black hair sprawling from it. Carey has enough abstract resentment to go around.
You got a mixed bag these days, Leonard thought, and let his chair drop down again to the floor. This was a mixed bag, even for Extension, even for nowadays. The half-dozen undergraduates, five of them femaleâthat was normal. The housewife from Jackson Heights, she was normal. The middle-aged businessman was normal too, and as essentially inexplicable as always. Why was he there? Why was he giving two evenings a week, from seven-forty until nine, to hear lectures on psychology? Had somebody told him John Leonard would make him a better salesman? Teach him how to approach the boss for a raise? He was always there, he was always inexplicable. The undergraduates, the housewives from Queens, the unexplained businessmenâthose were standard, those formed a nucleus. You added the anonymous ones, with no apparent personalities, no recallable names, and you had perhaps two-thirds of the class. Then the mixed bag began, the really mixed bag. The Peggy Motts, the angry Weldon Careys, the illusive Cecily Breakwells.
Carey was, Leonard guessed, about thirty. He should, in the normal course, have been done with all this years ago. But not if you took five years out, if somebody took five years out. Five years to be afraid in, to hate in, to build resentment in. God knows, Leonard thought, I'd resent it. I'd resent it like hell. I'd resent me, because I had it soft; I'd resent everyone who had it soft, and everybody who made it hard. I wonder how he'll write it, Leonard thought. I wonder if this sort of thing helps him any?
There were a good many Careys, although most of them did not hate so much, or feel anything so much. Or, if you came to that, think so much. They were part of the mixed bag, these men home from the wars, going back to school as beneficiaries of the “G.I. Bill of Rights.” How idiotically people used words, Leonard thought. Why “bill of rights,” for God's sake?
He put his cigarette on the floor and stepped on itâand wondered a little how he still got away with smoking, letting the class smoke. The rules forbade. He wondered whether he did not smoke so much in class because the rules forbade. Resentment of rules, there was an emotion for you. He picked up his book, turned so the light fell on it, and began to read. But he was always conscious of the forty-three. Forty-three minds at work, forty-three pens and pencils moving on paper, leaving marks which would, for the most part, be barely decipherable. And of those minds, perhaps half a dozenâbe generous, Professor, be generousâperhaps half a dozen which worked well enough to matter. He laid the book down and walked to the window and looked, far down, at the snow-covered street. Carey's mind mattered, he thought; perhaps Peggy Mott's did, although he might think that because of the way her hair fell, because of the wideness of her eyes. The young man in the back row, the balding young man who was now regarding the ceiling with an expression of pleased interest, had a pleasantly quirky mind, and the baby undergraduateâDorothy Brown? Agnes Brownley?âhad something. It was too soon to tell what.
That did not add to half a dozen. There would be the dark horse, of course; the unexpected prize which came, out of the anonymous, often as not, on the occasion of a final term paper. All right, Leonard thought, call it five, and figure my own subjective in, my own response to the way hair lies sleekly around a pretty head. I'm a hell of a professor, John Leonard thought; a hell of a psychologist. He looked at his watch. They had been at it almost three-quarters of an hour. The first fireman was almost due, the speed demon, the lad who could dispose of the emotion of love in half an hour, and correct all his errors thereon in fifteen minutes.
Leonard walked back to the table and sat at it, a long man and a thin one, sprawling. His blond hair, which was thinning only a little, looked as if it had been pawed. His face was long and narrow, with unexpectedly red lips; his forehead was high and domed. Looking at himself, John Leonard too often thought, “My God, you look it. What else would you be?” And next he thought, more moderately, “Why shouldn't I? It's what I am.” And then, finally, and almost always, “It's what I want to be.” It was absurd to object to looking what you wereâan associate professor with thinning hair, working toward full professorship and baldness. Andâhis mind now running on vaguelyâdoing what comes naturally, as Ethel Merman had been singing the year before at the Imperial. He began, half-consciously, to hum the tune. But you couldn't hum the Merman's little kick. You couldn't hum any part of the Merman.
The trouble was, Professor Leonard thought, rubbing his hair, that too many things came naturally. Teaching was fine, and sometimes almost exciting, and it came naturally. If the mind were as neat as any classification made it, that would round things off. I am John Leonard, Associate Professor of Psychology. Stop. Full stop. But the mind didn't stop, the inclinations didn't stop. Emotions affected human behavior, and human need. Love and hatred, fear and greed. Greed in my case, most probably, John Leonard thought. Greed for color and light, for things which could be touched and tasted, for the sensations which ran from fingertips, from eyes, from nostrils, from the taste buds of the tongue, into the mind. Sensationalist, Professor Leonard told himself. Sensualist, if it came to that. He smiled, thinking of Professor Handleigh, head of the department, round, jovial, to whom being head of a department came more naturally than anything else. A professor of the old school, Handleigh was, with the cultivated light touch. “Ah, Leonard,” Handleigh had said once, coming on his junior, with a girl who was clearly his junior's junior, at AndrÃ© Maillaux's, coming on them late in the evening, when they had brandies in front of them. “Ah, Leonard, so far from the cloister?” he had said, with the air of one who, almost pointedly, does not disapprove. And, subsequently, Professor Handleigh was reported to have told someone that Leonard, brilliant beyond question, was also “something of a rogue.” Handleigh, John Leonard thought, ran a personal sanctuary for words far gone in obsolescence. A rogue, indeed! A rogue, forsooth. I could stand a brandy now, Leonard thought; I could stand doing the rest of that evening over again.
He controlled his thought, put his glasses on again, and tilted his book to the light.
Duration of Post-hypnotic Suggestion in Relation to Induced Fatigue
. That was where he was; that was his homework. Then there was movement, the sound of movement, in front of him and he looked up. The first fireman was sliding down his greased pole. He was one of the anonymous ones. He put the blue book on the table in front of Leonard, who murmured, “Your name's on it? Oh, yes. Thank you, Mr. Ahâ.”