For any school as organized and well laid out as The Goode School, if you want to find out what a kid looks like, you approach the librarians. And part of a librarian’s nature is to want to know things. This library was no exception. I was directed towards the office of the head librarian by her staff; and as I entered, I recalled another part of a librarian’s nature, to be helpful. When I asked the diminutive, skirt clad Ms. Chun what Woody Lynnfoote looked like, she not only had a picture of him on file, she had a suggestion as well. “Why don’t you see for yourself? He should be in study hall right now, and he adores history!” She absolutely lit up when she said that. It was the kind of bright cheerfulness I couldn’t recall having ever known from a librarian as a kid. Then again, wildly-colored polyester skirts hadn’t come on the market when I was a kid, and Ms. Chun’s garb looked like a fiery explosion in a crayon factory
We stepped out of her office, and she led me through the expanse of the entry toward the history shelves. As I followed behind her, I began to notice that her body changed as she came into view of all the kids. She seemed to stoop a little, her shoulders rounded. Her face soured, and her voice, light and airy as we chatted in the office, became sharp, crisp and demanding as she asked other students where Lynnfoote was. As we closed in on the lad’s location, I could see a mop of blonde hair behind a large book with a dark, embossed binding. The once airy Chun seemed to hiss at the boy. “Woody, this man is here to see you about last week’s detention.” He stood upright from the bench, put the book down, and addressed me formally with a handshake, which made me uncomfortable. He seemed to be addressing his prosecution, and that wasn’t why I was here.
I smiled and clasped my hands together, facing the boy while rolling back on my heels. I turned my head. “I’ll take it from here, Ms Chun. Thank you.”
“Oh, you’re welcome. Let me know if there’s anything else I can do to help,” she said, returning to the light and airy voice I knew from her office. She made her way back to her cube.
As she did, I turned to Woody Lynnfoote opening my palms. As an icebreaker I tossed up a grapefruit of a question: “Woody, I’m not here about detention really. I’m just curious. Why were you late to study hall last Tuesday?”
For a kid just dressed down by a sherbet-covered, schizophrenic troll while being questioned by a heavy-set, tall guy with tired eyes and a loose fitting collared shirt, Woody Lynnfoote wasted no time explaining his terms. “I don’t want to stay in the library. I’ll show you what happened Tuesday morning, but I don’t want to stay in the library.”
I straightened up a bit to reclaim adult stature and reviewed the kid’s blonde head, furrowed brow and concerned look. Apparently he knew something I wanted to know, or so he thought. “Okay, kid, let’s hear it,” I said, pointing a thumb over my shoulder towards the door. It seemed that I was almost more eager to leave the library than young Lynnfoote. It didn’t hurt that I had seen Ms. Chun’s metamorphosis from happy butterfly to steely-eyed, slouching dragon lady. He returned his book to the shelves as I explained to Ms. Chun’s assistants at the checkout that I needed to talk to the lad about his university scholarship. They bustled with excitement as they bought the lie, and we left for the top floor of the building.
As we walked up the wide steps to his locker on the top level of the building, I explained the situation with Mark Nicholson to Woody, and he listened attentively to how the game had played out so far. He let out a chuckle and interrupted when I got to the part about Louise Sinclair’s small amount of pot. “First off”, he said, with some conviction, “Mark didn’t take anything. He wasn’t near Louise’s locker that morning, but I do know who was.” He paused, seemingly for effect, and continued, “And I’m not so sure I’d consider it a small amount of pot. She had a foot long, four-inch wide, Hello Kitty pencil box jammed full of reefer as thick as my middle finger.” For presentation, the kid deserved an award. I stood there slack jawed and wide-eyed, mid step for a good few seconds. In my mind’s eye I imagined a moon-faced kitty festooned box of ganja in a Givenchy handbag.
“Bingo!” I thought. Now all I needed were details, and young Woody Lynnfoote, in his bright red Izod terrycloth shirt, corduroys and dock shoes might have they all locked away in his head.“Start from the beginning. Where did your day start, Woody?” I asked as we got to the top floor of the donut pile building.
He began as he was leaving homeroom late to attend study hall. I lit up a smoke and listened attentively. “I came around the corner late from Mr. Oldreg’s homeroom at about 8:35 and went straight to my locker, here.” At that, he pointed at one of a wall-full of maybe a hundred, foot tall by a foot wide brown cubes with identical black and white combination locks on them. He pointed to his locker on the middle level. “I noticed two guys looking into Louise Sinclair’s locker. The lock was broken, and they were going through her books and stuff.” As he pointed to where he said the other two boys were, sure enough, there was no lock on one of the bottom row lockers.
“The halls were deserted, like they are now, and both guys looked at me a little weird. One of them was Tinny Gleason. I know that, but he was with some other kid who doesn’t go here. They were kind of quiet for a while. Then Tinny asked if I wanted any reefer. He offered me a box of white things that looked like large cigarettes.” He paused briefly, “They were about as thick as my middle finger and about three inches long.” He paused for a second to recheck the diameter of his middle finger. “Yeah, about this wide.” I asked him to go on as he innocently showed me his finger. He shrugged as he continued. “I told them pot was bad for them, and took off to study hall knowing that I was late.”
He waited for a bit to continue, and I asked him if he was sure he knew the boys who had broken into the locker. “Yeah. Tinny Gleason owns one of those new walkmen. They’re pretty cool, but they’re expensive! His family is pretty famous for their island music. And my mum loves his uncle’s new album.” I decided that he knew the right Tinny Gleason. The Gleason Brother’s albums were well received locally, and young Tinny’s third oldest brother Colin had once hired the firm to get rid of a speeding ticket for him. The Gleasons were a large, well historied old-island entertainment family. As happens often with prominence, the new generation was a batch of rascals. I was surprised that nobody at the school had put two and two together. High roller families seem to roll off the straight path in the same circle. Just ask my folks.
I asked Woody to continue to retrace his steps towards study hall and we wandered the halls of the circular Rooke Hall chatting about school, sports and the surf. For a somewhat nondescript toe-headed boy, Woody had an affinity for the ocean, which is not surprising being that he lived on an island. He told me how he’d arrived late to study hall due to leaving homeroom late and fussing around with the Gleason boy and his un-named friend. We walked the circuitous route he took to avoid being caught by hall monitors. He also told about his disruptive behavior at study hall, which didn’t seem all that disruptive to me.
He then explained his trip to the principal’s office, which seemed like the culmination of the tale. “I signed in, went into the office, and Mr. Constanopolis was on the phone talking about the new sports center. I stood there until Mr Constanopolis told me to sit. Then I sat and waited until Louise Sinclair busted in with the clipboard in hand. She totally interrupted Mr. Constanopolis’s call, practically yelling that Mark Nicholson had stolen her dope.” He paused so I could take what he’d said in, which was good, because it was a lot to take in. ”Once Mr. Constanopolis heard what she said, I started to giggle, because it was crazy.” The young Lynnfoote looked at me with wide eyes, arms outstretched “I mean, who tells the principal their dope’s been stolen? It’s crazy!” Searching my face for a response other than my curious look, he continued, “So Mr. Constanopolis looks at me, then he looks at Louise, then he looks back at me, and he says on the phone ‘Peter, I think I’ve got a situation that might help. I’ll call you back.’ Then he tells me to go wait outside his door, and he tells Louise to sit down at his desk. Three minutes later Louise comes outside to wait with me. A bit later he called his secretary on the intercom and asked her to get Dr. Davis on the line for him.”
Young Woody went on for about three minutes more as he explained the rest of the morning’s events as he knew them, but my next two leads were set. If Constanopolis had been talking about the hypothetical new sports center with school president Peter Davis, then that was a lead, and a very good one. It also seemed like a visit to the Sinclair residence was a definite necessity as well.
“Am I going to be in any trouble?” he asked earnestly.
“I rather doubt that, but keep this to yourself.” I shrugged and smirked a little, “You know, you can tell your folks, but I think that’d just complicate things.” I handed him a ten spot, while reaching for my smokes. He peered at the money for a moment, and pocketed it hastily. “Take it easy Woody, and try to make study hall a less memorable event.”
I turned on a heel as the bell for lunch rang, and narrowly avoided a surge of 750 7th and 8th grade students as they bolted from the classrooms towards the cafeteria 700 yards across a grass covered field away. Woody Lynnfoote wandered slowly away from me amongst the rush until he took off to catch up with some friends and slowed when he caught them. He continued walking with them until I lost sight of him in the crowd. Constanopolis was right: He was a smart little bastard, and I almost bet he’d put as much together about the case as I had.
I didn’t want to have to deal with parking again, so I pulled a Rothmann and began my walk towards the house on the hill residence of Dr. Peter Davis, storied president of The Goode School, and quite possibly the future overseer of one of the finest high-school sports facilities in the nation.
I walked through the Alfred G. Neigh units, where grades one through four were taught, and kept looking for ashtrays. I eventually ended up snuffing my butt on a rock wall and throwing it in a toilet that looked to be used by Lilliputians. The small classrooms and curious layout almost got me lost, but I was finally able to regain my bearings as I came to an open roofed square near the grade school office. I continued through the maze of classrooms until I got to the bottom of Whistler’s Hill, base of the president’s sprawling home. I ascended the steep staircase slowly, feeling my face flush as I did. I should have driven.
Thanks again to the staff at MANVIL for letting me prattle on about this page in my firms history.