It was January when we moved against Fred—January, early January, after Christmas, after New Years’, before the spring semester started, when Reeb Hall was empty and quiet.
Fred was working in his office. Sitting at his desk, at least, with the office door slightly open. I could see him staring at the computer screen—it looked like the university email client. Maybe he was sending out more dick pics.
I pushed the door the rest of the way open and Fred jumped and swiveled around in his chair with his wet mouth open.
“Hey, Fred,” I said. “We need to talk to you.”
“Oh—” Fred started. Maybe he was going to say “ho!” but then he noticed Lynnie standing behind me and stopped.
I went on in. Fred’s office was one of the huge ones the department would give to professors with seniority: a big window, a bigger desk, and enough floor space for a couple of comfortable chairs and a coffee table. The kind of office I’d have to wait 20 or 30 years to get. I sat in one of the comfy chairs and sank back. Lynnie closed the door and sat in the other one.
“This is Dr. Lynn Carson, of the History Department,” I said.
Fred picked up his empty pipe and stuck it in his mouth. He peered at Lynnie—he needed new glasses, or if he had glasses, he needed to wear them.
“I know who you are,” Lynnie said.
“Well!” Fred blinked. He pulled out his pipe and smiled with his stained teeth. “Well! How can I help you?”
I said, “You can resign.”
“Today,” Lynnie said.
Fred played with his pipe. He cocked his head and looked at Lynnie and then at me. He said, “Oh, come on.”
I was carrying a clipboard, a folder, my iPad, and my phone. I opened the folder and pulled out a picture of Fred’s cock, printed out in color on an 8.5x11 sheet of paper. Fred’s old fat gray willie, larger than life.
I held up my phone. “I’m recording this.”
Fred asked, “What?”
I passed the picture of Fred’s dick to Lynnie, who winced and passed it on to Fred.
Lynnie said, “That’s yours, right?”
“What?” Fred looked from the photo to Lynnie to me. “No!”
“Of course it’s you!” Lynnie said. “You limp-dicked motherfucker.”
“Who is she?” Fred asked me.
“This is you, too,” I said. I held up a picture. “You sent this one on New Years’ Eve.” I held up another, and another. “This one on Christmas Eve, this one on Pearl Harbor Day, this one on Thanksgiving—”
“Holidays make you horny, huh?” Lynnie asked.
I help up one more. “You sent this one to Devon on the day of Devon’s memorial service.”
“Why—” Fred took a deep breath. “Why would I send a—picture—like that—to a dead woman?”
“Why the hell would you send a picture like that to a living woman?” Lynnie asked. “You pervert.”
Fred tried to give the pictures back to me. I wouldn’t take them. The loose pages sort of wilted in his hand.
“I’ve got 147 pictures of your dick sent to Devon over the last 18 months,” I said.
“I was—hacked,” Fred said quickly.
“No, you weren’t,” I said. “Most of the emails came from that machine right there.” I pointed at his desktop.
“You’re fucked,” Lynnie said. “And not in a good way.”
Fred stood up, holding the pages of dick pics and his pipe in the other. He was still a big man, looming over me—or trying to—broad-shouldered with a poochy soft belly bulging out from his worn tweedy jacket.
Fred jabbed his pipe down at me. “You need to get the hell out of my office.”
Lynnie was sitting across from me, right behind Fred. She didn’t kick Fred, exactly—she just reached out with her booted foot and tapped him sharply right at the back of his knee. The knee crumpled and Fred collapsed to the floor, hard. The coffee table banged over and Fred’s handful of dick pics scattered across the floor.
Fred said, “Ouch.” He stuck his pipe in his mouth—but Lynnie lurched over and slapped it away. The pipe sailed across Fred’s desk and clattered against the window.
I said, “Your career here is over.”
“Resign or else,” Lynnie said. She settled back into the comfy chair.
Fred sat there rubbing his face where Lynnie slapped him.
“Yeah,” I said. “Or else.”
Fred looked mad—and scared.
“Or else we step on you,” Lynnie said.
“See,” I said. “We know Devon filed charges against you, and we know the charges didn’t go anywhere. But Devon played by the rules—”
“—and we fucking don’t,” Lynnie said.
“Well,” I said. I looked at Lynnie. “We play by our rules.”
Fred really looked scared now. He looked from me to Lynnie to the window—like he was looking to jump—and then back to me.
“Anyway,” I said. “What we’re going to do, if you don’t resign, is send these photos to The Chronicle of Higher Education, and to Inside Higher Education, and—”
“Buzzfeed might be interested, too,” Lynnie said.
“—and then we’re going to send them to the Governor, and to every member of the Board of Regents, and to the President of the University, and the Provost, and the Dean—”
“Those shits won’t do anything,” Lynnie said.
“No,” I said. “But we’ll be good university citizens and keep them in the loop.”
Fred looked at me blankly.
“And then,” I said. “I’m going to direct everyone to the website I’ve put together to celebrate your dickery.” I held up my iPad and opened it to the website. I’d posted every email of his I could find, and every photo, along with his official academic CV and publications. Making that website was my Christmas vacation. I said, “It’s not up yet, but I’ll take it live if you don’t sign.”
“Bullshit and—slander,” Fred said.
“Why do you fucking assholes always talk about slander?” I asked.
“Truth is an absolute defense against slander, dumbass,” Lynnie said. “And we have the truth.”
“And all you got is a fat gray limp dick,” I said.
“Your career here is over,” Lynnie said.
“But!” I said. I held up a forefinger. “But—resign today and you get to keep your farm, and your rent houses, and your vacation place in Arizona—”
“And your cars,” Lynnie said.
“And those fucking dogs, and everything,” I said. “But fight us and you lose everything.”
“Fucking asshole,” Lynnie said.
“Your life in Weirton is over,” I said. “Move on while you can.”
I pulled out the clipboard and passed it to Fred. I’d written and printed out a resignation letter on Department letterhead.
Dear Dr. Wheeler,
This is to inform you of my resignation as Regents Professor of English at Southeast Kansas State University, effective immediately.
Frederick Van Buskirk, PhD
Regents Professor of English, Southeast Kansas State University
I said, “You can’t refuse.”
Fred looked at the letter for what seemed a long time. I looked over at Lynnie. She shrugged. Finally, Fred said, “I don’t have a pen.”
“Here you go.” Lynnie pulled a pen out of her jacket pocket and poked Fred in the neck with it.
“Sorry.” Lynnie handed Fred the pen.
Fred went back to looking at the letter. He was hesitating, lips moving as he read again and again. He was going to cave—I could feel it. I mean, he could have fussed at us and kicked us out of the office, he could have called the cops on us—he could have said a simple Hell no! But Fred was sitting there, thinking, a deflated bully. There’s this myth that if you punch a bully in the mouth they’ll collapse right then and stop being bullies. That’s not always the case. I’ve seen plenty of bullies that you could punch in the mouth and they’d just grin and spit blood back at you, because they like to fight. But it was clear that Fred was the deflating kind. He sat on the floor—shrinking.
Fred held the pen in his hand. He squinted at the letter and shook his head. “You people don’t know what this job means to me,” he said. “It means everything.”
“Well,” I said. “You shouldn’t have fucked it up, then.”
Fred shook his head and signed the letter.
Fred went to take the letter down to Tee, leaving Lynnie and myself alone in his office.
“Annuit coeptis!” Lynnie said. “We are such a good team I almost don’t believe it!”
“For all we know he’s going straight to the cops,” I said. “Let’s make it look like we weren’t here.”
Lynnie got up and began collecting the scattered penis pictures. I picked up my phone—turned off the voice recorder—and texted Sally.
Fred’s on his way down to Tee to resign--
Sally immediately texted back
I went over and sat at Fred’s desk. I joggled the mouse and the screen came up, still on the email page. I clicked on the Sent mail folder and then sorted for emails with attachments—there were a lot of them, a shitload of them. I assumed most of them had dick pictures.
“Damn, Tommy,” Lynnie said. “You are so fucking scary—I can hardly believe that, either.”
“Scary?” I asked. I selected all the emails with attachments and forwarded them to my Yahoo account. “You’re scary.”
“No, I’m not scary,” Lynnie said. “I mean—I like being smarter than everybody else, and I’m not afraid to hit people—and I’m not afraid to get hit. But I’m not angry—and, dude, you’re fucking angry. And you’re pissed, and you’re cold, and it shows.”
I went back to the regular inbox and closed the email window. I said, “Whatever.”
“You had Fred shitting his pants,” Lynnie said. She rolled the coffee table back on its legs and picked up the books from the floor.
My phone vibrated. A text. Sally.
He quit!!!! Effective today!
He’s heading back!
“He doesn’t have any kids,” Lynnie said. “You think he knows how to use that dick?”
“He’s heading back,” I said. “Ask him.”
I spotted Fred’s stupid pipe on the floor by the window. I went over and picked it up and placed it back on Fred’s desk. Outside, below, in the parking lot, I recognized my car, Lynnie’s car, Tee’s car. Fred’s truck. Beyond the parking lot Weirton was grim and gray and cold and quiet.
There was a crack-pop—sharp, but muffled.
A pistol shot?
I looked at Lynnie. She shrugged.
I opened the door and went out into the side hall. Lynnie followed me. No one else out there. I went down to the central hall and Sally was standing there staring at the door to the men’s restroom. Then Tee came out of the department office and stood behind Sally.
“What was that?” Tee asked.
Sally shrugged. I shrugged. Lynnie was standing behind me but I suppose she shrugged, too. I went to the restroom and pushed open the door—smelled cordite in the airless room. It was a small restroom—one urinal, one stall, and I could see feet under the stall.
Tee crowded in behind me. She asked, “Fred? Are you all right?”
I pushed at the stall door but it was latched.
“Kick it,” Tee said.
Fucking Tee. Still, I kicked at the door and the flimsy latch gave way and banged against Fred’s dead knees. Fred was in there sitting on the stool, a little snub-nosed revolver on his lap and a bit of his brains on the wall.
“Sally!” Tee yelled. “Call 911.”