“Pamela followed Kent, running behind him around the corner of the main hallway towards the experimental computer laboratory at the far end of the side hallway. She could see in the distance that the door to the lab was wide open and the lights were on. Kent ran through the doorway and Pamela followed on his heels. He went immediately to the first row of computer carrels, to Carrel #4, one of the department’s special “souped up” computers. Pamela could see a woman in the carrel bent over the computer desk, a tousled head of blonde curls. As she drew closer, she realized that the woman was Charlotte Clark.
“It’s Dr. Clark,” said Kent, “Dr. Barnes! I think she’s dead!”
Pamela’s heart seemed to stop beating as she froze in place, staring at Charlotte, who was seated, bent over the desk. She saw immediately that the power cord from a set of headphones was wrapped tightly around her neck, the headphones themselves hanging uselessly down the side of Charlotte’s neck. The side of Charlotte’s face was tinged grayish-blue.
“Oh, my God!” Pamela whispered, suddenly digging in her purse on her shoulder. After a few seconds of scrounging, she located her cell phone and tapped in the number for the campus police. The call was answered immediately.
“Please,” she spoke as calmly as she could, “please, come quickly. Someone has been hurt…I think dead.”
Kent stood by, slightly behind her, waiting as she made the all important call. She continued to speak into her cell phone.
“I’m at Blake Hall, on campus. The experimental computer lab…on the main floor–on the north side, by the parking lot entrance–all the way to the end of the side hallway.” She turned her head to Kent and whispered to him, “They’re on their way. Stay here.”
“Don’t worry, Dr. B.” he responded, “I’m not going anywhere.”
She returned her attention to the cell phone as she heard the voice ask additional questions.
“Yes, this is Dr. Barnes, Pamela Barnes. I’m in the Psychology Department. I just found her…Dr. Clark…here…in the lab.” She looked over at Charlotte. “Please, hurry!” she urged into the cell phone. Then she listened as the voice at the other end was evidently giving her instructions.
“Okay, just a minute.” She handed the cell phone to Kent. “Hold this and stay on the line,” she said to him. Then she carefully bent over Charlotte Clark and placed her hand firmly on Charlotte’s neck, feeling for a pulse. There was none. After a few seconds, she then gingerly bent down close to Charlotte’s face to listen for breath noises. Charlotte’s head was turned to the left, her mouth open. Pamela placed her ear close to Charlotte’s mouth. All she sensed was the smell of cigarette smoke—Charlotte was a habitual smoker. It was quite obvious to Pamela that there was no breath coming from Charlotte Clark’s body. She was dead.
She then stood up and stepped back from the body, her eyes never leaving the corpse. As she held her hand out to Kent, he placed the cell phone back in it.
“I just checked for pulse and breathing sounds,” she told the police dispatcher on the phone. “I couldn’t feel or hear anything.” She continued listening to the voice and the obvious directions that were being given. “No,” she answered into the phone, “Don’t worry. I won’t touch anything. Yes, I’ll stay right here.” She turned her head to Kent and whispered to him, “Kent, please go to the outside entrance and direct the campus police here when they arrive. It should be any minute now.”
“Right, Dr. B,” he said, hurrying out the lab door, “I’m on my way!”
With Kent’s departure, Pamela was alone. As she stared down at the body of Charlotte Clark, it suddenly dawned on her exactly what she was seeing. This was not a natural death. Charlotte didn’t keel over from a sudden heart attack. The power cord wrapped around her neck made it perfectly clear that Charlotte had been murdered. Oh, my God, she thought. Here they were worried about lab security because of the fear of theft. No one had even considered the possibility that anyone was actually in physical danger when they were alone in the lab. The lab was Charlotte’s domain–her pride and joy. It was her efforts that had secured the funding for the lab. She spent many hours here. To think that she would actually die in the place of her glory. It was horrible.
Poor Charlotte. No, thought Pamela, Charlotte wasn’t one of her favorite persons. She was abrasive and confrontational, but Pamela had never personally suffered any of Charlotte’s verbal attacks—as Mitchell had earlier this evening. Oh, my God, what had happened here tonight?”