The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery) – Chapter 13 (New. Newish? (and so it goes))

As I wrote in The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery) – Chapter 12 (New), rewrites are in progress.

The month of July saw chapter juggling to avoid timeline conflicts, lots of editing, plus several new chapters in what I’ve already shared and, of course, stuff you’ve never seen.

God, I hope it’s worth it.

The Alibi – Chapter 13

Irene Casey smiled back at Professor Red “Gentleman John” Willmette as she took her seat in Forensics 517, an advanced lab with the prestigious title Forensics Materials, Standards, and Guidelines.

517 was the only course Willmette taught because he created the department some fifty plus years ago, had academic, government, industry, and law enforcement connections covering the globe, and was the Erdös of the Forensics community. Investigators evaluated each other by their Willmette number: Did you co-author a paper with Willmette? You were a Willmette-One. Did you co-author a paper with someone who was a Willmette-One? You were a Willmette-Two. Go to any conference and the floor was saturated with Willmette-Tens, -Elevens, and -Twelves, and you couldn’t get a teaching position in the field unless you were a Willmette-Six or better.

A recognized authority in several forensic disciplines, he created Semiotic Forensics, what some people called Environmental Forensics, and he always laughed when he heard the term. “Yes, we investigate the environmental system, but derive meaning from recognizing every element in a given environment is a sign, consciously or non-consciously chosen by the individual – from the petty crook to the white-collar likes of Madoff – to enhance their experience of the event under investigation.” Known as “Gentlemen John,” he lived the hobo life for six months to learn the language of their signs in order to solve a cold case.

Which he did.

And brought down an organization that made The French Connection look like a toddler’s soccer game.

Despite several attempts on his life.

Nobody did that kind of thing anymore.

But now?

Now he was everyone’s favorite uncle who knew all the funny stories about the family and neighborhood, and if you took 517 be prepared to laugh hard and work harder.

Lab benches ringed the room, the center taken up with the standard classroom desk layout, and he had people sit alphabetically, but by first name, not last, so Irene sat dead center of the fifteen students joining her.

Willmette, who had to dip his head when going through most doorways, reached down and rapped his knuckles on the desk. “Let’s get started. We’re going to have a guest with us today, and this guest,” he checked his watch, “in addition to a resume too long to recount in detail, is a member of CSAFE, a Senior Policy Advisor to the National Commission on Forensic Science, and a Senior Fellow at OSAC.” He checked his watch a second time and glanced at the door. “Yes, any minute now…”

One of Casey’s classmates nudged her. She wrote in the top margin of her notebook “CSAFE NIST Center of Excellence in Forensic Science. OSAC Organization of Scientific Area Committees for Forensic Science.”

Willmette loosened his bow tie. “Why don’t we all continue with our lab work until our guest arrives. Ladies and gentleman, to your benches.”

Casey and the rest moved to their research stations. She kept some of the communion wafer she picked up that night she let Captain Romantic off the hook and analyzed it the best she could. She took a different tact than outlined in the manuals – look for compositional analogs. What were the communion wafers like?

Footsteps hurried down the hall. Willmette stood by the door and spread his arms like P.T. Barnum introducing Gargantua, the world’s largest gorilla.


A petite woman, just over half Willmette’s height, mid-fifties woman with close cropped, strikingly blonde hair and a deep Mediterranean complexion stopped in the door way. She supported herself with one hand on the doorjam, looked up at Willmette and smiled. “How late am I, sir?”

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