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"Who Shot Principal Li?" (1/?)
by Danny Bronstein
trotsky@loop.com

MONDAY

The student body and faculty of Lawndale High was gathered in the
auditorium for a surprise assembly. Up on stage were Principal Angela Li
and a rather large object covered by a big white sheet.

"This is a proud, proud day for Laaaaaawndale High," said Principal
Li. "As of today, we are the first high school in the country to have on
display..."

The crowd gasped and murmured when Principal Li pulled back the white
sheet to reveal the contraption beneath it.

"... Our very own electric chair! This electric chair is an exact
duplicate of the one in Huntsville, Texas, that Karla Faye Tucker was
executed in. It will be displayed here as a stern reminder of what
awaits all of you, should you cut a class, fail to use a #2 pencil, or
otherwise start down the road to a squandered, felonious life."

The crowd murmured angrily amongst themselves. Obviously they were not
pleased at this new addition to their school.

"Dismissed, everyone," said Principal Li. "All students who are not in
their classes within the next ten minutes will receive a week's
detention." Another example of tough love from the principal. Everyone
was used to it. Scary thing was, she wasn't kidding.

The crowd dispersed, murmuring amongst themselves. Left looking at the
electric chair were Daria Morgendorffer, Jane Lane and Jodie Landon.

"An electric chair. Wow," said Jane.

"You know," said Jodie, "I'm not usually the one to be saying this,
but this time I really think she's gone too far."

"You think?" said Daria, in her usual sarcastic deadpan.


Later that day, Principal Li was in her office when the school's
accountant, Tom Griffin, entered. He looked upset.

"Tom! Come in, come in!" said the principal.

"Good afternoon," said Tom. He noticed something that was not in the
office the last time he came in to discuss the school's budget: a giant
fireplace.

"Like my fireplace? I just had it installed," said Principal Li.

"It's very nice Ms. Li," said Tom.

"Hey, get a load of this," said the principal, pointing a remote
control at the fireplace and pushing a button. The fire flamed up and
roared.

"It's... impressive," said Tom. Oh brother, he thought. How much did
this monstrosity cost her? "Anyway, the reason I came in is because I've
been looking over the school's financial report, and I have to say I'm
very concerned with what I'm seeing."

"Are we in trouble?" said Principal Li, abruptly shutting a drawer
full of money.

"To put it lightly. You see, during the course of the year you seem to
have been investing extensively in security."

He wasn't kidding. The school's security procedures included cameras
everywhere, a huge staff of security guards who did frequent spot locker
checks with dobermans, and metal detectors in every single doorway and
hidden in some of the walls. Over 80% of the school's operating budget
was spent on security.

"Yes, well, just making sure the students stay away from the many
things that will lead them down a dangerous path. You know, guns, drugs,
condoms..."

"The problem, Ms. Li, is that you recently invested in an... electric
chair?" said Tom, looking over his report.

"My pride and joy," said the principal.

"Are you aware that the money you spent on the electric chair has left
very little in the school budget?" said Tom. "At the moment, I don't see
how you can afford a whole lot of... anything."

"Well," said Principal Li. "Time for another mandatory fund raiser,
eh?"

"Oh, I don't know if that will help much. In your current financial
situation I'm afraid the safest bet will be to start cutting back on
some things.

"Like what?"

"How about all those security measures? No offense, Ms. Li, but I do
think you're overdoing it just a wee tiny bit."

"Are you kidding?" said Principal Li.

"Well, what else do you propose?"


TUESDAY

The next day, a letter was handed out to everyone at Lawndale High. It
addressed a number of changes at the school.

The first change was the cancellation of almost all the clubs at the
school. Timothy O'Neill was shocked to learn that there would be no more
Drama Club. Janet Barch cried bloody murder when she found out there
would be no more Women's Self Defense Club. And Stacy Nibblett
hyperventilated and almost passed out when she heard about the
cancellation of the Fashion Club. Tiffany Woo, Sandra "Sandi" Griffin
and Quinn Morgendorffer didn't take it too well either, as they now had
to fund their "research" out of their own back pockets, and they knew
that their parents' charge cards would only take them so far. On top of
that, the absence of that club gave them nothing that the "less popular"
students could strive for. They were now on the same level as everybody
else. Almost.

The second change was the removal of a number of the elective classes,
including Art, which put Claire Defoe out of a job.

The third change was that there would no longer be a yearbook. This
bummed out almost everyone, especially Anthony DeMartino, who ran the
yearbook committee. The person who was probably the most upset, though,
was Ted DeWitt-Clinton, the yearbook editor, who responded by saying
that it... what's that word? Sucks.

Lastly, there would no longer be a school bus for sports events, so
players and cheerleaders would have to commute to events. This horrified
Michael Jordan "Mack" Mackenzie, who knew that he would most likely have
to carpool with Kevin Thompson, who would either be doing the nasty with
Brittany Taylor in the backseat, or making lame wisecracks and singing
Chumbawamba tunes.

Overall, the changes put a number of people in a bad mood.

Later that day, Jane and Daria were eating lunch. Jane was really
pissed off that there was no longer an art class, as art was the one
subject she was good at. Daria, an A student at everything who was
involved in no clubs or athletic activities, was more angry at the
principal overall.

Daria and Jane were joined by Jodie, who didn't seem quite herself.
"Jodie! What are you doing here?" said Jane. "Don't you have... oh,
that's right!" It suddenly dawned on Jane that Jodie's usual French Club
meeting on Tuesdays was no more.

"All my clubs have been cancelled," said Jodie. "I have nothing to
do."

"Hey, welcome to our life," said Daria.

"Yeah, join the club," said Jane, covering her mouth after uttering
the ironic expression.

"I feel weird," said Jodie, in a zombielike trance. "What do you call
it when you have nothing to do?"

"Umm... Free time?" said Daria.

"Free... time," said Jodie, pronouncing the words as if they were
foreign to her. "I don't like this free... time. It feels so... empty."

"Oh, it's not so bad," said Daria. "Hey, you get more time to watch
TV."

"TV??" screamed Jodie. "I am looking at a college application filled
with blank spaces, and you're talking to me about TV?? What kind of
sadistic people are you??" Everyone turned to stare at Jodie.

"Calm down, Jodie," said Daria. "Hey, why don't you come over to my
house with Jane after school? You'll feel a lot better."

"Okay," said Jodie, meekly.

After school, Jodie came to Daria's house, where Daria introduced
Jodie to her Playstation.

"What is this thing?" said Jodie.

"It's a video game," said Daria. "You do know what a video game is,
right?"

"Oh, yeah. My sister Rachel plays these all the time."

"Here, play this. It's fun," said Daria.

Jodie was introduced to some game where she played an animal with a
sharp nose who ran around collecting gems. She didn't quite get into it
at first.

"Yay, wee, fun," she said, sarcastically. Ten minutes later she was
hooked and wouldn't put down the controller.

"I think she's gonna be here for a while," said Jane. "Wanna go get
some pizza?"

"I'm with you," said Daria.


"That's terrible!" said Helen Morgendorffer, at the dinner table that
night. "How could Principal Li do that?"

"Well, you know the principal," said Daria. "Always trying to run the
school like a prison."

"I'm going to get Marianne to have a talk with her. This seems like
grounds for a whopping lawsuit."

"Don't know if it'll help," said Daria. "All the school's money's
already spent."

Quinn entered the dining room. "Mom, can I have some money to buy this
cute jacket that I really want?"

"Quinn, didn't I give you money for clothes two days ago?" said her
mom.

"But Mo-oom, if you had only seen this jacket at Cashman's, you'd
understand! Besides, I, uh, need it for research for the Club.

"What club?" said Helen. "I thought there is no longer a Fashion Club
at the school."

"What are you talking about? Of COURSE there's a Fashion Club!" Then
Quinn noticed Daria. "Oh my God, you told them, didn't you?"

"Should have agreed to my fee," said Daria.

"Dad," said Quinn, causing Jake to look up from his paper. "Hmm?" he
said.

"Can I have some money for a jacket?"

"Oh, sure, honey," he said, giving her a wad of cash.

"Thanks," Quinn said, and ran off. Jake then noticed Helen glaring at
him.

"What?" he said, meekly.

"Do you listen to ANYTHING we talk about?" said Helen.

"Sure, all the time, you know I do!" he said, showing as little fear
as possible, then went back to his paper. "Hey, did you know the high
school installed an electric chair? Imagine that!"

"Give me that!" said Helen, grabbing Jake's paper and crumpling it up.

"Aw, man!" said Jake. After that everyone was silent, allowing the
video game noises to be heard from above.

"Dear, is that Landon girl still up there?" said Helen to Daria.


WEDNESDAY

Daria awoke bright and early for school. As she stepped out of bed,
she noticed that her Play Station was still on, and Jodie was asleep at
the foot of the bed, still holding the controller.

"Wake up, Jodie," said Daria, nudging her.

"Hmm?" said Jodie.

"Time for school."

"Oh, but I have only one level to go! Did I at least save my game?"

"Don't worry about it, Jodie. Here, you can borrow my Game Boy."

"What's a Game Boy?"

"It's a portable video game system."

"AWESOME!"


The four members of the disbanded Fashion Club stood in front of the
electric chair at the entrance to the school, eyeing the monstrosity.

"That thing is SO ugly! I'll bet it doesn't even work!" said Quinn.

Of course, Quinn could not have said that at a worse time, for at that
moment Ms. Li had entered the secret room behind her office to take a
peek at what the security cameras were showing. There were over a
hundred security cameras mounted throughout the school, and this room
was where all the screens were. It was creepier than in the movie
"Sliver." Naturally, Quinn was caught on tape.

Quinn was promptly summoned to the Principal's office.

"So, you doubt the power of the electric chair, eh?" said Principal
Li.

"Well, I... I was just saying what I thought. I didn't think I'd get
in trouble for it."

"Saying what you thought? What do you think gives you the right to
question spout your... radical rhetoric around campus? I'm trying to run
a safe school, and here you go 'saying what you think'?

"Geez, I'm sorry, Ms. Li."

"You're lucky I'm in a good mood today, Ms. Morgendorffer. However, to
set an example to all the other students, I shall have to suspend you
for three days."

"What??"

"You heard me. Dismissed."

Quinn stepped out of the office sullenly and was met outside by Joey,
Jeffy and Jamie.

"What happened, Quinn?" said Joey.

"Did you get in trouble?" said Jeffy.

"If you want me to hurt her I will," said Jamie.

"No, that's all right," said Quinn. "She just suspended me for three
days."

"WHAT??" they said in unison.

"I'm going home. I'll see you guys on Monday," Quinn said, and walked
away.

Joey, Jeffy and Jamie stood gaping in horror. A whole week without
Quinn? It was almost too much to bear.


Back in the office, Principal Li sat staring at the flames in her new
fireplace.

"So, they think the electric chair is just a fake. Well I'll show
them. I'll show them all!" She pushed the remote control button, and the
flames roared.


THURSDAY

The students and faculty were gathered in the auditorium for another
surprise assembly, where the electric chair was on display again.
Principal Li was up on the stage with it.

"There has been some doubt as to whether or not this electric chair is
real," she said. "Therefore, I have called you all in here for a live
demonstration. Since there were no student volunteers and various laws
prevent me from forcing any of the students to participate, Ms. Barch
lent me one of her guinea pigs from the lab."

"A male one, of course," said Ms. Barch.

Ms. Li took the guinea pig out of its cage. "This is Hank. Hank here
will be placed in the electric chair, where he will be executed before
your eyes."

"This is all Quinn's fault," said Sandi.

"At least we get out of class," said Tiffany.

"Yeah," said Stacy. Sandi glared at them.

Hank the guinea pig was strapped into the chair and the metal death
cap was placed on his head. Principal Li went over to the switch and put
on the black executioner's robe.

"Ready, everyone? Say goodbye to Hank!"

She pulled the switch. The chair was supposed to fry the guinea pig
with two thousand volts of electricity, but instead sparks flew out of
the back of the chair. The chair short circuited and blew a fuse, and
the entire auditorium went dark, as did the entire school. In fact, all
power throughout the town was lost. Ironically, Hank came out of the
experiment unscathed.


At the time the power outage occurred, Brittany was in the bathroom
applying mascara. "Owww!" she screamed as the bathroom went pitch-black.


Helen was handling a very important call in her office when her phone
abruptly went dead.

"What the hell?" she said. Her brief panic was alleviated when her
cell phone rang, but her assistant, Marianne, was less fortunate, as her
computer shut down before she could finish entering the data for Helen's
biggest case.


Jake was on the phone in his office closing a business deal with a
very important client, the nation's #3 snack food company, also on the
phone. The phone went dead on him, and he panicked. He didn't have a
cell phone on him, and he didn't know when or if he'd hear from this
client again, or what he'd do if he didn't land the deal. A blood vessel
popped in his eye as he screamed.


Trent Lane and Jesse Moreno were driving the Tank on Dega Street, with
a drum set, four electric guitars, and two large amps in the back.
Suddenly, all the traffic lights shut themselves off. In the following
confusion, the Tank came to a crossing and a car rammed it from behind.
Trent and Jesse heard the dreaded sound of drums, cymbals, amps and
guitars crashing all over each other.


In Charles "Upchuck" Ruttheimer's room, the VCR was timer-recording
"Deep-Throat: The Totally Uncensored Director's Cut," which Upchuck had
not seen because it was not available on video and was only showing once
on Pay Cable TV. The VCR turned off five minutes into the movie.


The crowd in the pitch-black auditorium was outraged. Later on, the
faculty and students spread the word of an emergency PTA meeting to be
had at 6 PM that day. Principal Li was not invited.


After school, Daria and Jane walked home through the main street. With
the power outage going on, all the stores around them were being looted.

"Well, it's been an interesting week," said Jane.

"Yep," said Daria. "I don't think any other high school has had an
electric chair be the cause of complete and total anarchy during the
course of four days."

"It's probably only gonna get worse as long as Li remains there. I
don't think anything short of murder will stop her."

"Someone SHOULD kill her," said Daria.

"Yeah, but who? You?"

"Well, it's tempting, but... Nah, I don't think I'm the killing type."

"Hey, Daria, Jane! Join in! It's fun!" Jodie yelled, running by with a
Nintendo 64.


"I get knocked down, but I get up again, ain't nobody gonna keep me
down!" sang Kevin, putting on his best British accent.

"Will you shut up? I can't take this anymore!" yelled Mack, who was
driving.

"Jeez, sorry, Mack Daddy."

"And quit calling me that! Don't you have anything else to do?"

"Oh, Kevvie! Wanna come back here with me?" Brittany said, from the
backseat. She was wearing a patch over her left eye.

"Ugh! No! Get away from me, you freak!" said Kevin.

"But honey, the doctor said it was only temporary!"

"I don't care!"

At that moment Mack was wishing Kevin would quit being so shallow and
just get into the backseat, when Jodie jumped into the back next to
Brittany. She was panting and high on adrenaline.

"Drive," she said. "Hurry!"


A police officer came into Helen's office. "I'm looking for Marianne
Jacobs," he said.

"I'm Marianne Jacobs," said Marianne.

"Miss Jacobs, I have some bad news. At about 2:00 today, when the
power went out, your mother was in the shower. She slipped and broke her
neck."

"Is she dead?"

"I'm afraid so."

"Oh my God!"

Just then Helen entered. "Marianne, I just found out about a PTA
meeting to discuss what's to be done about the principal. Would you mind
going?"

"I'm sorry, Mrs. Morgendorffer. I'm afraid I can't."

"Please, Marianne? It's really important."

"I can't. Why don't you go?"

"Me?? To a PTA meeting?"

"I'm really sorry, Mrs. Morgendorffer," Marianne said, and left with
the police officer.

"All right," said Helen to herself. "I don't know what you did this
time, Li, but you're gonna pay!"


Nearing the Lawndale city limits a couple of hours later was a large
van that said "Jimbo and Ned's Traveling Gun Show."

"Boy, we sure made a killing in Highland, didn't we, Ned?" said Jimbo
Kearns, who was driving.

"Mmmyep," said Ned, talking through his artificial voice box. "Those
people sure were willing to buy guns."

"Where to next?"

"I believe it's the town of Lawndale."

"Okie dokie," said Jimbo, a few minutes later after they were in town.
"Where should we set up?"

"I don't know."

"Hey, how about that high school? Teenagers are always willing to buy
guns and ammo!"

"Sounds like a plan."

As soon as Jimbo and Ned set up near Lawndale High, they heard a whole
crowd of people running toward them, waving money.

"Holy crap!" said Jimbo. "Looks like we hit the jackpot, Ned!"


At 6 PM, the students, faculty and their parents (and whoever else
cared to show up) were all gathered in the auditorium. The place was
illuminated everywhere by emergency candles. Mr. O'Neill came up to the
podium.

"Well, I suppose we all know why we're here," he said. "Ever since
that electric chair was installed, we've had a whole series of
problems."

"Damn straight!" someone yelled.

"I think the first thing we should do is vent out our anger. Let's all
say how we feel we've been wronged. I'll start. Thanks to the loss of
funding, the school's been robbed of a drama club."

"The school's been robbed of a women's self-defense club!" yelled Mrs.
Barch.

"The school's been robbed of a yearbook!" yelled Ted.

"Yeah!" said Mr. DeMartino.

"The school's been robbed of my Fashion Club!" yelled Sandi and Quinn
in unison, then glared at each other.

"We've been robbed of her!" yelled Joey, Jeffy and Jamie, pointing to
Quinn. Sandi glared at them.

"The football team's been robbed of a bus!" yelled Mack.

"It's because of Ms. Li that this happened to me!" yelled Brittany,
pointing to her eye patch.

"It's because of Ms. Li that Brittany's ugly!" yelled Kevin. Brittany
slapped him. "Oww!" he said.

"I've been robbed of a job!" yelled Ms. Defoe.

"I've been robbed of an art class!" yelled Jane.

"Thanks to the blackout she caused, our van got into an accident!"
yelled Jesse.

"And all our instruments got damaged!" yelled Trent.

"I was robbed of a once-in-a-lifetime movie!" yelled Upchuck.

"I lost an important client when the power went out!" yelled Jake.

"My entire office went haywire!" yelled Helen.

"I've been robbed of extracurricular activities!" said Jodie. "Since
Tuesday I've been spending all my free time playing video games and.."
she shuddered as she said this: "..writing Internet fan fiction!"

"Good lord!" said Mack.

Everyone else started yelling out their complaints. Daria remained
expressionless.

"Well," said Mr. O'Neill, motioning for everyone to quiet down. "That
said, I think we should all sign a petition for the Board of Education
to fire Principal Angela Li."

"The hell with a petition!" yelled Mr. DeMartino.

"I say we lynch her!" yelled Mack.

"Lynch the bitch!" yelled Mrs. Barch.

Everyone except Daria started chanting, "Lynch! Lynch! Lynch! Lynch!
Lynch!"

Just then Principal Li stormed in. "So, I see we are all planning some
sort of mutiny."

"Ms. Li! How did you know we were here?" said Mr. O'Neill.

"You're forgetting the backup generator I installed. All the security
cameras are still operational."

Everyone looked at the security camera mounted in a corner and
groaned.

"After all I've done for this school, I can't believe you could betray
me like this!"

"After all you've done??" said Ms. Defoe. "All you've done is bring us
misery!"

"You're nothing but a tyrannical bitch!" said Helen.

"Well," said Ms. Li. "You're lucky I'm in a good mood, so I'll let you
all off with a warning. You can't get me fired, because I have WAY too
many connections with the Board of Education. And even if you do,
they'll just hook me up with a position in another school. A school
where there are no dangerous rebels wandering the halls. Where I will
rule like no other principal has ruled before! You can't stop me,
people. I am Angela Li, disciplinarian extraordinaire!" Then she spotted
Andrea Hecuba, the goth girl. "What the hell are you wearing, young
lady? We don't allow those depressing clothes on campus! Put something
else on!" With that, she left.

Everyone angrily got up out of their seats and headed toward the
doors.

"This certainly went well," said Jane to Daria.

"Yep," said Daria. They got up out of their seats.

"I'll see you later," said Daria.

"Where are you going?"

"Home."


In the faculty parking lot, Principal Li was about to open her car
door when she heard footsteps. She turned around and saw a figure, but
it was dark and she couldn't recognize the face.

"Who are you?" she said. "What the hell do you want?"

Before Ms. Li could shine a flashlight on the figure, it pulled out a
gun and shot her in the chest, then ran off. "Aaagh!" Principal Li said,
and collapsed face-down on the ground.

Everyone heard the gunshot. Just then the electricity came back on in
the town, and the lights turned on over the parking lot.

"Oh my God!" said Mr. O'Neill. "The principal's been shot!"

Everyone gathered around her body.

"Who could have done this?" said Brittany.

"I wonder if we'll ever find out," said Jane. "Every one of us had a
motive."


WHO SHOT PRINCIPAL LI? E-MAIL ME AT TROTSKY@LOOP.COM WITH YOUR IDEAS.
TO BE CONTINUED...