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Who Shot Principal Li? (2/2)
by Danny Bronstein
trotsky@loop.com

THURSDAY

In Lawndale, it was not usual for those sexist pigs at the police
precinct to send two women to investigate an attempted homicide,
especially when it would have seemed a lot more practical to pull a
couple of officers off of riot control a block away (all looting had
ceased once electrical power was restored). But it was well known among
the entire Lawndale Police Department that no male officer would get
anywhere near Mrs. Janet Barch. Everybody knew the sad story of Robert
Jones, the investigating officer in the torching of Mr. Peter Barch's
BMW. Mrs. Barch was the prime suspect in the case, and although the
exact details of the interrogation were unknown, afterwards Jones had
quit the force and hightailed it out of town. Rumor had it that Jones
was now working as a nightwatchman at a cornfield by the interstate,
vowing never to return to Lawndale until "that emasculating bitch is six
feet under." No male officer wanted to suffer the fate of Officer Robert
Jones.

And that was how Officers Melinda Hadley and Denise Riker got pulled
off their usual job-- vice squad-- and sent to answer the 911 call over
at the high school. They pulled up in their squad car, accompanied by
an ambulance, which put the unconscious Principal Li on a stretcher and
carted her away to Lawndale General Hospital. Hadley was in her late
twenties, tall, with blonde hair. Riker was in her early thirties,
slightly shorter than Hadley, black, with curly brown hair.

"Who should we talk to first?" said Riker.

"How about that guy?" said Hadley, pointing to Mack. Riker scowled.
"Hey, it's you versus statistics, my friend," Hadley continued.

But Mack vehemently denied shooting the principal. As he spoke, Kevin
walked by and said, "Oooh, busted, Mack Daddy!"

"But if that guy winds up a chalk outline," Mack said, "guilty as
charged."


"I don't really know how it happened," said Mr. O'Neill, who was on
the verge of tears. "I mean, we were all mad at her, but I didn't expect
anyone to actually--" just then he couldn't hold back any longer and
started the waterworks. "There there," said Hadley, giving him a hug and
patting him on the back.

"Did Ms. Li have any enemies in particular? Anyone who actually
threatened her?" Riker said to Mr. DeMartino.

"I don't THINK so," he replied.

"Do you know of anyone who might have brought a firearm to school?"

"A bunch of us BOUGHT guns from that GUN SHOW two blocks from here. I
got MINE right here," DeMartino said, patting his hip.

"Gun show?"


"Hey, hey, you people have no right to hassle me," said Jimbo Kearns,
who was closing shop and about to hit the road.

"We have every right to hassle you," said Hadley. "Did you or did you
not sell firearms to high schoolers?"

"Damn right I did, and I sold out in five minutes. And you can't
arrest us."

"Why the hell not?" said Riker.

"MMwe have a permit," said Ned.

"Yeah," said Jimbo, handing the cops a sheet of lined writing paper.
On the paper was written, in pencil: LISENSE TO SELL GUNS. SIGNED,
GOVNER OF STATE.

"See? It's perfectly legal to sell guns to high schoolers in this
state."

The cops looked at Jimbo skeptically. "Cuff 'em," said Hadley. "Book
'em," said Riker.

"Damn. It always used to work on Barbrady," said Jimbo to Ned in the
squad car.


Returning to the scene, the cops questioned a few more people.

"Naw, I didn't shoot her," said Ms. Barch. "I mean, if she was a MAN,
maybe. I'll bet the shooter was a man. Men are the cause of all the
world's problems. Mark my words, don't ever get married. You aren't
married, are you?"

Hadley admitted that she wasn't.

"Good. Hey, I notice they sent women to investigate. That's progress.
I always thought they put all the women on the vice squad."

"That's not true," said Hadley.


Meanwhile, at the police station, the female officers, all of them
dressed like hookers, gathered together. It was time to hit the streets
again.

"Hey, where's Hadley and Riker?" said one.

"I hear they were sent to check out that shooting over at LHS," said
another.

"Heh, lucky them. Hey, you think we'll run into that Ruttheimer kid
again?"

"Nah, I think he learned his lesson after the fifth bust."


"Daria! Hey, Daria, where are you?" said Jane, calling for her friend
amongst the crowd gathered at the scene. Jane and Daria had separated in
the auditorium and Jane had not seen her since. "Hey Quinn, have you
seen Daria?"

"Like, how the hell should I know where she is? You should know,
you're around her all the time," Quinn replied.

"Never mind," Jane said and continued walking.

"Like, who's Daria?" said Sandi.

"You know, my weird cousin," said Quinn.

"Whoa. She has a NAME??" said Tiffany.


At Lawndale General Hospital, Angela Li was placed on life support.
She was comatose, but the doctors said she was in stable condition and
should recover. Hadley looked over her file.

"Angela Li, age 51, born in San Francisco, CA, eighth child and only
daughter of Soon-Hak "Bud" Li, store owner, and Jennifer Li,
schoolteacher. Graduated from University of Washington with an MA in
teaching and a minor in military history. 1976 Olympic Bronze Medal
Champion in javelin, shot putt and hammer throw. Was a history teacher
for seven years and an administrator for four at the Croydon Juvenile
Detention Facility for Young Women. Became administrator for Lawndale
High in 1994 after previous administrator resigned."

"So I take it we have no definite suspects."

"Nope. Just about every student and faculty member was carrying a gun,
and they all had a reason."

"And we found no DNA at all."

"Nope."

Riker frowned. "There's got to be a way to find out who did this. I'll
bet someone knows something but isn't telling."

"We should send in Dylan."

"Dylan?"

"Dylan."

Riker looked at Hadley skeptically. "Dylan's a narc."

"Yes, but Dylan’s sixteen," said Hadley.

"Ohhh," said Riker, suddenly understanding.


Daria's phone rang later that night.

"Hello?"

"Daria! Jesus, where the hell were you?" Jane said over the phone.
"Trent and I were looking everywhere for you!"

"I went home, Jane. Wait... Trent was looking for me?"

"Yeah... Any reason you care?" Jane said slyly.

"No."

"Suuure... Anyway, did you hear what happened to Ms. Li?"

"Someone shot her."

"Yeah!"

"Quinn told me. Weird, huh?"

"Tell me about it."

"She kind of had it coming, if you think about it."

"Any idea who did it?"

"Probably that kid we see around school all the time."

"Which kid?"

"You know, the one with the fake arm?"

"Ohh yeah, that kid," said Jane jokingly.

"Seriously, I don't know. Hell, it could be you."

"Or you."

"Sh'yeah. Imagine that," said Daria.


FRIDAY


"I can't believe we don't have a free day today," said Daria,
approaching the school with Jane. "Someone's been shot. I'd think
everyone would be a bit edgy to concentrate on school."

"Hey, this is Lawndale High we're talking about," Jane replied. "They
wouldn't cancel school if the pool blew up and the bulletproof skylights
were destroyed."

"I see. Hey, who's that? I haven't seen him around before."

Daria and Jane's attention focused on a medium-height boy with black
wavy hair and dark eyes. He wore a green hooded sweatshirt, beige khakis
and brown hiking sneakers, which he was kneeling down and tying.

"Boy, if that's a new student, he sure picked a strange time to
enroll," Jane said.


Dylan had been assigned to Lawndale High at relatively short notice,
with an assignment that was different from his previous ones: rather
than sniffing out drug dealers, like he usually did, all he had to do
was observe people talking and point out anyone who might be hiding
something. Seemed easy enough; if there was one thing Dylan was good at,
it was observing.

As he finished tying his shoes, he looked up and saw two girls looking
at him from across the street. The one on the left had short black hair
and three earrings on each ear, and wore a red shirt with a black V-neck
shirt under it, dark gray shorts, black leggings, and rather imposing
Doc Marten boots. The one on the right had shoulder-length brown hair
and no piercings (at least none he could see), and wore large
eyeglasses, a green jacket with a brown shirt under it, a black skirt
and, like her friend, big Doc Martens. He waved and they waved back.

Interesting girls, they: he wondered whether the one on the left
smoked marijuana. As for the one on the right, he didn't know whether
she used anything, but he was familiar with that drug pamphlet... He was
distracted by a kid who came up to him and asked if he could bum a
cigarette. "Sure," said Dylan, lifting up his right pants leg and
revealing ten cigarettes which were duct-taped to his leg. "Here you
go," he said, pulling one out.

"Uh, thanks," the kid said awkwardly, and walked away.

"What the hell?" said Daria, observing the exchange.

"I think he's a narc," Jane replied.

"Hmm. Wonder where he keeps his beer."


At the entrance to the school, several cops (female, of course) stood
with metal detectors and large laundry bins, the purpose of which was to
confiscate all firearms that were being brought into the school. The
students walking in mostly complied with them, except for one particular
kid, a jittery fellow who wore army fatigues and whose blond hair spiked
out in all directions.

"This is BULLSHIT, man! I didn't do NUTHIN', man!" he yelled.

"Just DO it, Lewis," said Mr. De Martino. "These people aren't
kidding. BELIEVE me, I KNOW."

Lewis sighed and dropped his handgun in the bin.

"EVERYTHING, Lewis," said Mr. DeMartino.

"This SUCKS, man!" said Lewis, pulling out his other handgun and
dropping it in the bin.

"AND the ammo belt," said Mr. DeMartino.

Lewis reluctantly removed the ammo belt from under his shirt.

"AND the Swiss army knife."

Groaning, Lewis reached into his combat boots and took out his knife.

"Is that all?" said the officer.

Lewis nervously scratched the back of his head. "Uh, yeah, man."

The cop could tell that he was lying. "Agent Hurly!"

Agent Hurly (from "Beavis and Butt-head Do America") put on her rubber
glove.


"Good morning, students of Lawndale High," said Mr. O'Neill over the
public address system. "This is Timothy O'Neill, your temporary
replacement administrator until Ms. Li recovers. I just wanted to say
that... Well, carry on and let's not let yesterday's tragedy get in our
way. Remember, though Ms. Li has fallen, the show must go on, and I will
do my best to see that the school runs as smoothly as it did before."

"They made Mr. O'Neill principal? Why??" said Daria.

"I guess he seemed the only choice with the closest thing to sound
mental capacity," Jane replied. "Would you rather see DeMartino up
there?"

"Don't remind me. Still, if he maintained a straight face during that
spiel, he deserves an Oscar."

Mr. O'Neill continued: "In other news, the school will be dismantling
the electric chair today after school, and will be selling the spare
parts tomorrow. If anyone would like to assist, sign-up sheets will be
put up in the office. Participation is not mandatory, but... ah hell,
just try to show up, OK? That is all."

"Hmm. Maybe this won't be too bad after all," said Daria.


The former Fashion Club had assembled in the hallway, including Quinn,
whose suspension was revoked by Mr. O'Neill.

"So, like, who do you think shot the principal?" said Stacy.

"I don't know," said Quinn. "I was kind of tempted to do it after I
bought that gun, but like, then I thought that getting blood on my
clothes would be way gross. Plus the gun TOTALLY clashed with my nail
color."

"You know who I think did it?" said Sandi. "I think it was Quinn's
weird cousin."

"Really? Daria? You think it was Daria?" said Quinn, who had never
really thought of Daria as capable of murder.

"Like, yeah. She's like really freaky," said Tiffany. "Like, remember
when you showed us her room?"

"It had all those skeleton pictures! Ugh!" Stacy said.

"Wow, what if you're right?" Quinn said. "I have a killer living in my
own house!"

For Dylan, being nearby during this conversation was like striking
gold. "Who's Daria?" he said, joining in.

"That's like, Quinn here's weird cousin, or something," said Sandi.

"She's a real psycho," said Tiffany.

"Like, who are you? We haven't seen you around," said Sandi.

"Uh, I'm Dylan. I'm new here."

"Well, we're the Fashion Club. Or were until the stupid principal cut
its funding. I'm Sandi, and this is Stacy, Tiffany and--"

"Quinn," interrupted the perky redhead, jumping in. "I'm Quinn." She
held out her hand. Dylan shook it.

Quinn almost melted at Dylan's touch. She got lightheaded at the sight
of this cute guy whose dark hair fell over his eyes and who had a name
just like the 90210 character. That old familiar song started in her
head, the one that happened whenever she fell in love. "Everybody,
yeeeah/ Rock yo' body, yeeeah/ Everybody, rock yo' body right/
Backstreet's back, all right!"

"Like, only someone like Quinn would fantasize to the Backstreet
Boys!" said Sandi.

Quinn didn't care. "Here's my card. Call me," she said, handing Dylan
her personalized business card.

"Uh, thanks," he said aloofly.


It didn't take long for Sandi's suspicion of Daria to turn into a
rumor and spread like wildfire around the school. Following this lead,
Dylan set out asking people about this Daria girl.

"Oh yeah, she's in 4 of my classes," Kevin Thompson said. "She's
smart, but really gloomy. Like, when Tommy Sherman died, everyone wanted
advice from her, because she's obsessed with death and stuff."

Brittany Taylor, still wearing an eye patch, said, "She's sooo smart!
But... she's always moody about something, and she's always thinking
about death and bad stuff. And she never smiles."

Ted DeWitt-Clinton said, "I went out on a date with her once. She's
really good at video games. And she's into Francisco Goya. Just like me!
Want some gum?"

Andrea Hecuba said, "Daria? Yeah, I see her around sometimes. Gloomy
chick. I wonder if she takes Prozac, like me."

Mr. O'Neill said, "Daria's one of my brightest students. But she's so
negative about everything, and she's obsessed with the dark side. She
did pass my self-esteem class in only a week, though."

Joey, Jeffy and Jamie said, "I think she's Quinn's weird cousin or
something. What a freak. I can't believe she could be related to someone
like Quinn. Quinn is a goddess!"

Mr. DeMartino said, "DARIA is one of my BEST students. ALWAYS has the
answer to EVERYTHING. She and I THINK a lot alike. You got a PROBLEM
with that?"

Charles Ruttheimer said, "Daria's my girlfriend. Or at least she will
be soon. She's feisty!"

Jodie Landon, while playing Daria's Game Boy, said, "Daria
Morgendorffer? Oh yeah, she's nice but weird. You might want to ask Jane
Lane. She's Daria's best friend. Aw, man, you made me lose! Get away
from me!"

Jane Lane said, "What the hell do you want, narc? Get out of here!,"
causing Dylan to run. No one had ever pointed him out as a narc before.

Ms. Barch said, "Get the hell away from me, you wretched man!" Dylan
ran like hell. Why didn't the Lawndale cops tell him about that woman?

Lewis said about Daria, "My kind of girl."


As Daria walked down the hallway after school, everyone stepped back
as she approached, or looked warily at her. She came up to Jane.

"Jane, why is everyone avoiding me?"

"They're avoiding you?" replied Jane. "I haven't noticed."

"Everyone's acting really nervous around me."

"People are always nervous around you. They're nervous around me too."

"This is different. Every time I tried to talk to someone today they
just mumbled something and ran. In math class I raised my hand and
everyone ducked under the table. What's going on?"

"I don't know, Daria."

"Oh. Well, you want to come to my house and watch TV?"

"Nah, I was planning on going running."

"Maybe later?"

"I don't know. It's going to be a long run."

Daria frowned. She'd heard that excuse before. Something was going on.

"By the way," said Jane, "the narc was asking about you."

The narc? thought Daria.


Daria walked into the bathroom and into a stall. After she was out of
view, Stacy and Quinn walked into the bathroom and stood in front of the
mirror, putting on makeup.

"God," said Quinn. "I wonder what could have made my cousin threaten
Ms. Li with a knife."

"She threatened Ms. Li with a knife?" replied Sandi.

"Yeah. At least that's what Cindy said she heard Brenda say, who heard
it from Doug, who heard it from Phil, who heard it from his girlfriend's
sister."

"Maybe she went insane after her parents went to jail. I'm glad I
don't live in a room with padded walls. I'll bet she hears the walls
talk during the night."

"Spooky," said Quinn.

After Quinn and Sandi left, Daria came out of the stall, angry and
hurt.


Dylan, Hadley and Riker watched the videotape of the faculty parking
lot. All it showed was a quick frame of a gunshot in total blackness,
then Principal Li's body after the power came back on. No shots of
anyone holding the gun. No shots of anyone running away. "Damn," said
Riker.

"I think I did come upon a potential suspect," said Dylan.

"Who?" said Hadley.

"Her name is Daria Morgendorffer, age 16, sophomore. Described by
classmates and faculty as moody and obsessed with death. She failed Dr.
Margaret Manson's psychological exam and had to take a self-esteem
improvement class. I also found out that she and the principal didn't
get along. She got in big trouble for vandalizing an art exhibit that
Ms. Li wanted to show, and she clashed with the principal on some ethics
issue involving a fundraiser. Oh, and the school gun nut seems to have a
thing for her."

"Did you speak with anyone close to her?"

"Well, I tried speaking to her friend Jane Lane, but didn't find
anything out. On a related note, we might want to check out Miss Lane's
brother Trent Lane, age 21, unemployed musician. He's got a small rap
sheet for shoplifting at bookstores and loitering."

"Anyone else?"

"Well, her cousin Quinn asked me out on a date."

"Great. Go with that. Find out what you know."

"Hey, hey, hey!" Dylan protested. "I didn't say I'd actually go out
with her. This girl is shallow!"

"Come on, Dylan," said Riker. "This could be the lead we're looking
for."

"Okay," he replied. "But if she gets hurt thanks to anything I do, I'm
taking you down with me."


Daria called Jane on the phone.

"Funny thing, Jane," said Daria. "Everyone at school seems to think I
shot Principal Li."

"Hmm. Must be the reason they're avoiding you," Jane replied.

"Yeah. You... wouldn't happen to know anything about it, would you?"

"Like what?"

"Like... why you were avoiding me too?"

"I wasn't avoiding you."

"You used your 'running' excuse. Remember?"

"Oh, well EXCUSE me for wanting a little time to myself."

"Sorry," said Daria. "It's just that... well, I had the feeling you
thought I shot her too. You don't think I shot her, do you?"

Silence.

"Do you?" said Daria. "Oh my God! You do, don't you?"

"Well... let's face it, Daria. You did suggest that someone should do
it."

"I also said that I'm not the killing type."

"That could mean anything. Plus you do have some of the
characteristics of someone who is. You know, quiet loner, keeps to
herself, that sort of thing. And where were you when she was shot? It IS
a bit suspicious that you just suddenly disappeared, or as you said,
'went home.'"

"I don't believe this!" said Daria.

"Look, I'm sorry," said Jane. "I'm not saying you did do it, but at
the moment I'm not totally sure you didn't."

"I just don't know who to be mad at right now," said Daria. "Everyone
for believing that I tried to shoot her, or you for being so gullible as
to believe right along with them."

"Daria, I--" Too late, as Daria hung up the phone.


Daria came down to the dinner table, and noticed that her parents and
sister were grinning nervously. It took her five seconds to figure it
out.

"Hi Mom, hi Dad." scowling: "Hey, Quinn."

"Hi sweetie," said Helen.

"How was your day?" said Jake.

"Fine. Thanks for asking," said Daria. She sat down to eat her
lasagna. "Where's my knife and fork?"

"Daria honey, is everything OK?" said Helen.

"If you're having any problems, you know your dear ol' dad is always
here for you," said Jake.

"I didn't shoot the principal," said Daria.

"Of course not, honey," said Jake.

"What on Earth would make us think that?" said Helen.

"Nor did I threaten her with a knife. Or try to drown her in the
girls' bathroom." Scowling at Quinn again: "Or go insane after my
biological parents went to jail."

"Of course you didn't," Quinn said shakily. "And why would you? Your
biological parents are right here and I'm your sister and--"

"Spare it, Quinn. Look, I can see a bunch of shallow teenagers
thinking I'm the one who shot the principal, but my own mom and dad? I
think I'm going to eat in my room, where there are people who trust me."
Daria picked up her plate and left.

"Biological parents?" Helen asked Quinn, who grinned even more
sheepishly.


SATURDAY


At 8 o'clock Saturday night the doorbell rang, and Jake answered. It
was Dylan.

"Quinn! Your date is here!" called Jake. Hmm, Quinn must do this thing
on a daily basis, thought Dylan.

"Have a seat, Dylan my man," said Jake. Dylan sat down on the couch.
Jake continued: "How's it hangin'? Do you and Quinn share any classes?"

Uh oh, thought Dylan. Her dad's trying to bond with me. A common
scenario in a household where the father is the only member who pees
standing up. "Uh, yeah. English."

"With Mr. O'Neill," said Jake. "Yeah, Quinn's not doing too well in
that class. If she would only apply herself more. Now, my other
daughter, Daria, she's doing really well in that class. But Mr. O'Neill
always complains that Daria's attitude is pessimistic. I guess some men
can never be satisfied. Kind of like my dad. Nothing I ever did could
satisfy my dad. Lousy bastard ruined my life, he did. Like, there was
this time--"

"Do you have anything to drink?" interrupted Dylan.

"Sure. I'll go get you a Coke." Jake got up and went to the kitchen.

Whew, thought Dylan. Wait a minute! Did he say "other daughter"? Just
then Daria entered the living room.

"Hey," said Daria.

"Hey," said Dylan. "You're... Quinn's cousin, right?"

"Whatever floats your boat, narc." That stopped Dylan in his tracks.

"I'll see you around," she said and left.

"Right," said Dylan.

"Hey Dylan!" said Quinn, coming down the stairs.

"Hey," said Dylan. "You look-- (Beautiful? Gorgeous? Trying too hard?)
Nice."

"Thanks!" said Quinn. "Like my shoes? I think they match the color of
your eyes perfectly."

"Uh, yeah. Very clever," he said, looking down at her black pumps. "So
where do you want to go?"

"How about Chez Pierre?"

"Don't you need a reservation?"

"Already taken care of," said Quinn. "Let's go."


"Bonjour, Madame Quinn," said the maitre'd as Quinn and Dylan entered
Chez Pierre. "Shall I get you the usual table?"

"Oui, Jacques," replied Quinn.

"Right this way." Quinn and Dylan followed him.

"Bonjour, Quinn," said a waiter.

"Bonjour," she replied.

"Bonjour, Quinn," said another waiter.

"Bonjour," she replied again. Five other waiters and four patrons
greeted Quinn as they walked to their table.

Quinn and Dylan sat down at their table and opened their menus. Dylan
had to keep himself from gagging when he took one look at the prices.
And what was up with all the forks?

"So," said Quinn.

"So," said Dylan.

"I got a really cute story to tell you."

"Go ahead," said Dylan.

"Well, just last week, Sandi, Stacy, Tiffany and I were sitting at our
table during lunch talking about the difference between afternoon sky
blue nail decals and later-in-the-afternoon sky blue nail decals with
the cute little dolphins on them, and Stacy brought up the subject of
expanding our club. So then SANDI goes, why would we want to expand our
club? And so then I say..."


Meanwhile, Hadley and Riker came to the Lane house and knocked on the
door. Jane opened.

"Trent! It's for you!" she yelled right away.

The cops found Trent with his band, practicing in the basement with
some of their old instruments.

"Shoot her?" said Jesse. "Nah, it was tempting, but we're not the ones
who did it."

"We're musicians," said Trent. "We keep the subject of death to the
songs we write."

"Well, from what we've been hearing, you blame Ms. Li for the
destruction of your new instruments," said Riker. "Are you sure you
harbor no murderous feelings whatsoever for that woman?"

"Oh, hell, you bet we've got murderous feelings," replied Trent. "But
we decided to take our revenge by writing a song about her. Want to hear
it?"

"Let's hear it," said Hadley.

Trent began: "OK everyone! Ready? One, two, three, four..."

Hey Angela Li,
You fill our lives with misery,
You're the portrait of insanity,
That's why we hope you DIIIIIIIIIIIIE!!!!

Well you played us for fools with your confining rules,
So someone took a gun and BLEW YOU AWAY,
Someone pumped you full of lead, now you're hanging by a thread,
And before you wind up dead here's what we have to say.

(loud thrashing part)
WE HOPE YOU BURN IN HELL!
WE HOPE YOU BURN IN HELL!
WE HOPE YOU BURN IN HELL!
WE HOPE... YOU... BURN... IN... HELL!
YOU SUCK, PRINCIPAL LI!

"Well, what do you think?" said Trent.

"Uh, it's... nice," said Riker.

"We have some other songs," said Trent. "Want to hear them?"

"No thanks," said Hadley.

"We gotta go," said Riker.

"Maybe some other time. See ya," said Hadley.

The two cops ran up the stairs and out the door.

"That went pretty well," said Jesse.

"Yeah," said Trent. "But next time I should sing it with more
feeling."


Back at Chez Pierre, one hour later, after Quinn and Dylan were
halfway done eating, Quinn was still telling her story.

"...So we decided that even though Michelle and Cynthia were pretty
fashion-conscious and had no facial imperfections, we'd best keep the
club exclusive and deny them membership, since what the club is really
all about is being looked up to by everyone else, and six people just
makes it way too crowded. Right?"

Dylan, suddenly noticing that Quinn had stopped talking, looked up
from his food. "Oh, uh, yeah. Totally." Great. An hour and a half with
this girl and Daria hadn't even come up in the conversation. Now was his
chance. "So tell me about this Daria chick."

"What do you want to know?"

"Is she really as psychotic as everyone says she is?"

"She's a total weirdo, let me put it to you like that. She lives in a
room with padded walls and pictures of skeletons, she has, like, almost
no friends, she's really mean and antisocial, and she loves to embarrass
me and make my life a living hell."

"Do you think she shot the principal?"

"I don't see why not. Wait a minute: Why are you so interested in
my... cousin?"

"What do you mean?"

"I know what it is! Oh, I knew it! Those boots make her legs look hot,
don't they?

"I don't know what you're--"

"Look, I know her legs are hot, but mine are too! You have to believe
me! My legs are cute, OK?" Her shrill voice when she said this caused
heads to turn.

"I'm not interested in Daria," Dylan said. "I was just curious. But
there is one thing I'm wondering about."

"What?"

"Is she really your cousin?"

"Yeah! What else would she be?"

"Are you sure?" He took hold of her hand and looked into her eyes.
"You can tell me. I won't tell anyone."

"Well..." Melting: "She's kinda, sorta, in a way, my sister, to tell
you the truth." Frantic: "But don't tell my friends! If you do, I'll
kill you, I swear!"

"Hey, don't worry. Your secret's safe with me. But I wouldn't worry
about your friends."

"Why not?"

"Because I get the feeling they're not really your friends. Especially
that Sandi chick. She seems like what the Indians call 'Doe who rams you
when your back is turned.'"

"What do you mean?"


SUNDAY


The next day, it was decided that Daria Morgendorffer would be brought
in for questioning. She was taken to the interrogation room, consisting
of a chair in front of a panel of five officers. She sat in the chair
and crossed her legs.

"Ms. Morgendorffer," said one of the officers. "I would like you to
explain your relationship with Angela Li."

"She's the principal of my high school."

"Do the two of you have an adverse relationship?"

"She doesn't like me, and I don't like her."

"Why don't you like her?"

"She's controlling."

"And why doesn't she like you?"

"I'm hard to control."

Just then Dylan entered the room.

"Dylan!" said Daria. "Aren't you supposed to be pretending to be a
regular kid?"

"Hey, you seem to already know the truth about me, so why bother
pretending around you?" Dylan replied.

"Good point."

"Did you threaten her?" the officer continued.

"No. That's just a rumor the popular kids invented. Dylan, you were
there when Quinn and her friends started the rumor."

"Why would they think you did it?" said the officer.

"Because I'm different, OK? Everyone at school is really chipper all
the time, so they see me, the girl who never smiles, and assume that I'm
some psycho. Then something bad happens, and they point to me because
they associate my personality with those of serial killers. And I don't
blame them: I am really quiet and pessimistic. But I guess that's
working against me now, since everyone, including my best friend, is
accusing me of something I didn't do. And the irony is that even if I
did shoot the principal, what was my motive? Think about it. I'm not
involved in anything at my school. I'm in no clubs, sports or anything.
I go straight home after class. So when the budget cuts happened and
things were taken away, other people were way more affected by it than
me."

"Is it true that the walls in your room are padded?"

"They were like that when I got there. I like the design."

Daria recrossed her legs. The officers gawked.

"I'm wearing underwear, OK?" said Daria. "I'm not Sharon Stone or
Brittany."

"We know," said Dylan.


Dylan caught up with Daria as she walked out of the police station.

"You know I'm gonna nail ya if you're lying," he said.

"Nah," Daria replied. "You're just going to fall in love with me."

"Oh, I already like you," said Dylan. "But I'll nail ya anyway."

"I thought you like Quinn."

"Your sister? Nah, she's shallow and superficial. I was just using her
to find out more about you."

"You got her to admit she's my sister?"

"Yep."

"Without giving yourself away?"

"Yep."

"Damn you're good."

"As are you."

"I'll see ya around, narc."

"Later."

As Daria and Dylan parted ways, neither of them noticed Quinn spying
on them from across the street. What was a cute guy like her Dylan doing
hanging around a loser like Daria? Quinn decided to follow Dylan and see
what he was up to.


Dylan headed for Lawndale General Hospital, to Angela Li's room, and
met with Hadley and Riker.

"I'm beginning to doubt this Daria chick," said Dylan. "I think she's
just misunderstood."

Hadley frowned. "Damn. We're stuck with no leads again."

"Ms. Li hasn't awakened yet?" Dylan said.

"Nope," said Riker.

Just then Li stirred. The three cops turned toward her. She slowly
opened her eyes, clenched her fist, and said, in a raspy, angry voice,
"Daria."

"Did she say Daria?" said Dylan.

"Daria," said Li again.

"Let's roll," said Hadley.

Quinn ran off before the cops could exit the room and notice her
eavesdropping.


Dylan a cop? Daria the shooter after all? Oh, this was too good! Quinn
got on a pay phone and called Sandi right away with the news. Sandi, in
turn, called Tiffany, Tiffany called Stacy, Stacy called Ted (who had a
cellular phone without his parents knowing), Ted called Joey, Joey
called Jeffy, Jeffy called Jamie, Jamie called Upchuck, Upchuck called
Brittany, Brittany called Kevin, Kevin called Mack, Mack called Jodie,
and Jodie called Jane, who didn’t take the news well.


Daria was still walking home when Trent’s car pulled up beside her.
Jane was in the car with Trent.

"Daria! You’re in big trouble! Get in!" Jane yelled.

"Why in the hell should I trust you?" Daria replied. "You think I’m as
guilty as everyone else does."

"That’s true," said Jane, "But I’ll be damned if I watch you go to
jail for what you did. Now are you gonna get in and let us save you or
not?"

"Hell, I guess."

"Great! You can sit up front with Trent!"

"Jane, this is neither the time nor the place," said Daria.


After going to the Morgendorffer house and finding Daria missing,
Dylan rallied up the troops.

"OK everyone, we have our shooter," he said. "What I want out of each
and every one of you is a hard-target search of every bookstore, art
movie theater, pizza parlor, library, video arcade, army surplus store,
and doodad shop in this area."

The cops looked at him skeptically.

"Just stating the obvious," he said. "Work with me, people! Come on,
let’s move, move, move!"


Fifteen minutes later, Trent heard sirens.

"They’re on to us!" yelled Jane, who was riding shotgun. "Gun it,
Trent!"

Trent gunned the accelerator and headed onto the freeway.

"Can’t this thing go any faster?" asked Jane.

"Cut me some slack, Jane! It’s an old car!" Trent replied.

"Well maybe if you had gotten a job instead of laying around sixteen
hours a day, you could have bought a new car that would have helped us
at a time like this!"

"Man, I have to hear that shit from Mom every day! Not you too!"


The freeway was closed off as the cops chased Trent’s Plymouth
Valiant, keeping a safe distance behind. As the cavalcade went under a
bridge, a crowd gathered on the bridge and cheered them on.

Helen and Jake were sitting in the car Hadley was driving.

"It’s all my fault," Helen said. "I knew I wasn’t spending enough time
with Daria. Now she’s a career criminal, too late to be saved. Another
tragedy of underparenting."

"You shouldn’t blame yourself, Mrs. Morgendorffer," said Hadley. "The
amount of parenting you do doesn’t always determine your child’s
lifepath. I’ve known lots of people who had strong parental role models
but who didn’t turn out right. Like, when I lived in Texas I used to go
to school with this kid. Lived in a nice house in the suburbs, seemed to
come from a good family, you know the story. Well, that kid grew up to
be Vanilla Ice. How do you like them apples?"

"Thanks, Officer Hadley. I feel a lot better now," said Helen.

"Didn’t Vanilla Ice grow up on the streets? And isn’t he a really
popular singer?" Jake said.

"Jake, he’s a has-been poseur who lied about his past. Get a clue,"
said Helen.

"Oh. OK."


Meanwhile, Quinn was riding shotgun in Dylan’s car.

"So," said Quinn. "You’re a cop and you never told me."

"That would have involved blowing my cover," said Dylan.

"I wonder what else you’re hiding from me. I bet your name isn’t even
Dylan."

"No, it is."

"Oh yeah? Well, do you have a last name?"

"Yeah. Dillon."

Quinn practically cracked up. "Dylan Dillon? That’s the stupidest name
I ever heard!"

"Oh yeah? What kind of a name is Quinn anyway? I used to know a GUY by
that name."

"You take that back!"

"What? It’s true!"

"My name is not... unisex! Is not, is not, is not!"

"OK, fine, whatever."

They drove in silence for a while.

"Dylan?" said Quinn. "What did you mean by what you said about Sandi
yesterday?"

"I meant that she’s the kind of girl who’ll stab you in the back some
day. You should be careful. Learn to think for yourself."

"Think... for... myself. What a novel idea! I wonder what it means."

Oh brother, thought Dylan.


Just when Daria and the Lane siblings thought they were going to get
away, they saw a bunch of police cars coming toward them. They were
trapped!

Aw, man, the jig is up!" said Trent. "I’m sorry, man."

"It’s OK, Trent. You did your best."

The cops got out of their cars and pointed their guns at the trio.

"Come out with your hands up!" Dylan yelled.

Trent, Jane and Daria came out.

"I didn’t shoot the principal!" Daria said.

"I don’t care!" Dylan replied.

"What’s that supposed to mean?" Daria said.

"Umm... I have no idea, really. But we all know you did it."

"No I didn’t!" Daria said.

"She’s right," said a voice. "It was me."

Everyone turned and saw the sorry, repentant face of Stacy Nibblett.

"Stacy? You? Why?" said an astonished Quinn.

"I thought it would make me popular," said Stacy.

"But you already are popular," said Quinn.

"I’m not popular," Stacy replied. "I’m the tag-along to the popular
girls. You, Tiffany and Sandi are popular. The only reason I’m even in
the Fashion Club is because Sandi’s known me since the first grade. But
without the Fashion Club, I’d be no one. So when everyone started to get
mad at Ms. Li and wanted to kill her, I thought that if I was the one
who did it, everyone would think I was really cool and actually start to
notice me. But instead everyone was, like, really horrified and so I
decided to keep quiet about it. But then Daria started to take the fall,
and I just couldn’t let that happen, even if Daria’s a total nobody whom
no one cares about. Daria’s innocent. I’m the one you want."

Stacy was handcuffed and placed in Hadley’s squad car. Daria’s family,
Jane, Trent, and Dylan all gathered around Daria.

"Well Daria, I guess we all owe you an apology," said Dylan.

"Yeah, sorry for all the rumors we started," said Quinn.

"Deep inside, we knew you couldn’t have done it, right Jake?" said
Helen.

"Er, right, honey," Jake replied.

"You’re just not the killing type," said Jane.

"Thanks, guys," said Daria. "Now let’s all go home."

Everyone agreed and went to the respective vehicles they came in. No
one noticed the brief smirk on Daria’s face as she thought of Jane’s
remark.


EPILOGUE


Doctors at the Lawndale General Hospital reported that Angela Li was
in a state of delirium upon awakening from her coma and was listing the
names of people she despised. In addition to Daria, Li had mentioned
Jane Lane, Bill Clinton and Howard Stern. Ms. Li had fully recovered the
following Wednesday and was able to return to work.

Timothy O’Neill’s selling of the parts of Ms. Li’s electric chair, as
well as the fireplace in her office, was successful in recouping much of
the money lost in Li’s frivolous spending. When Li returned to work and
learned of the changes, she threw a fit, but later learned that she
could do nothing about it, as she was now under close surveillance by
the school board. She was to report all financial transactions to them,
so that a budgetary disaster like the electric chair would never happen
again.

With the school’s money back, extracurricular activities were
reinstated, the school had a yearbook again, the sports event bus was
returned, and Claire Defoe got her job back. Jodie Landon broke out of
her trance and gave Daria back her Game Boy. She wanted to return the
Nintendo 64 she shoplifted, but her sister Rachel was determined not to
let that happen.

With his work in Lawndale done, Dylan Dillon was ready to go back to
being a narcotics officer in the next school where he was needed. Before
he left, Quinn asked him if he thought she was cute. Dylan replied that
she was really shallow and a total airhead, but yeah, she was pretty
hot. Quinn took this as a compliment.

Melinda Hadley and Denise Riker never had to work Vice Squad again,
because after the case was over, they brought Janet Barch down to the
station, where she gave the police chief a piece of her mind. The
terrified police chief agreed to vary the departments that his female
officers were in.

After the funeral of her mother, Marianne Jacobs returned to work and
everything in Helen Morgendorffer’s office was relatively back to
normal. On the behest of her daughter Daria, Helen represented Trent
Lane in suing the bastard who rear-ended the Tank. Trent was awarded
$2,000, which the band spent on new instruments.

Jake Morgendorffer’s office also returned to normal, and the nation’s
#3 snack food company did eventually call him back.

Brittany Taylor was no longer required to wear the eye patch, but some
swelling remained and Kevin Thompson continued to avoid her. Brittany
decided he wasn’t worth it and started dating someone else, as did
Kevin. The new relationships didn’t work out, and a couple of months
later Brittany’s swelling was gone and she and Kevin were back together.

Jimbo Kearns and his partner Ned were reported missing from the
Lawndale County Jail. Witnesses claimed to have seen them in a pickup
truck headed toward Colorado, driven by a kid sporting army fatigues and
spiky blond hair.

Stacy Nibblett pleaded guilty to the charges of attempted murder, but
since the court decided not to try her as an adult, and thanks to
favorable testimony from sympathetic faculty members, she was sentenced
to 500 hours of community service and three years probation. Ms. Li
petitioned for a tougher sentence, but it was denied. Upon returning to
school, Stacy achieved notoriety among the students, and thus became so
popular that she decided she didn’t need the Fashion Club anymore. This
popularity lasted about a month, after which no one was talking about
the shooting anymore. A total nobody again, Stacy slinked back to the
safety of Sandi, Quinn and Tiffany.

The cheese stands alone.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

Final note: The last names of Stacy and Tiffany, and the first name of
Mr. Barch, were made up. I stand corrected when we find out what they
really are. Andrea’s last name, Hecuba, was an assumption based on her
Queen Hecuba character in "The Daria Database." My apologies for
anything in this story that seemed totally illogical; my knowledge of
police investigations are based on what I gleaned from Joseph Wambaugh
novels, many of which I never finished reading. Also, I heard several
conflicting stories about Vanilla Ice’s past, but I decided to use the
one that best fit the situation. Not that anyone cares. I would also
like to thank my friend Tom Kacan for various observations he made about
teenage narcotics officers that I used in this story, such as the
cigarettes-taped-to-the-leg thing.

Last but not least, I would like to thank everyone who e-mailed me with
suggestions for what to put in the story. Suggestions as to who the
shooter should be, though, became sort of a process of elimination, as I
wanted it to be someone NOBODY expected. Sorry about that. Come on, you
didn’t think that sweet innocent Stacy was capable of it, did you?