Vulture Among Eagles, Part Four


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons is consensual and approved by everyone involved. Enloe Eagle’s Eye discourages the use of the content of this fictional work as a means to ridicule, harass, or demean any staff members.

Welcome to Vulture Among Eagles, Part Four. This is the last installment of our story, where all will become clear. To avoid spoilers, please read parts one, two, and three before proceeding. We last left off with our third death, the poisoning of Mr. Shuford, and time is running out…

The group of teachers stood huddled together in the West Gym lobby, consumed by grief and fear, awaiting the return of Mr. Martin, who had accompanied Lyerly in taking Shuford’s body to the atrium with the rest. Lyerly had returned and explained that Martin would arrive shortly.

“What’s taking him so long,” Miller asked, anxiously. “He should be back by now. What if he’s dead?”

“What if he’s the murderer?” Brown countered.

“He isn’t!” Miller shouted. “You don’t know what you’re talking about. He wouldn’t hurt a fly, much less murder three people.”

Price put a hand on his shoulder. “It’s okay, we’re all just on edge. Should we go check on him?”

The five of them set off for the atrium, Wilson in the lead. “How did you leave him?” Wilson asked Lyerly on the way.

Lyerly cleared his throat. “We set Shuford down between Ogren and Sawyer. I started to leave and he said he was going to arrange the bodies and come back soon. I offered to help but he was adamant that I leave. I thought it was a bit suspicious, but if he was the murderer, I wasn’t going to stick around. I’ve had enough excitement today to last a lifetime. As I left, he started talking to himself, but I couldn’t hear what he said.”

Wilson nodded and gestured towards the stairs to the lower atrium. “This way?”

The group descended the stairs and found the pile of bodies unattended with Martin dead at the top.

Lyerly gasped. “Is he…”

“Dead?” Brown finished. “Look, around his neck. That’s my missing medal.”

Sure enough, the gold medal had been pulled tight against Martin’s throat. Miller, Price, and Lyerly all lunged for the medal, but Lyerly hesitated upon seeing that Brown hadn’t moved for it. Price shoved him out of the way and he stepped back to observe the fight next to Wilson.

“I deserve the medal,” Miller spat. “I was his best friend, he would’ve wanted me to have it.”
Price rolled her eyes. “He promised it to me. If you were really friends you’d respect his dying wish, Miller.”

Wilson turned to Brown. “Why aren’t you fighting for it?”

Brown chuckled. “I don’t want it that badly.”

Lyerly folded his arms and examined Brown’s face. “It’s pretty expensive, right?”

Brown shrugged nonchalantly.

“I stole it for him! I went to all the trouble of tracking it down! I deserve it after all my hard work,” Miller shrieked.

“Why did he have you steal it Miller? Why? To pay me off, that’s why. It belongs to me now, that was the whole point of him needing it in the first place. You know it’s true,” Price said, shoving Miller.

Wilson stepped between the two as Lyerly and Brown pulled them away. “No one’s taking the medal until we figure out who killed Martin.”

“It was Lyerly,” Miller said quickly, “He was with Martin last.”

“He was fine when I left him,” Lyerly said. “We haven’t even checked for a pulse, he could be faking it.”

Price, who was the closest to the body, reached for his wrist. She held it for a moment, then touched her fingers to his neck and shook her head.

“Okay, fine, he’s dead,” Lyerly conceded. “That doesn’t mean I killed him.” 

Brown folded his arms. “Well I don’t see what else could’ve happened, the rest of us were all together.”

“All right, let’s settle down,” Wilson said. “How did the medal come to be here?”

“I gave it to Martin a few minutes ago in the West Gym lobby,” Miller said. “In my chip bag.”

Wilson looked at him. “How did you come to acquire it? You took it from Brown’s room?”

Price shook her head. “He couldn’t have, I would have seen him do it. Look how shiny the medal is, if it was in the case when we went into Brown’s room, we would have noticed it immediately.”

“I found it in Lyerly’s room,” Miller explained.

“You did?” Price asked.

Miller nodded. “Remember the tape measure I thought was a snake? The medal was in that same drawer.”

Brown turned to Lyerly. “Why did you steal it?”

Lyerly paled. “I … I thought it would be worth something if I sold it. The stocks were plummeting and I needed money. I didn’t kill him for it, and even if I did, why would I leave it on the body?”

“So you could come back and get it later!” Miller exclaimed. “It would be too risky for someone to find it on you at this point, if you left it, you couldn’t be suspicious anymore!”

“That’s ridiculous, if I killed him I would have stashed the medal somewhere else, obviously. It wouldn’t be tied to me if it was found and if it wasn’t then I could grab it whenever I wanted. Besides all that, I don’t even want the stupid medal anymore.”

“Because you’re a murderer!” Miller shouted.

Lyerly folded his arms. “No, I’m not!”

“Prove it then,” Miller said.

“How am I supposed to prove it? I’ve already told you everything. I know it looks bad but I don’t have an explanation for it. I’ve been honest with you about all of it. I’m sorry!” Lyerly said, panicked.

“Sorry you murdered him?” Brown asked.

“I’M NOT A MURDERER,” Lyerly roared, making Miller jump back.

“Everyone stop, we’ve heard enough,” Wilson said, silencing his peers. “This is a very tense situation and our emotions are making us unreasonable. We need to take a step back and look at the situation from a different angle. I believe I know who did it, so let’s start from the beginning. Ms. Sawyer’s death was planned, but I don’t think we can say the same about Ogren, Shuford, and Martin. I believe at least two of the others were killed because they were dangerous witnesses. So our murderer is someone with a vendetta against Sawyer specifically and had a risky encounter with Ogren earlier that day. Martin and Shuford died after the investigation began so it’s likely that they weren’t part of the original plan. They must have gotten in the way of the murderer sometime after we all came together,” Wilson explained.

“Do we know of anyone whose interactions with the four of them could identify them as the murderer?” Miller asked.

 “Well,” Wilson started, “Let’s talk through the afternoon. From 11:45 to 12:30, Sawyer and Brown were together in the main office. Lyerly says he left his room around 12:25 and passed Brown in the hallway. He also claims he returned to his office at 12:30, but I believe he took a detour after seeing Brown head to the East Building. He stole the medal from Brown’s room to satisfy his wallet after losing so much in the stock market.

“At 12:30, I left my room and Shuford snuck in and stole my speaker. Despite his testimony that he got back from lunch at 12:35, I believe he returned sometime closer to 12:25 and was lying in wait for me to leave so he could get the speaker. When I got back to my classroom at 12:32, he was long gone. Price, if you could confirm my suspicions, you left your room to steal Sawyer’s phone at what time?” Wilson asked.

“I left at around 12:34,” Price said.

“And did you see anyone on your way to the main office?” Wilson continued.

Price nodded. “I saw Ogren in the atrium, but I didn’t stop to chat. I had other things on my mind. I didn’t see Shuford anywhere.”

Wilson nodded and continued his explanation. “So at 12:34, Price goes into the atrium, sees Ogren, and continues to the main office. There, she lifts the phone from Sawyer, deletes the email, and ditches the phone in the men’s bathroom on the 2700s hall. She gets back to her room, feeling safe, and continues her work around 12:40, closing her door behind her.

“At 12:45, Martin sends an email to Ogren asking him to go to the East Building pool and gets a response at 12:53. He appears to have been the last person to witness Ogren alive, albeit from a digital perspective. At 1:00, Sawyer comes to Martin’s room inquiring about her phone and Advil, but Martin says he is unable to provide either. She leaves and, presumably, returns to the main office. At 1:15, Martin hears the exterior door in the 1600s hall. He seemed to think it was Ogren leaving for the pool, but we now know that Ogren died before then because of Martin’s examination of the body. I believe that while Martin was talking to Sawyer, Ogren left for the East Building and the door opening at 1:15 was the murderer coming back from there. At 1:22, the murderer sends an email from Ogren’s computer inviting Sawyer to her death.

“Somewhere between 1:30 and 2:00, Sawyer and the murderer meet in the atrium and the crime is committed. I adjusted the time bracket slightly because I am assuming the murderer would wait to send the group message from Sawyer’s phone until they were back in their room and allowing time for Sawyer to receive and act on her email. The only person who admitted to leaving their room during that time is Miller, who claims to have gotten papers from the teacher’s lounge, and at that time he could hear Shuford’s voice and Price’s music.

“At 2:04, we all receive the text from the murderer and we assemble here. I don’t think we need to discuss that any further since we were all together until after Ogren was discovered. We split up to search each other’s rooms and, during that time, the phone is discovered in Price’s trash, Miller pockets the medal Lyerly stole, and a fire is started in Miller’s room. 

“The paper recovered from the fire displayed a damaged message, but I believe it was an email from Ms. Sawyer to someone else in administration, possibly Dr. Chavis, detailing information she had about a certain teacher who is in possession of ‘illegal amounts’ of some sort of contraband. Based on fragments of sentences from the rest of the email, I believe it was discussing Martin’s apparent addiction to Advil and, judging by the amount Shuford and I found in his room, that is not out of the question,” Wilson said.

Brown raised his hand. “If it was an email, why was it printed out? Why didn’t Sawyer just hit send instead of going to all that work to get it to the same place?”

“Because it was meant for Martin himself. Sawyer was blackmailing him because of his addiction,” Miller said. “Price is doing the same thing, that’s why she wanted the medal so badly. Martin asked me to take it for him in case he needed to pay off whoever stole the phone if they saw the email, but if I remember correctly, it was never sent, it was only a draft.”

Price nodded silently.

“Right,” Wilson said. “When Sawyer went to visit Martin around 1:00, she wasn’t asking for Advil, she was threatening him. She left the printed draft behind so he knew how serious she was. Miller left the candle in his room burning, which gave Martin the perfect opportunity to get rid of the email. I don’t know if he intended for the fire to spread, but I assume he was pressed for time.”

“When did he do that, though?” Lyerly asked. “Brown and I were with him the whole time.”

Wilson nodded. “Excellent question. I believe he had enough time to drop the paper onto the candle when you all left to come back to the atrium. He fell behind because he was in charge of the speaker, giving him enough time to quickly dispose of his evidence without seeming too suspicious. Of course, he’s not in a state where he could confirm that theory, but it’s the most plausible.

“After all of the evidence was presented, we went to the West Gym lobby and I’m sure you all remember what transpired there. Shuford was poisoned with the same chemicals discovered in Miller’s room, but since they’re all still on the table of evidence, it could have been anyone. Price is the most likely suspect, as she was closest to him at the time of his death, but when would she have gotten the chemicals? After Brown put them down, they stayed in plain sight of everyone else until we left as a group. It would’ve been extremely difficult to take them without being seen and even more difficult to tamper with the water bottle that never left his hands. We must also consider that if all of the other factors fell into place for the murderer, they still killed him in front of everyone. It was a risk they seemed to have to take, and it almost worked. Unfortunately for them, I still know who did it. 

“After Shuford was poisoned, Martin and Lyerly took the body to the atrium. Lyerly returned to us and Martin was found strangled by the elusive gold medal. We know now that Lyerly is the first person to have stolen it and is also the last person to see Martin alive, but if he wanted the medal so badly earlier, why doesn’t he want it now? And, come to think of it, why doesn’t Brown want it either?”

Lyerly cleared his throat. “Because the medal is a fake. It always has been, right?”

Brown nodded. “I never realized anyone genuinely thought it was real. I bought it off of Etsy a couple of years ago as a joke. It’s worth twelve bucks at the most. How did you know it was fake, Lyerly?”

“When we got here, Price and Miller tried to get it immediately. Initially, I wanted it too, but then I realized you hadn’t moved. I remembered your outburst earlier when it was discovered to be missing, and even then something felt off about it. If the medal was real, you would have put up more of a fight for it once it was found.” Lyerly explained.

Wilson smiled. “Very impressive, Lyerly. But if you didn’t know until now that it was fake, then you can’t possibly be the murderer because, as you said earlier, you wouldn’t have left the medal on the body.”

“So who is it?” Miller asked. “Who had the motive and opportunity to commit all four murders?”

“Well, let’s look at Sawyer,” Price suggested. “It could have been Wilson because of the note we found on his whiteboard.”

“It could’ve been Martin,” Brown interjected. “She was blackmailing him. Or, it could’ve been Shuford, the details of his ‘lunch break’ were a little sketchy, maybe he and Sawyer had some sort of disagreement during that time?”

“Getting back to suspects who are still alive, how have we not mentioned the fact that Price stole Sawyer’s phone? Do we really believe that finding it in her room was a coincidence after all of this?” Lyerly said.

“We’re on the right track. What about Ogren’s death?” Wilson prompted. “Who could that have been?”

Miller snapped. “Price saw Ogren in the atrium around the same time she stole the phone! Maybe she got rid of him before he could say anything.”

“Going off of that,” Brown started, “Shuford could have seen him too when he stole the speaker! And Martin is the one that sent Ogren to the East Building.”

Lyerly sighed. “Enough with the dead people. You were actually in the East Building when he died, Brown.”

“So who have we narrowed this down to?” Wilson asked.

“Price,” Miller said.

“And Brown,” Price deflected.

Brown shook his head. “Don’t forget Martin and Shuford!”

“Alright, to that point … who had the opportunity and motive to kill Shuford?” Wilson asked.

“Well, we were all there,” said Lyerly. “Price and Brown are still the main suspects.”

Price tilted her head. “But we were both in the West Gym lobby with the rest of you when Martin died, so neither one of us could have killed him. What does that mean?”

Wilson chuckled. “Well done, everyone.” He walked over to the pile of bodies, gingerly stepping over a hand resting on the floor, and turned back to face his audience. “I’m very pleased with how far you were able to get by working together, and I’m happy to say that my conclusion has been reinforced by our discussion. I would now like to officially close our investigation by revealing our murderer, once and for all.” He raised his foot with a flourish and slammed his heel down on the corpse’s hand he had previously stepped over. The owner shot up with a yelp. “Please give a warm welcome to our star of the day, Mr. Shuford.”

Shuford, face flushed and hair ruffled, gave his coworkers a weak wave.

A stunned silence settled over the group. “It was you?” Price whispered in disbelief. “I saw you die. We all watched you die. How are you …”

“Alive?” Shuford finished for her. “Long story, apparently.”

“You killed him. You killed my best friend!” Miller yelled. He ran at Shuford and shoved him away. Shuford stumbled and fell as Price and Brown caught Miller by his arms and hauled him back. 

Lyerly clapped Miller on the shoulder. “Not quite yet, we aren’t finished with him.”

Brown turned back to Shuford. “Why did you do it? What was the point of all of this? Explain everything.”

Shuford smoothed his shirt and smiled coldly. “You want to know why I did it? Ms. Sawyer was the reason my philosophy course was taken off the roster. She knew how much that class meant to me and she still betrayed me. She convinced everyone in the administration to cut the course so that more school funds could be used for the football team. I knew I couldn’t bring the class back, but I could bring her to justice in my own little way, so I made a plan. If I could lure her to the atrium at just the right moment, I’d have the perfect opportunity to kill her without anyone suspecting a thing.

“The most difficult part of the plan was the alibi. How could I convince everyone I was in my room at the time of the murder without actually being there? It would be impossible for anyone to see me, but if someone were to hear me teaching, who would bother to interrupt? All I had to do was play one of my philosophy lectures and I’d be home free. The only problem was, my little computer speaker wouldn’t do the trick. During lunch, I snuck down to Wilson’s room to steal one of his speakers. I waited until he left, then grabbed one and ran. On the way back, I bumped into Ogren in the atrium and knew that if he said something, I’d be toast. I played it off as well as I could, but he still could’ve torn my carefully crafted alibi apart in mere seconds if something else went wrong. 

“Everything else went well until I got to the 2700s hall. I could hear Price coming back, so I dropped the speaker around the corner in the men’s bathroom and ran back to my room until I knew Price was gone. A few minutes later, I went back to the bathroom to get the speaker and noticed the Sawyer’s phone. I figured it would come in handy later, so I brought it and the speaker back to my room. I got my recording  set up, and by then I could hear Ogren leaving his room. I knew I had to seize my chance while I had it, so I followed him. I’m sure you can all guess what happened next. When I got into the East Building, the door creaked a bit louder than I hoped it would, so after I killed Ogren, I climbed off the roof to make sure no one would hear it again.

“I went to Ogren’s room to send the email to Sawyer so it couldn’t be traced back to me. His computer was turned off and password protected, which proved to be the biggest roadblock of all. His desk drawers were all locked, but I managed to force the top one open to find his username and password. After the email was sent, I took my place around a corner to wait for Sawyer to arrive. Once that was all taken care of I went back to my room to wait. I’d say that was about 1:50. 

“As I was waiting, the idea of the text came to me. If I could control the circumstances in which the body was discovered, I could win the game. I crafted my message, waited a few minutes, and hit send. The moment my phone received it, I went to Price’s room. As I was talking to her, I slipped Sawyer’s phone into her trash can. She, Miller, and I went down to the crime scene together. Both of you were so sweetly oblivious, you know. It was almost too easy. Do you remember the clues I left on the body, the whistle and the cards? I’m sad to say they didn’t much sway your opinions on who it could have been, but really, Brown and Price incriminated themselves.

“I played my role in the investigation. I found a couple of clues here and there, I asked the right questions, but once the speaker was found, I knew it was only a matter of time before I was discovered. The chemicals Brown found gave me a bit of inspiration, so I had to act fast. I suggested we get something to eat so that I could have a chance to talk to Martin. He had been examining all the bodies, and he knew all there was to know about the chemicals. On the way to the West Gym lobby, I asked him to help me fake my death. I didn’t tell him much, but he was eager to help all the same. I pretended to get poisoned and he played his part well. I can barely even pronounce po- potazzium? Potassium? I’m familiar with cyanide, though. Regardless of useless words, I couldn’t have faked my death without him. It was a stroke of genius for him to try to get a chance to talk to me afterwards, effectively incriminating Lyerly. Once he thought he had another ally, he was happy to tell me everything. He pulled out the gold medal and I saw my last opportunity. I killed him and laid back down to wait for you all to tear Lyerly apart.

“Overall, I’d say this has been a pretty successful day for me. I don’t know how all of you feel, but this has been fun. Thanks for playing!” Shuford said, looking around.

The group gaped at him, speechless. Wilson, who had been nodding along to Shuford’s confession, squared his shoulders and cleared his throat. “Well, if he’s all done, could one of you finally call the police? It’s been long enough.”

Price nodded and stepped away, phone in hand.

“I just want to say,” Brown began, “I knew it was Shuford the whole time.”