Elizabeth Ludwig’s first novel, Where the Truth Lies, which she co-authored with Janelle Mowery, was released in spring of 2008 from Heartsong Presents: Mysteries, an imprint of Barbour Publishing. Books two and three of this series, Died in the Wool, and A Black Die Affair, respectively, are slated for release in 2010. Elizabeth also has a Christmas anthology coming in 2009. Her work, I’ll Be Home for Christmas will be part of a collection called Christmas Homecoming from Barbour Publishing. Attendance at writer’s conventions like the American Christian Fiction Writers annual conference and active membership in her ACFW critique group have helped hone her skills. In 2008, Elizabeth was named the IWA Writer of the Year for her work on Where the Truth Lies. She is a regular contributor to the popular literary blog, Novel Journey, named one of Writer Digest’s 101 Most Valuable Websites for Writers, 2008, and she manages Spyglass Lane, the official blog for readers and members of the Heartsong Presents Mysteries book club. Elizabeth is an accomplished speaker and dramatist, having performed before audiences of 1500 and more. She works fulltime, and currently lives with her husband and two children in Texas. To learn more about Elizabeth and her work, visit her at www.elizabethludwig.com.
“You’re going to get caught, you know. You’re going to get caught cheating, and then the dean will have no choice but to expel you.” Anger grew in David’s belly as Jack hunched over the desk, placing the finishing touches on his crib sheet.
“Whatever, man. You’re just jealous because I’ve got a better grade point than you do.”
“But you don’t!” David took a deep breath. There was no point in yelling at Jack, especially since this was their first year rooming together, and they were only midway through the semester. Jack was studying to be a lawyer. He’d try reasoning with him instead. “Your grade point is not better than mine. You cheated. I came by my three point six honestly, through hard work.”
Jack straightened and held up his prize. “Which is why this is such a fabulous idea. No hard work for me, buddy. No time. I’ve got a party to go to tonight. No way I’m gonna miss it sitting in my room studying for some stupid history test.” Rising, he grabbed his jacket from the back of his chair and jammed the crib sheet into the pocket. “You boring pre-med students can do what you like. Me? I’ve got a date.” He laughed and clapped David on the shoulder then tossed the jacket over his bed before heading to the bathroom for a shower.
The rage that had been building ever since David discovered Jack’s habit of writing crib sheets and then swallowing them boiled until he shook. Knees weak, he sank onto the chair Jack had vacated. It wasn’t fair. Jack had good looks and his family’s wealth on his side. David attended the university on a scholarship. He couldn’t risk getting expelled the way Jack did. He’d lose everything.
A radio cut on in the bathroom. Soon, Jack’s voice rose above the sound of running water—a happy tune that said he hadn’t a care in the world.
Not like David.
David worried about paying for books, clothes, and meals: things his scholarship didn’t cover. He worried about making it into med school. Competition was tight. Too tight. He’d barely squeak in on a 3.6, if he made it at all. Jack, on the other hand, had a 3.8.
Grabbing a pencil off the desk, David squeezed it until it snapped. A 3.8! Sickening. And because his father donated to the university, his professors turned a blind eye to the evidence that said Jack was a cheat.
No more. David threw the pencil into the trash and jerked out of his chair. He’d just have to teach Jack a lesson—maybe give him a bad taste for cheating. A smile flitted to David’s lips at the innuendo.
He walked into the kitchenette, grabbed a moist washcloth from the sink, and a jar of white pepper from the pantry, then carried the items back to the desk. Digging through Jack’s jacket pocket, David found the crib sheet and rubbed it down with the washcloth. Once the crib sheet was damp, he coated it with the pepper. Then, for extra measure, he shook a little of it into Jack’s pocket. If he was lucky, Jack would have a coughing fit when he swallowed the crib sheet. Let him try explaining that to his professors!
Barely able to conceal a grin, David replaced the items and then threw himself onto the couch and flipped on the TV.
Jack emerged from the bathroom, wrapped in a towel. “Hey, have you seen my cologne?”
David motioned toward the dresser.
Jack fetched it, leaving a trail of soggy footprints on the carpet. “Thanks, bro.” He held up the expensive cologne. “Gotta impress the ladies.”
For a moment, David felt a sliver of disappointment. He pushed up onto his elbows. “I thought you were going to class?”
“I am, but I’m meeting Sandy right after. We’re heading to the party from there.”
At two in the afternoon? David shook his head as Jack ambled back into the bathroom. That meant Jack would come stumbling into the dorm drunk, rousing him from much needed sleep, and David had to work in the morning. Feeling justified once more, he sank back onto the cushions. “Yeah, well, have fun.”
“Oh, we will,” Jack said, poking his head out of the bathroom. “Bet on it.” After he finished dressing, he slid on his jacket and went to the door.
“Don’t you need your history book, Jack?” David swept the glee from his face as Jack hesitated.
“Oh. Yeah, I guess so.” He picked up the book and held it aloft. “Gotta keep up appearances, right?”
Jack slipped out the door, his whistle echoing softly down the hall. David finally allowed himself a smile. Maybe he’d go by Jack’s classroom to see the results of his plan for himself. It might even be worth skipping a class just to see Jack’s expression.
He crossed the campus, allowing ample time for Jack to settle into the test. Once he was sure the exam was underway, David chose a spot across the hall from Jack’s class and sat down to wait. Exactly five minutes before the class was supposed to end, the door flew open and a female coed rushed out.
“Call 911! A man has collapsed in here!”
“What?” Dread unfurled in David’s gut. He pushed past the girl into the classroom. Jack lay sprawled on the floor, a crowd gathering around him. David thrust through them and knelt at Jack’s side.
“What’s wrong with him?” one student asked.
David recognized the signs immediately. Hives. Sweating. Swollen lips and tongue. Gasping for air. “He’s having an allergic reaction,” he whispered, shocked.
“To what?” the professor asked, her eyes wide.
Fear clawed like an animal inside David’s chest. “The pepper? It can’t be. I didn’t use that much.” He spoke more to himself than in answer to the professor’s question, but she stared at him, horrified, as he mumbled, “I didn’t mean to kill him.”
Jack expelled one last agonized hiss before going still. The professor dropped to her knees and put her fingers to his reddened neck. Slowly, she withdrew her hand.
“What?” David groaned. “He can’t be!” All his hopes of becoming a doctor, his dreams for practicing medicine, washed away by one fatal mistake.
The professor fixed David with an accusing glare as she motioned toward one of the students. “Sandy, call the police. We have a crime on our hands.”