“Murder is Academic” and “Murder is Pathological” by P.M. Carlson (Partners In Crime)

Excerpt | Murder Is Academic & Murder Is Pathological by P.M. Carlson

Murder Is Academic by P.M. Carlson


Near an upstate New York university, June 1968.

She was dead now, no more threat. The murderer pushed aside the long dark hair and, very carefully, cut the triangle into the young cheek. Done. Now, walk to the car calmly, get in. Back to the highway, driving coolly, back in control again.

* * *

The Christian conquerors teach that days don’t begin until midnight. The Maya know that it takes longer to hand over the burdens of time, and that the influence of the incoming god may begin at sunset. The day known as Monday, June 17, to those who count by the Gregorian calendar was pleasantly breezy, as befitted the Ixil 9 Iiq; but shortly after sunset it became one of the most tragic of Mary Beth’s life. A Mayan traditionalist might have attributed the change to the coming of that doubly unlucky day, 10 Aqbal.

But it had all begun quite cheerfully.

Maggie had borrowed Sue’s backpack in case Nick needed one for the picnic, and had packed her own and Mary Beth’s with the camp stove and the food. She hummed lightheartedly as she worked.

“You’re happy to see him, aren’t you?” Mary Beth had said, tightening the top of the salad dressing jar.

“Yes, but that’s only part of it,” Maggie had confessed. “It’s just good to know that’s behind me. It was a very bad time, and Nick was there. But I can see him now and just enjoy the friendship. The bad memories are there, way in the background, but the good ones are too. It doesn’t hurt anymore. It hurt quite a lot for a while.”

* * *

Excerpt from Murder Is Academic by P.M. Carlson. Copyright © 2017 by P.M. Carlson. Reproduced with permission from P.M. Carlson. All rights reserved.

Murder Is Pathological by P.M. Carlson


Neurology grad student Monica Bauer helps out at nursing home, 1969.

She waited. He could not summon words at will, except for the overpractised early ones–– hello, good-bye, okay. They both waited for the disconnected words to drift through his mind, waited for him to recognize the right one as it happened by.

After a while he said, “Buzzing. In, in, what is it? Not nose, not eyes.”

“Buzzing in your ears?”

“Ears. Okay. In my ears.”

“Does it hurt?”

“No, except . . .” Long pause. “Sometimes.”

“Sometimes your head hurts.”

“Yes, sometimes. Always . . . buzzing.” He leaned back, tired.

“Shall we sing a little?”


He couldn’t remember words, but melodies were still easy for him. She had learned to sing “la-la-la” instead of trying to teach him to catch the elusive words. Now they sang together, her alto and his baritone blending pleasantly. It made him happy.

Finally Monica said good-bye, signed out, drove away. Mary and Jock, Bibbsy and Ted never would. Four friends, trapped by their own broken brains. Especially Ted, who still struggled courageously to fuse the bits of his shattered world into coherence. Who still remembered that things had once been different, that he had once been whole.

Maybe she would never discover anything that could help them. But with Dr. Weisen’s help, she meant to give it a damn good try.

Back in Laconia, she parked in front of her square brick house, then paused to wait for Maggie, who was at the corner mailing a letter. “Trying to send a message to the outside world?” called Monica.

“Yeah. My friend Nick.” Maggie, exuberant, sprinted from the corner, ending with a cartwheel. Then she pulled herself up with dignity and asked, “How were your friends today?”

“Soaking up sun.”

“Good for them. Listen, we’re going to the concert tonight. Can you come?”

“No, I’ve got to get back to the lab right after dinner. Have to check on those baby rats I delivered today.”

And so Monica was second on the scene. She unlocked the main door of the lab, and at the sound of her steps Norman erupted from the door of the animal quarters, gaping in terror.

“Miz Bauer! Come quick!” he pleaded. “Something terrible happened!”

Monica ran after him into one of Dr. Weisen’s animal rooms. She said, “Oh, Christ!”

In the center of the room lay a heap of slaughtered rats, their backs broken and mangled, their skulls smashed.

* * *

Excerpt from Murder Is Pathological by P.M. Carlson. Copyright © 2017 by P.M. Carlson. Reproduced with permission from P.M. Carlson. All rights reserved.


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