Friday, February 13, 2009

Unlucky For Some

Academic plagarism. It is on the increase. Mostly among students, many of whom go to university at least as much for the student lifestyle as the scholarship. If it is detected then the most severe penalty is expulsion. But what happens when the person who has done it is not a student but an academic? Professor Douglas Stibbs of Cardigan University knew the answer...

But the penalty was paid not by him but by Jacqueline Lake. A brilliant student, she submitted an essay on town planning for Professor Stibbs' Second Year module. Pushing a deadline and suffering from writer's block, Professor Stibbs put his own name to the essay, which was published in a prestigious journal.

A few months after the publication, Professor Stibbs answered his door to find Jacqueline standing there, her expression thunderous. She point-blank accused him of having stolen her work and threatened to report him to the University authorities. Although he told her that no-one would believe her, he still gave her a cheque for a thousand pounds and told her that there was more where that came from if she would write a couple of chapters for a book he was writing. More, that he would credit her as his co-author. She was suitably grateful, believing that this would make her reputation, ensuring her an academic post once she graduated. So the matter of the copied article was allowed to drop, and the student worked hard on the chapters she had been allocated. Stibbs told her not to let anyone know, in case other students objected, and the quiet, bookish girl agreed.

At last, the book was finished, and Stibbs took Jacqueline out for a quiet celebration. On the way back, he pulled the car into a drive in an isolated spot by the sea. He told her that he loved her, flattered her, and she offered him her lips.

He took them. And her life as well, throttling her to death and casting her lifeless corpse from the cliffs. When her body was recovered, it was too badly decomposed for the cause of death to be established. And when the book came out, it was in the name of Professor Stibbs alone.

The man's conscience gave him little trouble over the years. Occasionally, he thought that he saw Jacqueline Lake out of the corner of his eye. But these were isolated occasions. However, when the next round of assessments came up, he found the old block had returned. Asked time and again for an article or two, he had to put the dean off with excuses time after time.

Until, marking part two essays, he read one of such brilliance that he could scarcely believe it was written by a student. Yet it was, a new student, a transfer from another University. Martha Adare. In due course that, too, appeared in a learned journal. And, in due course also, he received a note from Miss Adare, accusing him of plagarism. She bluntly instructed him to come to the stairs off the old quadrangle and bring five thousand pounds in cash. Naturally he came, although not with the cash. He meant to buy her off in the same way he had bought off Jacqueline. And with the same ultimate pay-off.

He reached the little stairwell with pounding heart, wondering whether Miss Adare would fall for his blandishments. Or whether he might have to take more permanent steps there and then.

But the stairwell was empty. He waited, wondering what could have delayed the blackmailer. Until the lights went out.

"Professor Douglas Stibbs," a male voice delared. "Five years ago, you killed Jacqueline Lake, after you stole her work, to pass off as your own."

The professor began to speak, but the voice cut him off brutally.

"Do not try to deny what is true, for I know. Tonight, you came here meaning to kill another. With one difference. Martha Adare, as you call her, is not a student, but a Private Investigator. Tomorrow, the newspapers will publish the story that you passed off an essay written to order by an Oxford Professor as your own. Your career will be over."

When the lights went on, the Professor was alone once more. He hurried from the college buildings and leapt into his car. As he left the car park, he almost ran over a couple of students.

His body was fished out of the sea a week later. A full confession was in his abandoned car.

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