Tigresses of Lawndale - Part 4 – The Incident
By Dr T
Daria was afraid her luck couldn't hold out, and she is proven right.
Despite the fact it was a Tuesday morning (the day after Labor Day), it was still the first day of school after a much busier than usual week and weekend. The confrontation between Helen and Daria Sunday night had been intense, although Helen had wound up backing down and apologizing. Daria had spent the previous morning mostly in bed with a tension headache and the afternoon talking with Quinn. Therefore, neither Jane nor (especially) Daria had as much energy as they had had the previous week. Daria was again dressed in her green jacket, although with a slightly-more upscale shirt than usual, while Jane was fully back to new versions of her old clothes. Daria was about to explain to Jane about her deal with her mother on the sign for the law firm when she saw someone looking at them a little wistfully. "Hey, Andrea," Daria said as the pair passed the Goth by.
"Well," Andrea said lightly, "look who's back in school."
"Huh?" Daria asked as she stopped, confused.
"I thought you two had gone preppy," Andrea answered simply with a careless shrug. Inside, however, she braced for an attack.
Jane bristled a little, but had not had enough caffeine yet to get angry. Daria merely looked at Andrea searchingly, which made the other teen a bit nervous. Finally, Daria said, "I can see where you might think we've changed, gone preppy, or even sold out. Just in case you're curious, at my last school, girls, even fairly unattractive ones like I was," (Andrea blinked at Daria's description of herself – while she had thought Daria didn't care about her looks, she had not realized Daria actually sometimes thought herself in anyway unattractive) "had to dress down if we didn't want constant harassment in the hallways. I picked this outfit when we moved here because I was hoping the corridors would be at least a little safer, which they are. I stuck with it because it's comfortable, and because it pissed off my mother and sister. That's getting old. I still like this look, but I want to branch out."
"Remember how I dressed in ninth grade?" Jane asked.
"Like you did for that week last year, for that idiot O'Neill," Andrea answered. "The popular crowd still ended up cutting you down, hard."
"They did," Jane had to agree. She looked at Daria. "They teased, I teased back. Then they got nasty, especially the sophomores, because I wouldn't play some of the power games they liked, and so they were happy to put down an uppity fresher who they decided should be an outcaste. Things got nastier, but then I just gave up. That's how I first got stuck in that stupid self-esteem class." Jane turned back to Andrea. "You must know how I live, Andrea, especially during most of ninth and part of tenth grade; you hang out at McGrundy's and know the Harpies." Back to Daria. "Everyone was gone most of the time, except me and Trent of course, and it got worse after that Thanksgiving, right after I got the first two of this type of outfit. After that, for the next year I had a choice, use the money I had access to keep the utilities at Casa Lane paid and put at least one meal a day on the table outside of school or on things like clothes. Fortunately, that crisis over the mortgage you wandered into just after we met was the low point." Jane turned back to Andrea again. "I didn't have the money for more clothes."
"Sorry to bring up bad memories," Andrea said. "It was kind of cool watching you dis most of the really cool kids. Now, you're moving up in popularity and dating football players."
"We prefer to think of them as orchestra geeks who play football," Jane said.
Andrea rolled her eyes. "John, maybe, although with his family's money some would still be after him even if he looked like a geek, which he doesn't. But Thor? Even if he's the better musician, he's too hard to miss." She held her hands up. "And just about every straight or bi chick in school drools over Thor at some point. Even me."
"We are changing," Daria admitted. "We got lucky this summer, and are on a lucky streak, which will no doubt crash at any time. But right now, we have the chances to jump start our careers a bit, and that means dressing the part. John and Theo are part of that lucky streak; we'll see if they hang around after the crash."
Andrea actually grinned. "So, you really are selling out," she teased.
"We're at least acquiring the skills we'll need to sell out later," Jane retorted.
"Okay, you're selling out a bit, but at least someone is buying," Andrea bantered back. She shrugged. "I can't argue, since I'm sort of trying to do the same." She glanced at Daria. "By the way, if you and Thor are hitting it off, I don't think he'd be the kind who bails."
"Hey," Jane said, "are you still seeing that Goth from Carter County Consolidated?"
"Leon? Yeah, why?"
Jane glanced at Daria for a moment, then said, "John and Thor agreed to come help us welcome Trent and the Spiral back when they play the McGrundy's Friday night. You and Leon want to join us?"
Andrea laughed. "McGundy's? It's been a while since they were allowed to play there on a weeknight for free, let alone on a Friday night. And I don't know who us all meeting there that would spook more, John or Leon, since I doubt Thor can be spooked." She looked at Daria. "What do you think?"
"If you and Leon join us, that would triple the group willing to pretend they like the band," Daria mused. "Okay."
"We can only stay for the first set," Andrea said. She flushed for a second, and added, "I need to try the SAT again Saturday. Or at least try it sober."
"Are you going to Oakwood High to take it?" Daria asked. When Andrea nodded, Daria told her, "Jane and Quinn have to go, too, and I'm taking some CLEP exams. I'm driving anyway, if you need a ride."
"I'll need a crap load of coffee," Andrea said, partially to herself. "Sure. Pick me up at six-thirty at the diner on Degas?"
"Okay. Have a triple ready for her and we'll call it even," Daria said, jabbing a thumb at Jane.
"Thanks!" Andrea said thankfully. "I'll even be on time."
"Considering how much bitching and moaning the other two will be doing about how early we have to leave, you better be, because I won't wait," Daria warned.
"I would be disappointed if you did," Andrea assured her. She was pleased when Daria gave her a small smile as the two moved on to their lockers.
"What was that all about?" Daria asked curiously.
"We've always been friendly with Andrea, and I even like her, but we've never hung out or anything.
"Well, she, Mack, and I did back in seventh and eighth grade. . . ."
"Really?" Daria frowned. "Then why doesn't she like Mack?"
"Well, they were sort of sweet on each other, until Jodie showed up."
"Ah, and Jodie is even harder to dislike than Mack."
"Exactly. Now, more importantly, what about the sign? Did you and your Mom come to an agreement?" Jane urged.
"Five hundred upfront," Daria replied. "Mom of course knows how you feel about artists' rights over their images, but as she said, this was more a commercial design."
"True," Jane admitted.
"So, while you have the right to reproduce the design as part of your artist portfolio and so on – I have the deal written up for you to sign – they can use the design however and as much as they. In return, they are your copyright lawyers."
"For two years beyond any point that they use your design, if any one breaks your copyright over your images – remember, that's what you retain because of that contract we did for your regular art – the firm will sue their asses off for you, although as a further incentive to make certain they pursue such cases, they get fifty percent of any awards or damages, but no further compensation."
Jane considered that. "So, is that a good deal?"
"So-so, considered only on its own merits. For an artist just starting out? I think it's probably pretty good, maybe even excellent."
"Where do I sign?"
"We'll stop off at the office after lunch, and you can have it notarized there."
"You're a big girl now, and big girl artists have to have this kind of contract notarized."
Jane frowned. "Can I do that?"
"Did you know Mom got power of attorney over you from your mother that time the wandering Lanes all wandered home that one time?"
"Just to be on the safe side, Mom said, although she didn't specify what that side entailed. She did say that if the senior partners hadn't confirmed she should make the deal after she told them that, she would have felt there was a real conflict of interest."
Jane just shook her head.
It was the next day, Wednesday, when the incident happened. Daria and Jane were trying to make it through the scrum which sometimes developed between those going into the second lunch while the first lunch crowd exited. Most days, enough students straggled in and out that, while there would be a crowd, it was pretty easy to get through and somewhat orderly. Still once every week or so, the crowd dynamics created small scuffles. Sometimes, there were even large knots of students shoving at each other. That happened this day.
Jane and Daria were trying to push their way through the crowd, and suddenly Jane noticed Daria wasn't beside her. Bracing herself against the flow, Jane looked around, and saw a booted leg on the floor, with a few students tripping over it and looking confused. "Daria!"
Jane was pushed, and found herself tripping over Daria's midriff. She had enough presence of mind to fall as Daria had once taught her, and to scream as loudly as she could as she did so. That caused the startled crowd to spread out for a moment. Jane, seeing Daria unresponsive, screamed Daria's name, and then, "Yanuzzi! Mack! Thor! Help!" She did not call for John, as there were too many Johns.
The loud still-pushing crowd parted as Mack and Jodie came from one direction and Thor and John from another.
"What happened?" Mack demanded before anyone else could.
"I don't know, but she's not saying anything!" Jane said from the floor, and starting to panic.
Mack got on his knees by Daria while John helped Jane up.
"Everyone give us room!" Thor roared angrily. Everyone backed up.
"Everyone who has class, get going! The rest of you, go on into lunch!" Jodie commanded, not that many listened.
"She has a concussion at the least," Mack stated, not wanting to move Daria to examine her more closely but she was unresponsive and her eyes were slightly open, showing that her pupils did not match. "John! Get the nurse! Hurry!"
"Right," John said, slipping away.
Then Jane, pointing at Daria's left arm, started to sway. Jodie, seeing a bit of blood escaping Daria's sleeve, shut her eyes and hugged Jane close.
"Everyone out! Go to class or go to lunch!" Thor roared again, now past angry.
"Mister Villars, what has happened?" DeMartino demanded.
"I don't know how, but Daria is down with a concussion and probably a compound fracture somewhere on her left arm," he responded. "YOU! GO!" he screamed at some gawking freshmen.
"Anyone other than Villars, Lane, Mackenzie, and Landon who are within twenty feet of me by the time I count to ten gets detention until Christmas!" DeMartino shouted. "One, two, three, four. . . ." The students cleared way back.
At that moment, Ms Li came hustling from one direction, brought by the commotion she had seen in the monitors, the security chief from a second, and John and Nurse Chase from the third. In less than three minutes, the nurse had confirmed Mack's diagnoses, the ambulance had been called, and Jane had been questioned.
"Ms Lane, do you know where Ms Morgendorffer's sister is?"
The teary Jane merely shook her head. "In that case, Ms Lane, would you go to the hospital with Ms Morgendorffer?" Jane nodded her agreement.
"Mister Villars, Mister Yanuzzi, get some lunch and then get to class." She took a deep breath to steady herself. "If you have a free period later, come to the office, and I will give you any updates I have."
"We'll wait with Daria until the ambulance comes," Thor rumbled.
Li merely nodded and looked at the security chief. "Ride with the ambulance if you can, or at least get there. I want to know what happened. I'll review the security tapes, and see if I can see anything. If I do, I'll alert the police." The dour man merely nodded as Ms Li stalked off, not looking forward to calling Daria's parents or telling Quinn.
After Daria was loaded into the ambulance, with Jane riding along, Thor turned and walked towards the gym to work off some of his anger on the weight machines. Mack and John went with him, just to make certain no one crossed him in his present mood.
Jodie looked around, and saw Daria's broken glasses. She picked up what was left of them and hurried to the office to let Quinn know when she was sent there.
Jake got to the hospital first, and saw a miserable Jane curled up in a chair in the emergency room and with tears running down her face and a security guard and a police officer talking next to her. "Jane?" he asked, a wary eye on the two officers from the habit of his life-style in the 1970s, his adrenaline rush changing gears on him.
Jane didn't respond, but the school chief security officer did. "Mister Morgendorffer?"
"Yeah?" Jake answered cautiously.
"Officer Drake, from Lawndale High. Your daughter was seriously injured, we're not sure how. According to Ms Lane here, the two were making their way through the crowd going in and out of the cafeteria. Usually, it's pretty orderly, but sometimes the crowd gets large and pushy, as it did today. Your daughter may have just tripped, but considering the severity of the injuries, there's the possibility of her having been deliberately tripped or pushed."
"Severe?" Jake demanded.
"She may have at least a minor concussion and a compound fracture somewhere on her left arm," the security chief answered. He turned to include the police officer. "Principal Li and I will be looking over the security tapes. If they show anything, I know we'll be in touch, John."
"Right, George. I'll put that in my report." The security chief left and the police officer turned to Jake. "That's my brother," he said simply. "I'll call what I have in, and then see when the doctors say you're daughter might be able to make a statement."
At that point, a young physician that Jake sort of recognized came over. "Mister Morgendorffer? You might not remember me, but I'm Doctor Phillips. I took care of Daria when she was here two years ago?"
"How's my daughter?" Jake pleaded.
"She received an MTBI, or in more common terms, a mild to moderately severe concussion; most likely her head hit the wall on her way to the floor. She had mostly regained consciousness by the time she arrived, but she also was in mild shock, in part because the concussion and also because she sustained minor transverse fractures of both her radius and her ulna, that is, she has what you would call some very minor hairline fractures of the forearms bones in her left arm. She also has a severely sprained wrist and sprained thumb. We thought she had a compound fracture, but when we cut her jacket off, we discovered she just was just bleeding from a cut on her forearm." Phillips turned to the officer. "The nurses examined her very carefully, and there's an unexplained bruise forming in the middle of Ms Morgendorffer's upper back. Unless she can account for it in some other way, my professional guess is that one or more people simultaneously tripped and shoved her. Since she was in a crowd, there had to be some real force involved to make her hit the floor that hard."
"Right," Officer Drake said. "I'll let headquarters know, and they'll want to look over the school tapes even if Li says she can't see anything." He moved off quickly.
"Mister Morgendorffer, is your wife on her way?"
"I'd better call and make certain she knows it's serious," Jake answered, and moved off to telephone.
Phillips turned to Jane. "I remember you're Daria's friend, but I don't remember your name."
The confused Jane answered with a sniffle, "Jane Lane."
"Ms Lane, did you know your friend carried a concealed knife up the sleeve of her jacket?"
"No," Jane answered confused. "How did she get it past the metal detectors?"
"It's completely made from a special hardened plastic, carrying a very sharp edge, although it shatters pretty easily. Makes a hell of a job to get the splinters out of flesh," he added. "She also carried a can of bear-repellant strength pepper spray, and the hem of her jacket had a strong piece of cording with grips that would make a very professional garrote. Is she paranoid, or does she have real enemies?"
"Until today, I would have said paranoid," Jane answered. "The school she went to in Texas seemed to specialize in Social Darwinism. I thought she was getting better."
"I think so, too," the physician replied. "The loose threads securing the knife and garrote looked like they had been in place for some time, and there were places for three other weapons that looked like they had been sewn over for a while. My guess would be that as some worked their way loose, she simply removed them rather than re-securing them. That's why I didn't say anything to the officer. I'll just tell her parents it was a loose piece of plastic that cut her."
'At least now I know why she loved wearing that jacket,' Jane thought. "For the first two years she was here, she wore that jacket or one like it almost every day," she told the physician. "She said this year she would only wear them once or twice a week." Jane looked at the physician. "So, how bad is she really?"
"The broken bones are just hairline fractures," he said. "In fact, if she had just sustained them, they are so small she might have just noticed some aching but little more. Is she left handed?"
"Good. She'll certainly need to wear a really sturdy brace for a few months. The orthopedist will determine if she needs to stay in the air cast for a few weeks, but she said that a traditional cast certainly isn't needed. After a few weeks, the brace serves almost as much to remind the patient to be extra careful as it promotes healing. The concussion shouldn't keep her here longer than tomorrow, but we'll see how that goes. Remember, I'm only telling you this much because I know she'd want you to know."
"Yes, sir. When. . . ."
"After her mother," Phillips said, "unless she's calmed down a lot."
Daria fully awoke late that afternoon. She remembered feeling the shove on her back while her left ankle was kicked out from under her, but of course had no idea who might have done it. The interview with her parents and the police officer lasted about half an hour, and she talked with Jane for a few minutes. She fell back asleep soon thereafter, and slept for most of the night.
Ms Li and the security chief viewed the security tapes, as did the faculty and a few trusted students from each grade, while the police viewed copies later. The tapes didn't really show anything other than an eddy in the crowd that marked Daria after she fell until Jane's screaming alerted the students enough to start clearing an area around them. The only person mentioned as a possible suspect was Jeremy Steele, the j.v. quarterback who had had a run-in with Daria and friends the week before. However, one tape showed him clearly moving into the crowded area from the wrong direction a few seconds after Daria had to have been pushed. He was lucky he could convince Ms Li (who recorded the interview she had with him during the final class period) that he had nothing to do with any revenge for the confrontation, as he certainly had no knowledge or direct responsibility for what had happened. Listening to the interview, the police agreed.
Worried, Jeremy had even gone up to Thor, who was at practice that afternoon but sidelined, and made certain he also understood Jeremy had nothing to do with the attack. As upset and suspicious as he was, even Thor decided the kid had nothing to do with the attack.
Early the next morning, Daria came out of the toilet in her hospital room to find a nurse and an orderly waiting for her. "I take it you're feeling better," the nurse said.
"My feet are cold, my ass is bare, my head hurts, my arm, wrist, and hand ache like hell, I need my glasses, and this air cast combined with my wrist and thumb make everything, including maneuvering in there, awkward," Daria groused. "I'm just peachy," she added, keeping her back to the wall.
"I'll get your breakfast," the orderly said.
"You, up on the bed," the nurse commanded. A few minutes later, having ascertained Daria's blood pressure and that she was feeling no dizziness, the nurse said, "While you're waiting for your breakfast, you might want to look at your flowers."
It was only then that Daria saw the offerings on the stand next to her bed. The large bouquet of dark red roses was from Thor, while two slightly smaller offerings were from John and Jane (also dark red roses, obviously sent by John with Jane's advice) and Mack and Jodie (yellow roses, no doubt paid for by Jodie). "I bet I know who those are from," Daria muttered. Sure enough, the daisies were from Brittany ('and the pep squad' the card added, although Daria would have bet the rest of the cheerleaders didn't really know she existed). Daria didn't even have a guess for the other three. The small tasteful arrangement of violets and baby's breath was from the fashion club, although Daria noted the card hadn't been signed by Quinn, only Sandi. The chocolate rose was from Andrea. The sender of the remaining small arrangement took Daria a moment to identify: "'I'm sorry I was a jerk last week. I hope you aren't hurt bad,' Jeremy."
As the orderly brought Daria her oatmeal, soft boiled egg, and orange juice at the hospital, at Lawndale High Ms Li had finished the morning's announcements, and was issuing threats about what she would do to whoever had assaulted Daria if they had not turned themselves in by noon. One person managed not to grin at the silliness of the idea of confessing; most of the school shrugged off the entire incident.
Daria, while wondering about what was going on at school, looked up as a very efficient-looking young woman came into her room, clipboard in hand. "Good morning, Ms Morgendorffer, my name is Jill."
"Good morning," Daria replied cautiously.
"We made a slight error yesterday; your mother's health insurance was upgraded last week from the high-level traditional Family plan to the deluxe plan."
'H'mm, another perk of partnership, I guess,' Daria thought.
Jill was continuing: "The doctors have noted that you should be leaving by tomorrow, if not tonight, and they're usually right about things like that, but we want to make certain your stay here is not only healing but restful. I doubt if your mother will want us to move you to a different room, but we will leave her a message if you'd like?"
"No thank you," Daria said, since she was already in a private room.
Jill merely nodded and made a note. "We've unblocked the entire spectrum of our available cable channels," she went on. "We also have personal assistants available if you need anything that the hospital can provide or we can get from the shopping area across the street. Anything brought from further afield would cost extra on top of the cost of the item itself." She looked at Daria. "The doctors haven't noted any restrictions, but the hospital does place some limits on what can be brought in. Is there anything we can get you?"
Daria wondered what she might want before someone visited her, most likely her father around lunch. Then an idea hit. "I believe Cedars has an optometry department?"
"We do; I take it you wear glasses or contacts?"
"Usually glasses, but they were broken. I can't really enjoy tv without them."
"I'll contact your parents and the doctor. If they both okay the idea, we can wheel you down there and you get to choose some new glasses. If they are a simple prescription, they can be ready in an hour or so."
"They aren't, but I would settle for a spare pair without the adjustment for my mild astigmatism," Daria pointed out.
"I'll put that in my message, and if optometry approves, there would be no problem," Jill answered. "Anything else?"
"A pair of socks would be nice. . . ."
"Oh, dear, they should have put something on your feet by last night!" Jill angrily wrote a note.
"And, if I'm going to be wheeled around anywhere, either a long, large t-shirt to wear over this or a robe would be nice."
Jill opened the small closet in the room and brought out a small robe, then said, "Aha!" and showed Daria a pair of socks.
Daria blushed from embarrassment and held up her arm in the air cast.
Jill smiled, knelt, and put the socks on for Daria, and then helped her stand and put on the robe.
"Thank you," Daria muttered, still embarrassed.
"That's fine, Ms Morgendorffer," Jill said, softening a little.
"Call me Daria, since you didn't give me your last name," Daria replied.
"I will. Anything else, Daria?"
Daria again held up her arm. "Again, this makes things awkward. I imagine the brace they'll have me wear after I leave will be about the same. I can't really read a book, or even a magazine." She shrugged. "I guess I can wait for the glasses and just watch tv."
"That might be a good idea," Jill agreed.
As Tiffany, Sandi, Quinn, and Stacy were in four different homerooms, they sometimes did not all meet up until before their first class. After home room, however, they were together for the rest of the day.
This morning, Quinn had, unsurprisingly, been late to school, and so the other three had to wait until they made their way to math class to speak to her. "How is your sister, Quinn?" Sandi asked.
"Maybe we should send her a card or something," Stacy suggested before Quinn could answer.
"As president of the fashion club, I already sent her flowers," Sandi stated with dignity. Seeing their looks, she demanded, "What? She is not fashionable, but she is Quinn's sister or whatever." She looked at Quinn. "Rumor has it she really splintered her arm badly. I hope the rumor is exaggerated, as it so often is."
"She did break her left forearm in at least two places, but they're just small hairline fractures," Quinn said, pitching her voice a bit louder than usual, so the word would spread. "She'll have to wear a brace for at least three weeks, maybe as long as eight or ten, and that's as much for her severely sprained wrist and thumb as it is for the bones."
"That is very good to hear," Sandi stated. "I would not wish an enemy to have to wear a cast, and whatever out differences, your sister and her friend are not our enemies." She sniffed. "I should be so lucky."
"What do you mean, Sandi?" Stacy asked.
"If you hadn't noticed, I sure it will be brought to your attention that Sam is in ninth grade."
"I hadn't realized he was that old," Quinn admitted. "He really doesn't look old enough for high school."
"Old enough for ninth grade by two days," Sandi groused. "For some reason, he is also small for his age, and his immaturity matches his size. Be glad that, despite your differences with your sister, she's better than some siblings."
"Yeah. . . . uh oh," Quinn suddenly said.
Quinn nodded to their left, where her mother and three men were seen talking with Ms Li and the security chief. Two of them went off with the security chief, while the older man and Helen went off with Ms Li.
"That's Mister Vitale, the senior partner at Mom's firm," Quinn said, now pitching her voice so that only the three other girls could hear. "He's also one of the county commissioners."
Tiffany and even Stacy looked confused by that, but Sandi merely nodded. She was not very bright, but both her parents discussed local and state government constantly. She understood that Mrs. Morgendorffer had brought the biggest gun she could find to Lawndale High to insure she got answers.
Ms Li led the pair to her office, not questioning why the two security company people wanted to check the site of the assault – they had come to see if the security cameras had been poorly placed, and she knew all the cameras had been placed well.
"What can I do for you, Ms Morgendorffer? Commissioner Vitale?"
"I believe you have been briefed by the police on my daughter's injuries?"
"I have, and I am quite grateful they were somewhat less than we had thought," Ms Li agreed. "I hope she will be returning to Laaawndale High soon."
"Barring unforeseen complications, she should be released from the hospital today or tomorrow," Helen replied. "She will need a protective brace, perhaps even a light air cast, for some weeks. To deal with the academic side first, do you foresee any problem with her not taking gym for at least this term and perhaps the next, and only doing some other form of exercise which you could guarantee could not stress her arm? I should mention that her physicians gave me that advice, and will be sending it to you in writing. Daria has at least tentative acceptances at Bromwell and Raft, and I do NOT want those endangered."
Ms Li was very aware of the conflicts between Ms Morris and Daria, the only real conflict she had with the staff, despite Mr. O'Neill's dealings with her. "Please consult your physician. If he approves, your daughter can spend gym period power walking, and Ms Morris will approve it." Bragging to the other area educators about a Bromwell, or even Raft, student was more than worth risking having to listen to Coach Morris complain. Still, Morris could at times be reasonable.
"I will pass that on," Helen replied. "The only other academic problem is that Daria cannot type for at least four weeks. In fact, for the next week or so, she may even have difficulties, well, dressing herself, including using the girls' room. Jane Lane said she would help there. Jane also said that she was not aware of any major writing assignments, but could you arrange for someone to check with her instructors, and allow Jane to accompany Daria to the restroom until her hand recovers some of its strength and dexterity?"
"Of course," Ms Li agreed. 'Nothing outrageous so far,' Li thought. 'I wonder if Vitale came along just to insure those investigators got in?' "In fact, tell Ms Lane I shall count that as a community volunteer effort."
"Thank you. I'll be certain to tell her. Now to the more unpleasant discussion," Helen went on, which made the Principal straighten up in her chair. "Daria was not only shoved hard enough to leave a bruise on her back, which would really make it more of a punch than a push, she also remembers being tripped at the same time. The perpetrator must be strong, to hit her that hard in a tight crowd, and very coordinated, as no one else seemed to trip until Daria was on the ground. He, or she, must also have been a bit below the average height of the students in that crowd, otherwise the assault would have been caught on at least one of your cameras."
Ms Li merely folded her hands and nodded. "Quite likely." She had viewed the tapes often enough to have to agree.
"That means it was no accident," Vitale pointed out. "It is of course not known if Ms Morgendorffer was the intended target from the start or a target of opportunity by someone who just wanted to cause anyone pain."
"My other daughter is quite certain that no other girl in the school could have been mistaken for Daria as she was dressed yesterday," Helen added.
"Her green jackets have been her trademark," Ms Li agreed. "Did either of your daughters, or Ms Lane, mention any enemies, anyone they suspected?" She did not mention that she had double checked, and Quinn, surrounded by six boys, had been seen by one camera chatting away happily at the time of the attack. Ms Li never doubted the power of sibling rivalry.
"No, no enemies," Helen replied. "However, Jane did recall an incident last week in the cafeteria. . . ."
"With young Jeremy Steele," Ms Li agreed. "Mister Yanuzzi mentioned it to me yesterday. Mister Steele was caught by a camera some distance away for the incident when it happened. I pointed that out to the police yesterday evening. I was rather hoping to have at least a few more names to check out."
"While my daughter is no joiner, as you well know, and can be somewhat abrasive to those who bother her, I don't believe she's the kind of girl to actually have enemies," Helen stated.
Li wasn't going to argue that point. "Nevertheless, it is possible some student sees her at such," she pointed out. "Obviously, we will do what we can. . . ."
"Yes, well, we can't really have bodyguards with Daria at school, despite what my husband wishes. However, we are hoping that you could encourage the faculty to indulge some of her friends which they feel the need to escort Daria in the hallways, especially during lunch."
"'Indulge,' as in excuse a bit of tardiness?"
"Exactly," Vitale put in.
"I would expect a fair effort on their part not to need much indulging, but we can at least try it."
"Thank you, Ms Li."
After the pair left, Ms Li thought about the position the school was in – the budget was tightening on all fronts, the teachers' contract would be up the following spring, and if there were any more incidents, she would have to hire more security than even she wanted.
There was one offer of help, but she had so far spurned it. If she continued to do so, she might be forced to take the help with worse conditions than she would have to accept now.
Sighing, Li picked up the phone and called her secretary. "Please contact Leonard Lamm* for me. Have him make an appointment for any time that I am free next week, the earlier the better."
*Obviously, this is to get around having high school football in the spring as in the episode Fizz Ed.