Walt jumped behind the wheel of the news van and Natalie was about to hop into the passenger’s seat when she was accosted by a weirdo in a lab coat.
“Pardon me, Madame,” Professor Lambert said. “Do you know where I might find the Hot Ass Blonde Chick with Big Titties who reports for Network News One?”
Natalie sighed. “You’re looking at her.”
Professor Lambert blinked. “But…your…and your…”
“Don’t ask,” Natalie said. “I’m who you want to speak to.”
“Very well,” Professor Lambert said. “Madame, my name is Professor Elliot Lambert, an esteemed educator of Animal Biology at Sitwell Community College.”
“Esteemed?” Natalie asked. “I practically got a contact high just from the air at that place.”
“Yes, well,” Professor Lambert said. “College students will be college students, I suppose.”
Natalie scrunched up her nose. “Actually, I’m getting a contact high off of you.”
“Hmm?” Professor Lambert said. “Oh, yes…umm…I’ve been experimenting in my laboratory. Yes, that’s it. Anyway, I have a theory about the toilet murders but the police refused to listen to what I have to say. I thought about letting the matter drop but the public’s safety is too important to leave to chance and therefore, I’m left with no other choice than to alert the media, although I do not relish making the local constabulary look like fools in the process, but so be it.”
“You’re one of those people who likes to hear himself speak, aren’t you?” Natalie asked.
“I’m tempted to say, ‘Takes one to know one,’” Professor Lambert said.
“Touche,” Natalie said. “What’s your theory?”
“A toilet gator,” Professor Lambert said.
Natalie waited for the punchline, but hearing none, asked, “What?”
“A toilet gator,” Professor Lambert said. “An alligator of immense size, which I deduce has infiltrated the sewer system and thanks to an above average intellect, has been able to figure out how to track its victims, locate them and burst up and out through their toilets, grind them into oblivion between its powerful jaws, and then retreat to the safety of the sewer system, leaving the authorities none the wiser.”
Natalie laughed. “You’re putting me on.”
Professor Lambert maintained a straight face.
“You’re serious?” Natalie asked.
“Indeed,” Professor Lambert said.
“What do you base this theory on?” Natalie asked.
“Many years of research,” Professor Lambert said. The professor popped open his suitcase, pulled out the giant stack of papers that comprised a copy of his article, and handed it to Natalie.
Natalie looked the first page of the article over and read the title out loud. “A Concise History of One Scientist’s Investigation Into the Bizarre Phenomenon of Toilet Emerging Animals?”
“I’m the scientist in question, naturally,” Professor Lambert said.
“Naturally,” Natalie said.
“I have studied many toilet animals,” Professor Lambert said. “Toilet Gators have been the most frequent offenders but I dare say, if this is, indeed the work of a toilet gator then he is by far the most intelligent and cunning toilet gator ever.”
Natalie held up the paper. “Has this been published?”
“Self-published, yes,” Professor Lambert said.
Natalie rolled her eyes and shoved the paper back into Professor Lambert’s hands. “No thank you.”
“Madame,” Professor Lambert said. “I’ll have you know that this paper received a three star rating on Slap-it-on, the best site for slapping up self-published works.”
Natalie hopped into the van and looked down on the professor. “Self-publishing is an insult to the written word. I’m sorry, but if the traditional publishing industry gatekeepers did not find your work to be valid, then it deserves to be run through a shredder and turned into confetti.”
“Madame,” Professor Lambert said. “Please, this is very important.”
Walt looked on from the driver’s side but kept quiet.
“What do you want?” Natalie asked. “You want me to put you on air with this crap?”
“It’s not crap,” Professor Lambert said. “I assure you.”
Natalie sighed. She looked to Walter. “Toilet Gator?”
Walter shrugged his shoulders. “Stranger things have happened.”
Natalie lost herself in thought, then turned her attention back to the professor. “Look, he seem like a decent enough person and God knows NN1 will gladly put any crackpot with a harebrained conspiracy theory on air in the name of ratings.”
“I am not a crackpot,” Professor Lambert said. “And there is nothing harebrained about this.”
“Doesn’t matter,” Natalie said. “If I put you on air, you’ll be torn apart. Laughed it. Made fun of. You’ll become the butt of every late night talk show host’s jokes and the Internet’s non-stop meme production machine.”
“If that’s what it takes to get the truth out, then so be it,” Professor Lambert said.
“Yeah,” Natalie said. “But you’ll lose your job. SCC’s a shitty school but I doubt even they’ll want to keep a professor running around, talking about toilet gators.”
“That does not matter,” Professor Lambert said. “The truth is the only thing that matters. I could care less about myself.”
“But I do care about you, sir,” Natalie said. “And I’m not going to let you make an ass of yourself just so I can score points with the network by turning you into America’s next big joke.”
Professor Lambert tucked the copy of his article into his briefcase and closed the snaps. “I can’t believe this. No one will listen to reason.”
Natalie closed the van door and looked at the Professor through the open window. “Listen, you seem like a very smart man. Just lay off the pot and your mind will stop coming up with crazy ideas.”
Professor Lambert sniffed the collar of his lab coat. “Is the aroma that pungent?”
“And how,” Natalie said. “Have a nice day sir.”
Walter pulled out of the Sitwell Police Station parking lot and headed down the road. Natalie smirked.
“What?” Walter asked.
“Toilet gator,” Natalie said. “Now I’ve heard everything.”