The gang assembled in a study room at the Sitwell Community College library. Professor Elliot Lambert launched into an impromptu class on toilet dwelling animals.
“You see,” Professor Lambert said. “The average speed for an alligator is approximately ten miles per hour. However, the alligator we are dealing with is not average whatsoever. Given his length and muscle mass, I’m willing to wager our reptilian friend can move at speeds upwards of seventy miles per hour if he really pushes himself.”
“Hell,” Rusty said. “I’m surprised he didn’t get me then. I don’t run that fast.”
“An athletic human running at a vigorous pace can reach twenty miles per hour,” Professor Lambert said. “But tell me, was the alligator doing anything else while he was pursuing you?”
“He stopped to snap his jaws at us,” Rusty said. “And roar. He roared a lot.”
“Well there you go,” the professor said. “Multi-tasking slows this beastie down.”
The Professor drew a rough outline of the state of Florida on a whiteboard. “Remind me, Agent Walker. The first murder where Countess Cucamonga took her final curtain call, so to speak, that happened at what time?”
“Witnesses put it a little after 9 p.m.,” Sharon replied.
Professor Lambert put a dot right around where Miami would be. “And the death of Herbert Hogan?”
“Around 10 p.m.,” Sharon said.
The Professor put a dot on Boca Raton. “And when did Mr. Becker leave us so soon?”
“After 11 p.m.,” Sharon said.
The Professor connected the dots. “All and all, a one hundred and thirty mile trek, completed in three hours.”
“Doesn’t sound so impossible,” Rusty said.
“Not if you have a lead foot,” Sharon said. “And if you’re lucky enough to not encounter any traffic, which never happens in the greater Miami area on a Friday night.”
“And if you don’t have to stop at three separate locations, sneak through security, murder three separate people and then leave undetected,” Cole added.
“A human never could have done this,” Sharon said. “We’ve had our heads up our asses the entire time.”
Professor Lambert said. “Do not be too hard on yourself, Agent Walker. When it comes to the unknown dangers of the animal world, humans have had their heads up their asses for quite some time now.”
“Gordon had theorized that a cult might have been at work,” Sharon said. “Multiple people committing murders in different locations within the same timeframe.”
Rusty stared dreamily off into space. “So much wisdom behind that man’s kind eyes.”
“What?” Rusty asked.
“Nothing,” Rusty answered.
“My new friends,” Professor Lambert said. “I know this comes as quite a surprise, but I have literally spent my entire life studying the impact of aquatic animals who commit toilet murder.”
“That doesn’t surprise me at all,” Rusty said.
“You actually kind of look like the type of guy who would be obsessed with toilet animals,” Cole said. “No offense.”
“I stopped taking offense years ago,” Professor Lambert said. “When I realized my research was too important for the future of the human race to ignore. Sure, I could have gotten into a more reasonable line of work but you know what? They scoffed at Columbus until he proved the world was round and I have resigned myself to the sad fact that people will make light of my labors until they realize the cold, hard truth that when they sit their butts down on toilets…their butts are not alone.”
“That video should give you all the vindication you need,” Rusty said. “Say, why didn’t you tell me about all this the day we met?”
“Would you have believed me then?” Professor Lambert asked.
“Nope,” Rusty said. “And no one believed me until the video.”
“Such is the life of a believer in toilet animal related phenomenon,” Professor Lambert said. “Humans are so close-minded that they rarely believe anything that they can’t see with their very eyes. And don’t think for a second that murderous toilet animals don’t take advantage of this lack of faith.”
Maude lit up a smoke.
“Oh, there’s no smoking in here,” Professor Lambert said.
Maude blew smoke in the Professor’s general direction. “And yet, here I am.”
“Well,” the Professor said as he pulled a joint out of his pocket. “If it’s that kind of party.”
The scholar lit up, then caught a glance of Cole’s disapproving eyes. He grew frightened, like he’d just made a big mistake.
“It’s fine,” Cole said. “I’ve been fired.”
The Professor turned to Rusty.
“I quit the force.”
Finally, the Professor turned to Sharon.
“I have bigger problems.”
Convinced no one was about to arrest him, the Professor noted to the group that his habit was strictly medicinal, then took a question from Maude – “How does someone start studying toilet animals? You go bananas or something?”
“A fine question,” Professor Lambert said. “When I was a young boy, my parents were missionaries in South America, working to bring the first sewer system to a very impoverished region. When the project was completed, I was given the honor of taking the first shit.”
“Academy eat your heart out,” Maude said.
“All was going well until I felt the slightest pinch on my bottom…”
“Catholic priest?” Rusty asked.
“A sandwich restaurant chain representative?” Maude added.
“Neither,” Professor Lambert said. “I jumped off the bowl to find a rather menacing looking snake had crawled up through the pipe and attached itself to my bottom. I passed out immediately, as the snake’s venom was highly poisonous. Luckily, a brave fellow sucked all of the poison out of my backside in time.”
“Catholic priest?” Rusty asked.
“A sandwich restaurant chain representative?” Maude added.
“Guys,” Sharon said sternly. “This isn’t a joking matter.”
“Agreed,” Cole said.
Maude threw up her hands. “Well excuse me all over the place!”
The old lady looked at the Professor. “Don’t they teach people how to puff, puff pass at this school?”
The Professor nodded and handed his joint to Maude. She stubbed her cigarette out on the old oak table, completely uncaring about the likelihood that some poor janitor would be called upon to buff out the mark. She then proceeded to suckle the doobie and suckle it good.
“Does she know that smoking isn’t good for a person on oxygen?” Sharon asked Cole.
“She doesn’t give a shit,” Cole said.
“I do not,” Maude said. “And I’m right here.”
“Anyway,” the Professor said. “At that moment, I realized how vulnerable humans are while they sitting on the toilet. Humans have come to assume that their bathroom time is one of the safest times of day. They’re in an enclosed space, they think they are all by themselves but oh no, at any given time, there may be hundreds if not thousands of sewer dwelling animals in their general vicinity, any one of which might crawl up and give an unsuspecting human a nasty surprise indeed.”
“But Professor,” Sharon said. “This is where I’m stuck. How does a great big alligator squeeze its way up through the small pipe that connects a toilet to a sewer?”
“Bone displacement,” the Professor said.
“Excuse me?” Sharon asked.
“Take the average bat,” Professor Lambert said. “It can literally dislocate its bones and smush its body together until it can fit through the tiniest crack in a homeowner’s abode.”
Moses piped up for the first time in this meeting. “That happened to me when I was a young boy once. I’d like to tell you that I reacted bravely but in fact, I hid under my bed until my father caught it and threw it out the front door. For the rest of my childhood, I was convinced he might have contracted vampirism and frankly, I’m still not entirely convinced he didn’t.”
“Your father died five years ago,” Cole said.
“Did he?” Cole asked. “Or did the CIA…”
Cole threw made a stop motion and pointed it at Moses before turning to Professor Lambert. “Continue.”
“Like humans, not every animal within a given species is the same,” Professor Lambert said. “Most fear pain. Most fear death. But some, they are willing to overlook these negative outcomes in order to push their bodies to the limit if it will get them closer to something they desire. Dislocating your bones to the point where you are able to squeeze yourself up a pipe like some kind of backed up ooze has got to be incredibly painful, but they’re willing to do it if will lead them closer to a butt sitting on a toilet they wish to consume.”
“Do all animals have the power to displace their bones?” Sharon asked.
“Not as such, no,” the Professor said. “At this time, I estimate that a small minority of animals have this ability. However, according to Darwinian Theory, these animals may continue to procreate until they dominate the Earth.”
Rusty shuddered. “A world full of killer toilet animals.”
Maude laughed as she puffed on her ganja. “Bullshit! This is so farfetched that if I ever read it in a self-published e-book, I’d give it a one star review and a pithy, passive-aggressive comment.”
“You shouldn’t do things like that, Madame,” Professor Lambert said. “Self-published e-book writers are the backbone of today’s book industry and they should be treated as such. I’m sorry to digress, but I spent so many time self-publishing my toilet animal studies that I feel the pain of any self-published e-book writer.”
“I’d demand my money back too,” Maude said. “Bone displacing toilet animals. Bitch, please!”
Rusty held out his hand. “Yo, Maude! What happened to puff, puff, pass?”
Maude flipped Rusty the bird. “Get your own supply, Narc!”
“Can we steer this conversation back on topic?” Cole asked.
“Yes,” Professor Lambert said. “Many individual animals will often display traits that help them stand out above and beyond their peers. Mr. Yates, you, for example, told me earlier that it seemed as though the alligator in question was communicating with this Buford fellow, that two were locked in a squabble.”
“Sounded that way to me,” Rusty said.
“Sometimes animals will stand out above their peers when it comes to intelligence,” Professor Lambert. “When these animals breed, they added smarter versions of themselves to their species gene pool. The collective IQ of a species grows smarter as a result.”
“Until the entire world is run by damn dirty gators?” Rusty asked.
“It’s not an impossibility,” the Professor said.
“Shit,” Rusty said. “I don’t want to be a slave in a world run by damn dirty gators.”
“Meh,” Maude said. “I still smell bullshit.”
Rusty waved the air away from his face. “I think that’s the dank bud.”
“It’s Mississippi Mud Bud, actually,” Professor Lambert said. “And Madame, I assure you, this is not bullshit. My many years of research have taken me all over the world, where I have encountered toilet piranha, toilet walruses, toilet dolphins…”
“Yeah, yeah, I remember your rant,” Maude said. “Toilet sharks, toilet whales…”
“A toilet whale?!” Sharon asked.
“A killer toilet whale,” Professor Lambert said. “In India. I believe that was the case though I never proved it. I have, however, documented the activities of many toilet animals the world over. My self-published studies are filled with photos of toilet animals engaging in toilet related activities. And, I’m proud to say, they’re often rated with a gentleman’s three star review.”
Maude jerked her hand up and down, pretending to jerk off rather than listen to the professor.
“You scoff, Madame,” the Professor said. “But I’ll have you know that alligators are the masters of toilet murder. They, above all other aquatic creatures, have utilized sewer systems all over the world to take down their enemies though I must admit, I have never encountered a toilet gator as intelligent, organized and vindictive as the one you are all describing.”
“Professor,” Sharon said. “You’ve explained how a toilet gator can sneak through a pipe, but how does it become big again so that it can…”
“Eat the victim?” the Professor asked. “Simple. It reconstitutes itself within the small space, grows too large for its surroundings and bursts out of it, just in time to catch the unsuspecting toilet user in its jaws. A pity really. The toilet user never truly grasps what is going on until it’s too late.”
“Then it shrinks and escapes down the pipe, the same way it came?” Cole asked.
“Precisely,” Professor Lambert said.
“Leaving police none the wiser,” Cole said.
“I can tell you I have spoken with authorities all over the world who were left baffled by this phenomenon,” the Professor said. “Many as skeptical as Miss Fuller here, if not more so.”
“You got any more of this?” Maude asked as she held up the joint.
“Not for free,” Professor Lambert said.
“Bah,” Maude said. “Lousy cheapskate.”
“This is literally the perfect crime,” Sharon said.
“Indeed,” Professor Lambert said.
“Professor,” Sharon said. “I have to say, the way the academic world has treated you is a shame. I mean, here you are, conducting pioneering research in an incomprehensible yet apparently very real field and yet here you are, stuck lecturing at a community college when you should be teaching at Princeton or Yale or…”
“Oh,” Professor Lambert said with a chuckle. “You think I was tossed to the bottom of academia for researching toilet animals?”
“You weren’t?” Sharon asked.
“Of course not,” Professor Lambert said. “All of my research into the world of toilet animals was sponsored by several big name universities. Institutions of higher learning are often willing to jack up tuitions in order to fund all sorts of silly, navel gazing research. Why, I have a colleague who was given full funding to study the mating habits of East Peruvian tree mold spores.”
“Tree mold spores have mating habits?” Rusty asked.
“My good man,” Professor Lambert said. “Put a few tree mold spores under a microscope, dim the lights, play a little 1970s disco music and you’ll swear you’re staring at a scene straight of Studio 64.”
“Sorry I asked,” Rusty said.
“They why are you teaching here of all places?” Sharon asked.
“Justin Bieber,” Professor Lambert said.
“Justin Bieber?” Sharon asked.
“Indeed,” Professor Lambert said. “I am a big Belieber. I know, it’s odd, a man of my intellect and age, to be a fan of such a frivolous young man but what can I say? The lad can carry a beat.”
“He sure can,” Rusty said before he caught himself. “So I’ve heard.”
“In the early days of Lifebox, I wrote a post about how I quite enjoyed Justin’s Beauty and a Beat video,” Professor Lambert said. “The elegance, the choreography, the pageantry, all made to look like it was spontaneous footage of a pool party. Oh how I loved it and watched it over and over. Alas, I didn’t quite understand the far reach and permanent nature of social media at the time and became an instant laughing stock. Only this and one other college would have me after that.”
“Which one?” Sharon asked.
“Arizona State,” Professor Lambert said.
Sharon shuddered. “Yeesh. You picked right.”
The door to the study room swung open. Natalie Brock and Walter walked into the room. “Professor Lambert, they said at the front desk that I could…”
Natalie looked around the room. “Oh, hello everyone.”