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News & Features » May 2020 » “The Last of the Great Harvard Men to Fall” by Timothy DeLizza

“The Last of the Great Harvard Men to Fall” by Timothy DeLizza

Mondays Are Murder features brand-new noir fiction modeled after our award-winning Noir Series. Each story is an original one, and each takes place in a distinct location. Our web model for the series has one more restraint: a 750-word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays.

This week, a 400-meter race goes wrong.

The Last of the Great Harvard Men to Fall
by Timothy DeLizza
Bolton Hill, Baltimore, Maryland

From the starting gun, the 400-meter dash looked all wrong. The eight runners were jogging when they were built for speed. Watching their muscular limbs move slowly was like watching Ferraris in traffic.

“Look at his expression. Something’s wrong,” the Columbia-mother said. Her husband nodded skeptically. Both walked near the luxury booth’s window overlooking the track, and other parents followed. The atmosphere shifted from comfortable boredom to mild stress.

“Maybe they agreed this race wasn’t worth effort,” the Dartmouth-mother said, remaining seated and lighting a fresh Parliament.

This drew awkward laughs. The Ivy Invitational was dull. The Harvard-father had already worked the room for clients for his investment fund. Only the Dartmouth-mother, with her sleeve-tattoos and ear piercings, had been unworthy of his wealth-management pitch.

“No. Something’s definitely off,” the Columbia-mother said. “Race is over, why are they are still running? Did the race change? Is that why they’re moving slow? I’m going down to ask.”

All the parents gathered by the window. The lead runner had finished the dash in ninety seconds—far slower than average.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” said a booming voice. Everyone turned to see a man with a pencil mustache, standing in a blue dandy suit, and loud, pink tie. “You don’t have much time. Please sit quickly.”

Two strongmen blocked the VIP suite’s door, one very large and the other very short. Everyone sat.

“Let’s see,” the pencil-mustached man said. “I count one, four, six schools in the room. The Brown and Penn parents didn’t even show up! How shameful!” The parents wore clothing emblazoned with school logos. The pencil-mustached man assembled ashtrays on the table, tipping the ash from the Dartmouth-mother’s tray and polishing it. “I’m bad with names, so I’ll be referencing you by school. Lizard, please pour.”

The larger strongman poured a viscous purple liquid into each ashtray.

“Your sons have all been given a drug that will make their hearts burst if they fail to maintain a two-minute laps. They’re conserving energy but everyone tires eventually. First antidote costs one million, then the price goes up.”

“Where’s the sixth ashtray?” the Yale-father asked.

The pencil-mustached man raised an eyebrow in mock surprise. “Eight runners, six sets of parents, five antidotes. A pickle.”

“I’ll buy,” the Yale-father said.

“Lizard, take this gentleman’s information.”

After the encrypted wire transfer was completed, Lizard nodded. The Yale-father flew out the door, ashtray in hand.

When he reappeared near the track, the Yale-runner switched course off. The father stumbled, the ashtray shattering on the floor. The Yale-runner stopped at his fallen father’s side. The father tried scrapping spilled liquid and getting his boy to swallow some, but the boy was clutching his own chest. In under a minute, the boy stopped moving.

“Two million for ashtray number two?” the pencil-mustached man asked.

“Us!” the Harvard-mother said. “Bennie, pay him.”

The Harvard-father shook his head, nervous perspiration visibly dripping. “We won’t give into these terrorists. This is a sting operation. How do we know this antidote works?”

“Me then! Me!” the Columbia-father said.

“Three million for the third ashtray!” the Cornell-mother said.

“Bennie,” the Harvard-mother repeated, “make a bid.”

“Sold for two and three million!” the pencil-mustached man said.

The Cornell-mother transferred her liquid to a red plastic Solo cup before rushing out of the luxury box. The Columbia-father poured champagne on the floor to empty another cup. They reappeared by the track, and both children drank while running, and stopped without incident, but the Brown-runner broke in a final sprint before collapsing into a twitching heap. The lead-runner’s pace was now ten seconds shy of a two-minute lap.

“Four million!” the Princeton-mother said.

“Bennie, say something or I’ll hate you forever,” the Harvard-mother said.

“It’s a scam Bertha, can’t you see?” the Harvard-father said. “Fine! Stock! Ten million in fund stock! World Series tickets if the Mets make it.”

“No more money, I’m afraid,” the pencil-mustached man said. “For the last two ashtrays I want secrets.”

“What if good Harvard men have no secrets?” the Harvard-father asked.

The pencil-mustached man shrugged. “Then, we only make five million.”

“I bribed him into Princeton! A man took the SAT for him, faked his sports history. He’s not even a runner.”

“Send proof.”

As the Princeton-mother worked her phone frantically, the Penn runner collapsed noisily down on the track.

After Lizard nodded and only one ashtray remained.

The Dartmouth-mother lit another Parliament. “I had my husband killed.”

“Interesting,” the pencil-mustached said. “You can prove this?”

She exhaling smoke through her nose and nodded.

The pencil-mustached man glanced at the Harvard-father, who took the opportunity to speak. “Hold on. One lousy murder for the last vial?” the Harvard-father asked. “My investment fund is a Ponzi scheme. That comes out, the whole market crashes. Baseball teams, nonprofits, pension funds—all have stakes. Billions.”

“Proof?” The pencil-mustached man smiled.

“Proof, good, good.” He began sending emails. “The real books. Here I’m sending them to Lizard.” After putting his phone down, he closed his eyes, sighed heavily and relaxed his shoulders like confessing for a noble cause had lifted off a great weight.

The room was quiet while Lizard reviewed. The lead pace slowed to nearly exactly two-minute laps, the remaining runners sweating bullets. The Harvard-mother eyed the final ashtray, ready to sprint off with it, but the pencil-mustached man didn’t flinch.

“Boys, you can stop running,” said a voice over the loudspeaker.

“Good acting, Agent Daniels,” the pencil-mustached man said to the Dartmouth-mother.

The Harvard-father watched the track in confusion. The last two boys stopped running, gasping and wiping their sweaty brows. “Acting? Why is my son stopping? He’s fine? My son? My son?”

As the collapsed runners stood up and FBI streamed into the room, a flash of realization came across his face that the son he’d confessed everything for had helped betray him.


TIMOTHY DeLIZZA lives in Baltimore, MD. During daytime hours, he’s an energy attorney for the government. His novella Jerry (from Accounting) was published by Amazon.com‘s Day One imprint. His work can be found here: http://www.timothy-delizza.com/


Would you like to submit a story to the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the guidelines:

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should be set in a distinct location of any neighborhood in any city, anywhere in the world, but it should be a story that could only be set in the neighborhood you chose.
—Include the neighborhood, city, state, and country next to your byline.
—Your story should be Noir. What is Noir? We’ll know it when we see it.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—Accepted submissions are typically published 6–8 months after their notification date and will be edited for cohesion and to conform to our house style.
—E-mail your submission to info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: May 29, 2020

Category: Original Fiction, Mondays Are Murder, Original Fiction | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,