Family Education

A John Seraph Mystery - Book Three

by C.G. Eberle

When college student Jacob Ragnar is found shot to death, suspicion immediately falls on Professor Burke Kendall. After some time, John Seraph begins to investigate, leading to threats against him, and a murder attempt on his life.

Meanwhile, John’s old friend, Denise, has asked for his help with a delicate situation she’s in. A psychotic sadist, who happens to work for John’s father, is stalking one of her employees, an escort. This turns into a bigger problem for John than he can imagine.


Chapter One

~ Monday ~


I’ve been luckier than a lot of folks and I know it. I’m extremely grateful to still alive, but lately my life has become chaotic and confused. It feels like I’ve been riding bareback in a burning barn. And I don’t know how or if I’ll be able to get the control back.

At Buffalo State College, Professor Burke Kendall was accused of murdering Jacob Ragnar, one of his students, by the time the truth came out I felt like thirty miles of road kill. I had the shit beat out of me, I’d nearly been set on fire, and the frosting on the cake is that most of the student body hates me. But that’s not a real problem for me, since I’ve been suspended from Buff State—more about that later.

I’ve also been dealing with an associate of my old man’s and I may

have pissed off some of his boys. The cherry on top is the problems from Crystal Bell and Bobbie Bedell. Things have changed with both of them and I’m not sure what’s happening with either girl, but I do know these standoffs can’t go for much longer. Finally, a contract killer, who no one’s ever seen, except his victims, is targeting me.

Thankfully there was some good that came out of this mess; I cleared Kendall’s name and I kept a sexual sadist from abusing his victim further. I just wish everything else in my life was going as well.


* * * *


May was more than half over and the spring semester was coming to a quick end. Most of the student body seemed to be in a state of semi-panic, finals were in seventeen days

In the final month of any semester, the library’s open twenty-four/seven. People run in and out doing research, finishing their papers and research projects, and studying for finals. At any given point, it’s a safe bet you’ll see frazzled, over-caffeinated, exhausted bodies on the verge of collapse. It’s always entertaining to sit back, watch, and figure out which students are the ones who’ve been on top of their assignments, and who are the procrastinators, those fools who put everything off till the last possible minute and look like crack addicts. They’re my favorite to sit back and watch, as they freak out and attempt to get a passing grade.

As insane as college life has been it’s given me the stability I’ve needed for the past four years. College has represented a long-term goal of earning my bachelors in English Education, then teaching English literature. The plan is after I earn my master’s degree, I want to teach at the college level. Plus all the hard work fulfills a blood oath I made to my mother, Sophia, just before I walked away from my family, four and half years ago.

My name’s John Seraph, but it wasn’t always. My parents named me Giovanni Angelo, for an uncle no one’s seen in almost thirty years.

Another complication in my life is I attract murders the way chum draws in sharks. After being involved in a third homicide investigation in almost two years I gotta admit the shit’s getting old.


* * * *


The week started off with a bang; Sunday night the Buffalo Sabers swept the Boston Bruins in the second round of the playoffs, which nobody expected, and they made it to the semi-finals. Now everyone was waiting to see if they’d play the Toronto Maple Leafs or the Detroit Red Wings, so most of Western New York was in a good mood, which was slightly infectious. I’m no hockey fan, but I was hopeful. My disposition changed when I got back to school Monday morning, because that’s when I learned about the death of Jacob Ragnar. 

Temperatures were in the mid-sixties, with partly cloudy skies out and I knew something was wrong when I walked up from the student parking lot, behind the Butler Library, and headed towards the student union. The flashing red and blue lights of three Buffalo Police Department units, an ambulance, and two Campus police cars dizzyingly danced in my peripheral vision. They were all jammed into the visitor’s lot, at the center of the campus.

Bishop Hall is just off Rockwell Road, which runs the entire length of the campus. The main function of Bishop Hall, and her next door twin, Neuman Hall, is to house offices for professors, although there’s been recent talk the buildings maybe converted to house students.

A large crowd of students, staff, and visitors gathered outside of Bishop Hall and heard people asking questions, wanting to know what happened, or they tried to get inside to meet with their professors. From past experience I knew that wasn’t going to happen. Campus police and the B.P.D. cleared the building and some students demanded to get back into the building, rather loudly. Some of the more vocal ones looked like they were going to get rowdy, until the campus security and the regular police backed them down with threats of arrests, and the city cops were happy to have the support. Finally, the crowd forced some uniformed officers to move the police line back ten feet. There’s always some idiots who just have to ruin it for the rest of us.

All I heard was “What happened?” and “Did somebody die?” A girl said, “I think Professor Julienne said something about Jacob Ragnar.” Disbelief spread throughout the crowd because Ragnar was an extremely popular student. This was followed up by a lot of “Oh my Gods”. I admit I was stunned like everyone else, but I also knew it was best to ignore gossip and wait for the facts.

Rumors spread like a virus during flu season and theories were tossed around like baseballs at spring training. And that’s when I felt a familiar tingling sensation, of what I call my tuning fork went off. It’s my personal ‘Bat-signal’, that tells me to pay attention. A long time ago, I learned to listen to it, but this was one time I ignored my intuition, which was a mistake.

Since I had a Women’s Literature class to get to, I hustled through the student union to avoid being late, knowing I’d hear about what happened later on.


* * * *


During class a strong gust picked up off Lake Erie, blew its way throughout the Queen City, and with it the blue skies and sun finally broke through the clouds. The afternoon transformed into a spectacular spring day and I wished I could play hooky and go for a joy ride with the windows open, blasting some of the best from the Rat Pack.

I had time to grab lunch before going to work, but overheard a couple girls near the bookstore say it was confirmed, Jacob Ragnar had been shot to death. For some instinctual reason I rushed back towards Bishop Hall. When will I ever learn?

The crowd of students, faculty, and staff were still circling Bishop, and it looked like it had grown larger. Having been through two murder investigations before, my common sense ordered me to get the hell out of there, but my curiosity has vetoing powers and wanted to learn whatever I could. I wanted to stick around, but I had to work after lunch. Before leaving I saw a pair of familiar faces, Detectives Hannah Chancellor and Laila Bishop talking to someone I knew was a medical examiner from his overall uniform.

I’d met the ladies last year; Bishop a year ago in the spring, then Chancellor in December. Not seeing either of their regular partners was a plus in one case, and I wondered if they were partnered together. I thought Chi cerca trova which is Italian for seek and you shall find. Besides I figured it couldn’t hurt to say hi.

Not much had changed since I last saw them. Chancellor was still sporting her short, platinum blond, pageboy haircut. Bishop was her opposite, a long-haired brunette, dressed in a bomber jacket snuggly fitting her figure. When I was far enough away from the crowd, but close enough to hear them talking, I knew they were discussing what had happened inside Bishop Hall with the balding, black M.E. As soon as he walked away I said hello with a bad joke, “I’ve an alibi, detectives.”

Bishop jerked her head towards me in surprise. “What are you doing here?” We shook hands, after I swung my bookbag over my left shoulder,

“I should be offended. Don’t you remember I’m a student here Detective?”

“It’s been a while, Mr. Seraph.” Chancellor sounded civil, but I couldn’t tell if she was happy to see me. To be honest I can’t read women to save my life. Hell, Chinese algebra is easier to figure out.

“After everything that’s gone down you can call me John. I’m really tempted to ask you what happened, but I know your rules.”

Bishop gave a slight nod as she came closer to me. “That’s right, at least until we make notifications. But how familiar are you with Bishop Hall?”

I tilted my head a little to the left. “I’m in and out of Bishop all the time, just like a lot of students,” I answered, while re-securing my book bag, which slipped.

Chancellor said, “All we can say is there was a death involving a student.”

“Jacob Ragnar?” Their shared glance was uncomfortable, but it told me I was right. “You should know students have been tossing his name around. I know how Buffalo’s finest feel about outside help, but if I can do anything let me know.”

“We appreciate the offer, John,” Bishop said. “Do you have the same phone numbers?” I nodded but then she reminded me the B.P.D. didn’t need or want my help. I did my best to assure them I’d stay out of this mess.

“Trust me, ladies, I’m going to crash this party. Before I was personally involved, that isn’t the case this time. I barely knew Ragnar, other than being a guest on his radio program once and having a class or two with him. Besides, I’ve a couple papers to get started and a chapter to read for art history by next week. Now that class is a real case of murder, believe me.”

We small-talked for a minute or two longer before I said goodbye and went to grab my lunch, then to work at the Butler Library. As I hurried, I silently thanked God I wasn’t involved. The feeling wouldn’t last.

"Family Education" by C.G. Eberle



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