Disclaimer: Daria and associated characters are owned by MTV. This is fan fiction written for entertainment only. No money or other negotiable currency or goods have been exchanged.

This is the eighth John Lane story

Richard Lobinske

Killing a Legend

Each carrying their backpacks in one hand, John Lane and Daria Morgendorffer walked up the stairs of their home after dinner. John said, "Do your parents always get excited about school pictures?"

Daria sighed. "Regrettably. How in the hell did you get out of having proofs to bring home?"

"The photographer knows my Dad, and he's done all the Lawndale schools since tintypes. He knows my folks won't buy any, so he doesn't bother to print them. I just…failed to mention I'm not living with them anymore."

"Lucky bastard."

"In more ways than one."

The next day at school, Daria half-read the Lawndale Lowdown while she walked with John down the hallway.

About fifteen feet in front of them, quarterback Kevin Thompson was almost vibrating with excitement. "This is it Mack Daddy! The week of weeks!"

Often the sole voice of reason for the Lawndale Lions, Michael MacKenzie told him, "Too much hero worship isn't healthy you know. And don't call me that."

Kevin rambled on, "But the man is coming! The man! Tommy Sherman brought it home bro!" To emphasize his point, Kevin pounded a football against his head. "The state championship. And now, he's coming back to Lawndale."

"I know all about it. Jodie's giving the speech about the new goal post, remember?"

"Oh yeah." Trying to be helpful, Kevin said, "Does she need any help with ideas for that? Like, from a quarterback's point of view?"

"Gee, I'll ask her." Mack added with bemusement, "When there aren't any sharp objects around."


Daria looked up from the paper. "Spring football. Can't we be spared at least one trimester?"

John pushed the doors open and they walked off the sidewalk to one of the grassy patches on campus. "Give them a chance, and I'll bet they'd bring in summer football."

"Don't even think it." She stuffed the newspaper into her backpack and sat down, cross-legged.

John joined her, his legs stretched out. "Yeah, we don't want another Tommy Sherman."

"What's the big deal about this football guy anyway?"

John shrugged. "He was quarterback three years ago. Liked to show off a lot and ran into goal posts because he kept waving at the crowd. Broke his nose a couple times and knocked himself out for six days before leading the team to the state championship. My brother knew him, kind of."

"Well, why name the goal posts after him? Why not the whole stadium?"

"Goal post." John slowly shook his head. "You know Ms. Li; why spend any more than you have to."

"That I can see."

"Hey, at least it's one of those new goal posts designed to break apart rather than split your skull."

Jodie Landon walked up and took a seat on the grass next to them. After a nod of greeting, she said, "Hey Daria, I'm stuck with making a speech at the ceremony for Tommy Sherman and can't get past the introduction. Can I read it to you?

Daria asked, "Does that mean I don't have to listen to it later?"

Jodie recited, "Good afternoon students, faculty, and distinguished alumni of Lawndale High. As a representative of your student council..." She hopefully looked at Daria. "Any ideas?"

"It is my privilege today to once again send the message that learning is no substitute for winning."

"And if you bring the school glory," John added, "we'll name parts of it after you, even if you're too stupid to look where you're running."

Frustrated, Jodie sarcastically replied, "Gosh, thanks so much. You think I like this?"

"If you don't believe any of it, why give the speech?" Daria inquired.

"Because I'm on the student council." Jodie rose and said with increasing annoyance. "It's a job with many responsibilities and today it's my responsibility to kiss the butt of some jock getting a goal post named after him. But at least now I feel really good about it."

Mack walked up to the group. "Hey."

Jodie lashed out, "Leave me alone!" and stalked away.

Seeing Mack's confused face, Daria said, "Chicks."

John slowly shook his head. "Don't ask."

Oh, great. Looks like our turn to encounter Mr. Personality. John thought as he and Daria neared her locker. A muscle-bound man with brown hair and a misshapen nose was leaning against it.

Daria stopped in front of Tommy Sherman. "Excuse me."

Tommy slowly scanned her and frowned. "You're kidding, right? You think I'm going to talk to you?" He noticed John. "Don't tell me, he wants to watch. What is it with this school?"

Daria sighed and said, "I don't want to talk to you."

"Yeah, right. You said, 'Excuse me.'"

"You're on my locker."

John scowled. "I certainly don't want to watch you doing anything."

"Do you know who I am?" He puffed out his chest. "I'm Tommy Sherman."

Daria said, "I know the whole school's turning itself inside out because of some egotistical football player. And I've seen you insult or proposition just about everyone you've come across."

John interrupted. "Yeah, we know who you are. Please get off her locker so she can get what she needs and we can go about our business."

Tommy clenched his teeth. "You're awful cocky."

"Look, could you just go out to your goalpost or something?"

Tommy stood straight and stepped toward John, towering over the slim teen. "Wanna make me?"

Daria tried to slip in behind Tommy to get her locker open.

John shook his head. "We're not looking for trouble, we just want to get to our next class."

Using little effort, Tommy pushed Daria away, causing her to stumble.

John stepped between them and steadied her, saying, "Maybe we should skip the locker and come back later."

When they started to leave, Tommy grabbed John's arm and jerked him back. "I'm not done with you."

John tried to pull away. "Hey!"

Tommy swung a fast punch, catching John in the jaw and knocking him to the floor. Daria rushed over, only to be pushed back, sprawling.

Trying to recover his orientation, John attempted to get up. Tommy grabbed his shirt collar and lifted, throwing a punch into John's face at the same time.

"What the hell is going on?!" Principal Angela Li yelled from the far end of the corridor.

Tommy dropped John and stepped away. "The punk jumped me."

Daria crawled over to John. "How bad are you hurt?"

John was too dazed to say anything.

Ms. Li stormed past Tommy and stood over John and Daria. "John Lane. I'd started to think you were different from the rest of your family. Clearly, I was wrong. How dare you?

Daria looked up. "John didn't do anything."

"Ms. Morgendorffer. Mr. Sherman is our honored guest and I will not have our students getting into fights with him."

Disgusted, Daria said, "He's propositioned almost every girl he's come across and insulted everyone else. Some honored guest."

"Athletes of his caliber can be a little high strung."

A seldom heard, quiet voice said from the crowd. "Tommy started it. John didn't do anything."

"Dawn? What did you say?" Ms. Li faced the pudgy girl with earphones.

"John didn't fight back. Never had a chance."

"Are you sure?"

John winced and pulled back when Daria touched his already swelling eye and cheek.

Daria held his head and asked, "Can we get the school nurse?"

"Why would…" Ms. Li suddenly noticed the growing discoloration on his face. "Oh."

A blond girl, Jennifer, said from the growing crowd. "They were trying to walk away, but Tommy pulled him back and hit him. He also grabbed my butt earlier."

Tommy glared at the crowd.

One of the cheerleaders, Angie, said, "He grabbed me, too."

Ms. Li's eyes narrowed and she shifted her gaze to Tommy. "Mr. Sherman?"

"Hey, they're all a bunch of losers trying to protect a misery chick and her pathetic boyfriend."

"He wanted me to go his hotel room with him," head cheerleader Brittany Taylor said as she joined the crowd.

Mack pushed through and knelt next to John, saying, "Daria, let me help."

With Mack doing most of the work, they lifted John to his feet and steadied him. Daria said, "We're taking him to the nurse."

The school's police resource officer jogged up. "Ms. Li?"

She pointed to Tommy. "Officer, please escort Mr. Sherman off school property. He is not welcome back."

A pear-shaped woman in her forties, Nurse Chase nudged John's hand to adjust the ice pack he held to the side of his face. "Looks like a lot of swelling and bruising. But to be on the safe side, you should see your family doctor."

Voice slurred by swollen lips, John said, "Um…Daria, do we have a family doctor?"

"His name is Davidson," Daria told him. She said to the nurse, "May I use your phone? So I can call my mother?"

"Oh, please do." Chase turned back to John. "You don't know your doctor's name?"

John laughed a little. "Ouch. Um, Daria's parents are my guardians; I've only been with them since last fall. Before then, I didn't see a doctor much. Really, only if I needed to go to the emergency room or something."

Daria dialed the phone and waited patiently until she heard an answer. "Hello, Marianne? It's Daria. I need to talk to my mother…Yes, very important…" She listened patiently before replying with an uncharacteristic edge to her voice reminiscent of her mother's stern, lawyer tone. "Tell her this can't wait. John is in the nurse's office and she thinks he should see a doctor…A guest of the school beat him up…thanks."

The nurse looked worried. "This wasn't done by another student?"

John said, "This is Tommy Sherman's handiwork."

The nurse stood quickly. "Damn, damn, damn. John, I'll be right back." She went to her office and returned moments later with a camera. "Please take the ice away for a minute. I have to document this."

Daria jerked the phone away from her ear and Helen's voice sounded clearly, "…is going on!?

"Short version, a former football player visiting the school was against my locker," Daria explained. "We exchanged a few words and when John and I tried to leave, he grabbed John and hit him."

Daria's eyes blinked in response to Helen's outbursts. "No, John didn't fight back…The guy was alone…Supposed to have goal post dedicated to him…Okay, we'll be in the nurses' office…Bye."

Nurse Chase photographed John's face from several angles with a Polaroid, and then set the camera down. "Okay, put the ice back on."

John replaced the ice pack. "What was that all about?"

"Mr. Sherman is an adult. I'm required to document and report anything that could even potentially be considered abuse."

Daria crossed the room and sat next to John. "Mom's on her way." She said to Nurse Chase, "Mom's going to take him to the doctor."

"Good." She patted John on the shoulder. "I need to get these photos ready for the police." Nurse Chase went back into her office and pulled the door mostly closed, leaving them in semi-privacy.

John said, "I was a little out of it back there. Why did Li believe us so quickly?"

Daria shrugged. "If I were cynical about things..."

John smiled and winced at the pain. "You, cynical?"

"I'd say that the under the age of consent, popular head cheerleader claiming Tommy tried to get her to a hotel room during school hours was the key."


After knocking on the door, the track coach, Ms. Morris, entered the room. "I heard. How are you?"

John pulled the ice pack away briefly. "My legs are fine, but the face is a bit worse for wear."

"That damn moron." Ms. Morris was seething. "John, take off from practice for the rest of the week and get better."

"Yes, ma'am. You don't have to tell me twice."

"See you later." Ms. Morris stepped out and closed the door.

Daria stared in surprise. "Wow. She was almost, nice."

John put his hand on Daria's. "I wouldn't go…"

In the hallway, they heard Ms. Morris yelling, "Angela! That brain-dead hunk of meat almost took out my best sprinter!"

John finished his sentence. "…that far."

"My lack of faith in humanity is restored. That also means that Ms. Li is probably on her way here."

"Oh, joy."

Instead of Ms. Li, the school's police resource officer came in. He looked back into the corridor. "Ms. Li, you'll have to wait until I'm done. Nurse Chase can serve as a witness to the interview, and it will be recorded." He closed the door and said, "Mr. Lane, are you up to giving a statement?"

The officer turned off his tape recorder. "Thank you, John, Daria. Almost everyone who was in the hallway corroborated your story. I have the photos from Nurse Chase and the report will be filed this afternoon."

"Ms. Li!" Helen's voice pierced through the wall. "Don't even think of getting in my way right now."

Daria motioned to the door with her eyes. "Sounds like Mom."

The nurse said, "She sounds a little agitated."

The door swung open and Helen faced the officer. "In the future, you'd be well advised to wait for counsel before beginning an interrogation."

The officer was taken aback. "Mrs. Morgendorffer?"


"Ma'am, I was only taking their statements as victims, and neither asked for counsel."

"I am a lawyer and act as their legal counsel."

"Yes, ma'am. Actually, I was done here. Their story was confirmed by numerous witnesses. But if you want a copy of the interview recording, I'll be happy to make one."

"Consider yourself asked."

"Yes, ma'am." He pulled some forms from his briefcase. "Since you're the parent and legal guardian of these two, here's the paperwork if you want to file battery charges against Mr. Sherman."

Helen expertly scanned them. "Daria, you didn't say anything about this brute pushing you."

"I didn't think about it," Daria said and pointed to John. "He was the one hurt."

Helen signed the charges. "Thank you, officer."

"Have a good day, Mrs. Morgendorffer." The officer went to the door. "I hope you feel better, John."

As soon as he left, Ms. Li entered the room. "Mrs. Morgendorffer, I'm so glad you could get here quickly. Concerned and active parents are the heart of our school."

Helen stood directly in front of Ms. Li. "Now, would you care to explain why this 'guest' was roaming around the school campus unescorted?"

Ms. Li made calming motions with her hands. "Mrs. Morgendorffer. I sincerely apologize for this terrible incident. I can assure you that the situation will be thoroughly investigated."

"I think the situation is very clear. A dangerous individual was allowed unsupervised access to school property and students. Not a very sound example of school security."

"Well, I…" Flustered, Ms. Li wasn't able to finish her sentence.

"I expect that you will very graciously pay for any and all of John's medical expenses and fully support our action against this Mr. Sherman."

Ms. Li nodded. "We can do that."

"Excellent, Ms. Li. I understand that Daria was also attacked by Mr. Sherman. Therefore, I'm taking both John and Daria to see our family physician. I want to make sure neither has any unnoticed injuries."

"Oh, yes. Please do, Mrs. Morgendorffer. I'll personally inform their teachers that the absence is properly excused."

"Thank you, Ms. Li."

Helen guided John and Daria out the door and told them, "I'm parked out front."

Ms. Li followed them out of the Nurses station and headed toward her office. Along the way, she angrily spoke into a small recorder, "Inform the Football Boosters' Association that their 'guaranteed' moneymaker could cost us a fortune and I expect them to make it up if it does."

At Helen's red SUV, she stopped them and looked under John's ice pack. "I'm proud of you. You tried to walk away and didn't throw a punch."

John said, "Like I had a chance to."

"Chance or not, you didn't, that's the important part. Get in; we still have to take you to Dr. Davidson."

She walked around the car and got behind the wheel. Helen started the vehicle and thought for a few moments. She nodded to herself and turned to face John in the back seat. "That report also said you got between that goon and Daria."

"I didn't want him to push her again."

"Thank you."

From the dining table, Quinn looked over her shoulder toward John and Daria eating dinner in the living room. "Why am I stuck at the table tonight?"

Helen set her fork down and glared at Quinn. "Because John had a very rough time today, we're letting him relax on the sofa. Daria, too. As far as I can tell, the roughest time you had today was deciding on the order you turned boys down for dates."

"Mo-om, order is important."

"Quinn, I'm not in the mood tonight. You go take a look at John's face and tell me you had a day like his."

Jake's hands clenched, crumpling the newspaper he was reading. "I know what it's like to have days like that! Did my old man care? No! 'That's why I'm paying for that military school,' he said. He…"

Helen put a hand on his arm. "Jake."

Jake started and looked at Helen. "What? He…oh." Jake came down from his rant. "Sorry."

Quinn inhaled to speak, but thought better of it.

John lifted a small portion of food from the plate resting on a folding tray table with a spoon. He only opened his mouth a small amount to accept it and slowly chewed to minimize the pain. He said to Daria, "Remind me never to get into a fight again. This sucks."

"I'll be more than happy if you don't get into another fight."

On the television, a local newscaster said, "Headlining college football news; more trouble for Big Rock University's starting quarterback Tommy Sherman. He was arrested today on two counts of battery after an altercation at Lawndale High School, his alma mater. Sherman was arrested last year after a fight in a nightclub near Big Rock University. If he's found guilty of this incident, it would be a violation of Sherman's plea bargained parole and an end to his football career. Big Rock Athletic Director, 'Rocket' Turner, said the college junior had turned his life around and that he believes their investigation will show that Mr. Sherman was only defending himself."

John said in disgust, "Yeah, defending himself from two kids he outweighed by over a hundred pounds each."

Daria shook her head. "I think he outweighed the two of us put together."

"Big Rock fans have already collected fifteen thousand dollars for Mr. Sherman's defense," the announcer said. "Lawndale High School Principal Angela Li declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation."

John punched the off button of the television remote. "A little support from the school for us would've been appreciated."

I think I know how Kevin felt in that "ugly" costume Ms. Barch made him wear, John thought as he trudged toward the classroom of his least favorite subject, math. Near the door, Brittany waved him to the side. Confused, he followed and asked, "What's going on?"

Brittany twirled her hair nervously and spoke quietly. "That looks like it really hurts."

"It does."

Brittany looked at the floor, shuffled her feet and twirled her hair more.

John said, "Did you want to say something? Or just make observations about my massively bruised face."

She looked up. "Um, thanks for standing up to that…jerk."

"I think it was more like knocked on my butt by that jerk."

"Everybody was just letting him say and do whatever he wanted. But you stepped in when he pushed Daria."

"Brittany, I was only trying to get us out of there."

"To protect Daria." Brittany looked into the classroom where Kevin was already seated. "I wish other people would things like that."

"I don't remember doing a good job of it."

"You tried to get up after he hit you and pushed Daria again."

"Brittany, I…"

The bell rang and the balding math teacher stood at the door, arms folded. "Miss Taylor, Mr. Lane. Could I interest you in fifty minutes of mathematics today, or do you have something more pressing to do?"

John rushed toward the door and said to Brittany. "With my 'C' average, I can't afford to annoy him."

"Oh, me too." Brittany ran into the room behind him.

The teacher shook his head. "Kids."

Mr. DeMartino tapped on the note covered chalkboard. "And so, riding a wave of yellow journalism rampant at the time, Congress voted to go to war with Spain. Tomorrow, we'll look at the war and the long-term effects it had on American history."

As the class started to leave, he said, "Daria, John, I'd like to see you."

They looked at each other and shrugged.

When the room was empty, Mr. DeMartino displayed a brief, rare smile. "In my opinion, Mr. Sherman was one of the biggest disgraces this school has had the misfortune of graduating. I know it may be small consolation for the pain you're feeling young man, but it's very heartening to know that at least two of my students aren't mindless sheep. Thank you."

"Can this day possibly get any weirder?" John wondered as he placed his lunch tray on the table.

Daria placed her tray next to his. "No kidding. Several girls have already asked me how I made you so loyal."

John laughed and shook his head. "The stories make me sound like some knight leaping in front of a dragon."

"Hey, you're the man of the hour."

"All for imitating a punching bag."

Daria looked at him. "Actually, you were trying to defuse the situation."

John pointed to his face. "Hey, I wanted to avoid something like this."

"It didn't help when I tried to sneak past him."

"He didn't need to push you.

"And you did try to get us away after that."

"Like I said, I was trying to avoid pain."

Daria reached under the table and held his hand. "If that's all you were doing, you wouldn't have gotten between me and Tommy."

"All right. I didn't want you hurt, either."

"So you do deserve some of the praise."

"Daria, I'll admit I didn't want anything to happen to you, but I wasn't trying to be a hero."

"But that's how you ended up."

Jodie, with Mack beside her, approached the table and said, "Hey guys, mind if we sit here?"

John pointed to the bench across the table. "Sure. Um, Mack. I didn't get a chance to say anything to you about helping me to the nurse's office."

Mack waved a hand. "No problem."

"John," Jodie said with an impish grin. "I suppose I should thank you for getting me out of that speech yesterday."

John laughed, winced, and extended his hand across the table to Jodie. "That I'll accept. But, you owe me one."

Jodie shook his hand. "Deal."

"So that's what the inside of the Lawndale Lowdown looks like," John said as he and Daria walked toward the school's front doors."

"Exciting way to spend the afternoon instead of track practice, isn't it?"

"Well, I was expecting something like a movie newsroom, not a converted storeroom with a couple old computers and tables."

"Still better than Highland."

"You were on the paper at your old school?"

Daria frowned. "Yes. But, it's a subject best not talked about…ever."

"Uh…sure. Never talked about."

In the circular drive in front of the school, John's brother, Trent, waited in a blue car. John reached inside and turned the engine off before shaking Trent's shoulder. "Wake up."

Groggy, Trent blinked and said, "Monique, a tattoo would look great there."

Please, no more details. "Trent!" John said louder.

"Oh, hey Johnnie. Hey Daria."

Daria said, "Hi," as she climbed in the back seat.

After John had closed the door, Trent looked at him in the mirror. "You know, I seem to remember that Tommy got into a few fights in school."

Daria asked, "You knew him, didn't you?"

"A little, he didn't show up for class too much."

"Not like you."

Trent laughed and started the car. "I might've missed a few classes."

"In local sports news." The radio came on as the car started. "Big Rock football player and former Lawndale star Tommy Sherman was released from Lawndale County Jail today when the Big Rock Athletic Association posted his bail. He was arrested yesterday after an altercation with two students at Lawndale High. . Following his release, the troubled football player said…"

"Kids today just got not respect for anybody," Tommy said on the recording.

Trent glared angrily at the radio. "Like you ever did?"

The recording went on, "The chick made a play for me and her boyfriend decided to jump me."

The radio announcer said, "Lawyers for Sherman stated that they will be looking into filing charges against the students…"

John gripped the edge of the open window and growled, "That lying son-of-a-bitch!"

"…and filing a lawsuit against the school for rescinding an offer to dedicate part of the football stadium to him."

Daria shivered and moved closer to John. "Now I'm really worried. Ms. Li is going to be on our side."

John and Daria sat on her bed while Helen explained, "The full resources of my law firm will be behind both of you. We'll be in contact with the school board's lawyers tomorrow. With the number of witnesses, that bastard's legal team must be trying to scare us into dropping the charges. That's not going to happen."

John nodded his head. "Thanks, Mrs. Morgendorffer." He choked a little before saying, "It means a lot."

Helen squatted down in front of him. "John, you're family."

John moved forward and hugged her. "I'm learning that."

Surprised, Helen recovered and hugged him back. After a few moments, she stood and said, "Dinner will be ready in a bit, I'll call you then."

Daria watched as Helen partially closed the door before saying, "Mom might spend most of her life in her own world, but sometimes she can surprise you."

"No kidding." He picked up Daria's hand and kissed it. "Maybe we'll get through this."

She smiled at his gesture. "Maybe we will."

A brief knock at the door caused them to separate. Quinn said, "Daria, can I come in?"

"What is it?" Daria asked.

Almost shy, Quinn stepped into the room. "John…"

After waiting a few moments, he said, "Yes?"

"I, um…think it was really neat that you would get in a fight for Daria."

Daria had a look of disbelief. "I suppose you would be impressed by that, Quinn. Guys fight over you all the time."

Quinn's hands went to her hips. "God, Daria. Don't you get it? Guys get in fights over me. John got in one for you!"

Taken aback, Daria muttered, "Oh."

Quinn's gaze passed from Daria to John. "Thanks…for protecting my sister."

John nodded and smiled.

Daria looked down. "Quinn…um…that was nice to say."

Quinn grinned and stepped toward the door. "You two might be unpopular geeks, but you have something."

John reached over and held Daria's hand. "I like to think so."

Quinn started out the door and quickly turned back to say, "I hope you keep it," before heading back to her room.

Daria smiled and leaned against John. "I hope so, too."

Outside math class the next day, Brittany once again waved John to the side. He asked, "What is it, this time?"

Brittany actually looked shy. "Um, could you help me with something?"

"Um…I guess, depending on what it is."

"Could you show Kevin?"

Not certain, John asked, "Show him, what?"

"How to be like you."


Brittany wrung her hands and sadly said, "It's sweet to see you with Daria."

"I, uh, I'm just being myself."

Brittany nodded.

"But, I'll try to talk to him."

Her face brightened. "Thanks."

John leaned against a wall. Open mouth, insert foot, chew vigorously.

Mrs. Bennett's economics class was interrupted by Ms. Li calling on the intercom, "Mrs. Bennett, please send Mr. Lane and Ms. Morgendorffer to my office."

The teacher waved her hand at the door. "You two better get going, and take your books."

Daria closed hers and pulled out her backpack. "You've got a point."

John slid a book into his backpack, sarcastically saying "Oh, boy. This sounds like fun."

"Remember, we call Mom if there's any real trouble."

"Trust me, I can remember that."

They walked through the corridors in silence. At the school's front office, the secretary escorted them to Ms. Li's office with only a perfunctory, "This way, please." John also noticed the police resource officer seated and watching.

Three men in expensive suits were already seated inside, along with Tommy Sherman. Ms. Li indicated two folding chairs. "Please have a seat." She pointed to the three suited men in order. "This is Mr. Stiles, the school board's attorney, who has already been in contact with your mother. Mr. Jellico, Tommy Sherman's lawyer, and Mr. Sullivan from the District Attorney's office. Gentleman, this is Daria Morgendorffer and John Lane."

Daria and John sat down in the chairs.

Mr. Sullivan pointed a television remote at a VCR hooked up to a television. "Why don't we start with the recorded evidence?"

An image of Tommy leaning against a locker in a school corridor appeared on the screen. In the jerky motion of compressed video, John and Daria entered the view. They briefly conversed and Daria tried to move behind Tommy to her locker. He pushed her aside and John quickly moved to steady her and interpose himself between her and Tommy.

Watching, John was surprised by the speed of what happened next. On the video, he was jerked back and punched, Daria pushed to the ground, and John punched again.

The screen went blank and Mr. Sullivan looked at Mr. Jellico. "I have thirty-two signed affidavits that agree with this surveillance camera footage. Does your client still claim he was assaulted?"

Mr. Jellico whispered back and forth with Tommy. He shook his head several times and then faced the rest. "These two were insulting and provoked his attack. My client has certain psychological issues dealing with anger management that mitigate the situation."

Mr. Sullivan asked John, "Mr. Lane, please tell me what was said to Mr. Sherman."

John licked his lips. "Well, Daria said 'Excuse me,', then he said something about why would he want to talk to her, and um, asked if I wanted to watch."

A faint twitch hit Mr. Jellico's cheek.

"Daria said she didn't want to talk to him and that he was on her locker," John said.

"The school records confirm the locker he was leaning against in the video is assigned to Ms. Morgendorffer," Mr. Stiles dryly stated.

"Um, he said something like, 'Do you know who I am?' Daria said that just about everyone at school was turning themselves inside out and that she'd seen him insult or proposition almost everyone. I said something about we knew who he was and could he just get out of the way."

Mr. Sullivan said, "Please go on."

"Tommy said that I was cocky. I said, 'Why don't you go stare at your goalpost.' I could see he got mad at that and tried to say I didn't want any trouble."

Daria cut in. "That's when I tried to get past him to my locker. Mr. Sherman pushed me and John stepped in to help. When he suggested we leave and tried to go, Mr. Sherman grabbed him, saying that he wasn't done. John tried to get away and Tommy hit him. When I went to check on John, he pushed me down and pulled John up so he could hit him again. That's when Ms. Li yelled."

Mr. Sullivan removed a folder from his briefcase. "Thank you, Ms. Morgendorffer, Mr. Lane. You were a little rude, but nothing a reasonable person would come to blows over." He faced Mr. Jellico and said, "You tried to claim Mr. Sherman had emotional problems in Big Rock County last year and it didn't work then. That's why your client's on probation."

Mr. Stiles pressed his hands together in front of his chest. "Perhaps a bit of incentive. If your client enters into a plea agreement , the School Board of Lawndale County won't file suit against Mr. Sherman for damage done to the school's reputation over his actions. Go to trial, and we will file suit. I've talked with the victims' attorneys and they will do the same."

Mr. Jellico and Tommy whispered back and forth more, with both getting visibly angry. Tommy's voice rose to audibility, "Look, loser. Coach hired you to get me out of trouble."

Mr. Jellico whispered again.

"No!" Tommy yelled at Mr. Jellico.

Daria noticed a motion behind the frosted glass of the office door and nudged John. He looked over and saw the outline of two police officers just outside.

"Mr. Sherman, please settle down," Mr. Sullivan told the young man.

Tommy looked at the faces staring at him. "But…but, I'm Tommy Sherman."

Everyone continued to watch him.

He yelled, "She was coming onto me!"

Daria shook her head. "No. I wanted to get my books for Economics."

"Come on! All chicks dig me." Tommy pointed at Daria. "You got cold feet because your boyfriend was there. Maybe you didn't want him to watch."

In disgust, Daria told him, "Please, I have no interest in you."

"What, you prefer that skinny little punk to me?"

Daria gently smiled and looked at John. "Yes."

Tommy raged at the two teens, "I should've shoved you through the wall and stomped your little boyfriend into the floor. Everyone keeps saying we got in a fight. What fight? The puke was out like a light and never knew what hit 'im! But, he'll remember it was Tommy Sherman that did it!"

Face buried in one hand, Mr. Jellico asked, "What are you offering?"

John was elated as they walked to their lockers after the meeting. "Wow, we did it! We won! The bully got what he deserves."

After Daria closed her locker door, she stared at it and shook her head for several seconds. "One more such victory and we are undone."

John shook his head. "Huh? Tommy pled guilty. Not only will he serve time here, he violated parole from Big Rock and has to serve more time there. His ego's fully deflated and the 'Legend of Tommy Sherman' is dead. This is one for the good guys, right?"

Daria pointed to the unobtrusive video camera in the hallway. "We probably could've won without it, but that recording proved without a doubt that we were right. Now Ms. Li can justify installing more of them by saying how much they protect students."

John sagged against the lockers. "Damn."

Dialog from The Misery Chick by Glenn Eichler.

Thanks to Ipswichfan and Mr. Orange for beta reading.

July 2005