Dodi Dies – Conclusion

            Later that evening Victor Pauline took his dog for a long walk in the park. There was one area that he knew was very dry and there was something there he wanted to look at.

            Rascal and Victor walked to the far end of the park and stopped. There growing on a corner of the wash embankment was a short stand of castor bean trees. He remembered these from when he was a kid. They grew all over the place and were considered very pretty for their dark green and purple leaves. He could even see a few beans on a couple of stalks.

             A person would really have to know their stuff to be able to know the plant and find the plant. Then, gather the beans, dry them, grind them into a powder and then find a way to get that into Dodi Greenfield’s vape cigarette. The science teacher might have the know-how, but he couldn’t see a young mother expending the energy to get the job done. No, it was someone else. He needed to make some phone calls. He called to Rascal, and they went back to the car as the soft darkness of night fell.  


            It was a week later, armed with two subpoenas, that Paul Greenfield, eldest son of Donald Greenfield and Belinda Wyatt, secretary to Donald Greenfield were both arrested by two teams of cops and their computers impounded.

            Police IT teams worked around the clock to do the backward searches on the computers that gave them the evidence. A small bottle of castor oil was found on the top shelf of a potting shed in Paul’s backyard.


            Raul and Victor were back in Slavin’s office.

            “I can’t believe it. Paul and Belinda. Unreal. Poor Paul. Poor Donald.”

            “I’m sorry,” Victor replied. “I know Paul was your friend, but it was murder. Thought you would like to know.”

            Slavin shrugged and looked sad.

 “How did you put it together?”

            Victor spread out his hands. “I made some calls to some people who know some people.”

            Slavin laughed a dry, humorless laugh.

            “There is a thing out there these days called the Dark Web. You may have heard….?”

            “Rumors,” Slavin replied.

            “Well, it’s the kind of place where just about anybody can get just about anything. I was clued in when I went to see Donald Greenfield and I saw the way his secretary hovered over him.”

            “She has worked for him a very long time.”

            “I’ll bet. I think she is in love with him and was thinking very much that she would become the next Mrs. Greenfield.”

            “And,” Slavin nodded, catching on, “was very surprised when Dodi showed up and swept the field.”

            “Very,” Victor nodded. “And then, angry when she saw the way her beloved was being treated by that woman.”

            “Then came the divorce,” Raul chimed in.

            “And the contest over the prenup which could have ended up costing Paul and his sisters a great deal of money.”

            “So,” Victor continued, “Paul and Belinda got together. She hatched the plan, ordered the juice. Our IT guy located the order. A Belinda Champs de Vert ordered one small bottle of castor oil liquid.”

“Champs de Vert?” Slavin asked.

“Fields of Green,” Victor replied, “or, Greenfield by another name.”

“Aha,” Slavin was shaking his head.

            “Then, Paul had access to the house, he was there frequently anyway and could easily have doctored the vape. Particularly if Dodi had too much to drink and passed out.”

            “So, viola.” Slavin had been tipped back in his chair, rocking. He came down with a thump and waved. “Case solved, you two can go home now. Job done.” He smiled grimly.

            “That’s true, but there is one other thing, Mr. Slavin.”

            Slavin leaned forward.

            “Do you, do you think Mr. Donald Greenfield is going to be okay? I mean really okay? First his wife dies, then his second wife, now his son….”

            “Gentlemen, it is going to be tough for a while, no doubt. But Mr. Greenfield is a tough old bird, despite what he looks, and he has an extremely strong faith. Eventually, when the dust settles, I think he’ll be okay.”

            Slavin ushered both men out. They walked downstairs to the pool car. The heat of summer hit them as they left the cool air-conditioned building.

            “Wow,” Raul had to say, “families.”

            “Wow is right,” Victor replied, “women.” He gave his partner a wink and they got in the car.

            “Tommie’s Burgers?” queried Victor.

            “Thought you’d never asked,” replied Raul with a grin.

The end.

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Dodi Dies – Part V

    After lunch, Pauline looked over at his partner.

            “Ready to take a drive?”

            “Where to?”

            “We got to get back to that school. Sweat that Assistant Dean some more.”

            “You think there’s something there?”

            “Could be.”

            “You driving?”


            “Great, we can stop and get a slurpy at 7-11? I think they’re having a summer special on the giant size.”

  In the car, Raul was slurpy noisily on a giant Blue Freeze.

            “How the hell can you drink that stuff?” Pauline looked at him, winching.

            “Nectar of the Gods. Helps with the heat.”

 Pauline shook his head.

            Morales continued. “You think maybe something between the Dean DeLeon and the deceased?”

            “Maybe, just a feeling.”

            “It’s been done before,” Morales added.

            “It’s been done by you before,” Pauline added continuing to drive.

            “Not anymore. I’m reformed.” Raul made a crossing motion over his heart. “I’m a good boy now.”

            Pauline smirked. “Til the next time.”

   Raul blew bubbles in his drink.


At the school, the three of them were in the conference room. Assist Dean Dan DeLeon was sitting in a chair, his long sleeve shirt impeccable as always.

            “Teacher Dodi was a long-term valued team member. She had been at the school five years and was well liked,” he told them pleasantly.

            “Was she well like by you?” Detective Raul had put down his Blue Freeze and addressed the Dean.

            “Of course,” the Dean answered primly.

            “Sir, we have gotten copies of the victim’s cell phone records.”

 Dean Dan blanched.

            “She had made a number of calls and texts directly to you.” Pauline went on looking at the Dean. “They appeared to be of a highly personal nature.”

   They all sat silently for a moment. The only sound in the room the soft wap, wap of the overhead fan.

Dean Dan was like a statute. Suddenly, he put one hand to his face and started to cry.

            “My wife will leave me if she finds out. She’ll never forgive me. It was just a short-term fling. Honest,” he sobbed.

  Pauline glanced at Morales.

            “Tell us all about it, sir.”

  They sat back and listened.  


            Raul and Victor took the slow way back from the school stopping at an In and Out. Raul ordered the Monkey style Burger with Animal fries, a large Coke. Victor settled for a regular Cheeseburger meal and Diet Coke. 

            “So, what do you think?” Raul asked as he took a huge bite.  They sat in the parking lot and ate their food. Pedestrians hurried in and out of the restaurant.

            “I don’t know,” Pauline sipped his Coke thoughtfully. “That Dan guy is a marshmallow. I can’t see him for it. The man folds like an envelope. You?” He chewed on some fries.

            “Yeah, same. Guy’s a candy ass. When he finally opened up, blubbering, I felt like a priest in the confessional.”

            Victor nodded. “The Dean?”

            “Don’t know. She seemed more surprised than anybody by what’s happened. Kind of clueless.”

            Victor nodded. “The woman is a complete nitwit. Had absolutely no idea of all the crap that was going on right under her nose.”

            Raul nodded. “Women managers.”

            “Yeah, well, hopefully they’re not all that dense.” He crumpled up his bag and got out to throw it away. “Jesus, did you finish that burger already? Where do you put it?” He held his hand out for Raul’s trash.

            “Growing boy, Bossman.”


            “Where to now, Boss?”

            “Husband’s office.”

            “That guy? He gives me gas.”

            “Yeah, well, one more time from the beginning.”

 Pauline put the Chevy into gear and started off.

 Raul sipped his Coke meditatively. “You know, that Dan guy seemed genuinely sorry for

messing around with that skinny witch.”

            “Yeah, but not as sorry as you’re going to be if Margarita catches you fooling around again.”

            “Ah, you cut me boss.”

            “Not as deep as she will if…”

            “That woman is scary with a sharp knife in her hands.” Raul’s eyes got big.

            “Yeah, well she scares the hell out of me,” Pauline added. “But then, that’s me. Why don’t you get a divorce and just do it the legal way?”

            “Divorce! Jesus. If I get a divorce who will mop the floors and wash the clothes? Jeese, divorce. What are you thinking?” Raul slurped his Coke.

            “Yeah, what was I thinking?” Victor pulled into traffic.

            In thirty minutes, they were at the parking lot of Great Western Bank. They got in the elevator and went up to the lobby. A cute receptionist got their names and directed them to the offices of J. A. Greenfield, VP of Customer Services. They had met J.A. once before so were somewhat familiar with the drill. They were directed by another pretty staffer to the walnut door of J.A. The door was open, and J. A. popped up and greeted them.

            “Come in, come in, Gentlemen! Have a seat!” He even pulled out chairs for them. “Coffee, water?”

            “A coffee for me,” Victor indicated.

            “Water,” Raul waved a chubby hand.

            “Belinda, refreshments for our guests.” The staffer scurried away.

            The two detectives sat and gazed out at the wonderful view of the valley from J.A.’s floor to ceiling windows.

            “Great view,” Raul commented.

            J.A. spun in his leather seat and looked behind himself. “It is, isn’t it. A great valley. A great place to be from and to be in.”

He sounds like an infomercial, Victor thought to himself.

            Belinda came in and set the drinks around. J.A. was having coffee too. The woman, a young, pretty blond, paused behind J. A’s swivel chair, one hand resting on the back.

            “Ah, that’s fine, Belinda. Thanks,” he looked up at her fondly and patted her hand.

            Belinda glanced down at her boss, smiled, then glanced at the detectives and walked primly out of the room, hands folded in front of her waist.

            She could be holding a prayer book, Pauline entertained an idle thought.   

As soon as she left, J.A. reached down and pushed a button on his desk. The large walnut door swung shut by itself.

            “Privacy,” the man commented.

            Pauline studied the man a little more closely this time. At his office, in his own element. The suit was a conservative navy blue; he sported a conservative tie and pocket fold. The haircut was conservative. He wore a little American flag on one lapel and one heavy gold ring on his left hand. Could be a school ring or a Masonic temple emblem on the top. There was a large black armband around one sleeve. Every button properly in place. Over 60 now, he was still looking good.

            Pauline coughed a little and opened his notebook.

           “It’s great Mr. Greenfield that you can get back to work so soon after….”

            “Ah, yes.” The man swept an imaginary stray hair off his forehead. “Work calms the worn and weary soul. I find it comforting.”

        There is was again, that infomercial talk. Was this guy some kind of minister or something? Victor glanced at Raul, who was wearing his impassive face, and kept going.

            “Well, our inquiries are still ongoing. Would you mind telling me sir, how long you had been married to Mrs. Greenfield and how you met?”

          Victor already knew the answer to the first question, two years. But he didn’t know the answer to the second and needed to get the man talking.

            “Well, it was two years ago. I met Dodi at a singles’ dance, and we hit it right off. It had been five years since the death of my dear wife, Helen and I was getting…ah…”

            “Lonely,” Pauline added.

            “Yes, lonely. My kids are all grown you see, and the house was so empty. Dodi was so fun and lively, vivacious. She just seemed to fill up all the empty spaces.” Greenfield gazed into the distance, remembering happier times.

Damn, Pauline thought to himself. Adult children, more suspects to interview. Crap! This might be a very long weekend.

“Right, sir. And how did your children take to their new stepmother?”

            “Well,” Greenfield frowned, “they were totally against it at first. Called her some terrible names I won’t repeat. But,” he gazed out again, “when I explained to them, in detail, how much I missed their mother, and how no one would take her place. But that now, I just needed…. company.”

            And sex, Pauline thought.

            “Right…so, they weren’t happy but got over it, basically,” Pauline summed up.

            Greenfield seemed to come back from his romantic trance.

         “Yes,” his tone was a bit more businesslike. “That’s it. Came to accept things…as they were.”

            Pauline waded in with some of the more difficult questions.

         “I believe sir there was a prenuptial agreement.”

            “Yes, yes.” Greenfield replied, nodding. “My oldest son Paul insisted on it. So, my lawyer drew one up and Dodi was more than happy to sign it. Told me she was in it for love, not money.” He beatifically.

            Pauline smiled too. “But then there were some problems.”

            Greenfield frowned and looked unhappy.

“Well, over time…it began to seem that our …. interests in life were not quite the same. I am basically a quiet man and live a quiet life. Dodi was much more, ah….”

            “More of a party girl,” Raul entered the conversation, shifting himself up in his chair.

            Greenfield looked momentarily startled by the remarks but gathered himself.

“Ah, yes, I guess you could say that. Party girl,” he seemed to roll the words around on his tongue. “Perhaps that is a better description…” He seemed to drift off again.

            Pauline sensed that they weren’t going to get much more today.

“Mr. Greenfield, in order to get to the bottom of this, it will be necessary for us to speak to your lawyer. I believe divorce proceedings had begun. Yes?”

            Greenfield focused again.

“Oh, yes, that.” He opened his drawer and pulled out a card. Mr. Slavin, Esq. was on the card. He handed it to the detective.

 Pauline looked at the card and back to Greenfield.

            “Oh, it looks to be the same building as your business.”

            “Yes, he’s up two floors. I’ll have my secretary call them and tell them to give you what you need.” He turned to an intercom. “Belinda, please call Slavin’s office and get them to assist these officers.” He then picked up his coffee cup and began to sip with a somewhat vacant look.

The detective stood up and motioned to Raul who stood up too.

“Thanks for your help, sir. We’ll be in touch.”

Greenfield nodded wanly and swiveled around to look at the view, cup in hand.

 The two went out to the secretary’s desk and stopped. She was already in the process of making a phone call.

“Mr. Slavin’s office is expecting you,” she told them with a soft purr.  

Although the woman was smiling, Pauline sensed a glint in her green eyes of something else. Up close, he could see she was older than he originally thought. Red hair somewhat fading now, pale skin, trim figure nicely dressed. She’d been a real looker once.

As they were leaving, he saw her get up and quietly go into her boss’s office and close the door.

            “What the hell do you make of all that?” Raul asked when they were at the elevator.

            “I’m afraid to speculate, bud. But it doesn’t feel too good. Nope, not too good.” They rode up two floors and got out.


Ronald Slavin, Esq. was a slim, fit man of about fifty with salt and pepper hair, a nice grey suit and a no-nonsense attitude. He ushered them into his office himself and sat down.

“Coffee?” They both wagged their heads no. He didn’t offer anything else.

            “So, you are here about the late, great Dodi Greenfield.” There was a note of irony in his voice. “What can I tell you?”

            “Well, we understand from Mr. Greenfield that divorce proceedings have been filed.

            “Correct,” the man said crisply. “I have been Donald Greenfield’s attorney for twenty-five years. He told me it was okay to tell you this, so I will proceed. I can’t give you particulars on actual filings themselves, but just general background.”

They both nodded.

 Slavin got up and began to pace around the room, his hands clasped behind his back. He looked annoyed. Occasionally, he would stop at a bookshelf and push a book back in place or rearrange a figurine.

            “I knew his wife, his kids, his business partners. I held his hand through his wife’s cancer. Was there when she died, attended the funeral, the whole bit. He was broken up and walked around like a zombie for months.” He paused a moment.

            “I actually went to undergrad school with his oldest son, Paul. His kids and my kids played softball together.” He turned to them. “You get the picture.”

            Solemnly, they both nodded.

            He continued. “After a period of time, more like four years to be exact, Donald started to come out of it and get back into life. It was one of his daughters, actually, who suggested the church dance club.”

 Both detectives wrote in their notepads.

            “It was there he met Dodi.”

            “What church?” Pauline asked.

            “The big Catholic church downtown. Maybe you know it? Has a huge congregation. Donald is a big contributor.”

            Explains the nearly Biblical quotations in his office, Pauline thought to himself.

            “Anyway, Dodi found out about the place, passed herself off as a Catholic…”

            “Was she?” Pauline had to ask.

            “A lapsed one, very lapsed,” Slavin replied sourly. “Anyway, she wowed Donald and knocked him off his feet. He was just ga-ga.”

            “Well,” Raul added truthfully, “a man does have needs.”

            “Sure, sure,” Slavin waved a dismissive hand. “Everyone knows that, and no one begrudged the guy getting a little and having some fun before he got planted six feet under. Still….”

            “Still…” Pauline continued.

            “Still,” Slavin continued, “everyone knew her for exactly what she was the minute she showed up.”

            “Which was…”

            “A gold-digger, a user and taker. She didn’t love Donald. I doubt she had the ability to love anyone other than herself. She was after his money, plain and simple and we all knew it.”


            “The son, Paul Greenfield, his sisters, my wife, me. We all knew.”

            “What happened?”

            “Paul could see the handwriting on the wall and insisted his dad sign a prenup agreement. I drafted it. Dodi signed it eagerly. She just wanted to get into the big mansion and have her run of the place.”

            “So, what…?”

            “She started to have affairs. Paul and I both knew about them. She didn’t try real hard to hide them.”

            “The guy at the school?”

            “Oh, him. That was a four-week deal. Nothing. One phone call to that guy and I thought he would wet his pants. He ended it with her. No….”

            “Someone else?”

            “There were others, “Someone else?”

            “There were others. Paul asked me to hire a PI to follow her. So, I did. “


“And the guy hit pay dirt with the pictures. Donald just wouldn’t believe it. So, we showed him. He started to make excuses for her.”

            Slavin paused to take a sip of water from a glass on his desk. He stared off into space.

“No, it was the last guy.”

            Pauline stopped writing. “The last guy.”

            “Yeah, this one was different. Much younger guy, early thirties, skinny, buff, lots of tats. You’re cops, you probably know the type. Bullshit and attitude.”

            They both nodded.

            Slavin continued. “I started off life as a prosecutor for the County. If that guy hadn’t spent time in the big house, my name is Micky Mouse. No, the PI was still following her. He told me they were cooking something up. He just didn’t know what.”

            “And the divorce?”

            “After several tapes, Donald finally had to agree she was cheating on him. He’s a very moral guy, couldn’t put up with that. Especially, when he confronted her, and she lied about everything. That was the last straw. The lying.”

            “Go on.”

            “We filed the papers for the divorce. She got herself an attorney and between the two of them, they cooked up a way to get around the prenup.”

            “Which was?”

            “She was claiming duress. That the adult children put so much pressure on her, she was forced to sign against her will.”

            “Ah,” Pauline had to admit that was a good one.

            “Anyway, Paul Greenfield about went off his nut and the old man was getting a little spacier every day. The stress wasn’t good for his heart. Dodi was coming and going from the house at all hours of the day and night and the entire thing was getting kind of crazy. And then….”

            “And then,” Raul put in.

            “And then this happens and here we are.”

Slavin seemed to have run out of steam. He plopped down in his big desk chair with folded hands.

“That’s pretty much it gentlemen.”

            They asked a few more questions about the inheritance, took more notes and left.

            “Whew!” Raul had to say when they got back in the Chevy. “Wow, what a mess!!”

            “I’ll say,” Victor returned.

            “Dinner?” Raul asked.

            “No, I got to go write up some stuff and then have some alone time.”


Continued to Part VI

Dodi Dies – Part IV


Detective Victor Pauline looked at his file once more and set it down in disgust. He didn’t like what he was reading. He got up and strolled over to the window. It was late June, and the weather was starting to get hot. Puffy clouds raced across a blue Central Valley sky.  A slight breeze pushed them around.

            He walked back to his desk. The copy of Toxins from Living Plants lay on his desk. It had an entire chapter on Poisons and thoroughly covered the poison Ricin and its effect on people and animals. They had dusted the book for prints and had found those of the science teacher, Allie and the co-teacher, Jan. He had both women come down to the station for additional questioning. The book was now in a zip-lock bag.

            Allie was ushed in and he gave her a chair.

            “This is your book, Ms. Harley?” He lifted the bag and pointed. She nodded in reply.

            “Why do you have a book like this? What is it for?” Pauline asked.

            Ready for questions on the book, Allie produced a lesson plan created for the nurses “Poisons and their Antidotes.” She handed it over, nodding like a bobble head doll.

            “I teach a course to nursing students. Part of their training covers poisons that both people and animals can ingest. We cover the symptoms and progression of the illness and medical management to save the patient.” It all gushed out in almost one breath.

            Pauline nodded. “Noted,” he commented. “What do you personally know about the poison Ricin?” He gazed at her with shrewd blue eyes.

            “Ricin is a derivative of the castor bean plant and is made from the beans. There are many cases where adults or children have ingested the beans and have become lethally sick.”

            Talks like an encyclopedia, he thought.

            “Can they be saved?”

            “If the symptoms are recognized soon enough. If the patient is able to tell the medical team what they ate. If antibodies are introduced early enough. Yes, the person can survive.”

Allie sat on her chair with her hands folded in her lap. Her shoulder length hair was a dark blond. She wore simple chinos, a cotton shirt and flat shoes.

            Clearly anxious. Not unattractive, Pauline thought to himself. Certainly not the criminal type anyway.

            She kept her head down. She is hiding something, he thought. He could see some beads of sweat forming on her upper lip.

            “So, this is a regular part of your curriculum then?”

            She nodded without lifting her head.

            He paused and stroked the bag. “I notice, Ms. Harley…”

            “It’s Mrs. Harley,” she interrupted. “Mrs. Jason Harley.” She looked up at him for just a moment and he saw a flash in those hazel eyes.

            “Sorry, my mistake. Mrs. Harley. I, ah, notice, that you have not asked me why I am asking you these questions. Or, for that matter, why we care about this book?”

         Pauline had moved from behind his desk and perched himself on the edge of the desk, closer to her. He massaged a little squeezy, purple stress ball.

            “I guess it has something to do with Dodi…her death. I suppose,” she finished miserably. The hands tightened in her lap.

            “Yes,” he replied, “it does.” He walked over to the side panel window and looked out. “How well did you get along with Mrs. Greenfield?”

            “Who?” Allie looked surprised. “Oh, Dodi. She never used her last name. Fine I guess.” She studied her hands.

            “Fine?” Pauline answered. He went back over to his file. “Witnesses indicate you were seen with her a couple of times having ‘private conversations’ and you didn’t look happy. Also, a flyer for one of her house sales was on your desk. Apparently, you and your husband were attempting to get a loan on a house she was selling on the North end of town. A little pricey for a young couple with a new baby, isn’t it?”

            Allie said nothing and kept her head down.

            “Is there something you want to tell me, Mrs. Harley?”

            Allie shook her head no and he could tell she was about to tear up. He handed her a box of Kleenex. She grabbed two and put them to her eyes.

            “Okay, then. You think about it.” He handed her a business card. “If you have more to tell me, give a call.”

            She nodded, then getting up, she bolted out of the room.

            His partner, Raul, came in as she was leaving.

            “Beating them up again, Pauline?” he asked cheerfully. Pauline threw the squeezy ball at him and went to get a coffee.


Next, it was the co-teacher, Jan Douglas’s turn.

            “So, how long did you work together?” Pauline asked.

            “It was just this semester; this was the first time I worked for this school.”

            “How would you describe your relationship?”

            Jan stared at him with big doe eyes before she spoke. “Alright, I guess.”

            “No problems?”

            “Just the usual disagreements about teaching, course material. That kind of thing.” She stopped talking.

            “I have a report, Ms. Douglas, that indicates the two of you did not get on well at all and were virtually fighting in front of students.”

            Jan’s face began to flush. “I, I, well…”

            “Is this report true? It came from a student in your class.” His blue eyes peered at her.

            She flushed again. There is no getting out of this, she thought to herself. Nicey-nice is not going to do it. She smoothed her hair.

            Jan apologized. “I am sorry if I wasn’t completely frank with you, Detective.”

            He smiled affably, the squeezy ball was back. He worked the ball back and forth between both hands.

            “It was like this,” she sat up straighter and readjusted her purse on her lap.

            Not bad looking gal, Pauline thought to himself, older, but not bad.

            “Dodi was assigned to my class at the last minute. I was told she was my ‘helper’.” Jan spoke hurriedly now. Trying to get all the words out. Pauline nodded.

            “She was anything but helpful. Instead….” She stopped, casting about for words. Jan looked at Pauline. “It’s not considered professional to criticize co-workers or the dead.”

            He nodded saying nothing.

            “Dodi was extremely difficult, unhelpful and a burden in the classroom.”

            “How so?” he asked.

            “I think she was trying to get me fired.”

            “Why?” he asked squeezing the little ball harder.

            Jan shrugged and cast her eyes around the room. “I don’t know. New kid on the block, competition. Who knows. Just a mean bitch…oop.” She stopped and put two fingers on her own lips. A guilty look crept over her face.

            Now we’re getting somewhere. The detective sat down and made some notes.

            “I wish you wouldn’t write that down,” Jan pleaded.

            “Is it the truth?” Pauline asked.

            Jan sighed. Her shoulders slumped. “Yes, it is. She had been there a long time and supposedly had a lot of friends. Well, that’s what she said.”

            “What do you think?”

            “It’s difficult to say.”


            “The Dean loved her to pieces. I thought. She was always protecting her. But other folks….”

            His eyebrows went up.

            “Other folks seemed to be sort of uncomfortable around her. Like being around her left a bad taste, sort of thing.”

            Pauline nodded. “What was she like the last week you worked with her?”

            Jan thought. “She seemed sick. I mean, she was always getting sick, headaches, toothaches. You name it. But this time…”


            “This time she really did look sick. She had a cough, wheezing, looked feverish. I didn’t like it. Was afraid it might be contagious.”

            “Did you tell her to go home?”

            “Well, she always went home early anyway.” She paused, “And, she didn’t pay too much attention to me. But this time, she really didn’t look good. I said, ‘go home, I’ll handle it.’ So, she did. That’s the last I saw of her.”

            “That was a Wednesday?” he confirmed.

            She nodded.

            “And you didn’t hear anything else until you got to work on,” he looked at his notes, “Friday?”

            She nodded.

            “What do you think happened to her, Ms. Douglas?”

            “No idea,” she told him simply.

            “She died on Thursday night in her car. She had been out drinking and passed out in her car. But the effects of the poison had been working in her system for several days and she died about midnight.”

            “Poison?” Jan’s eyebrows shot up.

            The detective reached forward and picked up the bag with the little book. He held it so she could see. The title on the top of the page read Poisons. Trailing a finger down the page he stopped at Ricin and held it closer, so she could see it.

            “Ricin?” she asked.

            “Castor beans,” he replied.

            “But how, why, castor beans? I don’t get it. What would Dodi be doing with castor beans?”

            “Nothing, actually.” Pauline had relaxed around this teacher. He couldn’t see her being involved. Too honest. “It was castor bean oil.”

            Jan looked quizzical.

            “Mrs. Greenfield smoked and also used a vape cigarette, correct?”

            “Yes, she did both. I don’t know why use the vape if she was still smoking.”

            He smiled at her. “The oil was found in the vape contraption. She had been inhaling the fumes for a number of days and it finally killed her.”

            Jan looked stunned. “Wow.”

            “You say she was coughing and looking sick? Watery eyes, running to the bathroom?”

            She sat and thought a moment. “Yes, all those things. So, that was the poison…? Oh, my God.” She put her hand to her mouth again.

            “Yep,” Pauline started to gather his notes together, “unpleasant ending to your life.”

            “Wow,” Jan managed again.

            “Anything else, Ms. Harley? Might be important?”

            She shook her head. He handed her a card and got up from his desk. He motioned her up.

            “You can go, Ma’am.” He held the door for her. “Call if you think of anything else that we should know, call the number on the card.”

Dumbly, Jan viewed the card again, put it in her purse and left.

            “Damn, you’re polite for the ladies,” his partner, Raul Morales, grinned at him.

            Pauline feigned a throw of the ball but Raul ducked.  

Continued Part V


Dodi Dies – Part III

                                                         Part III

      It was break time and Jan stayed in the class while Dodi went to make the rounds. In the office, Allie, the science teacher, was hunched over some paperwork. 

      “Allie, dearest, how are you anyway?” Dodi grinned broadly. 

      Allie started and glanced up. Her eyes darted back down to the paper. 

      “Ah, good, Dodi. Things are good, how about you?” she continued working. 

      “Oh, busy, this and that.” Dodi sighed dramatically. “Just trying to keep up with everything.” She laid a long, red-lacquered fingernail on a paper on the desk. Allie glanced sideways, an annoyed expression on her plain face. Dodi was perched on a corner of the desk, legs crossed casually.

      “Oh, yes. You know I sell real estate, don’t you?” The paper spun slightly from side to side. Allie paused in what she was doing and studied the piece of paper.

      “I think I heard something about that,” she answered vaguely.  

      “Yes, and funny. It’s just the smallest world,” Dodi chirped and lifted her finger off the paper. “I ran into someone you may know. Mr. Smithers, the Vice-Principal at your old school.” She laughed lightly. “Isn’t that funny?” 

      Allie’s neck began to get pink. She tugged at her cotton collar. 

      “Yeah, small world. Right. Mr. Smithers.” 

      “So, I was showing him a house. Him and his wife, you know. And it is so funny about the way people talk and go on and on…” Dodi glanced down at Allie and readjusted her huge shoulder bag. 

      Allie was looking up at Dodi now. Her hands lay still on top of her desk. 

      Dodi was smiling. “And he mentioned the oddest thing.” She paused. 

      Allie said nothing. 

      “He seemed to think that you had left the middle school because of something to do with your credential. Not finishing some coursework or some such. I don’t know about these things. Credentials, blah, blah.” 

      Allie’s face went completely red. 

      “Oh, well,” Dodi waved a manicured hand. “It was just a passing remark. I doubt he goes around announcing that to the world. Oh,” with great flare she looked at her watch. “Look at the time, got to get that coffee and get back. See you.” 

     Allie sat very still, palms down on her desk, like a swimmer about to launch from the blocks.  She was breathing in and out. Slowly she got up and went into the teacher’s lounge. Dodi was still there stirring a cup of coffee with a wooden stick. 

      “Ah, Dodi. That thing about the school…” 

      Dodi turned and looked at Allie. There was a bright glossy rim on the edge of the cup. It had a perfect lip impression from Dodi’s scarlet lip gloss. Allie stared at the cup.

      “It was a bad time for me. I was on a conditional credential. I got pregnant and was having problems. Then, I had to take a really hard math class and was having trouble with that…. Couldn’t get everything done on time….” 

      “Oh, of course.” Dodi was sincere. “It’s just I was a little confused is all. I thought you told everyone here you had finished all your coursework and the credential thingy. Guess I got that wrong.” She sipped her coffee.

      “No, I’m almost done, just have a few more things ….” 

      Dodi reached over and patted her arm. “No harm done, I’m sure.” 

      Allie stammered. “It’s just…well…I would appreciate it if you didn’t mention…” 

      “Oh, pish! Don’t think of it.” Dodi turned to leave. 

      “Oh, by the way. I’m having an open house this weekend on a cute bungalow. I know you said you and your husband were looking. Why don’t you drop by? I’ll leave the flyer on your desk.” She grinned again and left the lunchroom. 

      Allie sank into a white plastic chair and stared into space. 


      Later that week, Dodi was in the office and took time to  poke around Jan’s desk. Jan was not scheduled to be in that day. As she rummaged about, Manuel, a handsome young Hispanic teacher, one desk over, turned to look at her. 

      “Is there something you need, Dodi? Maybe I can help.” 

      “No, no. I was just looking — for something.” Her voice trailed off. 

      He smiled warmly at her. 

      Dodi turned to Manuel. 

      “Is it really true you’re on an asylum visa from Central America?” 

     Manuel never stopped smiling. “Jes, is very true.” 

      “I just wondered, is all. I mean, don’t they have enough engineers in this country already?” 

     “Ah,” Manuel replied sadly, “apparently there is a shortage in my specialty.” 

      Dodi pursed her lips which accentuated her wrinkles. 

      “But,” he replied cordially, “I myself am going to walk over to HR now to check on some little things. Maybe you would like to come along and see these documents for yourself. Could be an interesting experience.” 

      Dodi goggled at him a moment. “No, no. Not necessary. I was just going. Ah, thanks.” She glanced back at Jan’s desk then turned and walked quickly away. 

       Manuel turned back to his math calculations and shook his head. 

      “Uno poco loco, that one,” he said quietly to himself. 


       Jan was back at work and getting lesson plans ready for class. She cast about on her desk for sticky pads and found the remains of an old pad. Damn it. Class was about to start soon. 

      “Allie, you have any sticky pads I could use?” 

      “Yeah, sure. On my desk, I’m not using them.” Allie got up and headed out to class. 

    “Thanks, Allie,” Jan said to the retreating back. 

      She scooted her roller chair over to Allie’s desk. She rummaged for a minute and found a pink pad. She was about to return to her desk when the spine on the overturned book caught her eye. Curious, she picked it up and looked at it. “Toxins from Living Plants,” was the title. 

      Hmm, odd
. She knew that Allie taught a science course to nurses so maybe… She turned to the open page. The title at the top read Poisons. Jan shivered a little and put the book down. Too much information, she thought and went back to her desk. 


      Classes continued with Jan and Dodi. Dodi kept nitpicking and criticizing Jan’s teaching. Jan worked hard to ignore the comments. It all boiled over one night when Dodi went over the top with her comments. 

      “You can’t do that, it’s not part of the curriculum,” she spat like an angry snake in Jan’s face.  

      “This is my class; Dodi and I will do it if I think it is needed.” 

      “You can’t. I’m going to report you.” 

      “Go ahead,” Jan sneered, “that’s what you have been doing all along isn’t it?” 

      The students in class got very quiet, eyeing the two women.

      Jan realized they were becoming a spectacle and announced, “Break time.” 

      The students all got up and quickly left the room. 

      “This isn’t over, Jan,” Dodi snapped at her and left the room. 

      Jan practiced breathing slowly and sought to get her pulse under control. She was going to have to talk to her immediate super tomorrow about this. Enough was enough. 

      After break, the two women avoided each other like a pair of junkyard dogs. When the group moved to the computer lab, Jan let out a sigh of relief when Dodi announced she had a ‘toothache’ and had to go home. 

      “Thank God,” Jan mumbled to herself and turned back to help a student. 


      The next day, Jan was not scheduled to be in class, but she packed up her materials anyway and went to have a tete-a-tete with her supervisor. She pulled up in front of the school and was amazed to see two black and whites parked by the front door. Cautiously, she went in and approached the teacher’s office. Cops were standing in Dean Nancy’s office. 

     “Oh, my God,” Jan scooted over to her desk and sat down. She whispered to Allie, “what has happened?” 

     “It’s something about Dodi,” Allie whispered back. “It’s bad. I think she might be dead.” 

     “Dead!” Jan looked shocked. “How?” 

      Allie shrugged her shoulders.

     A few minutes later, her supervisor, Diana, came bustling up. Her short, motherly frame almost quivering. “Oh, good…you’re here. The police need to speak to you both in the conference room.” 

     “Why?” Jan asked.

Diana shook her head, one hand covering her mouth. She looked ready to cry.

     “Better get going,” Jan rolled her eyes at Allie.

     Jan and Allie both got up and made their way to the conference room. Jan was relieved to see other teachers also there, lined up against the wall. They all eyed each other quizzically and waited. 

     One of the nursing teachers, Jack, was leaning against the wall close to them. 

      He spoke quietly, “I heard her husband found her in the driveway late last night. Thought she was passed out drunk behind the wheel. When he tried to wake her, he realized she was dead as a mackerel.” 

     The two women oohed at him. 
     “From what?” 

      “They don’t know. Heart attack maybe?” 

     “How old was she?” 

     “58-59. She just looked older because she smoked.” 

      “Ah,” they chimed together. 
     Allie got called in and then Jan. 

      It was an unnerving experience. They kept asking Jan questions because apparently, she had the ‘closest working relationship’ with the deceased. 

      “But surely it was heart attack?” Jan asked. 

      The two beefy cops glanced at each other. 

       One spoke. “We still have some questions about that.” 

      Jan was mystified. They let her go. As she was gathering up her purse, she saw a young cop carefully picking through items on a desk. He wore thin blue gloves. He stopped and opened a slim volume and started to read. Jan realized with a shock that it was Allie’s desk. That book looked familiar. Hmm. Time for her to get home. She was starting to imagine things. 


Continued Part IV

Dodi Dies – Part II

# Part II

     The semester continued, and Jan and Dodi established their routine. Dodi would show up shortly before the start of class and leave about an hour before the finish. Jan considered complaining, but she was so glad to see the woman go, she kept her mouth shut. Besides, she was new and didn’t want to rock the boat. During class times, Dodi checked attendance, updated student file folders and played with her nails.

“These records are very critical,” she told Jan with emphasis. “The amount the school gets paid per student depends on their showing up to class.” As if in response to something Jan had said, she added “And I know what I’m doing!”

When she was finished with record keeping, Dodi would sit at the side of class, arms crossed, shaking her head at Jan’s lectures and mumbling. During the lab session of class, she would be gone to her car to ‘get something’ or out wandering the halls, talking to friends. Jan felt sure that the trips to the car were to get something stronger than soda. The woman always had a relaxed, happy look when she returned.


      Dean Dan, was at his desk when Dodi buzzed by. Instinctively his back tensed when he saw her, but he put on his happy face. She stopped. 

      “Dodi,” he smiled. 

      “Oh, Dan,” she flopped her skinny butt down in his side chair. She sighed. 

      “How is it going?” he asked. 

      “Okay, I guess. Oh, that new teacher. Jesus.” Dodi rolled her eyes. “I have no idea why you guys hired her. She’s a disaster. She has no idea of how to teach the class.” 

      Dan smiled thinly. “Well, she came well recommended, Dodi and she did just start, so….” 

      “Oh, I know, Dan. Such a softy. Got to give every waif in the door a chance.” She smiled broadly. Her extra white teeth sparkled.  

      Dan grimaced. “Well, I’d say, let’s just try and see how it plays out. Shall we? Don’t jump to conclusions.” 

      “Of course, Dan, of course.” Dodi smirked and got up. “Whatever you say, you the Bossman.” She leaned forward and walked her fingers playfully over his shoulder. “I’ll be seeing you…sweetie.” 

      Dan’s smile froze as she walked away. When she was finally out the swinging door, he sighed and hunched over his desk. His shoulders sagged. He pulled out a small cotton handkerchief. Mopping his brow, he pulled it away and stared. It was soaked with sweat.  

     Damn that woman, he thought. He was a man with a wife and six kids. Couldn’t she get that? He thought he was done with her and here she was back again.


      The office was empty so there was no one to hear. He leaned forward and adjusted a picture of himself and three of the kids. 

      “Shit!” he said again to the air. 

       For the next half hour, Dan struggled to concentrate on the spreadsheet on his desk. The numbers swam before his eyes. He looked up at the clock: 9 pm. Maybe a cup of coffee. 

      Pushing the chair back, he got up and went to the men’s room. He splashed water on his face. Quickly looking under the stalls, he verified he was alone. Leaning forward on the porcelain sink, he stared at his reflection. Small and neat, he had always been meticulous about his appearance. He straightened the little red bow tie at the top of the clean, white, long-sleeve shirt. 

 Turning from side to side, he studied the short hair above his ears.   More grey every year. He leaned forward and got close to the mirror. 

      “It was a momentary lapse in judgment,” he whispered. He studied the reflection to see if it was buying that line.

 He went to get a cup of coffee and stood stirring the black brew. Memories floated back to him.


      A year before, Dan had been passed over for the head Dean spot. The job had been given to Nancy instead. He was given many assurances of “his turn” versus “her turn.” Also, suggestions of “your time will come.” It was all bullshit, and he knew it. After ten years in this salt mine, that had been his big chance. He had a Ph.D. and administration experience. They gave the job to a woman who was ‘working on her Ph.D.’ all for political reasons. The reason being that it looked good for them. 

      To him, it was a slap in the face. That, plus Jean, his wife of twenty years, was always preoccupied with the kids. She never seemed to have time for him. Neither did they. Except of course when they needed money or the car. 

      Dodi, sensing something like blood in the water, had upped her usual flirting. It had become a full-frontal assault. She could be funny and fun. Feeling neglected, he appreciated the frequent massages to his ego. In the end, after a few drinks on a Friday night, he let her massage something else too. 

      At first, it was exciting. It felt like being in Catholic boys’ choir and getting out of class early. It was fresh and exhilarating. 

      But then, when she started to call. And call and call and…. Jesus, he almost broke out into a sweat again thinking about it. When he didn’t return some calls, she ended up calling him at home and one of the kids answered. Good God! 

First, he tried to break it off by appealing to her better nature.

“Jean will be heartbroken if she finds out. I’ve never done anything like this before.” 

Dodi had rolled her big blue eyes.

“Yeah, yeah. See you lover, Friday night.” Friday was ‘their’ night because Jean went to play bridge and the kids all scattered to different events. Dan was starting to panic. He had to calm down and think. Finally, it hit him. 

      “Dodi, you know how much I appreciate you,” he told her one night. 

      “You better,” she laughed and took a long drag on her cigarette. 

      “Well,” he yanked at the bow tie. He had rehearsed this speech several times. “The thing is, if we get found out. Even suspected, by anyone, we’ll both lose our jobs.” 

      This caused Dodi pause. The cigarette hung in the air. They were at a small, dark bar on the edge of town where, hopefully, no one knew them. The overhead fan moved the smoke around in lazy curls. 

      “You think?” Her thin penciled eyebrows shot up. 

      “I know so,” he replied staring morosely into his drink. 

      “Hmm,” she replied and took another drag. “You know Dan, I might just call it an early night. If you don’t mind. Got to get up early for the gym. Plus, the hubby gets restless if I’m gone too many hours.” She laughed lightly. 

      “Well…” he managed to sound sad. He knew she was in the middle of a nasty divorce. 

      “Yeah.” She grabbed her Dolce and Gabana bag and dragged it behind her and scooted out of the booth. She kissed the air close to his forehead.

      “Bye,” he got out a little wave and watched her skinny sequined frame retreat through the dark wood-paneled bar. He took a big slug of his drink and let out a long sigh. 

      It was much later that evening that he received a text from Dodi. 

      “Dan, don’t think this is working for the two of us. Thanks for the good times! Later. D”                                             

      Letting out his breath, he realized that he had been holding it. As relieved as he was, something told him this wasn’t the end of the Dodi thing. He erased the text and then went carefully through his cell and got rid of the rest of them. God forbid Jean or one of the kids found any of them and asked who they were from. 

      What the hell were you thinking, you idiot? He cursed himself and swore to Jesus himself to never, never do this again. He crossed himself. 


Continued Part III

Dodi Dies – Detective Victor Pauline investigates


“Ah, Jan, this is Delores. She will be helping you out in class.” The Dean shuffled awkwardly. 

 Jan turned to meet her new co-worker. It was the first day of class and she was a little distracted. She put down a wad of papers and held out her hand. 

      “Hi, Delores, how are you?” Jan said. Delores flashed a dazzling white smile at Jan. Her teeth almost sparkled. Delores blinked. 

      Jan paused a moment. What was that color on those eyelids? Green sparkle something. 

      “Oh, call me Dodi. Everyone does.” 

      “Sure,” Jan replied. The woman blinked again. 

      Oh. Sparkly green eyeliner
, Jan thought to herself absently. Her coworker was thin with a big bubble of frosted blonde hair and a tailored pants suit. Close to fifty-five, she wore bright red lipstick that had started to bleed into the fine lines around her mouth. 

     “Nice to meet you,” Jan added. 
     She needed to get into the classroom. As a new hire to Technology Plus! school, she couldn’t afford to be late. Hustling to the class, she mused, somewhat surprised. The Dean and her direct supervisor, Diana, never mentioned a coworker/helper before. Whatever, she shrugged and reviewed her opening speech as students began to trickle in. 

       A little later, Dodi came in and sat to one side, toward the back. Jan made introductions. They got busy with student attendance and report forms. Jan created 3×5 attendance cards for each student. 

Jan turned and almost walked into her co-worker, who had sidled up to the podium.

“What are those?” Dodi asked her,

      “Oh.” Jan felt off balance. “They…they’re attendance cards with their names and info,” Jan got out. 

      “I’ll just borrow these for a little,” Dodi smiled broadly at Jan who reluctantly handed over the cards.

After break Dodi went to the front of the classroom. 

      “Well, now we’ve gotten to know each other a little bit, it’s time to get organized. I’m going to call your names alphabetically and I’d like you to take your correct seats,” she announced to the class.

She then proceeded to call out names. Students slowly got up and shuffled around the room as she called names and pointed to desks and chairs. Jan watched this process, confused. 

       They’re college students, for gosh sakes, she thought. They should be able to pick their own seats. The roll call continued. Oh, whatever, it won’t kill them. 

      After the reseating was done, Dodi plunked herself down at a desk with a group of file folders and started to label them. Jan stared at her a moment. Giving herself a mental shake, she resumed her place at the front, and continued the lecture.

The second part of class was designatated for student’s computer work. They moved as a group to the computer lab. Students started pecking at computer keys. By the end of class, Jan felt good. She had connected with her students and gotten most of the mountain of material covered. 

      It was 9:45 pm and Jan was packing up her stuff, eager to get home. She stopped back at her desk in the office to get the last of her things. The Assistant Dean was still at his desk. She waved at him. A short, middle-aged man, Dan DeLeon was a snappy dresser with a neat mustache, perfectly manicured hands. His clothing, an unpscale collegiate style, looked like they they came from Patrick James Men’s Clothiers. James was a fancy, bespoke men’s shop in town. Jan liked him, and he waved back as she pushed her way out the swinging door. 

      The following week, Jan came to the office early. She buzzed by the Dean’s office. Dean Nancy was in her office dressed in her usual flowing caftan attire. A fancy necklace around her neck pulled the eye away from her substantial bulk. She waved good-naturedly at Jan. 

“How’s it going, Jan?” she smiled.

Jan paused at the door to the Dean’s office and leaned in.

“Great, Jan. Things are going fine.’ She paused looking at the framed pictures of children on Jan’s desk. “Your children?”

            “No, no. Nieces and nephews. That,” she pointed to a picture on the wall of herself and a group of youngsters, “was my last Kinder class. Finally decided I needed to do something in the real world. Which is why I’m here!”

            Jan smiled at the happy faces, “Well, ah, great. Got to be going. Later.” Dean Nancy smiled and went back to work.

      Jan dumped lesson plans and copies at her desk. She opened her computer and began checking her e-mail. Her boss, Diana, was on the other side of the module, babbling non-stop on the phone to some student. Jan was absorbed, getting ready for class. 

      Dodi showed up a half hour before class and waved at Jan. 

      “I got the student folders done!” She waved a stack of labeled folders at Jan proudly. 

      “Well… great, Dodi,” Jan accepted the folders. “Thanks.” 

      She found a little pushcart and stacked the folders and other copies on top. Pushing the cart to the classroom, she unlocked the door and pushed it in. As she fired up the computer, students wandered in and took seats. 

      A few minutes later, Dodi showed. She stared around the class. A look of aggravation settled on her face. She walked over to Jan.

      “They are supposed to be in alphabetical order!” she hissed. 

     “They found where they wanted to sit, Dodi. I thought it would be okay,” Jan whispered back. Actually, she had completely forgotten about the seating plan. 

      Dodi turned on an angry heel and left the class. Jan continued with the lesson plan.

      At break time, she went back to her desk to grab some supplies. Dean Nancy was still in her office and waved at her. 


     Jan turned and went back to the dean’s office. The look on the dean’s face caused Jan to sit down. The Dean was eating baked broccoli for dinner. 

      “Ah,” the dean put her fork down. “Dodi was in to see me.” Jan felt her face flush. 

      “Jan, I know you are new here and don’t really know how we do things.” She smiled ernestly. “Dodi is a long-term, trusted employee. She was in the military you know, and she just likes to organize things her own way. So,” there was a pause, “I would cooperate with her. We’re just one big family here.” 

      Jan was stunned at this rebuke. Embarrassed, she nodded dumbly and left. Returning to the class, she asked all the students to please stand. She pulled out her attendance cards and called their names in order and had them sit down again, alphabetically. The students looked at her uncertainly but did what they were asked. 

      Dodi sat in a corner of the room. A little smiled played on her lips. 

Continued Part II



She loved him so much,

so much she was drained.

So much she was sick,

sick to her stomach, sick to her heart.

He toyed with her and played

with her feelings.

Cat and mouse,

he couldn’t stop it.

And yet,

he couldn’t give her what she wanted.

Still, if she pulled away, he would find a way

to yank her back.

Promises of love unending.

Implied sex, so seductive.

The world revolved around him,

and he made her head spin.

Around and around they went together,

never beginning and never ending.

She looked in the mirror and thought,

why do I feel so empty?

She had no idea.

Skunks on the Beach

Kari was lounging on her beach chair staring out at the ocean. It glinted and shimmered brilliantly in the afternoon sun. The waves peaked and descended in a soft, endless motion. She was mesmerized by the sight and the warm Caribbean sun.  A little breeze played over her shoulders as she smoothed on more sun tan lotion.

“God, Matt, don’t you just love this place!” she gushed.

Matt, next to her, on another beach lounger, grunted a reply. He was hunched over his ipad, typing something and peering at the screen.

“Can’t you put that down for just a bit, we’re supposed to be on vacation?”

Matt grunted again. “Uhh.” He scowled at the screen.

Kari threw the bottle of lotion down in disgust. There was no talking to him while he was in one of his ‘writing’ moods. He simply shut everything out.

She continued to stare at the white sandy beach in front of them. Her attention was caught by movement about 50 yards away. Was that a cat? She thought to herself. No, two cats. What are cats doing on the beach? They must belong to someone.

She sat completely up trying to see them. “They’re digging for something.” She said out loud. Matt didn’t look up. “I wonder.”

Kari got up and wrapped her new island shawl around her hips. She had found this really great deal for Easter break on Punta Cana, Dominican Republic and they were actually able to afford a vacation for once. She even had a little left over to shop for clothes.

Slipping into her Reef sandals she walked slowly down to the beach where she could see the animals. If she went too fast, she knew she’d scare them away. She adjusted her glasses. “Cats, no. Not cats.”

“Oh, my God,” she whispered. “They’re skunks. Too much!”  Giggling she moved a little closer.

The two skunks ignored her as they busily dug and clawed in the sand.

“What the heck…?” Kari sank into the sand and watched, intrigued. She could see one of the skunks pull something out of the hole and start to eat it. Some kind of purple fruit? Grapes or plums maybe.

She watched, fascinated while the animals dug and pulled the fruit out and shoved it in their mouths. There was a sharp sound, like a pop or retort of an engine and one skunk looked up, startled. In one swift movement the two ran from the beach still holding fruit in their jaws.

Kari laughed. “What an island experience. So cute! Damn it, where was the camera when you needed it?” She decided to go examine the hole.

Sauntering over she bent down and looked in. A green plastic shopping bag that held grapes had been ripped open by the skunks.  She was still laughing about it when something gleamed in the sunlight. “What…?”

She gingerly pulled out the ripped bag and could see the corner of something in the sand below it. She started to dig frantically with her hands. “Ow!”

She had scratched herself on a sharp metal corner. Ignoring the owey, she dug more and uncovered the handle of a small metal box. She yanked and pulled with all her 110 pounds. The box popped out of the hole.

Speechless, she stared at the little gray box. It was old with corroded metal and a little push lock on the front. She pushed the lock and the top swung back. Her mouth fell open.

The box was full of metal coins, dozens and dozens of coins, some gold but mostly silver. She picked a silver one up and looked at it. It was really worn and old. It looked to be a man with lots of hair and a laurel crown on one side and some symbols on the other.  She was staring fixedly at the coin.

“I’ll take that little lady.”

Kari jerked up her brown curly head and saw a large pistol right in her face. Looking upwards, she could see the pistol was attached to a very large man in an old Hawaiian shirt and shorts. A big man; burly and very tan. He held out his hand.

Kari, scooting backwards on the sand almost fell over. The large man grabbed the box, slammed the lid back on and shifted it up under a bronzed arm.

“I’ll take that one too.” He was gesturing at the coin clutched in her hand.

There was a sharp “plunking” sound and a short branch hit the man in the back of the head.

“Get away from her!” Yelled an angry Matt, waving another branch threateningly.

The man turned and pointed the gun at Matt.

“Back off cowboy,” he waved the gun. “Don’t want nobody hurt.”

The engine revved in the speedboat that had pulled up on the shore.

“Come on asshole!” Another tanned man, still in the boat, yelled at his mate.

The big man repositioned the box under his arm and walked backwards a few feet then turned and ran quickly back to the boat. He handed the box to his friend and jumped aboard. The boat reversed and then sped away back to sea.

Matt ran over to Kari and grabbed her. “Are you alright?”

“Matt, it’s okay, he didn’t hurt me.” Kari was almost breathless and hugged Matt, the coin still stuck in her hand.

Later, the two were in the offices of Dr. Bob, antiquities professor from the University of Indiana. He had a small office in the center of town.

“Well,” he pushed up his spectacles, “It’s not my place to say, but…” He held the coin in his hand after examining it with a magnifying glass. “Wait..”

He went over to a book in the corner and flipped through it. “Yes, here.” He pointed.

Matt and Kari went over to the book and looked down. His finger rested on a color picture of an old coin. “Charles II Merk, about 1676 I think.”

“Wow,” Matt managed to get out.

“How much do you think it’s worth Doctor?” Kari asked.

“Maybe $300 – $350 dollars American,” the doctor replied.

He had listened in silence to their entire story of finding the box, the coins and the men on the beach. He tapped his teeth with a pencil and rolled his chair over to his computer.

“Could be, could be,” they could hear him mumbling.

“Dominican Republic is known, famously really, as a bounty hunter’s treasure trove. Many a ship from Europe sank off these waters taking their treasure chests with them.” He paused, thinking.

“This coin you found,” he gestured at Kari, “Is a silver Merk from Scotland and could very well have been from the ship belonging to the famous pirate, Captain Kidd.”

The young people gasped.

Dr.  Bob continued. “Its value would be even greater if it could be proved to have come from that ship.”

“How would we know?”

“Ah, well, there’s the rub,” the doctor continued. “Your evidence is gone isn’t it? With those two guys in the powerboat.” He put down his glasses and stared at them thoughtfully.

“Police?” asked Matt.

The doctor just shook his head no.

Later, the couple lounged by the poolside at their hotel sipping Mai-Tais on their last night before going home. Matt was pounding away on a brand new ipad and Kari was admiring a new pinkie ring she had purchased.

“You know,” she said thoughtfully, “If we had just held out longer, it might have been proved to have come from that ship.”

“Yeah,” Matt replied without looking up from his screen. “But who wants to stay in Punta Cana. Too many skunks!”

The end.

My latest book!


He had huge blue eyes, a shock of pure white hair under a ball cap. Tall and gangly, you could tell by his profile he had been a very handsome man once. Sunburned by a thousand hot Fresno suns, he rode his bicycle here and there over the streets of the town. A scarecrow on the back of a bike.

“Bill, Bill, is that you?” The chubby elderly lady dressed in a mauve warm-up suit waved one hand out of her front door. “Oh, Bill, I have something for you. Just wait a sec and I’ll be right out.”

He paused in front of his apartment door, the door key in his hand, and turned to look down the hallway. Impatience clouded his face as he clutched the key.  He decided to head inside. Phyllis would catch up. She always did. He unlocked the door and dumped his heavy backpack on the floor. Thankfully they had a nice bike rack downstairs so he could lock up his bike without having to bring it inside.

He started to flip through his mail, looking to see if there was anything interesting. Whole Term Life, get your policy for Whole Term Life. Discounted, special for senior citizens! He threw it in the trash with a flick. Coupons, coupons, Green Dot Market coupons, he set those aside. More ads for cable TV, wireless phones, hearing aids. Funeral home specials.

“Jesus!” He thought to himself. “I’m not dead yet!”

There was one for a Latin dance club. Cumbiatron!!!!! In bold letters it announced salsa night at the club. He put that one to the side.

There was a knock on the door. Grudgingly, he went to open it.

“There you are, thought I had missed you!” Phyllis gushed with an aluminum covered pan in her hands.

“I wish,” Bill winced to himself.

“I just happened to have some extra of this beef casserole and I know how much you like ground beef. No big pieces.” She smiled the big smile at him, a wonderful set of choppers showing.

“Oh, that is so nice of you Phyllis,” he oozed is his best nicey, nice voice. “You are so right, it is my favorite.” He yanked the glass dish out of her hands and placed it on the counter.

“I thought maybe you could join us downstairs later for some bridge.”

“Sorry Phyllis, I just can’t. Got some things I just have to get done. Maybe next time.” He was scooting her toward the door with his big, boney hands.

Her mouth formed a little disappointed frown. “Oh, I just thought…”

“No, no. You were right to ask. It’s just that I have had a long morning already and have to rest up for this evening. You understand.” He grinned at her. He had a nice set of choppers too.

Phyllis recovered. “Okay then, well enjoy your dinner and next time.”

Bill nodded vigorously and shut the door on her rear end.

“Now where is that blue silk shirt I used to have.” He went into the bedroom and started to rummage through his closet. He wanted to make it so church tonight and see if that new gal was there.

“Lady, Linda,” he mused, “what was her name? Ah, here it is.” He slid the long sleeved shirt out of the closet and examined it. Being over twenty years old, it was not doing too badly.

“Like you, you old dog.” He winked at himself in the mirror. “Lady, I think the name was. Hot!”

He headed for the shower humming a little tune, Lady from Styx.

That evening, Bill arrived at Open Door Mission Church a little early and hustled over to get coffee and cookies before they were all gone.  The church crowd was starting to gather and mill around. Bill worked the room saying hello and shaking hands. He was peering around looking to see if Lady had arrived yet. To his disappointment she was still not there.

“Patience,” he mumbled to himself. “All things in God’s time, can’t rush it.”

“Bill, hey, you’re here!” Came the booming voice of the church pastor. Bill turned. Jimmy Dean, minister of Open Door was a paunchy guy with a friendly face and balding, thin blond hair. He was extending his hand effusively toward Bill.

They shook hands and exchanged pleasantries. After a few minutes, Jimmy shifted his over-tight belt around on his double-knit polyester tan pants. Bill wondered if they came from Wal-Mart. It would be the kind of tacky thing the pastor’s wife would buy.

“Bill, I need to discuss something with you for just a minute.” Jimmy was starting to sweat a little on the brow.  There was a pause while the man tried to collect his thoughts.

“You know that we at the church,” he waved his hand a bit to indicate the congregation, “always appreciate all the help you give us, volunteering and all.”

“I’m here to serve and help Jimmie, you know that,” Bill answered earnestly. “I’m just a humble servant.”

Jimmy paused for a moment, seemingly losing his train of thought.  “Ah, yeah. Right. That is sort of the thing Bill,” he paused again, “some of the parishioners, just a few mind you, have been complaining about the help you have been giving them.”

Bill managed to look shocked. “Whatever can you mean Jimmy?”

“Well,” Jimmy was having a little trouble with the words, “some people feel you are a little, well, intense…yes, yes, that’s the word. A little too intense for their liking.”

“Well, Jimmy, you know that I started out in seminary school, and I have been doing good works and carrying the message of the Lord for all these years. I am so sorry if people just aren’t interested…”

“Interested is not really the right word Bill, no, no. I wouldn’t use the word ‘interested’. No, it’s more like they feel like you come on too strong with them and the message and they feel…” He was struggling again, “They feel, well, intimidated. Yes, that’s it. Intimidated.” The pastor managed a weak smile.

Bill was shaking his head back and forth, mystified.

“Well, Jimmy, whatever it is you want from me, you know you just have to ask. You know that don’t you, Jimmy?” He put a boney hand on Jimmy’s thick shoulder.

“Well, of course Bill,” Jimmy was working hard to maintain the smile. “Tell you what, maybe if you could just, tone things down a bit, for the time being, let the newcomers just sort of feel their way around here, that might help.”

Bill nodded with enthusiasm, “Absolutely, Jimmy, you’re the man in charge.”

Jimmy looked relieved, he could see his wife scowling at him from the kitchen area. “Well, actually, He’s the man in charge,” he pointed a finger upwards.” But still, so glad we could speak to each other like this. Again, thanks for all your work for the church. Have a good service.” He wiped his brow with a hand and scurried off to see what his wife wanted.

Bill smiled and turned back to the congregation and pews “Ass,” he thought to himself. “I was preaching when he was in diapers.”

Jimmy beat it over to his wife, double time.

“Did you talk to him?” she hissed at him in a low voice.

“Yes, Linda, I talked to him. He seems very cooperative.”

“I hope so, I am sick of him. The old moocher,” she shook her head in disgust.

The service was starting so Bill was forced to find a seat with the others. To his delight, he glimpsed Lady coming in late through a side door. She grabbed a seat a few rows ahead of him. He could lean sideways and get a glimpse of her stocking clad legs over a well shod heel.  “Got to love it,” he mumbled a little. The short, dumpy lady sitting next to him shot him a suspicious look. He opened his book.

After the service, the church always served coffee and refreshments and he raced the crowd back to the kitchen.  Lady wandered in and began chatting with some other women. He moseyed over and  hung onto the edges of the conversation, laughing when the others laughed.

As the parishioners started to leave he casually got his bike off the rack and wandered over to where Lady was getting in her car. “So, good to see you here tonight, we just love newcomers,” he told her.

She jerked up, a little startled, and then pausing said “Ah, that is so sweet to hear you say. Thanks Bill, it feels great to be welcomed.”

“Don’t know if you’d ever like to go for coffee after the service,” he ventured.

She had gotten the car door opened and threw her purse in. She looked like she was considering his offer for a moment. “Oh, don’t think so Bill. Thanks so much, I have to get home to my fiancée.“

His guts lurched at the word fiancée. Still, he managed to keep the smile on his face. “Well, maybe invite him too sometime, why the heck not?”

She laughed and got into her car. “Maybe, sometime.” She started the engine and drove away. When she was well out of the parking lot she shook her blond head back and forth. “Men, amazing.”

Bill was pedaling like a madman back home to Happy House Village.  “She’s not that great,” he fumed furiously. “And that suit she was wearing. What’s that color, hot pink? Just another tart in a cheap suit.”

He slammed his bike into the bike rack. As he went by the club house he could see a group of people playing cards. Phyllis was there sitting next to some man he didn’t know. “Yucking it up, as always. Bunch of jerk-offs.” He stomped up the stairs not waiting for the elevator.

Next night Bill rode the bus, putting his bike on the front, and was able to find the Cumbiaton bar for the salsa dancing. Electro Latin Nights the billboard screamed. He was wearing his best blue silk shirt and some nice fitting white pants. He was so proud of himself he could sit fit into all his old clothes. “That’s exercise for you.” Plus, he knew the light here would be very dim so that would help immensely.

Always a good dancer, he was eager to try these new steps. “Go Dog go,” he encouraged himself. He asked many ladies to dance and they usually said yes and pretty soon the whole place was a riot of motion and energy. He was really having fun.

After the end of one exhausting set, he asked his little Latina partner “Drink?”

“Si, senor, Dos Equis, por favor.” Bill ran to get her drink.

As she sat sipping her drink, he fondled his coke. “Would you like to go out sometime?”

She laughed, a little tinkling laugh, and her black curls shook. “No man, you fun but you old enough to be my grandpa.” She giggled again and sipped her beer, her bright red nail polish brushing drops off the low-cut chiffon thing she was wearing.

Bill raised his glass. “Cheers, no problem,” he gave her a big smile.

Back home that night, he stared in the mirror. “What’s wrong with me?” he asked his reflection. “The girls used to always go wild over me. They must have no taste anymore.” Shaking his head sadly over the state of the world he made his way to bed.

Next night, he waited until it was bridge time and ambled downstairs to join the group. He balanced one skinny hip on a plush chair.

“So, Phyllis,” he asked casually, “still looking for that bridge partner?”

“Oh, Bill, that is so sweet of you.” Phyllis gushed. “But, oh, here he is.” She waved to the entranceway as a dark haired man walked in. “Fred, Fred, over here honey!”

Fred sauntered over and plopped down in one of the folding chairs at the card table.

“Fred is my new bridge partner. Isn’t he just the cutest?” Fred, looking a bit like a carnival bear dressed in a shirt and tie, gave a curt nod in Bill’s general direction.

“So, we gonna play or what?” growled Sally, the unofficial bridge headmaster, one cigarette hanging out of her mouth. The others eagerly pulled their chairs up to the table waiting for cards.

“Ah, yeah,” Bill mumbled to Phyllis who was already caught up in the game. He got off the chair and wandered out to the pool and laid down on one of the big white plastic loungers.

He leaned back and stared up at the night sky and the bright, white stars. “What’s the world coming to Lord? What’s the world coming to?”


The Sound of One Hand Clapping

Recently I finished up a teacher/counselor type position for low-income students. It was a combo summer program and then some Saturdays. I was with the program four semesters. This year we had a very nice wrap up ceremony with lunch, a talk from the big boss, etc., parents and students. A number of the students have been accepted into the college/university of their choice. Other students had gotten summer internships with the local university and others have gotten summer internships or jobs.

As a career counselor person, I spent endless hours with students telling them about community colleges, university, registrations, transfers, loans, grants, scholarships. Then, onto resumes, cover letters, presentations, interviews, selecting careers and how to physically get there. I was so happy to see that the students who stood up to get the rewards were primarily students from my class. Yeah!

My reward for all the hard work and preparation was a Starbucks gift card, lunch and a Go-Team speech. I had to think about this.

My thinking is that maybe the boss is scared if he rewards one (me) for good work, the others will get upset? Then, reward the others for good work too! Is that so hard? The end result is that I walk away from the experience feeling invisible and wondering why I tried so hard.

Although I am sure many students appreciated my efforts, I would really like to get some form of acknowledgement from the boss. Specifically, that I, as an individual (over and above the ‘team’) made a difference for these students and that they (management) recognize the contribution. I know I did a good job with those kids; but it feels like the sound of one hand clapping. Not good. So, that said, lets look as some of the ways (there are many) that managers fail to take care of their people. Ways in which managers…don’t manage. cew

25 Signs of a Bad Manager at Work in 2023

You found our list of warning signs of a bad manager.

Signs of a bad manager are undesirable leadership traits that cause friction between supervisors and employees. For example, micromanagement, conflict avoidance, and credit-stealing. The purpose of pointing out these qualities is to help managers avoid pitfalls and lead teams more successfully.

These traits are similar to bad leaders, the opposite of signs of a good manager and are examples of poor team management skills. Ineffective leadership can have a significant impact on employee morale and workplace toxicity.

This post includes:

  • warning signs of a bad boss
  • signs of a weak manager
  • characteristics of a bad manager
  • toxic manager traits
  • incompetent manager traits

Here are the biggest red flags.

List of signs of a bad manager

From poor feedback to favoritism to conflict avoidance, here are qualities effective leaders avoid.

1. Micromanagement

Micromanagement is one of the most-often-cited characteristics of a bad manager. Instead of giving staff the time, space, and autonomy to perform, micromanagers over-observe and dictate every part of the process. These bosses demand constant updates that can further delay the result and make the work tedious.

This approach can squash creativity and take a toll on productivity. Employees struggle to find joy and meaning in the work they lack ownership and control over. Not to mention, the need to oversee and sign off on every idea or action conveys a lack of trust.

Leaders are accountable for the team’s results. Anxiety about potential outcomes often leads inexperienced or insecure managers to monitor and control each step of the operation.

How to fix it: Trust your team! Dial back the checking in. Once you and the team decide how often updates should occur, try to stick to that agreement as closely as possible. Oftentimes when managers provide the staff with autonomy and space, employees repay that trust by meeting and exceeding expectations.

2. Failure to give feedback

Delivering feedback is one of leaders’ most important responsibilities. Managers’ primary role in the workplace is to evaluate and guide employees. A manager who neglects to provide performance insight ignores this duty, and the silence denies employees the chance to grow.

Some managers dread confronting staff with less-than-stellar reviews. Others only offer criticism without recognizing positive contributions. Then, some supervisors assume that the occasional “good job,” is sufficient without further detail. Some managers neglect to give feedback at all. Or, perhaps the comments are too harsh, or too unclear. Feedback is an art that many managers struggle to master.

How to fix it: Schedule regular formal reviews on a yearly, quarterly, or monthly basis. Also, make opportunities for more informal evaluations, like one-to-one check-ins or feedback Slack channels. Roleplay and practice delivering constructive comments outside of work to grow more comfortable with the process.

3. Inability to say “no”

There are a surprising number of individuals in management positions who are uncomfortable saying “no.” These individuals have trouble standing up to their bosses, other departments, and sometimes, even their own team.

The manager should be a voice of reason and should not be averse to provide pushback. A manager who is afraid of offending is more worried about keeping the peace than the long term effects of agreeing.

How to fix it: Realize that accommodating coworkers is not a zero sum game. Pleasing one party might inconvenience another. Make decisions out based on business interests, not politeness. Practice saying no so that you grow more comfortable asserting yourself and advocating for your team’s needs.

4. Absence of empathy

A lack of empathy is one of the worst toxic manager traits primarily because this quality lays the foundation for other bad behaviors. A manager who fails to recognize feelings of employees may not think twice about gossiping, screaming, or overworking staff.

In its most extreme form, this quality appears as workplace abuse. However, more subtle manifestations of this trait include bosses guilting employees over taking sick leave or flaunting wealth in front of minimum wage employees.

How to fix it: Practice mindfulness and self-awareness. In times when you cannot show kindness, then give your employees space. Make an effort to observe and imagine other folks’ feelings. Search for the root of your lack of compassion. Trust yourself to draw the line between being nice and being taken advantage of.

5. Gossip

Leaders should actively discourage gossip to promote a healthy team culture. Spreading rumors and hearsay does not set a good example for the staff.

Not to mention, the act tanks trust. Employees who overhear a manager speculating about a colleague may worry about becoming the subject of such gossip. As a result, teammates will not confide in the manager, causing a rift in the relationship. Managers cannot lend support when they are unaware of team members’ struggles, and team members will not admit those struggles when suspecting the manager will not keep a secret.

Gossip has no place in inclusive workspaces, and managers should strive to make the workplace welcoming and safe for all team members.

How to fix it: Don’t do it. If you would not make the statement to the subject’s face, do not say it to a colleague. When other coworkers begin to gossip while talking to you, either correct the employees or leave the conversation.

6. Poor communication

Good managers keep in touch. Bad managers go radio silent. This occurrence is a problem especially when managers are based in separate locations, travel frequently, or if the team is fully remote.

Or, if the leader does communicate, the conversation is one-way. The boss sends an email or instant message, yet never responds to follow-up questions. This manager promises to call back later but forgets to pick up the phone.

The occasional delayed response is understandable, but this manager makes a habit of ghosting the team.

How to fix it: Stick to a communication schedule, even if you have nothing new to report. Set deadlines for important conversations, for instance, replying within 24 hours. Use a communication tool to make reaching out easier and more convenient.

Here is a list of remote work platforms to help you communicate.

7. Over-reliance on employee self-management

There is a difference between giving employees freedom to do their jobs and forcing them to fend for themselves. Good managers give employees autonomy and defer to their judgment, yet still observe and give input.

Bad managers are often unaware that decisions are even being made. These individuals never implicitly command employees to take the reins, yet never make a decision that might mean otherwise. Employees assume that the issue will continue unless someone takes actions, so the staff steps up and solves the problem out of a sense of duty. There are no instructions from the manager beforehand, and often, no thanks afterwards.

This behavior turns employees into managers without the pay or title. Assuming too much responsibility can make the staff feel overwhelmed, unappreciated, and resentful.

How to fix it: Distinguish between manager tasks and employee tasks. For instance, staff can make shift swaps but should not create the schedule, and mediating conflicts between coworkers is a manager’s responsibility. Hold regular meetings and check-in’s and remain aware of the day-to-day happenings of the job. Do not take advantage of employees’ eagerness to help or prove themselves.

8. Disorganization

Disorganization is one of the main incompetent manager traits. There is a fine line between being slightly scattered and being consistently disheveled. Disorganization becomes a problem when managers constantly forget details, lose documents, and miss meetings. This behavior sets a poor standard for the department, and can also cause extra work and for other team members.

How to fix it: Find or create a system that works for you. Take an hour or two at the start or end of each week to organize. Evaluate whether you need an assistant, or just need to get your act together.

You can also use scheduling software to help arrange your day.

9. Conflict avoidance

Conflict avoidance is one of the main signs of a weak manager. Achieving team harmony is a manager’s goal, however trying to avoid any type of disagreement often has the opposite effect. When managers squash squabbles without addressing the underlying causes, resentment can build and an even greater argument may arise down the line. Instead of trying to stamp out any sign of trouble, leaders should teach teams how to navigate and resolve disagreements respectfully. It is the role of managers to lead mediation, diffuse the tension, negotiate, and steer the group towards compromise.

Ignoring the issues will only procrastinate the problem until the situation reaches a boiling point.

How to fix it: Establish a mediation process early to provide a structure for problem-solving. Encourage productive communication practices and teach teammates how to hold respectful dialogues.

10. Unavailability

Managers may not be available to staff during all hours of the day. However, if teammates consistently feel as if their supervisor does not have time for them, then there is a serious problem.

How to fix it: Block out “office hours” and be available to staff during these times. Regularly check in with staff. You can also schedule regular one on one meetings to ensure all employees receive individualized attention.

11. Lack of delegation

The non-delegator is a bad boss in disguise as a good boss. The “jump-in-the-trenches” approach can earn staff’s admiration and loyalty during busy times, yet can also earn the team’s ire in slower seasons. Managers who insist on taking on tasks that teammates are capable of handling are one step away from micromanagers.

How to fix it: Realize that your role as a boss is to coach and guide employees, not to do everything yourself.

12. Favoritism

An ideal manager treats all team members equally. Bad bosses play favorites. These leaders may have personal relationships with direct reports, for instance, being related. Or, the boss may just like one employee more than the others. Preferences are not a crime, however special treatment is a cardinal manager sin. These leaders give out opportunities and privileges not based on merit or skill, but rather on personal feelings. Preferential treatment is discouraging and demoralizing for non-favored employees. There is no incentive to try or strive if reward and regard automatically go to the manager’s pet.

How to fix it: Be mindful of interactions you have with your staff. Make notes about privileges. If an employee pushes you for special treatment, then have a frank conversation about your need to stay impartial despite your close relationship.

13. Credit-stealing

Credit-stealing is one of the most obvious warning signs of a bad boss. These managers pass off employees’ ideas and efforts as their own, or fail to mention team members’ contributions. Sometimes, bosses behave this way by accident, merely forgetting to give staff a shout-out. Thanking employees in private yet never bringing up their name in public is not sufficient either.

Nobody wants to feel that their work goes unnoticed, nor that someone else is reaping the rewards of their intelligence and effort. Employees have aspirations and ambitions and are not simply a tool to make the boss look better. Staff deserve the chance to advance their careers. Hoarding the applause is unfair.

How to fix it: Be realistic in your role in the project and honestly evaluate who had the most influence on the end result. Pass along the praise and name your employees. Give your team credit, and they will likely give you credit in return. If you struggle to share the glory, then use the phrase “it was a team effort” as a baby step.

14. Insults

Most folks would agree that a manager who calls employees morons is not a good boss. Toxic leaders feel entitled to belittle staff and call employees names. Tearing other folks down masks their insecurity and makes the boss feel more in control.

How to fix it: Avoid name-calling. If making the comment to your own boss would result in your firing, then do not say it to your staff. Focus on solutions to the problem at hand instead of hurling character attacks.

15. Blame

There is a difference between accountability and blame. Accountability is action-based and focuses on the future. Blame revolves around labels and deals with the past.

A good manager holds teammates to high standards and points out when staff fail to meet expectations. When a misstep occurs, effective managers focus on finding solutions instead of hurling accusations. Good managers assign fault only in service of fixing an error, not to make a judgement on the employee’s capabilities or character. Bad managers harp on mistakes and can sink morale and productivity. These bosses’ first instinct is to point fingers and shame rather than analyze the issue.

How to fix it: Prioritize a solutions-based approach. Focus more on how to fix the problem than who caused it.

16. Excessive anger

Type “bad boss” into a Google Image search, and approximately half of the results will show managers screaming at employees, often with a megaphone. The cartoonish stereotype of a mean manager is always in a foul mood, waiting for an opportunity to yell at employees, usually for an issue that is not the employee’s fault.

Plus, when the boss explodes, the delivery overshadows the message. Employees will dwell on the confrontation instead of considering the message.

How to fix it: Learn to pause before reacting. Practice meditation, breathing exercises, and other anger management techniques. Plan an escape route in case you need to cool down before responding. If the anger persists, then consider seeking professional help.

17. Poor listening habits

Bosses are busy. Managers can easily get distracted when there are one hundred things running through their minds. However, when poor listening habits become a pattern, problems arise. Employees are unlikely to feel heard or valued when managers interrupt or make team members explain for the fifth time. Having repeat conversations wastes time and causes frustration. Plus, half-listening can lead to misunderstandings and mistakes. Most importantly of all, bad listening hygiene sends the message that managers do not care about the staff.

How to fix it: Practice active listening tactics, such as repeating phrases back to the employee. If busy or distracted, then reschedule the conversation for a better time. Make an effort to hear and understand employees.

18. Tunnel vision

Managers serve as links between teams and the rest of the company. Effective managers act as liaisons that translate and compromise between the organization and the group. No department operates in a vacuum. Decisions that inconvenience or may not make sense to one team might exist to keep operations running smoothly. Managers are often privy to information that employees are not aware of. Part of a manager’s duty is to relay the reasoning behind these choices to the team and help direct reports understand the bigger picture.

How to fix it: Think on a grander scale. Pretend you’re getting transferred to a different department tomorrow, and ask yourself whether or not your new colleagues would welcome you if you acted this way. Build relationships with coworkers in other departments and communicate regularly. Forming a rapport will help you empathize with colleagues more.

19. Manipulation

The role of managers is to unite the workforce around a common mission, yet some bosses pit co-workers against each other. This behavior sometimes comes from a misguided notion that rivalry will elicit the team’s best performance, when in reality over-competition among peers prevents proper teamwork.

While this sort of aggressive persuasion can be quite effective, it comes at the expense of eroding employees’ trust. Real managers motivate, not manipulate. The difference between the two tactics is that motivation is rooted in honesty and benefits employees, while manipulation is sneaky and self-serving.

How to fix it: Be mindful of staff’s reactions and signs of resistance. Don’t ask them to do stuff beyond job description, and accept no when they do– Don’t beg– be clear and transparent– can also appeal to them by explaining reasoning–

20. Unquestionable authority

Authoritarianism is often cited to be the least effective leadership style. Bad bosses operate like dictators, demanding respect and obedience and punishing anyone who challenges their authority. The boss’s word is the way, and discussion or disagreement is not allowed. Employees become order-takers and learn not to ask questions or offer opposing ideas.

This atmosphere stifles innovation and creativity. A lack of checks on authority is also bad for the health of the organization. Bosses are not infallible at making poor choices, yet employees will not bring up concerns when conditioned not to speak up.

How to fix it: Foster two-way feedback and give employees advice. Acknowledge the ability to be wrong. Encourage debate and conversations. When enacting authority, explain your reasoning so that employees understand the logic behind decisions.

21. Unprofessional behavior

Unprofessional behavior is a catch-all for bad bosses. Sexism and racism are the most extreme iterations. Other examples include disregarding the dress code, slacking, disrespecting higher management, and excessively tending to personal matters on the clock. Left unchecked, these behaviors can embolden other employees to misbehave and ignore the rules. Such actions can also cause unnecessary conflicts and stress for staff.

22. No team building

Neglecting team building is not the worst thing a manager can do, but is also not the best. Ineffective managers make no efforts to help the staff get along. These bosses treat team members like individual employees, and ignore the lack of camaraderie or teamwork in the workplace. While any team member can take the initiative to plan outings or spark up conversations, it is ultimately the manager’s responsibility to turn the group into one cohesive unit.

23. Appearance-obsessed

These managers care more about reputation than reality. Shallow and insecure, these bosses are more concerned with being popular and well-liked than being effective. This leader may push the team to hit numbers and quotas just to look better to the big bosses and company at large, with no regard to worker wellbeing. Or, maybe these managers fudge the numbers altogether, or stage a setup that makes the workplace appear more functional than normal. Perhaps these managers pretend to be nice to staff only when higher ups or coworkers are around.

On the more innocent side of the scale, the manager may try to be a “cool boss,” and gain approval. These individuals aim to be well-liked rather than respected. They believe that their image and reputation take precedence over actual results.

How to fix it: Choose meaningful standards of measurements. Angle for results over good advertising, even if those results take time to materialize. Also, solicit honest feedback from peers and staff. When you receive feedback regularly, you will be less obsessed with impressing others or avoiding scorn.

24. Date or hit on staff

Many companies have rules against managers dating subordinates, for good reason. The power imbalance between bosses and employees means that the pair can never be on equal footing. Skeptics say that companies primarily aim to avoid lawsuits, yet organizations also try to protect staff who might feel obligated to date a boss to avoid career repercussions.

Bosses who date employees against company rules almost universally fall into the bad manager category. This behavior is dishonest and endangers the employee and the company.

Also, a manager serially dating subordinates can signal a lack of boundaries and professionalism.

25. Quiet firing

Quiet firing is when a manager disengages from an employee’s happiness and growth in the workplace. This concept is a clear sign of poor management, and can be very destructive to an organization’s morale and productivity. An easy way to spot quiet firing is when a manager continuously reschedules or cuts short 1 on 1 meetings with a direct report.

Learn more about how quiet firing works.

Final Thoughts

Inexperience causes many young supervisors to exhibit weak manager skills. However, leaders of any age are prone to personality flaws and bad habits. Plus, bosses are human, and humans have bad days. However, when the bad days outweigh the good, chances are that the leader is not a good boss. The good news is that self-improvement is possible and almost all flaws are fixable. With self-awareness and hard work, bad bosses can become better. The only truly bad boss is one who is unwilling to change.