Case #4.14: "A Change of Heart"

At a meeting, a woman passionately tells the crowd that 60 tons of toxic waste are dumped daily into the bay. "I know that all of us together have the power to make it stop," she says, "I know that it's late and that some of you have a history test tomorrow. My students are my biggest supporters." The teenagers in the back of the room clap and cheer. The woman concludes the meeting by asking the audience to sign up for her cause and make a difference.

Afterward, the woman has a drink by herself at a bar and starts to walk home. It's raining and ominous music plays. The woman suddenly turns and asks, "What are you doing here?" There's a loud scream. Footsteps hurry away from the scene. We see the woman lying on her back in an alley; her throat has been cut. Theme song.

In Cap'n Rufus's office, we learn the murdered woman's name was Evelyn Marks. She was last seen at a meeting of Save the Bay. The coroner guesses she died around midnight. A security guard saw a blond high-school age boy running from the alley around midnight, but didn't get a good look at the kid's face. Judy asks if there are any other suspects. "That's what we're gonna find out," says Rufus. He gestures to the books all over his desk: "The entire library shelf on modern European history. You're looking at the new teacher." 

Tom knocks on the door and asks if Cap'n Rufus has made up his mind; he and Harry still have an extra ticket to the 10,000 Maniacs concert. Ah, the band best known for "These Are Days" and just about nothing else. Rufus has dinner plans "with a certain lady friend." Harry says, "Make us proud." Judy decides to go to the concert with them and teases, "Tell her to go easy on you, Captain. You've got class tomorrow." 

The next morning in a classroom, Judy tells a blond girl that she was assistant newspaper editor at her old school. The blond girl is depressed because the late Miss Marks was the newspaper advisor. Judy's sorry to hear about it. The blond girl tells Judy that she'll probably just be pitching in wherever she's needed for the time being. 

Elsewhere in the school, Cap'n Rufus is assigned a student teacher, a young, pretty black woman named Denise. The principal looks at the books he's carrying and says, "Rise and Fall of the Third Reich? I doubt you'll need that for your first class." She doesn't explain why. 

The students give "Mr. Fischer" a hard time. He's talking about menstrual cycles, which doesn't make sense because I thought he was teaching history. However, according to the blackboard, the subject here is Social Living. A boy named Vinny asks crude questions about how you can tell if a girl is a virgin. 

In the yearbook office, Judy looks through the glass into Miss Marks' former office. The blond girl is arguing with a male student: "You wouldn't get a job at the Enquirer because their standards are too high!" "Look, if you don't like it don't read it!" shouts the boy. The blond girl says, "I have to proofread this, Kevin! It's tabloid trash!" Kevin tells her his story will sell papers and that she better not change a word. 

Martin, another newspaper staffer, tells Judy that Blond Girl (Meg) and Kevin have this same fight every week. Very effective management skills the late Miss Marks had if they're so obviously at each other's throats in class regularly. The blond shouts that she refuses to print a rumor about Miss Marks. Another boy tells Meg not to let Kevin get to her.

After class, Judy catches up with Kevin. She thinks Meg was too harsh: "At my last school, the gossip column was the first thing everybody read." "That's what Megan doesn't get," says Kevin, "People always want to assume the worst about other people. It makes them feel better. Why not cash in on that?" Jerry Springer and Maury Povich would agree.

Everyone thinks Miss Marks was a candidate for sainthood, but Kevin has dirt on her: "Evelyn was an attractive single woman who was cozy with her students. Some say very cozy." "No," Judy gasps. Kevin could never prove it, but rumor had it she was sleeping with one of the seniors; Meg made him pull the story. Shortly afterward, someone broke Miss Marks' windshield while he car was in the school parking lot. Kevin doesn't think it was simple vandalism.

In the hall, the principal reminisces to Cap'n Rufus about her own days teaching Social Living; a student once left a water-filled condom on her chair. Rufus tells the principal he'd like to look over Miss Marks' lesson plan, but the cabinet in her classroom is locked. He wonders if the principal knows where the key might be. The principal doesn't know, but tells Rufus not to worry about it: "Denise says you're already a pro."

At the Coke machine, Denise tells Cap'n Rufus that his lecture on proper hygiene was riveting. She offers to give Rufus a tour of the school. He agrees. Denise says one of the varsity teams almost made the finals but lost in the semis. "Heartbreaker, huh?" asks Rufus. Denise breathily says, "I'm still getting over it." She's starting to remind me of the oldest Murtaugh daughter in Lethal Weapon. Rufus thinks they should get back to the classroom. Denise says it's a pity because she was enjoying the scenery, namely Rufus.

That night, Judy goes to the newspaper room and finds Meg in Miss Marks' office. Meg asks why Judy is there. Judy explains that she wanted to finish the layout early to make a good impression. "Oh...great," Meg says distantly. She claims she was looking for a picture of Miss Marks for the memorial story the paper is printing. She lock the office again and wishes Judy good night.

Judy speculates that maybe Miss Marks wasn't killed by a man. Their witness never saw the attacker's face because it was dark. It could've been a love triangle: Meg's boyfriend was sleeping with Miss Marks and Meg got jealous and killed her teacher. She can't think of any other reason why Meg would've been in the deceased's office so late at night. Cap'n Rufus tells her to get close to Meg and her boyfriend.

Outside the high school, students gather to watch a tree being planted in memory of Miss Marks. Meg is distraught and leaves; Judy follows her. The principal invites the kids to a memorial gathering at her house. Judy finds Meg sitting by herself on a bench. She tells the teen how sad the tree planting made her. "You didn't even know Evelyn," says Meg. Judy felt everyone at the ceremony was trying to cheer each other up but they were all dying on the inside. She knows what that's like because she's had a friend on life support. Meg goes in the school and lets herself in a door marked CHARLES CRAIG GUIDANCE COUNSELOR. 

In the social living classroom, Denise catches Cap'n Rufus picking the lock on a cabinet. Rufus makes the lame excuse that he was only trying to find Miss Marks' class notes and lesson plans. Denise tells him to have faith in his own teaching ability. She offers to lead the boys in a discussion over the puberty chapter while Rufus talks to the girls. "When you were a teenager, weren't you just dying to hear the other side's version of all of this?" Denise asks. Rufus doesn't remember.

Cap'n Rufus tells Denise that she's a nice girl, but the flirting makes him uncomfortable. Denise responds to this by saying she finds Rufus attractive and wants to hang out with him outside of work. "Unless you're not attracted to me," she finishes. Cap'n Rufus stutters, "No, yes, no." Denise wants to go to dinner with him and assures him there's no rule against fraternizing with faculty.

Rufus asks Denise if she remembers where she was when MLK was shot. Denise doesn't see what that has to do with anything. "Let's just say I wasn't in diapers," says Rufus. Denise sighs and says all she wants is to get to know him. Yeah right...

In the newspaper office, Meg asks Judy if she's found the drill team pictures yet. Judy holds up a stack. Meg apologizes for being rude earlier. Judy asks if Meg is going to Miss Marks' wake. Meg doesn't think she can stand "everybody being phony, telling funny stories." Judy wonders where Meg's boyfriend is. "We're not exactly lovebirds lately," says Meg.

Meg wants to know what happened to Judy's friend who was on life support. Judy says that her friend recovered. We learn Meg dislikes gossip columnist Kevin so much that she fantasizes about tying him naked to the school flagpole, then she would wrap him in paper mache using his own column. 

Speak of the devil and he appears. Kevin is dropping off this week's gossip column. Meg doesn't want to read it. Kevin offers to read it to her. Meg leads Judy out of the office, saying, "We'll be late for the party."

At the principal's house, soft piano music is playing. People are milling around eating finger foods. Judy asks if Meg wants to go back to the newspaper office; she's sure Kevin is gone. Meg doesn't respond. "You look kind of wasted," says Judy. Meg holds up a bottle of liquor she used to spike her cup of punch: "You want some?" Judy declines and doesn't think Meg looks like "the boozer type." Meg smiles strangely and says she's trying new hobbies.

The principal approaches Meg and Judy, asking if Judy knew Miss Marks. "She's new," Meg supplies. The principal then inquires if Meg has been drinking. Meg lies that she hasn't. "I think you better give me the cup," says the principal. The two briefly tug the cup back and forth between them; punch splashes on Meg's shirt. The principal apologizes. "Save it," Meg says menacingly.

In the bathroom, Judy watches Meg try to get the stain out with a wet washcloth. Meg is upset because it's one of her favorite shirts. Judy suggests taking it to the dry cleaners. It turns out the shirt isn't what's really upsetting Meg. The two girls sit on the edge of the bathtub. Judy asks what's really bothering the teen.

"I can't," Meg gasps, "I'm so scared. Everything is so horrible." Judy says Meg can tell her. Meg puts a hand on Judy's cheek, leans in, and kisses her on the lips. Judy is too shocked to react. Meg senses Judy is uncomfortable, starts to cry, and quickly leaves the bathroom.

Judy tells Cap'n Rufus that Meg tried to kiss her. Tried? I think she succeeded. Judy suggests that Meg was attracted to her teacher; when Miss Marks didn't feel the same way, Meg killed her. Rufus shows Judy an unsigned romantic letter he found in the back of Miss Marks' cabinet. Judy thinks Meg knows something but is too scared to talk.

"If this kid has real feelings for you, you're gonna have to handle it very delicately," Cap'n Rufus says. Judy will explain to Meg that she's straight and go from there. Rufus stuns Judy by asking if she would go out with him. "What is it with everybody?" she asks, "First I get hit on by a high school girl and now my boss is asking me out on a date." Don't forget about the brief thing you had for Doug...

Cap'n Rufus explains that he's not asking Judy out; he just wants to know if she'd date someone like him...someone older. Judy asks if he's going through a midlife crisis. Rufus denies it. "Would I want to go out with a 45-year-old man?" Judy asks aloud. Cap'n Rufus gets defensive: "43, dammit! 43!" Judy would date an older man if their personalities were compatible.

In the newspaper room, Meg compliments Judy on her layout. Judy asks to talk when Meg takes a break. Meg won't be taking a break until the paper comes out that afternoon. "Last night..." Judy starts. Meg butts in: "Last night, I was tanked and probably obnoxious." She gives a blanket apology for any rudeness, then tells Judy she can't chat.

In the guidance office, Judy fears that she's a lesbian. Charles the counselor says, "Every teen gets confused, especially when it comes to sexuality." I don't believe that; I never went through a lesbian phase in high school or college. Judy tells Charles about Meg kissing her. He asks the classic therapy question: "How did it make you feel?" "It felt like a kiss," Judy replies, "Almost normal. Kind of innocent." She didn't turn her head when Meg got closer.

"Sometimes our unconscious mind tells us to do things and then it makes our conscious mind believe that it was the other person's fault," says Charles, "You thought you might be a gay, so you kissed your girlfriend. You got confused. It's okay. The important thing is to recognize this behavior in the future and not give in to it."

Montage of several students, including Judy, reading aloud the gossip column. The gist of it was that Miss Marks liked to take her female students to a lesbian bar called Rain. Kevin looks pleased with himself about this news.

Outside the school, Cap'n Rufus shares his umbrella with Denise as they walk to their cars. He asks her out to dinner. Denise already has plans for that night, but they can talk tomorrow. Another black man with an umbrella approaches, calling Denise's name. Rufus thought Denise was single. Denise introduces the man as her father.

That night, Judy goes into Rain. It looks less like a bar and more like a very old, very nice house on the inside. There's only a simple neon sign in the front window. Judy goes upstairs.

That cuts right to Judy and Meg also sharing an umbrella. Judy talked to the bartender and knows that Meg was at Rain with Miss Marks the night of the teacher's murder. Meg is upset that everyone loved Miss Marks when she was alive, but now everyone calls her lesbian slurs. 

Meg denies having a relationship with Miss Marks but admits to following her to Rain. She needed someone to talk to and had found out by accident that Miss Marks was a fellow lesbian. Miss Marks got upset about underage Meg being at a bar. They went across the street to a diner and Meg told her teacher that she wanted to hang out with her. Miss Marks told her it was inappropriate. 

The two women argued and went out to the alley. Meg left, then came back and saw a man in a long coat stabbing Miss Marks. Judy wants Meg to come to the police station and make an official statement. "If I do that, everyone will know I was there," Meg sobs, "They'll think I'm gay." Meg claims she isn't a lesbian, just confused, and doesn't want to be labeled a lesbian. Meg walks away.

Judy and Cap'n Rufus go to a diner for ice cream cones. Rufus says they could subpoena Meg to get her to talk: "An uncooperative witness can be worse than no witness at all." Judy thinks she can find another way. Rufus ran the fingerprints from the letter and they aren't in the system. Judy talks about a friend she had freshman year of high school who had a crush on another girl but turned out to be straight. She tells him what the counselor said: "He basically slapped my hand and told me not to like girls anymore."

Cap'n Rufus doesn't think Meg chose to be a lesbian anymore than he and Judy chose to be straight. He informs Judy that he's out of his midlife crisis and orders two more ice cream cones for them.

Judy goes back to Rain. A redhead buys her a drink. She notices how uncomfortable Judy looks and admits she doesn't like the bar scene either, but "how else are we supposed to find each other?" Judy asks if Redhead knows Miss Marks; she does but hasn't seen her in a while. Redhead tells Judy that Miss Marks had a lover, but the woman never came to Rain with her.

In the girls' bathroom at school, Judy asks Meg if she knows who Miss Marks' lover was: "This woman may know something, something that will help me find the murderer. Are you really gonna let someone get away with this?" Megan leaves, apparently ready to let just that happen.

In the teacher's lounge, Denise gives Cap'n Rufus roses and invites her to come sailing with her over the weekend. Rufus appreciates the offer, but he can't go out with her because he's old enough to be her father. Denise is still in college and he's starting to think about where his son will go to school. Denise brightly offers to help Rufus's son fill out college applications and knows that Rufus finds her attractive.

"This can't be about our ages," she says. Um, yes, it is; that's exactly what he told you. Fuller says they have nothing in common. "You know something, maybe you are a lot older than I thought," says Denise. Not sure how that was supposed to be insulting. Denise stomps out of the room, flowers in hand. 

Outside the high school, a blond man in a Jeep drives up to the door with an elementary school aged boy in the passenger seat. He gets out, hugs the boy as he runs past, and the boy heads straight into the arms of the principal. Over by the bike rack, Denise covers her mouth with her hand. It's not clear yet why this sight disturbs her. Judy sees this unfold from an upstairs window.

Meg barges into the principal's office and announces, "Your husband killed Evelyn. I saw him." The principal says that's impossible and adds that she no longer lives with her husband. "First, he bashed in Evelyn's windshield and when that didn't scare her, he killed her because he found out that you two were lovers," the teen continues.

The principal can't prove that her husband killed Miss Marks. She urges Meg to tell the police what she saw. "Your entire future isn't on the line," says Meg. In a way, it is; the principal worries about being fired if anyone finds out she's a lesbian. She has a son to think about it. The principal only told her husband that she slept with Miss Marks to make him angry. "That's sick!" says Meg.

Meg goes to the Chapel and tells Judy that she saw the principal's husband kill Miss Marks. Cut to Meg, Judy, and Cap'n Rufus walking on the high school campus. Meg will be testifying soon and Fuller gave Judy the day off to provide moral support. Meg tells them that she made Kevin's gossip column and her boyfriend dumped her. Rufus sees Denise again.

Cap'n Rufus and Judy share a banana split. Rufus confesses that being attracted to Denise made him feel like a dirty old man. He was worried about not being able to keep up with her and that he'd look like a fool.

Back on campus, Cap'n Rufus gives Denise a bouquet and asks for a second chance. He invites her to come to his place for homemade marinated chicken. Denise smiles. The two head down the sidewalk arm-in-arm. End of episode.

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