ST. LOUIS, MO–Still wary and visibly exhausted after more than two weeks of lying in wait for the authorities, Holden Thorp, Provost at Washington University in St. Louis and former Chancellor at UNC-Chapel Hill, sat behind the barricaded door of his private study room.
A shotgun lay beside him and he trembled; he had secured himself in the room a few hours before Kenneth Wainstein released the findings of his independent investigation into the academic and athletic scandal at UNC.
Thorp, clad in a fine, soiled grey suit and his trademark Carolina blue tie, whispered to himself.
“They don’t know,” he said. “They won’t find it, they won’t know it was me. I did everything right. I got away. Can’t get me, not old Thorpy. I’m just a Carolina boy. They’ll remember me on keyboard with the Clefs. That’s all they’ll remember.”
He began to cry, and tears met the sweat and grease stains on his tie. The light blue muddled.
He clutched the shotgun to him, and his eyes darted around the room as his hands shook.
“And if they do find me,” he said, “I’ll have something for them.”
Empty bottles of Macallan 21 year-old scotch, tins of Vienna sausages, and vials of prescription amphetamines lay scattered across the floor of the study. His heavy oak desk was overturned. For the first few days after the study’s release, he had not moved from behind it.
The decorated chemist, entrepreneur, inventor, and musician had ripped his router out of the wall and smashed his smartphone just before barricading himself in anticipation of the report’s revelations. His only outside communication was a black landline phone, which had been lying on the floor since he flipped his desk.
The phone rang. In an instant of fury and confusion, Thorp pulled the trigger on his powerful shotgun, hitting a row of books. Pages of Engines of Innovation: The Entrepreneurial University in the 21st Century fluttered in the air around him.
“COME THE FUCK IN YOU PIECES OF SHIT!” he yelled.
The phone rang once more. Dropping the gun and swirling, Thorp stared at the rattling phone before cautiously moving towards it.
He breathed out as he brought the receiver to his ear.
“Roy?” Thorp whimpered.
“You neither? Neither of us?”
Thorp dropped the phone and fell to the floor. He cried like a child, as if for the first time. He felt everything at once, in a wave.
He could still hear the muffled voice of Roy Williams as he yelled, “The Crowder thing worked! Roy, we made it out! Roy, we’re going to survive!”
The phone emitted a dull tone. Williams had hung up.
“Goddamn,” Thorp said at last. “That report must have been some kind of joke. They were never going to get me. I had them all along.”
The 50 year-old provost began to tear down the wood blocking the door, eager to change and shower. It had been a long few weeks.
Having almost forgotten, Thorp crossed the room back to his bookshelf and un-did the booby trap involving the display case with his 1998 Tanner Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, which he had received shortly after joining the chemistry faculty at UNC.
“Boy, did I pick the right time to leave that place,” he said.