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“He’s still transfixed with grief?” I suggest. Although it’s more likely that Pete, like me, doesn’t have the slightest inkling that Magda has ever looked upon him as anything other than an amusing dining companion.

“Probably,” Magda says, with a shrug of her curvy shoulders. Then, because a resident with an advanced state of bed head has come stumbling into the cafeteria, his meal card extended, she hurries back to her stool, takes the card, swipes it, and with a “Look at my little movie star! Have a nice brunch, honey,” hands it back to the student, then says to me, “Now. Where were we?”

“Wait a minute.” I still cannot believe what I’ve just heard. “You liked Pete. Like… like liked liked him. And he never caught on?”

Magda shrugs. “Maybe if I had strapped panadas to my chest I’d have had more luck.”

“Magda.” I am still in shock. “Did you ever… I don’t know. Think about asking him out?”

“Oh, I asked him out,” Magda says. “Plenty of times.”

“Wait. Where? Where did you guys go?”

“To ball games,” Magda says, indignantly. “And to the bar—”

“To the Stoned Crow?” I cry. “Magda! Going out for drinks after work doesn’t count as a date. And going to college basketball games—especially with a basketball fanatic like you—doesn’t count, either. You probably spent the entire time screaming at the refs. No wonder he didn’t get the message. I mean, did you ever tell him?”

“Tell him what?”

“That you like him.”

Magda says something in Spanish and makes the sign of the cross. Then she says, “Why would I do that?”

“Because that might be the only way a guy like Pete is ever going to realize that you like him as more than a friend, and, you know”—I shrug—“take it to the next level. Did you ever think of that?”

Magda holds out her hand, palm toward me. “Please. It’s done, all right? I don’t want to talk about it. It didn’t happen. I moved on. Let’s get back to you.”

I glare at her some more. Right. She’s moved on. Like my cellulite has moved on.

“Well, fine. Since you asked. So, Tad’s got this question he wants to ask me. And… meanwhile, Detective Canavan asks where I was this morning at Dr. Veatch’s time of death, which was apparently the exact time Tad was… well, telling me he had this question to ask me. So I had to give Detective Canavan Tad’s name, and who knows what he’s going to do with it. Tad could get into big trouble if it gets out that he’s sleeping with a student.”

Magda lets out a big enough sigh of disgust that those aforementioned bleached blond bangs fly up into the air. “Please,” she says. “You’re not exactly a tender little freshman. No offense.”

“Actually, that’s exactly what I am.”

“But you’re old!” Magda exclaims.

I glare at her. “Thanks.”

“You know what I mean. You’re both what-is-it-called. Consenting adults. No one will care. Well, no one but that Dr. Veatch. And now he’s dead. So that’s that.”

“Will you try not to sound so gleeful when you say that?” I warn her.

“So what are you going to say?” Magda wants to know.

“About what?”

“When he asks you to marry him?” she shouts, loudly enough to cause the bed-headed student as well as members of the NYPD to look over.

“Magda,” I say. “I don’t know. I don’t even know if that’s what he’s going to ask. You know? I mean, it seems kind of soon—”

“You should say yes,” Magda says, firmly. “It will make Cooper crazy. And then he’ll come around. Mark my words. I know about these things.”

I say acidly, “If you know so much about these things, how come you and Pete never ended up together?”

She shrugs. “Maybe it’s for the best. Why do I want to be saddled with kids at my age? I still got my whole life ahead of me.”

“Magda,” I say. “No offense. But you’re forty.”

“Thirty-nine and a half,” she reminds me. “Oh, shit.”

I look where she’s looking. And echo her curse word inside my head.

Because President Allington, along with his entourage, has finally shown up.

5

No use crying in the dark

A DoveBar won’t fix your broken heart

Put down that ice cream cone

It’s time to do it on your own

“No Use Crying Over Spilled Desserts”

Written by Heather Wells

I consider ducking beneath the cashier’s desk and hiding under Magda’s feet, but this seems unprofessional.

Instead, I stand my ground, while President Allington—as always inexplicably attired in a New York College letter jacket, white painter’s pants (although it’s not yet Memorial Day), and running shoes—enters the cafeteria, flanked on one side by the housing director Dr. Jessup, and on the other by Dr. Flynn, the department’s on-staff psychologist. All three men are listening in what appears to be a semistupefied manner to Muffy Fowler, the public relations guru the college has hired to help deal with press involving the graduate student union negotiations.

Now, however, Muffy appears to be doing damage control on Dr. Veatch’s murder.

“Well, you just have to get them out of here, Phil,” Muffy is saying, in her strong Southern accent, as the four of them walk in. “This is private property, after all.”

“Actually,” Dr. Flynn says, his voice completely toneless. “New York City sidewalks are not private property.”

“Well, you know what I mean,” Muffy says. I can’t help noticing that every male eye in the room is on her. The thirty-something-year-old former beauty queen (no, really. It said so on her CV in The Pansy, the newsletter that is distributed to all New York College administrators once a month) wears her chestnut brown hair in a large poufy helmet around her head—known in a previous decade as a bouffant, in this one as… I don’t even know—and shows off her slim figure to an advantage by sporting a pencil skirt and high heels.

I guess I can see why every guy in the vicinity is so attracted to the vivacious, well-coiffed Ms. Fowler—at least until she opens her mouth.

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