I raise my eyebrows, impressed. I knew Tania was as PR savvy, in her own way, as Cassidy. But I wasn’t aware until she moved in with us of how kind she was. One of the first things she’d done after she and Jordan took over the top floor of the brownstone was to hire a cleaning service—Magda’s cousin’s—not because she felt guilty about the added burden that their presence might put on us, but because she heard Cooper mention that I’d been meaning to hire them. I’d come home from work Friday afternoon and boom, the house was immaculate—the windows clean, even the curtains in Cooper’s bedroom repaired, Tania grinning from ear to ear at my stupefied expression.
“They’re going to come every Friday,” she said. “Tuesdays too. They have to. It’s the only way they’ll be able to keep up, they say. This place is huge, and you two are filthy.”
“Oh,” she says now, pointing to someone else in the audience. “There’s that girl from your office, the one who wrote that song—”
I see that she’s pointing at Sarah. Surprisingly, Sarah’s sitting with Sebastian. Even more surprisingly, the two of them are conversing with each other in a cordial fashion. Perhaps there’s hope for them yet. Sitting beside them is Lisa with a clean-cut young man, her fiancé, Cory. They both look excited and happy.
“And there are those nice men who helped you save Bridget,” Tania says. “What are their names?”
“Tom,” I say, unable to pick them out from the crowd, since the lights are going down and there seem to be so many men in suits. “And Steven.”
“Yes,” she says. “I like them. And the one who hurt his foot—”
“Yes. He should be out there somewhere too. I invited him, and his daughters and girlfriend, that nice lady with the hair. But not that ugly and stupid man. I made sure he wasn’t invited.”
Cooper is standing nearby cradling Baby, since the dog’s claws were catching on the sequins of my dress.
“I believe she’s referring to Simon Hague,” he says wryly.
Tania makes a face and straightens up. There’s no use peeking anymore, since now that the auditorium lights have dimmed, we can no longer see the audience.
“Oh yes,” she says. “I made sure he wasn’t on the list.”
I suppress my smile of delight at hearing Simon referred to as “that ugly and stupid man.” Hard as we’ve tried, Tom and I still haven’t been able to find out what sort of disciplinary action—if any—has been taken against Simon for his long weekends in the Hamptons, which we’re fairly sure weren’t departmentally sanctioned. But the fact that he’s been denied entry to the Rock Off—which even the student-run newspaper will be covering—could turn out to be punishment enough.
Lauren opens the door from the hallway to the dressing rooms. “Where’s Jordan?” she demands when she sees he isn’t with us.
“What do you mean?” Cooper asks. I see his dark eyebrows constrict in the slice of white fluorescent light thrown from behind Lauren. “He hasn’t shown up yet?”
“No,” Lauren says. I know she’s trying to hide the concern in her voice. “And Stephanie says he’s not responding to her—”
From behind her, there’s a piercing scream. It’s the scream of a young girl. It’s followed immediately by a second scream, then a third. One of them distinctly shrieks the name, “Cassidy!”
Lauren jerks her head from the open doorway, looking behind her. “Shit—” she says, ripping off her headset and diving back into the hallway. The stage door swings abruptly closed, plunging us once more into darkness.
I can still hear the girls screaming, however. The sound is simply more muted. I know it can’t be heard by the audience, especially as they murmur restlessly, waiting for the show to begin.
“Stay here,” Cooper says, thrusting Tania’s dog at me, then pulling his gun from the holster beneath his tuxedo jacket. “Do you understand?” I can’t see him so well in the gloom, but I know his gaze is raking my face. “Do not follow me through this door, no matter what you hear.”
I nod mutely as Cooper pulls open the stage door—releasing, as he does, another round of horrified screams—then disappears through it. A second later, Tania and I are alone in the darkness, me clutching Baby to my chest, her holding Miss Mexico.
“W-what do you think is going on back there?” she asks, her gaze glued to the door to the dressing rooms.
“Probably nothing,” I lie. Baby’s skin is so thin, her ribs so fragile, that I can feel her heart thumping against mine, like a tiny bird’s. She smells faintly of Tania’s perfume. “They probably saw a spider or something.”
“Yeah,” Tania says. There are ghostly pink shadows across her face from the gels on the podium onstage. They’ve cast her eyes into sunken hollows. “You’re right. Where do you think Jordan is?”
“He’s probably still talking to his mom,” I say. “Why don’t you try to call him? He wouldn’t answer any of Stephanie’s texts, but I’m sure he’ll answer yours.” Anything to keep her mind off what’s happening outside that door. I’m certain it isn’t a spider.
“That’s a good idea.” Tania kneels to lift her clutch, which I’ve somehow dropped to the ground. “I’ll—”
The other stage door—the one that leads to the auditorium—opens, and we hear the sound of dress shoes—a man’s—skipping lightly up the steps.
“Oh, there he is,” Tania says, laughing in relief. She straightens up as a tall masculine figure comes toward us through the darkness. “Jordan, we were worried. What took you so long?”
It all happens so fast. One second, that’s all it takes. In the blink of an eye, I realize the person striding toward us isn’t Jordan. It’s a man I don’t recognize, a stranger I’ve never seen before.
A second later, my mind reeling, I realize I have seen him before, only in another context . . . a photo on a website. But then he had brown hair and was clean-shaven. The next time, it was on a driver’s license photo, but his hair was red and he had on glasses and wore a goatee . . . and then, most recently, he was blond . . .