Unaccountably, I feel myself blushing. Maybe because if it hadn’t been for Tania Trace, by now it would have been Mrs. Although I sort of doubt it would have remained that way for long.

“It’s Ms.,” I say firmly.

Detective Canavan nods. “My wife’s a Ms. now, too. Anyway, listen, Ms. Wells. Kids that age? They’re dopes. Accidents are the leading cause of death for people ages seventeen to twenty-five. Kids are trying to find themselves, taking stupid risks—”

“Not those girls,” I say, firmly.

“Maybe not. The point is, Ms. Wells, you got nothing on this guy. You don’t even have a definite murder to pin on him. If the Backstreet Boy dies, then maybe we’ll have something. Maybe. But the coroner could just as easily rule that one as accidental as well.”

“Well,” I say. I have to admit, I feel very let down. Detective Canavan hadn’t laughed outright in my face this time, I’ll admit, but he hadn’t taken a single note, either. I pick up my backpack.

“Sorry to have wasted your time. Again.” I get up, and Detective Canavan looks at me like I was nuts.

“Where do you think you’re going?” he demands. “Sit down. I’m not through with you yet.”

I sit back down, perplexed.

“What’s the point?” I ask Detective Canavan, with more asperity than is, perhaps, necessary. “You obviously think I’m some kind of nutcase. What do I need to stick around here for? I can get laughed at by my own friends”—I keep my gaze averted from Cooper’s face. “I don’t need to go to the police for that.”

Detective Canavan finishes the rest of his doughnut, then picks up his cigar. He looks at Cooper.

“She’s a fiery one,” he comments, nodding at me.

“Oh, she’s that,” Cooper agrees, gravely.

“Wait.” I glance from one man to the other, suspicion dawning. “You two know each other?”

Cooper shrugs. “I’ve seen him around the neighborhood,” he says, referring to Detective Canavan.

“Can’t swing a dead cat without running into this guy behind a parked car or mailbox, shooting film of some poor schmuck whose wife is leaving him,” says Detective Canavan, referring to Cooper.

“Great,” I say, feeling more inadequate than ever. “That’s just great. Well, I hope you two are enjoying your little laugh at my expense—”

“Do I look like I’m laughing?” Detective Canavan demands. “Do you see so much as a smile upon my face? Your boyfriend over there, I don’t see him laughing, either.”

“I see absolutely nothing amusing about the situation,” Cooper says.

I look at him. He isn’t smiling. And he hasn’t, I noticed, objected to being called my boyfriend. I look back at Detective Canavan.

“He’s not my boyfriend,” I point out loudly—to what purpose, I cannot imagine. But I’m sure my cheeks are crimson.

Detective Canavan nods at me as if I’d said something along the lines of The sky is blue.

“Now, Ms. Wells,” he says. “We do have a very high number of nutcases, as you call them, who come in here to report various crimes that may or may not actually have occurred. Some of these so-called nutcases are honest citizens who want to help the police to do their job. I would put you in this category. You have done your duty by relating your beliefs in this matter to me, and I, in due course, will investigate them.”

“Really?” I perk right up. “You really will? You’re gonna question Chris?”

“I will do so.” Detective Canavan sticks his cigar back in his mouth. “Discreetly. That is my job. It is not, however, your job. I strongly advise you, Ms. Wells, not to involve yourself any further in this matter.”

“Because you think Christopher Allington might try to kill me, too?” I ask, breathlessly.

“Because I think Christopher Allington might try to sue you for making false accusations, and he’d have a pretty good case, too.” Detective Canavan ignores my crestfallen expression. “What you’re suggesting, Ms. Wells, is that Christopher Allington is not only a serial killer, but a killer of such intelligence and skill that he not only leaves no evidence linking him to his crimes—save for an alleged condom—but leaves no trace that a crime has even been committed. I hate to disappoint you, but in my experience, killers aren’t that smart. They are, in fact, remarkably stupid people. That is why they have killed: They are so limited intellectually, they saw no other way out.”

Detective Canavan’s dark gray eyebrows furrow together in thought as he goes on. “And despite all the media hoopla around them, I have yet to meet an actual serial killer myself, and I have investigated over seven hundred homicides. So I suggest you keep a low profile as far as Christopher Allington is concerned, Ms. Wells. I’d hate for you to lose your job over something like this.”

I’m so disappointed that I don’t think there’s anything I can do to hide it. My shoulders slump, and my head sinks down between them as I murmur, “Thank you, Detective.”

Detective Canavan hands me his card, tells me to call him if I think of anything else that might be helpful to his investigation, and, after asking Cooper a question or two about some case or other he’s seen him snooping around the neighborhood over, sends us on our way.

Cooper hails us a cab, and maintains an air of extreme seriousness all the way back to the house. He seems to have taken my accusation—that he thinks of me as a teen pop star—to heart, and is doing everything in his power to prove it isn’t true. He even tells me, in the cab, that he considers Detective Canavan a good man and a fine investigator, and says if there’s something to get to the bottom of at Fischer Hall, Detective Canavan is the man to do it.

Which makes me feel better. A little.

Once back at the brownstone—I know I really ought to head back to the office, but seeing as how I’m home now anyway, I decide I’ll just give Lucy a quick walk—I pause briefly in front of the antique, gilt-framed mirror in the front hallway to reapply my lip gloss, while Cooper goes back to his office to replay his messages. I’ve already glanced around to make sure that there are no signs of the love tussle Jordan and I shared on the runner the night before.

Still, when Cooper comes out of his office a second later and asks, “What exactly is going on with you and Jordan?” I nearly have a heart attack.

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