And because he’s Cooper, and he’s always doing nice things for me—giving me a free apartment when I have nowhere else to go, and no money for rent anyway; taking me to a party he doesn’t really want to go to, since he might run into a former flame, with whom things had ended badly; risking his own life to save mine; that kind of thing—he’d done his best to get me what he knew I wanted.
Except, of course, the one thing I want more than anything.
But apparently that, for reasons I’ll probably never know—and am pretty sure I don’t want to, anyway—he’s not prepared to give me.
Which is totally fine. I mean, I understand. I’ll just open my OWN doctor’s office/detective agency/jewelry shop, without his help.
Of course, having the kids on my own might be harder, but I’m sure I’ll manage somehow.
Fortunately, I have an unlisted number, so there aren’t any reporters lurking on my front stoop when we pull up. Just the usual drug dealers.
Lucy is wild with joy to see me—though I have to ask Cooper to walk her for the time being, since there’s no way I can hold a leash with my torn-up hands. Once the two of them are gone, I slip upstairs to my apartment, where I peel off my grimy clothes and slide, at long last, into the tub.
Although it turns out that bathing with stitches in your hands is no joke. I have to get out of the tub and go into the kitchen, pull out some rubber gloves, and put those on before I can wash my hair, because the doctor warned me that if I got the stitches wet, my hands might fall off, or something.
Once I get all the elevator grime and blood off me, let the bath refill, and I just lay there, soaking my sore shoulder for a while, wondering what I’m going to do now.
I mean, things aren’t exactly looking good. Someone is trying to kill me…probably the same someone who’d already killed two people, at least. The only common denominator between the dead girls appears to be the president of the college’s son.
But, at least according to the police, it’s unlikely that Chris Allington was the one who’d tried to blow me up, because he’d been out of town at the time.
Which means that someone besides Chris is trying to kill me. And maybe that someone, and not Chris, killed the two girls.
But who? And why? Why would someone have killed Elizabeth Kellogg and Roberta Pace in the first place? What could they have possibly done to deserve to die? I mean, besides move into Fischer Hall. Oh, and date—albeit briefly—Chris Allington.
Is that it? Is that what had caused their deaths? The fact that they’d dated Chris? Had Magda been right? Not about the girls having killed themselves because, after waiting so long to have sex, they’d found out it really isn’t the earth-shattering thing they’d been led to believe. But about the girls dying because of the sex—not at their own hand, but the hand of someone who didn’t approve of what they’d just done.
Someone like Mrs. Allington, maybe? What was it that Chris’s mother had said to me, just before the elevator incident? Something about “you girls.”
“You girls are forever bothering him,” she’d said. Or something like that.
You girls. There’d been something deeply antagonistic in Mrs. Allington’s manner, an emotion far stronger than simple annoyance over my waking her up. Is Mrs. Allington one of those jealous mothers, who thinks no other woman is good enough for her precious son? Did Mrs. Allington kill Elizabeth and Roberta? And did she then try to kill me when I got too close to discovering her secret?
Oh my God! That’s it! Mrs. Allington is the killer! Mrs. Allington! I’m brilliant! Perhaps the most brilliant detective mind since Sherlock Holmes! Wait. Is he even real? Or fictional? He’s fictional, right?
Well, okay, then. I am the most brilliant detective mind since…since…Eliot Ness! He’s real, right?
I start, sloshing hot water and soap suds over the side of the tub.
But it’s just Cooper.
“Just checking you’re okay,” he says, through the closed door. “You need anything?”
Um, yes. You. In here with me, naked. Now.
“No, I’m fine,” I call. Should I tell him that I’d figured out who’d done this to me? Or wait until I’m out of the tub?
“Well, when you’re through, I thought I’d order something to eat. Indian okay with you?”
Hmmmm. Vegetable samosas.
“Fine,” I call.
“Okay, well, come out soon. There’s something I need to talk to you about.”
Something he needs to talk to me about? Like what? Like his true feelings for me? I’ve always thought of you as one of the—He never had finished telling me what he’s always thought of me as.
Is he going to tell me now? Am I sure I want to know?
Two minutes later I slide into my usual seat at my kitchen table, bundled in my terry-cloth robe, with a towel wrapped around my wet hair. Oh, I want to know. I want to know all right.
Across the table from me, Cooper says, “That was fast.”
Then he opens up his laptop.
Wait a minute. His laptop? What kind of guy uses audiovisual aids to tell a girl what he thinks of her?
“How much do you know,” Cooper asks, “about Christopher Allington?”
“Christopher Allington?” My voice cracks. Maybe because it was hoarse from all the screaming I’d done earlier in the day. Or maybe because I’m in shock over the fact that what Cooper wants to talk to me about isn’t his true feelings for me, but his suspicions about Chris. Hello. Annoying.
“But it couldn’t have been Chris,” I say, to get Cooper off that subject, and back onto, you know, me. “Detective Canavan said he—”
“When I investigate a case,” Cooper interrupts calmly, “I investigate it from all angles. Right now, Christopher appears to be the common link between all the victims. What I’m asking is, what do you know about him?”
“Well,” I say. Maybe Vulcan mind control would work again. WHAT HAVE YOU ALWAYS THOUGHT ABOUT ME? “Not much.”
“Do you know where he went for undergrad?”
“No,” I say. WHAT HAVE YOU ALWAYS THOUGHT ABOUT ME? Then, glancing at his face, I ask, “Why? Do you know where Chris went as an undergrad?”
“Yes,” Cooper says. “Earlcrest.”
“Earl what?” I ask. Vulcan mind control does not appear to be working! Instead of telling me what he’s always thought about me, he’s blathering about Chris Allington. Who cares about Chris? What about how you feel about ME?