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“OW!” I shriek, as she wrenches some of the fat on my upper arm, hard, between her thumb and forefinger. “What’d you do that for? That really hurt!”

“Good, now your eyes are waterin’,” Muffy says. “Keep it up. Boys! Oh, boys! Over here! This gal here found the body!”

The next thing I know, fifty microphones are being thrust into my face, and I find myself explaining tearfully—because, yes, that pinch really did hurt. I’ll be lucky if it doesn’t leave a bruise—that though I didn’t really work with Owen Veatch all that long, or know him that well, he is going to be missed, and that, whatever his stand on the graduate student compensation package, he didn’t deserve to die that way, or any way. And, yes, I am that Heather Wells.

It isn’t until I notice, holding court in the center of the chess circle, a familiar frizzy-haired girl in overalls that I realize what’s behind Muffy Fowler’s feeding me to the wolves in this fashion: Sarah had been out here, using Dr. Veatch’s death and the publicity around it as an opportunity to promote the GSC’s agenda.

Now that I’ve stolen her limelight, Sarah’s consulting with some equally scruffy-looking individuals—not including the ones who are there actually to play chess, and who are looking extremely annoyed at having their territory invaded by all these long-haired, hippie types—including Sebastian. He keeps sending me dark looks that I try not to take personally, but that clearly peg me as The Man… although I barely make a living wage myself. AndI certainly wasn’t the one who decided to cut the grad students’ compensation package.

Then again, maybe he’s just still sore at me for not agreeing to sing “Kumbaya” at his rally.

“So you can’t think of anyone who’d have reason to kill your boss?” a reporter from Channel 4 wants to know.

“No,” I say. “I really can’t. He was a nice guy.” Well, except for the Garfield thing, which, really, bordered on a sickness. So you can’t actually blame him for it. “Quiet. But nice.”

“And you don’t think the GSC could be in any way responsible?”

“I really don’t have a comment about that.” Although my personal feeling is that the GSC couldn’t organize a bake sale, let alone a murder.

“All right,” Muffy says, reaching through the crowd of reporters to take my arm. “That’s enough questions for now. Miss, er, Wells is exhausted from her horrifying and gruesome discovery—”

“One last question,” the Fox News reporter cries. “Heather, anything you want to say to your ex-boyfriend, former Easy Street band member Jordan Cartwright, now that he and his wife, superstar Tania Trace, are expecting?”

“Miss Wells is done,” Muffy says, pulling me off the rickety wooden platform one of the news stations had generously rigged for me to stand on. “I’d appreciate it if ya’ll would pack up and go on home now and let the police do their work and these students get on to class—”

I wrench my arm from her grasp. “Wait a minute.” To the reporter, I say, “Tania’s pregnant?”

“You didn’t see the announcement?” The reporter looks bored. “Posted it on her website this morning. Got a statement? Congratulations? Best wishes? Anything like that?”

Jordan’s going to be a father? My God.

My dog would make a better father than he would.

And she’s a girl. And a dog.

“Uh,” I say. “Yeah. Both. Congratulations. Best wishes. Mazel tov. All that.”

It seems like I should say something more meaningful than that, though. After all, Jordan and I dated for nearly ten years. He was my first kiss, my first love, my first… yeah, that, too. Maybe I should say something, I don’t know. About the circle of life and death? Yeah. Yeah, that sounds good. “Um. It just goes to show when one life is snuffed out, another—”

“Come on,” Muffy says, hauling ass. My ass, to be exact.

“God,” I murmur, as she pulls me along. “I can’t believe it. My ex is having a baby.”

“Welcome to my world,” Muffy says. “Mine just had twins.”

I look at her in surprise. “Really? That’s—that’s weird, right? I mean, wasn’t it weird? Am I wrong to think that’s weird? Is your ex a loser? Because mine’s a huge loser. And it’s weird to think of him being responsible for another human life.”

“Mine’s the CEO of a major investment firm back in Atlanta,” Muffy says, keeping her face turned straight ahead, “who left me for my maid of honor the night before our wedding. So yeah, I guess you could say I think it’s weird. In the same way I think it’s weird that millions of little tiny babies in Africa starve to death every year while I freak out if my barista uses full fat instead of nonfat foam in my morning latte. Why didn’t you tell me you were Heather Wells, the former teen pop sensation?”

“I tried,” I say lamely.

“No.” Muffy skids to a stop in her Manolos just outside the building’s front door and stabs an accusing index finger at me. “All you said was that your name wasn’t Jessica. I do not appreciate bein’ kept in the dark. Now, what else are you not tellin’ me? Do you know who killed that man?”

I gape down at her. I have a good five inches on her, but she makes me feel as if I’m the one who has to look up at her.

“No!” I cry. “Of course not! Don’t you think that if I did, I’d have told the police?”

“I don’t know,” Muffy says. “Maybe ya’ll were havin’ an affair.”


“I did,” Muffy replies, calmly. “Simmer down. I was just askin’.”

“And you think I was sleeping with him.Me.”

“Stranger things have happened,” Muffy points out. “This is New York City, after all.”

And suddenly a lot of things become clear: how Muffy’s ring became “accidentally” attached to President Allington’s jacket; why she’d ever think I might have been after Owen Veatch; what the pencil skirt and high heels were all about; what she’s doing in New York City in the first place, so far from her native Atlanta.

Look, I’m not here to make judgments. To each his (or her) own, and all of that.