But the idea of any woman moving to New York and entering the workforce with the express purpose of snagging a husband is sort of… well. Gross.
Who knows what I might have said to Ms. Muffy Fowler if at that very moment something hadn’t happened to distract me? Something so momentous (to me, anyway) that all further thought of conversation with her flees my brain, and I forget I’m standing in front of Fischer Hall, the sight of another major crime scene, and the place in which I regularly consume way more than my governmentally advised daily calorie allowance.
And that’s the sight of my landlord, semi-employer, and love of my life, Cooper Cartwright, hurrying up to me, panting, “I came as soon as I heard. Are you okay?”
Watching jets cross the midday sky
Disappearing in the bright sun’s eyes
Think of the Biscoffs t hey’re unwrappin’
Wish I could have my own to snack on
“You Can Buy Biscoff Online”
Written by Heather Wells
“Well, hello, there.”
That’s what Muffy Fowler says to Cooper after she turns to look at him. The next thing I know, she’s pivoted her weight to one hip and propped a hand to her infinitesimally small waist, her doe-eyed gaze going from the toes of Cooper’s running shoes (well, he’s a private detective after all. One assumes he often has to run after people, such as bad guys and… I don’t know. Perps. Or something) to the top of his dark, slightly-in-need-of-a-haircut head.
“Uh.” Cooper looks from me to Muffy and then back again. “Hi.”
“Muffy Fowler.” Muffy sticks out her hand—the cocktail ring (which I now realize is the engagement ring from her called-off wedding) glinting in the noonday sun—and Cooper takes it in his to shake. “New York College public relations. And you are?”
“Uh, Cooper Cartwright,” he says. “Friend of Heather’s. I was wondering if I could speak with her for a few minutes?”
“Of course!” Muffy holds on to his hand a little too long—like she thinks I won’t notice—then flashes me a smile and says, “You take as long as you need, now, Heather, you hear? I’ll just be right inside with President Allington if you want anything.”
I stare at her. Why is she talking to me like she’s my supervisor—or sorority sister—or something?
“Um,” I say slowly. “Sure thing… Muffy.”
She gives me a quick but supportive hug—enveloping me not just in her arms, but in a cloud of Chanel No. 19—then hurries into the building. Cooper stares at me.
“What,” he says, “was that.” It’s not exactly a question.
“That,” I say, “was Muffy. She introduced herself. Remember?”
“Yeah,” he says. “I noticed. I thought it might have been a hallucination.” He glances over his shoulder at the press, who, far from taking Muffy’s advice and packing up to go home, are stopping students as they cross the street, trying to get back to Fischer Hall for lunch after class, to ask them if they knew Owen Veatch and how they feel about his brutal and untimely death. “This is unbelievable. Are you all right?”
“Yeah,” I say, in some surprise. “I’m fine. Why?”
“Why?” Cooper looks down at me, a very sarcastic expression on his face. “Gosh, I don’t know. Maybe because someone shot your boss in the head this morning?”
I’m touched. Seriously. I can’t believe he cares. I mean, I know he cares.
But I can’t believe he cares enough to come over personally and check up on me. Granted, the Sixth Precinct’s taken over my office and I was being interviewed by Fox News so it wasn’t like I was picking up my cell.
But still. It’s nice to know Cooper’s got my back.
“So what do you know about this guy?” he wants to know, balancing a foot against one of the planters the residents routinely use as ashtrays, despite my well-placed and artful sign age exhorting them not to. “Anyone you know of might have reason to want him dead?”
If one more person asks me this, I seriously think my head might explode.
“No,” I say. “Except Odie.”
Cooper looks at me oddly. “Who?”
“Never mind,” I say. “Look, I don’t know. Everybody and his brother has asked me this. If I knew, don’t you think I’d have said something? I barely talked to the guy, Coop. I mean, we worked together for a few months, and all, but it’s not like he was my friend—not like Tom”—my last boss, with whom I still meet regularly for after-work beers at the Stoned Crow. “I mean, aside from this whole GSC fiasco, I can’t think of a single person who had something against Owen Veatch. He was just… bland.”
Cooper blinks down at me. “Bland.”
I shrug helplessly. “Exactly. Like vanilla. I mean, for someone to hate you enough to kill you, you at least have to… I don’t know. Have done something. Something interesting. But there was nothing remotely interesting about Owen. Seriously.”
Cooper glances across the street, at the reporters and their vans with the satellite dishes sticking up out of the roofs. Standing to one side of the vans, still in the chess circle—but on the outer rim of the chess circle, because the old guard who ruled the chess circle have finally gotten fed up with them, and thrown them out—is Sarah and her GSC posse, including a slouching Sebastian, muttering darkly amongst themselves because the reporters have gotten all the sound bites they need from them, and won’t interview them anymore.
“And you don’t think any of those characters could have had anything to do with it?” Cooper asks, nodding in Sarah’s direction.
I roll my eyes. “Puh-lease.Them? They’re all, like, vegetarians. You think any one of them could have the guts to shoot some guy in the head? They don’t even eat eggs.”
“Still,” Cooper says. “With Veatch out of the way… ”
“Nothing changes,” I say. “The administration still isn’t going to budge. If anything, the GSC has lost the only voice of reason they had in this crazy mess. Now… ” I shudder. “God, Cooper. If there’s a strike, there’ll be no end to the trouble around here.”
Cooper looks thoughtful. “And who stands to benefit if there’s a strike?”