“Good,” I say. “When I’m through here, you and I are having a talk.”
“That’ll be good,” Sarah says, with a sneer. “Can’t wait.”
I give her one last concerned look, then slip through the door Tom’s holding open.
“I see Miss Pissy Pants,” Tom says, referring to Sarah, “hasn’t changed a bit since I left.”
“She’s had a tough week,” I say, in Sarah’s defense. “She’s fallen in love with the head of the GSC, and he doesn’t know she’s alive.”
Tom doesn’t look the least bit sympathetic. “Now why would she want to go and do that? That guy barely even bathes. And he carries a murse. Like I need to point that out.”
I nod, then turn to see that the whole of the Housing Department—well, all nine of the residence hall directors; their assistant hall directors; the three area coordinators; the on-staff psychologist, Dr. Flynn; the department head, Dr. Jessup; Dr. Gillian Kilgore, grief counselor; a man I’ve never seen before; President Allington; and, for some reason, Muffy Fowler—are gathered into the Fischer Hall library, all perched on the institutional blue vinyl couches (or, more accurately, love seats, since whole couches would have encouraged residents to sleep there, and we want the students to sleep in their rooms, not the common areas).
“Well,” Dr. Jessup says, when he sees me—and it’s clear Sarah hadn’t been exaggerating. The whole staff really has been waiting on me for the meeting to begin. He pauses while Tom and I find seats—in the back. And, because all the love seats are taken, we’re forced to settle on the beige carpeting (it doesn’t show the spilled soda stains as much) with our backs against the walls, just beneath a bank of windows looking out across Washington Square Park. Tom immediately uncaps the Montblanc his parents got him for graduation and scrawls,Welcome to HELL! across the top of a blank page of his Day Runner.
Thanks, I mouth back. I miss Tom. Life had been so much better back when he’d been my boss. For one thing, there’d been the fact that we’d taken turns all day going shoe shopping over on Eighth Street, when we weren’t gossiping about the residents and listening to Kelly Clarkson on iTunes.
And for another, Tom had never cared where I’d gotten our paper for the copier. As long as there’d been some.
Then there was the small fact that Tom had never been stupid enough to get himself shot in the head.
“Now that we’re all here,” Dr. Jessup goes on, “let me tell youwhy you’re here. I’m sure you all know that this morning, we experienced a tragic event here in Fischer Hall that will have repercussions not just through our department, but throughout the college itself. Owen Veatch—interim director here at Fischer Hall, and ombudsman to the president’s office, was killed by a single bullet to the back of the head this morning in his office. While I’m certain none of us really got to know Owen Veatch this semester as well as we’d have liked to, what we did know of him led us to believe he was a good man who didn’t deserve to die in the horrible, tragic way that he did.”
Tom leans over to whisper, “That’s two.”
I look at him. “Two what?” I whisper back.
“Two tragics,” he hisses. “Tragic event, and horrible tragic way.”
Solemnly, Tom writes the word Tragic at the top of his blank Day Runner page, then makes two hatch marks beneath it.
“And we’re off,” he whispers happily.
“Who’s that guy?” I whisper, pointing at the only person in the room I’ve never seen before.
“You don’t know who that is?” Tom looks scandalized. “That’s Reverend Mark Halstead. He’s the new interdenominational campus youth minister.”
I stare at Reverend Mark. He has the bland good looks of a sports announcer. He’s wearing carefully faded jeans with a sports coat and tie. He sitting on one of the arms of the love seat Muffy Fowler is sharing with Gillian Kilgore. Muffy is leaning forward in her seat with both her elbows on her knees and staring up at Dr. Jessup with her lips slightly parted.
I can’t help noticing that she’s recently reapplied her lip gloss.
And that Reverend Mark has a bird’s-eye view right down the front of Muffy’s frilly white blouse.
“We wanted to bring you all together this afternoon,” Dr. Jessup is saying, “to assure you that the police are doing everything they can to get to the bottom of this tragic crime—”
Solemnly, Tom makes another hatch mark in his Day Runner.
“—and that this appears, by all indications, to be a random, isolated incident of senseless violence. In no way are any other members of this staff in jeopardy. Yes, Simon?”
Simon Hague, the director of Wasser Hall, Fischer Hall’s bitterest rival (in my mind), due to its having its own pool in the basement (and also to its not bearing the unfortunate nickname of Death Dorm), lowers his hand and says, in his usual insufferable (to me, anyway) whine, “Um, fine, right. You say that. That no other members of the staff are in jeopardy. But what is anyone doing to ensure that? I mean, how do we know that none of us is next? How do we know other members of the staff aren’t being targeted?”
Several other hall directors nod their heads. Tom draws a small doodle of a man who looks a lot like Simon. Then he draws his head exploding.
“So,” he whispers conversationally. “How’s the man?”
I blink at him. “You mean Tad?”
He rolls his eyes. “No. I mean the one you actually like. Cooper. How’s he doing? I haven’t seen him in ages.”
“He’s fine,” I reply… a little bleakly, I’ll admit.
And, okay, I know we were at a meeting about my boss, whom I’d found dead a few hours earlier, and it was tragic (as we knew all too well), a man killed for no reason, and in his prime, and all of that.
But I need some dating advice. And who better to ask than a gay man?
“Tad asked me this morning if I could take time off this summer, then told me he has something he wants to ask me, when the time is right,” I whisper. “And I don’t think he’s talking about a share on the Jersey shore.”
Tom looks appropriately horrified.
“What?Are you serious? You’ve only been dating him, what, a month?”