Let me tell you something. Sarah is a pain in my ass a lot of the time, but she’s a hard worker, and she has a good heart. For the most part, she’s a sweet girl.
But one thing Sarah is not is light. And she’s leaning all of her body weight on me. Which I’m about to collapse under.
Thank God for Pete, who comes hurrying over from behind the security desk, going, “Okay, Sarah, why don’t we sit you down over here in the lobby and get you some water. Would you like some water? How about a nice cold glass of water? Wouldn’t that be nice?”
“I don’t want water!” Sarah cries, her face buried against my chest.
I can’t see what’s going on in the rest of the lobby because all of Sarah’s hair is flying up in my face, blocking my view.
“I want justice!” she wails.
“Well, we’ll get you some of that, too.” Magda has appeared from out of nowhere. “Maybe there’s some in the freezer.” Together, she and Pete are lifting Sarah off me. Suddenly I can see that the police have successfully removed Sebastian from the building. Detective Canavan is still in the lobby, speaking in a low voice with Drs. Jessup, Flynn, and Kilgore. Muffy Fowler is there, too, but she only has eyes for Reverend Mark, who seems to have found some of his student brethren (constituents? whatever the word is) and is joking with them in a hearty manner, while Muffy pretends to know what they are talking about and laughs along.
Gavin, meanwhile, has followed me down from the second floor and is glaring at me.Jamie, he mouths, and nods meaningfully at the elevators.
Hold on, I mouth back, and nod at Sarah. Clearly he can see I can only deal with one crisis at a time. I’m not Super Assistant Dorm Director, after all. I mean, Residence Hall Director.
Pete and Magda get Sarah into the cafeteria and propped up in one of the blue vinyl chairs with a glass of water that she drinks only after much urging. The café is closed for cleanup between the lunch and dinner shifts, so we don’t have to worry about anyone observing us… which is good for Sarah, since she doesn’t exactly look her best. Her skin is flushed and clammy. Tendrils of her curly black hair are sticking to her forehead and temples.
“It was so awful,” she murmurs. “We were sitting in the storage room. Just sitting there, minding our own business, because they were still doing all that forensic stuff in our office, Heather. And then suddenly Detective Canavan comes in, and says he wants to talk to Sebastian. And Sebastian was like, Okay. Because he has nothing to hide. Why shouldn’t he have said yes? And the next thing I know, they’re leading him away in handcuffs. Heather—they arrested him! What are we going to do? I have to call his parents. Someone has to call his parents—”
“We’ll call his parents,” I say, in what I hope is a soothing voice. I try to push some of the tendrils back from her forehead, but it’s no use. She’s so sweaty, they’re stuck there, like glue. “I’m sure he’ll call them himself, though.”
“Right,” Magda says. “Don’t prisoners get one phone call?”
This question starts a fresh wave of weeping. I give Magda a dirty look over the top of Sarah’s head.
“What?” Magda demands, defensively. “They do. When my cousin Tito—”
“No one wants to hear about your cousin Tito right now, Magda,” Pete says. From his tone, I kind of get the feeling Magda might be right: Pete doesn’t like her—not that way. On the other hand, maybe he has other things on his mind. He’s looking down at Sarah, clearly concerned for her. “The question is, why did they arrest him? What kind of proof do they have?”
“No proof,” Sarah wails, into her arms, which are folded on the tabletop. “They don’t have any proof, because he didn’t do it! Sebastian is a pacifist! He wouldn’t hurt a fly! He’s getting his master’s in religious studies… he keeps kosher, for Christ’s sake!”
Pete and I look at each over her shaking shoulders. “They have to have something,” he says quietly. “Something good, too. Or they wouldn’t have arrested him. A case like this, so much publicity… They’d never have made a move like this without something solid. They wouldn’t want to make a mistake, risk any bad press.”
I pull out the chair beside Sarah’s and slide into it. “Sarah,” I say to her. I’m trying to ignore her tears. Now is not the time for weeping. Not if she wants to spare her friend life in prison. Or worse. New York’s got the death penalty. “Think. What could they have on Sebastian that would make them think he did it? Does he own a gun?”
“God, no,” Sarah says, with a shudder. “I told you, he’s a pacifist.”
She’d also told me he was very adversarial. But I let that one slide. Besides, anyone can get a gun. This is New York City, after all.
“Well, where was he this morning when Dr. Veatch died? Do you know? Does he have an alibi?”
Sarah raises her head. Her face glistens with tears. “H-how should I know?” she asks. “I’m not exactly his girlfriend. How would I know where he was at eight this morning?”
It is obvious this admission pains her more than she wants us to know.
Pete licks his lips. Then he says, “This is bad.”
Sarah wails, “But he didn’t do it! I know he didn’t!”
“Yeah,” Pete says. “Funny how juries and judges usually want something called proof, and you saying you know he didn’t do it? That is not considered proof. I gotta get back to my desk. You girls be all right?”
We nod, and Pete leaves… shaking his head as he goes. Sarah watches him until the cafeteria doors ease shut behind him, then looks at Magda and me with wide, tear-filled eyes. “Okay. So what are we going to do?”
Magda glances at her genuine zirconium-encrusted watch. “I don’t know about you, but I have an appointment for an important eyebrow waxing after work.”
Sarah sighs. “That’s not what I meant. I meant about Sebastian.”
“I don’t see what we can do, Sarah,” I say. “I mean, the police—”
“—have arrested the wrong man.” Sarah’s stopped crying, but her eyes haven’t lost the feverish glitter they seem to have taken on from the moment the cops slipped the cuffs over Sebastian’s wrists… and her scream ripped through the corridors of Fischer Hall. I’m surprised she didn’t burst any blood vessels, that shriek was so loud. “Obviously, they’ve made a terrible mistake.”