“God, what is wrong with you?” I demand. “You are being such a d—”
My phone rings again. This time it’s a number I don’t recognize. Fearing it might be something to do with work—which I am, admittedly, blowing off—I pick up.
“Heather,” an unfamiliar, albeit jocular-sounding older male voice says. “It’s me, Larry! Larry Mayer, your dad’s old business partner. Or should I say, new business partner!”
“Oh,” I say faintly. Cooper has just taken the exit to Rock Ridge. “Hi, Larry.”
“Tried to reach you at your office just now, but your boss told me you were on your cell. This isn’t a bad time, is it? I was hoping we could talk… ”
“It’s not the best time,” I say.
“Good, good,” Larry booms, evidently mishearing me. “Been a long time since we last spoke, huh? God, last time I saw you, I think you still had on those see-through spangly pants you wore to the MTV music video awards. You know, the ones you got in so much trouble later with the FCC for ripping off? Which I never understood, because those bikini briefs you had on underneath covered everything. Well, almost. Ah, good times. Anyway, so your dad and I were just sitting here talking about you—I bet your ears were burning—and we were wondering if you’d given any more thought to our proposal.”
“Yeah,” I say. “You know, like I was saying, this really isn’t the best—”
“Because the clock is ticking, sweetheart. We’ve already rented the studio, and if we’re gonna get started, we need to get in there and start banging some stuff out. Not to put any pressure on you. But then, if I remember correctly, you always did your best work under pressure—”
We’re cruising past the low stone walls surrounding rolling green horse pastures and thick woods—hiding multimillion-dollar homes (with sophisticated security systems) that indicate we’re entering the exclusive bedroom community of Rock Ridge. Cooper’s expression, when I glance at it, is as closed as the spiked gates at the end of the long, curving driveways we’re passing.
“Larry, I’m going to have to call you back,” I say. “I’m right in the middle of something at the moment, something work-related.”
“I understand,” Larry says. “I understand. Your father told me how important that little job of yours is to you. I’ve just got four words to say to you, sweetheart. Percentage of the gross. That’s all. Just think about it. Call me. Bye.”
“Bye,” I say. And hang up.
“So,” Cooper says, as we pull into the picturesque village of Rock Ridge proper, all cobblestones and thatched roofs (and security cameras perched on top of the replica antique street lamps, to record the moves of every citizen and visitor to the downtown area). “Tell me.”
“Believe me,” I say. “You don’t want to know. I wish I didn’t even know.”
“Oh,” Cooper says. “I think I do want to know. Do I need to start looking for a new house-mate… and a new bookkeeper?”
I swallow. “I… I don’t know. When I do, you’ll be the first to know. I swear.”
Cooper doesn’t say anything for a minute. Then, to my surprise, he says, “Damn!”
Only not, I realize, in response to what I’ve just told him, but because he’s just driven right past the police station, and has to turn around.
When we finally return to the police station, we’re a little astonished to note it’s one of the few places not marked by a Ye Olde sign. We park in one of the many empty spaces in front—we are, as far as I can tell, the only visitors to the Rock Ridge Police Station on this spring day… a fact that’s confirmed when we step inside and find the place completely deserted except for a corpulent man in a dark blue police uniform, seated at a desk and eating chicken wings. Not far behind him, in the building’s only barred—and scrupulously clean—jail cell, sits Gavin McGoren, his goatee stained orange as he, too, gnaws on chicken wings.
“There she is,” Chief O’Malley—at least that’s what the nameplate on his desk reads. Plus I recognize his voice—cries happily. “Heather Wells herself! I’d recognize that hair anywhere. But you’ve put on a few, hey, honey? Well, who among us hasn’t?”
Gavin leaps from the single cot in his cell and, chicken wings flying everywhere, wraps his fingers around the bars.
“Hey, there,” Chief O’Malley calls in disapproval. “Don’t you be getting that special sauce all over everything. I just had the rookie clean in there yesterday.”
“Damn,” I hear Cooper say, beneath his breath, as he takes in the sight of Gavin behind bars. But this time he’s swearing for yet another reason that has nothing to do with me. “I forgot my camera.”
But Gavin only has eyes for me.
Only not, it turns out, because of his once unrequited crush on me. Because he has something he needs to tell me.
“Heather,” he cries excitedly. “I’m so glad you’re here. Listen, Jamie says she’s sure it wasn’t Sebastian who shot Dr. Veatch. She had an appointment with him yesterday because he was going to help her lodge a formal complaint about a New York College staff member who made unwanted sexual advances toward her. That’s why she got scared and ran home—she thinks it’s her fault he got shot. She thinks it was that person who shot him, before he could lodge the complaint—and that she’s next.”
I feel my heart speed up. “Who was it?” I cry. “Simon Hague?” Oh, please, please let it be Simon Hague. Could anything be sweeter?
“No,” Gavin says. “Some guy the college just hired. Some guy named Reverend Mark.”
Don’t come ’round here
Crying like that
What are you
Some kind of spoiled brat?
“Other People’s Kids”
Written by Heather Wells
I’ve climbed the flagstone steps to the front door—leaded glass. Impressive—and rung the bell. It does one of thosebing-bong-bing-bong, bing-bong-bing-bong numbers, and then an older-looking blond woman in a lime green sweater and riding jodhpurs—I am not even kidding—with a pink scarf tied all jauntily around her neck answers the door.