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“Yes?” she asks, not unpleasantly.

“Hi,” I say. “I’m Heather Wells, the assistant director of Fischer Hall at New York College. Are you Jamie Price’s mother?”

The woman looks a little flustered. “Why, yes… I thought you looked familiar. I think we met when Jamie checked in—”

She slips her right hand into the one I’ve held out almost automatically. “Oh, yes. Deborah Price. Hello.”

I take her hand in mine and shake it. “Hi. Sorry to bother you at home. It’s just that we’ve noticed Jamie hasn’t been around lately, and her roommate said she’d come home, so I thought I’d just come up to check and make sure everything is all right. And if she needs a ride back… well, I’m here… ”

“Oh.” Mrs. Price looks even more flustered, but still pleasant. She’s the type that seems to have been trained to be this way—you know, pleasant, no matter what. College administrator appearing out of nowhere on her front steps, naked guy in her daughter’s bed. Whatever. Keep smiling. Beneath the jaunty pink scarf is a pearl necklace. They go nicely with her perfectly polished riding boots, which don’t have a scuff on them. Have they ever even seen a stable floor? “Oh my, well! I had no idea the college offered this kind of door-to-door service!”

“Well, we aim to please,” I say modestly. “Is Jamie here? Can I have a word with her?”

“Oh, well,” Mrs. Price says. “Yes, of course. Come in, won’t you? You said you drove?” I notice her blue-eyed gaze—no wrinkles around her eyes. Botox? Plastic surgery? Or simply good genes? — dart past me, toward the circular driveway. “I don’t see your car.”

“I parked downtown,” I explain. “It’s such a pretty day, I thought I’d walk.”

This isn’t even a lie. Exactly. The Prices don’t live that far, it turns out, from the Rock Ridge Police Department. Chief O’Malley was more than happy to direct me to their house while Cooper was sitting in the car on his cell phone, grappling with one of the many bail bondsmen he happens to know (because, after the initial hilarity rubbed off, in the end, even he couldn’t leave Gavin sitting in jail for another night).

And while I knew Cooper wasn’t likely to approve of my trudging up the long driveway to the big stone house on the hill—with the green and white stables to one side, and the pond filled with giant goldfish (yes, I checked), and the matching Jaguars in the four-car garage to the other—and I’d no doubt hear about it the whole way home, I figured it would be worth it. Ihad to know what the deal was with Reverend Mark.

Because I didn’t—not for a New York minute—believe he’d shot Owen Veatch.

But I was dying to know why Jamie thought he had.

“I won’t lie to you, Ms. Wells,” Mrs. Price says, as we head to the bottom of a long, curling staircase. The house, though furnished with suits of armor and heavy antique furniture to give the impression of being old, is actually new construction, with the ubiquitous “great room” common to the McMansions of the day; the front entrance actually leads into the dining room, living room, TV room, kitchen, and what appears to be a billiard/library. Out back, I can see a gigantic black granite pool, complete with hot tub and, further on, tennis courts. There is no sign of Mr. Price. I can only assume he’s at work, paying for all of this.

“I’m actually relieved to see you,” Mrs. Price goes on. “The past twenty-four hours, since Jamie showed up here, haven’t been the greatest.”

“Really?” I say, pretending not to have the slightest idea what she’s talking about. “Why?”

“Jamie and her father haven’t always gotten along—well, they’re so much alike, you see, and she’s always been Daddy’s little girl, and last night… this boy from her school showed up—here, of all places—”

I pretend to look shocked. “You don’t say.”

Mrs. Price shakes her head in wonder. Clearly, the idea of any boy finding her daughter appealing is still a new one on her. “We found him in her bed! Well, of course, it wasn’t as if he hadn’t been invited, if you know what I mean. I mean, he hadn’t FORCED himself on her. But she’d let him in behind our backs. Roy and I had no idea. She isn’t allowed to entertain boys in her room. I know she’s over eighteen, and a legal adult, but she’s still living under our roof, and while we’re paying for her education, we expect her to live by our rules. We’re Presbyterian. You have to have principles.”

“Of course,” I say primly.

“Long story short, Roy completely overreacted,” Mrs. Price informs me. “He called the police! Now the poor boy is in jail. And Jamie isn’t speaking to either of us.”

“Oh no,” I say, trying to look concerned.

“Exactly,” Mrs. Price says. “You know, Jamie and I have never had a typical mother-daughter relationship. Now, her older sister and I—well, we’re much more alike. But Jamie was always a tomboy, and so… I don’t know. Large. You know. She’s like you… big boned. We never had very much in common, whereas her sister and I are the same size—an eight. We share everything. So I can’t get a word out of her this morning. Maybe you can?”

I shrug. “Gosh,” I say. “I don’t know. I can try, I guess.”

“Would you?” Mrs. Price cocks her head. “Because, you know, I have to leave for my dressage lesson.”

“Your what?”

“Dressage,” Mrs. Price says again, as if by repeating it, I’ll get it. “Jamie!” Mrs. Price calls up the staircase. “Would you like some coffee, Ms. Wells?”

“I’d love some,” I say.

“Fine. It’s in the pot in the kitchen. Help yourself. There are mugs in the rack. JAMIE!”

“God, what, Mom?” Jamie appears at the top of the stairs, dressed in a pair of terry-cloth shorts and a pink T-shirt, her long blond hair tumbling around her wide shoulders. She appears to have just woken up. Would that I ever looked as good when just roused from slumber.

When her gaze falls on me, her eyes widen.

“You!” Jamie cries. But she doesn’t look inclined to run. She seems more curious than frightened.