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“Well,” I say. “I’m sorry. But you did just admit that you hit on homely and overweight girls to improve their self-esteem. That’s totally skeevy, especially considering you’re in a position of power over them, and they’re probably too intimidated to tell you to cut it out if they don’t like it.”

Mark makes a bleating noise of protest. “It’s not skeevy!” he says. “It’s actually very—”

But he doesn’t get a chance to explain to me what it’s actually very. Because at that moment, the stairwell door explodes open, and a dark-haired blur bursts through it.

“Heather,” Cooper demands, seeing me with my back still up against the cinder block. His eyes are wide with emotion. I can’t exactly pinpoint which one. But something tells me it might actually be… fear. At the very least, it’s anxiety. “Are you all right?”

“I’m fine,” I say, a little crankily. I still can’t believe I was wrong about Reverend Mark.

“I told you to stay where I could see you,” he snaps.

“Yeah,” I say. “Well, Reverend Hot Pants over here had other ideas.”

This is the wrong thing to say. Because the next thing I know, Cooper’s crossed the few feet that separates him from Mark Halstead in a single leap, seeming unaware of the look of panic that spreads across the reverend’s face as he does so. A second later, Cooper’s heaved himself, left shoulder first, into Halstead’s stomach.

Then the two of them go tumbling down the stairwell.


Monday’s guy is full of himself

Tuesday’s guy drinks only scotch, top shelf

Wednesday’s guy is a commitment phobe

Thursday’s guy will never phone

“Guys of the Week”

Written by Heather Wells

It takes the combined efforts of Tom, Steve, Gavin, myself, and Jamie (“Dressage,” she informs me, when I comment on her surprising amount of upper-body strength) to pull Cooper and the Reverend Mark apart. When we do, we discover we’re too late to have prevented any major damage. The paramedics later diagnose a broken nose and bruised ribs (Reverend Mark) and dislocated finger along with possible concussion (Cooper). It’s impossible to confirm Cooper’s concussion, however, because he refuses to go to the hospital.

“What are they going to do for a concussion?” he wants to know, after the EMT has shoved his pinky back into place. “Tell me not to take any codeine and have someone wake me up every two hours to make sure I don’t go into a coma? Sorry, I can do that at home.”

Mark is surprisingly good-natured about his nose, refusing to press charges even after he discovers his attacker is a Cartwright, of Cartwright Records.

“Maybe,” he says to me, as he’s being loaded into the ambulance (unlike Cooper, Reverend Mark is only too eager to be taken to St. Vincent’s, possibly so as to postpone uncomfortable questions he might be receiving from his superiors back at the student chapel), “this will solve my little problem, by making me less appealing to the ladies.”

“Yeah,” I say to him. “Good luck with that.”

I’m still keeping the PNG in place, even if he didn’t kill Dr. Veatch. And Jamie’s still putting through her formal complaint on him… it will be accompanied with my notes on his admissions to me, plus the fact that he was dismissed from his previous two positions for undisclosed reasons.

I mean, come on. He may not be a murderer.

But he’s still a letch.

“Well,” Sebastian says, as we all walk slowly back toward Fischer Hall after the excitement has died down. Slowly because we’re keeping pace with Cooper, who, though he denies it, appears to have suffered some contusions he didn’t mention to the paramedics that are impeding his progress somewhat. “That was… anticlimactic.”

“Yeah, well, everything would have been all right if you hadn’t shown up,” I can’t help snapping. I’m sort of hovering beside Cooper, ready to catch him if he falls over. He is not amused by this, and has already asked me to get out of his way twice. I told him I was just looking out for him, same as he was doing for me back at the sports center, but he pointed out that to his certain knowledge, no homicidal preachers are stalking him.

This is just further proof that no good deed ever goes unpunished.

“It’s all my fault,” Sarah says, as we amble slowly down Bleecker Street, past the underground comedy clubs and aboveground manicure and sushi shops. “I thought it would be a good idea if Sebastian went to the memorial to pay his respects. It never occurred to me that Mrs. Veatch would be such a psycho.”

“Well, how did you expect her to react?” Gavin wants to know. “Her ex-husband just got iced.”

“That’s exactly it,” Sarah goes on. “He’s her ex, not her current husband. Her reaction was completely unwarranted. That woman clearly has unresolved issues with Owen. That much is obvious.”

I can’t help noticing that Sarah and Sebastian are holding hands. So I guess dinner with the Blumenthals went well. As a matter of fact, Cooper and I are the only ones in the group walking back toward Fischer Hall who aren’t holding hands. Love is definitely in the air.

In fact, I’d looked around after the paramedics had left, but Tad had disappeared. So, I couldn’t help noticing, had Muffy.

I’m not saying the two of them left together or anything. I just couldn’t help noticing they were both gone.

Of course, by then everyone else was, too. It turns out having a couple of ambulances show up at a memorial service has a way of indicating to everyone that the party’s over. Tom and Steve had left for their own place on the opposite side of the park, which was understandable. And of course the Allingtons had left in their town car, and the Mrs. Veatches, as well.

Still. You’d have thought Tad, at least, would have stuck around, at the very least to walk me home, considering, for all he knew, someone had just tried to kill me.

But I guess once you break up with a guy, all bets are off.

“I just think,” I say to Sebastian, “if you’d wanted to introduce yourself to Owen’s ex, your timing could have been better.”

“But that’s just it,” Sebastian says. We’ve reached MacDougal, and turn onto it. Fischer Hall is just a couple of blocks away. In the distance, we can already hear the roar from the GSC’s rally in the park. The one at which I’m not singing “Sugar Rush.” “I already met Pam.”