Suddenly I was able to run like the wind; my hair flying out pennant-like.
Police cars and campus security cars blocked the entrance to my dorm. I swear it looked just like a movie set. An ambulance and fire truck parked right in a flowerbed, grinding down the autumn bulbs. That will piss off Miss Corinne Myers, the house manager, I thought. Getting rejected from vet school already had her panties in a twist; all residents feared to cross her. Crime scene tape fluttered in the wind; the very tape I’d imagined in Miss Howk’s apartment mystically transferred to my own residence, like I possessed the power to bring such things to being.
Chase might think – for the moment – that I was his “lucky charm” but there was plenty of proof of the opposite. If cops were turning away people at the door, how would we get in? What the hell could have happened? If it was crazy Bex, how could he have created such mayhem in the moments since we’d last seen him? Chase – my lucky charm — strode purposefully forward like the law school wannabe he claimed he was.
Corinne Myers disputed heatedly with a policeman. Upset, just as I’d predicted. Chase barged into her colloquy, asked, “What’s going on?” But Corinne’s eyes lit on me. She literally collared the cop and dragged him over in my direction, mouthing the heart-sickening phrase, “There she is.”
Once again everybody was looking at me and I was not fit to be looked at. I panicked and unbuttoned the top button of my coat, trying to get more of that oxygen suddenly in such short, short supply.
Was I captured now? What could I confess to? A disturbance throbbed between Chase and me, negative currents in our symbiosis. How many revelations could he take about me before he would bail? And who would blame him? I had to pray the police would give plenty of hints about what they expected me to say because my memory of the past was a thrift- shop jumble sale. Who can tell the past, if it is not even past.
“Are you the resident of 824?” asked the cop.
Finally, a question I could answer!
“Yes. Me and Aleksa Curtis.” Horrid thought. Had Aleksa…? My peacoat was no match for the deep freeze falling from the sky and so my jaw began to clatter. Life had become a polygraph test I was obstinately failing. Chase put both his arms around me as if they’d have to drag him away too. Aww.
“Somebody fell from your window,” said the cop.
But those windows don’t open. “Is it Aleksa?” I managed to ask.
Corinne said, “Honey, Aleksa is gone.” Then, seeing my face, she said, “No, Aleksa withdrew from college this morning. She’s not here.” She shrugged her shoulders and rolled her eyes. “ The usual. Man trouble.”
Creepy! Coincidence that Corso’d said he’d see what he could do about my inconvenient roommate? As my brain ticked over like a balky engine, I realized everyone was still looking at me: me, the only tenant of The Death Room.
“She’s been out all day,” defended Chase. So cute! Lawyer slash bodyguard slash interpreter. My knight. When I thought like that my migraine got better and I could see again.
“Who fell?” I asked the cop, my eyes reading his nameplate, searching for anything to make him real. There it was. “Blofil.” A goony name for a goony guy; he looked too young to shave. More like a choirboy than a policeman. But it sure enough was a memorable name and we must clung ferociously to precious, precious memory. Because what other guideposts are there in this dark forest?
Choirboy said, “We don’t know. Maybe you can tell us.”
I clutched Chase’s arm and hissed at him, “What if it’s Soliz? Her dream was falling off Hadleigh!”
“It’s no one that I recognize,” said Corinne, and since she spends all her time trolling social networking sites it was quite a statement. Not a student then?
Blofil ticked through the possibilities. “Miss Myers says nobody’s signed the guest book. Did you have anyone staying with you on the down low? Just tell the truth; you won’t be in trouble.”
They always say that, and it always sounds just that unbelievable. I had a feeling this guy enrolled at the police academy before he really knew what trouble was.
“Nobody.” I insisted. But a tremor ran through me – visibly, I’m afraid. I would have failed that polygraph again because I was thinking of Bex. Could he have weaseled his way in? If he was dead – here’s a poser — would I be glad?
The policeman and Corinne exchanged disbelieving glances. I tried exploring Officer Blofil’s brain, but his oily skin repelled my psychic efforts. All I could see was my own fear reflected in his dark, dark eyes. Why was he sweating when I was in the “hot seat”? If it was his first death, it was mine too. Stress wreaks hell with the thermostat; I’m here to testify. Some freeze; some leak.
My prince asked them flat out, “What the hell happened?” Corinne Myers moved her eyebrows and twitched her lips as if robbed of the power of speech.
“A young lady seems to have killed herself,” said the officer.
Not Bex. Am I a bad person for feeling a flicker of disappointment? Just a flicker, mind you.
Officer Blofil made a battlefield decision. He led us around the side of the building and lifted the tape. A group of policemen and campus security guards kept watch over a crumpled blue tarp. They looked at us suspiciously, as if we were after party wannabes jumping the velvet rope.
I looked up and saw the broken window. I had that weird rollercoaster sensation, as if I was falling. As if I was the broken one and the window looked pityingly down at me. What had Corso said about the shame of attempted flight? I castigated myself for venturing so high. Maybe I would always sign up for missions I couldn’t accomplish, tackle feats I could never complete. Chase pushed close up against me, lending me his power. He has a lovely hayfield smell. Like clover. Soothes me instantly. Like the weather turned bad so we took refuge in a nice warm barn. We’ll stay here together until the storm has passed.
Blofil lifted the tarp. It was not Soliz.“Miss Howk,” said Chase and I at exactly the same moment.