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But that doesn’t keep Pete’s face from turning beet red every time one of the students, bitter over not being allowed into the building with their state-of-the-art halogen lamps (fire hazard), refers to him as a “rent-a-cop.” Which isn’t fair, because Pete is really, really good at his job. The only time pizza delivery guys ever make it inside Fischer Hall to stick menus under everyone’s door is when Pete’s not on duty.

Not that he doesn’t have the biggest heart in the world. When kids come down from their rooms, disgustedly holding glue traps on which live mice are trapped, Pete has been known to take the traps out to the park and pour oil onto them to free their little paws and let them go. He can’t stand the idea of anyone—or anything—dying on his watch.

“Coroner’ll run tests for alcohol and drugs, I’m sure,” he says, trying to sound casual, and failing. “If he ever gets here, that is.”

I’m horrified.

“You mean she… she’s still here? I mean, it—the body?”

Pete nods. “Downstairs. Bottom of the elevator shaft. That’s where they found her.”

“That’s where who found her?” I ask.

“The fire department,” Pete says. “When someone reported seeing her.”

“Seeing her fall?”

“No. Seeing her lying there. Someone looked down the crack—you know, between the floor and the elevator car—and saw her.”

I feel shaken. “You mean nobody reported it when it happened? The people who were with her?”

“What people?” Pete wants to know.

“The people she was elevator surfing with,” I say. “She had to be with someone. Nobody plays that stupid game alone. They didn’t come down to report it?”

“Nobody said nothing to me,” Pete says, “until this morning when a kid saw her through the crack.”

I am appalled.

“You mean she could have been lying down there for hours?” I ask, my voice cracking a little.

“Not alive,” Pete says, getting my drift right away. “She landed headfirst.”

“Santa Maria,” Magda says, and crosses herself.

I am only slightly less appalled. “So… then how’d they know who it was?”

“Had her school ID in her pocket,” Pete explains.

“Well, at least she was thinking ahead,” Magda says.

“Magda!” I’m shocked, but Magda just shrugs.

“It’s true. If you are going to play such a stupid game, at least keep ID on you, so they can identify your body later, right?”

Before either Pete or I can reply, Gerald, the dining director, comes popping out of the cafeteria, looking for his wayward cashier.

“Magda,” he says, when he finally spots her. “Whadduyadoing? Cops said they’re gonna let us open up again any minute and I got no one on the register.”

“Oh, I’ll be right there, honey,” Magda calls to him. Then, as soon as he’s stomped out of earshot, she adds, “Dickhead.” Then, with an apologetic waggle of her nails at Pete and me, Magda goes back to her seat behind the cash register in the student cafeteria around the corner from the guard’s desk.

“Heather?”

I look around, and see one of the student workers at the reception desk gesturing to me desperately. The reception desk is the hub of the building, where the residents’ mail is sorted, where visitors can call up to their friends’ rooms, and where all building emergencies are supposed to be reported. One of my first duties after being hired had been to type up a long list of phone numbers that the reception desk employees were to refer to in the event of an emergency of any kind (apparently, Justine had been too busy using college funds to buy ceramic heaters for all of her friends ever to get around to this).

Fire? The number for the fire station was listed.

Rape? The number for the campus’s rape hotline was listed.

Theft? The number for the Sixth Precinct.

People falling off the top of one of the elevators? There’s no number for that.

“Heather.” The student worker, Tina, sounds as whiny today as she did the first day I met her, when I told her she couldn’t put people on hold while she finished the round of Tetris she was playing on her Game Boy (Justine had never had a problem with this, I was told). “When’re they gonna get rid of that girl’s body? I’m losing it, knowing she’s, like, still DOWN there.”

“We saw her roommate.” Brad—the guy with the misfortune to be the resident assistant on duty this weekend, meaning he has to stay in the building at all times, in case he’s needed… like in the event of a student death—drops his voice conspiratorially as he leans across the desk toward me. “She said she didn’t even know Beth—that’s the dead girl—she said she didn’t even know Bethknew about surfing. She said she had no idea Beth hung out with that crowd. She said Beth was kindapreppie.”

“Well,” I say, lamely. I can tell the kids are looking for some kind of words of comfort from me. But what do I know about helping kids cope with the death of a classmate? I’m as freaked as either one of them. “I guess it just goes to show you never really quite know someone as well as you think you do, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah, but going for a joyride on top of an elevator?” Tina shakes her head. “She musta been crazy.”

“Prozac candidate,” Brad somberly agrees, exhibiting some of that sensitivity training the housing department has drilled so hard into their RAs’ heads.

“Heather?”

I turn to see Rachel’s graduate assistant, Sarah, coming toward me, a thick file in her hands. Garbed as always in the height of New York College graduate student chic—overalls and Uggs—she grabs my arm and squeezes.

“Ohmigod,” Sarah says, making no attempt whatsoever to lower her voice so that it isn’t audible to everyone on the entire first floor. “Can you believe it? The phones are ringing off the hook back in the office. All these parents are calling to make sure it wasn’t their kid. But Rachel says we can’t confirm the deceased’s identity until the coroner arrives. Even though we know who it is. I mean, Rachel had me get her file and told me to give it to Dr. Flynn. And would you look at this file?”

Sarah waves the thickly packed manila file. Elizabeth Kellogg had a record in the hall director’s office, which means that she’d either gotten in trouble for something or been ill at some point during the school year…

… which is odd, because Elizabeth was a freshman, and the fall semester had only just begun.

“Getta loada this.” Sarah is eager to share all she knows with me, Brad, and Tina. The latter two are listening to her with wide eyes. Pete, over at the guard’s desk, is acting like he’s busy watching his monitors. But I know he’s listening, too. “Her mother called Rachel, all bent out of shape because we allow residents to have any guests they want, and she didn’t want Elizabeth to be able to sign in boys. Apparently Mom expected her daughter to remain a virgin until marriage. She wanted Rachel to make it so that Elizabeth was only to be allowed to sign in girls. Obviously there are issues at home, but whatever—”

It’s the job of the GA—or graduate assistant—to assist the director in the day-to-day operations of the residence hall. In return, GAs receive free room and board and practical experience in higher education, which is generally their chosen field.

Sarah’s getting a lot more practical experience in the field here in Fischer Hall than she’d bargained on, what with a dead girl and all.

“Clearly there was some major mother-daughter rivalry going on there,” Sarah informs us. “I mean, you could tell Mrs. Kellogg was jealous because her looks are fading while her daughter’s—”

Sarah’s undergrad degree is in sociology. Sarah thinks that I suffer from low esteem. She told me this the day she met me, at check-in two weeks earlier, when she went to shake my hand, then cried, “Oh my God, you’re that Heather Wells?”

When I admitted that I was, then told her—when she asked what on earth I was doing working in a college residence hall (unlike me, Sarah never messes up and calls it a dorm)—that I was hoping to get a BA one of these days, she said, “You don’t need to go to college. What you need to work on are your abandonment issues and the feelings of inadequacy you must feel for being dropped from your label and robbed by your mother.”

Which is kind of funny, since what I feel I need to work on most are my feelings of dislike for Sarah.

Fortunately Dr. Flynn, the housing department’s on-staff psychologist, comes hurtling toward us just then, his briefcase overflowing with paperwork.

“Is that the deceased’s file?” he demands, by way of greeting. “I’d like to see it before I talk to the roommate and call the parents.”

Sarah hands him the file. As Dr. Flynn flips through it, he suddenly wrinkles his nose, then asks, “What is that smell?”

“Um,” I say. “Mrs. Allington sort of—well, she, um… ”

“She yorked,” Brad says. “In the planter over there.”

Dr. Flynn sighs. “Not again.” His cell phone chimes, and he says, “Excuse me,” and reaches for it.

At the same moment, the reception desk phone rings. Everyone looks down at it. When no one else reaches for it, I do.

“Fischer Hall,” I say.

The voice on the other end of the phone isn’t one I recognize.

“Yes, is this that dormitory located on Washington Square West?”

“This is a residence hall, yes,” I reply, remembering, for once, my training.

“I was wondering if I could speak to someone about the tragedy that occurred there earlier today,” says the unfamiliar voice.

Tragedy?I immediately become suspicious.

“Are you a reporter?” I ask. At this point in my life, I can sniff them out a mile away.

“Well, yes, I’m with the Post— ”

“Then you’ll have to get in touch with the Press Relations Department. No one here has any comment. Good-bye.” I slam down the receiver.

Brad and Tina are staring at me.

“Wow,” Brad says. “You’re good.”

Sarah gives her glasses a push, since they’ve started to slide down her nose.

“She ought to be,” she says. “Considering what she’s had to deal with. The paparazzi wasn’t exactly kind, were they, Heather? Especially when you walked in and found Jordan Cartwright receiving fellatio from… who was it? Oh yes. Tania Trace.”

“Wow,” I say, gazing at Sarah with genuine wonder. “You really put that photographic memory of yours to good use, don’t you, Sarah?”

Sarah smiles modestly while Tina’s jaw drops.

“Heather, you went out with Jordan Cartwright?” she cries.

“You caught him getting head from Tania Trace?” Brad looks as happy as if someone’s just dropped a hundred-dollar bill in his lap.

“Um,” I say. It’s not like I have much of a choice. They can easily Google it. “Yeah. It was a long time ago.”

Then I excuse myself to go search for a soda, hoping a combined jolt of caffeine and artificial sweeteners might make me feel less like causing there to be yet another death among the building’s student population.

4

Don’t Tell

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