129 Getting a Clue

After she left, I returned to my sewing until almost dinnertime. The rhythmic throb of the needle was soothing, and completing one job after another gave me a great feeling of accomplishment.

Jeremy hadn’t actually asked me out for the evening, and for all I knew, he had plans, but I called him anyway before we headed to the dining room. He sounded surprised. “Wow, decided to tell me already?”

I was so focused on what I had called him for that it actually took me a couple of seconds to realize what he was talking about. “Actually,” I said, a bit embarrassed, “I just hoped we could get together again tonight. I mean, if you’re not busy,” I added hurriedly. “When we first met, you mentioned something about music and math, and I just wondered if you could sort of explain further…”

“Oh! Um, I could grab a few CDs and come over a bit later, if you like.”

“I’d like… maybe seven or so?”

“See you then,” he said, and hung up. It was with a smile on my face that I headed out for dinner.

When he showed up after dinner, my roommates and I were in the living room waiting; I’d told them he was coming over. He was a bit nonplussed at seeing them there, and I knew better than to try for a kiss. I’ll have to work on that with him, I thought as I led him to my bedroom after some very brief greetings and giggles from Lee Ann and Terry. It was only after I’d closed the door behind us that I remembered that I wasn’t likely to have any time to “work on him” over anything.

“So, um, you wanted to hear about music theory?” he asked as I sat on my bed and looked at him expectantly.

“I just like hearing you explain things,” I told him, batting my eyes in hopes of making him laugh. “Seriously, I wanted to see you and… I do like hearing you explain stuff.”

“OK, um… I’m really used to lecturing in a bedroom, but… may I play some music in your computer?” I nodded and he put in one of the CDs he had brought and then came and sat next to me. I immediately cuddled up next to him, of course.

“Now, you know that music is very mathematical, of course.”

“I nodded, and listened attentively as he explained about rhythm, which I knew perfectly well as both a singer and guitarist, and then proceeded to talk about the mathematical basis for pitch and intervals and harmonies, much of which I didn’t know – at least not to the extent that he did. At some point, though, I sort of lost myself in the sound of his voice, as well as his physical presence. How was it possible that I had once doubted that girls found boys physically attractive?

I really hated that I knew our relationship was doomed, and that made me feel all the more guilty at taking pleasure from it. I wanted to prolong it as much as possible, but if I didn’t manage to change back, I was going to wind up hurting him when I couldn’t keep it going. Why did Brian what’s-his-name have to make himself hard to find?

“So you see why we don’t use Lydian mode and Phyrigian mode, and so on?,” he asked.

I pulled myself from my reverie. “Um… because we don’t like the sound?” I guessed.

He rolled his eyes. “You zoned out a while ago, didn’t you? He looked at me, staring at him adoringly. “Um, are you still interested in this? I have the feeling that you sort of zoned out a while ago.”

I giggled. “I never get bored at hearing you talk, you know. But if you’re tired of talking…” I reached up and kissed him, and then we were done with talking for a while.

He left a bit after midnight, and this time there was no problem getting a long, lingering kiss good night at the door. My roommates had either not come home yet or were already in their rooms, but the way we were feeling, I think he would have kissed me anyway.

As I closed the door after him, my heart was still pounding. Given his sense of honor, I’d regretfully given up on trying to seduce him, but the cuddling had been really nice, and I was not going to be short of pleasant thoughts tonight. The morning would be soon enough for doubts and frustrations.

As soon as I got up the next morning, I checked Facebook, and was elated to see a new comment, addressed to the guy who had claimed that there was no Brian in the physics department: “Mebbe she means Brian Harlin; he was here last yr.”

“Brian Harlin”! That had to be him. I was closing in!

“Quickly I typed my own response: “Yes, I think so! How can I reach him?” Then I had to force myself to relax. Who knew how long it would take before I got another answer? But in the meantime, I had something I could search for.

Facebook showed eight accounts in the name of “Brian Harlin.” Trying different spellings for his first and last name brought the total to more than forty. Still, that was serious progress. Some of them were easy to eliminate because they had profile pictures that were almost certainly the account owners, but did not resemble the guy in the video. Others had no pictures, or drawings, or dogs, or girls – presumably girlfriends, and that’s where I got stuck.

I had narrowed my search for not quite a dozen possibles; the next step was to check their friends – if I found one with multiple students who listed Rocky Lake as their school, I’d know I’d found him. Well, I had no such luck. Many of them had hidden their friends lists from strangers, or at least filtered them. As a last resort, I might try sending friend requests to each account, but that just brought me back to the same question of how to get him to respond.

I hung my head in frustration. It’s like we could get ever so close, so temptingly close, and just hadn’t been able to make the final connection. At this point, I was more than willing to see Martin and Eric succeed even without me.

Well, wishing doesn’t it make it so.

“I sent Allie copies of the pictures from the video,” Eric said when we met in my room after brunch, “and she passed them out to about two dozen Strangers. Nobody has spotted the guy yet, but that’s OK – it’s only been a couple of days. I found an old copy of the local phonebook, but it was printed over the summer; even if Davis had a landline, he might have missed the cut off.”

“And if all he had was a cell phone, he wouldn’t have been listed anyway,” Martin pointed out.

“Right,” Eric continued. “As far as we know, it was only a few months between the time he got here and the time he went into hiding, so he might not have left much of an impact.”

“Except on his victims,” I muttered.

“I’m going to try calling some apartment buildings to see if they have a lease for him listed,” Martin said. “I have no idea if they’ll tell me, though. There might be some privacy issues.”

“Well, when you look, you can also ask about Brian Harlin,” I told them triumphantly. “I found out his last name.”

“Hey! ’Atta girl!” Eric exclaimed, offering me a fist bump.

“Yeah,” I smiled, “so I got some information, but I haven’t been able to find him on Facebook yet. I asked the people who knew him for information on how to contact him; I haven’t checked if they got back to me yet.”

“Let me just do that now,” Vicky said, moving quickly to my computer. I hadn’t logged off the Jennifer Marsha account, so she was able to bring it up without logging in. “You have two replies!”

We all turned to listen while she read the messages. “The first one says, ‘I think I remember him now.’”

“Oh very helpful,” Eric sneered.

“But listen to this!” Vicky went on, ignoring him. “’I just spoke with him and he doesn’t remember you, Jennifer. Where did you meet him?’”

That triggered a bit of an uproar among our little group. “You found him!” one of the boys said, even as the other shouted, “Ask for his number!” I could do nothing but gape.

“‘At. A. Dance. Last. Year’” Vicky said aloud as she started typing.

“You can’t say that, Vix,” I protested. “I never met him.”

“Do you want to find him or not?” she retorted. She added, “‘Have. Him. Message. Me’” and hit return to send it before I could stop her. “Oh don’t worry. He probably met lots of girls at dances. Maybe he’ll be curious and friend you and you’ll be able to talk with him. If he’s in hiding, I’ll bet he’s really lonely now.”

I was about to argue, but held my tongue, remembering that Eric and Martin didn’t know the whole story. Considering what I was letting people believe, maybe Vicky’s untruth was comparatively tame, so I just shrugged my acquiescence.

“At any rate, I think we need to get back to our last problem,” I said, changing the subject. “How do we get Davis… or Harlin… to respond when we do contact them?”

“And how are they hiding?” Vicky added.

“Actually,” Eric put in, “I’ve been thinking about that a bit. What if their facilities and apartments are in the school’s name? There wouldn’t be anything for us to find; Piques could have plenty of offices off-campus for one reason or another, and maybe they maintain a bunch of apartments for short-term visitors. The only thing that would be in Davis’s name – or the grad student’s–”

“Brian Harlin,” I reminded him.

“Or Harlin’s – might be personal stuff like their phones, and those are probably the ones they brought with them.”

“Then how are we supposed to find them?” Vicky demanded.

“I guess we’re going to have to use the contact info we have and try to entice a response,” Eric observed. “So we need to think about why they’re hiding.”

And for that we needed Martin’s expertise. As a physics grad student himself, he would have the most insight into what might motivate a professor and grad student to play at being secret agents or protected witnesses or whatever they were doing. And yet, it still bothered me that I couldn’t figure it out myself. “I suppose we should also think about what the college’s role is in all this. Did they force Davis to hide? Help him hide? Maybe even not know why he’s hiding?”

“I thought we’d decided that already,” Vicky said, sounding puzzled. “Luke said that they were hiding from the administration.”

“OK, but why?” I persisted. “Why would they feel a need to hide?”

She stared at me. “After what they did to you? I mean, to all of us? They were smart to hide, the bastards!”

I winced. “You realize, that’s not going to make it easy for us to draw them out, if they’re afraid of us. Besides, why would they be afraid of the administration?”

She gave me a look that I interpreted as meaning something like, whose side are you on? and then Martin jumped in hurriedly. I guess he was afraid the two of us were about to engage in a catfight or something.

“It doesn’t make sense to me that they would be hiding from the administration,” he said. “What would they be living on?”

Vicky and I turned to look at him, and he continued. “Science labs run on grants, and both professors and their grad students are paid from the grant money, but the college administers the money – at least they do here. If they were hiding, they wouldn’t have any money. Piques could easily stop paying into their accounts and they’d be in trouble. Count on it – the college knows perfectly well how to reach them.”

“Then why did Luke say they were being secretive?” Vicky wondered.

“Well, Piques could be using the money to keep them from being available, you know, to protect themselves from lawsuits over harm to students.”

“I for one have no desire to sue anybody,” I said. “I just want my old life back.”

“But what if they can’t help you?” Martin pointed out. “Maybe they’re hiding because they can’t put things back the way they were, and Piques knows that. You’d sue then, wouldn’t you?”

“On what basis?” Eric interjected. “How would you even prove something like that? I believe something has happened because Allie believes it, and I know her well enough to see that she’s legit bothered by all this. But don’t you have to convince a jury of strangers if you want to sue somebody? I just don’t see how that’s a real threat.”

We argued back and forth, not really reaching a consensus, but it did seem that money might be a lever. If one of us only knew a friendly millionaire who could promise to fund the research if they would just come out of hiding! It was probably a silly idea – we still couldn’t rule out the possibility that they were just hiding from the publicity, and were still able to manipulate us; according to this idea, championed by Vicky, the reason they had stopped talking to Luke was fear that the Strangers were getting too close, despite what he was telling them. In any event, it was something to run past Dad.


  1. TJ says:

    “When we first met, you mentioned somebody about music and math,
    . I guess it should be something, and not somebody.

    Man, getting closer to the end makes it that much harder to read. I feel nervous reading, cause i am handing on each word and action, heh. So many things could happen still, well, now i am excited about Friday morning 🙂

  2. Russ says:

    Thanks for the correction, TJ.

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