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Big Boned

Page 13

"We don't want to send one of those rent-a-cops ya'll like to call security, either, to just shoo them away," Muffy says. "Freedom of the press, and all. We need to take a more delicate approach to this. I think we should send a woman. Someone from the administrative staff."
I can feel my spine going cold. I have no idea what she's talking about, but all I can think is No. For the love of all that is holy.
"We've arranged for a grief counselor for any Fischer Hall residents who might feel they need to talk to one," Dr. Jessup is trying to tell the president. "Dr. Kilgore is on her way. And since news of the murder's already been all over the local radio stations and New York One, we're encouraging students to call their parents to let them know they're all right… "
We are? Wow, you miss a lot when you're an actual suspect in a murder, as opposed to an innocent bystander, like I usually am.
But President Allington isn't listening to Dr. Jessup. Maybe that's because all of his attention is focused on Muffy-possibly because she's managed to snag her ginormous diamond cocktail ring on a loose thread attached to the gold letters NY stitched onto one side of his jacket.
"Oh my goodness," Muffy laughs. "I gotcha good, didn't I, Phil? Don't move an inch now, we're dealin' with a three-carat canary diamond here… "
Dr. Allington stands there looking down at the top of Muffy's helmet head and laughs in a manner that can only be called foolish. I glance at Magda and see that she is staring at the president and public relations manager as if they've just beamed down from another planet. I sort of understand her astonishment. It's true that ever since an attempt on her life in this very building, Mrs. Allington spends most of her time at the couple's Hamptons home.
Still, you'd think her husband would be a little less obviously delighted to be receiving so much attention from a member of the opposite sex. Even one as attractive as Muffy Fowler.
"Wasn't that funny?" Muffy asks the room in general, when she finally manages to disentangle herself from the president. Not that anyone seems to have been laughing. Except her and "Phil." Although, to be truthful, everyone is staring at her now-even all the women. "Now, where were we? Oh, right. Do you have someone you can send outside to deal with the press, Stan? Someone who can act caring?"
"Well," Dr. Jessup begins. "We can always send Gillian, when she gets here. But wouldn't that be something you, Ms. Fowler, might want to do, seeing as how the university hired you to-"
But before Dr. Jessup can finish, President Allington's gaze falls upon me… just as, deep down inside, I'd known it would, somehow. I mean, really. Isn't that the story of my life? Got a really unsavory task? Why not send Heather Wells to do it? She lost her uterus in the park this morning, after all. It's not like she's of any use to society anymore anyway.
"Oh, Jessica," Dr. Allington says, coming momentarily out of his Muffy-induced stupor and recognizing me as the girl who once saved his wife's life. Or something like that. "Jessica's here. Why can't Jessica do it?"
For reasons that will never be clear to me, President Allington thinks I'm Jessica Simpson.
No. Really. No matter how many times people (including me) tell him I'm not.
"Now, Phil," Dr. Flynn says. Dr. Flynn has always been a stand-up guy. Possibly because he doesn't live on campus, but manages to keep a sense of perspective by commuting in every day from the suburbs. "That's Heather. Remember? And Heather's had a hard day. She's the one who found Owen-"
"She did? You." Muffy looks at me and snaps her fingers. "You're the one who found him?"
I exchange wild-eyed glances with Magda. "Um. Yes?"
"Perfect." Muffy grabs me by the arm. "Come with me."
"Muffy." Dr. Flynn looks alarmed. "I really don't think-"
"Oh, hush," Muffy says.
No, really. She actually says this.
"Ms. Fowler." Dr. Jessup seems wearier than usual. He looks slightly pale beneath his Aspen tan. "I'm not sure-"
"Oh, why, I never in my life saw such a bunch of fussbudgets," Muffy declares, in a mockly scandalized tone. "Jessica and I are just going to have ourselves a little bit of girl talk, nothing you need to worry your little heads about. Ya'll get yourselves some coffee and I'll be back in just a little bit. Come on, Jessica."
The next thing I know, she's leading me out of the cafeteria and out into the lobby, one arm around my shoulders, the other around my wrist.
That's right. She has me in a sorority girl death grip.
"Listen, Jessica," she's saying, as we head outside, her eyes glittering with a brighter intensity than any of the gemstones on her fingers and earlobes. "I just want you to say a few words to the reporters we've got hanging around out here. Just a few words about how devastatin' it was findin' Owen's body, and all. Do you think you can do that for me, Jessica?"
"Um," I say. Her breath smells like she just swallowed an entire Listerine Pocket Pak. "My name's Heather."
Outside, the spring sky is still as blue as it had been when I'd lost my uterus, just a few hours earlier. It's unseasonably warm-a hard morning for anyone to spend in an office, or slouched in front of a chalkboard, or, you know, at a crime scene. True, the drug dealers have scattered thanks to the strong police presence over by Fischer Hall.
But that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of people milling around, staring at all the news vans that are parked illegally along the west side of the park, crowding the sidewalk and blocking traffic.
It's toward these news vans that Muffy begins steering me-even though I put on the brakes, pronto.
"Uh," I say. "I don't think this is the best idea… "
"Are you kidding me?" Muffy demands. For such a skinny little thing, she's pretty strong. Obviously, she works out. That's always the way with these Southern belles. They look like a puff of wind could blow them away, but in reality, they can bench-press more than your boyfriend. "What could get their minds off this strike thing faster than the teary-eyed blond who found her boss with a bullet through his skull? Do you think you could-"