"Jamie, Ms. Wells is here from your school," Jamie's mom says. "I want you to talk to her. She says she'll give you a ride back if you want. And it might be better if you just went with her. You know how angry Daddy is. It might be just as well if you weren't here tonight when he gets home from work. Let things blow over."
"I'm not going anywhere," Jamie declares, her chin sliding out stubbornly, "until he drops all the charges against Gavin!"
I can't help noticing that at home, Jamie doesn't do that thing where she ends all her sentences with an interrogative inflection. At all.
"Well, that isn't going to happen in this lifetime, honey," Mrs. Price says. "I don't have time for this now. I have to go to dressage. I told Ms. Wells to help herself to coffee. Stay away from that cherry crumble I made. It's for my Home and Garden Association meeting tonight. Bye, now."
With that, Mrs. Price darts from the "great room." A few seconds later, one of the Jaguars parked in front of the garage roars to life, and Mrs. Price peels out and drives away.
"Wow," I say, mostly to break the silence that follows. "She must really like dressage. Whatever that is."
"She doesn't give a shit about dressage," Jamie informs me disgustedly. "She's screwing her instructor. Because, you know, she has principles."
"Oh." I watch as Jamie comes all the way down the stairs, passes me, heads into the kitchen, takes one of the mugs off the antique-looking rack by the coffeemaker, and pours herself a cup. "I'll take one of those, too," I say.
"Help yourself," Jamie, gracious as her mother, says. She goes to the refrigerator, opens it, and pulls out a pint of half-and-half, sloshing a generous portion into her mug. Then, noticing my expression, she sloshes some into the mug I've taken down, as well, before returning the pint to the fridge.
"So," I say, as I pour coffee into my mug. "You don't need to worry about Gavin. We're posting his bail."
Jamie throws me a startled look. "You are?"
I nod. The coffee is delicious. But it would be better with sugar. I look around for some. "He'll be out in an hour or so."
"Oh my God." Jamie pulls a chair from the purposefully old-looking kitchen table and sinks down into it like her legs couldn't support her anymore, or something. Then she buries her face in her hands. "Thank you. Thank you so much."
"Don't mention it," I say. I find the sugar and ladle a spoonful into my cup. Then, after a moment's thought, another. Ah. Perfect. Well, almost. Whipped cream would make it perfect. But beggars can't be choosers. "But I want something in return."
"Anything," Jamie says, looking up. I'm surprised to see that her makeup-free face is wet with tears. "I'm serious. I've been freaking out all morning. I didn't know where I was going to get that kind of money to bail him out. I'll do anything. Just… thank you."
"Seriously," I say, pulling out one of the chairs near hers. I can't help noticing that Mrs. Price has set the cherry crumble down in the middle of the table to cool. It is in a clear glass deep dish, and the sugary crust over the top of the cherry filling is caramelized. Seriously, what kind of demon mom would leave something like that just sitting out, with no protective covering? No wonder Jamie seems to hate her so much. I know I would. "Like I said, don't mention it. But what's this thing Gavin told me about you and the Reverend Mark?"
Jamie's expression falls.
"Oh," she says gloomily. "He wasn't supposed to tell anyone about that."
"Jamie," I say. "A man is dead. And you seem to think what happened to you might have something to do with it. You can't tell me not to tell the police about it. You know they arrested someone for Dr. Veatch's murder? Someone who may not have done it? At least, if what you're saying is true."
Jamie is chewing her bottom lip. I can't help noticing she's eyeing the cherry crumble. I'm glad I've kept my spoon from the sugar bowl. You know, just in case I need it.
"My parents wanted to make sure I kept up with the whole principle thing," Jamie says, sipping her coffee, "when I went away to college. And I did. I joined the campus youth group. I like to sing. I don't want to do it professionally, or anything, like you. I want to be an accountant. I just like to sing for fun. So I joined the youth group choir. I liked it. At least… I used to. Until Reverend Mark showed up."
To my complete and utter joy, she reaches for the cherry crumble, drags it toward her, and plunges her own spoon into it, cracking the caramelized crust over the top, and causing the thick cherry goo inside to cascade over the edge like lava. Popping the steaming spoonful into her mouth, she shoves the dish toward me. I follow her example.
Hello. Heaven in my mouth. Mrs. Price may be a bitch. But she's an angel in the kitchen.
"What'd he do to you?" I ask with my mouth full. The crumble is hella hot, as Gavin would say.
"Not just me," Jamie points out, as I push the crumble back at her. "Allthe girls. And he doesn't do anything obvious. Like, he's not sticking his tongue down our throats or anything. But he brushes up against us every chance he gets when we're setting up the risers, or whatever, then pretends like it was an accident, and apologizes." She loads up her spoon, then pushes the dish back to me. "Touches our boobs, or our butts. It's gross. And I know it's not an accident. And eventually-not with me, because I'd haul off and break his nose, but with some girl who isn't as big as me, and is afraid of him, or whatever-it's going to go too far. And I want to stop it before it gets to that point. I want to stop it now."
I remember how Reverend Mark had blushed when Muffy Fowler had thrust her breast into his hand during our build-a-house-out-of-newspaper game. But that had been no accident… and on her initiative, not his. She'd been a willing, not unwilling, participant.
I load up my own spoon. Now that the crumble's crust has been broken, it's cooling fast. But still just as delicious.
"So you were going to report it to Dr. Veatch?" I ask.
"I did report it," Jamie says. "I mean, verbally, last week. I was supposed to have a follow-up meeting with him yesterday to fill out the formal written complaint that would go to Reverend Mark's supervisor, and the board of trustees. Only-"