Thanks to Donald Bain for the wonderful characters George Sutherland and Eli Hemminger. Thanks to Stephanie for her encouragement to me to keep writing. Thanks to Stephanie and Anne for their help in editing and suggestions and of course, for each writing their own beautiful versions of relationship between George and Jessica. Enjoy!
WINDOW OF MURDER
Eli Hemminger exited the uptown subway station and ran the rest of the way to Manhattan University. He was late for a meeting with Professor Fletcher and he knew she had no tolerance for tardiness. Besides wanting to discuss his graduate thesis with her, he was always pleased to see her. She had been his teacher for only one semester at Schoolman College in Indiana, but they had kept in touch and he considered her to be his friend, as well as his mentor. They had been through a lot together during that one short semester when she was a guest lecturer and he felt forever bonded with her – they survived a destructive tornado and then solved a murder together. It was also spending time with her that lead him to the realization that he wanted to become a mystery writer.
He was more than pleased that she was helping him with his thesis and his manuscript. He slid in to Jessica’s office and managed to knock a stack of books to the floor and turn over her cup of tea.
“Eli! Must you always make such a dramatic entrance?” she exclaimed. She looked at him fondly. She thought he was a cute young man, with his tall lanky body, dark hair and bright blue eyes.
Sheepishly, he began to re-stack the books while she mopped up the tea.
“Geeze, I’m sorry Professor F. I promise not to do it again. I guess I was worried about being late. I know how you hate that,” he replied, while trying to avoid eye contact with her.
“Really, Eli,” She shook her head but chuckled. “Do you have the new section of your thesis for me today?” Jessica asked.
She got up to pour more hot water into her cup from the small hot pot on her file cabinet. She did not have classes on Fridays, but since midterms were approaching, she had made herself available for several of her students that afternoon. "Eli, a cup of tea?" she offered.
“No, thank you. You know the one thing I'm never late with is my work for you to review. I think it is coming along pretty good. I mean, pretty well.”
“I'm pleased for you. I'll spend some time on this weekend. Tonight, I am going to the opening night gala at the Met and I still have to get home in time to get ready.”
“Oh, could I tag along?” Eli asked eagerly.
“Silly. We don’t have a ticket for you plus I doubt that you have a tuxedo in that backpack of yours...of course, you never cease to amaze me. Do you?” she laughed.
“Got a hot date?” he laughed.
“Eli, don't be impudent. I’m going with my publisher and his wife.”
“Oh, cool, I’ve never been to the opera.”
“Okay, let’s go then. I still owe you a treat for staying at my apartment the last time I went to London, so we’ll make plans to go soon,” she conceded.
He grinned. “Deal. Now can I help you with anything?”
"Unplug my hot pot, while I pack my briefcase. I'm so glad it's the weekend!"
"I am too, Professor F," he agreed.
“Walk out with me and hail a cab for me,” Jessica said.
“Okay, but can we meet again before next week? I’m anxious to get more done.”
“Email me and we’ll set a date. Thanks, Eli.”
They gave each other a quick hug before she got in the cab. It had been a bonus of living in Manhattan over the last year to be able to take Eli under her wing since he was attending graduate school at NYU. He had managed to graduate with honors from Schoolman and she felt that he was on his way to becoming an accomplished author. He had talked about getting a PhD and perhaps going into teaching as well. She felt immense pride in him and had a fondness in her heart for him as well. She had started to think of him as a son. She loved working with him and he definitely kept her on her toes. He regularly did the favor of apartment sitting for her, although she suspected that it was she who was doing him the favor because she knew he shared a tiny eighth floor walk-up apartment on the lower east side with three other young men.
Jessica got home with just enough time for a shower and to reapply her makeup before the Buckleys were scheduled to pick her up. Her publisher Vaughan Buckley and his wife Olga were among her closest friends in New York City. She was thrilled that Vaughan had invited her to join them this evening. They were going to Daniel for their pre-opera dinner and then to opening night at the Metropolitan Opera. It was a gala performance so there were to be a number of her favorite performers there, including her favorite soprano Renatta Foster, mezzo Sally Grant and baritone Thomas Hampton. She was also looking forward to the post-performance dance. As was custom, the Met Guild was hosting a dance in Damrosche Park next to the Met.
Vaughan had offered to get a fourth ticket for an escort for her, but she had declined. Her best friend Seth Hazlitt from Cabot Cove didn’t care for opera and her good friend George Sutherland couldn’t get away from London at this time of the year. The thought of George caused her to sigh. She would give anything to spend the evening with him, dancing in his arms. She didn’t like admitting that there was more than friendship between them. He had astonished her several years before by proclaiming his love for her when she visited him at his home in Wick, Scotland. She didn’t want a commitment, especially to a man who lived across the Atlantic Ocean! She found herself daydreaming about their rendezvous over the last few years. She was thinking of him too often for her own comfort lately. Still, he did make her pulse race. Jess, stop thinking of George and concentrate.
Jessica continued to get ready for the evening. She put on her new Christian Dior gown and admired herself in the full length mirror in her bedroom. It was of soft gold satin with a beaded bodice and gently flowing skirt. It had spaghetti straps and she chose a gold gauze wrap to wear with it as well as soft gold high heels that were a perfect match. She wore a simple gold necklace with matching gold and diamond chandelier earrings. The color of the jewelry and dress accented her complexion and her golden blonde hair. She felt truly elegant and beautiful. She thought it was the perfect outfit for the Met Gala. Although she wasn’t trying to compete, she knew that tonight she would hold her own against Olga Buckley, a former model, who was well turned out every day. Maybe the handsome Thomas Hampton would ask me for a spin on the dance floor.
At precisely 6:00 p.m., Vaughan and Olga pulled up in front of Jessica’s building on 57th Street in their black limousine. Her doorman held the door for her while she climbed in.
“You look beautiful!” both Buckleys exclaimed simultaneously, after they greeted each other.
“Thank you, you both look beautiful too,” she laughed.
Olga, of course, looked gorgeous. She was over six feet tall and at sixty still looked thirty. She wore a black and white sleeveless gown. The gown was mostly white satin, but had black embroidery all over the bodice and skirt. She chose diamond jewelry to accent the ensemble. It was clear that Vaughan didn’t hold back when it came to jewelry for his wife.
They arrived at Daniel on east 65th Street, a beautiful French restaurant on the Upper East Side, and were seated promptly. The elegant restaurant was full of Manhattanites, who were obviously moving on to festive events after dinner. Throughout the room, all the ladies and gentlemen were dressed to the nines. The Buckleys stopped several times on the way to their table to greet friends. Jessica spotted a few acquaintances as well and waved to them across the room. She was feeling a little overwhelmed at the thought of being out with Manhattan society. She was already enjoying herself thoroughly.
For her main course, she chose to have the Fricassée of Dover Sole with hazelnuts, green asparagus and Oregon Morel Jus. It was scrumptious. She passed on the temptation for dessert, although Daniel’s pastry chef was among the best, but enjoyed a cappuccino. Normally she didn’t drink coffee after lunch, but she knew this would be a long and exciting evening and she didn’t want to miss a minute of it.
The limo dropped them off at the edge of the Lincoln Center plaza. Jessica felt very glamorous arriving in full evening regalia against the backdrop of the beautiful Lincoln Center fountain and the Metropolitan Opera House. They arrived at their seats just in time for the 8:00 curtain. Their seats were incredible. Vaughan, not known for scrimping, had arranged for them to join other friends in a Parterre Box. From their seats, she could see some of the rich and famous of New York in other Parterre seats and down below in the orchestra. She was excited to see Bonnie Clark, a famous Broadway and cabaret star, on the second row of the orchestra. She suspected that she was sitting in the most expensive seat at the Met.
Jessica watched the Austrian crystal chandeliers begin to rise to the 24-karat gold leaf ceiling, a sign that it was time for the performance to begin. She sat back with anticipation of the thrilling performances. She felt herself smiling throughout the evening. Every performer was magnificent and she was especially excited to hear Thomas Hampton and Renatta Foster sing “Lippen Schweigen Die Lustige Witwe” from The Merry Widow, one of the most romantic opera songs she knew and of course, it caused her to momentarily think of George. She had been exposed to more opera since living in Manhattan and she loved Rodelinda and Otello, but her favorites were the more comedic fare such as The Merry Widow and Der Rosenkavalier. Sally Grant and Renatta Foster had performed a number as Octavian and The Marschalin from Der Rosenkavalier.
The patrons made their way to Damrosche Park in Lincoln Center after the performance. It was indeed a festive site. The Met Opera Guild had erected a huge tent and there was a large wooden dance floor and a big band was playing a variety of classic waltz and 1940s standards. The entire tent was glowing with candlelight and red and white roses adorned every table. Champagne was flowing freely. Jess had once been to a State Dinner at the White House with a senator from Maine and this was every bit its equal.
Vaughan and Olga took the dance floor right away. Jess’ wish came true when she was escorted to the floor by Mr. Hampton to dance to a Sinatra tune. She was all smiles and was thrilled to tell him that she had all of his recordings. He charmed her by singing part of the song into her ear. She danced a few more times with other gentlemen and Vaughan as well and then took a breather. She and Olga excused themselves to join the long line for the ladies’ powder room.
“Jess, would you mind stepping outside with me for a minute?” Olga asked.
“Sure, but why?” she asked.
“Well, I’d like to smoke a cigarette. I know, I know, don’t lecture me. It’s a habit I’ve been trying to break for years.”
“Okay, but just this once. I could use a little fresh air anyway - so don’t blow smoke at me!” she laughed.
They stepped outside and joined a dozen other smokers. Thankfully, there was a light breeze and the area wasn’t too smoky. Jessica’s deceased husband Frank had been a pipe smoker and she had actually enjoyed that, but she couldn’t tolerate cigarette smoke. She looked around at the smokers. It was a mixed group of men and women submitting to their habit. A few of the men were smoking cigars and she detected the smell of a pipe as well. It turned her thoughts first to Frank and then to George, who occasionally indulged in a pipe. She supposed it was one of the things that attracted her to George. Her sense of smell was especially strong and always triggered important and good memories.
She turned away from the rest of the group just as the pipe smoker snuffed out his tobacco and headed back in. She caught a glimpse of the tall man with reddish brown hair and broad shoulders returning inside and thought he actually looked like George. She shook her head and decided that her mind was playing tricks on her.
After Olga finally finished her cigarette, they returned inside the tent. They surveyed the scene for a minute before heading back to their table. It was so festive and beautiful to see all of the color swirling on the dance floor in the soft light. It could not be denied that all were having a marvelous time.
Just as they stepped forward to go to their table, Jessica froze. She saw George Sutherland across the room and in his arms was the singer Sally Grant. She was leaning up against him. Then Jessica saw Sally reach up and plant a full kiss on George's mouth. He didn’t see Jessica looking at him. As a lump formed in her throat and tears stung her eyes, she turned away, not seeing George's attempt at pushing Sally away. She didn’t know what to do.
Olga turned around and stared at her when she realized that Jessica wasn’t following her any longer. She came back to her and took Jess’ hand.
“Jessica, are you all right? Jess?” Olga asked, concerned for her friend.
Jessica stammered to get words out. She finally turned and fled back outside.
Olga followed her. “What is it Jess? You look like you have just seen a ghost. Are you feeling ill?”
“No, I ...” she couldn’t look up and was fumbling in her purse for a tissue. Tears had begun to fall. Jess, stop this! He doesn’t owe you anything.
Olga put her arm around Jess’ shoulders and led her to a bench. They sat for a moment before she inquired again. “What is it? Can I do something for you?”
“I’m sorry, Olga. I’m being ridiculous. I just saw a man I know in there. We’re just friends so I don’t know why seeing him is affecting me like this.”
Olga nodded. “I see. Who is this man? Would you like to talk to him?”
Jessica slowly regained her composure and replied, “No, let’s go back to the powder room and I’ll freshen up and then we’ll find Vaughan. I’m having too much fun tonight to let anything, especially something this silly, spoil it. I don’t know what overcame me.”
They went back inside and Jessica chose a chair that didn’t face the other side of the tent and avoided dancing again. She willed herself to enjoy the rest of the evening.
Vaughan and Olga finally dropped her at her apartment around 2:00 a.m. She checked her voice mail and listened to the two messages. The first was left at 6:15, just after she had left for dinner with the Buckleys.
Jess, it's George. Surprise! I'm calling from here in New York. Sally Grant, the singer, offered me a free ride on a friend's jet from London and a ticket to the gala tonight. I'm sure I'll see you there. I'm longing to see you. Cheers for now, love.
George left a second message at 1:00 a.m.
Jess, it's me again. I guess you didn't get my first message. I looked for you at the gala and I'm so sorry I missed you. I was a bit tied up with Sally's crowd. I'm calling from your apartment lobby, but I guess you're still out. I'm staying at the Carlyle in room 1201. Do call me tomorrow. Good night, Jessica my love.
She was exhausted as she fell into bed but she couldn’t fall asleep for thinking about George. She couldn't believe that she had missed his call. But she was also confused by what she had seen at the gala. For over three years, George had been pursuing her and saying that he loved her. She could understand that he was busy with friends this evening, but why did he kiss another woman? She tried to remind herself that she had repeatedly rejected George's interest in more than friendship from her. She tossed and turned for over an hour. Finally she gave up and turned the light and tried to read. Unable to concentrate, she headed to her kitchen to make herself a cup of chamomile tea. She took her tea and headed to her office. She read her email and did some internet surfing. She nearly dropped her tea cup when an instant message popped up.
She stared at the instant message from George. Do I answer it?
InspectorBoy01: I know you’re online Jess. Answer me, please.
MysteryGirl02: Hello George. So did you have fun with Sally?
InspectorBoy01: So you did get my message? I'm sorry I missed you tonight. I can explain.
MysteryGirl02: You don’t owe me an explanation.
InspectorBoy01: Jess, I feel like I do. I’m sorry. I knew you were going to be there. It was very stupid of me not to try harder to find you. Sally and I are old friends and well, she was just a bit monopolizing. I really jumped at her offer of the trip as an opportunity to see you.
MysteryGirl02: Like I said, you don’t owe me an explanation. Goodnight George.
She signed off and sat there for a moment sobbing then logged off her computer and climbed back in bed. She hated succumbing to these feelings of hurt and jealousy. She reminded herself that she didn’t have the right to expect anything from George. She finally cried herself to sleep at 4:30.
Bloody hell, George. Th' quine is pure radge wi' me! (The lady is really mad at me!) You really mucked this up, George. He had been so excited about surprising her by asking her to dance at the gala and now it had all backfired. He was angry with himself for not breaking free of Sally and her group. He logged off and closed his laptop. He lay down and thought more about his instant message conversation with Jessica. He had never felt anger from her before and he was feeling a little confused by it, to say the least.
She awoke to the phone ringing at 7:00 a.m. She almost didn’t answer it, but Seth was in the habit of calling early and she knew he would worry and jump to conclusions if she didn’t answer.
“Hello?” she said with a heavy voice.
“Professor F., it’s me, Eli. I’m really sorry to wake you. But I need to get away from my apartment. Can I come up?”
“Oh hi, Eli. Where are you?” she asked as she sat up in bed.
“I’m downstairs. There’s trouble back at my place and I don’t know what to do.”
“Come on up.” She pulled on her robe again. She called the doorman downstairs and told him that it was okay for Eli to come up.
She waited for him at the front door. She peeked thru the peep hole to make sure that it was him when the bell finally rang.
“Eli, what on earth?” she asked.
He stepped past her and into the living room.
“Can we have some coffee first and then I’ll fill you in? Geeze, you don’t look well. I’m sorry I woke you up.”
“Eli, it’s okay, you know you can come to me for anything. It was just a late night and I didn’t sleep much. I’ll make coffee and then we can talk.”
After the coffee finished brewing, she called him into the kitchen so he could fix his own cup. She leaned against the counter while she watched him add several spoons full of sugar to his mug.
“Do you want some toast?” she asked, deciding that she needed something to settle her upset stomach. It’s no wonder I have an upset stomach, she said to herself grumpily.
“No, thanks though.”
By the look of him, Jessica could tell something was terribly wrong. They sat down at her kitchen table and he began to tell her the news.
He put his head in his hands and then looked up. “My roommate James committed suicide sometime last night or maybe early this morning. Well, I don’t actually know when. I didn’t even wake up when it happened. He jumped out of the front window onto 2nd Avenue. I didn’t even know he was depressed.”
Jessica responded by putting her hand on his. “Oh Eli, I’m so sorry.”
“Thanks, Prof, the thing is, and this is why I really came to you, the detective handling this doesn’t think it was a suicide. James didn’t leave a note and didn’t seem depressed. The detective questioned me for the longest time and the other guys Mark and Victor didn’t come home at all. I don’t bother with their schedules. We just come back and forth as we feel like it - mostly it’s just a place to sleep. But James and I had become sort of friends since we actually shared the same room and sometimes we went to dinner together. Anyway, who would do something like this? I didn’t, wouldn’t kill anybody!” His voice caught and he struggled to keep from crying.
Jess pulled her chair closer to Eli’s and took him in his arms. She knew he was still so young and had so much growing up to do, but nobody should have to face this. He put his head on her shoulder and began feel calmer.
“Professor? Thanks, I needed that.”
“Listen, Eli, I don't think you should go back to your apartment. You shouldn’t be on your own during a time like this. Why don't stay in my guest room until this is sorted out?” she suggested.
“Thanks, if you don’t mind, I’d like that very much.”
“Of course, I don’t mind. I’m glad to have you here. And Eli, I think it’s time you started calling me Jessica. I’m not your professor. Besides, it’s a little formal. Okay, let’s take a breather and then we’ll talk more about James later. You know you can count on me for help in this. I need a little more sleep and you should get settled. Did you bring anything with you?”
“I just brought my backpack with my manuscript and books. But the cops said I can go back to the apartment later this afternoon. I don’t know when Vic and Mark will go back or if they even know. I guess I should try to leave them a message or something.”
“Okay, well, use the key I gave you and come and go as you like. I’ll call the front desk and let them know you’ll be staying here for a while.”
“Thanks, Prof, I mean Jessica,” he said and managed a small smile at her. She returned his smile and patted him on the arm. She took her plate and cup to the sink and then headed back down the hall to her room. She closed the door and lay down for a few more hours.
She awoke at 10:30 to the sound of the phone ringing again. She wondered if Eli would answer it, but when it rang three times, she grabbed the receiver.
“Hello?” she said into the phone.
“It's George. Please don’t hang up.”
“Hello, how are you?” she asked in a flat voice.
“I’m well. Thank you, Jessica, for not hanging up.”
“George, I wouldn't do that. I certainly don't blame you for wanting to enjoy the company of a beautiful woman like Sally Grant. You could have at least let me know sooner that you would be there,” she said, trying to hide the bitterness in her voice.
George was silent for a moment, but then responded, “Jessica, please, it’s not like that. I really don’t want to talk about this over the phone. Will you meet me somewhere? Or, better yet, can I come over?”
“Actually, no, you can’t come over. I have company. I suppose I could meet you somewhere for coffee.”
“How about meeting me for lunch at the Carlyle Restaurant?”
“Yes, lunch is fine. I’ll see you at one o’clock.” She hung up and put her hands over her face. I shouldn’t go. I don’t need this. She lay there for a while longer and finally at 11:30 she forced herself to get up. She opened her bedroom door and called out to Eli.
“Eli, are you out there?”
“Yes, I’m here. I’m just reading in the living room.”
“Okay, I’m going to get ready to go out for a while. Please make yourself at home. There is plenty of food in the refrigerator so have a sandwich or whatever you like.”
Jessica showered, fixed her hair and put on a royal blue suit. Her eyes looked tired so she applied a little extra makeup to try to disguise the dark circles. The last thing she wanted was for George to know that she had lost sleep over him. She told Eli that she would see him later. He seemed okay. She knew he needed to talk about his friend but she needed to talk to George first and resolve her confusing emotions once and for all.
The doorman hailed a yellow cab for her and she told the driver to take her to the Carlyle at East 76th and Madison Avenue. She arrived twenty minutes early so she went into Bemelmans Bar first. She didn’t want George to think that she was eager to see him, although she had to admit to herself that she was.
She took a seat at the bar and ordered a glass of white wine. It was a little early for her to have a drink, but perhaps this time it would be courage in a glass. She sipped the wine slowly and looked around the room. It was fairly empty this time of day. She had been to this bar before when George had stayed here. They had also gone to Café Carlyle to catch Bonnie Clark’s cabaret act. She smiled at the fun that they had that evening. The truth was that George was one of her best friends and she couldn't handle the thought of not seeing him again. She didn’t want to admit to him, or to herself, that she felt so strongly for him. She wanted to maintain a status quo with him. Still, as much as she didn’t think he owed her an explanation, she felt that she needed to confront him about him and Sally.
She finished most of the wine and paid her tab, then went into the Carlyle Restaurant. It was a beautiful establishment and meant for quiet, intimate dinners. It had a different feel at lunchtime, but it was still quiet. She saw George sitting in a corner booth. He stood as she walked toward him. Despite herself she gave him a small smile, but backed away when he attempted to greet her with a kiss.
“Jess, I’m so glad to see you. I’ve missed you,” he said, reaching across the table to take her hand.
She pulled her hand away. “It’s good to see you too. And of course, I’ve missed you too. How long are you staying in New York?”
“For at least a week, maybe longer. We just finished the annual reports to Parliament so I’m able to take some time off. Since I had a free ride here, I didn’t bother to buy a return ticket yet,” he said.
She nodded at him, but didn’t say anything.
“Who is your company? Is Seth visiting?” he asked lightly.
“No, it’s my student Eli. He has encountered a bit of trouble with his living arrangement.”
“Ah, I see. Well, I know you’re quite fond of the lad.”
“Yes, I am indeed.” She decided not to tell him all about Eli’s current troubles. She wasn’t here for just a friendly chat, although she desperately wanted to move closer to George in the booth, suddenly feeling it difficult to resist her attraction to him. To hell with this restraint, Jess. No, keep your head on straight, Jess.
They ordered a light lunch and made small talk. Jess sipped on another glass of white wine while George had his usual scotch on the rocks. He finally launched into his explanation after the food arrived.
“Jessica, please accept my apology for last night. I never intended for that to happen. It was stupid of me not to try harder to find you. I really have no excuse,” he stammered a bit.
She regarded him, but didn’t say anything,
"I’m dying inside because I can see that I’ve hurt you. I love you, Jessica."
She kept her gaze on him and the fire in her blue eyes was disconcerting to George. When she still didn't say anything, he continued on.
“You see, Sally has been a friend for years. She was just fun to be with sometimes when she came to London to sing at Convent Garden. As I've told you before, the moment I met you that day in Brown’s, I fell in love with you. I haven’t been out with Sally since, or any other woman for that matter. I just got caught up in Sally’s group last night and it was a bit awkward to get away.”
Jessica said quietly, “George, I saw you kiss her. It didn’t look like you were just friends last night.”
“Well, uh, yes. I didn't realize you saw me at all, much less that. I'm so sorry. I didn’t mean for it to happen.”
“If you say so,” she replied.
“I do say so. Honestly, it meant nothing. Sally is a big flirt and well, you obviously did not see me push her away, Jessica. ”
“George, it doesn't matter as I have no hold on you. You certainly don’t owe me your fidelity,” Jess said.
“Jessica. I know I could have...should have tried harder to find you. I wanted to and I know I don't have a good excuse. And I am faithful to you always. I told you almost four years ago that I'm in love with you and I think I’ve been pretty patient.”
“I see. And yes, you have been patient. But, I’ve told you that I’m not ready for that kind of a relationship, with you or anybody for that matter,” she paused, and then raised her voice almost too loudly as she threw down her napkin, “God, I don’t like this at all. I don’t care if you see someone else. It was just that all day yesterday I was wishing that we could have been together last night. You have always said you loved me and when I saw you and Sally kissing, I just overreacted. I have always thought of you as one of my best friends and I enjoy spending time with you. I’m sorry it can’t be more. This is all too confusing for me.”
“Jess, you contradict yourself with every sentence,” he pointed out a little too bitterly.
“Well, maybe I do, but that’s the way it is. I’m sorry I can’t offer you more. I think I should say goodbye for now. Maybe we can have dinner before you leave for London,” she said and grabbed her purse and hurried out of the restaurant. Well, that didn't go well. Now I know how I really feel. Now he knows how I really feel.
Fortunately, he had already arranged for the bill to go on his room tab so he ran after her. He caught up to her and grabbed her arm.
“Jessica, come with me now,” George insisted, as he pulled her to the elevator. Her pulse was racing and she made only a mild attempt to resist, a fact which she was sure wasn't lost on George. He continued to hold her arm firmly in the elevator and when they reached the 12th floor, he escorted her down the hallway to his suite. Once inside, he slammed the door and pulled her to him. He kissed her passionately and she surprised herself by responding. She kissed him back just as deeply. They stood there for what seemed like ages, kissing each other over and over. His hands roamed over her and she dropped her purse to the floor and clutched him, rubbing his shoulders and neck. Finally, she pushed away.
“George!” she said breathlessly.
“See I knew it!” he grinned. "Now, do you doubt that there’s ever anyone but you?”
“No, George, you’ve thoroughly convinced me,” she said, with a little catch in her voice.
He pulled her across the room and they sat on the sofa together. He kissed her again and gathered her into a tight embrace.
“Jess, I don’t ever want to lose you. Please don't ever doubt how I feel about you. I must have you in my life, whether as a friend or a lover. I’m truly sorry I hurt you and I’ll never do anything like that again.”
“The truth is that I do love you, George, as if you couldn’t tell by my ridiculous jealous behavior. I didn't want to admit it even to myself,” she whispered, feeling comfortable in his arms. “I’m sorry I can’t give you more right now. I’ve never had another man in my life besides Frank and I'm not sure how to handle it. I’m afraid of us being so far apart all the time and I’m afraid of giving up my life here and in Cabot Cove.”
“I’m not asking you to give up anything, just please include me as much as possible and I promise to include you,” he responded, stroking her hair and kissing her again. He whispered, “I want you so much, Jessie.”
“I...I’m just not ready, George,” she said softly, looking away from him. "One step at a time."
“I accept that. I’ll be here when you are ready, Jess.”
They clung to each other for the next hour or so. Jessica actually fell asleep in George’s arms. The effect of two glasses of wine and the emotional stress mixed with the effects of a mostly sleepless night had exhausted her. George had helped her out of her shoes and jacket. She slept on her side with her head in his lap while he stroked her shoulders and back. It was the most relaxed she had felt in months. She awoke almost two hours later.
“Jess, tell me more about Eli. What happened now?” he asked, still holding her in his arms.
“Oh, I almost forgot. Poor Eli. What time is it?” she responded, sitting up.
“It’s about five. You needed a good rest. Feel better?”
“Yes, I do,” she said as she leaned forward and gave him a kiss. I could get used to this, she smiled to herself.
“It’s good to see you smile. Your smile is like sunshine to me.”
“You’re a sweet talker, George Sutherland. I really need to go now to check on Eli.”
“Why don’t you just call him first?” he suggested.
“Good idea.” She stood up and stretched, then walked over to the phone and dialed her own phone number. When there was no answer, she hung up and dialed Eli’s cell number.
Eli, this is Jessica. I’m just calling to check on you. I was detained longer than I planned with my meeting and I’m not sure when I’ll be home. Again, please make yourself at home. I’m turning on my cell phone so please call me when you get a chance and let me know what you’re up to.
“So, what about Eli?” George asked as Jessica joined him back on the sofa.
“It’s horrible. Apparently, one of his roommates, James, committed suicide last night by jumping out their window. Eli was home but didn’t hear anything. He has two other roommates but as of 7:00 this morning, they had not been home. I gather that’s not unusual for this generation. I hear tales from my students about staying out at dance clubs until four or five in the morning. Anyway, according to Eli, James didn’t leave a note and wasn’t acting depressed so the police are investigating it as possible foul play. I don’t feel right about it," Jessica said, shaking her head.
"Did you ever meet James?" George asked.
"No, I didn't. Eli has only lived with these boys for a few months."
"It all sounds very transient."
"It does to me as well. The bottom line is that although Eli didn't know James that well, Eli has had good hunches before when things have been foul, and I tend to think he’s right. Either something drastic happened yesterday to make this young man completely despondent or he was helped out of that window,” she recounted.
“Hmm, if memory serves right, I seem to think that Eli is a lot like you. Trouble follows, eh?” George said.
“Well, yes, I guess you’re right. I’m really worried about him. I told him he could stay with me as long as he needs to. He doesn’t have a family. And yes, I am quite fond of the young man.”
“I think the police are right to investigate this a bit further. Haven’t there been a number of NYU student suicides over the last year? Perhaps this is just made to look like one of those. Did Eli say that James was into drugs or anything?”
“No, he didn’t. But I would be completely surprised by that. Eli doesn’t even drink much less do drugs and doesn’t seem to tolerate such behavior. He said he didn’t know the other two roommates very well, but he and James had become friendly because they shared a room. I don’t like the sound of any of it. It’s hard losing a friend under any circumstances, but suicide is particularly upsetting.”
“I agree. Not good for Eli. Well, perhaps he’ll call soon.”
“Oh, I almost forgot to turn on my cell phone!” She jumped up and ran over to get her purse. She turned on her phone but so far no messages had been logged.
“Do you fancy a walk, George?” she asked.
“Sure, where to?”
“Let’s go to my place so I can change. Let’s get into casual clothes and go to Katz’ Deli for supper.”
“Okay, I’m game. Give me a minute.”
Jessica turned the television on to NY1, the local all news channel, while George changed. A report came on about James’ death. There was nothing reported that she hadn’t already learned from Eli. Apparently, this was the fifth NYU student to jump to death. All were presumed suicides, although none of the students, since the first one, had left notes. Strange, she thought.
George emerged from the bedroom in tan Dockers, a black long sleeve polo shirt and his favorite loafers. Even casually dressed, he looked immaculate. She smiled at him and he responded with a smile. It was good to be together, really together. No doubt about it, I’m in love with him.
From 76th and Madison, it wasn’t a terribly far walk to Jessica’s midtown apartment building at the Parc Ven Dome on 57th and 9th Avenue if they cut through Central Park, but since she was wearing high heels, they opted for a ride in a yellow cab. She changed into beige slacks and a deep purple scoop neck blouse with three quarter sleeves. She accented the blouse with a beige scarf. Eli still had not returned and there was no note or message. She reminded herself that she had told him to come and go as he pleased though, so she attempted not to worry. Knowing him, she decided that he was probably at the NYU library studying.
“So, what’s the best way to get to Katz’ Deli? It’s on the lower east side right? Near Eli’s apartment?” he asked.
“You know me too well, don’t you? Yes, it is close to Eli’s apartment. I haven’t actually been to his place but I know the address. I think via subway will probably be quickest but we don’t have to go that route. I know you don’t care for the subway,” she conceded.
“Well, no I don’t as a matter of fact. I’ll spring for a cab, my dear.”
“Silly, it’s not the money - it’s the practicality of it,” she chided him.
“Of course it is, my ever practical Jessica. Still, I don’t like the thought of you on the subway. Remember where I work: I know what goes on in the subway - or the tube back home,” he lectured.
“Oh, but George, I’m never in trouble,” she said as she gave him a sideways glance.
“Right, I forgot who I was talking to,” he chuckled.
“Okay, you win, yellow cab it is.”
At that moment he grabbed her, leaned her back and planted a very passionate kiss on her lips. He pulled her back up and smiled at her. She was obviously thrown off guard. This new relationship phase is not too bad.
They went down to the lobby and the doorman assisted them in hailing a cab. She gave the driver the name of the deli and the Houston Street address. It was a slow ride all the way from upper midtown down to Houston Street. The cabbie took them down the FDR and they got stuck in traffic. George and Jess rode in silence, just taking in the sights along the way.
Katz Delicatessen claimed to be the oldest deli in New York. It was opened in 1888 and was famous for being the real thing. They were given their “ticket” at the door - they wouldn’t be able to leave without it and would be charged a fine if they lost it. The walls were covered with celebrity pictures and brightly colored signs hung from the ceiling about sending a salami to a soldier. George chose to try one of their famous pastrami sandwiches, while Jess had a turkey sandwich. Both sandwiches came with cole slaw and pickles. There was enough meat on each sandwich to serve a large family.
“I feel like I’ve been here before, Jess,” George surmised.
“Have you ever seen the movie ‘When Harry Met Sally’?” she asked.
“Yes, that’s right. Wasn’t there a certain famous scene filmed here?” he laughed and winked at her.
“Uh, yes, you’re correct,” Jess responded, blushing a little.
George laughed and reached across the table to pat her arm. “Ah, yes, a classic film. So, would you like some dessert? Maybe one of those famous chocolate egg cream sodas?”
“Goodness, no, I don’t think I’ll be able to eat another bite for days. I don’t know why they have such large portions! Let’s pay and walk some of this meal off.”
They remembered to take the ticket to the cash register and exited onto Houston Street. The air outside was crisp and chilly and it was already dark, but they decided to explore the area a little. They turned left on Orchard Street.
“George, this area was originally all tenement buildings - populated by all of those early immigrants coming in through Ellis Island. Some of those tiny apartments held very large families. When one wave of immigrants would move uptown, another would move in. There’s a museum down here that’s quite interesting. Maybe we can check it out together one of these days,” she suggested.
“I’ve never been to Ellis Island. I heard that there is a really nice museum there.”
“I’ve never been to that one but I heard the same thing. Years ago, Frank and I brought Grady to the Statue of Liberty. Grady and Frank climbed all the way to the top of the torch for the view. I remember how excited they were like it was yesterday. We didn’t go to Ellis Island as there wasn’t a museum there at that time.”
“Grady was like a son to you and Frank, wasn’t he?”
“Yes, we desperately wanted our own children but it just never happened. When Grady’s parents died in that car accident, it was painful for Grady but a blessing for us to take him in. I still have a very close relationship with him.”
“Ah, I think you told me that his little boy is named after your Frank? Sounds like a fitting tribute.”
She squeezed his arm, “Yes, indeed. Frank would have adored his little namesake. What about you and Emily? Did you want children?”
“Actually, yes, we did. It didn’t work out for us either.”
“I’m sorry, George. I guess life would have been different for us, huh?”
“True, Jess. Every day I think about Emily but she’s been gone for so long and I moved on a long time ago, when I met you.”
“I understand. I still hurt from Frank’s death, but the pain is not so sharp. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him,” she said.
They walked for another block to Delancey Street and again turned west. When they arrived at 2nd Avenue, they paused.
“Jess, do you remember Eli’s address? Maybe you should call first.”
“Why don’t I check my messages at home first and then I’ll call. Perhaps he called.” She tried her home number and when there was no answer, she called her machine and put in the code. There were messages from Olga Buckley, Seth Hazlitt and her assistant Cynthia Blythe, but no word from Eli. She called Eli’s cell number but he didn’t answer.
“I’m beginning to really worry about Eli,” she said with a frightened look on her face. “It’s not like him to be completely incommunicado.”
“Let’s ring the buzzer to his apartment and see if there’s anybody home. Maybe his cell phone ran out of battery power or something simple. He doesn’t have a home phone?”
“No, he told me that he just uses the cell since he’s out and about so much and it’s one less bill to share with the other roommates.”
There was no answer on the intercom system of his building, but they found the front door unlocked. They proceeded in cautiously.
“Are you up to climbing eight flights of stairs, George?” she asked.
“I am...if you are,” he responded begrudgingly.
They climbed the stairs slowly and steadily, pausing for a breather after the fourth flight.
“Whew, bloody stairs.”
“George, think of the good exercise we’re getting. I imagine Eli probably takes these two steps at a time,” she said as she caught her breath.
“Well, that may be so, but you and I have some years on young Mr. Eli. I can think of other things that I’d rather be doing to get this out of breath,” he grinned, noticing her blush but ignore his comment.
They continued on and when they finally reached apartment 8K, there was no answer to their knocking. The door was locked but they found a note on the floor. It appeared that it had been taped to the door, but had fallen. It was actually addressed to “Mrs. Fletcher”. Eli knew her well enough to guess that she would be worried enough to come looking for him.
Professor, the police have taken me in on charges of murdering James. I swear I didn’t do it. I tried to call you but lost the connection. They are taking me to Precinct 5 on Elizabeth Street. Please help me, Jessica. Love, Eli
“Oh my God. George, let’s go.” She took off running down the stairs with George in tow.
They had to walk all the way to Houston Street to hail a yellow cab. The police wouldn’t allow her to see Eli, even though George tried to pull rank with his Scotland Yard status. She was able to get the phone number of Detective Reynolds, who was handling the case.
“George, I can’t stand to let Eli stay in here overnight.”
“I’m sure he’ll be fine. Perhaps they are just holding him in an interview room rather than standard lock-up. We can hope.”
Jess turned back to the desk sergeant. “Sergeant. Can I at least write a note to Eli Hemminger? Will you make sure he gets it?”
Eli - try not to worry. I’m going to do my best to get you out of here. I’ve recruited my friend George to help and I’m going to call my lawyer. I have left a message for Detective Reynolds who is supposedly handling your matter. I’ll try again to see you in the morning. Love, Jess
George and Jessica hailed a yellow cab to take them back up town. She asked the driver to make two stops - first at her apartment and then to the Carlyle. They agreed to meet for breakfast at Sarabeth’s on Central Park South at 9:30 the next morning and she gave him a quick goodnight kiss on the cheek.
She ran into her apartment, immediately logged on to her computer, and spent the next several hours researching the New York Times and the NYU student paper for news articles concerning the student suicides. It was peculiar to have such a rash of suicides among such a student body that was known for its hopeful future. She couldn’t help but get a nagging feeling that they were not all true suicides, but were simply made to look that way.
There wasn’t much reported on the latest suicide of Eli’s roommate, James Morris. She learned that he was a first year graduate student, studying acting. He had recently been cast for the spring production of Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along. Unless something drastic had happened in his life in a very short time before his death, she could see no reason for him to take his own life. On LexisNexis she was able to locate the address of his parents in Dallas, Texas, and used anywho.com to find their phone number. She looked at the clock. It was too late to call them tonight but she resolved to call them in the morning. She prayed that she wouldn’t be breaking the news of his death to them.
She climbed into bed with concern for Eli but her thoughts soon turned tranquil when her mind wandered to George. It was good to admit her feelings to him and to herself. She felt like they had reached an easy plateau of their relationship. George was a kind and gentle soul. He had not been overly demanding of her, until of course, this afternoon when he had forced his kisses on her. They weren’t forced for long, she laughed to herself . I haven’t “made out” like that in years and I rather liked it. She didn’t know when their relationship would move to another level, but hoped their current status was comfortable enough for George for now. She fell asleep feeling happy and contented.
George woke up at 3:00 a.m. with night sweats. He had been dreaming about Jessica. The emotional afternoon leading to their fairly intimate session in his suite had been almost too much to bear. He wanted to be with her and he didn’t know how much longer he could wait. Yet, he was a gentleman first and foremost and he resolved to not push her into further intimacy before she was ready. He knew she would let him know when she was ready. He hoped that it would be soon, he thought as he got up to take a much needed cold shower. I feel like I’m a bloody teenager in love for the first time!
It was a short walk for both Jessica and George to Sarabeth’s, known for her sumptuous breakfasts. It was a bright crisp autumn morning. George, having arrived first, had already put his name on the waiting list, knowing that Jess would arrive soon. He smiled when he saw her approaching. She was wearing a beautiful brocade embroidered jacket of gold, brown and cranberry colors and was carrying her overcoat. The autumn colors of her jacket enhanced her beauty.
He kissed her good morning.
“Good morning, love. Sleep well?” he asked as he took her hand.
“Good morning to you too. I did sleep well, much better then the night before. And you?” she responded.
“Um, I slept okay. I was tired, that’s for sure, after all of that walking. Anyway, I already put our name on the list and I’m told that we won’t have a long wait. This must be a popular place.”
“Oh yes, it is. It’s one of my favorite places in Manhattan. I love that it’s right across from Central Park too. I like to bring the paper with me and then relax in the park on Sunday mornings. I wouldn’t mind a short walk there this morning - we can talk about what I found out so far about Eli’s roommate.”
“Did you talk to that detective?” he asked, but before she could answer, the hostess called his name and led them to their table. They ordered Eggs Benedict and coffee.
She filled him in about her research on the other NYU suicides and that she had talked to James’ father in Texas. She had taken a chance to call them early, despite the time difference. Mr. Morris had told her that they were heading to Manhattan later today to claim James’s body and collect his personal items from the apartment. He was astonished to learn that Eli had been arrested. He told her that he knew that James had become friends with Eli. He was also sure that James could never have committed suicide: he was too excited about living in New York and his opportunities in realizing his dreams.
“I talked to Detective Reynolds as well. He agreed to meet with us and to let me see Eli this afternoon. He said he doesn’t believe it is a suicide either and although he’s holding Eli, he didn’t put him in lock-up. He said Eli was obviously distraught,” she told George. “I also talked to my attorney, Stu Bane. He’s going to meet us there this afternoon in hopes of getting Eli released. It doesn’t sound like they really have anything to hold him on at this point.”
“What about the other roommates? Did they ever surface?” George asked, as he took a final swig of his mimosa. “More coffee?”
“No thanks, let’s get the check and go for that walk in the park and I’ll tell you the rest.”
They entered the park at 6th Avenue and made their way to Wollman Rink. The ice skating rink was already open for the season, despite the warm autumn day. Jessica and George watched the skaters for a bit.
"Want to go ice skating?" she asked.
"Nae oan yer life! Do you want to carry me out of the park with a broken leg, lassie?" he asked, laughing.
They moved on past the carousel, the sheep meadow and up to literary walk. Along the way, George took pictures with his digital camera. The walk was canopied by beautiful old oaks. It was chilly in the shade so they moved up to the band shell where there was a jazz trio playing and couples were dancing. George pulled Jessica to him and they swayed to the smooth music for a few minutes. She then led him down to Bethesda Fountain where they watched a couple having wedding pictures made.
They strolled on to the Bow Bridge. George recruited another couple to take a picture of Jess and him and then he returned the favor. It was a perfect autumn day in New York and the park was filling up fast with people reveling in the sunny Sunday morning. They exited the Bow Bridge and took a seat on a bench on the edge of the lake and watched the people rowing boats. They laughed at a few who were obviously inexperienced at rowing. There were some children feeding ducks and another child maneuvered a model speed boat. Jessica snuggled closer to George, as it was cool in the shade of the trees, and he put his arm around her. He turned and gave her a tender kiss.
“See that gondolier? That's a sight to see here in New York City,” George said.
“Yes, he’s famous here. That gondola is actually from Venice. Apparently, he went there to learn to be a gondolier. I've heard that he’s booked solid for months in advance,” Jess said.
“Hmmm, pity. It looks like fun. Have you ever been to Venice?”
“No, I’ve always meant to but somehow haven’t managed it.”
“I’d love to take you to Venice, Jess. It’s a beautiful and romantic city. Will you go with me?”
“I’d love to. Maybe next summer?”
He squeezed her shoulder. “I think I could arrange that.”
They sat contentedly in silence for a while before she continued to tell him about the situation surrounding James’ death.
She told him, “So, the other two roommates still haven’t come home. Eli told me that he rarely sees them let alone talks to them. It seems that this is merely a way to pay the rent and he doesn’t know them very well. One of them is also NYU graduate students, but the other one doesn’t work. Eli isn’t sure what he does, but he pays his share of the rent and bills. I have a bad feeling about him. I know I shouldn’t jump to conclusions, but I find it unusual that somebody who isn’t a student would want to room with a bunch of students. The lifestyle doesn’t seem to mix.”
“Was Eli the one who initially called the police about James?” he asked.
“Actually no. Eli said that he didn’t even hear anything at all until the police woke him up by pounding on the door. Apparently, a vagrant found James down on the street.” She shuddered at the thought of poor James falling to his death.
“Cold?” he asked.
“A little. Ready to move on?”
“Sure, where to now? It’s still too early to go down to the precinct,” he commented.
“I have an idea. Do you mind meeting some friends of mine?” she asked.
“Of course not. I'm always glad to meet any of your friends.”
“Let’s walk up to Central Park West.”
They walked toward the park exit at 72nd Street and Central Park West, which lead them through Strawberry Fields where a large group had gathered to sing songs by the Beatles. They paused there a moment, which George immensely enjoyed. George impressed Jessica by joining in on “She Loves Me.”
“I didn’t know you sang!” she laughed.
“Ha, usually only in the shower or along with the radio. I can’t resist a good Beatles tune, especially I’m feeling inspired,” he said and then kissed her on her forehead.
They moved on and paused at Central Park West where Jessica pulled out her cell phone. She called the Buckleys, who lived at The Dakota which was across the street.
Olga answered. “Oh Jess, good morning. I’ve been so worried about you.”
“I’m fine, Olga. What are you and Vaughan doing right now?” she asked.
“We’re just reading the paper and having coffee. Do you have lunch plans?”
“Actually I don’t have plans, but we had a big brunch at Sarabeth’s and I’m just downstairs on the corner. My friend George and I just finished a walk through Central Park and since we were in the neighborhood I thought of introducing him to you two. Is now a bad time?”
“Of course not, come on up! How wonderful. Is this by any chance the friend who was at the gala the other night?” Olga asked slyly.
“Yes, actually, the very one. I’ll tell you more about that another day. We just need to cross the street and will see you in a few minutes.”
They crossed the street to enter the grand apartment building at the northwest corner of 72nd and Central Park West. It was the building where John Lennon was killed, and where his widow, among many other celebrities, lived. Jessica had stayed with the Buckleys in their palatial apartment before during Christmas time before she moved to Manhattan.
Olga and Vaughan greeted them at the door and then led them out to the beautiful terrace where Olga offered coffee or tea. They both chose tea. They enjoyed a pleasant visit and Vaughan tried to entice George into writing a book about Scotland Yard.
George laughed, “No, I believe I’ll leave the writing to Jessica. The real life stuff is either too boring or too gruesome for me to write about, other than in a professional capacity.”
“Suit yourself, but you can tell Jess anytime you’re ready and she’ll put me in touch with you. True life crime books are always top sellers,” Vaughan said.
“George, never mind him. Vaughan never passes up the opportunity to recruit a new author,” Olga said, patting Vaughan on the arm.
“Can’t pass up a good opportunity when I see it. So, how did you two meet anyway?” he asked.
George recounted the story of their meeting during the Dame Marjorie Ainsworth murder in England. He laughed that Jessica had actually been on his suspect list but that he soon saw that she was better suited as his assistant rather than his suspect. Olga and Vaughan exchanged knowing glances. They could tell that there was more than friendship between these two and after years of trying to set Jessica up on blind dates, they couldn’t be happier about this. The four of them resolved to have dinner together at a new restaurant that Vaughan had just discovered.
George and Jessica said their goodbyes and headed downtown to Precinct 5 to meet with the detective and Eli. Hopefully, Stu Bane would already be there working on Eli’s release.
Stu was successful in helping with Eli’s release. She thanked Stu and he took his leave. The detective agreed that he didn’t have enough to go on to keep Eli. Jessica gave him her address and told him that Eli would be staying with her until further notice.
“Detective, do you have a few minutes to talk?” she asked.
“Of course, anything for you, Mrs. Fletcher. Your reputation precedes you, of course,” Detective Reynolds responded. He led Jessica, with George in tow, into the interview room where Eli was waiting. When he saw her, he jumped up and ran to her.
“I’m so glad you’re here. Mr. Bane said he’d get me out. Did he?” Eli asked, seemingly on the edge of tears.
“Yes, Eli, he did. Everything is going to be okay. You know we’ll get to the bottom of this.”
They all sat down and she told the detective everything that she had found in the news articles concerning the suicides.
“Like you, Mrs. Fletcher, I believe that there is too much coincidence between the cases. I don’t believe for a minute that James committed suicide, nor some of those other students either.”
George interjected, “Is it possible that some of them were just copy-cats trying to cover up murder?”
“Of course, Inspector Sutherland. What makes me really suspect that there’s foul play is that none of the victims - after the first one, that is - left notes or even acted like they had problems. I’m trying to make a connection with them. So far, all I have to go on is that they were all first year graduate students and all attending NYU. Eli, you just had the unfortunate timing to be sleeping when this was all going on in your apartment. I’m going to ask you one more time: isn’t there anything you heard or remember?”
“No, sir. Like I said, I was the first one home that night and I slept with ear plugs to block out the music from our neighbors. They are always having parties.”
“Yeah, so I’ve heard. We interviewed them. Apparently the music was so loud that they didn’t hear anything either. Damn kids will probably go deaf. Okay, so I’m going send you all on your way. Eli, here’s my card. If you think of anything, please call me. You too, Mrs. Fletcher. It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m a big fan of your books.”
“Thank you, Detective Reynolds.”
When they were outside, Jessica took the opportunity to introduce George and Eli to each other.
“So I finally get to meet the Professor’s boyfriend,” Eli said with twinkling eyes.
“Eli! Inspector Sutherland and I are good friends,” Jessica said, but she felt the color rising in her cheeks. Was it so obvious?
“So, I finally get to meet the student who gives my friend so much trouble,” George laughed.
They hailed a cab and headed to Eli’s apartment so he could pack a bag for his stay at Jessica’s apartment. Later that evening, George and Eli shared a large pie from Famous Original Ray’s Pizza while Jessica had a salad. They talked further about Eli’s friend.
“I just don’t get it, Professor F., I mean, Jessica. I’ve never known anybody my own age to die, much less commit suicide. James and I weren’t that close, but he just didn’t seem the type to do it,” he said, shaking his head.
“Eli, is it possible that James got mixed up with the wrong crowd?” George asked.
“Inspector, I just don’t see it. I suppose it’s possible. Anything is possible,” he replied.
Jessica said, “You know, I just thought of something. All of the suicide victims except the first one were theater majors. Doesn’t that strike you as too coincidental, George?”
“It absolutely does. I think you’re on to something. Is there a way to find out if they were in classes together?”
“I guess we could try the registrar’s office tomorrow. I know a girl who works there and maybe she’ll help,” Eli said.
Luckily, even though the next day was a Monday, Jessica didn’t have any classes scheduled since classes were on the Tuesday/Thursday schedule. Eli resolved to head to the NYU Registration Office at ten the next morning. Eli said his goodnights and left Jessica alone with George in the living room. He started to kiss her, but she backed away.
“George...uh, I don’t want to be interrupted by Eli walking in on us,” she said, conscious that it was not a large apartment and Eli could probably hear them.
“We won’t make any noise just kissing, Jess,” he replied, indulging himself in nuzzling her neck.
“That’s what I don’t want him to hear!” she laughed nervously. “George, it’s time for you to leave for the evening.”
“You could accompany me to the Carlyle, you know,” he said as he slid his hand up the back of her blouse and stroked her skin with light finger tips.
Jessica shuddered again, “Remember George, you said no pressure.”
“Just pointing out the option,” he whispered, his brogue sounding almost too sexy for her to resist.
She wriggled away from him, stood up from the sofa and then pulled him up. She led him to the door and handed him his coat. “Out. This lady needs some sleep.”
He kissed her one more time, while she groaned inwardly. This is too much temptation.
The next morning Eli took the list of names of the suicide victims that Jessica had put together and headed down to Greenwich Village to visit the NYU Registrar’s office. He was successful in finding out from his friend Beth, a clerk in the Registrar's Office, that each of the students had been enrolled in an acting course with Professor David Jenkins. While Beth read the information out loud, Eli wrote the class schedules of each of the students along with Professor Jenkins' office location in the back of his writing notebook. He kept being distracted by a pretty girl talking on the phone. He had the oddest sensation that he had seen her somewhere before. Beth snapped her fingers at him and he asked her a few more questions about the suicide victims, but she didn't really have any more information than he already knew from Jessica's research. He thanked her and left the office. Before he made it out of the building, he heard a female voice calling his name.
“Hey, wait up! You forgot this,” she said with a heavy Irish accent.
It's her. He caught his breath, “Geeze, thanks! I would have been lost without this notebook. I’m Eli Hemminger,” he said, as he held out his hand to her.
She took his hand. “I actually know who you are, Eli. I’m Jenna Magill. I was in a class with James Morris. I just can’t believe what happened.”
“I know. It's unbelievable. He was a good guy. So are you a clerk in the Registrar's Office as well?
"Just a few hours a week to help pay for my dormitory. I couldn't help overhear you talking to Beth. Do you think the professor had something to do with the suicides? I'm in his class as well," Jenna said.
"Oh, I'm just trying to find out what the connection, if any, of them all being theater majors might be. Say, what are you doing now? Wanna grab a cup of coffee with me?” he asked hopefully, trying not to stare at her.
She looked at her watch. “Sure. I’m free in about an hour. Can you wait?” she asked, equally hopeful.
“Yeah, no problem. I'll just wait here on this bench. Come and get me when you're ready to leave."
Eli called Jessica from his cell phone to let her know that all of the students had been in Jenkins' graduate acting workshop. She agreed that it was an interesting connection. They planned to talk at her apartment later that afternoon.
Seeing that he still had about forty five minutes before Jenna was available, he opened his notebook to a paragraph that he had been working on for his manuscript. He had gotten in the habit of always carried a section of it with him. Professor F. had stressed to him the importance of re-writes so he took advantage of every opportunity to refine sentences and paragraphs. He smiled at the thought of her. He was raised by a succession of foster families, and never knew his own parents. It was good to have a mother-figure in Jessica Fletcher.
He was tickled that she seemed to have found herself a boyfriend. He wished that Inspector Sutherland didn’t live so far away, but maybe that was what she needed to keep her independence. He didn’t know a woman could be the way that Jessica was. She was indeed teaching him about more than just writing. He could only dream of finding a girl like her.
Jessica left her building and walked to 7th Avenue and 57th Street to take the N train downtown to NYU. She had called David Jenkins, the theatre professor, to arrange a meeting. She found out from his assistant that he would be back for office hours by 11:00. She smiled at the thought of George not approving of her taking the subway. Overprotective George. All of the men in her life were overprotective and she was used to it, but with George, it actually felt comforting.
She exited the subway in Union Square park. Union Square was bustling with New Yorkers of all ages. There was an open air fruit and vegetable market and the park was home to one of the city's busiest dog runs. There was also a student political rally taking place. She walked to the Tisch Building, where the graduate acting program was housed. She waited in the faculty reception area for Professor Jenkins and thought about the students who had died so young. She could only guess what their families had been through over the loss of their children. It had been a terribly emotional semester for NYU students as well in having to deal with these tragedies. Jenkins finally showed up and Jessica asked for a little of his time.
"My name is Jessica Fletcher. James Morris was a friend of mine and I was just hoping that you might be able to answer a few questions for me," she introduced herself.
“It's a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Fletcher. I workshopped a play based on one of your books a couple of years ago. Good material. Anyway, I was sorry to read about James. He showed real promise as an actor, but I don’t see why you need to ask me anything about him,” Professor Jenkins said curtly. Jessica noted the professor’s obvious annoyance and hostility in his voice.
“Well, Professor, I'm terribly surprised at James' suicide. I don't believe he was depressed or that he had any real problems. His roommate was accused of being involved with James’ death and I simply don't believe that he did. I feel like I owe it to my friend to find out what really happened.
"I see. Well, I really don't know anything about James Morris."
"You may have realized that some of the other suicide victims were also in your class,” she pointed out.
“Of course, that was not lost on me. Are you accusing me of having something to do with it? It’s not my fault that there was a bunch of depressed kids this semester. They were probably all on drugs.”
“I’m not accusing you of anything, Professor. I’m just trying to find out if you ever noticed any connection between any of them.”
“Frankly, I never saw any of them outside of the workshop,” he responded hastily. Jessica noted that too and she didn't like what her intuition was telling her.
“Well, thank you for your time, sir. Here’s my card if you think of anything or anyone who might be able to help me.” Jessica shook his hand and fled the building. Professor Jenkins was not a person she wanted to spend any more time with, but she reminded herself not to jump to conclusions.
Jessica walked back to Union Square and took the N train uptown. She arrived at her apartment just in time to prepare lunch for George's arrival. He didn't even need to know that she had been to talk to Jenkins, although she was sure that he wouldn't be surprised.
Eli couldn't concentrate on his paragraph for thinking about Jenna. He had looked at her for less than five minutes, but he had already fallen hard. How was that possible? And wasn’t it funny that he was just thinking of finding a girl of his own? Wow. She had creamy skin, long golden blonde curls and enormous blue eyes. She actually reminded him of Professor F. The resemblance was uncanny. He had seen a picture of Professor F. when she was young and this girl had the same face. Jessica had never said anything to him about having a daughter; besides, the name was different. Strange coincidence, I guess. They say everybody has a twin.
“Eli, are you ready?” Jenna asked, shaking his shoulder.
“Oh sorry, I was lost in thought. World Coffee by Union Square okay with you?” he asked, while stuffing his notebook in his backpack.
“Sounds fine,” she said, regarding him closely.
They walked to World Coffee and talked companionably about school and such. Jenna was an acting major and was hoping to intern with the Irish Repertory Theater next summer. She was from Dublin and had received a scholarship to attend the graduate theater program at NYU.
“My Aunt Emma is an actress in London. She even owns her own theater in the West End. It’s my dream to act on the stage with her one of these days. She thinks I can do better. Perhaps Broadway or films. We’ll see though,” she told him as she sipped her black tea.
“I haven’t seen much theater, but I was planning on going to James’ show next semester. He was so excited about being in a Sondheim show,” Eli said sadly.
“I know. It’s every musical theater actor’s dream to be in a Sondheim show. I dream of being in Sunday in the Park with George. James would have been great as ‘George’. Do you know that show?” she asked.
“Nope, I’m new to Sondheim. James was introducing me as much as he could. He would get so excited talking about all the possibilities. He called it being 'Sondheimish'. I just can’t believe he’s gone. Did you think that Jenkins ever acted weird in class?"
"Yeah, he is always hostile and he never has any praise for any of us. I know we are all first year grad students, but we all have at least some talent."
"Is there anything specific that you can remember about him and the students who committed suicide?" Eli asked.
"Actually, yes, now that you mention it. I remember him asking at least three of them to meet him at this bar on Orchard Street. I think it's called Devils, or something like that. I thought that he shouldn't single out some of the students like that, you know play favorites."
"Is it 13 Little Devils close to Delancey? Did you ever go there?"
"Yes, I think that's the one. No, I was never invited but I don't usually go to bars anyway so I guess it's just as well. My friend Steve goes there sometimes though."
"I'd like to talk to Stevie about that."
"Sure, I can give you his number," she offered.
"Thanks, Jenna. So, what are you doing for the rest of the day?” he asked.
“Well I should be working on some lines, but I don’t really have anything planned. What do you have in mind?”
“I need to see my friend Jessica and drop off some stuff at her apartment. I’m free after that. Want to go along?”
“Sure, I’m game. Who is Jessica?” Jenna asked.
“She’s my mentor. She was my professor at Schoolman College where I got my undergrad degree and now she’s helping me with my thesis and my manuscript. I'm going to be a writer like her. I’m actually staying at her place until the situation with James is resolved and I can find a new apartment,” he told her.
“Oh I see. Is she older?” she asked, suddenly feeling jealous.
“Uh, yeah, she’s like a mother to me,” he explained, feeling a little embarrassed at Jenna’s assumption. “So, let’s walk over to West 4th and take the 1 train uptown to Columbus Circle. Her apartment is just a couple of blocks from there and then we can hang out.”
Jessica and George were in her home office talking after the light lunch that she had prepared. George had wanted to take Jessica to a Broadway show that evening, but since it was Monday night, most of the theatres were closed. She instead offered to take him to Angus McIndoe’s on 44th Street in the theatre district. Angus was from Scotland and George liked the idea of going to a fellow Scotsman’s restaurant in New York City.
“Jess, how’s the haggis there?” he laughed.
“Yuck George! I wouldn’t know. Actually, it isn’t on the menu but I’ve heard that you can order it from Angus himself. You’ll like him. He’s charming.”
“Ah, so you have a thing for my fellow countryman?” he asked, teasing her.
“Uh no, he’s a little too young for me. Besides, I’m sure that he has a young actress or two to squire around. It’s known as a hang-out for Broadway actors after shows on Friday and Saturday nights. I’ve seen a few in there myself. It’s always busy after the theaters finish late at night.”
Just then, they heard Eli come in and knock over her umbrella stand.
“I swear that boy never makes a quiet entrance,” she laughed.
Jess and George walked to the living room to see what information he had been able to gather. They were surprised to see him with a pretty young friend in tow. When Jessica looked at Jenna, it was like she was looking in a mirror from the past. They gaped at each other for moment.
“So you notice the resemblance, eh, Professor?” Eli laughed. “I’m afraid I didn’t warn Jenna. Jenna, this is Jessica Fletcher and her friend George Sutherland. Jessica, this is Jenna Magill from Dublin, Ireland.”
“Did you say Magill?” Jessica said in a shocked voice.
“Yes, ma’am. I’m Jenna Magill. I can’t get over how much you look like my Aunt Emma. She has red hair, but you two could be twins.”
“Jenna, you’re not going to believe this. My maiden name is Magill and Emma is my cousin! Our fathers were cousins,” Jess explained.
“Oh my gosh, you’re Emma’s American cousin Jessie?” she squealed.
The two women embraced and delighted in their discovery. They moved to the living room where they continued to chatter about their discovery. George and Eli just sat there in disbelief.
“So that makes us cousins somewhere down the line, I believe. Emma didn’t tell me that she had a great niece attending NYU. Shame on her,” Jessica said.
“Well, it all happened so quickly and this is just my first semester at grad school here. I just can’t believe the family resemblance.”
Jessica got up and brought a picture of herself with Frank taken when she was about Jenna’s age.
“See anybody familiar in this picture?” she asked.
Jenna exclaimed, “Wow, it’s like looking in a mirror! I got your blonde hair too. So I guess I’ll look like you and Aunt Emma when I get older. ”
Jess laughed, “I hope you’re not disappointed.”
“Of course not, I didn’t mean to make it sound like that. I’m actually thrilled!” she laughed, a little embarrassed.
They continued to catch up on family gossip and got to know each other for the rest of the afternoon. They were interrupted by a phone call from Detective Reynolds. He told Eli that the roommates Victor and Mark had finally surfaced and that he had brought them in for questioning, but so far had not found a connection, even though they had no alibi for Friday night. Eli told him about finding out about the all of the acting students being in the same class. Then Jessica took the phone to tell him about her talk with Professor Jenkins. She saw that George raise his eyebrows at her, but he didn't say a word. The detective thanked her for the information and promised to dig up what he could on Jenkins.
Realizing the lateness of the day, George suggested that Eli and Jenna accompany them to dinner, but they declined. Jenna said that she needed to get back to her dorm. Eli, no doubt trying to impress them all, said that he should escort her home which caused George and Jessica to smile.
Jessica excused herself to change into a dress for dinner while George spent the time looking around her living room. He perused the silver framed photos on her mantle. He studied a picture of her with Frank that he assumed was taken in Maine not terribly long before his death. He had a kind and handsome face. Next he saw a picture of Jessica and himself taken at his home in Wick, Scotland. That had been a lovely time, despite the chaos of a murder occurring and the constant interruption of any time alone with Jessica by her friends who had accompanied her from Cabot Cove. There were pictures of other family members and friends. Jessica was obviously a woman who treasured her friendships, which was one of the things he loved so much about her. He looked wistfully toward the bedroom. He hoped that not too much more time would pass before she was completely in his life, both emotionally and physically. Stifle your thoughts or it will be another cold shower for you, George.
Jessica finally emerged in a cream colored satin dress. It criss-crossed across her body and tied at the waist. George noticed that it was cut a little lower than he was used to seeing her wearing. She was wearing a double strand of gold beads and gold loop earrings. Guid laird, she’s gorgeous.
He crossed the room to meet her. “My, my, my, Jess. Let me just look at you for a moment. You look so gorgeous,” he said before kissing her.
Jessica blushed. “Thank you. Shall we head out?” she asked. I don’t trust that look in his eyes right now. I don’t trust myself right now!
They took a yellow cab to the Carlyle so he could change into a suit. She waited in the small but elegant lobby for him and then they hailed a cab to head to Angus McIndoe's in the theatre district. They enjoyed a delicious dinner, free range game hen with a fresh spinach salad for her and a sirloin steak for him. When Angus heard George’s accent, the two men broke into Scottish brogues so thick that Jess almost didn’t believe they were speaking English. Angus sat down with them and they toasted each other with fine single malt whiskey imported from Scotland. Jessica just shook her head while sipping her sparkling water. At one point, Angus said, "I've seen 'er in haur afair. It's stoaner tae forgit sic' a bonnie hen," while looking directly at Jessica. But the only words she understood were in George’s answer, “Aye, she’s a bonnie lassie.”
They left the restaurant at 9:00 and George convinced Jess to have a drink with him at Bemelmans Bar back at the Carlyle.
“It’s really too early to say good night, Jess,” he pleaded.
“I have classes all day tomorrow, George,” she replied.
“Yes, but aren’t you a New Yorker, addicted to the night life?” he asked.
“I’m a Cabot Cover, used to early to bed and early to rise,” she laughed.
“Well, we could go to bed early, but I can’t guarantee that you’d get to sleep early,” he winked at her.
“George! You’re too much.” But she didn’t say no.
They stepped inside Bemelmans just inside the front door of the Carlyle but there wasn’t an empty chair. He suggested the mini-bar in his room and she agreed that it was okay for just one drink. While they were waiting for the elevator, she took his hand in hers and looked up at him. He looked down at her with a smile and their eyes met. I am in love this man. I don’t want to waste another moment of not being with him.
Once in the room, George busied himself with pouring brandies for them, while Jess excused herself to use his bathroom. The Carlyle always provided a good mini-bar, he thought.
“Jess, what’s taking you so long? Are you okay?” he called. She startled him by answering in a soft voice from right behind him.
"Here I am, George."
“You snuck up on me,” he said as he turned to hand her the snifter of brandy. He was astonished to see that she had removed her dress and was dressed only in one of his white Oxford shirts. She had not bothered to do up all the buttons. He just stared at her. She took the two snifters of brandy from him and put them back on the bar.
Jess reached up and loosened and removed his tie and then began to unbutton his shirt. He looked into her enormous blue eyes and was overwhelmed by the desire that he saw in them. He reached down and kissed her passionately. He unbuttoned her remaining buttons while she worked on his belt and slacks. He murmured in her ear, causing her to have shivers all over her body. George reached inside the shirt and let his hands roam all over her body. He was surprised by her unabashed forwardness, but he was not about to discourage her. No more cold showers, he thought, and laughed out loud.
“What’s so funny?” she asked between kisses.
“I was just thinking to myself that I don’t have to take a cold shower tonight.”
She laughed, “I should say not.”
She took his hands and led him to the bedroom where he shed the rest of his clothes and slipped the shirt off of her. He could not believe this moment was happening. He looked at her and lay down face to face with her.
“Are you sure, Jessie?” he asked softly in his deepest brogue, making sure that she really was ready before they reached the point of no return.
“I’m quite sure,” she purred in his ear.
He smiled and joined her mouth to his with deep kisses. They obliged each other’s wishes and their bodies intertwined in deeply satisfying pleasure. They continued to whisper to each other, climbing a mountain of ecstasy all the while. It had been a long time for both of them and it was extremely satisfying to be together in this way. All of the emotional stress that they had shared over the past few days as well as the culmination of their unrequited love resulted in an explosion of emotions. They finally parted in exhaustion and lay in each other’s arms silently listening to each other's heartbeat. He stroked her soft skin and planted kisses on her.
“George?” Jess asked.
“You brought me back a life that I didn’t even know I was lacking for such a long time,” she said quietly, snuggling closer to him.
“I thought this day would never come. I have been in love with you literally for years - since that very first day at Brown’s. I’ve been longing to share everything with you,” he responded, holding her even tighter.
“George, what are we going to do now?” she asked with a hint of sadness in her voice.
“What do you mean?” he asked as he lifted himself on one elbow to look down into her eyes.
“Well, our lives are so separate,” she said.
He lay back down and gathered her closely in his arms. “We’ll figure it out, love.”
He began to kiss her in earnest again and she succumbed to another round of passion.
Jessica awoke at 5:00 a.m. with George’s arms wrapped tightly around her. She wriggled out of his arms carefully and dressed in the bathroom. She wrote him a note and left it on her pillow. She had to get home to get ready for her 8:00 class. She just hoped that Eli wouldn’t notice that she had been out all night. In addition to it being embarrassing, she just didn’t want to share what had transpired with anyone but George himself. It was so special that she wanted to revel in her own thoughts about it. She was feeling incredible and she knew that it was written all over her face. When she arrived at the Parc Ven Dome, she avoided eye contact with her doorman and let herself into her apartment as quietly as possible. Eli had left her a note that the detective had called again but there were no details. Eli’s door was closed and she could hear him still snoring softly.
She went to her room, sat on her bed for a moment, and collected her thoughts about George. She was feeling so much but she had no doubt that she had taken the right steps last night.
She took a shower and prepared for her day. When she left at 7:00, Eli still had not gotten up so she left him a note to call her later when he had a chance. She thought he had a class this morning but she resisted the temptation to mother him by waking him up for it. There was an alarm clock in guest room and she knew that he was mature enough to handle his own schedule.
After her 8:00 criminology class, she took a short break in her office. She walked in to find an enormous vase of sterling roses on her desk along with a card. The card was written in George’s handwriting rather than the computer generated script that some florists used these days.
“J - My darling, you have made me so happy. Last night was just the first of many more special nights and days to come for us. I love you completely. Call me when you have time. - G”
She smiled and smelled the roses. They were the most delicate shade of silvery lavender. She yawned in spite of herself and checked her personal email. She had an email from Olga Buckley and she responded that she and George would definitely be available that night for dinner at Bobby Flay’s new Bar Americain on West 52nd Street. She asked her to include two extra seats in their reservation as she wanted to treat a couple of young friends to the evening. Olga responded right away that it was no problem and that she was indeed intrigued. Jess thought it would be fun to show Eli and Jenna off to the Buckleys, especially with her newly discovered connection to Jenna.
There was also an email from Eli. If he knew that she hadn’t come home last night, he was discreet about it. He mentioned Jenna twice in his email. He is smitten, she smiled to herself. He told her that he found out from another student that there were rumors that Professor Jenkins was a drug dealer. She emailed him back to take care of himself and to touch base with her when he had a chance. She also told him about the dinner reservation and to please include Jenna and that there was a dress code at Bar Americain.
She next read an email from Jenna Magill to Emma. Jenna had copied Jess. Jenna was full of excitement about making the connection. Jess had to admit that it was an exciting coincidence. She responded to the email and scolded Emma for neglecting to tell them about their connection and then also extending the dinner invitation to Jenna. Hinting about George in the email would further teach Emma a lesson. She suspected that within hours she’d be receiving a call from Emma. Emma could never resist a good gossip, especially when it came to romance. This had been an exciting week to say the least. She checked her watch. She had a few minutes before her next class started at 10:00 so she took the time to call George’s room.
“Hullo?” George said in his sexy low brogue.
“Hello, thank you for the roses. They are beautiful,” she said.
“You’re welcome. Just a small token of my affection. Am I going to see you anytime today?”
“I’m afraid not during the day since I have a full day of classes and then a department faculty meeting late this afternoon. But, remember, we’re having dinner with the Buckley’s at 8:00 tonight. It’s Bobby Flay’s new restaurant in midtown. He’s a bit of a celebrity chef, in case you haven’t heard of him. I thought you could meet me at my apartment at 7:00 and then we’d walk down together.”
“Do I really have to share you tonight?”
“Yes, you do have to share me. By the way, I invited Jenna and Eli as well.”
“Ah, excellent. That will make it even more fun. I’ll see you at 7:00 then?”
“Yes, until then. I love you,” she said softly.
“And I love you, Jess.”
She hurried to her next class. It seemed like the rest of the day crawled by at a mind numbing pace. She finally arrived home at 6:00 to an empty apartment, but Eli left a note saying that he and Jenna would meet them at Bar Americain at 8:00 and that there had been some interesting developments in the case about James. Jess took time to read her mail and have a cup of mind restoring tea. She then took a hot shower, re-applied her make-up and did her hair carefully. She was just putting on her perfume and lipstick when the doorman buzzed to let her know that George was on his way up. She opened the door to him and he took her in his arms.
“Careful, I just put on lipstick. Don’t smudge it,” she laughed.
“Well, then, I guess I’ll have to settle for this,” and he started nuzzling and kissing her neck, while working his hands down to pull her skirt up.
“Oh, my. George, don’t start,” she sighed.
“We have time, Jess.”
“No, we don’t. Let’s go,” she laughed again.
“Wait, just a minute. Come over here,” he said, taking her hand and leading her to the sofa. He pulled a box from Tiffany’s out of his pocket. “I did a little shopping today.”
“Oh George, you shouldn’t have,” suddenly fearing what he might be about to do. She took the Tiffany blue box and untied the white satin ribbon he offered. Inside the small box was an exquisite emerald-cut blue sapphire ring. The sapphire was surrounded by diamonds and was in a platinum setting. It was the most beautiful piece of jewelry she had ever worn. He took it out of the box and slipped it on her right hand ring finger.
“Oh, George, it’s breathtaking,” she gasped, admiring it and feeling just a little relieved that it was not an engagement ring, at least she didn't think it was.
“It matches the color I saw in your eyes last night,” he said, while lifting her hand to his lips. “I know what you’re thinking. It’s not an engagement ring. Last night, I said we’d figure out our future. Let’s just take it day by day. I know you don’t want marriage and I’m happy to wait in hopes that you’ll change your mind. This ring is just a token of my love and affection and a reminder that I’m thinking of you always.”
She kissed him and then used her handkerchief to wipe the red smudge from his lips, while smiling. She embraced him tightly. “I love it. Thank you, my darling George.”
She reapplied her lipstick and checked her hair and dress, while George watched her admiringly. She had chosen to wear her favorite blue dress and the color of the ring was a perfect match to her dress. He was wearing a handsome blue pin-striped suit with a tie the same silvery lavender shade as the roses he had sent her. She regarded him and looked into his smiling eyes. He is too handsome.
They arrived at Bar Americain to find Jenna and Eli waiting for them at the bar. They were smartly dressed and were obviously having fun already. Jessica gave both of them a quick hug and they caught up on their day while they waited for Olga and Vaughan to arrive. When all introductions had been made and they were seated, Jessica took out a small picture she had of herself at Jenna’s age and passed it around the table.
Vaughan said, “I just can’t believe the resemblance. She could be your twin.”
“Well, the Magills have strong genes I suppose. A number of us resemble each other,” she laughed.
“You should see her cousin Emma,” George and Jenna said simultaneously, causing more laughter.
“It’s just so remarkable that you found each other, especially considering your connection to Eli. I think it must be fate, young man!” Olga nudged Eli, who was sitting next to her.
“No kidding, Mrs. Buckley.” Eli grinned. “So I have good news about my living arrangements. Jenna’s friend Stevie needs a new roommate and I can move in tomorrow. I just need to move my gear. The best part is that it’s closer to NYU too than where I am now down in the East Village. I figure I don’t owe anything to Mark and Victor, who I don’t even know that well. We were on a month-to-month lease anyway. And the best thing is that I’ll have my own room at the new digs.”
“Wonderful Eli, but please know that you’re welcome to stay with me as long as you need to,” Jess reminded him.
“I know and thank you, Professor, but my class and writing schedule is so crazy that I don’t want to impose.”
"You don't have to tell me about class and writing schedules," she laughed.
George asked, “Do you need some help moving your stuff tomorrow? I have a free day as Jessica has already indicated to me that she needs to spend some time on her own writing before her ogre of a publisher intervenes,” he winked at Jess and Vaughan.
“Sure inspector, that would be great. I’d really appreciate it. I don’t have any furniture to move, just books, my laptop and clothes. It shouldn’t take too long, but an extra set of hands would be great.”
“I’m glad about the furniture bit - I’m afraid I wouldn’t care to go up and down all of those bloody flights of stairs!” George said, relieved.
Vaughan then took two tickets out of the breast pocket of his jacket. “Say, I have two tickets for the Met this Friday night that Olga and I unfortunately can’t use. It’s Renata Foster singing her first Norma so its sold out. Would any of you be interested?”
Jessica noticed Jenna’s large eyes grow even larger. She took the opportunity to speak up, “Well, George and I already have plans so I’m sure that Jenna and Eli could use those tickets.”
Jenna looked at her with a big smile and then back at Vaughan hopefully. “Mr. Buckley, I’ve never been to the opera and I’m simply dying to see Renata. I have some of her cd's. Could we, I mean, if Eli wants to, could we have the tickets?”
Vaughan handed them to her and said, “Enjoy my dear. I know you’ll love it. Olga and I have been patrons for years and you can’t get better than Renata Foster.” He then winked at Jessica, knowing that she had intervened on Jenna’s behalf.
“Eli, are you okay with going?” Jenna asked.
“Sure, yeah, I’ve never been to the opera and I’m always up for a new entertainment experience,” he laughed and added, “Thanks Mr. Buckley.”
They enjoyed an incredible dinner that lasted later than expected. Vaughan made sure that the wine kept being poured for the older adults and Jessica found herself feeling a little tipsy. When they finally decided to leave, he tried to talk them into going dancing, but everybody protested of being too full and too tired. George agreed to meet Eli at his apartment at 8:00 a.m. Each of the couples parted with hugs and kisses and promises to get together again soon, with Jess and George walking to her building, Olga and Vaughan driving off in their limo and Jenna and Eli hopping on the downtown N train to her dorm.
Once at her building, Jessica and George went up to her apartment for a nightcap.
“I’m actually too tipsy to have anything alcoholic. I was thinking of a cup of tea,” Jess said, walking into the kitchen with George at her heels.
“That actually sounds a bit right to me too,” he agreed.
She put the kettle on to boil and took two mugs down from the cabinet. She chose a chamomile while George chose a strong Irish blend.
“Give me a minute. I’m going to get out of these high heels,” she said as she went to her bedroom. She slipped out of her dress and into favorite warm-ups and thick socks.
“Ah, I should have brought something a bit more comfortable, I suppose.” George said. He had taken off his jacket and tie. He took the opportunity to pull her into his arms and had just started kissing her when the whistling of the kettle interrupted them.
“I think that’s a sign,” Jess sighed.
“A sign?” George asked.
“A sign that we can’t stay together tonight. I want you to but it’s not appropriate with Eli staying here.”
“I have news for you. Eli won’t be back tonight.”
“What? How do you know that?” Jess asked with surprise. She didn’t like the thought of Eli and Jenna staying together so soon after just meeting each other.
“It’s not what you’re thinking. Eli took me aside and told me that he and his new roommate are, how did he put it, staking out his apartment tonight. He wants to confront the other two roommates.”
“George, I don’t think that’s a good idea. Maybe we should go down there.”
“No, Jessica, he’ll be fine. He promised to get the heck out of there if anything fishy started to go down and to call Detective Reynolds immediately, as well as call me. I have great faith in the boy. I see a strong young man with a good head on his shoulders.”
“Are you sure?” Jess asked with a worried tone of voice.
“I’m sure. He’ll be fine. I warned him against too much cloak and dagger. Seems he learned a thing or two from you, my love.”
She couldn’t help laugh as she buried her face in his chest, “Um, no comment.”
She turned to make their tea and they talked for a bit longer before retiring to her bedroom.
They made love for a second night in a row with the same intense passion. This new step in their relationship was immensely satisfying to both of them. It was equally satisfying to fall asleep in each other’s arms.
George met Eli at his 2nd Avenue apartment at precisely 8:00 a.m. Stevie had already left after an uneventful night of “staking out the joint”.
“Hi ya Inspector Sutherland,” Eli said, as he gratefully accepted the cup of coffee that George had brought for him. “Thanks for this. I need it.”
“I figured as much. So your roommates didn’t show up last night?”
“Mark did, all he said was that Victor was busy with some professor. I have a feeling it was Jenkins but I didn't say that. I told him that I was moving out and filled him on everything about James. He said he knew about James because he had been hauled in for questioning, but he didn’t offer any more information than I didn’t already know. He didn't care about my moving out. The thing about apartments in New York is that there’s always somebody else looking for a cheap place to stay, especially students in Manhattan. The other thing that I saw was that there was a note on the door to Victor and it said 'DJ has it'."
“Hmmmm, that is interesting. What happened to the note?” George asked.
“Actually Mark took it and called Victor about it I think.”
“And Mark left when?”
“He left about an hour ago. I called the detective and he said he would follow up on that. So, I figured we can make it to the new apartment in two loads. Let’s take over one load and then we’ll come back for a second. We should be finished by noon and then I’ll treat you to a Gray’s Papaya.”
“What’s that?” George asked.
“It’s the world’s greatest frankfurter. You’re in for a treat.”
“Okay, you lead the way.”
They filled a yellow cab with Eli’s belongings and upon returning for the second load, they discovered that Victor had returned.
He was visibly angry, so much so that it caused George to be on edge. It was a tell-tale sign that something was not right.
He began verbally assaulting Eli, “Damn you Hemminger. You just had to butt in when it wasn’t none of your business, you little self-righteous jerk. And what? Did you think you had to bring your daddy for protection?”
Eli held his tongue at first and then responded, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“You sure as hell know what you’re talking about. Thanks to you the whole gig is over. First James had to stick his fat nose in and now you. Well, you know what happened to him, don’t you?” Victor responded while moving toward Eli.
“Stay right where you are, sir,” George said in a commanding tone.
Victor was taken aback at first by George’s accent and stormed out of the room. He came back with a gun.
“Whoa, Vic, man, you don’t have to use that. I didn’t say anything to anybody, I swear it.”
“Oh yeah? What about that cop? What about Jenkins? You know, you sure as hell stirred everything up.”
“I repeat, I don’t know what you’re talking about. I didn't talk to Jenkins,” Eli said and looked at George. George barely nodded, meaning for him to keep talking. “I was just confused about James, man. I knew he couldn’t have killed himself. Did you kill him? Or did Jenkins? Why? Was James doing drugs? I swear I won’t tell anybody. I just didn’t want to get blamed for something I didn’t do. Besides, I never knew anybody who committed suicide before,” he said, trying to sound innocent.
His suspicions about Victor and Jenkins were right. The rumors he had heard from Jenna and Stevie were that Victor was the supplier and Jenkins was the go-between for buyers. Stevie had seen them together at 13 Little Devils and had heard that Victor had connections. All of the students, except the first one, who had supposedly committed suicide, had apparently bought marijuana from Jenkins. Eli said, “Why don’t you just go away from here. I don’t want anything to do with the police or drugs or anything. I just want to go to school and mind my own business.”
“No such luck Hemminger. You and pops there know too much for me to just leave.”
Just as Victor was about to force Eli toward the window, George got close enough to lunge toward him, knocking him down and wrestling the gun away. The door burst open and Detective Reynolds and two of his men hurried inside.
“Good job Eli, Inspector,” he said as he handcuffed Victor. He had the one of the cops read him his rights while they walked him out the door. “So your theory was right all along. I think you’d make a good cop, Hemminger.”
“I have to agree, Detective,” George said.
“Thanks. Maybe I’ll follow that path. I’m thinking of following in Professor Fletcher’s footsteps though,” Eli smiled.
“I think she would approve of that,” George said while Detective Reynolds nodded.
Detective Reynolds said, “Eli, you’ll probably be contacted by the assistant DA to testify. Are you okay with that?”
“Of course I am. Anything for justice for James and those other students. I just wonder one thing. Weren’t any of those students tested for drugs in their bloodstream?”
“Yes, they definitely were. But the ME didn’t find anything more than trace amounts of marijuana which really didn’t raise eyebrows, considering they were all college students living on the lower east side. I know that’s stereotyping, but when you’ve been around as long as we have and have seen as much as we have, it’s pretty typical. The thing is that Victor was trying to upgrade them all into being meth users and was pressuring Jenkins into getting the job done. He was so obsessed with it that every time one of those kids dropped out as a buyer, Victor would try to get the rest of them depressed by making it look like one of their friends had committed suicide. In his mind, they would self-medicate for their depression and would turn to heavier drugs. It was a sick plot, but drug pushers are inherently sick. And thanks to Mrs. Fletcher, Jenkins caved right away. He couldn’t handle the guilt.”
“I didn’t even know James smoked pot. Shows you how well I knew him. I’m just sorry I didn’t see it happening.”
“Don’t fault yourself, kid. You did good in the end. So, what’s going on here? You moving out? Need some help?” Detective Reynolds offered.
“That would be splendid. I think this will be our last load if you’d be so kind,” George gratefully said.
“Let’s go then.”
The three of them carried out Eli’s remaining items and the detective drove them to the new apartment closer to Union Square. Jenna was there waiting for them. She was amazed at the story they told her and gave Eli and hug and kiss to prove that she was glad he was okay. George and Detective Reynolds snickered a little.
Detective Reynolds said, “So I gotta take off. Stay in touch kid. I could use your investigative skills anytime on my team. Be seeing ya, Inspector Sutherland.”
“Thanks a million Detective. Take care,” Eli said.
“So, Inspector, do you want to go out tonight like I suggested? A double date?”
Jenna looked slyly at them, “What do you have in mind, boys?”
“Oh you’ll see Miss Jenna. I just warn you that you better dress for a party and wear good dancing shoes,” George laughed. They agreed to meet at 7:00 at Jess’ apartment.
George departed for the Carlyle. He packed his bags, checked out and moved to Jess’ apartment for the remainder of his days in New York at her insistence. She had classes on Thursday but then would be off until the following Tuesday. He would return to London on that day and until then, he intended to make the most of their time together.
The two couples, George and Jess and Eli and Jenna, entered Swing 46 on West 46th for a fun evening of dinner and dancing to a live big band. Eli and Jenna didn’t know most of the music, but George and Jessica delighted in the old standards from their early childhood. There were couples of all ages, some of whom were swinging each other in fancy fast steps, while others just moved in time to the music. George and Jessica danced to almost every song, sometimes attempting the faster steps. Eli and Jenna resolved to take dance lessons some day but in the meantime did their best, trying to copy George’s smooth dance moves as he twirled Jess around the dance floor. Eli was so surprised to see this side of his mentor and he loved it and here he was falling in love with Jessica’s cousin. He couldn’t be happier.
Jessica watched Eli and Jenna and then reveled in her own love. She smiled as she looked into George’s eyes which mirrored her own happy eyes. And they spun around the dance floor to the most appropriate song of the evening, their song, “Foggy London Town”.