Chapter 22

She wasn’t in the room that morning. Vince tried several times, returning after breakfast, and then again, following his first class. Thinking Hannah might still be intent on ignoring him, he asked a neighbor in 2B to knock, to no avail. The helpful girl offered to assist him with a door-to-door inquiry, but nobody professed to having seen her. The majority confessed they didn’t even know who Hannah Singer was, often enough that Vince began to wonder if she wasn’t in fact a ghost, borne from the vivid dreams he’d been having ever since his discovery of Courtney Kennedy’s body in the woods.

The recorded greeting on her cell phone was at least evidence that she actually existed. He tried reaching her several times, but she didn’t answer, and he wound up leaving a trail of messages.

When Vince still hadn’t heard from her by lunchtime, he began to seriously worry. In the state he’d left her the previous night, after rejecting her, there was no telling what she might have done. Packed her bags and left town? Wandered aimlessly down to the Village in search of company? Went for a walk along the cliffs and … Vince forbid himself to finish the thought. Committed to keeping his head, he’d banished the idea of suicide from entering his mind, although the morbid possibility threatened to invade more than once in the last twelve hours.

Unable to locate the R.A., Vince was running out of options. He thought about going to the police, until he realized he was the police. What more could anyone at the department tell him? Hannah was in his charge, his responsibility. He was the one who had lost her.

So he set out to find her.

Remembering she had told him she was a sociology major, he popped over to the library to consult the fall “Schedule of Classes.” In her first year, she would be required to take the introductory course. He looked up the class in the book. Introduction to Sociology met every Tuesday and Thursday from 1:00 to 2:30. He consulted his watch: 2:10. If he hurried, he could make it.

When she came out, Vince was waiting for her.

“Vince? What are you doing here?”

Though startled to find him there, Hannah appeared to be okay otherwise. Apparently, all of his worrying had been for nothing. Still, Vince was curious to know where she’d been and troubled as to why she hadn’t called to be escorted. Pulling her aside to allow the other students to pass, he said, “I’ve been looking for you all day. You weren’t in the room.”

Cornered, Hannah stumbled. “So-somebody called from the police station first thing this morning. He said I could move back into my room right away. I-I thought you knew.”

Vince realized he’d upset her. He supposed his showing up, pouncing on her as she exited the classroom, would be cause for alarm. He let go of her arm and backed off, admitting, “Nobody told me.”

“I had back-to-back classes today, beginning at nine, and I knew Marlene, my R.A., would be anxious to get back into her room, so I packed up my things and made the switch right away,” she rambled nervously.

“I tried calling your cell phone. You didn’t pick up.”

Hannah removed a phone from her backpack and consulted the display. She sighed and pressed the ‘on’ button. The cell phone roared to life. Looking tense, she said, “I had a test this morning. The professor makes us turn them off to prevent cheating. I must have forgotten to switch it back on.”

Vince turned away and shook his head, displeased that he’d overreacted.

“I’m sorry. You’re angry,” Hannah whispered, misreading him.

“No. I was worried. After last night—“

“Not a big deal,” she cut in, but contributed nothing more on the subject. “I was wondering … I’m heading back to my room now. Would you walk me there?”

The invitation was meant to be a peace offering, and he accepted.

Hannah did most of the talking on the way to the dormitory. She claimed to be feeling better now that she was back in her old room, although she confessed it was unsettling to be confronted by a vacant bed. Somebody had removed all of Courtney’s things, wiping out any trace that she ever existed.

Vince wished somebody would give his mind a thorough cleaning; he was still plagued by recurring, grisly visions.

The two reached the dorm, and Vince walked her to the door of 2J.

“I’d ask you to come in …” Hannah started.

“But you wouldn’t want to jeopardize my professional reputation, right?” On the walk over, Vince had gotten off his chest why he’d declined her previous invitation.

They both smiled. Hannah inserted her key in the lock on the doorknob and frowned.

Anything wrong?” Vince asked.

“I can’t get the key in.”

Vince had a bad feeling, but before he could react, Hannah twisted the knob and pushed open the door.

“Hannah, you better not—“

Too late. She took one look inside the room, and then both hands flew up to cover her mouth, stifling a silent, aching scream.

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