[ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]
.No, Wendy nearly gasped because another piece of the puzzle had just fallen into place.Christa wore sunglasses, even though she was inside.But that wasn't the first thing you noticed.The first thing you noticed about Christa--the one thing you couldn't help but notice, really--were the thick, red scars that crisscrossed her face.SCAR FACE.She introduced herself as Christa Stockwell.She looked about forty, but it was hard to get an age on her.She was slender, maybe five-eight, with delicate hands and a strong bearing.They sat at the kitchen table."Do you mind if I keep the lights low?" Christa asked."Not at all.""It's not why you think.I know people will stare.It's natural actually.I don't mind it.It's better than those people who try too hard to pretend they don't see the scars.My face becomes the elephant in the room, you know what I mean?""I guess so.""Since the incident, my eyes are sensitive to light.It's more comfortable for me in the dark.How apropos, right? The philosophy and psych majors at this school would have a field day with that one." She stood."I'm going to have some tea.Would you like some?""Sure.Can I help?""No, I'm fine.Peppermint or English Breakfast?""Peppermint."Christa smiled."Good choice."She flicked on the electric kettle, got out two mugs, put the tea bags in them.Wendy noticed that she kept tilting her head to the right as she went about the task.When she sat back down, Christa just stood still for a moment as if giving Wendy the chance to examine the damage.Her face was, quite simply, horrific.The scars blanketed her from forehead to neck.Ugly, angry lines, purple and red, tore across her skin, raised up as though on a relief map.In the few spots with no lines there were instead splotches of deep red, badly abraded, as if someone had taken steel wool to the skin."I'm contractually obligated to never discuss what happened," Christa Stockwell said."Dan Mercer is dead.""I know.But that doesn't change the contract.""Whatever you say to me will be held in the strictest confidence.""You're a reporter, aren't you?""Yes.But you have my word."She shook her head."I can't see why it matters now.""Dan is dead.Phil Turnball has been fired from his job, accused of stealing.Kelvin Tilfer is in an asylum.Farley Parks has had recent troubles too.""Am I supposed to feel sorry for them?""What did they do to you?""Isn't the evidence clear enough? Or should I turn up the lights a little?"Wendy leaned across the table.She put her hand on the other woman's."Please tell me what happened.""I can't see what good it will do."The kitchen clock above the sink ticked.Wendy could look out the window and see the undergrads walking to class, all animated, young, with the cliched rest of their lives waiting around the corner.Next year, Charlie would be one of them.You could tell these kids that it will go faster than they think, that they will blink and college will be gone and then ten years and another ten, but they won't listen, can't listen, and maybe that's a good thing."I think whatever happened here--whatever those guys did to you--started this all.""How?""I don't know.But somehow I think it could all be traced back to it.Somehow, whatever it was took on a life of its own.It is still claiming victims.And I'm caught up in it now.I'm the one who nailed Dan Mercer--rightly or wrongly.So now I'm part of it."Christa Stockwell blew on the tea.Her face looked as though someone had turned it inside out, like the veins and cartilage had all been dragged to the surface."It was their senior year," she said."I'd graduated the year before and was getting my master's in comparative literature.I'd been a financial hardship case.Like Dan actually.We both had jobs while going to school.He worked doing laundry in the men's phys ed department.I worked here, in this house, for Dean Slotnick.I babysat his children, did some household chores, filing, that kind of thing.He was divorced, and I got along great with his kids.So while I got my master's, I was actually living here, in a room in the back.As a matter of fact, I still live there."Outside the window two students walked by and one laughed.The sound crossed the room, melodic and rich and so out of place."Anyway, it was March.Dean Slotnick was out of town for a speaking engagement.The children were staying with their mother in New York City.I'd gone out to dinner that night with my fiance.Marc was in med school, second year.He had a big test in chemistry the next day, otherwise, well, there are so many what-ifs, aren't there? If he hadn't had that test, we would have gone back to his place or maybe, with the house empty, he would have stayed here.But no.Marc had taken enough time off for dinner.So anyway he dropped me off and went to the med library.I had some school-work to do myself.So I brought my notebook right here--I mean, I placed it right on this kitchen table."She stared at the tabletop as though the notebook might still be there."I made myself tea.Just like today.I sat here and was about to start my essay when I heard a noise coming from upstairs [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]