Episode 5 – Further Developments

Buoyed by dinner and a parting kiss, Link cycled home. The air was crisp and clear, and he sprinted the whole way…an exciting new chapter was unfolding.

Link found his home in the classifieds, an enclosed porch off the back of a bungalow owned by a couple named Jack and Emily Plummer. He liked the rickety space because of the big porch windows facing the woods. When he slept in, he loved to watch the birds and squirrels making their homes in the trees. Being without any family, Link had envied them, but no longer. Paige totally changed that.

He stored his bike in the garage and unlocked the back door. Emily Plummer was asleep, but her husband Jack was nursing a beer at the kitchen table.

“This is late for you,” he said with a sly smile.

“I had dinner with a friend.”

“You gotta friend now?”

“Yeah.” Link tried to ignore him.

“Boy or girl?”

Link cringed. Jack was always bombarding him with prying, suggestive questions. It was unnerving, and Jack remembered everything…dates, names, details, and threw them back at Link. “Are you still hung up on that girl doing the economics paper? She drove you crazy last spring, remember? You locked yourself up every night.”

“Where’s Rick been lately?” Plummer asked.

“Around.”

“Are you two still friends? I like that kid.”

“Sure, but we go our own directions sometimes.”

“I love his stories about you. They’re hilarious.”

“Yeah…really hilarious.” Link hated the stories. They perpetuated the idea he was peculiar and clumsy.

“You take yourself too seriously. I like the lighter side.”

“Whatever.”

“That one about you slipping in the shower room is a classic…sliding naked between kids’ legs! Rick can sure paint a mental picture.” Jack grinned at Link. “I love the way he describes your family jewels flying!”

“He’s sick. I almost broke my neck.”

Jack laughed. “Rick’s got chapter and verse on you.”

“It’s really annoying.”

“He doesn’t do it to be mean. He idolizes you.”

“I just wish you two would find something else to entertain yourselves.”

Jack turned serious, “I’m not sure we could. You’re…uh…too fascinating a kid.”

“That’s twisted,” Link said. He hated talking to Jack. It gave him the creeps, and he damned sure didn’t want to mention Paige and drag those feelings down to Jack’s level. She was special, and private.

“I’m really beat,” Link said, “I’m turning in.” He tossed his backpack in his room, and returned to the bathroom off the kitchen.

“Boy or girl?” Jack repeated “You afraid to tell me?”

“Girl,” Link said as he fastened the door hook. When he came out, Jack was staring at him. “Sounded like a fire hose in there.”

Link shook his head. “You’re gross.”

Jack laughed. “’Night, sonny boy.”

Link retreated to his room and stripped off his shirt and jeans. There was a knock at the door…he opened it a crack. “Yeah?”

“Let me know if you need fresh towels,” Jack said as his eyes devoured Link’s body.

“They’re fine for another month,” Link said, shutting the door. The same game went on every night. I have to find another place, he thought, stretching out on the bed…then closed his eyes and fell asleep dreaming of Paige.

________________________________________

Next morning, Miriam called Link into her office.

“Mr. Joy dropped by this morning,” she said. “He asked if he could borrow you for a couple of hours each day until the case is solved.”

“Would that be okay?”

“Yes, if you’re able to get your library work done. What does he want you to do?”

“Mostly research the college population.”

“That sounds intrusive.”

“Makes sense, though…a more analytic approach.”

“I guess it depends on one’s perspective.” She seemed annoyed.

“I don’t have to work for him,” Link said. “I sure don’t want to lose this job.”

“I’m not anticipating any changes. You’re doing a great job. Have you finished what I gave you?”

“Pretty much. I’ve got a little more to do.”

“You haven’t been handling your normal workload…that worries me.”

“I’ve gotten a little distracted by the Flasher stuff…I’m looking into a few things on my own.”

“Oh? Like what?”

“Checking faculty bios for clues.”

Ms. Trimblett frowned. “It’s not your job to be snooping through faculty information.”

Link blushed. “I’m not hacking into college files or anything. Just what’s on the net.”

“Still…you’re not paid to do that,” Ms. Trimblett said sharply.

“I know. I’m sorry.”

“Concentrate on your regular work please.”

“Okay, no worries.”

“Be at Security by 1:00…and get your work done.”

“It’ll be on your desk before I leave.”

__________________________________________

When Link got to his cube, the results of a Google search were waiting. Professor Wilder in the biology department was a specialist in male sexual behavior. Not exactly an indictment, but interesting. On impulse, he looked up Miriam Trimblett. She was hired in 2002 and was vice president of a woman’s rights organization called SAGR, The Society for the Advancement of Gender and Rights, which had been implicated in violent demonstrations at colleges that lagged behind in womens’ rights. Stoughton was pretty set in its ways, not exactly the vanguard.

Link broke into a sweat. Working the library job and Campus Security was going
to be tricky…clearly a conflict of interest. He’d have to research things
Ms. Trimblett didn’t want him to…but, it wouldn’t be on library time. That was the loophole. Feverishly
he set to work on completing his remaining .

After a sandwich, Link straightened his desk and headed to Campus Security in Carruthers Hall. On his way out, he noticed Ms. Trimblett talking to Professor Karl…wondered if it was just a coincidence…it looked very hush-hush. He lurched down the steps and across the quad…a voice called out to him. He looked up to see Paige hurrying in his direction. Seeing her made him forget everything else. “Where are you rushing off to?” She asked.

“Security. Walter Joy wants to see me.”

“You plan to confess?”

“Yeah, right,” Link said with a laugh.

“You can flash me anytime.”

He glanced at her questioningly.

Paige laughed. “Go ahead. I dare you.”

“In your dreams.”

“Maybe…” she said slyly. “Can I walk with you?”

“Sure.” Link blushed. He was delighted.

“Let’s do something tonight. Maybe an early dinner. I’ve gotta study later.”

“You want to pick a place?”

“Actually, the easiest thing would be to do take-out at my dorm. My roommate, Emma, is away at a seminar.”

“Want me to bring pizza?”

“Let’s do sushi. I’m trying to stay off carbs.”

“Raw fish? Can’t you get sick from that?”

“Not really. I’ve read you’re ten times more likely to get sick from meat.”

“I’d never have guessed that.”

“You’ve never had sushi ever?”

“No, I’m a country bumpkin. Haven’t you noticed?”

“A country bumpkin? What the hell is that?”

“A local yokel…like me. I got it from a paper on archaic expressions.”

“You don’t really act like a local yokel. You know more facts than half the students. Anyway, it’s cool you’re a sushi virgin. I love to introduce people to new things.”

“Don’t be pissed if I don’t like it.”

“It’s not all fish you know. They have vegetable rolls, too. You like avocado, right?”

“Yeah, I love guacamole.”

“Leave it to me. It’ll be fun.”

“Okay, I’ll give it a shot.”

“I had a feeling you would…you seem pretty adventurous.”

“You make me want to be…jeez, that sounded corny.”

“A little, but I like it…you’re original.”

“Or aboriginal,” he said with a laugh. She gave him a lingering look and smiled.

The facade of Carruthers Hall loomed ahead, Paige stopped and turned to Link.

“Listen, I’ve gotta go. If we’re having a party, I’ve got to start planning.”

“A party? I’m not great with crowds.”

“Linky, I don’t mean a party party…I mean you and me party.”

“Oh, wow.” Link’s jaw dropped.

“You’re funny,” she said. “I bet you put on that yokel act for all the girls.”

“You’re not serious, right? I wouldn’t do that.”

She leaned toward him and kissed his lips. “You’re adorable,” she whispered.

Link looked around. He’d never kissed a girl in public…a couple were staring. “So, I should just come to your room?” He asked.

“Uh huh, 206 Keever Hall. Come at like 6:00. Be there or be square.”

“I’ll be there.” He watched her walk away. She glanced back and smiled. She has to be crazy to think I’m adorable.

As Link entered Carruthers, he noticed Professor Karl standing in the quad watching him. It was peculiar. He didn’t even know Professor Karl.

Next Time: The Flasher…more than meets the eye? And…a very romantic dinner. Read episode 6.