Furious, Dr. Catherine Hildebrant threw the student’s cell phone out the window-watched it explode in a puff of smoke on the lawn outside the List Art Center.
“Another cell phone goes off in my class and you’ll be taken out back and shot!”
Then Cathy stopped.
There’s no lawn outside my window, she said to herself. No window in my classroom either.
The cell phone kept ringing-Beethoven, F"ur Elise.
Cathy turned to face her art history class, who behind her back had changed to her classmates from the third grade at Eden Park Elementary School. Mrs. Miller was staring at her impatiently-show and tell, Cathy’s turn, anger at once replaced by panic. Cathy’s classmates began to snicker at her with whispers of “Ching-chong, ching-chong!” She could feel the fear tightening in her chest as the room brightened, as she stared down at the smooth white blob in her hands.
What is this? What did I bring for show and tell today?
Amidst the laughter and the cat-calls, the white blob suddenly burst outward into snow as Cathy’s classroom dissolved into the morning sun of her bedroom-her cell phone F"ur Elise-ing on the nightstand beside her.
She opened it.
“Hildy?” It was her boss, Dr. Janet Polk, Chair of the Department of History of Art and Architecture at Brown University-the only person in Providence who dared call Catherine Hildebrant “Hildy” to her face.
“Hey, Jan,” Cathy yawned. “Christ, what time is it?”
“My God, that wine must have been roofied. Was up late last night grading those final-”
“Sorry to bother you on a Sunday, Hil, but did that FBI guy call you yet?”
“I think he said his name was Markham, or maybe it was Peckham. I’m not sure. Was kind of flustered by the whole thing.”
“What are you talking about?”
“He just left here not five minutes ago-caught me and Dan turning the flower beds out back. He said that he was looking for information in connection with the disappearance of that football player.”
“Tommy Campbell?” Cathy asked, sitting up.
Although she was an attractive woman, Cathy could not deny that she had been a nerd all her life-never had a taste for sports; would much rather have listened to a lecture on Donatello than be caught dead at a football game in college. However, even she had become smitten with Rhode Island ’s favorite son-that dashing, blond-haired, blue-eyed lightning bolt that nobody in the NFL could seem to catch. And more and more last season Cathy found herself doing something she had never dreamed of: sitting in front of a television watching football on a Sunday.
“Yes,” Janet said. “That’s him. Tommy Campbell-the one who disappeared back in January.”
“Why did the FBI want to talk to you?”
“He actually wanted to talk to you, Hildy. Said he needed to talk to an expert on Renaissance art-Italian Renaissance, to be exact.”
“Let me guess. They found him on a beach somewhere with a stolen Botticelli?”
Since Tommy Campbell had vanished without a trace nearly four months earlier, since the Boston Rebels had lost the Super Bowl to the New York Giants in early February, theories about what had happened to the wide receiver were as numerous as the Rebel fans themselves-from his drowning in the waters of Foster Cove to his having been kidnapped by the coach of a rival team to his simply disappearing into anonymity `a la Elvis Presley. Cathy had always suspected the latter, for she saw something of herself in the modest, soft-spoken “Mama’s boy” who the tabloids claimed still visited his parents whenever he got the chance-that desire not for fame and fortune, but just to live his life with those he loved, in obscurity, doing what made him happy.
“The FBI agent wouldn’t say anything more about it,” Janet sighed. “When I told him that it wasn’t my area, that you were our go-to-gal for the Italian thing, he said he knew that. He asked me where he could find you. Said he’d been by your office and your house already but you weren’t home. Then I realized he meant your old house.”
Steve must have spent the night at the slut’s, Cathy thought. Still won’t bang her in our old bed. Fucking actor. Fucking spineless pussy.
Cathy gazed around the bedroom of her new digs-new to her, but built around the turn of the twentieth century; its architecture, a seamless blend of Victorian elegance and modern practicality characteristic of many of the three-story houses that line the Upper East Side of Providence. Cathy lived on the first floor; had moved in on the very same day the news broke about Tommy Campbell-less than a week after she discovered the e-mails and Steve confessed to her about the affair. And now, three months later, boxes of her former self still littered every room of her two-bedroom, overpriced condominium. She had needed to break it fast and clean from Steven Rogers, and got lucky with a spur of the moment rent-to-own on East George Street-the life she built with her husband down the drain because the childish theatre professor could not keep his dick in his pants, could not keep his hands off the only semi-good-looking graduate student to grace his presence in nearly ten years of marriage. That was the hardest part. Even at thirty-eight Catherine Hildebrant knew she was smarter and better looking than her husband’s mistress, but the little slut had one thing that Dr. Hildy didn’t: youth.
“Hildy, you there?”
“Sorry, Jan. Did you tell the FBI guy where I am now?”
“I did. I couldn’t remember the exact address, but I gave him your cell number. I’m sorry, Hildy, but I didn’t know what else to do. You’re not mad at me, are you?”
“Of course not. Let me get a shower and I’ll give you a ring after he calls. And thanks for the heads up, Jan. Love ya.”
“Love you, too,” Janet said, and Cathy closed her phone. She smiled. Cathy really did love Janet Polk, had thought of her as a second mother ever since she was her teaching assistant at Harvard. Indeed, it was Janet who, only days after she defected to Brown, literally stole Cathy from a junior lecturer position at her alma mater. It was Janet who, for better or worse, introduced Cathy to Steven Rogers; Janet who kept Cathy on track to see that her tenure went through; and, most of all, it was Janet who had been there for Cathy when her real mother died five and a half years ago.
“I don’t know what I’d do without ya, kid,” Cathy whispered to the boxes in the corner.
And with that she hopped in the shower.