Gone for Good Page 51

“Big if, though. The store manager was firm. There was no way he was going to turn anything over to me.”

“There has to be a way,” I said.

“I’m open to ideas, Will.”

Squares put his hand on my shoulder. “What?”

I covered the mouthpiece and filled him in. “You know anybody connected to QuickGo?” I said.

“Incredible as this might sound, the answer is nope.”

Damn. We mulled it over for a bit. Yvonne started humming the QuickGo jingle, one of those torturous tunes that enters through the ear canal and proceeds to ricochet around the skull in search of an escape route it will never find. I remembered the new commercial campaign, the one where they updated the old jingle by adding an electric guitar and a synthesizer and bass, and fronting the band with a big-time pop star simply known as Sonay.

Hold the phone. Sonay.

Squares looked at me. “What?”

“I think you may be able to help after all,” I said.


Sheila and Julie had been members of Chi Gamma sorority. I still had the rent-a-car from my late-night sojourn to Livingston, so Katy and I decided to take the two-hour drive up to Haverton College in Connecticut and see what we could learn.

Earlier in the day, I called the Haverton registrar’s office to do a little fact-checking. I’d learned that the sorority’s housemother back then had been one Rose Baker. Ms. Baker had retired three years ago and moved into a campus house directly across the street. She was to be the main target of our pseudo-investigation.

We pulled in front of the Chi Gamma house. I remembered it from my too-infrequent visits during my Amherst College days. You could tell right off that it was a sorority house. It had that antebellum, faux Greco-Roman-columns-thing going on, all in white, and with soft ruffled edges that gave the whole edifice a feminine feel. Something about it reminded me of a wedding cake.

Rose Baker’s residence was, to speak kindly, more modest. The house had started life as a small Cape Cod, but somewhere along the way the lines had been ironed flat. The one-time red color was now a dull clay. The window lace looked cat-shredded. Shingles had flaked off as if the house had an acute case of seborrhea.

Under normal circumstances, I would have made an appointment of some kind. On TV, they never do that. The detective shows up and the person is always home. I always found that both unrealistic and unwieldy, yet perhaps now I understood a little better. First off, the chatty lady in the registrar’s office informed me that Rose Baker rarely left home, and when she did, she rarely strayed far. Second—and I think, more important—if I called Rose Baker and she asked me why I wanted to see her, what would I say? Hi, let’s talk murder? No, better just to show up with Katy and see where that got us. If she was not in, we could always explore the archives in the library or visit the sorority house. I had no idea what good any of this would do, but hey, we were just flying blind here.

As we approached Rose Baker’s door, I could not help but feel a pang of envy for the knapsack-laden students I saw walking to and fro. I’d loved college. I loved everything about it. I loved hanging out with sloppy slacker friends. I loved living on my own, doing laundry too rarely, eating pepperoni pizza at midnight. I loved chatting with the accessible, hippielike professors. I loved debating lofty issues and harsh realities that never, ever, penetrated the green of our campus.

When we reached the overly cheerful welcome mat, I heard a familiar song wafting through the wooden portal. I made a face and listened closer. The sound was muffled, but it sounded like Elton John—more specifically, his song “Candle in the Wind” from the classic Goodbye Yellow Brick Road double album. I knocked on the door.

A woman’s voice chimed, “Just a minute.”

A few seconds later, the door opened. Rose Baker was probably in her seventies and dressed, I was surprised to see, for a funeral. Her wardrobe, from the big-brimmed hat with matching veil to the sensible shoes, was black. Her rouge looked as if it’d been liberally applied via an aerosol can. Her mouth formed a nearly perfect “O” and her eyes were big red saucers, as if her face had frozen immediately after being startled.

“Mrs. Baker?” I said.

She lifted the veil. “Yes?”

“My name is Will Klein. This is Katy Miller.”

The saucer eyes swiveled toward Katy and locked into position.

“Is this a bad time?” I asked.

She seemed surprised by the question. “Not at all.”

I said, “We’d like to speak with you, if that’s okay.”

“Katy Miller,” she repeated, her eyes still on her.

“Yes, ma’am,” I said.

“Julie’s sister.”

It was not a question, but Katy nodded anyway. Rose Baker pushed open the screen door. “Please come in.”

We followed her into the living room. Katy and I stopped short, taken aback by what we saw.

It was Princess Di.

She was everywhere. The entire room was sheathed, blanketed, overrun with Princess Di paraphernalia. There were photographs, of course, but also tea sets, commemorative plates, embroidered pillows, lamps, figurines, books, thimbles, shot glasses (how respectful), a toothbrush (eeuw!), a night-light, sunglasses, salt-’n-pepper shakers, you name it. I realized that the song I was hearing was not the original Elton John-Bernie Taupin classic, but the more recent Princess Di tribute version, the lyrics now offering a good-bye to our “English rose.” I had read somewhere that the Di-tribute version was the biggest-selling single in world history. That said something, though I was not sure I wanted to know what.

Rose Baker said, “Do you remember when Princess Diana died?”

I looked at Katy. She looked at me. We both nodded yes.

“Do you remember the way the world mourned?”

She looked at us some more. And we nodded again.

“For most people, the grief, the mourning, it was just a fad. They did it for a few days, maybe a week or two. And then”—she snapped her fingers, magician style, her saucer eyes bigger than ever—“it was over for them. Like she never existed at all.”

She looked at us and waited for clucks of agreement. I tried not to make a face.

“But for some of us, Diana, Princess of Wales, well, she really was an angel. Too good for this world maybe. We won’t ever forget her. We keep the light burning.”

She dabbed her eye. A sarcastic rejoinder came to my lips, but I bit it back.

“Please,” she said. “Have a seat. Would you care for some tea?”

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