Seattle, November night. Drone camera view of Greek Row:
Leafless trees above rain-shined streets. The news camera descends, closes on an ambulance, EMTs are moving a gurney into the vehicle, a woman in a shapeless garment is backlighted in front of the fraternity’s pillared portico. Her feet are bare. As she watches, unmoving, from the top of the rain-wet stairs, a man arrives from the left on a bike, he dumps the bike, lights still flashing, in several rapid steps he reaches the woman, her hair is streaming, he hugs her closely for over a minute, a long time considering that she is wrapped in a soggy blanket, holding it closed. They are speaking urgently together, mouth to ear. Apparently he convinces her to return into the chapter house. As they turn, momentarily her back is exposed. The blanket was all she had on. The double door swings shut behind them and the view pulls back to the symbols in three languages across the lintel: Sigma Shin Wu.
# # #
Erik’s boots and Shari’s bare feet left prints across the tiles in the entry. The blanket and bike helmet were dumped on the bench just inside the door. After they passed, the Moomba, with a small machine sigh, slid out of its niche and started mopping up. The couple stopped in the middle of the reception hall, at a cluster of chairs under the glittering chandelier. Shari stood motionless, nude and wet, seeming to be deep in thought. Rainwater still ran down her dark blonde hair, over her pale shoulders, dripped off her nipples. The clock over the grand fireplace ticked imperturbably.
“Some sort of attack,” she said, reconnecting with local reality, “The medical database doesn’t identify it. I’ve forwarded that to the E R. It might help.” She sounded doubtful.
“What brought it on?” Erik asked, “Apparently you were in the middle of....”
“That shouldn’t apply,” she shook her head, “Yes, sex can bring on heart attacks. But this was nothing unusual. Besides, not typical heart attack symptoms.”
Shari Lee was the Sig’s housebride. Top of the line Symbot product. While having sex with her would definitely elevate the heart rate it was unlikely to bring on a cardiac crisis. It never had for anybody else in the fraternity.
Outside the ambulance screamed away into the wet night. Only the faint sounds of rain and traffic remained.
Inside, word had spread, more of the fraternity brothers were arriving, through the various doors around the reception hall.
Erik was still wearing several wet layers, he didn’t want to get the furniture soggy so he stood behind an easy chair, hands resting on the back. Shari took a seat on a coffee table, not speaking, waiting until it seemed that all the men in the building had arrived. They made a loose circle around the two still-damp individuals, waiting for an explanation. She raised her voice and repeated what she had been able to tell Erik. But she was able to add: “Now I’m told that the medical databases have gotten down to the unlikely alternatives, including poisons. And there are lots of them.”
“List please,” Erik said, “Everything, order of likelihood.”
His phone hummed as he pulled it out of its holster. It showed series of organic disorders, interrupted by chemical names. Other phones in the room registered their own sounds. The wet couple was suddenly not the center of attention.
“What’s this?” Erik tapped the first of the chemicals on the little screen.
“Industrial chemical, very toxic, but the nearest known supply is in Bellingham.”
Erik skipped several disease conditions.
“Another toxic material, Amazon jungle plant. None in western Washington. Possible exception; the Burke Museum herbarium.”
Eric glanced up briefly, momentarily aware that the crowd of young men was listening to the discussion in the room - but each was visually tracking the summary on his own phone. All of them were seemed to accept that the wet and naked woman was in charge for the moment. The crisis at hand was what had their attention. Almost all of them anyway: Behind Erik a door closed.
The wall screens had shifted from Post-Impressionist paintings to tables of data. Symptoms and causes. One of the guys at a wall screen had apparently was just out of the shower. He’d given his towel to Shari who was using it to dry her hair when the questions started.
“Are any of your components toxic?” Somebody asked.
She shook her head, “No, everything you guys are exposed to is practically USDA food grade.”
“Anything internal?” another questioner, “Anything that could be leaking?”
“Yes and no. I wouldn’t still be functional. I’d have known hours in advance.”
Within minutes the ad hoc meeting was down to four disease conditions and six toxins, any of which could account for the symptoms of the emergency patient: Stan Jacobs, third year. Shari checked again. The data tables got slightly larger as the University Hospital database added another disease condition and two more toxic materials.
“This is either an unexpected disorder.....” Erik started to say, “Or an accidental exposure to something..... Or, last case, I sincerely hope not: It could have been deliberate.” He had the attention of twenty-seven young men and the nude symbot. “So....” he was thinking aloud,”This could be a crime scene.” He paused while that sank in, for everybody, including himself.
“Nobody leave, and above all, nobody clean up. You’d be messing with possible evidence.... Shari, you’re the only witness... and you’re also evidence.”
She lowered the towel from her hair, which was looking lighter: “The police have been called,” she said quietly, “they’re on the way.”
It was not obvious that anyone in the room had moved but now there was a wider margin around the coffee table where the pale symbot was seated. She looked vulnerable, harmless. But that might be deceptive.
Quickly, and for the second time in an hour Sigma Shin Wu house was disrupted by interlopers on urgent business. The arriving officers rapidly cleared out most of the crowd. They quickly confiscated still-damp blanket, it had been left on the booting bench in the entry. One officer had picked it up, with plastic-gloved hands, and carefully stowed it in an evidence bag. He also picked up the protesting Moomba, shut it off and bagged it as well. Other cops came and went through the reception hall. Shari sat quietly, waiting, arms crossed under her high breasts. Erik had taken a seat in the overstuffed chair facing her. The other civilian still in the room was the naked guy from the shower, his towel was still on the coffee table by Shari’s left hip.
Report from the hospital; the patient was deteriorating.
The reason Erik was still in the room, still being questioned, was because he had been the first person to come in contact with Shari after the beginning of the crisis.
The forensic doctor arrived, an older woman, with an equipment cart that followed her like a loyal dog. She took swab samples from the two men and, much more thoroughly, took samples from Shari herself. The towel got carefully collected; it was something else Shari had touched.
Shortly, Stan’s roommate arrived. Their room was being searched, he’d been asked to leave.
The doctor closed up the last of the swab sample vials. She paused, looking at nothing, holding up a hand that said “wait.” More data was arriving via earphone, finally she said: “It may have been one of three toxins, the only good news is that they can treat for two of them, simultaneously.”
“And the other one?” Erik asked, almost sure of the answer.
“That could be fatal.”
Another pause, the police doctor was getting further instructions.Then she spoke to Shari: “Ms. Lee, we’re going to have to take you out of circulation for a while. There’s a lot more we have to check out.”
Moments later they were entering Shari’s room. It was feminine anomaly in a frat house, decorated in soft pastels but with a few classic Star Trek posters. Shari moved across the room and an inner door opened to her touch. What Erik could see took the place of a large bathroom. But it looked more like a workshop or a lab.
“Stay out here,” the doctor told Erik: “Don’t touch anything.” Then to underline that order she added; “Remember, we may be dealing with a very powerful poison.”
In any case, the doctor, the forensics cart, and Shari seemed to be the space limit for the equipment-packed shop. The door closed behind them. A male police officer entered from the hallway.
Erik spent the next half hour not speaking but catching up on the hospital’s updates. A new app had just installed on his phone, introducing itself bluntly: “If you start to experience any of these symptoms, press this button.” The now-familiar symptom list followed.
Finally the inner door opened again, Shari and the doctor emerged, followed by the cart. The cart had a bin that was still open at the top. Apparently Shari had swapped out various parts for spares. The contents of the bin, woman parts, looked like the aftermath of a particularly grisly dismemberment murder. Except for the lack of blood. The doctor belatedly closed the cover. Shari had come out wearing a robe. She looked pale – which was impossible.
Erik was trying to be unfazed by what he’d seen, but the symbot caught his perplexed look; “Just substituted parts, just what I replace regularly. I have to be soft of course but that means wear.” She smiled; “It’s not what you’re probably thinking – the fingertips wear out quickest.” She held out her right hand, open, Erik could see the realistic loops and whorls of fingerprints, he knew well the texture of those hands.
”Can I touch her?” Erik said, addressing the doctor.
“Not yet, not ‘til we know more.”
“I hope,” Shari said to Erik, indicating the now closed bin, “this particularly intimate view hasn’t put you off sex, especially with me.”
“Um... there’s something about getting right back on the horse that’s thrown you so you don’t have time to develop a phobia.....”
“That... was an amazingly awkward comparison,” Shari said, as kindly as possible. The cop snorted and the doctor tried to repress a grin. Erik felt his face get hot.
Shari smiled at the effect she was having; “You’ll be fine. We can apply some therapy as soon as I’m out of ... quarantine.”
“The sooner the better,” Erik said, now on firmer ground,” I’ll do all I can to help.” But he had no idea where to start.
Later that evening Erik was in his room, attempting to study but with little success. He was mentally comparing Shari with the symbots he’d seen plying their trade in Vegas. They hadn’t appealed to him. The he realized: That was why Shari had suddenly looked pale. The Vegas syms probably had their face makeup built in. Permanently, as part of the skin. Women, and symbots, in more normal situations, suited their makeup to whatever the occasion was. But Shari apparently hadn’t applied any to the replacement face. In fact, the forensic doctor had probably confiscated her supply.
# # #
The hospital room was beige and smelled of disinfectant – substantially more than the hall had. Numerous vases of flowers added color but not scent.
“You look terrible,” Erik said to Stan.
“Thanks a lot. I feel terrible.... Sit down and stop looming.” Erik took the visitor’s chair.
“Shari sends her love.”
“It damn near killed me last time.”
“You know what she means. Just love. She’s off limits until we know what happened.”
Stan smiled for the first time. “I’ll bet that’s got the brothers climbing the walls. Any chance we could get a sub from Symbot?”
Erik grinned back; “They say no. They expect this to be cleared up fast....Her door has a sign-up sheet. Starting time –whenever it’s safe. That could be three in the morning....
“She wants to talk to you if you’re up to it.” Erik waited for some negative reaction but there was none. Stan swung the jointed arm video screen across the bed so it faced him. In seconds Shari’s image formed.
“Hey baby,” he said, “that was some climax!”
Shari looked relieved; “At least you’re not blaming me.”
“ ‘Course not, it was some kind of crazy accident. Do we know anything else?”
“Yes and no.”
“Well... that’s good and bad. Tell me.”
“I just got word, it was the lips but not the lipstick.”
“Explain that,” Erik said, butting into the screen’s view from the side.
“The toxin was still on the lips of the face they analyzed. Of course from there they went straight to the lipstick in the kit. Nothing. Plain old Harlot Scarlet.”
“Truly, there was nothing unusual.”
“That doesn’t add up.” Erik said, “Nobody could put anything on your body. You’re conscious 24/7, aren’t you?”
“The better to service you my dear. You’re right though, an alternative would be for somebody to have sabotaged the face before I put it on, but that one had been in service for days. Didn’t hurt anybody else.”
“No,” Stan said, “Not until the Kiss of Death.” Erik could hear the capitals.
Shari’s eyes narrowed; “Not a term I think you should repeat.”
“Right. Sorry. Symbot would hate for that to become common. By the way how’s the company reacting?”
“About what you’d expect. Lawyers and scientists and lots of both. But they can’t do much until we have information on the source.”
The screen chimed and Stan hit the “Join” button. The picture split, putting Shari on the left.
“Dad!” Stan said, “I’m glad to see you.”
“Are you O K?” the rough voice came out of the speaker. Stan’s father had a beard streaked with gray.
“Pretty much. These people have been taking care of me. This is Shari Lee and....” He angled the screen. “....Erik Thorsson. She’s a symbot. He’s not.”
The father nodded to them; “I’m calling from Heathrow. I’ll be there tomorrow. “
“You don’t have to do that.... I hate to disrupt your life.”
“Kid, you are my life. I’ll be there.” His half of the screen went away.
# # #
The next morning, just after Erik’s advanced calculus class, his phone buzzed. He found a dry spot on a bench on one of the broad lawns; “Conference, I see, what’s this about?”
It was a lawyer from Symbot, named Amelia Wilkins, sharing the screen with with Stan’s doctor, and Shari.
“Nothing critical,” Shari put in quickly.
“Shari has suggested an experiment,” the lawyer began, “and she thought you’d volunteer. “She’s no hazard to anyone now – we know that. We just have to prove it.”
“This wasn’t just some lightning fast STD?” Erik was joking. Ms Wilkins was not amused.
“Gallows humor aside,” she said, “we are asking you to be the first to reinitiate relations with Shari.”
It took Erik several seconds, but only because he was parsing the “reinitiate relations.”
“Sure,” he said.
“There’s a complication,” the doctor put in, “The University Hospital will not sign off on this unless it’s done under close supervision.”
“With an audience? Well, I’ve never had performance anxiety but this could be a first.”
This time Ms Wilkins did look amused.
“No, no,” the doctor said,” You just wear a wrist monitor, privacy will be complete – but you will have in a room here in hospital. Close to emergency help.... Just in case.”
“Sounds kinky. When do we start?”
“Whenever you’re ready.”
“I’ve been ready since Shari went off line.”
Erik would never cut his Geomorphology class without a good reason. This was a good reason. It was the middle of the day, but that’s when the hospital was ready.
# # #
The room was fairly sterile, except that Stan had some of his flowers sent over. It might have been too cool, but Erik stopped noticing fairly quickly.
Conversation is the third thing that couples do in bed. But it is an essential thing.
Early on Shari said; “The wrist monitor will flash red if normal physiological parameters are exceeded.”
“Seems a little excessive.”
“It would happen at a moment when it takes a lot to get your attention....”
“Speaking of my attention, Shari-Love....”
Then he interrupted himself, briefly, because briefly was all he could stand;
“...I will correct myself before you do – as you have been trying to teach me; ‘Never call your lover by her name.... If you get that wrong, you’ll regret it.’ “
“An important lesson,” Shari said, returning his strokes.
“And one that I will practice...Dear ... love ... light-of-my life....”
“I don’t intend to,” he said.
And he didn’t. And they didn’t. Not for quite a while.
Eventually they got back around to conversation.
“....It’s hard for me to think of you as a professor,” Erik said as his fingertips followed her smooth, soft curves.
“I’m not,” in return she was tracing his jawline, “As a ‘bot, I can’t compete for tenured positions, not even an assistanceship. I am an instructor though.”
“Mmm, biology and sociology. The first year guys take a while to get it; you’re not just a sex machine. Gender relations are more than sex.”
“... Which would be the name of the course I will teach, if it ever gets to be official.”
The talk went on; some about his studies and some about her work, finally she said:
“Some of the guys seem to regress. They withdraw, from me, psychologically, not physically. My guess is that they’re doing something they want to hide.”
“We’re not talking about Stan, are we?” It had taken him the most part of his first year to get used to the idea of a housebride. He got over it.
“Yes, we are talking about Stan. Something’s changed for him. He’s hiding something upsetting. He may be involved in something he thinks I wouldn’t approve of – and he doesn’t want me to know about.”
“Nothing unusual turned up in any of the rest of the samples the forensic doctor got. But there was one odd thing: Viable sperm. I know you guys suppress it religiously. Kind of like wearing a seat belt all the time.
“Professional ethics should keep me from saying anything else.... I only mention it to because you may be able to find out, turn up something that I can’t.”
After a little thought Erik said: “He broke up with Germaine. You probably knew that.”
”I knew it had to happen before he did. She’s not good for him, from what I gather, she’s not good for anybody...I got that from other sources ... Stan himself would never say so.... but she really is a spoiled brat. A middle school mean girl who never grew up.”
Then what continued became non-verbal again. And once again the monitor did not set off any alarms. The other thing couples do in bed is sleep, but they didn’t get around to that.
# # #
The next day there were even more flowers in Stan’s room, the hospital smell was reduced but it still dominated. There was an added trace of familiar perfume. Stan was sitting up in the bed.
“That,” Stan indicated a particularly flamboyant display, “is from Germaine. She just brought it in.” He did not look pleased.
There was no comment Erik could make so he changed the subject; “Life and death questions aside... are you going to be out soon enough to get to the party?” It was the Sigma Shin Wu’s quarterly fete. It had originally been monthly, but the preparations, and particularly the recoveries, had proved to be too much. Education is a social event interrupted by classes but it’s all too easy to overdo the wrong part: Academics tended to suffer.
“I’ll be out and ready,” Stan grinned, he held up his right arm; he had a wrist monitor like the one Erik had worn.
Further discussion was abruptly sidetracked when Stan’s dad arrived. He hugged Stan fiercely, wordlessly, nearly dragging him off the bed. He finally let go.
“Erik, this is my dad: Sam Llewellen.”
Erik shook his hand; “I didn’t know you were related... different last names.”
Mr Llewellen was in the news occasionally; most billionaires have trouble keeping a low profile.
“Long story....Weirdly enough, you’re involved, so is Shari ... especially Shari.”
Before explaining that comment Stan’s dad had to hear the whole narrative of recent events -- from both Stan and Erik.
Finally he came round to the original topic: “Fraternities were started in the Nineteenth Century because the universities then were so narrow-minded about what they taught. Frats formed as learning groups, for experiences the founders thought essential, but were nonetheless outside the curriculum. Sigma Shin Wu is still doing that but it’s getting more than the usual financial support.... some the money comes from me.
“Considering what symbots in Vegas pull down, Shari is an expensive indulgence here. But she’s a valuable teaching tool. She teaches guys how they should treat women, ‘real live’ women as you say. Much more important, she helps teach guys how they themselves should be treated, by R L women. The guys graduate from the Shari experience much more mature... or at least that’s the goal. She’s not just for hands-on sex ed. Though that’s part of it. Among other things she’s your gender relations counselor. The point is that mature men wind up marrying, or partnering with, mature women. Almost all you Sigmas are sons of wealth. That makes you high value targets – for women. There’s a hypergamy instinct working here: Among us higher primates – monkeys, apes, and humans – the females try to mate upward, that is they’re driven to mate with the high status males. It’s a compulsion. In the old novels women with that kind of naked ambition were called adventuresses.”
“Dad’s on his third marriage,” Stan said. He seemed to think that explained something.
“Right,” Mr Llewellen said, unoffended “The first two were a result of my own personal immaturity.” He spoke directly to Stan. “Your mother is a lovely woman but I rushed into marriage. A few years later and we might still be married. Your childhood would have been a lot more peaceful.”
“The universities are turning out educated men,” Llewellen continued, turning back to Erik. “But the Sigmas....and Shari, and the Symbot Corporation, are turning out mature men.”
“Thanks to a lot of your money,” his son put in.
“I’m not the only one, there a lot of men in our social class who want to protect their sons from the mistakes they themselves made. We put together an educational foundation and it created Shari’s position description. It financed Shari.”
# # #
It was Sigma Shin Wu’s quarterly party. Fall themed and decorated.
The reception hall was bright and noisy. A minor chaos of attractive women and handsome men.
The library was only a few steps away from there but it was more conducive to communication. With the doors closed there was only faint music to compete with conversation. The mirror over the mantel made the crowd seem bigger than it was. Groups of more than two people could hear one another. Protected by a glass screen there was a low fire in the fireplace. It glowed softly from behind where Stan sat, facing away from it. The warmth it produced was mostly psychological.
Stan was not as enthusiastically present as usual. He was in a leather-bound overstuffed chair. Erik handed him a drink, which only looked potent. As per Stan’s request.
“The weird sisters are here,” Erik said, he meant Germaine and her sidekicks, Isabella and Mia.
“Who invited them?” Stan asked taking a sip of his excuse-for-a-drink. He meant to imply that Germaine, and anybody with her, was unwelcome. But Erik took the question literally;
“I suspect it was Albert, he’s stupid in love with Isabella. If that’s what she wanted, they got invited.”
“Here they come....”
Germaine and her small retinue regally swept in through the library door. Each of them was a beauty in herown right. It was not hard to understand what had attracted Stan. Or what still attracted Albert – oddly conspicuous by his absence.
“Erik,” Stan muttered urgently, “Do not leave for any reason. It’s the way she prefers to operate; one-on-one. I always regret when I get sucked into that.”
Almost every pair of eyes in the room were tracking Germaine. That was the way she liked it. A path opened for her and she drifted gracefully toward Stan’s chair. His face was carefully expressionless.
Briefly, she checked out her own look in the mirror above and behind him: Flawless.
“Stanley,” she said grandly, reaching out to touch hands with him, “I’m so happy to see you recovering. I understand it was quite an ordeal.... Can we speak somewhere alone?”
“No...” Erik cut in, “I’m afraid not....I... I have to be close by. I have to watch the monitor.”
On that cue Stan held up his left arm, the monitor was still dead black. Erik was almost certain it wouldn’t be set off by Stan’s physiological reactions to Germaine’s presence...but it was a good excuse.
Somehow the quiet room had gone quieter. Everybody present, it seemed, had known about the recently ended relationship between Stan and Germaine. And everybody present, it also seemed, had an interest in any new developments.
“So, where’s your housewhore?” she asked brightly, voice dripping sweetness.
“Housebride,” Stan corrected her calmly, “She never comes; some people find her threatening.”
“How could anybody be threatened by an appliance?” She said, in the same saccharine tone.
Faint music drifted in from the reception hall.
“Person,” Stan levelly corrected again. Then the silence was frozen for a moment.
“She ruined you. You know that? No real live woman will ever go to bed with you now.”
Oh right, Erik thought. Attack the guy’s sexuality.
Apparently that one did hurt: “You don’t know that,” Stan said.
Most of the guys within range had enough sex ed with Shari to be able to reconstruct what must have led up to this: Stan’s passion for Germaine had failed – or he’d realized it had failed—while trying to have sex.
Germaine, being Germaine, needed to blame somebody else.
The silence stretched intolerably, the couple at the center of it seemed to be trying, impassively, to stare each other down.
Looking around, for a topic, for a distraction, Erik did a quick scan of the library. The only person who didn’t seem to have gotten closer was Albert. He was on the far side of the grand piano, across from the fireplace, his back was against a bookcase. He hadn’t come over to greet Isabella.
Erik’s mind had slowed to a crawl. Tension built. He was having second thoughts about
whether Stan’s monitor might trigger.
“Ah... Well....” Erik was finally able to offer, “We still haven’t found out what happened.
Well, we do know what it was... but we don’t know how it happened.... Or why it happened.”
Stan was clearly not trusting his own voice, but he still managed to make an insulting retort
to Germaine: He pulled his C C dispenser from a pocket and downed one of the little red tablets with his drink. That gesture, loud and clear, told every witness that he intended to be in bed with a woman, an R L woman, within the hour. Otherwise the conception control would be pointless.
The silence stretched again. But now Erik had a different concern.
“Stan,” Erik said, “....I hope you’ve got a backup supply – because if those are from your medicine cabinet they’re useless. You’re putting out live sperm. I apologize but when I heard that, I took some and had the police lab check. Those things are counterfeit. Apparently somebody is able to get in and out of locked rooms here –security’s worse than we thought. And your pills got swapped. It occurs to me that that same somebody would have been able to get into Shari’s room and plant something very toxic – then later go back and get it out, whatever it was.”
Shari had slipped into the room, unobserved because the door she used was obscured by the open cover of the piano. Erik was the only one who caught the movement. Her dress was a deep blue. Shari slipped past Albert who was not paying attention to her; his face had gone red. His right arm was coming up and he was pointing toward the center of the group. Then he started moving forward.
Erik went on, ”Shari apparently applied whatever it was it to her own body and....”
From her position facing Stan, Germaine could clearly see herself in the mirror – and see the movement behind her.
She moved, minimally, with an air of someone trying to imply unconcern, Germaine had opened a retro lady’s compact and was in the act of applying lipstick. She was doing it a little ineptly, because her hands were shaking. The faint pink makeup on her cheeks stood out because the contrast was too much – her face had gone white. Erik had stopped speaking -- because things were connecting in his mind and because the lipstick was the wrong color. It was too bright. Too red.
“Oh. My. God,” he breathed.
Germaine folded up and collapsed. The compact may have been from last century but the faint wasn’t. Erik let others keep her from hitting the floor, as he dived for the tube with the obscenely exposed red tip. It was rolling away across the carpet. Three hands converged on it, his was the second, Isabella’s was the third. But Shari had it.
In the next few seconds eight 9-1-1 calls originated from that room. Along with Shari’s silent summary of what the EMT’s should expect when they got there.
A rush of sound swept through the doors from the reception hall, the larger crowd spilled in. Nevertheless there remained a cleared space on the floor around Germaine’s still form. Stan was kneeling beside her.
“Idiot! Always the drama queen. I got tired of your little tricks, and your big ones, your endless manipulations. ‘Now, see what you made me do.’ Life is always about you.... Now you’re gonna be pretty sick... but you do deserve it.... Don’t try to pass this off as a suicide attempt. Suicide my ass. You knew they could treat this stuff... because I survived. This was just another stupid bid for attention.... “
He paused, unmoving, and;
“....Then again... there’s always the possibility you overdosed. Overplayed your hand.... In that case.... It’s been interesting. Good bye. “
Shari was kneeling above the head of the still form, wiping at the scarlet mouth with a napkin.
Eyes hard, Stan stood again, seeming to notice the silent crowd for the first time. The wrist monitor had been flashing, unnoticed, but it started to slow, then fade again to black. Sirens were getting closer. Germaine’s two sidekicks had sunk to their knees beside where she lay. They were both sobbing, and Isabella was beginning to descend into hysterics. Albert was shoving his way into the crowd from behind, stuttering, stammering, hyperventilating. “....locks, locks are my hobby... compulsion maybe... I’ve been in every room in the house...” He was upright but staggering, and hands reached out to steady him.... ”Germaine had Isabella say she liked me....she asked.... I’ll do anything a woman tells me... I didn’t know how dangerous it was....” Somebody eased him into a chair.
In the end Germaine did survive.
Greek Row She did not finish her formal education at the University.