Another flight of stairs and several more long hallways, Doctor Wallsgraf stopped before Room 319. “Please keep in mind the boy is a minor.”
“A minor over the age of sixteen,” Spence retorted. “I don’t suspect him of this crime, I do need to know what he saw.”
The headmaster nodded.
“And I think that would go better if you waited out in the hall.”
“The students don’t have single rooms.”
“Where is there a measure of privacy?”
“There’s a study at the end of the hall. You could use that.”
Spence nodded. “Can you arrange for my partner to speak to the security guard on duty?”
“Fine.” The headmaster replied shortly. “I suppose the sooner you decide we are victims and have nothing to do with this crime the sooner you will be gone.”
Spence held his tongue and waited for Doctor Wallsgraf to knock.
When the door opened, the headmaster asked the young man to send Curt out into the hallway. His roommate complied with an excited, “Dude, po-po is here for you.”
A moment later, the seventeen year old in question appeared at the door. “I didn’t do it I swear.”
Spence’s hair rose fractionally. This was a standard response from teenagers, giving a detective an advantage if he wanted to push it. Spence thought he might as well. “Well then, Curt, let’s talk about what you did do.”
“Curt, this detective just wants to know what you saw tonight.” The headmaster said soothingly.
Spence sighed. “Let’s step down the hall to the study and talk there.”
“Thank you.” Spence said in a tone to dismiss the headmaster, although he could feel his eyes watching them walk away for more than a reasonable amount of time. The headmaster was definitely nervous about what Curt might say. Was he more nervous than was reasonable to expect given the circumstances?
The study room was barely five feet by eight feet and the front wall was all glass, granting anyone passing by in the hall a full view of any goings on. Spence pulled out a chair, “Have a seat.”
Curt sat; his left knee bouncing up and down.
“What’s your full name?”
“And you’re seventeen?”
“Have you called your parents about tonight?”
“Hell no. I mean heck no.”
“Could you have called if you wanted to?”
“I guess but they would make a lot of fuss.”
Spence nodded, requirements met. “Parents tend to do that.” Especially in his line of work. “So you and Stacy.” Spence waited.
A slow smile spread across Curt’s face. “She’s smokin’ hot.”
“Been an item long?”
“Not really. She’s kind of,” Curt paused, “Complicated. She’s not into how much money you have or who you know or where you summer. It’s all about art. I had to spend like all summer studying up to have a conversation with her.”
“Right on,” Spence said as he laughed. “Tonight, you two were heading outside to…”
Curt swallowed. “Look at the stars.”
Spence nodded. “Nice cloudy night for it.”
Curt fidgeted in his seat.
“How’d you go out?”
“Through one of the glass doors in the library.”
Spence nodded. “And when you got outside did you notice anything?”
“Anything that wasn’t as it usually is?”
“No, everything was fine.”
“You didn’t happen to look at the pool on your way out?”
“We kinda did actually. We were thinking the pool might be fun. Changed our minds cause the cover is such a pain in the ass to drag off and right in view of the house…” Curt trailed off.
“We, uh, we left the pool deck, looked at the stars a while, and then came back. The night security guard makes rounds right before he comes on. We wanted to be back in our rooms before then.”
“Does everyone know about the rounds schedule?”
“Oh yeah. When they make rounds, how many of them are around, when the security system is down. Gotta know when it’s safe to…look at the stars.”
These kids were informed, excellent criminals in the making. “What did you see when you came back?”
“It wasn’t what I saw. Well, it was. First I heard the gate bang. That’s what made me look over that way. Then I saw the pool cover all wrong on one side.”
“And then?” Spence prodded.
“We walked over to look. I don’t know why. As soon as I saw the pool cover I wasn’t worried anymore about the guard coming. Why is that?”
“Immediacy. Our brains are designed to respond to things in the now even when it makes no sense. Even when worse is coming in the next five minutes. The now holds sway.”
Curt nodded. “That’s cool dude.”
“It’s something.” Spence said wryly.
“I kind of dragged Stacy along with me. And when I looked in the pool that dude was like floating there.”
Spence nodded and waited.
“Stacy lost her shit. Like totally freaked out. Screaming. I knew we were busted when she started that.”
“Who showed up first after Stacy started screaming?”
“The night guard. He came running, which was super funny because he has all this stuff on his belt and it was flopping all over the place, and he was trying to hold it all and run at the same time.”
Spence gave a courtesy laugh.
“I know right. Idiot. Like when has he ever needed half that junk.”
When indeed. Spence grabbed his phone. “Give me a quick second.” He texted Tom: Check the equipment on the guard’s belt. “Thanks. Let me ask you this. You didn’t see anything weird when you left the building, did you smell anything weird?”
“Not when we left. But yeah I smelled BBQ when we came back. Made me kind of hungry, then kind of like I wanted to puke.”
There was no way Spence was going to mention what he thought had been grilling. “I can see that. Is there anything else?”
“Like what?” Curt asked.
“I don’t know. Anything that makes you think ‘huh, that’s weird.’ Or that you can’t quite place. Something that rubs you wrong?”
Curt burst out laughing.
“Double entendre aside. Anything?”
Curt shook his head.
“Anything the headmaster wouldn’t want you to tell me?” Spence fished a little since he had the pond to himself.
Curt didn’t say anything for a moment. “It’s decent here. They try to be strict,” he laughed. “They’re not really on top of shit. And lately, I dunno. It’s like the headmaster has been extra distracted.”
Spence raised an eyebrow and waited. Curt was focused on the tabletop, using the side of his thumb nail to scratch at a gouge. “Can I go back to my room now?”
“Sure.” Spence stood and pulled his card case from his pocket. He handed Curt a card. “Call me if you think of anything else.”
Curt nodded. “Are you gonna talk to Stacy, too?”
“Could you not mention the whole studying all summer to talk to her thing?”
“No problem.” Spence said with a smile.
“Thanks, man.” Curt left the room.
Spence flipped through his notes. Not much there. Maybe Tom had better luck with the guard.