Nina rose from the table and walked to the bar and motioned for her head bartender. They chatted for a few moments, the bartender checked some receipts in his cash register, and they chatted some more. A minute later Nina was back at the table.
“You’re right,” she said. “He’s paying his bar tab as he goes—but he also had dinner, short rib tacos, and charged it to his credit card. His name is Allen J. Frans. Do you know him?”
“Not yet, but I will soon make his acquaintance.”
Nina raised an eyebrow.
“It can wait until tomorrow,” I said.
There was no sign of the Corolla when I left my house the next morning. At first, I thought that Allen was on to me, that he knew I had spotted him and had switched to another car. Or worse, he put together a full surveillance team to tail me. So I took my own sweet time reaching my destination, driving nearly twenty miles out of my way before I was satisfied that I wasn’t being followed.
Truth was, I was kind of miffed at Allen. Where the hell was he, anyway? I hoped he didn’t oversleep.
I took a few wrong turns, but eventually I found Genevieve Antonello exactly where she said she’d be, sitting on a curb outside Benson Great Hall, where the academic and student centers were located, looking lost. She was wearing a loose-fitting white cardigan over a blue dress shirt that was buttoned all the way to the top. The shirt was tucked into a khaki skirt that fell below her knees. Around her neck she wore a simple silver crucifix on a silver chain. For some reason she reminded me of sweet, crisp apples straight from the orchard.
She rose to meet me. “Mr. McKenzie?” she said. “I’m Genevieve.”
Her handshake was tentative, as if she didn’t spend a lot of time touching people. “I hope you didn’t have any trouble finding us,” she said.
“I’m afraid I took a right instead of a left inside the gate.”
Genevieve smiled a pretty smile. “You’ve already seen most of our campus, then,” she said.
Bethel University was a distinctly evangelical Christian liberal arts university of fifty-six hundred students from all over the world that could trace its roots back to an 1871 Swedish Baptist seminary. There were over thirty buildings not counting athletic facilities, most of them rose-colored brick and new, scattered throughout a sprawling campus that was isolated from the rest of the city by walls of trees and various bodies of water. The campus itself resembled an upscale North Woods resort; there were nature trails and pedestrian bridges.
“Where would you like to talk?” Genevieve said.
She motioned with her head toward a narrow sidewalk that rambled northwest of Benson Great Hall between a stand of trees and a lake. “We could go for a walk?”
Genevieve moved at a nice pace, faster than an amble but not so fast that anyone grew short of breath—unlike Nina, who didn’t walk so much as she marched. I fell in alongside her. The trees lining the path were budding, and the grass, reeds, and shrubs that grew along the lake were turning from a dingy April brown to a luscious green. Occasionally we would be passed by her fellow students. I noticed that they were all attired as modestly as Genevieve—nothing tight, nothing revealing, an amazing thing for college students—and I wondered if Bethel had a dress code or if all evangelical Christians dressed that way.
Genevieve didn’t speak until the academic and student centers were far behind us.
“Josh and I would walk all the time,” she said. “Along Valentine Lake. Along the nature trails. Sometimes we would leave the trails and just stroll through the woods, follow the creek, holding hands.”
Genevieve slowed to a stop. She ran both hands over the top of her head and down the back, stopping at her neck. Her hair was auburn with a touch of gold or golden with streaks of brown—you decide. Looking at it reminded me that light hair often darkens as people grow older, and I wondered if that was what was happening now, Genevieve’s genes battling to decide if she was an impulsive blonde or a sensible brunette.
“I didn’t think of it that way, romantic,” she said. “Not at first. Not until … We were walking around the lake. We were holding hands. We stopped and kissed, and then he—and I—and we … I had never done …”
She looked at me then. Her eyes began to well up as if she were remembering a particularly emotional moment. Well, it would have been, wouldn’t it, for a sweet eighteen-year-old girl who buttoned her shirts to her throat and wore crucifixes around her neck—of course it was an emotional event.