“Hey Pia!” I call into my phone as I close my apartment door behind me. I threw my key chain back around my neck once I locked my door, and started to make my way down the stairs.
“Mina!” Pia practically screams at me from the other end of the phone. Pia was my best friend, and I loved her and all but sometimes she got a little too excited when we talked. To the point where I’m worried about the health of my ear drums when I talk to her. “Oh, I’m so glad we could finally talk! I feel like we haven’t talked in forever!” She wasn’t wrong about this. After I helped solve Sara’s murder, and made sure that her murderer was safely behind bars and getting proper mental health treatments, I got so busy, that I never had time to talk.
I decided that if I was serious about staying in New York then I needed to get my life together. So I decided to go back to school, but instead of just getting my art history degree, I am going to minor in criminal justice. I mean in less than a month last year I helped solve a ten year old homicide case, and put a serial killer behind bars. My minor might come in handy more than my major at this rate. And since my dad and I only had so much money, and New York cost of living is so ridiculous, I was thankfully able to get a job at the diner, Mac’s, and that has actually been pretty great. Not exactly where I saw myself after having an apprenticeship with a major art curator, but I’ll take what I can get.
“So what’s new with you?” I asked, as I made my way down the first flight of stairs, not wanting to go too fast because in true Mina fashion, it was before ten o’clock and I was barely awake enough to be talking to Pia, who was up before dawn half the time.
“Well, Nathan and I are planning a trip for our six month anniversary!” Pia says all giggly, like whenever she talked about Nathan. I smiled, and then ask,
“Where are you guys going?” I stop at the next landing when I see someone bringing boxes in from the lobby. Someone must be moving in, and I didn’t want to get in their way if I didn’t have to. I looked down to see what they were bringing up next, and of course it was the couch. I sighed and waited until they passed before I headed down stairs.
“Just this small B&B outside of Pittsburg,” Pia said and I could hear the smile in her voice, as she told me all about her trip. “We’re not leaving for another month, but I’m so excited!”
I couldn’t help but smile at Pia’s excitement. I know I am now technically the third wheel for my friends, but I couldn’t help but be happy for them! With the way my love life was going, which was nowhere anytime soon, it was nice to have friends who were in love.
“I’m really happy for you two,” I say, and begin my journey back down the stairs and into the lobby, which is covered with moving boxes. “What else is new? How’s the day care?” I ask her, as I walk over to where Daisy and Reggie are standing behind the front desk. Daisy hands me my mail from yesterday that I forgot to pick up. I smile at them, and quickly flip through everything. It’s mostly just junk mail and a couple of bills, but when I look up I see that Reggie is no longer reading his paper like he is every morning. He is staring down someone in the lobby. I look over to where he’s looking and go into shock, because I say to Pia, mid sentence of her talking about her daycare, “Hey, I’ll call you back in a minute.”
“Wait! Mina! What’s wrong?” Pia starts to ask me, but I hang up before she can say much more.
“Bradley?” I say with shock, as one of the guys who was standing next to some of the boxes turns around, and a smug smile spreads across his face. I don’t know how I didn’t recognize him to begin with. I mean he was the only mover who was wearing a heavy flannel in April, so something should have caught my attention to begin with.
“Mina!” Bradley says walking over to where I’m standing in shock, unable to walk over to where he is standing. “How are you? I haven’t seen you since last December, right?”
I slowly nodded my head. There was something off about him. He was too interested in someone other than himself right now, and it was weirding me out.
“You’re moving in here?” I ask, once again unsure of what was happening and why my ex-boyfriend, who the last time I saw him, tried to confess his love for me, was now moving into the apartment four doors away from my own.
“Oh, no.” He laughs as if I was crazy for asking this. “I’m helping my girlfriend...” The way he says girlfriend I know he’s trying to rattle me, but I don’t react at all. Really I’m thrilled that he has officially moved on from his obsession with me. “...Move into her new apartment. She just moved across town to be closer to her job.” He smiles at me, knowing that I haven’t dated anyone since him, and like I said earlier, I don’t think I will anytime soon.
“Oh, well that’s nice,” I say and try my best to fake a smile. I was happy for Bradley, but then at the same time, I realized that I was going to be seeing him all the time now. “When do I get to meet her?” I ask, trying to be polite. I was now wide awake.
“Oh, well, here she comes.” Bradley turns his attention to a woman who had to be at least thirty years older than him, who was walking down the stairs, directing the movers where to go. I don’t have a problem with an age gap in a relationship, however there is a point where it just becomes a little awkward to be around. This was one of those situations.
“Bradley!” Called the lady from the stairs. She had a square face with thick loose brown curls framing it, with some gray hairs sprinkled though out. She wore light pink eyeshadow that worked well with her light blue eyes, and deep red lipstick that was a couple shades too dark for her fair complexion. I recognized her from somewhere but I couldn’t exactly place it. “Can you help me with the table?” She smiles at him, indicating he will follow her into the apartment. She clearly hasn’t seen me yet.
“In a minute, sugar!” He calls at her, and I wince at the nickname, and he rolls his eyes at my reaction, but gets over it quickly, and says to the women, “I want you to meet someone.”
“Oh, okay.” She smiles and walks down the stairs, her hair bouncing at each step. She walked over to Bradley, and gave him a kiss on the check, and he put his arm around her hips. I didn’t see the need for the kiss, but I looked past it.
“Loralei, this is my friend...” I narrow my eyes at him, when he calls me his friend. I was not his friend, more of his acquaintance who used to date him for some unknown reason, “...Mina Washington. She also lives in the apartment building.”
“Hi!” She holds out her hand for me to shake it, and I oblige, “Loralei Baldwin.” She smiles at me, and I try to smile back, but I was still in shock, so I think my smile came out more nervous than I wanted it to.
“I’m sorry if this is weird, but you look so familiar. Have we met before?” I ask, trying to make small talk with her, while trying to figure out where I know her from.
“She is actually a professor at NYU.” Bradley fills me in. “You’ve probably seen her on campus or on a poster or something.”
“Do you go to NYU?” Loralei asks me, her interest peeking up.
“Uh, yeah.” I nodded my head slowly, trying to determine if that was where I saw her or not. My gut was telling me that it wasn’t, but I pushed that feeling aside and just told myself that I was overthinking it.
“If you don’t mind me asking, what are you majoring in?” She asks me, and links one of her arms with Bradleys, pulling him closer to her. I was all for a couple being in love, don’t get me wrong, but all this touching, just seemed weirdly forced in a way.
“I’m majoring in art history and minoring in criminal justice,” I say with a smile. I know my parents would be proud of what I was doing with my life right now. They may never be able to see in person what I’m doing, but at least I know that I’m making them proud of what I have become in the past couple of months.
“Oh, that’s exciting!” She says. “I just teach remedial mathematics class right now, but at my old school I actually used to teach a criminal justice class. It was always exciting. I would teach it here if I could, but there was no need for it at the moment.” She sighs, and lets go of Bradley’s arm. “I better get back to moving. It was nice to meet you, Mina.” I smile, agreeing with her. “Maybe you and your boyfriend and Bradley and I could get lunch together sometime soon.”
I smiled politely, and was going to leave it at that, but of course Bradley had to say; “Mina doesn’t have a boyfriend right now, do you Mina?”
I give him a death stare, but have to nod my head.
“Oh, well that’s okay. Maybe the three of us could get lunch then.”
“That would be nice.” I look down at my phone, and realize that if I didn’t leave I would be late for my criminal justice class, coincidentally. “I have to get going, but it was to meet you.” I waved a hand in the direction of where Daisy and Reggie were standing, and then I was out the door. I pulled my phone out of my pocket, to call Pia back so she would stop spamming me with texts, worried about what I was doing.
“Mina!” Pia screamed into the phone when she picked up, and I had to pull the phone away so that she wouldn’t kill my ear drum, again.
“Hey, Pia, sorry about that,” I say walking down to the nearest subway station. “You wouldn’t believe who I just ran into.”
“It better be good, because I...,” I cut her off before she could give me one of her ‘you’re-gonna-get-killed’ speeches.
“Bradley and his new girlfriend are moving into Daisy and Reggie’s apartment building.”
“What?!” Pia yelled into the phone again, and I pulled the phone away from my ear.
“Yeah, he was helping her move in when I walked down stairs.”
“Is he moving in with her?” Pia asked.
“I don’t think so. I think he was just helping her.” My train came as I said this, and I got off the platform and onto the train. My car has been in a parking garage for the past couple months. I haven’t felt like dealing with New York traffic much so I have just been taking the subway to get to school.
“Mi, you’re going to have to see Bradley all the time now,” Pia gave off an awkward laugh, “Is his girlfriend at least nice?”
“I think so. I talked to them for a minute, and all I got from her was that they were weirdly affectionate with each other, and that she was at least thirty years older than him. Oh, and she works at NYU.”
“She’s thirty years older than him?” Pia asks, trying not to sound rude, but it was a good point to make. Bradley never seemed like the type of person who goes for older women, much less, someone who was over twice his age. It just didn’t seem like him.
“I think so. I didn’t ask. It seemed a little weird, but I didn’t question it.” The train took off as I stood next to a pole to hold on to. It was a weird time of day, because eight-thirty was after the morning rush, but before the brunch rush, making the train ride ominously quiet.
“So you are going to see Bradley everyday now?” Pia asks.
“Hopefully, not, but I felt like he might be. They seem pretty close, so he’s going to be around,” I sigh, before continuing, “A lot.”
“Well maybe you and his girlfriend will become friends!” Pia says trying to sound hopeful, but I’m not buying it.
“Maybe,” I say and then we talk a little bit more about everything that’s going on in our lives, and soon enough the train stops at my stop, and I am off to campus.
“I’ll talk to you later, Pi,” I say, as she says goodbye, and I put my phone in my backpack. Thankfully I only had one class today, and it was my criminal justice class with Professor Oscar Flemmings. I was enjoying this class more than I thought I would be. Granted, helping solve two murders last year was problity helping that cause.
I walked into the building, ten minutes early. Nobody was here, because in true college fashion nobody showed up to anything until the last possible second. I made my way, slowly down the halls, and as I did so, my mind started to wonder about how I knew Loralei. I knew it wasn’t from the school, but that was the only place I would have seen her right?
As my mind spiraled down that rabbit hole, I made it to Professor Flemmings door.
“That’s weird,” I said to myself. Usually, the door was wide open, today it was closed, but the lights were on inside. This wouldn’t usually catch me off guard, he probably just forgot to open it when he came in this morning, but Professor Flemmings was not one to just forget to do something. Oscar Flemmings is a very particular man, almost to a default. He had to have everything in order and do everything in the exact same way every morning in order to get things done throughout the day. He would arrive at class at 8:45 sharp, every day. Then go to his desk, leaving his door wide open, and get everything set up for the class for the next fifteen minutes as the students filed in. He wouldn’t talk to the students unless they talked to him first, and then as soon as the clock struck 9 o’clock, he would whip his pointer on to the large, old fashioned chalkboard, scaring half of his students, and then get on with the lesson. He would then work until 5:30, leaving the time between 5-5:30 for his students just in case they needed to talk to him about anything. This, in a way, made him a great criminal justice teacher, because it allowed him to teach the precision of crime in the best and most effective way.
I opened the door, the medal handle was cold on my skin, and walked into the large classroom, a chill going down my spin for some reason that I could not place.
“Professor Flemmings?” I asked and walked over to his desk. It looked like he was sitting on his chair, his back towards me, as he looked at the wall. He didn’t respond, so I assumed he didn’t hear me, so I asked again, “Professor Flemmings, are you okay?” I walked over to where he was sitting, and when I finally saw him, I sucked in my breath so fast that I stumbled backwards.
Oscar Flemmings was sitting on his chair, his head flopping to his left side with partially dried blood, dripping down his face, and a gunshot threw his head.