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The Woods

Harlan Coben

Chapter 13

  While Lucy waited for Sylvia Potter, she tried to Google the name from Ira's visitors log: Manolo Santiago. There were lots of hits, but nothing that helped. He wasn't a reporter-or no hits showed that to be the case anyhow. So who was he? And why would he visit her father?

  She could ask Ira, of course. If he remembered.

  Two hours passed. Then three and four. She called Sylvia's room. No answer. She tried e-mailing the Blackberry again. No response. This wasn't good. How the hell would Sylvia Potter know about her past? Lucy checked the student directory. Sylvia Potter lived in Stone House down in the social quad. She decided to walk over and see what she could find.

  There was an obvious magic to a college campus. There is no entity more protected, more shielded, and while it was easy to complain about that, it was also how it should be. Some things grow better in a vacuum.

  It was a place to feel safe when you're young-but when you're older, like she and Lonnie, it started becoming a place to hide.

  Stone House used to be Psi Us fraternity house. Ten years ago, the college did away with fraternities, calling them "anti-intellectual. " Lucy didn't disagree that fraternities had plenty of negative qualities and con notations, but the idea of outlawing them seemed heavy-handed and a tad too fascist for her taste. There was a case going on at a nearby college involving a fraternity and a rape. But if it isn't a fraternity, then it would be a lacrosse team or a group of hard hats in a strip club or rowdy rockers at a nightclub. She wasn't sure of the answer, but she knew that it wasn't to rid yourself of every institution you didn't like.

  Punish the crime, she thought, not the freedom.

  The outside of the house was still a gorgeous Georgian brick. The inside had been stripped of all personality. Gone were the tapestries and wood paneling and rich mahogany of its storied past, replaced with off-whites and beiges and all things neutral. Seemed a shame.

  Students meandered about. Her entrance drew a few stares but not too many. Stereos-or more likely, those bipod speaker systems-blared. Doors were open. She saw posters of Che on the wall. Maybe she was more like her father than she realized. University campuses were also caught in the sixties. Styles and music might change, but that sentiment was always there.

  She took the center stairwell, also scrubbed of its originality. Sylvia Potter lived in a single on the second floor. Lucy found her door. There was one of those erasable boards, the kind where you write notes with a marker, but there wasn't a blemish on it. The board had been put on straight and perfectly centered. On the top, the name "Sylvia" was writ ten in a script that almost looked like professional calligraphy. There was a pink flower next to her name. It seemed so out of place, this whole door, separate and apart and from another era.

  Lucy knocked on the door. There was no reply. She tried the knob. It was locked. She thought about leaving a note on the door-that was what those erasable boards were there for-but she didn't want to mar it up. Plus it seemed a little desperate. She had called already. She had e-mailed. Stopping by like this was going a step too far.

  She started back down the stairs when the front door of Stone House opened. Sylvia Potter entered. She saw Lucy and stiffened. Lucy took the rest of the steps and stopped in front of Sylvia. She said nothing, trying to meet the girls eyes. Sylvia looked everywhere but directly at Lucy.

  "Oh hi, Professor Gold. "

  Lucy kept silent.

  "Class ran late, I'm so sorry. And then I had this other project due tomorrow. And I figured it was late and you'd be gone and it could just wait till tomorrow. "

  She was babbling. Lucy let her.

  "Do you want me to stop by tomorrow?" Sylvia asked.

  "Do you have time now?"

  Sylvia looked at her watch without really looking at it. "I'm really so crazy with this project. Can it wait until tomorrow?" "Who is the project for?" "What?" "What professor assigned you the project, Sylvia? If I take up too much of your time, I can write them a note. "


  "We can go to your room," Lucy said. "Talk there. "

  Sylvia finally met her eye. "Professor Gold?"

  Lucy waited.

  "I don't think I want to talk to you. "

  "It's about your journal. "

  "My. . . ?" She shook her head. "But I sent it in anonymously. How would you know which is mine?" "Sylvia-" "You said! You promised! They were anonymous. You said that. "

  "I know what I said. "

  "How did you. . . ?" She straightened up. "I don't want to talk to you. " Lucy made her voice firm. "You have to. " But Sylvia wasn't backing down. "No, I don't. You can't make me.

  And. . . my God, how could you do that? Tell us it's anonymous and confidential and then. . . "

  "This is really important. "

  "No, it's not. I don't have to talk to you. And if you say anything about it, I will tell the dean what you did. You'll get fired. " Other students were staring now. Lucy was losing control of the situation.

  "Please, Sylvia, I need to know-"



  "I don't have to tell you a thing! Leave me alone!" Sylvia Potter turned, opened the door, and ran away.