“Like a grudge?”
“Not that I know about,” Branden said, unhappy to be talking about it.
“He must know how to handle students,” Robertson said.
“But professors, Mike—how does he handle them?”
“Newhouse would be a problem for any chief of security, no matter how well he did his job.”
“So, why did he put cuffs on the guy?”
“That’s a surprise to me,” Branden said. “You can’t handle an activist like Newhouse with cuffs. He’ll just turn it back on you.”
“Did they ever have any kind of a run-in, before?” Robertson asked.
Branden checked his watch, tapped his foot. “Not that I know of. If I think of something, I’ll let you know.”
“In a rush to get somewhere, Mike?”
“Just trying to catch up with Caroline. And I need to ask Cal about that Amish matter.”
“Go ahead,” Robertson said and ran a flat palm over his gray bristle haircut, blowing out a lungful of consternation. He shook his head and looked back to the ground-level doors into Missy’s labs.
“What’s the problem?” Branden asked, impatient to leave.
Robertson mumbled, “Don’t know, Mike. It’s that blond kid’s story. I don’t buy it.”
“Eddie’s story? Why not?”
“OK,” Robertson said, and lifted his palms in the air to mark a question. “If you’re going to graduate on Monday, and you want to be with your girlfriend a couple of nights before that, why tell her the next morning that you want to break up? Why not wait until next week, when you’ll be a thousand miles away? That’d be less troublesome.”
“Maybe he wanted to be forthright with her,” Branden said. “Maybe he was showing her respect.”
“No,” said Robertson confidently. “If it was that, he’d have told her the night before. Before the bell tower. He’d have broken up with her last night, if he wanted to show her respect.”
Branden considered that, and said, “He’s just a college kid.”
“Doesn’t fit, Mike,” Robertson said. “If he’s mean, he’d have waited until Monday, and let commencement separate them. You said it yourself. After commencement, he’ll go to Florida, and she’d have gone to Montana. He could have just walked away from her. He wouldn’t have had to write to her or return her calls for a while, and he wouldn’t have had to break up with her at all. Not face to face, at least.”
Surprised by his own indifference, and annoyed at both Robertson and Laughton, Branden checked his watch again. “I’m going to see Caroline. She’s over at the church.”
“I’m right about your little rich boy, Mike,” Robertson said. “The top of that bell tower is not where you’d break up with a girl. Not unless you had a heart the size of a chickpea.”
Branden took his keys out and said, “Missy will tell you this was a suicide.” He got in behind the wheel of his truck, rolled down his window, backed out beside Robertson, and added, “Maybe Eddie Hunt-Myers is just not very smart with women. Maybe he’s stupid about romance.”
Robertson laughed. “Right, Mike,” he said sarcastically. “Hunt-Myers is stupid about women, and he’s the one with the girl he plans to dump. That’s not stupid, if you ask me. Heartless, but not stupid.”
Branden held his foot on the brake. Thought. Put his truck into park, and shut off the engine. “You don’t like Eddie’s story because, on the one hand, he’s too nice, and on the other, he’s too mean?”
Robertson said, “A nice guy would have broken up with her the night before. Before the bell tower.”
“And the mean guy wouldn’t have broken up with her until later? That doesn’t wash.”
There was silence between the two men for several long seconds, and then Robertson said, “I’m going to interview Eddie myself. See what he knows about women.”
Branden smiled and said, “You’ll end up talking to his family lawyers.”
“Because he is Edwin Thomas