His partner was evidently still taking statements from the girl's party but Greg Fenton decided he was due five minutes. He stepped outside, feeling already the coolness in the air; the bite that hadn't been present last week.
He'd had to let the Magician leave. He was a strange fellow, sure, but Greg couldn't believe he'd had anything to do with the girl's disappearance. He was too obviously in shock, and really, the guy hadn't been out of sight of at least two hundred witnesses at any time.
He lit a cigarette and looked out over the quiet campus.
Looks like a painting; those trees and that big old building there. This whole thing is a waste of time. Some student joke. She'll have had one other person in on it, maybe two. A scholarship student they might ask to leave - but not this one. Her dad will be good for a new gym; new science block, something. Waste of time - waste of money. These kids'll never learn when they have it so easy.
He hadn't had it easy. A part of him wished he could have gone to a place like this. Only then he wouldn't have learnt what he had learnt and he valued that too. And also, he knew that if he had come here when he was young he wouldn't have appreciated it as he might now. He couldn't see his younger self studying hard, sweating over books and attending seminars. It was only later on he'd realized what he might've been missing.
He had a library card now, subscriptions too to various periodicals. He was as well-read as any of them. And the strangest thing was how it all became applicable, this new knowledge. Quotes came sometimes to him, and he'd come out with them without thinking. It generated some weird glances, but did he care?
The dark, Gothic buildings around the campus green made him think of a poem he'd once read. He'd have to look it up at home. Something about reflected truth and echoes? He was essentially pragmatic, but he shivered suddenly, feeling as if the buildings watched him: As if the weight of the years and the seeking of knowledge had brought them to resentful life. Echoes of the minds of all those who had come and gone.
He ground out his cigarette, and only then noticed the kid.
"What!" he said, probably too harshly because the kid jumped. He was thin and gangling with bad skin and hair that needed a wash. He had a look of someone who spent too much time indoors. Studies or XBox, it didn't matter.
"Erm...It's about Brittany. Brittany Sanderson?" the kid said nervously.
"Ok," Greg said. "First thing, what's your name?"
"Joe. Joseph Tayna. Only I saw this truck."
"Yeah. Blue? Dark anyway. Didn't notice the make. Only they drove off fast. I was coming down by Hopkins and it nearly hit me. I had to run, you know? And I thought it was weird. Anyway, my friend Mal thinks he saw this similar truck parked up by the theatre. And he told me Brittany was missing. I thought you should know, that's all. Probably it's nothing, but I thought I should say. Because you know, you hear stories where people saw something? Only they don't say anything - thinking it's not important, but it turns out it is important. But it's probably nothing." Joe said all this in one breath, then stared at Greg with hopeful and anxious expectation.
"Probably nothing," Greg repeated. "Ok. Well thanks Joe. I don't suppose you got the plate number?" Joe shook his head. "We'll check it out," Greg said to reassure him, like a pat on the head. Well done, good boy.
"Ok," Joe said. He backed away a step and then turned and walked quickly down the path. Greg made a note about the conversation. Time to find Nadine, see if she'd leant anything from those girls.