Remembrance, p.22
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       Remembrance, p.22

         Part #7 of The Mediator series by Meg Cabot

  “Uh.” I pulled down the sun visor in order to check my lip gloss in the vanity mirror. “Because this is twenty-first-century America and I don’t want us to go to jail?”

  I couldn’t read Jesse’s expression, since his eyes were shaded by dark sunglasses. The afternoon sun was blazing down on us. Jesse’s car was a BMW roadster convertible, a loaner from Jake, who’d decided he needed something roomier so he could simultaneously transport his surfboard, Max, and any girl he might be dating. He’d upgraded to a Mercedes Benz G-Class SUV, so Brad could get the commission.

  Then again, I didn’t need to read the expression in Jesse’s eyes. I could hear his disapproval in his voice.

  “I don’t see how you think anyone will be able to find you to put you in jail,” he said. “No one will recognize you after you take off that costume.”

  “Costume?” I looked down at myself. I was wearing a black skirt and jacket combo set I’d purchased months earlier at a Saks in San Francisco, along with a prim white blouse. “This isn’t a costume. I bought this outfit months ago to wear to job interviews.” And funerals.

  I only hoped the next one I attended wouldn’t be Jesse’s.

  By inviting him along on my trip out to Sacred Trinity, I was hoping to keep him busy enough to avoid hearing that Paul Slater was back in town, and why.

  I’d driven by 99 Pine Crest Road on my way home from work only to find it crawling with inspectors in hard hats. There was no chance I’d be able to sneak onto the property to salt anything before my dinner at Mariner’s later that evening.

  A large sign had been plastered across the front door, readable from the street:

  WARNING: NO TRESPASSING

  —PROPOSED DEMOLITION—

  IF INTERESTED IN SALVAGE CONTACT:

  SLATER PROPERTIES

  There was a phone number listed in marker underneath.

  The sign—and the men in hard hats—meant it was real. Paul hadn’t been bluffing. Not that I’d ever suspected he had, but—

  “And the glasses?” Jesse asked, intruding on my thoughts.

  I glanced at my reflection in the vanity mirror. I’d swapped my sunglasses for the nonprescription eyeglasses Becca had abandoned in the courtyard.

  “Oh, these. I’m supposed to look like a mom. Don’t you think they make me seem older?”

  “Your mother doesn’t wear glasses. Neither does your sister-in-law. They don’t wear their hair that way, either.”

  I lifted a hand to my head, having forgotten the heavily hair-sprayed updo I’d given myself when I’d gone back to my apartment to change.

  “We’re supposed to look rich enough to be able to afford to send our child to one of the most expensive private schools in the country, Jesse,” I explained. “That’s how we’re going to get into Sacred Trinity to ask about this Jimmy person. They don’t let just anyone come strolling onto school grounds these days, you know.”

  Jesse smiled. “Rich mothers wear their hair like that? And glasses they don’t need?”

  “No one will know I don’t need them,” I said. “More importantly, no one from the school district will recognize me in these hideous things.”

  “So that’s why we’re using my car, and not yours. I’d wondered.”

  “Exactly. No parent who could afford Sacred Trinity would be caught dead in my car. Do you remember our names?”

  I could tell by the tilt of his head that he’d rolled his eyes. “Dr. and Mrs. Baracus. Am I supposed to be Greek?”

  “B. A. Baracus isn’t Greek. He’s a character from The A-Team, a television show, played by a man named Mr. T.” At Jesse’s disapproving expression, I said quickly, “Don’t worry, it’s a very old TV show, no one will remember it. Well, there was a movie, but I had to think of something fast. I didn’t expect to get an appointment for a private tour on such short notice. But who cares? It worked, didn’t it?”

  “What if they decide to look up Dr. Baracus on the Internet?”

  “All they’ll find is that the word baracus means bad attitude. There’s a kind of poetic justice in that, don’t you think?”

  “Yes, considering I have in the trunk all the equipment I need to beat a confession out of the priest,” he said, his gaze on the vanity plate of the Lexus in front of us: CARMEL1. “Everything Jake had in the house to subdue an intruder—”

  I swiveled toward him, shocked.

  “Jesse, no! No one is beating a confession out of anybody. We’re on a fact-finding mission only.”

  He adjusted his grip on the steering wheel, his broad shoulders hunching under the jacket of his dark suit. “I think we could discover more facts more quickly if we handcuffed the priest to a radiator, then doused him with water, then shocked him several times with your stepbrother’s taser.”

  You can’t take the darkness out of the boy.

  “I hate child killers, too, Jesse, but how about going for a more subtle approach that won’t get either of us charged with assault?”

  “Your attitude,” Jesse said, “really isn’t as bad as our name implies, Mrs. Baracus.”

  “I’m only asking that you think of our darling daughter, dear, sweet little Penelope.”

  He shook his head. “No imaginary daughter of mine will be called Penelope.”

  I bit my lip to keep myself from blurting that imaginary children might be all we ever had. What was the point? If Jesse was willing to chain a priest to a radiator, I could only imagine what he’d be willing to do to Paul.

  “You didn’t really put all that stuff in the trunk, did you?” I asked.

  “Of course. Along with Brad’s .22 Hornet.”

  At my disbelieving glance, he shrugged. “What was I supposed to do with it? He wanted to go raccoon hunting last night, remember? I had to hide it from him somewhere.”

  “So you brought it along today? Great. Just great, Jesse.” I eyed the armed guard who was checking each car before collecting their toll and then waving them through the gate. 17-Mile Drive, the only route to the Academy of the Sacred Trinity, was a coastal road, running through Pebble Beach along the Pacific coastline. It was as possible to see sea lions and sea otters sunning themselves on the beach along the drive as it was to see $20 million mansions.

  Of course, if you weren’t a resident, you had to pay for the privilege of using the road—the current rate was ten dollars, unless you had a guest pass, which, as parents of a prospective student at Sacred Trinity, we did.

  “Do I have to remind you that you are not actually Dr. Baracus,” I asked Jesse, “but a medical student and former ghost, and one with forged identity papers?”

  “Actually,” he said, lowering his sunglasses and glancing at me, “I’m a medical resident, not a student. And why are you so suddenly concerned about my identity papers, Mrs. Baracus?”

  “I’m just wondering if driving with a rifle, handcuffs, and tasers in the trunk of a BMW that doesn’t even technically belong to you is such a good idea.”

  “Are you afraid I’ll be racially profiled on 17-Mile Drive? Nombre de Dios, Susannah.” Jesse clicked his tongue at me. “Have you so little faith in your fellow man?”

  I snorted. “Nothing I’ve heard lately about my fellow man has done much to restore it.”

  He grinned and slipped his glasses back into place. “I’ll have to work on that later. And anyway, I’m not Jesse de Silva, medical resident, anymore, but Dr. Baracus, wealthy plastic surgeon, father of Penelope, remember? They’d never check his trunk for implements of torture.”

  “Very funny.” None of this was striking me as particularly amusing. “So you’re on duty at the hospital all night tonight?”

  “Starting at five,” he said. “Perhaps, if we finish torturing the priest early, we can have dinner together beforehand, and I can begin restoring your faith in mankind?”

  “Of course.” No way was I going to mention that I already had dinner plans. “But we’re not torturing the priest. God, could this line be any longer?”

  “Why are you so tense, Susannah? It’s a beautiful Friday afternoon in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Everyone has come down for the weekend to take advantage of the weather and have a nice scenic drive along the coast. You should be enjoying the fact that you live here and can take this drive with your husband-to-be anytime you want.”

 


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  I gave him the side-eye. Had David already called him? Was he trying to make me feel guilty on purpose?

  No. If David had told him what was going on, he wouldn’t be sitting here in line to get onto 17-Mile Drive. He’d already have found Paul and tased him to death.

  And Jesse had always been more sanguine than me about waiting in lines—and interviewing possible murder suspects—probably from having spent such a long time stuck between the worlds of the living and the dead.

  God, I was the worst girlfriend in the world.

  “Um, no reason,” I said quickly.

  But of course it was because I’d already received a text from Paul a little while earlier.

  El Diablo Can’t wait until 8. Meet for a predinner cocktail, hotel bar, 5PM.

  Wear something sexy.

  NOV 18 1:20 PM

  “So, five o’clock, huh? I’m sure we’ll be done with all this by then. I can drop you off at the hospital. How is Father Dominic, anyway?” I asked, hoping to change the subject.

  “He’s doing better. They moved him out of the ICU. He’s regained consciousness, and is perfectly lucid. He asked about you.”

  “Really?” This was nice to hear. “What did he say?”

  Jesse’s grin was crooked. “He told me to tell you not to exorcise Lucia for throwing him down a flight of stairs.”

  I couldn’t help laughing. It was good to know Father Dominic was feeling better.

  He glanced at me. “You know, in those glasses, with your hair like that, you look like a teacher. My first teacher, actually.”

  “Like from when you were a little kid? In the one-room schoolhouse?”

  “Yes. Miss Boyd. The town paid for her to travel all the way from Boston to take the job of educating the few children whose parents could spare them from their farms and ranches.”

  I frowned. “I don’t know if I want to look like some lady from the 1800s.”


  He glared at me. At least, I thought it was a glare. Then I realized I’d misinterpreted the heat in his glance. It definitely wasn’t disapproval.

  “You should,” he said. “She was a very intelligent, beautiful lady, like you. She didn’t swear as much, though. In fact, she never uttered a single curse word in my presence.”

  “Really?” I crossed my legs with elaborate casualness, making sure the slit in my skirt revealed a lot of thigh. This was no easy feat in a roadster. “Did Miss Boyd ever make you stand in the corner for being naughty in her classroom?”

  “I would never have dreamt of being naughty in Miss Boyd’s classroom,” Jesse said, his gaze glued to the slit. “I felt privileged every time I was in her presence, receiving any education at all. There were many days my father couldn’t spare me from the ranch.”

  “That must have been so hard for you,” I said sympathetically, leaning toward him.

  “It was hard.” His gaze moved from my thighs to my chest. Leaning forward had caused my seat belt—which I always strap beneath my breasts to keep them from getting squished—to give them a boost. Score.

  “But look how much you’ve accomplished since then. Miss Boyd would be so proud.”

  I couldn’t believe this. After all the parading around I’d done in front of him in swimsuits and miniskirts, what ended up turning him on was a pair of glasses and my hair in a French twist.

  Of course I would make this discovery in a tiny car in line to go find out the identity of a murderer, and on the day Paul Slater was in town, threatening to trigger a demonic curse and blow up my house. If I didn’t have bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.

  “Jesse,” I said, reaching up to undo one button of my prim white blouse.

  “Yes?”

  “Are you telling me you were hot for Teacher?”

  A car honked, long and loud, behind us.

  “Oh, darn,” I said, rebuttoning my blouse. “It’s our turn in line.”

  Jesse looked annoyed as he shifted. “Hot for Teacher. No, I was not hot for Teacher. What does that even mean, hot for Teacher? That’s disrespectful of teachers, Susannah.”

  “You’d better let me do the talking,” I said, patting him on the hand. “You seem out of sorts.” I leaned over him to gush at the security guard as Jesse pulled up to the tollgate. “Hi. Dr. and Mrs. Baracus, here to see Father Francisco at the Academy of the Sacred Trinity. We should be on the list.”

  The guard glanced at her clipboard while Jesse gazed impassively at the road through his dark sunglasses. Hot for Teacher, I heard him mutter scornfully under his breath.

  “Oh, yes. Here you are!” The guard smiled and handed Jesse a pass, along with a map with directions to the school printed on it. “Enjoy your visit, Dr. and Mrs. Baracus.”

  Jesse returned her smile, his so dazzling, with his white teeth and gorgeously kissable lips, I don’t know how she didn’t faint at the sight of it. “I’m sure we will.”

  The school turned out to be on grounds four times as big as those of the Mission Academy, though Sacred Trinity housed half as many students, being for girls only. The main building resembled a country manor estate, something straight out of one of those historical movies where the people all sit around getting served tea. It came complete with a long, impressive driveway (lined by Italian cypress trees) that passed gently sloping lawns before stopping in front of a wide, ornately carved stone staircase, leading to an even wider, more ornately carved double doorway.

  “One good earthquake,” I said to Jesse, “and this whole place will come tumbling down. Who do they think they’re trying to impress?”

  “Dr. Bad Attitude.”

  We parked in a lot that looked as if it had been designed for a world-class modern art museum, not a school, it was so well landscaped, and were greeted at the main entrance by Sister Mary Margaret, director of admissions. She’d no doubt been alerted to our arrival by the security guard at the gate—not the gate to 17-Mile Drive, but to the school. On the website, it had said that daughters of foreign princes attended school there. Security was clearly a priority.

  Just not when it came to local girls with the last name of Martinez.

  “Dr. Baracus,” the nun said, glowing with enthusiasm as she stepped forward to shake our hands. “Mrs. Baracus. I’m so delighted to meet you. Welcome to the Academy of the Sacred Trinity.”

  I shot Jesse a triumphant look. They totally hadn’t looked up baracus on the Internet. Or, if they had, they were hedging their bets that Jesse—or I, not to be sexist—was so rich we’d carefully kept ourselves off the Web, like the families of many of their students. The wealthiest people in the world don’t share photos of their private jets and Rolexes on Instagram, as they do not care to have their children kidnapped and held for ransom as a result of advertising that wealth.

  Sister Mary Margaret was Sister Ernestine’s opposite in every way. Young where Sister Ernestine was old, lean where Sister Ernestine was plump, Sister Mary Margaret fed us a well-rehearsed but sweetly enthusiastic speech about the benefits of educating our adorable daughter Penelope—Jesse frowned every time her name was mentioned—at Sacred Trinity.

  The percentage of Sacred Trinity girls who went on to college, we were told—was the highest in the tri-county area—100 percent!—and the percentage who went on to Ivy League colleges—well, Sister Mary Margaret didn’t want to brag, but it was high.

  If they weren’t murdered, of course, before they finished first grade, I thought, but didn’t say out loud.

  Jesse looked annoyed during much of Sister Mary Margaret’s spiel, for which I didn’t blame him. He was playing the role of the brilliantly wealthy plastic surgeon—the medical specialty that pulls in the most money these days—incredibly well, but I could tell that having to hear the words thanks to Father Francisco so often was wearing on his last nerve. It was wearing on mine, too.

  “Thanks to Father Francisco,” Sacred Trinity was no longer on the brink of financial disaster due to mismanagement by the previous headmaster. Father Francisco had swooped in a decade ago and saved the day with his fiscal know-how.

  “Thanks to Father Francisco,” the Sacred Trinity girls’ choir had gone from being nearly disbanded to being number one in the state. They had even recorded an album. Did we want a copy of their CD for Penelope? Of course we did. Penelope would love it.

  “Thanks to Father Francisco,” the Sacred Trinity school library’s floors had been stripped of the exotic wood the father’s predecessor had laid there. Father Francisco had replaced the floor with a more sensible wood, donating the difference in cost to a literacy charity. Wasn’t he the most wonderful man?

  “Did Father Francisco do the labor himself?” Jesse asked Sister Mary Margaret.

  She looked momentarily confused. “Er . . . no. He hired a contractor.”

  Jesse was unimpressed. “Then he probably didn’t save that much money.”

  I had to stifle a laugh. Sister Mary Margaret didn’t know what she was up against. Every time he was on call, Jesse saw children suffering from maladies caused by improper diet. Their parents simply couldn’t afford to feed them properly.

  Yet here, in the same community, was a school that had paid $150 per square foot for flooring, and charged for tuition for its kindergarten what Jesse had paid per semester for medical school . . . though of course it did offer, even though in Carmel the temperature rarely fell below fifty degrees, heated stalls for the horses their students wished to board there. We found this out as we were given a tour of the grounds.

  By then Sister Mary Margaret had neatly passed us off to a “student tour guide,” a slender, dark-eyed junior, Sidney.

  I was well acquainted with the psychology behind student tour guides, since we had them at the Mission Academy, as well. It was more effective for school administrations to have socially garrulous, nonthreateningly attractive students give tours to parents of prospective students than for them to be given by people like Sister Mary Margaret. In the students, parents saw what their own children could grow to be if they attended such a fine institution.

 
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