Including the Mustang.
I ran over to its side, kneeling and examining the damage. I felt like I was in the middle of a war, kneeling by a fallen comrade on the battlefield. I was practically on the verge of shouting, "Don't you die on me!"
Adrian crouched beside me. "The tires can be replaced. I think my insurance will even cover it."
I was still horrified. "Who did this?"
He shrugged. "Some kids, I guess. They hit a few cars one block over yesterday."
"And you didn't think that was worth mentioning to me?"
"Well, I didn't know they were going to come here too. Besides, I knew you'd flip out and want to set up twenty-four-hour surveillance on this place."
"That's not a bad idea." I glanced up at his building. "You should talk to the landlord about it."
Adrian didn't seem nearly as concerned as he should have been. "I don't know that he'd go for it. I mean, this isn't really a dangerous neighborhood."
I pointed at the Mustang. "Then how come this happened?"
Even though we could take Latte to Los Angeles, we still had to wait around to finish up with the police and then get a tow truck. I made sure the tow truck driver knew that he better not get a scratch on the car, and then I watched mournfully as it was hauled away. Once that sunny splash of yellow disappeared around a corner, I turned to Adrian.
"Ready to go?"
"Do we have enough time?"
I looked at my cell phone and groaned. We'd burned up a lot of time handling the vandalism aftermath. And yet, I hated to wait until tomorrow, seeing as I'd already lost time yesterday while dealing with Marcus. I called Ms. Terwilliger and asked if she'd cover for me if I came in after curfew.
"Yes, yes, of course," she said, in a tone that suggested she couldn't understand why I'd even bothered calling her. "Just talk to more of those girls."
Ms. Terwilliger had given me six names. We'd already taken care of Wendy Stone. Three of the girls lived relatively close together, and they were our goal tonight. The last two were closer to the coast, and we hoped to reach them tomorrow. Adrian tried making conversation with me throughout the drive, but my mind was still on the Mustang.
"God, I'm an idiot," I said, once we'd almost reached our destination.
"That's never a term I'd use to describe you," he said promptly. "Articulate. Well dressed. Smart. Organized. Beautiful. I'd use those terms, but never 'idiot.'"
I nearly asked why "beautiful" had come after "organized" and then remembered the actual concern. "I'm obsessing about that car when girls' lives are on the line. It's stupid. My priorities are messed up."
My eyes were on the road, but I could tell he was smiling. "If your priorities were really messed up, you would've followed that tow truck. Yet here you are, off to help perfect strangers. That's a noble thing, Sage."
"Don't rule yourself out," I said. "You're pretty noble too, going on all these outings with me."
"Well, it's not the same as Skee-Ball, but it'll have to do. How was that anyway? Did you really learn anything?"
"I learned a lot - some pretty unbelievable stuff, actually. I'm still waiting to get some proof, though."
Luck was with us initially. The first two girls were home, though their reactions were similar to Wendy Stone's. This time, I'd had the foresight to bring the newspaper article, in the hopes it would make a stronger impression. That ghastly picture at least gave them pause, but I left not knowing if they'd really take me seriously or use the agate charms.
Our good fortune ran out when we reached the last name. She too was a college student, meaning we had another campus visit. Her name was Lynne Titus, and she lived in a sorority house. I admit, as I knocked on the door, I was fully prepared to find a group of girls dressed in pink, having a pillow fight in their living room. But when we were shown in, we discovered an orderly home not all that different from Wendy's building. Some girls were coming and going, while others sat around with textbooks and papers.
"Lynne?" asked the girl who'd let us inside. "You just missed her."
I knew this shouldn't be a surprise. These girls had lives. They wouldn't all be waiting around for me to come by and talk to them. I glanced uneasily at a window, taking note of the purpling sky. "Any idea when she'll be back?"
The girl shook her head. "No, sorry. I don't know where she went."
Adrian and I exchanged looks. "You're free from your curfew," he reminded me.
"I know. But that doesn't mean I want to spend all night waiting for Lynne." I did some mental calculations. "I suppose we could wait a couple of hours. Three at most."
Adrian seemed supremely delighted by this, and I couldn't help but wonder if he was more excited at hanging out on a college campus . . . or at spending time with me. "What's fun to do around here?" he asked our hostess. He glanced around at the quiet academic environment. "No raging parties here, huh?"
The girl put on a disapproving expression. "We're a very serious sorority. If you're looking for parties, I guarantee there's one going on just down the street. Those girls have one every night." Adrian shot me a hopeful look.
"Oh, come on," I said. "Can't we find some nice museum?"
"We want to stay close, in case Lynne comes back," Adrian said. Something told me if the party had been all the way across campus, he still would've pushed for it. "Besides, if you want to go to college so badly, you should see the full scope of what it has to offer. And aren't you a fan of Greek stuff?"
That was hardly what I had in mind, and he knew it. I reluctantly agreed but warned him he couldn't drink. I was sporting the brown wig and presumed he was using spirit to mask us further. Alcohol would diminish his ability to pull it all off. Plus, I just didn't want to see him drunk.
It was easy to find the party house because we could hear the music blasting from it. A guy and a girl openly drinking beer from plastic cups challenged us at the door. "This is Greek only," the girl said. She looked as though she might fall off her stool. "Who are you with?"
I pointed vaguely toward Lynne's sorority. "Um, them."
"Alpha Yam Ergo," said Adrian, without hesitation. I expected the door squad to point out that most of those weren't even Greek letters. Maybe it was because Adrian spoke so confidently - or because they'd had too much beer - but the guy waved us inside.
It was almost like being back at the arcade, an overwhelming flood of stimuli. The house was crowded and loud, with smoke hanging in the air and alcohol flowing freely. Several people offered us drinks, and some girl invited us - three times - to play beer pong, forgetting that she'd already spoken to us. I regarded it all in amazement, trying to keep the disgust off my face.