Chapter no 16

Hell Bent

When Dawes was upset, she drove even more slowly, and Alex thought it might take them two hours to get back to campus.

“They’re going to get lawyers involved,” Dawes complained. “They’re not.”

“They’re going to pull in the Yale administration.” “They won’t.”

“For Pete’s sake, Alex!” Dawes yanked the steering wheel to the right, and the Mercedes veered to the side of the road, nearly jumping the curb. “Stop pretending everything is going to be okay.”

“How else are we supposed to get through this?” Alex demanded. “It’s all I know how to do.” She made herself take a deep breath. “Darlington’s parents aren’t going to come back with lawyers or involve Yale.”

“Why wouldn’t they? They have money, power.”

Alex shook her head slowly. She’d seen so much in the old man’s memories, felt it all. The only time she’d been through anything like that was when she’d let the Bridegroom in and experienced the moments of his murder. She hadn’t just known he’d loved Daisy. She’d loved Daisy too. But this time there had been so much more, a lifetime of small pleasures and endless disappointment, every day and every thought shaped by Black Elm, by bitterness, by the hunger for something that might outlive his brief, weightless life.

“They don’t have either,” Alex said. “Not the way you think they do.

It’s why they keep pressuring Darlington to sell Black Elm.” Dawes looked scandalized. “But he’d never sell.”

“I know. But if they find out he’s missing, they’ll try to take it from him.”

They sat in silence for a long minute, the engine idling. Through the window Alex saw a narrow stretch of park, the leaves of its trees not yet ready to turn, but she was back at Black Elm, feeling its pull, the way it demanded love, lost in the loneliness of the place.

“They won’t get lawyers involved because they don’t want anyone looking at them too closely. They … Darlington’s grandfather basically bought them off. He wanted to raise…” She’d almost said Danny. “They just left him there, and I think they kept the old man prisoner when he got sick.” Until Danny had set him free. That was why he’d survived in hell, not just because he was Darlington, steeped in knowledge and lore, but because he had killed his grandfather.

It didn’t matter that his grandfather had asked him to do it any more than it mattered Dawes had smashed in Blake’s skull to save Alex’s life.

“But they’ll be back,” Dawes said.

Alex couldn’t argue with that. She’d scared the hell out of Darlington’s father, but monsters didn’t just go away with a warning. Harper and Daniel Arlington would come sniffing around again, looking for their share.

“Then we bring back Darlington and he can send them packing himself.” He’d been Black Elm’s protector, and he was still the only one who could defend it. “Who’s going to help us find another murderer? I’m running out of favors with the societies.”

“No one,” said Dawes, but her voice sounded strange. “We’ll need to get into the basement of the Peabody. But it’s under renovation and there are cameras everywhere.”

“We can use the tempest you brewed up last year. The one that messes with all of the electronics. And let’s pull in Turner. If we need to look up someone’s record, he can manage it.”

“I don’t … I don’t think that’s a good idea.” “We either trust him or we don’t, Dawes.”

Dawes flexed her fingers on the steering wheel, then nodded. “We keep going,” she said.

“We keep going,” Alex repeated. To hell and back.



Alex found Mercy and Lauren having a late lunch in the JE dining hall. The chatter was subdued, even among the Grays, and the room seemed bigger and colder, as if the college had dressed itself in mourning for Dean Beekman. Alex filled her tray with a giant heap of pasta and a couple of sandwiches she would tuck into her bag for later. Her phone pinged while she was filling her glass with soda. Six hundred dollars had been deposited in her bank account.

So Oddman had paid up. If a hump got square, Eitan would drop 5 percent in her account for a job well done. She should probably feel shitty about it, but saying no to the money wasn’t going to do anyone any good.

When she sat down, she could see Mercy’s eyes were red from crying and Lauren wasn’t looking great either. Neither of them had done more than pick at their food.

“You guys okay?” Alex asked, suddenly self-conscious about her tray full of food.

Mercy shook her head, and Lauren said, “I’m messed up.” “Same,” Alex said because it seemed like she should be.

“I can’t imagine what his family is going through,” said Mercy. “His wife teaches here too, you know.”

“I didn’t,” Alex said. “What does she teach?”

Mercy blew her nose. “French literature. That’s how I got to know them.”

Vaguely Alex remembered that Mercy had won some big award for an essay on Rabelais. But she hadn’t realized Mercy really knew Dean Beekman.

“What was he like?” she asked.

Mercy’s eyes overflowed again. “Just … really kind. I was scared about going to a school so far from home and he put me in touch with other first-gen students. He and Mariah—Professor LeClerc, his wife—they just made room for you. I can’t explain it.” She shrugged helplessly. “He was like Puck and Prospero all wrapped up together. He made scholarship seem fun. Why would anyone want to hurt him? And for what? He wasn’t rich. He can’t have had anything worth … worth…” Her voice wobbled and broke.

Alex handed her a napkin. “I never met him. Did he have kids?”

Mercy nodded. “Two daughters. One was a cellist. Really good. Like I think she landed a seat in … I think it was in Boston or the New York Phil.” “And the other?” Alex felt like a ghoul, but if she had a chance to suss

out a little information on the victim, she wasn’t going to pass it up.

“A doctor, I think? A psychiatrist. I can’t remember if she was going into research or practicing.”

A psychiatrist. She might be connected to Marjorie Stephen, but Turner would figure that out easily enough.

“He was so popular,” Alex ventured carefully. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say anything negative about the guy.”

“Why would they?” Mercy asked.

“People get jealous,” Lauren said, dragging her fork through a puddle of ketchup. “I had a lecture right before one of his classes and his students would always show up early. Pissed off my professor.”

“But that’s about his students,” Alex said, “not him.”

Mercy folded her arms. “It’s just sour grapes. I had a professor warn me off choosing him as my faculty adviser.”


“Does it matter?”

Alex had promised to try not to lie, but she was already skirting the truth. “Just curious. Like I said, I’ve never heard a bad word about him.”

“It was a group of them. From the English department. I show up for office hours to talk about a paper and three professors ambush me to insist I stay in the English major, telling me that Dean Beekman isn’t about serious scholarship. They called him a glad-hander.” She put her nose in the air and adopted a tone of disdain. “‘All sizzle, no steak.’”

Lauren shook her head in disbelief. “I’m barely passing econ, and you have faculty staging interventions to keep you in their departments.”

“It’s nice to be friends with a genius,” Alex said. Lauren scowled. “It’s depressing.”

“Not if some of it rubs off on us.”

“There are different kinds of smart,” Mercy said generously. “And it didn’t matter anyway. I told them I planned to major in American Studies.”

Was professional jealousy enough to get a man killed? And what could that possibly have to do with Marjorie Stephen?

“Who were these assholes, and how do I avoid them?” Alex asked, fishing for names.

“I don’t remember,” said Mercy. “I had Ruth Canejo in Directed Studies, but I didn’t know the other two. That’s part of why it annoyed me so much. Like I was just a point they wanted to score.”

Lauren rose to clear her tray. “I’m the kind of smart that’s going to get a nap in before practice. We need to talk Halloween.”

“A man was killed on campus,” Mercy said. “You can’t seriously think we’re going to throw a party.”

“It will be good for us. And if I don’t have something to look forward to I’m not going to make it.”

When Lauren was gone, Mercy said, “Why all the questions?”

Alex stirred her coffee slowly. She’d told Mercy she wouldn’t lie, but she had to tread carefully here. “Do you know a professor in the psych department? Marjorie Stephen?”

Mercy shook her head. “Should I?”

“She passed away on Saturday night. In her office. There’s a chance her death is just some kind of sad accident. But it’s also possible she was murdered.”

“You think the deaths are connected?” Mercy drew in a sharp breath. “You think there’s magic involved?”


“Alex, if the societies … if some bastard did this to Dean Beekman…” “We don’t know that’s the case. I’m just … exploring every avenue.”

Mercy put her head in her hands. “How do they get away with this?

Isn’t Lethe supposed to stop this kind of thing from happening?” “Yeah,” Alex admitted.

Mercy shoved back from the table, her tray rattling as she snatched up her bag, fresh tears in her eyes. “Then you stop them, Alex. You make them pay for this.”

The Peabody originally stood at the corner of Elm and High Street, stuffed to the rooftop with items both interesting and obscure. Plans were made for a new building and the basement was dug, but materials were challenging to come by, what with the war being on. The collections from the original museum were scattered all over campus, in basements and carriage houses. It took so long to build the museum, and the documentation was so haphazard, that parts of the museum’s collection were still being discovered in old outbuildings as recently as the 1970s. Of course there are some items in its mighty rooms that will never be catalogued, and in some cases, it’s best that provenance remain unknown.

—from The Life of Lethe: Procedures and Protocols of the

Ninth House

Table; amethyst Provenance: Unknown Donor: Unknown

Records first appear c. 1930 after construction of the new Peabody. Please see closed collection notes.

—from the Lethe Armory Catalogue as revised and edited by

Pamela Dawes, Oculus

You'll Also Like