Home > Dirty Martini (J.J. Graves Mystery #10)(3)

Dirty Martini (J.J. Graves Mystery #10)(3)
Author: Liliana Hart

“What would you tell yourself?” I asked curiously.

“To stop messing around with TAs and go after you,” he said, winking. “We could have been doing what we did this morning for years.”

“Hmm,” I said. “I’m not sure I was ready for a twenty-two-year-old Jack Lawson back then. You were a handful, and I wasn’t even your girlfriend.” And then I asked again. “Seriously, what would the today Jack tell then Jack?”

His face went stoic and I noticed the scar in his eyebrow went white. “I don’t know,” he said. “I’ve never really thought about it. It’s easy to look back now over the course of my life and think maybe I shouldn’t have moved to DC or gone to the police academy. Or even that I should have put in for vacation the week my SWAT team was called into that bank. But my friends still would have died, so I’m not sure what good it would have done. It’s the experiences in life that make us who we are. I’m not one to regret the past. It tends to limit the future.”

“So wise,” I said. “You should put that on a T-shirt.”

“I’ll save the T-shirt business for retirement,” he said.

There were so many students and buses blocking the roads it had been easier to park in front of the student center and walk across campus to the basketball arena where our crime scene was located. It would be dark in another hour, and according to the weatherman, we were going to get a good deal more snow before morning.

“This campus hasn’t changed too much since we were here,” Jack said.

“Looks like they got a new fountain,” I said, arching a brow and making him grin.

“Well, I don’t think they had much choice after the other one was destroyed. College kids are a real menace to private property. They should’ve had cameras. A place is only as safe as its security system.”

My lips twitched. “Looks like they added the cameras too.”

“I like to think of myself as an influencer,” he said. “If we hadn’t been so bad just think where this university would be.”

“Probably a lot richer,” I said.

“We donate a sizeable amount every year,” he said. “I like to think of it as restitution. But believe me, they’re more than able to pay the bills.”

There was no telling the organizations Jack donated money to every year. He’d grown up with wealth and wore it like a second skin. It barely fazed me anymore when he made casual declarations about making donations that I knew probably totaled in the millions.

A gaggle of robed wizards passed by and Jack’s gaze followed them. “I guess some things have changed since we were here. What the hell is Campus-Con?”

“It’s like a comic convention, but it’s contained to the campus for the students instead of at one of the big convention centers in the city,” I told him. He still looked confused so I expounded. “It’s a nerd convention. Everyone dresses up like their favorite heroes and comic book characters.”

“That sounds fairly harmless,” he said. “So maybe you can explain why we’re going to an arena where a kid was killed in front of ten thousand people.”

“Arena Wars,” I said. “Think Gladiator but with elves and imps and cyborgs. They’re matched up and then they fight until a champion takes the title.”

Jack sighed. “I worry about this generation. Can you imagine that guy back there dressed in tights sitting in the Oval Office one day?”

I snorted out a laugh. “Much weirder things have happened in the Oval Office. Kids are kids. Back in our day it was Dungeons & Dragons and Space Invaders, and look at you carrying a gun and a badge now. There’s hope for everyone.”

“Excuse me,” he said with mock offense. “I have never played Dungeons & Dragons. I was a jock. I saw sunlight and got plenty of exercise. Though I did hold the high score for Space Invaders for three solid years at the Rocket Arcade. But everyone hung out at the arcade, especially the hot girls in their Guess jeans and crop top shirts. Those were good years. Kids don’t know what they’re missing nowadays with their technology and social media.”

“Are you about to tell me an old man story about how kids these days have no respect for their elders and how you had to drink out of the water hose and your mom wouldn’t let you come back home until the streetlights came on?”

Jack’s grin widened. “Shut up. And no, I’m not saying that. I’m just making the observation that trends change through the years. What was once considered the most uncool thing you could do is now the most popular.”

“Nerds rule the world,” I said. “Now we just have to figure out why one of them is dead.”

Between campus police and the sheriff’s department, they’d gotten barricades put up across the parking lot and kids were being herded in droves outside of the perimeter that had been set up.

“Where did all these kids come from?” I asked. “They’re not all KGU students.”

“I talked to Chief Slack this morning after the call came in,” Jack said. “This is a tristate event. Only students registered at participating universities can buy a ticket for Campus-Con, and it lasts for five days. Slack said they’re expecting over fifty thousand in attendance through the weekend. He gave me a heads-up last month and asked for extra deputies to patrol the area.”

Bryan Slack was the new chief of campus police. He was a retired cop out of Alabama that the university had brought in, and we hadn’t really had any reason to deal with him over the last few months since things were mostly quiet on campus.

“That’s a big influx of people,” I said. “Any problems leading up to this point?”

Jack shook his head. “Just typical college kid stuff—underage drinking, drunk and disorderly, disturbing the peace, urinating in public…”

I squenched my nose at that. “Gross,” I said. “Nothing violent?”

“Not that the sheriff’s department has been made aware of,” he said.

I nodded to the deputies standing guard outside the entrance to the arena, and we made our way inside. They’d been removing students by section to keep everyone calm and orderly, and the place was almost empty except for cops and a few shell-shocked-looking administrators.

The arena had been built a couple of years ago after a big donation, and I’d never been inside. It seemed a little overdone considering KGU only had about seven thousand enrolled students, and I was almost positive their basketball team hadn’t had a winning season in more than a decade.

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