Professor Emily Cavanaugh has left Windy Corner behind and is back at Reed College on her sabbatical, determined to finish writing her book on Dostoevsky. She is soon reunited with one of her promising students, Daniel Razumov, as well as familiar faces on the teaching staff – her friend, Marguerite Grenier, her half-brother, Oscar Lansing, the abrasive division chair, Richard McClintock, and the predatory Taylor Curzon. Known for her relentless pursuit of young male students, Taylor now has Daniel firmly in her sights.
Emily knows Taylor must be stopped, but as she starts gathering evidence of Daniel's harassment, she has a disturbing flashback, and then makes a gruesome discovery . . . Can Emily catch a dangerous campus killer while also confronting events from her own past?
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Emily stood in the middle of the Bede College front lawn and took a long, slow breath of Bede-scented air. The college had its own particular smell composed of the sap of its ancient trees, the brick and stone and polished wood of its century-old main buildings, the crumbling parchment and vegetable inks of the oldest books in the library's rare book room, the sweat and toil of its dedicated students, and of course the ever-present Portland mist, which occasionally thickened into rain.
Today, though, the sky was clear, the air crisp and biting in the city's typical January cold snap. It burned her lungs and invigorated her blood. Here she was a scholar again. No groups of ill-assorted retreat guests to coax into harmony, no beachfront-community issues to wrestle with, and please God no murders to solve. Only herself, a library full of resources on the life and work of Fyodor Dostoevsky, and a tall stack of empty index cards.
At last she was going to embark seriously on the work she'd been toying with for most of her academic career: the definitive English- language work on Dostoevsky's tormented relationship with his Orthodox faith as it played out in his fiction. She felt equal parts exhilaration and terror, for who could ever do justice to such a topic? Yet she was compelled to try.
She hoped to have the library largely to herself, as Bede held no regular classes in January. Instead the campus was home to a uniquely Bede event called Paideia – a month of no-credit, do- it-yourself, often student-led classes in everything from poetry writing to bicycle mechanics. Some students spent the month at home or off on adventures; some came back to campus to participate in the Paideia classes, some merely to party. The atmosphere was lighter and freer than at any other time of year except the post-finals Renn Fayre in the spring.
Except in the library, the bastion of those few harried students who could not bring themselves to take a whole month away from their regular studies. These were mostly seniors taking the opportunity to work intensively on their theses without the distraction of classes. Unless any of them happened to be working on Dostoevsky, Emily should have no competition for the resources she needed or for table space to spread out her old-school index cards, notebooks, and books. Since she no longer had an office on campus, the library would have to be her home base.
With a wistful glance at the third-floor window of her erstwhile office in Eliot Hall and a last bracing breath, she headed across the lawn to the massive library. The stone Tudor Gothic building with its square central tower had been impressive enough in her student days, but since then its size had been more than doubled by a modern addition that did not copy but harmonized with the old style.
Emily planned to greet the librarian, stake out a table, and start collecting the books she'd need. She'd spent most of this day traveling here from Stony Beach and getting resettled in her old house half a block from the edge of campus, so today would not be a real work day. She'd just get everything set up so she could plunge in first thing tomorrow.
At the main desk, she flashed her Bede ID and asked the student worker if she could speak to Miranda Brooks, the head librarian. As she waited, she thought about where she'd like to stake her claim. The best place would be one of the desks set aside for seniors to work on their theses. These had shelves above the tables, which sat next to a full wall of windows and were flooded with natural light. Perhaps during Paideia one of the desks would be unoccupied.
'Emily!' Miranda greeted her, infusing maximum enthusiasm into her habitual hushed library voice. 'Are you back for real? Or is this just a flying visit?'
Emily took the two hands Miranda proffered and smiled at her friend. Miranda had a talent for picking up thrift-store finds and combining them into stunning outfits. Today she wore a pair of high- waisted, wide-legged mustard-colored trousers topped by a peacock blue peasant blouse and a knee-length red crocheted vest. Her tall, slim figure and shingled black hair helped her pull off any look she chose.
'I'm here for Paideia. Finally going to finish researching that book on Dostoevsky. And I'm hoping I can grab a quiet spot here for the duration, since they've given my office away.'
'Of course! We have a number of thesis desks standing empty for the month.'
Following Miranda, Emily rolled her heavy briefcase into the main-floor room of stacks where thesis desks lined the west wall. Each large table had space for four students, two on each side. Miranda stopped at one about halfway down the row. 'Here's a good one,' she said in a whisper, since a student already occupied the far side of the table. 'I know for sure neither of the students who use this side will be back before term time.'
The students had taken all their goods and chattels with them, probably intending to work through vacation, so the half-table stood empty, as if it had been awaiting her. 'Perfect.' Emily unloaded her books on to the shelf above and piled her notebooks and index cards on the desk itself. 'Now I just need to grab some books from you, and I'll be all set.' She pulled a list out of her purse.
Miranda cast an eye down the list. 'Oh, dear,' she said. 'I'm afraid a lot of these are in here already. Right on the other side of your shelf.'
Emily stepped around the table and scanned the shelf Miranda indicated. Indeed, several of the titles she needed were ranged there. And the shaggy dark head bent over a laptop beneath them looked familiar.
The young man turned at their voices, a frown of irritation distorting his distinctive features. Daniel Razumov. He'd been in her nineteenth-century European novel class the previous year. In her former life, before she inherited a fortune, rediscovered her lost true love, moved to Stony Beach, and became perforce an amateur detective. Daniel would be a senior now, and he must be doing his thesis on Dostoevsky.
The face that confronted her was long and improbably lean, with pale skin stretched taut over prominent cheekbones, a hawklike nose, and square, stubbled jaw. The dark eyes in their deep sockets burned now with annoyance, but she remembered them smoldering with a perpetual agitation, a restlessness that could not be quelled. His long, thin fingers brushed an unruly black lock off his brow. In class he had habitually pulled at his hair as if trying to extract thoughts from his brain, or perhaps only the words to express them with.
She had two options with Daniel now: try to come to some arrangement for sharing the books and resources they both needed, or pull rank and simply take them. She wasn't officially retired from Bede yet, so she still had staff privileges. But pulling rank wasn't Emily's style, and although Daniel might not be the easiest person to negotiate with, she had always felt obscurely drawn to him. She was sure that underneath all that Sturm und Drang he was fundamentally decent.
She smiled at him, and before she could speak, she saw recognition dawn in his face. 'Professor Cavanaugh!' he said, rising to greet her. 'You're back!'
'Hello, Daniel. I'm not back for good, but I'm here for Paideia to do some research.' She gave an apologetic grimace. 'And I'm afraid most of the books I'm going to need are right there.'
His eyes followed her pointing finger, then snapped back to her face, retreating under lowering brows. 'I suppose you're going to make me turn them all in. There goes a wasted month.'
Emily put out a hand but didn't go so far as to touch him. The energy he radiated was such that she feared an electric shock. 'I wouldn't dream of it. I have all the time in the world to do my research, whereas you have a deadline. But I was hoping perhaps we could share? Neither of us can use all the books at once.'
His face opened up as if the Santa Claus he didn't believe in had given him the gift he'd always dreamed of. 'Oh! Of course! Whatever you need, just let me know.' A flicker of trepidation crept back in. 'I'm in the middle of Berdyaev right now.'
'I have my own copy of Berdyaev. No worries there.' In fact, Emily realized, she could now afford to buy all the books she needed; but some of them, especially the Russian-language ones, would be quite difficult to find.
She cast an eye over Daniel's shelf and saw a few titles that were not on her list. Some of them looked like books on psychology. 'What's the focus of your thesis?'
'Dostoevsky's concept of personal identity.'
That would explain the psychology books. 'I'm working on his Orthodox faith, so we shouldn't get in each other's way too much. And I promise I won't disturb you more than I can help.' She wasn't concerned about Daniel disturbing her; he seemed to avoid human companionship as much as anyone she knew.
Next to Daniel's collection of books, acting as an improvised bookend, stood a small statuette that looked familiar. Emily leaned in for a closer look. 'Oh, it's the Bronze Horseman! May I?' She reached out to touch it.
'I'd rather you didn't. It's ... special.'
She pulled her hand back, a little startled at the refusal. The statuette was bronze and did not look particularly fragile. 'Was it a gift?'
'No. It just – I just – I can't explain it. It's kind of my lucky charm.'
'I see.' Though in fact she had a hard time seeing how that particular statue could be lucky for anyone. The Bronze Horseman was the name given by Russia's national poet, Alexander Pushkin, to the huge equestrian statue of Peter the Great that stood in Senate Square in St Petersburg. In Pushkin's poem of that name, the statue came to life and hounded a man to his death. It was treated as a figure of nightmare in Andrei Bely's novel Petersburg as well. What kind of tortured mind did Daniel have to see such a thing as his lucky talisman?
Perhaps she'd come to understand over the course of the next few weeks. For now, she was tired and wanted to get home.
'I'm just dropping stuff off tonight – I expect I'll see you in the morning.'
He answered her bright smile with a curt nod, as if he'd given her too many words already and was regretting it. Emily exchanged a glance with Miranda and left the room.
Her step considerably lighter now that she'd unloaded her case, Emily climbed the short but steep half-block up Woodstock Boulevard to the little Tudor-style brick cottage she'd shared with her late husband, Philip Cavanaugh, for twenty-five years. She'd rented it to the visiting professor who took her place for this sabbatical year, along with her husband, and had bribed the couple with a free month's rent to let her move back in for these few weeks while they were traveling. But the house hardly seemed like her own anymore. She'd rented it to them furnished, but Peter and Lillian had rearranged the furniture and packed away Emily's remaining pictures, books, and ornaments, replacing them with their own.
At least the cats were familiar. She'd left Bustopher Jones at Windy Corner with Katie, her young housekeeper, but brought Kitty and Levin, her matched pair of grays, back to their old home to keep her company. They trotted up to meet her at the door, yowling for their supper. She could tell by their tentative movements and the way they startled at every sound that they were ill at ease here too. Oh well, she and the cats would all get used to the place again before long – probably just in time to move back to Stony Beach.
She hung up her coat and hat, fed the cats, and was leafing through the mail that lay on the mat – none of which was addressed to her personally – when the doorbell sounded loud in her ear, making her jump. A glance through the peephole revealed that her visitor was her dear friend from the French department, Marguerite Grenier, who had provided almost her only link to Bede during the months she'd been away. Emily opened the door to her eagerly.
'Margot! I'm so glad you came. I'm feeling like a dodo that somehow survived into the twenty-first century.'
'I come bearing gifts, chérie,' Marguerite replied, holding up a bulging shopping bag in one hand and a bottle of red wine in the other. 'I knew you would have no food in the house and would be too fatiguée to go out, so I brought dinner to you.'
Emily kissed her friend on both cheeks. 'Bless you. I hadn't even thought about dinner yet. Come into the kitchen.'
Marguerite set the wine on the table and unloaded a warm baguette, a bowl of salad, and a steaming quiche, plus a smaller bag that she immediately transferred to the fridge. 'A surprise for later. You do have dishes, do you not?'
'Of course. Lillian and Peter only took their personal stuff on their trip.' Emily opened what had been her dish cabinet to find it full of glassware instead. The dishes were on the opposite side. Really, couldn't they have left something alone?
She found the necessaries and laid the table for two while Marguerite unearthed and lit a couple of candles in tall bronze candlesticks. 'There. Now we will be civilized, despite the meal being only such a one as I could easily carry.'
'It looks – and smells – heavenly to me.' Emily sat, spread her napkin on her lap, and crossed herself as she said a silent grace, knowing her friend would not appreciate having it said aloud.
Although Marguerite had been a guest at Windy Corner, Emily's new home in Stony Beach, for Christmas, they'd had little time alone together amid the tumultuous events of that week, which included a murder, Emily's engagement to her old flame Lieutenant Sheriff Luke Richards, and her discovery of a half-brother she'd never known she had. So Emily had had no opportunity of catching up on the latest Bede gossip.
'What's been going on in the division? Who's here for Paideia?'
Marguerite rolled her eyes. 'Richard, of course.' Richard McClintock was the division chair, an abrasive, bitter, sarcastic man whom neither of them much liked. 'Konstantin, I think, and Teresa. And Oscar, as you know.' Oscar Lansing was Emily's newly discovered half-brother. He was an adjunct professor in English, the lowest man on the academic totem pole, but Emily hoped she'd be able to do something to help him up a step or two.
'Oh, and Taylor Curzon. She was going to go to Moscow but decided at the last minute to wait until summer. I think she was afraid ses tétons would freeze off in the Russian winter.'
Emily groaned. 'Not Taylor. Of all people. Lord, give me strength.'
Unlike Richard, who went out of his way to antagonize people, Taylor Curzon managed to do so with no effort at all. A single woman in her forties, she flaunted her potent sexuality, disdaining all females and sinking her teeth into a different piece of fresh young male meat each semester. More than once Emily had been the one trying to put the pieces of her victims back together after Taylor had sucked the life out of them and cast them aside.
'I hope that doesn't mean her latest prey – or intended prey – is here as well. I really don't want to have to witness that again.'
'I am afraid you may not be able to avoid it. She has cast her eye on one of your Russian students, I think, and I understand he will be here, slaving away on his thesis.'
Emily set down her fork in sudden horror. 'Not Daniel Razumov?'
'If he is the one who resembles Raskolnikov, oui. It is he.'
Emily dropped her head into her hands. She'd come here looking for peace, quiet, and undistracted study. With Taylor Curzon's new target sitting right across from her, she would have been better off staying in Stony Beach.CHAPTER 2
The next morning, somewhat dazed due to a poor night's sleep punctuated by the feet of restless cats on sensitive points of her body, Emily arrived at her desk to find Daniel's side of the table empty. With a small and guilty rush of relief – for, although Daniel was quiet, she found interaction with him draining – she organized her piles of cards, books, and notebooks on the table. She frowned at the resultant clutter. If so little wood was visible now, before she had even begun, what would the space look like when she got going properly?
Her mind flashed her an image of the Windy Corner library at Christmastime, when a group of writers – including two scholars – had gathered there to work. Each writer had a laptop, and that appeared to be sufficient to keep all their notes and research in order. Emily waved the treacherous thought away. She was determined to stick with her old-fashioned ways. How could she enter into Dostoevsky's world of quills and quartos if her own work existed only in the intangible miasma of a computer screen?(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Death With Dostoevsky"
Copyright © 2019 Katherine Bolger Hyde.
Excerpted by permission of Severn House Publishers Limited.
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