“Actually, I’m with Stella.” I shrugged. “NYU is going to be easier, simpler, than finding our needle in the archives haystack.”
Jamie held up his hands in defeat, and the three of us took a train to the Village. Jamie had to persuade the security guard to let the three of us in without ID. Then we headed to the floor where literatures were compared, and asked the blank-stared intern at the front desk where and how the incoming mail was routed. She pointed us to a milk crate piled high with envelopes.
“I distribute mail to the professors during their office hours. Everything without a professor’s name goes to the head of the department, Peter McCarthy.”
Stella and I raised our eyebrows. “And where is Professor McCarthy’s office?”
“Last door on the left.”
When we reached it, it was locked.
“Of course it’s locked,” Stella said after she’d tried it. “Of course.”
“Wait,” Jamie said, and withdrew something from his pocket. He stuck what looked like a bobby pin into the keyhole and jiggled it around purposefully. We practically held our breath until we heard the mechanism click.
“After you,” he said, pushing the door open. I went in first.
Rows of overflowing bookcases lined the room, littered with papers and notebooks and random objects on every available surface, and many unavailable ones too. A damp-looking plant hung from a planter attached to the ceiling. Jamie ducked beneath it and began exploring.
“What are we looking for, exactly?” he asked.
“The access key, I guess,” Stella said, carefully lifting up some papers on the desk.
Jamie squinted. “You realize that could be a code, not an actual key?”
I made a beeline for a half-buried inbox perched precariously on a shelf, and started looking through his mail. “Ginsberg said he’d sent the access code here, though. Which means he mailed it.” I lifted an armful of envelopes and doled them out to Jamie and Stella. “Happy hunting.”
“I’m pretty sure opening someone else’s mail is a crime,” Stella said.
“I’m pretty sure so is accessory to murder,” Jamie said. “And yet here we are.” He held up a manila envelope and raised his eyebrows. “No return address . . .”
“Open it,” I told him.
He carefully slid a finger beneath the flap and peeked inside, then withdrew a thick, glossy IKEA catalogue.
Next. The three of us worked in silence. I flipped through my pile, looking out for anything with Ginsberg’s name on it, or even just an address. But nothing stood out.
“This can’t be another dead end,” Stella groaned.
I knew how she felt. Frustration and anger bubbled up inside me, and I found myself abandoning the pile of hastily-checked-through mail and dropping to the floor to sort through the papers, notebooks, and file folders stacked up in piles all over the cramped, stuffy office. Any hope I’d originally had was thinning out by the second. The archives would be a thousand times worse than this. How could we find what we were looking for if we didn’t even know where to look?
Stella and Jamie had each abandoned their stacks of mail and were now following my lead, looking through the papers on the floor. “These papers are at, like, a fourth-grade reading level. What does this guy even teach?”
“?‘Pacific Islander Gender Studies from 1750 to 1825,’?” Jamie said, reading from a paper and not looking up.
“This is useless,” I said as I rose from my crouch. “If the key was mailed here, whoever told Ginsberg to mail it here could have picked it up already. We might be looking for something that isn’t even here.”
“So, what, we just leave?” Stella asked.
“We have a better chance of finding what we’re looking for in the archives,” Jamie said. “As I told you before, FYI. Look, there’s going to be a ton of stuff there, obviously, but we’re bound to stumble onto something we can use to find out who’s behind all of this. Eventually,” he added.
I hated to admit it, but this was in fact turning out to be another dead end. “Let’s just put everything back where we found it before someone finds us rifling through his shit.”
Stella looked stricken. Jamie was eager to leave, and started putting things away as fast as his hot little hands could move. I rearranged the pile of notebooks I was holding on the corner of the desk and turned around, but as I did, I tripped over a small wooden carved statue I’d moved to the floor earlier. I threw my hands out against the bookcase to break my fall, which worked, but the movement sent something tumbling down from the top of it, right onto my head.
I swore and held both hands against the crown of my skull as I mimed kicking the stupid bookcase. Jamie picked up the thing that had fallen on me.
“I would’ve thought your head would be hard enough to break the glass,” he said, holding the picture frame.
“You’re going to feel crappy about making fun of me if I have a concussion.”
“You don’t have a concussion,” Jamie said. He turned the picture over. “Does anyone remember where this was?”
I said, “I think it was on top of the bookcase?”
Jamie reached up to put it back. The picture was facing forward—it was of someone speaking at what looked like a graduation ceremony. McCarthy, I think, was the grizzled man at the podium. But that wasn’t what caught my eye. In the background, standing off to the left of the stage in front of dozens of robed graduates and in a cluster of suited academics, was someone I thought I recognized. I snatched the frame from Jamie’s hand.
“What is it?” he asked.
“Not what,” I said. “Who.” I was pointing at Abel Lukumi.
STELLA STEPPED OVER A PILE of academic journals on the floor and stood next to us. “What are we looking at?”
“The person responsible for all of this,” I said without hesitating. There was no other explanation. “That’s Lukumi.”
“Wait—the guy from Miami? From Little Havana?”
“As opposed to the one from Sweden?”
“Shut up.” Stella punched Jamie’s arm.
Jamie snapped a picture of the photo of Lukumi and McCarthy immediately, and then we hastily rearranged the professor’s office to look the way we’d found it. Mostly.
“What are the odds, though?” Jamie asked as we walked.
I shrugged. “One in who cares? He was in the picture with that professor—the head of the department where Ginsberg mailed the key. And he was on the train platform in DC. And he was in the hospital after Jude slit my wrists. He’s been following us the whole time.”