In fact, J.J. felt better than fine. Maybe a nice, restful maybe-concussion had been exactly what she needed. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d felt so energetic. The same old habits had her putting the mask on and drawing her hood up tight, but the cold barely touched her.
The world was bathed in moonlight, streetlights, and head lights, and she couldn’t remember when Calvary Crossing had ever looked so beautiful.
Ever as true to her word as she could be, she texted Princess to say when she got home, before she even got inside. She got a reply almost immediately:
“Glad to see you got a ride after all.”
“No,” J.J. typed back. “Just made good time.”
“Is this some macho thing with you?” Princess replied. “It’s only been 40 minutes.”
J.J. looked at the time on her phone: 9:37. She hadn’t checked the time when she left the museum, which had closed at eight that night. The extended hours were the only reason she’d been able to make it.
She had no idea how long she’d been out cold, but even if it was somehow just a minute or two, that still meant she’d had time to go around with Detective Gilbert, give an exhaustive statement to Geisler, and then make it home…
“Told you I felt fine.”
“I hope you got an Uber or something because the alternative is you ran home with a concussion.”
“I didn’t get an Uber, I don’t have a concussion, and I didn’t run. I just made good time.”
“Seven miles in 40 minutes. That’s running.”
J.J. started typing, “That’s still only…”, figuring her actual average speed as she swiped the words out, but she stopped when she realized it was a bit of north ten miles per hour. She could normally manage close to four at a brisk walk. She thought a decent jog would maybe be six and a half.
She erased the words and then started to write, “You must have the time wrong.”
She erased that, too.
If Princess was off, she couldn’t off by enough to make a huge difference to the calculations.
More than that, J.J. had no reason to believe that Princess was wrong.
Something about the situation was off, but J.J. had no earthly clue when she’d left and wasn’t about to tell anyone else they were wrong about something she didn’t know in the first place.
“I told you I was fine,” she said instead. It was a bit cheeky, but… she was feeling a bit cheeky. “I must not have had a concussion after all, or I wouldn’t have made it home at all, much less so quickly.”
“That’s not funny.”
“It was supposed to be reassuring?”
“It’s not that, either.”
“Don’t know what to tell you? I feel fine. I got home okay. Isn’t that what you wanted to hear?”
“Yes. Thank you.”
J.J. thought about replying to that with something about talking to Princess later, but she’d rejected her offer of getting together and had only given her phone number for this one purpose. They had this line of communication, but the ball was firmly in the nurse’s court now.
“You’re welcome,” she sent, and then pocketed her phone. She didn’t expect another reply that night, and didn’t get one.
The door opened just before she reached it, leaving her staring at her housemate Spence.
“Spence!” she said. “Just the human I was looking for?”
“Jesus, J.J.,” he said. “I thought you lost your key or something, standing out here in the cold.”
“Nah, just texting a fancy lady,” she said.
“Haha, nice, dude,” Spence said.
“I think so? Probably,” J.J. said. “But she didn’t see me at my best. Listen. You’re like a real lawyer, right? I mean, you don’t just do co-op law stuff?”
“Yeah. Mostly corporations and business licensing, a little small business tax law,” he said. “Why? You get a summons or something? I could, like, get you a referral for a trial lawyer.”
“Nah, nothing like that,” she said. “But I have to go downtown sometime and talk to this jerk-head cop about a thing…”
“Hold on, you got arrested?”
“No, I’m a witness?” she said. “But the cop’s far enough up my nose about it that I think he might try to screw me over anyway? And someone told me I should always have a lawyer to talk to the cops anyway?”
“Someone was right,” Spence said. “But I’m not really a talk-to-cops lawyer. If you want to keep this on a strictly ‘in-house’ basis, you need to hit up Mallory Crogan.”
J.J. had met Mallory only in passing, and didn’t know them that well.
“They’re a talk-to-cops lawyer?”
“More than I am. They were with the Office of the Public Defender before joining Legal Aid.”
“Those aren’t the same thing?”
“J.J.! You’re killing me here, dude! A Public Defender is a defense attorney on the government payroll. Legal Aid is publicly-funded lawyers for low-income people. The point is, Mallory’s done criminal defense. They know how to deal with cops.”
“And they’ll help me? Will I have to go through their work, or…”
“I can’t make promises, but we kind of have an arrangement here at Le Chateau Maison?” Spence said. “Someone does you a favor, you pay it forward to someone else.”
“I know how that works, just wasn’t sure if it went as far as, you know, professional legal favors,” J.J. said.
“If it’s just going down to the station and answering some questions, Mallory will probably be cool doing it for lunch or something. If it gets harrier or more involved, of course, they might refer you to someone else and it will probably be a billing situation.”
“Who knew fifteen minutes could be so expensive?” J.J. asked.
“Gross, dude,” Spence said. “Is this a public indecency thing? Wait, don’t tell me. I really don’t want to know.”
“I told you, I’m a witness?” J.J. said. “Has Mallory done this sort of favor for people in the house before?”
“Once or twice. We all bring different skills to the table. Just remember: pay it forward.”
“Great. Well, I can probably bring lunch to the table,” J.J. said. “I don’t know what I can do for Mallory, if that’s not enough.”
“Dude, don’t sweat it,” Spence said. “I believe we’re all here for a reason. You’ve probably got stuff you can do you don’t even know about yet.”