The Gravity of What Has Gone (9)

“Since I put up the flyers, I’ve actually hired five others besides you,” I told the young woman sitting across from me. We were meeting in the campus coffee shop, surrounded by loud, caffeinated students who all seemed to be wearing pajamas, even though it was three in the afternoon.

“Yeah.” She frowned. “I’m still not sure I want the job. I mean, the pay’s awfully good for ‘basic research.’ Like, scammy good. No offense.”

“None taken.” I had a good feeling about her. May Xiong, majoring in pre-law. A big girl with buzz-cut hair and plastic glasses and impossibly sad eyes. I wanted to make her laugh, cheer her up, but now wasn’t the time. “I’m not sure what to say to convince you.”

She shrugged and got to her feet. “Nice meeting you, then.”

“Wait. Please. It’s a personal matter. An emergency.”

“Call 911.”

“If you find what I’m looking for, I’ll pay you ten thousand dollars.”

May stared at me, one hand frozen in the act of raising her backpack to her shoulder. “And what, exactly, are you looking for?”

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