“For the last time,” Bruce said evenly, “I am not the Sweet Valley date rapist.”
“He’s really not,” Elizabeth piped up. “Officer, I know this may be none of my business, but that’s never stopped me from interfering before. And I can say with about 60 percent certainty that Bruce is not the Sweet Valley date rapist.”
“Thank you,” Bruce said in an exasperated tone. “I’ve been trying to tell this asshole that for the past five minutes.”
“Don’t you know who he is?” Lila demanded of the police officer. “He’s Bruce Fucking Patman!”
“Yeah, we know,” one of the officers said.
“So let him go,” Lila said. “Those of us in this town who are wealthy are granted certain privileges.”
“I’m afraid we can’t do that,” the officer escorting Bruce said. “There’s a Sweet Valley Action News van outside — we don’t want to appear soft on crime.”
“When has that ever stopped you?” Lila challenged. “You certainly didn’t do anything when that Margo bitch was running around, trying to kill one of the Wakefield twins.”
“Hey, in our defense, she looked just like a Wakefield,” one of the officers said. “We didn’t want to arrest the wrong one!”
“Can we get back to me?” Jessica asked angrily. “Because as we all know, this is all about me.”
* * *
Amy ran a hand through her hair quickly, smoothing everything down. They were going live in 30 seconds. She cleared her throat and held up her microphone.
“Good afternoon, Sweet Valley,” she said confidently into the camera. “We interrupt your regularly scheduled program to bring you some breaking news live from the parking lot of the Unicorn Club, where police say they have arrested the man they believe is the Sweet Valley date rapist.”
She looked over her shoulder at the entrance of the club, trying not to let her face give away the amount of disgust she felt just being close to such an establishment. What a rundown building, she thought. I bet the only strippers in there are size sixteen 50-year-olds with bleached hair and c-section scars. And Annie Whitman.
Three police officers walked out of the club, each of them leading a handcuffed suspect: Bruce, Roger and Enid.
Amy blinked in surprise, then turned back to the camera. “It appears that the police have arrested their main suspect in the Sweet Valley date rapist case, the chief executive officer of Patman Canning, Bruce Patman, as well as his cousinbro and colleague, Roger Barrett Patman, and child abuser and crackhead Enid Rollins,” she said, running after the police officers, her cameraman trying to keep up.
“Mr. Patman, do you have anything to say?” Amy asked, thrusting the microphone in his face.
Elizabeth came running out of the club and threw herself in front of the microphone. “Mr. Patman has no comment at this time,” she said breathlessly.
“And just who are you?” Amy demanded.
“Amy, you know me — we’ve known each other since we were kids,” Elizabeth said.
“I’m Amy Sutton, of Sweet Valley Action news,” Amy said, sticking out a hand for Elizabeth to shake. Elizabeth reluctantly shook Amy’s hand. “And you are?”
“Elizabeth Wakefield,” Elizabeth said slowly, as if Amy were stupid.
“Wakefield,” Amy repeated, pulling her reporter’s notebook out of her jacket pocket. “How do you spell that?”
“Amy, you already know how to spell Wakefield,” Elizabeth said, shaking her head.
“Ms. Wakefield, our graphics department needs to know so we can correctly attribute your quotes on screen,” Amy said sweetly.
Elizabeth sighed. “W-A-K-E-F-I-E-L-D,” she said quickly.
“Super,” Amy said condescendingly. “And how are you related to Mr. Patman?”
Elizabeth cast a worried glance over her shoulder as the police officer shoved Bruce into the backseat of the police car. “Um, I’m his … public relations person,” she stammered. “I mean, my title is actually vice president of meddling in employee affairs and public relations. I can spell that for you, if you’d like.”
“No need,” Amy said snidely. “Are you aware that Mr. Patman has been accused of being the Sweet Valley date rapist?”
Elizabeth nodded slowly and took a deep breath. Her mouth was dry. “Yes, both Mr. Patman and myself have been made aware of the accusations.”
“And do you think he did it?” Amy pressed, shoving her microphone right in Elizabeth’s face.
“I have no comment on that at this time,” Elizabeth said.
“Come on, Ms. Wakefield,” Amy said, crossing her arms. “Surely you have an opinion on whether or not he’s a date rapist.”
“All right, my opinion is that he’s not a date rapist,” Elizabeth conceded.
“Ms. Wakefield, are you aware that Mr. Patman has been accused of kidnapping Mayor Santelli’s daughter, Maria?”
Elizabeth gasped. She went pale as her hand involuntarily fluttered up to cover her mouth. “No, I had no idea,” she said finally, letting her hand drop back down to her side. “But I certainly don’t think Bruce — Mr. Patman — would kidnap anybody, let alone Maria Santelli.”
“Really?” Amy said, raising a perfectly waxed eyebrow. “You seem to have a lot of faith in Mr. Patman, Ms. Wakefield.”
“Well, I do,” Elizabeth said. “Mr. Patman — and Patman Canning — are committed to the cause of date rape. That’s why we’re planning on opening the Patman Date Rape Crisis Center.”
“Ah, a crisis center for victims of Patman date rape,” Amy said. “How noble of you.”
“No, no, that’s not what I meant,” Elizabeth said, shaking her head as if to erase the last thing she’d just said. “What I mean is, we’re committed to ending date rape. And the center is for victims of all kinds of date rape, not just Patman date rape.”
“So you acknowledge the presence of Patman date rape in Sweet Valley,” Amy fired back.
“No, no, I don’t — that’s not what I said,” Elizabeth stuttered, stumbling over her words.
“Ms. Wakefield, I’m just going to come out and say it: Some sources have informed me that you may be having an inappropriate relationship with Mr. Patman,” Amy said. “Is this true?”
“No, there’s nothing inappropriate about our relationship,” Elizabeth said. “We’re just BFFs, that’s all.”