She turned on the blank backlit screen and said, “This matter involves Henry Ross, my brother in law, and the college where he is the corporate counsel, Campbell - Frank College in West Lowell, Vermont.”
Sarah paused again (Nina was now smart enough to realize) for effect. “Some of what you are about to see will be shocking, I must warn you. All of what you see, and all of what you hear, must be kept secret. I can’t tell you how I’ve obtained some of these pictures or this information, and that’s because I don’t want even you to know. Deniability, you know.”
She cleared her throat and walked over to dim the lights. Then she pushed a button on her laptop. “This is Tami Smithers.”
It took a while for Nina to recognize the picture on the screen. A smiling girl in a white high school graduation gown, being hugged on both sides by what must be her parents. Fully clothed, a white face, much paler than Nina had seen, red hair unstreaked by gray -- this young, innocent girl seemed so different, but after looking a moment, Nina could see some resemblance to the tanned naked girl who was staying at Brian Cook’s mansion.
“Corliss High School, Providence, Rhode Island, Class of 2000,” Sarah continued. Now, a picture of an oldish, drab school with graffiti on the side. “This is her father John Smithers, an engineer with a local electronics firm.” A close-up of the man hugging the graduating girl. “He has an associate’s degree from the community college.” Now, a close-up of the mother. “Her mother, Martha. She never” -- Sarah decided to rephrase this -- “she is a high school graduate. There is also a brother, Joseph, one year younger.”
The next slide showed a line of girls in modest gymnastics leotards and tights, smiling at the camera, with a circle drawn around the third girl from the left. “Miss Smithers was on the gymnastics team, and also on the swim team. Because of her high intelligence and work habits, she was accepted to Campbell - Frank on a gymnastics scholarship, the first person in her family ever to go to a four-year college. Needless to say, her entire family was very proud.”
Another picture of the girl in her graduation gown, this time in the middle of about ten people who appeared to be uncles, aunts, cousins.
A picture of a wedding party in front of a worn-down church, the maids of honor in matching pink dresses. The bride, dressed in white in the middle, has a suspiciously large tummy. There is a circle drawn around the second girl from the left. “Miss Smithers comes from a working class, conservative Catholic background. This is her in front of her home parish, as they call it, St. Ann’s, at what we think was her cousin’s wedding.”
A picture of an ivy-covered building, very old and distinguished-looking. “Campbell - Frank College. One of the best, most prized schools in the Northeast, with a strong program in mathematics, which Miss Smithers decided to choose as her major. It would be an Ivy League school except for its small size and Baptist origins. Obviously quite a step up for a working class girl from Providence.” Some more pictures of the beautifully landscaped campus grounds. And now, a picture of a grand-looking portico ornate, Greek-themed entrance. “Also, home to the Chalfont Institute. Though not a household word, it’s one of the oldest and most distinguished centers for biophysical research, dominated in the past couple of generations by German biologists who had escaped the Hitler regime, and more recently by accomplished biologists from Asia and Africa.”
A picture of three girls sitting at desks busily filling out forms. A circle around the middle one, red hair flung back over her shoulder, dressed in a T-shirt, long jeans, white socks and sneakers. “This picture found its way into the college yearbook. Miss Smithers and some classmates at freshman orientation.”
Sarah paused. “I’m afraid that after this, my presentation gets a bit . . .darker.”