Friday, Simtember 9, 2416 | Llama Sports Bar | Bay City, Califorsimia
“That’s it?” Brendon Shore asked as if wanting to be sure he heard me correctly.
After leaving Gage six voicemails, I had called my boss. I figured Shameka’s story was just the kind of story an investigative journalist would write. I didn’t want to be working at the Bay City Buzz forever. Brendon had once been a ‘serious journalist’ and I figured I’d have to ask his special permission to work on this story. And I had no idea where to start. He told me he’d meet me at the Llama Sports Bar downtown later that evening. After spending an afternoon running much overdue errands with Mamma, I dropped her off at home and went to meet my boss for an early dinner.
“Yes, that’s everything,” I said, bobbing my head enthusiastically.
Brendon pushed back on his barstool, taking everything in. I waited hesitantly knowing it was best for him to mull over my wild and crazy idea before rushing to add anymore details. I took another bite of my southwest nachos. There was something about the gooey hot cheese and salty chips topped with hot peppers and fire-roasted tomatoes that just hit the spot. When he still didn’t say anything after a few minutes, I decided to speak up.
“This was a great suggestion, Brendon, I hadn’t been here yet.”
“The sports bar?”
“Llama Sports Bar? Where we are right now?” I frowned. “And where there’s a sexy lady in the corner about to serve our drinks.”
“Hmm, what?” Brendon blinked rapidly, stretched his arms behind his head, and looked around.
“I figured a comment of that nature would get your attention,” I smirked, pleased with myself.
“Okay Berns, you’re serious,” Brendon said, almost surprised as he leaned over his food and took a bite.
“About the food or the story?” I asked.
“Both, I guess,” he shrugged.
“Yes, Brendon I’m serious. I’ve been pursuing this story about EXCES since I started working at the Buzz.”
“Yes where you got hired so you’d have access to resources you didn’t have as a civilian… or maybe just to get close to me.”
“You’re full of yourself,” I playfully punched him in the shoulder. “And I didn’t just ‘get hired’ for resources. I needed a job.”
“Why? You’ve got your great grandmother’s inheritance, and you were seriously holding out on me when you didn’t tell me that during the interview.”
“Yes, and I suppose everyone tells you about their financial status when they interview at the newspaper. Do you want to see my bank statements? And I don’t get access to the inheritance until I turn twenty-one.”
“No, I know you… you’ve got passion and drive and you want to help people. That’s why you’ll make a great reporter one day, unearthing the shocking secrets of Simkind, and you won’t need a washed-up old journalist like me bossing you around, but then this scruffy lad maybe can ask you on a proper date.”
My fork hovered in mid-air. Did he just say date? I flushed.
“You’re flirting again, Shore.”
“You’re liking it, Fullbright.”
“Stop it. I’m dead serious about my idea to uncover the secrets at RRS and I’ll do it with or without your permission.”
“You mean you’ll quit your day job,” Brendon laughed.
“If necessary,” I hiked my chin in the air. “I just thought… maybe you… could… you know… I don’t know…”
Brendon laid his hand gently on my wrist. “I’m flattered, Kassio, and if everything you told me is true, then RRS is massively violating Simterran rights. I’m surprised you trusted me. I mean, a roguish handsome devil like myself. I might steal your scoop.”
“You wouldn’t dare,” I narrowed my eyes and stared him down.
After a few moments, he blinked and reached for a napkin, wiping his mouth. “You’re right, I wouldn’t. I’m actually a decent guy and I think you know that.”
“Yeah when you’re not flirting with everyone in the office,” I sighed. “One of these days you’re going to get slammed with a sexual harassment lawsuit and I’m going to laugh. The great Brendon Shore will be knocked down a peg or two and it would do you some good.”
Brendon coughed, and took a sip of water. “Comes with the territory. I have all these beautiful young interns working in the office. Can you blame me?”
“I will not dignify that with an answer,” I said, taking another bite of my food. “Now let’s be serious. I have a theory. Do you want to hear it?”
“Remember when you mentioned the upcoming Simtober drug trials at RRS?”
“Well, I think they started early, or they started an off-shoot. That’s what I think Shameka got involved in.”
“RRS has been advertising blood drives. I’ve seen their flyers all over town.”
“Exactly. And I’m thinking… I’ve got this insane idea… I should go in posing like I need money and then do some snooping.”
“Uh uh… bad idea, Berns. I think you should try a different approach,” Brendon shook his head.
“Why?” I frowned.
“Well for starters, if Shameka is remembering all the details correctly, then you could be in serious danger if you just go in like that,” Brendon said. “You can’t just go busting in there expecting to find something at the ground level. And if you did, how are you going to get yourself back out?”
“Do I detect some concern there, Shore?” I teased.
“I’m always concerned about my employees, especially my most valuable employees,” Brendon replied.
“Valuable employees? Brendon, I’m just an intern.”
“And a damn fine journalist. Don’t sell yourself short, Kass. You could be working at The Legacy Chronicle or the Western Examiner. Especially now that you have experience.”
“Three months at the Buzz isn’t going to be enough experience to go work at the Chronicle or Examiner. Brendon, I appreciate the experience but I think I’ll have to work a lot harder and longer before I’ll be taken seriously.”
“And I don’t take you seriously?”
“No, you don’t…” I answered before thinking. Seeing the smile die in Brendon’s eyes, I quickly added, “I’m sorry. Maybe I shouldn’t have said that. I really am grateful you gave me the job.”
“Yeah even if it was just for my resources…”Brendon teased.
“…or just because you liked my…” I trailed off, feeling embarrassed.
Brendon leaned on the counter.
“I always liked the redheads. They’re fiery.”
“See that’s exactly why you’re going to get sued for workplace harassment.”
“Well now that we’ve established that, remember the contact I told you about? The one working in RRS’ public relations division.”
“I was informed me that the company will be experiencing an external audit in the winter… by one Sun Valley Financial Firm. Apparently, they’re sending in one of their top accountants.”
“Okay, so how does that help us?” I frowned. “Wait… how do you know that? About the audit that is? Why would they volunteer that?”
“Yes, I have good connections,” Brendon said smugly.
“She must be willing to risk her job by telling you sensitive details,” I shrugged.
“What makes you think my source is a ‘she,’ Kass?” Brendon asked, his eyes twinkling in amusement.
“Because…” I rolled my eyes. “I know you.”
“Yes, well, I can’t exactly tell you,” Brendon replied.
“Why did you tell me then?” I sighed. “Seriously, sometimes Shore, I think you like jerking my chain.”
“But I have the highest respect for you, deep down,” he smirked.
I sat back for a moment and stared at him bewildered. Brendon Shore could be so infuriating one moment and utterly charming the next. I couldn’t figure him out. One minute he’s helping me and the next minute he’s taunting me. I was beginning to wonder if he was right though. Do I like it? Llamas! That’s a terrible thing to think. I shook my head furiously.
“What’s wrong?” Brendon frowned.
“Oh… hmmm…” I cleared my throat. “Uh… nothing… uh… what can you tell me?” And why do I like it?
“I think it’d be best if I didn’t tell you here,” Brendon replied. “I should make a call or two.”
Suddenly he paled. He was staring past me into the mirror hanging above the bar. I glanced between the reflecting glass and into the bar but I didn’t see anyone or anything that could’ve made him nervous. He looked over his shoulder and glanced around as if concerned someone was watching us or listening. He laid his hand over top of mine and leaned close as if to whisper something to me.
“Are you going to be okay getting home?” he inquired in a low voice.
“Uh… yeah…” I frowned. “Are you all right?”
“Yes,” he stood up and dropped a twenty on the counter to pay for our meal. “I just need to… uh… make a call… like I said. I’ll call you later?”
“Yeah sure,” I slid off my barstool, my brow furrowing.
What is he so concerned about?
“Look I’ll call you…” he said, walking away as my own cell phone started ringing.
“Oh okay… bye Brendon,” I said, mystified over my boss’ sudden change in demeanor.
I looked down at my phone, and immediately recognized the number. I hesitated. My mind was still reeling from my conversation with Brendon.
Maybe I should wait to take the call.
2.12 Coming Soon
- What will Kass decide to do? Will she actually snoop around RRS?
- What spooked Brendon?
- Who is calling Kass?