Friday, June 20, 2415 | Sunset Valley, Valverde
“Hey!” Kass exclaimed, sprinting over the low brick wall and reaching Gage’s side. “I have to go.”
“What?” he frowned. “We just started playing.”
“Yeah, uh…” she tried to think quickly, but her accelerated heart rate and breathing interrupted her train of thought. “I need to check on something important.”
“I’ll come with you,” he offered, taking the soccer ball from her hand. “I can return this to the rental place if you want.”
“Yes, and uh…” she started across the lawn, referencing the down payment returned upon turning in the items. “Keep the money for the trouble.”
“Wait… Kass…” Gage said, puckering his brow. “Is everything okay?”
“Yeah,” she forced a smile. “I just…” her phone dinged, reminding her of the reply she was waiting for and she could feel the brooch sliding from its hiding place. Gulping awkwardly, she continued, “I forgot to file some papers for Jennifer. It’s really important for tomorrow.”
“Legal aid isn’t open tomorrow,” he narrowed his eyes.
“You’re right,” she waved. “But it’s for a conference call Jennifer’s gotta do… for her day off,” she chuckled weakly. “Work never really stays at work.”
“Uh huh, right,” he bobbed his head as if he didn’t believe her. “I’ll meet you there.”
“At the office?” she squeaked and walked backward. “I really gotta be back before five.”
“It’s almost dinner,” Gage said. “I’ll meet you in the office cafeteria on the top floor.”
“I don’t know,” she winced, unsure how long it would take her to find where the mysterious man went in the building. “Okay, sure…” she agreed, just so he would stop bugging her. “See you in a half hour.”
“More like fifteen,” he replied. “Should I order?”
“Yeah, you know what I like,” she yelled over her shoulder as she ran across the street once more.
Maybe she would catch the guy in the act. The act of what? Kass you’re so stupid, she shook her head as she pounded pavement. You have no idea who he is or what he wants. Or why he was at your house. She should’ve snapped a photo of the car with her smartphone. She reached between her layered blue and green tank tops to retrieve her bisnonna’s brooch. That wasn’t the best idea to keep you there, her fingers surrounded the sticky jewel.
Suddenly, she came to a dead stop. Kass sniffed her index finger. Glue! she grimaced and her eyes widened almost instantly. A fake!?!? The brooch wasn’t her great-grandmother’s. It wasn’t the original piece. It was a fake. It had to be. No jeweler would’ve used glue on the real deal. Joel Astroman gave her a fake. Maybe that’s why he handed over the item so easily. He knew. He had to have known. The sweat must have dislodged the glue on the imitation piece. So if this was a phony… where was the real one?
Immediately, she took up running again. By the time she reached the business complex, her heart was about ready to fly out of her chest. To her disappointment, the car was no longer parked on the curbside. She ran all the way around the building to be sure, and then collapsed on a bench right inside the lobby. She lifted a fist to her forehead. Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! She pulled out her phone and realized the text was from Clark. What’s up? he asked.
Kass: Found something of interest. Need advice.
Clark replied momentarily.
Clark: What kind of advice?
Kass: About a stolen piece of property found with a mutual friend of ours.
Clark: Where are you? We should meet.
Kass typed ‘Agreed,’ and then noticed Gage walking through the double door entrance.
Kass: Can’t talk right now. I’ll check in later.
She slipped her phone into her pocket.
“All done?” he asked.
“Yeah,” she replied, pushing back a sweaty piece of loose hair from her forehead.
“You look flushed,” he observed as they stepped into the elevator.
“It’s just my natural glow,” she smirked as the doors closed.
When they reached the top floor, Gage waved his arm gallantly, letting her step off the elevator first.
They approached the cashier in the office complex cafeteria.
“Oh I am?” Kass quirked a brow.
“Yeah, I bought lunch,” he explained. “Plus we can use some of your rental money you gave me.”
“Fine,” she agreed, and put up her fingers. “Two orders of cheesy nachos. One with just cheese. One loaded with everything.”
“Yum,” he grinned, and swung his arm around her neck. “You know me so well.”
The food was ready quickly. Gage took their plates back to the table. Kass followed suit, but stopped still as she noticed a covered vehicle across the street. Why hadn’t she noticed it before? Craning her neck, she managed to catch a letter on the license plate peeking out from under the blanket as it flapped momentarily as a bus sped past. Z! she could’ve clapped her hands. She was pretty sure she saw a ‘Z.’ It was the vehicle, wasn’t it? But she couldn’t very well ditch Gage now. She was running low on excuses.
“Are you gonna sit and eat?” he asked. “Or am I going to be forced to eat your olives?”
“Olives?” she repeated. “Oh right…” she plopped in the chair.
She would just have to hope the vehicle was still there by the time she was done with dinner. Then she realized she had a solution. She pulled out her phone and sent a quick text to Detective Goddard.
Author Notes: And the plot thickens. Thanks for reading. P.S. The Looking Glass bar is at the top of the Alto Business Complex, which is my slightly made-over version of the stunning Modern Office created by Wimmie, available on the TSR.