Tag Archives: Jazzilyn Alto

1.110 Uncovering Lies (KCLKF)

Wednesday, July 11, 2415 | Sunset Valley, Valverde 

I don’t have a key. 

Kass waited for a few minutes for her father to hobble to the door. He smiled tiredly and leaned against the frame as soon as he was inside. She turned around when she realized he didn’t follow her.

“You okay?”

“I’ve got this pain in my neck today,” he replied, massaging his shoulder. “Are you okay? You were up late last night?”

She bobbed her head, yawning for the first time that morning. “Yeah, just trouble sleeping so I thought I’d work on some stuff.”

“Your essay?” he asked.

Kass frowned. She might miss the deadline for her communications scholarship if she wasn’t careful. Her essay was due in less than two weeks. She considered calling the university and delaying her entrance. The last week in October sounded more and more appealing, especially as she tried to figure out some things in her life. Things being an understatement. 

She shook her head and ran a hand through her ponytail. “No, internship stuff. I’m finishing up a few things now that Jennifer…”

“I’m so sorry, Kass,” Howard said, appearing genuinely grieved. “I know the internship meant a lot to you. It must be hard with the horrible circumstances.”

More like I’m not sure how I feel about Jennifer being gone than the loss of the job, but… 

“Something like that,” she tilted her head.

Howard limped to the kitchen, offering breakfast and some fresh-squeezed tart cherry juice. Good for your joints after running, he said with a stretched smile. She could tell he was in pain today.

Kass accepted the latter as she stopped to inspect a collection of black-and-white photographs dotting the wall. The house, Kate’s house, appeared immaculate. Nothing cluttered the floor in the entryway. No smudges on any of the many windows. Nothing littering the stairwell. Even the pictures appeared cold, sterile snapshots of nature and architecture, not a single photograph of Kate and her dad, or any people for that matter.

“Are you sure you don’t want eggs?” Howard called around the corner. “Or bacon? Or waffles? Waffles used to be your favorite when you were a little girl.”

Kass sighed, pleased he remembered. “Yeah… I still love waffles…”

She recalled the burnt aftertaste of her mamma’s poor replication, and decided her father’s famous, at least in the Fullbright household, breakfasts.

“Okay, Dad, make me waffles,” she conceded.

“Then waffles it is,” Howard coughed, and slapped his hand on the counter as he tried to regain his balance.

“Dad?” Kass exclaimed.

“I’m fine… I’m fine…” he assured, taking a moment to grab the cabinet handle to steady himself. “Some days I’m tireder than others…” he pulled the cherry juice from the shelf. “Here… help yourself…” he nodded to the cupboard.

Kass picked out two glasses. It was strange to see her father suffering from the effects of EXCES. His muscle weakness, aches, and pains all pointed to an age beyond his forty-five years. Her nonno, with his therapies, seemed to bounce back quicker than her own dad, and he was quite a bit older. She worried her father would have to eventually use a cane or even a wheelchair if the disease continued to leech his energy.

Howard dropped an egg. The shell shattered into many tiny white shards, the yolk splashing on the floor.

“Let me get that,” Kass said, glancing around for a towel.

Like other rooms in the house, the kitchen was rather sparse. She managed to find a tea towel in one of the drawers near the stove.

“No,” Howard said, bending slowly to pick up the pieces. “It’s okay.”

He nearly slipped.

“Dad, seriously” Kass insisted, grabbing his arm. “Let me clean it up.”

She tried not to gasp. His muscles felt like gelatin, lacking substance. Her father was morphing into a skin-and-bones man.

“Here, you…” she snagged a bar stool with her free hand. “…sit here and I’ll finish mixing the waffle batter.”

“Thank you, daughter,” Howard relaxed into the seat, pink rising in his cheeks.

Kass turned away to give her father a moment to collect himself. He laid his hands in his lap as she cracked an egg into the mixing bowl.

“Do you still experiment with food?” she inquired, trying to distract.

“Yeah,” Howard said. “I like to try different toppings. It makes it special.”

“I remember your hot dogs,” Kass replied.

“You do?” he replied, a hopefulness raising in his tone. “Katelyn doesn’t like hot dogs, but I still like the meat. Reminds me of Scouts.”

“You were a Scout?” Kass asked, stirring the batter with a big wooden spoon. “I didn’t know that.”

“Yeah, for two summers, then I quit because your Granny Penny needed me at home and I could make money delivering papers,” he answered. “But we used to roast hot dogs over a campfire. I can still smell the smoke.”

“Mmm… sounds lovely,” Kass replied. “The one food I actually like burnt. Too pink and it grosses me out.”

“Really?” Howard remarked as he leaned over and reached in the drawer to pull out a knife. “Here… get the strawberries from the fridge, will ya? I think there are some pistachios in the pantry too. The combination is delicious.”

Kass arched a brow at the mention of ‘pistachios.’ It didn’t seem fair to despise a food simply because it shared a name with the woman her father had an affair with, but she had avoided the greenish cashew-like nut for that very reason. She felt the heat rise in her cheeks, and hoped her father would assume she was flushed from the stovetop.

“Strawberries and pistachios sound good,” she managed, forcing herself to swallow any illogical resentment.

It was mid morning when Kass arrived at Papyrus Memorial Library. The stately brick building was named for an Alsim saint in a city government attempt to appear tolerant. A few generations back, the Landgrabbs had donated the land to the city, but the building was rededicated when Kass was in middle school. Of course, their name was listed on a prominent plaque near the entrance, along with the SimNational state seal flapping proudly on deep blue flags. Nancy Landgrabb, in particular, wanted to appear progressive, but deep down, Kass surmised she wanted the glory that accompanied her family’s good deeds.

Another prominent Sunset Valley family, the Goths, supported the upkeep and maintenance of the building as well as reading programs through one of their many foundations, Fountain of Knowledge. Kass appreciated the vast wealth of learning available through this public resource, especially because her dad couldn’t remember the WiFi password. She twisted her face as she stopped to tie her shoe on the top step. How was he entertaining himself all day without internet? Curiosity claimed the better of her, and she wanted to do some research. Unfortunately, her data was low on her phone plan, and she didn’t have her PeachySoft laptop. And her usual hotspot for utilizing public wireless was out of the question – Jade’s Java Jolt. She didn’t want to chance an encounter with Davis… or Gage.

A young librarian with boyish short red hair and dark gothic makeup helped Kass settle in the information room. The woman, whose nametag read Emma, explained in a boorish monotone that after entering her library card number Kass could log-into the communal computer for an unlimited amount of time so long as no one else needed the device. Thank you public library! Kass smiled as typed the sixteen digit unique library code and then the name ‘Morgana Goth’ into the S’moggle search bar. This morning’s encounter was enough to pique her interest.

Over two million results popped. Kass’ eyes widened. Most of the first two pages appeared to reference a ‘Morgana Goth,’ a strikingly beautiful dancer from the late 21st century. She clicked on an link, scanning the article about how she drove two men to madness when they competed for her affections. Most dismissed the story as a folk tale, but the legend was compounded by Morgana’s mysterious disappearance. Kass leaned in the desk chair, rolling back from the desk. Another Goth who strangely vanished? Like Bella, many people theorized Morgana was abducted by aliens. Too weird. A strange and sudden chill crept down Kass’ bare arms.

She narrowed her search to the more modern Morgana, adding ‘Sunset Valley’ to her query. More accurate results revealed various articles about the pediatric surgeon before referencing the woman’s personal life. Born Morgana Miranda Goth, the woman was the younger sister of Mortimer and Gunther Goth, the respective CEO and CFO of MorcuCorp, a global import-export business and research conglomerate. Kass kept clicking, finding different internet entries about conspiracy theories regarding MorcuCorp and the Goth family in general. She noted Morgana changed her name during a civil ceremony at the courthouse when she married Thornton Wolfe, at the time an “up-and-coming accounting expert,” according to an article. I wonder if Delores knows him. 

A query entry for Jazzilyn Alto produced shorter results. Most content on the first five pages were dedicated to campaign information. Kass clicked on a video titled ‘Blue For You’ dated three weeks prior.

I am here for the Sunset Valley people. Born and raised in a blue-collar family. I know the value of hard work. I know what it’s like to keep your nose to the grind to get by. I know how disruptive this election can be and how you roll your eyes and you just want to get back to your daily lives.

This brought a few awkward chuckles from the crowd. The camera panned the rally attendants.

You matter. It may be easy to forget but you are the one who makes the decisions in our town. It’s your voice. It’s your vote. It’s not politicians who shape your future. It’s the waitress who pours your cup of coffee. It’s the janitor who cleans the toilets at the high school.

Kass couldn’t help but think of Clark. He was on security detail for Jazzilyn, wasn’t he? She narrowed her eyes and paused, scanning back through the audience, but she didn’t see his face. She did see Detectives Goddard and Hunter on crowd control. Do they have any other cops in this town? 

It’s the men and women in blue who patrol our streets and firefighters who respond to emergency calls who keep us safe. It’s the everyday people, the blue collars, who keep our society running from behind the scenes. They are the unsung heroes. They are the real decision makers. Their voice… your voice… it matters. Your vote… your voice…matters.

The audience clapped and cheered. Kass twisted her lower lip and tilted her head. Ms. Alto was telling people what they wanted to hear, but it wasn’t inherently bad. Make it matter, Jazzilyn repeated as her husband appeared at her side. The couple squeezed hands and lifted them in a sign of united triumph to the crowd.

Too bad Bert isn’t blue collar, Kass smirked. The Alto family wasn’t exactly hurting for money, but his philandering ways were hurting Jazzilyn’s campaign. Kass caved to a clickbait article. Two days ago, Nancy Landgrabb scathingly accused her opposition of hypocrisy for spouting working class family values when Jazzilyn’s own husband was openly cheating. Jazzilyn’s response appeared in several local media sources, from The Bay City Buzz to SBN’s official website. Bert sat at his wife’s side, appearing apologetic, as Jazzilyn assured the public that they were working through their marital issues, and that he had only strayed once a long time ago.

I wonder if Morgana knows that. Kass’ heart fell, flopping into a mangled heap at her feet. It was a lie. It had to be a lie. Or else Jazzilyn was the world’s biggest idiot. Either way, her statement didn’t sit well with Kass. And what about Madison? Bert had at least two extramarital affairs, and Jazzilyn couldn’t be that big of a dunce. Just this morning, Morgana loudly declared in an argument with her husband that Bert wanted children with her.  Beware the Altos, Madison warned. Kass thought that meant Bert, but now she wasn’t so sure. According to inherited notes from Jennifer, the father of the baby was hundreds of miles away at a casino during Madison’s time of death. Should she be wary of Jazzilyn? Thornton had said he didn’t trust her.

What was she supposed to say? she wrestled with her internal turmoil. If she admitted to Bert’s recent cheating, it would be political suicide. She could kiss her big mayoral aspirations goodbye. Kass snapped the browser closed as she jerked back in her chair, ignoring her gurgling stomach. She wondered if Morgana knew about Madison… and the baby. Jazzilyn had to know. At least about the affair. But the baby? The media never caught wind of Madison’s pregnancy. Probably for the best. It couldn’t be a coincidence that Morgana argued with her husband about wanting children in the driveway this morning, or that she referenced Jazzilyn’s infertility.

It was all too weird to be coincidental, wasn’t it? Someone wanted Madison dead because they felt threatened? Exposed? Angry? Someone killed Jennifer for the same reasons. And then there was Joel. The undercover cop’s informant. The jewel thief. How did he fit into all this? She didn’t buy the ‘suicide by fire’ story with Madison or the Sunnyside Smolder ‘accidentally’ killing someone like Madison and Joel, and definitely not Jennifer. That was deliberate. This whole thing was bigger than an arsonist. She didn’t know why or how she knew that, but she did.

Bert was in the middle of all this, but Kass couldn’t help but feel the baby was the key to figuring out everything. I’m missing something here. She ran a hand through her hair, messing her ponytail.  If Bert wasn’t a killer, that left only two prime suspects. The wife. Or the other mistress. 

Author Notes: Thanks for reading. In the original story, Kass researched the Goth family and this chapter was focused on her EXCES research. This time it didn’t feel right so I wrote a brand new chapter. As I’m trying to advance the story, I wanted to focus on clues related to Madison and Jennifer’s death. 

A few quick notes.

  • School is year-round in SimNation. Students have a 9-week summer break, and each school term is 7 weeks long. First term begins the last week of August and ends second week in October. Students then receive a 1-week fall break before resuming second term in the last week in October. 
  • Alsim or Al-Sim is the third largest religion on Simterra. I do try to be respectful toward different religious and cultural beliefs. Alsim is a loose blending of African and Asian religious and spiritual practices and beliefs. Papyrus is a type of plant material used as a thicker paper, first used in Egypt and then it spread throughout the Mediterranean. In AlSim, Papyrus is a saint associated with good news, joyous announcements, and storytelling. 
  • Morgana Goth is a minor Sim mentioned in The Sims franchise. The younger Morgana Goth-Wolfe is named for her ancestor. 
  • MorcuCorp is a company mentioned in The Sims franchise. 
  • SBN stands for Sims Broadcasting Network.
  • Oh and yes, the librarian was Emma Hatch, a townie in Sunset Valley. Her lifetime wish is to be The Culinary Librarian. 

1.80 Old Friends (KCLKF)

Friday, June 20, 2415 | Sunset Valley, Valverde

“You feel better?” Gage inquired.

Kass gulped and nodded as she returned from his car. She handed Gage the keys.

“Thanks for letting me stash my clothes in your vehicle.”

“No problem,” he smiled. “Good thing you stash extra clothes at the office.”

“Good thing,” she repeated with a weak chuckle.

Sometimes she liked to work out and go for a run in the evenings before returning home so she left a change or two of clothes in the lockers at the legal aid office. Today this practice came in handy so she didn’t have to return to her grandparents. The sweater and long sleeved blouse were a little much for the afternoon summer sun.

“Why were you all dressed like that anyhow?” he asked.

“Oh you know,” she shrugged. “Sometimes the office interns can be a little over-zealous with the AC.”

A little white lie? Kass surprised herself. How many of those are you going to tell today? 

“You look cuter in that top anyway,” Gage winked.

She laughed, flexing her fingers as she finished braiding her hair. “Someone owes me a bratwurst,” she said, dodging the subject. “Better make it nice and burnt.”

“Say, you could get a tan and match your dog,” Gage teased.

Kass wrinkled her nose. These pop-up tanning booths were a strange addition to the summer festival circuit, but she figured it was another way for the management company to make a quick buck.

“Ninty simoleons for a spray tan?” she shook her head. “I think not.”

“Yeah, with your luck, you’d turn out like a lobster!” Gage hooted.

She elbowed him. “Says the pasty guy.”


After purchasing a bratwurst with all the fixings, two plain hamburgers, and two cups of the festival’s famous fruit punch, Gage followed Kass across the lawn to a nearby picnic table. Central Park offered sweeping views of the Panthalassan Ocean to the west and most major commerce and official government buildings, including City Hall. Kass noticed a familiar red-haired woman held a press conference on the steps outside the mayor’s office. Jazzilyn Alto. Taking the fight to Nancy’s home turf?

A bold move, Kass secretly approved as she nodded and took a bite of her hot dog.  Gage munched on his hamburger, devoid of condiments, just as he liked it. As long as she could remember, Gage liked everything plain – hot dogs, hamburgers, black coffee,  vanilla ice cream with no toppings, no dressing on salad, nothing but cheese and the occasional pepperoni on pizza. A comfortable silence stretched between them as they ate – one that told of old friendship and deep understanding.

A tourist family in board shorts, sunglasses, and sun hats, desperately trying to fit in, but failing, slathered sunscreen on each others’ arms and backs. Kass smirked. Probably never been to the ocean.  Students from Sun U in bikinis naturally tanned… or burned on their beach towels and pop-up camping chairs on the lawn. A few fraternity guys played kicky sack ball, laughing as they demonstrated their lack of hand, eye, and foot coordination, probably from being juiced. An elderly couple strolled hand in hand through the park’s winding paths, stopping at every festival booth as if it were their first time, the woman ecstatic when the man purchased a single red rose from the flower booth in the farmer’s market section.

Kass took another large bite of her hot dog and turned her attention to Gage. She remembered the days when she pretended he was her brother, and once in the seventh grade, she told another guy that he was her ‘man’ only to get the guy to back off. The other kid was plagued with pimples and his breath smelled like salsa. Gage smelled like aftershave, puberty hit early for him, but he was relatively acne-free, a much preferred alternative.

In another lifetime, maybe, she could see herself with someone like Gage. She wished she liked him more. He deserved a good lady in his life. He had an unmistakable twinkle in his blue eyes, and his hair, though almost entirely shaved, was a chestnut brown if she recalled correctly. Gage had been shaving his head since they were freshmen in high school. If anything, he had the “dark” hair for the tall, dark, and handsome fairy-tale girls wanted. And maybe the borderline handsome in a Jean Luc Picard kind-of way, if girls were into that. He certainly had some of the personality appeal too with his lighthearted humor and his undeniable charm, and his efforts to work-out did not go unnoticed. She wondered when the last time he went on a date, and immediately began thinking through which of their friends would most likely go out with him.  If only wishes came true like they did in the movies or the books… Gage caught her gaze.

“A simoleon for your thoughts, Kass Fullbright.”

She smiled. “Only if I can toss it in the fountain and make a wish.”

Gage stood up, plucking a simoleon from his pocket.

“Here, I’m going to get a refill on our drinks,” he said, right as a young man clipped the edge of their picnic table.

“Sorry,” the guy mumbled, adjusting his baseball cap.

“Isn’t that the Bachelor kid?” Gage asked.

“Yeah,” Kass swung her legs over the edge of the seat, rubbing her coin for good luck before she tossed.

A playful ‘plop’ told her the simoleon had found its destination.

“What did you wish for?” Gage asked.

“Uh, if I tell you, it won’t come true,” she giggled.

“I’d tell you what I’d wish for,” Gage said, as he closed his eyes and tossed another coin over his shoulder.

“What did you wish for?” she teased. “True love’s kiss? World peace?”

“Mock me if you will, but those are respectable things,” Gage said, sarcastically. “And now…” he grinned wickedly. “I could tell you… but…” he narrowed his eyes playfully. “I’d have to kill you.”

“Riiight,” Kass laughed, but stopped as their attention was drawn to a sullen teenager clunking into another picnic table in their area. “So earlier you asked me what I was thinking… maybe I should treat that  request as the same.”

“I think he has a paper route in my neighborhood,” Gage rubbed his chin thoughtfully.

“You’re wearing that tropical woody aftershave again, aren’t you?” Kass asked.

“That’s what you were thinking about?” Gage’s eyes widened. “Isn’t he like a freshman?”

“He’ll be a sophomore when school starts again,” Kass laid her hands to rest on the edge of the picnic bench, her fingernails digging gently into the wood. “Why a sudden interest in Mitchell Bachelor?”

Gage grimaced. “His aim could use a little help. The paper always seems to land in Jennifer’s lilac bushes. Do you know how aggravating it is to root around in the bushes in the morning?”

“Let it go,” Kass laughed. “He’s probably in a hurry.”

“Yeah, whatever,” Gage waved his hand dismissively. “Refill?”

“How about rematch?” Kass declared, standing. “Last time we played soccer, I said I’d beat your high score.”

“Oh you think you can beat my high score?” Gage said, amused. “Okay, Fullbright, let’s see what you’ve got.”

While Gage ran home to get a change of clothes, Kass rented a soccer ball from the athletic equipment booth. Casually, she glanced around the other booths while waiting, purposely staying to the eastern side of the park so as to try and catch a glimpse of City Hall. Jazzilyn was still chatting with constituents and reporters on the steps when a furious looking Nancy arrived in a jet black limousine. The mayor incumbent shoved a thick pair of black sunglasses on her face and tossed her decorative scarf over her shoulder as she flounced up the stairs, flanked by men in security uniforms. The mayor’s security practically swatted the media away and one shoved Nancy into the building rather harshly by the elbow.

Kass shook her head as she rifled through a box of loose lower-end gemstones and polished rocks. She didn’t envy Clark’s job, even if he worked for Nancy’s opponent. She gasped, realizing she hadn’t made a wish earlier when she tossed her coin. Wasn’t that bad luck?  Would a redo count? she grimaced. Maybe she had some spare coins in her purse. But it was in Gage’s car and he wasn’t at the park.

A strange glittering caught her attention, pulling her gaze away from City Hall’s steps and back to the jeweler’s booth. Her fingers encircled a familiar piece. Her eyes widened. Without a doubt, this was her bisnonna’s brooch. The one that had been stolen.

Author Notes: Thanks for reading. Dun! Dun! Dun! No I haven’t forgotten the break-in or the stolen brooch. Also some more cute friendship moments between Kass and Gage. The Sims and their outfit changes… explained… sort of.  I’m loving these random appearances by townies. It’s actually really nice. Makes the town of Sunset Valley and Kass’ story subsequently feel more well-rounded. Hope you enjoyed. 

1.27, Pt. 2: Cocktails, Charades, and Debates (KCLKF)

Saturday, June 7, 2415, C.E. | Sunset Valley, Valverde

An then it was over. Polite clapping followed her nonno’s speech. Those torturous minutes were over, and she felt a wave of relief as no one was angrily protesting or throwing items. She felt guilty as she had been distracted, knowing his words must have been compelling for the way the audience reacted. Absently, she put her hands together and joined the applause. Her eyes darted to Jazzilyn who somehow maintained her dazzling smile, even if her argument had been torn apart.

“No hard feelings,” she said, shaking his hand  courteously.

Nonna joined her husband,  swishing their tall glasses of champagne, neglecting their granddaughter, as the couple made the rounds through the party guests.

“He’s done it again,” a voice interrupted her thoughts.

Kass turned her head, surprised to see Madison . The woman was dressed in simple all black attire, a fresh-pressed apron tied around her waist.

“Madison, what are you doing here?” Kass exclaimed, trying to not follow Gage around the room  as he pushed a serving cart.

“I’m wait staff. Catering,” Madison curtsied in mock-politeness and pointed to her name badge. “Miss Van Watson. Though I might as well be Miss Drone. No one’s noticed me.”

Madison almost appeared distraught, and Kass  tried to avoid grimacing. She didn’t take this job because of Gage, did she? 

“Who’s done it again?” she tried to change the subject, patting her friend’s arm.

“Thorton Wolfe? This fabulous party?” Madison said, pulling on her ponytail. “Mrs. Wolfe would fire me if she saw me do that and then serve food,” she smirked.

“Who?” Kass stood up, relieved to have blood flowing back through her veins.

“Silly,” Madison teased lightly. “You’re a guest, right? Of the Wolfes?”

“Actually I came with… er…” Kass began, trying to locate her grandparents.

“You have that drifting off into outer space look again,” Madison said.

“I do?” Kass winced, aching to slide out of her heels. “Sorry. I am feeling a little off tonight. And I had… sort of… an ulterior motive for being here, but that’s gone to waste.”

Madison shrugged, glancing out across the room, her gaze focused on Gage Briody serving molten lava cake to Bert Alto. “Can you keep a secret?”

Kass hoped it wasn’t what she thought.  She just didn’t see her friends getting together. Maybe that made her a horrible person. It wasn’t like she could keep Gage all to herself if she didn’t agree to date him. She forced a smile onto her face.

“Sure,” she agreed. “Anything to lighten up this charade of a party.”

“I kinda have an ulterior motive too,”Madison continued.

Author Note: Another Madison appearance. In my original game play, Kass attended a party at the Wolfe residence with her grandparents and both Gage and Madison, NPCs at the time, showed up in wait staff attire. I didn’t manage to grab good screenshots that first time around so your stuck with a pictureless chapter. Thanks for reading. 

1.27, Pt. 1: Cocktails, Charades, and Debates (KCLKF)

Saturday, June  7, 2415 | Sunset Valley, Valverde

Three more minutes. Three more torturous minutes until her grandfather’s speech was concluded. Kass stirred the ice in her water apprehensively, the cubes tinkling against her glass. Somehow the trick alleviated her nerves. She relaxed into the chair, wondering how she artfully roped herself into this evening affair.

Plans had changed. Instead of dinner at Chez Llama with the Landgrabbs, the Rivieras were invited to a gathering of friends of high social standing and political clout at the Wolfe household. Kass felt like she stood out like a sore thumb, a tall, gangling barely-eighteen-year-old redhead, the only one her age in the party. She only had a moment’s introduction to Nancy Landgrabb, the mayoral incumbent, and her husband, the prestigious Dr. Geoffrey Landgrabb, before her grandfather was swept away by some younger active businessmen looking for advice regarding the stock market. Nonna gushed about Nancy’s efforts to maintain status quo, and defending the rights of aging citizens. Kass was all too annoyed. What about the younger citizens? Don’t we have a voice? 

It started with cocktails and morphed into a fully catered dinner. Kass had been seated at the table with her grandparents who were excitedly discussing different political issues in depth with Nancy Landgrabb. Her husband, Geoffrey Landgrabb looked a bit green and excused himself, much to Kass’ chagrin. She had hoped to talk with him about his findings and her father, though she didn’t know what she would’ve said. Hey ignore that whole doctor-patient privilege thing because your EXCES patient’s estranged daughter wants to know what’s going on with him. She rolled her eyes and grabbed a roll, piercing the bread with her nails, and pinching a small ladylike bite.

That’s when the Altos arrived. Thornton Wolff,  the host, invited them. Something about him rubbed Kass the wrong way. She had a feeling the man of short stature made up for everything with good looks and charm. His dark hair was peppered with gray, and his face was soft, despite his reputation as a hard businessman. You didn’t get to be a CEO of a multinational, multi million dollar technology company without stepping on a few toes and bruising a few egos. Someone said he married into the Goth family line to blend old money with the new. Which Goth? Kass wondered.

“I thought it would liven up the party,” he said smugly, knowing he was instituting potential chaos as he shook hands with Albert Alto and politely kissed Jazzilyn Alto on the cheek.

Inevitably, a conversation about the economic shifts as of late started, and one mayoral candidate challenged the other.

“It isn’t polite to debate at a party,” Nancy declined.

“Come now,” Jazzilyn laughed, daintly. “I can’t imagine we were invited to make nice and swap trivial chit-chat. I’m sure our host has more devious plans for us.”

“I’m not prepared,” Nancy shook her head.

“Aren’t you ready to defend your antiquated views?” Jazzilyn challenged, with thinly veiled implications.

Nancy flushed. “I refuse to stoop to your level of rudeness.”

“What rudeness?” Jazzilyn swept her arms across the room. “Didn’t the ancient Greeks of Eorthe gather at parties and debate every topic under the sun?”

“I’ll debate you, young lady,” Nonno had spoken up, already two martinis in. “Someone needs to knock some sense into your brain.”

This brought gasps from the gathering crowd, and a smile to Jazzilyn’s lips.

“After you, my lady,” Nonno waved his arm.

Thornton laid a few ground rules – five minutes each for opening statements, and then three minutes a piece for rebuttal, followed by two minutes closing statements. Kass settled at the table next to her Nonna, feeling uncomfortable about the whole debate. The host and guests seemed to be enjoying the setting. The only person who seemed remotely uncomfortable was Dr. Landgrabb, and his wife, who sat sullenly at the end of the table.

Jazzilyn gave a passionate speech about returning more power to the hands of the people through creating more jobs and opportunities for youth and loosening the obsolete restrictions for supernaturals. Nonno followed with an equally passionate, though cooler, more collected speech about earning one’s place in the world, and rewarding those who worked hard, rather than offering handouts. Kass had heard the speech before. Many times in fact. Nonno was an outspoken advocate against harsher labor laws for supernaturals when he wanted to be. After all, they had unfair advantages, he claimed.

Kass was concerned for her grandfather. At seventy-seven years old, he had already been retired for seventeen years. Wise investments in the stock market paid off and his former company had been good to him. And if anyone had been worried he would be bored with early retirement, they were seriously mistaken. Nonno didn’t understand the meaning of “retired,” as he remained actively involved in the community in social and political circles, taught at the college, and stayed involved in charitable giving.

While Kass could see his devotion to his topic, his insistence on keeping the old ways made her nervous. The last time he had spoken against supernatural rights, his drink had been poisoned. They rushed him to the emergency room and he survived with little damage. Although the police never identified the perpetrator, they assured Mr. Riviera that he was safe. His daughter and granddaughters were more skeptical. Kass had no idea who would want to hurt him or why, but she was fearful his outspoken unpopular beliefs would get him into more serious trouble. 

Kass wiped her spoon with her napkin, laying the utensil to rest next to her unused butter knife and fork. She was too jittery to eat, and still somewhat full from the mac and cheese. She scanned the room, and slowly tilted back in her chair so she could see out onto the deck. The open door provided a nice breeze from the bay, refreshing the stale party air.

The only two individuals not actively listening to the speeches were Tori Andrews and Bert Alto. Kass frowned. What were the private investigator and the pharmaceutical giant doing out on the balcony?

They spoke in hushed tones. Bert continued eating his salad as if he didn’t really care what his wife had to say. Kass narrowed her eyes. I doubt he cares about his wife period.  Her thoughts were yanked back into the room as Nonna gave her arm an abrupt pat and a piercing stare indicating Kass better pay attention. She fixed her gaze on her grandfather for all of ten seconds before her eyes wandered again.

This time, she caught sight of Gage. Her lips parted in surprise. He leaned casually against the wall, hands stuffed in his dress slacks. Tonight his athletic build was even more apparent in his white button down. She smiled and waved discreetly, and he nodded in acknowledgement. What is he doing here?  she puzzled.

Author Notes: I wanted to give a little more insight into the political realm of the story, and the dinner with the Landgrabbs turned party gathering was the perfect opportunity to introduce this more in depth. Kass, of course, feels she has an outsider’s perspective. Despite the fact that she knows her grandparents have wealth, Kass is often blind to her own privilege, and she’s a bit judgmental and probably hypocritical here.

The bit about her grandfather’s poisoning was in my original script as I planned to take a more in-depth look at the political and cultural context surrounding her father’s illness – EXCES. This time around I decided to give it more attention. You’ll recognize Sims names above, another deliberate point on my part to expand beyond Kass’ inner circle as I write this second edition and talk more about community members. I hope you enjoyed. Thanks for reading. 

1.19 Breakdown (KCLKF)

Friday, June 6, 2415 | Sunset Valley, Valverde 

After her strange night, Kass decided a little extra sleep wouldn’t hurt anyone. Except at ten past six, she received a series of text messages. Groaning, she covered her head with the pillow, wondering who in their right mind would try and communicate so early. After three minutes, she couldn’t ignore the dings anymore.

Slipping from under the covers, Kass snatched her phone from her nightstand. Like she suspected, her number had been the unlikely victim of a chain message. She only opened the last one… from Gage.

Good luck on your first day. Jennifer is excited to have you on board. Wanna do dinner tonight to celebrate?

“Shoot!” Kass leaped from the bed, glancing at the clock.

Six-oh-nine. She had exactly thirty minutes to shower, straighten her hair, get dressed, eat, and drive across town to the legal aid office. Unfortunately for her, Cari was already in the bathroom.

“Carina!” she shouted. “Hurry up. I’ve gotta be at my internship in less than an hour.”

“Quiet down will ya!” Cari yelled through the wood. “I’m trying to finish a mani-pedi.”

“Not today,” Kass burst into the room, plucking the magazine balanced precariously on her sister’s knees as she attempted to read while painting her nails.  “Chris Wiler’s new love interest will have to wait.”

“Hey!” Cari exclaimed, her headphones falling out of her ears.

Kass cranked the heat faucet. “Are you staying or going?” she grunted.

“I’m going. I’m going,” Cari pouted and tucked the magazine underneath her arm and waddled out of the room, cotton balls between her half-finished toes.

Deciding to forgo the straightening, hoping her wet hair wouldn’t frizz as she wrapped herself in a black towel and waddled back to the bedroom. What exactly did one wear to a legal internship? Something black, she figured. Black and courthouses seemed to go together. It was formal and serious. Unfortunately, she couldn’t find any black that was suitable, and she was running out of time.

Kass plunked down at her computer to read an email after realizing it was from Jennifer. Change of plans. The message read that the Water Lily offices were being tested for poisonous gases, something about a health code violation they weren’t even aware they had. Kass would be meeting Jennifer at the downtown offices instead.

Pulling her hair up with about fifty hairpins, Kass created a beehive bun, slipped into a modest tweed skirt, matching blazer, and belt, and pulled on a pair of muted tan pumps as she half-ran, half-stumbled down the stairs. No one else save Cari was awake. Kass waved, but she was pretty sure her sister ignored her, preferring to learn about the latest celebrity gossip than to wish her sister a good day. Kass rolled her eyes. She didn’t really care.

Upon arriving downtown, she barely had time to find a parking spot, in the garage, grab a parking stub, and run the two blocks to the downtown offices. Kass started to cross the street, but stopped as she nearly stepped into a parked vehicle. A dark-haired woman in pink scrubs leaned over, making a face as she honked the horn.

“Sorry,” Kass muttered, waving her hand in apology.

Once she reached the curb, Kass glanced at her watch, realizing she was late.  Quickening her pace, she nearly collided with a middle-aged man on the lawn in front of the Alto Business Complex.

“What’s your hurry, sweetheart?” he asked, straightening the collar of his perfectly starched white shirt.

“Um… sorry…” Kass gasped. “I’m late for an internship.”

“Let me let you in,” he said, leaning in as he plucked a pair of designer sunglasses from the inner pocket of his grey pinstripe jacket. “…on a little secret.”

“Okaaaay,” Kass said, deciding to indulge him.

“Never rush anywhere…” he held up his hand. “…before nine a.m. The reason being… is…” he did a sweeping wave in the direction of the street toward the woman in pink sitting in a cranberry sports car. “…people will think you’re more important if you move at your own pace,” he grinned as the lady leaned over and honked the horn again.

Kass jumped, startled.

“They don’t call it fashionably late for no reason,” the man called over his shoulder as he stepped off the curb. “Though… honey… you look dressed for a funeral.”

Kass furrowed her brow. “Um thank you?”

She watched the sports car speed away, noticing the plates were custom and read AB2ALT0, with a frame reading, “Be an alto in a world of sopranos.” That must be the infamous Bert Alto, Kass gaped a little, and then realized she was now officially late.

Jennifer led her through a few introductions – a paralegal named Mitchell, who looked more like an off-duty cop with his cherub cheeks and big blonde curls, waving a chocolate-frosted doughnut as he walked by with a armload of case files, a nearly retired social worker, also named Jennifer, actually Jenni, with a salt-and-pepper ponytail and horn-rimmed librarian glasses, and the unnatural redhead Monika, the office manager, daughter of Senator Morris, attending Sunset U on an athletic scholarship. Then she set Kass up on a laptop in their small two-room office, asking her to transcribe several hundred pages of notes. She also informed her that the copier was nearly out of toner, the fax machine only accepted outgoing faxes, not incoming, and the coffee maker only managed lukewarm coffee.

“And the cooking utensils are for a stove that doesn’t exist?” Kass joked, trying to lighten the mood.

Jennifer smirked. “Exactly. You’ll get the hang of it. Bathrooms on the fourth floor. Ours are…”

“Let me guess! Out of toilet paper?” Kass finished.

“Nope, out of order. We put in a work order for the plumbing, but nada…” Jennifer shrugged. “I’ll be at that table…” she nodded toward the back of the room. “… though I may need to run some errands. You’ll be okay back here?”

“Sure,” Kass replied.

Typing notes turned out to be way more daunting than expected. Around eleven-thirty, Jennifer left to run the errands she mentioned. The paralegal disappeared around noon to head to his second job, and the case worker stood up, saying she needed to meet with clients across town. Kass plunked away at the keys for another hour before her stomach rumbled louder than the summer thunderstorm outside.

Wandering to the fifth floor, Kass found the building complex snack shop – coffee and pastries by day, alcohol and appetizers by night, or so she was told by the monotone coffee cart attendant. She wasn’t sure how long her break was, so she didn’t want to go back to her car to get her purse. She only had a few crumpled Simoleons in her jacket pocket. Only enough to get a muffin, and a bran muffin at that. People may have knocked the bran muffin, but it really did get a bad rap. This one had raisins in its dough, and a hint of honey. The coffee clerk even warmed the snack in the microwave.

While waiting, Kass fiddled with her phone, texting Gage and telling him she might be working late. He offered to come by anyway, the good friend that he was, or bring dinner by the office for both his foster mom and her. Kass smiled as she texted a response.

I’ll be okay. I’ll let you know when I get off. 🙂

As she slid her phone back into her pocket, she could hear the television in the background. The channel was on the news station, discussing Jazzilyn Alto’s return to the political scene in Sunset Valley, as she announced her candidacy for mayor. The Cascadian native caused quite a stir in the local office as she was born in a Sim National territory.

“Who cares?” a rugged looking young man in a trenchcoat yelled from the back of the room. “She’s hot!”

Kass grimaced. What did hotness have to do with ability? She continued to watch the news story as they explained the older Mrs. Alto, the governor of Valverde, was unhappy with her sister-in-law’s choice to return to politics instead of staying with her high-society charity scene. It was all drama, stirred up by the media, to create a sensation, Kass figured. Still, there was something exciting about it.

“And my husband and I are proud to be home in Sunset Valley,” an all-smiles Jazzilyn was saying, as the man presumed to be her spouse stood stoically next to her, the same man Kass bumped into earlier that morning. “I have yet to find smarter, kinder people anywhere else in all the world than Sunset Valley.”

This statement was met by raucous applause on television as Mrs. and Mr. Alto waved to the crowd. The station flickered and the picture went out after a generous thunder clap.

“Hey,” the man in the back of the room yelled. “Turn it back on.”

“Station’s down,” the coffee clerk said. “Looks like the microwave’s dead too…” she shrugged, handing Kass a plate. “Here you go.”

Kass settled into a seat at a center table. She had to admit. The woman was pretty, a natural dark redhead with angular features and a soft peachy skin tone. She looked pretty important in her purple power suit. Maybe I should’ve worn purple. She wondered what Bert Alto was doing in the building earlier this morning, or rather, in front of the building. And racing off to the car with a woman who wasn’t his wife. Kass narrowed her eyes. Politicians are all the same. 

“Excuse me?” a familiar voice with a Bergish accent said.

Kass nearly dropped her bran muffin. It was Clark Sauer, her mamma’s new beau, across the room. He was pushing a janitorial cart. She hoped he didn’t recognize her. The last thing she wanted was to have a conversation with him. Clark didn’t seem to notice. He was collecting trash from the grumpy young man who was sulking about the loss of a television station, trying to get the picture back on his cellular device. When Clark politely tried to tell the man not to litter on the carpet, Kass snagged her muffin, slid along the outer wall, and slipped out into the hallway, relieved he hadn’t seen her. She frowned. That accent again. Opps! Clark pushed his cart into the hall, and Kass ducked behind a bush.

Hey sweetheart,” he was saying, and Kass realized he was talking on the phone to someone. “No I’m at work right now…”

“Sweetheart?” Kass repeated. Her mamma?

“No, Joel isn’t coming over for dinner tonight. I can’t reach him… you know how he hates phones…”

Kass frowned. Who’s Joel? 

“He doesn’t think we can get it yet. It’s too dangerous.”

Her ears perked. Dangerous? What was Clark into? 

“…no, I don’t want you there… it’s better for you to stay at home.”

What in oven blazes was her mamma’s new boyfriend talking about? 

“I don’t… Clara…sweetheart… listen to me…”

Kass tuned out. Clara? Sweetheart? He wasn’t talking to her mother. He was talking to another woman. Men! Kass pummeled her fists. She had half a mind to walk up to him and punch his face, but she knew her mother would never approve. Plus she needed proof.

The database! On the legal aid computer! She had to get back downstairs. Kass ran, as fast as she could in heels, down the stairs since the elevator was blocked by Clark’s cart. She nearly collided with three women in the lobby. One looked suspiciously like the woman she saw this morning with Bert, a dark-haired woman dressed in pink scrubs. The other was Monika, standing in line for the vending machine. In front was Madison, dressed in an oversized sweater and jeans. A little warm for summer. Then again, Kass was dressed in tweed.

“Madison!” Kass exclaimed. “How are you feeling?”

“Um… fine,” Madison ducked her head, and pushed the button on the machine for a candy bar.

“What are you doing here?” Kass inquired, fluffing her hair and replacing a few pins that fell out of place during her flight down the stairs. “Besides the Chunky Nougat.”

“Oh,” Madison flushed. “The lab… um…” she swallowed hard. “I came in for tests. My blood sugar’s been a little wonky as of late.”

“I’m sorry,” Kass apologized, and then quickly added. “Hey we should do coffee sometime.”

She was curious, but she had a feeling Madison needed a friend.

“Really?” Madison said as the ladies walked across the hallway. “Thanks. Uh… I’ll check my schedule. Do you think Gage would come?”

“Gage?” Kass repeated.

“Yeah, he’s pretty cute,” Madison smiled shyly.

“Um…” Kass wasn’t sure what to say. “I thought you were seeing someone.”

Madison blanched. “Not anymore,” she twisted a hair around her finger. “And he’s still single, right?”

“He’s single,” Kass replied, feeling as if she just betrayed a big secret. Sighing, she added, “How about I see if he wants to meet us on Sunday afternoon if you’re free?”

Madison’s eyes lit up. “I’m free.”

“Great, sounds… per-fect…oh!” Kass gasped, noticing Clark step out of the elevator, still pushing his cart. She whirled, and waved over her shoulder. “I’ll call you…” she rushed into the office.

A few moments later, Monika poked her head into the back room.

“What was that all about?”

“What was what?”

“You’re acting a little strange.”

“Blood sugar,” Kass crossed her legs, pulling Madison’s excuse. “It makes me loopy…” she dropped her gaze and motioned to her head.

“Okay, well, I’m headed out for Takan food if you want anything,” Monika said.

“You know, I would. But I left my wallet in the car,” Kass made a face.

“Don’t worry. I’ll cover ya today,” Monika replied. “Would you mind going down to the print room and grabbing some copies? We share a room with the lab just down the hall.”

“Right, got it,” Kass bounced up from her seat and walked the few doors down to the computer room.

She wasn’t in the room more than a minute before she heard the door slam behind her. The woman in the pink scrubs sauntered into the shared space, a smug look on her face.

“You’re the girl Bert was chatting it up with this morning,” she began, without introduction.

“Um… yeah…” Kass felt her throat grow dry. “And you’re the woman in the car.”

The woman blanched. “Okay, what’s it going to take to keep you quiet?”

“Excuse me?” Kass’s eyes widened.

“Bert and me. Look I know you know he’s got a wife.”

“My name’s Kass,” Kass introduced herself with a hint of sarcasm in her tone. “And you are?”

“Morgana Wolfe,” the woman said. “But you already knew that, didn’t you?”

“Um… no…” Kass shook her head. “I don’t know you.”

Morgana looked offended. “We work long hours. He travels a lot. My husband.”

Kass grimaced in disgust. “Look lady, I don’t wanna know.”

“Okay, but now that you do know?” Morgana trailed off.

Kass wasn’t even sure what to say. This was totally unexpected. She may have put two and two together, but she could not care less about who Bert Alto was with, even if it was someone other than his wife. She was more concerned with her mother’s boyfriend and his seeming unfaithfulness. How could he stray already? They just started dating!

“Does everyone lie and cheat?” Kass exclaimed. “You people are a piece of work, you know that? And the people you lie to and cheat on? They’re… good… people…” Kass waved her arms to emphasize her last few words. “This is craziness! Crazy!” she was practically shrieking. “And you don’t care one bit for the consequences.”

Now it was Morgana’s turn to say “excuse me.” She looked shocked by Kass’ outburst. Before Morgana could reply, Kass stormed from the office, snatching the copies she needed. She stomped back to the legal aid office, muttering beneath her breath. She didn’t even care about her work breakdown, even if it was her first day. She would find everything she needed to know about Clark Sauer, and about this Clara. Once she had proof in hand, she would go to her mother and tell her the truth.

Author Notes: Again, another long chapter. Sorries. I know I promised shorter chapters this time around, but I get on a roll. Haha. Okay, so lots going on here. I had all these pictures from an early save of the Fullbright family and couldn’t quite fit them into the early story. Now, I did. Thanks for reading.