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.
“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.